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April 25, 2005

BULGARIA AND ROUMANIA--NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME IN EUROPE

The signing today of documents that will lead to the admission of Bulgaria and Roumania into the European Union can only add to the arguments of those who want the new European Constitution (subject of a previous DIRELAND post) to be rejected in France's May 29 referendum on it. The reason: by any standard, both Eastern European countries are still in gross violation of EU standards on two key issues: human rights, and corruption.

In both countries, corruption is so widespread that citizens are required to fork over bribes for absolutely everything -- from municipal building permits, to admission to a hospital or the right to obtain prescriptions for medication, to enrollment in a public school. Both countries have thus become playgrounds for rapacious corporations, eager to escape from laws protecting workers' rights, salaries and benefits in the advanced democracies of Western Europe, and profit from countries where labor is cheap, unions enfeebled, and where -- with a cash-stuffed envelope for a bureaucrat -- factories can escape from producing products under the strict health and environmental protections that exist in the West. Adding the 33 million people of these two countries--where illiteracy is still high, and familiarity with democratic standards and practices low to non-existent--to the EU will inevitably weaken it and its democratic ethos. But, under enormous pressure from Washington, the EU has rushed to include Bulgaria and Roumania under the NATO-EU umbrella which the proposed new European Constitution enshrines. Both countries are also failing to protect their ethnic minorities -- particularly the Turkish minority in Bulgaria and the Rom (or "gypsy" population) in Roumania, who suffer routine discrimination and exclusion from mainstream social and economic life.

The admission of these two corrupt countries is the harbinger of easy sledding for Turkey. The EU opened negotiations for Turkey's admission last October, under pressure from Jacques Chirac and Gerhart Schroeder. But, as Le Monde has reported, "Turkey stopped making efforts to reform since it opened negotiations with the E.U." Turkey, where corruption is likewise rampant, is a notorious violater of human rights, and torture is widespread there. Turkey is also continuing policies of oppression towards its Kurdish minority, as Human Rights Watch reminded us in a report last month.

Last month, the Turkish human rights organization Mazlum Der criticized 75 deaths -- just in the first two months of 2005 alone -- at the hands of the state police, all dead from torture, extra-judicial executions, or downright murder. This suits Washington and its "war on terror" just fine -- just last week, another Human Rights Watch report detailed how the U.S., U.K., and other Western countries are accepting flimsy "diplomatic assurances" as the excuse to send suspected terrorists to Turkey and other countries where they would be tortured, something U.S. law forbids. Turkey is also a major transmission belt for the drug traffic, which it makes little effort to control (the army in particular profits from drug-monied corruption). And Turkish gay leaders have written to the E.U. to protest violations of E.U. bans on discrmination against same-sexers that are contained in the new Turkish penal code.

Roumania and Bulgaria both have pro-Western governments who were part of Bush's "coalition of the bought" for the Iraq invasion. Their admission to the E.U. is part of a market-driven expansion which strengthens Washington's hand within the Union, and helps insure it will be docile when the next American military adventure is cooked up. All this is just one more reason to hope the French vote "non" against the new European Constitution at the end of the month.

Posted by Direland at 07:22 PM | Permalink

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