ECONOMY

Aid for Bulgaria and Romania

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission yesterday proposed boosting EU aid for the Balkan duo Bulgaria and Romania to support their efforts to join the bloc in 2007. The EU executive said the two countries, which have been left out of the first wave of the eurozone’s eastern expansion in two years’ time, should see their shared preaccession aid rise by 20 percent to 1.23 billion euros in 2004 and 2003. The assistance – to modernize transport infrastructure, clean up the environment, overhaul the farm sector and implement free market reforms – would grow to 1.33 billion euros in 2005 and 1.43 billion euros in 2006. The increased aid is part of a European Union membership «road map» for Bulgaria and Romania approved by the Commission yesterday, which is to be discussed by EU leaders at a summit in Copenhagen on December 12-13. The Commission said the most urgent reforms included improving the work of the countries’ often inefficient courts, strengthening their weak administrative systems and pushing ahead with economic reforms aimed at completing the transition from communism. Under the Commission’s proposal, Romania – which has 22 million people – will receive EU aid worth 860 million euros in 2004, 931 million euros in 2005 and 1 billion euros in 2006. Bulgaria – with 8 million people – is to get 368 million, 399 million and 430 million euros over the same period. Romania’s gross domestic product per capita amounts to a mere 25 percent of the EU average. Bulgaria, where GDP per capital amounts to 28 percent of the EU average, is much more advanced than Romania in terms of harmonizing its laws with EU legislation.