Thursday, 28 April 2005
Signature of the Treaty of Accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union took place in the margins of the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 25 April in Luxembourg. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and I signed the treaty on behalf of Ireland. Ireland warmly welcomes the prospective accession of our two new partners. We will open embassies in both countries later this year.
The treaty now falls to be ratified by Ireland and by all the other signatories before the planned accession date of 1 January 2007. For previous accessions, ratification has involved a motion in the Oireachtas and an amendment to the European Communities Act 1972. Ratification can be expected on this occasion to follow a similar procedure. Bulgaria and Romania are entitled, since signature of the treaty on 25 April, to take their seats as active observers at nearly all EU meetings and did so at the meeting of European affairs ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday, 26 April 2005.
Have discussions taken place with the Bulgarian authorities in regard to suggested moneylaundering by Bulgarian financial institutions which are often linked to the Government there? Since the Irish Government said it was exploring and following up the question ofmoneylaundering in Bulgaria, what discussions have taken place with the Bulgarian authorities? The accession of Bulgaria is linked to the elimination of corruption and the proper accountability of its financial institutions.
As I said, these countries only the signed the Treaty of Accession at 6 p.m. last Monday and they attended their first meeting of European affairs ministers last Tuesday. No opportunity has presented itself to have any bilateral discussions with Bulgaria on this situation. However, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said in the House in the past week that this investigation is ongoing and will continue until further information becomes available.
Bulgaria and Romania have come through 35 chapters of European Union accreditation. That is very important. This situation only arose at Christmas. Based on that, it would be very unfair of Ireland to place an obstruction in the way of sovereign countries which want to join the European Union and which have met the necessary requirements and signed up to them. On that basis and given the work we are doing, this matter can be handled by Ireland through its agencies and in consultation with the Bulgarians on a bilateral basis rather than at European level.
On the accession treaty with Romania, will the Minister of State and the Government raise the disgraceful treatment of the gypsy population in Romania? It has suffered blatant discrimination and human rights abuses over the past 20 to 30 years. Even in this country, the Romanian population seems to be targeted by sections of society. Will the Minister of State raise these concerns at EU level and ensure ethnic minorities and human rights in EU countries are respected?
Is the Minister of State aware that not so long ago with the rise of Nazism and during the Second World War, thousands of people with disabilities and gypsies were exterminated in addition to the Jews? We must be ever vigilant and on our guard. Will the Minister of State raise these issues when dealing with these types of treaties?
I very much concur with the sentiments expressed by Deputy Finian McGrath. Thankfully, Europe has come a long way since the events and atrocities to which he referred. These issues were raised with the Romanians during negotiations at EU level. I presume they will continue to be highlighted in the period before Romania becomes a full member of the EU. I assure the Deputy I will pursue this matter at every opportunity through the Department and bilaterally.