Post-briefing
 

Post-Briefing - 15-18 January 2007 - Strasbourg

22-01-2007 - 12:29
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Welcome of Bulgarian and Romanian MEPs
The session was opened by the outgoing President of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, making his final appearance before standing down. His successor was elected by the House on Tuesday 16 January. Mr Borrell's welcomed the new Members of the European Parliament from Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU on 1 January this year.
 
Formation of new political group (Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty (ITS)
The President then announced that, in accordance with Rule 29 of Parliament's Rules of Procedure, a new political group had been formed, with the title Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty (ITS).  The group met the minimum numerical requirements laid down in that rule, since it had 20 Members from 6 different Member States.
 
President Borrell's farewell speech to the House
In his final speech to Parliament as President, Mr Borrell delivered a wide-ranging review of the EP's work over the last two and half years. He was convinced that "Parliament is better known and more widely recognised today" than before. Enlargement had been managed successfully, with the MEPs from the new Member States having integrated well into the EP's transnational political groups and taking up many positions of responsibility.
 
Hans-Gert Poettering elected President of the European Parliament
MEPs elected Hans-Gert Poettering to be the new European Parliament President. He was elected after the first round of voting. The 61 year old German Christian-Democrat will lead the European Parliament for two and a half years until the next European elections in June 2009.
 
14 Vice-Presidents and 6 Quaestors elected and ranked
The newly elected President of Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering announced the names of the candidates nominated for the 14 posts of Vice-President of the European Parliament. Since the number of candidates was the same as the number of posts, the President declared all 14 elected by acclamation.
 
The President also announced the names of the nominated candidates for the 6 Quaestor posts. Again, since the number of candidates was the same as the number of posts, the President declared all six elected by acclamation.
 
MEPs debates German Presidency with Chancellor Angela Merkel
Giving her first speech to the European Parliament as President-in-Office of the European Council, Chancellor Angela Merkel touched on broad questions relating to the essence and future of Europe as much as the practical details of her government's work programme for the next six months. Chancellor Merkel highlighted the forthcoming Berlin Declaration to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the EU and the need for tolerance. MEPs from the different political groups gave their reactions with the newly elected President chairing the debate.
 
Rome II: - MEPs reintroduce rules on defamation
Parliament approved its recommendation for second reading for the Regulation on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations, known as Rome II. A number of amendments were approved reintroducing the provisions relating to violations of privacy, including defamation, previously deleted in the Council's Common Position.
 
MEPs condemn Libyan court death sentence on five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor
In adopting a joint resolution by a large majority, the House condemned the verdict of the Criminal Court in Libya on 19 December 2006 convicting and sentencing to death five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor.
 
Third rail package: no agreement between EP and Council
The House voted at second reading on the "third rail package" - three separate reports on opening up rail networks to competition, minimum rights for passengers and a European licence for train drivers. Competition will now be introduced for international rail services but not for domestic railways.
 
Road Safety: More action needed
In response to the Commission's Mid-Term review of the EU Road Safety Acton Programme, Parliament call for a higher level of political commitment to road safety in all Member States and EU institutions
 
Implementation of gender mainstreaming in the work of EP committees
A report put forward by the Women's Rights Committee points out that the number of female MEPs has increased steadily over the years, from 17.5% in 1979 to 30.33% in 2004 and 30.45% including Romanian and Bulgarian MEPs. However, within Parliament's administration, women were under-represented in positions of responsibility in bodies responsible for taking political decisions.
 
EP calls for tougher rules on arms trade
In adopting an own-initiative report by a large majority, MEPs call for the continuation of the arms embargo against China, a legally binding implementation of the EU's Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and demand stronger EU support for an International Arms Trade Treaty.
 
Link to adopted texts from the plenary 15 - 18 January 2007, click here
Draft Agenda for Brussels Plenary 31 January - 1 February 2007, click here :
REF.: 20070112BRI01902
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Opening of the January plenary session - Welcome of Bulgarian and Romanian MEPs / Formation of a new political group

Institutions - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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The session was opened by the outgoing President of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, making his final appearance before standing down. His successor was elected by the House on Tuesday 16 January. Mr Borrell's welcomed the new Members of the European Parliament from Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU on 1 January this year.

To warm applause from the House, the Bulgarian and Romanian flags were carried through the Chamber, followed by the 18 MEPs from Bulgaria and the 35 from Romania, each of whom was received individually by the President. 
 
Mr Borrell said it was "with great pleasure and emotion" that he welcomed the new Members.  He pointed out that there were now 785 MEPs in the House, from 27 countries, and that 177 political parties were now represented in the EP.  The Bulgarian and Romanian MEPs have been appointed for the present by their national parliaments but in a few months' time both countries will hold elections to enable their citizens to choose their own representatives.
 
Mr Borrell said that on recent visits to the two countries he had "witnessed their enthusiasm for Europe", which he found reassuring "given the euroscepticism in our countries and capitals".  Seeing the new Member States as a clear source of strength to the EU, he said "You bring us your history, your culture, your faith in Europe" and also "you are bringing us a new perspective on our nearest neighbours".  At the same time, he added "all your worries are of even more concern to us today than they were yesterday" and he took the opportunity "to make a fresh appeal to the Libyan Government" over the fate of the Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death in Libya.
 
The welcoming ceremony closed with the playing of the European anthem, the Ode to Joy.
 
Condemnation of ETA bombing in Madrid - minute of silence
 
The President then alluded to the bomb attack by ETA in Madrid, in which two Ecuadorean immigrants had died.  In the name of Parliament, he sent condolences to the families of the victims and to the states of Spain and Ecuador, and added that the act must be condemned.  He said "Democracy cannot be accompanied by violence" and "peace and respect for human rights are not negotiable".    The House observed a minute's silence.
 
New political group: Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty
 
The President then announced that, in accordance with Rule 29 of Parliament's Rules of Procedure, a new political group had been formed, with the title Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty (ITS).  The group met the minimum numerical requirements laid down in that rule, since it had 20 Members from 6 different Member States.
 
Martin Schulz (PES, DE), leader of the Socialist Group, argued that the group did not meet another requirement, namely that its Members should have a shared political affinity. Statements made by one of its MEPs, Alessandra Mussolini, had indicated that it was merely a technical, not a political, group. However,  Bruno Gollnisch (ITS, FR), the new group's leader, countered that all its Members had signed a political declaration by which they subscribed to a common set of principles.  President Borrell agreed with Mr Gollnisch and ruled that the group did indeed meet the criteria.  The ITS group was thus formally constituted.
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President Borrell's farewell speech to the House

Institutions - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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In his final speech to Parliament as President, Mr Borrell delivered a wide-ranging review of the EP's work over the last two and half years. He was convinced that "Parliament is better known and more widely recognised today" than before. Enlargement had been managed successfully, with the MEPs from the new Member States having integrated well into the EP's transnational political groups and taking up many positions of responsibility.

