Index 
Debates
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (announcement of motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes
 3. Multi-annual plan for western stock of Atlantic horse mackerel - TAC and quotas regulation for 2012 - Contribution of the common fisheries policy to the production of public goods (debate)
 4. Question Time (Commission)
 5. Other business
 6. Return of the sealed-off section of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants (written declaration)
 7. Voting time
  7.1. Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market and protection of intellectual property rights (A7-0003/2012 - Antonio Masip Hidalgo) (vote)
  7.2. Interconnection of central, commercial and companies registers (A7-0022/2012 - Kurt Lechner) (vote)
  7.3. EU–Guinea-Bissau protocol on fishing opportunities (A7-0017/2012 - Carl Haglund) (vote)
  7.4. Participation of Morocco in Union programmes (A7-0016/2012 - Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck) (vote)
  7.5. Vaccination against bluetongue (A7-0031/2012 - Janusz Wojciechowski) (vote)
  7.6. Technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros (A7-0292/2011 - Sari Essayah) (vote)
  7.7. Appointment of a member of the Court of Auditors - Mr Baudilio Tome Muguruza / ES (A7-0036/2012 - Inés Ayala Sender) (vote)
 8. Explanations of vote
 9. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 10. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting: see Minutes
 11. Food distribution to the most deprived persons in the Union (debate)
 12. Contractual relations in the milk and milk products sector (debate)
 13. Agreement between the EU and Morocco concerning reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products and fishery products (debate)
 14. Feasibility of introducing stability bonds (debate)
 15. Composition of interparliamentary delegations: see Minutes
 16. Radio spectrum policy (debate)
 17. Documents received: see Minutes
 18. Agenda of the next sitting: see Minutes
 19. Closure of the sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: MIGUEL ANGEL MARTÍNEZ MARTÍNEZ
Vice-President

 
1. Opening of the sitting
Video of the speeches
 

(The sitting opened at 09.00)

 

2. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (announcement of motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes

3. Multi-annual plan for western stock of Atlantic horse mackerel - TAC and quotas regulation for 2012 - Contribution of the common fisheries policy to the production of public goods (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the joint debate on the following oral questions:

- the oral question to the Council on the state of play regarding the proposed multi-annual plan for the western stock of Atlantic horse mackerel and the fisheries exploiting that stock, by Carmen Fraga Estévez and Pat the Cope Gallagher, on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries (O-000308/2011 – B7-0023/2012 ),

- the oral question to the Commission on the state of play regarding the proposed multi-annual plan for the western stock of Atlantic horse mackerel and the fisheries exploiting that stock, by Carmen Fraga Estévez and Pat the Cope Gallagher, on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries (O-000309/2011 – B7-0024/2012 ),

- the oral question to the Council on measures in the total allowable catch (TAC) and Quotas Regulation for 2012 exceeding the scope of Article 43(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, by Gabriel Mato Adrover, on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries (O-000016/2012 – B7-0032/2012 ),

- the oral question to the Commission on measures in the total allowable catch (TAC) and Quotas Regulation for 2012 exceeding the scope of Article 43(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, by Gabriel Mato Adrover, on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries (O-000017/2012 – B7-0033/2012 ),

- the oral question to the Commission on the contribution of the common fisheries policy (CFP) to the production of public goods, by Maria do Céu Patrão Neves on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), Marek Józef Gróbarczyk, on behalf of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, and Ulrike Rodust, on behalf of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, (O-000004/2012 – B7-0029/2012 ),

- the oral question to the Commission on the contribution of the common fisheries policy (CFP) to the production of public goods, by João Ferreira, Patrick Le Hyaric, Willy Meyer and Jacky Hénin, on behalf of the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (O-000029/2012 – B7-0038/2012 ).

 
  
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  Pat the Cope Gallagher, author . − Mr President, the main purpose of this debate is to trigger an exchange of views in plenary regarding the powers of Parliament and the Council as a result of the Lisbon Treaty. The Lisbon Treaty provides additional powers in the area of fisheries to the European Parliament under Article 43(2), and the establishment of long-term multiannual plans is a core pillar of the reform of the common fisheries policy. We must find a solution together with the Council for all future management plans.

In relation to horse mackerel, the management plan for horse mackerel is based on the implementation plan agreed by the Commission at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. At the summit the Commission agreed to maintain or to restore the stock to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield. The subsequent proposal by the Commission was drafted in close cooperation with the Pelagic RAC, which had originally put forward a proposal.

Egg surveys for horse mackerel have been conducted every three years since 1977. However, the data collected was insufficient to allow scientists to make a full assessment of the health of the stock. The proposed management plan addresses these difficulties by establishing a formula for vessels in the horse mackerel fishery known as the Harvest Control Rule. This rule provides a mechanism for calculating an additional ceiling of maximum allowable landings of horse mackerel harvested from the defined area. The plan was expected to come into operation in 2009 but was delayed by the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty. In November 2010 Parliament adopted my report by an overwhelming majority: 651 in favour and 15 against.

There were two principal issues which proved to be contentious when Parliament reviewed the dossier in 2010. Parliament overturned a previous decision to split the stock into two zones, separating area 8C located in the Bay of Biscay. It was correct to do so, as the scientific advice is clear on this matter: this is one stock which covers the entire geographical area. So as a compromise an amendment was adopted which states that the plan shall be implemented, taking into account artisanal fisheries and historical rights. This amendment was acceptable to the Council at the time and to the Pelagic RAC.

The other contentious issue referred to the Harvest Control Rule. In 2010 I met with representatives of the Belgian Presidency prior to the adoption of the report by the Committee on Fisheries. The Presidency suggested a proposal which provided the Council with a degree of flexibility in terms of the total removable amount when setting the total allowable catch in relation to the Harvest Control Rule. The proposal put forward by the Belgian Presidency was subsequently adopted by this Parliament.

So there are varying views between Parliament and Council on the Harvest Control Rule. However, the legal advice from our services is very clear. Multiannual plans are a fundamental and core aspect of the fisheries conservation tool provided for under EU law, and must be adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure via Article 43(2). Regrettably the Council is yet to adopt the first reading. However, I understand that the Danish Presidency is currently pursuing a proposal put forward by their predecessors before Christmas.

The delay has forced the committee to raise this matter in frustration in plenary, and hopefully progress can be made. I appreciate that all parties are working together in good faith in an effort to progress on this important dossier.

In recent weeks informal contacts have commenced once more with the Council, which I welcome. I hope that all three institutions will take a pragmatic and a sensible attitude going forward. I believe that this will enable us hopefully to have trialogues and a second reading. I shall do all possible, in conjunction with the shadow rapporteurs, the Fisheries Committee, the Commission and the Council, to reach a satisfactory conclusion which may not necessarily – and I repeat that, may not necessarily – create a precedent for other management plans.

Can I now don for one minute my Irish cap, as I have dealt with my position on fisheries? I want to refer to the haddock quota. I take the opportunity to raise an extremely important matter which has emanated from the December Council meeting where the ministers agreed to a 200% increase in the haddock quota in area 6A off the North-West.

There has been an explosion of haddock, so Annex 3 to the Council Conclusions calls on the Commission by emergency measures to adopt the necessary catch composition requirement by mid-February to allow the fishermen to avail themselves of an increased haddock quota. It appears, however, that trawling will be the only fishing gear that may be used, and many of the small in-shore and small island and coastal vessels use gillnets which are more environmentally-friendly than any other type of gear. I therefore appeal to the Commissioner to use her influence to ensure that gillnets will be permitted under the emergency measure. Otherwise an amendment to the technical conservation measures regulation will be needed which will have to go through the co-decision procedures.

Finally, I refer to the concept of regionalisation. Measures such as the approval of gillnets are a prime example for regionalisation. These decisions must in future be taken at local level and not national level. In relation to the other matter, I confirm that we will work closely together to try and move on within the next number of weeks or months.

 
  
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  Gabriel Mato Adrover, author. (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, Minister, please believe me when I say that, with this being my first speech before this House as chair of the Committee on Fisheries, I would rather not have had to make it, because we are not only going to talk about fishing, total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas – although these are very important – but also issues of jurisdiction.

The question I asked on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries relates to the Treaty of Lisbon and how it should be applied in the area of fisheries policies, and, as I said previously, this goes much further than an isolated discrepancy. It concerns the undertaking by the three institutions – Parliament, the Council and the Commission – to accept the rules of the game that we agreed upon, based on the premise which underlies the Treaty: to take appropriate decisions, each according to its responsibilities, in the interests of the citizens of Europe.

There is no doubt that the new Treaty has made major changes to the decision-making process for fisheries policy, and understandably it is going to take time to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that the new procedures operate correctly and in full. However, unfortunately we have learned from experience in the two years since the Treaty came into force that the Council and, in some cases, the Commission continue to deliberately – or so I believe – put up obstacles in an attempt to prevent Parliament from exercising its new prerogatives. This is unacceptable.

Parliament cannot accept under any circumstances that the Council should continue to operate as if nothing had changed, as if Parliament were a mere bystander and the Treaty of Lisbon and the new division of competences had never existed. Minister, Commissioner, whether you like it or not, Parliament cannot be excluded from making decisions on fisheries policy, whether internal or external. These are not my words, they are the Treaty’s.

Now, once again, following the Commission’s proposal, the Council has sought to exceed the scope of Article 43(3) of the Treaty, quite unacceptably in our view, in an attempt to exclude Parliament’s voice from the decision-making process.

The procedure laid down in this article clearly refers to the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities, that is, decisions on TACs and quotas, and to these two aspects alone – not to a whole series of other measures for achieving the objectives of the common fisheries policy, which would be covered by Article 43(2).

As is stated in the preamble to the question, technical measures, such as prohibition or restricted zones and periods, restricted fishing depths and specific requirements related to fishing gear can in no way be interpreted as falling under the remit of Article 43(3).

Parliament’s position is quite clear. We have been stating it for some time now: you cannot take a broad interpretation which is in clear contradiction with any exceptional status. Our reaction, in various dossiers, has always been to seek proportionate measures. We clashed over the Venezuela–French Guiana dossier, when the Council decided to forge ahead without Parliament’s consent. We had no alternative than to go to the European Court of Justice. Also when we opposed the Council’s blocking of long-term plans for hake and anchovy; we disagreed and we chose the first reading to try to negotiate seriously with the Council for a second reading.

In terms of TAC and quota regulations we have been even more tolerant, if that is possible. It has not escaped our attention that what was adopted in 2010 and 2011 – in both cases on the basis of Article 43(3) – was done incorrectly. We continued to insist that sufficient time should elapse before the Council and the Commission could take joint decisions and were operating correctly. However, now of course we realise that in this case they are introducing a recital on certain conditions, functionally linked to the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities, when clearly the concept of associated conditions, formerly covered in Article 20 of the Regulation, has been explicitly omitted from the new Treaty.

The Members of the European Parliament thought that we should allow some time to elapse. However, we are – and I say this clearly – most disappointed because in 2012, three years after the Treaty of Lisbon came into force, there are still major discrepancies between what the Commission proposes and what the Council approve, on the one hand, and what the Regulation states on the other. In my view, neither institution has given any indication that it is willing to abandon this broad interpretation of Article 43(3) for once and for all, and adopt another procedure that is more respectful of Parliament’s prerogatives.

To conclude, there is unanimity among groups, coordinators and all the Members. We have made our approach very clear in our oral questions and I would like the Commission and the Council to answer the questions we have put to them today just as clearly.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves, author.(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, it is in the context of the reform of the CFP that this question for oral answer is being asked on a resolution on the contribution of the common fisheries policy (CFP) to the production of public goods.The reform should start considering a holistic understanding of fishing and also of the crisis in Europe, which requires the contribution of all social and professional sectors, including fishing, if it is to be effectively overcome.

The objectives of this motion for a resolution are clear. The first is to demand recognition for the multifunctional nature of fisheries. This involves raising awareness that fishing is not merely the traditional activity of extraction, processing and trade since, on top of these aspects and their socioeconomic value, fisheries also play an important role in terms of, inter alia , history, culture, recreation, science, energy, the environment and education. It thus produces public goods to which society is entitled and which should be taken into account for CFP funding.

A second objective is to put forward the notion of conditionality; that is, positive discrimination for anyone providing proof that they have implemented best fishing practices, whether in the fishing gear used, the rejection of illegal fishing, or in efforts to reduce by-catch. A further effect of this measure will therefore be to make ship owners and fishermen work more closely together on surveillance and monitoring procedures.

A third objective is to demonstrate how fishing itself, and as part of a wider maritime policy, contributes to the Rio+20 Summit goals of job creation and poverty elimination, and to the Europe 2020 strategy, promoting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth through its increasingly scientific basis, ecosystem structuring and professional training. Only this renewed, holistic, modern conception of fishing can turn it into a true engine of development, which is slowly reaching the coastal areas of the Member States surrounded by sea, such as Portugal, and maritime regions like islands and, in particular, the outermost regions, such as the Azores. We cannot demand anything less of the upcoming reform.

 
  
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  Ulrike Rodust, author. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, what are we dealing with here today? We are trying to adopt multi-annual plans for our fishing stocks in order to bring an end to overfishing in our seas.

Multi-annual plans are the key tool in our fisheries policy. The fish in question today, the Atlantic horse mackerel, is just one example of many. We aim to produce management plans for all commercially fished species. Almost exactly 16 months ago, we were here in the House and Parliament adopted its position on this multi-annual plan. We have had the attempt to negotiate with the Council. Unfortunately nothing came of the talks, as the fisheries ministers within the Union apparently would like to work without involving Parliament when it comes to important issues. Over the past 16 months, the Council has not budged an inch. It has demonstrated complete obstinacy, a quality that is not a bad one to have in politics, but in this case it is scandalous. The Council has ensured that there are absolutely no new long-term management plans in place. It is as if the tug of war between the institutions were more important than a sensible policy for our fishermen, for our environment and for our citizens. If we want people to be satisfied with the European Union, we must deliver results. In the area of fisheries policy, we have not done that for two years now.

In the past, European fisheries policy was in the sole hands of the Council of Ministers. Unfortunately, the result was a disaster. That the ministers should now have the idea of continuing to make policy without Parliament’s involvement seems, against that backdrop, to be something of a bad joke! If we were to actually negotiate with one another about the reform of the common fisheries policy the citizens of the European Union would also observe who was going into bat for a progressive policy and who was putting the brakes on.

Ministers, please take a look at yourselves and then manoeuvre yourselves out of this dead end as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Marek Józef Gróbarczyk, author.(PL) Mr President, the common fisheries policy has tremendous significance and impact on local fishing communities as a common good. Tradition, culture and the passing down of the fishing profession through the generations have been features of European history since time immemorial. Fishing is one of the oldest economic activities undertaken by humankind and its importance goes beyond economic considerations. To date, implementation of the common fisheries policy has been an overwhelming disaster, not only as regards the environment, since stocks are not at the level they should be, but also in terms of protecting the fishing sector and communities, which now find themselves in a particularly difficult situation.

Special attention should be paid to small-scale fishing because of its cultural and social value, and also because it is a source of income for small family undertakings that create many jobs on the labour market. In certain parts of Europe fishing is the only source of income and the only way of providing for families. In my view, the future of small-scale fishing is uncertain and gives rise to many concerns, for example the sale of individual fishing quotas. Another very important factor is competitiveness. When this amounts to setting small-scale fishing against huge processing conglomerates, together with unrestricted liberalisation of the market, it heralds a bleak future. What is most important, however, is handing traditions down through the generations and passing on the knowledge, skills and spirit that are integral to the fishing profession. I should like to ask the Commissioner what action she intends to take to make fishing a more attractive profession, and what strategy she plans to adopt to encourage the younger generations to take it up.

 
  
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  João Ferreira, author. (PT) Mr President, Commissioner, in addition to the strategic importance of the fisheries sector for the public fish supply and for the food balance of the Member States, it also contributes significantly to the socio-economic welfare of coastal communities, local development, employment, and the maintenance and creation of economic activities and jobs both upstream and downstream of fishing itself.

The European Union common fisheries policy has thus far neglected the importance of the multi-functional nature of the sector and, with it, the so-called ‘production of public goods’. The deep economic and social crisis that affects the fisheries sector, – the result of a policy whose central tenet has in many cases consisted merely of the indiscriminate decommissioning of vessels – is jeopardising the release and full use of the sector’s huge potential in numerous areas, including the economic, social, historic-cultural, scientific, educational and environmental, among others.

The question, Commissioner, is whether the current reforms proposed for the CFP will contribute to changing this picture or whether, on the contrary, they will maintain it or even aggravate it. Unfortunately, the signs so far from the Commission are not only discouraging, but worrying. The defence of an increasingly market-oriented CFP and the progressive removal of public support structures – the overall philosophy that inspires the reforms – ignores the fact that the market does not recognise, or remunerate as it should, many of the so-called ‘positive externalities’ at a social and environmental level for which parts of the fleet that are less competitive from a strictly economic viewpoint are responsible.

In the general context of the fisheries sector, small-scale coastal fishing and artisanal fishing, segments that make up the bulk of the industry in many Member States, are known to be of particular importance for multi-functionality and the production of public goods. Yet the importance of this segment of the fleet is not sufficiently recognised by the Commission proposal. On the contrary, the Commission uses a definition of small-scale fishing that is reductive and disconnected from reality, at the same time that it proposes a modification of the CFP management system based on the creation, mandatory in all Member States, of a system of transferable individual concessions that is likely to seriously damage small-scale coastal fishing and artisanal fishing and, with them, the multi-functionality of the sector and the production of public goods.

If this system goes ahead, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that it does not, not one, I repeat, not one of the safeguard clauses already proposed by the Commission will prevent the inevitable concentration of the activity among operators with greater economic and financial might, firstly on a national scale, and then inevitably, sooner or later, on a European scale. It would be yet another significant factor in the decline of numerous fishing communities dependent on fishing.

These are trends that must be halted and reversed. There are other paths, alternative paths that will make it possible to reverse the decline of the sector and lead the way towards the full use of its tremendous potential. This path involves proposals such as linking the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to other instruments, particularly cohesion policy, to promote economic and social cohesion within those coastal communities most dependent on fishing; support for economic activities associated with fishing, both upstream and downstream of it; and the diversification and not the substitution of fishing activities, with the development of complementary activities. Projects with integrated solutions that benefit all coastal communities as widely as possible should be preferred over those that benefit only a limited number of operators. Access to these projects should be guaranteed to fishermen and families and not only to ship-owners.

Other proposals include measures to rejuvenate the sector and encourage more young people to take up the occupation, by providing support to meet their professional training and start-up needs, among other things; the promotion of land-based activities; the recognition and promotion of the role of women in fishing; and the creation of an EU programme to support small-scale fishing that, by using several tools, particularly at a financial level, will respond to the specific problems of this segment and support sustainable, local management of the fisheries involved.

These are just some of the many proposals in our resolution that we believe the current reform should take on board, for the sake of the recognition of the multi-functional nature of the fisheries sector and the production of public goods.

 
  
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  Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council . − Mr President, let me first take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Mato Adrover on his election as Chair of the committee. Unfortunately my colleague, the Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Ms Mette Gjerskov, was not able to be here today. However it is a pleasure for me to take part in this important debate on fisheries. I would like to address the different issues raised one by one.

On the horse mackerel multi-annual plan, the Council shares the view expressed previously by Ms Fraga and today by Mr Gallagher on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries that the establishment of long-term management plans is key to conservation. That is why the Council has adopted 10 such plans since 2003 covering many, if not most, of the major stocks in the Union waters.

I am pleased to inform you that the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the Council made considerable progress last November on a way forward on the proposed multiannual plan for the stock of western horse mackerel. I understand that Ms Fraga, Mr Gallagher and the shadow rapporteurs were informed of the outcome in early December. Against this background the Council will now be in a position to examine in full Parliament’s positions in first reading, and to that end work is beginning this week. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Honourable Members for their positive and pragmatic approach and I hope that results can be achieved.

I turn now to the proposed plan for the anchovy stock in the Bay of Biscay, which was also raised by the Honourable Members. The Council position is that this plan is not in line with the Treaty. The Council, at the level of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, therefore asked the Commission in the autumn of 2010 to withdraw the proposal. The Council has not discussed the plan since then.

The Council agrees that long-term management plans are one of the key elements of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. That is why it has made such an effort to unblock the situation for the plan for western horse mackerel. The Council is fully committed to cooperating with Parliament and the Commission to agree on a way forward. We are ready to work with you on this plan and on other long-term and management plans which are at the centre of conservation and of the reform of the common fishery policy.

I now turn to the issue of total allowable catch and quota regulation and begin by thanking Mr Mato Adrover for his question on the adoption of the 2012 fishing opportunities. I would like to start by restating that the Council continues its commitment to adopt measures that are fully in line with the relevant legal provisions. I strongly believe that this commitment is also reflected in the adoption of fishing opportunities for 2012.

The Commission presented two proposals for adoption of measures on the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities for 2012, one on the internal aspect and the other on the external aspect. The Commission based its proposal on Article 43(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, under which the Council shall adopt measures on a proposal from the Commission on the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities.

The Council consistently agreed with the Commission’s choice of legal basis for the following reasons. The Council considers that Article 43(3) represents a self-standing specific legal basis that applies to clearly identified measures to be adopted under the Common Fisheries Policy. Furthermore, Article 43(3) of the Treaty speaks of measures which indicate that the authors of the Treaty intended to give the Council powers to adopt all measures that are inextricably linked to the fixing and allocation of fishing opportunities. They can only cover measures which have a direct bearing on the quantitative fishing entitlements.

Finally, I would like to conclude by saying that, since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the objectives for the common fisheries policies, including those concerning multiannual plans, must be adopted in the ordinary legislative procedure with agreement between Parliament and the Council. The Council is committed to respecting that.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to a very good debate here in Parliament today.

 
  
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  Maria Damanaki, Member of the Commission . − Mr President, I would like to welcome the presence of the Council here: it is very important for everybody, Minister, to have you in this debate. So, honourable Members, I very much welcome the opportunity to discuss with you some very important issues.

The two first issues concern the new framework we have under the Lisbon Treaty, and I would like to repeat that the Commission is here to cooperate with everybody during this transitional period in order to find practical solutions. I reiterate that it is not the Commission’s aim, Mr Mato Adrover, to go against this House. We are trying to cooperate with everybody, and I think that citizens watching us in the context of the crisis would like to see all the EU institutions cooperating in the best way we can.

Regarding the horse mackerel plan and the long-term management plans in general, I agree with you, Mr Gallagher, and with Ms Rodust and the Presidency of course, that this is an issue of great importance in relation to the sustainability of stocks: it really is a matter of urgency. I agree with you also, Mr Gallagher, because, since this plan was proposed in 2009, we have based all quota proposals on the plan, and today this stock is actually fished fairly sustainably. This, therefore, is the way to go, and we have to be sure that we can secure this approach.

The problem in relation to these long-term management plans is – to cut a long story short – between Parliament and the Council. We need to agree on the respective competences of the two institutions, and this is something we have to do in cooperation, as best we can. So, the Council, Minister, has to do whatever it can to take the right decisions in order to find a solution here, and we need to compromise. We will facilitate this in any way we can.

I would call on you, Minister, to take the decision in the Council as quickly as possible to go for a second reading. The only way to reach a compromise here is to go for the second reading in Parliament and the Commission. I promise here that we will do everything we can to facilitate the procedure but we need an urgent decision from you, the Council, in order to proceed.

Regarding the application of Article 43 of the Treaty, I agree with everybody that the procedure for fishing opportunities is an exception to the ordinary legislative procedure and therefore that it should be interpreted very strictly, and this is exactly what we are doing.

I would like to remind you that, since 2010, the Commission has consistently limited its proposals to fishing opportunities and conditions functionally linked to them. Let me be clear here: fishing opportunities are quantified fishing rights. The Treaty refers to ‘fishing opportunities’. As a matter of principle, a quantified fishing right cannot exist in a void, so – while the Treaty does not refer to TACs and quotas – a TAC area or an allowed fishing season, for example, is necessary for fishing opportunities to work. Let all of us be reasonable here. We are talking about fishing opportunities and we have to respect the Treaties, so these conditions are functionally linked to fishing opportunities as they have a direct bearing on them.

This, then, is our position: we have to cooperate here and we have to find the best way that all three institutions can live together. I do not think we face a power game here, and it is not a matter of the Commission trying to prevent Parliament from exercising its new powers.

In relation to the last item raised by other Members of the House – Mr Ferreira, Mr Gróbarczyk and Ms Patrão Neves – namely, the contribution of the common fisheries policy to the production of public goods, I would like to highlight the specific measures provided for under the reform to improve the situation of the fisheries sector and, in particular, of small-scale fisheries and coastal communities. While I do not have time to discuss the whole idea of the common fisheries policy, I would like to focus on this issue of social sustainability.

Healthy stocks support larger catches of bigger fish. We have to realise that the only way to have a healthy fisheries sector is to have healthy stocks. There is no other way. We cannot invent any other way. We can give a lot of subsidies, a lot of money – taxpayers’ money – but if we do not have healthy stocks, then there is no way to have a healthy sector. This is something we all need to understand because healthy stocks can improve profitability and the wages and employment of fishermen, and also of people working in processing; and that is the best way of encouraging young people – whom Mr Gróbarczyk mentioned specifically – to come into the sector. If young people see that there is an income to be earned there, then they will come.

Of course we can do more: I am not shirking my responsibilities, or the Commission’s responsibilities, and I am trying to do more in the framework of my reform proposals. Our funding has an important role to play here. I would underline the fact that we are paying special attention to small-scale fisheries. Why? Because the small-scale sector represents close to 80% of our fishing vessels and around 40% of onboard employment. We are taking special care here, as you can see in our proposal on small-scale vessels. We have recognised the importance of this sector and have made an effort to propose dedicated measures for these fleets.

What are these measures? Business and innovation advisory services and higher aid intensity – and I would ask you not to overlook the latter, which includes a wide range of measures aimed at increasing income by supporting selectivity, marketing, product quality and innovation. We also want to support producer organisations and improvements in working conditions, safety, hygiene and training. We have special measures for all of this in our funding. I also made sure that the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) has increased funding for the sustainable development of coastal areas. In our impact assessment we came to the conclusion that the EMFF could result in around 12 500 additional full-time jobs in the sector.

Honourable Members, you rightly call for attractive jobs. I can understand the situation. I really can understand the situation of fishermen and their families and of coastal communities in the middle of the economic crisis, so I am determined to deliver on your demand, and I am convinced that together we can get it right. Your proposals are very welcome and I will try to my best to adopt all possible measures to give our small-scale fisheries and our coastal communities a future.

 
  
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  Guido Milana, on behalf of the S&D Group.(IT) Mr President, my remarks are intended directly for the Commissioner and the Minister. Commissioner, a year and a half ago, I urged you to act courageously as, in doing so, you would have had the support of Parliament. Now it seems to me that, instead, the idea prevails that Parliament is a sort of deadweight, a frill, in the procedures and that the Commission often prefers to take a stance that differs little if at all from the Council’s, which avoids having a genuine relationship with Parliament.

Today, we are debating the reform of the common fisheries policy. Parliament is asking questions, while ministers are already mediating the Commission’s proposal. This goes beyond the application of Article 43(3). We must really reinstate the principle that the Treaty of Lisbon conferred on Parliament, and I believe that on this point, we must take a cultural leap in our relationships, rather than work in fine detail, trying to grasp whether we are on the right track by following this or that procedure. This is a different problem. I believe that we are still not aware of the role that Parliament can play when it comes to the fisheries sector.

Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, we shall vote on the report that has been presented to us in a distinguished manner this morning by Ms Patrão Neves. If Parliament supports it, this resolution will immediately draw very important lines in the sand for the coming reform.

I am not absolutely persuaded by the proposals regarding the socioeconomic aspect of the proposed reform. They effectively amount to driving the workforce out of the sector, not about finding alternative employment. I believe that here too we must take a culturally different direction. The list of issues you have drawn up is really short, as it does not set out a scenario for substituting fishing by some other occupation, where, say, aquaculture or tourism could have a key role.

I believe that these measures have simply been relegated to a question of transferable rights, which, Commissioner, give absolutely no guarantee of a socioeconomic application for the reduction in fishing, because …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Chris Davies, on behalf of the ALDE Group . – Mr President, I am sorry that some Members have still not understood the concept that if there were no fish there would be no jobs for fishermen. This debate is important because it sets a precedent for the future, for the setting of long-term management plans – which has been recognised as crucial to the whole reform of the common fisheries policy – and showing that we have sustainable fish for the future.

The Minister has referred to Article 43(3) of the Treaty, which says that the Council should adopt measures on fixing quantitative limitations and the allocation of fishing opportunities, but Article 43(2) says that the European Parliament, in partnership with the Council, shall establish the provisions necessary for the pursuit of the obligations of the common fisheries policy. Clearly there is a dispute and a lack of clarity here. Whatever other disputes there may be amongst Members of this Parliament, I suspect we will mostly be united on standing up for the position of Parliament as we see it in the Treaty.

It is not as though the Council has a very good record to defend. We know that its application of Article 43(3) has been abysmal, involving annual meetings which are notorious even amongst former fisheries ministers. These are gladiatorial contests where ministers come to stand up for national interests, over-fishing and setting limits. According to the University of York’s latest estimates, over the past few years these have exceeded best scientific advice by 33%, with the result that we have seen too much over-fishing and a decline in fish stocks across the European Union.

Looking to the future, we all recognise that long-term management plans are key. I think it is important that we also recognise the urgency of this. If we are to achieve maximum sustainable yield by 2015, we have got to get the reformed fishing regulation through as quickly as possible, and the Commission is going to have to come forward with long-term management plans in rapid succession, which must clear the parliamentary process in rapid succession. We have to keep delays to a minimum, so this matter must be resolved.

I welcome the fact that the Danish Presidency has this high on its agenda and I thoroughly support the Commissioner in what she is saying, which is: let us go for a second reading, let us have our debate, let us make absolutely clear what are the lines of difference between the Council and the Commission, and then let us negotiate. This will be resolved by negotiation between the two institutions. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can put in place the measures necessary to ensure that we have healthy fish stocks for the future.

 
  
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  Isabella Lövin, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group . – Mr President, everyone agrees, it seems, that in the future common fisheries policy long-term management plans should be the basis of management. This failure to come up with a solution for anchovy and for horse mackerel – for two years now the institutions have not really come up with a solution – could be interpreted by citizens as proof that the EU institutions are not mature enough or efficient enough to deal with even such relatively simple questions. These issues need to be resolved for the EU to be credible in its reform of fisheries policies. We need to put this dispute on competences into perspective in relation to the real issue here, which is that we have the responsibility to defend and optimise what is really a public good – fish and the marine environment.

This leads me to the second topic of this debate, the contribution the CFP makes to the common good. Let us be honest here. Technology advances all the time and fishermen become more and more efficient at fishing, which means we need fewer fishermen today to catch the same amount of fish as were caught yesterday. Employment in the catching sector in Europe today accounts for less than 0.1% of the total EU labour force and half of these licensed fishermen are only fishing part-time. Any increased employment in the sector must involve things other than being more efficient at fishing. This could be ‘pesca-tourism’, it could mean adding value to catches in different ways, but one thing is for sure, if increased employment is what we want then we cannot promote more efficient fishing methods, including giving funds to fuel-efficient engines.

I would also like to point out that it is a proven fact that over-fishing promotes algal blooms in Europe, causing lots of problems for different sectors. Fish in aquaculture pens die because of it, fishing gear gets clogged by it, and tourists seek other destinations when they cannot swim because of the green pea soup. A low estimate puts costs in Europe caused by algal bloom at EUR 177 million per year. When we speak about fish as a common good it is very important to keep in mind the different functions of wild fish in our oceans. One is to provide food, but another much more important one is that fish are crucial agents in the marine ecosystems. When we deplete stocks, water quality suffers and thereby many other economic sectors in Europe, such as tourism, do so too.

 
  
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  Struan Stevenson, on behalf of the ECR Group . – Mr President, I am sure that the focus of the world today is not on the western stock of Atlantic horse mackerel. However, it has become iconic in terms of the log-jam that has developed between this House and the Council.

I absolutely agree with the interpretation that Commissioner Damanaki has placed on this. We are in accord between Parliament and the Commission on the correct legal basis and our approach to this particular resolution, but this has been jammed now for over three years. Since the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty we have had no movement at all from the Council, and Chris Davies is absolutely right in saying we are looking to the Danish Presidency to sort this out.

We need multi-annual plans for a future sustainable fishery in European waters, so horse mackerel has to be sorted out: break the log-jam and then let us get ahead with a proper way of working between the three EU institutions.

 
  
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  John Bufton, on behalf of the EFD Group . – Mr President, the report released by the Court of Auditors last week laid bare the failings of the common fisheries policy. EUR 1.7 billion has been wasted since 2002 in vessel decommissioning, which has failed to demonstrate any tangible result as the CFP cannot specify where overcapacity exists. Instead, 90% of stocks are now overfished – 30% beyond safe biological levels. On top of that, 100 000 jobs have been lost.

The Prince of Wales’ think-tank, the International Sustainability Unit, specifies that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem. Management of stocks must be dynamic and localised. Devolving control of waters to local level would create an incentive for fishermen to maintain resources in the long term, as they would directly profit from the proliferation of their own stock. The British fleet is permitted to catch only one-fifth of the fish in UK waters. The sense of husbandry was lost when EU waters were carved up to serve a range of foreign vessels. Short-term profit is the only focus for a boat that has travelled far from its own coastline to fish.

The report also highlights the importance of managing the marine ecosystem as a whole, rather than targeting individual species, which can have a knock-on effect on other stocks. Only through locally managed real-time area closures can we rebuild an ecologically sound, profitable fishing industry. Through restoring the UK share of fish stocks alone, the industry could also employ 46% more people and make an extra GBP 400 million – equivalent to 24 times the UK annual subsidy. Subsidies artificially reduce the cost of fishing, allowing it to continue beyond the point of profitability.

Norway and Iceland are leading examples of successful redirection of subsidies and management of stocks. They, of course, are not in the EU. In Iceland, spawning rates have doubled. I am sure that if everyone appealed to common sense and examined the Commission’s track record they would agree that the best way of protecting the ocean for future generations and safeguarding national fishing industries is to take control out of the hands of the European Union.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI ). - Mr President, over the past two years the Pelagic Regional Advisory Council and others have exuded a great deal of energy in the development of a multiannual plan for the western stock of horse mackerel. They are understandably upset that their efforts are being frustrated by a failure to implement the plan, a situation which is being blamed by some on the ongoing game of ping-pong between the EU’s institutions, namely this Parliament and the Council.

The development of long-term management plans is the way forward for Europe’s commercial fisheries. The absence of such a plan was one of the reasons given for the imposition of a 10 % cut in Irish Sea herring for 2012, although I must say that this was also a moveable argument over the course of these negotiations in the weeks and months before it. However, this plan is now being fast-tracked.

I hope that the positive, scientific assessment on Irish Sea herring, together with the advice contained in the plan, will be reflected in a mid-year decision to increase the TAC to a level reflecting the current state of the stock.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec (PPE ).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, Minister, ladies and gentlemen, for once I agree with Mr Davies: no fish means no fishermen.

The situation regarding the multi-annual plan for the western stock of Atlantic horse mackerel is of concern to us today for several reasons. This management plan was adopted by Parliament in November 2010 in order to ensure that stocks would be managed sustainably. Since then, Parliament is still awaiting the Council’s first reading. It is therefore crucial for the Council to take a stand on this plan.

As long as the situation remains at a standstill, nothing will be done about Atlantic horse mackerel stocks and the resource will be under threat. This deadlock is due to an institutional conflict which must be resolved as quickly as possible. Like my fellow Members, I believe that the management plan comes under the ordinary legislative procedure. Parliament showed that it was open to discussion by introducing flexibility with regard to the method of calculating fishing opportunities. The Council must now explain why it has not taken a stand on this matter at first reading. This deadlock is also delaying progress on related issues such as that of the anchovy, as well as all future multi-annual plans for adoption.

We also call for the Commission to facilitate dialogue between Parliament and the Council. On the eve of the common fisheries policy (CFP) reform, under which management plans must be applied across the board, we must haul ourselves out of this institutional deadlock which is detrimental to the conservation of resources.

Moreover, with regard to Ms Patrão Neves’s initiative, I naturally share his concern that the fishing sector be considered as contributing to the production of public goods and that the principle of conditionality be applied.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to remind you again that we are in Strasbourg, which is the only seat of the European Parliament according to the Treaties.

 
  
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  Kriton Arsenis (S&D ). - Mr President, fishing does not happen in a void. It happens within our seas and is based on fish stock availability. Thus, having more fish is about fishermen’s income and about securing jobs. That is why the show that we put on for the Council, each time we have to make and put forward our decisions on TAC quotas and multiannual plans, is really misplaced. In the midst of this European debt crisis we always take the decision to fish, to consume more now and create debt for the future.

In the reform of the common fisheries policy Parliament will be asking for fisheries reserves, so as to add this discussion an element seeking to reassure people that there will be fish available and that there will be more fish in our seas, more easily fished by our fishermen, both for our fishermen and our coastal communities, and for our common future. I have just seen a description of what Parliament will be asking for, namely that fishery reserves are areas where we do not fish, where we leave the stocks to be revitalised and come back to their original numbers. And around them we can catch more fish much faster and more easily.

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE ). - Mr President, over the lifetime of the CFP the Commission and the Council have gathered ever more powers to themselves. They have extended the remit of the December Council far beyond deciding upon fishing opportunities. Now the Commission and Council are taking a restrictive approach in interpreting the Lisbon Treaty to allow themselves to continue with these centralised powers and, worse, to claim that the Treaty prevents a radical approach to decentralisation.

