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Mr. Cash: The hon. Gentleman is right that there is move away from elitism, but does he not accept that the problem will not be resolved without radical reform of the system? However, when reforms are proposed, particularly on the acquis communautaire, nothing happens.
Mr. David: It is important to acknowledge that reforms are under way in the EU. Reforms introduced by the Government both before and during their presidency have struck a chord with many EU states, particularly central European countries that have recently joined. There is an increasing acceptance that what we want is not a highly integrated centralised state but a loose association of sovereign countries that pool their interests from time to time.
Mr. Bone: I am pleased to hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but does he not agree that the EU and states party to the North American Free Trade Agreement should join together to create a transatlantic free trade area?
Mr. David: I said at the outset that this is an extremely broad debate, but extending it to north America takes it a little too far, so I shall resist the temptation to comment on the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.
To return to the central point that I was making in response to the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), it is important that we recognise that enlargement is a positive process that reinforces the well-established trend of the EU continuing to develop as a loose association of sovereign countries that decide to pool their sovereignty from time to time in their mutual interest. That is the best definition that I can give off the top of my head of what the EU is developing into, and I believe that enlargement will reinforce that development.
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In conclusion, having visited Bulgaria on many occasions over a number of years, it is my impression that most Bulgarian people take that view. They do not want a giant, centralised European Union that will rob them of their national identity, but they do want to be part of a progressive, forward-looking EU that gives them security both politically and in broader defence issues. That is extremely positive, and it is why I trust that in the near futurehopefully, in January 2007both Romania and Bulgaria will meet the terms of entry and become full members of the European Union.
Mr. Dodds : I, too, intend to be brief. In general, I welcome the enlargement of the European Union, because it will help it to become the loose association to which the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) referred, and diminish the centralised, unified approach that has characterised it thus far. The Bill is therefore welcome.
It is important to remember how far countries in the former Soviet sphere of influence have come. Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and parts of the former Soviet Union are now members of the EU, and are party to discussions about the accession of Romania and Bulgaria. That demonstrates how far they have come in recent years, as the Minister said. We welcome that progress, but we accept that there is still much more work to be done in those countries. Leverage can be exerted to reinforce human rights, tackle corruption and improve the judicial process, particularly in Bulgaria and Romania, both in the coming period and for a short time following accession. After that, however, the pressure that can be brought to bear will dissipate rapidly, so a signal should be sent to Romania and Bulgaria that accession is not an automatic process. Genuine progress must be made in a number of areas.
I should like to focus on human rights, the judicial process and the rule of law in Romania. I sympathise greatly with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman), who spoke forcefully about her constituent's family. I trust that everything will be done to assist her in her efforts to achieve justice. A church in my constituency that helped to run an orphanage in Romania approached me because it was concerned about child traffickingan issue raised earlier in our short debateand the way in which the Romanian authorities can interfere arbitrarily in children's welfare. Laws on adoption, for instance, are loosely applied. The church has expressed genuine concern about children's welfare and the attitude of the Romanian state towards the subject. In the coming period when, as I said, leverage can be applied, I urge the Minister and the Government to do everything in their power to ensure that such matters are progressed, particularly in relation to human rights and the rule of law. It should not be a question of turning a blind eye to some of these issues for the greater good. We should make Romania and Bulgaria, particularly the Romanian authorities, live up to their responsibilities as part of a wider Europe.
The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. May I say to the hon. Gentleman and any other hon. Members who are unsure that the best way of catching the eye of the Chairman is to rise promptly in one's place?
I shall be brief, as I spoke at some length on Second Reading. We should not underestimate the importance of the accession treaty. Although we are dealing with only two countries this year, whereas last year we were dealing with the accession of 10 nations to the EU, there are some important strategic objectives and changes that need to be borne in mind.For the first time, the EU will reach to the Black sea, and Greece will be connected to the rest of the EU. Romania will have the seventh largest population in the EU, after Spain, Poland and the big four. This is a significant enlargement, not just a tidying-up exercise.
I agree with other speakers about the changes that have taken place in Bulgaria and Romania over the past 20 years. I first travelled to those countries in the late 1980s as a student. The changes since then, in the space of one generation, are incredibly dramatic and could serve as a model for many other countries seeking to introduce free market economies, democratic systems and so on. It was the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher who first outlined in the Chamber the possible accession of these two countries. The first mention of the possibility of Bulgarian and Romanian accession to the European Union came on 31 January 1990 in a speech made by the then hon. Member for Warwickshire, North, now my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), who said that he was looking forward to seeing various countries join the EU, including Bulgaria and Romania. Accession and enlargement have long been on the Conservative agenda.
I shall outline some of the problems that we need to bear in mind with the accession. Bulgaria and Romania are not necessarily perfect candidates, but I am not sure that three or four years back, Poland and others were perfect candidates. The first problem is corruption, about which other hon. Members have spoken. It is a problem in Bulgaria more than in Romania. The second is organised crime, mafia-style crime problems and assassinations. Only about four weeks ago in Bulgaria, one of the country's most senior bankers was assassinated. Significant improvements still need to be made on environmental matters in towns such as Ruse and in areas of Transylvania.
There are problems in relation to minoritiesthe Hungarian community and the Vlach community in Romania, and the Turkish community and Roma community in both countries. Finally, drug and people trafficking will probably always be a problem in those
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countries, partly due to their geography, as they are situated at the entry point to Europe. Practically every new trafficking problem has come through the Bosphorus and up into Europe over the past century.
I broadly welcome the Bill. It is important to view it as significant in its own right, not just as a tidying-up exercise. We should congratulate Romania and Bulgaria on their accession. We need to keep an eye on the problems that I and others identified on Second Reading and in Committee, but we should warmly welcome the Bill nevertheless.
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