Romania and Bulgaria to enter EU – with conditions

Romania and Bulgaria have been given the go-ahead to join the EU in January 2007, but under strict conditions from the European Commission.

It has imposed tougher rules on the Balkan countries than on previous new members, but commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said in the progress report that both countries had made enough progress to join the union.

The conditions include ordering the two countries to do more to tackle organised crime, improve food safety standards and implement measures to control animal disease. Their use of EU funds will be also be monitored.

Welcoming the new accession states, Mr Barroso said: “Bulgaria and Romania have carried out an extraordinary reform process and they have gone through a remarkable transformation.”

Immigration minister Liam Byrne argued this morning that migrants should be granted “gradual access”.

Acknowledging the economic benefits of migration, he told GMTV: “Here we think, actually, there is a case for only very gradual access and we will be thinking through the sorts of controls that are needed over the next month and a half before reporting back to parliament before the end of October.”

Mr Byrne’s comments came in the wake of those made by John Reid, who last week warned that migration must be carefully “managed”.

The findings of the report are expected to be a signal to other countries who want to join the EU, including Turkey.

Margaret Beckett told delegates at the Labour party conference this morning: “The enlargement of the EU and the new relationship within it are making a reality of the hopes of peace that inspired its founders.

“It is within the EU that we are making our greatest contribution to tackling the problems of peace and security, the international fight against crime, the environment.”

The foreign secretary added: “And if we can successfully bring Turkey into the [European] Union it will be a real contribution to the dialogue and debate between faiths and cultures across the globe.

“These are successful international, even multinational relationships.”

The last expansion of the EU in 2004 saw ten new member states, and figures estimate that 600,000 new people have since come to work in the UK.

Britain is one of only three EU members which at present allows unrestricted working rights to migrants to fill gaps in the labour market.

There have been concerns that millions of new citizens from Romania and Bulgaria, which will be the poorest new states, will come to the UK to work.

However, the prime ministers of Romania and Bulgaria – with respective populations of 22 and 8 million – said people would prefer to move to Italy or Spain.