Romania’s PM upbeat about EU decision for early entry into bloc

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Romania’s prime minister said yesterday he expects his country and Bulgaria to get the green light next week to join the European Union in January rather than a year later. The European Commission will recommend on September 26 whether Bulgaria and Romania should join the 25-nation EU in 2007 or be given one more year to complete entry preparations. «I expect a positive report from the Commission,» Calin Tariceanu told a news conference after talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament chief Josep Borrell. He said he hoped the Commission would not propose any temporary safeguards on either Balkan country if they were deemed unprepared in any area. The two countries’ shortcomings include corruption and organized crime, especially in Bulgaria, food safety standards and often inefficient state administration. Applying safeguards could mean, for example, that court rulings of a new member state were not fully valid in the bloc or that some foods could not be exported freely. The Commission could also withhold part of the EU’s huge regional development and farm aid if the countries’ payments agencies which distribute the funds were deemed not ready. The EU executive will have to decide whether to announce such safeguards on September 26 or threaten to apply them unless the Black Sea neighbours made more progress on reforms. A Commission official, who asked not to be identified, said the latter scenario seemed more likely. Tariceanu appealed to EU member states not to shut their labor market to Romanian workers following signals that Britain might not let in the country’s job-seekers. Bulgaria and Romania missed the EU’s first eastern enlargement wave because they had been initially slow to implement reforms, which also left them economically poorer than the recent EU newcomers. In May, the Commission postponed its recommendation on Bulgaria and Romania to exert pressure on them for more reforms.