Future of the EU Oct02

The European Commission last week urged the Council and European Parliament to approve ten countries from East and Central Europe for full membership of the EU. The Commission would like this enlargement to be a reality by 2004 so that the years 2004 -2009 will see a European Union of 25 Member States with a population increasing from 380 million to 450 million.

This enlargement will bring peace, democracy and prosperity to these nations. It will offer new opportunities to British industry and commerce, especially in financial and management services. This should boost UK exports in areas where Germany has dominated in the past.

However, enlargement poses two major problems for the UK. The accession countries, especially Poland with its 2 million farmers, are expecting their fair share of agricultural subsidies from the budget of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The budget financing CAP at present is £37 billion (50% of the total EU budget). Either this budget will have to be shared out with less money available to our farmers or the budget will need to increase by 20% thereby increasing our share of what we pay to the EU. Free movement of labour could put pressure on our social services if some of the underpaid and unemployed move west and end up in the UK. 

I believe that these accession countries should have equal voting rights and benefits of membership. We did when we joined. However, the EU did not pay us to privatise our economy and it did not give us subsidies to upgrade our industrial and agricultural standards to comply with the "Acquis Communitaire". Rights come with responsibilities and there should be no easy ride at our expense!

The European Commission and the Parliament must offer value for money for existing Member States. I am disappointed that the Parliament has erred in hosting a grand three day “celebration” in Strasbourg (19-21st November) for 200 parliamentarians from accession countries as well as 120 print and broadcast journalists. The European Commission President, Mr. Prodi, and the Danish Prime Minister will be VIP guests and a selection of MEPs will be invited for a photo opportunity. The Parliament will spend more than €725,000 of European taxpayers' money to wine, dine and treat to a concert costing more than €80,000, these politicians and journalists. The topic of discussion among the delegates will be the “future” of an enlarged EU – a topic that has been already exhaustively debated in the European Parliament, the Laeken Convention, the Committee of the Regions, the Economic and Social Committee and numerous other conferences.

Why should the European Parliament waste taxpayers' money in this way? Are these “celebrations” simply hatched to offer photo opportunities for the select few who lead the European Parliament? Such money would be better spent in promoting debates at grass roots level in each Member State so that ordinary citizens can express their views and concerns on the enlargement process. 

European citizens need sustainable jobs, security and economic prosperity. They will accept enlargement on the right terms. They will not accept pompous displays of extravagance that produce hot air and little else!