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Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con):
Does the Minister know that, in the boundaries of Moldova, approximately 1 million Moldovans hold Romanian
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nationality or are entitled to a Romanian passport? Have those individuals been included in his calculations?
Mr. Alexander: As I was seeking to make clear, we have not made a calculation at this stage. The presumption on which the hon. Gentleman's question is based is therefore fallacious. We want to consider all the relevant factors at the right stage. That is why the prudent approach that we have taken in the Billwith its enabling clauses that will allow us to reach the right decision on the basis of the information available at the timeis the correct one.
As Members will be aware, enlargement is an ongoing process. Under the UK presidency, the European Union has opened accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia. We have also opened negotiations for a stabilisation and association agreementthe first major step in the accession processwith Serbia and Montenegro, and hope to do so soon with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Later this month, we will be considering a Commission assessment on whether Macedonia is ready to become a candidate country.
Of course, this process is evolving. Indeed, the option of delaying accession by up to a year is a good example of one such refinement. It was first introduced for Bulgaria and Romania. The European Union must be rigorous in ensuring that all the requirements for European Union membership are met.
As I said at the outset, European Union enlargement has always enjoyed strong cross-party support. The last accession Bill to come before the House received 491 votes in support at this stage, in May 2003. This consensus has enabled the UK to play a leading role, I am proud to say, in driving forward a policy that is fundamentally in our interests, in the interests of our European Union partners and in the interests of the two accession states.
I hope that today we can once again come together and send a clear message in support of Bulgaria and Romania's accession to the European Union. Of course we have to ensure that they are ready for membership, and we will do so. But today I believe that we can be optimistic that two important partners will soon become members of an enlarged, outward-looking Europe seeking to meet the challenges of coming decades. I commend the Bill to the House.
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West) (Con):
The Minister was good enough to acknowledge not only that the Conservative party was a long-standing supporter of the European Union's enlargement, but that it was among its first supporters. The House will remember Lady Thatcher's famous speech in Bruges in 1988, in which she insisted that the European Community, as it then was, should stand not only for the small Europe of the rich west but for the whole of Europe, including those nations then in chains behind the iron curtain. It is therefore with real pleasure that we receive the Bill, and, when the time is right, we shall look forward to extending a warm welcome to the new accession countries. It should be a source of pride that there has
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always been cross-party consensus in Britain on the enlargement of the European Union. Some members of the EU have been afraid of a wider Europe and have, from time to time, sought to hinder that objective.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): I am interested to hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but does he recall that Edward Heath opposed enlargement because he was fearful that his vision of a strong, centralised western Europe would be undermined by eastern Europe?
We have always championed enlargement because we know that the European Union's true destiny is not to be a counterweight to America or to shut out globalisation, but to spread and sustain freedom, democracy and prosperity throughout our continent.
Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): Does the hon. Gentleman recall that, when the Nice treaty was put before the House, the Conservatives insisted on having a referendum on it with a view to voting it down? Do not the Conservatives support enlargement like a rope supports a hanging man?
Mr. Brady: The hon. Gentleman also knows that the Government claimed that the constitution was necessary for enlargement. We did not believe that, and we have been proved right. We were also right about the Nice treaty.
The European Union has helped to nurture the development of free societies in Greece, Spain and Portugal, and that same process can now benefit Bulgaria and Romania. Romania and Bulgaria have had unhappy histories in the past century. They were fought over by the Nazis and the Soviets and enslaved by communism. It is to those countries' enormous credit that they have come so far so fast since they became free in 1990. They have had to relearn not only democracy and the market economy but the more fundamental principles that underpin a liberal society: the rule of law, tolerance and respect for freedom. It has not always been easy going for them. Nor, as I shall explain later, may they be quite there yet.
The attraction of EU membership has been of huge importance as an incentive to all the former communist countries to choose a liberal future, free from the authoritarianism that has done so much to damage that part of the world. The accession process is not an easy one. Indeed, it is far harder than it should be. Much of the so-called acquis communautaire that these countries have to adopt is totally unnecessary and, indeed, damaging. Nevertheless, it is a tribute to their leaders that the European Union has been able to accept their candidature. I also congratulate my colleague Geoffrey van Orden, the European Parliament rapporteur on Bulgaria's accession.
The Commission communication of 25 October raised a number of serious concerns about Romania and Bulgaria's readiness for the hoped-for accession date of 1 January 2007. The Minister will be aware of
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Commissioner Olli Rehn's remarksindeed, he quoted some of them. The Commissioner said that while
"urgent and forceful action is needed to demonstrate the ability of Bulgaria and Romania to combat corruption effectively . . . both countries suffer from high levels of piracy and counterfeiting . . . Bulgaria and Romania do not possess sufficient border infrastructure . . . . specific restrictive measures may need to be imposed to prevent the internal security of the EU from being compromised . . . Bulgaria has failed to curb organised crime . . . here too the rule of law must be made to prevail . . . animal disease control is flawed in Bulgaria and Romania as serious diseases appear to be endemic."
That last criticism has particular salience given the current concern about avian flu. The report also doubts that either country yet has the capability to manage the structural funds to which they would be entitled. Given the Commission's long-running inability to audit its own expenditure, that is a real concern.
Mr. David: Let me make the same point that I made earlier. Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that, in the case of Bulgaria, the new criminal procedures court deals with many of the concerns expressed by the Commission?
Mr. Brady: It is a very good instance of the progress that has been made, but we need to see it being used, and we need to see evidence that those measures will start to bite in dealing with organised crime and corruption in both countries.
Daniel Kawczynski: My hon. Friend mentioned border security with Romania and Moldova. That is important, because a part of Moldova called Transnistria, an independent republicI hope I have pronounced it correctlyis a very dangerous place, run by criminal gangs. I hope that the European Union provides enough funds for the Romanians to protect their border from infiltration from Moldova and Transnistria.
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