The Week : 01-10-97
Twelve meetings in Strasbourg
Twelve meetings in Strasbourg?
Wednesday, 1 October - A number of MEPs, including Pervenche Berès (F, PES)
raised today's ruling of the Court of Justice which declared that 12
part-sessions should be held in Strasbourg. The ruling calls into question
Parliament's vote last month to only meet in Strasbourg for 11 part-sessions
Turkey customs union
Turkey Customs Union
Wednesday, 1 October - It was agreed that the report by Peter Kittelmann (D,
EPP) on the EU Turkey Customs Union would be taken at a future session.
Wednesday, 1 October - Brian Crowley (Munster, UFE) complained that fellow MEP,
Monica Baldi (I, UFE) had been attacked while attending an official function in
Florence, Italy, to which she had been invited on her return from Strasbourg on
19 September. The President agreed to take up the matter with the Italian
Member states' employment policy guidelines
Member States' employment policy guidelines
Wednesday, 1 October - President Jacques Santer presented the Commission's
proposals for the special European Council to be held on 21 November which would
be devoted to employment issues. He underlined that the fight against
unemployment was an absolute priority. He emphasised that much progress had been
made since 1996, in particular employment had been included in the Amsterdam
Treaty. The Treaty, he said, set out common European guidelines on employment
for member states. Mr Santer emphasised the importance of this step, as it was
not too long ago when there had been a general refusal to act in common. He
stressed that there was now a very effective monitoring framework which would
have a dynamic effect on the actions of member states.
Mr Santer stressed that the 18 million unemployed in Europe deserved concrete
measures which should be ambitious while being realistic. He wanted the
employment rate to be progressively increased in the long term to more than 70%
which would be similar to the EU's principal commercial partners and in five
years for it to be increased from 60% to 65% with unemployment going down from
11% to 7%. This he said would lead to 12 million new jobs.
In order to achieve this Mr Santer set out an action plan in four main areas.
Firstly he wanted to create a corporate spirit that would stimulate
entrepreneurship and reduce administrative overheads that discouraged firms from
employing new workers. He wanted to reduce the obstacles in the way of those
moving from paid to self-employment and to ease the access of SMEs to capital.
He spoke of the current fiscal pressure of 42% which hampered employment and
called on member states to reduce this. He also called for a better balanced tax
system while respecting budgetary neutrality, which he said would be discussed
by Finance Ministers on 13 October. Finally, he wanted strategies that would
enable the full potential of new technology to be realised.
Secondly, Mr Santer wanted to see better training to integrate the unemployed,
particularly the young, into the workforce. He highlighted the problem
businesses face in finding skilled workers. To tackle this, he wanted every
adult who had been unemployed for over 12 months and young people unemployed
over 6 months to receive employment or training. He wanted the number of young
people leaving school early to be cut by 50% in five years. He also wanted an
increase of 25% in five years of unemployed people being offered training. He
emphasised the importance of the social partners and the structural funds in
Thirdly, Mr Santer wanted member states to become more adaptable to new
technology and market conditions. For example, member states should create a
framework permitting more flexible contracts. They should also invest in their
human resources and promote measures helping their workers to improve their
skills rather than spending state aid on "lame duck" sectors.
Finally, Mr Santer spoke of the need to ensure equality of opportunity and to
overcome the disadvantages that women endured in the labour market. He stressed
the crucial role they had to play in the labour market, especially because of
the declining working population. He therefore called on member states to make
efforts to reduce the gap in the level of employment between men and women. He
wanted more to be done to allow women to reconcile work and family life and for
women to have full access to training.
Mr Santer concluded by saying that in October the Commission would be carrying
out a full analysis of the Amsterdam agreement and examining how common policies
could be made to work. He re-emphasised that action and not "hollow words" were
what the EU's 18 million unemployed deserved.
Questions to President Jacques Santer
Staffan Burenstam Linder (S, EPP) asked for the Commission's views on the
philosophy of the Blair government which sought greater flexibility in the rules
governing the labour market. Commissioner Padraig Flynn accepted that taxation
needed to be more "employment friendly" and wanted member states to exploit the
macro-economic climate to reduce the charges on labour. He wanted a target for
reducing the tax burden to be set, while retaining budget neutrality.
