Bulgaria, Romania stumble on Schengen
BRUSSELSRomanian and Bulgarian hopes of rapidly joining the Schengen visa-free travel zone were dealt a new blow Feb. 8 as an EU report urged them to take more action against corruption and organized crime.
The European Commission said in two reports Feb. 8 that Romania and Bulgaria are still lagging in expectations five years after they joined the 27-nation EU. In July, the Dutch plan to reassess the position that keeps the two nations out of the visa-free travel zone. “It is a step forward, but more needs to be done,” said Dutch Europe Minister Ben Knapen. “The Netherlands seeks two consecutive positive reports which indicate sustainable and irreversible progress to combat corruption and organized crime,” he added.
The report issued Feb. 8 by the European Commission praised Romania for progress but was harsher on Bulgaria, calling on Sofia to take “stronger action.” The report set six benchmarks for Bulgaria, including the need to continue judicial reforms, conduct non-partisan investigations into allegations of high-level corruption and implement a strategy against organized crime.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov urged judiciary and police to “make more efforts. Brussels praised Romania for responding to some important recommendations issued by the Commission, saying Bucharest “accelerated the trial of high-level corruption cases.” However, it said it expected “progress concerning integrity and accountability within the judiciary.”