EU's Applicants Fall Short on Corruption and Food Safety
Castle, Stephen, The Independent (London, England)
FORMER COMMUNIST countries that want to join the EU next year were told yesterday to solve a catalogue of problems, from endemic corruption to poor food safety standards. The European Commission singled out Poland for special criticism.
A report highlighted 39 failings of "serious concern", of which Poland accounted for nine, as the Commission threatened that some nations might be temporarily deprived of the full benefits of membership.
Yesterday's document concluded that the difficulties were not sufficient to hold up enlargement, giving the final blessing to the EU's biggest expansion.
Meanwhile, Turkey's hopes of starting talks on joining the EU suffered a setback when the Commission said its human rights record and treatment of minorities did not match minimum European standards. The Commission said failure to reach a deal on Cyprus could be an "obstacle" to Turkey's hopes of starting membership negotiations.
Poland is by far the biggest of the 10, mainly ex-Communist, nations that will become EU members in May, and the Commission pointed to weaknesses in its preparations.
Agriculture is a main concern, with lagging food safety standards in milk and meat production highlighted. Warsaw has yet to set up local registration systems for livestock, which are essential if farmers are to receive millions of euros in EU farm handouts.
Gunther Verheugen, the European commissioner for enlargement, pointed to possible measures to suspend countries' rights to sell their produce if they failed to match EU hygiene requirements.
"No food which does not meet our standards will come into the internal market," he said. Mr Verheugen said that if structures were not in place to administer farm subsidies, money for farmers "will not be moving". …