The European Commission adopted today a favourable Opinion on the accession to the European Union of the Republic of Bulgaria and Romania. This decision follows the successful conclusion of the accession negotiations by the European Council meeting in Brussels on 17 December 2004 and the finalisation of the Treaty of Accession in February 2005.
On the occasion of the adoption of the opinion, Commissioner Rehn said: “Today’s decision is another milestone in our relations and a clear signal that the Commission welcomes Bulgaria and Romania in the European family. However the authorities in the countries can not lie back and relax: in 2005 and 2006 a lot of hard work will be needed to progress on reforms in order to fully and timely meet all conditions for membership“.
Following the application for membership in December 1995 by Bulgaria and in June 1995 by Romania, the Commission issued its Opinions in 1997 and reassessed the situation in following years, which led to the start of accession negotiations in February 2000. Negotiations have been conducted in an Intergovernmental Conference between the Member States and the respective Candidate Countries, where the Commission has played an important role.
The Commission has also provided the present and future Member States, and the citizens of these countries, with an in-depth analysis in its annual Regular Reports on the progress made by each of the Candidate Countries towards accession. The most recent ones, adopted on 6 October 2004, concluded that Bulgaria and Romania fulfil the political criteria for membership and that they are expected to fulfil the economic and legal criteria to be ready for membership by 1 January 2007. On this basis, Accession negotiations were concluded in December 2004 with a view to signing the Accession Treaty in April 2005.
The Commission is confident that the Acceding States will pursue the reforms that need to be carried out in view of their accession, in line with the commitments they have made during the negotiations. The Commission will continue to monitor the fulfilment of these commitments and obligations until accession, and will assist them with the available instruments. In the case of major shortcomings in the preparation for membership a postponement clause could be activated. This would delay Bulgaria’s and/or Romania’s accession by one year. The decision should be taken by the Member States by unanimity on the basis of a recommendation of the Commission. In the case of Romania, in a number of specific areas in Justice and Home Affairs as well as Competition, the postponement clause could be activated by a qualified majority decision of the Member States based on a recommendation of the Commission.
Following the conclusion of the Accession Negotiations and the finalisation of the Treaty of Accession, the adoption of the Commission Opinion is the first step in the procedure leading to the signature of the Treaty. In accordance with the timetable established by the Luxembourg Presidency, in agreement with the European Parliament and with the Commission, to enable the signature of the Treaty of Accession to take place in Luxembourg on 25 April 2005, the decision on assent of the European Parliament is planned to be taken on 13 April 2005 and the Council decision is to follow on 25 April 2005, the same day as the date of the signature.
The Accession Treaty needs to be ratified by the present and future Member States and will enter into force on 1 January 2007.