My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, will forgive me, I shall not follow him down the path of historical analysis. I should like to come a little more up to date.
I think it was on
Of course there are people in eastern Europe who have said to me, "Don't we lose our national identity by joining the EU?" and I have said, "Not a bit of it. Look at Ireland". Ireland has become, if anything, more Irish since it joined the EU than it ever was before, with not a trace of loss of national identity. But I recall the plea of the then Slovenian Minister for European Integration at a meeting in the Palace. He said, "Look, 10 countries are about to join. Please do not treat us all as if we were the same. We are not identical countries; we each have our individual histories, our traditions and our present attitudes. Please treat us as individual members". It is in that spirit that I approach the accession of Bulgaria and Romania.
I had the opportunity to visit Romania a few months ago, although I have not been in Bulgaria for about 12 or 14 years. Given that corruption is probably the number one problem facing Romania in its bid to join the EU, I found the Romanian Government's policy impressive and clear. I was particularly impressed by the Minister of Justice in Bucharest, who was very clear about what she was seeking to do to tackle corruption. But, as she admitted, corruption at the top level can be tackled and the Romanian Government can have clear policies, but it is a lot more difficult making sure that the anti-corruption drive works further down. I think the Romanian Government are determined to deal with it but it may not be as easy on the ground as it is at governmental level.
I have had it said to me in more than one of the accession countries that joining the EU is making them introduce changes that they wanted to make anyway, but which have been given more of a political imperative, making things happen faster. The same applies to Romania. Of course the Romanians are very keen to join. They have said to me that it would be a disaster if their bid to join was delayed by one year. None of us wants that to be delayed, but, although undesirable, I would not have thought it would be the end of the world.
My noble friend Lord Triesman spoke about the opportunities for British investment in these countries. I agree that the opportunities exist, but on my visits to Romania and to some of the countries which joined the EU last year, it was disappointing to find that British investment is a bit thin on the ground. For example, I was told that there was not a single British bank in Budapest, yet we lead the world in financial services. We are missing opportunities there. I hope that we will not miss so many in Romania and Bulgaria, although I fear that we do not have much on the ground there at present.
I accept the view that Romania has to improve its marketing, particularly of its agricultural produce. It has simply not got to grips with the needs of modern supermarkets and modern countries. Indeed, Romania has to import some products from other countries even though it has perfectly excellent products of its own.
My one serious criticism of Romania concerns the Roma minority there. Some months ago, our parliamentary delegation had the chance to visit a Roma village and a Roma school in that village. We spoke to both Roma people and Romanians. Romania will have to move forward if it is to give the Roma community a chance to lead a proper life in that country. The Roma still seem to suffer quite a lot of discrimination, not from the Government but at lower levels.
I hope that Romania and Bulgaria will join in January next year. I also hope that we will deal with the rights of people from those countries to work in Britain as we have dealt with the right to work in Britain of the people of the 10 countries that joined us. It did us a great deal of good in the eyes of the countries in eastern Europe that joined that we allowed their people to come and work here, provided that there were jobs for them and that they were not coming for social security. I hope that a similar arrangement will apply for the people of Romania and Bulgaria.
I am concerned that visa requirements still apply for Romania and Bulgaria. Will the Government drop those visa requirements in the process of those countries moving towards accession?
Moldova's position is rather unusual because of its close relationship with Romania in both economic and social terms. It is my understanding that when Romania joins the EU, Moldova will be affected more adversely than has been any other country through its neighbour becoming a member of the EU. That is because the ties will be cut, with serious economic and social damage to Moldova. I hope that Brussels realises this and that it will look to provide some special support for Moldova to tide it over the difficult situation that it will be in when Romania joins.
I understand that about one million Moldovans have a Romanian passport. Will my noble friend confirm that? If it is true, what will be the position of those people who live outside the EU, but who have a passport or citizenship of an EU country?
I turn to the wider issues that stem from the Bill. It is good news that Croatia's difficulties with General Gotovina have been resolved with his arrest and that Croatia is now on the way to joining the EU. I was told that long delays in countries joining the EU have adverse effects on public opinion there. The Croatians were quite concerned that public opinion might turn against EU membership. I hope that, with the resolution of the difficulties pending the way to negotiations with Croatia, that problem has been dealt with. I am delighted that Macedonia has been mentioned as a candidate country just recently.
I shall say a brief word about Turkey. I am a strong supporter of Turkish membership of the EU. I was delighted when the Government secured with our European partners the opening of the doors to Turkey, even though it will take some years before that happens. I am therefore disappointed, as a friend of Turkey, about the Orhan Pamuk case, where, just a few days ago, a world-famous novelist has been up in court on charges that, frankly, could not stand up in any EU country. I was surprised that they were not thrown out by the Turkish court. He allegedly insulted his country by making statements about Turkey as regards, I believe, Armenia. Friends of Turkey—of whom there are many in Britain, although not quite so many in other EU countries—are disappointed by this, and of course it is ammunition for Turkey's opponents. I hope the Turkish authorities will drop this case very quickly.
The question that has been asked, in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is: what about further enlargement? How do we move forward? The governance issue will certainly have to be tackled sooner or later, as more countries join. We are managing at the moment, although not as well as we might had we had the new constitution, but we will have to revisit that. I hope my noble friend on the Front Bench will give some encouragement.
There is no need at this stage to decide specifically how much further Europe should go. It is perfectly sensible to deal with that pragmatically. A number of countries are in the pipeline, and we do not have to decide how much further Europe will go. It becomes a philosophical question, rather than a practical political one. Of course, other countries are interested: Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia and others. At some point Europe will have to decide whether those countries are on the path to full membership or to a closer association with Europe.
These countries on the borders of Europe clearly wish to adopt our values of freedom, human rights and democracy. If Europe does not welcome them, we are giving them no choice but to associate more closely with countries to their east that are not democratic. I believe such an outcome would pose a much greater threat to Europe than our being welcoming to Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Croatia and Macedonia, as well as to other countries on the borders of Europe that wish to espouse our values.