Stephen Hughes (Durham, PES) asked whether Mr Santer considered that the
guidelines he was setting out would be a rallying point for the Heads of state
and wanted to know how strong he judged the momentum behind them to be. Mr
Santer stressed that all players had to be mobilised to ensure that the
proposals succeeded. He emphasised the need to establish effective methods of
monitoring to ensure that member states could determine whether they had
achieved the targets that had been set.
Elaborating on what kind of sanctions were available to the Commission to ensure
the member states adopted the new employment plan, Commissioner Flynn emphasised
that the aim was for each member state to draw up its own national plan within
common European guidelines. This would then be made public and the Commission
would be able to evaluate and monitor its implementation. The intention was to
work with governments rather than against them but it would still be possible
to draw attention to areas when aspects of the plan were not being put into
effect. As to the question of "new" money to put into place employment policies,
Mr Flynn emphasised that the intention was to make a more "positive" use of the
Ecu 200bn spent in social security, much of it at present concentrating on
guarantee incomes. Whilst not mentioning "Workfare" by name, Mr Flynn did say
the idea would be to aim for a more "active" labour policy and he drew attention
to the US experience which had been more successful in creating jobs and
reducing unemployment than had been the case in Europe. The target figure over
the next five years would be 65% of the working population in employment leaving
an overall employment rate of 7%-8%. Commissioner Flynn also spoke of the need
for "flexibility" and "adaptable" contracts and the need to ensure that those
who worked reduced hours were not penalised.
He acknowledged concerns about "tax dumping" or the ability of firms to relocate
in countries where tax burdens were lower in the single market but emphasised
that fiscal harmonisation was not part of the present operation. The question
of taxing capital would, however, be taken up at a forthcoming meeting of
finance ministers. Another aspect of the policy concerned the need to develop
more opportunities for women.
Budget 1997 - better than last year says Commissioner
(B4-818/97 - Brinkhorst and Tillich)
Wednesday, 1 October - Replying to concerns raised by members of the budget
committee over the poor implementation of the 1997 budget, especially in the
PHARE and TACIS Programmes for Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union as
well as the money earmarked for the reconstruction of the former Yugoslavia,
Commissioner Erkki Liikanen said that at the current stage of the financial
year, the situation was better than previous years, with some two-thirds of
expenditure already spent. The expectation was that more of the Ecu 90bn budget
would be spent this year than was the case in 1996. One reason for this was that
in 1997 there were no new spending programmes and that funding for areas such
as agriculture and regional and social funds was restricted. He acknowledged
concerns over milk quotas which had been breached by several member states but
said that this would be part and parcel of the CAP reforms. He also took on
board fears raised by Scandinavian members that the new Objective 6 policy,
designed to help rural parts of Sweden and Finland, had not yet come on stream.
He expected teething problems to be sorted out by the end of the year.
As far as Trans-European networks were concerned, there was a high rate of
committing projects where the figure was now 82% although, as far as paying for
projects agreed was concerned, the figure was only 40%. The MEDA programme
designed to help the North African Mediterranean states was also coming along
satisfactorily with 63% of expenditure committed. The administration's budget
had benefited from favourable movements in the exchange rate while in the future
the intention was to reduce amounts in this area.
MEPs approved a resolution noting that the implementation of the 1997 budget is
in line with the trend over the last two financial years. Points of concern
include the fact that a number of states are exceeding milk quotas, and that
funds for northern Sweden and Finland (objective 6) have not yet come on stream.
MEPs also want to see close monitoring of regional and social fund expenditure
and regret under-spending in certain headings such as measures for combating
violence against children, the PHARE and TACIS programmes. Concern is also
expressed at the failure to use money earmarked for the development of parts of
the former Yugoslavia.
Relations between the EU and Canada
Relations between the EU and Canada - Fisheries and trapping at issue
(A4-140/97 - Graziani)
Wednesday, 1 October - Opening the debate, Antonio Graziani (I, EPP) emphasised
the growing importance of international relations between the EU and Canada. He
drew attention to the need for closer cooperation in such fields as tackling
drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal immigration, disarmament and
achieving a worldwide ban on landmines as well as strengthening trade.
