Banner page The European Parliament The European Parliament
Banner page

Index 
 
 

Daily Notebook: 01-12-99(2)

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Editors


Editors:
Roy Worsley & Tim Boden
PHS 4C-87 & 85
43, rue Wiertz
B-1047 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 284 2941-3459
Fax: +32 2 284 6515

During Plenary sessions
in Strasbourg:
WIC 433/431
Avenue Robert Schuman
F-67070 Strasbourg
Tel: +33 388 17 4751-3785
Fax: +33 388 17 9355

E-mail:
press-EN@europarl.europa.eu


[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Welcome for Northern Ireland Agreement


Welcome for Northern Ireland Agreement

MEPs from across the House this afternoon welcomed the convening of the Northern Ireland Parliament. Applauding this "historic occasion" Senator Avril DOYLE (EPP/ED, Leinster) noted that it was twenty years since the issue had first been raised in the European Parliament by her colleague Joe McCARTIN (EPP/ED, Connacht/Ulster). She wished to convey her sincere thanks to all involved in achieving this momentous step. Mrs Doyle's sentiments were echoed by Pat the Cope GALLAGHER (Connacht/Ulster, UEN) who pointed to the important role played by the European Parliament in the process. Arlene McCARTHY (PES, North West) noted that she had spent the first thirty years of her life in Northern Ireland but had left because of the lack of opportunities. She hoped that this experience would not be repeated by young people in the future. Jim NICHOLSON (EPP/ED, Northern Ireland) struck a cautionary note by warning that there was still a long way to go. He hoped that David TRIMBLE would be able to come to the Parliament in January. Enrique BARÓN CRESPO (PES, E) called on President Nicole Fontaine to invite the Northern Ireland Executive to visit Parliament. Mrs Fontaine agreed to do so and also noted that she had sent a letter of congratulations to those instrumental in establishing the Hillsborough Parliament .

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Reinstatement of Independents' Group


Reinstatement of Independents' Group

President Fontaine announced that following the decision of the Court of First Instance the Technical Group of Independents would be permitted to exist as a group on an interim basis and would enjoy the same conditions as other political groups in Parliament. It would fall initially to the Legal Affairs Committee to decide whether to appeal against this ruling to the European Court of Justice. Emma BONINO (IND, I) then announced that the Radicals would resume voting and would be fighting for a change in the Rules of Procedure to allow a mixed group to exist.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Tie a blue ribbon


Tie a blue ribbon

The Chair of the Women's Committee, Maj Britt THEORIN (PES, S) announced that she was sending a letter to all male MEPs asking them to wear a blue ribbon to show their opposition to violence against women.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Code of good administrative behaviour


Code of good administrative behaviour

In response to Roy PERRY (EPP/ED, South East), President Fontaine announced that Parliament would be replying to an own-initiative inquiry by the European Ombudsman on a Code of Good Administrative Behaviour . A letter had been drafted and it would be going to the Bureau for approval.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

The Community and Sport


The Community and Sport

Wednesday 1 December - Opening the debate, Commissioner Viviane REDING announced the proposed establishment of a world anti-doping agency. This body needed to be both transparent and independent, she stressed, and made up of representatives from the world of sport and governments. It would be drawing up a list of banned products; it would monitor laboratories and law enforcement; and it would organise measures to prevent drug-taking. The wishes of the EU had been reflected in the statutes of the new agency, she said. There would be two EU representatives and two representatives from the Council of Europe on the board of the agency which would be made up of thirty partners, she noted. This meant that the EU did not have infinite freedom of movement as it would have to work together with its partners on the agency.

Consequently, the EU would also be establishing a European agency against doping where it would have a free hand. This agency would bring together a number of Commissioners. It would, for example, involve the Fifth Framework Research programme; the Socrates and Leonardo youth programmes; it would ensure that existing health directives included anti-doping information; and, finally, the Internal Affairs Commissioner would be ensuring effective enforcement.

At the Helsinki Summit the Commission would also come forward with a communication on sport which would stress the need to maintain the present sports structure and safeguard sport's social function. Mrs Reding noted that the EU did not have legal basis to regulate many areas but it would use all resources available - such as the Structural Funds - to promote sport. On competition, she stressed the need to observe the rule of non-discrimination - for example, on ticket sales. However, there could be exemptions if it helped the collective interest.

