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News report : 24-07-98

Brussels, 24th July 1998


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EU anti-corruption policy needed

On July 23rd the Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs, chaired by Hedy d'ANCONA (PES, NL), unanimously adopted the report by Rinaldo BONTEMPI (PES, I) on the Commission paper on an EU policy against corruption, as amended. The aim of the report is to set out the main points needed for a comprehensive policy to combat corruption.

The need to fight corruption at EU level has already been recognised and a number of initiatives taken. However, it is felt that they do not meet all the concerns and do not form part of an integrated approach.

It is therefore in the EU's interests to devise a consistent anti-corruption strategy inside and beyond its frontiers while fully complying with international rules on powers of jurisdiction. This strategy should also cover the fields of international trade and competition, external expenditure, the EU's own resources, development policy and pre- accession strategy.


Following the summer break, the next publication dates will be as follows:

- NEWS ALERT - Friday 28th August 1998
- Tuesday 1st September 1998

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In the view of the rapporteur, Rinaldo Bontempi, the Commission's paper contains few practical proposals for the prevention of, and effective action against, corruption. The Civil Liberties Committee therefore calls on the Commission to devise a comprehensive anti-corruption plan, based on a review of national and international experience, that will:

-    prevent, detect and punish corruption;
-    cover all areas at risk from corruption, from the provision of funds of any kind up to the decision on financially significant approvals;
-    provide for the establishment of a central anti-corruption agency.

The report also calls on certain Member States to abolish forthwith from their legal systems and fiscal practices any opportunities to make the funding of bribery tax-deductible, without requiring the abolition of such practices to be combined with conviction of the bribing and bribed parties in a court of law.

As regards the punishment of corruption in all its guises (active and passive corruption, in the public and private sector, at home and abroad, committed by natural and legal persons, the laundering of money from bribes), care should be taken to ensure that the opportunities for administrative, civil and disciplinary sanctions are brought into play, alongside penalties under criminal law, in particular by providing for compensation of the damage done to the public budget.

Further information: António SOBRINHO - tel. 284 35 35; e-mail:


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REX Committee not satisfied with EU-USA accord on Helms-Burton and d'Amato acts

"It is not possible to obtain complete victory over the United States". This was the conclusion drawn by Sir Leon BRITTAN, Commission Vice-President, on the agreement reached at the summit on May 18th between the EU and the USA on the Helms-Burton and d'Amato-Kennedy acts, which provide for sanctions against firms doing business with Cuba, Iran and Libya. During his discussion with members of the Committee on External Economic Relations at a meeting on July 22nd chaired by Luciana CASTELLINA (EUL /NGL, I), Sir Leon defended the agreement of 18th May, saying it would be good for European companies by maing their investments safer. He said that the EU was not bound by these undertakings if the United States did not fulfil their side of the deal.

If they did not, the EU could always appeal to the WTO. Several MEPs expressed incredulity at the Union's attitude in accepting the logic of these laws and their effects even though they were contrary to international law. They also stressed Parliament's right to be consulted. On the subject of expropriations, they said that the agreement did not resolve the issue of who would decide whether or not expropriations were illegal. In conclusion, Ms Castellina questioned the EU's tactics and asked whether it was advisable to suspend the proceedings of the panel during negotiations designed to culminate in an agreement.

As regards economic relations with the United States and the Transatlantic Economic Partnership (TEP) agreed at the summit, Sir Leon said this would be a key instrument for developing bilateral relations. Its main objectives were to remove major trade barriers and stimulate bilateral liberalisation.

Erica MANN (PES, D) argued that interparliamentary cooperation between the European Parliament and the US Congress should be increased on the basis of the experience of the existing EP-USA interparliamentary delegation. She said it was primarily Congress which placed obstacles in the way of bilateral cooperation.

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On China, Sir Leon said that, owing to the Asian crisis and domestic difficulties, China was not at present ready to make sufficient efforts to become a member of the WTO.

Further information:    Yannis DARMIS - tel. 284 38 16; e-mail:


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Reform of the wine market: "No" to ban on new plantings

On July 22nd Commissioner Franz FISCHLER described to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, chaired by Juan COLINO SALAMANCA (PES, E), the decisions taken by the Agriculture Council in June 1998 on the reform of the common organisation of the market (COM) in wine. Firstly he reminded his listeners of the seven main objectives of the reform (in accordance with the general objectives of Agenda 2000) and the proposals made by the Commission to achieve them. He then replied to questions from MEPs.

