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Lord Hannay of Chiswick: The Bill relates only to the accession of Romania and Bulgaria and it is right that we should address directly the case for those two countries to join the European Union. I will try to bring a little more seasonal good cheer than the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, did.
In recent months the issue of further enlargement has become contentious in Europe, as has not been the case since Britain was twice vetoed by General de Gaulle in the 1960s. It makes sense to look more widely at the issue of further enlargement and try to draw some preliminary conclusions about the way ahead in what remains one of the most critical policy areas with which the European Union has to deal. This is all the more necessary now that the leaders of the Union have agreed that there must be a full discussion of that before any further accession negotiations begin.
The accession of Romania and Bulgaria is a subset of the major round of enlargement that has already taken place in May 2004. The two countries applied for membership at much the same time as the other central and eastern European countries which have already joined. It has taken longer to reach this point as a result of the greater complexity and intractability of the problems they faced in accepting the constraints and responsibilities of membership, and because, particularly in the case of Romania, they were slower to respond effectively to those challenges.
The institutional adjustments that were needed to accommodate them have already been taken in the Nice treaty and were approved by this Parliament in that context. Only one really important issue remains outstanding and that is whether they are to join on 1 January 2007 or 1 January 2008. That decision is not pre-judged in the treaties of accession we are considering today. My own view is that this decision should not be too heavily politicised, although I have no doubt that it will be seen, particularly in the acceding countries themselves, as highly political. I suggest that it should be considered objectively, with the greatest weight given to the assessment that the Commission will have to provide. If that assessment points towards 2008 it should be understood that it will be as much in the interests of the acceding countryor countriesto take more time in preparation and join one year later, as it will be in the interests of the Union. I would also hope that if a different balance of assessment is reached with respect to each one of the two countries, it will be accepted and not brushed aside in favour of arguments relating either to bureaucratic tidiness or amour propre.
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Turning to the wider issue of further enlargement, the picture is a good deal less clear and the decisions are not for today or tomorrow, but for a more distant future. Negotiations with Turkey and Croatia have already begun, but actual accession, particularly for Turkey, is not foreseen before the middle of the next decade. All the other countries of the western Balkansand there could well, in due course, be two more than exist now: Montenegro and Kosovoare seeking membership. Macedonia has now been accepted as a formal candidate. Beyond them are a number of countries in the former Soviet Union, whose European identity can hardly be denied, and which also aspire to membership. We should never forget the remaining members of EFTA, who, if their electorates should ever so decide, would rapidly qualify to join and, I suggest, should rapidly be welcomed.
It is all too easy to throw up one's hands at this list, say "enough is enough" and call for a line on the map beyond which countries will not qualify for membership. That is what many politicians across Europe have been saying in recent months, using arguments ranging from respectable ones about the coherence of such a large body to far less respectable ones, based on ethnic and religious prejudice. It is easy to call for that line on the map, but, I would argue, highly irresponsible. A restrictive decision by the European Union, amounting to the pre-emptive exclusion of a number of countries, could have extremely far-reaching and damaging foreign policy and security implications, ranging from an upsurge of instability in the Balkans, to a drift back by former members of the Soviet Union into the embrace of a far from democratic or human rights respecting Russia.
What right does the Union have to take such a decision? The founding treaty, never changed, says clearly that membership is open to any European country. Since then the European Union has established the Copenhagen criteria for judging any application from such a country. The treaty already establishes the limits and trying to vary them would require treaty change by unanimityan unlikely prospect, given the views of many member states. It is sometimes suggested that further enlargement, indeed, even the existing scale of enlargement, would have shocked and horrified the founding fathers of Europe, Monnet, Adenauer, De Gaspari and Schuman. I am sure they would have been surprised by it; they were, after all, operating in a Cold War dominated world. However, to suggest that they would have approved of the rejection of the candidature of free, democratic east European countries is, quite frankly, a travesty.
