COMMENT: Not such a grand compromise
There was a weary look on the face of every official one spoke to in the last few weeks on the result of the 16 May monitoring report on Romania's fitness for EU accession.
Every Government and European insider did not seem to display the enthusiasm a green light for accession would bring.
It would not be a no, it would not be a yes – seemed to be the prevailing theory. The game would not be up in May. The European Commission could not wind down. No firm decision would be made until October.
Even though the European Commission made the final decision at the last minute, it was expected.
Romania would be criticised for its failure to rein in the powerful corrupt, while Bulgaria would be criticised for its failure to rein in the powerful corrupt and tackle organised crime. There would also be a number of question marks over less 'front page' issues such as agriculture and tax.
But rather than making a decision in reaction to the 16 May report, the EU is delaying making that decision. It is dithering.
If you can imagine Bulgaria and Romania playing chess with the EU for the prize of entry in 2007 and reaching the endgame, the EU is changing its mind and deciding it would rather play backgammon.
But such a conclusion is not unprecedented in the EU. One EU diplomat said: “There are 25 member states, how can you expect us to make a firm decision? It's a compromise. It's the EU. It's what's called constructive fuzziness.”
Some theorists believe giving Romania a green light at this stage could allow President Basescu to relax and call early elections. This means he may be able to eliminate the DA Alliance's coalition partners, the Conservative Party, a union which the President has called “immoral”.
Such a distraction could deviate the Government from continuing on the road to judicial and anti-corruption reform.
When it was revealed that Rehn may delay the making of a decision on European entry, Bulgaria took a combative towards the European Union on 8 May and pointed out the Realpolitik of the situation. "Do not try to humiliate us,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev told the European Union. "A postponement would be perceived as a rejection, not as an argument that would give Bulgarians more time to prepare better."
Regardless of whether Romania or Bulgaria are 100 per cent worthy of accession on 1 January 2007, the political fall-out of a delay could destabilise both countries' Governments and damage business confidence and the enthusiasm of the people for EU status.
The fear of entry may not come from the European Commission itself, but the other member states. Only 17 of the 25-strong block have ratified the treaty of accession. Some large countries, such as France and Germany, as well as Denmark, are yet to do so. If they do not complete this by 31 December this year the accession will not take place. Although the European Commission has urged them to ratify as soon as possible, it is sending a mixed message by asking these member states to throw their political weight behind accession, while the Commission itself is yet to take a definite stance. Many of these countries only promised to ratify the treaty if the monitoring report was uniformly positive – which it is not.
Therefore it would only take one maverick politician with a need for short-term political gain from a Euro-sceptic electorate to bring the house down on this party.