Another success was the adoption of a common statute for MEPs, so that they will have equal salaries and a transparent expenses regime.
 
When asked to approve the new European Commission team in 2004, Parliament had shown "political maturity" in rejecting certain proposals it regarded as inappropriate, thus showing "that it is not a paper tiger". 
 
Legislation - REACH and Services Directive - EP role key
 
On the legislative front, among big issues where the EP had played a key role were the rejection of the software patents directive and the approval of the services directive and the REACH chemicals regulation.  And without Parliament's cooperation, an agreement on data retention would not have been reached.
 
The EP had also taken the initiative on various issues, including setting up committees to investigate alleged illegal activities by the CIA as well as the financial disaster that befell many citizens as result of the collapse of the Equitable Life insurance company in the UK. 
 
MEPs had backed the Constitutional Treaty and now wished to be involved in efforts to find a solution to the "crisis" faced by the EU.  Mr Borrell was pleased that "the German presidency has told me it will ask the EP to designate a representative for this task, alongside the Commission and the Member States". 
 
External affairs - Euromediterranean Parliamentary Assembly a highlight
 
Mr Borrell also highlighted Parliament's role in external affairs. It had sent election observation missions to 26 countries, including Ukraine, Palestine, Afghanistan, Congo and Venezuela.  Various heads of state had visited the EP, including Viktor Yushchenko, Hamid Karzai and Mahmoud Abbas.  He also underlined the importance of Parliament's Sakharov Prize for human rights, and said that human rights had become one of the "core elements of Parliament's identity".
 
The Euromediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, of which Mr Borrell was president for a year, was also of great importance to Europe, he emphasised, "because Europe's biggest geopolitical problem is its relations with the Islamic world, because the Mediterranean is the most unequal border in the world, because its basin condenses all the problems of our age".
 
Many European citizens were afraid of globalisation but this was certainly a challenge best faced by European collectively. Turning to energy, he was "convinced that Europe can find a new reason for its existence focused around the inseparable issues 'energy and environment' ".
 
Concluding, President Borrell invoked the Spanish poet Antonio Machado and one of the founding fathers of European unity, Jean Monnet, to emphasise that "nothing can be done without the continuity of institutions".   He was deeply honoured to have been President of European Parliament and he wished the next President every success.
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Hans-Gert Poettering elected President of the European Parliament

Institutions - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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Hans-Gert Poettering was elected President of Parliament after the first round of voting. He received 450 votes in favour (65.31 per cent of the valid votes). The 61-year-old German Christian-Democrat will lead the European Parliament for two and a half years until the next European elections in June 2009.

Mr Poettering said: "The dignity of man, respect of law, and solidarity of the European peoples will be the principles of my engagement. Only if we work together, our peoples will have the possibility to defend its values and interests in the world. Whatever our political views, whatever our political ideals, our common will is to build a ever closer European Union. With all my force I want to serve the citizens of Europe, the European democracy and parliamentarism. I want to be a fair and objective president, and I hope you also judge my work in a fair and objective way."
 
Mr Poettering will deliver his programme for his presidency in Strasbourg on 13 February at 10.00 am.
 
The results of the first-ballot was as follows:
 
Votes cast: 715
Blank or invalid votes: 26
Valid votes cast: 689
Absolute majority of votes cast required to be elected: 345
 
Votes for candidates:
Jens-Peter Bonde (IND/DEM, DK): 46
Francis Wurtz (EUL/NGL, FR): 48
Monica Frassoni (Greens/EFA, IT): 145
Hans Gert Poettering: 450 - Mr Poettering duly elected President of the European Parliament
 
Mr Poettering, who has been an MEP since 1979 and was, until recently, leader of Parliament's largest group - the EPP-ED group, replaces outgoing EP President Josep Borrell. 
 
Under Parliament's Rules of Procedure, to be elected President, a candidate must win an absolute majority of the valid votes cast, i.e. 50 per cent plus one.  Blank or spoiled ballots do not count in calculating the majority required. 
 
Reactions of the political groups
 
Joseph DAUL (EPP-ED, FR), the newly elected leader of the EPP-ED group, said: "This is a great moment for our political group. In the name of the EPP-ED Group and its 277 Members, I am delighted to warmly congratulate you on your election to the office of President of our institution. The European Parliament is the voice of the European citizens, from this day on this voice will be yours.  Europe is already grateful to you for your political and personal engagement towards the reunification of the continent. Mr President, we know that the European statesman that you are, is first and foremost, concerned with the human person, with respect for his dignity and his liberty. The European Parliament and the European Institutions in general, have already benefited from your work of strengthening their competences."
 
Leader of the PES group, Martin SCHULZ (PES, DE) thanked the other candidates for a "dignified campaign".  He stressed the importance of neutrality for the newly elected President. Mr Schulz pointed out that Mr Poettering had lost his father at the end of the Second World War and this had inspired Mr Poettering's career working for European re-unification. 
 
Graham WATSON (ALDE, UK), leader of the ALDE group, said: "You know that my group opposed the process by which you and the Socialists carved up the House between you during this mandate. Nonetheless, I believe that the majority in my group voted for you, recognising your experience, admiring your political work in this House and convinced of your capacity to be an objective and fair President. As you know, in politics a halo is only 12 inches from being a noose and our reputations depend on our ability to meet ever-new challenges. I hope you will listen to the swelling chorus in this House in favour of reform. From having been ahead of our citizens in advancing the cause of European integration, our Member State leaders are now in danger of lagging behind."
 
Cristiana MUSCARDINI (UEN, IT) congratulated the new President but stressed the importance of facing up to the major challenges facing the Union.  In particular, she pointed to the "forgotten Africa" and the situation in Nigeria and Somalia. 
 
For the Greens/EFA group, Daniel COHN-BENDIT (DE) started by quoting Jimmy Cliff "You can get it if you really want", referring to Mr Poettering's ambitions to be the President of Parliament.  He stressed the importance of independence and no longer embracing any national government. Second, the Parliament should hold a debate on the seat of the institution.  Third, the European Parliament and not an intergovernmental conference, he said, was the place to solve the impasse over the European Constitution.
 
Francis WURTZ (GUE/NGL, FR) also called on the new President to be a President "for all MEPs" and he said that he had every faith in Mr Poettering who he had worked with as a fellow MEP since 1979.
 
Jens-Peter BONDE (IND/DEM, DK), a defeated candidate for President, said: "it was no great surprise that Mr Poettering had won the election".  Nevertheless, he reiterated his campaigning themes of fairer representation, one seat for the Parliament, better preparation of votes and improving debates within Parliament.
 
For the newly formed ITS group, Bruno GOLLNISCH (ITS, FR) also stressed the importance of an impartial President and all of the MEPs' rights should be respected fully including the right to Parliamentary immunity.
 