It follows from this reasoning that I very much welcome the support that the Government continue to give to further enlargement, but it is not sufficient to support that cause and simply assume that it will carry the day. We surely need to try to convince those who call for a restrictive policy that this is the wrong road for the European Union to take. If we cannot persuade people of that, we will drift towards that most dangerous of all scenarios, in which a country negotiates its terms of accession, is accepted by all the
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governments of the European Union and is then rejected by the votes of one or more of them in a referendum. That would surely be a disaster for all concerned. To avoid it we and the other supporters of further enlargement will need to explain much more clearly and cogently than has been done in the past, the advantages, both intangible and material, which have flowed from previous enlargement and which can reasonably be expected from further ones. I do not believe that we have anything to fear from such a debate; but we certainly need to have one if we are to avoid a shipwreck. I would welcome a response from the Minister about how the Government intend to carry forward their advocacy of this aspect of their European policies.
The transformation qualities of enlargement are really not in doubt. They have been demonstrated again and again, first in Greece, Spain and Portugal, then in central and eastern Europe. Countries freed from dictatorship and external domination have been helped to establish stable democracies and flourishing market economies. That is surely "soft" power in action and is achieving admirable and noble objectives in countries whose capacity to achieve those objectives on their own had not previously been too obvious, to put it politely. Of course, at the same time, there are costs which have to be borne by the existing members and we should not flinch from that. Listening to reasoned debates over the budgetary costs of the new member states in your Lordships' House yesterday and this afternoon, hearing phrases such as, "Why should we help to build the Warsaw Underground?", I detect distant echoes of that most deplorable of statements by a British Prime Minister, when he described Czechoslovakia as a,
To conclude, the Bill that we are discussing today deserves our wholehearted support. Romania and Bulgaria will be welcome new members so long as they keep up and intensify their struggle against their own internal demons, among them corruption and organised crime. I confess that I was startled by the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, that they should not be asked to accept the whole acquis communautaire. I am not sure that it is well appreciated that in such countries the acceptance of the acquis communautaire actually liberates them from the structures that they had before. The acquis communautaire contains legislation infinitely more liberal than what they had before. I am afraid to say that, even if it were not likely to take the whole of the noble Lord's Christmas holiday to work out which bits of the acquis communautaire they should and should not be let off, it would not be a good idea.
In any case, I hope that we can also from this debate send out a clear signal of our support for the further enlargement of the European Union beyond those two countries. This wider issue should surely be debated on the Floor of the House before too long, perhaps on the basis of a report from your Lordships' European Union Select Committee.
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Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, I join in the general chorus of approval, however qualified it was in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, and join wholeheartedly with what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has said about the need for the Government to be an advocate in terms of enlargement and indeed of the success of the European Union generally. I follow the Minister in saying that the Bill is relatively narrow in scope: first, it implements the treaty of accession of Bulgaria and Romania and, secondly, it provides for freedom of movement for workers from those two countries.
After the fall of communism, those two countries enjoyed public support in their principal aim fully to join in the Euro-Atlantic structures. They joined NATO last year and will become full members of the European Union on 1 January 2007 or in 2008. That has been decided. It should be welcomed in spite of renewed questions about their readiness, particularly in the case of the lack of movement for part of this year in respect of Bulgaria. Their accession is in the context of greater questions about the enlargement potential of the Union as a whole. I join in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, who is always worth listening to on this and other subjects.
Logically, if there is a Europe, there is a non-Europe. Even the word "Europe" in the treaty has to be defined, but it cannot be defined too largely. The former French Commissioner Claude Cheyson once told me, on returning from a visit to Mongolia, that it was enquiring about EU membership.
What defines our Europe? It is partly values, but that would include Norway and Switzerland. It is partly geography, and partly history, but that history might also include parts of north Africa if we consider the Roman empire. If there is a case for a privileged relationship at the borders, it will have to be considered as part of the debate that will take place over the next year.
It is clear that enlargement will make the European Union very different from the vision of the founding fathers. All the new countries in prospect carry greater risks than the core Europe and the Europe of the earlier accessions in terms of their adherence to the rule of law, internal stability, corruption, organised crime and free markets. Yet clearly, our Europe has an interest in stability at our borders, wherever they are drawn. It is true that the prospect of membership and the gravitational pull of core Europe has had a wholly beneficial effect on those countries at its borders, including Bulgaria and Romania. Yet some of those doubts on enlargement clearly led to the referenda results in France and the Netherlands in the summer. The effects of enlargement played a key role in the debate and provoked debates about a two-tier Europe, which led, for example, to the contribution to the current debate of the Belgian premier, Mr Verhofstadt, suggesting that the euro-zone should take on a more political dimension, which would have interesting consequences for us and other countriesalso incidentally for the prospects of countries such as Turkey.
