In two reports, the European Commission listed a host of failings and said the nations' accession to the EU, due in 2007, may be put back by a year.
The EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, said serious deficiencies had been detected in 16 policy areas in Bulgaria and in 14 in Romania. They cover about one-tenth of the body of EU legislation the countries are required to adopt.
Mr Rehn said: "The reform of judiciary should be the priority of all priorities for both countries."
He also criticised the countries for failing to obtain even a single conviction for high-level corruption.
"Unless the countries take immediate and decisive corrective action, they won't be ready at the envisaged date of accession," he said, adding that the Commission may recommend a postponement.
This means Romania and Bulgaria must effectively serve six months further probation since a recommendation on accession dates will have to be made next Spring.
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