Irena BELOHORSKÁ, for the non-attached MEPs, called on Mr Poettering to show patience, to recognise that the EU now had 27 Member States and to "end the discrimination against non attached MEPs:"
 
José Manuel BARROSO, President of the Commission said: "On my own behalf and on behalf of the European Commission, I want to congratulate you very sincerely. It gives me great pleasure to see you as President of the European Parliament. Today the European Parliament has elected a new leader whose qualities as a person and as a politician are uniquely well suited to this high office. I know the President as a person of political vision and integrity – qualities that will be needed in this very challenging job.
 
As the leader of your group, for eight years you have pursued your vision of political Europe as the only guarantee for a peaceful and prosperous Europe. Your attachment to the core values of justice, human rights, the dignity of the human person, have, for so many years, been the hallmark of your work. I want to highlight your fairness to everybody, from your insistence that everybody must be treated equally within Parliament, to the view that, in the European Union, no one country is bigger than another. We have all appreciated your honesty and transparency: with Mr Poettering you know that a done deal is a done deal and one which he will honour and respect."
 
Mr President, allow me to highlight what I think will be a special responsibility for your mandate. You are the first President elected in this Parliament after this great enlargement of the European Union. That is why this is a truly historic moment: the first President elected by a Parliament representing the citizens of 27 countries! No other parliament in the world can compare to this."
 
Profile of Hans-Gert Poettering
 
Hans-Gert Poettering has been a Member of the European Parliament since the first direct elections in 1979.  He was born on 15 September 1945 in Bersenbrück (Lower Saxony).
 
After studying law, politics and history in Bonn, Geneva and New York (doctorate 1974), her worked from 1976 to 1979 as an academic employee before being elected to the European Parliament for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) as deputy for the region Osnabrück, Emsland, Ostfriesland.  In 1995, he was appointed Honorary professor and since 1999 he has been a Member of the Executive Committee and Federal Executive of CDU in Germany.  For the 2004 European elections he was Head of CDU list for Germany and Lower Saxony.
 
From 1984 to 1994 he was chairman of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence. From 1994 to 1996, he chaired the EPP and EPP-ED working group on the "Intergovernmental Conference 1994", the results of which became the official EPP position for the Treaty of Amsterdam.  In 1994, he also became vice-chairman of the EPP Group, from 1999 to the beginning of 2007 he was chairman of the EPP-ED Group.
 
Hans-Gert Pöttering has received various awards, such as the  EPP Group Schuman Medal, the Grand Order of Merit of Germany, the Grand Decoration of the Republic of Austria or the "Mérite Européen en or". He was elected MEP of the Year for 2004. He is a Catholic and has two sons.
 
Duties of the President
 
The President chairs the plenary sittings of Parliament, the Conference of the Presidents of Political Groups and the Bureau of Parliament (made up of the President and the 14 Vice-Presidents, plus the Quaestors in an advisory capacity).
 
The President is responsible for the application of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, and, to this end, oversees all the activities of Parliament and its bodies.
 
The President represents Parliament in all legal matters.
 
The President addresses the European Council prior to each of its meetings, stating Parliament's viewpoint on the subjects on the agenda in the framework of a debate with the heads of state and government.
 
The President represents Parliament in its international relations, and, in this connection, undertakes official visits within and outside the EU.
 
The President signs the EU budget into being following Parliament's vote on it at second reading. During the procedure, the President chairs the EP/Council conciliation delegations.
 
The President may, under the co-decision procedure, chair the EP/Council conciliation committee. Jointly with the President-in-Office of the Council, the President signs all legislative acts adopted by codecision.
 
When an Intergovernmental Conference is held for the reform of the Treaties, the President takes part in the meetings of the government representatives where these are organised at ministerial level.
 
Former Presidents of the European Parliament since 1952
 
  Paul Henri Spaak     (1952 - 1954) 
  Alcide de Gasperi     (1954 - Died in office)
  Giuseppe Pella     (1954 - 1956) 
  Hans Furler     (1956 - 1958 & 1960 - 1962)
  Robert Schuman     (1958 - 1960)
  Gaetano Martino     (1962 - 1964)
  Jean Duvieusart     (1964 - 1965)
  Victor Leemans     (1965 - 1966)
  Alain Poher     (1966 - 1969)
  Mario Scelba     (1969 - 1971)
  Walter Behrendt     (1971 - 1973)
  Cornelis Berkhouwer     (1973 - 1975)
  Georges Spénale     (1975 - 1977)
  Emilio Colombo     (1977 - 1979)
  Simone Veil     (1979 - 1982)
  Piet Dankert     (1982 - 1984)
  Pierre Pflimlin     (1984 - 1987)
  Lord Plumb     (1987 - 1989)
  Enrique Barõn Crespo     (1989 - 1992)
  Egon A. Klepsch     (1992 - 1994)
  Klaus Hänsch     (1994 - 1997)
  José Maria Gil-Robles     (1997 - 1999)
  Nicole Fontaine     (1999 - 2002)
  Pat Cox     (2002 - 2004)
  Josep Borrell Fontelles     (2004 - 2007)
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14 Vice-Presidents elected and ranked

Institutions - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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The newly elected President of Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering announced that the following candidates had been nominated for the 14 posts of Vice-President of the European Parliament. Since the number of candidates was the same as the number of posts, the President declared all 14 elected by acclamation. A vote by secret ballot was then held to establish the order of precedence of the Vice-Presidents. The President subsequently announced that the results were as follows:

 
Rodi KRATSA-TSAGAROPOULOU (EPP-ED, GR) - 322
 
Alejo VIDAL-QUADRAS (EPP-ED, ES) - 300
 
Gérard ONESTA (Greens/EFA, FR) - 285
 
Edward MCMILLAN-SCOTT (EPP-ED, UK) - 274
 
Mario MAURO (EPP-ED, IT) - 262
 
Miguel Angel MARTÍNEZ MARTÍNEZ (PES, ES) - 260
 
Luigi COCILOVO (ALDE, IT) - 234
 
Mechtild ROTHE (PES, DE) - 217
 
Luisa MORGANTINI (GUE/NGL, IT) - 207
 
Pierre MOSCOVICI (PES, FR) - 207
 
Manuel António DOS SANTOS (PES, PT)  - 193
 
Diana WALLIS (ALDE, UK ) - 192
 
Marek SIWIEC (PES, PL) - 180
 
Adam BIELAN (UEN, PL) - 128
 
Members voting
703
Blank/spoiled votes
7
Valid votes cast
696
 
Vice-Presidents are members of the European Parliament Bureau. The Bureau is the body that lays down rules for Parliament. It draws up Parliament’s preliminary draft budget and decides all administrative, staff and organisational matters.
 
