Banner page The European Parliament The European Parliament
Banner page

Index 
 
 

The Week : 13-09-99(s)

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Technical group disbanded


Technical group disbanded

Monday 13 September - In the wake of a ruling by the Constitutional Affairs Committee that the formation of a new Technical Group of Independent members was not in conformity with the Rules since it does not have a political complexion, Gianfranco Dell'Alba (I, Ind) appealed for support from the House to contest this ruling. This was taken up in a vote by the whole House. To be effective, the vote required a simple majority comprising one-third of Parliament's 626 members.

MEPs subsequently voted 412 to 56 with 36 abstentions to endorse the Committee's recommendation. This means that the 18 member TGI group formed after the June elections can no longer be constituted.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Independent Experts Report urges far reaching Commission reform


Independent Experts Report urges far reaching Commission reform

Monday 13 September - A call for a European Public Prosecutor and an independent "Committee on Standards in Public Life" - these are among the 90 recommendations of the Committee of Independent Experts in its report on the operations and systems of the Commission. The call for an independent European Public Prosecutor comes from the Committee's conclusion that the current legal framework for tackling fraud is inadequate, with the Commission anti-fraud bodies lacking sufficient powers. The Prosecutor would have unrestricted jurisdiction for offences committed by members and officials of EU institutions and bodies. The creation of this post would be followed by the establishment of a national Prosecution Office for European Offences in each member state, and afterwards by the creation of a single European Prosecution Office, which would have jurisdiction over all offences affecting the financial interests of the EU.

The Committee is also calling for an independent standing "Committee on Standards in Public Life" to be created, arguing that the Commission's codes of conduct are insufficient and lack the necessary legal framework, with ill-defined allocation of responsibilities and delegation. A Standards Committee would provide more clarity in the concepts of political responsibility and accountability and would formulate, supervise and, where necessary, provide advice on ethics and standards of conduct in the European institutions. There should also be adequate safeguards to protect whistleblowers.

In the field of contracting the Committee of Independent Experts is calling for a whole series of new rules aimed at creating more clarity and transparency. Action is also urged to tighten up loopholes in the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAFGGF), although the Committee sees some grounds for optimism in the recent clarification of responsibilities of the Commission and member states for payments and control. There is particular criticism of the procedure whereby all transactions must receive prior approval by a separate financial control service, as the Experts consider that this system removes managers of a sense of personal responsibility for the operations that they authorise. Their report goes on to call for a strengthening of both internal control and internal audit in the Commission. Turning to the Commission's personnel policy, the Committee recommends more effective application of the Staff Regulations, greater recognition for merit, and more emphasis on career development.

Representing the outgoing Commission, Manuel Marin, told the House that the old Commission had probably held its last meeting and had not been given much time to digest the conclusions of the report. Nevertheless, he did say the Commission had co-operated fully and that the report would provide a positive contribution to the reform process to be carried out by the new Commission. He also emphasised that the report, like the first report, had noted that the Commission lacked the human resources to match the tasks entrusted to it both by Council and indeed by the European Parliament. He also felt it was timely to emphasise the professional integrity and honesty of the vast majority of European civil servants and that the abuses uncovered should not lead to the conclusion that a majority of officials were inefficient or corrupt.

Administration in the Commission had to be considered in the sense that it had been pursuing European integration over the past forty years and that it was now time for modernisation and reform. He singled out in particular problems relating to fraud, the awarding of contracts and decentralisation of management. Mr Marin underlined the fact that the co-operation of both Parliament and the member states would be needed to implement the necessary management changes. While on the one hand, some administrative reforms could be undertaken in a straightforward manner, others were far-reaching and would require not only Treaty changes but in some cases changes to the Constitutions of individual member states.

These questions would have to be taken up at the forthcoming Inter-Governmental Conference to take place at Helsinki and Mr Marin warned that some resistance from some member states could well be on the cards and he looked forward to following the process in detail. Nevertheless, a high price would be paid if the necessary reforms were not carried out and it was now up to Commissioner Kinnock to respond in more detail and outline the new Commission's reactions.

The debate

EPP/ED leader, Hans-Gert Poettering (G), agreed that corruption and fraud could not be found everywhere in the Commission but, to restore the EU and Commission's credibility, it had to be tackled head on when discovered. Commissioners must accept accountability and responsibility, he added, a theme running through the experts' report. He also felt there should be adequate protection for officials like Mr Van Buitenen who wanted to explain problems to a third party and here he felt it would be useful to set up a small European Parliament body to handle such issues. He did not feel to rely solely on the EU's fraud unit, OLAF, was sufficient. Parliament would be more than willing to co-operate with the Commission in implementing the necessary changes, he added.

For the PES Group, Johannes Swoboda (A) agreed on the need for Commissioners to accept individual responsibility for actions taken. Transparency also should be improved and more details should be given of contracts awarded and the subsidies involved, he explained. The aim was not just reform for its own sake but to work towards improving management procedures and strengthening the Commission as a body, he added.

Nigel Farage (South East/EDD) was extremely unhappy that Parliament was being asked to comment on a 283 page report in such a short space of time. He believed that the EU was "drowned in paper" and that the "beureaucrat was king". He was particularly unhappy with the proposal to appoint a European public prosecutor as he believed this would create an entirely new European legal system. Gianfranco Dell'Alba (I, Ind) pointed the finger at Parliament itself. He believed that as budgetary authority it had not always been effective. He felt that some self-criticism was necessary.

"Deeds speak louder than words", said Commissioner-designate Neil Kinnock. It was now a question of taking action on the report which, he believed, provided some "impressive insights". Mr Kinnock believed that the Commission had been overtaken and in some cases overwhelmed by external developments. Outside the Commission everything had changed while the Commission had not adapted, he believed. The report provided a "charter for change and prescription for cure". He argued that attempts to tackle the problems had so far been sporadic and not conceived as a managed programme of change. He pledged that the report would be treated as a fundamental part of the Commission's reform proposals and for example, an internal audit service would be set up as recommended. Control of the Technical Assistance Offices (TAOs) would be more rigorous and specific. There would be a complete overhaul of personnel policy, especially over recruitment, discipline and career development. The Commission would have to deliberate further on proposals for a Committee of Standards in Public Life but as an individual he believed that the Commission of the future must be an independent and capable public service. In conclusion, Mr Kinnock declared himself committed to the philosophy behind the report and although he did not promise instant gains, he did promise "unceasing efforts".

Other speakers were generally favourable towards the report. James Elles (South East, EPP/ED) made the point that it would have been useful for MEPs to have seen the report before the committee hearings before asking why basic reforms in the audit system had not been carried out at an earlier stage. As to combatting fraud and the independence of the EU's own unit, he sought the reaction of the Commission to the idea of a European Public Prosecutor. Otherwise, he was anxious to see improvements in personnel policy to ensure promotion on merit but at the same time wondered how this would fit easily with mobility and specialisation. He also raised the question of how to deal with whistle blowers, the "collective responsibility" of the Commission and indeed the codes of conduct for individual Commissioners.

Pursuing the question of a European Public Prosecutor, Eluned Morgan (Wales, PES) felt it would be possible to go ahead with this idea while at the same time respecting national sovereignty and indeed not infringing on the jurisdiction of national courts. It would, she felt, be particularly helpful in combatting fraud and provide an answer to Eurosceptics who constantly used fraud in the EU as an argument against closer European integration. And it would enable the matter to be dealt with on the ground in places where fraud often occurred, ie. in the member states. Indeed, she pointed out that the report revealed that only some 30 out of many thousands of cases involved irregularities. She felt it was also vital to pursue reforms so that a clear distinction could be made between downright criminal behaviour and breaking the rules for implementing programmes. Here more simplification and clarification would help. And she added, only three member states had ratified another regulation designed to protect EU financial interests.

