News report : 22-04-99
Brussels, 22nd April 1999
Greater parliamentary dimension needed after enlargement
The President-in-Office of the Foreign Affairs Council, Mr Joschka
FISCHER, yesterday told the Institutional Affairs Committee, chaired
by Biagio DE GIOVANNI (PES, I), that the German Presidency intends
to propose holding a new Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) to decide
on the institutional reforms needed to settle matters outstanding since the
Amsterdam Treaty: the composition of the Commission, the weighting of
votes in the Council and the balance between the institutions. The new
IGC should be held in late 2000 or early 2001. The Presidency is drawing
up a report on these questions to be submitted to the Cologne summit,
which will decide the IGC's remit, establish a timetable, etc.
According to Mr Fischer, the thinking on these issues should go beyond
the remit of the IGC itself and embrace the role of the European
Parliament, especially in the light of the recent crisis which led to the
Commission's downfall. There should be a thorough rethink of
Parliament's powers, with a view to enhancing its powers of democratic
scrutiny and making it the real legislature. Voicing a personal opinion, Mr
Fischer said that in a Union of 25 Member States there would have to be
a more prominent parliamentary dimension, otherwise it would not be
able to operate effectively. In his view, under its present
intergovernmental structure the Union could not take on new Member
States and still function effectively.
He added that the present crisis in the Balkans was proof that Europe
must organise itself in order to play a genuine political role on the
international stage and in particular to assert a security and defence
identity of its own.
Replying to MEPs' questions, Mr Fischer said he was in favour of having Parliament play an
effective role in the IGC. However, this would have to be decided unanimously and not all the
Member States necessarily agreed to the idea. He therefore thought it too early to say whether
this role would amount to Parliament sending representatives to IGC meetings or to giving it a
power of "ratification", as Parliament had often demanded. As to what he understood by a greater
parliamentary dimension for Europe, Mr Fischer said he personally believed in evolution towards
a bicameral system. However, wishing to allay any fears MEPs might have, he said this certainly
did not mean creating a sort of third body representing national interests and composed of
national MPs. It was up to the Council to reach agreement with national parliaments so that
national interests were no longer exclusively represented by government ministers but shared with
He also said the German Presidency still believed that Europe needed a strong Commission. The
changes needed to the Commission's set-up should not affect its position in the institutional
balance. The question was how to ensure that the Commission could operate effectively while
also guaranteeing that 25 Member States, or even more, were represented. However, he did not
wish to prejudge the debate on this issue.
Press enquiries: José PACHECO - tel. 284 34 54; e-mail: email@example.com
"Community method" proposed for next IGC in 2001
Greater democracy in the Union and more effective decision-taking mechanisms ahead of
enlargement should be the goals of the next IGC, says a resolution adopted unopposed (with one
abstention) by the Institutional Affairs Committee, chaired by Biagio DE GIOVANNI (PES, I),
who is also the rapporteur on the subject of the method and timetable for the forthcoming
The committee believes that preparatory work for the IGC could begin and be carried out in 2000
and that the IGC itself should be held in 2001. The Conference should finish by the end of 2001,
so that the new Treaty can enter into force before the first wave of enlargement.
The resolution also refers to the investiture of the President of the Commission and says that his
programme submitted for Parliament's approval should include a commitment to make a decisive
contribution to institutional reform and to propose such changes as are needed. Parliament should
give its approval only if the new President gives undertakings regarding, inter alia, the timetable
and method for achieving institutional reform ahead of enlargement.
As regards this method, the report argues that the Amsterdam Treaty's shortcomings in the area
of institutional reform clearly show the inadequacy of the intergovernmental method. It therefore
calls for unanimity to be used only for the final outcome of the negotiations. Consequently, a
"Community method" should be used during preparations for the IGC in order to achieve the
desired results. The process should thus be launched by the Commission, which should draw up
an initial preparatory document. For this purpose the Commission should be allowed to call on a
group of "independent eminent personalities and experts" (a formula used by the Delors
Committee) and engage in "institutional consultation", especially with Parliament, so that the final
document is based on an agreement between the two institutions. In order to ensure the full
democratic legitimacy of this preparatory work, the consultation process must be made as
comprehensive as possible by involving national parliaments, political parties, citizens' groups and
the European public. The Commission President should regularly inform the Presidency and the
Member States about the preparatory work and this information should serve as a basis for
political dialogue. These plans for institutional reform should form the basis for the IGC
To ensure the democratic legitimacy of the process, a new formula needs to be found for
Parliament's participation in the IGC, so as to allow its representatives to take part in, and
address, all meetings, which was not the case at previous IGCs. The resolution also emphasises
the political need to initiate at Union level a constitutional-type procedure which includes the
establishment of a charter of fundamental rights and freedoms. It regards it as indispensable to
include in the Treaties simple principles which are comprehensible to the general public as a first
step towards "constitutionalisation" of the Community system, taking particular account of the
implications of monetary union and the establishment of an area of freedom, security and justice
in which the public enjoys EU citizenship with full guarantees.
