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Daily Notebook: 15-06-98(2)

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Football violence


Football violence

Monday 15 June - Roy Perry (Wight and Hampshire South, EPP) and David Hallam (Herefordshire and Shropshire, PES) expressed their disgust at the actions of "so-called English football supporters" in Marseilles. Mr Perry stressed that these "mindless hooligans" did not represent genuine English football fans. Mr Hallam apologised to France and expressed his shock, anger and shame. He condemned in particular the "fascist thugs" who attacked individuals of north African descent. If this trouble continued, he said, the British government and the English FA should consider withdrawing from the World Cup.

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MEP's expenses


MEP's expenses

Monday 15 June - Marjo Matikainen-Kallström (Fin, EPP) expressed her concern that the results of the working group on MEPs' expenses appeared to have been leaked to the Swedish press. David Martin (Lothians, PES) stated that the reports were entirely inaccurate as the results of the working group had not yet gone to the Bureau. He stressed that, contrary to the press reports, the working groups had not mentioned a salary level for MEPs but had stated that it should simply be a percentage of the salary of a judge in the Court of Justice. Salaries, he stressed, would be set by a common accord between the Council and Parliament.

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Protest at "censorship"


Protest at "censorship"

Monday 15 June - Nuala Ahern (Irl, Greens) raised the subject of the magazine "The Parliamentarian" which had produced a special edition on nuclear safety. She claimed that her article had been censored because the magazine had heavy advertising income from the nuclear industry. She wanted the magazine's masthead which claimed that it represented the views of the MEPs, to be removed. Mrs Ahern also announced that she would be distributing her article amongst MEPs. President Gil Robles replied that the magazine was a private one which did not necessarily represent the views of the House.

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Concern at social aid cut ruling


Concern at social aid cut ruling

Monday 15 June - Mary Banotti (Irl, EPP called for the Commission to make a statement on the recent Court of Justice ruling on EU social funding that, she said, was causing distress to voluntary organisations whose funding had been put on hold as a result. President Gil Robles said that the matter was being raised in the Trilogue.

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Disaster at sea


Disaster at sea

Monday 15 June - Winnie Ewing (Highlands and Islands of Scotland, ERA) expressed her sorrow at the loss of lives on a Mallaig fishing boat which had been split in two by a German tanker. President Gil Robles promised that he would send a letter of condolence immediately.

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Italian MEPs switch party


Italian MEPs switch party

Monday 15 June - President Gil Robles announced that 20 Italian MEPs of the "Forza" movement have left the UFE group to join the EPP.

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1999 Calendar and draft general budget


1999 Calendar and draft general budget

Monday 15 June - President Gil Robles announced the proposed 1999 calendar for Parliament sessions. The deadline for amendments, he said, would be 8pm Wednesday and the vote would be on Thursday. He also gave details of the deadlines for the draft and general budget in September and October this year.

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Items in the news


Items in the news
Proposed motions on items in the news for debate on Thursday are as follows:
    Nuclear tests in India and Pakistan.
    The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
    Human rights - Pakistan, Equatorial Guinea, and the death penalty.
    The international criminal court.
    The situation in Georgia.

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Streamlining of procedure for written declaration


Streamlining of procedure for written declaration
(A4-0293/97 - Dell'alba)

Monday 15 June - Speaking in the absence of Gianfranco Dell'Alba (I, ERA), Ben Fayot (L, PES) Fayot for the rules committee, proposed several changes to Parliament's rules on written declarations. Such declarations, if signed by a majority of MEPs within a two month time scale, constitute Parliament's official view. Among the amendments Mr Fayot wanted up to five members to be able to submit a written declaration rather than simply one. This, he argued, was a recognition of the collective basis of many declarations. He also wanted the register to be located in the immediate vicinity of the Chamber rather than in a more remote office. He believed that the proposals would help MEPs to introduce written declarations more effectively.

Glyn Ford (Greater Manchester East, PES) gave general support to the proposals, arguing that until the current rules were introduced in 1989 MEPs had made considerable use of the written declarations procedure. Indeed he would have liked to have returned to the pre-1989 situation but was prepared to accept the proposals as they stood.

Robert Evans (London North West, PES) also welcomed the proposals, arguing that they made Parliament more democratic as they gave MEPs a clearer and a more positive way to express their views. For example, he said, they would now have more opportunity to put forward motions on behalf of their constituencies. All this, he concluded, would create greater simplicity, clarity and openness.

Vote tomorrow noon.

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Lomé - Dispute over human rights violations


Lomé - Dispute over human rights violations
(A4-0194/98 - Aelvoet)

Monday 15 June - There was widespread support in this evening's debate for Magda Aelvoet's (B, Greens) report supporting the view that Parliament should be consulted over a decision taken by Council under the Lomé Convention to suspend aid to ACP states, in the event of human rights violations. Mrs Aelvoet was pushing for an agreement with Council on this issue, if necessary through the conciliation procedure under the British Presidency but replying for the Commission, Sir Leon Brittan, while sympathetic to the views expressed, felt that as the Treaty already stipulated procedures for suspending aid, it was not possible at this stage to include a specific role for Parliament. He did though, undertake to inform and report to Parliament on such decisions.

