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Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con):
The Minister mentioned the assassinations in Bulgaria, but went through that point rather quickly although it is very important. There have recently been many press reports that the Bulgarian Government have been using the secret police to wipe out some of their political opponents. It is a very serious issue and I should like the Minister to look into it before allowing Bulgaria to steam ahead with membership.
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Mr. Alexander: I assure the hon. Gentleman that there are procedures whereby the European Commission is able to ensure the rigorous standards that all of us, as members of the Councils of Europe, are able to uphold in terms of potential accession to the European Union. I am not aware of the specific allegation to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, and if he wants to write to me, I will, of course, consider it, before passing it on to the appropriate authorities. The brevity of my reference to the recent assassination does not mean anything other than that we are dealing with it seriously. I have sought to reflect the due seriousness with which we regard the challenge of organised crime, which, as last week's reports drew out, is a significant issue for Romania and particularly Bulgaria.
Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): On Bulgaria, does the Minister accept that the recently elected coalition Government, led by Sergei Stanishev, have gone a long way to tackling those problems by introducing a new criminal court, which should be very effective?
Mr. Alexander: I am certainly willing to welcome that. A broader question is how to address the practical challenges concerning high-level trials of those who are charged with corruption and legal changes, and I am convinced that the answer is to take forward the rigorous process that the European Commission set out last week in its report.
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): The Minister knows that the Commission does not have a good record on scrutiny and cannot stop fraud in its own offices. How can it act as a superior to those new members?
Mr. Alexander: The hon. Gentleman has raised the important and historic concerns about fraud in the European Union that have been ventilated in this House on a number of occasions. Commissioner Olli Rehn from Finland, who is responsible for enlargement, certainly holds the respect of those Labour Members who want to see a European Commission that is genuinely rigorous in the pursuit of potential accession countries. If hon. Members were, like me, privy to the discussions on the accession of Turkey to the European Union, they would be in no doubt about the seriousness with which the European Council now regards the objective criteria against which candidate countries are judged.
Given Olli Rehn's personal statements and the terms of last week's European Commission report, it is clear that he personally and the Commission generally take seriously the rigour required by not only the European Council, but the citizens of Europe on countries seeking to join the European Union. In the coming months, the Commission will continue its rigorous monitoring of the progress that both countries are making, targeting the areas of serious concern identified in those reports. If there is still a serious risk that either or both will be manifestly unprepared for membership in January 2007, the Commission can recommend delay by a year. And the Commission can also, if necessary, impose targeted safeguard measures to tackle problems in specific areas. We will need to consider the next Commission reports
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carefully and, if they recommend delay, decide how best to respond based on a careful assessment of UK interests.
Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): Is the Minister concerned, as I am, about child trafficking over the border into Romania and Bulgaria and then into western Europe? Is he aware that such child trafficking often involves child adoption and that millions of pounds pass through the hands of the gangs involved? The issue is not specifically mentioned in the report, and I wonder whether we should be concerned about it.
Mr. Alexander: We are concerned about both those issues. On child trafficking and people trafficking more generally, it has been suggested that one or both of Romania and Bulgaria are both sources and transit countries for that outrageous and disgusting trade. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the matter is a cause for continuing concern, and I see that my hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality concurs with that view.
Mr. Alexander: The matter is best addressed by more effective and deeper co-operation between member states of the European Union. Those of us who share the ambition to stop that outrageous and unjust trade in humans must work together effectively, and the European Union provides an architecture that allows us to give practical expression to that shared commitment.
We are confident that both countries can be ready to join the EU on schedule in January 2007. However, they cannot afford to be complacent, not least in the face of the challenges that have been described. They need to take robust action now to address the concerns that the Commission identified in the reports. Of course, we will continue to provide bilateral and other assistance targeted at the matters that matter most. For example, we already have three advisers working in Romania on tackling corruption. The accession coincides with ongoing discussions on the next financial perspective for the EU from 200713that was discussed in the Chamber only this afternoonand the cost of the enlargement remains largely a matter for negotiation.
That said, most EU expenditure on Bulgaria and Romania has been provisionally agreed for 200710, assuming that accession takes place on 1 January 2007. That will total approximately €15 billion over the next three years. Of that, roughly €5.5 billion will be devoted to agriculture-related spending and approximately €8 billion to structural funds. I stress that those are indicative figures. Of course, that is a significant amount of money by any standard.
However, as hon. Members will know, most of the costs of accession are borne by the new member states and the objective is to ensure that, over time, net recipients start to contribute to the EU budget. Spain and Ireland are good examples of that. Of the newcomers, Slovenia and Cyprus's purchasing power in terms of GDP per capita overtook that of Portugal this year.
Let me consider clause 2. Under the terms of the accession treaty, the UK has the ability to decide the level of access it offers Bulgarian and Romanian
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workers up to a maximum of seven years after accession. Clause 2 gives the Government wide flexibility in deciding that. With accession more than a yearpossibly two yearsaway, it is simply too early to decide what the level of access should be. We may want to continue the current work permit scheme. Conversely, we may decide to offer more lightly regulated access, along similar lines to that given to workers of the eight central and eastern European countries that joined in the 2004 enlargement.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I urge my right hon. Friend to adopt the same practice as our Government used in the previous enlargement. He will remember the hysteria on the Conservative Benches, with predictions of all these Poles and Lithuanians coming into the country to take our jobs and our women and go on benefits. That never happened. Those people make a huge contribution to our economy. I say to my right hon. Friend, please do not leave it too latewe left it very late last time. Let us take a firm course of action and show the rest of the EU what we mean by leadership.
Mr. Alexander: As my hon. Friend suggests, we showed considerable bravery at the time of the previous accession. I believe that subsequent events have justified that. I listened with interest to my colleague the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality when he discussed the matter on the "Today" programme this week. He made it clear that, on the basis of the recent figures that were published in June, the individuals in question have not been a profound burden on the UK welfare state or the taxpayer. Many have made a significant and valuable contribution to the dynamism of the British economy and the strength of the labour market.
The workers who come here are mostly young and do not all work in Londononly 20 per cent. are based therebut choose to work throughout the UK. They make a valuable contribution to our economy and our society. They are employed in a broad range of industries from health care to business administration to farmingindustries where there would otherwise be serious gaps in our labour market. They contribute to the UK's economic growth and our tax revenues without being a burden on the state. Of course, the position can change. That is why we intend to make a decision on the amount of access we grant Bulgarian and Romanian workers on the basis of the requirements of the labour market closer to the date of accession and after consideration of other member states' decisions. The Home Office, the Cabinet Office, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will all be involved in the process.
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