As the first Romanian to address the CBI Annual Conference, I am honoured to share the floor with so many outstanding personalities of the political and business community. When you last met, you were looking at a different global economic situation than the one we face today. The tragic events of 11 September in the United States have changed that. We are now faced with a global economic downturn. Markets which looked like a safe bet before 11 September look less attractive now. You, the business community, will be looking more carefully at strategic investment decisions.
I invite you to look at Romania. I believe we have a good case. Let me explain why. First, Romania is a safe place to do business, because it is a country defined by Euro-Atlantic standards. We can be a secure host to Western investment, to your investment.
Romania should no longer be thought of as a "former Communist country".The Communist regime fell 12 years ago. The past is gone. What defines Romania now is not that it used to be on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. What defines Romania now is that it is a future member of Nato and the European Union.
We've made important headway. We're making huge strides and we'll make sure that we join both EU and Nato on time. We welcome the ratification of the Nice Treaty by the British Parliament. This is a significant step towards enlargement. I was particularly pleased to read Minister Peter Hain's comments in the House of Commons that the EU candidate countries are already embryonic members of the European Union
Remember that a country like Romania is large by European standards. It is second only to Poland in terms of size and population. We will bring another 23 million consumers to the EU single market. That is an important gain. To quote Peter Hain again, enlargement is not a favour that you are doing us, the candidates. It is a favour you are doing yourselves.
Secondly, Romania has unique advantages for foreign investors. Our geographical position at the crossroads of national trade routes facilitates access to over 200 million consumers, over a range of 1,000 km. We can offer safe access to energy routes in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Romania has immense natural resources, fertile land for agriculture, high tourism potential. We have a well-educated people, highly-skilled labour and talented IT specialists. Production in Romania could prove cost-effective and offer better value for your investment.
Third, and most important, Romania is a safe place to invest, because of the irreversibility of our economic reform programme and our commitment to stimulate investment. My government will not allow red tape to choke off our potential as a nation, or create opportunities for corruption. The twin fights against corruption and bureaucracy are key priorities. Administrative procedures for those wanting to do business in our country are being simplified. We aim for a leaner, more efficient public administration which, with British and European Commission support, we are already beginning to achieve.
We are strengthening law enforcement and have adopted our Anti-Corruption Programme, based on analysis by the World Bank. We are serious about cutting out the cancer of corruption from the body of our country. In our first four months of government, 195 people, including senior public service officials, have been charged with corruption.
Romania is not stuck in the past. Romania has made progress. Romania is going in the right direction. That is why I have no hesitation in adding this: if you are a potential major investor in Romania and you believe that red tape or corruption is hampering your progress – call me! With the measures we are taking, I don't believe it will be necessary – but, if my phone does ring, be sure that something will happen.