Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, strong winds of change have been sweeping across the European continent. With the growth of the European Union into the region's dominant political force, the last remnants of communism and totalitarian rule are rusting away, being replaced with ever more democratically-inclined governments and reforms. This paper will discuss the expansion of the European Union and the effect this has had on a number of representative former communist states who now wish to become members. More specifically this paper will study the ways in which three former communist states (Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia) are working to meet the standards set forth for European Union admission in the Copenhagen Criteria. I will begin with a discussion of the stages of membership in the European Union, move on to the specific requirements put forward by the Copenhagen Criteria, and finish with a discussion of the reforms each nation has undergone in order to comply with these requirements. I hope to show in this paper how the allure of becoming a European Union member has helped former communist states achieve measures of reform which they would not have otherwise undertaken.
[...] The breakup of the Soviet Union and the establishment of tentative democracies in the Balkans and Eastern Europe have paved the road for these nations to become fully functioning members of what was once a predominately Western European political and economic powerhouse, and it is perhaps because of the allure of the financial and democratic growth which European Union membership promises that nations such as Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia have been willing to make such significant steps towards political freedom, democracy, and economic stabilization. [...]
[...] Croatia recently began negotiations with the council after a legal dispute between Croatia and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia delayed proceedings by just over a year. The Copenhagen Criteria In June of 1993 the European Council convened in Copenhagen, Denmark in order to officially set into writing the requirements for joining the European Union. These requirements are referred to as the Copenhagen Criteria. They stipulate the following: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities; The existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union; and The ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.” During the course of accession treaty negotiations with each nation, the European Union carefully monitors the progress of the state towards meeting each of the above defined goals. [...]
[...] According to the European Council's documents pertaining to accession, a state wishing to join the European Union must abide by functional democratic governance, which necessitates the ability of its citizens to participate fully in all levels of government, from local elections to federal ones, and that their participation in these elections be unhampered and unrestricted. As well, the establishment of political parties must be allowed, and elections should be conducted via a secret ballot. The state must allow a free press, free trade union organizations, a checked executive and a separate judicial power. In the remainder of this paper I will talk about the political conditions within each of the three subject nations while under communist rule and the reforms which have been required in each by the European Union. [...]
[...] Gotovina that Croatia's candidacy to the European Union was stalled. Croatia formally applied for European Union membership in 2003, and in 2004 the European Commission recommended making it an official candidate. Early 2005 was the tentative date by which time negotiations with the European Commission would commence, but these negotiations only recently began, due again to the situation regarding Gen. Gotovina. Compared with current European Union member states, Croatia has a stable market economy and its statistical indicators are better even than some current member states who joined in 2004. [...]
[...] As in many other Eastern European nations, corruption remains a problem in Bulgaria, and the nation faces a growing number of cases of human trafficking. Additionally, while much progress has been made in resolving past ill-treatment of Turkish minorities, the treatment of another ethnic minority, the Roma, has become a point of concern for the European Commission. As well, the Commission expects sustained efforts from the Bulgarian government in regards to improving what are currently inadequate living conditions in certain state prisons and poor treatment of the prisoners there confined. [...]
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