My constituents in the fishing nation of Scotland will not be impressed if CFP reform does not sweep away the failed practices which have so discredited the European Union’s role in fisheries management. If environmental and social sustainability is to be achieved, I think that decentralisation has to be at the top of the agenda and that returning real management power to fishing nations would ensure that those with most to gain from successful conservation would have, for the first time, the incentive to make it happen.

 
  
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  Anna Rosbach (ECR ).(DA) Mr President, Commissioner, Minister, I support the questions that have been raised, but I do not want to talk about interinstitutional battles and horse mackerel.

A great deal has changed in the fisheries sector over the last 20 years. There are now far fewer active fishermen, but the fishing industry helps to create new jobs in other sectors. There are good opportunities in the small fishing communities for tourism and teaching as well as the supply of speciality products to local restaurants. The fishing industry contributes both to the cultural heritage of the local area and to general development in coastal areas. Fisheries must coexist with biodiversity and the marine environment. Aquaculture needs to be developed, for example by cultivating shellfish and algae for bioethanol, cosmetics and medicines. We must also fish out any waste and take care of the coastal marine environment.

We therefore need clarification of how the Commission and the Council currently intend to incorporate the added value provided by the sector into the reform of the common fisheries policy.

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI ). - Mr President, the best conservation measure would be for the UK to withdraw from the EU and regain exclusive control of our fishing grounds. Overfishing is the direct result of access to our waters by other Member States. Our default position is opposition to any common fisheries policy.

However, it would be churlish not to recognise the improvements that some of the proposals would bring. The end to the discard policy is welcome but long overdue. The return of unwanted fish that are likely to survive, the counting of other unintentionally caught adult fish towards quotas, and the selling of accidentally caught undersize fish for pet food and fishmeal are all reasonable proposals within the context of the common fisheries policy. But why has it taken so long for the EU to address the obscene discard policy? We are told that the policy will end in 2016. Will it really? And why has it been so long in coming?

For as long as we remain in the EU, the total allowable catch figures and the number of days at sea allocated to the UK must reflect the fact that we provide a massively disproportionate amount of the total fishing grounds and the stock of fish.

When it comes to Community aid to the fishery sector, our fishermen, such as those in Whitby, Hull and Grimsby, do not receive fair treatment. Our fishing sector gets only 3% of the aid, whereas Spain gets 26%, and Poland 17%. Our tonnage is just under half that of Spain, and our total catch is about three quarters. Even Romania, whose main catch is goldfish, gets more aid than the UK.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE ).(GA) Mr President, firstly I have a question for the Commission. Is the Commissioner ready to recognise that there is more to the common fisheries policy (CFP) than just catching fish, but that the CFP can add to the socio-economic life of coastal communities in terms of local development and creating jobs – directly and indirectly – in the sector?

For example, the majority of the fishing industry in Ireland is situated around the coast in remote communities which usually have no other industry, in places, for example, in which Irish is the community’s first language and in which aspects of the native culture are intertwined, for example music, dance, literature and other cultural pursuits. That is the socio-economic aspect I am emphasising.

Finally, I would like to say in my strongest words – and I speak here on behalf of the Irish MEPs – that we cannot accept the TACs (Total Allowable Catches). They would destroy the fishing industry and there is no doubt that that will happen if TACs are adopted. We cannot accept them.

 
  
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  Dolores García-Hierro Caraballo (S&D ). (ES) Mr President, Minister, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am not going to raise the issue of competences, because previous speakers have made it clear that the codecision procedure has applied since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force. Therefore, it is you who are responsible for bringing a multi-annual plan before this House on the measures needed to ensure that horse mackerel is fished in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable way.

Back in 2009 the Swedish Presidency had already promised that the Council would put forward an immediate plan in 2010. It is now January 2012 and we still only have one report in which – although it has been said that it broadly expresses the Commission’s opinions, and I agree – Spain cannot see any acknowledgement of one of its main concerns, which is how zones and fisheries are defined in the multi-annual plan.

Because in Spain we eat horse mackerel: we do not use it for fishmeal. It is a fresh fish that is eaten the same day, and which involves, in addition to the environmental sustainability of ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  James Nicholson (ECR ). - Mr President, Mr Mato’s question to the Council and the Commission quite rightly asks why the institutions are adopting year-on-year measures on tax and quotas as well as technical measures concerning restricted zones and depths. This is clearly a very broad interpretation of the legal basis for decisions which should only concern the ‘fixing’ and allocation of fishing opportunities.

Parliament has been excluded from the negotiations on these issues; this is clearly contrary to the spirit of the Lisbon Treaty. As we enter into a period of fisheries reform the Council and Commission will have to adopt a more constructive approach and attitude to Parliament.

In my own region the outcome of the recent Fisheries Council in December 2011 meant a 25% cut in the cod quota in the Irish Sea, among other cuts in stocks such as for herring. These developments will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the industry. The Common Fisheries Policy must go down the road to regionalisation.

The current micro-management of our waters is having a devastating effect on our fisheries industry. Brussels must realise one suit does not fit everyone and get on with the job and get the problem solved. That is the message the Council has to take away from here this morning.

 
  
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  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE ).(NL) Mr President, Commissioner, the questions being asked this morning indicate that, in whatever steps we as Parliament are about to take, we want to become more directly involved and to fulfil our legislative role with all seriousness. This applies to the text, the quota, as much as to the regulation. I am the rapporteur for the general regulation on the five funds and the questions seem to me to be heading in the right direction.

I would like to bring up one point today. As a Parliamentary representative of the Netherlands, I think back to what happened following the throwing out, at such a late stage, of the agreement with Morocco. The Spanish fishermen have claimed that this has harmed their trade and that they should be compensated from the Fisheries Fund. The same applies to Dutch fishermen. We are speaking of over EUR 5 million in lost income, and the question is whether the Fisheries Fund can similarly compensate us Dutch. It is a technically complicated question, but one that has been very much raised by those who elected me. A Spanish solution should surely be a Dutch one too. As the proverb says, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Could you please answer me on this?

 
  
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  Antolín Sánchez Presedo (S&D ).(ES) Mr President, fishing is about more than just supplying high-quality protein: it is a way of life. Therefore, the reform of the common fisheries policy is an indicator of the European Union’s commitment to sustainability. It should be a reform with a holistic dimension encompassing economic, social, regional and environmental aspects.

Two out of every 1000 jobs in the European Union are in the fisheries sector. In communities such as Galicia, this percentage is 15 times higher. It is therefore imperative to provide better jobs and an efficient, high-quality sector. It is also necessary for the sector to play a part in developing sustainable fishing and promoting development of the local area and fishing communities.

In terms of the environment, we need to preserve resources, ecosystems and biodiversity. We need to encourage good environmental practices, singling out not only small-scale fishing but also aquaculture, with extensive and traditional activities, and all this needs to be done within the framework of an integrated maritime policy.

There are many aspects – and the most important thing is to recognise that fishing is a multi-sectoral and multi-functional activity – and all of these need to be taken into account when reforming fisheries policy so that it can add value to the sector within the European Union.

 
  
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  Werner Kuhn (PPE ).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the debate about the sustainable management of the Atlantic horse mackerel is, of course, also a welcome opportunity to discuss what shape the common fisheries policy should take for the next 10 or 20 years. As we do so, we need to observe that what has been the practice up to now – fleshed out by appropriate implementing regulations from the Commission and its officials – did not prove its worth in all areas.

That does not mean, however, that we should throw those instruments that are tried and tested overboard. I am thinking, in that context, of relative stability, so that there is clarity about how quotas are distributed, so that we do not have an appreciation of value of quotas and total allowable catches (TACs) that are then left in the bank but instead see an exchange of quotas in individual sea areas. What we havehere is, in fact, a key question which relates to how we deal with our resources in the seas as a whole when it comes to discards, or fish that are thrown back. We need to find a solution for this issue.

The same also applies when we discuss how resources are frittered away. If we look at our stocks of birds of prey or seals, these are reserves that we in Europe cannot frivolously give away when we are an enormous market of 500 million inhabitants, who consume 8 million tonnes of fish and fishery products.

We are an enormous import market and for that reason we really must provide a future for coastal fishing and small-scale fishing in particular. Thus, we must include a means within our common fisheries policy of financially supporting young fishermen starting up new businesses, , who ultimately wish to take on a licence or a boat. We are already doing thisfor young farmers.

Similarly, we must not always discuss this matter in such dogmatic terms and simply repeat a refrain of ‘For goodness’ sake, no investment in the fleet!’ No, that is wrong. Some of the boats in our fleet are 60 years old and powered by outmoded diesel engines. These are the worst polluters of the environment, and we are not spending a single penny on renewing the fleet. I believe that this is an issue that we absolutely need to discuss.

In modern fishing, quotas must obviously be in proportion to engine power, and of course we need reasonable monitoring of fishing. However, if we publish multi-annual plans – for example for cod in the Baltic – and the Commission and its officials then come out and say that there need to be additional controls to ensure that even small, open boats, without a wheel house, keep a logbook …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE ).(GA) Mr President, it is clear from the debate here this morning that there is a lot of work to be done and that a great deal of cooperation will be required among Parliament, the Council and the Commission to discuss this issue and to take it to the second reading, as the Commissioner said. The sooner it happens, the better for the quantity of fish in the sea and for the fishermen’s way of life. Also, I commend my Irish colleague Pat the Cope Gallagher for the great work he always does on this issue.

I have a few brief points to make. I agree completely with the points made regarding the need for regionalisation, the preservation of coastal areas, the gillnets to which Mr Gallagher referred, the danger of transferable fishing concessions (TFCs) and the absolute desirability of eliminating discards. If we can address all that ...

(GA) we will have made great progress.

 
  
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  Phil Prendergast (S&D ). - Mr President, there is more to the fisheries sector than catching and processing fish: it brings numerous social, economic and cultural benefits to communities in Europe. The fishing sector now includes both the coastal tourism sector and aquaculture. The opening up of our coastal towns to fishing tourism generates direct and indirect employment opportunities worth promoting. Many fishing towns can be quite isolated, and by targeting coastal tourism and aquaculture, the Common Fisheries Policy can make such communities sustainable.

You can board a charter vessel to experience the thrill of sea fishing – in my constituency you can do this in Cork harbour for example – and various other tours allow people to hire small boats and go out to sea themselves to fish. Other tours bring people to fish off the wrecks of sunken ships. Small fishing communities cannot be assessed purely in economic or catch value terms. They often have a rich cultural heritage and vibrant gastronomic, economic and literary identities.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE ). - (ES) Mr President, when the Council formulates European policy it needs to do so in an open, transparent and participatory way.

Those were the principles we applied in the anchovy plan which was adopted by Parliament. However, the Council has chosen to follow an antiquated policy, maintaining the status quo, in an obscurantist way, without acknowledging the role of Parliament under the Lisbon Treaty and taking decisions on criteria which are not always in tune with the interests of the fisheries sector or of society as a whole. Meanwhile, the Commission says nothing.

They have to change the way they operate. If they do not, they will continue to enmesh themselves further in the political crisis they have created by their own actions. In the 21st century one leads, one does not command, yet you veto. You negotiate amongst yourselves, but authority and legitimacy should be obtained by consent.

Stop blocking this and other plans. Recognise the role of Parliament, because the challenge is to build the future of the fisheries sector together.

I am sorry to tell the Council and the Commission this, but despite their fine words today, they have disappointed me.

 
  
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  Ana Miranda (Verts/ALE ). - Mr President, I come from a fisheries nation, Galicia, where we have important fisheries communities and our economy and culture is very linked to the sea. We are very worried about the social and economic aspects of the reform of the fisheries policy, especially the implications for small-scale fisheries.

How can the Commission realise concrete measures to help small-scale fisheries, and especially the women and men working in fisheries communities? Small-scale fisheries are an example of social, territorial and economic cohesion and are also more ecological, but the sector is very concerned about the conservation of fish on account of the pollution of waters. We had the Prestige in Galicia and ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Ricardo Cortés Lastra (S&D ). - (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, we are facing a deep economic crisis that affects the fisheries sector. The Commission has been telling us that fishing is now sufficiently sustainable.

Well then, Ms Damanaki, we need fair fishing quotas, especially for species like mackerel and anchovy. We need to look at the allocation of quotas more carefully so that it does not have a detrimental effect on many European regions, including my region, Cantabria.

For this we need all these multi-annual plans. There are thousands of fishermen waiting for these institutional squabbles to be resolved. Fishing is a key, fundamental and competitive sector that has always sought to find a balanced solution that combines meeting the needs of fishermen and safeguarding fish stocks.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure.

 
  
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  Maria Damanaki, Member of the Commission . − Mr President, I share all the concerns of Members of Parliament with reference to the fisheries sector, coastal communities and the need to be sure about growth and jobs. I was in Vigo, Galicia yesterday and I saw there what is happening, so I can understand everything you are saying.

What can we really do? I agree with those Members of this House who stressed that, in order to achieve social sustainability, we need healthy stocks. I would like to remind some Members of this House of what has been happening up until now. In the past decade 30 % of jobs in the catching sector have been lost. So asking me to keep the status quo is not an option. We are going to lose more jobs. We have to change things. We have a proposal. You may disagree, but at least this is a proposal to move forward. We have to have discussions and find ways to sustain the stocks because, for example, if we reach maximum sustainable yield by 2015, many jobs will be added to the sector.

I would also like to emphasise that our proposal agrees with what we have already said, namely that fisheries is not only about stocks. It is a multi-sector and we need a multi-sectoral approach. We have ancillary sectors, as many of you stressed – processing, cooking, aquaculture, we have maritime tourism, we have a lot of issues in connection with this – so we have to try to find a balance between all these activities. This is what we are trying to do through our proposal. I hope that we will have the time to discuss it in this House in the proper way.

Many Members referred to the issue of regionalisation. I agree with you that this is of great importance. For example, Mr Gallagher referred to gillnets and the haddock stock. This is an issue we have to handle under codecision for the moment. We need regionalisation because, if we are going to approve the Commission’s proposal – and I know that you are not happy and not satisfied with this proposal, but let me give you this example – if this proposal, our proposal, for reform were in place then the Member States concerned could have these decisions as quickly as possible and the problem of gillnets would be solved. Now we have to go through co-decision.

There are also other issues, such as technical measures – there were a lot of references to these – which we can solve through the proposal as it stands. Of course, if we can improve it we will be happy to have your ideas.

Regarding other points, many references were made to the need for investment in the sector. I agree with you. We have to invest but we have to invest in gear selectivity and in real modernisation of the fleet, not in increasing over-capacity. This will not give us solutions. I would agree with Mr Bufton, who emphasised the importance of the Court of Auditors’ report. Yes, this is a European institution, the Court of Auditors, and I am very happy that you are highlighting the importance of this report. We will respect this report. That is why our proposal referring to subsidies in the sector in the future is aligned to this report.

Regarding the issue of Morocco, which was mentioned, we have taken a decision on Morocco referring to the previous protocol which was stopped by a decision of this House. This is not a Spanish decision but a European decision, so it refers to everybody who has something to do with the clear ideas of this decision.

My last point concerns institutional issues. I have a plea to make to the Presidency. We expect the Danish Presidency to move ahead on this subject. Parliament and the Commission are both expecting the Danish Presidency to move on. It is not enough to refer to the previous achievements of the previous presidencies. The previous presidencies of the Council did not move on this, as almost all the Members of this House pointed out. We need a step forward. At the very least we need an urgent decision in order to go for a second reading and a compromise.

 
  
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  Nicolai Wammen, President-in-Office of the Council. (DA) Mr President, Commissioner, honourable Members, thank you very much for this important debate. I would like to begin by thanking Mr Gallagher, Ms Lövin, Mr Davies, Mr Stevenson, Ms Dodds and others for the call to find a solution to this important, but also very difficult, issue concerning the multi-annual plan for the western stock of horse mackerel. The Council has spent a long time determining its position on this matter. However, as I have already said, the Council has made progress in this regard recently, and I expect it to have established its position very soon. The Council’s working group is starting work in this regard this week. The next step is the approval of a negotiating mandate in the Permanent Representatives Committee. After that, the Council will be ready to work with the European Parliament to find a solution to the horse mackerel issue. We will hopefully succeed in finding a solution that is acceptable to the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council.

We all agree that multi-annual management plans must continue to be a fundamental instrument in fisheries management, ensuring a focus on the important long-term conservation objectives for fish stocks. The Council will therefore work with the European Parliament on a solution for the horse mackerel plan as well as for other multi-annual plans. I am therefore in complete agreement with Mr Davies, Mr Cadec and others on the need to ensure sustainable fish stocks. As Mr Davies put it, if there is no fish, there will be no fisheries either.

The Council is fully aware of the European Parliament’s role in connection with the adoption of the objectives in the common fisheries policy, including the objectives for multi-annual management plans and technical conservation measures. These objectives must be adopted jointly by the Council and the European Parliament, and the Council attaches a great deal of importance to its cooperation with the European Parliament in this connection.

With regard to the question concerning the setting of total allowable catch (TAC) and quotas, I would like to emphasise the Council’s strong obligation only to adopt measures that are fully in line with the relevant provisions of the Treaty, whilst fully respecting the role of each institution. It goes without saying that the Council will ensure that the reformed common fisheries policy is in line with the Treaty and that it respects the European Parliament’s prerogatives. This will, of course, also be the case irrespective of what form of procedure we have in the future. It will also apply in the event of a regionalised approach, something which is currently being considered in the context of the reform. On behalf of the Council, I therefore look forward to close cooperation with the Commission and Parliament in finding solutions to the important questions that we have debated today.

 
  
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  President. − To wind up the debate, seven motions for resolutions have been tabled(1) under Rule 115(5) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday from 12.00.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: EDWARD McMILLAN-SCOTT
Vice-President

 
  

(1) See Minutes


4. Question Time (Commission)
Video of the speeches
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  President. − The next item is Question Time to the Commission.

The topic for Question Time is the services sector, the Services Directive and increasing competitiveness, growth and employment in Europe. I shall just remind you that each Member has one minute to put his or her question and 30 seconds for a supplementary. The Commission has two minutes to reply if only one Commissioner is to be responsible for answering. If more than one Commissioner is to reply, each Commissioner has one minute’s speaking time.

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli (PPE ).(IT) Mr President, my question is addressed to Mr Barnier in particular and concerns recital 62 of the Services Directive.

There is no clear or definitive indication of what is meant by ‘scarcity of natural resources or technical capacity’. The Directive ought not, in fact, to prevent Member States from limiting the number of authorisations for reasons other than scarcity of natural resources or technical capacity.

Indeed, as in the case of itinerant traders, they do not have exclusive use of the area subject to concession because at the end of working hours, this becomes available to all, and is sometimes reassigned to other activities. Moreover, in Italy, local authorities may already increase the number both of concessions and areas reserved for markets.

In this case, therefore, there ought not to be an automatic correlation between the concept of public space and the criterion of scarce natural resources, since parking may take place in one part of the area only and for a limited number of hours per day.

What is your opinion on this matter, Commissioner?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. (FR) Ms Angelilli asked a question on the exclusion of social services and how this should be interpreted.

Some social services have been excluded from the directive, but not all. Moreover, I should like to remind you that an amendment on the exclusion of all such services was rejected by Parliament. I do not believe that my services have informed me of any issues regarding the application of the directive to social services.

The specific nature of some services, such as those which you mentioned, is recognised and taken into account by safeguards set out in the directive. The directive does not address the issue of the funding of these services. The conditions set by Member States to ensure that these services indeed fulfil their social function are not covered by its scope.

Thus, Ms Angelilli, the directive does not prevent Member States from conserving their authorisation systems which are substantiated by social policy objectives, for example for the opening of crèches. These objectives may relate to the protection of minors or vulnerable people.

I think it is fair to say that it is logical that the directive’s implementation should not create problems for social services, such as those, if I understood correctly, that you highlighted.

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli (PPE ).(IT) Commissioner, the issue is not about social services, but about itinerant traders. My question was specific to this issue. If you prefer, I can table a question directly, as it seems you have not understood my question.

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. (FR) I apologise, because I misunderstood what you said. You were in fact referring to itinerant trade.

If you would be so kind as to write to me in detail regarding the specific aspect of itinerant trade that you mentioned, I will provide you with a specific, legally founded answer on the matter, by analysing any imperfections or contradictions which there may be with regard to the subject.

With regard to the specific question that you asked, Ms Angelilli, I will answer you in writing.

 
  
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  Jutta Steinruck (S&D ).(DE) Mr President, my question is for Commissioner Andor. As you know, my group has for quite some time been calling for the Posting of Workers Directive to be revised, and I find it very regrettable that the Commission has thus far not done so. It is not as if there is a shortage of reasons to do so: we have social dumping on a massive scale and the principle of equal treatment applies to too few criteria. Furthermore, there is often abuse of posted workers by means of failure to adhere to the rules. What we need is limits on subcontractor chains and more opportunities for information for workers. I therefore await the Commission’s proposals on the posting of workers package with baited breath.

My question is this: how does the Commission proposal for the Enforcement Directive seek to tackle the problems with the Posting of Workers Directive that I have outlined? Most importantly, are there measures in the proposal to prevent the well-known problem of social dumping?

 
  
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  László Andor, Member of the Commission . − Mr President, honourable Members, the Posting of Workers Directive is indeed very high on our agenda and we have work in progress despite the fact that originally the idea was to deliver this at the end of last year. I have to admit there is a little delay with this package, but this is also about quality and we believe that it is very important to get it right after such a long period of conflict and consultation. We invested a lot in this consultation.

Last June, at a conference we organised in Brussels, I outlined the structure of the legal instruments the Commission would like to use to address the question of posting. This consists of two elements: an enforcement directive in order to ensure that the implementation of the original directive improves in terms of its quality, and a Monti II regulation on social rights, following the pattern of the previous Monti I Regulation in the context of cross-border trade, only this time in the context of cross-border services.

The objective of the latter is to ensure that fundamental social rights are not subordinated to economic freedoms and vice-versa, and that there are further clarifications about the powers of various courts if industrial action takes place. But I think it is very important to stress that by reopening the original directive we would not go very far; in fact we would undermine the key objective of the original legal instrument which is to facilitate cross-border services and at the same time fight social dumping.

The enforcement directive will facilitate further cross-border service provision for companies through better administrative cooperation, more transparent information and limits to national control measures. It will prevent abuses by clarifying the elements of the notion of posting, limit the opportunities to impose national control measures by codifying the case law of the Court, and contribute to fairer competition and a more level playing field, for example, for SMEs.

The key is better administrative cooperation. We have had many consultations with stakeholders and the various participants in this debate with a view to taking every possible aspect into account. There is still fine tuning to do, and the proposed date for adoption is March.

 
  
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  Jutta Steinruck (S&D ).(DE) I have a specific follow-up question. You said that the aim was to improve on the original directive. In my initial question, I asked about limits on subcontractor chains, better opportunities for information for workers and better control mechanisms. I also wanted to know what specific steps are being taken to prevent social dumping in future.

 
  
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  László Andor, Member of the Commission . − I can only confirm that the question of joint and several liability is one of the key considerations of the ongoing work and I would not like to comment on leaked drafts which have been circulating recently. I think it is better to wait until the final text emerges, and then a discussion in both Parliament and the Council can follow.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE ).(EL) Mr President, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, the Greek Parliament went over and above the call of duty two days ago. It passed the new agreement negotiated with the Troika in Greece, knowing that it imposes harsh austerity measures and new savage cuts on a nation already suffering deeply.

In view of that agreement, the question is: what do Brussels, Berlin and Paris intend to do about the issue we are debating today? I am not talking about current and future loans; that money will be refunded with interest. I am talking about the famous Marshall Plan which was included in the agreement at the summit on 21 July and then disappeared a few hours later.

Now more than ever, Greece and other countries with problems need a package to stimulate the economy, with resources directed to public works, job creation and the re-education and training of the unemployed. How will the competitiveness, growth and employment we are debating today become reality? How will our fellow citizens with such serious problems experience it in the countries facing the current unprecedented crisis in the recent history of Europe?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr Papanikolaou, each of my colleagues can answer this question, which expresses the sentiment of the Greek people faced with the great difficulties which they are experiencing.

What I have said many times, including a few months ago, on my visit to Athens, is that the Greek people are not alone. Through exceptional measures, the entire EU and the International Monetary Fund have provided support to Greece in this comprehensive plan towards its recovery, and I am not just referring to public finances.

We are aware, Mr Papanikolaou, that the effort which is being asked of Greek people is extremely stringent and demanding. However, I believe that the fundamental Greek economic indicators show that, if this plan is followed and respected by all of the partners and by the Greeks themselves, the Greek people can come through this.

Since what we are discussing here today, Mr Papanikolaou, is the Services Directive and the service economy, I should like to underline that beyond the activities covered by the directive itself, which make up 40% of the EU’s economy, services, as we are well aware, account for an even greater part of GDP, in the EU’s economy. This is particularly the case in your country, which is one of the most open and best positioned in this respect, especially as regards the tourist industry economy, which is an area that Commissioner Tajani is monitoring relentlessly.

I believe, as I also said in another debate yesterday, that Greece, despite the great difficulties it is facing, can bounce back, particularly by being one of the countries to integrate itself the most and the most quickly. This integration is needed – and a number of sectors are concerned, including many services, especially connected to the tourism economy – because Greece is one of the countries which has the most to benefit from an integrated single market and the facilitation of trade, electronic commerce, mobility and exports.

That is why, along with my colleagues, I am going to take great care, as is my role as the person in charge of this Directive on Services, to support the Greek authorities in implementing all aspects and the full potential of this Directive on Services, on a practical level.

That is what I am able to say since the matter we are discussing today is the service economy.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE ).(EL) Mr President, Commissioner, thank you very much for what you have told us; however, you have not replied to the specific question which I asked: on 21 July – I repeat – the Council spoke of real help at its meeting, of a true sign of social solidarity. It referred to a new Marshall Plan which could support growth and job creation in real and substantial solidarity with countries with serious problems.

The text ‘went in’, but some hours later it ‘went out again’. Does the Commission have something else in mind? We have seen the announcements by Mr Barroso about the problems faced by citizens. We understand the Commission’s concern. However, are there in fact any new developments in the final proposal actually made by the Commission?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr Papanikolaou, what you said in regard to Greece, which is the most exceptional and serious of cases and which, moreover, requires exceptional treatment, applies across the board.

I, personally, deeply feel that it is not right, for EU citizens at the moment, for us to only be talking about austerity, regulation, surveillance and governance. All of these words are restrictive, even if they are the words and actions which are needed. We must also talk about growth and give citizens a clearer outlook in terms of employment and development. This is true for Greece and it is also true for the whole of the EU.

That is why I find it extremely positive that at the last European Council meeting, held about ten days ago, the majority of the agenda was devoted to growth.

What can be done in the short term to restart the economic machine in the countries where this is needed? What can be done in the medium or long term? For example, with the Single Market Act, of which the Services Directive is one of the components, we have a dozen or so measures on our agenda for facilitating mobility, employment, export, innovation and trade and to kick-start growth in the medium or long term. Other initiatives, such as the project bonds, may be taken as a shorter-term solution to achieving growth.

Indeed, as regards Greece, I think that under the plan which amounts to EUR 130 billion, it is not just a case of getting public finances back on track and safeguarding the banking sector, it is also a case of taking rapid action, in particular via Structural Funds, to get employment and growth going again.

It is in this context, Mr Papanikolaou, that the service economy, which is so important for your country and which is one of the most open and most powerful in Europe in terms of tourism, has a special role to play. I will devote my full attention to this to ensure that this Services Directive is actually and effectively implemented in Greece’s case and for Greece’s benefit.

 
  
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  Bernadette Vergnaud (S&D ).(FR) Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, my question is for Commissioner Barnier.

Would you mind telling me, please, how much progress the Commission has made with drafting legislation to provide operators in the social and solidarity-based economy with a status? I am referring to mutuals, foundations and cooperatives. These kinds of organisation indeed play a crucial role in cushioning crises and creating jobs and must therefore be protected, supported and encouraged to develop very quickly.

Finally, if something concrete is in fact being drafted for the social economy, can we really be content with a simple communication on a quality framework for services of general interest which, in these times of economic and social crisis, also need to be protected by a genuine legal status?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. (FR) I would like to thank you, Ms Vergnaud, for having, in fact, mentioned two separate and complementary sections of the directive in your question. The first is that of public services and the implementation of this quality framework which Mr Almunia and I have on the whole proposed in two cross-cutting texts. One of these texts deals with State aid and, as you pointed out, and as the relevant associations and non-governmental organisations have made clear to us, the exercise of social services continues to be covered. The second cross-cutting text – which is a major aspect of this quality framework – deals with the overhaul of measures relating to public services and concessions.

Social entrepreneurship which, according to my figures, honourable Members accounts for between 15% and 17% of GDP and employment, is an additional issue and is, in my mind, just as important as the main area of work on the social economy. In many cases, we are not talking about public services, but profitable enterprises which practice social inclusion among their employees, by employing disabled persons or other people in difficulty, or enterprises whose activities themselves have a vocation focused on solidarity, inclusion or social solidarity.

In fact, a few weeks ago, in November, for the first time, we in the Commission held a conference with Professor Yunus, which was attended by 1 200 people and which aimed to help us work on three topics. The first was the financing of such enterprises, and in this regard the Commission presented an initial proposal on the Social Investment Fund, which is a new instrument.

The second was regulatory and normative or statutory supervision, which is the point you mentioned. A few days ago, Ms Vergnaud, as promised, we submitted the European Foundation Statute, which is now under discussion by the Council and by Parliament. Mr Tajani is working on statutes for cooperatives and mutuals which are extremely important forms of organisation, and for which it is important to establish what further improvements can be made at European level.

The third area of work on social entrepreneurship involves improving the visibility of these activities through indicators, labels, and so on, and I myself am pursuing this area. I am, in any case, personally engaged, alongside Mr Andor, Mr Tajani and others, in ensuring that from now on Commission initiatives support this extremely important sector, which has undoubtedly been neglected or forgotten and which certainly comes under the competitive economy.

It is my belief, honourable Members, that there cannot be sustainable economic performance without a number of conditions: an effectively functioning single market, a major effort in research and innovation, and social cohesion. When we refer to social cohesion, we are referring, Ms Vergnaud, to the two topics that you mentioned: public services, of course, that is to say basic services, in particular social services, but also the social enterprise sector, which I have just mentioned and which we endorse.

 
  
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  Bernadette Vergnaud (S&D ).(FR) Mr Barnier knows as well as we do, and Parliament and the Commission must work together on this point, just how important this sector is for social cohesion and how much it needs legal certainty in order for social services to be exercised in EU countries.

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, Member of the Commission. (FR) I shall also respond to the question on cooperatives, which is a sector that I share with Mr Barnier.

As part of the effort to improve the legal environment, we have initiated a review aimed at analysing the current situation of mutuals in Europe. The findings will form the basis for reflection on a new political initiative, including the possible drafting of a European statute for mutuals. This work will complement the review which the European Parliament began at the beginning of 2011.

We are also going to publish a report addressed at European institutions on the application of the regulation on the Statute for a European Cooperative Society. This report will be discussed at two conferences to be held this year, which the United Nations has declared as the International Year of Cooperatives. The first conference will be held in April, and attended by professional associations, and the second in September during Cyprus’ Presidency.

With respect to cooperatives, their social impact is, is my view, very significant. We are going to continue to support them together with cooperative banks.

Allow me to cite an example: I organised a trip to Brazil on the topic of the internationalisation of small and medium-sized enterprises and took representatives from cooperatives along with me to try to promote networks for the internationalisation of cooperatives. This is, for me, a very important sector and I share what was said by Commissioner Barnier.

 
  
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  Filiz Hakaeva Hyusmenova (ALDE ).(BG) My question is for Commissioner Tajani. Implementing the Services Directive was an important step towards the completion of the single market. Given that services represent about 70% of the European economy, their potential for boosting economic growth and creating new jobs is substantial. We have to admit, however, that Member States have had difficulties with the transposition of the Directive and that, despite the three-year implementation period, there have been considerable delays. Besides the transposition of European legislation into national legislations, a series of additional measures were necessary in order to implement the provisions of the Directive. Nonetheless, more than two years have elapsed now, which is a long enough period to allow the results to be measured. Is the Commission able to offer any concrete data, analyses and estimates on what impact the implementation of the Services Directive has had on the European economy so far, and more specifically, on small and medium-sized enterprises?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. (FR) Ms Hyusmenova, I do not wish to deny Mr Tajani the opportunity to speak, however I am, in fact, directly in charge of the implementation of this directive, which is now a matter of urgency.

I would like to inform you and your colleagues, Ms Hyusmenova, that I make it my own personal duty to go to each Member State to see how things are going. A few days ago, on Thursday, I was in Madrid where I delivered the last of the 27 workshops which – as promised before Parliament – I have held in all of the EU’s capitals with all of the national civil servants who are, in particular, responsible for the Services Directive, but who are also responsible for the directives on professional qualifications and public procurement.

Today, I can tell you that, following this period of work with all of the civil servants who are responsible for these texts, all of the Member States, apart from Greece, have now taken full transposition measures. Germany and Austria, whose federal system you are familiar with, have had some rather specific issues, due in fact to this federal system, as the texts had to be transposed at regional level. This has recently been achieved.

That is why the two complaints that I lodged before the European Court of Justice can now be withdrawn, since Germany and Austria have fulfilled their obligations. The court referral for Greece is still relevant as regards the quality of the transposition measures.

I promised, and this is something that you requested specifically in adopting the Services Directive, to present a report on the application of the directive’s key measures. In addition to what was already presented last Monday on the mutual assessment process involving Member States and undertaken by the Commission, we will present a report, in the second quarter of 2012, on the application of all of the directive’s key measures, especially on the important issue of cross-border services.

We are also drawing the first conclusions, in our role as guardian of the Treaties, on the weaknesses or shortcomings that exist with regard to the practical and effective implementation of the directive.

As far as I am concerned, honourable Members, 2012 should be the year of the full application of the Services Directive as it stands with all of its measures and all of its potential. Aside from what I have been able to say today on the matter and the work which I am doing in each Member State, this issue is the subject of the full and detailed assessment and information report which we will present to you by the end of the year.

 
  
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  Emilie Turunen (Verts/ALE ). - In the context of the Services Directive, economic freedoms and the protection of workers’ rights, Commission President Barroso stated in this House on 15 September 2009: ‘The interpretation and the implementation of the Posted Workers Directive falls short... That is why I am committed to proposing, as soon as possible, a regulation to resolve the problems that have arisen. This regulation will be codecided by the European Parliament and the Council.’

It is now 2012. The instrument in question was scheduled for publication before Christmas. It was then scheduled for last week and then it was deferred again, and now we do not know what is happening at all with this suggestion. My question is: when will the Commission finally deliver, after more than two years of framing its proposals on economic freedoms? And when, Commissioner, will you deliver on protecting workers’ rights and securing the right to strike?

Secondly, there is a rumour that the ‘Monti II’ regulation is not to be codecided, but is to be subject to consent procedure only. How does that correspond to the promise Mr Barroso gave in 2009?

 
  
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  László Andor, Member of the Commission . − Ms Turunen, I gave an answer to Ms Steinruck a few minutes ago and I would like to repeat that now. We have a proposed date for college debate and adoption which will be in March 2012.

There are various reasons for the delay, not least because we had to accelerate some other initiatives like the Youth Opportunities, which I am sure you also consider very important. The Youth Opportunities were not originally on the agenda, but we had to respond to the urgency of youth unemployment, which is why we scheduled that for last December. There is also very serious work under way: serious coordination between our services on the question of the posting of workers.

As you also suggested, this is a very complex matter, and I am very grateful for the contribution of many Members of the European Parliament to this discussion. You brought to my attention very difficult cases, not only those where the European Court of Justice made decisions which many of you saw as controversial, but also the more recent Flamanville case. Our intention is to eliminate the likelihood of a recurrence of such cases.

We want posted workers to work in a safe, well-regulated environment with greater awareness of the circumstances and their own rights, and much better administrative cooperation between the Member States. This is covered in the documents we have been drawing up since last summer when we had the stakeholder conference last June. The structure, as I have already explained to Ms Steinruck, is an enforcement directive, in order to contribute to the single market.

As you probably know, this falls under the scope of the Single Market Act, as it concerns the single labour market, and also constitutes regulation to follow up on fundamental social rights with a view to having better guarantees in this area.

 
  
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  Emilie Turunen (Verts/ALE ). - A very brief follow-up. Did I hear you right? This will be on the Commission’s agenda in March?

 
  
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  László Andor, Member of the Commission . − The answer is, yes.

 
  
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  Malcolm Harbour (ECR ). - Mr President, the opportunity to pose questions on the Services Directive is very welcome. I and members of my committee are deeply engaged in following through the transposition. I want to thank the Commissioner for his energy in pursuing this.

My question, however, is not so much related to the actual legal requirement on Member States to transpose the directive. My observation, based on visits to a number of countries and on talking both to governments and to business organisations, is that we have absolutely encouraged Member States to make a substantial investment in providing services – the points of single contact – with a view to opening up their markets to service providers from other countries, and also to support and train all their public authorities in accepting applications from other countries for the provision of services. But my experience is that most businesses who can potentially take advantage of this know nothing about it at all, because the one thing Member States have neglected is any promotion of these great new opportunities.

I would like the Commissioner’s reassurance, with regard to the benchmarking exercise, that we will actually have some real information on the ground about businesses’ awareness of the opportunities that have been created. Otherwise it is simply like saying to Member States that they should invest heavily in this great new product and new idea, but that they should not tell anyone about it. How is that a sensible strategy?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr Harbour just drew our attention to a very important point, which is the feeling that we sometimes have, here in Strasbourg, in Brussels and in the Member States, that there are two wheels turning at the same time: there is the legislative wheel which we in the Commission, Parliament and Council turn together, and there are the national wheels. What I have noticed, Mr Harbour, from my work at local level with these workshops I have just completed, is that we must connect the two wheels, not so that they turn together, but so that they work in connection with one another.