The Bureau consists of the President of the European Parliament, the 14 Vice-Presidents and the six Quaestors elected by Parliament for a period of two and a half years (which can be renewed). The responsibilities for each Vice-President will be decided at the next meeting of Parliament's Bureau. Four out of the 14 Vice-Presidents are women.
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Six Quaestors elected and ranked

Institutions - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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The newly elected President of Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering announced that the following candidates had been nominated for the six posts of Quaestor. Since the number of candidates was the same as the number of posts, the President declared all six elected by acclamation.

The six Quaestors are also members of the Bureau.  Their term of office is two and a half years and they have an advisory role in the Bureau.
 
James NICHOLSON (EPP-ED, UK) - 334
Astrid LULLING (EPP-ED, LU) - 298
Mia DE VITS (PES, BE) - 285
Ingo FRIEDRICH (EPP-ED, DE) - 280
Szabolcs FAZAKAS (PES, HU) - 267
Jan MULDER (ALDE, NL) - 265
 
Duties
 
The Quaestors are responsible for administrative and financial matters that directly affect Members, for example making general services and equipment available. They can present proposals to modify or rewrite texts on all rules adopted by the Bureau.  The Quaestors generally meet once a month.
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MEPs debate German Presidency with Chancellor Merkel

Institutions - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her first speech to the European Parliament as President-in-Office of the European Council. Chancellor Merkel highlighted the forthcoming Berlin Declaration to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the European Union and the need for tolerance. MEPs from the different political groups gave their reactions with fellow German Christian-Democrat Hans-Gert Poettering chairing the debate as the newly elected European Parliament President.

Speaking on behalf of the German presidency of the Council, Chancellor Angela MERKEL touched on broad questions relating to the essence and future of Europe as much as the practical detail of her government's work programme for the next six months.
 
She reminded her audience that, having grown up in former East Germany, she had "up to the age of 35 seen the European Union from the outside".  And seen from the outside the EU was "an unparalleled historic success", which had "secured freedom for the people of Europe and brought them prosperity". 
 
Now, seeing it from the inside, she found it even more attractive. In her view "there is no better place for us to live than our common European home".  Yet people were now asking what Europe was about, how it should be defined.  Jacques Delors had spoken of the need to "give Europe a soul" but Mrs Merkel believed Europe already had a soul, which was linked to its "tremendous diversity".  She quoted the Czech writer Karel Čapek , who had said "The Creator made Europe small and even divided her, so that our hearts could find joy not in size but in diversity."
 
But for diversity to exist, another quality was needed: freedom.  And real freedom required respect for the freedom of others or, to use the famous quotation attributed to Voltaire, "I may disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it ".
 
Ultimately, she believed, "Europe's soul is tolerance. Europe is the continent of tolerance". This lesson had taken a long time to learn and the worst period of "hatred, devastation and destruction" lay not so far in the past but this was all the more reason for Europe to promote the virtue of tolerance at home and abroad.
 
The Chancellor referred to Lessing's story Nathan the Wise, a key text of the German Enlightenment which urges understanding between Christianity, Islam and Judaism.  She, as a Christian, felt the finest moment in the play was when, seeking to overcome the gulf created by their differing beliefs, the Muslim simply says to the Jew "Be my friend".  This "has always been and remains the great aim of European integration". 
 
The motto of her country's EU presidency was "Succeeding together" and indeed, to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, she believed "Europe can only succeed together".
 
Moving on to her government's programme for its six months in office, Mrs Merkel spoke first of the urgent need for new ground rules to enable the EU to function properly.  "I undertake to produce a roadmap by the end of the German presidency to enable the constitutional process to move towards completion", she said. This must be achieved by the next European Parliament elections in 2009.  "Failure would be a historic let-down".
 
On external policy, priorities would include Kosovo, the Middle East, Iran's nuclear programme, Afghanistan, the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Doha Round, the EU-US summit and a new partnership agreement with Russia.  The EU also needed to be a trailblazer on climate change.  And an EU-Africa summit was needed "to redefine our relations with Africa".   To do all this, it was essential to have a European foreign minister, and "that is reason enough for a constitutional treaty".
 
On internal policies, Mrs Merkel emphasised growth and jobs, including the Lisbon strategy. In connection with "better regulation", she proposed a "discontinuity principle", whereby any legislation not passed by the end of the European Parliament's term of office should lapse.   "A cut-off point of this kind would lend even greater importance to the European Parliament elections", she argued and called on MEPs to support the idea.
 
The Chancellor underlined the value of the triple presidency programme which has been devised by Germany, Portugal and Slovenia to cover the coming 18-month period, as a means of giving much-needed continuity to the EU's business.  This led her to stress once again the importance of constitutional reform as a means of enabling the EU "to act in concert".
 
She said an American academic, Richard Florida, had identified three ingredients as crucial to successful development in various parts of the world.  These were "technology, talent and -tolerance!"  "What good news for Europe!", said Mrs Merkel. Indeed, she added "Europe thrives on innovation, on scientific, technical, economic and social progress" and "Europe thrives on curiosity".  Ultimately, "Europe without its outstanding power of innovation would not be the Europe that it is today".
 
With a final quotation from the German writer Peter Prange, Mrs Merkel said "Everything we Europeans have ever achieved, we have done thanks to our internal contradictions, the eternal split in ourselves, the constant to-ing and fro-ing of opinion and counter-opinion, of idea and counter-idea, of thesis and antithesis". 
 
Concluding, she asked how Europe had managed, "after innumerable wars and endless suffering" to deal with these conflicts and contradictions within itself and produce something as magnificent as European integration over the last 50 years? Yes, the answer was "tolerance - that is the way we deal with our diversity.  Why should it not continue to work for the next 50 years?"
 
President of the European Commission - José Manuel BARROSO
 
2007 is a crucial year, the European Commission President BARROSO stated at the commencement of his speech to the House. The EU's  50th anniversary, he said, is a time to celebrate past  achievements, and to build on those achievements for the benefit of a new generation of Europeans. A generation for whom Europe's original rationale is in the past, but for whom Europe can and does offer so much for the future.  It is a happy coincidence, he continued, that the anniversary falls during the German Presidency. Many of the EU's core policies – the euro,  cohesion, the internal market, enlargement – owe much to Germany. And after listening to Chancellor Merkel, it is clear that Germany's  commitment to  Europe remains as powerful as ever.
 
The German Presidency, Mr Barroso stated, offers an opportunity to demonstrate why the European Union matters so much in the age of globalisation. Referring to the forthcoming March European Council, he stated that the Commission's proposals last week on energy and climate change  form a central part of the Lisbon agenda for growth and jobs.
 
What must be agreed at the European Council in March, he questioned.  Firstly, the strategic goal of agreement by developed countries to cut their emissions by 30% by 2020,  essential  to ensure that global temperatures   exceed pre-industrial levels by no more than 2°C.
 
