12/05/2003

Enlarged EU will see NI slip in importance

UUP MEP Jim Nicholson has warned that EU enlargement will see Northern Ireland slip down the scale of importance.

Mr Nicholson revealed that 162 new members would be joining existing MEPs as observers in the European Parliament this week, taking their places in Committees and political groups with the right to speak but not vote. This will continue until after the European Elections in 2004, when they will become full members.

Mr Nicholson said: “Europe will not be the same again. I obviously welcome the inclusion of these former eastern bloc countries but we must realise the consequences. With enlargement development of these countries becomes a priority and regions such as Northern Ireland will slip down the scale of importance.

“Unless Europe reforms its decision making process everything will be bogged down and destroyed by red tape, bureaucracy and a totally outdated decision making process.

"It can be difficult enough to achieve consensus with 15 member states, can only imagine what it will be like with 25," he added.

Mr Nicholson was speaking at a function organised by the European Commission at the Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office to mark Europe Day.

(MB)

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