Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU Enlargement - Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey

Delivered in Plenary - 10th February 2010

Mr President

The ECR Group favours enlargement of the European Union. We see not only significant benefits in a larger single market, but we also look – unlike some Members of this House – for a dilution of the federalist ambition at the heart of the European Union. However, candidates must be subject to rigorous and exacting standards as laid out in the Copenhagen criteria.

We therefore fully endorse the Commission’s thorough approach to preparing candidates for membership and its willingness to learn the lessons of previous enlargements, in particular the most recent ones to Bulgaria and Romania, where there were outstanding problems in the areas of organised crime and corruption. Croatia, along with Iceland – if approved as a candidate – is undoubtedly the country most ready to join the European Union, and its accession will help stabilise the Western Balkans. While recognising that a border dispute with Slovenia remains outstanding, we do not think that bilateral disputes can be allowed to delay Croatia’s membership. Italy, after all, did not stop Slovenia joining in spite of border and minority disputes at the time.

As the Commission report makes clear, Croatia has also made some substantial progress in meeting the negotiating benchmarks, and the country’s commitment to the EU’s expectations remains strong. Macedonia is also now fully back on track towards membership, and we welcome its EU visa liberalisation, along with Serbia and Montenegro, and support immediate calls now to the Council to allow the opening of negotiations for membership for Macedonia.

The ECR Group believes that the almost comical name dispute with Greece should be resolved sensibly and rapidly. President Ivanov has helped to add momentum to Macedonia’s EU ambitions, and we hope his request to meet the newly re-elected President of Greece will be reciprocated in the spirit of friendship and neighbourhood relationships. Meanwhile, Turkey’s EU membership application remains problematic, not least in the field of human rights. The recent horrifying case of a teenage girl buried alive for talking to boys simply gives ammunition to those who say that Turkey has no place in the European Union. Its failure to recognise Cyprus or implement the Ankara protocols, as well as stalling in the ratification of the Treaty to re-establish relations with Armenia, is a disappointment.

Finally, as permanent rapporteur of the Parliament for Montenegro, I should just like to add that in my view, having recently visited this country, it is well on its way to candidate status, and I hope to see that happen as soon as possible.

Lastly, I too would like to take the opportunity on behalf of my group, the ECR Group, to congratulate Commissioner Füle on his electoral appointment yesterday, and my group will be fully cooperating with him in his challenging tasks ahead.