EU head office to urge Bulgaria, Romania to work faster to ensure EU membership

The European Commission will urge Bulgaria and Romania on Tuesday to speed up reforming their justice systems improve environmental protection and tackle corruption to prepare for EU membership in 2007, according to two draft reports.

In two progress reports to be presented to the European Parliament by EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, the EU head office will outline several areas in which urgent progress is needed if the two countries are to join the bloc as planned in 2007.

For Bulgaria, justice and home affairs, agriculture and competition policy will be among the areas of serious concern, while Romania will be urged to speed up implementation of EU laws in the fields of competition policy, taxation, environmental protection, agriculture and justice and home affairs, particularly anti-corruption and border management, according to draft reports seen by The Associated Press.

The reports, to be divided into green, yellow and red sections according to the urgency of the reforms needed, will also note that Romania has caught up with Bulgaria in preparation for EU membership after a postelection stalemate slowed down reforms in Bulgaria.

"The monitoring tables show that Romania is generally on track in meeting its commitments and requirements arising from the accession negotiations in most areas. However, delays have occurred in the areas of free movement of goods, company law, fisheries, customs union and financial control. Romania must address the issues in question," the draft report on Romania says.

It also urges Bucharest to complete the alignment of legislation in the fields of copyrights and recognition of foreign judgments in civil and commercial matters.

The commission will make its final recommendation on the date of accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU next spring.

In April, the EU warned Romania and Bulgaria that their plans to join the EU in 2007 might be postponed by up to a year if they failed to meet the conditions necessary for joining the 25-nation bloc. The two countries' entry treaties contain "super safeguard clauses" that may trigger the delay if all conditions for membership are not fulfilled, reports the AP.