News report : 05-02-98
Brussels, 5 February 1998
FYROM - Branki Crvenkovski
Branki Crvenkovski: "My country has contributed to peace and security
in our region"
In these words, the Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia (FYROM), Mr Branki CRVENKOVSKI, summed up the
efforts made by his country to establish good relations with its
neighbours. Mr Crvenkovski, who was a guest at a meeting of the
Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired by Tom SPENCER (EPP, UK),
said that encouraging progress had been made on this front. FYROM
had, for example, signed several important agreements with Albania on
matters such as the complete opening up of their borders and the
liberalisation of bilateral trade.
On the subject of relations with Greece, the Prime Minister of FYROM
said that the period of isolation with no mutual contact was now over, as
had been shown by the first meeting, in Crete, between the President
of FYROM, Mr Kiro GLIGOROV, and the Greek Prime Minister, Mr
Kostas SIMITIS. True, there was still the problem of his country's name.
In the course of a discussion with MEPs, Mr Crvenkovski said that the
name "Republic of Macedonia" was enshrined in his country's
constitution and that it was entitled to have this as its name. However,
he preferred to emphasise the growth in economic and cultural relations
between his country and Greece. He even hoped that Greece would
become the main advocate of FYROM's interests within the EU
institutions. It was in Greece's interest more than in that of any other
country to do this, he said.
Mr Crvenkovski also welcomed the development of economic cooperation with Bulgaria. However,
there was also a "language problem" with Bulgaria, which did not recognise the existence of
Macedonian as a language distinct from Bulgarian.
The presence of the UN conflict prevention force, UNPREDEP, on the border with the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia, had helped greatly to stabilise the region, claimed Mr Crvenkovski.
However, one issue with Yugoslavia was still outstanding: the frontier between the two countries
had not yet been officially demarcated.
Replying to a question by Gary TITLEY (PES, UK), Mr Crvenkovski spoke of his concern about the
situation in Kosovo. The deep antagonism between the Albanians of Kosovo and the Serbian
authorities and the complete absence of dialogue between the two sides was a threat to the stability
of the whole region, he said. He called for swift, vigorous and coordinated action by the international
community to induce the Belgrade authorities and the representatives of the Kosovo Albanians to
defuse the conflict.
In reply to questions by several MEPs on the rights of minorities in FYROM, and in particular the
Albanian minority, Mr Crvenkovski emphasised his government's policy of tolerance and mutual
respect. The teaching of Albanian, Turkish and Serbian was guaranteed in primary and secondary
education. However, he was also convinced of the need to integrate the various ethnic groups,
saying that his country did not wish to have any closed systems or ghettoes.
Further information: Etienne BASSOT - tel. 284 47 41 and Sébastien BURNER
Official inauguration of the Parliament buildings
OFFICIAL INAUGURATION OF THE PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
The new buildings of the European Parliament in Brussels will be officially inaugurated next
Thursday, 12th February 1998. The inauguration will take place in the presence of His Majesty King
Albert II, representatives of the Government of Belgium, as well as local and regional authorities.
(Practical information to the media for coverage of the event will be given in News Alert on 6
Further information: Stig BERGLIND, Tel: 284.2079
The HAARP Project
THE HAARP PROJECT:
PURE RESEARCH, STAR WARS CONTINUATION OR ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER?
At a public hearing in Brussels on 5th February, the Committee on Foreign Affairs discussed the
HAARP project (the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme), which has been
developed by the US military, as well as the wider issue of non-lethal weapons. The chair of the
Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom SPENCER (EPP, UK), stressed the importance of the hearing in
connection with the report to be drawn up by Maj Britt THEORIN (PES, S) on the possible use of
military resources in environmental strategies.
Mr SPENCER said that he attached great importance to ensuring that varied - and indeed opposing
- viewpoints were aired in the course of any hearing, so that a clear and well-informed picture of the
issue could be obtained. It would therefore have been useful, on this occasion, to hear the views
of the United States and NATO. However, the NATO Secretary General, after consultations within
the Alliance, had told the committee that there was no NATO policy on this matter and that he was
therefore unable to send an expert to the hearing. Mr SPENCER had therefore contacted the office
of the US Permanent Representative to NATO but it had refused to send anyone to the hearing. Mr
SPENCER regarded this as regrettable but noted that, as far as the committee was concerned, the
issue would stay on the agenda. It would be ready to listen to their views at any point in the future.