They work in connection with one another when texts are properly transposed. This is basically the case when texts are implemented effectively. This is not yet the case in all Member States. It is especially the case when those for whom we in Parliament, the Council and the Commission are working together to create these texts, that is to say businesses and particularly small and medium-sized businesses, or citizens, are aware of what we do for them, and this is not the case.

That is why, honourable Members, I attach so much importance to these local instruments. Almost two years ago, when you kindly agreed to the Commission’s investiture and questioned me at the hearing, I stated before you that during these five years our ambition, and this is very significant, would be to reconcile small and medium-sized enterprises and EU consumers with the single market. There is a sentiment that this single market was not created for them, and that it is for the big and powerful rather than small enterprises and consumers. We must change that. The Services Directive is one of the instruments which can help us to achieve this, along with a number of structures, the existence of which I am in the process of checking.

The Internal Market Information System (IMI), which will be discussed again and which can also be employed for professional qualifications, allows direct interactive dialogue between local authorities via the Internet. Six thousand administrative bodies are now actively using this system.

There is the Solvit system, which is now functioning properly in almost all Member States, to prevent discouragement and legal action, and to facilitate mediation.

There are also, as Mr Harbour pointed out, the Points of Single Contact which are of great importance and which today exist in all Member States. I think I am safe in saying that there is only one country, Romania, in which the Points of Single Contact are not yet in operation. The Points of Single Contact are, in my opinion, an extremely important tool, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. Naturally, these points of contact must be equipped with essential features such as online and cross-border procedures. This is still far from the case. These Points of Single Contact are in place, but are not yet able to provide the full potential of which businesses are in need.

That is why in 2012, which as I said earlier will be the year of the Services Directive’s full implementation, I will, Mr Harbour, focus efforts particularly on the proper functioning of these Points of Single Contact with modern, digital means and proper information in their regard.

That is another reason why, on Parliament’s initiative, we are going to organise the week for renewed growth together, from 15-22 October, at the same time as the European Week of Small and Medium Enterprises which is being organised by Mr Tajani. Together with the European Parliament, the national parliaments, chambers of commerce, trade unions and any organisations who wish to be involved, we are going to organise a European week on the Single Market Act and on all of the tools that I just mentioned. This will be a full week of people-oriented, rather than technocratic or bureaucratic, information on the single market.

I want us to put a face to the single market, and to men and women who have succeeded and failed through it, and see how we can deal with these failures. That, Mr Harbour, will be the aim of the week which we are going to hold together in October of this year, and during which the focus will be on Points of Single Contact.

 
  
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  Malcolm Harbour (ECR ). - Mr President, while I am impressed, as always, by the energy behind the Commissioner’s words – and Commissioner Barnier and I work very closely together – I still do not think that he got to the heart of my question. When I go round talking to businesses, I have to tell them about the EUGO Portal. I have to give them the excellent brochure that the Commission has produced because, actually, my own Government is not doing very much, and I have said so to the Secretary of State.

How are we going to reach governments and their small-enterprise divisions – and Mr Tajani is absolutely involved in this as our lead on SMEs – to tell them about these sources of information and how they can deploy them? The problem is that we have done all this great stuff but the people who are really going to energise the economy by investing and trading across borders, it seems to me, will not be sufficiently excited and energised to take advantage of it.

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr Harbour, no matter how much we do, it will never be enough to reach Europe’s 22 million businesses, 21 million of which, as you well know, are small and medium-sized enterprises on which commitments have been made and on which Mr Tajani’s work is focused. He could also express his view on this subject. I think that there is a need to diffuse information.

We have devised this Single Market Week to promote renewed growth, as well as the European SME Week in October; I am also checking that the Points of Single Contact are in operation. We cannot do everything from here in Brussels. We need the involvement of Member States. We also need the cooperation of the chambers of commerce, for example.

You mentioned the brochure which we have produced. We will probably produce others, and I will, either via the Internet or in person, request support from the chambers of commerce, for example, which have direct links with small and medium-sized enterprises, so that they can diffuse this information to their members and to the people on the ground responsible for creating employment and growth. This is something which cannot easily be done from Brussels and for which we need intermediaries and partners.

I would therefore like us to have the opportunity, in 2012 and before October’s Single Market Week, to make sure that every business in the EU receives this basic information on the Services Directive and on the other actions we are taking, for example with regard to accounting standards or public procurement, which are aimed at encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises’ involvement.

 
  
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  President. − Colleagues, before we go on I am going to bring this Question Time to a close at 11.55 so that we can prepare for the votes. Can I remind colleagues that it is one minute for a question and 30 seconds for a supplementary. For the Commission, if it is one Commissioner replying it is two minutes and if there is more than one Commissioner it is one minute each. I am afraid to say that there are more than 50 people who want the floor. Last time we got through 17 questions, so there are going to be a lot of disappointed people and I apologise in advance. The intention of this new format is to make it a little more lively, but it does mean a lot of disappointment.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (ALDE ). - Mr President, can I ask in future that, when you are compiling your list at the beginning of Question Time, you put it on the screen here so that people know exactly where they stand? In my country parliamentary Question Time is a very important part of parliamentary democracy. I have sat here each month to ask a question – most unsuccessfully I must say – but it should at least be up there so that we know. If people are registered there, then in future if they come in the following month, they should be given priority.

 
  
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  President. − We are learning as we go along, but as it happens you are next on the list after Mr van de Camp. Promise!

 
  
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  Wim van de Camp (PPE ).(NL) Mr President, my question follows on exactly from Malcolm Harbour’s. When we look at all the European Commission’s initiatives – for which it has our heartiest compliments – we are creating a thousand jobs in Europe, or at any rate are able to create a thousand jobs in Europe. Yet we are not getting through to businesses. There is no shortage of worthwhile initiatives in the Member States, and SMEs can create jobs, but somehow or other, despite the Commission’s enthusiasm, the businesses are not getting the message.

I have two questions in this regard. The Commission has been operating now for almost two and a half years: might not we in the internal market zone receive an interim report on how the SMA (Single Market Act) is working in practice? Secondly, should we not link the internal market more to the European Semester? The European Semester is going well in the Member States and also fitting in well with the national reform programme. Member States are on the ball. Shouldn’t we be connecting up more?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) On the issue of the Services Directive, which is the subject of Question Time this morning, I can confirm to Mr van de Camp that we shall be presenting a full, and I hope high-quality, report on Member States’ implementation of the Services Directive in the middle of this year, at Parliament’s request as a matter of fact.

On a wider level, we shall also be assessing the situation regarding a subject with which you, like Mr Harbour, are very familiar, and one that you support: the Single Market Act. This year, we shall be looking at the progress of the first wave of 12 proposals and their implementation: the single European patent, social entrepreneurship, venture capital, public procurement and many other things. Then, over the course of the year, we shall be producing a second wave of 12 new proposals aimed at promoting growth.

I am making these two commitments, and in the spirit of what I said to Mr Harbour, and shall reiterate, we, and Mr Tajani in particular, shall try, together with those of our partners with the closest, most hands-on and easiest contact with businesses, to find ways of ensuring that the information about what we are doing at grassroots level reaches small and medium-sized enterprises. However, we cannot achieve this on our own from Brussels. We need intermediaries or partners: I am thinking in particular of chambers of commerce.

 
  
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  Morten Løkkegaard (ALDE ). - Just to follow up on the remarks by the gentleman over there, are we going to be provided with some kind of list and told whether we are on that list?

 
  
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  President. − I will deal with Mr van de Camp’s supplementary and then I will come back to that point.

 
  
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  Wim van de Camp (PPE ).(NL) Mr President, might I ask the Commission to take another look at ways of communicating? When I read the magazines from SMEs, I never see an advertisement from the European Commission or from, say, Solvit. The EU is not popular in some countries, but the internal market certainly is. Could we not have a regular television spot selling the advantages of the internal market to SMEs in particular?

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission.(IT) Mr President, I should like to give out some information on the network dedicated precisely to providing information to small and medium-sized enterprises.

By means of this network, we have a presence in 51 countries, with around 600 contact points and over 3 000 professionals to its credit. I would say that Enterprise Europe Network is the most important European, if not global, network helping small and medium-sized enterprises. We have a presence in all 27 Member States and in eight third countries taking part in the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme. I am referring to Croatia, Israel and Turkey.

Here are some additional figures on the advice and information provided, including that related to the internal market. Around 300 000 businesses have made direct use of this kind of service, while 600 000 others have taken part in events organised with the same objective; 225 000 have used the special advice service on subjects such as access to finance, intellectual property, business development at the European and international level, and innovation through the adoption of new work methods and new technologies.

Every year, the network facilitates the conclusion of around 2 500 formal cross-border deals between businesses, giving them benefits in terms of maintaining turnover, employment and investment levels. We have also received 10 000 comments to date from businesses giving us their opinions on policy, legislative initiatives and European-level programmes.

I think that amounts to an effective network, even if we consider – naturally – the need to implement and further strengthen its actions, since the continuation of the Enterprise Europe Network is also guaranteed in the framework of the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) 2014-2020. We are therefore asking Parliament in the context of the debate on the Financial Perspective to support our proposal, since I believe that it takes the direction that Parliament itself has emphasised in its question and also in the previous intervention from Mr Harbour.

 
  
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  President. − I am now going to reply to Mr Løkkegaard. The authorities are conducting a review of this new process of Question Time and that will be available after this session. I have in the past, at this stage, read out the names I have on my list of those who are likely to be called, and I am happy to do that by way of helping. Where I come from, Question Time is a question of catch-the-eye – genuinely catch-the-eye – but I realise that we have different procedures here.

On my list – and these are grouped according to groups but as they have been identified by staff – from the EPP I still have Mr Baldassarre, Ms Mazzoni and Ms Corazza Bildt. From the Socialist Group – and these are the ones who are likely to be called if we are quick – Ms Gebhardt, Mr Cercas and Ms Rapti. From the ALDE Group: Mr Aylward, Ms Jäätteenmäki and Mr Løkkegaard. Mr Karim from the ECR, Ms Schroedter from the Greens and Ms Morganti from the EFD. Those are the names who are likely to get called if we are quick.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (ALDE ). - Mr Barnier, many small and medium-sized businesses in the service sector are increasingly falling victim to misleading business directory scams. The scams have hit businesses by masquerading as legitimate directories, then charging the unsuspecting businesses for a service they did not ask for, or willingly sign up to. Of course then they are hit with bills in a very difficult economic climate for fighting this fraud.

While Directive 2006/114/EC concerning misleading and comparative advertising is in place, this is proving to be of little practical use to SMEs who are faced with threatening letters from debt collectors collecting for a service that the SMEs have not signed up for. Can the Commissioner outline what measures are in place at European Union level to assist the countless SMEs that have been defrauded, scammed and harassed?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) Mr Aylward, speaking quite frankly, it is hard for me to give a precise answer to the point you have raised, as none of the three Members of the Commission here is directly responsible for it. It actually falls within the remit of our colleague, Viviane Reding. I shall therefore ask her to send you an answer.

However, I am able talk about a point that concerns many small businesses and the illegal activities to which they fall victim, such as counterfeiting, for example. Yesterday, we spoke about the creation of the European Observatory on intellectual property infringement, which you supported. This subject is linked to the one you have brought up.

We have made progress in this area, since we are in the process right now of creating this observatory, via the Trademarks Office in Alicante, and giving it more powers. The observatory will look into problems such as piracy, of course, and the problem of counterfeiting in particular, in order to give us a clearer picture of the situation so that we can take the appropriate measures. These will not always, I may add, be enforcement measures: they will often involve explanation and training, in order to combat the counterfeiting to which very many small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe fall victim. It has been calculated that counterfeiting has caused the loss of 200 000 jobs across Europe.

On the specific point you raised, we shall ask our colleague Ms Reding to send you a written answer within the next few days.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (ALDE ). - (opening remarks missing as microphone not switched on)... misleading business directory scams which are currently operating fraudulently within the EU. Would the Commissioner consider conducting an inquiry into the proliferation of these scams and their impact on SMEs in the service sector? I think it would be wise to do that for the benefit of all concerned.

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) I should like to reiterate that we shall be responding positively to this issue. Our colleague Viviane Reding is preparing a statement by the European Commission precisely on this matter. It will cover all the aspects and issues surrounding advertising scams, to which not only businesses but also sometimes consumers fall victim. Ms Reding is therefore preparing a statement on the subject.

 
  
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  Evelyne Gebhardt (S&D ). (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Barnier, as rapporteur for the Services Directive, I did ensure, at that time, that services of common economic interest and services of general interest were excluded from the scope of that directive. At the same time I said that it is absolutely necessary for these services to be regulated at European level in order to protect them. Since then, we have seen the advent of the Treaty of Lisbon and its supplementary Protocol No 26, which gives the Commission a duty. Commission President Barroso promised us that he would act in this regard and we await real and substantial action from the Commission in this area.

My question for you, Commissioner, is: when can we expect a legislative text from you? This is something that is needed, in my opinion. It is needed not because we want to regulate these services, but because we want to ensure that these services continue to remain in the hands of the competent people and bodies in the Member States, and with the highest possible level of quality.

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) Ms Gebhardt, I am personally aware of how closely you monitor and follow this subject of services of general economic interest. I should also add that, going beyond social services of general interest, you and I share the same concern, since we are aiming at the same political goal for the sake of this competitive social market economy. This goal, which must be, or must become once again, the basis for European action, is to guarantee the quality, accessibility and sustainability of public services in Europe, and wherever necessary to adapt the existing legislation to the realities of the 21st century.

We have made a major commitment, which we are keeping through the Commission’s cross-cutting action on public services, to forge closer links between economic realities and freedom on the one hand and social realities on the other. I am thinking about fundamental social rights within the internal market.

We may argue and debate the issues among ourselves, but I think President Barroso has always been keen to talk about a quality framework. The forthcoming cross-cutting document to be presented by Commissioner Andor on the posting of workers ties in with this subject, as does the document presented by our colleague Mr Almunia on state aid, to which I also contributed. In particular, Ms Gebhardt, the ‘Almunia-Barnier package’ includes a document that clarifies the situation, and provides, for example, for a complete exemption from the state-aid notification procedure for public funding for healthcare services and essential social services, where these fall within the scope of EU law. This package is the second in this quality framework.

The third package is the one I presented on the directives on public procurement and concession contracts, which I have ensured will play a very specific role in the whole area of invitations to tender and public procurement of social services, with higher thresholds and simplified procedural rules.

We do not think that an overall legislative framework is needed over and above the above-mentioned or future cross-cutting directives, and the vertical, or sectoral directives which, if one looks at the list, cover practically all services. Take, for example the Postal Directives, for which I am responsible. I am overseeing the implementation of the directive very closely, from now on in conjunction with users.

I believe these cross-cutting directives, with the improvements I have just spoken of and further consolidation by Parliament, together with the sectoral directives, make up the quality framework that President Barroso has undertaken before this House to establish or consolidate.

 
  
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  Evelyne Gebhardt (S&D ).(DE) Mr President, with respect, Commissioner, I do not see this the same way as you. What you have just presented is a breakdown of the legislation, and not the implementation of what is stipulated under Protocol No 26 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which quite clearly sets out that we need a legislative framework within which the protection of these services of general economic interest is to be regulated. That is something quite different to what you just presented to us I would like to know when you actually intend to implement the Treaty on European Union.

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) The debate will continue beyond this meeting today, and I am sure you will have a further opportunity to bring this issue and this call to act before the President of the Commission.

We are aware of the Treaty, of course. The Commission’s primary role, Ms Gebhardt, is as guardian of the Treaty, and it must apply all aspects of it, although of course certain articles, such as Article 14, are debatable.

What matters to me, with respect to those people who are anxious and vulnerable, and can see the effects that the economic crisis is having, is to preserve the fundamental services to which they are entitled. This is what matters to me.

There is, indeed, this debate about a framework directive, or a more overarching legal instrument. At this moment in time, thinking in practical terms about people’s anxiety and concerns, especially those about social services and healthcare, we feel that all the concrete, practical protection that citizens need is provided by the directives and cross-cutting texts I have mentioned, as well as the sectoral directives. The latter are also at issue and must be implemented or improved where necessary, but above all be properly drafted. We shall therefore be continuing the debate to see if more can be done; however, what matters to me is to guarantee these services and ensure that people are protected, especially the most isolated and vulnerable.

 
  
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  Raffaele Baldassarre (PPE ).(IT) Mr President, I should like to ask Mr Tajani a question.

I shall take the liberty, Commissioner, of returning to an issue already addressed a few months ago, during an identical Question Time, and that is the transposition and implementation procedure for the Late Payment Directive.

Your reply at the time maintained that you had written to all the Member States and were waiting for the relevant confirmations. My questions are as follows: what stage have we reached? Have you received replies? Do you have information on individual countries and, most important, can you point out those countries that are in good order and those by contrast that are still taking their time?

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission.(IT) Mr Baldassarre, access to credit is one of the fundamental requirements for the growth that we are discussing at length and on which Mr Barnier also spoke. This must be the subject of vigorous measures. I am personally drawing up a series of points to present to the College of Commissioners on the theme of growth, one of which will precisely be access to credit.

Turning to the details of your question, we have already received replies from the Member States. A meeting took place in Brussels on 3 February this year with representatives from the 27 Member States. During this meeting, we received some comforting replies, others less so.

For example, Austria decided to transpose the Directive before summer 2012; Belgium before the end of 2012; Bulgaria by the end of summer 2012; Cyprus in summer 2012; and the Czech Republic in March 2013, which is the final deadline. The same can be said for Denmark. Estonia will adopt the Directive in March 2013; Finland for the end of 2012; France has assured us that it will proceed to transposition by March 2013; Germany by the first four months of 2012 (adoption by its Parliament); Greece will wait for March 2013, as will Hungary and Ireland; Italy will do so on 14 November 2012; Latvia in September 2012; Lithuania in autumn 2012; Luxembourg by the end of 2012; Malta has not yet set a date but will certainly comply with the deadline; the Netherlands will do so by summer 2012; Poland by the end of 2012; Portugal will do so at the end of March 2013; Romania in March 2013; Slovakia by the end of 2012; Slovenia did not attend the meeting; the Spanish Parliament will examine the text of the legislation in autumn 2012, following which, adoption will take place in March 2013; Sweden will adopt it by the end of 2012, whereas the United Kingdom has confirmed that the Directive will be transposed in March 2013. This is all the information I have concerning the Member States.

I shall continue to ensure that the deadlines are respected, since I believe that an acceleration of the timetable is fundamental for small and medium-sized enterprises, especially in times of crisis, so that they can be paid not only by the public sector but also by larger suppliers.

 
  
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  Alejandro Cercas (S&D ).(ES) Mr President, the philosophy behind the Services Directive and the agreement we have reached state that workers are always covered by the labour and social law of their host country and not that of their country of origin. The current directive and subsequent legal rulings have undermined that principle, which has jeopardised workers’ fundamental rights and even essential rights.

I listened to your replies to Ms Turunen and Ms Steinruck and I congratulate you because, finally, after managing to overcome the problems, we will have a directive and a regulation in March. However, what matters now, Mr Andor, is that these should not be just any directive or regulation but an outstanding directive and regulation that resolve these problems.

So, Mr Andor, I am asking you now whether this directive and regulation are finally going to reflect reality: that workers should always be covered by the labour law and social law of the host country and never those of their country of origin, and first and foremost, that they should not be disadvantaged by companies’ freedom of establishment?

 
  
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  László Andor, Member of the Commission . − As I have already mentioned, the intention of the Commission was not to reopen the original directive but to sustain it and support the implementation with a lot of clarifications. This also applies to the question of how core rights and social provisions are dealt with in the directive, because we have to distinguish between posted workers and those workers who have become integrated into the labour market of the host country. This is the fundamental distinction we have to make.

It is nevertheless extremely important to ensure that what is guaranteed in the original directive is provided, and then also monitored in a transparent manner. We do indeed have to protect the rights and working conditions of posted workers as well. There also has to be closer and more reliable monitoring of those working conditions, but without undermining the practices themselves, without interventions that would threaten the free movement of services between European countries.

 
  
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  Alejandro Cercas (S&D ).(ES) Mr President, Commissioner, I agree with your statement, but nor should we jeopardise the principle that workers should be covered by the legislation of the country where they work, and this principle should never be violated unless we want to destroy the European social model and our hopes.

We will continue to support you, but the battle will not be won once we have a directive and a regulation, but only when we have the directive and the regulation that the citizens of Europe demand.

 
  
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  László Andor, Member of the Commission . − As I said, on this particular question the original directive laid out the foundations which we are not going to change; that would certainly cause greater ambiguity about posting practices, rather than providing clarification

It is very important that regulations in the host countries include a core group of provisions on the posting of workers that apply to workers posted from another country who remain employees of a company that operates in a different Member State. This also has to be taken into account.

This is not an easy question, but we have to be attentive to two sides of the issue: posted workers are employees from Member State A, but they act and work in Member State B. We have to choose carefully what applies to the regulation of employment in the light of this dual nature of posted workers.

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE ).(FI) Mr President, Commissioner, you have raised an important matter, that of fake brands. If you will allow me, I would like to extend this Services Directive issue to the matter of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

The EU has just concluded an international agreement that has been harshly criticised. It was negotiated with great secrecy. Commissioner Barnier, do you think that ACTA strikes the right balance between the protection of trademarks and the individual rights of users of the Internet? In my opinion, this has to do with the subject being discussed. I will repeat the question, since there was some commotion there. Has the recently negotiated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement struck the right balance between the protection of trademarks and the individual rights of Internet users?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) Madam, this is an important subject; in fact I referred to it here in Parliament yesterday during the debate on the internal market. Our colleague Karel De Gucht is in charge of this subject. What I can say about the ACTA agreement under discussion is that we really must look at it objectively, and not become embroiled in passionate arguments and polemics.

The Commission supports ACTA because, based on a legal analysis, it believes the agreement complies with the body of EU law, which in turn complies with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It also believes the agreement is compatible with all the work we do in the area of e -commerce. Therefore, we are glad that the subject is being discussed, as this is only right and democratic. However, let us not get involved in pointless polemics or fears on behalf of consumers and citizens.

I should also point out that you will have several opportunities to debate the issue, at the end of February or beginning of March, and most importantly, I think a major public hearing is planned for early March. Our colleague Mr De Gucht, who is following up this issue for the Commission, has made it known that he is available to answer all your questions and to take part in these debates in Parliament.

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE ).(FI) Commissioner, I would like to ask a supplementary question. You said that this would provoke fierce debate, and, in a way, you found fault with this debate. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, has just criticised this ACTA agreement, saying that it is unbalanced. What is your response to that?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) I understand and agree that it is quite proper that there should be a debate, since there are concerns among consumers, citizens and Internet users.

Moreover, we are all responsible for implementing international agreements on intellectual property rights which ensure there is a level playing field and fair treatment when it comes to protecting these rights. We all know, madam, that they are a key factor for growth. I think everyone on these benches is unanimous on this point, although there may be some differences of opinion on how to go about it.

Creativity, invention, art and innovation must be properly protected and remunerated. At the same time, as I said yesterday, it is important for this intellectual property to keep up with the times. At the moment, this means with the European dimension at the very least, and that of the Internet.

We took note of the concerns expressed by your President, Mr Schulz, of course, and I can reiterate that based on a legal analysis and on the work we have carried out, we believe the text complies with the body of EU law and respects citizens’ fundamental rights.

As I have said, our colleague Mr De Gucht will be able to continue this debate and this dialogue and answer all your questions, so as to reassure you and, quite rightly, reassure the people in your constituencies who are worried.

 
  
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  Erminia Mazzoni (PPE ).(IT) Mr President, I too would like to go back to the results of implementing the Services Directive in the countries of the EU. This has become a hot topic again, not so much because we are coming to the end of the two-year period for the Commission to present its report on implementation of the directive, but because the directive has led to a lot of problems in many countries.

In particular, the most prominent issue concerns the application of derogations to the authorisation system, which are provided for where the system is not discriminatory or is justified on public interest grounds and meets the proportionality criterion.

The Commission’s rigid application – or, rather, interpretation – of the derogation provisions stands in contrast to measures on safeguarding trust and on legal certainty. Furthermore, in combination with the measures on licensing and public procurement – even in the latest version proposed by the Commission, which excludes the licensing of activities in public areas from its provisions – it reveals a regulatory vacuum at EU level, which has thrown major sectors into chaos, as has happened with beach establishment operators in Italy, tulip growers in the Netherlands and Christmas market traders in Germany, to mention just a few.

Does the Commission not think that intervention is needed to properly regulate free competition, to benefit small and medium-sized enterprises and to preserve the character of certain sectors that are important to many Member States?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) Ms Mazzoni, I am very familiar with the initial version of the directive, as I was a member of the European Commission at the time the Commission proposed it. It is something of an understatement to say that, at the initiative of Ms Gebhardt, Mr Schwab and many others among you, the directive has been extensively amended, improved and clarified, especially the sections on protecting social services. This is a good thing.

It was two years ago yesterday, 10 February, that I returned to the Commission, where I am now responsible for the internal market and services. You have every right to ask the question, and as part of my job I have the duty to implement the directive in its current state as adopted by Parliament, with respect to the sectors that it covers.

You mentioned tulip producers in the Netherlands, for example. As for your own country, when I visited the Italian Parliament where I met various committees, many Italian MPs and senators brought up the subject of beach-concession holders, which is a sensitive issue in Italy. I could quote other cases also.

I did not think up this directive. I am not going to say that we shall add or remove this or that occupation. It covers some occupations, and does not cover others. In fact, there are very few now – security services and online gambling – that are not covered by European legislation. This is so for the time being, at any rate, since, as regards online gambling, we shall be bringing in legislation and taking steps with the action plan. Everything else is covered in one way or another, either by a cross-cutting directive or a sectoral directive.

Naturally, I am obliged to oversee the proper implementation of the directive, whilst maintaining the principle of proportionality, as you mentioned yourself. My staff and I are prepared to go through the cases that pose the most problems with a fine-toothed comb. I said so in the case of beach-concession holders, and I can say it for other occupations also. Nonetheless, the occupations that are covered by this directive must abide by it and must develop within the framework of the directive’s provisions. I am able to say this much. I can confirm to you that I am willing to work on individual cases, with a pragmatic, non-ideological approach. However, my job is to implement the directive as intelligently and speedily as possible.

 
  
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  Erminia Mazzoni (PPE ).(IT) Thank you, Commissioner, for presenting your views so willingly and openly to this House on such an important issue, both for Italy and for many other countries.

Above all, I think it is essential to guarantee full compliance with the principle of transparency of administrative procedures by ensuring that the way in which the Services Directive is implemented in certain industries takes account of certain basic principles, which are guaranteed by other directives, concerning continued compliance with the principle of competence, proficiency and technical knowledge.

 
  
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  Claudio Morganti (EFD ).(IT) Mr President, my question is addressed to Commissioner Barnier and again concerns beach establishments.

A few months ago, here in this Chamber and during this same procedure, the Commissioner stated that he was working with the Italian Government. I would therefore like to know what stage the agreement has reached and whether any progress has been made in the interests of the 30 000 small and medium-sized enterprises that represent the Italian beach establishment industry in Europe.

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) As I have already mentioned, sir, beach concessions come under the Services Directive. This is what Parliament voted for, and what the Council approved when the Directive was adopted in 2006. I have the task of implementing it as precisely, speedily and intelligently as possible, including on the issue of beach concessions. It is my duty to do so, and it is my job: you cannot expect me to do otherwise.

I am aware what a sensitive issue this is in Italy. As I said in Rome, and shall reiterate to you, we have engaged in constructive dialogue with the Italian authorities to bring the national framework into line with the Directive. In fact, there is legislation in the pipeline in Italy, and in implementing the Directive, we shall take all the services these beach-concession holders provide into consideration, especially in the area of safety.

What I can confirm is that we shall apply the Services Directive strictly, honestly, but pragmatically to all sectors covered by this law, for which you voted.

 
  
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  Claudio Morganti (EFD ).(IT) Commissioner, how would the Commission react if the Italian Government, on the basis of the legislation transposing the Services Directive, were to state in an interministerial decree pursuant to Article 2(3) of Legislative Decree No 59 of 2010 that tourism and beach establishment enterprises were excluded from public procurement?

You should also realise, Commissioner, that two thirds of Italian beaches are free from licensed concessions: would it not be fairer and more sensible to confine public procurement to those beaches?

 
  
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  Michel Barnier, Member of the Commission.(FR) Mr Morganti, from the information I have at my disposal, I do not get the impression that the Italian Government intends to issue a decree that would amend a European law approved by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament. At any rate, I do not think Italy’s new Prime Minister has this in mind. I know him well; he was a member of the European Commission himself for ten years, and therefore a guardian of the Treaties, as we are now.

The work that is currently in the pipeline, in which I am involved, is practical, pragmatic, thorough work to ensure that this Directive, which covers beach concessions, can be applied to this sector whilst taking account, in an intelligent way, of the needs of the tourism sector, of which I am well aware.

Mr Morganti, in a previous role, I was responsible for a region that is one of France’s biggest tourist areas, and I am aware of the importance of the tourism market. However, at the same time, there is no reason why the Services Directive should not be applied to those involved in this field of market competition, whilst taking into consideration the specific features of particular occupations.

This is our approach at the moment, therefore: to apply the Services Directive strictly and honestly, but pragmatically to all the sectors it covers, in keeping with the law for which you yourselves voted.

 
  
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  President. − That concludes Question Time.

I apologise to those who were not called, especially those in the EPP. There were 19 questions from the EPP. Five questions were finally taken, four from the Socialists, three from the ALDE, so a proportionate response. One from the EFD, one from the ECR. Thank you all very much indeed.

(The sitting was suspended for a few moments)

 

5. Other business
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  President. − Colleagues, Mr Helmer has a point of order.

 
  
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  Roger Helmer (ECR ). - Mr President, the first intervention ever made in this House by an elected Member was by the Reverend Dr Ian Paisley in 1979, who drew attention to the fact that the British flag was flying upside down. The first intervention I ever made in this House 20 years on, in 1999, was to draw attention to the fact that the British flag was flying upside down. This morning I entered the Parliament at about 7 a.m. and, guess what? The British flag was again flying upside down. I note that this has now been corrected, but can you please assure me that this will not occur again. After 33 years we should by now have learned which way up to hang the British flag.

 
  
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  President. − It is a failing on the part of the French, I am afraid.

 
  
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  Corneliu Vadim Tudor (NI ). - Mr President, in Europe we are having a very hard winter. Many people are dying every day. In my country 75 people have already died. It is a real tragedy.

I urge you to propose a moment’s silence in memory of our brothers and sisters who have died in Romania and in other European countries.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (EFD ). - Mr President, I just wanted to add to what Mr Helmer said. Mr Helmer is well aware that flying the Union flag upside down is a signal of distress, so it is entirely appropriate that it should be flown upside down in this place. I would recommend that we fly it that way permanently.

(Laughter)

 
  
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  President. − On the point raised by Mr Tudor, this was apparently on the agenda on Monday and was dealt with then, but thank you for the suggestion.

 

6. Return of the sealed-off section of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants (written declaration)
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  President. − The written declaration submitted by Ms Geringer de Oedenberg, Willy Meyer, Mr Tremopoulos, Ms Wikström and Mr Zasada on the return of the sealed-off section of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants has been signed by a majority of Parliament’s component Members.

 
  
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  Artur Zasada, author . – (PL) Mr President, there is a location within the territory of the European Union, in Cyprus to be precise, where barbed wire surrounds an area containing thousands of empty houses, churches, schools, kindergartens, sports fields and children’s playgrounds. The inhabitants of that town dream of the day when they will be able to return to their childhood haunts. Assistance from international institutions, and in particular the European Parliament, is necessary and vital if these dreams are to become a reality. I would like to thank you all very much for this assistance on my own behalf and on behalf of all those who signed Written Declaration No 0042, and in particular on behalf of the inhabitants of Famagusta, their children and their grandchildren. I believe that this document will motivate the European Commission, the Member States, the UN and especially the government of Turkey to work more closely together and to take further action on this matter.

 

7. Voting time
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  President. − The next item is the vote.

(For the results and other details on the vote: see Minutes)

 

7.1. Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market and protection of intellectual property rights (A7-0003/2012 - Antonio Masip Hidalgo) (vote)

7.2. Interconnection of central, commercial and companies registers (A7-0022/2012 - Kurt Lechner) (vote)

7.3. EU–Guinea-Bissau protocol on fishing opportunities (A7-0017/2012 - Carl Haglund) (vote)

7.4. Participation of Morocco in Union programmes (A7-0016/2012 - Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck) (vote)

7.5. Vaccination against bluetongue (A7-0031/2012 - Janusz Wojciechowski) (vote)
 

– Before the vote:

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski, rapporteur . – (PL) Mr President, we are coming to the end of what has been quite a long period of work on a very important directive which will make vaccination against bluetongue easier. Bluetongue is a very serious disease affecting cattle breeding in many European countries. The vaccinations themselves will be better, and they will be easier for cattle breeders to use. I propose that we adopt this report unreservedly, because it is urgently needed by cattle breeders across all of Europe. For reasons beyond Parliament’s control, work on the report took longer than anticipated, and in fact we have voted on it once before. We are now bringing our work to a close, and I would like to thank you for your attention and urge you to support this report.

 

7.6. Technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros (A7-0292/2011 - Sari Essayah) (vote)

7.7. Appointment of a member of the Court of Auditors - Mr Baudilio Tome Muguruza / ES (A7-0036/2012 - Inés Ayala Sender) (vote)
 

– Before the vote:

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the S&D Group . − Mr President, I have a question to the rapporteur. As far as I remember, we have already voted for a member of the Court of Auditors for Spain. My question is whether Spain now has two members of the Court of Auditors, whether the man for whom we voted resigned and was withdrawn, or whether he was withdrawn artificially by the Government of Spain.

I find it strange that Parliament here should vote for a member and then that the Council should not respect our vote. So I would ask what exactly is happening, because our Group would protest strongly if, after the European Parliament has taken a decision on a majority vote, the Council does not respect our decision.

 
  
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  President. − Mr Swoboda, apparently the mandate of the current auditor is expiring this month and therefore the proposal is in order, so I am advised.

(That concludes the vote)

 

8. Explanations of vote
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Oral explanations of vote

 
  
  

Report: Antonio Masip Hidalgo (A7-0003/2012 )

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR ). - Mr President, safeguarding intellectual property rights is an essential tenet in a developed country which encourages businesses to invest in the EU to maximise their innovative capabilities. There is little reward in investing in high-quality research in a region when there is little or no enforcement of these intellectual property rights.

Although I am still to be convinced of the need for a new EU institution to be tasked with data collection and exchange of good practice, I am prepared to support this initiative so long as it will provide a robust and efficient method to deal with infringements of intellectual property rights in the internal market. This seems a necessary move by the EU to ensure that intellectual property rights are well protected and that best practice for the enforcement and harmonising of these intellectual property rights is delivered for businesses operating in the EU as a whole.

 
  
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  Iva Zanicchi (PPE ).(IT) Mr President, intellectual property rights are a tool for safeguarding European cultural diversity and at the same time ensure the Union’s economic growth, while also acting as a reservoir for the creation of new jobs.

In view of the huge economic damage that infringements of those rights cause to EU income, it has become necessary in recent years for the Member States and the European institutions to step up their efforts to fight such infringements.

Therefore, measures to inform consumers of the dangers of buying counterfeit goods and to make them more aware of the negative impact of piracy and counterfeiting on European industry are, I believe, justified. That is why I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Paolo Bartolozzi (PPE ).(IT) Mr President, the increase in intellectual property infringements observed in recent years threatens to undermine the strategy on intellectual property rights in the single market that was launched by the Commission in May 2011.

To combat such infringements and ensure the success of the intellectual property protection policy, it has been proposed that the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market be entrusted with certain tasks relating to the running of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, set up in 2009. The purpose of this is to provide the Observatory with the human and financial resources to combat intellectual property infringements and to conduct campaigns to raise public awareness of the risks of buying counterfeit products.

Our adoption of the report therefore marks a very important moment in the fight against the trade in counterfeit goods and in defence of innovation, growth and the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as the jobs and security of the people of Europe.

 
  
  

Report: Inés Ayala Sender (A7-0036/2012 )

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (ECR ).(ES) Mr President, I am glad that Parliament has backtracked on the path it took last December when it endeavoured to vote for the candidate put forward by Spain’s previous socialist government on the very eve of the announcement of the elections which gave the Partido Popular an absolute majority.

It was a mistake to take a vote – particularly when these elections had already taken place – on a candidate whom we already knew lacked the support of the Spanish Government.

Let us hope that the Court of Auditors, acting together with the Council and Parliament, can carry out its work with the efficiency that we need now more than ever in this time of crisis.

 
  
  

Report: Antonio Masip Hidalgo (A7-0003/2012 )

 
  
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  Antonello Antinoro (PPE ).(IT) Mr President, intellectual property may sound like a contradiction in terms but, on the contrary, it is in many respects very consistent.

I voted in favour of this proposal because its aim – to entrust the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) with certain tasks relating to the running of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy – is necessary and indispensable for fighting violations of intellectual property rights. Its main objectives are to increase awareness in the public and private sectors of the impact of counterfeiting and piracy and to inform consumers of the dangers of buying counterfeit goods.

Agreement was reached at first reading on 19 December, on the basis of 33 compromise amendments. The amendments mean that the title of the regulation and the name of the Office are not changed in line with the European Observatory. An even more important and fundamental point is the fact that civil society will be represented at the meetings. All of that will further raise the level of democracy and participation of the key event that we are about to celebrate with today’s vote.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR ). - I apologise, Mr President, but unfortunately the names were not being flashed up and I did actually ask to speak on this matter. I voted alongside my Group, the ECR, in favour of the report on the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market. We believe that the formal establishment of a European observatory for infringements of intellectual property rights is an important step towards fighting counterfeiting and piracy.

