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EU To Admit Bulgaria, Romania, Talk With Croatia

17 December 2004 -- A draft EU summit statement says the European Union will sign accession treaties with Bulgaria and Romania in April 2005, when it should also open membership talks with Croatia.

The text, circulated to EU leaders on the final day of today's summit in Brussels, says Croatia will start accession negotiations provided it fully cooperates with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The text confirms that Bulgaria and Romania, which missed the first wave of the EU's eastern enlargement in May, should join the 25-member bloc in 2007.

Croatia hopes to catch up with Bulgaria and Romania to join the EU in 2007, but diplomats say 2009 is a more realistic date.

Both Romania and Bulgaria have agreed their entry could be delayed to 2008 from 2007 if they fail to implement agreed reforms.