Accession of Bulgaria and Romania
Delivered in Plenary - 16th May 2006
Enlargement is truly one of the great stories of the EU. The fifth wave, which enlarged the Union to 25 Member States in 2004, has actually been a great success, in spite of many dire warnings that the Union would be paralysed without a Constitution and that countries such as mine would suffer unsustainable immigration flows, including from the Roma population. The new Member States have, broadly speaking, become more Atlanticist, they believe in free markets and low taxation as an approach, which I welcome. I believe that the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, which is really the fifth-and-a-half wave as initially they were supposed to join at the same time as the other 10 new Member States, will also prove to be a great success.
I still believe that the carrot of EU membership has proven the great driver of economic and political reform. Nevertheless, I do not underestimate the scale of the tasks that will face those two countries after joining in 2007. There is still a need for them to not lower their guards against public corruption, and some high-level indictments and convictions will certainly be a powerful example to deter further corruption.
The problem of organised crime has been mentioned – people trafficking and drug trafficking are still serious issues. Bulgaria seems to have made less progress, with a spate of horrendous mafia-style contract killings, which are of major concern to all of us. It is fair to say that organised crime is still a problem, even in some of our current Member States, such as southern Italy. That in itself cannot be a cause to delay Romanian and Bulgarian accession any further, although there is a case to be made for invoking the one-year safeguard clauses in regard to particular chapters such as justice and home affairs.
Let me raise two specific issues. Firstly, I call on Romania to settle its outstanding maritime border dispute with Ukraine over Snake Island. Ukraine, hopefully, will also be a Member State of the European Union one day. Secondly, I call upon the Romanian Government to reconsider its absolute ban on inter-country adoptions.