In response to Daniel Marc COHN-BENDIT (Greens/EFA, F) who claimed that the over- commercialisation of sport meant that exhausted players were being forced to take drugs, Mrs Reding stated that the EU could not step beyond the bounds of its own powers although she sympathised with his view. She told Enrique BARÓN CRESPO (PES, E) that if sport were to be seen as purely a business it should be dealt with like any other business. However, if it had social significance the Commission could help out.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Helsinki Summit - Enlargement talks on track says Finnish Minister


Helsinki Summit - Enlargement talks on track says Finnish Minister

Wednesday 1 December - Briefing MEPs on preparations for the Helsinki Summit due to take place next week, Finland's Foreign Minister Tarja HALONEN told the House that enlargement negotiations were proceeding smoothly in the different subject areas. The only difficulty so far concerned the environment, she added, before explaining that the intention now was to open up negotiations with the second wave of candidate countries. The EU, she said, should be looking forward to expanding, to include 25-30 member states, once the necessary democratic legal and economic reforms had been ushered in, although she emphasised that it was not yet possible to fix a precise date when all this would come to pass. As to the situation of Turkey, she emphasised that the intention at the Summit was to strengthen relations and in fact she felt that there had been an improvement in the recent period. She particularly welcomed the newly constituted UN discussions on the situation with Cyprus and although she hoped the EU leaders would agree to recognised Turkey's status as a candidate country for membership, she underlined the fact that it would be a "long and difficult" road before the necessary economic and political criteria as laid down in the Copenhagen Summit, were fulfilled. And, she emphasised that if Turkey decided to uphold the death sentence on Abdullah Ocalan, this would be extremely "worrying" and a situation that the EU could not accept. She urged the Turkish authorities to await the outcome of the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Turning to the other important topic for Helsinki, preparations for the forthcoming inter- governmental conference. This, she said, would consist of two parts. The first aspect would comprise institutional changes such as the size of the Commission, "the weighting" of votes in Council and qualified majority voting. The other aspect would concern the development of EU institutions such as the Court of Auditors, Court of Justice, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions and indeed the size of the European Parliament. In addition, she added, it would be necessary to look at the role of the Commission in an enlarged EU, arrangements for defence and enhanced cooperation or "flexibility". Mrs Halonen then outlined the progress made under the Finnish Presidency in the area of transparency, where Council and working group agendas were now published in advance, an idea that had become common practice.

Another aspect of EU policy-making to be discussed at Helsinki would concentrate on the details surrounding the Common Foreign and Security Policy and in particular the arrangements for defence. This would be divided into two areas concerning "crisis management", the civil and the military. On the civilian side, this would concern such aspects as police cooperation and indeed using officers from the EU in particular areas and the budget on financing these arrangements. While she emphasised the importance of ensuring that there would be no overlap with other institutions such as the UN or the OSCE, she then told MEPs that she expected to see an agreement on financing arrangements to enable the EU to undertake a military response. The idea was to enable a 50,000 strong peace-keeping force to be assembled within 60 days and to be prepared to go into action for up to two years at a stretch and she looked forward to the arrangements for this being in place, so that it could come to force in the year 2002-2003. Particular difficulties still to be resolved concerned air transport, intelligence and leadership factors, she said, acknowledging that Europe was not yet self-sufficient in this area. The intention was also to set up a unit to enable military analysis to be made with the WEU replaced by the EU as Europe's military wing, albeit in close cooperation with NATO. Any decision to act would, however, be on the basis of unanimity, she concluded. The EU leaders also intended to issue a "Millennium declaration" with the accent on just where the EU expected to go in the next century.

It was then the turn of Commissioner President Romano PRODI to outline his priorities for the Summit and indeed he welcomed progress in the negotiations on enlargement and looked forward to further progress and a speedy conclusion of the talks. He particularly welcomed the inclusion of the "second wave" of candidates and the intention to recognise Turkey as a candidate country, albeit on the understanding there was a need for considerable progress in the area of human rights and religious freedoms. He felt, however, that enlargement could begin within three years and, therefore, it was vital to ensure that the decisions on necessary institutional reforms were in place by that time. Other points where he felt there was a need for progress at the Summit included justice and home affairs, and economic policy. It was essential to have in place an employment strategy.

