The accession treaty of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union was signed today in Luxembourg. As part of a ceremony, the treaty was signed by the heads of state of each of the 25 current EU members, as well as the Bulgarian and Romanian heads of state, in what is seen as the most important step towards EU accession.
The signature of the accession treaty marks the transition of Bulgaria and Romania from candidate countries of the EU to accession countries, which can now send observers to the European Parliament and participate in several European Union institution meetings. The countries will also receive extra funding between today and January 1, 2007, when the two countries are set to become full members of the European Union.
The accession treaty signing has been met with celebration in both Bulgaria and Romania. Romania also organised in Luxembourg a series of cultural events, known as Zilele României la Luxembourg (Romania’s Days in Luxembourg). The cultural events included traditional Romanian music, concerts, an artistic performance and exhibitions by several important Romanian visual artists. Before the ceremony, Romanian Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu said:
- The signature of the Accession Treaty signifies that we stopped being a second rank country. It is the best proof that we met our commitments and we implemented the European reforms. We proved that Romanians’ belief in their country and in their future in this country is justified. This is the reason why, I believe it is high time for all Romanians to be proud of their country. We will join EU on the 1st of January 2007. This is my commitment as Prime Minister. It will not be easy because we will have to implement the reforms which have been delayed for 15 years. But it is not an impossible task.
The 860-page treaty finalises the candidacy of the two Southeastern European states, who will now have to work hard to implement last-minute reforms until their accession date, less than 21 months away. Both states must crack down on corruption, as well as secure their external borders, strengthen the judiciary and align competition law with EU standards. Romania has recently been praised for taking decisive action against corruption, even though EU lawmakers said that there is a lot left to be done. Upon accession in 2007, Romania will also have the second-largest external border in the European Union, after Finland. Due to this, it has recently upgraded several of its border checkpoints with Ukraine and Republic of Moldova, even though more is left to be done until 2007.
The accession treaty signed today also includes references to a safeguard clause, which makes way for a delay in accession until 2008 if either Bulgaria or Romania do not meet their commitments.
Apart from the political reforms needed to join the European Union, EU funds will also help economic development in the two countries, enabling them to improve infrastructure, especially roads, clean up the environment and modernise their industries. While both countries are among the most developed in their region of Southeastern Europe, their per-capita income is between 30-35% of the European Union average. Therefore, when they join, they will be the two poorest countries in the EU.
The signing of the accession treaty should also boost foreign investment to the two countries. Both countries have benefited in terms of foreign investment from being candidate countries of the EU, and their new accession country status is expected to lure more foreign investors. Romania also introduced a flat tax rate of 16% on personal income and corporate profit this year to attract more foreign investment.
When Bulgaria and Romania join in 2007, the European Union will have a population of approximately 484 million people, 30 million more than now. It will also raise the number of its members to 27, and add two extra official languages: Bulgarian and Romanian. The Bulgarian language will be the first official language of the European Union to be written in Cyrill … Read More