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Two New Members Join the EU

  • January 21st, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

bulgaria-romania-resize.jpgBulgaria and Romania became members of the European Union on 1 January, making up a total of 27 countries with overall population now well over 500 million.

Both have been admitted conditional on further reforming their standards of governance and law, and control of corruption; they are working to catch up with the rest of the European economy with some good results.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria has staked its claim to EU membership on success with some stiff discipline in economic management, according to the European Commission agency that has been reviewing its performance.

The country, with 7.4 million population, struggled during the painful transition that followed the collapse of the Eastern bloc after 1989.

It suffered a costly outflow of labour as many left looking for work; per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remains at only 32.1 percent of the average for the 25 previous EU member countries; and Bulgaria has both low employment levels and a shortage of highly skilled labour.

However the EU Directorate General of Economics and Finance (DG ECFIN) says it is impressed with Bulgaria’s catch-up capacity.

Economic reports show the Bulgarian economy has turned problems to advantage:

Building admittedly on a low base it is expanding rapidly, real GDP growth accelerating from 5.5% to 6.1% per annum, from 2005 to 2006 – double EU averages.

According to the DG ECFIN, ambitious structural reforms, and very prudent fiscal and wage policies have strengthened the country’s position; employment has been growing steadily.
Romania
Romania, with 22.3 million people, has begun a strong economic expansion supported by large direct foreign investment in its industries, concentrating on a range of “higher-value-added products” – its EU assessors say.
That investment performance, reaching 13% growth in 2006, offset three-quarters of a large current account deficit running up to 10% of GDP.
GDP itself still remains at 34.7% of EU levels a year ago.
Romanian governments have dismantled the former autarkic economic system, (trying to produce everything in the one country), and by 2004 the economy rebounded with an annual growth rate of 8.4 %, continuing strong into 2006.
Industrial activity, construction, and expansion of agriculture have driven the growth of the economy, accompanied by higher private consumption, up to 10% p.a. by 2006.
Warm welcomes
The figures speak for perhaps minor economic miracles, convincing enough to allow the newcomers into the fold.
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso said that to mark “this important day in European history” he would thank all of the people and leaders of the European Union for supporting the admission of the two countries.
“The 1 January 2007 is a historic day to celebrate.
“I congratulate the people and leaders of Bulgaria and Romania for their courage, determination and work in preparing for membership,” he said.
The Enlargement Commissioner directly responsible for managing the admission of the two new states, Olli Rehn, said EU accession would bring concrete improvements to the every day life of citizens, “such as safer food, cleaner environment, and better roads”.
“They deserve congratulations for impressive reforms in strengthening democracy, modernising their countries, and making their justice systems more efficient and independent,” he said.
Bulgaria and Romania applied for EU membership in 1995 and both countries started their accession negotiations in February 2000; negotiations were successfully concluded in December 2004 and their Accession Treaty was signed in April 2005.
In its last monitoring report on Bulgaria and Romania in September, the European Union concluded that both countries were sufficiently prepared to carry the obligations of EU membership.
To address outstanding issues, the EU has adopted a package of “accompanying measures”, especially – with assistance from the EU as a whole – measures for confronting organised crime and official corruption, enacting changes in the justice system and reforming practices of government.

Picture: Welcoming message for the two new member countries at the Berlaymont headquarters of the EU in Brussels; European Commission AV

Reference:

European Economy News, no. 5, January 2007; EC ( DG ECFIN).
“Two New Members Join the EU Family”, European Commission, 28.12.06, IP/06/1900.

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