Romania, Bulgaria face hard job to win over EU Reuters - 2006/5/30
Romania and Bulgaria face a daunting task to prepare
for the European Union's final review in five months of their readiness to
join the bloc, but officials vowed on Wednesday they had action plans ready.

By October, the Black Sea applicants have to show progress in fighting
organised crime and improving state administration so the European
Commission will recommend entry without delay next year, a decision the EU's
executive put off on Tuesday.

Preparations will be difficult with Bulgaria having to build up its poor
track record in fighting powerful underworld gangs and Romania racing to set
up payment systems for agriculture and trade and show concrete results in
fighting endemic graft.

"We are ready and we know exactly what to do next," Romania's Prime Minister
Calin Tariceanu said after a meeting with Commission President Jose Manuel
Barroso and Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn in Bucharest on Wednesday.

"European Union experts will meet our experts in the next weeks and they
will discuss what are the exact measures that must be taken."

Bulgaria's interior and agriculture ministries said they agreed to cooperate
to establish a system to prevent the misuse or embezzlement of EU funds.

But analysts said the prospects for progress in fighting organised crime in
Bulgaria and further efforts in Romania to stamp out endemic graft were
unclear as governments struggle to shore up enough political support among
their ranks.

Poverty, graft and inefficient public administration are likely to continue
to dog efforts to meet technical requirements, particularly in agriculture.


Brussels praised Romania's progress on corruption so far, which includes
investigations of graft charges against several top officials and an
overhaul of the country's justice system.

It said more effort was needed to show a track record of prosecuting corrupt

It criticised Bulgaria, which has in the past said the EU exaggerates its
organised crime problem, more harshly.

"What can Bulgaria realistically do? Organised crime trials are very long,
so I don't see any of them being realistically wrapped up by October," said
Philip Gounev, research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Democracy in

"Police and prosecutors have enough evidence against certain organised crime
groups to charge them ... And at this point, the government is beginning to
understand that's what's needed for accession," he said.

"The question is, how much leverage does EU entry have? It's still not clear
whether it's important enough to force officials to take these steps."

The chief of Romania's graft watchdog, Victor Alistar, said: "We still
expect some opposition (against further justice reforms) in parliament from
some of those who made fortunes stealing from public money."

Regarding payment systems and agriculture, the main areas named by Brussels
as serious concerns, Romanian officials pledged to meet all requirements
before January.

Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu has said the ministry will start testing
computer systems for tax collections in July. Farm ministry officials said
hundreds of employees were being hired to operate payment agencies for EU
aid. They also vowed to launch enough animal waste facilities to address EU

Author: Justyna Pawlak

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