{"title": "Romania, Bulgaria face hard job to win over EU","content": "
Romania and Bulgaria face a daunting task to prepare for the European Union's final review in five months of their readiness to join the bloc, but officials vowed on Wednesday they had action plans ready. By October, the Black Sea applicants have to show progress in fighting organised crime and improving state administration so the European Commission will recommend entry without delay next year, a decision the EU's executive put off on Tuesday. Preparations will be difficult with Bulgaria having to build up its poor track record in fighting powerful underworld gangs and Romania racing to set up payment systems for agriculture and trade and show concrete results in fighting endemic graft. 'We are ready and we know exactly what to do next,' Romania's Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu said after a meeting with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn in Bucharest on Wednesday. 'European Union experts will meet our experts in the next weeks and they will discuss what are the exact measures that must be taken.' Bulgaria's interior and agriculture ministries said they agreed to cooperate to establish a system to prevent the misuse or embezzlement of EU funds. But analysts said the prospects for progress in fighting organised crime in Bulgaria and further efforts in Romania to stamp out endemic graft were unclear as governments struggle to shore up enough political support among their ranks. Poverty, graft and inefficient public administration are likely to continue to dog efforts to meet technical requirements, particularly in agriculture. CONCRETE STEPS Brussels praised Romania's progress on corruption so far, which includes investigations of graft charges against several top officials and an overhaul of the country's justice system. It said more effort was needed to show a track record of prosecuting corrupt officials. It criticised Bulgaria, which has in the past said the EU exaggerates its organised crime problem, more harshly. 'What can Bulgaria realistically do? Organised crime trials are very long, so I don't see any of them being realistically wrapped up by October,' said Philip Gounev, research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Democracy in Sofia. 'Police and prosecutors have enough evidence against certain organised crime groups to charge them ... And at this point, the government is beginning to understand that's what's needed for accession,' he said. 'The question is, how much leverage does EU entry have? It's still not clear whether it's important enough to force officials to take these steps.' The chief of Romania's graft watchdog, Victor Alistar, said: 'We still expect some opposition (against further justice reforms) in parliament from some of those who made fortunes stealing from public money.' Regarding payment systems and agriculture, the main areas named by Brussels as serious concerns, Romanian officials pledged to meet all requirements before January. Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu has said the ministry will start testing computer systems for tax collections in July. Farm ministry officials said hundreds of employees were being hired to operate payment agencies for EU aid. They also vowed to launch enough animal waste facilities to address EU concerns.Author: Justyna Pawlak
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