Index 
Texts adopted
Thursday, 21 February 2008 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Monitoring the application of Community law (2005)
 Accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products ***I
  Resolution
  Consolidated text
 Common framework for the marketing of products ***I
  Resolution
  Consolidated text
 Application of certain national technical rules to products lawfully marketed in another Member State ***I
  Resolution
  Consolidated text
 Situation in Gaza
 Seventh Human Rights Council of the United Nations
 The demographic future of Europe
 Scientific cooperation with Africa
 4th report on cohesion
 The Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter
 Timor-Leste
 Belarus
 North Kivu

Monitoring the application of Community law (2005)
DOC 59k
European Parliament resolution of 21 February 2008 on the Commission's 23rd Annual report on monitoring the application of Community law (2005) (2006/2271(INI) )
P6_TA(2008)0060 A6-0462/2007

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the Commission's 23rd Annual report on monitoring the application of Community law (COM(2006)0416 ),

–   having regard to the Commission's staff working papers (SEC(2006)0999 and SEC(2006)1005 ),

–   having regard to the Commission's Communication on "A Europe of results – Applying Community law" (COM(2007)0502 ),

–   having regard to Rules 45 and 112(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Petitions (A6-0462/2007 ),

A.   whereas the effectiveness of EU policies is largely determined by their implementation at national, regional and local levels; whereas compliance with Community legislation by the Member States must be rigorously controlled and monitored in order to ensure that it has the desired positive effects on the daily lives of citizens,

B.   whereas the number of complaints relating to infringements of Community law shows that citizens of the Union play a vital role in its application, and that the ability of the EU Institutions properly to address citizens' concerns is important for the credibility of the European Union,

C.   whereas the Commission may adapt the means it uses to carry out its mission effectively and make innovations designed to improve the application of Community law,

The 2005 Annual report and the follow-up to Parliament's resolution

1.   Notes that the total number of infringement proceedings initiated by the Commission has tended to increase in recent years and reached 2 709 detected infringements in 2003 (for EU 15); further notes that the number of detected infringements dramatically decreased in 2004 (by 563) and increased again in 2005, albeit to a level which is lower than in 2003: 2 653 registered infringements (for EU 25);

2.   Notes accordingly that the accession of 10 new Member States seems not to have had any impact on the number of registered infringements, and calls on the Commission to give Parliamenta clear explanation and reassurance that this is not due to a lack of registration of complaints or to a lack of internal resources dealing with infringements within the Commission or to a political decision to be more indulgent towards those Member States;

3.   Welcomes the willingness of most of the relevant Directorates-General to provide information on the resources allocated to infringements in their respective areas as well as on the state of infringement proceedings; notes that each Directorate-General has its own way of dealing with the application of Community law and with the allocation of resources and that there is no precise overview and public general evaluation of the way these different approaches work;

4.   Commits itself to supporting the Commission via increased budget appropriations for an increase of resources, as requested by most of the Directorates-General concerned;

5.   Welcomes the fact that some Directorates-General have developed specific mechanisms to supplement the use of infringement proceedings with a view to achieving an effective monitoring and consolidation of the application of Community law; notes that, in the 2002 regulatory framework for electronic communications, the notification procedures in respect of draft national legislative measures were established, permitting collaboration among the national regulatory authorities of the Member States and the Commission within a short time frame; calls on the Commission to consider the systematic application of this preventive mechanism to other sectors;

6.   Considers that the sharing of best practices between the Member States, for example in the form of package meetings and transposition workshops organised by the Commission to facilitate the application of Community law, should be encouraged; calls on the Commission to consider means of involving Parliament in such processes;

7.   Welcomes the efforts made by some Directorates-General of the Commission – and notably DG Environment – to improve the conformity checks on the relevant directives, but is not satisfied with the Commission's answer concerning the confidentiality of the conformity studies; calls once more on the Commission to publish on its website the studies requested by the various Directorates-General on the evaluation of the conformity of national implementation measures with Community legislation;

8.   Welcomes the inclusion in the Annual Report and its related annexes for the first time of particulars of the specific and detailed treatment of infringements relating to petitions;

9.   Encourages the practice of sending fact-finding missions to various Member States to investigate issues raised by petitioners; regards this as a pragmatic way of solving problems directly with Member States in the interests of the citizen; believes that such missions are all the more necessary in the light of the Commission's lack of "inspection" powers for verifying the practical implementation of EC law, for example in the area of the environment;

10.   Welcomes the Commission's commitment as a rule to include citizens' or peoples' summaries in future legislative proposals and requests concrete examples of such summaries as well as clarification that they form an integral part of the legal act concerned, as called for in paragraph 19 of Parliament's resolution of 16 May 2006 on the Commission's 21st and 22nd Annual reports on monitoring the application of Community law (2003 and 2004)(1) ;

11.   Believes that the Commission should be more proactive in monitoring national events which may disclose a breach of Community law; calls on the Commission, therefore, to make more intensive use of its Representation Offices to prevent or remedy infringements;

12.   Calls on the Member States to go beyond a purely formal transposition of Community legislation and to avoid, as far as possible, the fragmentary transposition of directives, with a view to making legislation simpler and more transparent;

13.   Welcomes the fact that, in its above-mentioned Communication entitled "A Europe of results – Applying Community law", the Commission addresses some of the main policy issues raised in Parliament's above-mentioned resolution of 16 May 2006; notes, however, that some important issues are still pending and were not fully answered, notably those concerning the resources allocated to deal with infringement cases, the length of the infringement procedure and the very limited use of Article 228 of the EC Treaty, and the evaluation of the application of the priority criteria; asks the Commission to provide an answer with regard to these important issues by May 2008;

The Commission's 2007 Communication on "A Europe of results – Applying Community law"

14.   Welcomes the fact that, in its above-mentioned Communication, the Commission attaches value to, and takes duly into account, the issue of the application of Community law;

15.   Notes that the examination of petitions has revealed what appear to be structural weaknesses in the implementation by Member States of various norms of Community law; is of the opinion that, in order to ensure the consistency and coherence of Community law, infringements of Community law must be consistently brought before the Court of Justice of the European Communities, at least in nationally important cases which set a precedent for national case-law and future practice; takes the view that consistency on the part of the Commission in this respect could significantly reduce citizens' subsequent need to complain to the Commission and petition Parliament on analogous issues;

16.   Notes that the main obstacles to the effectiveness of the infringement procedure (Articles 226 and 228 of the EC Treaty) remain its length and the limited recourse to Article 228; insists that the time-limits proposed by the Commission in respect of the non-communication of transposition measures (no more than 12 months from the sending of the letter of formal notice to the resolution of the case or the Court of Justice being seised of the matter) and in respect of proceedings to ensure compliance with an earlier judgment of the Court (between 12 and 24 months) must in no case be exceeded, and, to that end, calls on the Commission to carry out, within those time-limits, periodic monitoring of the progress of infringement procedures and to inform the citizens concerned thereof;

17.   Calls on the Commission to be more firm in applying Article 228 of the Treaty in order to ensure that judgments of the Court of Justice are properly complied with;

18.   Welcomes the Commission's intention to modify current working methods with the aim of prioritising and accelerating the handling and management of existing procedures as well as to commit and formally involve the Member States; notes that, under the proposed new working method, enquiries and complaints received by the Commission will be directly transmitted to the Member State concerned "where an issue requires clarification of the factual or legal position in the Member State. (...) The Member State would be given a short deadline to provide the necessary clarifications, information and solutions directly to the citizens or business concerned and inform the Commission"(2) ;

19.   Observes that the Commission is often the only body left to which citizens can turn to complain about the non-application of Community law; is therefore concerned that, by referring back to the Member State concerned (which is the party responsible for the incorrect application of Community law in the first place), the new working method could present a risk of weakening the Commission's institutional responsibility for ensuring the application of Community law as the "guardian of the Treaty" in accordance with Article 211 of the EC Treaty;

20.   Takes note that the Commission declares that the new working method is not a replacement of the infringement procedure and that it commits itself to applying it only in the pre-infringement phase, according to a precise timetable and strict deadlines;

21.   Asks the Commission to ensure that the existing procedural guarantees given to the complainant will not be affected by the new method and reminds the Commission that, according to the European Ombudsman's decisions, failure to register a complaint constitutes maladministration; points out that, for this purpose, a complaint should be understood as any correspondence which is likely to disclose a violation of Community law or which is otherwise categorised as a complaint;

22.   Stresses the importance of the Commission keeping the complainant informed of the substance of all correspondence with Member States concerning his complaint throughout the procedure and more notably in the pre-infringement phase if the new method is applied;

23.   Considers that the suspension of some parts of the Commission's current internal Manual of Procedures is questionable, since not all Member States and not all sectors are included in the pilot project and the new method is not fully in place; considers that this could result in confusion both internally and vis-à-vis citizens with respect to the procedures to be applied, especially as regards similar infringements committed in different Member States; asks that it be given access to the internal Manual of Procedures;

24.   Agrees on the importance of deploying resources to conformity assessments, but insists that more human resources have to be devoted to dealing with infringements; is particularly concerned that the diminution in the number of infringements after enlargement could indeed originate from insufficient means to properly follow up the implementation of EU law; calls on the Commission to provide Parliament with specific data concerning the number of posts and the volume of resources that will be devoted under the 2008 budget specifically to dealing with infringements;

25.   Welcomes the Commission's suggestion that the new working method be tested through a pilot exercise; expresses concern, however, that some inconsistency and confusion could arise between those Member States that are part of the pilot project and those that are not, as the suspension of the internal procedure deriving from the introduction of the new working method applies in all cases;

26.   Asks the Commission to focus the proposed pilot exercise on those Member States in which the application of Community law remains problematic as a result of a lack of cooperation on the part of national authorities, especially at regional and local level; asks the Commission to verify through the pilot exercise whether, and if so where, more resources are needed within the Commission to handle and manage complaints following the setting-up of the new working method;

27.   Given that petitions and complaints from citizens and businesses facilitate the detection of a very substantial number of infringements, and in order to avoid confusion in contacting the various problem-solving bodies, urges the Commission to investigate the possibility of clear signposting or the creation of an on-line one-stop-shop in order to assist citizens;

28.   Welcomes the Commission's decision to "introduce more frequent decision-taking for most procedural steps to allow for quicker progress"; notes that the Commission organises four formal meetings a year to decide on infringement procedures, and welcomes the Commission's decision to have more frequent decision-taking on infringements; regrets that the Communication did not define stronger political and organisational measures to tackle these new commitments;

29.   Regrets that the Commission did not respect its commitment, announced in its 2002 Communication on "Better monitoring of the application of Community law", that "the application of the priority criteria will be assessed annually, when the report on the monitoring of the application of Community law is discussed"(3) ; welcomes its new commitment to "describe and explain its action on these priorities in its annual reports, from 2008"(4) ;

30.   Notes that Parliament has continued to receive petitions alleging persistent breaches by Member States of the petitioners' human and fundamental rights and deeply regrets that the criteria for violations of the human rights or fundamental freedoms enshrined in substantive Community law have disappeared from the new list of priority criteria; recalls that the EU Treaty gives Parliament the power to initiate the procedure laid down in Article 7(1) of that Treaty;

31.   Urges the Commission to extensively apply the principle that all correspondence which is likely to denounce a real violation of Community law should be registered as a complaint, unless it falls within the exceptional circumstances referred to in point 3 of the Annex to the Communication on "Relations with the complainant in respect of infringements of Community law"(5) ; notes that the European Ombudsman has recently found the Commission responsible for "maladministration" for not having registered a complaint in accordance with that Communication; urges the Commission to inform and consult Parliament on any changes in the exceptional criteria for the non-registration of complaints;

32.   Urges all services of the Commission to keep complainants fully informed of the progress of their complaints at the expiry of each pre-defined deadline (letter of formal notice, reasoned opinion, referral to the Court), to provide reasons for their decisions and to communicate those reasons in full detail to the complainant in accordance with the principles stated in its Communication of 2002;

33.   Welcomes the Commission's intention to take action to ensure free access to its electronic database, and encourages it to act on that commitment as soon as possible;

34.   Welcomes the Commission's commitment to provide summary information on all stages of infringement proceedings from the letter of formal notice as they progress; considers that, in the interests of transparency and better application of Community law in the national courts, the Commission should make available the content and timing of contacts with Member States once the relevant issues are no longer under investigation;

35.   Welcomes the Commission's forthcoming publication of an explanatory document on the case-law of the Court of Justice concerning claims for damages for breach of rights under Community law; further suggests that the Commission should investigate the possibility of acting as amicus curiae in relevant damages cases before national courts, in accordance with national procedural law, as is already the case for domestic litigation involving EC competition law issues(6) ;

The role of the European Parliament and national parliaments in the application of EU law

36.   Considers that Parliament's standing committees should take a much more active role in monitoring the application of Community law in their respective fields of competence and, to that end, should receive support and regular information from the Commission; suggests that, wherever possible, Parliament's rapporteur for a particular file or his/her appointed successor should play a central and continuing role in the ongoing review of Member States" compliance with Community law; notes that regular sessions on the application of Community law organised by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety are a practice that should be extended to all Parliament's committees and that the Commission should be systematically involved;

37.   Notices, however, that the Commission's reluctance to provide precise information on the issues where infringement proceedings have started greatly reduces public interest in, and the effectiveness of, these sessions; calls on Parliament's committees to envisage, where appropriate, including representatives of the relevant Member States or of the Council in the list of invitees to the sessions on the application of Community law;

38.   Believes that Parliament's committees (including the Committee on Petitions) should be given sufficient administrative support to carry out their mission effectively; asks the Working Party on parliamentary reform, the Committee on Budgets and other relevant Parliament bodies to submit concrete proposals dealing inter alia with the aforementioned ongoing role of rapporteurs and to assess the feasibility of a special task force within each committee's secretariat to guarantee the continuing and effective monitoring of the application of Community law;

39.   Calls for increased cooperation between national parliaments and the European Parliament and their respective parliamentarians, in order to promote and increase effective scrutiny of European matters at national level; considers that national parliaments have a valuable role to play in monitoring the application of Community law, thus helping to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of the European Union and bring it closer to the citizens;

40.   Recalls the commitment on the part of the Council to encourage the Member States to draw up and publish tables illustrating the correlation between directives and domestic transposition measures; insists that such tables are essential to enable the Commission to carry out an effective scrutiny of implementing measures in all Member States; proposes, as co-legislator, to take all steps necessary to ensure that provisions regarding those tables are not removed from the text of Commission proposals during the legislative process;

41.   Notes that national courts play an essential role in applying Community law and fully supports the Commission's efforts to identify areas in which supplementary training could usefully be provided for national judges, legal practitioners and officials within the national authorities;

42.   Calls on the Commission to improve monitoring of compliance by Member States" judicial authorities with Parliament's decisions on parliamentary immunity and, where the Commission establishes a failure to comply with those decisions, to inform Parliament of the action it intends to take;

o
o   o

43.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice, the European Ombudsman and the parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ C 297 E, 7.12.2006, p. 122.
(2) COM(2007)0502 , section 2.2.
(3) COM(2002)0725 , section 3.2.
(4) COM(2007)0502 , section 3.
(5) COM(2002)0141 .
(6) Commission Notice on the co-operation between the Commission and the courts of the EU Member States in the application of Articles 81 and 82 EC (OJ C 101, 27.4.2004, p. 54), paragraphs 17 to 20.


Accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products ***I
DOC 37k
Resolution
Consolidated text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 21 February 2008 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products (COM(2007)0037 – C6-0068/2007 – 2007/0029(COD) )
P6_TA(2008)0061 A6-0491/2007

(Codecision procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the Commission proposal to the European Parliament and the Council (COM(2007)0037 ),

–   having regard to Article 251(2) and Articles 95 and 133 of the EC Treaty, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C6-0068/2007 ),

–   having regard to Rule 51 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the opinions of the Committee on International Trade, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (A6-0491/2007 ),

1.   Approves the Commission proposal as amended;

2.   Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it intends to amend the proposal substantially or replace it with another text;

3.   Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council and Commission.