Europe must continue to lead, he stressed, and to provide an incentive for others to follow. "The leadership comes with the EU commitment now to at least a 20% cut in emissions by 2020; the incentive by making clear that we will go further if others join us. It is, after all, global warming not European warming."
 
Secondly, three pillars to deliver the objectives of sustainable, secure and competitive energy.  A single market in practice as well as on paper, to give real choice to EU energy users and to trigger investment. This will require a clearer separation of energy production from energy distribution, and  stronger independent regulatory control with a  European dimension.  The Commission also makes proposals on improved interconnections, on transparency, and on a new Customers' Energy Charter.  A 20% target for energy efficiency by 2020, with detailed proposals for how to get there.  A new drive for clean energy, through a binding commitment to triple renewable energy use by 2020; a 50% annual increase in the energy research budget; and commitments to advance clean hydrocarbon technology. There is, he said, a role for the European Institute of Technology in this.  It is essential to hear  Parliament's voice on these issues in the run up to the March European Council. The EU could find no better way to launch its anniversary than by showing its ambitions for the future.
 
Continuing, Mr Barroso stated that the Berlin Declaration is an opportunity for the Member States to commit themselves to the values and aims of the European Union.  It must look forward and deliver a political statement about the Europe for the next fifty years. It must fully involve the Parliament and the Commission. It provides an opportunity for the twelve Member States that joined in 2004 and 2007 to contribute, as full members, to the vision of an EU common future.  It is appropriate that the Declaration for the future of Europe will be signed in Berlin, the symbol of a reunited Europe.
 
What should this Declaration say? Today's leaders, Mr Barroso stated, should stand on the shoulders of the founding fathers, and look ahead to the next 50 years, to the challenges which could not be imagined in 1957 but which Europe must face in 2007. Put simply, to equip Europeans for globalisation, in a Europe of open economies, open societies, in a Europe which must engage with  citizens, not ignore them. A Europe built on citizens' consent has solid foundations. A Europe which does not work for that consent is built on sand. 
 
Mr Barroso listed five concrete proposals for the Declaration: 
 
 
  • Solidarity. An enlarged and open Europe requires greater cohesion – social cohesion as well as economic.
 
  • Sustainability. The fight against climate change, through energy and other policies, should be a  defining mission for Europe's future.
 
  • Accountability. Transparency and access to information should become not only rights for European citizens        but also obligations for Europe's institutions.
 
  • Security. Europe must guarantee the security of its citizens whilst preserving fundamental freedoms.
 
  • Promote Europe's values in the world, as well as its interests.  Sustainability, accountability, solidarity,  security cannot, indeed must not stop at Europe's borders.
 
 
In conclusion, Mr Barroso stated that what is needed by the end of this Presidency is a common road map towards an institutional settlement, before the next European elections in 2009.  But, he stated, a road map is not all that is required.. "We need the settlement; to clear the clouds of doubt which hang over parts of Europe, to show vitality and confidence to our partners, and to make the European Union more transparent, more effective and more democratic. As I have said before, Nice is not enough.  We cannot build tomorrow's Europe with yesterday's tools. We have a great opportunity to start changing that in the next six months. Let us go to work." 
 
Political group speakers
 
The "pro-European" approach inherent in all Chancellor Merkel's proposals, on everything from climate change to international trade and relations with the USA, was warmly praised by Joseph DAUL (FR), newly-elected chairman of the EPP-ED group. The challenges facing it mean that "Europe must have an effective decision-making mechanism soon", he said, promising his group's support in the search "for a new dynamic that will allow us to acquire the tools we need to move forward". He advised Mrs Merkel to seek a balance between the 18 countries that have ratified the EU's draft constitution and those that have not, pointing out that a long list of ambitions that once appeared illusory, including the fall of communism and the reunification of Europe, have in fact been achieved. "The only lost battles are those that you don't engage" he said.
 
Mr Daul stressed the need for the EU to respect subsidiarity, but at the same time to defend strategic common positions, for example vis-à-vis Russia, with a single voice. He saw the Rome Treaty's 50th anniversary as an opportunity to reiterate the Union's common values, and its reasons to stand shoulder to shoulder. Here politicians - and the media - have a duty to "convey a clear vision of the future", he concluded.
 
Socialist group chairman Martin SCHULZ (DE) had also found Chancellor Merkel's speech "inspiring", and shared her views on tolerance, freedoms and beliefs. However, "freedom from social threats is a prerequisite for all other freedoms". Technology, talent and tolerance are not enough. As "social security is a vital facet of freedom", the EU must do something to guarantee it, he said.
 
On the draft constitution, Mr Schulz cited the 18 ratifications - and President Barroso's reference to the need for a summit on this issue - as evidence of a shared desire to move forward. However, he also stressed the need to focus on the draft's core elements, and to assess the likely social effects of legislation.
 
EU energy policy requires partnerships with supplier countries, but also more effort to save energy, he said, welcoming Germany's decision to abandon nuclear energy and hoping that other EU Member States would do likewise. Mr Schulz voiced the Socialist group's support for Mrs Merkel's proposals on Africa and the Middle East.
 
The spirit of Europe is one of common endeavour, he concluded, noting that though it is often hard to build a sense of common purpose, "the alternative is hate and war".
 
Graham WATSON (ALDE, UK), speaking for the Liberal group, welcomed the "bold programme" of the Presidency and congratulating Chancellor Merkel, he called for more emphasis on steps to improve the competitiveness of the EU's economy. He noted that in the German Presidency's programme "solidarity" appears more often that "competitiveness". Mr Watson went on to say that free markets are the answer to Europe's energy problems.
 
On Justice and Home Affairs issues he said his Group would watch closely, and that he was deeply concerned about the "repressive aspects of your policies" - in particular the mention of "data  collection" but not of "data protection".  On foreign policy he called for the EU to be "more coherent" and on plans to revive the Constitution he said "I wish you every success" but doubted conditions were right for progress in London, Paris or Warsaw.
 
On the theme of tolerance Cristiana MUSCARDINI (UEN, IT) said that "we have a Charter of Rights, now we need a Charter of duties" for citizens but "above all for institutions". She said tolerance meant looking at things through other people's eyes and that the EU should show greater generosity both "inside and outside".
 
The fact that Angela Merkel is the first President in Office born behind the Iron Curtain was a "good augury" said Ms Muscardini. On the Constitution she said that "political leadership" came from the Council and the Parliament and "we must open this debate in Parliament". On energy she declared herself "alarmed" at developments and warned against bilateral Treaties with suppliers like Russia. On Africa she called for the EU to support legitimate governments and for people to have "more information" so people can see what is happening. Finally, Mrs Muscardini made a plea for action against paedophiles.
 
