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Mr. Davidson: Does the shadow Minister accept that he is being a trifle ungracious in attacking the Minister for Europe on the collapse of the constitution since, as we all know, the Minister bears a heavy share of the credit?
The constitution is unnecessary, but other aspects of the EU should change. Its current policies, especially the common agricultural policy and the budget, are unsustainable for an enlarged Europe. Romania and Bulgaria have large agricultural sectors and the 10 new members are not yet being paid the full agricultural subsidy that they will be dueand that is not to mention the profoundly destructive effects of the CAP on the developing world and world trade.
This latest enlargement is just one more reason for further reform of the CAP and the EU budget. The Government have been exceptionally well placed to do something about that, because we currently hold the EU presidency. Yet, whether through incompetence or timidity, or both, they are doing very little. Neither the budget nor CAP reform was on the agenda for last week's curtailed summit. Worse, we were astonished to discover from written answers to me last week that the Government have failed to make any detailed proposals on CAP reform or any proposal whatever on the budget. The Government are receiving a wealth of criticism from all quarters for their handling of the presidency and it is wholly justified. There are two months of the presidency yet to run. The Government need to get their act together fast.
The EU is already creaking. It does too much and much of what it does, it does badly. It is unresponsive to what the peoples of Europe actually want. As the Information Society and Media Commissioner recently admitted, for too long it has been a project for a small
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political elite. We want the EU to be a success in the 21st century for an enlarged Europe. For that to happen, it must change. It must become more accountable. It must recognise that the federalist agenda of ever closer union is the fast lane to a dead end. It should return powers to the member states, where the states are better suited to wielding them. It must become a real force for open markets.
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): My hon. Friend may not have noticed that there has been some chuntering during his comments that remarks about reform of the European Union have nothing to do with Bulgaria's and Romania's accession. May I put it to him that they have everything to do with it, because we are talking about what the European Union is going to look like in the next few years? In a week in which it looks as if the Doha talks may collapse because of France's intransigence over the CAP, reform of the CAP has everything to do with the future of Europe and with Romanian and Bulgarian accession.
Mr. Speaker: Order. That intervention is very helpful in giving me an opportunity to say that the Bill is quite narrow and about the two countries to which it refers. We are not having a general debate about Europe.
The EU, with enlargement, must become a real force for open markets, free trade and a freer, safer world. The EU can become a liberating force for good in the world, or it can become an economic and political backwater. The constitution's fall has left the EU in flux. Leadership with clear vision and the skill to turn that vision into reality could set a new direction for Europe.
The accession of Romania and Bulgaria is an important part of our vision for a wider, more flexible EU. If those countries can meet the criteria for membership, it will be a triumph for them and a cause for celebration, but very real concerns remain about the readiness of the candidate countries and the Government's approach. We shall continue to monitor progress and to press the Government to ensure that both countries fully meet all criteria before accession takes place. We look forward to welcoming Romania and Bulgaria as members of the EU, and that is why I shall ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the Bill this evening.
It is important to recognise that much hard work remains to be done to demonstrate that those countries are finally ready for membership. Their progress to date gives grounds for optimism. I hope that the support of this House will give them further encouragement.
Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North) (Lab): I strongly support the Bill, because I strongly support the principleand, I hope, the practicethat Romania and Bulgaria should be given the opportunity to join the European Union. It will not be an automatic process, as earlier exchanges between the occupants of the Front Benches showed.
It is not easy to meet the acquis, and it will be difficult for Romania and Bulgaria, just as it was for the other countries of eastern Europe. It is not only the politicians and the bureaucrats of the countries, but the people who need to be inspired to meet the acquis. The challenge now is even more difficult than it was five, six or seven years ago, because at that time it was conclusive that joining the EU was the right thing to do. In 1995, 1996 and 1997, the EU was a forward-looking organisation that played an important role in the world, with strong economiesespecially in Britain after 1997and a sense of social responsibility and common purpose. So it was easier to inspire the people of the countries seeking to accede to the European Union with the conviction that it was the right thing to do.
In today's climate, the people of Romania and Bulgaria will ask the same questions, and will have to weigh up whether the gains will be greater than the doubts. I have no doubt that the gains will outweigh the doubts, but before the people of those countries reach that conclusion they will ask several questions about accession and the EU. Those questions will be similar to those that are being asked in Britain and the other member states.
