SNP Welcome EU Enlargement Progress

18 September 2006
"Romania and Bulgaria still have a lot to do, but should be allowed to join the club"

SNP Europe Spokesman Alyn Smith MEP has today welcomed the decision by the European Commission to recommend that Romania and Bulgaria join the EU on schedule in 2007, though warned that both states still have a lot to prove. The MEP has also criticised the European Commission President for his comments that further enlargement should be halted.

Speaking from Strasbourg, Mr Smith said:

"The SNP has long been campaigning to see the EU enlarge. The EU is the world's most successful war avoidance mechanism and it gladdens my heart to see this zone of security and prosperity expand eastwards to countries which so recently were denied their independence.

"The world sat up and took notice when their neighbour, little Montenegro recently voted for independence and set its sights on EU membership.

"Bulgaria and Romania were promised EU membership, and there remain major doubts about both countries, particularly over the fight against corruption in Bulgaria and the treatment of minorities in Romania. On balance however, if they continue their reform efforts they should be allowed to join in 2007, though we should continue to keep a close eye on progress.

"On free movement of people there is a case for differing social security rules for Romania and Bulgaria, at least as a transitional measure, though in principle anyone who wants to come and work in Scotland should be allowed to do so.

"We have seen thousands of Poles, Latvians and others coming to Scotland to live, work, pay taxes and contribute to our national life. Like Scots Italians, Scots Asians and others before them we are seeing more and more new Scots coming to our country and enriching our society and this process must continue.

"The EU is not perfect, but what some anti-Europeans lose sight of is that the more members we bring in the more urgent real reform becomes. The EU badly needs to consider what it is actually for, and we need to redesign an EU for the 21st century. As the SNP prepares for government in 2007 we are actively talking to other European states about their vision for the new EU and how to create an EU that works for Scotland and for all 27, and future, member states.

"New member states like Poland and the Czech Republic are already joining pro reform voices in Sweden, Finland, Ireland and others to argue for real reform of the EU, not the hardwiring of the status quo represented by the EU draft constitution. Scotland has a lot to contribute to that debate, it is unfortunate that as part of the UK we have no real voice. I have recently been to non-EU members Norway and Iceland and there is no question that they would join a reformed EU tomorrow.

"This enthusiasm for reform in some quarters makes the navel gazing comments yesterday from the French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and the Commission President that the EU must complete internal reforms before allowing new members all the more depressing. The EU constitution is not the enlargement solution.

"Right now, we in Scotland have seen the absurdity of some areas of policy like the Common Fisheries Policy caving in under the weight of their own contradictions creating a bad result for fish, fishermen, fishing communities and the credibility of the EU itself. There are plenty more areas where we must find new ways of doing things.

"The EU is about more than money-in and money-out, and real reform will focus the EU on areas where it actually adds value, like the single market, the environment, consumer protection or the fight against cross border crime and terrorism.

"I believe that Romania and Bulgaria can contribute to that debate, and that their citizens can contribute to Scotland. We look forward to their accession and look forward to many more."