Bulgaria and Romania have made progress in fighting corruption and organised crime but need to do more before the Dutch government drops its veto against the two countries joining the European Union’s Schengen area of borderless travel, Ben Knapen, the Dutch minister for Europe, has said.
“Progress is visible in both countries, especially in Romania,” Knapen said yesterday (8 February). “It is a step forward but more needs to be done.”
Knapen’s comments followed the release yesterday of interim reports by the European Commission on the two countries’ efforts to curb crime and corruption. He said the Netherlands will decide in July whether to lift its veto, when the Commission is scheduled to publish its main annual reports on the two countries.
Knapen said that his government wanted to see two consecutive positive reports that “indicate sustainable and irreversible progress” by the EU’s two newest member states.
The Dutch government, initially backed by Finland, last year blocked the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area. Finland has since dropped its objections, citing progress by the two countries. No other member state openly opposes the accession of the two Balkan countries.
Since Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, the Commission has reported twice a year on their progress in judicial reform and in the fight against corruption and organised crime. The reports have gradually become more positive.
Yesterday’s report found that Romania – seen as the more problematic of the two – has made great progress in high-level corruption prosecutions and in strengthening its laws. However, the authorities in both countries still need to show “convincing results”, the reports stated.
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