Replying to the debate and the numerous questions posed, Commissioner Kinnock on the issue of transparency underlined his willingness and indeed his support for providing Parliament with the maximum number of documents. At the same time, it was necessary to respect confidentiality of those who had given information to the Commission. He was not, he added, hiding behind this. On the question of a European Public Prosecutor, without committing himself and indeed awaiting the reaction of the member states, he would only say that as crime becomes more international, then the efforts to combat it should also be more international. He fully accepted the need for the Commission to accept responsibility for its action at both a political and a managerial level. The only question here was that as decentralisation in the interests of improved efficiency was being pursued, then this would involve responsibility further down the line. He agreed for the need for internal audit reforms, accepting perhaps they could have been put in process at an earlier stage. He also accepted the need for a fair charter to protect whistle blowers, adding that it should be possible to bring this about by examining best practices in the member states. Concluding, he emphasised his commitment to reform with a joint cooperative approach between Parliament, the Commission and the member states. "The changes I want cannot come quickly enough. They will work for the benefit of the whole union".

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Strasbourg Building


Strasbourg building

Monday 13 September - The President, Nicole Fontaine, told members that a task force had been set up to look at outstanding problems with the new building in Strasbourg, particularly with regard to access for the disabled, delays in the lifts and ventilation problems.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

The new Commission approved


The new Commission approved

Tuesday 14 September - Commission President-designate Romano Prodi, came before the House to express the hope that the next day's vote would mark a new beginning in relations between Parliament and the Commission. He drew attention to the plans for reform of the Commission, noting that in February next year Neil Kinnock would be presenting a comprehensive blueprint for Reform, taking into account the report of the Wise Men. "It is time for some glasnost" in the Commission, he declared, stressing the importance of transparency. Mr Prodi also announced his intention to present an Annual Political and Economic Report on the State of the Union at the beginning of each year.

Turning to the issue of enlargement, Mr Prodi underlined the need for a comprehensive strategy for setting out how, over the next 25 years, the EU would increase to up to 30 member states. Enlargement needed to take place in stages and he believed that at the forthcoming Helsinki Summit serious consideration should be given to setting a firm date for the accession of those countries which were best prepared. "We come from different countries. We speak different languages. We have different historical and cultural traditions. And we must preserve them. But we are seeking a shared identity - a new European soul." Turning to countries for whom membership was a more distant prospect, Mr Prodi proposed closer cooperation, perhaps a form of "virtual membership" as a prelude to full membership. The people of the Balkans had to resolve their conflicts before they could enter the EU but they should receive aid from the Union. Mr Prodi also stressed the need for close relations with near neighbours such as Russia and Ukraine and Mediterranean countries. He also underlined the importance of EU/US relations.

The President-designate then spoke of the challenges presented by the next inter-governmental conference. It was not sufficient to settle for minimal reform or proceeding by stages with a series of IGCs, he said. Mr Prodi then went on to underline the importance of environmentally and economically sustainable growth that would create new jobs. Here he drew particular attention to the importance of information technology and announced his intention to launch an initiative in this area for the Helsinki Summit. He also stressed the need to adapt welfare systems to current demographic trends.

In conclusion, Mr Prodi called for "a new spirit of cooperation between our institutions". He finished with a call for "a new partnership, working for the people of Europe. A new Commission. A new European Parliament. A new start."

Hans-Gert Poettering (D, EPP/ED) was broadly in tune with Mr Prodi's words and echoed the calls for a new relationship between Parliament and the Commission. However, Mr Poettering expressed his group's serious doubts about some nominee Commissioners - especially the Commissioner- designate for research policy. He wanted a satisfactory response to these concerns. EU officials, he emphasised, were generally efficient and effective, however decisive action needed to be taken in cases of wrongdoing.

It was then the turn of PES group leader Enrique Barón Crespo (E) who began by asking if Mr Prodi was ready to propose joint EU action for East Timor. He then stressed that the Commission deserved Parliament's support although his group had reservations about Mrs Palacio. He wanted a Commission that worked well and an EU that would have a new contract with its people. Mr Barón Crespo called for more rigorous action to tackle unemployment and defend human rights and also for more transparency. He believed that next February's announcement on institutional reform by Mr Kinnock would provide an opportunity to approve the Statute of Members. In conclusion, he stressed that he had no major reservations about the proposed Commission.

For the Liberals, Pat Cox (Munster, ELDR) promised a "positive and constructive" attitude towards the Commission. The hearings, he said, had proved to be an extremely useful exercise although he would have welcomed more opportunity for in-depth questioning. The Liberals, he said, would be voting in favour of the new Commission and did not deliberately set out to target individual nominees. Commitments made by each candidate in the hearings would be monitored closely although he did feel one point to be settled was a certain degree of overlapping between responsibilities in such areas as food law and food safety, trade and the environment. He welcomed the emphasis placed by Mr Prodi on the importance of electronic technology and e-commerce for the future and reforms of accounting and auditing procedures proposed by the independent group of experts and indeed the positive response of the Commission to these. On political responsibility, while he accepted Mr Prodi's line of argument in support of the College as a whole, he did say that he would expect a new President of the Commission to respond swiftly to any Commissioner who failed to command the respect of Parliament.

For the Greens, Heidi Hautala (Fin, Greens/EFA) too was concerned to see the Commissioners accept individual responsibility for their actions. At the same time, she wanted to see a strong institution and the Commission not relegated merely to a secretariat for the Council. As to the future, she looked forward to the new approach of the Commission towards Parliament being translated into action whereby the Commission takes on board amendments supported by a majority in the House. In the long term, however, she felt the credibility of the EU would depend on more transparency and institutional reforms based on much wider consultation with the whole of society. Taking up the theme of transparency, Francis Wurtz (F, EUL/NGL), while acknowledging the Commission paid lip service to this, felt it had a long way to go to regain the trust of the citizens. He could not go along with a "neo-liberalist" attitude towards the labour market and looked in vain for Commission support for workers faced with mass redundancies. This was not forthcoming, he said and as such he could not commit his group to voting in support of this new Commission- designate.

For the UEN, Gerard Collins (Munster), on the other hand, looked forward to a new beginning based on harmonious relations between Parliament and the Commission. He welcomed Mr Prodi's commitment to drawing up a work programme in close consultation with Parliament, pointing out that the Amsterdam Treaty had extended the co-decision procedure and Parliament's ability to influence legislation. The forthcoming IGC would deal with the more tricky question of agreeing Treaty changes to enable enlargement to go ahead, but for him the priority was to streamline decision-making procedures and create the necessary background to enable the three institutions, Council, Parliament and the Commission, to work in tandem. Only in this way would the EU be seen to be successful, he said.

Several other points emerged from the debate with, for example, Jens-Peter Bonde (Dk, EDD) expressing the view that no real answers to the outstanding questions facing the EU had been given at the hearings and therefore it was necessary to pursue a policy of constructive opposition to the Commission, while Francesco Speroni (I, Ind) felt that Mr Prodi's record in Italy, especially by not supporting policies to keep jobs, meant that he was not a suitable candidate for President. Johannes Swoboda (A, PES), on the other hand, underlined the need for both reforms and transparency to bring about a stronger Commission which would be necessary to win back the confidence of Europe's citizens. Taking up this point, Nicholas Clegg (East Midlands, ELDR) warned that, unless the real challenge of making the EU and the Parliament in particular relevant to Europe's voters was tackled, then voter apathy as had been seen in the recent elections would only get worse and pose in the long-term a threat to the EU itself. Parliament should follow the example to be set by the Commission in reforming its own procedures and also monitor the Commission more closely.

