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Bulgaria to Face Tough EU Entry in 2007

Date: 05.09.2006

It is almost certain that sanctions will be activated; Brussels is mulling over whether regional aid can be suspended

Bulgaria and Romania are set to get the go ahead to join the European Union on January 1 under the strictest conditions applied to new members of the club, wrote the Financial Times. Bulgaria will come under the toughest EU scrutiny, and faces possible legal and financial sanctions unless it proves it is serious in tackling organised crime and high-level corruption, adds the newspaper.

In the case of Bulgaria, Brussels hoped the country would deliver concrete results over the summer in tackling high-level corruption and organised crime but progress has been disappointing.

The European Union's executive arm is likely to recommend this month letting Bulgaria and Romania join next January rather than in 2008, but propose tough conditions for their entry, an EU source said on Tuesday as quoted by Reuters.

"We are in the final stage of preparing a report, but it is too early to draw any conclusions, so any speculation is premature," said Krisztina Nagy, Commission spokeswoman.

EU representatives failed to explain what could be the exact financial sanctions imposed for Bulgaria and Romania.

According to the Financial Times The EU has the power to suspend regional aid payments worth billions of euros to either Bulgaria or Romania if they are shown to be subject to persistent fraud. However, a Commission source said for Reuters that the amount of EU aid is fixed by the accession treaty and it is difficult to strip countries. But aid could be withheld if the countries' payments agencies to distribute farm subsidies are deemed not ready.

Applying safeguards could mean, for example, that court rulings of a new member state are not fully valid in the bloc, or the country is excluded from the EU's common border policy.

According to Reuters, a negative report of the Commission could seriously hinder the ratification of Bulgaria's accession treaty in countries like Germany that have not yet approved Bulgaria's accession to the EU.

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