Index 
Debates
Thursday, 12 May 2011 - StrasbourgOJ edition
 ANNEX (Written answers)
QUESTIONS TO THE COUNCIL(The Presidency-in-Office of the Council of the European Union bears sole responsibility for these answers)
QUESTIONS TO THE COMMISSION

QUESTIONS TO THE COUNCIL(The Presidency-in-Office of the Council of the European Union bears sole responsibility for these answers)
Question no 1 by Jim Higgins(H-000155/11)
 Subject: Discards and CFP reform
H-000155/11
 

‘The Hungarian Presidency will pay special attention to the reform of the CFP. The simplification of the CFP that began in 2005, the Green Paper published by the European Commission, the consultations that started in 2009 and the Commission’s proposals that are to be published soon are all aimed at securing sustainable fishing and aquaculture. It is expected that the Hungarian Presidency will commence the political debate on this common policy of great significance. It will be up to Hungary to pursue the issue of extending temporary community regulations related to horizontal technical fishing measures.’

In relation to the above, how does the Council propose to deal with the issue of discards as part of CFP reform?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The Council has already recognised the crucial importance of working towards eliminating discards . In its Conclusions on the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament "A policy to reduce unwanted by-catches and eliminate discards in European fisheries" , adopted on 11-12 June (1), the Council endorsed the need to urgently examine ways of progressively […] eliminating discards and noted that such an approach could have many implications such as a 'discard ban', regulating what is caught rather than what is landed, and a move to results-based management. The Council also called upon the Commission, Member States and stakeholders to enhance research efforts in gear design, fishing methods and fishing practices in this respect.

The Council is awaiting with interest the Commission legislative proposals, expected in July 2011, in the framework of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. The Council was informed that the Commission is determined to propose a discard ban in the forthcoming package reform of the CFP.(2).The Council will certainly take the opportunity to perform an in-depth analysis of these matters as soon as the proposals are on the table.

In the meantime, the Council and the Member States are actively engaging in regular exchanges of views on this issue.

 
 

(1)/07 PECHE 213.
(2)Commission's Summary of Proceedings of the High-Level meeting on eradicating discards, 4 March 2011, Ares 270302

 

Question no 2 by Georgios Papanikolaou(H-000156/11)
 Subject: Flagship initiative 'European Platform Against Poverty'
H-000156/11
 

The Hungarian Council Presidency’s working programme for the current six months includes the statement that the Council will give special attention to the problem of child poverty. In view of the fact that 20 million of the 100 million children and young people under 18 are affected by the poverty risk, and since poverty is directly connected with the economic crisis and the phenomenon of early school-leaving, would the Council state:

Does it regard the flagship initiative as an adequate mechanism for combating child poverty?

As the poverty rate in most Member States has stagnated or even increased over the past year, would the Council also state whether in its opinion the continuing economic crisis in the European Member States is jeopardising implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy targets for combating poverty and early school-leaving among young people?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The Council Declaration on the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion: "Working together to fight poverty in 2010 and beyond", adopted on 6 December 2010, stated that combating child poverty should be a top priority of the EU and of its Member States in the next decade and that financial consolidation and budgetary policies should duly take into account the need to protect all vulnerable people and to prevent social exclusion.

In this context, as the Honourable Parliamentarian rightly points out, tackling child poverty and promoting child well-being is one of the Hungarian Presidency's key priorities in the social area.

The Presidency will submit draft conclusions to the Council taking into account the Trio Presidency declaration adopted at the end of the Conference "Roadmap for a Recommendation on Child Poverty and Child Well-being", held on 2-3 September 2010, in which the Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies presented a number of recommendations for future action.

Child poverty is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. A comprehensive approach is therefore needed to tackle it combining employment for parents, income support and access to social services, including childcare, as well as healthcare services and education. Such a comprehensive approach should involve the use of adequate human and financial resources and should be in line with the Treaties, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It is therefore important that the Member States adequately emphasize the aspects of child poverty within their national policies and take them into consideration when drafting their National Reform Programmes, backing them up with adequate targets and resources, as well as monitoring and evaluation arrangements.

Tackling child poverty and promoting child well-being should be one of the key priorities addressed in the framework of the EU 2020 Strategy, which includes a EU headline target for the promotion of social inclusion, in particular through the reduction of poverty. In this respect, it is worth mentioning that the Council has, on 7 March 2011, welcomed the Commission's Communication on its Flagship initiative ("The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion"), which proposes an integrated and innovative approach aiming at a joint commitment among the Member States at national, regional and local levels, as well as among EU institutions and the key stakeholders (social partners and NGOs), in their efforts to fight poverty and social exclusion.

 

Question no 3 by Marian Harkin(H-000160/11)
 Subject: Economic Governance Package
H-000160/11
 

Given that one of the Council's priorities is to highlight the role of social dialogue, does it consider that sufficient progress is being made on this issue in the context of the Economic Governance Package?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) In view of the subject matter of some proposals of the Economic Governance Package, notably the Proposal on the prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances(1), the Proposal on the effective enforcement of budgetary surveillance in the euro area(2), and the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on enforcement measures to correct excessive macroeconomic imbalances in the euro area(3) the Commission suggested to consult the European Economic and Social Committee on an optional basis.

The Council consulted the Committee on 6 December 2010 and the Committee expressed its opinion at its plenary of 4 and 5 May 2011.

In its opinion the Committee considered, in particular, that mature and comprehensive political and social dialogue allows for the confrontation of social and economic challenges particularly those of a long term nature such as pension reform and health expenditure. In the Committee's view, in order for governments to achieve objectives such as fiscal sustainability and macroeconomic balance, there must be a strong degree of social partnership and collaboration, including political consensus(4).

It should be recalled that on 24 and 25 March 2011, at the occasion of the European Council, the euro area Heads of State or Government agreed that stronger economic policy coordination among euro area Member States and any others also wishing to participate addressing cost developments should be undertaken whilst respecting national traditions of social dialogue and industrial relations. Member States are thus responsible for determining their own specific policy actions, within their national traditions of social dialogue and industrial relations.

In addition to the full respect for national social dialogue arrangements, each Council Presidency schedules a meeting of the social partners under the macro-economic dialogue. This takes place in the margins of the (ECOFIN) Council and ensures a regular discussion between representatives of the social partners, at the EU level, of the main priorities for economic policy at the European level.

 
 

(1)OJ C 121, 11.4.2011, p. 26
(2)OJ C 121, 11.4.2011, p. 25
(3)OJ C 121, 11.4.2011, p. 26
(4)See opinion ECO/285, adopted at the EESC Plenary on 5.5.2011

 

Question no 4 by Zigmantas Balčytis(H-000163/11)
 Subject: Establishment of a permanent financial stability fund
H-000163/11
 

The finance ministers of the Eurogroup countries have agreed to set up a permanent eurozone financial stability fund worth EUR 700 billion and a European stability mechanism for economic governance of the eurozone. This would contribute to strengthening cohesion, increasing competitiveness and stabilising the financial system, but only in the countries of the eurozone.

All Member States opened their internal markets when they joined the EU and many undertook to join the eurozone when the necessary criteria were objectively met (without any sleight of hand). The least economically developed Member States have been the worst hit by the crisis, but these decisions will deprive them of financial aid and the prospect of a quicker recovery.

