Results of the Accession Negotiations with the Twelve New Member States
At the Copenhagen European Council of 12 and 13 December 2002 the last few of a total of 31 negotiation chapters were closed with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. This successful completion was the result of painstaking negotiations opened under Austria’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in 1998.
Following the signing of their Accession Treaty in April 2005, Romania and Bulgaria undertook large scale efforts to meet their envisaged target accession date of 1 January 2007. Their endeavours were ultimately successful and in its report of September 2006 the European Commission noted that as a result of the considerable progress made by these countries, Bulgaria and Romania were sufficiently prepared to fulfil the accession criteria by 1 January 2007. At the same time, however, the Commission identified areas where further work would be necessary by the two countries following their accession to the Union.
In the course of the negotiation process preceding the 2004 round of enlargement, Austria had been able to make sure that the results also took account of its interests in all sensitive areas:
- Labour market: Transitional periods for the free movement of workers for a total of seven years will ensure the stability of the Austrian labour market. Reviews after two and five years will provide for a flexible application of the transitional periods and, if required, an earlier liberalisation;
- Cross-border services: Transitional periods will prevent an adverse impact on sensitive sectors in Austria and Germany (building and cleaning industries, home nursing and security services);
- Nuclear safety: High safety standards (Temelín) and binding closure dates have been defined for reactor blocks for which the retrofitting of safety technology is not possible - Kosloduj (Bulgaria), Ignalina (Lithuania), Bohunice (Slovakia);
- Environmental standards: There will be a considerable reduction in cross-border air and water pollution, as the acceding neighbouring states are required to adopt the EU’s environmental standards. Transitional periods for specific environmental requirements have been granted only for strictly limited periods and scopes, at the same time ensuring that there will be no distortion of competition in the internal market;
- Internal security: The adoption of EU standards, e.g. for border inspections (Schengen) by the acceding states will safeguard the EU’s external borders and help combat illegal immigration and organised crime;
- Social standards: The adoption of high social standards (protection of workers and equal treatment of women) by the acceding countries will contribute to the development of common standards in the social sector;
- Cross-bordercooperation: The successful cross-border cooperation programmes (CBC) with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia will be continued, bringing advantages for Austria’s border regions.
Accompanying measures have been included to remedy deficits that could remain after the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, in particular:
- Safeguards in the field of food security (restrictions for meat imports);
- A special control and review mechanism called mechanism for cooperation and verification for the field of justice and home affairs (focusing on the judiciary and combating corruption);
- Specific mechanisms to enable the European Commission to monitor control and regularise the disbursement of EU funds to these two countries.
In its progress report of 25 July 2008 on judiciary and home affairs in Bulgaria and Romania the European Commission stated shortcomings for both countries regarding the fight against corruption on high levels. Overall, the evaluation on Romania has been less critical. Thus it is essential to continue the above mentioned cooperation and verification mechanism for both countries.
Due to irregularities within the administration of EU funds in Bulgaria, the European Commission decided to temporarily interrupt aid-money in the amount of € 500m and to deprive Bulgarian authorities of the right to administer the money.