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 21 February 2008 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EC) No .../2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 339/93

P6_TC1-COD(2007)0029


(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position at first reading corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EC) No .../2008.)


Common framework for the marketing of products ***I
DOC 94k
Resolution
Consolidated text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 21 February 2008 on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a common framework for the marketing of products (COM(2007)0053 – C6-0067/2007 – 2007/0030(COD) )
P6_TA(2008)0062 A6-0490/2007

(Codecision procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the Commission proposal to the European Parliament and the Council (COM(2007)0053 ),

–   having regard to Article 251(2) and Article 95 of the EC Treaty, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C6-0067/2007 ),

–   having regard to Rule 51 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the opinions of the Committee on International Trade, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the Committee on Legal Affairs (A6-0490/2007 ),

1.   Approves the Commission proposal as amended;

2.   Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it intends to amend the proposal substantially or replace it with another text;

3.   Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council and Commission.

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 21 February 2008 with a view to the adoption of Decision No .../2008/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on a common framework for the marketing of products, and repealing Decision 93/465/EEC

P6_TC1-COD(2007)0030


(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position at first reading corresponds to the final legislative act, Decision No .../2008/EC.)


Application of certain national technical rules to products lawfully marketed in another Member State ***I
DOC 67k
Resolution
Consolidated text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 21 February 2008 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down procedures relating to the application of certain national technical rules to products lawfully marketed in another Member State and repealing Decision No 3052/95/EC (COM(2007)0036 – C6-0065/2007 – 2007/0028(COD) )
P6_TA(2008)0063 A6-0489/2007

(Codecision procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the Commission proposal to the European Parliament and the Council (COM(2007)0036 ),

–   having regard to Article 251(2) and Articles 37 and 95 of the EC Treaty, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C6-0065/2007 ),

–   having regard to Rule 51 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection and the opinions of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the Committee on Legal Affairs (A6-0489/2007 ),

1.   Approves the Commission proposal as amended;

2.   Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it intends to amend the proposal substantially or replace it with another text;

3.   Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council and Commission.

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 21 February 2008 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EC) No .../2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down procedures relating to the application of certain national technical rules to products lawfully marketed in another Member State and repealing Decision No 3052/95/EC

P6_TC1-COD(2007)0028


(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position at first reading corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EC) No .../2008.)


Situation in Gaza
DOC 47k
European Parliament resolution of 21 February 2008 on the situation in the Gaza Strip
P6_TA(2008)0064 B6-0066 , 0067 , 0068 , 0069 , 0071 and 0072/2008

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on the Middle East, in particular those of 1 June 2006 on the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories and the role of the EU(1) , 16 November 2006 on the situation in the Gaza Strip(2) , 21 June 2007 on MEDA and financial support to Palestine – evaluation, implementation and control(3) , 12 July 2007 on the Middle East(4) and 11 October 2007 on the humanitarian situation in Gaza(5) ,

–   having regard to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 (S/RES/242) of 22 November 1967 and 338 (S/RES/338) of 22 October 1973,

–   having regard the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949),

–   having regard to the Annapolis Declaration of 27 November 2007,

–   having regard to the conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council of 28 January 2008,

–   having regard to the declaration on the situation in Gaza made by the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on Political Affairs, Security and Human Rights on 28 January 2008,

–   having regard to the UN Human Rights Council resolution of 24 January 2008 on human rights violations in the Gaza Strip (A/HRC/S-6/L.1),

–   having regard to Rule 103(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas, as a result of the embargo on the movement of people and goods, the partial denial of access to drinking water, food and electricity, and the lack of essential goods and services, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has further deteriorated,

B.   whereas the border crossings in and out of Gaza have been closed for months, and whereas the embargo on the movement of people and goods has further paralysed the economy in the Gaza Strip,

C.   whereas key public service sectors, including the health and education systems, are facing serious shortcomings owing to a lack of basic materials required for their functioning, and whereas the lack of medicines and of fuel to run the generators in hospitals in the Gaza Strip is endangering Palestinian lives,

D.   whereas hundreds of thousands of Palestinians recently crossed the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, after breaking down the border wall, in order to find essential goods for their basic needs, and whereas the Egyptian forces gradually resumed control of the situation and resealed the border on 3 February 2008, bringing to an end the free movement of Palestinians, as requested by the Israeli authorities,

E.   whereas the destruction of part of the border wall and fence is a direct consequence of the extremely serious humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has led to the Palestinian population endeavouring to claim its vital need for freedom of movement,

F.   whereas a recent suicide terrorist attack in Dimona, after a long period without such acts, killed and wounded Israeli civilians; whereas the firing of rockets by Palestinian militias from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory has continued; and whereas the military operations killing and endangering civilians and the extrajudicial targeted killings by the Israeli army have continued in the Gaza Strip,

G.   whereas the situation and the recent developments in the Gaza Strip threaten to undermine the ongoing negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and the efforts to conclude an agreement by the end of 2008, as declared by the parties at the international Annapolis Conference of 27 November 2007,

H.   whereas the European Union has provided considerable financial support to the Palestinians in the past years; whereas the EU's Temporary International Mechanism and project funding have played an important role in avoiding a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank; whereas the Commission, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the World Bank have suspended several infrastructure projects due to the inability to import raw materials; whereas these humanitarian offices, agencies and organisations have continued their activities on a limited scale despite all the obstacles; whereas the European Union continues to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people and direct subsidies to employees of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip; whereas the Palestinian-European Mechanism for Management of Socio-Economic Aid (PEGASE) will constitute a new financing mechanism for EU and other international assistance for the Palestinian Territories,

I.   whereas at the conference held in Annapolis all parties expressed their wish for a new start of negotiations with a view to the establishment of a sovereign and viable Palestinian State, alongside a safe Israeli State,

J.   whereas the participants in the International Donors' Conference for the Palestinian State, held in December 2007 in Paris, pledged a total of USD 7.4 billion to support Palestinian institution-building and economic recovery for the next three years,

K.   whereas the Special Envoy for the Quartet has identified four priority projects for economic development and institution-building for the Palestinian Territories, including the restoration of the Beit Lahia sewage treatment plant in northern Gaza,

1.   Reiterates its deep concern at the humanitarian and political crisis in the Gaza Strip and its further possible grave consequences; considers the recent developments at Rafah, including peaceful events and violent acts, to be the result of that crisis in the Gaza Strip;

2.   Expresses its deepest sympathy for the civilian population affected by the violence in Gaza and southern Israel;

3.   Reiterates its call for an immediate end to all acts of violence;

4.   Calls on Israel to cease military actions killing and endangering civilians, and extrajudicial targeted killings;

5.   Calls on Hamas, following the illegal takeover of the Gaza Strip, to prevent the firing of rockets by Palestinian militias from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory;

6.   Believes that the policy of isolation of the Gaza Strip has failed at both the political and the humanitarian level; once again calls on all parties to fully respect international law, and notably international humanitarian law;

7.   Regards as positive the reaction by Egypt to the disturbances at Rafah, which allowed many Palestinian families to have access to essential goods for their basic needs; urges the Government of Egypt to continue to play an active role in maintaining peace and stability in the area;

8.   Calls once again for an end to the blockade and for a controlled re-opening of the crossings in and out of Gaza; calls on Israel to ensure the movement of people and goods at Rafah, Karni and other crossing-points, in compliance with the Agreement on Movement and Access; calls for the resumption of the EU Border Assistance Mission at Rafah; supports the statement by the EU High Representative for CFSP that a new Council mandate should be considered for the Mission; calls in this context for an increased international presence in the area;

9.   Welcomes the proposal by the Palestinian Authority to take control of the crossing-points, on the basis of an agreement involving Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and supports the recent resolution adopted by the Arab League in that respect; invites the Palestinian Authority, nevertheless, to help establish the necessary conditions to engage all parties concerned in the Gaza Strip in this regard;

10.   Believes that the civilian population should be exempt from any military action and any collective punishment; calls on Israel to fulfil its international obligations, as an occupying power, in the Gaza Strip; calls on Israel to guarantee a continuous and sufficient flow of humanitarian aid, humanitarian assistance and essential goods and services, including fuel and power supplies, to the Gaza Strip; expresses grave concern at Israel's decision to introduce progressive five per cent per week cuts in power supplies to the Gaza Strip, which cannot be considered consistent with meeting minimum humanitarian needs; welcomes the petition from 10 Israeli human rights organisations against fuel and electricity cuts in the Gaza Strip;

11.   Considers that the functioning of public institutions providing essential services and the operations of the international humanitarian offices, agencies and organisations seeking to improve the conditions of the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip require, despite the political deadlock, a dialogue between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas;

12.   Stresses the great importance of a permanent geographical and trade connection between, and the peaceful and lasting political reunification of, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and calls on Hamas to revise its position in line with the Quartet principles and the previously agreed international obligations, and to support the peace process and the ongoing negotiations;

13.   Reiterates its call for the immediate release of the Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit, which would be perceived as an act of goodwill on the part of Hamas, and of all imprisoned Palestinian former ministers, legislators and mayors; recognises the importance of the release of detainees in building confidence in the context of the current peace talks;

14.   Reminds the parties of the commitments which they made in Annapolis to hold negotiations in good faith with a view to concluding by the end of 2008 a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues, without exception, as specified in previous agreements; urges both sides to fulfil their obligations under the Road Map;

15.   Calls on the Council and the Commission to continue, together with the international community, to guarantee essential humanitarian aid for the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, with special regard to the needs of particularly vulnerable groups; stresses the importance of the new financing mechanism PEGASE; expresses, nevertheless, its deep concern at the destruction of facilities financed within the framework of humanitarian aid or project financing provided by the European Union, which undermines the efficiency of EU assistance and affects the solidarity of the public in the Member States;

16.   Welcomes the outcome of the December 2007 International Donor's Conference for the Palestinian State, namely the pledging of over USD 7.4 billion, and calls on all donors to deliver on their pledges in support of efforts to build the future Palestinian State in accordance with the Reform and Development Plan presented by Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad;

17.   Expresses grave concern over the ecological and human health consequences of the failure to undertake maintenance of sewage treatment facilities, and in particular calls on all parties to facilitate access to the goods needed for the repair and reconstruction of the Beit Lahia plant, as identified by the Special Envoy for the Quartet;

18.   Calls for an urgent and exemplary energy project for Gaza, possibly in the Rafah area, in order to guarantee autonomy and self-sufficiency in electricity production and desalinisation for the population;

19.   Invites its Working Group on the Middle East to examine, in cooperation with the Commission and the international organisations concerned, the consequences of the destruction of the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, with special regard to the facilities financed within the framework of the humanitarian aid or project financing provided by the European Union;

20.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Secretary-General, the Special Envoy for the Middle East Quartet, the President of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, the President of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Israeli Government, the Knesset, and the Egyptian Government and Parliament.

(1) OJ C 298 E, 8.12.2006, p. 223.
(2) OJ C 314 E, 21.12.2006, p. 324.
(3) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2007)0277 .
(4) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2007)0350 .
(5) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2007)0430 .


Seventh Human Rights Council of the United Nations
DOC 54k
European Parliament resolution of 21 February 2008 on the seventh session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
P6_TA(2008)0065 B6-0092 , 0096 , 0099 , 0100 and 0101/2008

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights since 1996, in particular its resolution of 7 June 2007 on the fifth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)(1) , as well as those of 16 March 2006 on the outcome of the negotiations on the Human Rights Council and on the 62nd session of the UNCHR(2) , of 29 January 2004 on the relations between the European Union and the United Nations(3) , of 9 June 2005 on the reform of the United Nations(4) , of 29 September 2005 on the outcome of the United Nations World Summit of 14-16 September 2005(5) and of 26 April 2007 on the Annual Report on Human Rights in the World 2006 and the EU's policy on the matter(6) ,

–   having regard to its urgent resolutions on human rights and democracy,

–   having regard to United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/60/251 establishing the Human Rights Council (UNHRC),

–   having regard to the previous regular and special sessions of the UNHRC, in particular to the sixth regular session, as well as the sixth special session on 'Human rights violations emanating from Israeli military attacks and incursions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the Occupied Gaza Strip', held on 23-24 January 2008,

–   having regard to the forthcoming seventh session of the UNHRC, to be held in March 2008,

–   having regard to the first and second rounds of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to be held from 7 to 18 April 2008 and from 5 to 16 May 2008,

–   having regard to Rule 103(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas respect for, and the promotion and safeguarding of, the universality of human rights is part of the European Union's ethical and legal acquis and one of the cornerstones of European unity and integrity,

B.   whereas the UNHRC provides an effective platform for strengthening human rights protection and promotion within the UN framework,

C.   whereas the seventh session of the UNHRC will be crucial, as it will be the first to examine a wide range of substantive issues under the new working methods stemming from the institution-building reforms adopted in 2006 and 2007 and will fine-tune the modalities of the UPR,

D.   whereas the credibility of the UNHRC rests on the implementation of these reforms and mechanisms in a way which will strengthen its ability to address human rights violations around the world,

E.   whereas an ad hoc European Parliament delegation will be established for the seventh session of the UNHRC, as in the two previous years and, before that, for the UNHRC's predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights,

The work of the Human Rights Council

1.   Underlines the crucial role of the Human Rights Council in the overall UN architecture; reiterates the view that its focus should remain primarily on addressing human rights violations, as general political situations fall within the competence of other UN bodies; stresses the specific characteristics of the UNHRC, namely the important role of Special Procedures, the special sessions, the UPR, the interactive dialogue and its capacity to address urgent crises;

2.   Takes note of the results of the UNHRC's work; welcomes the fulfilment of the ambitious programme the UNHRC set itself, which included the review of its procedures and working methods, in particular the development and implementation of the UPR and the review of Special Procedures;

3.   Pays tribute to the positive achievements of the UNHRC presidency and in particular its good cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); calls on the EU to support as a matter of priority candidates with high standards of integrity standing for election as the new President of the UNHRC in the ballot to be held on 23 June 2008;

4.   Welcomes the organisation of special sessions, as they constitute essential links between serious human rights violations and independent expertise; is concerned, however, at the failure of the UNHRC to take action to address many of the world's most urgent human rights violations;

5.   Notes that the purpose of special sessions is to address urgent crises, while persistent human rights violations should be addressed in regular session, allowing for a more in-depth analysis and providing solutions for the long term;

6.   Stresses that special sessions require prior preparation and structured working methods to produce a positive outcome; in this regard, notes the success of key EU initiatives;

7.   Notes the direct impact of the special session on Burma, held in Geneva in October 2007, which resulted in the condemnation of government repression and the visit of the Special Rapporteur with a view to investigating the human rights situation in Burma; deplores the lack of follow-up to, and monitoring of, the Special Rapporteur's recommendations, as the human rights situation is worsening in Burma;

United Nations General Assembly election of new members of the UNHRC

8.   Calls for competitive elections to be held in all regions, in May 2008, in order to provide real choice among UN Member States; regrets that some countries with problematic human rights records have so far been elected, since this means that slates have been wiped clean;

9.   Calls on the Council, the Commission and the Member States to continue to press for the establishment of membership criteria for election to the UNHRC, including the issuing of standing invitations to Special Procedures, as well as for monitoring of the actual implementation of the UN Member States' election pledges; pending such a reform, calls for this rule to be applied in determining the support of EU Member States in the UNHRC for candidate countries;

Procedures and mechanisms
UPR

10.   Regards the UPR mechanism as a potential means of improving the universality of monitoring of human rights commitments and practices throughout the world by subjecting all UN Member States to equal treatment and scrutiny;