This observatory will also promote the sharing of good practices in many areas and will be able to collect a wide pool of data. We believe that this will be a useful source of evidence in the debate on copyright infringement and on intellectual property rights more generally, particularly as certifiably impartial data in this area are currently very hard to come by with the existing set of regulations.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE ). - (SK) Mr President, I supported the report by Mr Hidalgo and I congratulate him on the text. The Commission proposal is closely connected with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). However, it does not only concern the fight against counterfeiting and piracy on the Internet. It will lead to an improvement in the understanding of the overall scope and impact of infringements of intellectual property rights. I consider this beneficial. Raising public awareness of the value of authorship is very important for a wider understanding of the need to protect intellectual property rights. This will contribute to the promotion and maintenance of economic growth. The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market should also monitor the development of competitive new business models. It would thereby support not only the exchange of information between Member State institutions, but also public awareness.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE ).(IT) Mr President, I voted in favour of the report put to the vote this morning in an attempt to revitalise the work of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy. So far the Observatory has not produced any significant results and has been unable to effectively carry out its remit because it has lacked sufficient human, financial and practical resources.

My vote is therefore intended to help revive the Observatory; once it is made dependent on the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market, it will be able to make use of the Office’s financial resources.

To conclude, in order to effectively revitalise the work of the Observatory, the Office must be provided with appropriate professional resources and knowledge as well as indispensable technical expertise, including that to be found in the Member States’ own intellectual property authorities. This will enable it to effectively exercise its new powers associated with the running of the Observatory and perform these duties with the same commitment and concern for every intellectual property right recognised at EU level, without imposing any hierarchical order when safeguarding such rights.

 
  
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  Zoltán Bagó (PPE ).(HU) Mr President, infringements of intellectual property rights have become increasingly frequent, causing considerable financial losses to the cultural and creative sectors. During this time the activities of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Privacy established by the Commission have multiplied. For that reason I voted in favour of the regulation, that is for the observatory to be run by the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market. The merger will also result in budgetary savings. In drafting the report, the rapporteur included the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education, which means the cultural dimensions of intellectual property rights were also put forward. The proposals of the European Parliament therefore show the emphasis that we place on promoting new business models that expand the legal supply of cultural and creative content, as well as the fact that we wish to protect the intellectual property rights of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

 
  
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  Emma McClarkin (ECR ). - Mr President, today I am happy to support giving legal effect to a European observatory to assist with combating the infringement of intellectual property rights (IPR). The observatory will be effective in dealing with infringement because until now there has been a severe shortage of information for tackling counterfeiting and piracy. It also brings harmonisation across Member States, meaning that the EU can become a more effective machine when it comes to IPR and infringement.

It is, however, important that the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market can work closely with the Member States, as well as private industry and the Commission, to tackle infringement. Without such cooperation, duplication could potentially harm progress, and in a supportive role a European observatory can help bring real value to IPRs.

We can also save the EU budget, and indeed taxpayers, some much-needed money in these difficult financial times by entrusting the Office of Harmonisation with this very important task. I have also called for a focus, not just on counterfeiting and piracy, but also on other types of infringement. I welcome this vote today.

 
  
  

Report: Kurt Lechner (A7-0022/2012 )

 
  
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  Kay Swinburne (ECR ). - Mr President, this report on interconnection of central, commercial and companies’ registers seems to incorporate the primary aims of the single market. The existing system of having separate national regional business registers has proved quite cumbersome over the years and has often seen a great variance in the type and quality of data being stored. This can make it difficult to interpret for businesses hoping to engage in cross-border trades as data cannot always be relied upon.

The proposal to create a single EU register for businesses to provide a platform where companies themselves can access information on other EU companies – thus facilitating cross-border trade – is one that I can support. It could potentially save time and money for European businesses as trading partner information would be accessible in a more efficient and timely manner. Importantly, this proposal needs to ensure no additional burden of red tape is placed on our companies whilst facilitating the overarching objective of completing the single market.

 
  
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  Iva Zanicchi (PPE ).(IT) Mr President, Mr Lechner’s report falls into the class of actions designed to improve services for citizens and businesses within the European Union.

The interconnection of central and commercial registers is indeed an excellent way to make communications and the retrieval of information by citizens and businesses more accessible and, above all, faster. That is why I voted in favour, Mr President.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR ). - Mr President, I too voted alongside my group, the ECR, in favour of the report on the interconnection of central, commercial and companies’ registers. As a group we are fully in favour of all measures which can be put in place to simplify trading, particularly those that, in so doing, serve to increase economic activity across the single market.

We believe that, once implemented, the proposals put forward in the report will have this effect. We believe that these measures should be put in place as an important network to help businesses which are seeking to trade across EU borders. The current system – which is predominantly one of national and regional registers only – makes it difficult to search for information about companies in parts of Europe outside one’s own Member State. This proposal seeks to link national and regional registers to form an international EU database, and we fully support such a move.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE ).(IT) Mr President, finding out the facts and figures about a business through legally regulated disclosure systems is an essential factor in ensuring that the markets operate efficiently and in accordance with the law. For this purpose, there are rules underpinning a wide range of national systems for the management of numerous public economic and administrative registers. The most important one in my country, Italy, is the companies’ register, which all companies operating in Italy have to join.

This morning I voted in favour of the interconnection of business registers, as provided for in the document discussed in this Chamber. This proposal for a directive is a significant measure that will foster further integration of the economic area within the EU and improve legal certainty for businesses and citizens. I must also stress that it will enable our businesses, especially those that operate in several EU countries, to save a lot of money. At a time of crisis like the present, that is not to be sneezed at!

 
  
  

Report: Sari Essayah (A7-0292/2011 )

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR ). - Mr President, I voted along with my Group, the ECR, in favour of the report on technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros. The development of the single euro payments area has as its principal aim the integration of payments across the whole of the European Union, and this includes the UK.

These developments do not just affect the euro zone, as I have said, and we believe that this will bring benefits to consumers, businesses and banks, including for my country, which is outside of the eurozone and will remain outside of the eurozone.

Much of the system is already operational and works well so far. The latest developments will in theory make the country in which a bank account is held immaterial in future and so ultimately will mean that there can be a great deal more competition between banks and businesses throughout the European Union.

We are therefore in favour of such a move although, of course, the United Kingdom will remain outside of the eurozone.

***

 
  
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  President. − I have a point of information concerning the point of order raised by Mr Helmer, which is that the British flag should be flown with the thick white stripe uppermost near the flagpole.

***

 
  
  

Written explanations of vote

 
  
  

Report: Antonio Masip Hidalgo (A7-0003/2012 )

 
  
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  Damien Abad (PPE ), in writing. (FR) The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM), which was set up in 1994, is the European agency responsible for administering the registration of Community trade marks and designs. As I support the protection of intellectual property rights I voted in favour of the Hidalgo report, which advocates extending the role of the OHIM to include combating counterfeiting and piracy.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D ), in writing. (PT) I am voting in favour, as this new agency will guarantee the representation of industries, consumers, SMEs, on-line service providers and individual creators, including independent authors. It is important to protect the rightful intellectual property rights of creators and innovators. Incidentally, it is the Digital Agenda for Europe associated with the Europe 2020 strategy that defines these guidelines. In line with what the S&D Group advocates, I would also highlight the important role of the former European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy in collecting objective data in terms of infringements of this kind.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE ), in writing . − I voted in favour of the proposal related to the management of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy in order to fight against infringements of intellectual property rights, increase the awareness of public and private sectors of the impact of counterfeiting and piracy and inform consumers of the dangers related to the purchase of fake products. I supported adjusting the observatory’s title to its more extended role by changing its name from ‘European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy’ to ‘European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights’. I also supported the proposal to clarify the scope of the Regulation in line with Directive 2004/48.

 
  
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  Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE ), in writing.(RO) Improving the understanding of the value of intellectual property and a proactive approach to intellectual property rights are vital to achieving the ambitious Europe 2020 strategy objectives. The high number of infringements against intellectual property rights poses a serious threat to the proper functioning of the internal market and, in many cases, to European consumers’ health and safety too. In addition, the rise in counterfeiting and piracy results in considerable tax revenue losses for Member States. Efficient, immediate and coordinated measures are required at national, European and global level to tackle this problem effectively. I would like to emphasise amongst these measures the importance of creating new competitive business models that enlarge the legal cultural and creative content offering required to foster economic growth, employment and cultural diversity. I voted in favour of this report.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) I welcome the outcome of this week’s vote on incorporating the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy into the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). Considering that the European Union’s economic well-being is also dependent upon maintaining its creativity, cultural diversity and capacity for innovation, I believe this merger will be of benefit to our businesses, those involved in innovation and consumers as well. This Observatory, which was set up in 2009, will now benefit from more financial resources and the latest expertise. The regulation will enable us to further improve the quality of information and statistics on counterfeiting and piracy within the EU internal market, and to continue creating and disseminating the most effective enforcement strategies and techniques implemented in both the public and private sectors.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D ), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report. The Europe 2020 strategy is based on smart growth, which consists of promoting creativity, knowledge and innovation. In the next decade it is essential to improve EU research results and ensure greater application of smart products and services in the market. The successful creation of a single market for research will depend on guaranteeing effective protection of intellectual property rights. The recent increase in intellectual property rights infringements (a study conducted in 2010 indicates that EUR 10 billion and more than 185 000 jobs were lost due to piracy in the music, movie, TV, and software industries in the EU in 2008) is reducing investments in innovations, killing jobs, threatening the health and safety of European consumers and preventing small and medium-sized enterprises from developing. I agree that the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market should be strengthened for this purpose and it should be entrusted with certain tasks related to the protection of intellectual property rights, which would help use to better understand the scale of intellectual property right infringements and respond to them more effectively.

 
  
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  Regina Bastos (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy was created in 2009, and became a specialised centre for collecting, monitoring and communicating information and data relating to all violations of intellectual property rights (IPR) as well as a platform for cooperation. Since its creation, the Council has added new responsibilities to its other competencies and the European Parliament has requested that the Observatory compile data from scientific research into counterfeiting and IPR regulations. The continuous rise in IPR violations is a significant threat not only to the economy but also to the health and safety of European consumers. The present report, which I have supported, aims at entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) with the tasks that are currently performed by the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, with a view to improving the performance of the duties attributed to it and allowing the Observatory to have access, as quickly as possible, to the specialist knowledge and financial resources needed to perform its functions. The Office will invite government and private sector representatives to the Observatory meetings, ensuring that consumer organisations, small and medium-sized enterprises, authors and other creators are properly represented.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto (EFD ), in writing.(IT) The report concerns entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market with new powers relating to the protection of intellectual property rights. It is not a new body that is being set up, therefore, but an existing one that is being strengthened to tackle the challenges posed by the growing problem of the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods. Every year this problem causes our businesses to become less competitive, puts the health and safety of millions of European consumers at risk, cheats the Member States’ coffers of slices of their revenue, and erodes parts of the European labour market. Moreover, this thriving activity, which is increasingly difficult to control, subsidises organised crime. I therefore welcome the attempt to fight this growing problem by every means possible, not least by setting up a coordinating forum for the competent national authorities to exchange good practices as well as information and joint strategies to tackle the issue through cooperation, but without threatening the individual national authorities’ powers. I therefore voted for the report.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D ), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report because with it the European Parliament has expressed its position on European Commission’s proposal on combating piracy and infringements of intellectual property rights. The Commission has presented the European Parliament with a proposal on merging the management of two different institutions established to gather information about intellectual property and brands and to combat intellectual property infringements.

Its work would thus become more effective and this would also save money. Such a proposal was greatly welcomed in the European Parliament because back in 2010 the European Parliament contacted the Commission requesting the strengthening of the role of the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, and it will be possible to do this by entrusting certain functions that require additional resources to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market established in 1996.

The new structure of the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights with additional resources will cover more transparent governance on the basis of a clear methodology set out in advance, greater accountability to the European Parliament, the Commission and civil society, and its work will equally represent the interests of industry, consumers, small business and independent producers.

It is important to note that the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights will not carry out any functions that could be compared to the role of law enforcement authorities.

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE ), in writing.(RO) The European Union’s economic well-being relies on sustained creativity, cultural diversity and innovation as these are the driving forces in an evolving knowledge society.

This means that the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is beneficial to business, innovators, consumers and those involved in producing creative cultural works. To encourage greater cooperation between Member States on IPR protection, the Commission has created the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy. The Observatory and its growing number of activities and tasks must be embedded in an operational, cost-efficient institutional structure, which allows it to perform its tasks effectively and support the fight against IPR infringements. I also think that it would be beneficial to European citizens, business and public administration if the Observatory developed a publicly accessible online platform providing information and examples of best practice, free downloadable awareness-raising tools and capacity-building initiatives concerning the numerous legislative and non-legislative means of combating IPR infringements.

 
  
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  Vito Bonsignore (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I voted in favour of Mr Masip Hidalgo’s report. The European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy is a centre of expertise for gathering, monitoring and reporting data on infringements of intellectual property rights and a platform where stakeholders can exchange ideas on best practices with a view to developing strategies to enforce those rights.

Entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) with tasks currently carried out by the Observatory is proving necessary and appropriate, since the Office has the financial resources and expertise capable of delivering on the Observatory’s recently expanded tasks. The purpose of the proposal is to improve the way the responsibilities assigned to the Observatory are carried out. In the current context of the continuous growth of trade in counterfeit goods, which causes substantial losses of tax revenue for the Member States, as well as job losses and reduced investment in innovation, it is even more important for OHIM to take over its activities.

The Observatory, on the other hand, will become a permanent forum for representatives of the public and private sectors on counterfeiting and piracy in Europe.

 
  
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  John Bufton (EFD ), in writing . − I voted against this report, as I believe that in a time of economic hardship and spreading financial crisis we can ill afford another unnecessary EU institution. The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market will be another bureaucracy-generating institution that will likely place a stranglehold on innovation and growth by undermining domestic capabilities in the area of intellectual rights, trademarks and design laws with restrictive European legislation. I do not agree that current UK law governing intellectual property should be usurped by a European model. What will result will be confusion as international intellectual property law, WIPO and its related competences, as well as national provisions are pitted against an influx of EU legislation that is simply not needed.

 
  
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  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE ), in writing. (RO) In order to achieve the EU 2020 strategy objectives, especially the smart growth element, the EU needs research and innovation. To ensure that innovators are rewarded according to their intellectual and financial efforts, appropriate protection must be afforded to intellectual property rights. This is why I supported the agreement at first reading between Parliament and the Council, whose objective is to increase the efficient operation of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy by transferring it to the management of the OHIM, thereby providing the ideal solution in terms of cost and ensuring that the Observatory has access to the OHIM’s expertise and resources. The Observatory will therefore be able to make a more effective contribution to raising consumers’ awareness of the problem of counterfeiting and piracy, including their economic impact and the risks to consumers. I also firmly believe that the new regulation will improve cooperation at both European and global level on combating counterfeiting and piracy, and will help develop new business models that will increase the legal cultural content offering, thereby supporting economic growth and cultural diversity.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec (PPE ), in writing. – (FR ) I voted in favour of the report on the proposal for a regulation on the protection of intellectual property rights. I feel it is important to raise public awareness about the threats posed by counterfeiting and piracy. As we live in an age where technology enables us to easily access different content, it is vital that the people who produce this content are protected. I note that the new tasks assigned to the Office, now to be known as ‘the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights’, also strengthen the competent national authorities. I approve the new opportunity for the Observatory to make recommendations at the Commission’s request.

 
  
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  Antonio Cancian (PPE ), in writing.(IT) The proposal contained in the Masip Hidalgo report comes within the context of measures aiming at the implementation of the Commission’s strategy for creating a single market for intellectual property rights, which will reform several areas by 2014.

The main purpose of the proposal that we have adopted today is to coordinate the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) and the current European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy (to be renamed the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights), in order to carry on an effective, appropriate and targeted fight against infringements of intellectual property rights in a concerted manner at both national and European levels.

I voted in favour of the proposal because I consider it a valuable step towards achieving the rational and effective implementation of the principle of defending all forms of intellectual property rights. I welcome the coordination of the Observatory within OHIM so as to enable it to act consistently and in a concerted manner in a sector that is both important and sensitive. On the one hand it will raise awareness in the public and private sectors of the impact of counterfeiting and piracy, and on the other it will inform consumers of the dangers associated with buying counterfeit goods.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE ), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of this initiative as this resolution is aimed at safeguarding intellectual property rights and as it is a fundamental precept in a developed country, which encourages companies to invest in the EU so as to maximize their innovative capabilities. I welcome this initiative as it considers that intellectual property rights are essential commercial assets, which contribute to ensuring that creators and innovators receive fair compensation for their work and that their investment in research and new ideas is protected.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL ), in writing.(EL) Any decision on intellectual property rights must take account of the fact that different types of problems cannot be addressed with a general rule, as defined by the term ‘intellectual property’. The imitation of goods and works governed by an intellectual property scheme relates, firstly, to the distribution of work at global level and, secondly, to creativity, as shaped by the spread of new technologies, with radically different conditions of production and consumption. The inability to recognise and manage issues relating to outdated materials and unprofitable intangible resources negates the contraction sought by the term ‘intellectual property’. Creating and strengthening an organisation to monitor such rights, in view of the ACTA trade agreement, which also contracts disparate problems, to the point at which it goes beyond fundamental democratic rights and functions, will turn the observatory into a police body to monitor citizens’ private lives and communications and undermine creativity and innovation in the Union. The possible cooperation between this body and private firms paves the way for the policing of citizens’ public and private life by private individuals, a prospect which is incompatible with democratic principles and values. As neither the original proposal nor the proposed changes satisfactorily meet the need to protect the personal and democratic rights of European citizens, I abstained.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D ), in writing.(RO) This European Parliament legislative resolution – on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) (Trade Marks and Designs) with certain tasks related to the protection of intellectual property rights, including the assembling of public and private sector representatives as a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy – should facilitate and support the activities of national authorities, the private sector and EU institutions relating to respect for intellectual property rights and, in particular, to their activities in combating the infringements of these rights. Especially in view of the impact of digitisation and new technologies on the protection of intellectual property rights, the tasks of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy must be transferred to the OHIM, given that the latter has the necessary financial resources and expertise. I support this merger in strengthening a coordinated policy for combating counterfeiting, as well as the proposal for developing a public platform accessible online, aimed at informing and raising public awareness about the risks of counterfeiting and piracy which can affect both consumers’ health, due to the lack of quality, and Member States’ budgets, due to considerable tax revenue losses.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D ), in writing . – (RO) The European Union 2020 strategy gives priority to smart growth, as well as to creativity, knowledge and innovation as these are all regarded as drivers of future growth. To achieve this, research activities need to be encouraged, innovation promoted and knowledge transferred. In addition, innovative ideas need to be turned into new products and services as they are capable of contributing to the creation of good-quality jobs. I think that, in view of this, it is beneficial to focus particular attention on the activities of small and medium-sized enterprises to prevent them from having difficulty with access when they need to affirm their intellectual property rights. I also think that it is beneficial to carry out joint actions, also with the aim of consulting Member States and encouraging international cooperation with intellectual property offices in third countries, with a view to devising strategies and techniques for enforcing intellectual property rights, as well as the skills and tools specific to this area.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE ), in writing. (FR) I voted for this text which gives the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (trademarks and designs – OHIM) new powers for the protection of intellectual property rights and in particular the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. Increasing the protection against these two scourges will help prevent damage to the European economy and to the health and safety of our citizens.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) I voted for this report, the main objective of which is to entrust the OHIM with certain tasks associated with the running of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy to better fight against infringements of intellectual property rights. The aim is to increase awareness among the public and private sectors of the impact of counterfeiting and piracy and to inform consumers about the dangers of purchasing counterfeit products and the fact that this practice is totally illegal.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE ), in writing. (PT) At a time when the dematerialisation of information, knowledge, and cultural, artistic, and commercial production is becoming increasingly relevant, it is clearly necessary to tighten the reins on the protection of intellectual property rights for companies and for European citizens, especially through increasing consumers’ awareness of the dangers to themselves and to the European economy that result from counterfeiting and piracy. Without this tightening of regulations, the risk of a rise in infringements connected with these kinds of rights threatens to grow exponentially. Due to its nature and wealth of experience, the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market is clearly the appropriate body to take on the responsibility for these new tasks. I hope that the amendments proposed by Parliament have enriched the Commission’s original text and that the new tasks to be entrusted to the Office will have a positive impact on safeguarding industrial property rights and consequently on safeguarding the innovation and competitiveness of European companies. Without adequate protection and a collective awareness of their importance, this will not be possible.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE ), in writing.(PT) Antonio Masip Hidalgo’s report concerns the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) with certain tasks such as the protection of intellectual property rights. This regulation also provides for the creation of a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, located in the Spanish region of Alicante, made up of representatives of the public and private sectors, which would register trademarks at European Union level. A modern society protects its creative people and combats counterfeiting and piracy. With this recommendation, the European Parliament is not only showing that it supports a sector which encourages culture and creativity, but also that it supports innovation and the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises. As I am aware of the detrimental consequences of piracy and counterfeiting for growth and employment, I voted in favour of this report. It is essential to enable this Observatory to become operational as soon as possible in order to protect intellectual property rights, inform consumers and combat piracy and counterfeiting.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL ), in writing. (PT) The European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy has been functioning for several years. The mission of the observatory is to detect and record infringements of intellectual property rights, and to make a statistical register of these, without any kind of collection of personal data.

With a view to reducing the Observatory’s operational expenses, the European Commission is proposing to incorporate it into the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market. This report focuses only on this, and touches neither on the definitions of data collection, nor on other questions of this type, and serves merely to transfer the tasks from one institution to another. Despite the scope and practical effects of this report being relatively limited, we must stress our reservations and distance ourselves from it, both with regard to the concept of intellectual property rights that is current in the EU and is shared by the majority in this Parliament, and with regard to the role and aims of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Benová (S&D ), in writing. – (SK) The economic well-being of the European Union relies on sustained creativity and innovation. It is therefore important to make efforts towards measures for their effective protection. Intellectual property rights are vital business assets that help to ensure that innovators and creators get a fair return for their work and that their investment in research and new ideas is protected. Despite all efforts, there is a constant rise in infringements of these rights, which constitutes a threat not only to the Union economy, but also to health and safety of the population. Therefore, effective, immediate and coordinated actions at European and global levels are needed to successfully combat this phenomenon. One of the major initiatives of the Council and the Commission back in 2009 was the launching of a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy in order to respond to this threat. I firmly believe, though, that it is equally important that individual Member States make efforts to enhance cooperation between the office in question and the national Intellectual Property Offices.

Data and the exchange of best practices are needed on the entire range of intellectual property rights in order to obtain a complete picture of the situation and to allow the design of comprehensive strategies to reduce intellectual property rights infringements. The Office’s mandate should also be extended to cover the protection of patents, copyright and related rights, as well as geographical indications.

 
  
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  Lorenzo Fontana (EFD ), in writing.(IT) The proposal for a regulation confines itself to implementing the powers of an existing office, the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) and changing the name of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy to the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights. Since the Observatory is expected to perform its functions by using own funds, since this regulation highlights the protection of innovative small and medium-sized enterprises, and since it does not prevent the Member States from exercising their own powers in this field, I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (PPE ), in writing. (HU) I voted against today’s Socialist-Liberal motion for a resolution condemning Hungary because in submitting that motion the Socialist-Liberal groups crossed the line of what one can accept even from a political opponent. The resolution, which ultimately was adopted today, is against the Hungarian people and the whole of Hungary. Hungarian Socialist politicians are sacrificing the country for their own political aims, which amounts to treason. The motion for a resolution itself is a trumped up document that distorts the truth and is overbearingly accusatory. Although the political resolution has no binding force, the political intention behind it is clear – weakening the Hungarian Government and using smear tactics to undermine the credibility of its measures.

Clearly the Socialists, in league with the Greens and the Liberals, had to mobilise all their forces to get a motion approved that is teeming with distortions and lies and that severely violates our right to self-determination. The Hungarian Socialists like to hide behind the skirts of others. In 1956 they called in the Soviet Union. Now they have turned to the advisory bodies of the European Union and even the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe without even waiting for the completion of the regular procedure, namely the end of the consultations between the government and the Commission. This was a true modern show trial in a democratic guise.

 
  
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  Louis Grech (S&D ), in writing . − This report outlines the proposal for a Regulation entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) with certain tasks which are currently being dealt with by the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy. Should this proposal be adopted, some key factors listed in the Hidalgo report must be fully taken into account: (1) full transparency of the methodology used; (2) balanced representation – meaning that this must include not only large industries, but also consumers, SMEs and internet service providers; (3) the Office must fully abide by EU law on data protection.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD ), in writing. (LT) I welcomed this document because the economic well-being of the European Union relies on sustainable creativity and innovation. Measures for their effective protection are therefore essential for ensuring the EU’s future prosperity. Intellectual property rights are vital business assets that help to ensure that innovators and creators get a fair return for their work and that their investment in research and new ideas is protected. We need a sound, harmonised and progressive approach to intellectual property rights. The constant rise in infringements of intellectual property rights constitutes a genuine threat not only to the Union economy, but often also to the health and safety of Union consumers. Effective, immediate and coordinated actions at national, European and global levels are therefore needed to successfully combat this phenomenon. Given the need to defend intellectual property rights, the Council called on the Commission to launch a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy. The Observatory should become the central resource for gathering, monitoring and reporting information and data related to all intellectual property rights infringements. It should be used as a platform for cooperation between representatives from national authorities and stakeholders to exchange ideas and expertise on best practices and to make recommendations to policy-makers for joint enforcement strategies.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) I voted in favour of this report, the objective of which is to strengthen the role of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) in fighting counterfeiting and piracy. The main objectives are to increase awareness among the public and private sectors of the impact of counterfeiting and piracy and to inform consumers about the dangers.

 
  
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  Agnès Le Brun (PPE ), in writing. (FR) I voted for this report, the object of which is to entrust the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) with certain tasks associated with the running of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy to fight against infringements of intellectual property rights. The ultimate aim is to increase awareness among the public and private sectors of the impact of counterfeiting and piracy.

 
  
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  Constance Le Grip (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) I voted in favour of Mr Masip Hidalgo’s report on the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) and the protection of intellectual property rights. The new tasks assigned to the OHIM under this new regulation will ensure greater enforcement of intellectual property rights and avoid the significant damage caused by counterfeiting and piracy to the European economy as well as to the health and safety of European citizens.

I welcome in particular the establishment of a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy within the OHIM which will allow for a better exchange of information and concerted action between the various private and public parties.

 
  
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  Bogdan Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (PPE ), in writing.(PL) I believe that in the age of the global transmission of information, and especially of digitisation in its broadest sense, particular attention should be paid to protection of the rights of individuals and of their creations as regards so-called piracy. Special care must be taken to protect increasing creativity and innovation, along with new technological developments, in respect of intellectual property rights. Intellectual property is also the result of creative activity by ordinary individuals and entrepreneurs. In the broadest sense of the term it is not unusual for consumers to be involved too.

Unrestricted access to the Internet, available to all, has resulted in a dramatic increase in the amount of counterfeiting, and also illegal use and trade in intellectual property, to the detriment of many sectors of the European Union’s economy. The right action is being taken. The creation of a special Internet platform for citizens, enterprises and public administrations making available essential data concerning the correct management of information in their possession is particularly important. Nonetheless, I feel we should guard against the certain danger of excessive interventionism. We must realise that it is not sensible to adopt legislation covering practically every sphere of activity. Furthermore, such action could severely restrict and be detrimental to that very creativity in the area of new intellectual property protected by law.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D ), in writing . − I welcome the Commission’s proposal to entrust the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market with the tasks of the observatory, with a view to improved implementation of the responsibilities assigned to it. In the context of a continuing growth of trade in counterfeit and pirated goods – reducing the incentive for EU enterprises to innovate, and often resulting in job reductions – it seems appropriate to strengthen a coordinated policy in this regard. Moreover, counterfeiting of certain categories of product (such as medicines, toys, automotive components, household equipment, etc.) threatens human health and leads to a considerable decline in consumer protection. Therefore I consider it justified to inform the public and raise awareness about the possible dangers and consequences of the exponential increase in counterfeiting and piracy observed in recent years.

 
  
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  Clemente Mastella (PPE ), in writing.(IT) The European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, set up in 2009, has become a centre for collecting, monitoring and reporting information and data on infringements of intellectual property rights in Europe. It is also a platform for cooperation among representatives of national authorities and stakeholders to exchange ideas and expertise on best practices, so as to develop joint enforcement strategies. Since it has been given additional responsibilities and powers, we deem it necessary in this report to modify its current status by introducing sustainable changes with regard to infrastructure, human resources, IT and, most importantly, necessary expertise.

We therefore welcome the proposal of the Commission to entrust the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market with the tasks of the Observatory with a view to improving implementation of the responsibilities involved in enforcing intellectual property rights, provided that there is always a guarantee that the information collected, analysed and disseminated fulfils numerous criteria with regard to completeness and the quality and transparency of data.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I am voting in favour of the report by Mr Masip Hidalgo. I particularly agree with the decision to include in the regulation the reference to the Digital Agenda for Europe to fulfil the Europe 2020 objectives on intellectual property rights. I agree that a sound, harmonised and, above all, progressive approach is needed.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The economic welfare of the Union is based on continued creativity and innovation. Consequently, measures for its effective protection are vital in order to ensure the future prosperity of the Union. Intellectual property rights are essential commercial assets that contribute to ensuring that creators and innovators receive fair compensation for their work and that their investment in research and new ideas is protected. The continuous increase in violations of intellectual property rights constitutes a genuine threat not only to the economy of the Union but also, in many cases, to the health and safety of consumers. Therefore efficient and immediate action coordinated on a national, European and world-wide scale is required to combat this phenomenon effectively. Hence, my vote in favour.

 
  
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  Louis Michel (ALDE ), in writing.(FR) The European Union’s economic prosperity is down to its creativity, its cultural diversity and its ability to innovate. Yet, the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods undermines innovation in European companies and leads to increasing job losses. Furthermore, counterfeiting certain products such as medicines, children’s games or household appliances can be dangerous and even fatal for consumers. This issue is a cause for concern for the Committee on Consumer Protection. The protection of intellectual property rights therefore benefits not only innovators but also businesses and consumers. Lastly, the merger of the OHIM with the Observatory will allow for an efficient use of financial and human resources by providing the Observatory with the necessary financing and infrastructure required to carry out its activity.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE ), in writing. – (SK) The current situation in the Member States shows that the priority for governments at national and European level must be to ensure economic growth and related job security. Research and innovation have become an area where European nations are acquiring a competitive advantage. Inventions and patents are the fruits of time-consuming and costly research and development, and therefore deserve due appreciation and protection in order to achieve an actual return on investment and to encourage similar investments in the future. The area of intellectual property rights is enjoying very rapid development, and numerous European experts are working in this area. Not only does this create new jobs but, thanks to these new inventions, Europe has become a prime location for innovators. If we wish to preserve our position in the face of fierce global competition, we must create and protect an environment in which authors, inventors and manufacturers will not be afraid to offer their creations and knowledge for public use, but will instead produce higher quality products.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D ), in writing . − I support the enhancement of the role of the – already established – Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy in the collection of objective data on the scale of IPR infringements. I voted ‘in favour’, therefore.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI ), in writing . – (DE) A sound, harmonised and gradual approach when it comes to intellectual property rights is of fundamental importance. The constant increase in the number of infringements against intellectual property rights represents a threat that needs to be taken seriously. However, intellectual property rights should enable creators to obtain a fair return on their investments while also allowing the public, the consumers, to access information and knowledge. The EU needs a balanced system if it wants to be a knowledge-based economy. All these monitoring measures must not end up leading to an excess of protection and disproportionate enforcement measures. I see a risk here that the balance could be tipped to the disadvantage of consumers and EU citizens and I therefore voted against this report.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD ), in writing. (LT) I welcomed this resolution because we need to encourage greater cooperation between the Member States and EU institutions. Above all we need to encourage private–public cooperation in enhancing law enforcement cooperation. Attention should be drawn to the fact that the regulatory framework should not create an additional administrative burden.

New competitive business models that enlarge the legal offer of cultural and creative content need to be developed in order to foster economic growth, employment and cultural diversity.

The European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights should thus be used as a platform for cooperation between representatives from national authorities and stakeholders that would help to stop infringements of intellectual property rights.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I agree with Mr Masip Hidalgo’s report on enforcing intellectual property rights since there is still a need to find an overall framework for creating a single market for these rights. The proposals contained in this report aim at modernising the legal framework by assigning the tasks of enforcing these rights to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). There is also a need to revitalise the role of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, which requires greater human, financial and technological resources in order to perform its essential role of monitoring and data collection.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE ), in writing.(EL) I voted in favour of the report. Support for innovation and the effective utilisation of resources for research and technology depends on safeguarding intellectual rights and protecting intellectual property rights. Within that framework, we must remember that the European Commission operates the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, one of the aims of which is to develop technical tools designed to prevent imitation, illegal copying and piracy. That is why the Commission’s proposal for a regulation entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market with the operation of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy is a move in the right direction, as this merger will allow the Observatory to access the financing and infrastructure needed in order to perform the tasks and activities, while at the same time benefiting from the expertise of the Office for Harmonisation, thereby saving approximately EUR 40 000 to the EU budget.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE ), in writing . − (PT) The economic welfare of the European Union depends on the maintenance of its creativity, cultural diversity and capacity for innovation – driving forces of the knowledge society. That is why the protection of intellectual property rights is equally beneficial to companies, innovators, and consumers as well as to parties interested in cultural creation. Over recent years, there has been an increase in copyright abuse and in the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods, which, as well as causing inherent economic damage, is also morally reprehensible and a punishable civil act. The digital economy has seen a rise in the number of violations of intellectual property rights due to falsification, unauthorised copying and piracy, and these are extremely damaging to the creative and cultural economy of the European Union. It is for these reasons that I have voted in favour of the present report, which aims to implement measures to combat this scenario.

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The technological revolution that we have been experiencing has led to a redefinition of the notion of wealth: this concept, traditionally identified with land ownership, has begun to be associated above all with credit, and today there is also a move towards advocating the exclusive use of ideal entities. It is impossible nowadays to think of exclusive use of specific assets without considering intellectual property rights, especially in their economic dimension: this is a major reason for engaging in innovation and development activities. Without this level of protection, which offers the possibility of a return on investment, it is unlikely that companies would embark on the process of creating new products and services with the same impetus. Therefore the proposal to integrate the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy in the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market is admirable, seeking as it does to aggregate the Observatory’s activities with the Office’s know-how and financial resources. It thus provides for a reinforcement of the detection and prevention of piracy cases, which not only have an economic impact but may also jeopardise consumer protection. Thus I have voted in favour.

 
  
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  Crescenzio Rivellini (PPE ), in writing.(IT) In today’s plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg we voted on the report by Mr Masip Hidalgo. The aim of the proposal is to entrust the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) with certain tasks concerning the running of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy in order to combat infringements of intellectual property rights.

The main objectives are to increase awareness in the public and private sectors of the impact of counterfeiting and piracy and to inform consumers of the dangers of buying counterfeit goods.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE ), in writing . − Abstention. Our three main amendments were carried: 1) on the need for the observatory to establish a transparent methodology for the collection, analysis and reporting of independent, objective, comparable and reliable data related to infringements of intellectual property rights; 2) on the involvement of relevant representatives of civil society; and 3) calling for new competitive business models that enlarge the legal offer of cultural and creative content. Nevertheless, doubts remain about the aim and outcome of the observatory’s activities.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I voted in favour of this report since I believe that there is a need to identify and promote better practices and enforcement strategies in order to fight the problem of intellectual property right infringements effectively.

I therefore agree with having stakeholders take part in the Observatory’s meetings. In that way it will be able to act as a platform for exchanging ideas and experience on best practices and developing guidelines for joint enforcement strategies.

Lastly, if consumers and small and medium-sized enterprises are adequately represented, it will help to improve awareness of the value of intellectual property and of the extent and impact of infringements of those rights.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi (EFD ), in writing.(IT) In view of the constant growth of the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods, I am in favour of the proposal for a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy. This is an important step designed to combat organised crime and to protect consumers by improving their safety and reducing the risks to their health, as well as to support small and medium-sized enterprises, which are increasingly threatened by the illegal trade in goods.

While respecting the principle of subsidiarity, the Observatory should act as a platform for the exchange of best practice at both national and European levels, and it should carry out its activities by making use of its own budgetary means. I agree that it should implement the tasks assigned to it so as to guarantee the proper use of consumers’ and companies’ data in order to protect their privacy.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE ), in writing . – (PL) The problem of counterfeiting and piracy is becoming ever more serious, and the ensuing costs for the European economy are difficult to estimate. They are certainly of the order of billions of euros. Some of the consequences of counterfeiting and piracy becoming more widespread are a reduction of investment in innovation which in turn leads to job losses, the health and safety of consumers being put at risk in Europe, the national budgets of Member States losing income from tax, and a rise in organised crime. A long-term consequence for the entire EU is the threat posed to one of the priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy, namely smart growth. An effective policy for the protection of intellectual property certainly has a very important part to play in this regard.

The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market was created in 1995 and tasked with managing a register of all Community trade marks and designs. Its remit in the area of intellectual property rights should now be broadened. This has become necessary because of the nature of its tasks to date and the particular features of the common market. By managing a database of protected trade marks and designs, the Office will be able to deal effectively with the phenomena of counterfeiting and piracy.