News Report will return to this subject in a special Background Note.
Further information: Etienne BASSOT - tel. 284 47 41
Bosnia and use of EU funds
SPECIAL PARLIAMENT DELEGATION TO VISIT BOSNIA TO VERIFY THE USE OF EUROPEAN
An ad hoc delegation of the European Parliament, led by the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs
Committee, Tom SPENCER (EPP, UK), will visit Bosnia-Herzegovina from 21-24 February 1998.
The other members of the delegation will be Rinaldo BONTEMPI (PES, I) member of the Committee
on Civil Liberties and rapporteur for the Protection of the Union's Financial Interests, Jean-Antoine
GIANSILY (UFE, F) rapporteur for the Budgets Committee, Edith MÛLLER (Greens, D) rapporteur
for the Budgetary Control Committee and Doris PACK (EPP, D) chairman of the Delegation for
South East Europe.
The visit will include meetings with political authorities and The Office of the High Representative
as well as visits to reconstruction projects in and around Sarajevo and - weather permitting - Banja
Luka and Vukova (Croatia).
Mr Spencer emphasised the importance of the work of parliamentarians in connection with reality
in the area: "This is a sensitive mission at a sensitive time. We are going to examine how well
European Union money has been spent in the reconstruction programme in Bosnia and how the
resettlement of refugees is being handled". The timing of the visit is politically sensitive as we are
about to extend reconstruction and resettlement programmes to the Serbian areas of Bosnia".
The reasons for the visit of the Ad hoc delegation are set out in Parliament's Budgetary resolution
of the 18 December 1997. The European Parliament decided to block in the reserve 30% (ECU 30
million) of the appropriations allocated for 1998 for the reconstruction of the republics of ex-
Yugoslavia. The decision taken was justified by the poor administration of the funds allocated in
1997 and in particular, the slow return of refugees. The 1998 reserve funds may be released when
Parliament is satisfied that conditions for using them have improved. The ad hoc delegation,
together with the authorities in the area, will evaluate,on the spot,the financial and administrative
problems concerning this aid, and consider measures designed to accellerate reconstruction and
refugee resettlement in 1998.
Further information: Jacques NANCY, Tel: 284.2485, and Georgios GHIATIS, Tel: 284.2216
EU funding to inform public about Euro
GO-AHEAD FOR EU FUNDING TO INFORM PUBLIC ABOUT EURO AND AMSTERDAM TREATY
The Budgets Committee, chaired by Detlev SAMLAND (PES, D), gave the go-ahead on 4th
February for ECU 15 million to be used to fund two top-priority public information campaigns in 1998
- one on the euro and the other on the Amsterdam Treaty (called Let's Build Europe Together). The
two campaigns are part of the PRINCE programme.
When it adopted the EU's 1998 budget in December 1997, Parliament chose to keep in reserve
ECU 15 million (out of a total of ECU 42 million for these measures) and asked the Commission
to devise a breakdown for the funds which would reflect the priorities established by the budgetary
authority (Council and Parliament).
As a result, the campaign on the euro, which is designed to prepare the 370 million citizens of the
EU for the arrival of the single currency, will emphasise the link between the euro and employment.
The campaign Let's Build Europe Together will focus mainly on issues of public concern such as
consumer rights, security, the environment, the European institutions and the EU's image in the
world. The total spent on the euro campaign will be ECU 30 million and on Let's Build Europe
Together ECU 12 million.
The Budgets Committee has agreed to release these latest funds on condition that the Commission
submits a report on information activities to be carried out in the four countries (UK, Sweden,
Denmark and Greece) which will not be in the first wave of members of the single currency and have
not signed the agreement with the EU on the co-funding of the euro campaign.
Further information: Georgios GHIATIS - tel. 02/284 22 16; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
EU-RUSSIA: A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP FOR A MAJOR PARTNER
"Russia must occupy an important and very special place in the EU's external relations. Accession
to the EU is not a realistic prospect for Russia but when I say that I do not mean it in an unfriendly
way. I regard the EU and Russia as a duo with two partners of comparable importance. Our task
is to create a new type of relationship with this great country." This, according to Catherine
LALUMIERE (ERA, F), is the thinking behind her report on the future relationship between the
European Union and Russia, which was adopted on 4th February unopposed, with one abstention,
by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired by José María MENDILUCE (PES, E).
