Qualified yes to Romania and Bulgaria

As expected

Not that “qualified” I don’t think. Once you’ve gone this far, turning them down isn’t politically viable. They might get a bunch of embarassing transitional arrangements instead.

My semi-informed uniformed view is that waiting until 2008 would have ultimately been better for them, though a longer wait would have been counterproductive.

The European Commission gave a qualified yes Tuesday to Romania and Bulgaria joining the European Union on Jan. 1, but it delayed a final decision until October to try to pressure the Balkan countries to make greater inroads in fighting corruption and in judicial reforms.

The EU’s executive body said it did not want to dissuade reform-minded governments in both countries by delaying an entry date. But Olli Rehn, the EU expansion commissioner, warned that the two nations still needed to address shortcomings in their judicial systems and that their entry into the world’s largest trading bloc was not yet assured.

“Unless the countries take immediate corrective action, they will not be ready” in January, Rehn told a packed chamber of European deputies in Strasbourg. “If serious concerns remain, we will not hesitate to use the safeguards we have at our disposal,” he added, alluding to the EU’s power to delay the countries’ entry until 2008 or to withhold EU aid, even after they join.