Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU Candidate Countries

Delivered in Plenary - April 9th 2003

Mr President,

We stand today at the brink of an historic process as we vote to finally reunite in democracy, peace and prosperity our divided continent of Europe, with the accession of ten new members. The EU will now have a GDP of over US$ 10 trillion.

As my Group's shadow rapporteur on Slovakia it gives me particular pleasure to support its candidature. This small but proudly independent new country has made huge progress, since the Velvet Divorce ten years ago, in modernising its economy from a command one to a functioning market. It has reformed its system of government and civic infrastructure and sensibly accommodated its problems with its Roma and Hungarian minorities. It has confounded the pundits who said it would never survive without the Czech Republic, and today I proudly salute their combined cooperation with the Allies in Kuwait, where they are providing chemical warfare decontamination expertise.

I deplore the actions of those in this House who voted against certain candidate countries joining the EU because of their assistance in the war effort. Instead they should remember the free Czechs and Poles who helped my country free the continent of Europe from another similar tyranny sixty years ago. Slovakia will become an EU frontier country, and it must not be forgotten that there are Slovak minorities still living across the border in Ukraine with whom Slovaks share common historic links, since that territory was part of Czechoslovakia until 1945, just as other large parts of Western Ukraine were historically part of Austria-Hungary, Poland and Romania.

We must ensure that this factor is not overlooked in the Commission's new framework document for relations with our new European neighbours of Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, which have a legitimate right to join the Union in future if they so wish.

Lastly, as a British Conservative, I welcome in particular Malta and Cyprus, two Commonwealth countries whose historically rich and entrepreneurial cultures will provide a new and valued contribution to the Union.