The vote on the resolution is due to take place at the May part-session but it may be included in
a more general resolution addressed to the Cologne summit.
Press enquiries: José PACHECO - tel. 284 34 54; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
MEPs swallow CAP reforms: 'We can't open up Pandora's box again'
The Agriculture Committee has adopted a position broadly endorsing the package of Agenda
2000 farm reforms, in the light of the deal struck at the Berlin Summit and with certain
reservations, ready for the May plenary in Strasbourg.
Although the committee, chaired by Juan Luis COLINO SALAMANCA (PES, E), is not entirely
happy with the Berlin agreement, it finds it more acceptable than the original, more drastic,
Commission proposals and does not want to hold up the CAP reforms.
"In many areas my Group is not satisfied ... but we cannot open up Pandora's Box again", said
German Socialist Klaus REHDER, echoed by Livio FILIPI (EPP, I) who said: "We must be realistic.
We have done what we can. Public opinion thinks the results are the best that can be obtained."
The MEPs' main reservations are set out in a dozen compromise amendments adopted on
Tuesday, 20 April, at the committee's last meeting before the European elections. These
amendments reflect compromises hammered out with the Commission and Council and will be
tabled in plenary next month, as the committee's "last word", replacing the amendments on those
points adopted in plenary in November and January.
In his key amendment, Willi GÖRLACH (PES, D) wants rural development aid to go to all farming-
related activities, not just agricultural production. In the dairy sector, which will not now be
reformed until 2005/6, Lutz GOEPEL (EPP, D) presses the Commission to review the current
arrangements in 2002 and produce proposals as soon as possible for replacing milk quotas after
2006. He also wants a flexible super levy.
Georges GAROT (PES, F) is holding out for more generous public intervention measures in the
beef sector than those agreed in Berlin and Giulio FANTUZZI (PES, I) wants the cuts in
compensation for oilseed and linseed producers to be phased in over four years rather than in
In the wine sector, Mr Philippe MARTIN (UFE, F) does not want Sweden, Denmark and Ireland to
be counted as traditional Community wine-growing regions and calls for wine and its health
benefits to be promoted on export markets.
The proposals for direct support schemes under the CAP were approved unamended, after two
compromise amendments, both concerning the phasing-out of direct aid, which has been dropped
from the Council text, were rejected. Undaunted, the rapporteur, Friedrich-Wilhelm GRAEFE zu
BARINGDORF, said he would retable his amendment in plenary.
The Dutch MEPs, Jan SONNEVELD (EPP) and Jan MULDER (ELDR), reporting on aid for the
applicant countries and the financing of the CAP respectively, did not table any compromise
amendments with the Commission and Council. This means that the amendments adopted in
plenary in November and January will be tabled again in May. Mr Sonneveld calls in particular for
a consultative committee to be set up to examine the reforms planned by the CEECs with a view
to joining the EU, and for tighter financial controls. Mr Mulder's amendments leave open the
suggestion of co-financing, or shifting some CAP funding to the Member States, although this has
been ruled out by the Council. He also calls for a reserve to mop up unspent Guarantee funds.
MEPs will debate the entire package of Agenda 2000 reforms on Wednesday, 5 May and vote the
following day. The farm legislation will probably be passed by the Agriculture Council on 17/18
Although, under the consultation procedure, the content of the EP's formal opinions on the CAP
reforms is not legally binding, the proposals cannot become law without them. They will also be
an important political statement and will provide a basis for the work of the new parliament which
will be faced with the next round of discussions on CAP financing. After Parliament postponed
delivering its formal opinions on the CAP proposals in November and January because the
Commission could not accept its amendments, the EP held a series of informal 'conciliation' talks
with the Council, in which it was able to bring some pressure to bear, resulting in the Council
accepting many of Parliament's demands.
Press enquiries: Mary Brazier, tel: 284 2672, email: email@example.com
Recommendation for environmental inspections changed into directive
With one abstention - the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer
Protection (chairperson - Ken COLLINS (PES, UK) followed rapporteur Caroline JACKSON (EPP,
UK) in proposing to convert a commission proposal for a recommendation providing minimum
criteria for environmental inspections in the member states into a directive. The Commission
proposal is aimed at re-enforcing Community environmental legislation by establishing guidelines
on environmental inspections carried out in the Member States. Such inspections should be
applied to all industrial installations and other enterprises and facilities whose emissions or
discharges into the environment are subject to authorisation under Community law.