Does the Council not believe that these decisions will create an exclusive club of countries, with the Member States outside the eurozone being excluded from the financial and economic recovery? Does it not think that the EU needs to see coordination between the economies of all Member States, the stabilisation of financial systems and the necessary financial measures to benefit the Member States outside the eurozone?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) Primary responsibility for economic policy lies with the Member States themselves. The EU monitors and coordinates them, in particular in the context of the Stability and Growth Pact and the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines.

The new economic governance package, on which the Council hopes to be able to reach agreement with the European Parliament by June, will establish a framework for a more effective surveillance and coordination of budgetary and macroeconomic policies of all Member States. The European Semester introduced this year will align the calendar for the presentation of the Stability and Convergence Programmes and of National Reform Programs in order to ensure consistency at all levels (budgetary discipline, macro-economic stability and growth) while keeping the individual procedures formally separated. Through this process, the coordination of budgetary policies will be conducted through an ex-ante mechanism, instead of the ex-post mechanism currently in place.

All these elements should help safeguard stability in the euro area and the EU as a whole. Should they prove not sufficient to achieve this objective, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) will be able following a request by a euro area Member State experiencing severe imbalances and a decision by the ESM Board of Governors, to provide financial assistance to the Member State concerned.

For the cases when individual non euro area Member States experience particular difficulties that necessitate outside assistance, the Council established a framework with the Council Regulation (EC) No 332/2002 of 18 February 2002 establishing a facility providing medium-term financial assistance for Member States' balances of payments(1).

On the basis of that Regulation, the Council can adopt a Decision to provide financial assistance to the countries outside the euro area if they face difficulties or are seriously threatened with difficulties as regards their balance of payments, as foreseen by Article 143(1) of the Treaty of the functioning of the European Union. Since the outbreak of the global economic and financial crisis, three Member States - Hungary, Latvia and Romania have been granted this kind of assistance.

 
 

(1)OJ L 53, 23.2.2002, p. 1

 

Question no 5 by Vilija Blinkevičiūtė(H-000165/11)
 Subject: Implementation of the 'Agenda for new skills and jobs'
H-000165/11
 

On 23 November 2010 the Commission launched its flagship initiative entitled ‘an Agenda for new skills and jobs’, which aims to reform labour markets and promote lifelong learning with a view to increasing workforce participation and better matching labour-market supply and demand. This initiative is due to be implemented at both national and EU level.

Hungary, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, undertook in its programme to pay close attention to these new skills requirements for new jobs. What specific measures has the Council therefore taken with a view to implementing this initiative?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) During the Hungarian Presidency, work related to the flagship Agenda for New Skills and Jobs has continued both in the area of employment and education/training.

At the informal meeting of employment ministers, organised between January 17-18, one of the subjects of the discussion was the Agenda for New Skills and Jobs, in connection with the employment and labour market integration of young people, the enhancement of employment-friendly economic growth, and the creation of more and better quality jobs.

At the opening session of the Tripartite Social Forum, on 10-11 March 2011, which brought together Member States, social partners and European Union institutions, the Presidency underlined the importance of partnerships in the implementation of the flagship initiative.

The Presidency has stressed the flagship initiative's links to youth employment during its other events. During a Conference organised by the Presidency on 4-5 April in Budapest, the role of skills anticipation and adapting education and training systems to labour market needs were highlighted. The Employment Committee provided a substantive contribution for this conference on what action would be needed, both at the national and Union level. In June, the Council (EPSCO) is due to discuss conclusions on the topic of youth employment, including considerations on how to further implement the flagship initiative Agenda for New Skills and Jobs.

Although the flagship initiative with the greatest implications for education and training under the Europe 2020 strategy is Youth on the Move, these areas also important in the Agenda for New Skills and Jobs, particularly in terms of developing skills to bring them in line with changing labour market needs and of promoting closer cooperation between the fields of education and employment. This role was fully acknowledged in the policy debate on the role of education and training in the Europe 2020 strategy, which was organised by the Hungarian Presidency at the meeting of the Council (EYCS) on 14 February.

In the debate, as well as in the Council conclusions, which were adopted subsequently(1), emphasis was placed on the fundamental contribution which high-quality and modern education can make to securing the EU’s long-term prosperity. There was broad agreement on the need to upgrade skills as a means of boosting employability and that, in order to achieve this, further progress was required to improve the identification of training needs, to increase the labour market relevance of education and training, to facilitate individuals' access to lifelong learning opportunities and guidance (particularly for the many young people currently struggling to enter the labour market on account of the economic crisis), and to ensure smooth transitions between the worlds of education, training and employment. Member States also recognised the need to make vocational training and adult learning more attractive, and welcomed the transition towards learning outcome-based qualification systems and the greater validation of skills and competences acquired in non-formal and informal contexts.

Another initiative being prepared by the Hungarian Presidency in support of these objectives is the adoption by the May Council (EYCS) of a Council Recommendation on policies to reduce early school leaving(2), which is expected to emphasise inter alia the importance of strengthening high-quality vocational pathways and increasing their attractiveness, and of reinforcing the link between the education employment sectors, in order to emphasise the benefits of completing education for future employability.

 
 

(1)OJ C 70, 4.3.2011, p.1.
(2)Commission proposal COM (2011) 19 final, 5242/11.

 

Question no 6 by Nikolaos Chountis(H-000167/11)
 Subject: Anticipated influx of migrants from Libya
H-000167/11
 

Following the commencement of aerial bombardments under UN Security Council Resolution 1973 (2011), the humanitarian crisis in Libya is expected to worsen dramatically, triggering a fresh wave of migrants heading for Europe, this time from Libya. Given the manifest lack of resources and inadequate provision for migrants and asylum seekers, which is already causing what is being referred to as a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in southern Europe, matters cannot be expected to improve regarding capacity to deal with this fresh migrant influx.

In view of this, what measures has the Council taken with a view to spreading evenly responsibility for the anticipated wave of migrants into the EU Member States and ensuring that the rights of refugees and migrants are respected?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The European Council has addressed the developments in Libya and the Southern Neighbourhood, including the migratory consequences, both at its extraordinary meeting on 11 March 2011(1) and its regular meeting on 24/25 March 2011.(2)

In its Declaration, adopted on 11 March 2011, the European Council stressed that the Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements require concrete solidarity and that the EU and the Member States stand ready to provide the necessary support as the situation evolves. It also urged Member States to provide further human and technical resources to Frontex, as required. It recalled that a comprehensive approach to migration should be promoted, consistent with the EU's Global Approach. Furthermore, in its Conclusions adopted on 24/25 March 2011, the European Council underlined again that the EU and its Member States stand ready to demonstrate their concrete solidarity to Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements and provide the necessary support as the situation evolves.

The Council has also reviewed the situation in North Africa, including in particular the migratory pressures being experienced in some Member States(3). The Council has had an extensive debate on the situation at its meeting on 11 April 2011 and has adopted Conclusions on the management of migration from the Southern Neighbourhood(4). In these Conclusions, the Council reaffirmed the need for genuine and concrete solidarity towards Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements and called on the EU and its Member States to continue providing the necessary support as the situation evolves, such as by assisting the local authorities of the most affected Member States in addressing the immediate repercussions of migratory flows on the local economy and infrastructure. The Council also stressed the importance of offering durable protection solutions to those in need of international protection present in the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood.

