EU dashes Bulgaria, Romania hopes to join passport-free zone

Romania and Bulgaria's hopes of joining Europe's huge passport-free zone were again dashed Wednesday as EU officials said there was no consensus on letting in the poor eastern states.

"There will be no vote, and no decision" at talks on their bid to join due to be held Thursday in Brussels, a source in the EU's current Irish presidency said.

The talks will gather the bloc's 27 interior ministers and those of four non-EU nations also in the so-called Schengen zone -- Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

"There is no consensus for now" to expand the Schengen area to Romania and Bulgaria as "several nations have reserves or concerns," said the Irish source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Joining the passport-free area requires a unanimous vote from its current 26 members. Of the 27 EU states, Britain, Cyprus and Ireland have not applied to join.

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich warned this week that Berlin would veto any bid by Bucharest or Sofia to join.

While the EU's last yearly report noted progress by Romania and Bulgaria in their efforts to join, Friedrich said this week that both needed to act "more decidedly" against corruption.

"The expansion of the Schengen zone is only accepted by our citizens if the basic requirements are ensured. That is currently not the case," he said.

The Netherlands too has in the past opposed moves to embrace the two candidates in the Schengen area, which is home to 400 million Europeans.