Romania's progress towards EU accession
Delivered in Plenary - December 15th 2004
I have been a Romania-watcher for five years now, ever since I took up the case of a London constituent of mine, Prince Carol Mircea. He demonstrated clearly to me that the Romanian Government, through its Prosecutor General, had repeatedly intervened on one side - allegedly under instructions from President Iliescu - of the civil case against Carol's half brother, ex-King Michael of Romania.
I was therefore particularly delighted at seeing the independence of the Romanian justice system. Not only has Romania now abolished the Soviet-era right for the state to intervene in civil cases, but recently, when the previous government tried to circumvent the royal palace's property claim dispute by a bill of compensation in the Parliament, the Senate threw it out, citing the fact that it was sub judice before the Supreme Court. So, things are improving in terms of the independence of Romania's justice system. Clearly, Mr Basescu's victory in the presidential elections shows that Romania is also moving rapidly forward in reform terms. The surprise result definitely scotched all the allegations that the election would be stolen by cheating by the authorities.
Romania is far from perfect and the fight against corruption and organised crime will be priority number one for the new government. More work needs to be done on minority rights, including the large Roma population and the Hungarian population. Also let me make a plea against a rigid imposition of the moratorium against foreign child adoptions, as many families from countries as diverse as Italy and Israel have developed bonds with children in orphanages. It would be cruel and inhumane to terminate the process arbitrarily at this late stage. I welcome the Romanian Government's decision to establish an international committee to resolve this delicate issue.
As Vice-President of the Ukraine Delegation, I believe that outstanding disputes such as the issue of territorial claims by Romania over tiny Snake Island in the Black Sea, which is currently under Ukrainian control, need to be resolved before 2007. Here, the ownership of the exclusive economic interest zone is essential, as oil is believed to be present. Good relations with Ukraine, which is now establishing itself as a fully-fledged European democracy, are important for the future.
Another issue is the border area of the Danube Delta, where there are concerns that a Ukrainian-built navigable channel is upsetting the surrounding wetlands and hence also the unique local habitat for rare bird species. More distant is the whole issue of cooperating with and stabilising Moldova and the Transnistria question that goes with it. Interestingly, if Mr Yuschenko comes to power in Kiev on 26 December, the days for the Tiraspol regime of Transnistria are numbered, hence the Russians' desire to deny Mr Yuschenko victory. Has anybody investigated whether the Tiraspol regime may also have had a role to play in the poisoning of Mr Yuschenko?
I believe Romania will be ready to join the European Union by 1 January 2007 with Bulgaria. I welcome both as EU Member States, although I do not see the two as chronologically coupled automatically.
Lastly, of course, there are the safeguard clauses which allow date slippage if Romania falls short of its requirements under the acquis; but nevertheless I fully support the Moscovici report and look forward to Romania joining us in the 25 Member States by 2007.