EU enlargement is the main benefit
By Geoffrey Van OrdenCONSTITUENTS who know me understand that I have serious reservations about the EU. So they often ask me to name a benefit of Britain's EU membership.
By Geoffrey Van Orden
CONSTITUENTS who know me understand that I have serious reservations about the EU. So they often ask me to name a benefit of Britain's EU membership. I tell them “enlargement”. The EU enlargement process is a major catalyst for change, not just in the candidate states but in the EU itself.
Two years ago, ten countries from central and eastern Europe brought EU membership to 25. On 1 January next year, Bulgaria and Romania will probably make it 27. And there are more to come.
The process of reform in all these countries has not only helped spread democracy, stability and prosperity further across the European continent, but also opened opportunities for our own businesses and enterprises. It has also thrown a spanner into the whole process of European political integration. 'Widening' really does mean less 'deepening'.
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As the European Parliament's 'reporter' on Bulgaria since 1999, I have been particularly involved in Bulgaria's progress. On May 16 this was debated in the European Parliament following a report from the European Commission. Bulgaria still has a number of key issues to address.
Top of the list is organised crime. Bulgaria's general crime rate is lower than many current EU states and the detection rate is higher. But there are entrenched crime gangs which have carried out blatant murders in Sofia in recent years - and no one has yet been convicted. It is the pressure of EU accession which has forced the Bulgarians to target this situation - carrying out much-needed reforms to the police and judiciary in the process. And bear in mind that the crime gangs active in London and elsewhere in the UK - Albanian, Kosovan, Russian (Chechen), Somali, Kurd - are not from EU states.
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Given what has been happening to our country in recent years, the British people have another concern - immigration. I certainly agree that the uncontrolled and chaotic mass immigration into the UK - both quasi legal and illegal - that has taken place under the Labour Government over the past nine years, is having devastating consequences and has to stop. Bear in mind that whether or not workers come here from new EU countries is a matter decided entirely by the British Government. It has the option to bar movement of workers from for up to seven years. In any case, it is the culturally indigestible mass migration from third world countries, not bona fide citizens of other EU states, which is the problem.
Let's not confuse this issue with EU enlargement. And let's see the benefit of enlargement in terms of our wider struggle to change the nature and direction of the EU.
Geoffrey Van Orden is a Conservative MEP for the East of England. He can be contacted at: 88 Rectory Lane, Chelmsford, CM1 1RF or email: email@example.com