Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New EU Membership (quitely) Approved.

This news has barely made the headlines and is certainly not getting a whole lot of people excited - certainly a sign of the "enlargement fatigue" in European public opinion, in the wake of the 'no' vote on the European Constitution:
The European Commission has announced that Romania and Bulgaria will be admitted to the EU in January 2007, but under strict conditions.
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said both countries had made enough progress to join the union.
[.../...]
Bulgaria's PM said the move was the fall of the Berlin Wall for his nation.The conditions are tougher than those imposed on previous new members, observers say. (BBC)
Indeed, problems remain and...
[Romania and Bulgaria] will be checked for progress in curbing organised crime and corruption, and ensuring food safety and the proper use of EU funds. (BBC)
Romanian and Bulgarian accession brings the EU club to 27 members and swells the current 450 million EU population to 480 million. The Official Report of the EU Commission on Bulgaria and Romania. (pdf).

The news is of course welcome by the US which has been pushing for Europe to welcome Turkey to the club as well.
"We certainly would encourage the EU to continue to keep open a European horizon for a number of states, including those in the Balkans and Turkey as well, " said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
But that's goin g to a much harder sell, given the state of current public opinion across Europe. Besides, as The Guardian pointed out, there is going to be a more pressing issue to deal with:
The EU's rules are currently covered by the Nice treaty, which sets a cap on the number of members at 27. This will be reached in January. Croatia, which is next in line to join, will now have to wait until the EU decides what to do with its constitution.
Nothing will happen before the elections in France and Britain and there is nothing the Bush administration can do about that.

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