The Council will be keeping the situation under review. It should also be recalled that the situation in the Southern Neighbourhood will be addressed by the European Council at its upcoming meeting in June 2011.

 
 

(1)EUCO 7/11 CO EUR 5 CONCL 2.
(2)EUCO 10/11 CO EUR 6 CONCL 3.
(3)8741/1/11 REV 1, 7781/11.
(4)8909/1/11 ASIM 36 COMIX 226.

 

Question no 7 by Bernd Posselt(H-000168/11)
 Subject: Foreign policy in the field of energy
H-000168/11
 

What is the Council’s position on the current state of progress of EU foreign policy in the field of energy, in particular as regards greater independence from Russian supplies and the diversification of sources of supply and supply routes?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The Council in its conclusions of 28 February 2011 underlined the importance of a comprehensive energy strategy, in the light of the Commission Communications "Energy 2020: A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy"(1) and "Energy infrastructure priorities for 2020 and beyond"(2). In particular, the Council stressed that the whole Energy Strategy 2020 should contribute to ensuring a strong and consistent EU position in external energy matters.

In order to improve the transparency, consistency, coherence and credibility of external action in energy matters the Council considered a need for:

Improved and timely exchange of information between the Commission and Member States;

Shared assessment of risks to the EU's energy security and adequate reflection of energy security concerns in other policy areas (e.g. European Neighbourhood Policy);

Making full use of multilateral fora dedicated to energy or with a strong energy component, and improving coordination in these fora in order to better exploit synergies between Member States and between the Union and its partners;

Enhance coordination of Member States and Union efforts in order to better protect and promote the EU's collective energy interests and policies

Diversification of Europe's routes and sources of supply, as well as continued efforts to facilitate the development of strategic corridors for the transport of large volumes of gas such as the Southern Corridor

Developing mutually beneficial strategic partnerships and comprehensive cooperation with key supplier, transit and consumer countries and regions and around strategic corridors. Besides addressing gas/oil/electricity issues these partnerships should:

promote energy efficiency and energy from renewable sources;

facilitate regulatory convergence i.e. through the implementation of EU energy market- related legislation in neighbouring countries, to promote market-based rules and develop measures as necessary to ensure a level playing field;

promote the highest standards for nuclear safety;

underpin EU ambitions in international processes, such as climate negotiations.

On 4 February 2011, the European Council concluded that work should be taken forward as early as possible to develop a reliable, transparent and rules based partnership with Russia in areas of common interest in the field of energy and as part of the negotiations on the post-Partnership and Cooperation Agreement process and in the light of on-going work on the Partnership for Modernization and the Energy Dialogue.

Moreover the European Council invited the High Representative to take fully account of the energy security dimension in her work.

We expect the above to be reflected in a Commission communication before the summer.

 
 

(1)16096/10
(2)16302/10

 

Question no 8 by Gay Mitchell(H-000171/11)
 Subject: Timeline for the resolution of the banking and debt crisis
H-000171/11
 

Will the Council put forward a timeline for the resolution of the banking and debt crisis currently under way in Europe?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) As a follow-up to the comprehensive roadmap endorsed by the Council on 20 October 2009, on which work has been largely completed, the Council, at its meeting of 7 December 2010 endorsed a Roadmap on an EU-wide framework for crisis prevention, management and resolution that covers short and medium term objectives up to 2012. In this Roadmap, the Council foresees relevant timeframes for a continuous policy debate on the crisis prevention and resolution framework, which feeds into the preparatory work on legislative proposals, currently undertaken by the Commission.

The June 2010 European Council stated that the necessary reforms to restore the soundness and stability of the European financial system must be completed urgently and confirmed the urgent nature of the measures outlined in the Commission's Communication "Regulating Financial Services for Sustainable Growth" of 2 June 2010.

On 7 December 2010, the Council also stressed the importance of making progress in respect of the work strands set out in the Commission Communication on an EU Framework for Crisis Management in the Financial Sector.

The Council is therefore looking forward to the discussions on legislative proposals relating to framework for crisis management and resolution in the banking sector which the Commission is expected to table this summer. The Council also continues working on the legislative proposals already tabled by the Commission, and expect an early conclusion of the current and future negotiations with the European Parliament.

The new economic governance package, on which the Council is seeking agreement with the European Parliament by June 2011, should enable a more effective surveillance and coordination of budgetary and macroeconomic policies of all Member States. In particular, it aims to introduce a stronger focus on the debt criterion including a numerical benchmark according to which Member States should reduce their debt levels. Countries not complying with the debt criterion would be placed within the Excessive Deficit Procedure which could, for euro area Member States, eventually lead to sanctions.

Under the existing legal framework 24 Member States are currently subject to the Excessive Deficit Procedure. According to the deadlines set by the Council, while a number of Member States will have to correct their excessive deficit by 2011, for most countries the deadline has been set at 2013 at the latest. Only Greece, Ireland and the United Kingdom have received later deadlines. Correcting the excessive deficits in time will contribute to putting debt levels on a permanently declining path.

Moreover, the Euro Plus Pact, endorsed by all euro area and six non euro area Member States at the highest level in the frame of the March 2011 European Council, should encourage individual Member States to make ambitious national commitments in the areas of fostering competitiveness, fostering employment, the sustainability of public finances and reinforcing financial stability. These elements should all help safeguard stability in the euro area as a whole and therefore be conducive to tackling the debt crisis.

 

Question no 9 by Liam Aylward(H-000176/11)
 Subject: The establishment of the 116 000 hotline for missing children by 25 May 2011
H-000176/11
 

Every Member State is obliged to make the 116 000 hotline for missing children operational by 25 May 2011. The hotline provides a single number for missing children and their parents to call for help anywhere in the EU. Having the same hotline everywhere in the EU makes it easier and faster for children and parents in trouble to get help.

Since a priority of this Presidency has been the protection of citizens’ rights and closing the gap between the institutions and the citizens of the EU, what measures has the Council in place to help the Member States establish this important service before the deadline?

Does the Council intend on giving policy priority to the establishment of the hotline?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) According to the revised Universal Service Directive(1), EU Member States shall make every effort to ensure that the 116 000 hotline is activated by 25 May 2011. Member States are responsible for the implementation of this requirement.

The revised Universal Service Directive moreover allows the Commission to adopt technical measures to ensure the effective implementation of the "116" numbering range, in particular the missing children hotline number 116000. This is without prejudice to, and shall have no impact on, the organisation of these services, which remain the exclusive competence of Member States.

The Council is informed(2) that the Commission continues to provide support to the Member States for the swift introduction and full functioning of missing children hotlines. The Commission has also indicated that if no further progress is made within a reasonable timeframe, the Commission will consider presenting a legislative proposal to make sure that the 116 000 hotline is fully operational in all Member States. Should the Commission take such an initiative, the Council would examine the proposal according to its role as legislator.

The Presidency has recently urged Member States in a form of a letter to implement the 116000 hotlines and will host together with the European Commission and “Missing Children Europe” (MCE), the European charitable association whose national chapters operate the 116 000 hotlines in the Member States, a European conference on 25-26 May in order to take note of the results in this field. This conference will not only discuss the introduction of the 116 000 hotline but also issues related to child alert system and child-friendly justice.