Opening the debate, EPP/ED leader Hans-Gert POETTERING (D) welcomed the intention to push ahead with the enlargement talks for the "second wave" of countries. He particularly drew attention to the situation in the Baltic States where the three countries had expressed unease about Russian action in Chechnya. He also felt there was a long way to go regarding the situation in Turkey.

For the PES group, leader Enrique BARÓN CRESPO (E) said it was vital for the IGC to take the key decisions to enable enlargement to proceed smoothly. The Conference should not just be preoccupied with the "leftovers" of Amsterdam, he said, welcoming such things as closer cooperation in defence and the Charter of Individual Rights. He also underlined the need to put in place the growth strategy to create jobs.

For the Liberals, Andrew DUFF (Eastern), however, was concerned that reports so far seemed to indicate the EU leaders were only going to adopt a "minimalist" approach to the Helsinki Summit and indeed the IGC. The Charter, he said, could turn out to be a failure, if it did not respond to citizens' concerns by, for example, allowing direct appeal to the Court of Justice. He warned that if a narrow agenda was maintained for the IGC, it could paralyse the EU, at a time when the priority should be to modernise the institutions.

Heidi Anneli HAUTALA (Greens/EFA, FIN) too was looking for a wider agenda with aspects like environmental protection taken up. And she expressed concern about reports of a failure to agree on the taxation package, in the face of the British veto. This is an area where there should be majority voting, she added. She did, however, welcome progress in the "crisis management" area especially with civilian cooperation. This should be extended to cover, not just policemen, but social workers, psychologists and other people who can offer practical skills such as builders, she added.

For the EUL/NGL Mihail PAPAYANNAKIS (Gr) expressed concern that the Council's new strategy would lead towards a "two-speed" Europe with political integration placed on the sidelines. He also felt it was necessary to look closely at the situation with regard to Turkey and examine exactly what the country wanted. A "symbolic recognition" would be of little benefit to either side, he said, emphasising the need for progress in such areas as human rights, rule of law and democracy and indeed on Cyprus. For the Union for Europe group, Gerard COLLINS (Munster,) noted that the economies of all member states were performing well and that the EU was playing a key role in contributing to stability in the Balkans, especially with its .2billion aid programme. His one concern with the enlargement package, however, was over the environment and in particular nuclear safety where it was vital for the EU and the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) to ensure that unsafe power stations were dismantled.

Marco CAPPATO (I), for the temporarily reconstituted TGI group, felt there was a danger of the EU becoming too "bureaucratic" when what was needed was a strongly federalist agenda. He wanted to see Parliament given the right to choose its own place of work. Other speakers such as Ole KRARUP (DK) for the EDD Group and Georges BERTHU (UEN, F), on the other hand, took the view that enlargement should be seen as an opportunity to weaken or dilute centralism. Mr Krarup pointed out that, as could be seen from the summer European Elections, there was little support amongst the citizens, who had not even been consulted about the agenda, for closer integration, while Mr Berthu although accepting an extension of qualified majority voting, felt that the Luxembourg compromise or the veto should be enshrined as part of the EU decision-making process. What was needed, he felt, was more flexibility with the "taboo" of the "acquis communautaire" disbanded.

Neil MacCORMICK (Greens/EFA, Scotland) condemned the "ill-judged intervention" by the NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson who, he said, had attacked the Scottish National Party as "isolationists". Professor MacCormick declared that he deplored this "party political intervention". The SNP was committed to collective security in Europe, he said, but it did not think there was a role for nuclear weapons. SNP policy was in line with the policy of neutral states such as Ireland, Finland and Austria, he concluded.

Malcolm HARBOUR (EPP/ED, West Midlands) was somewhat disappointed that the Finnish Presidency had made little mention of the Information Society. He was also concerned at the lack of attention paid to the broader topic of completing the internal market. Mr Harbour also wanted the Finnish Presidency to remind member states that cross-border takeovers must be allowed to proceed without political interference and here he referred to the takeover situation in the telecommunications industry.

