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Romania, Bulgaria set to join European Union in 2007

[JURIST] In a historic step for ex-communist Romania and Bulgaria, the two countries Monday signed an accession treaty with the European Union (EU) [official website] which should lead to them joining the bloc in 2007. They were left out of last year's EU enlargement from 15 to 25, including the incorporation of eight ex-communist countries, because they were slow to begin reforms following the 1989 collapse of communism in the region. With a combined population of some 30 million, Romania and Bulgaria would be the poorest countries in the union, with a pro capita GDP of less than 30 percent of the bloc average. The countries now have 20 months to bring their countries up to EU standards and if they fail to do so, their entry could be delayed until January 2008 under the "safeguard clause." Romania is said to be under heavy pressure to comply with EU standards in the areas of justice and home affairs and competition policy. The EU has still satisfied itself that Bulgaria has stamped out the rampant corruption that pervades the country. Read the EU press release. The EU has extended coverage of the signing of the accession treaty by Bulgaria and Romania including streaming video of the ceremony. AFP has more.

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