11.   Points out that the aim of the UPR is to conduct an objective review of a country situation in order to identify areas of human rights violations which could be improved through the exchange of good practices and enhanced cooperation leading to recommendations and conclusions; in this regard, calls on EU Member States and the Commission to take these recommendations and conclusions into account when defining the objectives and priorities of EU assistance programmes;

12.   Calls for the UPR process, the first and second rounds of which will be held from 7 to 18 April 2008 and from 5 to 16 May 2008, to live up to the expectations voiced so far; calls on EU Member States to conduct UPR transparently and objectively and in the spirit of the above-mentioned Resolution 60/251; calls on EU Member States subjected to UPR to be self-critical and not limit their presentations to listing their positive achievements;

13.   Notes that a number of questions still need to be addressed, including the selection of what are termed 'UPR Troikas' which will facilitate review of the UN Member States in the field of human rights; in this regard, urges EU Member States not to accept the possibility of the confidential refusal by countries under review of the selection of countries in charge of their review;

14.   Calls on UNHRC members to appoint independent experts as their representatives on the working group in charge of conducting the UPR; calls on EU Member States to take the lead in promoting such an approach by adopting common guidelines on UPR modalities;

15.   Notes the importance of the involvement of civil society, human rights defenders and Special Procedures; reiterates its view that the conclusions and recommendations thereof should constitute the basis for an independent and credible review;

Review of mandates and nomination of Special Procedures mandate holders

16.   Stresses that Special Procedures are at the core of the UN human rights machinery, playing a critical role in the Human Rights Council in particular; reaffirms the need for UNHRC members to comply with their obligation to cooperate fully in connection with Special Procedures;

17.   Stresses that the credibility of the UNHRC will depend on the new nominations for Special Procedures mandate holders in March 2008;

18.   Calls for the nomination, as mandate holders, of persons with recognised human rights expertise, relevant experience, independence, impartiality, personal integrity and objectivity as well as substantial knowledge of the Special Procedures system;

19.   Urges governments, NGOs and relevant professional associations to send the names of eligible candidates for inclusion in the public roster of eligible candidates managed by the OHCHR;

20.   Calls on the Consultative Group in charge of reviewing candidates for Special Procedures mandates and making recommendations for appointments to the Presidency of the Council to fulfil its mandate in an objective and transparent manner and to base its choices on the criteria of professionalism and personal integrity;

21.   Condemns the Human Rights Council's decision not to renew the mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on Belarus and Cuba;

22.   Welcomes the renewal of the country mandates of the Special Rapporteur on Sudan and of the Independent Experts on Liberia, Haiti and Burundi;

23.   Regrets the EU's support for the UNHRC's decision to disband its expert group on Darfur; notes that the follow-up to the work of the group of experts has been added to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Sudan; is therefore concerned that her mandate may be weakened by the increase in her workload;

24.   Given their important added value, encourages the exercise of greater circumspection in the discontinuance of the mandates of expert groups in the future;

25.   Welcomes the renewal of the thematic mandates reviewed so far;

26.   Calls on the EU Member States to ensure renewal of the mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on Burma and on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and extension of the mandates of the Independent Experts on Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo;

27.   Welcomes the creation of an expert mechanism, with five independent members, on the human rights of indigenous peoples;

28.   Encourages the holding, as soon as possible and at all events during 2008, of discussions on the question of violence against women in all its forms and manifestations, and the setting of priorities for addressing this issue in the UNHRC's future efforts and work programmes, as agreed in General Assembly Resolution A/RES/61/143 of 19 December 2006 on intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women;

29.   Notes the adoption, on 18 June 2007, of a Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate Holders; calls on the UNHRC to implement this Code of Conduct in the spirit of the above-mentioned Resolution 60/251 and to respect the independence of Special Procedures;

30.   Supports the efforts of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures in drafting the appropriate procedure by which the Code of Conduct and other relevant documents, including the Manual of Special Procedures, may be best implemented in such a way as to strengthen their ability to protect and promote human rights; calls on the Special Procedures Coordination Committee to work in an efficient and transparent manner in order to avoid technical debates which could delay substantive debates and hamper the mandates of Special Procedures;

Complaint procedure

31.   Notes that the complaint procedure outlined as part of the UNHRC's institution-building process appears to be very similar to the former '1503 procedure'; calls for a new process which will be more effective in identifying, preventing and addressing situations of manifest gross human rights violations;

EU involvement

32.   Recognises the active involvement of the EU and its Member States in the first year of work of the UNHRC;

33.   Welcomes the involvement of the EU in the difficult negotiations at the sixth regular session which sought, in particular, to achieve positive results regarding the renewal of the Special Procedures mandates;

34.   Points to the need for the EU to speak with one voice in addressing human rights issues, but also to the fact that it is important for each EU Member State to voice the EU position, in order to give it more weight;

35.   Calls on the EU to sponsor its own resolution seeking consensus in addressing the current violations of human rights in relation to the blockade on Gaza and rocket attacks against Israel;

36.   Calls for enhanced cooperation with the OHCHR and for its independence to be preserved by granting it adequate funding;

37.   Calls for ongoing support for Special Procedures in terms of finance and staff; expresses its support for the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights(7) , as this is an important source of financing for Special Procedures; welcomes the initiatives of the Working Party on Human Rights (COHOM) presidency to enhance its cooperation with Special Rapporteurs, notably by means of systematic invitations to relevant meetings;

38.   Calls on the Commission and the Council to adopt a 'common position' designed to ensure that EU Member States automatically sign and ratify all international human rights instruments;

39.   Notes the EU's work in favour of the adoption of resolutions by consensus; calls on the EU Member States to pursue their efforts to engage with countries from other regional groups with a view to guaranteeing broad support for resolutions which strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights; calls on the EU to make more effective use of its aid to and political support for third countries, so as to give them an incentive to cooperate with the UNHRC;

40.   Mandates the European Parliament delegation to the seventh session of the UNHRC to voice the concerns expressed in this resolution, calls on the delegation to report to the Subcommittee on Human Rights on its visit, and considers it appropriate to continue sending a European Parliament delegation to relevant sessions of the UNHRC;

o
o   o

41.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, the President of the 62nd UN General Assembly, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the EU-UN working group established by the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

(1) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2007)0235 .
(2) OJ C 291 E, 30.11.2006, p. 409.
(3) OJ C 96 E, 21.4.2004, p. 79.
(4) OJ C 124 E, 25.5.2006, p. 549.
(5) OJ C 227 E, 21.9.2006, p. 582.
(6) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2007)0165 .
(7) Regulation (EC) No 1889/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on establishing a financial instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide (OJ L 386, 29.12.2006, p. 1).


The demographic future of Europe
DOC 115k
European Parliament resolution of 21 February 2008 on the demographic future of Europe (2007/2156 (INI))
P6_TA(2008)0066 A6-0024/2008

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 14 March 1997 on the Commission report to the Council and European Parliament on the demographic situation in the European Union (1995)(1) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 12 March 1998 on the Commission demographic report 1997(2) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 December 2000 on the Commission communication Towards a Europe for all ages – promoting prosperity and intergenerational solidarity(3) ,

–   having regard to the Commission communication on Europe's response to World Ageing – Promoting economic and social progress in an ageing world – A contribution of the European Commission to the 2nd World Assembly on Ageing (COM(2002)0143 ),

–   having regard to the European Youth Pact adopted by the Brussels European Council of 22 and 23 March 2005,

–   having regard to the Commission Green Paper on Confronting demographic change: a new solidarity between the generations (COM(2005)0094 ),

–   having regard to its resolution of 23 March 2006 on demographic challenges and solidarity between the generations(4) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 6 September 2006 on a European Social Model for the future(5) ,

–   having regard to the Commission communication on The demographic future of Europe – from challenge to opportunity (COM(2006)0571 ),

–   having regard to the Commission communication on Promoting solidarity between the generations (COM(2007)0244 ),

–   having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 14 March 2007 on The family and demographic change(6) and its core proposal that a European pact for the family be signed by Member States,

–   having regard to the Commission Staff Working document on Europe's demographic future: facts and figures (SEC(2007)0638 ),

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, the Committee on Regional Development and the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A6-0024/2008 ),

A.   whereas demography is the combined result of various factors - birth rate, life expectancy and migratory flows – and whereas the current rates for those factors in the Member States show that by 2050, large-scale demographic changes are to be expected, leading in particular to an ageing of the European population, whose average age could rise from 39 in 2004 to 49 in 2050,

B.   whereas those demographic changes may, according to Commission estimates, profoundly alter the population structure and the age pyramid, with the number of young people aged between 0 and 14 years falling from 100 million (1975 index) to 66 million in 2050, the population of working age peaking around 2010 at 331 million and gradually diminishing thereafter to some 268 million in 2050, life expectancy increasing by six years for men and five years for women between 2004 and 2050, and the percentage of people aged over 80 climbing from 4,1 % in 2005 to 11,4 % in 2050,

C.   whereas the average European old-age dependency ratio (number of persons aged over 65 divided by the number aged between 14 and 65) will rise from 25 % in 2004 to 53 % in 2050,

D.   whereas, however, the economic dependency ratio (number of economically inactive population, such as pensioners, children and youth in education divided by the number of economically active population at working age) is much more important than the old-age dependency ratio for estimating the costs for society with regard to its non-active population,

E.   whereas demographic change impacts seriously on public spending, which is expected to increase by 10 % between 2004 and 2050,

F.   whereas demographic changes should not affect the total size of the European population between until 2050, but will lead to significant regional imbalances, with some areas of the European Union already characterised by large outflows of young people, mainly young women; whereas, similarly, the population of Europe as a proportion of the world's population will fall from 15 % 100 years ago to 5 % in 2050; whereas EU regions are very differently affected by these changes: while a disproportionately high number of older people already live in regions with net outward migration, regions with net inward migration have not yet experienced the process of an ageing society because of young people immigrating into the areas,

G.   whereas infertility is one of the causes of demographic decline and whereas it should be recognised as a public health concern and as a social problem affecting both men and women; reminds the Commission of the call for action on infertility and demography made by the Parliament in 2005 and calling upon the Commission to put forward recommendations in this area,

H.   whereas legal immigration is a positive element in the make-up of the European population and is necessary if demographic balance is to be maintained; whereas, however, legal immigration alone is not sufficient to counteract the progressive ageing of the population in the European Union and measures are needed to increase the birth rate of the resident population,

I.   whereas immigration is only a partial and short-term solution to demographic change in Europe, which requires Member State commitments to securing respect for the principle of gender equality in the public and private sectors, protecting maternity, providing social and economic support for families and taking measures to improve the reconciliation of family life with work for men and women,

J.   whereas disability is strongly linked to age and older people are more likely to have an impairment or disability,

General considerations

1.   Notes with concern the demographic projections until 2050; stresses, however, that 50-year projections are not irreversible predictions but serious warnings to which we must respond today if we are to maintain Europe's competitiveness, the viability of the economy, social cohesion, solidarity between the generations and its social model for tomorrow; considers that the perspective of shrinking populations by 2050 may implicate a lowering of the pressure on the environment and provide an opportunity for sustainable development, which in turn needs proactive policies to adapt spatial planning, housing, transport and other kinds of infrastructures accordingly; recognises the competences of Member States in this regard;

2.   Recalls, first, that the two chief causes of demographic change – the falling birth rate and the ageing of the population – are the result of progress: increased life expectancy is the direct result of progress in science, hygiene and living standards and women's control over their reproductive lives is the result of their emancipation and goes hand-in-hand with higher levels of education for girls and women's participation in active life and public responsibilities; considers that this should be regarded as an irreversible benefit to humanity;

3.   Acknowledges that a society that places children at the centre of its policies is the precondition for a healthier birth rate; insists on the need to create a family-friendly environment and to improve living conditions for families and children and for realising families' real aspirations;

4.   Stresses that the average birth rate in the European Union, which at 1,5 is abnormally low, is not a reflection of women's choice or of European citizens' actual aspirations for creating a family, and may therefore also be linked to the difficulty of reconciling work with family life (lack of child-care infrastructures, social and economic support for families, and jobs for women), the anxiety-inducing social environment (unstable work situation, expensive housing) and a fear of the future (late access to employment for young people and job insecurity);

5.   Recalls that the use of alcohol and drugs among young people constitutes a risk of public importance and with huge demographic consequences, bringing about, inter alia, a decrease in their ability to work or start a family; thus recommends the establishment of target-oriented framework programmes for the prevention of early alcohol and drug use as well as for overcoming drug and alcohol dependence upon young people;

6.   Considers that prolonged life expectancy is a positive factor and should be recognised as such; therefore, asks that Member States guarantee that pensioners unable to afford a home, care for themselves or live the end of their lives in dignity do not fall into poverty;

7.   Encourages comprehensive anti-discrimination measures, since the issue of the demographic future of Europe cannot be separated from the problem of vulnerable groups living on the internal peripheries of society and suffering from severe poverty whose disadvantage is often seen as their own fault, which has an influence not only on children but also on the forthcoming generations;

8.   Draws attention to the maltreatment and lack of care to which the elderly are exposed within their families or within the institutions in which they are placed; urges Member States and the Commission to do more to uncover the extent of abuse of older people in the European Union; notes it has been estimated that as many as 10 % of older people experience some form of physical, financial or mental abuse before they die; calls upon the Commission and the Member States to develop the provision of information, warning systems and penalties for maltreatment of this kind; welcomes the Commission's intention to produce a communication on the abuse of older people in 2008; calls for that communication to be the occasion for drawing up a comprehensive strategy for a large-scale information and action campaign in this field (training of care workers, definition of quality standards, penalties for maltreatment);

9.   Regrets that no adequate measures have yet been taken to prepare the European Union for this challenge, which has been foreseeable for a number of years; regrets, in particular, that the Lisbon Strategy objectives and the commitments made at the Barcelona European Council on 15 and 16 March 2002 on childcare, employment for the over 55s, better balancing of family life and work and women's participation in working life have not been met by the great majority of Member States, and that the European Union as a whole remains far from attaining those objectives;

10.   Calls on the Member States to seek to provide the high standard of care at affordable prices needed in order to accommodate children and other dependent persons, as laid down in the objectives of the Barcelona European Council of 15 and 16 March 2002, in which Member States were called upon, by 2010, to provide childcare for at least 90 % of children from age three to the start of compulsory schooling and at least 33 % of children under three; maintains that those measures must be such as to enable parents to adjust their working patterns according to their way of life;

11.   Considers that the European Union's objectives should not be confined to complying with the Barcelona objectives on childcare facilities; believes that those facilities should be viewed as universal services, available to all who need them;

12.   Highlights the fact that many small businesses are poorly prepared for the challenges of an ageing workforce and may require Member State assistance in this regard;

13.   Welcomes the Commission's initiative to continue the discussion on this major challenge; encourages the Commission to support the identification and exchange of good practices at regional and local level and to take this opportunity for innovation in the European Union; supports its integrated approach to the demographic challenge and the five core policy directions leading to a solidarity pact between the generations, between the sexes, and among the regions; points out that, if demographic challenges are to be successfully met, the Member States must implement the Lisbon Strategy effectively and establish close coordination at Member State level between macro-economic and social policies in order to enable the growth, competitiveness and productivity of the European Union's economic system to meet the challenges posed by an ageing population and to enable the Member States to discharge the obligations incumbent upon them by planning innovative policies in the fields of public finance, health services, services of general interest (SGIs), immigration and integration;

The challenge of demographic renewal

14.   Recognises that maternity choices are among the most private decisions men and women take, and must be respected; recognises that, since Member States" birth rates range from 1,25 to 2,0, it is possible to influence birth rate curves favourably through coordinated public policies, by creating a family- and child-friendly material and emotional environment; recognises that, along the lines advocated by the European Economic and Social Committee in its proposed European pact for the family, those measures should be applied over the long term and should provide the necessary framework of stability and protection for parenthood decisions;