When compared to Japan or the USA, the level of innovation in the European economy still leaves much to be desired. Combating infringement of intellectual property rights effectively should become a priority for us in the context of implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE ), in writing.(PT) The protection of intellectual property is the subject of a large number of international agreements. The European Union has two institutions for carrying out this strategic mission, namely the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) and the European Patent Office (IPO) which are responsible for the registration of EU trademarks and designs. I endorse the Commission’s proposal to transfer some of the tasks of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market, particularly those relating to the protection of intellectual property rights such as trademarks and designs. I therefore agree with the current report since I understand that we need to strengthen measures to protect intellectual property, thus reducing the risks to which European companies are exposed and enhancing consumer protection.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D ), in writing.(RO) I voted for the legislative resolution on the proposal for a regulation on entrusting the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) with certain tasks related to the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), including the assembling of public and private sector representatives as a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy. IPR enforcement provides both appropriate benefits for creators and innovators and protection for consumers against the risk of buying counterfeit products.

A Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2009 highlighted that one in five EU citizens has unwittingly bought a counterfeit product at least once. Particular attention must be focused on tackling the counterfeiting of medicines, foods and cosmetic products or domestic appliances, which can result in serious harm to consumers. I think that it is important for all consumers to be constantly informed about the effects and dangers of counterfeiting and piracy and that sustainable, coordinated action needs to be taken to combat IPR infringements, in full compliance with fundamental human rights and freedoms. Furthermore, the information obligations imposed on Member States and the private sector by this regulation must not create an unnecessary administrative burden, and it should be possible for the data already supplied to EU institutions to be reused.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE ), in writing. (DE) I voted in favour of this report. The report is a logical consequence on the way to a uniform and practical protection of material and intellectual property rights in the European Union. In respect of the contentious arguments about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), it makes sense for the groundwork to be laid. ACTA needs to be discussed for longer and more intensively. If necessary, amendments must be put in place here, too. It is important, above all, that EU citizens should not be afraid of a trade agreement.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI ), in writing . – (DE) The European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy was created in order to collect data about cases of infringements of intellectual property rights, enforce intellectual property rights and raise public awareness of this issue. A transfer of certain responsibilities to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market makes sense, as the Observatory lacks adequate resources and the necessary infrastructure to be able to efficiently perform its duties. The Observatory could benefit from the facilities and specialist know-how of the Office without giving rise to additional costs for the EU budget.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR ), in writing . − The formal establishment of the European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights should help provide independent data and facilitate the exchange of good practice in the area of counterfeiting and piracy. One of the main disputes over Intellectual Property Rights abuse is the impartiality of data. By voting in favour of this report I hope the establishment of the Observatory will be able to act as an independent source that is accepted by all sides.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL ), in writing . – (PT) The mission of the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy is to detect and register violations of intellectual property rights and compile a statistical register of these, without collecting any personal data. This report puts forward a measure to reduce the Observatory’s running costs, in this case by proposing to incorporate it into the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market. This report proposes simply to transfer tasks from one institution to another, without altering the system for definition of data collection. On this occasion we have to express our reservations and distance ourselves from both the concept of intellectual property rights currently in force within the European Union and shared by a majority in this Parliament, and the role and objectives of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market.

 
  
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  Tadeusz Zwiefka (PPE ), in writing.(PL) Several unusual circumstances arose in the course of the work of the Committee on Legal Affairs on Mr Masip Hidalgo’s report that we are discussing today. Firstly, we are dealing with a Union agency that not only earns money for itself but also hopes to be entrusted with new tasks, as it considers it has sufficient financial and human resources to cope with additional work.

Secondly, what is at issue is the inclusion of a new observatory into the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market. This observatory would monitor instances of violation of intellectual property rights, providing us with more detailed information and indicating where exactly the root of the problem of protecting intellectual property in Europe lies.

Thirdly, work on this report was completed at almost the end of last year, and despite it being the run-up to Christmas, Mr Masip Hidalgo and the Polish Presidency succeeded in creating a version acceptable to both sides in a comparatively short time. Both sides had to display perseverance and exceptional negotiating skills. In view of the current intense debate on the protection of intellectual property rights and combating all types of violations of the latter including in the sphere of the Internet, we must equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge and tools to enable us to deal effectively with the problem. I hope that including the observatory within the structure of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market will allow our expectations to be met and enable us to gather and analyse date in a reliable and objective manner. That is why I voted in favour of this report.

 
  
  

Report: Kurt Lechner (A7-0022/2012 )

 
  
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  Damien Abad (PPE ), in writing. (FR) In a single market where cross-border activities are becoming more and more frequent, company registers can no longer be managed at national level alone. They must also be managed at European level. That is why I voted in favour of the Lechner report which advocates networking Member States’ commercial and companies registers. This networking will facilitate cross-border access to information about companies, reduce the administrative burden, enhance legal certainty and transparency and increase confidence in the market.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D ), in writing.(PT) I am in favour of this report, the main aim of which is to set up a Europe-wide platform for existing national business registers. It would be beneficial if this platform enabled exchange of basic information on businesses, and would hence be useful to potential investors, regulators and so on, and it would also make it easier to access and understand information in this area throughout the European Union.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE ), in writing . − I voted in favour of this resolution on the proposed Directive because there is an increasing demand for access to information on companies in a cross-border context, either for commercial purposes or to facilitate access to justice. Cross-border groups, as well as many restructuring operations such as mergers and divisions, involve companies from different Member States of the EU. Cross-border access to business information requires cooperation between business registers. Some cooperation between them already exists, but it is limited to certain types of information and does not cover all Member States. This proposal will benefit the citizens of the EU.

 
  
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  Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE ), in writing.(RO) Since the single market was established, many businesses have expanded their activities beyond their national borders. This upsurge in cross-border economic activity requires better interconnection of business registers. At present, it is easy to find information about companies in the country where they are registered. However, access to the same information in another Member State may be hampered by a number of technical or linguistic obstacles. The frequency of updating commercial data is not harmonised, with users lacking information about how correct this data is. Interconnecting business registers is of paramount importance. However, the success of this interconnection will depend entirely on the closest possible cooperation between the Commission and Member States.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE ), in writing.(FR) As you know, I am an active campaigner for an ever more integrated internal market that makes day-to-day life easier for hundreds of millions of European citizens. I therefore approved the proposal for a directive on the interconnection of commercial registers by my colleague from the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), Kurt Lechner, and presented by our Internal Market Commissioner, Michel Barnier. With a background in the private sector, I know how useful it is to centralise this information. What is more, these days many companies carry out cross-border activities and need to have standardised, clear and transparent information about their partners, customers, competitors and so on. Not only are registers not standardised but, depending on the country, they may be national, regional or even local. It is a waste of time and money as the administrative costs associated with these disparities are valued at EUR 69 million a year. The information in this new register will be available in the 23 languages of the European Union via a single European electronic platform. We hope that from now on the Member States, under the Council of Ministers, will follow our recommendations which pose a key challenge for all European entrepreneurs.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D ), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this Directive, which is aimed at ensuring the technical interconnection of existing national registers. The interconnection of business registers is an important measure for fostering further integration of the economic area within the EU and improving legal certainty for businesses and citizens. Business registers are currently kept at national and regional level and vary in many respects, de jure and de facto, with regard to their legal significance and the reliability of the data recorded in them. With the increase in cross-border economic activity in the EU, it is essential to ensure greater legal certainty and transparency, and enhanced interconnection of business registers.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto (EFD ), in writing.(IT) The report presents a balanced account of the need to improve the interconnection between central, commercial and companies’ registers. The current situation of production in Europe is seeing a continuous and positive expansion of businesses outside their national borders, facilitated by the ongoing consolidation of the single market. A consistent legal and fiscal environment and a framework for cooperation need to be created among the Member States, not least by strengthening and improving the interconnection of business registers. Businesses would really benefit from this in terms of both cost reductions and time savings. In addition, it would enhance their competitiveness and better protect consumers, creditors and other possible commercial partners. The report brings balance and common sense to the subject while ensuring that it achieves its ultimate aim, which is to provide legal certainty and to render the various national situations transparent without increasing the bureaucratic burden on the production system I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D ), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report because it aims to simplify the exchange of business information at EU level. The exchange of business register information in the European Union is currently regulated by several directives, but these registers are nevertheless kept at national and regional level and vary in many respects as regards to their legal significance and the reliability of the data recorded in them.

With the increase in cross-border economic activity, enhanced interconnection of business registers is necessary for reasons of legal certainty and transparency. It is important to note that this Directive will only regulate the exchange of information between national registers and will not establish a separate business register with its own data.

It will simply create a platform for improving and speeding up communication and retrieval of information by citizens and businesses. Such an EU platform for business data will ensure greater legal certainty for companies, potential investors and citizens.

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE ), in writing.(RO) Improving access to up-to-date information about companies can encourage greater confidence in the market, help economic recovery and boost the competitiveness of European businesses. The objectives of the directive being tabled by the European Commission are as follows: to increase confidence in the single market by creating a safer business environment for consumers, creditors and other commercial partners; to boost European businesses’ competitiveness by reducing the administrative burden and providing greater legal certainty; to make public administration operate more efficiently by promoting cooperation between business registers in Europe in the area of cross-border mergers, seat transfers and updating the registration of branches abroad and of procedures where the cooperation mechanisms are currently lacking or are inadequate.

The aim of the amendments made to the current legislation is to facilitate cross-border access to official business information by setting up an electronic network of registers and defining a common minimum set of information to be made available to third parties electronically in every Member State.

 
  
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  Vito Bonsignore (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I voted in favour of this report, the aim of which is to achieve the interconnection of business registers. This will be a purely technical interconnection, not a harmonisation of the legal consequences of the registers, the aim being, rather, to foster further integration of the economic area within the EU and improve legal certainty for businesses and citizens.

Moreover, with the increase in cross-border economic activity, enhanced interconnection of business registers is necessary for reasons of transparency, and it will also save money and time. The proposal adopted in this Chamber today regulates the exchange of information between registers and does not establish a separate business register with its own data. The platform to be created will, in the end, improve, simplify and speed up communication and data retrieval by citizens and businesses and enable the full potential of computerised registers to be exploited.

 
  
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  John Bufton (EFD ), in writing . − I decided to vote against this report as the ambition of EU level interconnection is but a preparatory stage for the introduction of new EU harmonised legislation. Bearing in mind examples of the previous introduction of interconnectivity, I cannot agree to support the document, which can, and most likely will, lead to creation of an EU wide business register that will replace national registers.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec (PPE ), in writing.(FR) The European Union, which made the free movement of people and capital possible, must now respond to the growing demand for access to information on companies. This access to information is a strategic economic challenge for our companies which are developing more and more cross-border strategies. I therefore voted for the interconnection of national commercial registers to facilitate the development of our companies abroad.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE ), in writing.(PT) I voted in favour of this initiative because this directive should not limit the rights of Member States to levy fees for obtaining company information through the system of linked registers, if allowed under national legislation. If this is the case, the means and technical specifications of the system of linked registers should make it possible to set up methods of payment. The current directive should not affect any specific technical solution in this area, given that payment methods should be set out in the phase of adoption of the instruments of execution, given the widely available facilities for on-line payment.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D ), in writing.(RO) At a time when there is an upsurge in cross-border economic activities, the interconnection of business registers needs to be enhanced in order to improve transparency and legal certainty, as well as expand the European integration process. In addition, the administration of registers that are computerised, interconnected and subject to uniform regulations, with the aim of reducing the differences in managing them at national level, will produce a saving in terms of resources and time, especially when it comes to company seat transfers and restructuring operations, such as mergers and divisions involving companies from different Member States. Although Directive 2005/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on cross-border mergers of limited liability companies stipulates the obligation for registers to cooperate at cross-border level, in practice, there is still no cooperation and effective cross-border official communication speeding up the procedures and reducing the costs for companies operating in several countries.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) Businesses are increasingly expanding beyond national borders, using the opportunities offered by the single market and globalisation. Consequently, there is an increasing demand by these businesses for access to information on companies in a cross-border context (either for commercial purposes or for better access to justice). However, this cross-border access to information on companies assumes cross-border cooperation between commercial registers. To a certain extent, this cooperation was already in place but was limited to certain types of information and did not involve all Member States. That is why I welcome the adoption of this directive which establishes a purely technical interconnection of existing national registers. A platform has also been created to improve and speed up communication and retrieval of information by citizens and businesses.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D ), in writing.(PT) I voted in favour of this report as I support important measures to enhance legal certainty for companies and consumers involved in cross-border activities. These measures foster greater integration and transparency within the European Union’s economic space.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE ), in writing . – (PT) When we talk about the internal market we need to realise that one of its consequences is growth in cross-border economic activity. This is welcome and should be encouraged, but it brings with it the need to give the public access to official and reliable information on companies operating within the European Union. Without uniformity in the data held on different commercial registries there is legal uncertainty, which is not helpful to companies or consumers. We therefore need to create a centralised European access point where registry data from all Member States can be found in a uniform fashion. This will increase transparency, efficiency and legal certainty and will strengthen confidence among the 500 million European consumers, which is essential if we want to emerge from this crisis. Lastly I would again like to underline that a new linked system should not present European companies with an additional administrative burden. This system should make life simpler for all market actors rather than being one more bureaucratic hurdle.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE ), in writing. (PT) New information technologies have been making life easier for individuals and companies, saving them time and money. However, while much progress has been made, there still remains a lot to be done in this area and on making the internal market fully functional. This report, drafted by Mr Lechner, concerns the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 89/666/EEC, 2005/56/EC and 2009/101/EC as regards the interconnection of central, commercial and companies registers. At a time when the requirements of growth mean that companies are needing to go international, the fact that registers only exist at national level complicates life for companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In fact, this is something that SMEs are demanding. This directive therefore constitutes a fantastic instrument for faster communication between the public and businesses, and a means of putting a stop to fictitious subsidiaries whose parent companies have disappeared. I am voting for this proposal, since it represents a significant step forward for the single market, by making commercial transactions safer and more transparent. It also constitutes crucial help for companies wanting to open a subsidiary in another Member State or establish trade relations with other countries.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL ), in writing.(PT) This report proposes creating a technical linkage between existing national registers (commercial and company). This proposal has no legal consequences in terms of harmonisation. It merely proposes to create a platform to enable more rapid access to such registers, without altering or modifying them.

Amendments 10, 11 and12, proposed by the rapporteur, clarify the report’s objectives and scope. They state in particular that since the objective of this directive is not to harmonise national systems of central, commercial and companies registers, there is no obligation on the Member States to change their internal system of registers, in particular as regards the management, storage of data, fees, use and disclosure of information for national purposes. Under the conditions proposed, we voted in favour of this report.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Benová (S&D ), in writing.(SK) Businesses increasingly expand beyond national borders using the opportunities offered by the internal market. There is an increasing demand for access to information on companies in a cross-border context. Official information on companies is, however, not always easily available on a cross-border basis, and the current voluntary cooperation between registers has not proved to be sufficient. The interconnection between central, commercial and company registers should contribute towards fostering the competitiveness of European business by reducing administrative burdens and increasing legal certainty. It would thus contribute towards exiting the crisis, one of the priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy. It should also improve cross-border communication between registers by using the innovations of information and communication technology.

However, I am convinced that the shift in cross-border access to business information can occur only if all Member States are involved in the building of an electronic network of registers, which should at the same time provide a guarantee of competence and correctness. I am also of the opinion that information should be submitted to business information users in a standard format throughout the Union.

 
  
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  Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz (PPE ), in writing. (HU) A single company register would help not only shoppers, but would also have significant benefits for enterprises too, since free-of-charge access would save them considerable time and costs. That could even mean savings of tens of millions of euros. At present, the fact that the companies registers of some Member States only contain certain types of data; that information is not always updated; that access is cumbersome; and that there is frequently a lack of translated information, causes a lot of difficulties for those in the business world. In my view, further integration of the internal market in this field needs to be the foremost priority for these reasons, which is why it is important to eliminate existing legal and practical hurdles as quickly as possible. Today more and more companies are advertising their services beyond national borders, resulting in substantial growth of the number of online shoppers within the European Union. For the security of shoppers, a system making it possible to check the legal operation of the companies in question needs to be established. The aim of the proposal being debated is precisely that of increasing legal security and the transparency of the legal relationship between shoppers and companies, which is why I support the proposal.

 
  
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  Elisabetta Gardini (PPE ), in writing.(IT) The economic sphere is certainly the area in which the Member States have made the greatest effort, giving up substantial parts of their national sovereignty to the European institutions in an attempt to bring down barriers and create a European economy. The creation of a common market is the most important outcome of the European integration processes that began over 50 years ago.

Even so, there are still sectors today where action is needed to remove some of the remaining barriers. One such barrier is the existence of different laws on business registers, which can therefore vary considerably in format, legal significance and the information they contain.

That is why the proposals contained in the report adopted today represent an important step forward towards an increasingly common single market, because they will speed up the bureaucratic procedures that operators in the sector often have to face.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD ), in writing. (LT) I welcomed this document because with the increase in cross-border economic activity, enhanced interconnection of business registers is necessary for reasons of legal certainty and transparency. It will save money and time. Only through such interconnection will the full potential inherent in maintaining computerised registers be exploited. The aim of the Directive is a purely technical interconnection between the existing national registers, and not a harmonisation of their legal consequences. It regulates the exchange of information between registers and does not establish a separate business register with its own data. It creates a platform for improving and speeding up communication and retrieval of information by citizens and businesses. Business registers can only be successfully interconnected if the Commission and the Member States work together closely, which should at the same time provide a guarantee of reliability and correctness.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) I voted for this report, the objective of which is to establish an electronic network linking Member States’ commercial registers. It is a purely technical interconnection between the existing national registers and not a legal harmonisation. This report is all the more necessary as businesses are increasingly expanding beyond national borders.

 
  
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  Krišjānis Kariņš (PPE ), in writing. (LV) I supported the European Parliament’s position on the interconnection of central, commercial and companies registers because I believe that closer cooperation between registers will improve the working of the European Union’s internal market. The European Union must make use of the opportunities offered by technology to develop the internal market. Through the use of newer technologies, the system of interconnection of registers brought in by this proposal for a directive will encourage cross-border cooperation between businesses, new cross-border investment and the creation of new jobs. The proposal for a directive is a step towards reducing red tape for businesses that would like to work together with businesses from another Member State. The minimum requirements set down in the proposal for a directive for the pan-European platform, through which registers will be able to exchange information, make it clear for businesses what information it will be possible to obtain about a business from another Member State. For example, before entering into an agreement with a business in another Member State, it is important for any business to be sure that the other has not been liquidated. For this reason I am convinced that the proposal for a directive will create an additional incentive for cross-border cooperation and for the creation of new jobs, which are so vital for the economies of European countries.

 
  
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  Agnès Le Brun (PPE ), in writing. (FR) National and European businesses are increasingly using the opportunities offered by the internal market in the European Union and are increasingly expanding beyond national borders. The aim of this report, which I voted for, is to develop cross-border cooperation between commercial registers in order to facilitate access to information on companies in a cross-border context, whether for commercial or legal reasons. It is a purely technical interconnection between the existing national registers and not a harmonisation of their legal consequences.

 
  
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  Bogdan Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (PPE ), in writing.(PL) I voted in favour of this report because I believe that, especially in the current crisis situation, it is appropriate to save time and cost, and integrating the registers would make that possible. It is therefore essential to make every effort to undertake technical changes to the existing national registers, so as to enable both citizens and entrepreneurs from across the European Union to access information quickly.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D ), in writing . − I voted for this report. The interconnection of business registers is a significant measure that will foster further integration of the economic area within the EU and improve legal certainty for businesses and citizens. Business registers are kept at national and regional level. They vary in many respects, de jure and de facto, for example with regard to their legal significance and the reliability of the data recorded in them. With the increase in cross-border economic activity, enhanced interconnection of business registers is necessary for reasons of legal certainty and transparency. It will also save money and time. Only through such interconnection will the full potential inherent in maintaining computerised registers be exploited. The broad lines of the Commission proposal, which is confined to the essential aspects, should be approved. The aim of the directive is a purely technical interconnection between the existing national registers, and not a harmonisation of their legal consequences. It regulates the exchange of information between registers and does not establish a separate business register with its own data. It creates a platform for improving and speeding up communication and retrieval of information by citizens and businesses.

 
  
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  Clemente Mastella (PPE ), in writing.(IT) We believe that interconnecting business registers is an important and necessary measure for fostering further integration of the economic area within the European Union and improving legal certainty for businesses and citizens. Business registers are kept at national and regional level. They vary in many respects, de jure and de facto, with regard to their legal significance and the reliability of the data recorded in them.

Now more than ever, with the increase in cross-border economic activity, enhanced interconnection of business registers is necessary for reasons of legal certainty and transparency, and it will also save money and time.

We welcome this directive, the aim of which is a purely technical interconnection between the existing registers and not a harmonisation of their legal consequences. It seeks to regulate the exchange of information between registers and does not establish a separate business register with its own data. A platform may be created for improving and speeding up communication and retrieval of information by citizens and businesses.

We think it would be appropriate, however, to delegate the regulation of the technical details to future legal acts resulting from the Commission and the Member States working closely together.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE ), in writing.(IT) With the increase in cross-border economic activity, enhanced interconnection of business registers is necessary for reasons of legal certainty and transparency. In this context, the interconnection of business registers is a significant measure that will foster further integration of the economic area within the European Union. I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE ), in writing.(PT) Given the opportunities the single market offers, companies are increasingly expanding their activities across national frontiers. We are seeing the emergence of transnational groups as a result of company restructuring, mergers and divisions. Against this background the importance of having access to information on companies operating transnationally is obvious. As it is not always easy to obtain this information at present, the current legislative resolution is an important step towards greater integration of the European Economic Area. I therefore voted in favour of the current bill, and I also believe that the system of linking central, commercial and company registers should specify what data are needed for the central platform to function correctly, and that care should be taken when making such data available, and it should not be made directly available to the public.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE ), in writing.(SK) The directive, in my opinion, is clearly a step in the right direction for building an internal market in the European Union. Insufficient interconnection of registers and difficulties in obtaining accurate information on companies often causes obstacles to cross-border trade. Improving the interconnection between registers, which will involve all Member States through standardised sharing of basic information, will, on the contrary, increase legal certainty and trade, and will ultimately lead to economic growth. I firmly believe that the interconnection between registers will also contribute to the protection of third parties and will increase the share of SMEs in cross-border trade. I therefore also consider the interconnection between registers to be another tool for strengthening the internal market and increasing its competitiveness.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D ), in writing . − If the platform makes the exchange of basic business information simpler, this will benefit potential investors, regulators, and the public as a whole. The platform does not replace any national business registers, but simply makes it easier to access and understand information from across the EU. I am in favour.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI ), in writing.(DE) Commercial and business registers in the EU vary as a result of the different legal situations in the Member States. Ultimately, commercial registers are kept at national and regional level. In this area, in particular, there have been differing developments when it comes to legal significance. Given these differences – within a single Member State, even, quite apart from the differences across national borders – I am far from convinced about whether interconnection makes sense at this point in time. I therefore abstained from the vote.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D ), in writing.(SK) Business registers are currently kept exclusively at national and regional level, which creates variances mainly in the reliability and range of data recorded in them, and also in their legal significance. The aim of the directive is a purely technical interconnection between the existing national registers, and not a harmonisation of their legal consequences. Such an interconnection is a significant measure that will foster further integration of the economic area within the EU and improve legal certainty for businesses and citizens. Another positive benefit of this directive will be the opportunity to utilise the full potential inherent in maintaining computerised records, which will result in time and money savings. It should be noted that a lot of questions, in particular those relating to technical details, cannot be answered conclusively. It will be necessary to seek solutions to problems that arise in the course of the creation of the network. We should leave decisions to the Member States, which must not, however, lose sight of the usefulness and savings that such an interconnection will bring.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI ), in writing . – (DE) The interconnection of business registers is a measure that is to be welcomed, as the aim is to create a platform that can improve and accelerate communications and data acquisition for citizens and businesses. This will promote the integration of the economic area within the EU and increase legal certainty for businesses and citizens. However, business registers across the different Member States of the European Union differ in many ways, two examples being their legal significance and the reliability of the data they contain. It goes without saying that growing cross-border economic activity makes the interconnection of business registers necessary for reasons of legal certainty and transparency. The directive aims only to interconnect existing national registers on a purely technical basis, not to harmonise their legal consequences. Only the exchange of register data is regulated – no commercial register is to be set up with its own data. For me, the interconnection of business registers can only succeed if the Commission and the Member States work more closely together. In my book, a large part of the proposal, in particular in relation to questions concerning technical details, was unable to provide adequate answers. Questions – as well as solutions – must emerge hand-in-hand with the establishment of the network and then be developed further. There are still a number of open questions to be resolved, and I therefore abstained from the vote.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD ), in writing. (LT) A system for interconnecting business registers must not create an additional fiscal or administrative burden for business operators. Furthermore, we must ensure that the functioning of such a system does not modify either the content of the data on companies stored in domestic registers or the information about companies transmitted through the system of central commercial and companies registers.

Appropriate financing needs to be allocated in order to ensure that this interconnection of business registers functions effectively. However, Member States should not have to shoulder the additional financial burden of adjusting their domestic registers to this system.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE ), in writing.(EL) The interconnection of companies registers is one the steps yet to be taken for the purpose of completing the economic area within the EU and improving security of law for firms and individuals. As a result of increasing cross-border economic activity, parent companies need to be interconnected more effectively, for reasons of security of law, transparency and practicality (as companies registers differ from one Member State to another). One immediate benefit is that both time and money will be saved, while new technologies and online registers will create even more favourable conditions for eliminating any obstacles and differences. However, this specific directive, which I supported, only regulates the exchange of information contained in the registers and does not set up a companies register on its own merits. Therefore, there is no question of a radical change in national practices, simply better cooperation and coordination between them.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE ), in writing. – (PT) Business registers are kept at national and regional level, and there are systematic de facto and de jure differences between them, particularly with respect to their legal importance and the reliability of the data they contain. Because I believe that linking up company registers is an important means of integrating the economic space within the European Union and strengthening legal certainty for companies and consumers, I voted for this report, which aims to promote legal certainty and transparency by providing a better linkage between business registers, saving companies time and money.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE ), in writing.(IT) The interconnection of business registers will allow the full potential inherent in maintaining computerised registers to be exploited. Moreover, it will enhance legal certainty and transparency and also save money and time. In order to improve and speed up communication and retrieval of information by citizens and businesses, I voted in favour of the proposal on the interconnection of central, commercial and companies registers.

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE ), in writing.(PT) Registers are often overlooked, but they make a crucial contribution to ensuring that transactions are sound and facts are legally certain, thus helping to avoid uncertainties and hence litigation. It is thus understandable that, at a time when the economies of the various Member States are showing a high degree of integration, which contributes to the increase in international legal relationships, there is a need for rapid access to information held in the registers of the different Member States. As we know that the registration systems of the different States vary – both in the legal value attached to the data registered and the proof required for registration – the Directive proposes simply to provide the necessary means for exchanging information between Member States, reducing obstacles to trade within the single market. On an initial appraisal it is a praiseworthy initiative. Therefore I voted in favour, and supported the proposed amendments put forward by the Committee on Legal Affairs.

 
  
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  Robert Rochefort (ALDE ), in writing.(FR) The proposal submitted to us aims to enable electronic cross-border access to essential information on companies established in one or more Member States. In fact, the proposal on which we are voting provides for the interoperability and interconnection of Member States’ central commercial and companies registers – by networking them - and the obligation for States to ensure that the registers are updated (in particular regarding the status of companies and their branches, their possible striking off, their legal form, and so on). I am pleased that the trialogue in late January reintroduced a reference to Directive 95/46 as regards the use of personal data, which, in my opinion, had wrongly been removed from the draft text during negotiations. I supported this text insofar as its application will increase the reliability of information available to companies, their business partners (existing or potential), and citizens and will stimulate cross-border trade and improve transparency in the business world.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE ), in writing . − In favour. The aim of the directive is a purely technical interconnection between the existing national registers to foster integration of the economic area. There is no harmonisation of their consequences.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I voted in favour of this proposal since I believe that the interconnection of central, commercial and companies registers is a measure designed to help create a more business-friendly legal and fiscal environment.

Fostering the competitiveness of European business and reducing administrative burdens would contribute to exiting the crisis, one of the priorities of the Europe 2020 agenda.

In view of the increasing demand for access to information on companies in a cross-border context, establishing the European central platform would make it easier to obtain official information on companies in other Member States. That would improve and speed up communication and retrieval of information by citizens and businesses.

I am convinced that the full participation of the Member States in such a network would foster further integration of the European Economic Area. I would also like to see third countries taking part in the register interconnection system in future.

 
  
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  Vilja Savisaar-Toomast (ALDE ), in writing. (ET) Today I supported the adoption of the report on the interconnection of central, commercial and companies registers. The interconnection of commercial registers is an extremely necessary and long-awaited measure to further the development of the European Union economic area and increase legal certainty among citizens and companies. Considering the economic situation in recent years in the European Union and in its Member States, there has been a significant increase in the need to ensure and increase legal certainty when it comes to cross-border economic activities. Thus, it is important that a company in one Member State should be able to verify the legal status of its business partner and obtain information about that business partner, as this would increase the availability of data. Although this directive is quite technical in nature and deals with the interconnection of various countries’ registers and the exchange of information between them, it has a significant influence on the development of the EU’s internal market and is therefore of far greater importance than one may initially think. The changes to the directive accelerate the exchange of information and increase its availability to citizens and companies, thereby reducing the opportunities for malevolent or criminal individuals to exploit companies in different Member States and carry out illegal transactions.

 
  
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  József Szájer (PPE ), in writing. (HU) With the increase in the cross-border mobility of companies, a greater need has arisen for information concerning enterprises to be made publicly and uniformly accessible to the citizens of any Member State. Currently, however, commercial registers are regulated differently from Member State to Member State and in some cases even from region to region, which creates legal uncertainly for third parties and prevents the restoration of trust in the markets. In my opinion economic players need to have access to up-to-date and reliable company information in order for the internal market to operate effectively. I believe that approval of the proposal will bring us closer to that goal.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE ), in writing.(PT) The linking of business registers is an important measure for promoting integration within the European Union’s economic space and strengthening legal certainty for companies and consumers. The rapporteur believes that, by way of exception, it is justifiable to postpone decisions to future legal instruments, some of which will take the form of implementing acts, with the full involvement of the Member States. Thus, the linking of business registers will only succeed if the Commission and Member States cooperate closely. For these reasons I voted in favour of the text.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D ), in writing.(RO) I voted in favour of the European Parliament legislative resolution on the proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 89/666/EEC, 2005/56/EC and 2009/101/EC as regards the interconnection of central, commercial and companies registers. There is an ever-increasing demand for access to information on companies in a cross-border context as a result of companies expanding their activities beyond their national borders. The interconnection of central, commercial and companies registers is also necessary due to a large number of restructuring operations, such as mergers and divisions frequently involving companies from different Member States.

The objectives of this directive are to improve cross-border access to business information, to create the conditions required to store up-to-date information in the registers of branches, and to establish clear communication channels between registers as part of cross-border registration procedures. In accordance with the directive, the register interconnection system will comprise the following: Member States’ registers, a European central platform and the portal acting as a European electronic access point. Member States will ensure the interoperability of their registers via the platform and will be able to create optional access points to the European register interconnection system.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE ), in writing. (DE) I voted in favour of this report. Better interconnection and easier availability of company data is a self-evident must in a growing community.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI ), in writing.(DE) The growth in cross-border economic activity resulting from the increasing integration of Europe’s internal market makes the interconnection of the national business registers indispensible. Alongside greater transparency and legal certainty, doing this also ensures savings in terms of both costs and time. Only with pan-European interconnection can electronic business registers achieve their full potential.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR ), in writing . − I voted for this report because I believe it will help businesses. The proposal builds on the current system by providing the technical framework necessary for a proper exchange of information. The interconnection of central, commercial and company registers will improve accessibility of information for businesses looking to trade cross-border. My constituency of London is home to many hundreds of businesses and I support any measures that will simplify and increase trading within the Single Market.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL ), in writing.(PT) Amendments 10, 11 and 12, proposed by the rapporteur, clarify the report’s objectives, limits and scope. They say that, since the objective of this Directive is not to harmonise national systems of central, commercial and companies registers, there is no obligation on the Member States to change their internal system of registers, in particular as regards the management, storage of data, fees, use and disclosure of information for national purposes. What this report does propose is a technical link between existing national registers (business and company) rather than a harmonisation of their legal consequences. The aim is to create a platform to enable more rapid access to such registers, without altering or modifying them, and therefore we voted in favour.

 
  
  

Recommendation: Carl Haglund (A7-0017/2012 )

 
  
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  Damien Abad (PPE ), in writing. (FR) I voted for the new fishing protocol between the European Union and Guinea-Bissau. It will enable Member States to fish in Guinean Bissau waters in return for a financial contribution to help it develop its fisheries policy. Under the terms of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Parliament must give its consent to this protocol as it is an international agreement concluded by the Member States.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D ), in writing.(PT) I am in favour of this report as it is in both parties’ interests to sign the proposed protocol. However, I regret the way in which the Commission delayed reaching a consensus with the European Parliament, meaning that Parliament could not take a decision until half way through the Protocol, which shows a lack of respect for Parliament as an institution.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE ), in writing . − I voted in favour of this resolution, whereby the Parliament gives its consent to the new Protocol of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. While maintaining the provision of financial assistance to Guinea-Bissau, it renews the terms of the previous Protocol and contains an additional clause providing for its suspension should human rights and democratic principles not be respected. I agree with the rapporteur on the need to monitor closely the implementation of the measures set out in the Council Decision of 18 July 2011 concerning the conclusion of the consultation procedure with the Republic of Guinea-Bissau under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement. I strongly support the EP position that Article 9 of the Cotonou Agreement must be respected and its emphasis on the need to monitor the human rights situation in Guinea-Bissau.

 
  
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  Antonello Antinoro (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I voted in favour of this new agreement with Guinea-Bissau, after the difficulties we had in signing the previous one. In fact, the last fisheries agreement was never ratified because of the coup that took place a few days after it was signed.

The new protocol covers a period of one year. It contains an additional clause that means it can be suspended in cases of violation of human rights and democratic principles. The global financial contribution under the protocol is EUR 7.5 million, to support the fisheries policy of Guinea-Bissau, and it will provide authorisations for European tuna vessels and trawlers.

 
  
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  Pino Arlacchi (S&D ), in writing . − I support this agreement because it is in the interest of both parties to conclude a new Protocol that would extend the partnership between Guinea-Bissau and the EU. Indeed, contrary to the fisheries agreement with Morocco that was the lowest-cost (most cost-effective) of all agreements that the European Parliament rejected in December, the Fisheries Agreement with Guinea-Bissau has provided access to fishing opportunities for EU fleet segments, creating employment, and generating additional supplies for the EU market. It is also important to underline that Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world and is highly dependent on donor support. The EU is the major donor, providing about one third of the international assistance. Furthermore the Fisheries Agreement accounts for about one quarter of all transfers from the EU to Guinea-Bissau, and therefore represents an important additional support.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE ), in writing.(FR) Guinea-Bissau is a struggling country despite its wealth of assets, such as its natural resources or its vast potential in terms of agricultural and fishery resources. The European Union and Guinea-Bissau have long-standing agreements regarding the fisheries sector. I was in favour of renewing the agreement under which European fishermen, mainly the French, Portuguese and Spanish can come and fish in the territorial waters of Guinea-Bissau in return for an annual fee of EUR 9.2 million. The previous agreement only covered 7.5 million per year but this year, EUR 3 million will support the development of fishing and help this country strengthen one of its assets.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE ), in writing . – (RO) I voted in favour of this resolution. A new protocol needs to be signed between Guinea-Bissau and the European Union. The protocol will accompany the Fisheries Partnership Agreement signed between the two parties in 2008. The overall production from industrial fishery in the Guinea-Bissau region was estimated at 53 000 tonnes. Half of the production in this area is made up of small pelagic fish. The capacity to provide monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries, as well as sanitary inspections must be improved. I should point out that it is important for the EU to monitor the Guinea-Bissau authorities’ respect for human rights. I welcome the inclusion of additional clauses in the protocol concerning the suspension and revision of financial compensation. These clauses must be applied when human rights and democratic principles are violated.

 
  
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  Regina Bastos (PPE ), in writing. (PT) On 17 March 2008, the Council adopted Regulation (EC) No 241/2008 on the conclusion of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) between the European Community and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau for a period of four years, tacitly renewable, unless either party terminates it. The FPA has supported the presence of the EU fleet in West Africa, created employment and provided additional fish supplies for the EU market. It has also proved relevant to Guinea-Bissau’s needs, both as a major contribution to budgetary and macroeconomic stability and in terms of national fisheries policy, since it finances major measures to support the economic development and sustainability of the fishing sector. It therefore appears to be in the interests of both parties to conclude a new protocol and this resolution recommends that the European Parliament approves its conclusion. Concerns over the need for better monitoring of resources using the best available scientific advice should be taken on board during negotiations, by speeding up the work programme of the Joint Scientific Committee. On these grounds I voted for the recommendation.

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE ), in writing.(ES) I voted in favour of this report because it offers segments of the EU fleet from fisheries-dependent regions the possibility to fish. This agreement will have positive results in terms of reducing illegal, undeclared and unregulated fishing while also helping to ensure that the fishing industry of Guinea-Bissau complies with the conditions that the European Union demands regarding the marketing of fish products.

I would like to finish by highlighting the rapporteur’s concern about the European Commission’s lack of consideration towards Parliament: it deferred Parliament’s chance to give its approval, only allowing it to take an approval decision when the protocol was already half completed. I hope the Commission will in future give Parliament the right to decide from the start of the procedure.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D ), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report, because with it the European Parliament consents to the conclusion of the new Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Guinea-Bissau. This Protocol sets out the fishing opportunities for EU Member States in Guinea-Bissau’s territorial waters and financial compensation.

