Knocking at the door
Are Bulgaria and Romania joining the European Union in 2007? Or will they have to wait another year? Recently, the two countries got an answer from the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, presenting the eagerly awaited EU progress reports on Bulgaria and Romania. The reports said both countries can join the union next year provided they implement reforms in a number of areas. Now they have five more months to show that they’re really committed to fight corruption and crime - and to reform their administrations.
Failure to reform could lead to a delay of their entry, the loss of hundreds of millions of euros in subsidies. And maybe even a political backlash in western European countries - as it’s an open secret that many Europeans are tired of EU enlargement.
It’s no real surprise then that the European Commission was reluctant to give Bulgaria and Romania a green light without also sending out a strong warning. Back in 2002 Bulgaria was the first to receive the label of “viable market economy” - two years ahead of its neighbour Romania. But now it’s lagging behind. The sticking point is corruption.
Yellow light for Romania
Corruption, organized crime and money laundering - as we just heard - are Bulgaria’s - and the European Commission’s - biggest headache. Romania still needs to prove that its recent crackdown on corruption and crime is irreversible. But the four red flags it received from the European Commission were all in technical areas such as agriculture.
Lucky thirteen? Slovenia get Euro entry nod
While most of the attention last week focused on Romania and Bulgaria, two new EU members - Slovenia and Lithuania - were waiting for a green light from the European Commission to join the Euro zone.The European Commission rejected Lithuania’s application to join the single currency, saying the country’s inflation was too high. But Slovenia was recommended to join the club - a first for an eastern European country. The former Yugoslav republic has long been a star economic performer in the region and will become the 13th country to adopt the Euro.
Irish tiger economy courts Czech workers
In May 2004 as 10 new members joined the European Union, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Sweden were the only countries to immediately open up their labour markets to the new EU citizens. Since then, according to Ireland’s official figures, around 10,000 Czechs have taken advantage of that opportunity to work there. Now - drawing on two years of experience - the Irish government has just launched an information campaign entitled ”Know Before You Go” .
Racism = fail?
Should students who express racist views be failed at school? Well, teachers at a school north of Gothenburg in Sweden decided in March to fail pupils in Social studies for demonstrating Nazi or racist views in the classroom - which they argue ”go against Sweden’s Democratic values upheld in the curriculum”. Now, the controversial decision has been supported by Sweden’s National Agency for Education.
Da Vinci Code fever
This past week’s political debates in Europe have somehow taken second place to the real headline. Namely, the eagerly awaited world premiere of the Da Vinci Code at the Cannes film festival. Despite thumbs downs from critics no one doubts that it’ll be a huge success. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown has sold more than 39 million copies. Some of the book’s most dramatic scenes take place in London and there’s so much interest in the various locations that the tour company, London Walks, is offering special Da Vinci Code Tours.