Progress with enlargement: Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia (2004)
In view of the progress they have made, the Commission wishes to conclude negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania by the end of 2004, with a view to their joining the EU on 1 January 2007. However, the Commission advocates including a safeguard clause in their Accession Treaties allowing for the possibility of postponing their accession by one year.
Negotiations were to be started with Croatia in 2005 within the framework of an enhanced pre-accession strategy drawing on the conclusions of the Commission opinion on Croatia's candidacy. The Council decided, however, not to set a firm date for the opening of negotiations because it first wanted to see Croatia cooperating fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 6 November 2004: "Strategy Paper of the European Commission on progress in the enlargement process" [COM(2004) 657 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
BULGARIA AND ROMANIA
The regular reports published every year by the Commission assess the candidate countries' capacity to meet all their obligations on accession. In the light of last year's reports, the Commission sums up the progress made by Bulgaria and Romania in terms of the Copenhagen criteria:
- Political criteria: both countries satisfy the Copenhagen political criteria, although the Commission advocates continued efforts on reform of the public administration, the functioning of the judicial system and combating corruption.
- Economic criteria: both countries fulfil the necessary conditions for establishing a viable market economy. Vigorous and efficient implementation of far-reaching structural reforms should enable both countries to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union.
- Adoption of the Community acquis: in general, Bulgaria and Romania are meeting the commitments they made in the negotiations and have made good progress with adopting the acquis. The Commission concludes that both countries should have completed legislative transposition in time for accession, but urges them to develop adequate administrative and judicial capacity to implement the acquis.
The accession process
The Commission considers that the accession negotiations with both Bulgaria and Romania are going well. In spring 2004 a financing framework was defined and all the chapters were provisionally closed with Bulgaria in June 2004. In Romania's case three chapters remain to be negotiated: Competition, Environment and Justice and Home Affairs (JHA).
In view of the advanced state of negotiations, work began on drawing up the Accession Treaty for Bulgaria and Romania in July 2004. It will cover the entire acquis adopted and published as of 1 October 2004, the results of the accession negotiations and any transitional arrangements and will provide for adjustments of the acquis after enlargement. Once it has been approved by all the parties, the Accession Treaty will be the subject of a Commission opinion and endorsed by a European Parliament opinion. Lastly the Council will adopt its decision and all the Member States will then have to ratify the Treaty. The objective is for the Treaty to enter into force on 1 January 2007.
A pre-accession strategy, including substantial financial assistance, will allow the EU to support Bulgaria's and Romania's preparations for accession. From November 2005 the Commission will publish annual monitoring reports to ensure that Bulgaria and Romania are meeting the commitments they made in the negotiations. Any delay or problem will be promptly reported to the Council.
Three safeguard clauses (on the economy, the internal market and JHA) will be included in the Accession Treaty to allow for any serious shortcomings. A specific safeguard clause will also allow the accession date to be postponed to January 2008 if there is any serious risk that one of the candidates will be unable to fulfil the conditions of accession in time.
Conclusions and recommendations
In view of the progress made with implementing the Copenhagen criteria, the Commission is confident that the accession of Bulgaria and Romania can go ahead on 1 January 2007. It will do everything possible to meet the Council's objectives of completing negotiations in 2004 so that the Accession Treaty can be signed in 2005.
However, the Commission points out several areas in which there is an urgent need for improvement before accession. These are JHA for both countries and competition and the environment for Romania.
Bulgaria and Romania will not immediately adopt the euro upon accession. The removal of border controls will also be put off until some time after accession, and will be decided on separately by each Member State. However, both countries will become members of the European Economic Area as soon as they join the EU.
The Commission recommends extending to Croatia the enhanced pre-accession strategy for candidate countries. It points out that the European Council has decided to start negotiations with Croatia at the beginning of 2005 and is setting the framework for negotiations.
The review procedure, aimed at assessing candidate countries' progress towards membership, will start to be applied to Croatia as of 2005. Under this procedure the Commission will start issuing Regular Reports on Croatia from autumn 2005. Accession preparations will draw on the conclusions of the Commission opinion on Croatia's accession application.
As a candidate country Croatia will benefit from three pre-accession financial instruments from 1 January 2005:
- Phare: institution building and economic and social cohesion;
- ISPA: environment and transport;
- SAPARD: rural development.
The Commission also recommends creating a fourth Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), from which Croatia will benefit from 2007.
The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) which Croatia signed in 2001 should play an important role in trade matters and its structures will serve as an interface for monitoring Croatia's progress on alignment with the acquis. A framework agreement on participation in Community programmes and agencies should enter into force in the first half of 2005.
Under a decision of the Brussels European Council of June 2004 the Commission proposes that the framework for negotiations with Croatia should be based on the following principles:
- compliance with the Copenhagen criteria;
- the sustainability of political reforms and Croatia's fulfilment of its obligations in respect of regional cooperation with the other countries of former Yugoslavia, and other related international obligations such as those relating to the ICTY;
- the Council's right to suspend negotiations by a qualified majority in the case of a serious breach of democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms or the rule of law;
- the principle of own merits, restricting the scope and duration of any transitional arrangements;
- the establishment of a formal process for examination of the acquis;
- a procedure for recommending the opening of negotiations after each chapter of the acquis is closed;
- the pace of negotiations to be determined by Croatia's transposition and proper implementation of the acquis;
- benchmarks for the provisional closure of each chapter before opening negotiations;
- Croatia fulfilling its commitments under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement before the provisional closure of each chapter.
Conclusions and recommendations
The Commission particularly emphasises the need for ongoing political dialogue with Croatia to address sensitive issues such as minority rights, refugee return, judicial reform and combating corruption. It also stresses the need for cooperation with the ICTY and regional cooperation with the Western Balkans.
Bulgaria and Romania are an integral part of the enlargement process launched in 1997. Negotiations with both countries are on the point of being concluded. January 2007 is the target date for their accession.
On 21 February 2003 Croatia submitted its official application for accession to the EU. In June 2004 the Council officially recognised Croatia as an accession candidate. The Council and the Commission consider that accession negotiations should start at the beginning of 2005. Meanwhile, the principles, priorities and conditions of the European partnership with Croatia are set out in Council Decision 2004/648/EC.
This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document.