 
 

(1)Article 1(18) of Directive 2009/136/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2009 amending Directive 2002/22/EC on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communications networks and services
(2)doc. 17296

 

Question no 10 by Laima Liucija Andrikienė(H-000178/11)
 Subject: Nuclear safety in Europe
H-000178/11
 

Following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, EU Member States jointly agreed on 25 March 2011 on the need to conduct stress tests on nuclear power plants in the EU and called for a similar move worldwide.

Does the Council possess information on whether similar measures will be taken with regard to the plants already operating (especially those in operation for more than 20 years) in other European countries that are not members of the EU?

As regards new nuclear power plants in EU neighbouring states, does the Council have a plan on how to ensure that these new plants meet the necessary environmental standards and do not violate internationally recognised conventions, such as the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) As rightly stressed by the honourable Member, during its meeting held on 24 and 25 March 2011(1), the European Council has stressed the need to fully draw the lessons from the recent events in Japan. The European Council has in this context made clear that the EU will request that "stress tests" similar to the ones put in place in the EU be carried out in neighbouring countries and worldwide, regarding both existing and planned plants. It noted that full use should be made of international organisations and that the highest safety standards for nuclear safety should be promoted internationally.

In this context, two positive developments on the international stage are worth noting. Firstly, the convening on 20-24 June of a high-level IAEA Conference on Nuclear Safety covering an initial assessment of the Fukushima accident, its impact and consequences; considering the lessons that need to be learned; launching the process of strengthening nuclear safety; and strengthening the response to nuclear accidents and emergencies.

Secondly, on the occasion of the 5th Review meeting of the Convention on Nuclear Safety last April, all Contracting Parties, including EU neighbours, agreed to analyse the accident at an Extraordinary Meeting of Contracting Parties to be held in 2012. Regarding the location of nuclear plants, this 5th Review meeting already discussed issues related to consulting Contracting Parties in the vicinity of a proposed nuclear power plants.

On 20-23 June 2011, the 5th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) will take place in Geneva. The provisional agenda for this meeting includes a Panel discussion on nuclear-energy related projects. The purpose of this discussion is to provide insights on how the Espoo Convention is applied to nuclear energy-related projects likely to have significant adverse transboundary impact. A report from the panel will be presented to the High-Level Segment of the Meeting and the Parties will be invited to consider possible follow-up actions under the Convention.

Within the EU, preparatory work for the above-mentioned meetings will be pursued, as per current practice, within the Council preparatory bodies and through a number of coordination meetings on the spot, so as to allow the EU and its Member States to act in a united and effective manner in Geneva.

 
 

(1)EUCO 10/11.

 

Question no 11 by Georgios Toussas(H-000182/11)
 Subject: Military operation in Libya
H-000182/11
 

On 1 April 2011, the Council decided on the ‘EUFOR Libya’ European Union military operation in support of humanitarian assistance operations, appointing Rear Admiral Claudio Gaudiosi as EU operation commander and locating the operational headquarters in Rome. At its meeting of 12 April 2011, the Council confirmed its decision of 1 April 2011, instructing Rear Admiral Gaudiosi to draw up an operational plan for immediate intervention in close cooperation with NATO and indicating its willingness to include in the mission armed forces from third countries situated in the area. In the second half of 2011 (1 July to 31 December 2011), two EU battle groups will be in a state of preparedness for intervention, that is to say the EUFOR and the Balkans ‘HELBROC’ battle groups, the latter made up of armed forces from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus under Greek command with their operational headquarters in Greece.

Is the Council envisaging the intervention of ground forces in Libya? What will be the role of the Greek-led Balkans battle group (‘HELBROC’) in the ‘EUFOR Libya’ military intervention? Which third countries from the area will be participating in this operation?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The EU has decided that it shall, if requested by UN OCHA, launch a CSDP operation, "EUFOR Libya", to support humanitarian assistance in the region, in full respect of the principles governing humanitarian action, particularly impartiality and neutrality and the internationally agreed MCDA Guidelines(1). To this end, the EU has already adopted the decision establishing the operation, has appointed an Operation Commander and designated an Operational Headquarters in Rome. The Council tasked the Operation Commander to pursue urgently further planning, in close cooperation and complementarity with the UN, NATO and others in order for the EU to be able to react quickly to developments as regards the humanitarian and security situation. As part of preparations, the EU stands ready to consider offers of contributions from third states including countries in the region, following PSC invitation.

In the event of such a request from UN OCHA, the parameters of any EU actions, including the geographical scope, would be decided on the basis of the request. Similarly the nature of the assets needed will depend on the request expressed by UN OCHA. It is not possible at this stage to prejudge the nature of the request and therefore the capacities that will be required.

 
 

(1)Guidelines on the use of Military and Civil Defence Assets to support UN Humanitarian Activities in Complex Emergencies, March 2003.

 

Question no 12 by Charalampos Angourakis(H-000184/11)
 Subject: Involvement of multinational security firm in human rights violations
H-000184/11
 

According to recent information, Group4 Securicor (G4S), an international security firm, has signed a contract with the Israeli authorities for the provision of security equipment and services for use in prisons holding Palestinian political detainees in Israel and the West Bank and in the Israeli West Bank police headquarters, as well as proving security equipment and manpower a for operations in the settlements. The firm has also supplied maintenance equipment and services for the Israeli army checkpoint at the West Bank wall, which was declared illegal in the advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice on 9 July 2004. Given the resulting infringement of the fourth Geneva Convention, the firm, (together with the Israeli authorities) has been condemned for non-compliance with international law, as well as for its involvement in human rights violations and the Israeli occupation.

Does the Council condemn the contract signed by G4S with the Israeli Government and its collaboration with the Israeli authorities, given that the firm also operates in EU Member States and cooperates with the EU institutions?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) In its statement of 8th December 2009 on the Middle East Peace Process, the Council confirmed its position that the separation barrier, where built on occupied land, is illegal under international law, constitutes an obstacle to peace and threatens to make a two-state solution impossible.

However, it is not for the Council to comment on specific contractual relations between private legal entities and third parties.

As the Council stated in its conclusions of 13 December 2010 on the Middle East Peace Process, it wants to see the State of Israel and a sovereign, independent, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security.

 

Question no 13 by Mairead McGuinness(H-000188/11)
 Subject: Growing anti-EU sentiment
H-000188/11
 

Is the Council concerned that the financial rescue packages for Member States are fostering growing anti-EU sentiment both among the recipients, which feel that the cost is too great, and the countries footing the bill?

The recent election results in Finland could serve as an example of disillusionment with the EU. Has the Council discussed this problem and what initiatives would it propose to combat the growing division between the so-called ‘core’ and ‘periphery’?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) Concerns raised regarding public opinion in both recipient Member States and those contributing to financial support actions are fully discussed in the process of agreeing any financial support and economic adjustment programme.

In this regard, certain aspects of the organisation of the framework for financial support should be borne in mind :

1. Financial support is only provided at the explicit request of a Member State facing financial difficulty.

2. Financial support is only provided to a euro area Member State in the interests of the stability of the euro area as a whole.