The rapporteur argues that the security of the European peoples forms an indivisible whole and that
this security depends to a very large extent on relations between the European Union and Russia.
There is a need, she believes, for all the possibilities offered by the Founding Act between Russia
and NATO to be exploited at the outset. Cooperation must be effective in all areas, including the
military sphere, as one cannot imagine Europe enjoying security without Russia. The threatening
scenario of the past has been replaced by a situation in which Russia can become Europe's security
partner, although Russia should review its position on the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel
The report goes on to say that the EU should support the economic and political reform process in
Russia and also promote exchanges between people in leading roles in politics, administration,
economic life and social affairs as well as helping the development of civil society in Russia. Greater
cooperation with the Russian authorities is needed on matters covered by the 3rd pillar (justice and
home affairs), so as to strengthen the fight against crime. The committee also calls upon Russia
to follow up its moratorium on the death penalty, which has been in place since August 1996, by
abolishing capital punishment completely.
In addition, says the report, the EU's TACIS programme should in the next few years focus on the
following areas: carrying out projects in the areas of health, education, safety and housing; setting
up a legal framework within which the rule of law can operate and which accords people and
businesses greater legal certainty and confidence in the courts; and implementing a just and
effective tax system. The committee also calls for joint Euro-Russian industrial projects to be
devised, starting with hi-tech industries (e.g. biology, computers, space, aeronautics, energy,
telecommunications), so as to make Russia a fully-fledged partner in these industries of the future.
"We must have a proactive and dynamic policy towards Russia, not a "wait-and-see" policy or one
of simply reacting to events", said Ms LALUMIERE at the end of the vote.
Further information: Etienne BASSOT - tel. 284 47 41 or Vladimir VOROBIEV.
PROPOSALS ON FOOD IRRADIATION WIN QUALIFIED APPROVAL
A report on long-awaited proposals concerning the irradiation of food was adopted yesterday 3
February by the Consumer Protection Committee.
The report (codecision, second reading) by Mrs Undine-Uta BLOCH VON BLOTTNITZ (Greens, D)
amends two common positions established by the Council on Commission proposals for:
1. A framework directive on the approximation of the laws of the Member States concerning food
and food ingredients treated with ionizing radiation. The directive will lay down conditions for the
manufacture, marketing, import and - following an amendment adopted by the committee yesterday
- analytical testing of irradiated foodstuffs. It also deals with the authorization of irradiation facilities
2. An implementing directive on the establishment of a Community list of foods and food ingredients
treated with ionizing radiation. Initially, the list contains only one category of food (dried aromatic
herbs, spices and vegetable seasonings), where radiation can be used instead of fumigants which
leave potentially toxic residues. The intention is to add other foods to the list over time.
The original Commission proposal was made in 1988 and received a first reading (with
amendments) in Parliament in 1989. Its aim is to harmonize national laws so as to create a level
playing field in this area of the single market. At present, according to the rapporteur, food
irradiation is a commercial practice in only three Member States (France, Belgium and the
Netherlands), while Germany and Sweden ban it outright.
Accepting that consumers may have cause for concern about food irradiation, the committee agreed
that its sole purpose is to reduce food-borne disease, to retard or arrest decay and to rid food of
organisms harmful to plants. However, opposing the common position, members did not accept
that it could also be used to reduce loss of foodstuffs by premature ripening, germination or
Moreover, by 15 votes to 14 the committee insisted that food irradiation must take full account of
health requirements and must not be used as a substitute for hygiene or health practices or good
manufacturing or agricultural practice. By the same majority, it agreed that the international food
irradiation (radura) symbol may be used to indicate the presence of irradiation in foodstuffs. It also
decided, this time by 18 votes to 14, that food irradiation may only be authorized if it is essential to
the consumer. The committee also wants greater involvement of Parliament under the codecision
procedure (eg in connection with the inclusion of new foodstuffs in the approved list).
Addressing the committee before the vote, Mr Jack CUNNINGHAM, UK Minister of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food and current President of the Agriculture Council, said that food irradiation
technology could make a valuable contribution to public health through reducing contamination of
food and the risk of food-borne illness. The measures proposed would ensure that stringent
internationally recognized safeguards were in place over food irradiation.