15.   Calls on the Member States to adopt best practices as regards the length of maternity leave, which varies among the Member States from 14 to 28 weeks, and as regards parental leave, ante-natal care and counselling, a guaranteed income during pregnancy and returning to the same job; similarly, hopes that the Member States will take measures and provide for penalties against domestic violence and abuse;

16.   Recalls the discrimination suffered by women regarding working conditions and employers' distrust regarding their desire for motherhood; recalls that women are under-employed in spite of their qualifications and that their income level, which is below the average reference wage is detrimental to their essential economic independence; calls on the Member States duly to implement Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation(7) and to transpose Council Directive 92/85/EEC of 19 October 1992 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding(8) ; calls on the Member States to take measures under the Directive 92/85/EEC against employers who discriminate directly or indirectly against women workers wishing to start a family;

17.   Calls on the Member States to consider measures to offer specific protection and support to women after the birth of a child, in particular to young single mothers, bearing in mind the growing number of one-parent families, 85 % of which are headed by women and which are more exposed than others to a serious risk of poverty;

18.   Draws attention to the need for public spending on young children and large families, particularly for the provision of childcare facilities and for the protection of single mothers and one-parent families, who are at particular risk of social exclusion, isolation and poverty; stresses that those services are in the general interest and contribute to job creation and the development of the local and regional economy; calls on the Commission to showcase examples of the best practices of certain Member State reasons;

19.   Recommends, therefore, combined public-private investment in the childcare sector and the pre-school education system;

20.   Stresses that adequate access to services for the care of children, the elderly, people with disabilities and other dependants are essential in order to enable full and equal participation of men and women in the labour market, which will have an impact on the level of informal care available within households;

21.   Recalls that social dialogue culminated in agreements on parental leave and part-time work, which were the subject of Council Directives 96/34/EC of 3 June 1996 on the framework agreement on parental leave(9) and 97/81/EC of 15 December 1997 concerning the Framework Agreement on part-time work(10) ; calls on the Member States and the Commission, therefore, to ensure that that legislation is implemented with due regard for the principle of subsidiarity;

22.   Calls on the Member States to facilitate the fostering of abused children, orphans and those raised in specialist institutions; calls for a debate at European level on the procedures for the adoption of children from Member States or third countries, and to ensure that national and international rules are respected, and, where necessary, amended, in the interests of the child; calls for the greatest possible vigilance concerning all types of maltreatment and trafficking in human beings;

23.   Stresses that family patterns are changing; therefore asks the Commission and the Member States to give serious consideration to this reality when developing and implementing policies;

24.   Stresses the need to improve EU paternity law; calls upon the Commission to propose specific measures designed to facilitate greater involvement in family life on the part of fathers by enhancing entitlement to paternal leave; calls upon the Commission and the Member States to promote fathers' rights as regards the upbringing and the care of children, particularly in the event of separation or divorce, with a view to developing gender equality in European society;

25.   Calls upon the Commission to take into consideration the sensitive issue of infertility, which affects both married and unmarried women and couples;

26.   Notes that infertility is a medical condition recognised by World Health Organization that can have severe effects such as depression; points out that infertility is on the increase and now occurs in about 15 % of couples; calls on the Member States, therefore, to ensure the right of couples to universal access to infertility treatment;

27.   Encourages the Member States to identify good practices in favour of families, family benefits systems and social services of general interest (SSGIs) for protecting and helping families; calls on the Member States to provide support targeted specifically at young parents pursuing their training or studies;

28.   Calls on the Member States to recognise the social, economic and educational value of informal family work in the form of caring for children and other dependants, while examining the possibility of recognising length of service, social security and pension rights for those who carry out such informal work;

29.   Encourages the Member States to implement proactive measures in support of parents, such as additional retirement pension entitlements and tax breaks for company crèches, and to exchange best practices in this area;

The human resources challenge

30.   Notes that, faced with an imbalance between the active and non-active population resulting from demographic change, the European Union has substantial scope to increase the employment of women, young people, senior citizens and people with disabilities; maintains that full employment must become a short-term objective in the context of the review of the Lisbon Strategy in 2008;

31.   Calls for a reform of current European human resource management which, by under-employing people aged less than 25/30 and people over 55, limits to approximately 30 years the working life of a large part of the population; calls for the promotion of preventative and holistic age management techniques;

32.   Calls for a global and qualitative approach to human resources and proposes defining an "active life-cycle", combining training, lifelong learning and the optimisation of formal and informal knowledge and qualifications, including relating to a person's career, from the beginning to the end of a person's working life;

33.   Recognises that the segmentation of the labour market and the increasing prevalence of non-secure forms of work is leading to increased insecurity in old age; considers that Member States need to examine and exchange ideas on best practices as regards maintaining social contributions throughout the life-cycle in order to stengthen security in old age;

34.   Considers that the measures envisaged having regard to demographic change must take account of the increase in productivity of all the working population, thus not only the ration of economically active to economically non-active people is significant but also the increase in productivity;

35.   Calls for an in-depth dialogue with the social partners, business, academia, non-governmental organisations and the media in order to prepare for these demographic changes; stresses that future productivity gains will depend chiefly on investment in research and development and in technological innovations, and insists on the vital need for companies to anticipate their skills requirements through forward-looking management of jobs and careers and, through investment in lifelong learning, to assist employees in upgrading their skills;

36.   Calls for practical initiatives designed to enable older people to work longer if they so wish, so that they can pass on their particular work experience to young people, other workers and employers;

37.   Encourages investment in education and training, including the use of new technology, in order to raise the level of basic training for everyone, which will ensure that they are able to adapt in the future and acquire new skills through lifelong learning, as well as the development of measures to help young people with their initial integration into the labour market and older people and vulnerable groups with their reintegration in order to provide genuine career support throughout their working lives;

38.   Suggests, on the basis of free collective bargaining or in consultation with works councils - in accordance with traditions of Member States - a cutback as soon as possible in companies resorting to early retirement, and calls on the Member States to promote the role of older workers and encourage their employment; acknowledges, however, that for older workers (those older than the minimum retirement age) who may no longer desire full-time occupation, the feasibility of part-time work, flexible working hours, distance working or job-sharing might be explored, as an innovative form of gradual retirement and limiting its stressful effects;

39.   Considers that the time has come to address the issue of "pensioners' stress", namely the feelings of dejection, uselessness and nihilism experienced by workers a few days after retirement, when they perceive themselves to be useless, abandoned, alone and without a future;

40.   Calls upon the Commission and the Member States to propose incentives which will make it easier for young people to enter the employment market, for example by encouraging workers who have reached retirement age to act as mentors for young workers and by introducing job-sharing and part-time working, with a view to facilitating the hand-over from one generation to the next;

41.   Calls for a thorough reform of career management for senior employees, who are currently penalised from the age of 50 by discrimination on recruitment, inadequate access to training, particularly in new technology, the absence of recognition of acquired experience and the rarity of professional advancement; recalls that age bars in relation to skills training are discriminatory and calls on Member States to highlight this to employers and training providers; to that end, calls for the effective transposition and implementation of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation(11) , which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in training and employment, as soon as possible; considers that beyond the question of access to skills, older workers often need help in the more personal areas related to work such as interview technique, confidence building and curriculum vitae writing, calls on Member States to consider specific employment advice for older workers and to set up more government programmes aimed at employing senior citizens; calls upon the Commission to monitor and take action against Member States in which legislation continues to discriminate on the basis of age or disability;

42.   Calls upon the Commission to monitor and take action against Member States in which legislation continues to discriminate on the basis of age and disability, thus infringing the treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which, from 1 January 2009, will be legally binding throughout the European Union, so that the Member States concerned repeal such legislation without delay;

43.   Calls on the Commission to collect aggregate statistical data on particular age groups according to the different problems faced and the wide spectrum of discrimination on the grounds of age;

44.   Recalls that older people are not a homogenous group; highlights, in particular, that older women and older people from ethnic minorities may face multiple discrimination;

45.   Stresses that part-time work is a useful step towards re-entering the labour market; encourages Member States to support particularly smaller firms in the promotion of part-time and flexible working practices; reemphasises the positive value of part-time work for older workers, who may no longer desire full-time occupation;

46.   Calls on Member States to promote the role of older workers within the labour market by highlighting the benefits of employing such workers and encouraging employers to adopt flexible working practices which encourage them to engage in the labour market;

47.   Asks the Commission to conduct a study based on gender-disaggregated data on tax benefits and existing barriers related to employment with a focus on the ageing population;

48.   Urges the Commission and Member States to improve access to learning throughout working life;

49.   Recalls that the principle of a statutory retirement age is one of the achievements of the European social model and a guarantee that working life is not compulsorily extended beyond a reasonable limit;

50.   Recalls that retirement is a right which each employee may claim from the legal age of retirement as established by each Member State, in consultation with the social partners, with due respect for national traditions;

51.   Highlights the massive disparity in average occupational pension between men and women due to career breaks taken to care for children or elderly relatives; calls upon the Member States to take action in order to ensure that taking maternity or parental leave no longer constitutes a penalty when pension entitlements are calculated; urges the Member States to envisage bonuses to be added to pensions on the basis of the number of children raised, and to recognise the role of the carer in society;

52.   Calls on the Member States to take the steps required to modernise social security and welfare systems, including pension schemes, in order to make them financially viable and enable them to cope with the effects of population ageing; maintains that special attention should be focused on the situation of elderly women, who are more vulnerable to isolation and poverty;

53.   Calls on the Commission to draw up a comparative study by Member State of the different pension and social security schemes for women in order to identify best practices for increasing women's employment and facilitating the combination of family life and work;

54.   Urges the Commission and the Member States to focus urgently on employment support for older workers given the planned rise in the state pension age in many Member States;

55.   Believes, however, that people over the legal age of retirement today have a better life expectancy and higher quality of life than ever before and that the Member States should, in consultation with the social partners and with due respect for national traditions, promote and not prevent the establishment of rules and conventions enabling the prolongation, voluntarily on the worker's part, of working life after the legal age of retirement established by each Member State; encourages the Commission to continue to conduct comparative studies on the variety of pension schemes in the Member States and the economic and social impact of the reforms envisaged in the Member States;

56.   Calls on the Member States to develop measures to enable women to reconcile work and professional advancement with their family obligations and to combat the discrimination and stereotypes which continue to affect them on the labour market and in education; recalls the principle of equality between men and women and the European social model's inviolable principle of equal pay for equal work at the same workplace;

57.   Therefore calls for employment law measures finally to end this form of discrimination, especially the gender pay gap, and for the gender perspective to be taken into account in public budgets;

58.   Recalls that a good work environment is an important factor for productivity; calls on the Member States to promote actions in the workplace that reduce the risk of harm to ageing workers, including interventions to improve the psychosocial and physical work environment, changes to work content and organisation, improving the general health, well-being, and work ability of workers, and increasing the abilities and professional competence of workers; calls on enterprises to invest in the prevention of accidents at work, occupational health, hygiene and social dialogue;

59.   Underlines that it is essential that the workplace be made accessible and thus safe for older workers and workers with disabilities through the provision of reasonable accommodation and special equipment adapted to their individual needs and requirements; also stresses that an accessible environment enables older people to pursue an autonomous life, hence saving public money spent on institutional care;

60.   Calls for Member States to introduce the right to ask for flexible or part-time work which applies not only to parents but also to older workers who may in turn have care responsibilities;

61.   Emphasises the role of the small and medium-sized enterprises as key job generators in the European Union;

62.   Notes that the service sector is the largest employer of women, immigrants and older workers, calls for the urgent completion of the internal market for services;

The challenge of solidarity between the generations and regions

63.   Recalls that the principle of solidarity between the generations, a principle of excellence of the European social models, is based on working people covering the replacement incomes and social security and health costs of those who are not working (children, young people, dependants and the elderly); insists that the principle of solidarity should be maintained notwithstanding the foreseeable demographic imbalance;

64.   Stresses the importance of active intervention by public authorities, in particular through the provision of SSGIs, to help families and young children and also to provide facilities and care for old people and all dependants; calls on the Commission to guarantee the legal security of SSGIs in Community law guaranteeing universal access and the solidarity principle;

65.   Stresses the importance of sharing of information and best practices among Member States on how health systems can prepare for the increased demand of an ageing population; particularly in light of the fact that an ageing population will have a strong upward impact on public spending on health care, as disability and illness rises sharply at older ages especially amongst the very old (over-80s) which will be the fastest growing segment of the population in the decades to come;

66.   Calls upon the Member States to take stronger action to combat the non-payment of taxes and social security contributions, in order to ensure that pension schemes are viable; considers that the Member States should introduce active, effective employment policies and urges them to offer flexible schemes and scope for personal choice as regards the timing of retirement (beyond the minimum age) by means of incentive schemes aimed at workers who decide to remain active for longer;

67.   Points to the huge contribution made by the elderly to social cohesion and the economy as well as to the fact that their active participation in family and inter-generational relationships enhances the redistribution of resources within the family circle; further considers that their voluntary activities should be facilitated and encouraged; considers, finally, that their consumption of goods and of leisure, care and welfare services is an expanding economic sector and a new source of wealth known as 'grey gold'; calls, therefore, on the Member States to promote and develop the economic and social participation of elderly people, paying particular attention to their physical well-being and the quality of their social and financial living conditions;

68.   Calls on the Member States to promote the role of the elderly in order to maintain solidarity between the generations, and, in combination with partners at local level, to facilitate their participation in voluntary activities of an educational, cultural or entrepreneurial nature;

69.   Highlights the importance of voluntary work as a pathway for many people re-engaging in the labour market, encourages governments to make it easier for older people to engage in voluntary work whilst receiving benefits;

70.   Recalls that SSGIs (covering, in particular, care, health and bringing up young children) make it easier for parents to enter the employment market and help to combat poverty, especially in the case of one-parent families; firmly believes such services to be essential if the European Union is to respond to demographic challenges; considers, furthermore, that by creating jobs, SSGIs stimulate local and regional economic development and increase the European Union's competitiveness; from this point of view, considers that services of general economic interest (SGEIs) must be identified and the impact which they have in social and economic terms must be assessed; calls for quality indicators to be established in order to enable progress towards the Barcelona objectives to be measured; points out that SGEIs intended for the elderly and for dependents must receive the same attention and the same treatment;

71.   Stresses that in declining regions, the voluntary sector and social networks make a significant contribution to meeting the needs of local people but cannot replace the essential role played by the public authorities in providing SGIs in the regions; considers that this active citizenship must be recognised and the bodies involved supported as regional policy partners; stresses that this sets in motion learning processes that enable a region to meet the challenges of demographic change;

72.   Encourages the Member States and regional authorities to make use of the Structural Funds to this end and calls on the Commission to support, within the framework of Territorial Cooperation (under Article 7(3) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund(12) ), the exchange of experiences between regions in which the "silver economy" already plays a major role or where it will do so in future;

73.   Calls for a wide-ranging debate on the right to a decent retirement for all as a condition for solvency, dignity and social inclusion of the elderly; recalls the huge contribution older people make to social cohesion through volunteering and caring;

74.   Calls on the Member States to enter into a coordinated debate on possible reforms likely to ensure the sustainability of pension and social security systems and, as part of those reforms, to introduce arrangements ensuring that periods of maternity and parental leave taken by women count towards their pension entitlements;

75.   Calls on Member States that are not already investigating the relationship between the awarding of pensions and incentives to work, particularly as regards flexible working, to consider this issue in order to remove disincentives to working;

