By Joseph Willits
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Yesterday in Parliament a debate was motioned, and passed unopposed without a vote, to approve a European document related to Croatia's joining of the European Union. Europe Minister David Lidington began the debate by speaking of enlargement more generally, saying that the Government has long been "a strong supporter of EU enlargement as an effective and dynamic agent of change … the European Union will remain strong only if it is outward-looking and continues to grow".
EU accession, he said, "has helped to entrench democracy, the rule of law and human rights in parts of our continent where those values and traditions were crushed for most of the 20th century." Enlargement would "create stability, security and prosperity across Europe".
Lidington said that providing accession criteria had been met, it was important that EU membership should be available to any European country, whether it be Spain or Portugal, or a Balkan or eastern European nation. The Minister made reference to Margaret Thatcher's Bruges speech of 1988:
"Thatcher declared, at a time when it was not fashionable or even believable to do so, that it was important for everybody in Europe to remember that Prague, Warsaw and Budapest were also great European cities".
Phillip Hollobone MP (Kettering), challenged Lidington's remark that "an expanded Europe is good for security and stability", speaking as a special constable with the British Transport Police:
"Every day police officers in London are arresting more and more EU nationals from eastern European countries, particularly Bulgaria, Romania and other accession states, as part of criminalised gangs working in London … With the EU expanding, the problem of crime on the streets of our capital city is getting worse because of the ease of access across international borders."
Lidington replied that it was crucial that "freedom of movement that comes with membership of the European Union is not applied in a way that can be abused", but that "it is right that somebody who is coming here to take a job should be entitled to do so". In many cases, jobs taken by economic migrants from eastern Europe were those which many "British people have been unwilling to take on; one talks to a lot of employers who will say that".
On the issue of the jobs market, Peter Bone MP (Wellingborough) asked if the Government could "ensure that we get people into the EU, without necessarily worrying about flooding the market here for workers".
Lidington blamed the previous Government, saying that "the transitional controls that could have been applied to some of the new member countries were not applied. The Government was, he said, "taking very seriously the transitional arrangements that still apply to Romania and Bulgaria". With the case of Croatia's ascession, "conditionality has been further developed since the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, learning from the lessons of the accession experience of those countries".
Conditionality, he said, "is of critical importance to protect the credibility of the enlargement process and to encourage future EU expansion".
With the President of Turkey, Abdullah Gül being in London for a state visit, holding a joint press conference with David Cameron yesterday, Lidington responded to a question regarding Turkey's EU accession:
"Labour and Conservative Governments alike have consistently taken the position that we support Turkey’s ambitions to join the European Union. That accession process has helped to drive both political and economic reform within Turkey, and we want to see further progress being made at the earliest possible date."
However, much of the debate about Turkey's joining of the EU, corresponds with Nicholas Watt's remark in the Guardian, "Britain and Turkey both know that Turkey will not be joining the EU for a generation at least".