Romania and Bulgaria given the EU nod
Yesterday the European Commision paved the way for the former Warsaw pact states of Bulgaria and Romania to become fully paid up members of the EU on the 1st January 2007. However, underneath the fanfare, the Commision has imposed tougher restrictions than ever before to force the would-be member states to fight corruption and reform their criminal justice system.
The problem is particularly acute in Bulgaria, which the report that was published paticularly singled out, stating, “insufficient progress had been made to tackle corruption and organised crime”. If progress has not been made in both countries by March, “safeguards” are in place to allow member states to completely ignore court rulings and warrants from both countries.
The question of whether to fully open up labour markets to the new countries remains open, and is to be decided by the current 25 member states. No doubt Britain will impose even harsher restrictions than on the 2004 entrants, simply because of the current political climate. Time and again we here report of the 342,000 eastern europeans registered to work after the expansion. What is not said is that is is believed half of these have already gone home by now.
A final interesting point to go along with all this is that the Nice treaty of 2000 had in the fine print that there MUST be another negociated pact if the number of member states exceed 27. The number of members after 1st January: 27. This brings the failed EU constitution right back onto the agenda. No doubt Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, being very pro-constitution, will attempt to push the issue even harder when Germany takes over the presidency on…you guessed it, 1st January 2007.
It should be an interesting year in Europe.