Commenting on the hearings held by the Industry Committee, Eryl McNally (Eastern, PES) felt that fair examination had been given to prospective Commissioners Liikanen and Lamy but this was not the case for Mr Busquin who had been singled out for unfair treatment, she felt. On balance, she was satisfied by the performance shown by the various candidates but she warned Mr Prodi that he would only gain the confidence of Europe as a whole if he showed clarity, leadership, honesy and humility. He should pay more attention to social Europe and environmental issues, she added.

Edward McMillan-Scott (Yorkshire and the Humber, EPP/ED) stated that Conservative MEPs were opposed to the return of any former Commissioners. As they had been denied a vote on individual Commissioners, they would be voting against the return of the Commission as a whole. He also considered that the "left-wing Commission" did not reflect the views of Europe's citizens as expressed in the recent European elections. He was unhappy that some issues of probity had not been resolved and considered that some of the nominee Commissioners were simply not up to the job. He was also displeased that Mr Prodi had declined to face an open hearing. The British Conservative leader stressed that his group was not opposed to the Commission as an institution but anti-fraud and corruption. Brian Simpson (North West, PES) expressed his unhappiness with the answers of Mrs Palacio to the Parliamentary hearing when she had been questioned on the flax subsidy scandal. A hostile tone was struck by Michael Holmes (South West, EDD) who condemned a "charade of a democratic debate". Nothing, he believed, could justify Mr Prodi's "agenda to gain control over the member states by stealth" and to develop a "dangerous scheme to create a new nation called Europe". Underlining his group's intention to vote against the Commission, Mr Holmes also called for the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Stephen Hughes, (North-East, PES) on the other hand, looking at the prospective Greek Commissioner, Ms Diamantopoulou, praised her commitment to the Social Chapter and felt that with proper encouragement she would prove a useful Commissioner. Priorities were to tackle social exclusion, improve social dialogue and try to involve Parliament in discussions on the economic guidelines.

Avril Doyle (Leinster, EPP) argued that the EU was seen by many as "irrelevant and unresponsive to the crises in our world today". She drew particular attention to the "most brutal genocide" taking place in East Timor to which there appeared to have been been no adequate EU response. Europe's citizens often viewed the EU with "cynicism and disdain" and she called for both reform and stability. The Commission should not be a "retirement home for politicians past .......... their "sell-by" date or for political pay-offs for old pals". In conclusion, she stressed the need for a proper relationship between Commission and Parliament built on mutual respect. Proinsias de Rossa (Dublin, PES) wished the new Commission well, stressing the huge tasks it faced in a continent where there was still internecine strife, hunger, homelessness and inadequate health-care. In particular, he called for a greater partnership between national and regional parliaments and the EU. People must feel that they have a stake in Europe, he said.

Other speakers also stressed the importance of reforming the Commission and strengthening its relationship with Parliament. Eluned Morgan (Wales, PES) pointed to Mr Kinnock's success in modernising the British Labour Party and hoped he would be able to turn around the Commission as well.

Michael Cashman (West Midlands, PES) stressed that the Amsterdam Treaty referred to ending discrimination against women but also ending it against a whole range of minorities. He hoped that this was an issue that the Commission would tackle. Alan Donnelly (North East, PES ) called for an end to the "political guerrilla warfare" that was going on in the House and stressed the need to work together. He pointed out that the Commission was not being offered a blank cheque and that Parliament would be monitoring its performance very closely. He believed that the Commission's work programme should be "an exciting indication of where the EU was going and what it intended to do". The public needed to understand this work programme, he stressed. In conclusion, Mr Donnelly said that a good start had been made with the hearing and he wanted the progressive forces in the House to work with the Commission to deliver what the people of Europe wanted.

Richard Corbett (Yorkshire and the Humber, PES) also believed that through the hearings Parliament had achieved something that it could be proud of and he considered that the new Commission was a distinct improvement on the previous one. He applauded in particular the fact that the Commission President had secured a right not available to his predecessors to dismiss any Commissioner should that be necessary.

James Elles (South East, EPP/ED), while accepting that the hearings represented a good start, believed that there was a need for improvement in a number of areas. In particular, he wanted MEPs to be able to vote on individual Commissioners after a committee hearing, or at least to have an indicative vote. He also wanted to have more time in the hearings for follow-up questions and he considered that the committees should have equal allotments of time for each of the hearings Mr Elles wanted to make sure that if Parliament did vote against an incoming Commissioner, the individual would resign. He also wanted MEPs to receive all information which they needed. Finally, he wanted to know that promotion would take place on merit and that promotion at the highest levels would involve managerial competence. A number of these points were subsequently taken up by Giles Chichester (South West, EPP/ED) who also noted that Commissioner-designate Busquin did not provide satisfactory answers to questions in his hearing on financial scandals nor did he satisfy MEPs regarding his competence with the portfolio. Mr Chichester noted in particular that The Sunday Times "had cast doubts about whether Mr Busquin was truthful in his answers to Parliament". David Sumberg (North West, EPP/ED) also stressed the British Conservative line, stating that he would not be voting for the Prodi Commission as it included members of the old Commission. This had been an electoral commitment of his fellow Conservatives in the Euro elections, he noted. He also argued that nothing of real substance had changed and he echoed the criticisms made by his Conservative colleagues.

In his concluding speech, President-designate Prodi took up a number of themes from the debate. He stressed the importance of the fight against fraud and spoke of having a specialised body of high- level inspectors. There were many new tasks to be addressed, he said, and this placed an obligation on the Commission to develop the means to tackle them. Mr Prodi stessed the importance of transparency and the need for Parliament to receive information about decisions before they were taken. Commissioners would be present in parliamentary debates and one possibility was to have a regular item on the Strasbourg agenda detailing what had happened in Commission meetings. While recognising that there were flaws in the allocation of portfolios, he considered that it had been done in the best possible way at that point in time. He stressed that each Commissioner had promised to resign if he were asked to by the Commission President. In conclusion, Mr Prodi stressed that there was no room for faint hearts. What was needed was enthusiasm and a new start. The Commission, he said, could not be only a secretary to the Council, but should be a strong part of the trinity of EU institutions.

Prior to the approval vote, MEPs voted 508 to 51 with 28 abstentions in favour of a resolution calling for the establishment of an inter-institutional agreement to confirm the new code of conduct between the Commission and Parliament as set out by Mr Prodi in his earlier address to political group leaders. In his acceptance speech, Mr Prodi readily agreed to this. MEPs want a member of the Commission to be suspended from office immediately and consideration to be given to his or her resignation in the event of any serious criminal charges, especially anything involving corruption being brought against a member of the college. While Mr Prodi accepted this in principle, he did say that it was not completely within his power to ensure this. The resolution also requests the regular attendance of Commissioners at Parliamentary meetings, access to documents, consultation on the code of conduct governing Commissioners, and the immediate announcement of Commission decisions to Parliament. The Commission in general should also accept Parliament's legislative amendments.

