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Rehn chews up Bulgaria before EU parliament

Date: 27.04.2006

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn harshly criticized Bulgaria before the European Parliament on Wednesday.

During an extra session of the Parliament, held to discuss the progress that Bulgaria and Romania have made towards EU accession, Rehn chewed up the lack of reforms in the judiciary, and in fighting organized crime and money laundering.

Bulgaria and Romania have shown a decisive will to reform the combat with organized crime, but the independence of Bulgaria's courts is still questionable, Rehn said. The Commissioner did not comment whether Bulgaria would join the EU on January 1, 2007 or whether the European Commission would want a delay of the entry. He said that he still hasn't decided what he would officially recommend in the monitoring report that is due May 16.

"My goal is that both countries join the EU in 2007, but my obligation is to vouch that they completely cover the European criteria at the time of their accession," Rehn said.

The commissioner was not supposed to appear in front of the EU Parliament before the publication of the comprehensive reports on both countries that the EU Commission prepares for 16 May. The European Christian democrats (EPP) and part of the socialists MEPs however invited Olli Rehn on 26 April in Brussels for a debate about Romania and Bulgaria EU accession.

European Parliament's Rapporteur for Bulgaria Geoffrey van Orden told the MEPs that a possible delay in Bulgaria's entry would have the effect of a "slap", instead of encouragement. He once again recalled that Bulgaria has adopted a new Penal Code, appointed a new top prosecutor and adopted Constitutional amendments.

Van Orden pointed out that crime rate in Bulgaria is lower than that in Germany and the crime solving level is bigger. Bulgaria has been seriously criticized by the EU for its impotence to cope with organized crime.

Immediately after the session Bulgarian EP Observer Atanas Paparizov and chair of the parliamentary commission on Euro integration commented for local Darik radio that Rehn has hinted that the report would recommend Bulgaria's entry on January v1, 2007.

Rehn said earlier in April that Bulgaria needs to show results in tackling crime and corruption if it is to join the European Union in 2007. The EU enlargement commission is concerned about the high rate of street killings in Bulgaria, which has seen not a single person convicted for the murders. If Bulgaria fails to get results, EU entry could be delayed until 2008.

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