26th Jun 2019

Two newest EU states welcomed amid unease on safeguards

EU foreign ministers have formally endorsed the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the bloc in 2007 – but the slow entry preparations of the two countries has prompted the EU to draw lessons for future enlargements of the bloc.

The ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday (17 October) rubber-stamped the European Commission's recommendation that the countries join in January rather than making use of a one-year postponement clause.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • With further enlargement looming, the EU is re-thinking its strategy (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

"The Council [of ministers] welcomes the Commission's report which concludes that Bulgaria and Romania, based on the progress made, will be in a position to take on the rights and obligations of membership on 1 January 2007," a statement said.

Ministers also supported the commission in imposing a tough system of monitoring on Romania and Bulgaria even after their accession, designed to make sure that the two newest members of the club do enough to fight crime and corruption.

If further problems with sleaze and crime damage the rest of the EU, the commission could impose sanctions on Bucharest or Sofia, such as the possible non-recognition of Bulgarian and Romanian court verdicts, until up to three years after accession.

Similar post-accession provisions - including possible sanctions - are foreseen in the problematic areas of food safety, the management EU agricultural funds and aviation security.

"The Council supports the mechanism to be set up for cooperation and verification of the progress in the area of judicial reform and the fight against organised crime and corruption, including, if necessary and appropriate, the possibility to impose safeguards," ministers said.

Lessons for the future

But the commission, member states and members of the European Parliament are not happy with the raft of safeguard measures put on Romania and Bulgaria, with Dutch Green MEP Joost Lagendijk recently saying they actually show the two states are "not ready" for accession.

Brussels circles now widely condemn the fact that as early as spring 2005, the two countries were promised EU membership in 2007 – with a possible postponement of one year – although at that time they still had to tackle a raft of judiciary and corruption problems.

"One of the main lessons from the accession of Romania and Bulgaria is that we have to tackle key issues at an earlier stage," said the commission's director-general on enlargement Michael Leigh on Tuesday, referring to problems such as corruption and organized crime.

Ahead of a key commission report on enlargement policy on 8 November, he said that "we are going to tackle these issues much earlier in the future."

Enlargement 'success'

Mr Leigh spoke at a Brussels event where consultancy firm Burston Marsteller launched a report praising the union's previous enlargement with 10 new states in 2004.

The report describes enlargement as a success story, saying that despite doomsday scenarios "decision-making has not broken down, nor become fundamentally divisive around an East-West fault-line."

It hails the economic record of the EU's 10 new members, while also noting that they brought in foreign affairs experience on the East which "the EU simply did not possess."

But the report also cites day-to-day working difficulties between "old" and "new" EU officials, with western European officials making patronizing remarks such as "most of them don't know what they are doing yet, but at least they don't cause us too much trouble."

EU split on Western Balkans accession

Europe's credibility is at risk in the Western Balkans, half its member states have warned - but EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Albania and North Macedonia unlikely to start accession talks soon.

Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal

Serbia will never recognise Kosovo, Serbia's foreign minister has said, as the Western Balkans heads into a new period of turbulence.

News in Brief

  1. EU warns Turkey as 'Gezi Park' trials begin
  2. EU universities to share students, curricula
  3. Migrant rescue ship loses Human Rights Court appeal
  4. Denmark completes social democrat sweep of Nordics
  5. Johnson offers 'do or die' pledge on Brexit
  6. Weber indirectly attacks Macron in newspaper op-ed
  7. EU to sign free trade deal with Vietnam
  8. EU funding of air traffic control 'largely unnecessary'


EU report recognises Albania's achievements

Albania currently faces a serious crisis, which it would be foolish for all actors in the international community to ignore. Yet we must ask that our partners in Europe read Federica Mogherini's report carefully and recognise accomplishments.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  4. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  6. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  7. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  8. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  9. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate

Latest News

  1. EU moves to end car-testing 'confidentiality clause'
  2. EU parliament gives extra time for leaders on top jobs
  3. Europe's rights watchdog lifts Russia sanctions
  4. EU-Vietnam trade deal a bad day for workers' rights
  5. EU 'special envoy' going to US plan for Palestine
  6. Polish judicial reforms broke EU law, court says
  7. EU study: no evidence of 'East vs West' food discrimination
  8. Russia tried to stir up Irish troubles, US think tank says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us