In the debate, Mrs Aelvoet said the current procedure was far from satisfactory since a unanimous vote in Council was needed for the full suspension of aid, whereas just a qualified majority was needed for "partial suspension". Pointing to the case of Nigeria, she said that it often proved extremely difficult to reach unanimity in Council. Other speakers such as Peter Sichrovsky (A, Ind) took the view that Parliament's role should be even more influential and that any proposals to suspend aid should be subject to the assent procedure or the full approval of the European Parliament but John Corrie (Worcestershire and South Warwickshire, EPP) while too supporting a greater role for Parliament, recognised that at this stage it did not seem politically possible. He did feel however, that it was important to influence events and cited the case of the Comoros which he had just visited. Here there was a serious situation that could get out of hand unless action was taken at an early stage, he said. He also recognised that in some cases, such as for example, the hangings in Nigeria by the military government, there was a need for immediate and swift action to suspend aid.

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Biotechnology and experiements with genetically modified micro-organisms


Biotechnology and experiements with genetically modified micro-organisms - safety the issue
Cooperation procedure - second reading. 314 votes required for amendments to be adopted.
(A4-0192/98 - Trakatellis)

Monday 15 June - Ensuring adequate health and safety provisions in laboratories where experiments involving genetically modified micro-organisms (GMMs) was the key issue in this evening's debate on a Council common position. The Council's common position already contains some 29 amendments adopted by Parliament at first reading but to allay public concern, Antonios Trakatellis (Gr, EPP) was recommending another 36 amendments which he felt would introduce tighter safeguards governing the use of GMMs, where there was a danger, either to humans or the environment. In the debate, speakers such as David Bowe (Cleveland and Richmond, PES) agreed. Mr Bowe pointed to the enormous advantages and benefits that could be made from the new developments but argued that a high level of protection was needed to reassure the public. Mr Bowe would also have preferred the legislation to come under a procedure that would allow conciliation between European Parliament and Council over disputed points. However, there was a difference of opinion as to whether or not the legislation should include specific provisions for producer liability. Greens spokesman, Hiltrud Breyer (D,) felt that it certainly should, arguing if industry was so confident in the safety arrangements, then it need fear no product liability legislation. But Peter Liese (D, EPP) did not think it was necessary and might well deter bio-technology companies from setting up in Europe. For the Commission however, Sir Leon Brittan felt that an overall generalised approach should be made to the product liability issue and he could not accept including a specific reference to it in this piece of legislation. Neither could he accept any proposed changes to the legal base although he did accept amendments to involve Parliament fully in any implementing provisions. On balance he could accept half the amendments but not those which he considered were too restrictive or bureaucratic and would pose too much of a burden on the industry. In the debate, Alan Gillis (Leinster, EPP) urged a balanced approach to the issue devoid of emotion.

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Rejection of EU/ES trapping accord on cruelty grounds



Rejection of EU/US trapping accord on cruelty grounds
Consultation procedure
(A4-0197/98 - Pimenta)

Monday 15 June - Reporting for the environent committee, Mary Banotti (Irl, EPP), speaking for Carlos Pimenta (P, EPP) recommended that MEPs reject a proposed agreement between the EU and the USA on humane trapping standards on the grounds that it would not provide adequate safeguard to prevent cruelty to animals. She maintained that as a result of the failure to take adequate account of welfare issues millions of animals would continue to be subjected to the indiscriminate cruelty of leghold traps for a further 8 years. She accused the Council and Commision - through fear of breaching World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules - of ignoring their existing statutory obligation to ban, in certain circumstances, the import of furs caught with leghold traps. A 1991 Council Regulation had laid down provisions whereby third countries wishing to export the furs and associated products derived from 13 species should either prohibit the use of leghold traps or ensure that trapping methods used met internationally agreed standards. There was a timetable requiring this provision to be implemented by 1 January 1996. The Commission and Council had decided not to enforce this, after threats from Canada and the US to take the issue to the WTO. In conclusion, Mrs Banotti argued that the Commission and Council had ignored their statutory EU obligations in favour of WTO considerations and he called for a rejection of the proposed agreement.

For the external economic relations committee however, Raimo Ilaskivi (Fin, EPP) approved the agreement, arguing that it was necessary to establish internationally agreed humane trapping standards in cooperation with third countries. He believed that the annex of the agreement approved the definition of such standards and this would ensure a sufficient level of welfare for trapped animals.

Anita Pollack (UK, PES) argued that the Commission had taken the wrong turn in not implementing the 1991 regulation and that it should have "stuck to its guns". She believed that the current US-EU agreement was weak and would not prevent cruelty to fur bearing animals.

