The European Union has removed Barbados, Grenada, the Republic of Korea, Macao SAR, Mongolia, Panama, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates from its list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes. The controversial decision follows commitments made by each country to remedy EU concerns.

The decision to delist the eight countries was announced by the European Council on January 23. It said the move was justified in the light of an expert assessment of the commitments made by them. The commitments were backed by letters signed at a high political level.

“Our listing process is already proving its worth”, said Vladislav Goranov, minister for finance of Bulgaria, which currently holds the Council presidency. “Jurisdictions around the world have worked hard to make commitments to reform their tax policies. Our aim is to promote good tax governance globally.”

Out of the 17 countries put on the list in December, nine remain. These are American Samoa, Bahrain, Guam, Marshall Islands, Namibia, Palau, Saint Lucia, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago.

According to a European Council press release, the intention of the EU’s list is to promote good governance in taxation worldwide, maximising efforts to prevent tax avoidance, tax fraud and tax evasion. It was prepared during 2017 in parallel with the OECD global forum on transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes.

S&D Euro MPs, however, were quick to voice opposition to the decision to delist the eight countries.

“The EU council of finance ministers’ plan to remove eight countries from the blacklist of tax havens needs to be publicly accounted for,” said S&D Group spokesperson for economic and monetary affairs Pervenche Berès. “Among the lucky ones is Panama, the tax jurisdiction that gave us the Panama Papers scandal. It is very hard to understand how a jurisdiction that was blacklisted in December has rehabilitated itself in just one month with no real assessment of the progress they have made in the fight against tax fraud or tax evasion.”