STRASBOURG, France – The European Commission recommended Tuesday that Bulgaria and Romania join the European Union next year-but under some of the harshest terms ever faced by new members.
Both nations had made enough progress for entry after seven years of membership talks, the commission said in a report. But it proposed close monitoring of justice and home affairs, food safety and the disbursement of EU subsidies, saying a significant chunk of expected economic aid will be made conditional on the completion of further reforms.
“The accession of Bulgaria and Romania will mark a historic achievement. Their readiness is a direct result of the sustained progress both countries have made,” said commission President Jose Manuel Barroso before endorsing the 2007 date.
The decision to admit two of the poorest nations in Europe will increase the size of the EU to 27 and comes at a time of growing doubts about whether the bloc’s rapid expansion should continue to take in countries such as Croatia and Turkey.
EU leaders will meet next month to give formal approval to Romania and Bulgaria, whose bid for membership had been stalled due to their spotty records on fighting corruption.
WASHINGTON – The White House refused Wednesday to release the rest of a secret intelligence assessment that depicts a growing terrorist threat, as the Bush administration tried to quell election-season criticism that its anti-terror policies are seriously off track.
Press secretary Tony Snow said releasing the full report, portions of which President Bush declassified on Tuesday, would jeopardize the lives of agents who gathered the information.
It would also risk the nation’s ability to work with foreign governments and to keep secret its U.S. intelligence-gathering methods, Snow said, and “compromise the independence of people doing intelligence analysis.”
In the bleak National Intelligence Estimate, the government’s top analysts concluded Iraq has become a “cause celebre” for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.
RICHMOND – The first day of the General Assembly’s special session on transportation resembled the gridlock that legislators are tasked with alleviating.
The House Republican majority’s $2.4 billion transportation package stalled Wednesday when Democrats, insisting they needed more time to study the bills, blocked immediate consideration.
The House package is likely to get a cool reception when it finally reaches the Senate because it is built on existing and surplus revenues and additional borrowing. The Senate and Gov. Tim Kaine insist that tax increases are needed to make meaningful progress. They also oppose diverting money from the general fund, which pays for public education and other core services.
RICHMOND – A former U. Va. football teammate of Sen. George Allen said Wednesday he was told of a deer head being stuffed in a mailbox during a hunting trip involving Allen, but he never heard who planned it, who did it or that it was racially motivated.
George Beam, 53, became the first to partially back a claim by another former Allen teammate, Ken Shelton, that Allen took the severed head of a doe, sought out the home of a black family and stuffed the head into an oversized mailbox.
Allen, who has been mentioned as a 2008 Republican presidential prospect and is now in a close re-election contest with Democrat Jim Webb, called Shelton’s story “ludicrously false.”
Shelton said the deer head incident occurred near Bumpass in the early 1970s when he and Allen were invited to go hunting with teammate Bill Lanahan on his family farm.
Because Lanahan died earlier this year, there is no witness to independently corroborate Shelton’s account.
Allen’s campaign manager Dick Wadhams said, “There seems to be a common thread between the Webb campaign and these people who want to do George Allen harm now – they keep exploiting dead people.”
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