The majority of MEPs also condemned the agreement. Doeke Eisma (Nl, ELDR) said that it was worse than the agreement with Russia and Canada and should be thrown out. He believed it to be a "real scandal" that Council and Commission had taken up their current position and had paid insufficient attention to Parliament's views. Undine-Uta Bloch von Blottnitz (D, Greens) said the agreement showed a "real contempt" of Parliament and stressed that Europe's citizens wanted an end to leghold traps. Laura González Álvarez (E, EUL/NGL) reminded MEPs that under the proposed agreement some types of leghold traps would be legal until the year 2006. Odile Leperre-Verrier (F, ERA) called for the continuation of the ban on imports of pelts caught in such traps. She argued that the proposed agreement was "completely unacceptable" as a result of the EU being unable to face up to pressure from the WTO.

A dissident note was struck by Ulla Sandbaek (Dk, I-EDN) who argued that simply rejecting the agreement would not lead to more humane methods. The 1991 regulation, she said, did not prevent the killing of animals but just the import of furs. Jean-Claude Martinez (F, Ind), on the other hand, supported Mr Pimenta and painted a bleak picture of the sufferings of animals. Citing the Helms- Burton and d'Amato acts he argued that the US did not pay sufficient attention to Europe's concerns.

Peter Skinner (Kent West, PES) noted that many constituents had protested to their MEPs about the "barbarous practice" of leghold traps. 70% of the products of the fur trade ended up in the EU, he said, and therefore the voice of consumers was very important. He believed that the Commission was wrong not to challenge the WTO on this issue as there were some lines that could not be stepped over. Parliament, he concluded, spoke for the people of Europe and their voice should be heard on this matter.

Replying for the Commission Sir Leon Brittan contended that the agreement represented a major advance for animal welfare. He did not accept the arguments of MEPs that the agreement was weaker than those previously signed with Russia and Canada. He stated that the form of agreement, that had been reached with an Agreed Minute, was necessary as the subject fell within the competence of the federal states of the US. However, he stressed that it was an internationally binding agreement on the whole of the USA. The standards, he emphasised, were the same as those of the other agreements and only the implementation schedule was different. Therefore the end result would be equivalent to the other two agreements. To reject the agreement, he argued, would simply lead to a ban on US imports but would not improve animal welfare. In conclusion he rejected the assertion that the EU had been forced into the agreement by the WTO, arguing that even if that body did not exist he would still be commending the proposals.

Parliament's vote is not binding.

Vote tomorrow noon.

POLITICAL GROUPS IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT as at 15.6.98


B DK D GR E F IRL I L NL A P FIN S UK Total
PES 6 4 40 10 21 16 1 19 2 7 6 10 4 7 61 214
EPP 7 3 47 9 30 11 4 35 2 9 7 9 4 5 18 200
ELDR 6 5 2 1 1 4 1 10 1 5 3 2 41
UFE 2 18 7 4 2 3 36
EUL/NGL 4 9 7 4 3 2 3 1 33
GREENS 2 12 2 4 1 1 1 4 1 28
ERA 1 2 12 2 1 2 20
I-EN 4 10 2 1 17
IND 3 12 15 6 1 37
TOTAL 25 16 99 25 64 87 15 87 6 31 21 25 16 22 87 626

PES        The Party of European Socialists comprising members from all EU states including Britain and Ireland. It is the largest group in the Parliament.

EPP        The European People's Party, once again with members from all EU states and comprising mainly Christian Democrat parties but including British Conservatives, who are affiliated but not full members of the party as such, Fine Gael members from Ireland, and now the "Forza" movement from Italy.

ELDR        European Liberal, Democratic and Reformist Group, where the largest contingent is from the Netherlands. It includes two British Liberals and one Irish independent, but the 'Lega Nord' members from Italy have now left to sit as independents.

UFE        Union for Europe initially comprised all MEPs from Mr Berlusconi's "Forza" party with the addition of a 'Lega Nord' and a Social Democrat member, all from Italy, plus French former Gaullist MEPs, seven Irish Fianna Fail members, two Greek members from the 'Political spring' party, three centre party Portuguese MEPs and two Dutch Members who crossed the floor from the PES and EPP Groups.

EUL/NGL    Next comes the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left NGL Group made up of representatives of Green/Left parties from Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden as well as of members of Communist parties from France, Greece and Portugal. It now has one British member.

Greens            The Greens, with two members from Ireland and one from the United Kingdom, now comprise representatives from nine member states.

ERA            The European Radical Alliance, based on the French Radical Party, is joined by two Scottish Nationalists, two Italian radicals and Spanish and Belgian members from regional parties. It considers itself a 'progressive' left party and supports the idea of a Federal Europe. Its latest recruit is a former member of the Greens from Luxembourg.

I-EN            The Independent Europe of the Nations Group is pledged to defend the nation states and is opposed to further integration. It is composed of French members who led the opposition in France to the Maastricht Treaty, Danish anti-marketeers and two Dutch members from smaller parties. It is now joined by Jim Nicholson of the Ulster Unionists.

Ind            The rest of the Parliament is made up of independents, including French and Belgian National Front members, Italian 'Lega Nord' and Ian Paisley.

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PE.266.273

 
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