Vienna, 26 September 2006 - "Bulgaria and Romania have pursued an impressive course to catch up and get into shape for 2007," said Foreign Minister Plassnik in a first response to the Monitoring Report on the State of Preparedness for EU Membership submitted to the European Parliament by Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn today. "Both countries have worked on achieving this goal for more than ten years; it is another historic step towards European reunification," continued Plassnik, recalling that the Union had taken the decision to start negotiations with all Central and Eastern European countries, including Romania and Bulgaria, as early as 1997.
After careful examination the Commission had reached the conclusion that both countries had proved their ability to apply the European legislation and its principles as of 1 January 2007. Consequently, there was no sufficient reason for postponing accession and Romania and Bulgaria should therefore be allowed to become Member States of the European Union as of 1 January 2007, as agreed.
"We have provided for Austria to ensure that the accession does not lead to disturbances on the domestic labour market," emphasised Plassnik. She explained that the present EU Member States could ban free movement of employees from these two countries for a transition period of up to seven years. This right could be claimed by every single Member State without having to obtain the consent of the Commission or the Council. The Schengen border controls vis-à-vis Bulgaria and Romania would also remain in force.
"However, the course of reform embarked on by the two countries will not be completed by 1 January 2007, there is still a long way to go. Bulgaria and Romania will have to undertake further persistent efforts in order to ensure a successful outcome of their European course," said the Foreign Minister. "The EU - in particular the Commission - will monitor full compliance with EU standards by the new Member States. The comprehensive safeguards of the Accession Treaty provide security in this respect. There cannot and must not be any deviation from the strict adherence to Community rules," said Plassnik, referring to the Commission’s special control rights in areas where there are still weak points or residual risks.
The Commission, among other things, had provided for a comprehensive catalogue of measures in order to ensure the functioning of the entire enlarged Union. For the first time monitoring would be continued after accession until existing weak points in the Justice and Home Affairs area, in particular in the fight against corruption, had been eliminated. In the field of agriculture separate provisions had been made to ensure the suspension of payments, if necessary.
Finally, Plassnik emphasised the importance of this accession for the convergence of the Danube region. "Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession to the EU will bring Austria more security, more export opportunities and more jobs. We are witnessing the emergence of a cultural and economic region in the Danube basin with a potential that is especially exciting for us," concluded Plassnik, referring to the manifold chances arising for Austria in this region of promising future prospects.
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
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