27th Nov 2022

Frattini defends mild stance on Bulgaria and Romania

  • Frattini: EU members should not be"monitored" (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission's vice-president Franco Frattini has been forced by media to defend his apparently indulgent stance on Bulgaria and Romania's poor performance in the fight against corruption, while some MEPs stressed Brussels should have triggered sanctions against the two newest EU entrants.

"It is not a blaming and shaming exercise. Our reports are honest, fair and balanced," Mr Frattini told the press room on Wednesday (27 June), as he presented six-monthly evaluations of how Sofia and Bucharest are addressing shortcomings in their judicial systems, the fight against corruption and organised crime.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The two Balkan states were admitted to the EU bloc in January 2007, but only under unprecedented conditions, including regular monitoring of all sensitive areas with the possibility to apply penalties.

At this stage, however, Sofia and Bucharest both escaped sanctions, although the reports show that progress is visible mainly only on paper while implementation remains a weak point.

But the EU's executive body doesn't speak in one voice on the issue, with the college of 27 commissioners divided into two camps - one trying to highlight positive achievements, the other favouring tougher language.

Franco Frattini (Italy), Meglena Kuneva (Bulgaria), Leonard Orban (Romania), Olli Rehn (Finland), Charlie McCreevy (Ireland) and Jan Figel (Slovakia) were among those trying to sweeten the otherwise critical reports.

Mr Frattini, who is in charge of the home affairs dossier in the commission, defended such moves by saying it was necessary to choose "proper language" and "the post-accession approach."

It would be a mistake to use, for example, the word "monitoring," as the two countries are no longer candidates for EU membership, Mr Frattini argued, asking rhetorically "what kind of message [would] we send to the Bulgarian and Romanian population [if we said] you are under scrutiny?"

MEPs reservations

But some members of the European Parliament have criticized the EU's executive arm for failing to apply a more consistent policy vis-a-vis the two newest EU states.

According to German conservative MEP Elmar Brok, the commission's inconsistent behaviour might not only damage the EU's credibility, but could also undermine reform efforts in the two countries.

"The commission has not drawn the necessary consequences by activating the safeguard clauses provided for by the accession treaties. Instead, it has limited itself to observe both countries further until spring 2008," Mr Brok said.

He added that "At this point, it would have been possible to make a symbolic sign. Unfortunately, the commission did not seize this opportunity".

But according to Mr Frattini, the safeguard measures written in the accession treaties are an exceptional and last-resort tool. Nobody in the 27-member college tabled a proposal to trigger sanctions at this stage, he says.

The reports highlight what the two governments should do as well as giving them credit for what has been achieved, Mr Frattini argued, underlining that this is the way to treat an EU member.

Bulgaria and Romania escape sanctions, but not criticism

The two newest EU entrants, Bulgaria and Romania, will face open criticism over their poor anti-corruption record on Wednesday, but the European Commission will stop short of calling for sanctions, amid disagreement on the tone of the report.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

French official accused of conflict over EU fish lobby job

A senior French official is being accused of conflicts of interest for spearheading a leading role in Europeche, a fishing-industry lobby group based in Brussels. The hire comes as the EU Commission threatens a lawsuit against France over fishing.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges
  2. The 'proof' problem with EU sanctions — and how to fix it
  3. The EU gas cap: will the bottle ever be 'uncorked'?
  4. Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence
  5. Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'
  6. EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo
  7. 'No substance' price ceiling for gas leaves everyone disgruntled
  8. Paying consumers who save most energy could tame gas prices

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us