Thursday, May 31, 2007

Franco Frattini: I'll recommend triggering safeguard clauses if Bulgaria and Romania do not speed up reforms

Focus News Agency

Brussels. Franco Frattini, the European commissioner for justice, freedom and security, has insisted that he will recommend triggering safeguard clauses against Romania and Bulgaria if they do not introduce enough judicial reforms and clamp down on corruption and organised crime. But he said both states must be treated like all other member states during this process.

“I will be ready to trigger the clause in case of no consolidation seen, if no consolidation is shown by the Romanian or Bulgarian authorities,” he said in an interview with European Voice.

The European Commission will publish a report on 27 June on both countries’ progress since joining the EU in January in the area of justice and home affairs. The Commission can recommend sanctions against Romania and Bulgaria if they do not show enough progress.

But the British, French, Dutch and Swedish ambassadors voiced concerns to the Commission in April about its scrutiny of progress in both countries. Frattini said that he understood the ambassadors’ concern but cautioned that Romania and Bulgaria should not be treated any differently. “To those ambassadors I told them, also directly, they have to consider Romania and Bulgaria as a new member state, as they are, deserving equal treatment,” he said.

“I have to be in touch, I cannot treat them as I have to treat a neighbour country like Serbia. They are full member states, they sit around the same table of the Council [of Ministers], they vote as France, as Italy and Spain [do].”

Frattini said that he had recently met the Bulgarian Prosecutor-General Boris Velchev, the Bulgarian Interior Minister Rumen Petkov and the Romanian Justice Minister Tudor Chiuariu to ask them to explain progress to date. On Tuesday (29 May) he met the Romanian Interior Minister Cristian David.

Frattini said he had highlighted “good points and points of weakness” in a new Romanian law setting up an “integrity agency” - which will tackle conflicts of interest for public officials. After the meeting, David said: “The activation of the safeguard clause is out of the question.”

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