|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Keith Vaz: I should like to have stayed longer and visited such villages. That is why these debates are so important: they allow us to hear the experiences of people such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron). You should not criticise Ministers because they do not have the opportunity to know about countries. That should be used as part of the process by which the House is informed.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. The hon. Gentleman knows better than that. He used the word "you" in his intervention and has used it again. It is advisable for him to intervene, if he must, in the correct way and to use the correct language.
Daniel Kawczynski: I repeat that I certainly did not intend to imply any criticism of the hon. Gentleman. I simply wanted to highlight the fact that politicians from western countries do not necessarily have the time to understand the true picture in some of these eastern European countries.
The Minister stated that €5 billionI hope I have that rightwill be spent on improving agriculture in Romania and Bulgaria. He said, though, that that was not a definitive figure, and I understand why: the actual cost will be far greater. We all know that, with Government targets, the figures are in the end much higher than the initial projections. As my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) stated, Romanian agriculture is, with no disrespect to Romania, extremely backward. One can still see oxen and carts or ploughs rather than tractors. It is so far behind the United Kingdom that it will need a great deal of money to bring it up to our levels.
That concerns me because I represent many hard-working, decent farmers in Shrewsbury and Atcham, including sugar beet and milk producers who are battling to save agriculture and trying to make a living. The Government are now talking about common agricultural policy reforms and, perhaps, lowering agricultural subsidies in exchange for an agreement at the World Trade Organisation. That is all well and good, but, at the same time as it is lowering subsidies for our farmers, the European Union will be pouring billions of pounds of investment into Romania and Bulgaria to get their agriculture up to our standards. That is a real concern. My priority is farmers in Shrewsbury rather than those in Romania.
Stewart Hosie: Does not the hon. Gentleman see those two accession states, and others, as an opportunity for his farmers in Shrewsbury and their quality produce, as I view it as an opportunity for farmers in Angus and in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Angus Robertson)? Why do the hon. Gentleman and his party always see these things as a threat and not, even on one occasion, as an opportunity? [Interruption.]
I am accused in a sedentary intervention of carping negativism, but I am merely trying to highlight my concerns for Shrewsbury farmers and British agriculture.
1 Nov 2005 : Column 774
There should be restrictions on some of the workers coming from Romania and Bulgaria. I mentioned in an intervention that Poland is struggling with a lack of nurses, doctors and dentists because they are all pouring into the United Kingdom. My cousin, a nurse, has left her hospital in Warsaw to come and work in the UK. That is marvellous for the UK, but there will be shortages in some eastern European countries.
Daniel Kawczynski: I am not going to go into the personal life of my cousin. I could not possibly foretell what she will do over the coming years. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman write to her and ask her himself.
I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes on some of his remarks about the mentality of Romanians regarding animals. I own an equestrian centre and have strong feelings about the welfare of animals, particularly horses. Having visited Romania several times, I am extremely concerned about the way that animals are treated there. I have seen cases of bear baiting and the most appalling treatment of dogs in the street. I hope that if Romania does enter the European Union, that mentality is modernised and raised to our levels.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): I am pleased to speak in a debate that has been at timeslet me put it this wayrather detailed. It has homed in on some of the minutiae of accession and enlargement, and sometimes the big picture has been missing. That is a great shame because this is a truly historic development that we should welcome with open arms, but unfortunately some of the enthusiasm has been rather muted.
In the years ahead we will be reuniting our continent. The countries in question, and the previous accession countries, have not been knocking on the door of Brussels for a handout; they have been wanting a hand up. They want to work hard, earn their keep and play their part in our continent. We should never forget that the benefits that will flow to those countries through membership of the European Union are mirrored by the benefits that we will enjoy here.
The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) rightly pointed out that it would be of benefit to Members to travel widely in the region. I had the good fortune to work in central Europe for over seven years when I was a diplomatic affairs journalist during the 1990s. Travelling back there as I do now, I can look back and compare what is now with what was then at the beginning of the 1990s. The transformation is extraordinary, and not just in the EU 10 of recent accession states.