The new Protocol sets out the allocation of fishing opportunities between the Member States concerned and the fishing terms remain largely unchanged. However, the new Protocol contains additional clauses concerning the suspension and revision of financial compensation, as well as suspension of the implementation of the Protocol to this Agreement should Guinea-Bissau breach essential and fundamental principles of human rights and democracy.

Under the Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement, EUR 7.5 million has been allocated for a one-year fishing licence for a limited number of European Union boats, part of which has been earmarked to support the Guinea-Bissau sectoral fisheries policy and to improve sanitary conditions for fishery products.

 
  
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  Vito Bonsignore (PPE ), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of this report because I am a strong believer in the effectiveness of fisheries partnership agreements. A feature of such agreements is that they both safeguard fish stocks through regulated fishing and create jobs and provide economic support in places that need European economic assistance. In this particular case, the agreement with Guinea-Bissau provides for the renewal of the previous partnership for one year to give both parties time to draw up a new protocol of understanding valid for four years.

Guinea-Bissau has a largely agricultural economy characterised by the use of very outdated methods, but it has rich fishery resources, both coastal and oceanic, which are being developed. The protocol contains an additional clause allowing for its immediate suspension if breaches of human rights and democratic principles occur. It represents a very important economic incentive tool for a country regarded as one of the poorest and least developed in the world. At the same time, it gives Europe the assurance that a democratic process will be set in motion.

 
  
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  John Bufton (EFD ), in writing . − I voted against this measure, as I fear European involvement in the fisheries sector of Guinea-Bissau. Guinea-Bissau is one of the least developed economies in the world. One third of GDP comes directly from foreign aid. While I support the notion of aiding Guinea-Bissau to develop self-sufficiency across the maritime and agrarian sectors, the EU has no track history of having a beneficial presence in third-country waters. On the whole, foreign EU vessels pillage the fish stocks of third countries in return for financial hand-outs which result in long-term lasting damage to the fisheries sector, destroying entire subsistence communities. It is hardly surprising that the contract allows for no fewer than 20 Spanish vessels to operate within the area. I am disgusted that the European Union would seek to take advantage of fish stocks in such a deprived country due to the EU’s own dwindling reserves as a result of over-fishing, and operate under the guise of development assistance. Instead Member States should be individually seeking to help Guinea-Bissau develop their maritime industry to enable them to trade independently with the wider world at a fair market price, not paying for our own vessels to trawl their waters dry.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec (PPE ), in writing.(FR) I welcome the renewal of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau which ended in March 2012. This agreement is a continuation of the Cotonou Agreement marking the rapprochement between the EU and the ACP States. Guinea-Bissau, which is rich in fishery resources, has also entered into partnership agreements with China and Senegal. It is important that the EU retains its fisheries partnership with this country both for strategic reasons and to supply our market. I also think that these partnerships are key to helping develop the fisheries sector in ACP countries. This is good news for all fishermen, both European and Guinean-Bissau.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE ), in writing . – (PT) Knowing that the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU and Guinea-Bissau covering the 2007–2011 period was due to expire on 15 June 2011 and that there was no agreement between the parties over a future new protocol, I was pleased to learn that the two parties had decided to conclude a protocol covering a period of at least a year, with the terms of the previous protocol being renewed virtually unchanged. I commend this protocol because it permits fishing for tuna (Spain, France and Portugal), shrimp (Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal), fish and octopus (Spain, Italy, and Greece), in exchange for payments of EUR 7 million, of which 35% would go to help Guinea-Bissau develop a sustainable and responsible fishing industry. I voted for this cooperation agreement because it has proved its importance for Guinea-Bissau, especially in contributing to the country’s economic and budgetary stability.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D ), in writing.(RO) Guinea-Bissau is one of the least developed countries in the world, hugely dependent on the support of international donors which provide almost a third of its national income. Therefore, the EU, its main donor, provides a tenth of this state’s national income with an annual contribution of around EUR 100 million. In these circumstances, support must continue to be provided in promoting the sustainability of fisheries resources in Guinea-Bissau. It is important to include additional clauses in this new protocol, stipulating that any violation of human rights in Guinea-Bissau may result in the payment of the EU’s financial contribution being suspended, in accordance with Article 9 of the Cotonou Agreement. I also believe that closer monitoring is required of problems which persist, such as illegal fishing, due to inadequate surveillance, increasing levels of discards of undersized species and of non-commercial species, non-compliance with EU sanitary rules, affecting bilateral trade, as well as non-compliance with reporting conditions imposed on EU vessels. Last but not least, I am concerned, in connection with this report, by the way in which the European Commission has decided to cooperate with Parliament and respect the latter’s decision-making role.

 
  
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  Mário David (PPE ), in writing.(PT) As a European and a Portuguese, I was very pleased to vote for the protocol to the EU–Guinea-Bissau Fisheries Partnership Agreement, as Guinea-Bissau is a member of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), which is headquartered in Lisbon. The protocol allows EU vessels to continue fishing in Guinea-Bissau waters for an additional year, up to a maximum of 37 authorisations for tuna vessels and an annual reference tonnage of 8 800 gross registered tonnage for trawlers. Four licences are allocated to Portugal, for tuna vessels and shrimp trawlers. Aside from the specifics of negotiating this new protocol, I believe it is important to highlight that the scientific opinion on the sustainability of exploiting the fishery resources in Guinea-Bissau waters at the current level of fishing suggests it is sustainable for a number of species. I also consider it important to highlight that two safeguard clauses have been included in the areas of respect for human rights and democratic principles, and of promoting improvements in the sanitary conditions of the sector will be promoted as a way to develop the sector as a whole nationally. Agreed payments can be suspended if it is found these clauses are not being respected.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE ), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of this Protocol which renews the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Guinea-Bissau so as to prevent any interruption of the activity of the French tuna fleet off the coast of West Africa, which would be detrimental for our fishermen and, ultimately, for the consumer.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) Based on the mandate with which it was entrusted by the Council, the European Commission held negotiations with the Republic of Guinea-Bissau to renew the Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, dated 17 March 2008. This new protocol, which the European Parliament has just approved, covers a period of one year from June 2011. It renews the terms of the previous protocol and contains a clause – which I welcome - allowing its suspension if human rights and democratic principles are not respected in Guinea.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D ), in writing. (PT) I voted for the report on the protocol agreed between the European Union and Guinea-Bissau setting out fishing opportunities, because I believe the agreement, which contains clauses concerning respect for human rights and democratic principles, benefits both parties. However, I regret the delay in the process of seeking the European Parliament’s consent.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The protocol agreed between the European Union and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau setting out fishing opportunities and a financial contribution means that EU countries, particularly Portugal, can fish in Guinea-Bissau territorial waters. It means that both parties to the agreement can benefit mutually and economically from a healthy relationship, which will contribute greatly to the economic sustainability of this African country. Furthermore, this agreement, which replaces the previous fisheries partnership agreement of 18 March 2008, proves that constructive collaboration between the EU and this African country has been beneficial to both parties and could, thereby, contribute to the progressive development of Guinea-Bissau and the security of the maritime area of which it is a part.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE ), in writing. (PT) On 15 June 2011 – the expiry date of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, which had been in force for four years – a new year-long protocol was signed, with a view to drafting a new agreement in that period that respected the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement. Pursuant to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, in order for the Council to be able to conclude a new protocol, Parliament needs to approve this draft protocol agreed between the European Union and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, setting out the fishing opportunities for EU fishing fleets in Guinea-Bissau’s waters and the financial contribution to be paid by the Union. Given that this protocol renews the terms of the previous protocol, adding nothing more than ‘additional clauses concerning the suspension and revision of the financial compensation and the suspension of its implementation in case of breach of the essential and fundamental elements of human rights and democratic principles as provided for in Art. 9 of the Cotonou Agreement’, I voted for this recommendation to adopt the new protocol.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL ), in writing.(PT) The EU-Guinea-Bissau Fisheries Partnership Agreement for the period 2007–2011 expired on 15 June 2011. The EU has refused to accept Guinea-Bissau’s position demanding an increased financial contribution; in the absence of an agreement between the two parties on a new protocol, they have decided to conclude a one-year protocol, with the terms of the expired protocol renewed and basically unchanged.

Therefore, the 37 fishing licences for Member-State fleets have been retained, four of which are for Portugal. It is important to remember that the current agreement was temporarily suspended by the EU, citing problems with the Guinea-Bissau Government’s capacity for absorbing the funds relating to sectoral support. It is also important to remember the timely demands we made, which we would reiterate here, to increase EU aid and to adopt measures, jointly discussed and agreed with Guinea-Bissau, aimed at improving its capacity for absorbing EU funds. Regrettably, little was done by the EU in this area. This reveals the weakness of the development aid component in these agreements. These weaknesses have to be looked at and urgently need to be overcome.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Benová (S&D ), in writing. (SK) Following negotiations between the European Commission and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, a new protocol entered force for one year from 16 June 2011, the previous protocol having expired on 15 June 2011. Guinea-Bissau is a tropical West African country with limited natural resources and a population estimated at around 1.6 million. It is one of the least developed and poorest countries in the world. The economy is largely agricultural, with a high dependency on the export of a single crop, cashew. The country is extremely dependent on donor support; the major donor is the EU, which in 2008 provided about one third of the international donor assistance. The potentially beneficial trade with the EU in fishery products is prevented due to non-compliance with EU sanitary measures. At the same time, Guinea-Bissau has many fishery resources, both coastal and oceanic species. Catches from the artisanal sector have recently been estimated to be in the range of 30 000 to 50 000 tonnes per year.

The Fisheries Partnership Agreement has provided access to fishing opportunities for EU fleet segments from highly fishery dependent areas, supported their regional presence in West Africa, created employment, and generated additional supplies for the EU market. It is in the interest of both parties to conclude a new protocol, and it is also for this reason that I believe that Parliament should consent to its conclusion.

 
  
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  Catherine Grèze (Verts/ALE ), in writing.(FR) After 16 years of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance systematically rejecting fisheries agreements with unsustainable environmental and social impacts, we have now decided to take each case on an individual basis. Regarding the agreement with Guinea-Bissau, it was suspended for one year due to its failure to comply with human rights. I therefore abstained today on this agreement. On the one hand, there have been significant improvements with regard to human rights, but there is still a long way to go. While the fisheries sector accounts for 7% of the Guinean-Bissau economy, without this agreement, the Union would be sending a message of ‘abandonment’ and there would be the obvious risk of leaving the industry in the hands of the Mafia. On the other hand, the agreement does not provide a satisfactory response to the environmental and social impacts, in particular for small-scale fishermen.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE ), in writing . − I very much welcome this report. I also welcome the additional clauses concerning the suspension and revision of financial compensation and the suspension of the Protocol’s implementation in the event of breach of the essential and fundamental elements of human rights and democratic principles, as provided for in Article 9 of the Cotonou Agreement.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD ), in writing. (LT) I welcomed the conclusion of the Protocol to the Agreement because it has proved to be relevant to the needs of Guinea-Bissau, both as a major contribution to macroeconomic and budgetary stability and in terms of national fisheries policy, since it provides financial means for the implementation of important measures to support economic development and sustainability of the sector (according to the evaluation report it provided an average of about 7.3% of the annual government revenues and around 88% of budgeted fisheries expenditure). This Agreement has had a particular impact on reducing IUU fishing and bringing the sector closer to meeting EU sanitary conditions for trade in fishery products, both important conditions for development of a national fisheries sector. The Fisheries Partnership Agreement provides an important vehicle for sustaining the development agenda during periods of economic and budgetary instability. It has also allowed the EU and the Guinea-Bissau authorities to maintain a political dialogue, with a view to promoting responsible fishing.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) Adopted unanimously by the Parliamentary Committee on Fisheries, this report is aimed at supporting the renewal of the Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau concluded on 17 March 2008.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D ), in writing . − From the information provided it appears that it is in the interest of both parties to conclude a new protocol between Guinea Bissau and the European Union. For this reason I supported it.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I am in favour of the conclusion of the Protocol to the Agreement between the European Union and Guinea-Bissau on fishing opportunities. The new text is sufficiently binding in terms of respect for human rights and our democratic principles, as provided for in Article 9 of the Cotonou Agreement. I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE ), in writing.(PT) On 17 March 2008, the Council adopted a regulation on the conclusion of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) between the European Community and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, applicable for a period of four years, tacitly renewable, unless either party terminates it. The FPA was accompanied by a protocol setting out the fishing opportunities and the financial compensation for the period from 16 June 2007 to 15 June 2011. As very limited time remained for concluding a new protocol before the expiry of the previous one, the two parties decided to conclude a protocol for one year to give both parties time to assess the prospect of a future protocol of longer duration. In order to allow EU vessels to carry on fishing pending the completion of the procedures for its conclusion, Article 14 of the new Protocol provides for it to be applied on a provisional basis as from 16 June 2011. According to Article 14(3), ‘the Parties shall attempt to conclude negotiations for a future Protocol no later than 15 March 2012’.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D ), in writing . − It is known that the Council adopted Regulation (EC) No 241/2008 on the conclusion of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) between the European Community and the Republic of Guinea Bissau. The Union has negotiated with the Republic of Guinea-Bissau a new protocol granting EU vessels fishing opportunities in waters in which Guinea-Bissau exercises its sovereignty or jurisdiction as regards fishing. Consequently, a new protocol was initialled on 15 June 2011, covering a period of one year from 16 June 2011. Its conclusion by the Council is subject to the prior consent of the EP under Articles 43(2) and 218(6)(a). Regarding the content, the new protocol contains additional clauses concerning the suspension and revision of the financial compensation and the suspension of its implementation. In that sense the protocol is very timely. I voted ‘in favour’.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI ), in writing.(DE) Fisheries agreements represent a fixed point in the common fisheries policy and are designed to give the EU’s fishing fleet more weight in comparison with the fleets of other fishing nations while also providing our fleet with access to exploitable fishing resources that (following the extension of the exclusive economic zone from 12 to 200 nautical miles in the 1970s) are located in the territorial waters of other nations. These agreements thus have an impact on the fishing activity of the EU fleet in international and third-country waters. As there does not appear to be any reason not to do so, I have voted in favour of this report.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI ), in writing . – (DE) The EU’s fishing industry is the third-largest in the world, and fisheries policy is a common concern of the 27 Member States of the EU. The EU’s common fisheries policy is based on free and equal access to fish stocks in EU waters, international waters and the waters of third countries with which the EU enters into treaties. The key motives behind the EU entering into fisheries agreements with third countries are to cover its growing demand for fish, to maintain jobs in the fishing industry, to utilise the 40% overcapacity in the EU fleet and to protect stocks in its own waters. The EU and Guinea-Bissau have now decided to intensify the cooperation between the actors in the fishing industry. This is to be welcomed and I therefore voted in favour.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD ), in writing.(LT) I voted in favour of this resolution, which approves the conclusion of the new Protocol between the European Union and Guinea-Bissau. It should be noted that Guinea-Bissau has many fishery resources, both coastal and oceanic species. Furthermore, this Protocol will benefit both parties to the Agreement by ensuring the continuation of political dialogue to promote responsible fishing.

I welcome the new provision included in the Protocol suspending financial compensation in cases where the essential and fundamental principles of human rights and democracy are breached. It is also appropriate to suspend the implementation of the Protocol if Guinea-Bissau fails to work towards responsible and sustainable fishing.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE ), in writing.(PT) The Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA) between the European Union and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau has provided access to fishing opportunities for EU fleet segments from highly fishery-dependent areas, supported their regional presence in West Africa, created employment, and generated additional supplies for the EU market. It is estimated that the agreement supported the employment of 470 EU nationals. The FPA has also proved to be relevant to the needs of Guinea-Bissau, both as a major contribution to macroeconomic and budgetary stability and in terms of national fisheries policy, since it provides financial means for the implementation of important measures to support the economic development and sustainability of the sector: according to the evaluation report, it provided an average of about 7.3% of annual government revenue and around 88% of budgeted fisheries expenditure. It has had a particular impact on reducing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and bringing the sector closer to meeting EU sanitary conditions for trade in fishery products, both important conditions for development of a national fisheries sector. I voted for the extension of the fisheries protocol for all these reasons.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE ), in writing.(IT) The new Protocol aims to strengthen partnership and cooperation in the fisheries sector using all the financial instruments available. It contains additional clauses concerning the suspension and revision of the financial compensation and the suspension of its implementation in case of breach of the essential and fundamental elements of human rights and democratic principles as provided for in Article 9 of the Cotonou Agreement. I voted in favour of the draft decision in order to strengthen partnership and cooperation in the fisheries sector.

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE ), in writing.(PT) Regulation (EC) No 241/2008, adopted by the Council on 17 March 2008, had the objective of concluding a fisheries partnership agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. The agreement was accompanied by a protocol setting out the fishing opportunities and the financial compensation for the period from 16 June 2007 to 15 June 2011. Meanwhile, as the previous protocol was no longer being applied, negotiations began with a view to replacing it. This agreement was signed on 20 December 2011 and is currently awaiting the consent of the European Parliament. The cost-to-benefit ratio for the Union has been 2.2: for an annual cost of EUR 6.6 million, there has been an estimated benefit of EUR 14.5 million. The new protocol strengthens the EU position regarding external partnerships. Similarly, the protocol has benefits for Guinea-Bissau. In addition to contributing to government revenue, it represents support for the local fisheries sector, contributing about 88% of spending in the sector, and is very important to the Guinea-Bissau economy. I therefore voted in favour.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE ), in writing . − In favour. The protocol allows vessels to fish for tuna (Spain, France, Portugal), shrimp (Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal) and fish and octopus (Spain, Italy, Greece), in exchange for payments of EUR 7 million per year, of which 35 % has been earmarked for helping Guinea-Bissau develop sustainable and responsible fisheries. A further EUR 500 000 is to improve sanitary conditions for fisheries products (currently, Guinea-Bissau does not meet the EU’s sanitary requirements and so cannot export fish to the EU). These are the same conditions as in the previous protocol. The renewal, however, added two elements. One is a clause that allows the EU to suspend the aid for sanitary improvements should the money not be well spent. An additional clause allows the EU to suspend all payments if ‘there has been a violation of the essential and fundamental elements of human rights and democratic principles’. The evaluation of the previous protocol, conducted by external experts, notes that several species exploited under the protocol are fished sustainably (most tuna, shrimp).

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I voted in favour of this draft decision because I believe it is necessary to include in the current Protocol some additional clauses concerning the suspension and revision of the financial compensation in case of breach of human rights and democratic principles. In the event of such violations it is also necessary to suspend the actual implementation of the Protocol. So far, in fact, the agreement has proved fundamental to the European Union, as it provides access to fishing opportunities and supports its presence in West Africa, as well as creating a large number of jobs.

The partnership agreement has also shown its importance to Guinea-Bissau, particularly because it has contributed to economic and budgetary stability in the country.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE ), in writing.(IT) On 15 June 2011 the European Union and Guinea-Bissau signed a Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement to cover the period 16 June 2011–15 June 2012. It provides for a financial contribution of EUR 7 500 000, including EUR 2 950 000 to support the fisheries policy of Guinea-Bissau.

The agreement allows European fishing vessels – primarily from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and France – to operate in the waters of Guinea-Bissau, and is one of several tuna fishing agreements concluded with West African countries. As an Italian citizen, I welcome the renewal of the protocol, the aim of which is partly to help a developing country that has few resources and is making fishing its main source of revenue.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE ), in writing.(PT) In 2008, the European Union and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau concluded a fisheries partnership agreement, accompanied by a protocol setting out the fishing opportunities and the financial compensation for the period from June 2007 to June 2011. In June 2011, another protocol was agreed for one year to give time to negotiate a future protocol of longer duration. This new protocol includes additional clauses concerning the suspension and revision of financial compensation and the suspension of its implementation in case of breach of human rights and democratic principles. The new financial contribution is equivalent to EUR 7 million per year of support to Guinea-Bissau fisheries policy and to the sustainability of its fisheries resources, and EUR 500 000 to improve sanitary conditions in the fishing sector. As Portugal has historical links with this African country, this new protocol represents new fishing opportunities for Portuguese vessels and, simultaneously, development support to the Guinea-Bissau fisheries sector. Once again, I would stress the need for Parliament to be more directly involved at all stages of the procedures relating to the new protocol and its renewal.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI ), in writing . – (DE) The fisheries agreement between the European Union and Guinea-Bissau offers extensive benefits to both sides. For the EU, the agreement opens up additional fishing options, while Guinea-Bissau benefits from the EU’s financial contributions and a better standard of hygiene, as well as from the combating of illegal fishing. The new protocol is to be welcomed, above all for the fact that it enables the EU to suspend financial payments if Guinea-Bissau fails to maintain human rights or democratic standards.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR ), in writing . − I am pleased to have voted for this consent as it means another year of British vessels being able to access territorial waters off Guinea-Bissau. This has no negative impact on Guinea-Bissau as EU catches account for less than 2% of any species’ annual catch. Similarly the EUR 7.5 million given for fisheries support is good for the sustainability of the sector. The extension retains the same provisions as the previous agreement and will hopefully give enough time for current negotiations regarding a new four-year agreement to be concluded.

 
  
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  Iva Zanicchi (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I voted in favour of Mr Haglund’s recommendation, which I dealt with during the work of the Committee on Development. The new Protocol, which concerns authorisations for tuna vessels and trawlers, covers a period of one year for a global contribution of EUR 7.5 million. It contains an additional clause that allows it to be suspended in the event of breaches of human rights or democratic principles.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL ), in writing . – (PT) The EU–Guinea-Bissau Fisheries Partnership Agreement applied for the period 2007–2011 and came to end on 15 June 2011. The two parties have decided to conclude a one-year protocol, with the terms of the expired protocol renewed and basically unchanged. The absence of a protocol until now was due to refusal by the EU to accept Guinea-Bissau’s demand for an increased financial contribution. With this agreement, the 37 fishing licences for Member State fleets continue, four of which are for Portugal. We would also note that there are a number of problems with development aid that should be overcome.

 
  
  

Recommendation: Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck (A7-0016/2012 )

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D ), in writing. (PT) I abstained from the vote on this report. I believe that it will open doors to European exports, which will be of benefit to many European producers; however, this is not clear in all cases, particularly for the agricultural populations most weakened by the current crisis. On the other hand, I cannot disagree with creating a partnership with the poor country, which is an important process in the democratic transition.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) For a number of years now, the Kingdom of Morocco has been committed to a process of political, economic and social reform. Having worked for several years with Morocco, I supported the deepening of this cooperation because it is conditional on the efforts made by that country. I therefore support Morocco’s participation in the work of the Community’s agencies and in Community programmes. We had already adopted a Joint EU–Morocco document on establishing Morocco’s advanced status in its relations with the EU’ in 2008 as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy. This was in response to Moroccan aspirations for a gradual integration of Morocco into the internal market. It is our duty to continue a structured and frank dialogue with Morocco, in particular with regard to human rights. I therefore approved this Protocol which reflects the EU’s strong support and encouragement of the efforts made by Morocco to deepen the reforms undertaken by ensuring the effective participation of its citizens. Rather than closing our doors to Morocco, we should be urging this country to observe its commitments, to be in line with our standards and to share our values.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D ), in writing. (LT) The Kingdom of Morocco committed itself to a global process of political, economic and social reform several years ago and the EU has constantly supported Morocco in its efforts to implement its reform programme. On 13 October 2008 the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco adopted the ‘Joint EU–Morocco document on establishing Morocco’s advanced status in its relations with the EU’. The Advanced Status reflects a common desire to support a process of home-grown reform, accompanied by a structured and frank dialogue in which human rights is one vital element. I welcomed this report and its acceptance of the need to continue and intensify dialogue through the EU–Morocco summits, the Association Councils and the Subcommittee on Human Rights, Democratisation and Governance.

 
  
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  Mara Bizzotto (EFD ), in writing.(IT) I voted against this report on the proposal for a Council decision to step up Morocco’s participation in EU programmes. The European Union justifies these proposals by claiming that greater cooperation with Morocco itself will result in better governance of the Euro-Mediterranean area. However, the EU’s inertia in the face of the problems of summer 2011, when thousands of illegal immigrants took advantage of the chaos in North Africa to cross the Mediterranean and flood over the coasts of Italy, shows that the numerous agreements that have so far been signed with our so-called ‘Mediterranean partners’ are totally worthless to the EU and are unable to ensure any kind of ‘Euro-Mediterranean governance’. Instead, the Mediterranean area seems to be ‘strategic’ only to the countries of North Africa, which are benefiting more and more from the unjustified concessions that the EU is signing over to them, while the Member States of the EU itself, and Italy most of all, are finding themselves increasingly stripped of their ability to protect their own territories, their trade and their rights. Secondly, the EU seems to take little notice of the fact that the Moroccan Government is still heavily involved in corruption on a vast scale. I voted against the conclusion of these agreements for the reasons given above.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D ), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report because with it the European Parliament has expressed its position on the conclusion of an agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco on the participation of Morocco in Union programmes. The European Parliament welcomed the conclusion of this agreement because the European Union will thus be able to support economic development and other positive changes in neighbouring Morocco. This consent approved the Advanced Status allowing Morocco to participate in EU programmes. The profound changes taking place on the southern shores of the Mediterranean since the Tunisian revolution and subsequent events in neighbouring countries are indeed encouraging the EU to support the aspirations of people in these countries even more to develop a partnership with the European Union. Under this agreement Morocco is given the right to take part in those current and future Community programmes open to it. Morocco is also being encouraged to intensify its current reforms and future ones, while giving citizens and society the opportunity to play a somewhat more active role in the implementation of these reforms.

 
  
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  John Bufton (EFD ), in writing . − I voted against this, as I believe it should be the prerogative of Member States to establish unique bilateral contracts with third countries. Although the strategic importance of Morocco in North Africa, given the recent uprisings of the Arab Spring, cannot be denied, cooperation involves the corroboration of an EU arm of foreign policy which, again, I deem to be unaccountable, as I hold the opinion that only domestic governments should have sovereignty over the foreign relations of Member States.

 
  
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  Alain Cadec (PPE ), in writing.(FR) I agree with the rapporteur’s position on the need to deepen the existing partnership with the Kingdom of Morocco. Having been granted an ‘advanced status’ by the European Union, Morocco is actively cooperating on political, economic and even financial issues. We have a duty to support this country’s gradual integration into the internal market and to show that we are capable of responding positively to the desire for openness and dialogue voiced by the Moroccan nation. The Kingdom of Morocco’s participation in Community programmes marks an important stage in supporting the reforms undertaken by the Moroccan Government. I would also like to point out that this protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement is consistent with the objectives of the EU’s new neighbourhood policy.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE ), in writing.(PT) I voted for this initiative because, with the profound changes taking place in the southern Mediterranean since the Tunisian revolution and subsequent events in neighbouring countries, it is important that the EU do even more to support the aspirations of people in these countries, now that these aspirations are shared by their leaders. The Kingdom of Morocco committed itself to a global process of political, economic and social reform several years ago and the EU has constantly supported Morocco in its efforts to implement its reform programme.

 
  
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  Nessa Childers (S&D ), in writing . − While Morocco may be entitled to participate in Union programmes, and this is for the most part encouraged, the issue of the independence of Western Sahara should not be allowed to be forgotten in the Union's negotiations.

 
  
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  Nikolaos Chountis (GUE/NGL ), in writing.(EL) Following efforts to execute a fisheries agreement, I again voted against the participation of the Kingdom of Morocco in Union programmes. The situation in the Western Sahara was the main reason why I voted against the recommendation. The Union cannot proceed along the lines of ‘business as usual’ and ignore the continuing infringement of international law and the human rights of the Sahrawi by the Kingdom of Morocco. Furthermore, on the pretext of competitiveness and the need for cheap imports of agricultural products and fish in the European market, Moroccan farmers and fishermen have extremely low wages. Finally, I voted against the recommendation, because it does not ensure that crops are grown in accordance with the necessary food safety criteria and respect for the environment and preservation of natural resources.

 
  
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  Rachida Dati (PPE ), in writing.(FR) This agreement between the European Union and Morocco provides a framework for future relations, enabling Morocco to participate in European Union programmes. It is a key element in deepening our relations with Morocco and will enable significant sectoral approximation. It guarantees Morocco a fair share of the Union’s budget allocated to specific programmes in which it can choose to take part. It is an essential stage in forging ever closer links with our ‘advanced status’ partner, Morocco.

 
  
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  Mário David (PPE ), in writing. (PT) For the reasons that I gave in my explanation of vote on the reciprocal liberalisation of agricultural/fishery produce between the EU and the Kingdom of Morocco, and the additional reason that I was this Parliament’s rapporteur for the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, it is with satisfaction that I note the deepening of relations between the EU and its neighbouring countries. In the particular case of Morocco, we can see that this country committed itself several years ago to a process of political, economic and social reform which the EU has supported and must continue to support. As can be read in this recommendation, the Advanced Status reflects a common desire to support a process of home-grown reform, accompanied by a structured and frank dialogue in which human rights is one vital element. I have therefore voted in favour of this recommendation, which I hope may act as a further stimulus to an absolutely necessary task: that is, the practical implementation of the current reforms and their further development with a view to increased civic and political participation by the country’s citizens at local, regional and national level. I can confirm that the legislative elections held last November proved that the country is on the right road in this matter.

 
  
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  Anne Delvaux (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) Twelve years after the Association Agreement between the EU and Morocco was signed, and following the granting of ‘advanced status’ to this country in 2008 (remember that the country’s advanced status reflects the ambition to promote and maintain a structured and frank dialogue in which human rights and democratisation and governance are vital elements), I welcome the adoption of the Euro-Mediterranean Protocol adopted today because it covers the general principles for Morocco’s participation in current and future Union programmes open to it, one year after the ‘Arab Spring’, in accordance with the objectives of the European Neighbourhood Policy.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D ), in writing. (PT) I have voted in favour of the report on participation by the Kingdom of Morocco in Union programmes because I consider the agreement to be a positive move, in that the EU is thereby encouraging Morocco to continue and intensify its current reforms, while guaranteeing that its citizens will play a real role in these.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The process by which the Kingdom of Morocco participates in European Union programmes is an incentive for that country, which enjoys a strategic neighbouring position in relation to the EU bloc, to continue with its current reforms and feel motivated to initiate future ones that are of course essential for its citizens. Following the European Parliament’s award of the 2011 Sakharov Prize to five leading figures in the Arab Spring and our celebration of the progress towards democracy and human rights in the Arab world, the framework agreement between the EU and the Kingdom of Morocco on the general principles for the neighbouring country’s participation in Union programmes will allow the two parties to strengthen their mutually beneficial ties of cooperation.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The European Union supported all the changes that some southern Mediterranean countries have been undergoing since the Tunisian revolution, known as the Arab Spring. This recommendation concerns the Proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of a Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Kingdom of Morocco, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco on the general principles for the participation of the Kingdom of Morocco in Union programmes. In view of the history of bilateral relations and of the Kingdom of Morocco’s interest in joining the EU single market, the Union has been supporting its development at a number of levels, because it has noted the efforts by the Moroccan authorities to implement a range of political, economic and social reforms. I voted for this recommendation and I welcome the conclusion of the protocol to the EU–Morocco Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement, which allows the country to participate in EU programmes, in line with the new European Neighbourhood Policy.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL ), in writing.(PT) By adopting this agreement, the majority in Parliament are giving their support to Morocco’s participation in specific EU programmes and its progressive integration with the EU internal market. The negative consequences for both the Moroccan people and the people of EU countries have been ignored, particularly for those in nearby countries with competing industries, such as Portugal.

This agreement and the measures it provides for are in line with the reciprocal trade liberalisation agreement for agricultural products, fish and fisheries products, the objective of which is the economic colonisation of new territories to overcome the accumulation crisis of big capital in the EU. Large European multinational agribusinesses will benefit, as they seek to reduce production costs by exploiting workers and removing restrictions on the expropriation of natural resources. Small-scale producers of Mediterranean fruit and vegetables in the countries of the southern EU are under threat. Also noteworthy is the implicit support for Morocco’s continued occupation of Western Sahara, in a clear affront to international law.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Benová (S&D ), in writing.(SK) The ‘Joint EU–Morocco document on establishing Morocco’s advanced status in its relations with the EU’ was adopted by the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco on the occasion of the Association Council of 13 October 2008. This document confirmed the objectives of the Advanced Status granted by the EU in response to Morocco’s desire to deepen its partnership with the EU. The Kingdom of Morocco committed itself to a global process of political, economic and social reform several years ago, and the EU has constantly supported Morocco in its efforts to implement its reform programme. The Advanced Status reflects a common desire to support a process of home-grown reform, accompanied by a structured and frank dialogue in which human rights is one vital element. The general principles of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the neighbourhood policy action plan, adopted by both parties in July 2005, ushered in a new stage in bilateral relations by offering Morocco the opportunity to move gradually into the EU’s internal market. The Advanced Status confirms this policy option; it opens up the possibility of taking part in the work of the Community’s agencies and in Community programmes, and also envisages financial support. The Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement between the EU and Morocco is a crucial stage in bilateral relations and is consistent with the objectives of the EU’s new neighbourhood policy.

 
  
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  Brice Hortefeux (PPE ), in writing.(FR) Morocco is a privileged partner of the European Union in the southern Mediterranean region. The EU maintains a well sustained and intensive dialogue with this country in a number of fields. The principle of ‘advanced status’ was recognised for Morocco in 2008 as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The legislative elections of 25 November 2011 followed by the formation of a coalition government appointed on 3 January 2012 by King Mohammed VI are major steps in the country’s process of constitutional and democratic reform. This is a movement which the EU should naturally support. This has now been done. In fact, on Tuesday 14 February, the European Parliament fully endorsed the protocol that will enable our strategic partner to participate in Community programmes open to third countries such as the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) or the ‘Customs 2013’ programme.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD ), in writing. (LT) I welcomed the conclusion of the Protocol because the Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement between the EU and Morocco, covering the general principles for the Kingdom of Morocco’s participation in Union programmes, marks a decisive stage in bilateral relations. It gives Morocco the right to take part in those current and future Community programmes open to it. This new prospect is consistent with the objectives of the EU’s new neighbourhood policy. Through the Protocol, the EU is supporting and strongly encouraging Morocco in its efforts to intensify its reforms and to initiate future ones, while guaranteeing that its citizens will play a real role therein.

 
  
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  Peter Jahr (PPE ), in writing . – (DE) I support the conclusion of a framework agreement between the EU and Morocco, leading to a closer partnership. The events of the so-called Arab Spring have shown what potential and will there is for change in the mostly very young population of the Arab world. The EU has a one-off opportunity here to play its part, through a framework agreement and corresponding EU programmes, in the positive developments already underway. Operational, but above all also strategic, cooperation and adequate financial backing will pave the way for stable bilateral relations in future.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) Morocco was granted advanced status by the European Union in 2008. The objective was, firstly, to take into account the strategic priorities to pursue following the Association Agreement signed with Morocco in 1996 and, secondly, to gradually integrate Morocco into the internal market. I supported this report which seeks to approve the conclusion of the Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement between the EU and Morocco.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D ), in writing . − With the profound changes taking place in the southern Mediterranean since the Tunisian revolution and subsequent events in neighbouring countries, it is important that the EU supports the aspirations of people in these countries even more, now that these aspirations are shared by their leaders. The Kingdom of Morocco committed itself to a global process of political, economic and social reform several years ago and the EU has constantly supported Morocco in its efforts to implement its reform programme.

The Advanced Status reflects a common desire to support a process of home-grown reform, accompanied by a structured and frank dialogue in which human rights is one vital element. This dialogue needs to be continued and intensified through the EU-Morocco summits, the Association Councils and the Subcommittee on Human Rights.

 
  
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  Clemente Mastella (PPE ), in writing.(IT) With the profound changes taking place in the southern Mediterranean since the Tunisian revolution and subsequent events in neighbouring countries, it is important that the EU supports the democratic aspirations of people in these countries even more.

The Kingdom of Morocco committed itself to a global process of political, economic and social reform several years ago. The Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement between the EU and Morocco, which we have adopted here today, marks a decisive stage in our bilateral relations. It gives Morocco the right to take part in all current and future Union programmes, a step that is consistent with the main objectives of the neighbourhood policy.

We confirm our support and encouragement for Morocco in its efforts to intensify its reforms and to initiate future ones, while guaranteeing that its citizens will play a real role in them and that human rights will be upheld on its territory.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE ), in writing. (IT) With the upheavals that have been affecting the southern Mediterranean since the so-called Arab spring, it is important that the EU supports the aspirations of people in these countries even more, now that these aspirations are shared by their leaders. Morocco must therefore be enabled to take part in all the current and future Union programmes open to it. I hope that the EU neighbourhood policy moves increasingly in this direction. I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE ), in writing. (PT) When the Association Council met on 13 October 2008, the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco adopted a ‘Joint EU–Morocco document on establishing Morocco’s advanced status in its relations with the EU’. With the profound changes taking place in the southern Mediterranean since the Tunisian revolution and subsequent events in neighbouring countries, it is important that the EU supports the aspirations of people in these countries even more, now that these aspirations are shared by their leaders. The Kingdom of Morocco committed itself to a global process of political, economic and social reform several years ago and the EU has constantly supported Morocco in its efforts to implement its reform programme. The Advanced Status reflects a common desire to support a process of home-grown reform, accompanied by a structured and frank dialogue in which human rights is one vital element. The Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement between the EU and Morocco, covering the general principles for the Kingdom of Morocco’s participation in Union programmes, marks a decisive stage in bilateral relations. It gives Morocco the right to take part in those current and future Community programmes open to it. This new prospect is consistent with the objectives of the EU’s new neighbourhood policy.