Philippe MARTIN (UFE, F), rapporteur, summarised the main concerns felt by MEPs and the objections raised to the proposed measures. He drew attention to the lack of consistency between the objectives and means proposed by the Commission to achieve them in terms of structural measures, in particular the ban on new plantings of vines between 2003 and 2010, which did not take account of the differing situations in the Member States. "How does the Commission expect to ensure a dynamic and economically viable development of European wine-growing when it is penalising the vineyards which are the most successful exporters?", he asked. Moreover, he said, the flanking measures for the conversion of vineyards were inadequate, since the Commission was penalising those growers who had already started to convert their holdings, by sharply reducing the basis for eligible operations as compared with the current situation.

According to Mr FISCHLER, although potential Community production was currently in line with overall demand, there was still a risk of surpluses for several years (as a result of fluctuations in production, consumer preferences, etc.). To maintain a balance between supply and demand and enable producers to exploit expanding markets, the Commission believed the market should be restructured to preserve the varieties which sold best. For this reason, it was in favour of measures such as keeping the ban on planting new vines for a further transition period, creating additional planting rights together with transferrable rights for which priority would be given to young farmers and providing for targeted grubbing-up measures in conjunction with the wine- producing regions.

As regards the management of the market, Mr MARTIN was against the abolition of compulsory distillation as an intervention measure. He said it contributed to limiting short-term surpluses of table wine. He feared that abolishing it would result in the destruction of a natural market for wine-growers to the benefit of alcohol from other agricultural raw materials which had the advantage of being less labour-intensive.

Mr FISCHLER replied that compulsory distillation had not produced the desired results. The Commission was therefore proposing to replace it by introducing a provision for specific, optional distillation ("crisis" distillation) and by continuing to allow distillation of derived products. These arrangements would be applied flexibly and combined with a system of aid contracts for private storage.

As regards wine-growing practices, Mr MARTIN felt there was a need for greater use of subsidiarity, in view of the great diversity of situations not only between Member States but also between regions. He wanted appellations and geographical indications to continue to be protected, particularly in the light of the problems raised by the United States, Australia and Switzerland in connection with the use of the name "Champagne".

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Mr FISCHLER sought to reassure his audience. The rules on wine-growing practices and product specifications would be included in the proposal (Title V). He also stressed that the Commission planned to conclude bilateral agreements with the Mercosur countries on the mutual recognition of products and wine-growing practices. "So, no Champagne from California!" was his conclusion.

Further information:    Maria-Grazia CAVENAGHI-SMITH - tel. 284 22 39


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European Drugs Monitoring Centre asked to step up its efforts

The Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs, chaired by Viviane REDING (EPP, NL), unanimously adopted the report by Anne-Marie SCHAFFNER (UFE, F) on the 1997 annual report on the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

The purpose of the EMCDDA is to provide the EU and its Member States with objective, reliable and comparable information at European level concerning drugs and drug addiction and their consequences. The statistical, documentary and technical information processed or produced is intended to help give the EU and the Member States an overall view of the drug and drug addiction situation when, in their respective areas of competence, they take measures or decide on action.

Against this background, the committee welcomes the evidence of progress set out in the EMCDDA's 1997 annual report by comparison with its 1995 annual report, and calls on it to make the improvements required to develop reliable and comparable methods, data systems and key indicators without delay. It also calls on the EMCDDA to step up its efforts to standardise the collection of key items of data in the area of reduction of health risks and reduction of the demand for drugs (e.g. drug-related deaths, infection rates, crimes committed by drug addicts).

The committee also asks the EMCDDA to draw up and submit to Parliament and Council an assessment of differing national drugs policies. Lastly, the EMCDDA is requested to draw up definitions and common indicators with a view to conducting a cost-benefit assessment of the drugs policies and pilot projects carried out in the EU Member States, taking account of the health, socioeconomic and public order aspects.

Further information: António SOBRINHO - tel. 284 35 35; e-mail:



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