3. The granting of financial support to a euro area Member State is decided by unanimity.

4. Financial support is provided in the context of an economic adjustment programme, and in conjunction with the financial and technical involvement of the IMF.

In this context, a major reform of economic governance in the EU is well underway, with six legislative acts under negotiation - these will strengthen the framework for economic coordination within the EU. In addition the "Euro Plus Pact" has also been agreed, under which all euro area Member States, as well as any other Member States who wish to do so, will make specific commitments regarding economic policies which will be subject to peer review at the very highest political level.

The coherence and cohesiveness of the euro area, and of the EU economy as a whole, should be enhanced by these reforms and by the framework for financial assistance that has been developed in case of need in any Member State.

 

Question no 14 by Pat the Cope Gallagher(H-000189/11)
 Subject: The Eurozone crisis
H-000189/11
 

Can the Council make a comprehensive statement on the discussions which took place at the informal meeting of Finance Ministers on 7-9 April 2011 in Budapest?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) Discussions at the informal meeting of Finance Ministers focused inter alia on the recent economic and financial stability developments in the euro area, the preparation of the G20 Ministerial meeting in Washington DC, developments in commodity markets, the new European Supervisory Architecture, stress tests.

Ministers and Central Bank Governors touched upon the issue of commodity markets and related financial derivative markets. There was agreement that increasing the transparency and integrity of both the physical and the derivatives markets are fundamental to ensuring that these fulfil their roles properly. Ministers and Governors had an exchange of views with invited guest speakers, Prof. Alexandre Lamfalussy, Mr. Jacques de Larosière, Ms. Sharon Bowles and the leaders of the new authorities on how the new European Supervisory Authorities and the ESRB may help to tackle the challenges we face today in the financial sector and on their vision for the new institutions. They also discussed issues related to this year's stress test exercise in the banking and insurance sectors, where emphasis was put on the need for transparency, credibility and need for governments to have well developed policy responses to stress scenarios.

Statement by the Eurogroup and ECOFIN Ministers acknowledged the Portuguese authorities' request for financial assistance. Ministers invited the Commission, the ECB, the IMF and Portugal to set up a programme and take appropriate action to safeguard financial stability. In the context of a joint EU/IMF programme, the financial assistance package to Portugal should be financed on the European side within the framework provided by the European financial stabilisation mechanism (EFSM) and the European financial stability facility (EFSF). The preparations by Portugal will start immediately to reach a cross-party agreement ensuring that an adjustment programme can be adopted by mid-May and implemented swiftly after the formation of a new government. The programme will be based on three pillars:

An ambitious fiscal adjustment to restore fiscal sustainability.

Growth and competitiveness enhancing reforms including an ambitious privatisation programme.

Measures to maintain the liquidity and solvency of the financial sector.

After an agreement has been reached with the Portuguese authorities and supported by the main political parties, the programme will be endorsed by the ECOFIN Council and the Eurogroup, in line with national procedures, on the basis of a Commission and ECB assessment.

At the Washington meeting, which was held from 14 to 15 April 2011, discussions were substantive and all major players showed genuine willingness to move the international economic agenda forward.

The most relevant deliverable was probably the agreement reached on the indicative guidelines, against which the indicators to detect those persistently large imbalances requiring policy adjustments from G20 members will now be measured.

This should not be regarded as a small outcome: behind this apparently technical agreement, there is a serious commitment by all major economies – both advanced and emerging – to bring forward a process of mutual assessment/peer review of the respective policies affecting global growth.

On the basis of the agreement reached on the indicative guidelines, the G20 should be able to deliver concrete results by the end of the year, namely a comprehensive action plan with country specific recommendations.

The Commission, the ECB and the Council Presidency are providing a very substantive contribution to the overall exercise, not least because the new governance system at international level presents in many respects similar features to those at the EU level.

 

Question no 15 by Brian Crowley(H-000191/11)
 Subject: Christian minorities in North Africa and the Middle East
H-000191/11
 

Violence against Christians and other religious minorities has intensified in North Africa and the Middle East over recent months. Can the Council outline what concrete actions it is undertaking to protect Christian and other religious minorities living in North Africa and the Middle East?

 
  
 

The present answer, which has been drawn up by the Presidency and is not binding on either the Council or its members as such, was not presented orally at Question Time to the Council during the May 2011 part-session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

(EN) The promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief without any distinction is a high priority within the EU’s human rights policy. This strong commitment was reaffirmed by the Council at its meeting in November 2009. Furthermore, the February 2011 Council adopted conclusions that condemn recent violence and acts of terrorism in various countries including in North Africa and the Middle East, against Christians and their places of worship, Muslim pilgrims and other religious communities. The Council confirmed the need by the international community to consolidate its collective response to those who want to use religion as an instrument of division, fuelling extremism and violence. The EU will engage with partner countries as well as multinational forums, particularly the UN, to rally cross-cultural support in the fight against religious intolerance.

Following the 2009 Council Conclusions, the High Representative was invited by the Council to report on the measures taken on freedom of religion or belief. The EEAS is to monitor more closely restrictions to freedom of religion or belief throughout the world, which will be addressed in the next EU annual human rights report. The issue of freedom of religion or belief is increasingly raised during human rights dialogues urging countries to eradicate discrimination and intolerance. Contacts with local human rights defenders working on this issue are established and maintained. Where available, project funding opportunities under EIDHR (European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights) country-based support schemes are offered.

In parallel with country-specific measures, the EU continues to play an active role in pushing for freedom of religion or belief in multilateral forums. The EU was the driving force behind the UN General Assembly resolution on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief, adopted by consensus in December, 2010. The EU rallied strong cross-regional support for an initiative on freedom of religion or belief in the UN Human Rights Council in March, 2011.

 

QUESTIONS TO THE COMMISSION
Question no 29 by Liam Aylward(H-000177/11)
 Subject: Agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions
H-000177/11
 

The agriculture sector is responsible for 13.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. In the EU the agriculture sector accounts for 9% of emissions. European and Irish farmers have made significant progress in implementing greener measures, reducing emissions and in using pasture lands and clover pasture as carbon dioxide sinks wherever possible.

Since the European agriculture sector is already operating effectively and environmental sustainability and conservation policies and measures are already in place, it would be very difficult for this sector to make any further progress.

Since this sector can make only limited progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, what can the Commission do to help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions further and to ensure that the sector isn’t penalised in pursuit of the EU’s ambitious objectives.

 
  
 

(EN) Agriculture contributes around 9% of total EU greenhouse gases (GHG), and although emissions have decreased since 1990, further efforts are possible and required to meet the ambitious EU climate and energy agenda.

EU climate change policy does not set targets for individual sectors, such as agriculture. In the 2050 low carbon Roadmap(1) the Commission has however indicated the range for agriculture's cost-effective long term contribution. The Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) 406/2009/EC(2) aims to reduce GHGs by 10% from sectors not included in the EU Emissions Trading System. Through the mechanism of burden sharing Member States contribute according to their relative wealth (GDP/capita), targets range from –20% to +20% in 2020 compared to 2005. Therefore, it is their responsibility to limit emissions of the ESD sectors and to determine the effort made by agriculture and other sectors.

