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Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): I first wish to make it plain that I support the Second Reading of the Bill and enlargement of the European Union. However, I wish to make several observations. Romania and Bulgaria will join the EU automatically in 2008, but Romania is hell bent on enrolling a year early and it has moved heaven and earth already to get itself into a better position to meet the acquisall 29 chapters of it. Although it has been free of communism for only 16 years, its transformation from a highly bureaucratic, centrally controlled country to a liberated free market democratic state is truly remarkable.
The Romanians have pinned all their hopes on a 2007 admission to the EU. They believe it to be important for their psyche, their whole approach to life
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and their people, but as last week's comprehensive monitoring report by the European Commission makes clear there is still some way to go before they comply with all the necessary standards. Whenever Romania does join, it will be one of the poorest countries in the EU, with state monopolies still controlling vast areas of activity, and a poor quality of life evident outside Bucharest, which serves as a reminder of the legacy of communism.
There is a further reason why accession in 2007 is desirable, and that is because if Romania is deemed not ready then, there is a real danger that it might feel that the west and the EU had shunned it. The country could then sink into instability caused by unchecked corruption and the growth of widespread criminal activity. The present Administration has marketed the EU as the saviour to Romania's problems. There is a danger that some may feel let down when the Elysian fields do not materialise. But Romania has rejected the east and elected to look west. We must not disappoint it.I visited Romania both as a member of the European Scrutiny Committee and more recently as a member of the all-party European Union enlargement group, which enabled us to meet not just the Prime Minister, but also the Leader of the Opposition and many cabinet ministers. I subsequently spent five days as a tourist, visiting historic cities and exploring lesser known agricultural areas.
The Romanians believe that the EU Commission may be giving them tougher obstacles to overcome than it gave the 10 countries that joined the EU in May 2004. They argue that all eastern European countries share similar problems and that a more intense spotlight is now being focused on Romania and Bulgaria because they are just two new entrants rather than 10. The need to comply with the 29 acquis chapters before accession has provided the necessary impetus and vital motivation to embark upon an enormous programme of change. The Commission's concern and ours should be that once Romania and Bulgaria have been admitted into the EU, there is precious little that can be done to force the pace so that the reforming zeal is maintained. The House tends to forget that there are only 5,000 more officials in the European Commission in Brussels than employees, full and part time, in Devon county council. There is, therefore, a limited number of EU officials to enforce the requirements once Romania and Bulgaria become full members.
Chapter 24 deals with co-operation in the field of justice and home affairs. Schengen and the EU external borders are highlighted as an area of serious concern, as is the fight against fraud and corruption, which is well known and well documented. There are signs that the situation is improving quite dramatically, but no high level official or Government Minister has yet been prosecuted and, as the monitoring report highlights, increased efforts are needed to ensure compliance in the areas of money laundering, judicial co-operation in civil and criminal matters, the fight against drugs, police co-operation and the fight against organised crime.
Corruption is not perhaps surprising when many public officials earn less than £1 an hour, and it is not unknown for some to earn only 50p an hour. Bribes are very tempting, whether to people in the local police force or in local councils who control local permissions of one
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sort or another. We were told that a few years ago a bribe test of the police resulted in 70 per cent. failing. That has now fallen to some 40 per cent. However, some argue that until Romania joins the EU and starts to prosper materially, corruption will continue, including in the police and other forces.
However, progress is being made, and in 2004, Romania's lead police anti-corruption agency investigated 81 police officials implicated in trafficking-related corruption; imposed administrative sanctions on 31 officials; dismissed 10 officials; and sent 40 cases forward for prosecution.
Before Romania is admitted, it is essential that it sorts out its external border controls. Romania will form the frontier between the EU and Russia. It is a massive border, and it is Romania's weak spot. Once Romania joins the EU, its easternmost border will form part of the border to the entire EU area and we must all recognise our interest and responsibility in securing it. The EU must give massive funding, as well as provide border patrols, if security is to be increased to an acceptable standard. Currently the border controls are lax and people can come over from the east, from countries such as Ukraine or Moldova, without difficulty. Romania is very much a railway stationa transit area, just as Albania is a transit centre for southern Europe. The 2005 second annual report by the International Organisation for Migration on victims of trafficking in south-eastern Europe said:
In 2003, a United Nations report listed Romania as one of the top 10 countries of origin for trafficking in the world. Internal trafficking is also a problem in Romania, with children from the poor north-eastern region of the country being sold by their families to work on farms in more prosperous regions. However, the vast majority of victims of trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation were trafficked from Romania to EU countries. It is vital, therefore, that we develop a coherent, effective, EU-wide strategy for coping with and eliminating trafficking.
The Romanian Government have significantly increased trafficking convictions and sentences. In 2004, 103 traffickers were convicted, up from only 49 in 2003. However, those prosecuted are not the main players but those lower down the hierarchy, and thus the criminal networks are yet to be broken. The Government also created a national network of 52 judges specialised in trafficking cases, one for each tribunal and court of appeal. More needs to be done with regards to the screening, identification and referral of trafficking
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victims, as Romania has no centralised mechanism. In addition, it has no common methodology for the documentation of cases.
Child trafficking is something that should concern the whole House. What one gathers from those in the know is that there is a rise in child trafficking on the pretext of inter-country adoption and a rise in the trade of young women and young boys. The Romanian Government have made amazing efforts to crush the trade in children, but in doing so, they have seriously antagonised organised criminal associations, which have tended to move out of Romania into Moldova or Ukraine. Let us remember that it is believed that, between 1991 and 2001, 30,000 children were so-called adopted and £1.18 billion changed hands.
The problem is even more severe in Bulgaria, where the fastest growing sector of organised crime is that involving children, of which the report makes specific mention. The organised criminal gangs that arrange for children to be sold on the internet under the guise of adoption are highly disciplined and ruthless. We are talking about criminal networks and corruption on a very grand scale, which Governments are virtually powerless to control.
The global purchasing of people is a worldwide scourge, which will be brought to the fore in Europe once Romania and Bulgaria have attained full membership of the EU. It is necessary to consider a comprehensive policy for both destination and source countries and to ensure that anti-trafficking legislation is effectively implemented, of which the fight against corruption is an essential part. In granting Romania and Bulgaria membership, the EU must simultaneously put in safeguards on the corruption front. Chinese walls can and should be put in place, and stay in place, until corruption is squeezed out, rather than giving those trafficking gangs free access throughout Europe.
Chapter 7 deals with agriculture. One must not forget that a large percentage of the population of Romania is still engaged in agriculture. It will take many years before sufficient funds are available for modern technology to make the best use of land. The distribution of food is minimal and food is routinely sold by farmers from horse and carts at the roadside. The Commission points out that, although Romania generally meets its commitments on a number of issues, increased efforts are needed on a number of others, including animal welfare, trade in live animals and animal products, and there is serious concern about animal disease control and public health.
I recently witnessed appalling animal cruelty in a horse market in Transylvania, where a horse was so cruelly handled and pulled so fiercely on his reins that his mouth was pouring with blood as he trotted down the road. We now have the bird flu scare, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seems concerned with the way that the Romanians are killing poultry deemed a possible risk by throwing them alive into incinerators.
I mention those issues not to find reasons for keeping Romania out until 2008, but to encourage the Romanian Government to do everything in their power, by changing laws now and helping to change attitudes; nor is it necessary to bring Romania and Bulgaria into the EU at the same time. One could join in 2007, and
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another in 2008. If we in the more prosperous countries are to help those who are less advantaged and raise their standards of living, we need to ensure that human trafficking and animal cruelty become things of the past: an important step forward for millions of people formerly under the communist yoke.
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