This legislation is required to harmonise as far as possible the procedures followed during Member
States' environmental inspections. The Commission chose to issue a recommendation rather than
proposing a directive because of differences in existing national inspection systems - one or two
Member States do not have inspections at all.
The Environment Committee however, shared Mrs Jackson's view that only a directive could
oblige Member States to set up such inspections systems. The Committee adopted 24
amendments that aimed at the establishment of minimum inspection standards
Press inquiries: Judith ECKER, phone +32-2-284.26.29
Conciliation agreement third directive on recognition of qualificatios (crafts)
Following the meeting on April 22nd of the European Parliament delegation, chaired by Josep
VERDE I ALDEA (PES, I), agreement was reached with the Council on the directive establishing
a mechanism for the recognition of qualifications in respect of professional activities and
supplementing the first two directives (89/48 EEC and 92/51/EC).
The rapporteur, Evelyne GEBHARDT (PES, D), welcomed the significant progress achieved by
Parliament by comparison with the original text in removing obstacles to freedom of movement.
The principle at issue is the free movement of migrants. The difficulty between the Council and
Parliament is the question of proof of the qualifications held by a migrant skilled craftsman, a
problem which is aggravated by the fact that national rules on the training of skilled craftsmen vary
greatly and are sometimes anchored in traditions that go back to the Middle Ages.
At present, under Court of Justice case law, the host Member State may choose to impose upon
an applicant either an adaptation period (of up to three years, to be completed by some form of
final assessment) or an aptitude test. Under the new directive, as amended by Parliament, the
principle is reversed: it is the migrant who chooses between the adaptation period and the aptitude
test. He is thus better able to defend his interests against any protectionist measures he may
encounter. This will apply to all remunerated work. For the self-employed or company directors,
however, the choice may be made by the Member State. In conciliation, Parliament managed to
have the scope of this exception narrowed: the professional activities will have to entail a
knowledge and the application of the specific national rules in force. To ensure equal treatment,
the legislative text states that the same requirement must apply to nationals of the country. In
addition, the Member States must try to take account of the beneficiary's own preference.
The report will be tabled in plenary at the May part-session in Strasbourg.
Press enquiries: Etienne BASSOT - TEL. 284 47 41; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
REX committee takes no decision on TACIS
The External Economic Relations Committee, chaired by Philippe HERZOG (EUL/NGL, F),
decided at its meeting of 21st April not to vote on the proposal for a Council regulation on
assistance for economic reform and recovery in the New Independent States and Mongolia. The
committee took this decision on the recommendation of its rapporteur, Jaime VALIDIVIELSO DE
CUÉ (EPP, E), who argued that, given the current situation on those countries, sound
management of the programmes and proper use of the funding provided could not be guaranteed.
Because no vote was taken in committee, the present Parliament will not be able to vote on the
matter at its last part-session. The Commission will therefore have to submit a fresh proposal to
the new Parliament following the elections in June.
Press enquiries: Yannis DARMIS - tel. 284 38 16; e-mail: email@example.com
Ban on hormones
The External Economic Relations Committee, chaired by Philippe HERZOG (EUL/NGL, F), has
decided to propose that a debate be held on the WTO's decision concerning the Community's ban
on hormones. The debate is due to take place at the May part-session and will include a statement
by Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan. The political groups are invited to propose resolutions to wind
up the debate.
The WTO decided, following a complaint by the United States and Canada, that the EU's ban on
imports of hormone-treated meat violated its rules.
Press enquiries: Yannis DARMIS - tel. 284 38 16; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Changes to rules on giving, postponing and refusing the budget discharge
The Committee on the Rules of Procedure (Chair: Ben FAYOT, PES, L) has unanimously
adopted Mr Fayot's report on an amendment to Annex V of Parliament's Rules of Procedure
(governing the procedure for the consideration and adoption of a decision on giving a budget
In order to complete the budget procedure and allow a discharge to be given for subsequent
years, the committee responsible is allowed to use the procedure of "the closure of the accounts"
of all the Community's revenue, expenditure, assets and liabilities. If the proposal to close the
accounts is not adopted in plenary, the report is referred back to the committee responsible.
The discharge can be postponed for either technical or political reasons. In order to distinguish
between the procedures applicable in each case, and to bring it more into line with Article 89 of
the Financial Regulation, the procedure for postponing the discharge has been altered. Now, if
there is a technical reason for deferring the discharge, the committee responsible may table a
motion for a resolution postponing the decision for a discharge or else instruct the President of
Parliament to inform the Commission of the reasons for the postponement. Should Parliament
postpone its decision on giving a discharge, the Commission must make every effort to take
measures, as soon as possible, to facilitate removal of any obstacles to that decision.
The procedure for refusing the discharge has also been amended. Parliament now has to decide
on any proposals for such a decision by a majority of votes cast in plenary (pursuant to Article 141
of the EC Treaty) and not by an absolute majority (314 votes).