Other speakers welcomed the agreement and emphasised the need for close
cooperation with Canada.
For the fisheries committee, Pat the Cope Gallagher (Connacht/Ulster, UFE)
lamented that, despite the general good will that existed between the EU and
Canada, relations in the fisheries sector had often been fraught. He noted that
much of the cause of the problem was the similar fishing structures of the two
parties. He outlined the development of the conflict since 1975, including the
declaration of exclusive economic zones and the special problems of Spain and
Portugal. He stated that he shared Mr Graziani's optimism for better cooperation
between the two parties and stressed the need for bilateral and multilateral
confidence building measures. In particular he supported the NAFO initiative.
As an aside to the debate Georges Berthu (F, I-EN) spoke of his fears of Canada
becoming part of the US melting pot and Quebec losing its separate identity and
he stressed his support for a free Quebec.
For the Commission, Hans van den Broek spoke of how the joint action programme
had improved relations between Canada and the EU and he applauded the progress
that was made at the Denver Summit in June. He recognised the differences
between the parties on fisheries, but emphasised that, in general, they shared
the same views and attached great importance to their relationship.
He detailed the agreements between the two parties - including those on
standards and certification and mutual assistance and cooperation in customs -
which he believed would promote trade and relations in general. He concluded by
saying that Canada was a very important ally of the EU in a wide number of
fields, including the reform of the UN, disarmament, human rights and Eastern
Antonio Graziani's (I, EPP) resolution welcoming closer political relations with
Canada was adopted with slight amendment. MEPs take the view that the indigenous
people of Canada should be allowed to take part in developing an environmentally
responsible policy for the country.
EMU, convergence and the future of the welfare state
EMU, convergence and the future of the welfare state
(A4-255/97 - Willockx)
Wednesday, 1 October - Reporting for the economic committee, Frederik Willockx
(B, PES) spoke on the convergence criteria of EMU and the funding of social
security systems in EU member states. Mr Willockx stressed that member states
could not use the observance of the convergence criteria for EMU as an alibi for
making swingeing cuts in their social security expenditure. He wanted Europe to
avoid comparisons with the United States and to remain faithful to the
"Rhineland model" of adequate social security provision. He stressed the need
to avoid slogans and wanted member states to exercise caution in transferring
from one system to another. However, he believed it was vital to keep the social
security systems affordable. He believed that this could be achieved through
sound government finances, a high level of employment and the necessary
modernisation of the social security system. He considered that Europe could
build the framework for this development through such initiatives as tax
coordination, and meeting such social convergence criteria as minimum salaries
He concluded by calling for a social security system that was modernised and
financially strong and wanted the Commission to carry out an in-depth analysis
of the social security system.
In the subsequent debate Raphaël Chanterie (B, EPP), on behalf of the committee
on social affairs and employment, emphasised the importance of keeping to the
timetable of EMU. He recognised that there would be temporary difficulties, but
emphasised that budget discipline was vital to maintain an effective social
security system. He believed that social security reform would be achieved by
economic growth, an improvement in the employment situation and tax reform. In
this way, he concluded, the EU would achieve economic, monetary and social
Alan Donnelly (Tyne and Wear, PES) welcomed the "very timely" debate and
stressed the links between social security systems and the levels of
unemployment. He emphasised the need to reform the social security system while
also ensuring that there was an adequate social safety net. Mr Donnelly
considered that the post-war social security system was no longer appropriate
for today and called for a new system of flexible help tailored to individuals'
needs which did not permanently exclude them from work.
He recognised that the social security bill for the taxpayer was increasing and
spoke of the need to boost employment to reduce the budget deficit. Finally, he
called for the removal of the barriers which made it difficult for young people
to move from benefit to work.
Replying to the debate Commissioner Yves-Thibault de Silguy acknowledged
concerns raised about paying for welfare benefits with a reduced working
population. Indeed, he pointed out that the ratio of the working population to
the elderly had reduced considerably since 1960. He did, however, feel that the
stability brought about by a single currency would in the long run be beneficial
in stimulating growth. He acknowledged, however, the need for real reforms to
the taxation and pensions system.
Frederik Willockx's resolution drawing attention to the problems of financing
a social security system against the background of high unemployment and an
ageing population was adopted with several amendments. The resolution believes
that consideration should be given to shifting the tax burden from labour to
"non-renewable natural resources" but that any new incentives for job creation
should not be at the expense of maintaining existing social security benefits.
Law of the sea
Law of the sea
(A4-283/97 - Cot)
Wednesday, 1 October - Bearing in mind the EU's responsibilities in such fields
as commercial policy, fisheries, the environment and safety at sea, Jean-Pierre
Cot (F, PES) felt that it was indispensable that the Community should become
part of the convention relating to the law of the sea in its own right. The only
question at issue was what procedure to use for settling disputes.
Replying for the Commission, Hans van den Broek expressed his satisfaction that
Parliament supported the Community's accession to the convention. It would be
represented on the permanent international authority, he said, adding that he
accepted the obligation to keep MEPs fully informed of progress. As to the
method of settling disputes, this could either be through arbitration or a new
Parliament approved the EU's accession to the Convention on the law of the sea.
Supremacy of EU law
Supremacy of EU law
(A4-278/97 - Alber)
Wednesday, 1 October - Before taking up his new post as Advocate-General in the
Court of Justice, Siegbert Alber (D, EPP) came before the House to emphasise
his belief in the "supremacy" of EU law over national law and the confirmation
of this in the Amsterdam Treaty. He explained that while in the past there had
been general acceptance that European Court of Justice case law took precedence
for judgements involving European law, two rulings from the German and Danish
constitutional courts had called this into question. The German constitutional
court ruling was based on the idea that the European Community was a
"confederation" and not a federal state and that therefore the supremacy of
federal law did not apply but Mr Alber drew attention to the clause in the
Treaty that refers to the "ever closer union of the European peoples". There
were, he said, legal consequences of this not recognised by the Court. Neither
could he go along with the Court's interpretation that just because there was
not a European "people", European law could not be supreme and that the
democratic deficit had to be filled by national parliaments. In fact, he added,
the diversity of Europe's people was the Union's strength and that this could
in fact be protected at a European level. He took the view that national courts
could not declare invalid EU legislation. What was needed now was a way of
transferring international law into European law and clarification over Second
and Third Pillar policies on home affairs and foreign policy. The EU should also
have its own legal personality.
In the debate, other speakers such as Willi Rothley (D, PES), Georgios
Anastassopoulos (Gr, EPP) and Luigi Florio (I, UFE) concurred with Mr Alber but
there were a number of dissenting MEPs such as Hervé Fabre-Aubrespy (F, I-EN)
who took the view that EU primary legislation could not just be imposed on all
Replying for the Commission Hans van den Broek welcomed the report adding that
it contained a number of useful ideas. He was particularly interested in
pursuing ways of transposing international treaties into the Community legal
order in view of the ever increasing international role now being played by the
Community in its own right.
Siegbert Alber (D, EPP) resolution emphasising the supremacy of community law
over national law was adopted unamended. Numerous proposed amendments from the
Independent Europe of the Nations Group disputing this interpretation were
EU relations with South East Asia and FYROM
EU relations with South East Asia and FYROM
Wednesday, 1 October - The EU's relations with South-East Asia and the former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were the only two issues on the agenda for this
Brussels night session. In a joint debate, MEPs discussed the report by Luciano
Pettinari (I, EUL/NGL) on the EU-Cambodia cooperation agreement, the report by
Bernard Castagnède (F, ERA) on the EU-Laos cooperation agreement and two reports
by Michael Hindley (Lancashire South, PES) on the extension of the EU-ASEAN
Cooperation Agreement to Vietnam and on EU-ASEAN relations. Also discussed was
the report by Josep E Pons Grau (Sp, PES) on relations with FYROM. Apart from
the agreement with Cambodia, all the other cooperation plans were welcomed by
Mr Pons Grau's report on the agreement with the former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia was approved was approved
Wednesday, 1 October - Although rapporteur Luciano Pettinari (I, EUL/NGL) had
earlier been recommending that MEPs approve the cooperation agreement between
the EU and Cambodia, he now asked that Parliament should reconsider its position
given the substantially changed position since the coup d'etat. Referring to the
"political earthquake" which took place two months ago, Mr Pettinari took the
view that it was too early to give the green light to this agreement. Three
important conditions should first be fulfilled by the new regime: respect for
the Paris agreements, a calendar for elections early in 1998 enabling different
political groups to take part, and general protection of human rights.
