BRUSSELS -- The European Commission has slammed Romania for backsliding on judicial reforms and fighting corruption but commended Bulgaria over progress on the rule of law, while green-lighting Croatia to join the Schengen zone.
Speaking at the presentation of the yearly Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) reports, Commissioner for Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos said that "the commission has noted backtracking from the progress made [by Romania] in previous years and this evolution was and remains a source of great concern."
The mechanism was launched when Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union in 2007 to monitor issues concerning judicial reforms, the fight against corruption, and in the case of Bulgaria, in combating organized crime.
Avramopoulos also said that "the commission considers that the progress made by Bulgaria under the CVM is sufficient to meet Bulgaria's commitments made at the time of the accession to the European Union." Unlike Romania, no more commission reports will be needed for Bulgaria, but the country still needs consent from both the European Parliament and EU member states to end the mechanism.
The lack of progress under the CVM has for years been used by other EU member states to block Bulgaria's and Romania's path to eventual membership in the EU's passport-free Schengen zone.
In a separate decision, the European Commission also recommended that Croatia join Schengen.
However, before that move can be implemented, a unanimous decision by the European Council is needed. Sources familiar with the topic told RFE/RL that France, Netherlands, and Slovenia could consider vetoing such a move.