76.   Notes that the ageing of European society covers substantial regional inequalities; notes that, as national data on demographic changes mask differing local and regional realities, it is sometimes hard to identify needs for infrastructure and financial transfers from central government; calls on the Commission to help improve the quality and reliability of data and statistics on demographic trends, and calls on the Commission and the Member States further to accelerate the process of freedom of movement for all workers within an enlarged European Union even before 2014;

77.   Encourages the Member States to maintain a budgetary balance between revenue and expenditure in the various pension schemes, with due respect for the principle of subsidiarity, and commends the Member States which set aside budgetary appropriations each year for the payment of future pensions;

78.   Notes that the impact of demographic change on individual regions is serious and requires different adjustment strategies depending on whether the region concerned is a region of migration or of shrinking population; notes that quality of life is defined differently in regions of shrinking population, which are mostly rural regions, from the way in which it is defined in regions with a growing population, and therefore considers that different support strategies are needed;

79.   Calls on the Commission and the Member States to take into account the generational dimension when considering solidarity between the regions of Europe and the major territorial impacts of the differing demographic trends at work within the European Union; stresses that these impacts are important in terms of housing and infrastructure, particularly in urban areas which are likely to experience higher numbers of elderly people and higher concentrations of immigrant communities; stresses also the specific needs, at local level in regions with ageing populations, for investment in local services so as to take account of the needs of elderly people and enable them to lead an independent life for as long as possible; proposes that the allocation of structural funds and the opportunities offered by the European Social Fund in order to make local social capital available for services should take account of those investment needs; calls for these opportunities to be retained after 2013; points out that regions experiencing net outward migration need to take measures to maintain a natural population mix through investments to promote employment, training and access to public services;

80.   Proposes to the Commission that it should promote, as part of territorial cooperation, EU-wide networks in which regional and local authorities and civil society actors can learn from one another about tackling the problems resulting from demographic change;

81.   Encourages Member States to promote intergenerational projects, where older people work with younger people to share skills and gain new expertise, calls on the Commission to facilitate the exchange of good practices in this area;

82.   Calls on the Member States to assist regions of net emigration by guaranteeing a high level of SGIs (e.g. education including pre-school and child care, welfare and health services, postal services) and accessibility (e.g. of public transport, transport infrastructures and telecommunications networks) and to safeguard economic participation and skills (e.g. through training including methods of lifelong learning and use of and investment in new technologies); calls for the practical framework for fulfilment of these tasks to be adapted to local needs and local actors and to improve their adaptability; draws particular attention to the situation of islands, border areas, mountainous regions and other areas remote from centres of population;

83.   Welcomes the proposal for the establishment of a European integration fund; calls on the competent national, regional and local authorities responsible for drawing up and managing cohesion and rural development policy to work even more closely together to encourage people to move to rural regions with a shrinking population, by improving the living and working conditions in those regions;

84.   Welcomes the fact that, in its fourth report on social and economic cohesion, the Commission identified the growing demographic imbalance as one of the challenges it faces; awaits with interest the results of the social consultations and the definition of the role of regional policy in combating the adverse effects of demographic change in the next programming period;

85.   Reminds Member States of the multiple disadvantages that carers, particular older carers, experience; suggests that more support should be offered to these groups to enable them to overcome multiple obstacles to employment;

86.   Considers that in deprived urban districts, suburban and rural areas demographic trends are likely to experience depopulation with a decisive impact on housing and infrastructure;

87.   Calls on the Member States to increase the availability of proper housing for families, especially for one-parent families and elderly people, for example by means of 'intergenerational projects', in connection with urban development and town planning;

88.   Stresses that global demographic imbalances risk accentuating development inequalities and migratory pressures; calls on the Commission and the Member States to include those elements in their immigration policies with a view to co-development;

The challenge of integrated immigration

89.   Notes that the use of immigration is, and will continue to be, one of the elements in the European Union's demography and could be a positive contribution from an economic, social and cultural point of view; calls, therefore, on the Commission, the Member States and the social partners to develop a clear and reasoned approach to immigration in order to counter xenophobic or racist opinions and attitudes and promote the full and effective integration of migrants into society;

90.   Recognises, however, that immigration particularly offers regions experiencing net outward migration the opportunity to stem the negative impact of demographic change, and calls, therefore, on the Member States to recognise the integration of migrants as a strategically important policy measure;

91.   Considers that integration policies should be strengthened in the Member States so as to facilitate the establishment of migrants in the European Union; therefore welcomes Council Decision 2007/435/EC of 25 June 2007 establishing the European Fund for the Integration of third-country nationals for the period 2007 to 2013 as part of the General programme "Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows"(13) and trusts that it will contribute to facilitating the social and economic integration of migrants in the European Union;

92.   Stresses the need for immigration policies to be laid down and to be coordinated among the Member States by ensuring that immigrants enjoy the same living and working conditions; calls upon the Commission to consider a strategy and specific measures relating to economic immigration and to submit them as soon as possible;

93.   Stresses the need to improve coordination of the Member States" immigration policies to ensure that immigrants are better integrated into society and into the formal economy and that they receive legal and social security (including pension entitlements); calls on the Member States to fight resolutely against human trafficking and to penalise employers who employ and/or exploit illegal workers; welcomes the European initiative against illegal working and the exploitation and the undignified conditions in which illegal migrants live;

94.   Recognises the specific role of cities in this regard, as most immigrants settle in cities, and underlines the need for the Commission and Member States to take into account the impact on cities of immigration policies and to involve them closely in the shaping and implementation of policies related to immigration; notes with interest the "Integrating Cities" process launched in 2006 by the Commission and EUROCITIES and the Milan Declaration on integration signed on 6 November 2007 to ensure the continuation of dialogue on the implementation of the common basic principles on integration at city level;

95.   Emphasises, that legal migration inside the European Union should be advantageous for migrants and should not constitute a disadvantage for the countries of origin; encourages the Member States to improve their integration measures for immigrants;

96.   Welcomes the initiative by the Commission and the Member States of taking into account the global dimension of immigration and the consequences of economic migration to the European Union for the development of the migrants" countries of origin; stresses the need to take into account the risk of 'brain drain' from the country of origin; calls on the Commission and Member States to develop effective measures, together with the third countries concerned, to counter this phenomenon;

97.   Insists that the human dimension of immigration should not disappear beneath strictly economic considerations and that the choice of family integration should remain a possibility for migrants who so wish; calls for close cooperation between European immigration policies and those on employment, social affairs, education and the regions;

98.   Recalls that financial remittances from immigrants in Europe constitute a highly significant method of financing the lives of older people in developing countries;

99.   Points out that immigration policy must be geared to anti-discrimination and aim for a higher degree of legal, social and societal equality, both for migrants already in Europe and those to come in the future;

100.   Considers that family members accompanying immigrant workers should be given residence permits and, where appropriate, work permits;

101.   Points to the important role of migrant women and calls on the Member States to accord them the place that they deserve in integration policies and fully to guarantee their rights;

102.   Calls on the Member States to include on the agenda of a future summit an exchange of views on demographic changes and recognised good practices in fields such as active ageing, young people's employment, family policy and the integration of migrants;

103.   Welcomes the Commission's undertaking to present a status report every two years in conjunction with the European Demographic Forum; hopes that that report will also assess the impact of policies put in place by the Member States in the areas concerned; endorses the Commission's intention to include every two years in its report a chapter on infertility, as well as a chapter on the European Union's preparations for demographic change; encourages the Commission to set up a system of indicators for monitoring and analysis of demographic developments in the different Member States and in the European Union;

104.   Notes that the demographic future of Europe creates new problems as regards democratic mechanisms and the channels through which the voice representing the multiplicity of Europe's components can make itself heard and exert influence in political decision-making; considers that the crucial issue in an ageing society is that of the political representation of minors, who represent the common future, and hence the political future, of the community yet currently have no voice and exert no influence on decision-making; considers that, for a variety of reasons, immigrants - both adults and children - cannot easily make themselves heard and that giving a voice and political representation to social groups, in particular minors, that currently have none, is a crucial issue which calls for a thorough, wide-ranging debate;

105.   Encourages the Commission and the Member States to increase awareness among EU citizens of the demographic challenges in Europe, inter alia by conducting campaigns and pilot projects on the issue;

o
o   o

106.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ C 115, 14.4.1997, p. 238.
(2) OJ C 104, 6.4.1998, p. 222.
(3) OJ C 232, 17.8.2001, p.381.
(4) OJ C 292E, 1.12.2006, p.131.
(5) OJ C 305E, 14.12.2006, p. 141.
(6) OJ C 161, 13.7.2007, p. 66.
(7) OJ L 204, 26.7.2006, p. 23.
(8) OJ L 348, 28.11.1992, p. 1.
(9) OJ L 145, 19.6.1996, p. 4.
(10) OJ L 14, 20.1.1998, p. 9.
(11) OJ L 303, 2.12.2000, p. 16.
(12) OJ L 210, 31.7.2006, p. 25.
(13) OJ L 168, 28.6.2007, p. 18.


Scientific cooperation with Africa
DOC 34k
European Parliament resolution of 21 February 2008 on the importance of supporting measures to improve international scientific cooperation with Africa
P6_TA(2008)0067 B6-0078/2008

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the recent EU-Africa Summit of 8 and 9 December 2007, the EU-Africa Strategic Partnership and the EU-Africa Action Plan (2008-2010),

–   having regard to its resolution of 31 January 2008 on the European Research Area: New Perspectives(1) ,

–   having regard to the role of energy technology in the battle against climate change,

–   having regard to Rule 103(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

1.   Acknowledges the increasing trend among policy-makers in Africa to prioritize science and technology (S&T) and innovation for development;

2.   Recognises the valuable contribution of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), its S&T consolidated plan of action and the S&T programmes of the African Union, and calls for a better implementation and fuller development thereof and for the relevant measures to be improved;

3.   Underlines the need to increase the involvement of African scientists in international collaborative science and research and development (R&D) projects in order to keep and develop R&D knowledge in Africa, in particular in specific sectors such as food, health and energy;

4.   Recalls the special relevance of neglected diseases within the 7th Research Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration activities(2) , and considers that special emphasis should be placed on research into HIV/AIDS in African countries;

5.   Calls for the reinforcement of existing research infrastructure in accordance with the indications of the African Union and the African scientific community, including the NEPAD Office for Science and Technology, the programmes of the African Union and R&D projects, in particular in specific sectors such as food, health and energy;

6.   Urges the Member States to promote S&T cooperation with Africa that will rapidly secure genuine and comprehensive development of the knowledge and technologies in the African countries themselves;

7.   Notes that scientific progress contributes to the economic and social development envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals; calls in particular on the EU to place climate change at the forefront of its S&T cooperation with Africa, tapping primarily into the huge renewable energy sources available in Africa, with particular reference to solar energy;

8.   Urges the Member States to promote knowledge and technology transfer between the EU and Africa, along with R&D projects, under a new coherent framework for action to achieve immediate and long-term goals for sustainable development, and develop policy and resources accordingly;

9.   Calls on the EU and the Member States to ensure greater consistency between the EU's international S&T policy and the basic needs of African countries, thus leading to the development of a new global framework for science and diplomacy with Africa;

10.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the parliaments of the Member States and the United Nations.

(1) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0029 .
(2) OJ L 412, 30.12.2006, p. 1.


4th report on cohesion
DOC 64k
European Parliament resolution of 21 February 2008 on the fourth report on economic and social cohesion (2007/2148(INI) )
P6_TA(2008)0068 A6-0023/2008

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the Fourth Report on Economic and Social Cohesion (COM(2007)0273 ) ("the Fourth Cohesion Report'),

−   having regard to the Commission communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled Strategy for the Outermost Regions: Achievements and Future Prospects (COM(2007)0507 ),

−   having regard to Articles 158, 159 and 299(2) of the Treaty establishing the European Community,

–   having regard to the Territorial Agenda of the EU, the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities and the First Action Programme for the Implementation of the Territorial Agenda of the European Union,

–   having regard to the report by the European Spatial Planning Observatory Network (ESPON) entitled Territorial Futures − Spatial scenarios for Europe and that of the European Parliament Regional Disparities and Cohesion: what Strategies for the Future?,

–   having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions (COTER-IV-011) of 28 November 2007 and that of the European Economic and Social Committee (CESE 1712/2007) of 12 December 2007 on the Fourth Cohesion Report,

–   having regard to its resolution of 23 May 2007 on the impact and effects of structural policies on EU cohesion(1) ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 12 July 2007 on the role and effectiveness of cohesion policy in reducing disparities in the poorest regions of the EU(2) ,

–   having regard to Rules 45 and 112(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets and of the Committee on Fisheries (A6-0023/2008 ),

A.   whereas a comprehensive European cohesion policy continues to be made necessary by the persistence of major disparities and specific structural problems in numerous European regions, a situation that has been aggravated by the recent enlargement of the Union,

B.   whereas the EU's cohesion policy thus remains an essential pillar in the process of European integration, and plays an active role in reducing disparities and development deficits,

C.   whereas there is a clear link between rising Euro-scepticism and the increase in territorial disparities between regions and within regions, which demonstrates the need for economic, social and territorial cohesion in order to strengthen convergence and give a firm basis to the legitimacy of the European Union, which is achievable through a regional policy that is visible on the ground; whereas regional and local authorities and local actors have a central role to play in bringing the EU's activities closer to the people and in implementing regional policy, whose achievements should be publicised more effectively,

D.   whereas, having regard its added value, cohesion policy offers every region the possibility of concrete benefits in terms of long-term employment and higher living standards for local populations, particularly in regions that are lagging behind, and contributes to strengthening competitiveness and administrative capacity and ensuring decentralised management; whereas, in the light of this, any attempt to renationalise this policy must be rejected,

E.   whereas the Treaty of Lisbon, which was approved by the Heads of State and Government on 18 October 2007 and signed on 13 December 2007, enshrines territorial cohesion among the fundamental objectives of the Union, alongside economic and social cohesion,

F.   whereas increased financial resources for cohesion policy must be guaranteed in the future in order to deal with the anticipated new challenges, which have an important territorial impact, such as demographic change, urban concentration, segregation, migratory movements (which are particularly problematic for rural and peripheral areas), adjustment to globalisation, climate change, energy supply, and the slow catch-up process of rural areas; whereas these challenges can be dealt with only if the great significance of cohesion policy is recognised for this purpose in the future;

Contrasting data on the state of cohesion in the European Union of 27 Member States

1.   Welcomes this report, which is more detailed than previous ones, is based on diverse indicators and gives useful comparative data for other countries such as the United States, Japan, China and India, reflecting the international context in which EU economies operate;

2.   Regrets, nevertheless, the lack of cross-data and comparable data from different NUTS levels, which would give a better insight into the sustainability of growth and convergence; calls, therefore, for better statistical tools – like the new indicators (in addition to per-capita GDP) that were successfully employed in the Fourth Cohesion Report – which would allow the degree of economic, social and territorial cohesion on the ground to be measured more accurately, as well as the concrete contribution of local actions to cohesion policy; takes the view that, in order to achieve this, ESPON's capacity will have to be increased;

3.   Points to the delays in taking up structural appropriations in Member States and calls for measures to improve the situation; notes however that it is too early to evaluate the results of cohesion policy in the new Member States; welcomes all efforts to enhance the effectiveness of cohesion policy and to reduce excessive bureaucracy and calls for a systematic assessment of this policy; reiterates its strong support for the European Transparency Initiative launched by the Commission, which will identify the recipients of structural funding from 2008 onwards;

4.   Welcomes the fact that the former cohesion countries, namely Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, have caught up remarkably well, recording impressive growth rates during the period 2000-2006, but points out that, in spite of their growth, there are still major imbalances between their regions and deep-seated structural problems;

5.   Welcomes the high growth rates recorded in the new Member States but notes that their economic convergence is to be expected only in the medium or long term and that it will be a long process because of the very low GDP per capita starting point in some of these countries,