Commissioner Manuel Marin agreed with the House that the EU should put pressure
on the new regime to respect human rights. The Commission proposed to spend 0,5
MECU on the organisation of the 1998 elections. Nevertheless, he warned MEPs
that a total ban on cooperation with Cambodia would damage vulnerable partners
like farmers in certain regions and not the regime.
MEPs followed Luciano Pettinari's (I, EUL/NGL) recommendation to refer the
report back to Committee in view of the current crisis in the country which has
developed since his report had been written. He was particularly concerned about
human rights and the need to set a date for elections in 1998. A new report from
Parliament, he felt, could contribute to bringing about peace and stability in
Wednesday, 1 October - Rapporteur Bernard Castagnède (F, ERA) recommended
approval of this cooperation agreement, which contains a human rights and
democracy clause and also covers cooperation in the field of energy, science and
technology, transport and communications and environmental protection. Two
outstanding problems were the large numbers of unexploded mines, which was
hampering agricultural development, and the development of alternative crops to
opium production. Commissioner Marin said that this agreement would be of major
political importance to both the EU and this former Communist republic.
The agreement was approved.
Wednesday, 1 October - The extension of the EU-ASEAN Cooperation Agreement to
Vietnam received the full support of rapporteur Michael Hindley (Lancashire
South, PES) . The EU originally signed a cooperation agreement with Vietnam in
1995, but in the same year Hanoi became a member of ASEAN, the Association of
South-East Asian Nations. This accession has obliged the Commission to negotiate
a Protocol that extends the 1980 EU-ASEAN agreement to Vietnam. The rapporteur
said that Vietnam was recovering after decades of war and now had enormous
growth potential. However, several members regretted the continuing human
rights abuses there.
Commissioner MARIN admitted that the human rights situation was far from
perfect, but added that this agreement was a great challenge and could not have
been achieved only two years ago. He was convinced that the new political
generation soon to take office wouldl considerably change the political scenery
in Vietnam. Having said that, he warned the House that including human rights
clauses in the agreements with Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam would not
automatically transform these states into Western democracies. "The miracle of
democracy does not come about overnight," he said.
MEPs approved the extension of the ASEAN cooperation agreement.
Wednesday, 1 October - Michael Hindley's (Lancashire South, PES) report on
creating a new dynamic in EU-ASEAN relations was also welcomed by Parliament,
but some speakers criticized this summer's accession of Burma to ASEAN. The
rapporteur took the view that that decision was ASEAN's own business and noted
that ASEAN did not interfere in matters concerning EU membership. But he also
emphasized the importance of human rights and, in particular, adherence to human
rights conditions in bilateral relations between the EU and certain ASEAN member
The rapporteur favoured a debate on the implications of ASEAN expansion for
EU-ASIA relations. There should be separate negotiating mandates for each of the
new ASEAN-members as regards their adhesion to the EU-ASEAN agreement. Many
speakers in the debate shared the rapporteur's belief that increasing EU-ASEAN
cooperation could potentially concern all aspects of economic activity,
including investment and intellectual property, industrial cooperation, services
and technology, and human resources. Finally, the rapporteur supported tourism
development together with the need to preserve environmental resources. Efforts
to combat the sexual exploitation of children and women should be better
Several members raised the issue of East Timor, expressing their deep concern
at the abuse of human rights by the Indonesian authorities. The EU should put
pressure on Indonesia in order to respect UN resolutions on this former
Commissioner Manuel Marin had nothing to add to the Hindley report, but agreed
that the accession of Burma "is difficult to explain to third countries".
The resolution was approved.
Wednesday, 1 October - The agreement with the former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia was considered an important step towards further stabilization of the
political situation in this part of the Balkans. Rapporteur PONS GRAU was
convinced that the agreement would enhance the political credibility of FYROM.
The new independent state faces a 36% unemployment rate and ethnic problems, but
its inflation rate was falling and its problems with its neighbour Greece had
Commissioner MARIN shared the rapporteur's view that the agreement was a
breakthrough. The accord on transport relations was of major importance for
stability in the region. The commissioner hoped that Council would approve the
agreement by 1 January 1998 at the latest.
The future of Lomé
The future of Lomé
Thursday, 2 October - Presenting his report on the future of the Lomé
Convention, after its expiry in the year 2000, Wilfried Martens (B, EPP)
reporting for the development committee took the view that cooperation with the
developing countries under a similar kind of arrangement must continue. He
acknowledged that there were many criticisms of detail on the working of the
present convention, but the primary need for the future was for the EU to find
practical ways of helping ACP countries, as well as looking after Europe's own
interests. The challenge was to adapt the convention to increasing globalisation
of world trade.
The relationship between both sides had moved on from one of just economic
cooperation and now encompassed a political dimension. For the future it was
necessary to obtain the support of the peoples in the various countries for a
new agreement. This meant involving all aspects of political and social society.
There was, he said, also a need to simplify trade rules which had become
increasingly complex and difficult to operate. For the future he set a target
date of the year 2015 to reduce absolute poverty in these countries by 50%. In
this, he felt the Joint Assembly involving European politicians and ACP
representatives could play a key role.
In endorsing the continuation of Lomé, Luciano Vecchi (I, PES) emphasised the
need for development cooperation to be based on partnership with the aim of
helping ACP countries to modernise. He did not see any need to change the
present geographical arrangements adding that the top priority was to encourage
sustainable development and help the poorest developing countries.
Johanna Maij-Weggen (Nl, EPP) felt that there was a need to breathe new life
into the agreement and encourage regionalisation. While the EU was the largest
trading partner for the countries concerned, there was great scope, especially
in Africa, to improve links between the countries themselves, she said. She drew
attention to the democracy and human rights clause in the present agreement and
the need to reinforce this, tackle corruption and develop a strategy to prevent
future conflicts breaking out. Other speakers, such as Blaise Aldo (F, UFE)
emphasised the need to modernise the economies of the countries concerned and
bring about a fairer distribution of wealth, while Raimondo Fassa (I, ELDR) in
emphasising the democracy and human rights clause said it should be used to
impose conditions on aid to ensure that basic values were respected. One
particular point that he raised, concerned respect for WTO rules and
liberalisation negotiated at an international level. Such regulations should be
respected by developing countries once their economies were up and running he
said, a view contested by several other speakers, such as Hélène Carrère
d'Encausse (F, UFE) and Wilfried Telkämper (D, Greens) who felt that it was just
not feasible to ask poor African countries with underdeveloped economies to
comply with such international trade rules. They were not in a position to
compete, said Mrs Carrère d'Encausse, while Mr Telkämper emphasised the need to
revise the STABEX system designed to guarantee price stability for commodities.
It had not provided sufficient guarantees he felt.
Johannes Blokland (NL, I-EN) emphasised the importance of trade as a means of
development rather than handouts, while Michel Scarbonchi (F, ERA) felt that aid
and development programme should be concentrated at an EU level rather than
dissipated amongst various national programmes. Togo, with its 6% annual
economic growth rate and rapid development of democratic institutions was a good
example of how development cooperation could be successfully achieved, he said.
The development committee chairman, Michel Rocard (F, PES) drew attention to the
importance of international organisations in the development process and small
scale loans if necessary, without guarantees. While Konrad Schwaiger (D, EPP)
was adamant that "corrupt dictatorships", as he put it, should play no part in
the future negotiations, Glenys Kinnock (South Wales East, PES) too felt that
it was just not feasible to apply international market liberalisation policies
to the poor developing countries. Emphasis should be on aid and trade
preferences with a view to improving the social fabric of the countries
concerned. The EU, she said, as the world's largest trading block should stand
up to the WTO and the USA. The ACP/EU Joint Assembly should be involved in any
decision taken to suspend aid over human rights violations or for other
political reasons. She too was looking for a way of providing a means of
reducing conflicts between the countries concerned with EU policy based on
assessing the needs of the different 70 countries.
Taking this point a step further, Alex Smith (South of Scotland, PES) called for
a detailed country by country assessment before looking at the options for the
new convention. WTO rules should be applied according to different levels of
development, he said, pointing out that the experience of the banana situation
showed that so called fair rules could produce unjust outcomes.
Replying for the Commission, Commissioner Joao de Deus Pinheiro welcomed MEPs'
contributions to the debate and emphasised the need of the EU to concentrate on
human development and help the weakest economies. Dealing with the problem of
external debt was a major concern for the poorest countries and indeed
suffocated development, he said, before drawing attention to the lead given by
France and the United Kingdom in cancelling debts. He accepted the priority to
continue the fight against poverty and looked forward to the European
Development Fund (EDF) coming under the EU umbrella and the EU budget.
Mr Marten's resolution was approved with numerous amendments. Support for the
continuation of the ACP/EU Joint Assembly is confirmed in the resolution
although a proposal for the Assembly to have a say in any decision to suspend
aid was rejected.
Transport of animals
Transport of animals - care over conditions
(A4-266/97 - Van Dijk)
Thursday, 2 October - Opening the debate Nel van Dijk (Nl, Greens) introduced
her report drawing attention to the awful conditions faced by thousands of
animals transported across Europe ultimately heading for the slaughter house.
As numerous television programmes have shown, these animals arrive at their
destination, tired and exhausted and after enduring journeys that clearly
violate an EU 1995 directive setting a maximum limit of eight hours without a
break, after which there should be proper watering and feeding conditions. But
the problem was that the Commission was powerless to act in numerous cases as
five member states had not yet transposed the directive into national law, she
said. Furthermore, checks were far from satisfactory. The situation had an
adverse effect on consumers since the quality of meat from such animals facing
stress was often poor, she added. And, she took issue with the practice under
EU rules of granting export refunds to those involved in the trade. This was
clearly a violation of WTO rules she contended.
James Provan (South Downs West, EPP) pointed out that the situation had prompted
the largest ever petition presented to the European Parliament, with 3.5 million
signatures from concerned Europeans. This showed the high importance attached
to the problem by ordinary people he added, and the clear objective now must be
to stop unnecessary long distance transport of animals destined for the
slaughterhouse. It was, he said, wrong for horses to be transported two to three
thousand miles from countries such as Russia to EU markets. This, he said, was
an unnecessary exploitation of animals by those merely concerned with profit.
Undine-Uta Bloch von Blottnitz (D, Greens) recalled the words of St Francis of
Assisi that "all creatures of the planet feed as we do ... and live and suffer
as we do" and she condemned the abuse and exploitation of animals. Inger
Schörling (S, Greens) argued that the EU's policies of export refunds encouraged
the continuation of the status quo and she called for them to be halted.
Animals, she said, should be slaughtered as close as possible to where they had
been reared. Franz Linser (A, Ind) called for tough penalties or otherwise, he
believed, any directive would be a "toothless tiger". He was supported in this
call by other MEPs such as Johannes Swoboda (A, PES).
Replying for the Commission, Joao de Deus Pinheiro recognised that there was
increasing concern about long distance transport and said that he shared MEPs'
concerns. He believed that in a number of cases the authorities in member states
were inadequately enforcing current rules and he noted that the Commission had
started infringement proceedings against those member states that were in
default. Mr Pinheiro went on to detail the new measures that the Commission was
proposing to improve the situation of animal transport and he argued that there
had been considerable progress in EU legislation. He detailed the activities of
the EU's Food and Veterinary Office inspectors in monitoring and enforcing
legislation by on the spot checks. He revealed that the inspectors had come
across instances of animals suffering during transport, of inadequate checks and
unsatisfactory means of transport.
He concluded by stressing that the Commission was as anxious as Parliament to
improve the conditions of animal transport.
Mrs Nel van Dijk's report was passed without amendment.
POLITICAL GROUPS IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT as at 17.9.97
PES The Party of European Socialists comprising members from all EU
states including Britain and Ireland. It is the largest group in the
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, and
Fine Gael members from Ireland.
UFE Union for Europe comprises representatives of Mr Berlusconi's party
with the addition of a 'Lega Nord' and a Social Democrat member, all from Italy,
plus French 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.
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
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.
Greens The Greens, with two members from Ireland, 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