Winding up for the Council, Mrs Halonen agreed that such issues as employment and the Information Society were also important and she stressed that they were being dealt with. On enlargement, she underlined the need to ensure respect for human rights and especially the rights of minorities such as the Roma people. She stressed that enlargement meant accepting new countries into the EU and not just their governments. They needed to take their populations with them, she said, and persuade them of the benefit of membership. The drawing up of a legal character for the EU at the IGC would solve many things, she believed. In response to a question from Enrique BARÓN CRESPO (PES, E) regarding Parliament's role at the forthcoming IGC, Mrs Halonen contended that the experience from the previous summit was a positive one. However, she recognised that different ideas on the issue were coming from different countries. It was a question of whether things should be taken further or the existing model should be used. However, she stressed that the rights already obtained by Parliament would be maintained. President PRODI emphasised that the EU would not adopt a minimalist approach to enlargement but it needed to address such questions as what should be the natural boundaries of Europe.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Welcome for human rights report


Welcome for human rights report

Wednesday 1 December - MEPs this evening welcomed Council's belated recognition of the importance of human rights with the publication of its first annual report which covers the June 1998 to June 1999 period. Lord Nicholas BETHELL (London, EPP/ED) recalled that back in December 1979 he had requested Council to submit such a report following Russia's invasion of Afghanistan. It has taken Council all this time to respond but nevertheless MEPs saw it as a sign that Council was taking human rights seriously and as a priority, even though the document under discussion was described by Lord Bethell as "thin soup". It seemed to have been circumscribed by the need to maintain a careful balance at a time which Lord Bethell described as an "abominable year" for human rights, with rises in genocide, racism, xenophobia as well as civil war seen across the globe. While he wished for a more powerful response, he felt that it could only get better in the future. On a specific point, he asked the Finnish Foreign Minister how the EU and indeed Finland was reacting to the trial currently taking place in Russia of Alexander Nikitin for protesting about environmental damage caused by submarines in the Murmansk area. Mrs Halonen later replied that talks were being held with the Russian authorities and that the Finnish Presidency was monitoring events closely. In conclusion, Lord Bethell's view was that it was the European Parliament that should take the lead in taking a strong stance against human rights abuses and making the protection of human rights a top priority.

Other speakers such as Catherine LALUMIERE (PES, F) and Cecilia MALMSTRÖM (ELDR, S) too welcomed the report with similar qualifying comments. Mrs Lalumiere felt it had "limited ambitions" and only trusted that the new EU Charter on Fundamental Rights now under discussion would increase the EU's commitment in this area while Mrs Malmström underlined the need to protect minorities and not only protest about violence and torture but ensure that concern for human rights violations was incorporated into other EU foreign policy areas. While Matti WUORI (Greens/EFA, FIN) was anxious to emphasise freedom of speech and indeed guarantees to ensure journalists could work freely in covering specific cases, Alain KRIVINE (EUL/NGL, F) took up the question of the situation of gypsies in Belgium who, he felt, were subject to unnecessary harassment and even expulsion.

For Council, Mrs Halonen explained that the report did indeed show the importance attached by EU Ministers to human rights and the willingness of the EU to work in close contact with other international bodies and organisations. This could be seen with the holding of the first Human Rights Forum this morning adding that the intention of the report was not to single out individual countries but to take up the whole range of human rights issues such as violence against women and children, the death penalty, racism and indeed social, economic and educational rights.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Close watch to be kept on aid for Turkey


Close watch to be kept on aid for Turkey
Assent procedure and consultation procedure
(A5-0071/0070/99 - Morillon)

Wednesday 1 December - Presenting his two reports, Philippe MORILLON (EPP/ED, F) noted that the first established a financial framework to cover 1999 to 2001 made up of a total of .135million to promote economic and social development in Turkey. This proposal could be passed by qualified majority vote in Council and was based on the co-decision procedure. The second dealt with the implementation of measures to intensify the EC-Turkey Customs Union covering the same period and made up of .15million in total. This proposal requires unanimity in Council. Mr Morillon noted that there was no unanimity in Council on how to proceed in this area. However, he stressed the importance of a fruitful dialogue with Turkey. He also noted that the EU's trade surplus with Turkey had increased from .4billion to .8billion since the Customs Union had come into effect in 1996.

For the Budgets Committee, Anne Elisabet JENSEN (ELDR, DK) broadly supported Mr Morillon's reports stressing that if Turkey were to be brought closer to the EU it would need financial assistance. José Ignacio SALAFRANCA SÁNCHEZ-NEYRA (EPP/ED, E) also supported Mr Morillon's line. He was unhappy with the death penalty passed on Abdullah Ocalan but noted that nobody had been executed in Turkey for fifteen years. It was important, he stressed, to send out an unambiguous message to Turkey on what the EU expected from it. Pierre SCHORI (PES, S) also welcomed Mr Morillon's reports while stressing the need for a democratically stable and prosperous Turkey. There were still areas of concern such as the Kurdish and Cypriot issue and the use of torture, he said. Support also came from Baroness Emma NICHOLSON (ELDR, South East) who, while welcoming increased links with Turkey, stressed the importance of Ankara respecting the rule of law and its minority populations. She welcomed the effective moratorium on the death penalty since 1984, while expressing the hope that capital punishment would be completely abolished next year. Ozan CEYHUN (Greens/EFA, D) argued that if Turkey were to get candidate status it would enter a new phase of dialogue with the EU. He believed that it had been an error for the EU not to increase its financial assistance in 1995. He, too, called for the abolition of the death penalty.

Andre BRIE (EUL/NGL, D) struck a different note, calling for the votes on the reports to be postponed. He did not consider that there had been any discernible improvement in the Turkish approach to human rights. The EU should not be making any concessions on such issues, he argued. Luís QUEIRO (UEN, P) also wanted a vote on the reports to be postponed. The EU needed to stand firm in this area, he said. Francesco SPERONI (IND I) followed this line, arguing that the time was not yet right for Turkey's candidacy. He too called for the vote to be postponed. Bastiaan BELDER (EDD, NL) however supported the reports, especially in light of the devastation wrought by earthquakes in Turkey. However, he believed that a Customs Union was the furthest that the EU should go in developing links towards Turkey. To do any more would raise unjustified expectations, he said.

Geoffrey VAN ORDEN (EPP/ED, Eastern) believed that the EU should talk in more encouraging terms to Turkey and remove the obstacles to the provision of financial aid. He hoped that Council would support Mr Morillon's proposals while also considering measures that would bring Turkey closer to European values. Petros EFTHYMIOU (PES, GR), however, considered that Turkey could not be compared to any other applicant country. Its foreign policy towards Cyprus and in the Aegean was based on open or threatened violence, he considered. However, he looked forward to the "Europeanisation" of Turkey based on the political classes. Ankara would have to respect international law, he said.

Replying to the debate, Commissioner VERHEUGEN recognised that, while the two Regulations under discussion did not have a direct bearing on Turkey's application for membership, the political context could not be ignored. In this sense, it was up to Turkey to assess the political climate in Europe as regards its desire to become a member of the EU. Continuing, he added that the attitude of the European Parliament in supporting both the Commission's and the Council's strategy towards building relations with Turkey was crucial and he looked for positive signs of support. Elaborating on the goal of the new strategy, he frankly admitted that approaches in the past had singularly failed to persuade Turkey to change. The question now was to adopt a "twin-track" approach which on the one hand was designed to bring Turkey closer to the EU, helped with financial assistance, and on the other designed to promote "fundamental change" in Turkey, especially with regard to political and economic reforms. The reaction of the current Turkish government was, he felt, encouraging and eager to pursue this road. While there is no question of Turkey joining if it did not meet the political criteria, he saw positive signs in foreign policy such as the recent rapprochement between Greece and Turkey, the introduction of a new human rights law in Turkey which would enable prosecutions to be made against civil servants for human rights violations, and the reaction of the Turkish minister towards the European Court of Human Rights and the death sentence on Abdullah Ocalan. The Turkish Minister had now indicated that it was not in Turkey's interest for this threat to be carried out. Mr Verheugen saw this as a hopeful sign that would give the Turkish government breathing space which could lead to the abolition of the death penalty in Turkey and indeed he appealed to the Turkish government to do just this.

With regard to Parliament's amendments to the proposals, while on balance he could accept most of them, he could not agree to those that affected the institutional balance. He undertook to involve the European Parliament closely in future developments.

Vote Thursday 11 am

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Court of Auditors reports for 1998


Court of Auditors reports for 1998

Wednesday 1 December - postponed until a future part-session.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Agenda changes


Agenda changes

The report by Claude MORAES (PES, London) on an action programme for customs in the EU (Customs 2000) which was due to be on the agenda for the December Strasbourg session will be voted without debate tomorrow.

Close 8.45pm

- 1 -
PE.280.777

 
  Legal notice