6.   Welcomes the reaffirmation by the Commission of the important role played by cohesion policy in strengthening the ability of all Member States to develop harmoniously and create new and viable jobs, as evidenced by the excellent results of cohesion policy in many Objective 2 regions;

7.   Is concerned that the convergence among countries very often masks the widening gaps between regions and within individual regions; notes that this widening of regional and local disparities can be observed in a number of areas, in terms of employment, productivity, income, education levels and innovation capacity; stresses also the role of territorial cooperation in helping to overcome these problems;

8.   Points out, for example, that the competitiveness of the regions depends to a great extent on productivity, on the accessibility of markets and on the level of qualification of the work force, which varies significantly more among regions than among Member States; notes furthermore that institutional factors are increasingly seen as key elements in competitiveness, such factors including the endowment of social capital in the form of business culture and shared norms of behaviour which facilitate co-operation and enterprise and also the efficiency of public administration;

9.   Notes in this connection that some developed regions and even some less developed regions are beginning to experience multiple problems having strong territorial impact in terms of development potential: low economic growth rates, falling productivity and employment, and ageing populations,

10.   Notes that, while high growth rates have enabled certain Member States to reach full employment and increase their per-capita GDP, in other countries the differences between individual social groups have widened, meaning that the most vulnerable sections of the population still require social integration;

11.   Points to weak convergence in terms of education levels, and a genuine educational gap between the European Union and the United States, where 29% of people aged between 25 and 64 have a university degree, compared with barely 16% in the European Union; notes, however, that the number of women with higher-education qualifications is rising faster than that of men;

12.   Stresses the importance of integrating gender mainstreaming, equal opportunities and the special needs of persons with disabilities and senior citizens at every stage in the implementation of cohesion policy projects;

13.   Emphasises the effect of polarisation in the regions around capital cities – a particularly marked phenomenon in the new Member States – which on average generated 32% of their countries" GDP, while representing only 22% of the population; notes that this polarisation can give rise to great disparities among unemployment rates in city centres;

14.   Notes that uncontrolled urbanisation can create demographic, economic, social, transport, and environmental imbalances within a restricted area and lead to suburbanisation and the depopulation of rural areas that are far from towns; calls therefore on the Commission to specifically address this problem with concrete proposals;

15.   Points to regional disparities in terms of accessibility and links between centres and peripheral areas, which is the result of geographical and structural disadvantages, insufficient investment in transport infrastructure, as well as failure to diversify potential transport links; points in particular to the substantial obstacles in terms of accessibility for the mountainous and island regions and also the peripheral as well as the outermost regions that lie very far from continental Europe; highlights the need to draw up measures to boost the regional potential and the attractiveness of and sustainable development in these regions;

16.   Expresses its great surprise at the Commission's statement in the Fourth Cohesion Report that 'insularity does not seem to constitute in itself a major obstacle to development' and notes the strong disappointment of the people of island regions with that statement, for the reason that they are confronted on a daily basis with the negative impacts and difficulties of insularity,

Regional policy and the Lisbon Strategy

17.   Points to the enormous differences between countries in terms of the sums invested in research and development, and notes great regional disparities in terms of innovation, which in the Fourth Cohesion Report are measured by a useful indicator of regional performance in terms of innovation;

18.   Shares the opinion of the Commission on the leverage effect of cohesion policy vis-à-vis the Lisbon Strategy, which is achieved by virtue of the directing of public investments towards projects that favour the creation of a more dynamic, growth-generating, innovation-stimulating economic fabric based on synergy created by more efficient harmonisation of policies and programmes;

19.   Regrets that the innovation potential of small, micro and craft businesses has not been adequately taken into account in implementing cohesion policy, despite earmarking; therefore calls for the implementation of an active policy to support all forms of innovation in these enterprises and also invites the Commission to create opportunities for mutual co-operation between businesses, the public sector, schools and universities, in order to create regional innovation clusters, in the spirit of the Lisbon Strategy;

20.   Points out that the leverage effect of structural support can be increased through the use of private co-financing; calls for the swift introduction of transparent rules and standard solutions for public-private partnerships that will enable regions to bring private capital to bear in pursuit of public objectives;

21.   Points out that compliance with the automatic decommitment principle is essential in order to encourage the financing and rapid implementation of projects by management authorities; insists that the principle of the N+2 rule (and N+3 in the new Member States during the first three years of the 2007-2013 financial framework) should be adhered to;

22.   Points out that the delays in implementing structural policy are due in part to the excessive rigidity of procedures and that, consequently, consideration should be given to simplifying those procedures and clearly dividing responsibilities and competences between the EU and the Member States;

23.   Notes, with reference to the programming period 2007-2013, that the system of earmarking appropriations will direct 64% of Objective 1 (convergence) resources and 80% of Objective 2 (regional competitiveness and employment) resources towards innovation, representing EUR 55 000 million more than in the previous period; observes that making use of those appropriations hinges on the capacity of the less developed regions to manage research, development and innovation projects in sufficient number and of such quality as will ensure that they are utilised and not diverted towards investments of little value;

24.   Calls on the Commission to evaluate the earmarking system and its impact on the evolution of regional disparities and to ascertain whether, in the definition of priorities, this system does not encourage too centralised or 'top-down' an approach; hopes that this evaluation will begin with the publication in 2008 by the Commission of the Fifth Progress Report on Cohesion which, it is anticipated, will concentrate on the relation between cohesion policy and the Lisbon Strategy growth and employment priorities for all regions;

25.   Stresses that cohesion policy must not favour already dynamic regions, which would happen if there were strict earmarking of appropriations; recalls that, with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, cohesion policy will embrace the three objectives of economic, social and territorial cohesion, which go beyond the Lisbon Strategy;

26.   Calls for the Lisbon Strategy to be broadened to include the territorial dimension, allowing characteristics specific to the regions to be taken into account, while encouraging trans-European synergies and cooperation, with special support for the creation and implementation of broad-based innovative activities;

27.   Emphasises that the scope of cohesion policy cannot be confined to meeting the Lisbon Strategy objectives; takes the view that achieving territorial cohesion by means of actions under the convergence objective is a precondition for the long-term competitiveness of regions; considers, therefore, that Objective 1 (convergence), Objective 2 (regional competitiveness and employment) should be treated as complementary in the future, and indeed complementary also with Objective 3 (European territorial cooperation);

Territorial cohesion: towards an integrated approach

28.   Calls on the Commission to include a definition of 'territorial cohesion' in the forthcoming Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion (scheduled for September 2008) in order to make further progress in this Community policy;

29.   Stresses the importance of real partnership and the implementation of genuinely multi-level governance involving every level – Community, national, regional and local, in consultation with economic and social partners – in defining and implementing regional development objectives, ensuring that the scope of action priorities defined at European level is not narrowed down when they are implemented at national, regional or local level ("bottom-up approach") and in order to avoid any risk of excluding players involved in local development and cohesion, as is often the case with urban policy;

30.   Proposes that priority be given to policies that serve a genuinely polycentric development of territories, such that the pressures on capital cities are lessened and the emergence of secondary poles is encouraged; considers that support for rural areas and the important role played by small and medium-sized towns located in rural areas should not be overlooked in this connection;

31.   Calls also for practical steps to be taken to reduce the disparities between territorially accessible regions and regions with structural disadvantages, namely islands, mountain areas, sparsely populated areas and peripheral and border regions, recognising the disadvantaged position of the latter and taking special and permanent measures to support them; reaffirms its attachment to taking account of the specific handicaps of the outermost regions;

32.   Recommends better interlinking of urban and rural issues; emphasises that the development of rural areas should be coordinated with actions implemented in the framework of regional policy; is concerned, in this connection, about the usefulness of a separate approach to cohesion and rural development (via the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development); calls for a study on the consequences of increasing funding for rural development by means of the mechanisms of compulsory modulation;

33.   Warns against the dangers of the sectorisation of policies and favours the development of an integrated approach that identifies the synergies that are possible between cohesion policy and major sectoral policies such as transport, agriculture, fisheries, rural development, environment and energy, research and technology;

34.   Calls on the Commission to analyse in its future reports the extent to which different instruments and policies, including cohesion policy, have contributed to the progress achieved in the field of economic and social cohesion; considers that achievements and problems need to be analysed in all important fields, in particular that of the Lisbon Strategy.

35.   Expects the discussions on post-2013 cohesion policy to result in regions located on external borders of the Community being given special importance in order to ensure stability and prosperity across borders that will ultimately result in not only the development of EU border regions but also greater cohesion and competitiveness for the Community as a whole.

36.   Points out that combating 'spatial segregation' and social exclusion, with a view to achieving sustainable and balanced growth, requires the support of a careful housing policy, coming under a broader local development, urban planning and local public service management strategy;

37.   Welcomes, in this connection, the adoption of an action programme for the implementation of the Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter to ensure that the territorial dimension is better integrated into all public policies at Community, national and local levels and awaits the practical manifestation thereof; in view of the intended expansion of economic and social cohesion under the Lisbon Treaty to include a territorial component, suitable indicators need to be developed to define the content of territorial cohesion;

38.   Welcomes the announcement by the Commission of its forthcoming Green Paper on territorial cohesion, which is expected to be adopted in September 2008, and asks that it include concrete guidelines for the implementation of the integrated approach;

39.   Is aware of the importance of regular cooperation between Parliament, represented by its Committee on Regional Development, and the Committee of the Regions on the subject of the future of regional policy;

New challenges for cohesion policy and the general budget of the European Union

40.   Takes the view that, in the future, the Union will be increasingly faced with new challenges with a strong territorial impact exacerbating existing obstacles to regional development, such as demographic change, urban concentration, migratory movements (which are particularly problematic for rural and peripheral areas), energy supply and climate issues and adjustment to the changes arising from globalisation, as well as enlargement and neighbourhood policies; stresses in this context the importance of pilot projects relating to the adaptation of regions to these new challenges;

41.   Calls for regular analyses of the costs and structural-policy implications of possible future enlargements before the start of any new accession negotiations and hopes that it can play a greater part in the enlargement and neighbourhood policies, with its participation in the shaping of pre-accession instruments to be made binding;

42.   Emphasises the seriousness of the problem of depopulation in many parts of the EU, involving as it does the ageing of the population, the loss of human capital, capital flight, more expensive services, and so on;

43.   Takes the view that demographic trends can have a major territorial impact, such as the depopulation of certain areas, especially the less developed rural areas, accompanied by urban concentration and an ageing society, or the development of the residential economy in others, which requires the development of specific innovative strategies to resolve their problems, necessitating a particular effort to maintain services of general economic interest and ensure a high standard of universal services;

44.   Notes that climate change will have variable repercussions, in particular in terms of more frequent and severe natural disasters, such as forest fires, droughts and floods, which will call for responses that differ from one region of the EU to another and which the regions must tackle by reviewing and adapting their sustainable development strategies for achieving the EU's objective of cutting CO2 emissions; believes that EU cohesion policy should be 'climate-friendly', but recalls that the possibilities open to cohesion policy in this area are limited; takes the view that fighting climate change should also be addressed under other Community policies;

45.   Recalls also within the framework of the formulation of an effective global policy to provide protection from natural disasters the importance of adopting the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council establishing the European Union Solidarity Fund (COM(2005)0108 ), which provides a more timely and adequate response to natural disasters of regional scale, which are often devastating in certain regions because of their geographical situation;

46.   Takes the view that the issues of energy supply and increasing energy prices can have major spatial implications for territories as a result of the strong energy dependence of most Member States, particularly in rural, mountain, island, very remote as well as outermost regions because of their dependence on transport, which is highly sensitive to energy costs; points out that the development of renewable energy sources and investment in energy efficiency and in decentralised supply units could offer local and regional development opportunities;

47.   Reiterates its request relating to the reutilisation of unspent appropriations, under the N+2 or N+3 rule applicable to cohesion policy, with a view to maximising the scarce resources available;

48.   Takes the view that retaining cohesion policy after 2013 is an appropriate response to these new challenges, that this policy must be applied in a differentiated way to the whole of the Union's territory; takes the view that cohesion policy should remain a Community policy in accordance with the Treaty and the solidarity principle, and rejects, therefore all attempts to renationalise this policy;

49.   Takes the view that cohesion policy needs to be further reinforced in the future, and that its added value should be more strongly highlighted; calls, therefore, for sufficient financial resources to be allocated to cohesion policy at Community level; calls for the revision of the financial framework to be used as an opportunity to define the budgetary resources needed to meet all of the Union's cohesion policy challenges;

o
o   o

50.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2007)0202 .
(2) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2007)0356 .


The Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter
DOC 60k
European Parliament resolution of 21 February 2008 on the follow-up of the Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter: Towards a European Action Programme for Spatial Development and Territorial Cohesion (2007/2190(INI) )
P6_TA(2008)0069 A6-0028/2008

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to the Territorial Agenda of the EU ('the Territorial Agenda') and the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities ('the Leipzig Charter'), which were both adopted at the Informal Council of Ministers responsible for spatial planning and urban development held in Leipzig on 24 and 25 May 2007, and the First Action Programme for the Implementation of the Territorial Agenda of the European Union, adopted at the Informal Council of Ministers responsible for spatial planning and development held in Ponta Delgada (Azores) on 23 and 24 November 2007 ('the First Action Programme'),

–   having regard to the Fourth Report on Economic and Social Cohesion (COM(2007)0273 ) ('the Fourth Cohesion Report'),

–   having regard to the European Spatial Development Perspective, adopted at the Informal Council of Ministers responsible for spatial planning held in Potsdam on 11 May 1999,

–   having regard to the results of the European Spatial Planning Observatory Network (ESPON) 2006 Programme,

–   having regard to the proposed ESPON 2013 Programme,

–   having regard to Articles 158 and 159 of the Treaty establishing the European Community,

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development (A6-0028/2008 ),

A.   whereas territorial diversity, polycentrism and compact cities are essential structural characteristics of the territory of the European Union,

B.   whereas the majority of Union citizens now live in cities,

C.   whereas the current challenges facing spactial development in the European Union include climate change, urban sprawl and land development, energy consumption, transport infrastructures, demographic change, including the depopulation of rural areas and other regions of the EU, the impact of enlargement on social, economic and territorial cohesion and the uneven regional effects of globalisation, including the widening gap between rich and less prosperous regions, as well as the unequal development of urban and rural areas combined with structural change;

D.   whereas the objectives set out in the Territorial Agenda are the establishment of a polycentric, balanced urban system and the creation of a new urban-rural relationship, the formation of innovative regional clusters, ensuring parity of access to infrastructures and knowledge, the promotion of trans-European risk management, sustainable development, forward-looking management and conservation of the natural and cultural heritage,

E.   whereas the objectives set out in the Leipzig Charter are making greater use of integrated urban development policy approaches by creating and ensuring high-quality public spaces, modernising infrastructure networks and improving energy efficiency, promoting proactive innovation and educational policies and – particularly in deprived neighbourhoods – promoting sustainable, efficient and affordable urban transport, pursuing strategies for upgrading the physical environment, strengthening the local economy and local labour market policy, and proactive education and training policies for children and young people,

F.   whereas spatial planning is the proper instrument for the guidance of land use and settlement structure in the Member States and their regions and cities, and for determining quality of life and development opportunities on the ground,

G.   whereas, in addition to cohesion policy as an instrument for strategic governance, other measures are needed to achieve the objectives of the Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter, particularly spatial impact assessments, the integrated approach and spatial planning observation,

H.   whereas, in addition to cohesion policy, rural development policy has significant spatial impact; whereas there is insufficient integration of these two policy areas and therefore a need for enhanced synergies that will reveal real development potential and boost the attractiveness and competitiveness of rural areas, something which would help in combating rural depopulation,