In accepting the points laid out in Parliament's resolution designed to put in place a new relationship governing closer cooperation between the two institutions, the new Commission President Romano Prodi reaffirmed his commitment to transparency, efficiency, reporting to Parliament and accountability. This would be the basis for a fresh start, he said, and while he once again emphasised the importance of "collegiality", he did say that this would not be used as a shield to avoid responsibility by individual Commissioners. The challenge now was to establish a close dialogue with Europe's citizens and this he intended to do with the submission of policy guidelines in January. He particularly emphasised the need to restore consumer confidence on such issues as food safety and promoting sustainable development. The European Parliament will be involved in preparations for the forthcoming IGC to decide on the necessary reforms for enlargement and as a basis for issues to be discussed. He had commissioned a report by three experts. All Europe's citizens must benefit from the EU, he said, emphasising the importance of creating jobs and reforming the welfare system. Enlargement too was a priority that needed urgent attention. He also assured Parliament that proper protection would be given to civil servants or whistle blowers seeking to expose wrong doings.

Political group leaders then explained their position on the Prodi resolution with Hans-Gert Poettering (D, EPP/ED) frankly admitting that while some doubts had been raised on the new Commissioners by some members in the group, the vast majority were in favour of endorsing the new team. Looking forward to building closer relations with the Commission, Enrique Barón Crespo (E, PES) said almost all PES members were in favour of the new Commission. While Pat Cox (Munster, ELDR) too said that there was unanimous support within the Liberal group. He saw the new era as "a milestone in the democratisation of EU politics". Unanimous support was also forthcoming from the Greens, explained Paul Lannoye (B), who looked forward to an enhanced EU role in the world with a green slant. It was left to Francis Wurtz (F) to reaffirm the opposition of the EUL/NGL group to the new Commission. For the UEN, Gerard Collins (Munster) said his group would divide on national lines. Irish members would be supporting the new team and he felt the process, although straining relations, now enabled a new era based on proper accountability to come into play. For Jens-Peter Bonde (Dk, EDD), the institutional argument had now developed to the stage where the Commission was becoming an independent government of Europe outside the control of the member states. He underlined a need for more transparency and openness.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Budget 2000 - aid for Kosovo an issue


Budget 2000 - aid for Kosovo an issue

Tuesday 14 September - Presenting a draft budget for the year 2000 of some .87.95bn in payments and .92.36bn in commitments, Finland's Finance Minister Suvi-Anne Siimes reminded MEPs that key features of this budget would be the reconstruction of Kosovo as well as other humanitarian aid operations following the earthquakes in Turkey and Greece and the crisis in East Timor. There was no doubt, she said, that finding the aid for Kosovo would put a strain on existing financial resources but she was optimistic that the recent "donors" conference could pave the way to a satisfactory overall package. She also reminded members that the budget had to be seen in the context of financial discipline at present being applied in national budgets. Other issues include providing adequate funding for administrative expenditure but this would be taken up in the light of reforms of the Commission. Council, she explained, had also trimmed some .375m from the .40.9bn proposed by the Commission for agricultural expenditure and similarly cut some .1bn from the .32bn (payments) proposed by the Commission for structural and regional spending. She claimed that this would not in fact result in a reduction of regional funds to be spent in the member states over the 2000-2005 period. She also told the House that Council had acceded to Parliament's wish to see the new Urban initiative with allocations of .102m (commitments) and .27.6m (payments). Council had also agreed to the full .3.6bn (commitments) proposed by the Commission for research spending although the payments figure had been cut back. Council has also accepted the full .440m (commitments) proposed by the Commission in the education area, although once again there is a slight reduction in the payments figure for technical reasons. Council also agreed to the .3.17bn (commitments) figure proposed by the Commission for pre-accession and and has only slightly trimmed the .4.7bn figure for administration. But it is in the area of foreign aid that there are likely to be difficulties in the negotiations with Parliament in the months ahead. While Council has placed some .500m (commitments) in a special reserve for Kosovo, it has in fact trimmed back spending in other foreign policy areas such as aid to Latin America and Southern Africa. It was this particular point that Terry Wynn (North West, PES) raised when presenting the reaction of the Budgets Committee. Mrs Siimes argued that Kosovo was the priority and that savings in other areas could be achieved in the sense that a final decision would only be taken on the basis of the latest estimates with the Finnish Minister taking the view that it would not be possible to spend the full amounts allocated to other countries. Mr Wynn argued that the Kosovo funding should be achieved by re- negotiating the financial perspectives or ceilings on expenditure. While, like Mrs Siimes, Mr Wynn was anxious to pursue negotiations with Council with a view to reaching a satisfactory agreement for both sides, there were a number of other key points that needed to be addressed including the reduction in both regional and agricultural expenditure, as well as cuts in other internal policy areas. Mr Wynn was concerned to see that there was no reduction in development aid.

Jean-Louis Bourlanges (F, EPP/ED) who is responsible for piloting the 2000 budget through the House, underlined the need for proper evaluation of staffing needs before agreeing to extra resources spent here and in addition to the cuts in regional aid, he raised the question of the resources allocated for fisheries agreements. Here Council has in fact increased the overall allocation by some .100m to take account of the agreement with Morroco, which has not yet in fact been signed. This, once again, puts pressure on the ceiling for foreign policy allocations.

In conclusion however, Mrs Siimes committed herself to working closely with MEPs to find a satisfactory solution to the outstanding problems. Parliament's first reading of the budget takes place in October.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Tampere Summit - Push for EU asylum policy


Tampere Summit - Push for EU asylum policy

Wednesday 15 September - Finland's Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen, outlined preparations for the forthcoming Tampere Summit to be held on 15 and 16 October. The Summit will look at ways of making the EU's commitment to free movement along with provisions to ensure security of citizens and developments towards "a European legal area" a reality. This was a priority for Mrs Halonen, who saw it as a logical extension to the single market. EU citizens were anxious to benefit from provisions on free movement and at the same time ensure that their security was not threatened. Progress in this area has been slow, one of the reasons being the need for unanimous agreements by the member states, under the so-called "third pillar" arrangements of the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties. Mrs Halonen told MEPs that she did not want this procedural structure to slow down progress and indeed there are provisions for policy-making to be gradually transferred to the Community, a move which Mrs Halonen strongly supported. Two key things she mentioned were a common policy towards immigration and tackling cross-border crime. She also emphasised the need to involve applicant member states in the discussions. There was also a need to guarantee respect for human rights and indeed individual rights as well as transparency, Mrs Halonen added, although it is interesting to note that Council has not released documents showing the details of proposals to be discussed at Tampere. Mrs Halonen's remarks were confined to generalities, although she did emphasise her belief that any new common immigration and asylum policy should be based on the UN/Geneva Convention which guarantees basic rights for asylum applicants. At the same time she acknowledged the need to tackle illegal immigration and with increased mass migration following the conflict in the Balkans and Kosovo. Mrs Halonen put on record her support for the EU budget to be used to help member states particularly affected.

Another issue to be addressed, she said, was money laundering, while on the question of police cooperation, she said there was a need to increase resources for Europol and for member states to accept the idea that the police can cross national borders when chasing criminals. As to increased cooperation in the legal area, she singled out child pornography and counterfeiting as two specific areas where there was a need for much closer coordination of national laws. Similarly, she was looking for an EU approach to help victims of crime and for EU citizens to have access to legal aid in the different member states. She also felt there was a need to push for legal harmonisation in such areas as property and family law.

