SP: Parliament too quick to approve accession of Bulgaria and Romania to EU

14 June 2006

SP: Parliament too quick to approve accession of Bulgaria and Romania to EU

Following the lead of the lower house of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate has voted to approve the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the European Union on 1st January 2007. The SP was alone in its opposition to the legislative resolution to respond with an immediate 'yes', on the grounds that it is still too early to do so. A number of things remain amiss in both countries, including the high level of corruption and organised crime as well as the inadequate attempts to combat these, argued SP Senator Tiny Kox.

Tiny KoxThe SP's "not yet" position corresponds to the views of the Dutch people, as Secretary of State for European Affairs Atzo Nicolaï admitted. From the government's own survey it has emerged that as things stand a majority of Dutch citizens is against the accession of Bulgaria and Romania. However, if both countries fulfilled all of the stated preconditions for membership, three-quarters of the population would be in favour. Senator Kox described as "cynical" the position, just a year after the Dutch 'no' to the European Constitution, of government and parliament in once again saying 'yes' to something which the people clearly opposed. Neither, he said, was this decision considerate to the interests of the people of Bulgaria and Romania: "They will soon be paying for the flexibility that allows them to join immediately, in the form of additional and demanding supplementary requirements which will give them the feeling of being second class citizens in the European Union."

The SP proposed that a final decision on accession be postponed until the European Commission had completed the task given to it by the EU's member states to produce a report on progress in the two countries. This was scheduled for the end of September. In May the Commission confirmed that visible progress had been made but noted that corruption and organised crime continued to run riot in Bulgaria and Romania and that attempts to counter it on the part of the authorities were inadequate. Bulgaria takes 55th place in the internationally recognised corruption index of Transparency International, with Romania coming in at 85th. In Bulgaria in recent years more than a hundred contract murders have taken place without a single killer being brought to justice. Both countries are used as conduits for drugs from Afghanistan. In addition, the Commission expressed considerable disquiet over the subordinate position of minorities, including the Roma, and the inadequate response to racism, discrimination and xenophobia. The two countries must do more to counter traffic in human beings, while the treatment of psychiatric patients and prisoners must be improved. The Commission also noted that major problems remained in Bulgaria in relation to such diverse matters as food safety, tax administration and nuclear safety.

Though the Christian Democrats (CDA) in the lower house (Parliament's main legislative chamber) joined the SP in supporting calls for a postponement, but in the Senate they voted with the majority. This was in response to pressure from Foreign Minister Ben Bot, who this week meets colleagues from other member state governments to discuss the future of the European Union. CDA Senators believe that delaying a decision would send the wrong message. Senator Kox argues, however, that the CDA has misunderstood the meaning of the ratification of accession treaties by parliament. "Signals are sent in other ways," Kox said. "This concerns a formal decision over the accession to the EU of new countries, by which the Netherlands will be sharing part of our competence. This must mean that an agreement is an agreement. If the agreements haven't been met than of course you should wait. This is what big countries such as France and Germany have also done. If this autumn it turns out that Bulgaria and Romania have indeed fulfilled the conditions, as far as we're concerned they are heartily welcome to join the European Union. For this to happen, however, the current uncertainty must be replaced by a fully positive 'yes' to all the conditions."

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