 
  
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  Louis Michel (ALDE ), in writing.(FR) Morocco is a long-standing natural ally of the European Union. The adoption of this protocol recognising Morocco’s legal basis to participate in Community programmes in seven areas such as energy, customs, entrepreneurship, consumer policy, research, health, and so on is a new political signal underlining our desire to formalise the Euro-Mediterranean partnership and our support for the democratisation efforts undertaken by the Moroccan Government. This vote in favour is in line with the advanced status that the EU granted it in 2008. In view of the profound changes that have occurred in the southern Mediterranean since the Arab Spring, a strengthening of our relations was crucial.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D ), in writing . − The Protocol gives Morocco the right to take part in those current and future Community programmes open to it. This new prospect is consistent with the objectives of the EU’s new neighbourhood policy. Since through the Protocol the EU is supporting and strongly encouraging Morocco in its efforts to intensify its reforms and to initiate future ones, while guaranteeing that its citizens will play a real role therein, I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D ), in writing.(SK) The joint EU–Morocco document on establishing Morocco’s advanced status in its relations with the EU confirmed the objectives of the Advanced Status granted by the EU in response to Morocco’s desire to deepen its partnership with the EU. These objectives are based around taking both parties’ respective strategic priorities into better account, and Morocco’s gradual integration into the internal market. The Advanced Status opens up the possibility of taking part in the work of the Community’s agencies and in Community programmes, and envisages financial support. In this regard, the EU will pay particular attention to ensuring that Morocco’s policies benefit all of the country’s regions, especially Western Sahara, which requires stability and solutions. The Kingdom of Morocco has become a political and economic partner for us, and this Protocol is an important act of support and encouragement from the EU in relation to efforts towards the achievement of sustainable democracy in this region. I therefore believe and hope that Morocco will not betray our trust.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD ), in writing. (LT) I believe that permission for Morocco to take part in the work of the Community’s agencies, as well as current and future programmes, is an excellent example giving Morocco the right to develop its partnership with the EU and gradually integrate into the EU internal market.

I welcome this Agreement because political and strategic cooperation is also backed up by moves to deepen economic and financial cooperation. Furthermore, on the basis of this Agreement Morocco is granted Advanced Status, which will encourage Morocco to carry out ongoing and new reforms. It will also create a favourable environment to hold a constructive and open dialogue, the main topic of which is human rights.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE ), in writing. (PT) In 2008, the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco adopted a ‘Joint EU–Morocco document on establishing Morocco’s advanced status in its relations with the EU’. In line with the objectives of the European Union’s new neighbourhood policy, the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement between the EU and Morocco, covering the general principles for the Kingdom of Morocco’s participation in Union programmes, marks a decisive stage in bilateral relations. It gives Morocco the right to take part in those current and future Community programmes open to it. For these reasons, I have voted in favour of the report.

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The political turbulence that the Maghreb states (especially Tunisia, Egypt and Libya) have been going through demands the attention of the EU authorities, in the first place because of the geographical proximity of these states to continental Europe, but also for the sake of protecting our shared space. The experience of the European Communities shows that economic cooperation, by creating ties of interdependence and reciprocity among peoples, provides an ideal means for pursuing certain essential aims of the Community project, such as the defence of fundamental human rights, of the rule of law and of the democratic legitimisation of governments. We must therefore applaud the adoption of a Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement between the European Union and its Member States on the one hand and the Kingdom of Morocco on the other, covering the general principles for the Kingdom of Morocco’s participation in Union programmes. This measure opens the door to closer relations between the two entities, allowing the Kingdom of Morocco, a Maghreb state, to take part in various Community projects. Since I regard this as an important political step forwards, I have voted in favour.

 
  
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  Mr Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE ), in writing . − Against. Until I see a credible move on the part of Morocco to solve definitively the problem of Western Sahara, I cannot give my support to the Recommendation on the Proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of a Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Kingdom of Morocco, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco on the general principles for the participation of Kingdom of Morocco in Union programmes [12712/2010 - C7-0430/2010 - 2010/0125(NLE)].

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I voted in favour of this draft resolution since I believe it is crucial to support Morocco in its process of partnership with the European Union, especially at this time of profound change in the southern Mediterranean. The advanced status enjoyed by Morocco, which for years has been committed to a process of political, economic and social reform, extends bilateral cooperation to spheres that were not envisaged in the 1996 Association Agreement.

I am sure that the Protocol to the Agreement marks a further stage in the development of EU–Morocco bilateral relations. Political and strategic cooperation would thus be backed up by moves to deepen economic and financial cooperation, offering Morocco the opportunity to move gradually into the EU’s internal market.

 
  
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  Tokia Saïfi (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) The European Union maintains one of the most intensive dialogues with Morocco, a country that is moving peacefully towards greater democracy. The protocol on the participation of Morocco in certain Community programmes represents an important step towards raising the status of relations between the EU and Morocco (advanced status). Signed in Brussels in December 2010 and in force since 1 March 2000, it outlines the objectives of this raised status, which are based around taking both parties’ respective strategic priorities into better account and Morocco’s gradual integration into the internal market. It gives Morocco the right to take part in all those current and future Community programmes open to it. This new prospect is consistent with the objectives of the EU’s new neighbourhood policy, which is why I voted in favour of it in plenary.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE ), in writing. (IT) This morning’s vote on the Protocol to the Association Agreement between the EU and Morocco provides for the North African country’s participation in Union programmes. The decision to open these negotiations was taken in the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Morocco is, in fact, a vital political and economic partner for many Member States, particularly the Mediterranean states.

We have therefore closely followed its adoption and hope that the reforms the country has initiated will soon be completed. I believe it is essential to support the country in its journey to full democracy, since a stable neighbouring country also means stability for the European Union. Morocco and Jordan are the only two partner states of the EU in the southern Mediterranean to have signed an advanced-status bilateral relations agreement.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The Association Agreement signed with Morocco in 1996 under the Barcelona Process developed in 2008 into the Advanced Status, with the aim of integrating Morocco into the internal market and taking the strategic priorities of both the entities concerned into account. Moreover, the Advanced Status aspires to promote concrete reforms in Moroccan society and to maintain a political and strategic dialogue focusing on respect for human rights, on increasing democracy and on good governance. This particular status offers the opportunity not only to move gradually into the internal market, but also to take part in the work of EU agencies and in EU programmes, and envisages financial support for the purpose. It must be stressed that such support is available to all Morocco’s regions, especially Western Sahara. In view of the Arab Spring and its effects on this geographical area, I believe the time is ripe for support to these countries, whose people are yearning for a better life.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D ), in writing.(RO) I voted in favour of concluding a Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Kingdom of Morocco, of the other part, on a framework agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Morocco on the general principles for the participation of the Kingdom of Morocco in Union programmes.

On 5 March 2007 the Council expressed its support for allowing European Neighbourhood Policy partners to participate in the activities of EU agencies and in EU programmes on their merits and when the legal bases permit it. In fact, Morocco has expressed its desire to participate in a number of EU programmes. The ways and specific conditions for Morocco’s participation in each programme must be defined separately, especially in terms of its financial contribution and reporting and assessment procedures, based on an agreement between the Commission and the relevant authorities in Morocco. Morocco makes a financial contribution to the EU general budget according to the specific programmes it takes part in. Representatives from Morocco can take part, as observers and in connection with issues concerning Morocco, in the work of the management committees responsible for monitoring the programmes to which Morocco makes a financial contribution.

 
  
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  Dominique Vlasto (PPE ), in writing.(FR) I obviously voted in favour of this recommendation to the Council because it seems only right that the partnership between the European Union and Morocco should move up a gear. It was essential for Parliament to send a strong political message to our Moroccan friends. Morocco’s participation in EU programmes has been under consideration since the conclusion of the Association Agreement in 1996 and then since being granted advanced status in 2008. For a number of years, Morocco has shown evidence of remarkable courage and a proactive approach to undertaking radical reforms moving towards democracy, rule of law and an enhanced dialogue with Europe. It was therefore only natural to reward its efforts and endorse it role as the EU’s main partner in the Arab world. This participation is not unconditional: it will be gradual and Morocco will have to make a financial contribution to the general EU budget in return. It is also conditional on further reforms and the successful implementation of the new Constitution, adopted in late 2011. I therefore welcome the decision taken by Parliament and am confident it will strengthen and enrich the strategic EU–Morocco partnership.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI ), in writing.(DE) Morocco’s gradual convergence with Europe’s internal market and its participation in Community programmes will significantly improve bilateral relations between the two parties. With this protocol, the EU is supporting Morocco in the implementation of economic, political and social reforms for the benefit of its citizens. At the same time, it ensures that the EU’s financial support will benefit all areas of Morocco, including Western Sahara.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL ), in writing. (PT) In the first place, this agreement ignores a vital question: the occupation by Morocco of another country – Western Sahara – and the continuing oppression and denial of the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people, in total disregard of international law. By approving this agreement, the majority in this Parliament is giving its support to Morocco’s participation in certain EU programmes and its gradual integration into the EU internal market. It disregards the negative consequences for both the Moroccan people and the peoples of the EU countries, particularly those countries that lie closest to Morocco and compete with it in production, such as Portugal.

This agreement and the measures that it envisages are of a piece with the agreement on the reciprocal liberalisation of agricultural products, fish and fishery products, the aim of which is the economic colonisation of new territories as a way out of the crisis of accumulation faced by big business in the EU. The winners are the big European agribusiness multinationals, which seek to lower production costs by exploiting their workers and eliminating the controls on the despoliation of natural resources. Equally threatened are the small growers of Mediterranean produce (fruit and vegetables) in the southern countries of the EU.

 
  
  

Recommendation for second reading: Janusz Wojciechowski (A7-0031/2012 )

 
  
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  Damien Abad (PPE ), in writing. (FR) While the EU has taken measures since 2000 to combat bluetongue, new provisions taking into account new vaccination technologies should be implemented. I therefore voted in favour of the Wojciechowski report.

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D ), in writing. (PT) I am voting for this report because we must bear in mind that scientists have discovered an inactive vaccine which does not pose the risks that its predecessor did. It is now generally accepted that inactive vaccines are preferable as the means of controlling and preventing this disease in the European Union.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) I voted in favour of the directive which will finally allow our farmers to vaccinate their cattle, sheep and goats under threat from bluetongue. This disease, which is mainly transmitted by the bite of certain species of mosquitoes, affects sheep acutely but other ruminants are susceptible. Although the disease has no impact on human health, either directly or through products, the consequences can be severe for livestock. This text is aimed at updating and relaxing the current rules on vaccination. I wanted this text to go through quickly so that these new rules can be implemented from the next vaccination season. I now urge the French Government to transpose the Directive into French law as quickly as possible.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE ), in writing . – (RO) I voted for this report because I think that food security is a basic principle of the European Union. Vaccination against bluetongue must be adapted to the latest scientific developments. This means that using inactivated vaccines is much more effective than the current procedure using live attenuated vaccines. Furthermore, they are also more cost-effective. There has been a fall in the number of animals affected, and the vaccinated herds must not be isolated geographically. I should also emphasise the epidemiological risk posed by using live attenuated vaccines for the sheep population in the affected region. I also think that correlation tables must be introduced in the relevant legislation. This will help make the process of implementing these provisions more transparent. I think that it is vital to reach agreement on this technical amendment.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE ), in writing. (PT) I have voted in favour of this report because I know that it is intended to help and strengthen the fight against bluetongue and reduce the burden that it imposes on the agricultural sector. An adaptation of the present arrangements regarding recent technical progress will allow the development of an inactivated vaccine against the disease.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D ), in writing . – (RO) I think that the Wojciechowski report on vaccination against bluetongue is of paramount importance. I believe that this legislation needs to be adopted quickly to allow Member States the option to use the bluetongue vaccination when needed to prevent infection or reduce the threat of other animals also becoming infected. The Commission will not only have to continue to monitor the outbreak of bluetongue, but also focus particular attention on the Schmallenberg virus which has recently appeared, and invest time and money in finding a solution to this devastating virus.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI ), in writing . − It is important that this legislation is enacted quickly to allow Member States the option to use the bluetongue vaccine when necessary to prevent infection or reduce the threat to other animals before the midge population become active and can carry/spread infection across the EU. The vaccine should only be used when the competent authority identifies significant risk to the livestock population. It is important that the Commission continues to monitor bluetongue outbreaks but also to direct attention to the recent outbreak of the Schmallenberg virus and invest time and money to find a solution for this devastating virus.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D ), in writing. (PT) I have voted in favour of the report on vaccination against bluetongue because it proposes measures towards a more effective use of vaccines to bring bluetongue under control and reduce the risks and burdens associated with this disease.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE ), in writing. (PT) Traditionally, vaccination against bluetongue was done with live attenuated virus vaccines, which involved a whole series of restrictions on vaccination in order to keep the virus from spreading to unvaccinated animals. However, scientific developments have allowed the creation of new, inactivated vaccines. Unlike live attenuated vaccines, these can be safely used without restrictions, since they pose no risk of any active virus circulating. In view of the grave effects of bluetongue on livestock farming, every means that makes vaccination easier and more effective should be adopted, to protect farmers against losing their stock and ultimately to guarantee food safety.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE ), in writing. (PT) This text is a recommendation for second reading on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2000/75/EC as regards vaccination against bluetongue. Bluetongue is a disease that mainly affects ruminant animals such as sheep, goats and cows, and may take on epidemic proportions under the right environmental and climatic conditions, particularly in late summer and early autumn. Although there is no record of human infection, it is vital to implement measures leading to its eradication. In November 2010, the European Union adopted a series of measures to eradicate it: specifically, a vaccination plan using what is known as ‘active immunisation’. However, what is known as ‘passive immunisation’ has been developed in recent years; in contrast to the older type, this can be used outside areas subject to restrictions. In view of the technological and scientific innovation in veterinary terms, I voted for this recommendation because it will make the vaccination programme against bluetongue more efficient, so reducing the costs to the farming sector of this disease.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL ), in writing. (PT) Bluetongue is a disease affecting ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats), whose infectious agent, a virus, is spread from animal to animal by an insect vector, with serious consequences for the agricultural sector. This directive seeks to bring up to date the rules for vaccination against bluetongue, making them more flexible and constituting a means to prevent as well as control this disease.

Greater flexibility will allow wider use of the vaccine and remove restrictions limited to the areas where the disease has occurred. Moreover, the updating I have mentioned also covers new technical resources, in particular the inactivated vaccines that have become available and are safer than their predecessors, the live modified or live attenuated vaccines, which gave rise to undesired virus circulation among unvaccinated animals. These are pertinent reasons for welcoming the report. The Council agrees with the objectives proposed by the Commission and has adopted most of the amendments proposed by Parliament. This directive comes into force the day after its official publication, a matter of importance in view of the urgent need to combat and prevent this disease and reduce its harm to the agricultural sector.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Benová (S&D ), in writing.(SK) Council Directive 2000/75/EC of 20 November 2000 laying down specific provisions for the control and eradication of bluetongue also lays down control rules and measures to combat and eradicate the disease, including rules for the establishment of protection zones and surveillance zones and the deployment of vaccines. In order to ensure better control of the spread of bluetongue and to reduce the burden on the agricultural sector posed by the disease, it is right to amend the current rules for vaccination laid down in Directive 2000/75/EC in order to take account of the latest improvement in vaccine production technology. The amendments set out in this Directive should render the rules on vaccination more flexible, and should also take into account the availability of inactivated vaccines that can be used successfully outside areas subject to animal movement restrictions. It is my opinion that an amendment to legislation is required, to take account of technological advances in vaccine development. The proposed amendments would also facilitate the adoption of decisions on strategies for the control of bluetongue based on the specific situation in Member States, without undue interference by the Union.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE ), in writing . − This report allows farmers the flexibility to proactively tackle the threat of bluetongue disease among livestock through the use of inactivated vaccines which are not limited to infected areas. Farmers can now take advantage of technological advances in vaccine production to protect their stock. The disease causes intense suffering, and death, among affected animals. I welcome the fact that the number of outbreaks of bluetongue has fallen significantly across Europe in recent years, due to the effective combination of vaccination and restrictions. Member States can now be proactive in their approach, and have dramatically reduced the devastating impact of this disease. Vaccination, together with careful surveillance, can tackle bluetongue; while there will always be other diseases to threaten EU livestock, I am delighted to see that we are finally mastering bluetongue. At present a new animal virus has spread to Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Britain, the spread of which would appear to be similar to that of bluetongue. Our focus must now shift to other health threats to livestock.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD ), in writing. (LT) I welcomed this proposal because bluetongue has caused major economic losses in the EU in the last decade and therefore the aim is to offer more flexibility to vaccination against bluetongue, a disease of ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats).

 
  
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  Peter Jahr (PPE ), in writing . – (DE) An improvement of the conditions for vaccination against bluetongue is something that I believe to be more than reasonable. A relaxation of the rules in place up to now is overdue, as, thanks to new, inactive vaccines, it has been possible for some time to preclude infection with this dangerous disease in the course of immunisation. This would provide for protection through vaccination right across the Union, including in those areas that have not yet suffered from this disease. Given that Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg will be declared free of bluetongue as of 15 February 2012, a quick resolution of this problem would be wise. What is needed now, for the farmers affected, is for a workable solution to be reached as quickly as possible.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) The objective of this report is to strengthen and improve the fight against bluetongue and reduce its burden on the agricultural sector. This involves adapting the current provisions on vaccination to recent developments in vaccine production technology, a technology that has developed ‘inactivated vaccines’ against the disease. I voted in favour of this report in plenary.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Köstinger (PPE ), in writing.(DE) Bluetongue is an excruciating disease in ruminants and has caused considerable economic damage since the first outbreak of the epidemic waves of the disease in 2000. Third countries completely halted imports from many EU countries despite the vaccination of breeding cattle. Cattle breeders, in any case, have found their livelihoods threatened. The old directive on measures to combat bluetongue dates from 2000, when there was not yet a good vaccine. These days, the vaccines are much more mature and without alarming side-effects, for which reason it is appropriate to adapt the directive accordingly.

 
  
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  George Lyon (ALDE ), in writing . − I supported the agreement on the proposed changes to the Bluetongue Directive so as to allow livestock farmers to vaccinate against bluetongue beyond areas subject to animal movement restrictions on 14 February 2012.

I believe this will provide greater flexibility to develop national strategies on the prevention and control of diseases, without placing an additional burden on both farmers and national administrations. Although the UK is not part of the bluetongue zone anymore, I am glad that this proposal allows farmers to protect their livestock from the risk of disease in the future by vaccinating preventively if they wish to do so. I welcome the fact that this vote has taken place on time, so as to ensure that vaccination campaigns can get under way this year before the bluetongue season starts.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D ), in writing . − I voted for this resolution on vaccination against bluetongue.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE ), in writing . − Since the early 2000's, there have been several incidents of bluetongue within the EU causing significant losses and severe disruption to trade in live animals. I voted in favour of this report, which recommends the laying down of specific provisions for the control and eradication of bluetongue, including rules on the establishment of protection and surveillance zones and the use of vaccines against the disease.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE ), in writing. (PT) Vaccination against bluetongue used to be done with live attenuated virus vaccines, which involved a whole series of restrictions on vaccination in order to keep the virus from spreading to unvaccinated animals. However, recent scientific developments have led to the appearance of new vaccines which do not contain live viruses. These new vaccines can be used with a greater degree of safety and without any restriction, since they pose no risk of any active virus circulating. In view of the grave effects of bluetongue on livestock-farming, every means that makes good vaccination practice easier should be adopted, to protect farmers against the loss of their stock and the fatal damage to their trade that frequently results. I have therefore voted in favour.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D ), in writing . − Council Directive 2000/75/EC lays down specific provisions for the control and eradication of bluetongue disease including rules on vaccination. I am not an expert in this field but I support the struggle for sheep health.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI ), in writing.(DE) Mass immunisation against bluetongue can help to reduce clinical illnesses and losses, impede the spread of the disease and facilitate the safe handling of live animals. Given the varying risks of catching the disease, which are different for each region, mandatory inoculation is questionable on cost grounds. The risk of catching this disease seems to be higher in southern and western regions of the EU than in the north and east. Furthermore, morbidity and mortality also depend on a number of factors. In view of these considerations, I abstained from the vote.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE ), in writing.(RO) I should emphasise the importance of the report on vaccination against bluetongue presented by Janusz Wojciechowski and approved today without a vote. However, I wonder why Parliament does not acknowledge the importance of this issue and why a debate was not organised in plenary, particularly as it would have given us the opportunity also to discuss another serious, neglected problem. I am talking about the Schmallenberg virus, detected on cattle farms in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI ), in writing. (DE) Bluetongue is a viral infection in ruminants which, in the worst case scenario, results in the animals dying. It is a notifiable animal disease, but it cannot be transmitted to humans and, therefore, is not dangerous to them. It has become clear that the serious impact which the vaccine has on animals can be identified immediately after vaccination. Vaccinated animals can suffer from a reduction in milk yield, diarrhoea and general poor health. More importantly, stillbirths have also been reported. In the case of goats, kids which suckled from newly vaccinated mothers have died. Furthermore, the vaccination affects not only farmers, but also consumers. Unless they stop eating meat and dairy products, they will be consuming the poisonous bluetongue vaccine. In addition, experts have told me that vaccination may well make it impossible to identify the real agents which cause the disease. The questions of whether animals that have been treated in this way can still be regarded as organic and of the impact which the vaccination will have on meat quality and the healthy growth of future generations are legitimate issues that have not yet been resolved. For these reasons, I have abstained.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD ), in writing. (LT) I welcome this resolution because it is becoming increasingly difficult to control the spread of the bluetongue virus. Consequently it is necessary to offer more flexibility to vaccination against the bluetongue disease and allow animals to be vaccinated outside those areas where animals are subject to movement restrictions because the disease may become endemic in certain areas.

It should be noted that the vaccination of animals against the bluetongue disease is the only effective prevention and control measure. Furthermore, vaccination reduces economic losses that are emerging due to trade restrictions and the reduction in livestock yield, and halts the spread of the disease over a larger area.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE ), in writing. (PT) I have voted in favour of this report, following the agreement between the European Parliament and the Council at first reading. It brings up to date and renders more flexible the present rules for vaccination against bluetongue as they are set out in Directive 2000/75/EC. Bluetongue is a disease affecting ruminants (such as cattle, sheep and goats) and transmitted by insect vectors which spread the virus from one animal to another. It has come to affect certain geographical areas in Europe, including Portugal. However, the use of vaccines has been limited under the present rules set out in Directive 2000/75/EC, which envisaged the use of vaccines only in areas where the disease had already occurred and which were therefore subject to animal movement restrictions. The flexible new rules contained in the proposal for a directive are based on the current availability of inactivated vaccines, which can also be successfully used outside the areas subject to animal movement restrictions.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE ), in writing. (IT) In contrast to ‘live attenuated vaccines’, the new inactivated vaccines do not pose the risk of the undesired circulation of the vaccine virus and may therefore be successfully used outside areas subject to animal movement restrictions. I voted in favour, with the aim of making the rules on vaccination against bluetongue more flexible, in particular by allowing the use of inactivated vaccines outside areas subject to animal movement restrictions.

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE ), in writing . − In favour. This proposal applies only to ‘inactivated vaccines’, not to live vaccines – which have been known to mutate causing undesired vaccine virus circulation. In recent years, as a result of new technology, inactivated vaccines against bluetongue have become available which do not pose a risk to unvaccinated animals. It is important that this proposal goes through as quickly as possible to enable vaccination to begin before the active midge season, when disease will spread more rapidly.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE ), in writing. (IT) I voted for this document because I think the Commission’s proposal to make the rules on vaccination against bluetongue more flexible is a sensible one. The provisions of Directive 2000/75/EC refer solely to the vaccines that were available at that time, permitting vaccination only in specific areas where the disease has actually occurred and which have therefore been subject to animal movement restrictions, because of the high transmission risk.

The new ‘inactivated vaccines’, on the other hand, do not pose the risk of infecting unvaccinated animals and may therefore be successfully used outside areas subject to animal movement restrictions.

 
  
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  Horst Schnellhardt (PPE ), in writing. (DE) Almost a year ago, the first reading of the amendments to the directive on vaccinating against bluetongue took place in the European Parliament. The aim was to be able to apply the new regulations in the 2011 vaccination season. The delays in dealing with this issue in the Council have resulted in it only being possible to introduce the proposed changes during the 2012 vaccination season at the earliest. The agreement that we have now reached is entirely due to the European Parliament’s willingness to compromise. The fact that the Council only blocked the adoption of the amendment because there was a demand for correlation tables to provide proof that the amendment had been implemented in national regulations is both regrettable and negligent. Because of Parliament’s readiness to compromise, bluetongue has been successfully combated and the interests of farmers have been protected. I am now calling on the Member States to begin implementing the new regulations as quickly as possible. Preventive vaccination without the undesirable risk of the virus used in the vaccine coming into circulation will prevent farmers from suffering losses and put an end to restrictions on trade. The amendment to the directive highlights the paradigm shift in the European animal health strategy, which has moved from culling to vaccination.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE ), in writing. (IT) Bluetongue is a disease subject to compulsory notification which affects ruminants and is spread by midges which pass the disease to animals when they bite them. Vaccination is an important tool in combating the disease.

Directive 2000/75/EC limits the vaccine to areas in which animal movements have been restricted. In recent years, new vaccines have been placed on the market. In contrast to their predecessors, these do not pose the risk of unwanted circulation of the virus to vaccinated animals.

In common with my political group and the other groupings, I voted for the recommendation. In fact, the text has inspired unanimity on almost all the points for some time now in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and was recently approved without amendments for adoption at second reading. I support the aims of the Commission’s proposal, designed to introduce further opportunities for vaccination against bluetongue and to reduce the burden that this disease represents for European agriculture.

 
  
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  Claudiu Ciprian Tănăsescu (S&D ), in writing.(RO) I supported this draft European Parliament legislative resolution for two important reasons. The first reason is that the bluetongue virus has spread throughout Europe in recent years, inflicting substantial losses on farmers (for example, due to morbidity levels and the distortions affecting the live animal trade). The second reason is that recent technological advances in the area of vaccine production can ensure more effective control over bluetongue and reduce the adverse impact of this disease on the agricultural sector.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE ), in writing. (PT) Better known as bluetongue, this disease has occurred in epidemic outbreaks in a number of Member States, particularly in central and northern Europe. Bluetongue especially affects ruminants, such as cattle, sheep and goats, and leads to a marked increase in mortality and in disruption of economic activity within the agricultural sector. Following the outbreaks, which have been occurring frequently since 2000, the EU has approved specific measures to control the disease, especially a policy of vaccination. Here, attention must be drawn to inactivated vaccines, which pose no risk to other communities unaffected by the disease. The control of epidemics within the EU is essential if we are not to have to resort to blockades and embargoes, with their impact on the sectors of economic activity concerned.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE ), in writing. (DE) We did not need to vote in this case, because no amendments have been tabled. A new vaccine will enable cattle, goats and sheep to be vaccinated against bluetongue. Even though Germany is officially free of bluetongue from tomorrow, the inactive vaccine represents significant progress when compared with the previous procedures.

 
  
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  Iva Zanicchi (PPE ), in writing. (IT) I voted for the text submitted by Mr Wojciechowski, which aims to update the existing rules for vaccination against bluetongue, with a view to making them more flexible, and to take into account progress in vaccination techniques.

Now that the problems have been resolved through an interinstitutional agreement, I hope that the procedure can be concluded swiftly so that the new rules may enter into force as soon as possible.

 
  
  

Report: Sari Essayah (A7-0292/2011 )

 
  
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  Damien Abad (PPE ), in writing. (FR) As I am in favour of integrating European payments markets, I supported the creation of a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). Bank transfers between Member States will be similar to domestic transfers. From now on, you will only need one bank account for your salary to be paid into, even if it is paid by another Member State. Likewise, transferring money to a foreign account will no longer incur fees. These provisions will enter into force in 2014 for the euro area.

 
  
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  Luis Paulo Alves (S&D ), in writing. (PT) I am voting for this report, since it contributes to the well-being and the greater protection and safety of consumers throughout the European Union. Efficient and secure payment systems are essential to the proper functioning of the internal market and to carrying out financial transactions. This being so, I regard the creation of an internal market for euro payment services (Single Euro Payments Area, or SEPA) as of great importance and deserving close consideration.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE ), in writing . − I voted in favour of this resolution because it aims at establishing an internal market for payment services in euro (Single Euro Payments Area or SEPA) in which there is no difference of regime between cross-border and national payments. This decision may well bring benefits to the European economy that could amount to EUR 100-300 billion in six years time. I believe this proposal will benefit EU citizens as the Regulation eliminates the need for consumers to provide a BIC code for domestic payments. The consumer only needs to provide the IBAN code and the bank will automatically establish the BIC without extra charge. For cross-border payments, this requirement will be enforced on 1 February 2016. A Member State may also allow consumers to use BBAN instead of IBAN for two extra years, but the banks need to provide the conversion services for free. I also support the Parliament’s proposal that there be no extra charges for payments above EUR 50 000.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE ), in writing.(FR) As a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, I welcome the new regulation on the Single Euro Payment Area which represents a major step forward for businesses and consumers. Throughout its preparation, I kept a very close eye on the objectives of a text that requires banks to speed up and lower the cost of bank transfers and direct debits in 32 countries. As the rapporteur, Sari Essayah, pointed out, ‘a person working in another Member State will not need to open a new bank account. Companies will benefit too’. You, entrepreneurs and citizens, you will be able to travel, pay your bills abroad or perform transactions at cost price and without having to set up a separate bank account. The European Union is therefore making your everyday life easier.

 
  
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  Zigmantas Balčytis (S&D ), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report. Secure and efficient payment systems are crucial to the conduct of economic transactions and to the proper functioning of the internal market. The euro has facilitated cash payments between the Member States since 2002. However, electronic Union-wide payment instruments have yet to replace national payments for a variety of reasons. Consequently, the market is dominated by uncertainty, a difficult economic climate, a lack of legal certainty and high costs when using duplicate payment systems. I agree that it is essential to create an internal market for payment services in euro (Single Euro Payments Area or SEPA) where there is effective competition and no difference of regime between cross-border and national payments, thereby providing significant savings and benefits to the wider European economy.

 
  
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  Regina Bastos (PPE ), in writing. (PT) This report sets out to establish the technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros. It proposes the creation of an internal market for payment services in euro (Single Euro Payments Area, or SEPA), with no distinction between national and cross-border payments. The integration of European payment markets is sure to yield countless economic benefits, such as:

• Increased competition and innovation;

• Reduction in the fees charged (payment charges at the expense of customers and businesses);

• Faster transactions (cross-border payments will be as simple as national payments).

This regulation thus promises to bring about a harmonisation and constant lowering of the fees charged in the market, ensure a level playing-field among payment service providers and inject greater dynamism into the market, to the advantage above all of consumers and businesses. For these reasons, I have given my vote to this report.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D ), in writing. (LT) I voted in favour of this report because it aims to establish a Single Euro Payments Area throughout Europe, otherwise known as SEPA. SEPA is an area in which the same conditions apply to payments in euro within and across national boundaries, as if they were payments in euro within a country. Its aim is to increase competition and encourage new services. Once these rules have been properly implemented in the Member States it will be possible to carry out international payment transactions in euro as easily and quickly as local payments in euro. A single banking transaction system would make a significant contribution towards reducing charges for banking transactions, both for individuals and companies, while at EU level, according to the European Commission’s estimates, this would save around EUR 100-300 billion. The implementation of this initiative would also speed up international banking transactions carried out in euro. From 1 January this year such banking transactions must be carried out within a day and in future the aim is to ensure that such transactions are carried out in real time.

 
  
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  Vito Bonsignore (PPE ), in writing. (IT) I voted for the report, which aims at establishing an Internal Market for payment services in euro, namely a single area in which there is no difference between national payments and cross-border payments. Integrating European payment markets offers a range of economic benefits. This is chiefly because it will increase competition, but also because costs for citizens and firms will be significantly lowered by making cross-border payments as easy as domestic ones.

According to the proposal’s impact assessment, possible benefits to the European economy could amount to EUR 100-300 billion in six years’ time. Finally, the proposed regulation stipulates that credit transfer and direct debit electronic payment schemes should be phased out 12 and 24 months respectively after the entry into force of the regulation. However, according to the rapporteur, only one end-date, set at two years after the entry into force of the regulation, would be easier and would simplify the provision of information to the public and improve the effectiveness of the necessary information campaigns.

 
  
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  Philippe Boulland (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) Migration to the Single Euro Payments Area or SEPA will affect users, including citizens and small and medium-sized companies while transposing the current system to a common Union-wide bank account numbering based on IBAN and BIC. However, so that the transition to this harmonised payment system within the EU is properly accepted, banks should be obliged to carry out specific and extensive information campaigns in order to raise public awareness especially in making understandable how the numbers of IBAN and BIC are composed. Furthermore banks should assure a transparent information policy in customer business. These undertakings are considered as very essential for a smooth and appropriate realisation of facilitating and secure Union-wide payment systems and the acceptance for the changes among the European citizens. This is another step that may seem technical but which really simplifies matters for European companies exporting within the intra-Community market.

 
  
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  John Bufton (EFD ), in writing . − I voted against the proposal of this legislative resolution on the technical requirement for credit transfers and direct debits in euro. Although it seems at first sight to be a technical measure to harmonise electronic banking systems in the euro area, the aim of this report is to force banks to use new methods of financial transfer and create an obligation to stick with those methods laid out by the EU. As such, the ‘idée fixe’ of this report is to force banks to make their systems compliant within the Single European Payment Area (SEPA) in order to strengthen the credibility of the euro. Whilst I concur that bank transfers should be safe and certain technical requirements should be introduced, in my opinion the authoritarian decision of the Commission is not the most effective and steadfast way.

 
  
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  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE ), in writing.(RO) The purpose is to create a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). The proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros seems to be a measure aimed at strengthening the functioning of the internal market so that consumers enjoy the benefits of an integrated market for electronic payments in euros. Another aim is to eliminate the high costs associated with running legacy conventional tools and SEPA in parallel. Consumers will be the main beneficiaries as they will be able to make payments in euros throughout Europe under cheaper, secure terms.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE ), in writing. (PT) I have voted for this report because it proposes the creation of an internal market for payment services in euro (Single Euro Payment Area, or SEPA), with no distinction between national and cross-border payments. I welcome the fact that this regulation promises to bring about a harmonisation and constant lowering of the fees charged within the market, ensure a level playing-field among payment service providers and inject greater dynamism into the market, to the advantage above all of consumers and businesses. The regulation covers 32European countries, comprising the 27 Member States of the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Monaco, Iceland and Liechtenstein, although it will not be obligatory until 31 October 2016 for those countries that do not belong to the euro area.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D ), in writing.(RO) I voted for this regulation establishing technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros because secure payment systems are vital to the proper functioning of the internal market. Creating a Single Euro Payments Area is of paramount importance and must be achieved with the aim of increasing efficiency and for the considerable savings it offers. In this respect, I regard as significant the provisions on the need to inform and protect consumers, as well as those on excluding high-value payments from this system. It is incumbent upon the banks to devise a transparent information policy in customer business so that the proposed changes are accepted without any losses by Europe’s citizens.

 
  
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  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D ), in writing.(RO) I reckon that creating a Single Euro Payments Area will entail significant benefits for European consumers. Commissioning a single technical system for performing banking transactions in euros will simplify the operation of these transactions and make them cheaper. The report also proposes a number of deadlines for migrating to the single area, alongside user information campaigns, which will facilitate the transition to the new system. In view of this, I voted for the report on technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros.

 
  
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  Mário David (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The Commission’s proposal for a regulation, which Parliament has adopted today, amends the SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) Regulation in order to establish an internal market for payment services in euro, with no distinction between domestic and intra-European payments. This regulation covers 32 European countries, comprising the 27 Member States of the Union, Switzerland, Norway, Monaco, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Although the SEPA systems for credits and direct debits were launched in 2008 and 2009, respectively, there remains the great problem of its concrete implementation, owing to difficulties – resistance or inertia, or both? – in migration to this new payment system. That being the case, the current proposal suggests a transition period that is as short as possible, with a definite calendar (1 February 2014 for eurozone countries; 31 October 2016 for countries outside the euro area) and no possibility of further postponements beyond those envisaged by the regulation that has now been adopted. Once SEPA is fully operational, we could, for example, use the same debit card all over Europe, or receive a salary into our home bank account if we are working in a European country other than our country of origin.

 
  
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  Marielle de Sarnez (ALDE ), in writing.(FR) With the Single Euro Payments Area cross-border bank transfers will become faster, safer and cheaper. In concrete terms, with effect from 1 February 2014, EU citizens moving around within the Union will be able to use just one euro bank account and have their salary paid into it from another Member State. They will also be able to pay bills in a given country through an account in another without having to worry about which State their bank account is in. The European Parliament estimates that individuals and businesses could save EUR 123 billion in six years.

 
  
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  Christine De Veyrac (PPE ), in writing. (FR) I voted in favour of this report, which will put an end to bank charges affecting cross-border payments made within the European Union. They are an additional cost to our businesses and our citizens, particularly significant in these times of economic crisis.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D ), in writing. (PT) I have voted in favour of this report because it presents a combination of measures which will bring economic benefits to the EU, increasing competition and innovation and reducing payment fees charged to consumers and businesses. From February 2014 onwards, it will at last be possible to effect cross-border bank payments on the same terms as national payments, and, for instance, workers posted elsewhere in the EU can keep their bank accounts in their countries of origin while enjoying the use of their salary in the country where they are employed.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The creation of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is fundamental to a more integrated market in financial services and will allow increased competitiveness and eliminate inequalities of treatment between national and cross-border payments in euros. Thus I believe that it can come to have a positive and very direct impact on the lives of European citizens and businesses, facilitating transactions and trade, reducing costs and increasing competition by expanding markets.

