Romania, along with its Black Sea neighbor Bulgaria, is to sign an adhesion treaty to the EU on Monday. But conservative European Union politicians are concerned Bucharest won't be ready to join the bloc in 2007.
Trying to tackle corruption: Romanian President Basescu
Romanian President Traian Basescu has admitted his country has a corruption problem. But in the face of rising criticism -- including from several German parliamentarians -- he's hoping to make the case that his country is addressing the issue.
Known as the "national evil," corruption has penetrated most aspects of Romanian society. Combined with a weak judiciary, some European politicians are calling for Romanian accession to the EU to be postponed.
"The criticism is very understandable and the skepticism of a few German politicians against us is also justified if you look at the last 15 years and especially the last four years in Romania," Basescu said.
But the president said the new uncompromising anti-corruption drive of his government was helping to improve conditions in the country.
"I'd like to ask those German politicians that are still mistrustful of Romania to look at the last few months since the new government is in office," he said. "We have started a bitter war against corruption."
After signing the treaty on Monday, Romania and Bulgaria will still have to work to meet EU conditions in order to be able to join the Union as planned on Jan. 1, 2007. The EU could put off entry for a year if conditions have not been met.
Benefit of doubt
Germany's conservative opposition would like to vote against the treaty in the Bundestag, but members of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats are more willing to give Bucharest the benefit of the doubt.
"Of course eventually the parliament will have to ratify it, just as is the case for all accessions, but until then is quite a bit of time," said Social Democratic MP Gernot Erler. "I think until that point we can convince the German public that Romania has fulfilled the obligations it has taken on."
Romanian gipsies on the Streets of Bucharest
In the first months of its war on corruption, Bucharest has sacked over 40 police commissioners, 42,000 companies have had their bank accounts frozen until they pay back taxes and an unprecedented number of graft inquiries and arrests have been started.
But even if Romania cleans up public and private dealings, the country will still have a long and difficult road toward the EU mainstream. As one of the poorest countries in Europe, the average monthly wage is only 180 euros ($235) and per capita GDP is only 30 percent of the EU average.
To remedy this, the new administration in Bucharest is hoping to lure foreign investors to the country. A new flax tax set at 16 percent, also intended to lower the number of tax dodgers, should help do just that.