The European Parliament has approved the entry of Bulgaria and Romania into the European Union in 2007, but says both the Balkan nations must still implement reforms.
In separate votes, legislators in Strasbourg, France, overwhelmingly approved the membership of Bulgaria and Romania, but said much work remains to be done. Their entry could be delayed, if they fail to deal with rampant corruption, to strengthen administration, introduce competition measures and improve border controls.
European Parliament Vice President Pierre Moscovici said the message is clear.
"And what is going to happen now? Well, we have 20 months until the first of January 2007, and during that period, Romania will have to meet the demands of the European Union," he said.
To become EU members, the countries must have functioning democracies and market economies, and must be prepared to write all EU rules and regulations into their national laws.
European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Elmar Brok said conditions must be fulfilled.
"We would like to have them as members, but they must do their homework as laid down in the treaties. Then we can enter into a full partnership," he said.
The two Balkan nations face severe economic problems, and are far behind even the poorest of the existing EU nations. Romania is seen as the worst prepared for EU membership. Almost half of Romania's 22 million people live in the countryside, and many are subsistence farmers. Both nations faced tough transitions after the fall of communism in 1989.