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Wednesday, 21 April 2004 - Strasbourg OJ edition

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  Gill (PSE ). Mr President, congratulations are due to Mr van Velzen because he has done excellent work and produced a really good report. I was rapporteur for the first e-content report and I can see that Mr van Velzen has worked very hard to try to ensure we give Europe an advantage in e-content. As he stated earlier, the US has the world's most advanced digital economy and Europe, with its fragmented markets and smaller media and telecommunication companies, is trying to catch up in terms of quality of content and products.

Rather than talk about what is in his report, which has been eloquently summarised both by the rapporteur and the Commission, I want to talk about the Council. I am extremely concerned about the sort of attitude and approach that the Council has adopted. It has stated time and again that it wants to achieve the Lisbon objectives, key among which is the opening-up of opportunities for Europe in the electronic age. However, when it comes to the Council putting its money where its mouth is, nothing at all happens.

As the reporter said, the Council has treated Parliament with complete contempt. We have been haggling over figures – 20 million, 30 million, 50 million – because it is unwilling to provide sufficient resources to make this programme happen. In a Europe of 25 Member States, adequate resources will be needed if we are to gain a competitive edge over our major competitor, the US, in this area. Many high-skill jobs rely on us being able to get our content right and on having this programme and reaching SMEs and other providers.

It is a great pity that owing to the Council's attitude we have been unable to finalise this initiative. It was key for this legislature to do that and have this programme up and running for 2005, and there was real will on Parliament's part to make this happen. It is to the detriment of the EU that it has not, and this has been because the Council has been unwilling to pay for it. What it is offering at the moment is peanuts in terms of a Union of 25.

I would like to congratulate the rapporteur, who did his utmost to achieve closure, because some of us in other Groups wanted to stick to the original Commission proposal, which was for EUR 165 million. That is the amount needed if we are genuinely to deliver on this eContent proposal.

This failure is not due to a lack of effort on the rapporteur's part. I hope that at second reading the Council will get the message that Parliament is not willing to support programmes that are simply piecemeal efforts.

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