Emissions and removals of CO2 related to land use change and forestry (LULUCF) are not yet part of current commitments. The 2008 climate and energy package requested the Commission to assess and make a legislative proposal, as appropriate, for its inclusion in the EU reduction commitment by mid-2011. Extensive consultation of the public, businesses, NGOs, Member States and experts over the last year shows that the majority supports an inclusion of LULUCF, at least if the overall target is stepped up beyond 20%. The Commission plans to publish a Communication in summer 2011. Inclusion could strengthen the environmental integrity of climate commitments, ensuring that all emissions are covered. This could also enhance the visibility of efforts by land managers to increase sinks through sustainable land management practices in response to any incentive schemes under a post-2013 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The current CAP instruments address climate change, mainly due to the multiple co-benefits between agri-environmental policy and climate action. A reformed CAP through a greener pillar one (with non-contractual, annual environmental actions that go beyond cross-compliance) and a more focused climate related pillar two, supported by a professional farm advisory service, could be tailored towards helping farmers to increase efficiency and thus strengthening competitiveness of the EU agriculture while at the same time contributing to climate action (mitigation) and becoming less vulnerable to climate change (adaptation). It is clearly not the Commission’s intention to penalise the farming community, but to help and encourage them to produce safe and emission efficient produce "promoting sustainable management of natural resources", as per the "The CAP towards 2020" Communication(3). EU producers are among the most carbon efficient producers in the world and can become world leaders in demonstrating the production of emission efficient agricultural produce which can reduce the global agricultural emissions.

 
 

(1)COM(2011) 112 final
(2)OJ L 140, 5.6.2009
(3)COM(2010)672 final

 

Question no 31 by Iliana Malinova Iotova(H-000166/11)
 Subject: Application of Directive 2009/138/EC
H-000166/11
 

On 25 November 2009, Parliament and the Council adopted Directive 2009/138/EС on the taking-up and pursuit of the business of insurance and reinsurance (Solvency II). The directive is officially scheduled to come into force in the EU Member States on 31 December 2012.

Do the exceptions listed in the preamble to the directive (in recitals 4, 5, 6, 19, 20, 84 and 85) and the exclusions from its scope provided for in Title I, Section 2, Article 4 apply to the voluntary health insurance associations in Bulgaria?

Can these associations be added to the list of institutions, in Title I, Section 2, Article 8, to which the directive shall not apply?

Is the directive automatically applicable to the associations or do they fall within the group of exclusions?

Is it possible for the associations to remain within the scope of the Bulgarian health insurance law and to be subject to the provisions of national healthcare legislation, rather than those of the Insurance Code, even after the directive’s transposition?

 
  
 

(EN) Bulgarian insurance undertakings providing voluntary and commercial health insurance are not covered by the exemptions in Article 8 of Directive 2009/138/EC, which refers to a limited number of institutions with very particular features(1). The Commission does not believe that this Article needs to be amended.

In principle, this means that the EU insurance legislation applies to the Bulgarian voluntary health insurance sector. However, some of these undertakings or parts of their activities may be covered by other exemptions, as referred to under Title I, Chapter I, Section 2 of Directive 2009/138/EC.

Directives are binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which they are addressed, but leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods, as to their implementation.

 
 

(1)OJ L 335, 17.12.2009

 

Question no 32 by Gay Mitchell(H-000172/11)
 Subject: Large-scale nuclear catastrophe
H-000172/11
 

The Commission has been very successful in coordinating EU assistance in Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami. However, how is the Commission prepared for a potential large-scale nuclear catastrophe in Japan?

 
  
 

(EN) The honourable Member has raised the issue of the nuclear accident in the Fukushima daïchi nuclear power plant, following the devastating earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan on 11 March 2011. The European Commission and the European External Action Service are following the situation very closely. We have kept in close contact with the Japanese authorities and been kept informed about the ongoing efforts to stabilise the situation, contain the spread of radioactive materials and monitor the related environmental conditions.

Discussions will continue at the next EU-Japan Summit to take place on 28 May 2011 in Brussels, as well as at upcoming international meetings (the International Atomic Energy Agency, G8/G20, etc).

As regards the question of how the EU could respond in the hypothesis of a nuclear accident in a third country where the scale of the accident overwhelmed the capacities of the country concerned to deal with the accident, the EU has different tools at its disposal which could be mobilised in such a case, e.g.:

1) The EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The precise types of assistance mobilised would depend on the type of nuclear accident/incident, on the request made by the affected country, and the capacities available from Member States. Generally, this assistance can cover inter alia the phases of initial assessments, sampling and predictions; search and rescue activities; mass decontamination facilities and may include technical equipment, e.g. for the secure and safe containment of waste, as well as nuclear expertise, through the relevant pool of civil protection experts.

2) The nuclear safety co-operation Instrument (NSCI, Council regulation ( Euratom- n° 300/2007 of 19 February 2007). NSCI provides financial aid to support third countries in improving the level of nuclear safety and radiation protection, ensuring safe transport, treatment and disposal of radioactive waste. This programme is implemented by EuropeAid with the collaboration of the European External Action Service, the European Commission’s Directorates in charge of energy and transport as well as with the technical support of the Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

3) The Instrument for stability (Regulation (EC) No 1717/2006 of the Parliament and of the Council of 12 November 2006(1)). This instrument can also be used to finance short-term and long-term initiatives such as measures to respond immediately to natural or man-made disasters, such as internally displaced persons monitoring and placement, nuclear safety and security, clean up measures, critical infrastructure protection, energy distribution, emergency response and support to first responders.

 
 

(1)Regulation (EC) No 1717/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 November 2006 establishing an Instrument for Stability, OJ L 327, 24.11.2006

 

Question no 33 by Gilles Pargneaux (H-000173/11)
 Subject: Possible conflicts of interest concerning aspartame
H-000173/11
 

In its answer to my question No H-000072/2011 of 8 March 2011, the Commission stated that it would not re-evaluate aspartame before 31 December 2020.

Could the Commission please indicate what quantity of food or medicines would need to be consumed to reach the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 40 mg/kg?

Should the EFSA statement of 28 February 2011 not be called into question in light of the fact that Dominique Parent-Massin, an expert on the EFSA Panel on Food Additives, was under contract to Coca-Cola, a drinks company which is a major consumer of sweeteners, and Ajinomoto, the world’s largest producer of aspartame?

What is the Commission’s reaction to this latest conflict of interests?

 
  
 

(EN) Following the recent discussion which took place in Parliament Committee ENVI on the honourable Member's previous oral question H-000072/2011(1) related to aspartame, the Commission is currently reflecting on the possibility to advance a full re-evaluation of aspartame to an earlier date than the planned re-evaluation, which is foreseen at the latest for December 2020 according to Commission Regulation (EU) No 257/2010(2) setting up a programme of re-evaluation for food additives.

