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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU to Admit Bulgaria and Romania in 2007

STRASBOURG, France -- Romania and Bulgaria can be admitted as full members in the European Union on Jan. 1, 2007, EU officials said Tuesday of a report recommending the 25 governments already in the bloc to accept the two Balkan nations.

The European Commission said in its much-anticipated final report that both nations had made enough progress for entry. But it said a significant chunk of expected economic aid should be made conditional on the completion of further reforms needed in justice and home affairs, as well as food safety and state subsidies.

The decision to admit the two neighboring countries increases the size of the European Union to 27 nations, but comes at a time of growing doubts about the bloc's rapid expansion.

EU leaders will meet next month to give formal approval to Romania and Bulgaria, whose bid for EU membership had been stalled due to their spotty records on fighting corruption. Both rank among the poorest nations in Europe. Four countries -- France, Germany, Denmark and Belgium -- have yet to ratify the entry of Romania, a country of 22 million, and Bulgaria, with 8 million, but are expected to do so soon.

"Bulgaria and Romania have made further progress to complete their preparations for membership, demonstrating their capacity to apply EU principles and legislation," said the report presented by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU's expansion commissioner, Olli Rehn.

Barroso said the entry of the two nations into the bloc would be a "historic achievement."

Both countries will face restrictions in terms of their work force gaining access to other EU markets. Britain, Sweden and Ireland, which opened the door to workers from the 10 newcomers in 2004, are likely to set the strictest conditions. But they may also be shut out of labor markets in Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Bulgaria and Romania will have to regularly report on progress of their reform to Brussels, with the first report scheduled for March 31, 2007.

Bulgaria's prime minister, Sergei Stanishev, said Tuesday that EU membership signified "the final fall of the Berlin Wall for Bulgaria," but warned that it must work hard to integrate socially and economically into the bloc.

Money laundering and serious crime are of particular concern in Bulgaria, whose judiciary has been criticized by the EU as sluggish and graft-prone. Romania must establish an anti-corruption agency, the commission said.