I recall visiting Bucharest in 1997 and talking to people on the streets. They were very conscious of their country's history over the past 40 years. They supposedly lived under communism, although I think that they lived in a state that was nearer fascismit is a matter of political definition. They had no freedoms, there was little collective social responsibility and the state was isolated. That was not just political theory; it felt very real when walking the streets of Bucharest. I was there on a wet November dayit bore some resemblance to parts of Newcastle or Glasgow on a bad dayand noticed all the Soviet-style buildings that had been imposed on Romania, which is Francophile, if anything. Public services were poor and there were many beggars and other obvious signs of poverty on the streets. There was also a clear sense of corruption and a fear of being caught out, because if that happened, those exercising the corruption could impose their will on the individual concerned. I remain convinced that the people of RomaniaI suspect that the same is true of the people of Bulgariawanted to put that behind them and look forward to a better way.
That was what people were looking for then, but judging the specifics todaythis is my main pointis not so straightforward. Things have improved in
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Romania and Bulgaria as they move towards the acquis and become more involved with the rest of Europe and the world, but there are, of course, still gaps that must be filled in meeting the acquis.
Mr. Hendrick : My hon. Friend describes today's EU as something quite different from the EU of 1997, when he was Europe Minister. I certainly agree with him, but is not the difference that whereas the EU, with the accession of Austria, Sweden and Finland, was then a rich man's club, since the last accession in May last year people are looking at the EU as something other than a rich man's club and are beginning to wonder whether they want to pay the bills?
Mr. Henderson: My hon. Friend's observation is right. I would make the further observation that, although he and I think that extending the rich man's club is desirable, there are arguments among the rich men about how much they should pay and what they should get. That is one of the things that people are looking at in Romania, and I hope to say more about that, although I do not want to abuse the time available.
The people whom I met in 1997 were told that the EU was about common purpose, being positive and so on. Today, they will be assessing that against how they see what is happening in the EU from the south-east of Europe. They will be looking at issues such as the constitution. For me, the constitution was about managing the EU better. That view is not held by all hon. Members. Hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that the constitution was about the EU's powers and the relative powers of the different EU institutions. We have the luxury, in a civilised and relatively prosperous place, to look at the EU like that, as part of a genuine political debate, but it is not a matter of life and death; nor is it about the future of our society.
For people in Bulgaria and Romania, this is a matter of the future of their society, and we have already heard about the economic power of those countries and their GDP per capita. They are asking what accession will mean. I do not know whether they saying that the powers will change, or whether they are looking for a better management structure, but that question will be asked keenly, especially when the various technicians in those countries consider how to meet the acquis. They will also consider the budget. They will say, "We are relatively poor people. What will being in the EU be like for us? Do we know the budget's overall size?"
We probably do know the budget's sizewe have debated the 1 per cent. figure in the House beforeand people in Romania and Bulgaria in south-east Europe will look at the EU and say, "We know the budget's overall size." Pleasingly, they will be able to see that virtually everyone in the EU is committed to moving the funding away from western Europe and towards the eastern European side of the EU. However, they cannot yet work out what will happen between 2007 and 2013to which reference was made during Question Timeso although they will know that they will not be major contributors, they will not know how much they will receive to develop their economies and their society. That is an important issue in Romania and Bulgaria, when we are trying to persuade people that the EU is a good thing and that there is a need to work hard to meet the acquis.
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People in Bulgaria and Romania will also ask about the implications of other questions. If they join the EU, how will they relate to their neighbours? Will Croatia or Turkey become part of the EU in the future? What policy implications will that have for Bulgaria and Romania? Those questions are not yet answered, but looking from south-east Europe, both the Bulgarians and the Romanians can say that there is a relatively enlightened view about those matters. There is a willingness to extend the EU into areas such as Croatia and Turkey, but what the conditions will be and which acquis they must meet are unknown. However, that will generally be a positive thing when people in Romania and Bulgaria consider how they might achieve the acquis.
The most important thing for the people of Romania and Bulgaria will be the fact that joining the European Union will lead to an irreversible shift in the political situation in which those countries and peoples find themselves. If they join the European Union, they will know that there will be no return to the communism or neo-fascism that led to all the horrors that they had to face for 30 to 40 years. The people of Romania and Bulgaria will know that joining the European Union will mean one zone, one political culture, one democracy and one set of human rights, and that will convince them of the necessary way forward.
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