Aspartame is authorised as a food additive in a number of different food groups at different maximum permitted levels. As a general rule, the potential intake of food additives through the diet depends on a number of criteria, e.g. the relative contribution of the various food groups to the daily intake and the concentrations of the food additive used in each of these food groups. In addition, it is important to indicate which population is targeted (children or adult), as the quantity of a specific foodstuff (containing a food additive) necessary to reach the acceptable daily intake (ADI) will depend on the weight of the targeted population, bearing in mind that the ADI is defined per kilogramme (kg) of body weight. The potential intake of aspartame through a medical treatment also depends of the number of doses per day and the age of the patients. Moreover, the treatment may be indicated for a limited number of days only. Therefore, this question cannot be answered in a general way.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed in its opinion of 2006 that the potentially ingested amount of aspartame(3) through the diet would be well below the ADI of 40 miligrammes per kg body weight day, even in the case of high consumers.

Under the rules of EFSA on a possible conflict of interest, like any other expert, the expert quoted in the honourable Member's oral question signed declarations of interest that have been evaluated by EFSA. In accordance with the EFSA rules on conflicts of interest, this expert did not take part to the discussions conducted on aspartame by the EFSA Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS) Panel. In addition, the EFSA statement of 28 February 2011 was drawn up by EFSA and not by the EFSA-ANS Panel. Hence, the Commission does not see any conflict of interests in this case.

 
 

(1)http://www.europarl.europa.eu/QP-WEB/application/home.do?language=EN.
(2)Commission Regulation (EU) No 257/2010 of 25 March 2010 setting up a programme for the re-evaluation of approved food additives in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 of Parliament and of the Council on food additives Text with EEA relevance, OJ L 80, 26.3.2010.
(3)Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in contact with Food (AFC) on a request from the Commission related to a new long-term carcinogenicity study on aspartame The EFSA Journal (2006) 356, 1-44.

 

Question no 34 by Jacek Włosowicz(H-000174/11)
 Subject: Daylight Saving Time
H-000174/11
 

A year ago, I asked the Commission about the usefulness of changing from summer time to winter time (Question H-0103/2010). I should now like to ask whether the Commission’s position is still the same as it was at the time.

Is the Commission aware of the latest research in the energy field, which points to the changeover having no impact on the energy balance?

Is it aware that the latest medical research indicates that the changeover has an adverse effect on people's health?

What view does it take of the fact that further countries have decided to abandon the practice of changing the clocks?

Are the above factors not sufficient reason for the Commission to change its stance, thus making life healthier and more economical for EU citizens?

 
  
 

(EN) As explained by the Commission in its reply to oral question H-000103/2010 of March 2010 session on the same subject(1), the report on the impact of the current summer time regime adopted by the Commission in 2007 concluded that the summer time regime has no negative impacts and generates some energy savings. The current arrangements do not constitute any cause for concern in the Member States of the EU, which have introduced summertime on a national basis and never questioned this decision since then.

The Commission has no indication that the situation has changed since the publication of the report and notably since it responded to the above oral question of 2010.

In particular, the Commission is not aware of any new representative evidence showing negative impacts of the current summertime arrangements in the EU.

The Commission has taken note that Russia recently decided to abandon the practice of changing the clock.

 
 

(1)http://www.europarl.europa.eu/QP-WEB/

 

Question no 35 by Rareş-Lucian Niculescu(H-000175/11)
 Subject: Shortage of phosphate-based fertilizers
H-000175/11
 

According to a recently published scientific report entitled ‘A Sustainable Global Society’, supplies of phosphate rock (which is used to produce the principal fertilizers for the cultivation of wheat, rice and maize) could be exhausted within the next 30 years. Australia, the world’s seventh largest wheat producer, is already facing difficulties as a result of markedly diminished phosphorus levels on farmland. The report indicates that investment is necessary to prospect for new phosphate reserves and develop technologies for extracting phosphates from water.

In view of this:

Is any information available regarding world phosphate rock supplies?

What have been the price trends over the last few years for phosphate-based fertilizers prices?

Does the Commission intend to promote research in this area with a view to discovering new sources of this commodity or possible substitutes?

 
  
 

(EN) A number of scientific studies have been published over the last few years on the question of world phosphate rock supplies. Whilst it is true that some of these studies have suggested a thirty year timeline for the remaining stocks, more recent data would seem to indicate greater reserves of phosphate rock, enough to supply current needs for a rather longer period(1).

However, this more recent data also indicates a significant concentration of these new reserves in one geographical area, raising questions around security of supply. In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that remaining reserves may be associated with increasing levels of cadmium and other heavy metals, thus posing a risk of greater costs required to eliminate these contaminants, or the potential pollution of soil from the use of lower quality fertilisers(2).

The information on prices available to the Commission indicates a sharp rise in prices of phosphate rock during 2008, followed by a stabilisation and then a more gradual rise in 2010/11.

The Commission has commissioned two studies in the past five years on this subject(3), as well as supporting research projects which address some aspects of the problem. Further research and innovation actions of relevance could be covered in the future as part of the overall approach to improving the sustainability of agricultural production and food security. There is no indication that it will ever be possible to substitute phosphorus in its essential use in fertilisers and feed supplements. Nor are there any alternative commodities that could replace phosphate rock.

However, information that was presented to the meeting of the Commission expert group on the sustainable use of phosphorus on 17 February 2011 indicates both that there has been a rise in prospecting for new phosphate reserves, and that there is significant potential to use this resource more efficiently. More efficient use would extend the availability of the resource while at the same time reducing environmental problems associated with overuse. Potential actions towards more sustainable use include more efficient prospection and extraction practices; greater processing of by-products; use of biotechnology to improve the efficiency of feed and fertiliser; modification of agricultural techniques to reduce inputs of fertiliser or losses of phosphorus (including better nutrient management planning at farm level); reducing the amount of food going to waste through modifying consumer behaviour and recycling of phosphorus from manure, waste water, sewage sludge and sewage sludge ashes.

The Commission intends to examine further this emerging resource issue within the context of the forthcoming road map on resource efficiency, foreseen for later in 2011.

 
 

(1)World Phosphate Reserves, International Fertiliser Development Council, 2010
(2)Sustainable Use of Phosphorus, Schroder, Cordell, Smit and Rosemarin, 2010
(3)Available at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/natres/phosphorus.htm

 

Question no 36 by Ivo Belet(H-000180/11)
 Subject: Checks on foodstuffs imported from Japan
H-000180/11
 

Following the nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant, by means of its Regulation (EU) No 297/2011 of 25 March 2011 the Commission has laid down special conditions governing the import of foodstuffs and feedingstuffs from Japan. One of the new measures introduced provides for the performance of stringent, systematic checks on products imported from Japan. In addition, on the basis of a decision taken by the Commission and the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (Standing Committee decision of 8 April 2011), the maximum permissible levels of radioactive contamination in foodstuffs have been lowered.

Does Regulation (EU) No 297/2011 require all foodstuffs from Japan to be removed from the EU market? Have Member States already submitted notifications under the Rapid Alert System concerning products showing an excessively high level of radioactive contamination?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 297/2011 of 25 March 2011 imposing special conditions governing the import of feed and food originating in or consigned from Japan following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station(1), as amended Regulation (EU) No 351/2011 of 11 April 2011(2) does not require all foodstuffs from Japan to be removed from the EU market.

Only feed and food not complying with the maximum levels for different radionuclides in feed and food provided for in Annex II to Regulation (EU) 297/2011 has to be withdrawn from the market. On 2 May 2011, no notification was yet received by the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) regarding a finding of high level of radioactive contamination of feed and food originating in or consigned from Japan.

