(Reuters) - The European Union’s executive body and many of the bloc’s 27 member states are growing increasingly dissatisfied with a failure by newcomers Bulgaria and Romania to tackle corruption and implement other reforms.
The smaller Bulgaria has been in the spotlight for its apparent inability to combat organized crime.
The EU had had strong leverage over Bulgaria and Romania before they joined the bloc in 2007, when it could threaten to delay their membership: this helped enforce many political and economic reforms in the Black Sea countries.
Now they are full members with equal voting rights in the bloc, and the EU has only limited powers to enforce reforms.
Following are measures the EU can take if Bulgaria and Romania renege on their commitments and cause other problems. Some are envisaged by the accession treaty, others can be applied to any EU member state at any time.
The European Commission may delay, reduce or recover payments of regional aid if their management is deemed corrupt.
This is its main stick: Romania is due to receive some 32 billion euros ($49.06 billion) and Bulgaria 11 billion euros in funds by the end of 2013.
If the Commission finds the countries are mis-spending farm aid funds, it may suspend payments on a case-by-case basis.
EU member states may refuse automatic recognition and enforcement of certain civil and criminal judgments and arrest warrants in either Romania or Bulgaria unless the countries meet certain targets in fighting corruption and organized crime.
Areas affected include insolvency proceedings, matrimonial matters, parental responsibility, uncontested claims or the European Arrest Warrant.
The Commission will recommend in mid-2008 whether to apply those sanctions.
The Commission may, for three years after accession, prevent the export to the rest of the EU of Bulgarian or Romanian products which do not comply with EU veterinary, plant hygiene or food safety rules.
It may draw up a list of food-processing firms that will not be allowed to export their products to the rest of the EU.
The Commission may, on a case-by-case basis, limit the application of the EU’s internal market or cross-border policies in a given sector if countries fail to implement relevant EU laws.
Areas affected include four EU freedoms of movement — for people, goods, services and capital — as well as common policies in the competition, energy, transport and telecommunication sectors.
This clause is unlikely to be used as the two countries are economically well integrated with the EU.
In extreme cases, the EU can suspend some rights of a member, such the right to vote at decision-making bodies, if the country is judged to be “in serious and persistent breach” of EU rules of liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Writing by Marcin Grajewski; Editing by Sara Ledwith