Saturday

10th Dec 2022

German MPs set to press for sanctions on Bulgaria and Romania

  • The German parliament has not yet ratified the two new EU states' accession treaties (Photo: Wikipedia)

The German parliament is set to demand the triggering of safeguards against Romania and Bulgaria immediately upon EU accession in January, in a move likely to further deteriorate the political climate surrounding enlargement.

German daily Handelsblatt reports that a large majority of parties in the German parliament are pressing for the safeguards to be put in place from day one of EU membership on 1 January, arguing that the two countries have not met EU standards on justice matters.

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The demand goes against the policy of the European Commission, which wants to trigger safeguard measures - such as the non-automatic recognition of Bulgarian and Romanian court verdicts - only at a later stage if further problems with the judiciary and corruption continue to exist.

The commission's more lenient stance was last week formally endorsed by EU foreign ministers, including German minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

But a document prepared by Germany's two government parties – the conservatives and the social democrats – as well as the two main opposition parties – the liberals and the greens – says that "the parliament deems safeguard measures necessary from the start of accession, if the deficits mentioned by the commission are not tackled before 1 January 2007."

The decision on the safeguard measures should be taken at the latest in December during an EU leaders summit, German parliamentarians told Handelsblatt.

The move by the four largest German parties is set to spark nervousness in Bucharest and Sofia, as the German parliament is among the few national parliaments which have not yet ratified the two states' accession treaties – a legal move necessary for EU membership.

It also comes as a blow to EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, who last week gave a speech in the German parliament designed to convince sceptical German MPs.

Defending the commission's toughest-ever monitoring system ever put on new EU states, he said that "With [these] provisions, I am confident that Bulgaria and Romania will enrich the Union without compromising the proper functioning of EU policies and institutions."

Broader unease

But Mr Rehn's failure to reassure German politicians reflects broader feelings of unease over the safeguards, with Dutch Green MEP Joost Lagendijk recently saying they actually show that Bulgaria, in particular, is "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.

The influential leader of the German region of Bavaria Edmund Stoiber on Tuesday (24 October) also called for immediate safeguards urging German chancellor Angela Merkel to promote the move at EU level.

"I demand … that our citizens are protected from the consequences of the lagging rule of law, corruption and organised crime in Bulgaria and Romania," he told Die Welt in an interview.

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