In a last report card for the 10 new countries joining the EU, members of the European Parliament praised progress in adapting national laws to those of the union but also pointed out remaining problems.
Likely the easiest thing for new countries to adopt.
Before handing out grades to individual countries, parliamentarians first looked at general problems shared by most accession countries that still need to be resolved. The new states have adopted more than 80,000 pages of the EU's common law, the so-called acquis communautaire. But enforcing the union's rules continues to be a "major problem," according to the report.
To fix this, countries need something that's long been eyed with suspicion in existing EU countries -- a well-oiled bureaucracy. "The administrations are too weak overall," Elisabeth Schroedter, a German member of the European Parliament from the Green Party who co-wrote the report told DW-WORLD. She added that many governments have ignored the problem for too long, causing most young people to look for jobs in the private sector, since they don't get paid as much while working for the government.
Others agree that finding more well-trained bureaucrats is the biggest challenge the new EU countries face. "The better the administration, the better the courts, the easier it is to get foreign investment," said German Christian Democrat Elmar Brok, Schroedter's colleague and the report's head author.
Without a functioning bureaucracy on the national and especially the regional level, accession countries might also endanger the EU funding they could receive in areas such as agriculture, Brok added. "They know that if they are not fast, they lose money," he told DW-WORLD.
The situation is more difficult for larger countries such as Poland that find it more difficult to set up a proper administrative system simply because of their size, Brok said. Smaller nations, such as Estonia and Slovenia, have already made much more progress in this area.
Food safety is another area that has parliamentarians worried: They criticized delays in some countries to adopt measures preventing the spread of BSE, the so-called mad cow disease. They also called on the European Commission to stop the sale of food products from a member state as a last resort to protect consumers in major food scares.
Finally, legislators asked existing EU member states to reconsider plans not to issue work permits to people from the new countries for the first few years after enlargement. The report urges member states "to closely study real migratory patterns following the enlargement and to abolish these barriers to free movement as soon as possible."
Next: report cards for each EU accession country
Nikosia, the capital of Cyprus
Making the grade: Alignment with EU law in most areas completed.
Could be better: Unification of the island remains a priority, with a reunification referendum having failed on the Greek half of the island; worries about intimidation of the press and limitations of freedom of expression in the Turkish northern part of the island; still needs to set up an agency for managing EU agricultural subsidies; needs to improve maritime safety.
Horse drawn carriages in Old Town Square, Prague
Making the grade: Good overall economic performance; has by and large adopted EU legal framework; laudable efforts to end discrimination against Roma minority population.
Could be better: Implement better safety measures at food-processing plants to protect European consumers; deal with trafficking in human beings, especially children, along the Czech-German border; combat money-laundering; mutual recognition of qualifications in the health care sector; rethink plans for barrages on the upper reaches of the Elbe river in light of the 2002 floods.
A general view of the old town of Tallinn, Estonia
Making the grade: Strong economic performance; significant foreign direct investment; relatively low inflation rate.
Could be better: Address problem of about 165,000 stateless persons (ethnic Russians); improve gender equality; liberalize electricity and gas sectors by 2008; improve regional development; mutual recognition of professional qualifications.
The Hungarian Parliament on the Danube River in Budapest
Making the grade: Legal framework for fighting organized crime and economic crime has been improved; breakthroughs achieved in combating money laundering; on track to set up anti-discrimination law protecting minorities such as Roma.
Could be better: Needs to set up a paying agency for EU agricultural funds without which money can not be handed out to farmers; corruption remains a serious problem; health care services have to be managed better.
Old town Riga, Latvia's capital
Making the grade: Restructured administration and judiciary; commitment to combat corruption.
Could be better: Corruption remains widespread; shortening pre-trial investigations to deal with overcrowded prisons; unemployment remains especially high in rural areas; do more to integrate ethnic minorities; guarantee freedom of expression; needs to set up paying agency for EU agricultural funds.
Street scene in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius
Making the grade: Enormous progress in the economic field; low inflation; substantial foreign direct investment; high level of alignment with EU laws; satisfactory integration of minorities.
Could be better: Deal with high and persistent unemployment levels; ensure border security; combat illegal trafficking and organized crime.
Warsaw's city center
Making the grade: Aligned legislation with EU laws.
Could be better: European Wild Birds Directive still needs to be implemented as illegal hunting of fowl remains a problem.
Castle in the Slovakian capital Bratislava
Making the grade: Significant reform of public finances; economic improvement.
Could be better: High unemployment; high level of corruption; EU legislation on food safety, environment and animal welfare still not fully implemented; greater security for foreign investors; effectiveness of judicial machinery needs to be improved; effective professional civil service needed, recognition of professional qualifications.
Slovenia's capital Ljubljana
Making the grade: Legislation in place to implement EU laws; efforts to improve living conditions for Roma; improved protection of eastern borders; good economic progress.
Could be better: Corruption remains widespread; swift completion of reform of public administration; must set up paying agency to hand out EU agricultural funds.
Making the grade: Significant economic progress; lifted restrictions on direct foreign investment; country with the fewest shortcomings.
Could be better: Privatization of financial sector; recognition of professional qualifications; combating high-level corruption; bringing inflation under control.