In accordance with Article 8 of Regulation (EU) 297/2011, Member States inform the Commission weekly of all analytical results obtained. On 2 May 2011, the Commission has received the analytical results of 98 samples taken from feed and food from Japan and most of the samples showed no detectable levels of the radionuclides Iodine 131, Caesium-134 and Caesium-137. In the few samples where a level of radioactivity was detected, the level was close to the level of detection and far below the maximum permitted level.

Moreover in some samples radionuclides other than Iodine-131, Caesium-134 and Caesim-137 were analysed and no levels of these radionuclides were detected.

 
 

(1)OJ L 80, 26.3.2011
(2)OJ L 97, 12.4.2011

 

Question no 37 by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou(H-000181/11)
 Subject: Guarantee packages to underpin the Greek financial system and real economy
H-000181/11
 

In 2008, the Greek Government announced a support package for the Greek financial system consisting of a €5 billion preferred share issue, a €15 billion guarantee package and a €8 billion government bond issue. Subsequently, in 2010, guarantee packages of €15 billion and €25 billion were provided. Following the approval of the Commission, the Greek Government is now seeking the adoption of a further €30 billion guarantee package.

In view of this:

What is the Commission’s assessment to date of the functioning of the Financial Stability Fund (FSF) set up under the Greek economic support mechanism by the euro zone Member States and IMF with a view to stabilising the Greek banking system?

How does it assess its contribution to consolidating the capital adequacy of credit institutions underwritten by the Greek State?

Does it have information concerning the extent to which Greek Government guarantees have been channelled in to the real economy?

Have targets been set regarding the minimum percentage of guarantees to be earmarked for credit growth within the Greek economy?

 
  
 

(EN) The Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) is functioning and has already received the first tranche of funding. The Board has been operational since October 2010. To estimate possible future needs for reecapitalisation by the HFSF the Bank of Greece conducts regular solvency forecast exercises for the Greek commercial banks. The HFSF serves as a backstop for the Greek banking sector and stands ready to support it if ever there would be a need for it.

The availabity of the FSF to act as a backstop for banks facing solvency shortfalls has contributed positively to financial stability in Greece. For example, a number of banks were able to raise capital from private investors (NBG, Piraeus) despite challenging circumstances. A number of banks have enhanced their capital adequacy through deleveraging (Eurobank, Alpha).

The new tranche of EUR 30 billion in Government Guaranteed Bank Bonds was approved in order to further enhance the the liquidity cushion in the system called for on account of deposit outflows and erosion of collateral pledged with the Eurosystem that is due to market volatility, downgrades of the sovereign debt and changes to the ECB collateral rules. The banks access to the new tranche is conditional on the adoption of medium-term funding plans, outlining bank-specific targets and measures to reduce reliance on the Eurosystem liquidity. At the same time, these plans have to be consistent with the macro-economic and fiscal frameworks under the Programme and the restructuring plans requested under the EU State aid rules.

According to the information made available to the Commission no such targets have been set. Credit growth in Greece, however, is assumed to be in line with the macro-economic framework of the Programme.

 

Question no 38 by Mairead McGuinness(H-000187/11)
 Subject: Expert Platform on Business-to-Business (B2B) contractual practices in the food supply chain
H-000187/11
 

Can the Commission provide an update on the work of the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain and the work of the Expert Platform on Business-to-Business (B2B) contractual practices in particular?

Can the Commission comment specifically on the level of engagement by stakeholders in the B2B Platform, the next steps and likely outcomes? Does the Commission think that the constituent Expert Platforms of the High Level Forum are moving in the right direction and will ensure a satisfactory conclusion for all actors in the food supply chain?

 
  
 

(FR) During its first meeting on 16 November 2010, the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain, established by the Commission,(1) sought to begin technical work in four areas, namely business-to-business contractual relations in the food supply chain, the EU’s food price monitoring tool, competitiveness in the agro-food industry and agro-logistics. The Commission has already set up expert platforms on the first three areas and intends to set up a fourth on agro-logistics in 2011. The timetable of meetings held and to come is available on the Commission’s website(2).

Within the expert platform on business-to-business contractual relations in the food supply chain, the Commission has noted a commitment by the stakeholders involved in the debate to develop a common approach to the notion of fairness in business-to-business contractual relations. The expert platform is due to propose a definition of fair relations in September 2011, illustrated by practices that have actually been observed throughout the chain, with the most positive ones being emphasised where possible. The stakeholders have together developed a road map to achieve this objective. Depending on the progress made between now and June, the Commission could either approve this approach or propose a new working method to ensure that satisfactory results are obtained.

Furthermore, in line with the Communication ‘Towards a Single Market Act’(3) and with the report on the retail market monitoring report(4), in autumn 2011 the Commission plans to adopt a communication defining the problem of unfair commercial practices, presenting information concerning the national rules on these practices and their implementation, and highlighting possible courses of action. Also in autumn 2011, the Commission will present to the expert platform and the Forum a report on the work carried out by national competition authorities in the agro-food sector.

Drawing on these factual analyses, the expert platform on business-to-business contractual relations in the food supply chain is due to explore, during a second phase, possible actions and implementing tools with a view to possible recommendations by the High Level Forum.

The stakeholders in the expert platform on the food price monitoring tool have already given the Commission some useful suggestions on how to improve the tool. Furthermore, the platform is an important forum for developing synergies between the tool being developed at EU level and the price monitoring centres already operating in several Member States.

The expert platform on the competitiveness of the agro-food industry has the task of monitoring the implementation of a wide range of recommendations by the High Level Group that dealt with this issue in 2008 and 2009. Using the stakeholders’ contributions, the Commission proposed to focus the platform’s work on four topics to which a dialogue between the stakeholders in the Forum could bring considerable added value. The topics identified are: the social pillar of sustainable competitiveness, labelling, innovation and the internal market. This choice takes into account the work carried out in other forums involving various stakeholders, such as the European Food Sustainable Consumption and Production Round Table, and is intended to prevent the duplication of work. Each of the chosen topics will be the subject of a dedicated workshop. On 3 May 2011 a workshop was held on important societal issues in the food supply chain, and gave rise to a constructive debate on the role of corporate social responsibility and on the United Nations framework on business and human rights.

The expert platforms will report back to the High Level Forum. The Forum is due to meet for a second time in November 2011 in order to plan the technical work for the following year. Based on the progress made to date, the Commission believes that the High Level Forum will be capable of achieving satisfactory results before the end of its mandate in December 2012.

 
 

(1)Commission Decision 2010/C 210/03 of 30 July 2010 establishing the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain (OJEU C210 of 3.8.2010)
(2)Meetings already held: http://circa.europa.eu/Public/irc/enterprise/hl-forum-food-supply-chain/meetings?a=lprv
Forthcoming meetings (provisional dates): http://circa.europa.eu/Public/irc/enterprise/hl-forum-food-supply-chain/meetings?a=lftr
(3)Commission Communication ‘Towards a Single Market Act for a highly competitive social market economy – 50 proposals for improving our work, business and exchanges with one another’ COM(2010) 608 final/2
(4)Commission report: Retail market monitoring report ‘Towards more efficient and fairer retail services in the internal market for 2020’ COM(2010)355 final

 
Last updated: 7 September 2011Legal notice