The report is due to be considered by the House later this month in Strasbourg. The committee
chairman is Mr Ken COLLINS (PES, UK).
Further information: Patrick REYNOLDS - tel. 284 4706
QUALIFIED BACKING FOR AUTO-OIL PROGRAMME
A package of anti-pollution measures - the Auto-Oil Programme - designed to clean up road
transport in Europe got the green light yesterday 4 February from the Environment Committee -
subject to a raft of amendments.
The measures are dealt with in three texts adopted by the committee under the codecision
* a second-reading recommendation by Ms Heidi HAUTALA (Greens, Fin) seeking to improve the
quality of petrol and diesel fuels; and
* a second-reading recommendation concerning passenger cars and a first-reading report
concerning light commercial vehicles, both by Mr Bernd LANGE (PES, D) and both calling for tighter
limits on exhaust emissions.
The texts convey the committee's reaction to the Auto-Oil Programme, a collaborative venture
between the Commission and the auto and oil industries which was launched four years ago when
Parliament and the Council asked the Commission to devise a strategy to reduce road vehicle
emissions with the aim of improving air quality.
The proposals to improve fuel quality and toughen emission limits prescribe action in two stages:
by 2000 and 2005. While it is generally agreed that the first stage should be mandatory, Council and
Commission want the last stage to be simply indicative. Rejecting this view, however, the
committee decided that there should be mandatory specifications for 2005.
The Hautala recommendation, which the committee adopted unanimously, concerns the Auto-Oil
Programme's key proposal since improved fuel quality will benefit all vehicles, whether new or old,
immediately, whereas emission limits and improved engine technology (dealt with in the Lange
texts) will only apply to new vehicles.
The Lange recommendation dealt, among other things, with the need for on-board diagnostic
systems and in-service surveys. Mr Lange resubmitted most of Parliament's first reading
amendments. The recommendation was adopted by an overwhelming majoríty, while his report on
light vehicles was adopted unanimously.
The committee chairman is Mr KEN COLLINS (PES, UK).
[A detailed report on the committee's decisions regarding the Auto-Oil Programme is being
published separately in Background information in the Press section of Parliament's Internet site]
Further information: Patrick REYNOLDS - tel. 284 4706
Tobacco - MEPs still opposed to production cuts
TOBACCO - MEPs STILL OPPOSED TO ANY PRODUCTION CUTS
This was the response of the overwhelming majority of members of the Committee on Agriculture
and Rural Development, chaired by Juan COLINO SALAMANCA (PES, E), to a Commission
representative who attended a meeting of the committee on February 2nd 1998 to present the
Commission's proposal for a new regulation on the common organisation of the tobacco market.
The proposal is part of the Agenda 2000 package.
The rapporteur, Raul Miguel ROSADO FERNANDES (UFE, P), together with Giulio FANTUZZI
(PES, I) and Livio FILIPPI (EPP, I), attacked the Commission for sticking to its initial proposals, the
main aim of which is to reduce Community tobacco production (even though the EU has a shortfall
in tobacco), on the pretext that tobacco produced in the EU is of poor quality. (See News Report 51
of 24.6.97). Parliament has already criticised the proposals.
Certain points were challenged by a number of MEPs. These were:
- the claim that the EU is 51% self-sufficient in tobacco (the true figure, they said, was 30%);
- the system of buying back production quotas from individual producers wishing to abandon
this crop (with a corresponding reduction in guarantee thresholds) without redistributing
these quotas to other producers;
- an increase in the Community Tobacco Fund, for research and measures to combat tobacco
consumption, from 1% to 2% of the premium granted to producers (the fund being entirely
financed by clawing back this percentage from the premium).
The Commission representative stressed the importance of switching to other crops. However, he
was unable to suggest any alternatives when MEPs pointed out that it was difficult, if not impossible,
to change crops in tobacco-growing areas, which were mainly to be found in the poorest regions
(80% of tobacco production takes place in the EU's Objective 1 regions) and the most vulnerable
areas (the average tobacco holding being around 1 hectare in size).
Further information: Maria-Grazia CAVENAGHI-SMITH - tel. 284 22 39