This change meets an immediate need: it enables the 1996 discharge procedure to be completed.
It was therefore decided that all the changes will enter into force immediately.
To amend an annex to the Rules of Procedure, only a simple majority is needed. The vote on this
report is scheduled for the May part-session.
Press enquiries: Sergio SALVADOR (tel. 284 42 99; e-mail: )
Some stability programmes 'over-optimistic'
The Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (in the chair: Giorgos KATIFORIS (PES, Gr)
today adopted the report by Mr André FOURCANS (EPP, F) on the Commission's recommendation
for the broad lines of the economic policies of the Member States and the Community.
The Committee is pleased with the fact that Member States' stability programmes meet the
requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact. It does, however, consider that some Member
States have failed to give this first stability programme exercise all the importance it deserves, and
supports the remarks by the ECOFIN Council regarding the over-optimistic nature of some stability
programmes as regards growth forecasts and the vagueness as to the ability to control public
expenditure, particularly in Italy, Germany, Portugal and, to a certain extent, France.
The Committee underlines the necessity of a balanced and appropriate policy mix, and advocates
certain measures, such as:
- the reduction of unemployment and the promotion of growth and stability,
- further structural reforms (in particular of the social security systems and the labour
- budgetary consolidation,
- reduction of taxes and other levies - especially on labour - and a modernisation
of tax systems,
- further coordination of taxation - particularly as regards indirect taxation,
- wage developments in line with productivity developments,
- an increase of private/public investment levels,
- the improvement of efficiency and quality of public spending.
The Committee also points to the need to improve the functioning of the single market.
Finally, the Committee makes it clear that respect for the independence of the ECB is vital for
implementing an effective monetary policy, although without prejudicing the democratic dialogue
the ECB must maintain with Parliament and to any assessments which the Commission and
Council may make of this policy. The Committee also stresses the responsibility of the ECB to
maintain price stability and to contribute towards a policy mix conducive to sustainable growth and
Press enquiries: Anders ABRAHAMSSON, Tel 284 62 33 or E-mail: email@example.com
Loopholes allow dumping of oil platforms at sea
Concern at derogations permitting the disposal at sea of large off-shore oil and gas installations,
once they have reached the end of their working life, was voiced by the Environment Committee
in a resolution adopted unanimously on 20 April. The result, it noted, could be marine pollution,
including low-activity radioactivity from some of the materials discarded.
The resolution, contained in a report drafted by Françoise GROSSETÊTE (EPP,F), said that
derogations should only be granted where the alternative of dismantling an installation for
disposal on land might endanger workers or damage the environment. It notes that the cost of
dismantling is generally limited compared with the revenue earned when the installation is
operative. Such cost should, in any case, be taken account of in the operator's investment plans
in accordance with the polluter-pays principle.
The derogations, particularly for large steel installations, are permitted under a decision adopted
last July at an international marine environment conference in Sintra, Portugal. However, the
committee was pleased that -albeit subject to these derogations - the decision, in principle,
banned the dumping of disused installations at sea. It welcomed the fact that reuse, recycling or
final disposal on land represented the preferred option.
There are currently some 600 offshore installations in European waters, with the UK and Norway
particularly involved. Public concern has been heightened since the UK Government allowed Shell
to dump the Brent Spar oil storage buoy in the North Atlantic in 1995.
The report, which gives the committee's reaction to a Commission communication, is expected
to be considered without debate at Parliament's May plenary in Strasbourg.
Press inquiries: Patrick Reynolds - tel. 284 4706
Protection of tropical forests requires local communities' active participation
The Committee on Development and Cooperation adopted on Wednesday 21 April a draft report
from José Javier POMES RUIZ (EPP, E) on a Commission proposal which deals with the
conservation and sustainable management of tropical forests in the developing countries. The
Committee modified the Commission's proposal for EU regulation with over 40 amendments.
In its amendments, the Committee stresses the need for improving the coordination and flow of
information between the EU and Member States projects in order to ensure coherent actions in
this field. It calls for the active participation of forest peoples and the local community in the
development of national forest policies and development planning. Forest conservation should
respect the economic, social and cultural rights of local communities, and should be carried out
only after their consultation and full participation in the decision-making processes.
According to the Committee, particular attention should be given to encouraging private,
environmentally responsible entrepreneurship in the wood processing and marketing chain. This
should take into account existing social systems and community-based economic activities.
Operations carried out under the EU regulation should be preceded by environmental and socio-
cultural impact assessments, taking into account the development needs of the respective forest
peoples. Funding should be rejected if there are serious doubts whether the environmental and
social sustainability requirements of these operations can be met.
Press enquiries: Eero YRJÖ-KOSKINEN - tel. 284 4896; E-mail: