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Kelvin Hopkins: I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Does he agree that forcing countries with high unemployment to tighten fiscal policy and deflate their economies further is indeed stupid, as Signor Prodi has said?

Mr. Cash: I would go further—I cite the idea that such countries should be fined, although countries that are not members of the eurozone do not suffer a fine. Look at the situation regarding Italy, for example. The stability and growth pact is such an enormous failure because it is simply unrealistic. It does not work, and the remedies that are applied to ensure that there can somehow be compliance with the rules impose further penalties on countries, which makes it even less likely that they can achieve their objectives.

I differ from the view expressed by the hon. Gentleman about the importance of human rights legislation. Just before I came into the Chamber, I was taking evidence from a distinguished European lawyer about the charter of fundamental rights. It might be news to several hon. Members in the Chamber that the charter is alive and kicking. It did not go down with the constitution—I can say that unequivocally. Although it appeared to have done so, it did not in practice. The European Court of Justice itself is applying the criteria of the charter, so that will be of direct relevance to countries such as Bulgaria and Romania, especially given the problems to which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) referred in her important remarks. For example, there is the problem of the Roma.

1.45 pm

The promotion of employment law, the right to work and a raft of social measures are part of the charter of fundamental rights. A communication from the European Commission has announced that all legislation initiated by the Commission—in other words all European legislation initiated—must henceforth be compliant with the charter of fundamental rights. As the Commission is able to do that due to its right of initiation under the existing treaties, nothing can stop the charter from being brought in piecemeal through every piece of legislation that is initiated.
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The communication will be debated in a European Standing Committee in January—thanks to myself and one or two other members of the European Scrutiny Committee—and much good may it do us. However, as the Minister knows only too well, there is no mechanism for ensuring that a vote in such Committees is effective against further orders passed by the House.

The economies of Europe are failing within the framework of the European Union because of the mistakes that were made over the Maastricht criteria, the mistakes that were made with the working time directive and the mistakes that were made in a whole raft of social legislation. However, we find that the charter of fundamental rights will itself be brought into our legislation through section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972. It will be enforced by our courts and by the European Court of Justice. The Bulgarians and the Romanians will find that the problems with their economies, which have already been explained by the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West, will be exacerbated because measures such as the charter of fundamental rights will have an adverse impact on the way in which they are run. It is a Catch-22 situation.

The problem is that the economies of Europe, whether that is the economy of Europe as a whole, or the economies of individual member states—and of Bulgaria and Romania in particular—are all in disarray, which is creating low growth and high unemployment. That was the root cause of the reason why the French and the Dutch rejected the constitution. People said, "Oh, that was because the French didn't like Chirac," but they did not like Chirac because the economy was not working, and the economy was not working because of these crazy rules, all of which are based on an ideology that does not work—it does not work for the developing world, either.

Members of the European Scrutiny Committee had the pleasure of meeting a delegation of Members of Parliament from the Czech Republic the other day. By the way, they were not, with one exception, from the right of that country's political spectrum. They were social democrats. I shall not mention their names because that would be unreasonable. They said that they had been enthusiastic about entry to the EU, probably, one must say, because they knew that they would get a lot of money out of it, as well as stability and improved relationships with other countries to address the vacuum in central and eastern Europe on matters of defence and foreign policy. However, they said that their enthusiasm was becoming significantly reduced. What they had anticipated is not what is happening. They criticised the regulation and interference of European legislation and said that before joining the EU, the Czech Republic had been self-sufficient in agricultural products, but owing to European regulations, it is now a net importer. The sugar beet market had been badly hit by the imposition of EU regulations, and unemployment is coming out of that. That is all because of crazy European rules, which are doing devastating damage to countries that have just come into the EU.
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Kelvin Hopkins: Does not the hon. Gentleman make the case for each country to determine its own agricultural policy rather than being forced to accept a policy that applies across the EU?

Mr. Cash: Absolutely, and I should not have to stand here making an obvious case. I would love the Minister to explain to us what on earth the Foreign Secretary and, more particularly, the Prime Minister think they are doing by creating all the ingredients for the collapse and implosion of the EU.

The Second Deputy Chairman: Order. That would have to be done within the context of clause 1 stand part, which might be difficult. I think that the hon. Gentleman should confine his remarks to that.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear.

Mr. Cash: I thought that might produce an enthusiastic response from Labour Members.

The reality is that the Czechs are suffering. The same can be said of other member states that are affected by the way in which the EU has been going.

Mr. Bone: Is my hon. Friend aware that in a survey commissioned by the delegation of the European Commission in Romania, 56 per cent. of Romanians believed that accession would bring more drawbacks than advantages in the short term?