Daniel COHN-BENDIT (Greens/EFA, DE) began by telling the Chancellor that "we Greens share your youthful romanticism about Europe.  Nonetheless, we also have a sort of youthful impatience ..[..].. What happens next?"  He went on to agree that the Nice Treaty is not enough, but emphasised that "We don't want another IGC of that kind."  He informed the Chancellor that if she was suggesting that the Constitution goes back to "secret huddles in smoke-filled room", that is not what people want.  He pointed out that the challenge to be faced by the Chancellor was how to oblige the Governments and the diplomats to make their decisions out in the open. 
 
Mr Cohn-Bendit referred to his dream of the Chancellor and Ségolène Royal proceeding "hand in hand, cheek to cheek" as they herald a new age of more diversity, more women.  He stated that what Mrs Merkel has brought to Germany, Mrs Royal can bring to France. With regard to the challenges in the Middle East, Mr Cohn-Bendit suggested that a regional conference should be organised on an issue such as water.  In this way, a climate of confidence could be built on the basis of specific issues.  Mr Cohn-Bendit concluded by saying to the Chancellor that "we share your opinion on Europe but we have to argue about how we're going to take it forward."
 
Francis WURTZ (GUE/NGL, FR) mentioned that the future of the Constitution would be among the many great responsibilities which the Chancellor will have during the German Presidency.  He said however "Let us beware of falling into the trap of self-congratulation."  He went on to caution against making general sweeping statements about controversial issues, pointing out that "This will fuel the flames of scepticism."  At this point, Mr Wurtz stated that "what we need is an open, frank, fair discussion" with all the people of Europe and he pointed out that the current problems facing the EU are not French or Dutch in origin but European.  In conclusion, Mr Wurtz quoted Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in relation to the German Presidency and the future direction of the EU, stating that "the proof of the pudding is in the eating."
 
Nigel FARAGE (IND/DEM, GB) began by stating that "We've witnessed the beginning of a dishonest and downright dangerous German Presidency."  He pointed out that the proposals in relation to the future of the Constitution are "an insult to the French and the Dutch".  This, he said is "a classic example of the new phenomenon ..[..].. of  EU nationalism."  Mr Farage suggested that failure to allow the people of Europe to have "the freedom to determine their own future" will breed and create the very intolerance, etc. that the Chancellor referred to in her speech.  He concluded by stating "for goodness sake, let the people speak."
 
Andreas MÖLZER (ITS, AT) stated that it is the 'elevated political class' in many EU countries which is in favour of the Constitution and not the 'sovereign people'.  He suggested that a return to the Constitution is not possible and that "there is a political deficit to be dealt with first."  Mr Mölzer went on to say that "We don't want a Constitutional monster.  What we want is co-decision on important things - on things like migration and unemployment."  He stated that "What we want to do is prevent the accession of Turkey" and concluded by saying that something must be done about mass illegal immigration into the South of Europe.
 
Hans-Peter MARTIN (NI, AT), speaking on behalf of the non-attached MEPs, said that Chancellor Merkel "deserved a great deal of respect for what you have achieved during your life".  He called on Chancellor Merkel to be bold and concentrate on the democratic legitimacy of the EU.  As Roman Herzog put it "Europe he said can not function without democratic legitimacy."  He ended by calling on Chancellor Merkel "not to bypass the people".
 
British and Irish speakers
 
Timothy KIRKHOPE (EPP-ED, UK), leader of the British Conservative Delegation, began by congratulating Chancellor Merkel on the early meeting with the American President. For too long, he said, there has been an apparent schism between Europe and the United States, and it was time to move things in the right direction. You are, he said, laying some solid ground work for future cooperation. Mr Kirkhope also welcomed some of the key measures outlined in the Presidency work programme – the emphasis on economic reform, the need for less regulation and also the emphasis on the fight to combat climate change.  Mr Kirkhope said :"as a British Conservative, needless to say I do not welcome the emphasis on resurrecting the European Constitution. I think that this could reinforce a sense of alienation within Europe and I think that would be unhelpful and would complicate matters at a time when we need to make some progress."
 
Speaking in Irish, Bairbre DE BRÚN (GUE/NGL, UK) said that her group would continue to work to ensure that Irish gained full and equal status.  She expressed concern that the German Presidency would focus on the ratification of the Constitutional Treaty which showed "a disregard" for the democratic results in France and the Netherlands.  Rather, the presidency should focus on tackling inequality, poverty and racism as well as strengthening the social welfare of Europe. Ms de Brún also stressed the importance of defending civil liberties, human rights, fair trade and working to combat global inequalities.  Finally, Ms de Brún called on the German Presidency to listen to the voices of European citizens.
 
Andrew DUFF (ALDE, UK) said that for the German Presidency to succeed in resolving the crisis, it will have to demand and expect the faithful support from all the Member States.  He said: "Do you agree that the recent Spanish-Luxembourg proposal to coral the 18 Member States in a separate process will not only accentuate the division between the two camps, but also expose brutally the wide division among the 18 themselves? Will you please discourage such an initiative?"
 
Chancellor Merkel's response
 
Responding to the debate, Chancellor MERKEL said that on the constitutional treaty, Mr Cohn-Bendit was wrong to portray the Council as a dark chamber compared to the bright light of Parliament.  MEPs were a vital link in creating public opinion, she said, but people in democratically elected governments also knew how that should act.  She was not a great enthusiast for referendums, but she was clear that it was for each Member State to legitimise a treaty in its own way. “The starting point is the existing treaty, I am sceptical about getting consensus on something else,” she said. It was paradoxical that a treaty which increased clarity, participation and subsidiarity had been opposed by the very people who argued in favour of such causes, she said. Those in favour of further enlargement of the EU had to realise that scepticism about the constitutional process would prevent Europe from moving forward with enlargement.  She asked the sceptics to think again.
 
On climate change and energy, she said many of Mr Barroso's proposals were absolutely correct, and that she would work to get a specific response to them from the 8-9 March meeting of the European Council. A joint energy policy was, she said, a step in the direction of the constitution's proposals.  While the EU had been founded around coal and steel, the key issues now were energy efficiency, energy security and energy foreign policy.  With a view to climate change, she called for more support for renewables, energy efficiency and biofuels.  She expressed her personal support for nuclear power, while noting that there would be differing views on this.  On the whole matter of energy policy, she said: “We need to act together, not go it alone.”
 
Turning to economics and social policy, she said Europe would not be Europe without the social welfare state, but it would take hard work to preserve the achievements in this field. “Our experience in Germany is that the way forward is through reconciling capital and labour, not playing one off against the other.”  On justice and home affairs matters, she acknowledged that it was difficult to reach the right balance between data protection and exchange of information. She was not in line with the ALDE group on this, she said, but there it was an essential debate.
 
