European Union leaders meeting in Brussels today (June 16) sent a message to Romania and Bulgaria, saying the countries have to prove they are making progress fighting piracy, organized crime and corr

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels today (June 16) sent a message to Romania and Bulgaria, saying the countries have to prove they are making progress fighting piracy, organized crime and corruption if they are to join them next year.

The 25 leaders said at the end of the two-day summit that the two Balkan countries had to speed up essential reforms over the summer. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will give its final recommendation in October on whether they can join on Jan. 1 next year, as originally scheduled.

The two countries have long been warned about their notorious black market in pirate movies and music, and their illegal CD and DVD-making plants.

Both Romania and Bulgaria face heavy cross-border trade in pirated materials, and officials are concerned that customs are not yet up to the task of defending what is supposed to become the EU’s external border.

The question of piracy had also been raised by the European Parliament, which warned Romania and Bulgaria last November that they had to clean up the piracy and border controls (Billboard.biz Nov. 23, 2005). The Parliament urged reforms in the judiciary, police and public administration to tackle the problems.

Bulgaria in particular is under pressure to show results in fighting organized crime, introduce anti-fraud and corruption laws, crack down on money laundering and clean up the market in pirate and counterfeit products.

EU officials say Romania, once the worst offender when it came to pirate movies and music, has improved its border controls considerably over the past two years.

However, the EU leaders said in statement that both countries must “step up their efforts to tackle decisively and without delay the remaining issues of concern,” adding that they remained convinced that, “with the remaining political will, both countries can overcome the deficits to reach the envisaged date of accession on January 1.”

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