Mr. Cash: I am glad that my hon. Friend has done that research. Again, that is the realistic position. The debate is clearly about Bulgaria and Romania in particular, but when talking about the EU, we cannot dissociate the problems of individual member states from the impact it has on the whole. If they have to come in on terms that simply will not work for them, the case for reform is crystal clear. As I said, the Czechs have discovered serious drawbacks to the system. The same goes, therefore, for the prospects of those from Bulgaria and Romania.

We also discussed corruption in the judicial process and so on, and there are serious and critical problems at every point on the compass. In a report in The Times today, we even find, from an announcement by the Commission yesterday, which has not yet come before the European Scrutiny Committee, that nine areas of criminal law are to be brought into line to co-ordinate criminal law throughout Europe. Again, that is all part of the accession process. Are accession countries aware of what they are letting themselves in for?

It is not negative and anti-European to be pro-democratic. The problem is that there is a complete and total refusal by the Government, the Minister and the Prime Minister to be realistic about what is going on. The simplest answer would be to have a thorough examination of existing treaties, as conducted by the European reform forum. Today we had evidence from Liberty and Justice. We have heard from Lord David Owen, and Lord Dahrendorf will also give evidence.

The forum is examining existing treaties with a view to highlighting the problems in which Bulgaria and Romania will find themselves. I make no apology for using this opportunity to get across to the House,
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through Hansard, the importance of having effective and serious reform. Otherwise, there will be withdrawal from the EU sooner or later. If we continue to pursue such policies, an implosion is on its way. The Prime Minister knows that because of the failure of the Lisbon agenda, his presidency and the French and Dutch referendums. Those failures are indicative of what is to come, and the warnings have been given. It is up to those in government to listen. If they do not, when Europe dissolves into greater difficulties, and perhaps even chaos, with movements to the far right on the back of instability and racial tension, the responsibility will lie with the Government, their Ministers and the European Union.

Mr. David : This has developed into an interesting and broad debate. I hope that the House will forgive me if I try to bring things back to Bill and the clause in particular. I shall also keep my comments brief.

I have visited Bulgaria regularly for a number of years and have seen at first hand the remarkable progress there. There is genuine political consensus and, I believe, a feeling throughout the country that joining the EU is essentially desirable because it will enhance the economy and reinforce Bulgaria's democratic development.

Successful negotiations have led to the treaty that we are considering. The European Commission has conducted various reports. Recently, however, it concluded that there are serious shortcomings in Bulgaria and that problems need to be addressed rapidly and firmly before it is adjudged ready to join the EU. The comprehensive monitoring report set out clearly and starkly both what progress has been made and what needs to be done. We are waiting for the final recommendation of the European Commission to the Council in April or May next year.

Among the concerns expressed by the European Commission about Bulgaria are the large number of uninsured vehicles, shortcomings in the veterinary sector, and the need to reinforce the administrative structures, in particular with a view to administering European agricultural and structural funds effectively. Concerns have been expressed about the criminal justice system and, as has been mentioned, how the Roma minority are treated.

Some of those issues were discussed yesterday in the    European Scrutiny Committee. The Bulgarian ambassador took part in that discussion. He went to great lengths to reassure us that the concerns were being taken seriously and were being addressed effectively. It is worth reinforcing that great strides have been made in Bulgaria. The country is now a true democracy. Democratic reforms are firm and, in my view, irrevocable. Most of the European acquis communautaire has been implemented in Bulgarian law. Economic growth is consistent. In 2004, for example, the rate was 5.6 per cent. It undoubtedly has a functioning market economy, as the European Commission concluded.

In fairness, however, it is true to say that over the past few years there was a decline in the momentum towards reform, but since the election of a new Government in June this year, the reform process has gained momentum. A new penal code has been introduced, and there cannot be any doubt that there is a strong political commitment to ensure that the remaining reforms are implemented effectively and speedily.
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2 pm

The European Commission should give an objective analysis of what is happening in Bulgaria. It is important, both for the interests of both Bulgaria and the EU, that the Commission make a firm assessment. However, there is danger of being too insistent that all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed so that things are meticulously in place before Bulgaria can join the EU. In the last wave of accession, a number of countries expressed concern about Slovakia's preparedness to join the EU, given that other accession states had made advances. Nevertheless, the benefit of the doubt was given to Slovakia, and since it joined the EU, it has made remarkable progress. Arguably, it has done so quicker than any other country that joined at the time.

We should look fairly and objectively at what is happening in Bulgaria, but we must also look at the way in which things are changing before we determine whether a one-year delay would be detrimental to progress in that country or would enhance it. We should be firm but fair. As well as looking at what is happening in Bulgaria and Romania, we must always keep at the back of our mind the centrality of the process of enlargement to Europe's development. A vision of the EU is developing not as a union of elitist or exclusive nation states but as an expanding union always seeking to embrace more countries. That is a positive process.

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