I.   whereas the quality of public space and of the natural, cultural and architectural environment plays an important role in the quality of life of people living in urban and rural areas and are crucial "soft" location factors,

J.   whereas creativity and innovation are crucial resources in the transition to a globalised knowledge society; whereas, therefore, the development of creativity potential on the ground is key to the success of sustainable spatial and urban planning,

K.   whereas "Baukultur" (the culture of a high quality built environment), that is to say the sum of cultural, economic, technological and environmental aspects influencing the quality and process of planning and building, is an essential component of integrated urban development,

L.   whereas the integrated approach implies that the projects developed should constitute a coherent long-term plan incorporating the economic, social and environmental dimensions and fully involving key partners in the planning, execution and evaluation of urban development programmes;

M.   whereas an integrated approach to the territorial dimension of cohesion does not consist only of land planning and urban development actions and policies, because the ultimate objective is to ensure a balance between Union citizens wherever they live, an aim which cannot be achieved solely through land planning,

1.   Considers that the objectives of the Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter can only be achieved by pursuing a comprehensive, cross-sector, holistic development strategy to put the integrated approach into practice;

2.   Proposes, in the context of the mid-term review of cohesion policy, and with an eye to post-2013 cohesion policy, that the implementation of an integrated approach should be a binding requirement for programme planning and project selection under the Structural Funds; to that end, calls on decision-makers to undertake voluntarily to implement new cooperation methods;

3.   Welcomes the decision of the EU ministers responsible for urban development, taken at their informal meeting in Leipzig on 24 and 25 May 2007, to set up an intergovernmental working party, chaired by Germany, to identify and elucidate various issues relating to the implementation of the JESSICA initiative;

4.   Welcomes the creation of a Commission inter-service group dealing with suggestions for the implementation of the integrated approach and calls on the Commission to work in close cooperation with all social, environmental and economic partners and to ensure their involvement in all decisions relating to territorial cohesion; asks the Commission to keep Parliament informed about the progress of this work;

5.   Calls for particular attention to be paid, in the shaping of post-2013 cohesion policy, to spatial characteristics and needs and to region-specific treatment based on these factors; recommends the use of implementation-oriented planning tools, as mentioned in the Leipzig Chapter, based on research and permanent monitoring;

6.   Calls on the Commission and Council, in the context of the mid-term review of cohesion policy, to make better use of synergies with the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development for the development of the territory as a whole; recommends, with an eye to post-2013 cohesion policy, close coordination between cohesion policy and rural development policy, in order to enhance the opportunities for improving the quality of life in rural areas;

7.   Notes that it is not only metropolitan regions that have innovation potential, and that some relatively remote and rural areas are in the forefront of achieving the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy; urges the Commission to look more closely at the success factors of these areas with a view to creating a development model for small and medium-sized towns in rural areas;

8.   Stresses the importance of partnership and of the sharing of functions between urban and rural areas for the balanced and sustainable development of the territory as a whole; calls on urban and rural authorities in cooperation with all public and private stakeholders to identify their common assets and produce joint regional and sub-regional development strategies in order to secure better living conditions and quality of life for all citizens of the Union; calls on the forthcoming presidencies to hold informal meetings of the ministers responsible for territorial planning and urban development to address these issues;

9.   Calls on the Commission and Council to take the Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter into account in their review of the general budget of the European Union, and to make qualitative adjustments to enable territorial cohesion targets to be incorporated more effectively into EU policies; considers that legislative measures need to be taken in the next few years to achieve this;

10.   Calls on the Council, on reviewing the Lisbon and Göteborg strategies (sustainable development strategy) at the 2008 Spring summit, to define territorial and urban policy interests as objectives;

11.   Urges the Member States to take swift action to achieve the goals of the Territorial Agenda and implement the Leipzig Charter;

12.   Calls on the Council and the Member States, in a spirit of true multi-level governance that both takes account of the territorial diversity of the European Union and respects the subsidiarity principle, to fully involve local and regional governments, including cross-border public authorities, and, in pursuit of the partnership principle, to involve the economic and social partners, relevant NGOs and private stakeholders in the action programmes for implementing the Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter, and gives its wholehearted support to these efforts; stresses that this need to work together should be regarded positively by all actors involved, as it has been proved that coherent collaboration is effective;

13.   Recalls the key role that access to information and communication technologies plays for the future development prospects of the regions, and thus recommends, as mentioned in the Territorial Agenda, integrating infrastructure such as broadband cables into new transport and communication programmes;

14.   Calls on the Commission to undertake a systematic analysis of the territorial impact of relevant key EU policies, as agreed by the Member States under line of action 2 of the First Action Programme, and also to undertake a spatial impact assessment of relevant new legislation; points in this connection, to the potential of the evaluation methods developed by ESPON;

15.   Acknowledges that high quality pre-school and school education, lifelong learning, universities and other research institutes are fundamental for the future development of cities and regions;

16.   Recalls that Natura 2000 is an important instrument for European spatial development; insists that the requirements of Natura 2000 be fully implemented and that landscape corridors and open space networks between protected areas be created so that flora can disperse and fauna can move freely, thus preserving biodiversity;

17.   Calls for a policy on creative economic sectors to be incorporated into spatial and urban development with the aim of creating a framework, using the instruments available (cohesion policy, spatial and urban planning) and taking into account the quality of space, for improving opportunities for creative and innovative action;

18.   Considers it necessary, in the light of demographic trends, to improve the adaptability of cities and regions, prioritising self-development and the promotion of voluntary work;

19.   Emphasises that demographic trends lead to new challenges on the labour market, in access to social and health services and housing and in planning in general; points out that the ageing of the population can be seen as an opportunity for creating new jobs in a growing market and new products and services which improve the quality of life of older people; stresses that the development of the so-called 'silver economy' is important at local and regional level;

20.   Calls on the Member States to guarantee as a matter of principle throughout their territory the availability of, right of access to and accessibility of services of general interest, in order to enable people in differing regions to exploit their region's own specific opportunities and potentials; calls for particular account to be taken of the needs of disadvantaged groups such as the disabled, immigrants, ethnic minorities, the long-term unemployed and people with few qualifications and the particular needs of women; calls on the Commission, in its guidelines for the application of the framework rules on services of general interest and the award of public contracts, to enable local authorities to take greater account of local needs and local actors and to improve their adaptability;

21.   Calls on the Commission, in the light of the Community's new competences for spatial planning under the Treaty of Lisbon, to draft a communication on the creation of an EU framework for spatial impact assessment at project level, taking account of the work of ESPON;

22.   Notes that, following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, cooperation and coordination between itself and the Council and Commission must be stepped up in the context of the implementation of the First Action Programme;

23.   Welcomes in particular the fact that the Treaty of Lisbon declares territorial cohesion alongside economic and social cohesion to be a Treaty objective and provides for shared legislative competence between the EU and the Member States in this area; points out that the Treaty of Lisbon recognises the fact that the territorial challenges that affect islands, mountains, border regions and very remote and sparsely-populated areas should be tackled, since they have a negative impact on the overall competitiveness of the EU's economy; calls on the Commission to complement the First Action Programme with specific proposals for EU measures and initiatives;

24.   Highlights the fact that there is no commonly agreed definition of territorial cohesion yet and therefore urges the Commission to define clearly territorial cohesion and to list the objectives for territorial development in the European Union in its forthcoming Green Paper on territorial cohesion; expects the highest priority to be given to the objective of ensuring that all citizens of the Union, wherever they live in the EU, are offered equal development and access opportunities;

25.   Recommends the further development of the European Spatial Development Perspective and urges the full involvement of the new Member States in this policy framework;

26.   Considers it important to carry out regular assessments of progress in the implementation of the Territorial Agenda; calls on the Council, the Commission and all stakeholders to evaluate not only progress made in the implementation of individual measures of the First Action Programme, but also the impact of these measures and their contribution to sustainable spatial development in the EU;

27.   Calls on the Council to agree as soon as possible on simple, quantifiable indicators for the observation of spatial development in the EU; calls for annual land development to be set as a one of those spatial development indicators;

28.   Notes that these indicators could be used as targets for the guidance of spatial development; proposes that the Council and Commission use these indicators for benchmarking between the Member States, and for building up a database of best practises;

29.   Supports the Council's intention to issue a report on the implementation of the First Action Programme at each informal Council meeting; suggests that the Council consider a Mutual Learning Programme for European spatial development on the exchange of experience and best practices between the Member States;

30.   Stresses the importance of improving coordination between the Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter; regrets in this connection that the Council has not yet adopted an action programme for the implementation of the targets of the Leipzig Charter, and calls on forthcoming presidencies to remedy this omission, thereby ensuring a systematic follow-up to the Leipzig Charter;

31.   Welcomes the initiative of the Slovenian Presidency to prepare and promote measures seeking to enhance coordination between spatial and urban development with a view to further interlinking between the objectives of the Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter;

32.   Refers to the conclusions from the Fourth Cohesion Report in which towns and urban areas are seen as centres of population, economic strength and innovation; welcomes proposals for the creation of innovative regional and urban clustersspanning both internal and external borders of the EU;

33.   Calls on the Commission and Council, having particular regard to the work of the Urban Audit, to set benchmarks for the sustainability of cities as set out in the Leipzig Charter, such as per capita energy consumption, local public transport usage as a proportion of total transport volume, and per capita greenhouse gas emissions;

34.   Highlights the key role that cities play in achieving the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy and thus calls for a holistic and well coordinated urban development strategy supported by all levels of government as well as the private sector;

35.   Calls on the Commission to take a greater interest in the issue of urban sprawl; calls on the Member States, in the light of the problem of landscape fragmentation and the continuing loss of land to urban growth in the Member States, to force through effective measures and strategies to restrict land development;

36.   Recommends that the Member States give priority to internal urban development rather than external, in other words that they prioritise the re-use, or use for new purposes, of existing buildings, mainly by means of sustainable land management, before building on new land;

37.   Welcomes the emphasis put on the interlinking of transport modes by the Leipzig Charter; highlights the importance of an integrated and sustainable transportation system and the significant role that an improved cycling and pedestrian infrastructure can play, particularly in the larger cities; calls upon the Commission to explore more effective mechanisms to support local authorities in developing strategies for integrated transport networks, particular in less developed regions;

38.   Believes that, in order to respond effectively to growing demand for high-quality urban living, it is essential that local authorities rapidly bring their technical facilities into line with EU standards; believes, in particular, that facilities for supplying drinking water (for example by improving distribution or the quality of the water distributed), or for purifying waste water (for example by destroying networks or creating new ones) and all analogous facilities should be adapted to meet the new standards as soon as possible;

39.   Regrets that social and economic disparities are on the increase, particularly in metropolitan regions and cities in the EU, but also in rural areas; calls on the Member States to tackle this problem more energetically and to take greater account of it when planning programmes with a view to the award of appropriations from the structural funds;

40.   Takes the view that cities have a particular responsibility in fulfilling the EU climate change targets as they are in a unique position to deliver potential solutions to contribute to the reduction of the global greenhouse gas emissions; urges Member States to incorporate climate protection into urban development as a horizontal objective;

41.   Highlights the fact that investing in environmentally friendly technology, such as innovative prevention, mitigation and adaptation measures, offers significant business opportunities in the long term;

42.   Notes that urban areas suffer the effects of climate change more severely when the lack of fresh air corridors leads to further warming and higher pollution concentrations;

43.   Insists that efforts be stepped up to improve integration and social and territorial cohesion, particularly by overcoming defects in the built environment and by improving environmental conditions, while pursuing a balanced development policy for urban areas, namely by stabilising problem areas and providing attractive living, working and leisure areas;

44.   Calls for better integration of deprived neighbourhoods; asks the competent authorities of the Member States to identify the warning signs of decline in particular areas and to increase efforts to implement a policy of social integration to reduce inequalities and prevent social exclusion; stresses the important role that small and medium-sized enterprises play for economic development and territorial competitiveness, not only in deprived neighbourhoods, but in all urban areas;

45.   Calls on the Commission, in the context of future funding programmes including the Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration activities to step up its support for projects promoting the development and exchange of experience on sustainable urban management, the promotion of energy efficient practices and technologies, the resolution of urban environmental problems and the contribution of cities to combating climate change;

46.   Takes the view that enhancing urban identity and active citizenship in cities can contribute to the successful implementation of the Leipzig Charter; calls on the Commission and the Member States to launch a territorial dialogue to boost public participation in planning for the revitalisation and development of urban areas;

47.   Calls on the Member States and their regions and cities to pay greater attention to creating a culture of a high quality built environment ('Baukultur') as well as to the availability of decent and affordable housing as crucial factors for social inclusion and for the quality of city life in the context of sustainable urban development, while giving particular attention to the quality of the public space , notably in terms of architectural design quality, as a means of improving the well-being of Union citizens;

48.   Calls on the Council, and in particular the Slovene and French Presidencies, to build on the progress made under the German and Portuguese Presidencies with regard to territorial cohesion and continue to adopt proposals in this regard; takes the view, given that the emphasis to date has been on cities, the relationship between town and country, and land planning, that future initiatives must take more account of the requirements of regions with territorial disadvantages, such as islands, mountains, border areas and very remote or sparsely populated areas;

49.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission, and the Committee of the Regions.


Timor-Leste
DOC 45k
European Parliament resolution of 21 February 2008 on Timor-Leste
P6_TA(2008)0070 B6-0079 , 0086 , 0090 , 0093 and 0095/2008

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on Timor-Leste,

–   having regard to the briefing to the Security Council (5432nd meeting) by the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Timor-Leste,

–   having regard to the report of its delegation to observe the legislative elections in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste from 27 June to 2 July 2007, led by Ana Gomes,

–   having regard to the statement made by the Portuguese Presidency on behalf of the European Union on 5 July 2007 on the legislative elections in Timor-Leste,

–   having regard to the UN Security Council statement of 11 February 2008 condemning the attack on Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta,

–   having regard to the statement on 11 February 2008 of Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, condemning the assassination attempts in Timor-Leste,

–   having regard to Rule 115(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas the dismissal in April 2006 of nearly 600 soldiers in Timor-Leste, as a reaction to their grievances, led to a very serious security crisis in the country, characterised by armed confrontation (between the armed forces and the dismissed troops and also with police forces), police disruption, riots and widespread gang violence, as a result of which dozens of people were killed, many more were wounded and 150 000 people fled their homes, half of them remaining displaced in camps,

B.   whereas the security crisis also entailed the downfall of the government led by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri in June 2006, and the appointment of a transitional government led by José Ramos-Horta,

C.   whereas former Prime Minister and Nobel Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta was elected President of Timor-Leste on 9 May 2007 and, following the parliamentary elections of 30 June 2007, former President Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão became Prime Minister of the country on 6 August 2007, raising hopes for the definitive stabilisation of the country and due respect for democratic institutions,

D.   whereas the political instability in Timor-Leste continued, despite the free and peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections and a stronger engagement by the international community under the auspices of the United Nations, responding to appeals from the Timor-Leste authorities,

E.   whereas much of that instability was due to the defiance of the rule of law by the leadership of the disaffected soldiers taken by fugitive ex-Major Alfredo Reinado, who had broken out of prison in 2006 and served as an inspiration to violent youth gangs in the capital,

F.   whereas, on 11 February 2008, those rebel groups shot and seriously wounded President Ramos-Horta, who is in a critical condition in an Australian hospital, and opened fire on Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão in separate but coordinated attacks against the leadership of the country and state institutions,

G.   whereas a state of emergency has been declared by the Parliament of Timor-Leste and remains in place; whereas the government has requested reinforcements for the 1 600 international peacekeepers already deployed in Timor-Leste,

H.   whereas the violent attacks against the state institutions and democratically elected leaders of Timor-Leste are a sequel of the April 2006 crisis, making it evident that, despite the efforts of national authorities, the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and international forces, effective national security and the rule of law are not yet functioning in Timor-Leste,