For the Commission, Manuel Marin underlined the importance he attached to a charter of fundamental rights for citizens and also the commitment in the Amsterdam Treaty for transparency. He agreed on the need for fair access to justice across the EU where cross-border issues were concerned and for special measures to protect those most vulnerable. At the same time, the priority should be to pursue a strategy to deal with organised crime.

In the debate, Hubert Pirker (A, EPP/ED) underlined his support for a new initiative in this area, especially with a need to find a solution to the problem of immigration and asylum based on "burden sharing" amongst the member states in dealing with applications for asylum for refugees. He acknowledged however progress had been difficult and that even such schemes as Eurodac, a move towards setting up a fingerprint database have still not come to fruition. For the PES, Riitta Myller (Fin) too supported progress in this area and especially the coordination of legislation to deal with cross-border crime and corruption. She also felt it was essential to include safeguards to ensure that there was not discrimination against minorities.

In expressing his support for the new initiative, the Chairman of the Civil Liberties Committee Graham Watson (South West, ELDR), emphasised the need to strike a balance between the need to protect the rights of refugees and dispossessed people with a fair approach to the asylum question. Cooperation, he felt, could be pursued in a number of ways, including the setting up of a staff college to exchange ideas. The aim, he emphasised was to ensure that there would be no legal border to enable criminals to escape prosecution. But for progress to be realised in this area, he emphasised the need for public support. For the Greens Matti Wuori (Fin) too underlined the need to protect individual rights and guard against discrimination, a point echoed by Esko Seppänen (Fin, EUL/NGL) who was particularly concerned about electronic surveillance and the use of satellite equipment to monitor citizens' activities. A note of dissent however, came from Mogens Camre (Dk, UEN) who expressed his opposition to a proposed joint European legal area which, he felt, could challenge the supremacy of EU treaties. Hans Blokland (Nl, EDD) too was not optimistic about the EU achieving progress in this area, although he was concerned about the huge influx of asylum seekers in the Netherlands and called for burden sharing. Charles de Gaulle (F, Ind) too did not see any point in pursuing closer cooperation in this area. It would not do anything to tackle the problem of increased international crime and asylum seekers, he felt. Voters at the recent elections had shown their disappointment at the failure of the EU to tackle outstanding problems across Europe, he felt.

Baroness Sarah Ludford (London, ELDR) called for the Summit to have a balanced agenda. She believed there was a danger of it only being a "security summit" and she wanted it to focus also on areas of concern such as racism, money-laundering, freedom of information and protection from injustice. She believed governments should grant asylum to genuine refugees under the Geneva Convention and called for the Charter of Rights to be legally binding. Tampere, she concluded, should be a Summit for citizens.

Niall Andrews (Dublin, UEN) supported the Finnish Presidency initiative and stressed the importance of setting up an international criminal court. He noted that, so far, only four countries had ratified it, but underlined his belief that such a court would contribute to easing international tensions. Robert Evans (London, PES) underlined the need for real progress to be made in areas that were important to the people, such as citizens' rights. The EU needed to set its own house in order, he said, before embarking on enlargement. He also emphasised the importance of the EU providing aid to other countries.

Neil MacCormick (Scotland, Greens/EFA) underlined the importance of Parliament being fully represented at the Summit. While calling for subsidiarity to be respected, he argued that it was no good having rights on paper if they were rendered ineffectual by state actions. He pointed in particular to the situation of foreign language lecturers in Italy who were being denied their full rights.

Replying for Council, Mrs Halonen, promised to take into account all the points made in the debate. She believed that the Charter would make Europe safer for its citizens. She stressed the importance of an immigration strategy and also expressed the hope that the work on Eurodac would be completed before the end of the Finnish Presidency. Mrs Halonen spoke forcefully against the creation of a "Fortress Europe" but believed that it should be a safe area that would cooperate with the rest of the world.

In approving a resolution setting out Parliament's priorities for the forthcoming October Tampere Summit, MEPs supported "as a matter of urgency a European procedure for the processing of asylum applications". This should be linked to a revision of the Dublin and Eurodac Conventions. Parliament is highly critical of Council's failure to agree a strategy on migration policy, especially with the build-up of refugees and pressure on some member states following the conflicts in the Balkans. Proposals have been on the table for the past 6 years but decision-making has been hampered by the inter-governmental arrangements and the need for unanimity between the member states in agreeing a policy. The resolution calls on the European Council to propose the next set of constitutional reforms to be agreed at the inter-governmental conference for so-called "third pillar" issues such as police and legal cooperation to come under EU or community decision-making procedures with proper democratic control. The resolution also takes up combatting crime at a European level involving children, racism, money laundering, terrorism and trade in human beings. There is also support for the notion of a European legal area to ensure that legal notices or writs issued in one country are enforceable in another, albeit with proper legal protection and assistance for those accused. This should include provisions to allow for citizens on bail awaiting trial in one country, to return to their home countries.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

East Timor - call for special tribunal


East Timor - call for special tribunal

Wednesday 15 September - Reporting for Council, Mrs Halonen stressed the efforts made by the EU to resolve the East Timor problem. She noted in particular that the Commission was preparing an extensive social and economic aid programme. Council had stated that East Timor needed the full support of the EU which would be ready to recognise it as a new country as soon as was practicable. Mrs Halonen believed that the observers in East Timor had been crucial to the vote and had contributed to security. The subsequent terror had taken all by surprise, she said, but she did believe that things were moving in the right direction and she stressed the importance of having an international peace-keeping force and humanitarian aid. There were between 200,000 and 400,000 refugees, she said, but there was significant lack of information in this area. The planned aid operation could only start when observers can be sent to the area. Welcoming the decision by Indonesia to grant access to an international peace-keeping force, Mrs Halonen looked for closer cooperation with Jakarta to tackle the problem and put an end to the atmosphere of "cruel terrorism and fear", an atmosphere in which army and police were involved in terrorist activities. Finally, Mrs Halonen spoke of the ban on arms and ammunition to Indonesia and support that the EU was giving to democratic forces.

There was general condemnation by MEPs of the repression taking place in the region. Carlos Costa Neves (P, EPP/ED) pointed out that there had been 96% voter turnout and that the East Timorese people had displayed a trust in the international community. Indonesia had not met its formal commitments and its army had armed and trained the militias which were terrorising the East Timorese population. He wanted the authors of this violence to be arraigned before the Court of Human Rights and called for an international peace force to go in urgently. These sentiments were thoroughly endorsed by Mário Soares (P, PES) who also noted that 78.5% of those voting had been in favour of independence. Indonesia, he said, had set up a "hell on earth" in East Timor and he called for aid to be sent to the population as well as the peace-keeping body.

Liz Lynne (West Midlands, ELDR) reminded the House that Indonesia did in fact violate East Timor's sovereignty with its invasion and therefore there was no legal reason to obtain permission before sending in troops which, she added, would hopefully not be headed by Indonesians. Action was needed immediately both in the provision of aid and shelter and also to stop genocide. A war crimes tribunal should be established to bring the guilty to trial, human rights should be monitored closely and the Indonesian government should be held to account, she said, in welcoming the arms embargo even though it did seem to be a little too late.

Patricia McKenna (Dublin, Greens/EFA) accused the American and British governments of hyprocisy in their attitude to the crisis in view of the build-up of arms sales to the region and she asked why the international community had waited fourteen days to act in the face of a disastrous situation that could be seen to be getting worse .