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There is a debate. Indeed, the Financial Times on 16 December reported that a specific part of the communiqué would be to have a freeze on further enlargement. The only reference that I can see is in the context of the decision on the candidacy status of Macedonia. Paragraph 25 of the report says that,
In any event, it would be wrong to talk about a freeze. There will be no movement in respect of Macedonia over the next year. Croatia will proceed in any event. It therefore seems appropriate to have time for reflection during either the Austrian or Finnish presidency. Clearly there is a group within the Union, including France, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Ireland, that is asking fundamental questions about not so much borders but future enlargement generally.
How do Bulgaria and Romania measure up? It is convenient to deal with them together, yet they have different problems. Until earlier this year Bulgaria was in the lead, but Romania had been moving steadily. It would probably be realistic to talk of differentiation if the Commission were to conclude in April or May of next year that one or other had not moved substantially. But I have some doubts about whether that would be politically possible. It is clear that the jolt to Bulgaria given by the Commission's opinions and conclusions in October has had a salutary effect in moving Bulgaria from, if not a complacent attitude, at least a belief that it can coast along.
The working assumption must be that, by the time the Commission comes to make its reports in the spring of next year, the two countries will have moved along sufficiently substantially. In any event, there are fallback provisions, not only in the unique proposal by the Finnish delegation for a possible one-year delay but also in the continuing possibility of exempting from full membership certain areas of policy. For example, in terms of food safety, we could say that we would not accept agricultural exports from those countries if we were not convinced about their procedures for ensuring food safety. But there should be a sufficient jolt or stimulus to ensure, as should be the case, that those countries will be full members of the Union at the appropriate time.
Clearly, they are historically part of a European dimension. Bulgaria has Greek and Slavic roots and Romania was a province of Dacia in the Roman empire. I understand that Romanian is the closest of the Romance languages to Latin. Indeed, I understand that there was even a Dacian regiment on parade holding Hadrian's Wall, and no doubt that has had an effect on part of the current population in Cumbria.
Both countries have had the awful experience of dictatorship. Zhivkov was a slavish follower of the Soviet Union and Ceausescu was a Stalinist oriental despot of the worst type. Both countries are poor.
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Their GDP is one-third of that of the existing members of the EU, including the A10, and a quarter of that of the UK. It is difficult to see where either country would go if not to the Union. Both have made major strides since they moved from communism, and the spring report for Eurobarometer and the latest New Europe Barometer (NEB) survey have been quite favourable.
In respect of Clause 2 of the Bill, the Eurobarometer report showed that for 60 per cent of Romanians the European Union is, first and foremost, about free movement of persons. That clearly has some relevance to the view of free movement which our Government will come to, including for the 1 million Moldovans of Romanian nationality. But, contrary to what the Opposition were saying at the time, it is clear that the accession of the 10 has been extremely beneficial, allowing our labour market to be more flexible in key areas where we were not providing, such as bus drivers and seasonal agricultural labour. In my judgment, it is right for the Government to leave the options for the Home Office and other relevant departments to decide in the light of all the circumstances, including the date of accession and the policies adopted by other governments.
I come to my final point. The prospect of membership has already been a great dynamic for positive change, and we can reasonably assume that that is likely to continue. Major failings exist. They were set out in the Commission's October document and in the commentary by Commissioner Rehn, which was hard-hitting and rigorous. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, that gives me confidence that the Commission will be equally rigorous and objective when it comes to make its report in April or May next year.
But still something is left on trust. The process cannot now be stopped, but we cannot reverse the Kosovo formula and give status without standards. My understanding is that both countries have made substantial moves and that the Commission has struck the right balance. Accession will be of benefit to the European Union. There will be a form of probation until the spring of next year, but every indication is that the countries will succeed. It will be good for them and, indeed, it will be good for Europe. However, I hope that the current period of reflection envisaged in paragraph 25 of the European Council's report does not lead to an undue delay for the western Balkans, which, in my judgment, should properly be included as soon as practicable within our Union.
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