BRUSSELS - The European Union on Tuesday removed eight countries including Panama and South Korea from its new tax haven blacklist after they pledged to address their concerns, the bloc said.
The United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Mongolia, Macau, Grenada and Barbados were also lifted from the list by finance ministers, in a move that comes just weeks after the bloc unveiled its original list of 17 non-EU nations.
The decision has drawn criticism from activists who say the EU's commitment to tackle tax avoidance after the "Panama Papers" leak last year has now been watered down.
"Eight jurisdictions have been removed from the EU's list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes, following commitments made at a high political level to remedy EU concerns," an EU statement said.
The eight countries will now be on a "grey list" of countries that have made unspecified commitments to the EU on reforming their tax laws.
The blacklist now covers just nine jurisdictions: American Samoa, Bahrain, Guam, Marshall Islands, Namibia, Palau, Saint Lucia, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago.
Ministers agreed that "delisting was justified in the light of an expert assessment of the commitments made by these jurisdictions to address deficiencies identified by the EU," the statement said.
"In each case, the commitments were backed by letters signed at a high political level."
The lists came a year on from the leak of the "Panama Papers" -- a massive amount of data from a prominent Panamanian law firm showing how the world's wealthy stash assets.
The EU originally screened a total of 92 countries to draw up the list, which is expected to be continuously updated.