Georg Jarzembowski (D, EPP/ED) was one speaker to argue that the support of the Indonesian army was necessary since 8,000 UN troops would not be sufficient to restore order. If Indonesia proved to be cooperative, there was still a chance to build relations with the country, he argued. Geoffrey van Orden (Eastern, EPP/ED) strongly supported sending EU civilian aid to Indonesia and the early implemention of the economic programme, but he did not think the EU should become involved in the organisation of the military force. He too felt that those responsible for the horrific crimes should be brought to justice.

Glyn Ford (South West, PES), who was in the region in the summer to advise on parliamentary affairs, said the events unfolding over the past few weeks came as no surprise to him and others who were on the ground. While he welcomed the assistance programme and the sending of peace- keeping forces, he could not understand why Council seemed to be taken by surprise. He said it was clear there was going to be a big 'yes' vote in the referendum and that there was a real danger of violence breaking out. The EU should help not only with humanitarian aid but also look to the future with a programme to help establish a fragile democracy in the region.

John Cushnahan (Munster, EPP/ED) too argued that the trail of events was both predictable and therefore preventable. The UN should be engaged in some really deep soul-searching on this, he said. As far as the EU and Parliament were concerned, top priority now was to set up the early- warning unit and he looked forward to the new Commissioner responsible for the common foreign and security policy briefing MEPs and providing Parliament with up-to-date information to enable it to play an active role in preventing future tragedies. The EU must now respond to this crisis practically.

Proinsias De Rossa (Dublin, PES) made a forceful plea for international bodies to sort out their decision making processes so that they could respond to such crises. He was amazed that Council had expressed surprise at the violence that had followed the vote. The international community, he said, had failed to protect the people of East Timor. It was simply not good enough for it to wring its hands and say "sorry". These tragedies should be allowed to happen again, he concluded. Mary Banotti (Dublin, EPP/ED) followed a similar line, noting that the plight of East Timor was very close to Irish hearts. She was one of a number of speakers to draw attention to the fact that many governments - including those of several member states - had put arms industries markets in Indonesia before the interests of the people of East Timor. This was a "dreadful catastrophe" she concluded, and she condemned the "terrible, brutal regime" in Jakarta.

Charles Tannock (London, EPP/ED) lamented that around a third of the population of East Timor had been killed since the Indonesian occupation. No UN resolution had been sought by NATO when it bombed Kosovo, he noted. He argued that foreign military intervention met the test of the new ethical foreign policy. He reminded the House that defence of human rights had been a casus belli in Kosovo and he considered that such rights should be universal. A peace keeping force should be sent, mainly deriving from neighbouring countries. Struan Stevenson (Scotland, EPP/ED) condemned the "appalling double standards and hypocrisy" of the British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook who, he said, had promised an ethical foreign policy, but had allowed arms exports to Indonesia. He believed that Mr Cook should come before the House to explain his actions.

Avril Doyle (Leinster, EPP/ ED) wondered why there was surprise at the impotence of the EU over East Timor when it had signally failed to respond speedily over Kosovo. The question was, she said, "why was the international community's response always too little too late?"

Replying for the Commission Mr Liikanen announced that the situation in East Timor would be on the agenda of the meeting of the new Commission the following Saturday. This would examine how peace might be restored and how to deliver urgent humanitarian aid. For the Council Kimmo Sasi stressed that Indonesia must respect human rights agreements and that international pressure was the only way of restoring peace. He noted that Australia had announced that it needed just 24 hours notice to send troops into East Timor and he also underlined the importance of Asian countries participating in any peace making mission. He also pointed out that the situation of the West Timorese dwelling in East Timor was a problem. Finally he too deplored the violations of human rights and announced that the arms export ban would take effect immediately, initially for four months.

In approving a joint resolution tabled by six political groups, which condemns in the strongest terms the massacres and violence committed by pro-Indonesian forces in East Timor, MEPs called on the UN to set up a special international tribunal to investigate the atrocities. The resolution recognises the democratic wish expressed by the people of East Timor for independenceas shown in the recent referendum and calls on the UN Security Council to send an international peace-keeping force as soon as possible. There is support for the recent international arms ban and suspension of economic aid to Indonesia and a call on the EU to set up an economic programme for the reconstruction of East Timor. MEPs also want the EU and Member States to recognise East Timor.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Supplementary budgets 1999


Supplementary budgets 1999
(A5-0009/99 - Dührkop Dührkop/Fabra Vallés)

Wednesday 15 September - Bárbara Dührkop Dührkop (E, PES) reported on the draft supplementary and amending budget (DSAB) for 1999 dealing with the surplus for the 1998 financial year. She had no problem with the first part which covered a total underspend in 1998 of .3.022bn. However, she was unhappy with the manner in which the budgetary reallocations prompted by recent developments in Kosovo and Turkey were being proposed. She believed that Parliament's priorities had been completely changed and that the savings being made were false. She also called for an increase in payment appropriations.

The other DSAB dealt with requests from the Court of Justice to install a new word processing system and a request from the Committee of the Regions to create more staff posts. Juan Manuel Fabra Vallés (E, EPP/ED)was broadly content with Council's position in this respect. The total amount of the DSAB is .1.725m.

There was some discontent in the House at the budgetary measures that were being taken to respond to the new situations in Kosovo and Turkey. Reimer Böge (D, EPP/ED), while accepting that it was good to react to urgent needs, stated that he felt a sense of unease and considered it essential for the Commission to clear up the backlog of work so that it would not have the same problems in the future. Terry Wynn (North West, PES) was unhappy with Council's "disgraceful behaviour" over parts of the budget and the fact that the House had not had sufficient time to debate the issue in full. He did however, welcome the cooperation over the extra money for the Court of Justice and the Committee of the Regions. Kathalijne Buitenweg (Nl, Greens/EFA) was unhappy with the fact that the additional resources for Kosovo were being diverted from the humanitarian aid budget.

MEPs approved amending budgets for 1999 which mainly take account of the .3bn underspend in 1998. There is also provision for increased funding in 1999 to take account of the recent crisis in Kosovo and earthquake in Turkey.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Aid for the former Yugoslavia


Aid for the former Yugoslavia
Consultation procedure
(A5-0013/99 - Pack)

Thursday 16 September - Doris Pack (D, EPP/ED) presented her report on the Commission proposal for setting up the European Agency for reconstruction in Kosovo, amending the current regulation relating to aid for the former Yugoslavia. Mrs Pack stressed the importance of getting things right from the start and argued for a strong operational centre to be located actually in Kosovo in Pristina. A Pristina centre should be part of a broader reconstruction agency for the region with its headquarters in Thessaloniki, Greece. Thessaloniki, she believed, could develop into the centre for the coordination of all initiatives in the Balkans. She noted that in the last nine years, a vacuum had developed in Kosovo and there were no adequate administrative structures or local authorities in the province. Skilled personnel were needed to operate the agency and its director should provide a quarterly report to Parliament with MEPs also approving the agency board's annual report. She was unhappy with Council's common position on the agency's location as it ignored the views of Parliament. In particular, she wanted the Pristina centre to be the operational component of the agency for reconstruction of the Western Balkan countries in connection with the Stability Pact, which is to be located in Thessaloniki.

