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Europe

Year-Long Delay Possible for Future EU Members

The EU is considering introducing measures to ensure that candidate countries meet their reform committments before they join the bloc.

The EU will be able to delay Bulgaria and Romania from joining the bloc for a year under a new safeguard clause now being proposed. The clause gives the EU the possibility of delaying entry for a year, if commitments made by candidate countries during negotiations are not met. During a series of meetings between the three sides on Tuesday in Luxembourg it was confirmed that the two countries would face a tougher monitoring system prior to accession to the Union. Romania and Bulgaria are expected to become EU members in 2007, and the reinforced systems are intended to ensure that reforms will continue in both countries until that time. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy told the press that the safeguard clause is the best solution for both the EU and Bulgaria. He said this meant the EU could ensure that Bulgaria keeps its commitments, and Bulgaria is sure to be a fully prepared member by the time of the accession. Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana said he was astonished by the speed with which Bulgaria accepted the safeguard clause. Geoana added that it happened "over the weekend." EU Enlargement commissioner Günter Verheugen confirmed that he would make the same proposal for a safeguard clause for Romania, too. (EUobserver.com)