The European Commission Said it was Sending Experts to Scrutinize Reforms in Bulgaria

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The European Commission Friday said it was sending experts to scrutinize reforms in Romania and Bulgaria, following persistent concerns about corruption, organized crime and animal health.

A commission spokesman told reporters that officials from the commission and EU member states would spend a week in each of the two Eastern European countries which joined the bloc in January. EU experts would aim to evaluate Romania's and Bulgaria's progress in bringing their justice systems in line with EU standards, the spokesman said. In addition, they would examine reforms in areas such as agriculture, food safety and aviation. The spokesman said that the EU experts would also hear from non- governmental organizations and other non-official groups to evaluate the situation in Romania and Bulgaria. He also said that Bucharest and Sofia have handed in a report on the progress in reforms which was due this Saturday. The document would now be examined by the European Parliament and by national governments. The commission in June is expected to present a report on Bulgaria's and Romania's progress in reforms.

The EU executive last December gave the green light to the EU entry of the two countries on January 1, 2007, but warned it would slap tough sanctions on them if the pace of reform slowed down. The commission has threatened it would take safeguard action and withhold millions of euros in aid if Bulgaria and Romania failed to comply with EU requirements. Such stringent „accompanying measures” - the toughest ever imposed by the EU on acceding nations - were needed to correct persistent shortcomings in key areas, it has said. Bulgaria and Romania missed the EU's 2004 „big bang” expansion into Central and Eastern Europe because of the slow speed of their reforms.

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