Mrs Pack received the support of Jean-Louis Bourlanges (F, EPP/ED) on behalf of the Budgets Committee, who also stressed the importance of an agency being close to the grass roots. He was happy that the administrative structure of the agency promised more effectiveness rather than had been the case with the Technical Assistance Offices (TAOs). He was concerned that some of Council's proposals would result in the predominance of an inter-governmental approach and he wanted to ensure that the Commission maintained effective oversight of the agency. Council also came under attack from Lousewies Van Den Laan (Nl, ELDR) who considered that the Commission's good intentions had been "torpedoed by political haggling in Council". She considered that establishing an agency in Thessaloniki was incomprehensible as Kosovans needed a visa to travel to Greece which they could only obtain in Belgrade which was hostile territority for them. She wanted OLAF to have every opportunity to intervene if things went wrong. Further criticism came from Arie Oostlander (Nl, EPP/ED) who proclaimed that member states were already squabbling over what they could get and he was unhappy with the agency having a management board composed of representatives of 15 member states. In addition, Mr Oostlander argued that it might be necessary to appoint outsiders to the posts of mayor in Kosovo as in Bosnia these positions had on occasions been held by criminals. Johannes Swoboda (A, PES) too supported Mrs Pack's line and criticised Council's "intractability". He too wanted efficient spending of money and did not just want it to be channelled back to member states and their companies as might happen under the administrative arrangements proposed by Council. Indeed he believed that Croatian and Yugoslav firms should also be involved in the reconstruction process. Bertel Haarder (Dk, ELDR) also criticised Council and stressed the importance of locating the agency among the people whom it should help. Daniel Cohn-Bendit (F, Greens/EFA), while supporting the siting of the agency in Pristina, noted that the agency for Bosnia had been located in Sarajevo but big problems had still arisen. He stressed the importance of setting up autonomous structures to promote reconstruction. Ioannis Theonas (Gr, EUL/NGL) and Bastiaan Belder (Nl, EDD) were among a number of MEPs who asked about the situation of the Serbian minority in Kosovo. Mr Theonas condemned the "ethnic cleansing" of the province and the attempt to break up Yugoslavia.

On behalf of the Commission, Neil Kinnock outlined the ways in which the EU was involved in Kosovan reconstruction. Firstly, it was promoting its own reconstruction programme with .137m earmarked for 1999 of which .46m had already been committed. Next year around .500m would be allocated with the figure being increased in subsequent years. In addition to this, the Commission was linked in to wider international efforts to help Kosovo, such as damage needs assessment. He also announced that the oil embargo and flight ban to Yugoslavia would be lifted. "We must give help as humanitarians and give hope as Europeans". He went on to note that the reconstruction agency should initially be in Kosovo. He wanted to see EU control over the EU construction programme and argued that it should not be diluted in other aid work. The agency would enjoy a large amount of autonomy while being based broadly on the model of other aid agencies. He argued that member states should be represented on its governing board to ensure coordination with member states' programmes and he could not agree with Mrs Pack's proposals to move away from this approach. He recognised that there was some controversy over the location of the headquarters and contended that the operational base of the agency should be in Pristina with its headquarters in Thessaloniki. He recognised that Council was unsure about this and stated that "the Commission was open to compromise with Parliament and Council on this issue." He promised to study the amendments that were being put forward and noted that he favoured close consultation of Parliament by Council before decisions were reached.

Subsequently, MEPs voted to postpone the vote on the Agency to the October plenary in order to give time for Council to respond to Parliament's demands. In the event of these not being met, Mrs Pack will be calling for the conciliation procedure to start.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Yes to aid for Palestinians


Yes to aid for Palestinians
Consultation procedure
(A5-0010/99 - Morgantini)

Thursday 16 September - MEPs voted in favour of the 10th EC-UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency) Convention for 1999/2001. This will involve a contribution of .120.82m to support education and health programmes for the 3.5m Palestinians. Luisa Morgantini (I, EUL/NGL) stressed that the problem was becoming more serious every day and that while it was vital to grant humanitarian aid to the region, Parliament should also be pushing for a just solution to the Middle East question. Bashir Khanbai (Eastern, EPP/ED) was one of a number of speakers to fully support Mrs Morgantini's line and he expressed the hope that the Commission would be a more active player in the region. He also supported the amendments from the Budgets Committee calling for better provision of information. These amendments were subsequently passed.

For the Commission, Mr Kinnock welcomed support of Parliament for the programme, although he was unable to accept these two amendments.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Citizens' freedoms and rights, justice and home affairs


Citizens' freedoms and rights, justice and home affairs
(A5-0012/99 - Frahm)

Thursday 16 September - The report was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Employment and social affairs


Employment and social affairs
(A5-0006/99 - Rocard)

Thursday 16 September - The report was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Environment, public health and consumer policy


Environment, public health and consumer policy
(A5-0004/99 - Jackson)

Thursday 16 September - The report was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Agriculture and rural development


Agriculture and rural development
(A5-0011/99 - Graefe zu Baringdorf )

Thursday 16 September - The report was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Regional policy, transport and tourism


Regional policy, transport and tourism
(A5-0005/99 - Hatzidakis )

Thursday 16 September - The report was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Women's rights and equal opportunities


Women's rights and equal opportunities
(A5-0007/99 -Theorin)

Thursday 16 September - The report was approved.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Accidental marine pollution


Accidental marine pollution
Co-decision procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A5-0003/99 - McKenna)

Thursday 16 September - The proposal was approved with a number of amendments from the Environment Committee including one that provides for the imposition of fines on those responsible for pollution of coastal areas.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Environmental inspections - no to new Inspectorate


Environmental inspections - no to new Inspectorate
Co-decision procedure - first reading. Simple majority required for amendments to be adopted.
(A5-0002/99 - Jackson)

Thursday 16 September - The proposal was approved. An amendment supporting the setting up of a separate independent European environmental inspectorate was rejected.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Support for Charter of Fundamental Rights


Support for Charter of Fundamental Rights

Thursday 16 September - MEPs adopted a resolution welcoming the decision of the European Council to draw up an EU Charter of Fundamental Rights before the December 2000 Summit. MEPs want to be involved in the drawing up of the Charter which, Parliament believes, should be drafted by a committee representing both national and European parliamentarians as well as government ministers. There should be wide consultation with the general public and interested pressure groups.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Changes in the House


Changes in the House

Thursday 16 September - It was announced that Philippe Busquin (B, PES), Loyola de Palacio del Valle-Lersundi (E, EPP/ED) and Vivienne Reding (L, EPP/ED) would be resigning as MEPs to take up their seats as Commissioners. Mrs Reding will be replaced by Astrid Lulling and Mr Busquin will be replaced by Jean-Maurice Dehousse.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Financial crisis in Russia


Financial crisis in Russia

Thursday 16 September - Commissioner Neil Kinnock came before the House to speak on the effects of the financial crisis in Russia and the issue of corruption and money laundering. He believed that there were some promising economic signals, however the Russian economy remained very fragile with rising unemployment and increased levels of poverty as well as structural problems such as the lack of investment and the growth of the public debt. He noted concern about the possible misuse of international assistance funds provided to Russia and stated that the Commission was following the matter closely. In advance of the results of these investigations, Mr Kinnock declared that a decision about a response to the allegations was primarily a matter for the IMF, the World Bank and G7 countries. He went on to speak of the TACIS programme, noting that only .4m out of a total of .140m went directly to Russia and this was directly managed by the EU's representation in Moscow. The remainder went to pay EU firms to provide technical expertise for Russia. He stated that the EU food supply programme for Russia was very closely monitored and that Russia did not currently receive any Community loans.

