European Union Expands To 500 Million
European Union expands to 500 million consumers
On 1 January 2007 Bulgaria and Rumania joined the EU (European Union) to become the 26th and 27th members of this unique regional alliance.The fifth enlargement of the EU has been very positive. Bulgaria and Romania are part of this. A carefully managed EU enlargement process extends peace, stability, prosperity, democracy, human rights and the rule of law across Europe.
EU institutions, and the European Commission in particular, have been closely monitoring the path to accession and the development of the eight post-communist states that joined the EU on 1 May 2004, plus Bulgaria and Rumania. The analysis of the effects of the recent enlargement round has been carried out with the purpose of not only adapting the supranational decision-making structures and various EU policies to the new realities (the so-called absorption capacity), but also to devise possible strategies for future enlargements.
The fifth expansion of the Union has been rather extraordinary. Not only twelve new countries have acceded to the Union between 2004 and 2007, but also the majority of them have been Eastern European former communist states.
If previous enlargement rounds had attempted to include new members in a ‘piecemeal fashion’ –in order not to upset the institutional balance and change the decision-making style at the supranational level too much– this time the UNion’s ‘big bang’ expansion has spurred widespread debates about the way the EU will be run in the future.
Bulgaria and Romania countries have benefited from the fact that at the time of the collapse of their respective communist regimes (at the end of 1989) and immediately after that, they managed to preserve their state institutions and borders. In fact, Bulgaria and Rumania were among the five (out of 25) post-communist states in Eastern Europe that did not have to create their statehood anew and re-establish their national identity as many of the other polities, emerging out of the rapidly disintegrating socialist federations, had to.
Furthermore, although both countries have not always been considered as the most advanced in their democratic and socio-economic transformation, they have always been seen as being part of the same group of so-called new European democracies together with the East-Central European and Baltic states.
Both Bulgaria and Rumania had previously been dominated by harsh forms of communist dictatorships. Foreign debt, unemployment, poor infrastructures, low salaries and perennial shortages of various goods and services plagued the everyday life of Bulgarians and Rumanians during the early period of transition.
Both countries have sizeable ethnic minorities as well. The Turks in Bulgaria and Hungarians in Rumania, but especially the Roma in both countries, have consistently required additional efforts on the part of the central and local authorities to integrate them in social and political life.
The ethnic conflicts in the Former Yugoslavia created serious security concerns in Bulgaria and Rumania, as well as among the rest of their neighbours, while the image of the Balkans as being part of a unified and tolerant Europe has been tarnished for a considerable period of time. The nearby civil wars and bombardments interrupted the export routes to Europe and led to a scarcity of foreign direct investment during most of the 1990s.
Short- and medium-term challenges. In Justice and Home Affairs: border and migration control, continuing reform of the judiciary, accelerating the fight against high-level corruption, reform of the police and secret services and accession to the Schengen Zone; in Economic and Monetary Policy: curbing the budgetary deficit, sustaining growth and joining the EMU; in Common Agricultural Policy and Regional Policy: effective absorption of EU funds and building modern infrastructure; in Food Safety and Consumer Protection: enhancing the controlling capacity of inspectorates and creating additional legal mechanisms for consumer protection; in Environment: implementing the existing legislation and assisting the conversion programs of polluting industries.
Long-term challenges. In Social Policy and Employment: tackling the impending demographic crisis (especially in Bulgaria) and fighting unemployment; in Regional Policy: modernising rural areas and reviving city infrastructures; in Education and Culture: propping up the educational systems of both countries and integrating their minority populations; in Transport Policy: concentrating on building trans-European corridors and highways to help the emerging tourist industries and transport hubs in Bulgaria and Rumania.
Both countries have completed or have been close to completing comprehensive transformations in order to meet the tough accession criteria. An additional factor that should be taken into account is that the Bulgarian and Rumanian reform and convergence processes will be monitored after they become members of the Union.
*EU At A Glance
*EU Expansion Drive
*Romania and Bulgaria celebrate EU membership
European Union, European Commission ,
European Union Fifth Expansion, EU enlargement