The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) mentioned the challenges of border controls. I well remember standing on an Austrian police boat on the Neusiedler See doing a report for the BBC's "Correspondent" programme about those concerns. That border between Austria and Hungary was to be the outer border of the European Union. The Austrians managed that change;
1 Nov 2005 : Column 775
the Hungarians have now managed it; and I am sure that, although work needs to be done in Romania and Bulgaria, they will manage it too. I think that the glass is half full.
Changes have occurred not just in the countries that have joined the EU; the changes in Romania and Bulgaria since the fall of communism have been profound. A point that has not been made, but which I shall come to later, is that the impact of accession is not simply on the countries in question; it has a ripple effect in their immediate neighbours. There has been no talk yet of the near neighbourhood policy and the consequences for the countries that border Romania and Bulgaria.
I must confess that, like many people, I do not know a tremendous amount about the culture of Romania and Bulgaria. The hon. Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins) spoke in glowing terms about the culture of both nations, and I am sure that there is much to commend it. My impression of the countries was formed through sport. I well remember, in Romania's case, Nadia Comaneci, Ilie Nastase, Gheorghe Hagi and many others.
I had to look in a book to find out that Romania is the home of the most eastern Romance people. They have emerged from the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires and the Ceausescu regime. They have tremendous cultural breadth, including not only the general Romania population but the Hungarian minority, the Roma and Sinti people, those that remain of the Transylvanian Saxon population, Vlachs and many other minority groups about which we know little. They will be part of our European home, and that is something we should celebrate. However, we should look closely at the map and realise that the EU will have a border with Ukraine, Serbia and Moldova. We have already had mention of Transnistria. Those are challenges, and we shall need to look closely at the consequences of what is happening.
Mention has been made of the Commission's 2005 monitoring report. We should not ignore it because, despite my enthusiasm and the fact that I think this is a tremendous, historic development, there are challenges. On the political requirements, the Commission says:
but there needs to be progress in public administration, in tackling corruption, in improving the situation of disabled and mentally ill people and in fighting trafficking in human beings. Those are challenges on which the Romanian authorities need to deliver. They should be aware that those of us who are keen for their accession expect them to deliver and to improve the situation for their citizens in those vital areas.
Bulgaria's position is similar to that of Romania. There is my football analogy of growing up with Balakov and Stoitchlov. I did not know much about Bulgaria's culture, but it is the first Slavic nation state in history. It has managed successfully to emerge from the shadow of Ottoman domination and Soviet domination, so it has a rich tapestry. Bulgaria has a significant Turkish community, which has formed the minority coalition partner of most Bulgarian Governments since the fall of communism.
1 Nov 2005 : Column 776
Bulgaria's borders should make us think about the consequences of EU enlargement. For example, it has borders with Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Romania. I shall return to that matter after talking briefly about the challenges that Bulgaria faces.
The Commission has set challenges for both Romania and Bulgaria. As good friends, it is right for us to point out our expectation that they deliver on their fight against organised crime and corruption, and the support of human rights protection and of minorities, especially the integration of the Roma minority. That was highlighted in the Commission report only last week.
Before moving on to the near neighbourhood policy and the borders, I want to talk briefly about clause 2 and the movement of labour. It is right and proper that we should consider the Government's plans as they emerge in terms of the speed with which the labour market should be opened. I counsel the Minister to be highly sceptical of advice from Conservative Members on this issue. During the previous Session there was hysteria about the prospect of giving workers from the 10 accession states the freedom to come to the UK. That opposition would have had devastating consequences in my constituency and many others. The example of hard-working Poles and others is a credit to their homelands and to their homes in Moray and many other parts of the country. I am sorry that little or no mention was made of the opportunity, or the potential benefit for the economy, that is provided by hard-working people. There has been no praise for the hard-working people who have come here. I shall be happy to send a copy of the comments that have been made by Conservative Members to local employers in my constituency so that they are fully aware of the attitudes of the main UK Opposition party.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|