Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU lawmakers ask for fewer restrictions on adoptions

Bucharest Daily News - 28 April 2006

By Denisa Maruntoiu

Several MEPs asked Basescu to amend the law on international adoptions as the EP was set to assess Romania's progress for EU accession.

A group of EU lawmakers on Tuesday evening spoke against the current Romanian adoption law that completely bans international adoptions and announced the EP will send an official letter to President Traian Basescu, calling on him to amend the restrictive law on adoptions that was enforced in January 2005. Their plea came prior to a crucial debate in the European Parliament yesterday regarding the progress made by Romania and Bulgaria for EU accession.

Under EU pressure Romania imposed a moratorium and then a ban on international adoptions, but promised to analyze the cases that were in the pipeline when the adoption ban was introduced.

Nevertheless, a week ago the National Office for Adoptions (ORA) answered all the requests negatively, pointing out that all 1,100 "pipeline" children are either to be adopted by a Romanian family or are considered non-adoptable for various reasons.

Following ORA's final report, Conservative MEP Charles Tannock together with Jean-Marie Cavada and Frederique Ries of the European Liberals (ALDE), organized a debate about the international adoptions of Romanian children and called on the ORA to reanalyze all the requests.

The MEPs said that they agreed with the initial halting of international adoptions in 2001 due to high corruption problems, but stressed that the new law, passed as a consequence of the ban, is hurting the children instead of protecting them. "Following the enforcing of the ban, many children were sent back to their biological families, thus being often neglected and abused," said Tannock.

The MEPs' appeal basically started a busy week in the EP. Yesterday, the EU Parliament held an extra session to discuss the progress that Bulgaria and Romania have made towards EU accession.

The European Commission still must announce whether they consider the two countries prepared to join the EU as scheduled, on January 1, 2007.

The EP yesterday heard statements from Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, which were followed by an open debate in the assembly.

MEPs did not adopt a final resolution on the date of Romania and Bulgaria's EU accession, but their debates are believed to be a reliable indicator ahead of the European Commission's monitoring report due next month.

Nevertheless, because the commissioner was not supposed to appear in front of the EP before the publication of the comprehensive reports on both countries that the EU Commission is to prepare for May 16, several European liberals opposed the debate on Romania and Bulgaria.

The chairman of ALDE in the EP, Graham Watson, said he was against the discussion with Rehn on the progress that Bulgaria and Romania have made towards EU accession, arguing that such action had "no substance".

On Tuesday, just one day ahead of the planned debate in the European Parliament on Bulgaria and Romania's progress, MEPs discussed the importance of the judiciary reforms for the EU. The debate offered the EP's rapporteur for Bulgaria, Geoffrey Van Orden, the opportunity to present his stance on the recent criticism brought against Bulgaria with respect to the reforming path.

The postponement of Bulgaria's accession to the EU would send a bad signal to the Bulgarian people, Van Orden stressed, adding that both Bulgaria and Romania have been subjected to unprecedented analyses and control. "I think that Bulgaria and Romania should no longer be kept in the dark about their entry into the EU, Van Orden added.

Socialist Group Vice President Jan Marinus Wierma pointed out that he expects Bulgaria and Romania to join the bloc as planned, on January 1, 2007, underlining that the enforcement of safeguard clauses would be discussed in October or November.

He also pointed out that despite the latest EU criticisms to Bulgaria the two neighbors are heading "shoulder to shoulder towards full membership". Nevertheless, the former EP rapporteur for Romania, Baroness Emma Nicholson, pointed out that the EC's report in May will surely acknowledge Romania's progress, adding that at the moment Bulgaria is the one in the spotlight of criticism.

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini on Tuesday said that Bulgaria and Romania could join the union as scheduled, in January 2007, but face continued monitoring from Brussels on the implementation of justice reforms.

The European Commission on May 16 is to present a key report which could trigger a one-year membership postponement for both countries, but Frattini's statements, delivered in a European Parliament seminar, indicate that the delay is improbable. "Both Bulgaria and Romania are working in the right direction, that's my opinion in my portfolio area," the justice commissioner said.

Frattini stressed that any post-accession monitoring system will be "commonly agreed" upon by the commission and Bucharest or Sofia, not "imposed by Brussels." The justice and home affairs safeguard clause, which is preserved in the two countries' accession treaties with the EU, could exclude Romania and Bulgaria from full participation in specific policy areas.

However, Frattini said it is still "premature to make a decision about safeguard clauses," especially in the case of Romania, as Frattini praised the authorities in Bucharest for their "huge progress" in reforms.

Frattini welcomed reforms, "particularly in the corruption field," referring to the efforts of Justice Minister Monica Macovei. "A big part of the success of Romanian accession will have been achieved thanks to Ms. Macovei," said Frattini. As for Bulgaria, the justice commissioner said that "more concrete results are needed."

Frattini's more critical stance towards Bulgaria followed earlier comments by Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, who also said Bulgaria still has important issues to resolve.