Bulgaria, Romania, Welcome Home!

Sofia and Bucharest finally received the long awaited go-ahead from the European Commission to enter the European Union on 1 January 2007. The EU will now be made up of 27 democratic countries, institutionally opposed to death penalty, still the world's largest economy with a high level of welfare provided to about 480 million inhabitants.

Bulgaria and Romania have been accepted as EU new members under the strictest terms ever though. Especially, the European Commission emphasized that both countries will have to do a better job fighting organized crime and political corruption. Should the two countries be unable to comply with the terms, they will face consequences, some of which are directed specifically at the accession process.

Although both economies are growing rapidly, Bulgaria and Romania will be the poorest countries within the EU, with gross domestic product per capita only at about one third of the EU average.

There will now be a pause in enlargement of the EU that is likely to last for several years, since the EuropeanTreaty of Nice in 2000 mandated institutional changes within the Union before the number of members goes beyond the 27 maximum which has been reached now. Also, it is necessary to solve the question of a constitution for the EU, which was hit back in 2005 when French and Dutch voters rejected the proposal. Present official candidates to membership (Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey) might then wait quite a long time before then integrate the Union.

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