Romania and Bulgaria are fighting alarming levels of lawlessness with contract killings, criminal mafias and corruption still plaguing the eastern European members of the European Union.
That was the verdict yesterday of a six-month progress report from the European Commission, raising doubts about how qualified the two newest EU members are to belong to the continental club.
The EU singled out Bulgaria for its worryingly high number of hit- man assinations. "Contract killings continue to be of great concern, and in particular most recent killings of local politicians since January. To date no prosecution and conviction had taken place," the report said.
Romania and Bulgaria escaped sanctions from Brussels. But they were both crit-icised for failing to tackle high-level corruption and enact promised judicial reforms since they joined the Union in January.
"High-level corruption is still one point of weakness and both the governments are aware of this," said Franco Frattini, the European Commission's vice-president. Too few results are shown concerning practical results ... too many indictments still need to be translated into a final decision of a court, that's why we say, very frankly, progress made in this field is still insufficient."
The final version of the reports on the two new-comers omitted a warning that there "was no room for complacency" in either country and Mr Frattini was forced to defend the report from accusations it had been watered down.
Bulgaria and Romania had been threatened with bureaucratic sanctions that would have in effect stopped them participating in joint justice and interior decisions until they had met EU standards. Now they have until June 2008 to get their houses in order although critics doubt how much incentive there is for Sofia and Bucharest to act now they have been accepted into the EU fold. …