However, Mr Kinnock was concerned at the massive outflow of capital from Russia which had contributed to the low level of internal investment and therefore impeded economic growth. There was also a clear link between capital flight and corruption and criminality in Russia, which posed a threat to the country's transition to a democratic system and market economy. The Commission would target technical assistance towards combatting money laundering and organised crime and supporting efforts to advance the rule of law. He also pointed to a growing cooperation between the relevant Commission and Russian officials in customs and anti-fraud activities. Russia also needed to put its own house in order and he was concerned that it had not properly addressed some allegations. He would like President Yeltsin to sign into law the Russian draft legislation on money laundering and to ratify and implement the relevant Council of Europe Convention. Finally, Mr Kinnock called for a speedy resolution of the problems in the Russian banking system and stressed that confidence in that system needed to be restored quickly and decisively.

James Provan (South East, EPP/ED) gave his broad support to Mr Kinnock's line and warned of a dangerous situation developing in Russia. He considered that the country was just not able to put itself in order and that the EU needed to take some political initiative to try to help Moscow get its economy back on track. He noted that Central and Eastern European countries that had been members of the Soviet bloc had been able to pull themselves together and improve their economies and people's standards of living. This, he believed, was because ownership and the laws of property ownership had been placed high on the agenda. He hoped that some political initiative could be taken to ensure that Russia put its basic law into proper order. Gary Titley (North West, PES) stressed that crime was not a new event in Russia. Potentially it was a very rich country but it was being impoverished by legal and illegal capital flight. He too called for Russia to implement proper economic reforms and enforce the rule of law. Corruption encouraged the growth of any viable tax system, he said. He also noted that property rights were "weak and confused".

Jean Lambert (London, Greens) warned that the gap between rich and poor in Russia had become a chasm and that the people were losing faith in democracy with a crumbling infrastructure and non- payment of wages. The West needed to support and develop local economic activity which met people's needs and provided a sense of stability and involvement. Money laundering and crime was only part of the issue and the West also needed to look at how to develop internal investment. The example from the West, she said, "is that you bring in other people to do the investing and they take the cash with them." The House needed to look at issues such as the repatriation of profit to countries producing it, rather than simply extracting the cash as well as the natural resources.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Earthquakes in Turkey and Greece


Earthquakes in Turkey and Greece

Thursday 16 September - The House voted to express its sympathy with the relatives and friends of all those killed or injured in the earthquakes in the recent earthquakes in Greece and Turkey. It called for rapid action to repair the damage and for urgent consideration to be given to the creation of a European Research Institute for the study and application of new methods for early warning of seismic activity. An amendment from the Greens that was adopted proposed the establishment of a civilian protection corps coordinating rescue units of the member states.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Dagestan


Dagestan

Thursday 16 September - In this vote, MEPs deeply regretted the loss of life in the Dagestan territory and called on Russia to carry out the operations necessary to restore internal security, while respecting human rights. They urged all parties involved to seek a resolution of the conflict.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Human Rights: The imprisoned citizens of Kosovo


Human Rights

The imprisoned citizens of Kosovo

Thursday 16 September - In this resolution, Parliament urged the Serbian government to provide details of detainees and missing persons and to release immediately all those detained since 24 March 1999. The resolution contends that no progress can be made in the peace talks on the future of the region until these prisoners are released.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Burma


Burma

Thursday 16 September - The House voted to condemn the "military dictatorship in Burma" and called on it to restore the human rights of its people, in particular allowing freedom of movements for Aung San Suu Kyi.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Iranian prisoners


Iranian prisoners

Thursday 16 September - The House in this resolution expressed its indignation at the imprisonment of individuals accused of spying against Iran and demanded their immediate release. It called in particular for the suspension of the implementation of the death penalty and insisted that any dialogue between the EU and Iran must be dependent on respect for fundamental human rights.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Togo


Togo

Thursday 16 September - The House voted to strongly condemn all forms of human rights abuses commited in Togo, while welcoming the agreement reached last July by the inter-Togoalese dialogue between the government and opposition and the organisation of new legislative elections next year.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Lusaka - ceasefire agreement for the Great Lakes region


Lusaka - ceasefire agreement for the Great Lakes region

Thursday 16 September - Members gave their strong support for the peace process in the Great Lakes region of Africa initiated by the signing of the Lusaka Agreement which includes a pledge from neighbouring countries to withdraw their forces and a promise from all sides to engage in a national dialogue on Congo's future.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

New 1999 polictical groups in the European Parliament


ç

NEW 1999 POLITICAL GROUPS IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
B DK D GR E F IRL I L NL A P FIN S UK Total
EPP/ED 6 1 53 9 28 21 5 34 2 9 7 9 5 7 37 233
PES 5 3 33 9 24 22 1 17 2 6 7 12 3 6 30 180
ELDR 5 6 3 1 7 1 8 5 4 10 50
GREENS/ EFA 7 7 4 9 2 2 1 4 2 2 2 6 48
EUL/NGL 1 6 7 4 11 6 1 2 1 3 42
UEN 1 12 6 9 2 30
IND 2 1 6 12 5 1 27
EDD 4 6 3 3 16
TOTAL 25 16 99 25 64 87 15 87 6 31 21 25 16 22 87 626

EPP/ED    The European People's Party and European Democrats comprising Christian Democrat and Centre Right parties from all member states including British Conservatives and Fine Gael members from Ireland. It is the largest group in the Parliament and also now includes Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson.

PES        The Party of European Socialists comprising members from all EU states including Britain and Ireland.

ELDR        European Liberal, Democratic and Reformist Group, where the largest contingent is now from the UK. It includes one Irish independent, who is Group leader.

GREENS/    This comprises 38 MEPs from Green parties in 11 member states who have formed a new alliance with 10
EFA         MEPs from home rule parties in Scotland, Wales, Flanders, the Basque country, Galicia and Andalusia. The UK Greens and Plaid Cymru are represented for the first time with two MEPs respectively.

EUL/NGL    Next comes the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left NGL Group made up of representatives of Left/Green parties from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden as well as members of Communist parties from France, Greece and Portugal.

UEN            "The Union for a Europe of Nations" is pledged to defend the nation state and is led by 13 French national MEPs and is opposed to further integration. It includes 6 Fianna Fail members from Ireland, nine Italians from Mr Fini's "Allianza Nazionale", one Danish member from the People's Party and two Portuguese members from the "Partido Popular".

IND            The independents include Belgian and French National Front members, Italian radicals and regionalist members from the Freedom Party in Austria, a Spanish regionalist and Ian Paisley.

EDD            "The Europe of Democracies and Diversities Group" comprises six members from the French pro- hunting/defence of rural traditions group, the three new MEPs from the UK Independence Party, four anti-EU Danish members and three Dutch Calvinists.

[Start of Doc] [Previous] [Next]

Draft Agenda for first October session


Draft Agenda


The draft agenda for the first October session as agreed at the Conference of Presidents

Monday 4 October 1999

5pm                            Opening of the part session

                            Order of business

Tuesday 5 October 1999

9am - 12pm                Questions on public health

    a) Food safety/dioxin

    b) Action to tackle Aids

12pm    Votes on reports from the Legal and Industry Committees

3pm    Langen report on renewable energy

    Ahern report on the SAVE programme

    Kinnock report on agreement with South Africa

5.30-7pm    Question Time to the Commission

Wednesday 6 October 1999

9am-12pm    EU-Turkey relations with resolution

    Middle East peace process with resolution

12pm-1pm    Votes including vote on the Calendar of sessions for the year 2000

3pm    Commission Statement on WTO trade negotiations (millenium- Seattle round) without resolution

5pm    Question time to the Council

Thursday 7 October 1999

10am-12pm    Urgencies/topics of interest

12pm-1pm    Votes

    Close

No Friday session

 
  Legal notice