Bulgaria Criticized in Five Areas, May Lag behind Romania - BBC

Politics | October 23, 2005, Sunday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0

A key European Union report on Bulgaria will reiterate the five areas of concern over which the European Commission sent formal warnings to the acceding country in June, BBC reported, citing sources in Brussels.

The comprehensive monitoring report of the European Commission, due to be released on Tuesday, will note that the post-election impasse in Bulgaria has slowed down reforms this year. The areas of serious concern that will be highlighted in the report will be judicial reforms, agriculture, environment, intellectual property rights and the free movement of services.

According to the report the European Commission believes that Romania has caught up with Bulgaria and there is no longer a gap between the two Balkan countries.

In June the European Commission sent formal warnings to acceding Bulgaria and Romania over their lagging-behind in implementing the required reforms. In Bulgaria, the concerns focused on judicial reforms, agriculture, environment, intellectual property rights and the free movement of services.

In Romania, the main issues were seven, including corruption and border controls, the enforcement of state aid controls, the implementation of environmental laws, competition.

BBC says the last area of concern will not be included in the EU executive Commission's annual progress report.

The report will note that Romania, long seen as a laggard in EU preparations, has made considerable progress in the field of competition, BBC correspondent says, citing a source from the European Commission.

Should BBC report be confirmed on Tuesday, Romania will have one more reason to see the safeguard clause, delaying accession by one year, not triggered.

The European Commission has repeatedly stressed that the overarching challenge for Bulgaria remains the reform of the judicial system, "the priority of priorities". According to the EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn the fight against organized crime and corruption continues to be the Achilles' heel of the country.

The EC's comprehensive report will not include any recommendations whether or not to use the safeguard clause. The Commission will give Bulgaria and Romania six months to deal with shortcomings in the countries' preparations to join the EU.

The Commission will make its final recommendation on whether the two Balkan countries should join the EU in 2007 or 2008 only in the spring next year.
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