Regarding bureaucracy and better regulation, she said the Member States knew what they had to do, but also said that the acquis communautaire had expanded over the years, and it was time to see if some of it could be modernised or merged: “Europe must learn from its bureaucratic past and become more attractive,” she said.
 
Commission President Barroso's response
 
In his response to the debate, Mr BARROSO agreed with those who had called for Europe to speak with a single voice on external energy relations, but “to do this we cannot go on speaking with 27 voices internally.”  An integrated energy market was essential to have a coherent energy policy.  As well as being important in itself, energy was a powerful driver for the European project, as it had been at the time of the Coal and Steel Community or the Euratom treaty. Moreover, “climate change is one of the most important challenges of the 21st century – perhaps the most important.”
 
On constitutional matters, he said no-one was really proposing a centralised European superstate, but “the European dimension is an indispensable one to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”  Even the largest European countries alone could not meet these challenges. One area where less should be done was bureaucracy, he said.  Better regulation was needed to improve conditions for businesses and citizens.  
 
“Working in the spirit of partnership,” he concluded, “we can achieve real results during these six months, and should look forward to the next 50 years with hope and pride.”
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Rome II: MEPs reintroduce rules on defamation

Institutions - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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The Parliament approved its recommendation for second reading for the Regulation on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations, known as Rome II. MEPs approved a number of amendments that reintroduce the provisions related to violations of privacy, including defamation, previously deleted in the Council's Common Position.

The so-called "Rome II" Regulation aims to facilitate litigations between citizens from different European countries on matters such as traffic accidents, accidents caused by defective products and violation of the environment. As a general rule, the law applicable to a non-contractual obligation arising out of a tort is the law of the country in which the damage occurs, irrespective of the country in which the event giving rise to the damage took place. Road traffic accidents represent the majority of cross-border disputes involving EU citizens.
 
By approving the report by Diana WALLIS (ALDE, UK), MEPs decided that in case of personal injury, for instance caused by a car accident, the court should apply the law of the victim's country when evaluating the scale of the damage. Moreover, the approved amendments say that the court should also apply the principle of 'restitutio in integrum' and therefore include the actual cost of medical after-care in its evaluation. This provision takes into account the fact that citizens are not aware of other countries' legislation. According to Mrs Wallis, in fact, this rule aims "to put the people back in the position they were before the accident."
 
At first reading, MEPs had approved a compromise amendment that regulated the violation of privacy by a printed or audiovisual media. The Council decided to delete this provision from its Common Position. In the vote in plenary, MEPs decided to reintroduce the same rules, as adopted at the first reading. According to the approved text, the law applicable, in case of defamation by media, should be the one of the country to which the publication or broadcasting service is principally directed or, if this is not apparent, the country in which editorial control is exercised.
 
Finally, MEPs approved a general review clause asking the Commission to present a report on the application of the Regulation four years after the entry into force. Non-contractual obligations arising out of family relationships, matrimonial property regimes and succession are excluded from the Regulation's scope.
 
Conciliation probable
 
Three years and a half after the beginning of the legislative procedure, disagreements between the Council and the Parliament still persist on few but relevant issues. Particularly, Member States do not want the rules on defamation to be included in the Regulation's scope. Therefore, the text is likely to pass through the conciliation procedure, where Member States and MEPs, equally represented, will have to debate further to find a compromise and approve the Regulation. According to Commission Vice-President Franco Frattini, who spoke before the vote, with regards to the approved rules on defamation, "there is no way they will get through" in the Council.
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MEPs condemn Libyan court death sentence on five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor

External relations - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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The House adopted a joint resolution with 567 votes in favour, 1 against and 7 abstentions condemning the verdict of the Criminal Court in Libya on 19 December 2006, convicting, in a re-trial, and sentencing to death five Bulgarian nurses, Kristiana Vulcheva, Nasya Nenova, Valentina Siropulo, Valya Chervenyashka and Snezhana Dimitrova, and one Palestinian doctor, Ashraf al-Haiui, who have already spent eight years in prison in connection with the 1999 HIV/AIDS case at the Benghazi hospital.

On 9 February 1999 the Libyan authorities detained a number of Bulgarian medics working at the 'Al-Fatih' hospital in Benghazi, and whereas on 7 February 2000 a trial against six Bulgarian nationals, one Palestinian and nine Libyans started at the Libyan People’s Court on a charge of deliberately infecting several hundred children with the HIV virus.
 
MEPs reiterate their radical opposition to the death penalty and recall that the EU considers that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.  The House stresses, at the same time, that the EU has now moved beyond this commitment and now espouses abolition of capital punishment in and third countries.  The House reiterates its serious concern with regard to the basis on which the accused persons were prosecuted, their treatment while in custody and the lengthy delays in the process.  Parliament underlines that, as from January 2007, the Benghazi trial directly concerns five citizens of the European Union.
 
The House invites the Libyan authorities concerned to take the necessary measures to review and annul the death sentence, and open the way to an early resolution of the case on a humanitarian basis, thus meeting the necessary prerequisites for the continuation of the common policy of engagement with Libya.  MEPs call on Colonel Kaddafi to exercise his powers and bring about the release of the imprisoned medics as a matter of urgency.  The House also calls on the Commission and the Council to take action with the Libyan Government to secure an early release of the imprisoned medics.  MEPs expresses their full solidarity with the victims of the HIV/AIDS infection in Benghazi and notes the measures taken by the international community to provide assistance to the affected children.
 
MEPs call on the Commission, the Council and the Member States to continue to provide assistance for the implementation of the HIV Action Plan and to support the Benghazi International Fund, in order to alleviate the suffering of the infected children and their families and to help the Libyan authorities to prevent and fight the spread of the HIV infection in the country.  Finally, the House calls on the Commission and the Council to consider, in the absence of a positive resolution of the case, a revision of the common policy of engagement with Libya in all relevant fields, as the Union deems appropriate.
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Third rail package: no agreement between EP and Council

Transport - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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The House voted at second reading on the "third rail package" - three separate reports on opening up rail networks to competition, minimum rights for passengers and a European licence for train drivers. Competition will now be introduced for international rail services but not for domestic railways. On other issues, large differences remain between the EP and the Council, and this legislation is now expected to go to conciliation.

In a report drafted by Georg Jarzembowski (EPP-ED, DE), the Transport Committee had called for domestic railways to be opened up to competition by 2017. However, this position did not receive sufficient support in the vote by the full Parliament and therefore no liberalisation can be expected on this front in the foreseeable future. Regarding competition in international railways, Parliament voted to accept the date of 2010 contained in the Council's common position. 
 
Minimum rights for all railway passengers
 
In a report by Dirk Sterckx (ALDE, BE) on minimum rights for rail passengers, the House voted to extend proposals on international passengers' rights and obligations to domestic rail traffic, arguing that "ordinary rail passengers should not be left out in the cold". This demand conflicts with the Council's position. Sterckx said that there was no point in drawing up a regulation which applied only to the 5% rail passengers who use international train services. European citizens should, in the event of problems, be entitled to certain minimum rights. 
 
