Romania: Timeframe for Concluding Accession Talks Outlined
European Report - 28 January 2004
The European Commission will put forward the financial package for Romanian accession to the European Union on February 10. And it will present draft common EU negotiating positions (DCPs) for the eight remaining chapters of the accession talks with Romania during the Irish EU Presidency in the first half of 2004 - except for the justice and home affairs chapter, for which a DCP will be presented in the second half of the year. This is with a view to allowing the accession talks to be concluded during 2004 as foreseen for Romania to join the EU in 2007. This was the timeframe outlined by EU Enlargement Commissioner GŁnter Verheugen after meeting Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana on January 27 in Brussels. Mr Verheugen added that progress would depend on Romanian efforts in producing satisfactory documentation and solving difficulties such as management of EU Structural Funds and administrative reform.
MEPs voice concern.
Mr Geoana also held meetings with a number of Members of the European Parliament, including Baroness Emma Nicholson (ELDR, UK), Charles Tannock (EPP-ED, UK), Graham Watson (ELDR, UK) and Diemut Theato (EPP-ED, Germany). This will have no doubt presented a useful opportunity to exchange and clarify views after what was a lively debate on Romania in the Foreign Affairs Committee on January 21 - at which Dutch EPP Member Arie Oostlander called for accession talks with Bucharest to be suspended pending Romanian progress on human rights and corruption. Baroness Nicholson is the rapporteur for a new report on Romanian accession currently being drawn up by the European Parliament (see European Report 2835).
The issue of child protection in Romania has also come under the spotlight recently, with the news that Romania has sent 105 children for adoption in Italy, despite its moratorium on international adoptions in place pending the adoption of adequate legislation and structures in this area. Mr Verheguen has held an initial telephone discussion on the matter with Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. The latter, the Commissioner reported on January 27, had said that the adoptions in question were the last such cases remaining in the pipeline, a possibility that he agreed had been foreseen when starting the moratorium. Mr Verheugen also indicated that adoptions could be discussed on a case-by-case basis if the Government could guarantee the whereabouts of the children - and indeed Mr Nastase was to supply such information for the children sent to Italy. Mr Geoana explained that the Government hoped to submit to the Romanian Parliament by mid-February legislation on child protection and adoption which would finalise the necessary legal framework in this area.
With accession negotiations coming to the crunch, Romania is keen to stress its readiness to make the necessary efforts, including on corruption. The subject was broached during a meeting, also on January 27 in Brussels, between Romania's General Prosecutor Ilie Botos and EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino. According to Romanian sources, Mr Botos said he would now give monthly reports on Romania's activities in this area.
Romania has provisionally closed 22 out of 30 opened negotiation chapters. The remaining eight are as follows: free movement of services; competition; agriculture; energy; regional policy; environment; justice and home affairs; finance and budgets. The next annual Commission report on Romania's progress towards EU membership is expected in September 2004.