Minister for European Affairs Paula Lehtomäki in the European Parliament, Address on Bulgaria and Romania, 26 September 2006
(Check against delivery)
Distinguished President, Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The accession of Bulgaria and Romania is an integral part of the fifth enlargement of the European Union. As you know, our goal is to welcome both countries to membership of the Union on 1 January 2007.
Throughout the enlargement process, the Presidencies have assured the European Parliament that its views concerning the readiness of Bulgaria and Romania for accession will be taken into account. The Presidency wants to thank the European Parliament for its significant contribution to the accession process of both countries.
The European Union has closely followed the progress made by the countries in endeavouring to complete the required reforms and to meet the criteria specified in the Accession Agreements. While the June European Council in Brussels commended Bulgaria and Romania for their recent reforms, it also called on the countries to rigorously step up their efforts to tackle decisively and without delay the remaining issues of concern, mentioned in the Commission's May 2006 Monitoring Report.
The Presidency has encouraged both countries to address the outstanding issues, especially the reform of the judiciary, anti-corruption measures, and strengthening of their administrative capacities in certain key areas. The Association Council's meetings have offered an opportunity to assess the progress made in respect of the Community acquis and clearly shown that the required reforms have to be completed and implemented without delay. The meetings of the Joint Parliamentary Committees have also played a central role in this matter.
The Presidency takes note of recommendations presented in the Commission's reports. We want to thank both Bulgaria and Romania for their efforts to meet the accession criteria. I am aware of the ongoing efforts of Bulgaria and Romania to tackle their outstanding problems, but I urge them to intensify their pursuits.
The Council intends to thoroughly investigate the Commission's report and recommendations and make an overall assessment of the key issues. The views of the European Parliament will naturally be taken note of by the Council.
The ratification process of the accession agreement has proceeded well already and we are confident that it will be concluded in time.