The matters regulated by this proposal include information for passengers, liability in the event of death or injury and assistance to persons with reduced mobility. The House is also in favour of a system of compensation for delays: 25% of the fare for a delay of 60 minutes or more and 50% for a delay of 120 minutes or more, but only if the operator can be held responsible for the delay. Furthermore, rail operators must ensure that stations, platforms and means of transport are accessible, by eliminating all obstacles to boarding, disembarkation and remaining on board. And in future all trains should provide a specially designated area of the train for baby carriages, bicycles and sports equipment.
 
Towards a European licence for train drivers
 
A report on certification of train drivers, drafted by Gilles Savary (PES, FR), was also adopted.  Whereas the Council wishes only train drivers to be covered by the directive, Parliament says that other crew members performing safety-related tasks should be in possession of a certificate attesting that they meet minimum requirements relating to medical fitness, basic education and general professional skills.
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Road safety: European Parliament says more action needed

Transport - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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In a report produced in response to the Commission's mid-term review of the EU Road Safety Action Programme, the European Parliament is calling for "a higher level of political commitment" to road safety in all Member States and EU institutions.

More than 40,000 deaths are caused by road traffic accidents in the European Union, the direct and indirect costs of which are estimated at €180 billion, or 2% of EU GDP.  Moreover, the disparity between different Member States' road safety records is widening.  
 
The European Parliament report, drawn up by Ewa HEDKVIST PETERSEN (PES, SE) voices disappointment at the lack of progress in reaching the target of halving the number of road fatalities in the EU by 2010.   It urges Member States to enforce existing legislation, which MEPs say would greatly improve road safety if it were fully observed by road users.
 
The House makes a number of other recommendations:
 
- an EU-wide zero alcohol limit should be introduced for new drivers as well as for bus drivers and professional commercial drivers involved in the transport of hazardous goods;
 
- the Commission should conduct a study on harmonising road signs and rules in Europe to reduce unnecessary risks; at present, for example, differing priority rules at roundabouts can cause accidents;
 
- the Commission should consider creating a common minimum standard for driving instructors with test and certification;
 
- given the large number of accidents and deaths at road work zones, common guidelines should be devised for such areas;
 
- Member States should make hands-free mobile telephone systems compulsory for car, bus and commercial drivers;
 
- Member States should step up their efforts to increase the use of seat belts in all vehicles, especially buses;
 
- the Commission should launch a European-wide information campaign advocating breaks in driving every two hours to combat tiredness in drivers;
 
- the Commission should impose a general ban on overtaking for vehicles weighing more than 12 tonnes on one- and two-lane roads;
 
- more attention should be devoted to promoting technologies such as seat belt reminders and advanced restraint systems; Electronic Stability Control; speed limitation systems; alcohol interlocks; predictive safety systems and the eCall system, which could reduce accident response times considerably;
 
- legislation is needed on cross-border enforcement of penalties for driving offences (so that these are punished even if committed outside the offender's home country), daytime-running lights, the use of rear reflector strips to indicate the outlines of lorries and the use of installed and retro-fitted blind-spot mirrors;
 
- the Commission and Member States should promote "awareness of the single European emergency call number 112".
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Implementation of gender mainstreaming in the work of EP committees

Women's rights/Equal opportunities - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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The implementation of gender mainstreaming in the work of EP committee is examined in a report put forward by the Women's Rights Committee. The report points out that, the number of female MEPs has steadily increased over the years, from 17.5% in 1979 to 30.33% in 2004 and 30.45 % including Romanian and Bulgarian MEPs.

However, within Parliament's administration women were under-represented in positions of responsibility in bodies responsible for taking political decisions.
 
The own-initiative report drafted by Anna Záborská (EPP-ED, SK) stresses that "gender mainstreaming will lead to positive developments for both women and men" and that "gender mainstreaming cannot replace specific policies which aim to redress situations resulting from gender inequality". Gender mainstreaming is to make sure that a the goal of gender equality is central to all activates.
 
The majority of committees express views in favour of gender mainstreaming, but most committees have established their future political priorities without including any mainstreaming strategy.
 
The report stresses the important role the political groups can play to encourage and support women and make it possible for them to participate fully in public life by implementing and evaluating gender mainstreaming in their programmes and activities and by encouraging women to become more involved in European Parliament elections and national elections. MEPs call on political parties across Europe "to provide for the introduction of a compulsory quota system on their lists for any collective body."  The report also stresses the importance of the mandate of the Parliament's High-Level Group on Gender Equality and calls on the group to continue promoting priorities on gender mainstreaming.
 
The report finally gives a number of proposals, for example to adopt within the Parliament's administration a gender mainstreaming strategy with specific targets in Community policies, the creation of a network of committee secretariats officials, continue training of officials in gender mainstreaming, appropriate tools to committees to gain a sound understanding of gender mainstreaming and equality training for MEPs before next parliamentary term.
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EP calls for tougher rules on arms trade

Security and defence - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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The Parliament adopted a report with 504 votes in favour, 24 against and 34 abstentions calling for the continuation of the arms embargo against China, a legally binding implementation of the EU's Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, and demanding stronger EU support for an international Arms Trade Treaty. The own-initiative report by Raül ROMEVA I RUEDA (Greens/EFA, ES) "finds it unacceptable that no steps have been taken to adopt the Code as a Common Position."

It also urges Member States "to keep under constant review the human rights situation in arms importing countries," and to "agree on a list of countries involved in armed conflicts to which arms exports should be banned in principle."
 
Specifically, the House "considers that the embargo imposed on China should not be lifted until there is a clear and lasting improvement in the situation regarding human rights and social and political freedoms." Members also expressed "deep concern at the blatant violation of the arms embargo by all parties to the Darfur conflict."
 
Seeking to extend the scope of the Code, the report "calls for the EU to consider [...] steps to extend the 1998 EU Code of Conduct so that it covers private security companies," and "calls on the Council and the Commission to include in their further negotiations concerning developments in relation to the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements the question of adherence to all EU embargoes on trade in arms."
 
Finally, the European Parliament conveyed its support for more international legislation in the area, by calling "on the EU Presidency and Member States to match their declaratory diplomacy in favour of an international Arms Trade Treaty with assertive and determined action [...] to establish an effective, legally binding international Arms Trade Treaty laying down minimum global standards for arms transfers." Such an initiative is in its beginning stages at the UN General Assembly.
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Latest texts adopted and Agenda for next plenary in Brussels

Institutions - 22-01-2007 - 12:29
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The texts adopted by Parliament during the Strasbourg Plenary and the Draft Agenda for the 31 January-1 February 2007 plenary in Brussels can be accessed via the links below.

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