 
  
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  José Manuel Fernandes (PPE ), in writing.(PT) The European Union is slowly seeking to achieve its objectives, such as making the internal market fully operational. This report, drafted by Ms Essayah, concerns the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 924/2009 and establishing technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euro. The single euro payments area (SEPA) is this report’s major innovation and will make the lives of the public and of companies significantly easier. In fact, it is estimated that the benefit to the European economy will be EUR 123 billion over six years. This is a system of facilitated payments throughout the EU – all that will be necessary is an account in a Member State – that will be faster, more efficient, more secure and cheaper. Moreover, it will facilitate the acquisition of goods over the Internet, leading to lower prices. I voted for this proposal and welcome the creation of the SEPA, which will be of such great benefit to Europeans, both individuals and businesses, that Member States outside the euro area have already expressed their intention of joining the system.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL ), in writing. (PT) This report aims at establishing the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). The Commission’s objective is to harmonise payment systems within the euro area so as to create an integrated market in payment services. The chief argument for creating SEPA is its benefits to consumers, who will be able to make payments in euros within Europe in a simpler, safer and more economical way, as if in their own country.

Between January 2008 and November 2009, the SEPA Credit Transfer system (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debit system (SDD) began to be introduced throughout the EU, including Portugal. By the deadline for SEPA migration (February 2014), all national systems of electronic payment by credit transfer and debit are to be terminated and replaced by the EU-wide systems. Notwithstanding certain positive aspects, we have some reservations about the report, with regard to likely difficulties for certain sections of the population, which the rapporteur herself has acknowledged, and to the basis for the change-over to SEPA as a way of realising the potential of the single market for Europe.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Benová (S&D ), in writing. (SK) The creation of an integrated market for electronic payments in euros, with no basic distinction between national and cross-border payments is necessary for the proper functioning of the internal market. To this end, the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) project aims to develop common Union-wide payment instruments to replace current national payment instruments. SEPA should provide Union citizens and businesses with secure, competitively priced, user-friendly, and reliable payment services in euros. At the same time there is an assumption that favourable conditions will be created for increased competition in payment services and for the unhindered development and swift implementation of payments-related innovations. A subsequent increase in savings can be expected, mainly due to increased operating efficiency. Downward price pressure should be created across the board, which should be significant in particular in Member States where payments are, comparatively speaking, relatively expensive. The success of SEPA is very important from an economic, monetary and also political perspective. It is fully in line with the Europe 2020 strategy, the aim of which is a more intelligent economy. This is one of the reasons why I firmly believe that it is justified and important to make an effort to achieve a smooth and rapid transition to SEPA.

 
  
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  Lorenzo Fontana (EFD ), in writing. (IT) The harmonisation of a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is a significant step towards the integration of the financial markets. Reducing transaction costs will create more competition and will intensify economic activity within the single market. To obtain those results, however, the transition process must be conducted in a harmonious manner in all Member States. It is for that reason that I believe it is important to set only one end-date by which all credit transfer and direct debit transactions must comply with certain technical standards. I therefore voted in favour.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) We will finally have a genuine Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) which will make cross-border payments as easy as domestic payments. Shorter payment times, improved cash management for our businesses and individuals, lower costs related to these payments and their processing, new markets: these are the advantages of this unified European system

On the other hand, it will reduce the level of demand and operating costs associated with administrative services. The impact assessment notes that possible benefits to the European economy could amount to EUR 100 billion to EUR 300 billion in six years’ time.

National credit transfer and direct debit electronic payment schemes should be phased out 12 and 24 months after the entry into force of the regulation respectively.

 
  
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  Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE ), in writing . – (PL) The introduction of the euro has made it possible for us to make payments in that single currency across the entire Union. The time has come, however, to go one step further and to enable consumers and entrepreneurs to make non-cash payments from a single account and on the same basic conditions regardless of the country where they are. This does of course call for greater integration of the internal market. I am aware of how great an advantage the internal market is when trying to overcome the crisis, and that is why we must do further work to ensure that it operates efficiently. Creating a Single European Payments Area is one of the actions aimed at making this happen.

I believe that unifying the principles for national and foreign transfers, in other words, creating an internal market for payment services in euro, will be very beneficial for the economy. It will mean that it will no longer make a difference whether payments are national or cross-border, and therefore the charges borne by entrepreneurs and consumers will be lower. In my view such a common payments area will make the internal market more competitive and will foster innovation. In addition I feel that the system will contribute to improving the quality of services and payment instruments and will also make them more effective. This is why I agree with the provisions of the regulation.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE ), in writing . − I wish to put on record my wish to see increasing competition and innovation, contributing to lower payment costs for consumers and firms and making cross-border payments as easy as domestic ones in order to strengthen the internal market and allow for an increased number of exports.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas (EFD ), in writing. (LT) I welcomed this document because it provides that the guidelines for Member States’ employment policies as set out in the Annex to Council Decision of 21 October 2010 on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States will be maintained for 2012 and shall be taken into account by the Member States in their employment policies. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union stipulates that Member States and the Union shall work towards developing a coordinated strategy for employment and particularly for promoting a skilled, trained and adaptable workforce as well as labour markets that are responsive to economic change, with a view to achieving the objectives defined in the Treaty on European Union. The examination of the Member States’ draft National Reform Programmes contained in the draft Joint Employment Report shows that Member States should continue to make every effort to address the priority areas of increasing labour market participation and reducing structural unemployment, developing a skilled workforce responding to labour market needs and promoting job quality and lifelong learning, improving the performance of education and training systems at all levels and increasing participation in tertiary education, and promoting social inclusion and combating poverty. The Employment Guidelines adopted in 2010 should remain stable until 2014 to ensure a focus on implementation. Until the end of 2014 their updating should remain strictly limited.

 
  
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  Cătălin Sorin Ivan (S&D ), in writing . – (RO) The European Commission would like to replace national euro payment systems with a European system. The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA for short) is based on the development of common payment services at European Union level, aimed at replacing current national payment services. In a nutshell, this means that national and cross-border payments, bank transfers and direct debits should come under the same legal system. There are numerous problems relating to differences between payments in the European Union. I endorse this initiative and would like consumer rights to be protected. This initiative should simplify the whole process and help enhance competition, which would normally result in a drop in service prices.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) I supported Sari Essayah’s report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros and amending Regulation (EC) No 924/2009. The regulation will lay down strict and transparent rules to cover the execution of all credit transfers and direct debit transactions denominated in euros in the Union.

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE ), in writing . − (FI) I voted in favour of the report by Ms Essayah on technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits, because it is high time that EU rules were also standardised for cross-border payments. We have made considerable progress in the area of uniformity in the EU as far as the free movement of goods and people is concerned, but regarding what is perhaps one of the simplest matters, cross-border payments, things have just got ridiculous. Payment practices in the different Member States have varied enormously, and when bills have been paid from one country to another, people have not always been able to rely on the fact that they have been sent to the right address. Sometimes, recipients have even been unable to locate payments automatically in their account. In future, it will no longer matter in which EU country someone has their bank account: matters will be dealt with in exactly the same way as in that person’s own country. I eagerly expect present bank account transfers to become cheaper, faster and safer for us all. Thank you.

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE ), in writing. (IT) The report by Ms Essayah puts the spotlight on an issue that involves all European citizens, to varying degrees and different ways: the simplification of credit transfer and debit payment procedures with the aim of making them the same in all Member States. With the introduction of the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA), the making of a payment through a credit transfer to foreign states will become equivalent to the same transaction carried out in a person’s own country of origin. This involves benefits both to enterprises, which will reduce their operating costs, with an estimated saving of between EUR 100 million and EUR 300 million in six years, and to citizens, who will see simplifications to many financial transactions, which are now increasingly common and widespread in a globalised market.

 
  
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  Agnès Le Brun (PPE ), in writing. (FR) I voted for this report which aims to regulate cross-border credit transfers and direct debits in euros within the EU under the one scheme. The establishment of a European payments market has many advantages including enhancing competition but also significantly lowering the cost of cross-border banking transactions made by citizens and companies in the European Union. According to an impact assessment, this measure could generate between EUR 100 billion and EUR 300 billion in savings over six years.

 
  
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  Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE ), in writing . – (RO) The creation of a Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) will achieve real competition and eliminate the differences between systems used for cross-border and national payments. This will enable us to gain significant benefits for the European economy and offer consumers and businesses in Europe valuable, easy-to-use and reliable payment services in euros. I think that the proposal for a regulation is beneficial as it seeks to simplify legislation with regard to making direct debit and credit transfer transactions accessible using a single scheme. Simplifying the processing of payments will directly benefit stakeholders, including public administrations, businesses and consumers. As far as consumers are concerned, who are typically on the move more frequently, the amendments made to standardised cross-border payments will remove the need to maintain several payment accounts in different countries. This will automatically reduce the costs they incur and increase operational capability.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D ), in writing . − I welcome this report. The Commission published its proposal for this regulation on 16 December 2010. The proposal aims at establishing an Internal Market for payment services in euro (Single Euro Payments Area or SEPA) in which there is no difference of regime between cross-border and national payments. Integrating European payment markets should offer substantial economic benefits by increasing competition and innovation, contributing to lower payment costs for consumers and firms and making cross-border payments as easy as domestic ones. The impact assessment notes that possible benefits to the European economy could amount to EUR 100-300 billion in six years’ time.

 
  
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  Véronique Mathieu (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) I voted for the regulation establishing technical and commercial requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros. I do actually think that in the digital age, we can demand that our European banks remove barriers to credit transfers and direct debits denominated in euros for transactions within Europe. By 1 February 2014, banks should have switched to a new Single Euro Payments Area and therefore offer the same prices for cross-border transfers as for domestic transfers. This is a concrete step forward for citizens who are seeing the idea of a Europe where trade is simplified between Member States becoming a reality. Just as trade and the movement of Europeans across Europe is increasing, money transfers are also increasing and their cost to customers varies or is non-existent depending on the Member State. This regulation establishes common rules and standards.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE ), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the report. The creation of an integrated market for electronic payments in euro with no distinction between national and cross-border payments is absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of the internal market. I agree with the wish to protect consumers: where the payment service user is a consumer, the principle of not levying higher charges should be encouraged. It is a good idea for the Commission to continue its monitoring activities.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The subject is the creation of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). The proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros is a measure designed to strengthen and act as an incentive to the proper functioning of the internal market, providing all the benefits of an integrated payments market while eliminating the high charges associated with the parallel operation of the traditional systems and the SEPA products. The chief beneficiaries will be consumers, who will be able to effect payments in euros within Europe in a safer and more economical way, and also the financial system itself. I have therefore voted in favour.

 
  
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  Louis Michel (ALDE ), in writing.(FR) Payment systems offering users efficiency, reliability and security are paramount to guaranteeing an effective internal market. That is why the introduction of euro payment services is essential. In fact, it would generate significant economic benefits while promoting competition and innovation. However, the slow pace of implementation requires us to set a deadline that facilitates a truly integrated payments market. These measures are therefore key to ensuring consistency in terms of efficiency and security at European level.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D ), in writing . − It is high time it was necessary to replace the existing national payment systems by a single European system. It is good that the Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on 16 December 2010 to set deadlines for the two main payment methods – bank transfer and direct debits – to move all existing systems to the Single Payment Area scheme. The regulation also provides for a ban on the use of fees between banks for direct debit transactions as currently charged in six countries (France, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, and Sweden). I support the initiative.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI ), in writing. (DE) The technical progress in this field and the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) will bring certain benefits. These include better cashflow planning as a result of the information from SEPA about the precise day on which the account will be debited, shorter transfer times and the fact that debit cards can be used throughout Europe not only to withdraw money from cash machines, but also to make payments. However, IBAN and BIC are more complicated and many people, particularly the older generation, will not be very familiar with them. Therefore, I welcome the fact that Parliament has committed to retaining existing direct debits. In particular in view of the massive increase in cyber crime involving alleged free online offers which turn out to be very expensive, attacks by hackers, the theft of personal data and, above all, phishing for bank details, all of which cause serious financial losses, it is all the more important that the unconditional right to cancel direct debits is retained. The transitional periods are too short and it would be preferable to keep the old systems operating in parallel with SEPA, particularly for older people. Therefore, I have abstained.

 
  
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  Claudio Morganti (EFD ), in writing. (IT) I wanted to express my support for this report because it sets out to simplify and better regulate a very important sector that is constantly expanding. Increasingly often, both enterprises and citizens find themselves having to deal with international payment systems, which can give rise to problems linked to legislative differences.

The creation of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) should produce a single integrated and homogenous system, within which there is no longer, for instance, any difference between a national credit transfer and a European credit transfer. All this should lead to significant simplification and considerable savings, and should therefore benefit both European firms and European consumers.

 
  
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  Tiziano Motti (PPE ), in writing. (IT) Today Parliament took an important stand for consumers. Credit transfers between EU Member States are to become cheaper, safer and faster, thanks to the new legislation on the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). From 1 February 2014 the new EU rules will also guarantee the elimination of hidden costs in banking transactions, and should save customers, banks and enterprises as much as EUR 123 billion in six years. This is tangible evidence of the desire to show our citizens that the internal market exists, is developing and wishes to put in place conditions deserving the trust of enterprises and consumers. It will become possible to make and receive payments in euro throughout the EU under the same basic conditions applied to domestic payments, and we hope that cross-border transactions, including online transactions, will receive a boost that will ensure greater competition, competitiveness and quality for European citizens, to the benefit of consumers and enterprises.

 
  
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  Katarína Neveďalová (S&D ), in writing. (SK) The proposal to create an internal market for payment services, in which there is no distinction between national and cross-border payments, is aimed at simplifying and reducing payment costs in euros throughout the European Union. This initiative began in 2008, but progressed very slowly. Therefore, on 16 December 2010 the Commission published its proposal for a regulation, in order to establish deadlines for a ban on inter-bank fees and their transfer to the SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) structure. In addition to simplifying payments and making them more accessible to citizens and businesses, potential benefits to the European economy could amount to EUR 100 billion to EUR 300 billion in six years’ time. I believe that the transition period for replacing existing national payment systems with a single EU-wide system, common standards and technical requirements should be as short as possible. Within the framework of multilateral interchange fees, the Commission proposed that only R-transaction fees be retained, and that other transactions should become free of charge. I welcome this proposal, because the proposed changes will keep the ambitions set out in the Commission’s proposal, and will also ensure a high level of consumer protection and protection of well-established national practices in this field.

 
  
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  Franz Obermayr (NI ), in writing. (DE) In principle I welcome the Commission proposal to create an internal market for euro payment services. Integrating the European payments market with the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) should bring benefits for the European economy by increasing competition and innovation. In addition, it will be just as easy to make cross-border payments as it is in the case of domestic ones. However, at the same time we need to ensure that the unconditional right to cancel direct debits is retained, in particular in view of the significant increase in cyber crime and the risk of personal data theft, including by means of phishing. Furthermore, we need longer transitional periods for older people. They would like to see the old systems being retained, because they are not as flexible as younger people. Payment service providers and, most importantly, the people making payments should have more time to adapt to the new technical requirements. As the rapporteur is of the opinion that the transitional periods should be as short as possible, I have abstained.

 
  
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  Rolandas Paksas (EFD ), in writing. (LT) I welcome this resolution establishing rules for credit transfers and direct debits in euro.

An integrated market for electronic payments in euro is important from an economic and political point of view. Not only will it contribute to the proper functioning of the internal market, it will also increase competition in payment services and bring consumers undoubted benefits.

SEPA will ensure that both citizens and companies use secure and reliable payment services at a lower cost because payment charges in certain Member States are currently very high.

 
  
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  Georgios Papanikolaou (PPE ), in writing.(EL) This technical legislative proposal, which I supported, is the product of a compromise between the European Parliament and the Council. The proposal is designed to create an internal market for euro payment services (Single Euro Payments Area or SEPA), in which regulations for cross-border and national payments are the same. This regulation is expected to bring about considerable economic benefits, as it will reduce the cost of payments for consumers and firms and make cross-border payments as easy as national payments, thereby strengthening competition and innovation. According to initial estimates, the benefits to the European economy are expected to be in the order of between EUR 100 billion and EUR 300 billion over the next six years, with consumers and European households standing to gain directly from many of these benefits.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE ), in writing. (PT) This report lays down the technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros. The proposal aims to create an internal market for euro payment services (Single Euro Payments Area, or SEPA), with no distinction between national and cross-border payments. This promises to harmonise and constantly to reduce the fees charged within the market, to ensure a level playing-field among providers of payment services and to inject greater dynamism into the market, to the advantage, above all, of consumers and businesses. For all these reasons, I have voted in favour of the report.

 
  
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  Aldo Patriciello (PPE ), in writing. (IT) This proposal aims at establishing an internal market for euro payment services (Single Euro Payments Area or SEPA) in which there is no difference between schemes for cross-border and national payments. It will offer substantial economic benefits by increasing competition and innovation, contribute to lower payment costs for consumers and firms and make cross-border payments as easy as domestic ones. In order to establish the necessary technical requirements I voted for the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 924/2009.

 
  
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  Paulo Rangel (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The proposal for a regulation that is here presented ultimately aims at establishing an internal market for payment services in euro. This initiative will reduce the transaction charges that fall on customers and businesses and open the door to a truly EU-wide system, with no distinction between national and cross-border transfers. It appears, then, that we are dealing with a legislative intervention which, on the whole, deserves applause. I have therefore voted in favour of it, together with the proposed amendments by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.

 
  
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  Crescenzio Rivellini (PPE ), in writing.(IT) I should like to congratulate Ms Essayah on her work. The regulation approved today will bring real benefits to ordinary citizens. The most obvious of these is the possibility of making payments to any country from a single bank account, as if carrying out a domestic transaction. All cross-border transactions will be able to be made as if they were national payments. If someone living abroad does not need a bank account in their country of residence, they will be able to receive their salary on their account in their country of origin.

Businesses will also benefit from the fact that they will no longer have to open a bank account in every country where they make payments. A European citizen will be able to move around in the EU and continue to use the same euro bank account, on which they will also be able to receive money earned in another EU Member State. They will be able to pay an invoice in one country with an account opened in another.

Competition between service providers should also push prices down, while the application of discriminatory cost policies for credit transfers based on the amount of the transfer will be banned.

 
  
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  Robert Rochefort (ALDE ), in writing.(FR) Thanks to SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area), citizens, businesses and public authorities can make and receive payments in euros under the same conditions, regardless of their geographical location. Yet migration to SEPA through self-regulatory efforts has not been conclusive: important measures have not yet been fully deployed and national systems are still being used alongside the new system. I supported this report which echoes the agreement between our three institutions on the final migration to SEPA via a regulatory process with a deadline: 1 February 2014. By this date, we will be able to enjoy all the benefits of an integrated payments market: cross-border payments will be as simple as domestic payments and they will be faster, safer and cheaper. Credit transfers will reach their beneficiary on or before the end of the next working day, and the amounts transferred will no longer be subject to charges. Companies will apply a single set of standards and will be able to organise all their cross-border payments in euros from a single account of their choice, thus improving their financial management and speeding up cash flow at a lower cost. Roll on 1 February 2014!

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE ), in writing . − In favour. This regulation serves the purpose of completing the single euro payments area (SEPA), i.e. the creation of a payments area (including EFTA) in which all payments are considered domestic, meaning that the fees and complexity for SEPA transactions may not exceed national standards. Public attention in some Member States has revolved around the issues of the rather long, new IBAN codes (22 digits) and country-specific issues such as ELV in Germany and MIFs in France.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE ), in writing. (IT) I voted for this text because I am convinced that the creation of an integrated market for electronic payments in euro with no distinction between national and cross-border payments is necessary for the proper functioning of the internal market.

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) would allow citizens, companies and other economic participants to use shared payment services throughout the EU instead of the current national services.

Integration of the European payments market should also bring about substantial economic benefits by increasing competition and innovation, allowing consumers and firms access to competitively priced, user-friendly and reliable payment services in euro.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE ), in writing. (IT) I am pleased with the agreement that we have reached today with an almost unanimous vote, which will thus speed up the legislative procedure and conclude it at first reading. I approve wholeheartedly of the text, and I believe that this morning’s vote in the House will mean that the hidden payments in cross-border transactions will have to be definitively eliminated once the new EU rules come into force.

Ensuring a high level of competition in the banking sector with regard to payments between European countries could save businesses, customers and banks up to EUR 123 billion in six years, according to the European Commission. The banks will have to guarantee transposition of the new Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) by 1 February 2014, which will allow us to see the practical results of the European legislation as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI ), in writing. (HU) I do not support the proposal because once again large international financial institutes are being given preferential treatment, squeezing out any surviving national financial intermediary systems. Naturally national institutions would also be deprived of the considerable profits of providing financial intermediary services.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE ), in writing. (PT) The European Commission has drawn up a proposal for a regulation whose chief purpose is to define the technical requirements for small credit transfers and direct debits in euros, which is to be carried on through the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). I agree with this report since it is my view that the new requirements will contribute to improving the functioning of the internal market in payment services, facilitate payment systems throughout the European Union and define equal obligations, rights and opportunities for everyone working in the market. In order to effect a successful and rapid change-over of procedures, I think it essential to involve the banking sector in the two-year process of transition by requiring the banks to run intensive public information campaigns. It should also be stressed that, according to the European Commission, the creation of SEPA could lead to savings in the order of EUR 123 billion over the next six years.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D ), in writing.(RO) I voted for the European Parliament legislative resolution on the proposal for a regulation establishing technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros, because creating an integrated market for electronic payments in euros, with no distinction between national and cross-border payments, is necessary for the proper functioning of the internal market. The aim of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is to develop common payment services at EU level, aimed at replacing current national payment services. As a result of introducing open, common payment standards, rules and practices, and through integrated payment processing, SEPA is intended to provide citizens and businesses in the EU with secure, competitively priced, reliable and user-friendly payment services in euros. This should be applied to SEPA payments at national and international level, according to the same basic terms and involving the same rights and obligations, no matter where they are made in the EU. It is of paramount importance that all stakeholders, especially EU citizens, are given sufficient information in good time, so that they are fully prepared for the changes brought about by SEPA.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE ), in writing.(DE) In future, bank transfers right across the EU will be made using a single system. The IBAN account number used for foreign transfers is going to become the standard. Parallel structures will cease to be used, including the BIC in the medium term. Direct debits under the German system will be retained. This solution seems logical and coherent. I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI ), in writing . – (DE) A speedy implementation of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) needs to be given top priority in order for the free movement of capital – one of the cornerstones of the internal market – to achieve its full potential. A deadline for the phasing-out of national credit transfer systems of two years after the entry into force of the regulation is, in my opinion, quite reasonable, in order to ensure timely implementation but at the same time in order to allow all the Member States enough time for comprehensive implementation. Laying down a fixed end date is important, not least in order to simplify information for the citizens and to guarantee them legal certainty.

 
  
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  Iuliu Winkler (PPE ), in writing.(RO) There is consensus about the notion that the opportunities offered by the European single market are not tapped to their full potential. I welcome that this consensus is being converted into practical decisions. Tools are needed to leverage the single market fully, and SEPA is one such tool. The free movement of labour and capital and the need to provide practical help to European SMEs so that they can enjoy the benefits of the single market will only happen in reality if the European banking system, which is currently fragmented due to Member States’ borders, also becomes a system that operates according to harmonised rules. The possibility of using a single bank account and single banking services provider across the EU is beneficial not only to ordinary citizens and companies, but especially to SMEs as well.

The new SEPA regulations are particularly important as they will help strengthen the internal market in many areas, such as financial services and e -commerce. Today’s overwhelming vote during the European Parliament plenary means more than a vote in favour of SEPA: it is a vote of confidence in the euro.

 
  
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  Marina Yannakoudakis (ECR ), in writing . − If we are to have a strong single market that fosters jobs and growth it stands to reason that we need a simple and efficient payments system. If a company in London wishes to purchase materials from a Latvian supplier, the company should be able to make a payment quickly and easily irrespective of the fact that both countries are outside the euro area. I believe that this report makes positive recommendations to improve the Single European Payment Area (SEPA) and gives banks a sufficiently long period of grace to make their systems compliant.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL ), in writing. (PT) The Commission’s objective is to harmonise payment systems within the euro area so as to create an integrated market in payment services by instituting the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA). The chief argument for creating SEPA is its benefits to consumers, who will be able to make payments in euros within Europe in a simpler, safer and more economical way, as if in their own country. Between January 2008 and November 2009, the SEPA Credit Transfer system (SCT) and SEPA Direct Debit system (SDD) began to be introduced throughout the EU, including Portugal.

By the deadline for SEPA migration (February 2014), all national systems of electronic payment by credit transfer and debit are to be suppressed and replaced by the EU-wide systems. The report has some positive aspects. Nonetheless, we have some reservations about it. The rapporteur herself acknowledges the likely difficulties for certain sections of the population. On the other hand, the change-over to SEPA may lead to the realisation of the potential of the single market for Europe.

 
  
  

Report: Inés Ayala Sender (A7-0036/2012 )

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D ), in writing. (PT) I am not in favour of this proposal for a decision, as Parliament has already expressed its opinion on this matter.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) I agree with the opinion issued by the Committee on Budgetary Control in support of the Council of Ministers’ proposal to appoint Baudilio Tomé Muguruza as a Member of the Court of Auditors. As an economist specialising in tax law and international business, Baudilio Tomé Muguruza is highly qualified for this position. The parliamentary committee has also had the opportunity to hear what he has to say. I have every confidence in his abilities and I am now waiting for the final decision of the Council of Ministers of the European Union.

 
  
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  Nessa Childers (S&D ), in writing . − It is essential that the Court of Auditors remain non-politicised and is fully committed to carrying out its duties of best auditing the EU.

 
  
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  Diogo Feio (PPE ), in writing . – (PT) I wish Baudilio Tomé Muguruza every success in his mandate for the important task entrusted to him, and I am convinced that he will carry out the functions for which he is now nominated with great dedication and competence.

 
  
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  Monika Flašíková Benová (S&D ), in writing.(SK) Baudilio Tomé Muguruza is a native of Spain. He has degrees in law and business science. In the past, he served as Company tax coordinator in the Directorate-General for Taxation, working on the reform of company tax and ways of integrating income and company tax. He also held the position of representative of the Spanish government in Council and Commission working groups on company tax and the European company. He represented the Spanish government in European Union Councils of Ministers for Telecommunications and Audiovisual Matters. During the Spanish EU Presidency, he was responsible for pushing ahead with the adoption of the telecommunications package of directives and the e-Europa 2005 strategic plan. He also currently serves as a senior state finance inspector, financial controller and auditor. He was a member of the Spanish Congress of Deputies from 2004–2008 and 2008–2011 and a member of the Committees on the Economy and Finance, Budgets and Science and Technology. He is the author of several books. The Committee on Budgetary Control evaluated the credentials of the nominee, and the European Parliament subsequently delivered a favourable opinion on this nomination by the Council as a Member of the Court of Auditors and also instructed its President to forward this decision to the Council and, for information, the Court of Auditors, the other institutions of the European Union and the audit institutions of the Member States.

 
  
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  Brice Hortefeux (PPE ), in writing.(FR) After much internal debate about the appointment of a member of the Audit Office proposed by the former Spanish Government of José Luis Zapatero, the European Parliament has finally approved the appointment of the new candidate proposed by the present government of Mariano Rajoy. Thanks to the campaign led by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), Mr Baudilio Tomé Muguruza, who met all the qualities required for this position, was approved by Parliament, despite the opposition of the Socialists who tried to politicise the debate.

 
  
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  Philippe Juvin (PPE ), in writing . – (FR) I welcome the appointment of Baudilio Tomé as a member of the European Court of Auditors. I supported his appointment because of his technical and ethical qualities.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D ), in writing . − I voted against the Council’s nomination of Baudilio Tomé Muguruza as a Member of the Court of Auditors.

 
  
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  Nuno Melo (PPE ), in writing . – (PT) The Court of Auditors is a supervisory institution which checks that the European Union’s receipts and expenditure are handled in a lawful and correct manner and that its financial management is sound; it performs its functions with complete independence. In this spirit, the nomination process for the individuals who make up the Court must be governed by criteria of competence and independence. Thus, at the Council’s initiative, various individuals from the different European Union countries were put forward for the Court of Auditors. All of them sent in their curricula vitae, filled in a written questionnaire and spoke before the Committee on Budgetary Control, and the majority of them put forward sufficient arguments to justify their nomination to the Court of Auditors and the competent and independent performance of their functions within it. I therefore voted in favour of Baudilio Tomé Muguruza.

 
  
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  Alexander Mirsky (S&D ), in writing . − Taking into account the experience and expertise of Mr Baudilio, I think that he will work well in the Court of Auditors.

 
  
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  Alfredo Pallone (PPE ), in writing. (IT) I voted in favour of the Council’s proposal to appoint Baudilio Tomé Muguruza a member of the Court of Auditors because I believe he is a suitably qualified and competent person to carry out the role that has been assigned to him. I hope that he will be able to do a great job in line with the interests of European citizens and collaborate productively with the European institutions.

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE ), in writing. – (PT) I voted in favour of the report nominating Baudilio Tomé Muguruza as a member of the Court of Auditors. All the information supplied on which I based my decision confirm that the criteria set out in Article 286(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union have been met, particularly the guarantees of independence, so I welcome the nomination of Baudilio Tomé Muguruza as a member of the Court of Auditors.

 
  
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  Nuno Teixeira (PPE ), in writing.(PT) Section 7 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union establishes the Court of Auditors as a European institution. It was created in 1975 in order to audit the European Union’s accounts and improve its financial management. The Court of Auditors can carry out audits of any person or organisation with responsibility for managing EU funds and present its conclusions in the form of written reports, which are sent to the Commission and to the governments of the Member States. The Member States put forward a proposal to the Council, which, after consultation with the European Parliament, approves the list of members of the Court of Auditors. I am voting in favour of Baudilio Tomé Muguruza’s nomination as he meets the conditions set out in Article 286(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

 

9. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 

(The sitting was suspended at 12.35 and resumed at 15.00)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ALEJO VIDAL-QUADRAS
Vice-President

 

10. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting: see Minutes
Video of the speeches

11. Food distribution to the most deprived persons in the Union (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the recommendation for second reading by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1290/2005 and (EC) No 1234/2007 as regards distribution of food products to the most deprived persons in the Union (18733/1/2011 - C7-0022/2012 - 2008/0183(COD) ) (Rapporteur: Czesław Adam Siekierski) (A7-0032/2012 ).

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski, rapporteur . (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, the food distribution programme to benefit the most deprived persons within the European Union already has a rich history. It was launched in 1987, when the Council decided to make available to the Member States agricultural products from intervention stores so they could be used to provide food aid for the poorest persons. When intervention food stocks decreased in subsequent years, the purchase of food products on the market for the same purpose was authorised.

The development of agricultural policy resulted in a reduction of intervention stores, and consequently in the need to purchase more food products on the market for this programme. A case against acquiring food by purchasing it on the market was taken to the Court of Justice. On 20 April 2011 the Court ruled that this was contrary to the legal basis and that the programme should be restricted only to food drawn from the intervention stores. This meant that as of 1 January 2012 the programme would have been reduced from EUR 500 million per year to a little over EUR 100 million. Subsequently the European Parliament took strong action and, in its resolution of 7 July 2011, called on the Commission and on the Council to devise solutions for the years 2012–2013 as a matter of urgency, to prevent such a dramatic reduction of this programme.

It should be recalled that the Council did not accept the Commission’s initial proposal of September 2008 or Parliament’s position of March 2009. The Commission’s subsequent approach, which entailed providing a legal base for the programme through social policy and not just through the common agricultural policy, also failed to obtain sufficient support in the Council. It was only the decisive action taken by the Polish Presidency that removed the blocking minority and allowed work to speed up. A trialogue took place on 6 December 2011 at which Parliament and the Commission accepted the Council’s position. At an extraordinary meeting in Strasbourg on 12 December 2011, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development then accepted the outcome of the trialogue. The Council’s Special Committee on Agriculture gave its consent on the same day. This compromise received final confirmation from the Council at its meeting on 23 January 2012.Subsequently, on 26 February, Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development expressed its full support for the compromise adopted by the Council and accepted the request for the Council’s position to go through the adoption procedure before the plenary of the European Parliament.

It should be borne in mind that that position concerns implementation of the programme for the period 2012–2013. The sum of EUR 500 million will be maintained, and this is a very significant sum. The legal base for implementation of the programme will remain the common agricultural policy. The European Parliament’s request for the programme’s requirements to be met with European products in the first instance is honoured. Agreement for full Community funding was given. The institutions distributing the food were required to provide comprehensive information about the source of the support being European Union funds.

Today’s discussion is taking place after yesterday’s debate on the situation of the homeless, most of whom need this free food. After all, it is now winter. The crisis affecting our countries is felt most strongly by the poorest persons, who are the main beneficiaries of food aid in the framework of this programme. In total, almost 18 million Europeans benefit from it. They are the persons who find it hardest to survive, such as the homeless I referred to earlier, the unemployed, the elderly, the disabled and also large families and single parents. Europe has enlarged significantly, and the number of poor and needy individuals has increased significantly. It is estimated that approximately 40 million persons in Europe are currently living below the poverty line, and that a further 40 million are in danger of slipping below it. The programme has been warmly welcomed by charitable institutions and NGOs involved in food distribution, but what is most important is that poor and needy persons are being helped. It is good that the European Union remembers them. That is why we must do all we can to prepare a suitable legal base for the implementation of this programme in the period 2014–2020.

 
  
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  Dacian Cioloş, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, I am thrilled that a solution could be found for the 2012 and 2013 plans, enabling us to continue with this programme.

May I remind you that after over three years of intense negotiations between the institutions, we finally managed – as Mr Siekierski pointed out  – to give this programme a new legal framework for the years 2012 and 2013, which were no longer covered as a result of the Court of Justice ruling.

I surely do not need to remind you that the European Union is going through one of the worst economic crises in decades and that, unfortunately, the number of citizens having to rely on food aid is increasing exponentially. We therefore had a political and civic duty to provide an immediate response to the needs of the poorest people.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the European Parliament as a whole, and in particular those Members who personally got very involved in ensuring the continuation of these programmes. It is also thanks to your strong support that a compromise on this complicated issue could be found, and in particular your persistence and your extremely clear stance on this issue.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Member States, which, in a manner reflecting a true European spirit, worked to finally reach a political compromise.

The Commission therefore supports the results of the inter-institutional negotiations and may accept the Council’s position at first reading to ensure the continuation of the scheme until 2013. As you know, the Commission has worked hard to make this agreement possible. I would remind you that, since our initial proposal in 2008, we have proposed a number of adjustments to the regulatory text to try and satisfy the expectations and objections from some Member States as well as the calls from the European Parliament.

Now that there is finally a qualified majority in favour of continuing the programme for a transitional period until 2013, we have the political agreement and, after the decision, the legal basis to continue this programme in 2012 and 2013 within the common agricultural policy thereby preventing the programme from coming to an abrupt end. Once the regulation is adopted, my staff will do their utmost to ensure that additional resources for the 2012 and 2013 plans are committed as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Agnès Le Brun, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, an agreement has been reached, which we will have to decide about in plenary tomorrow, but I must say it has all left me feeling quite strange.

First of all, I am happy, then I start asking questions and finally I start worrying.

I am pleased that, this year and next, Europeans in need will still have food to eat thanks to the European aid programme for the most deprived. Our fellow citizens would obviously not have understood why nothing was being done to release such necessary funds when we have recently learned that EUR 82 billion of European funds lies dormant in the Union’s coffers.

Then I start asking questions and finally I start worrying. I question the future of the food distribution programme. How can we conceive depriving some 13 million Europeans in need of food from 2014 onwards? Besides which, how many will be in need of it by then?

We know that solutions exist. We should therefore call on the Council to shoulder its responsibilities and preserve this fund during the next multiannual financial framework. If this does not happen, it will all dramatically backfire for sure. We need to accept this compromise but together reaffirm our commitment to the food distribution programme.

 
  
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  Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, on behalf of the S&D Group.(PT) Naturally I should like to support Mr Siekierski’s recommendation and to salute the Commission, represented by Commissioner Dacian Cioloş, for the way he sustained his objections so that this level of aid to the most needy could continue. It would be incomprehensible to European citizens if European solidarity broke down at the precise moment when it is most needed, at the time of the worst crisis Europe has seen for many years. Therefore, despite the reservations of certain Member States, I am convinced that it will be possible to keep this kind of support in the budget and, whether it comes under agriculture or any other area, the important thing is to maintain this aid in the future, for as long as poverty exists in Europe. Hopefully this future will be short, and if it is, it will be because we have been able to end poverty in our European continent.

 
  
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  Sylvie Goulard, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I really appreciate your support, which helped achieve this result. This just goes to show what we can do between institutions when we work together and I hope we can continue to do so.

I should like to make two comments. Firstly, on behalf of the Extreme Poverty intergroup which I now chair: I think there is a real issue regarding subsidiarity that we cannot avoid in Europe and that affects each level of decision-making. I respect this principle, and there are some members of my group who have a more stringent and more legal view of subsidiarity.

Some may think that the most deprived should be taken care of by the Member States and at local level. However, all the same, I think it would be a serious mistake to allocate Europe alone the role of bogeyman, the role of an institution imposing austerity and restraint, and to believe that the job of helping the most vulnerable in our society rests solely at local level.

I call on the Commissioner to defend the Europe 2020 strategy. It worries me greatly that, in the European Council’s conclusions, there has been a movement away from the Europe 2020 strategy towards the Euro Plus Pact, where there is no mention of combating exclusion and poverty.

Secondly, in the forthcoming reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP), I also believe that the issue of food deserves to be looked at from the point of view of the common agricultural policy. I do not have the answers today, I have not taken any definitive position. However, there is a social aspect in helping the most deprived and there is also an aspect that, in my opinion, falls to the common agricultural policy.

What kind of food does the common agricultural policy provide? At what price? For those who may not have the means to fund themselves, is having to resort to charity the right answer or should we have a common agricultural policy that provides food for all? I do believe that that was what the founders of the CAP had in mind.

We will have the chance to talk about it and I am counting on you, Commis