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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK
EU backs Bulgaria and Romania bid
MEPs vote over Romanian, Bulgarian accession
Bulgaria and Romania's entry was approved despite disagreements
The European Parliament has voted to allow Bulgaria and Romania to join the European Union in 2007.

Their eventual membership still depends on both countries reforming areas such as farming and security, as well as making efforts to fight corruption.

The vote opens the way for an accession treaty to be signed later this month.

Some MEPs tried to postpone the vote until after the next European Commission report on the two countries' progress, which is due in November.

A disagreement over how much money is to be given to the countries was also resolved last minute, allowing for the vote to take place.

Romania and Bulgaria are both are poorer than all 25 existing EU member states.

The two Balkan countries missed the first round of EU expansion into Eastern Europe because they had failed to implement democratic and market reforms.

Opponents of the accession cited Romania's lack of press freedom as well as corruption as obstacles.

Bulgaria has been criticised for failing to adopt a new anti-corruption penal code and insufficient efforts in combating organised crime.

No guarantee

The European Commission report tracking the countries' preparation for membership will be published in November.

Romania is required to reform its justice and law enforcement, curb industrial state subsidies and improve environmental records.

It must also secure rights for its Roma minority.

Bulgaria's parliament speaker Borislav Velikov said he was "grateful to our colleagues in the European Parliament for their support for Bulgaria on its road toward the European Union".

The accession treaty does not absolutely guarantee the countries EU membership in 2007.

If either country fails to meet the agreed criteria, their accession could be postponed until 2008.

Watch the vote in the European Parliament

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