I.   whereas qualified observers have drawn attention to the lack of any prompt or adequate response from the UN International Police or other international forces to the 11 February 2008 attacks, with the exception of the effective intervention of the Portuguese Republican National Guard, once it was called to act,

J.   whereas the attacks occurred after President Ramos-Horta had personally engaged in trying to find a negotiated solution with the rebels; whereas the exact sequence of events still remains unclear, and the roles of the national and international security forces leave many questions unanswered,

K.   whereas the poor state of the Timor-Leste economy, despite the country's oil revenues, with 40 % of the population living below the poverty line and 60 % aged 18 and under, massive unemployment of around 80 %, and high illiteracy rates, is creating very unstable social conditions and increasing the potential for civil unrest,

L.   whereas both the European Union and the United Nations are publicly committed to supporting independence, democracy and the rule of law in Timor-Leste, which requires the consolidation of state institutions, good governance, the proper use of state funds to address the fight against poverty and unemployment and promote development and social justice, and exemplary behaviour on the part of Timor-Leste's neighbours,

M.   whereas Timor-Leste is a full member of the ACP group of States and the European Union has, therefore, a particular responsibility to contribute to consolidating its democratic governance, by assisting its institutions in the major effort of capacity building required,

N.   whereas account should be taken of the inalienable sovereign rights of the people of Timor-Leste, in particular over their natural resources,

1.   Condemns vehemently the attempted assassination of President Ramos-Horta and wishes him a full recovery and a quick return to the leadership of the country;

2.   Condemns vehemently the simultaneous attack against Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, who fortunately escaped unhurt, and hopes that the Government, together with the President and Parliament of Timor-Leste, will be able to overcome these grave threats to the stability of Timor-Leste and cooperate to ensure respect for law and order and the normal functioning of democratic institutions, in accordance with the constitution;

3.   Urges all parties in Timor-Leste to refrain from violence, engage in dialogue and participate in the democratic process within the legal and constitutional framework, thus contributing to restoring social and political stability;

4.   Expresses its concern at the message of impunity and disrespect for the rule of law which may have been conveyed, in an effort to promote national reconciliation, by the ambiguous attitude of the authorities of Timor-Leste, UNMIT and international security forces towards people who are summoned to face justice;

5.   Condemns anyone in Timor-Leste who will try to take advantage of the fragile situation following the attacks on 11 February 2008 and urges all parties to respect and cooperate fully with the political bodies that emerged from the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007;

6.   Calls for a thorough inquiry within the constitutional and legal framework of Timor-Leste, with the necessary international cooperation and support, aimed at clarifying every detail of the apparent attempted coup d'état and the failure of the security system in the country to bring to justice the perpetrators of such attacks; welcomes the opening of a joint investigation into the attacks by the United Nations and the Timor-Leste police;

7.   Urges the main political forces in Timor-Leste, both in power and in opposition, to engage in a cross-party effort to reach a national understanding as a matter of urgency on core issues of the functioning of the state, such as the role of the armed forces, the police and the reinforcement of the judiciary system; offers its support for such efforts among the parliamentary parties of Timor-Leste;

8.   Recalls that the role of the international community, and in particular the United Nations and its Security Council, is of vital importance to the process of consolidating the state of Timor-Leste and its independence and sovereignty, as well as to strengthening democracy in that young nation;

9.   Stresses the importance of the conduct of the countries neighbouring Timor-Leste in respecting and favouring the stability of the society of Timor-Leste and the consolidation of its national democratic institutions; acknowledges the positive attitude of Indonesia since the recognition of the independence of Timor-Leste and the decisions of Australia and others to help;

10.   Calls on the Council and the Commission to urge the Timor-Leste authorities and UNMIT to prohibit, disband and disarm any paramilitary groups, armed gangs and armed civilians, and to raise European concerns over security capacity and respect for the rule of law with the United Nations and the Government of Timor-Leste at all official meetings, and at the highest level;

11.   Calls on the international institutions to provide broader support to meet the need for Timor-Leste to reform of its fragile and politicised security sector, as is essential for a fully functioning democratic and secure State, through a wide consultation process and a systematic and comprehensive approach, as recommended by UN Security Council Resolution 1704(2006) and subsequent UN reports; calls on the Government of Timor-Leste to give high priority to that task; invites the Government of Timor-Leste to take advantage of the expertise in the UN Security Sector Support Unit to conduct national consultations on security sector reform; calls on the Council, the Commission and other international donors to establish a mechanism by which to improve the coordination of assistance to the security sector; calls on UNMIT to give the Security Sector Support Unit the resources and staff to assist the consultation process and comprehensive review;

12.   Recommends that the decisions and orders of tribunals be promptly respected and fully enforced by the authorities of Timor-Leste, with the support, whenever necessary, of the international forces in the country;

13.   Calls on the state institutions of Timor-Leste and UNMIT to uphold the rule of law, combat impunity of crimes and ensure compliance with international human rights standards by all in Timor-Leste, especially the police and armed forces;

14.   Reaffirms its recognition of Timor-Leste's need for political, technical and financial support in building the infrastructure and administrative structures which are essential to resume the implementation of its development plan, and in invigorating the economy of Timor-Leste and the promotion of employment; calls for continued support by the international community to alleviate poverty in Timor-Leste and provide assistance to rebuild the physical and administrative structures necessary for its economic development;

15.   Calls on the European Union and the international community, and in particular neighbouring and ASEAN countries, to maintain and step up the support required to consolidate democracy and a democratic culture in Timor-Leste, focusing on multi-party culture, freedom of expression and on institution-building – namely the parliament, the government, the judiciary, security, defence and law enforcement agencies – and to assist in the urgent extension of media coverage to the whole country, as well as to strengthen the education and health networks and infrastructure in housing, sanitation and water supply;

16.   Calls on the Commission to speed up and conclude the installation of a fully functioning delegation in Dili;

17.   Recommends sending an ad hoc parliamentary delegation to Timor-Leste to reassess the political situation, express solidarity to democratic forces and institutions and renew Parliament's offer of assistance to the democratic functioning of the Parliament of Timor-Leste;

18.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the President, Government and Parliament of Timor-Leste, the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the governments of the ACP countries, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the governments of Australia and Indonesia, the Secretary-General and the Secretariat of ASEAN, the UN Secretary-General, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Timor-Leste and the UN Security Council.


Belarus
DOC 41k
European Parliament resolution of 21 February 2008 on Belarus
P6_TA(2008)0071 B6-0081 , 0087 , 0088 , 0091 and 0098/2008

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation in Belarus, in particular to its resolution of 6 April 2006 on the situation in Belarus after the presidential elections of 19 March 2006(1) ,

–   having regard to the Commission's declaration of 21 November 2006 on the European Union's readiness to renew its relationship with Belarus and its people within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP),

–   having regard to its Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, which was awarded to the Belarusian Association of Journalists on 14 December 2004 and to Aleksander Milinkevich on 13 December 2006,

–   having regard to Rule 115(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas it has repeatedly condemned the failed presidential, parliamentary and local elections in Belarus,

B.   whereas it has called on the Council and the Commission to make proposals to put further pressure on Lukashenko's regime within international organisations and has demanded that a complete package of specific, targeted sanctions – severely punishing the perpetrators of oppression without adding to the suffering of the citizens of Belarus – be put forward,

C.   whereas it has particularly condemned the fact that local democracy, which is the cornerstone of any democratic governance and which expresses the will of ordinary people to fulfil their genuine hopes and expectations, has been disregarded and neglected in Belarus,

D.   whereas the continuous political and administrative pressure exerted upon non-governmental organisations in Belarus, threatens their existence and undermines their independence,

E.   whereas in January 2008 there was a series of protests by entrepreneurs in Minsk, and the leaders of those demonstrations were detained and often beaten,

F.   whereas positive developments in the establishment of the Commission's delegation in Minsk have taken place recently,

1.   Deeply regrets that the situation of democracy, human rights and the rule of law is not improving in Belarus; points out that continuous arbitrary arrests of members of civil society and opposition activists, notably the temporary detention of Aleksander Milinkevich, and the clampdown of the independent media, contradict the recent rhetoric of the Belarusian Government concerning their wish to improve relations with the European Union;

2.   Expresses its regret over the sentencing of the journalist Aliaksandr Zdvizhkov to three years" imprisonment, considering that punishment to be unjustly harsh, and calls on the Belarusian Government to reconsider the decision;

3.   Takes note of the recent release of several democratic opposition activists including the leaders of the Youth Movement of the Belarusian Popular Front and Young Front (Malady Front), at the same time condemns the arrests of these activists, who were detained for 15 days in prison and faced expulsion from university, following peaceful demonstrations on 16 January 2008 in Minsk to mark the day of solidarity with imprisoned Belarusian opposition activists and the families of missing prominent Belarusians;

4.   Urges the Belarusian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally the remaining political prisoner, Alyaksandr Kazulin, and stop using intimidation, harassment, targeted arrests and politically motivated prosecutions against the activists of the democratic opposition and civil society in Belarus;

5.   Welcomes the recent developments on the agreements to establish the Commission's delegation in Minsk as a positive step towards renewing dialogue with the European Union; encourages the Commission to use the full potential of the opening of the delegation;

6.   Recalls that on 21 November 2006 the Europe Union declared its readiness to renew its relationship with Belarus and its people within the framework of the ENP as soon as the Belarusian Government demonstrates respect for democratic values and for the basic rights of the Belarusian people;

7.   Emphasises that in order to engage in any substantial dialogue with the EU, Belarus needs to fulfil the remaining conditions laid down in the "non-paper" entitled "What the European Union could bring to Belarus", which include the release of all political prisoners, the abolition of the death penalty, an assurance of a free media and freedom of expression, the independence of the judiciary and respect for democratic values and for the basic rights of the Belarusian people;

8.   Condemns the fact that Belarus is the only country in Europe which still has the death penalty, which is counter to European values;

9.   Urges the Belarusian authorities to revoke Decree No 70 of 8 February 2008, provisions of which violate the right to education of Belarusian citizens by creating barriers to entry into higher education institutions;

10.   Urges the Belarusian authorities to implement Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) standards in the organisation of the forthcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for 28 September 2008; calls on the Government to give democratic opposition representatives access to district election commissions, to grant registration to all parliamentary candidates and their observers, and not to create obstacles for a comprehensive and complete international election observation mission;

11.   Calls on the Council and the Commission to take further steps towards the facilitation and liberalisation of visa procedures for Belarusian citizens, as only such action can help to fulfil the main goal of EU policy towards Belarus, namely to facilitate and intensify people-to-people contacts and to democratise that country; urges them in this context to consider the possibilities of waiving the cost of visas for Belarusian citizens entering Schengen territory, which is the only way to prevent Belarus and its citizens from becoming increasingly isolated;

12.   Calls on Member States in the Schengen area to use all available tools (national visa costs) to facilitate the movement of Belarusian citizens within each Member State's territory;

13.   Calls on the Council, the Commission and the international community as a whole to extend more support to the civil society of Belarus and, in particular, to increase financial aid to the independent media, to non-governmental organisations and to Belarusian students studying abroad; welcomes the financial support given by the Commission to the European Humanities University in Vilnius (Lithuania); calls on the Council and the Commission to consider financial support for the existing project aimed at the creation of the independent Belarusian television channel Belsat;

14.   Expresses solidarity with the united democratic opposition of Belarus and the leader of that movement, Aleksander Milinkevich, and all Belarusian citizens who strive for an independent, open and democratic Belarus based on the rule of law; encourages the leaders of the opposition to demonstrate unity and resolve in the upcoming parliamentary elections;

15.   Deplores the decision of the Belarusian authorities to refuse repeatedly entrance visas to the Members of the European Parliament and national parliamentarians in the last couple of years; calls on the Belarusian authorities not to create any further obstacles preventing the European Parliament delegation for relations with Belarus from visiting the country and from observing and obtaining first-hand experience in Belarus;

16.   Condemns the restrictions imposed by the Belarusian authorities on foreign clergy, aimed at limiting their access to the country to serve religious organisations, and calls on the Belarusian authorities to cease these restrictions;

17.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the parliaments and governments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Parliamentary Assemblies of the OSCE and the Council of Europe, and the Belarusian authorities.

(1) OJ C 293 E, 2.12.2006, p. 304.


North Kivu
DOC 45k
European Parliament resolution of 21 February 2008 on North Kivu
P6_TA(2008)0072 B6-0080 , 0084 , 0085 , 0089 , 0094 and 0097/2008

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to its resolution of 17 January 2008 on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and rape as a war crime(1) and to its previous resolutions on human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo,

–   having regard to the resolution of 22 November 2007 of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in particular in the East and its impact on the region,

–   having regard to its resolution of 15 November 2007 on the EU response to situations of fragility in developing countries(2) ,

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled 'Towards an EU response to situations of fragility – engaging in difficult environments for sustainable development, stability and peace' (COM(2007)0643 ) and the Commission staff working document annexed thereto (SEC(2007)1417 ),

–   having regard to Resolution 60/1 of the United Nations General Assembly of 24 October 2005 on the 2005 World Summit outcome, and in particular paragraphs 138 to 140 thereof on the responsibility to protect populations,

–   having regard to Rule 115(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.   whereas the conflict affecting the DRC has claimed the lives of 5 400 000 people since 1998 and continues to be the direct or indirect cause of 1500 deaths each day,

B.   whereas the fighting between the Congolese army, the rebel troops of ousted General Laurent Nkunda and the fighters of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR, also known as Interhamwes) has been causing tremendous hardship to the civilian populations of the region of North Kivu for many months,

C.   whereas during the last 18 months there have been massacres, rapes of young girls, mothers and grandmothers, forced recruitment of civilians and child soldiers, and a host of other acts of violence and serious human rights abuses in the Eastern DRC, both by Laurent Nkunda's rebel troops and by FDLR fighters and the Congolese army itself,

D.   whereas MONUC (United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo) has a mandate under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which authorises it to use all necessary means to deter any attempted use of force which would threaten the political process on the part of any foreign or Congolese armed group, particularly ex-FAR (Rwandan Armed Forces) and Interhamwes fighters, and to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence,

E.   whereas on 25 January 2008 the special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in the DRC announced that observers would be sent to monitor the ceasefire in all the territories previously occupied by armed groups, and that the military and civilian personnel of the Goma office of MONUC would be strengthened,

F.   whereas undertakings concerning gradual demobilisation and a commitment to a ceasefire were given on 23 January 2008 at the Goma Conference for Peace, Security and Development, which includes a ceasefire among all warring parties, the disarmament of all non-governmental forces, the return and resettlement of all displaced peoples in the Eastern DRC and the installation of a temporary mechanism for ceasefire monitoring,

G.   whereas the practical details of this demobilisation have yet to be worked out within the framework of the Joint Technical Peace and Security Commission held under the co-presidency of the DRC Government and the international facilitation of the ceasefire commitment,

H.   whereas the FDLR, whose fighters had sought refuge in the region, is involved in the fighting,

I.   whereas the Congolese army does not have the human, technical or financial resources necessary to carry out its tasks in North Kivu and whereas this is the main reason why it poses a threat to the population instead of working on its behalf and in the cause of peace,

J.   whereas it is vital to find a political solution to the crisis in North Kivu, so as to consolidate peace and democracy and promote stability and development in the region for the well-being of all the peoples of the Great Lakes region,

K.   whereas a meeting was held in Kinshasa on 3 September 2007 between Mbusa Nyamwisi and Charles Murigande, Foreign Ministers of Congo and Rwanda respectively, as part of the efforts to find a solution to the conflict in North Kivu,

L.   whereas a meeting was held in Beni from 28 to 30 January 2008 under the co-presidency of Chikez Diemu and Crispus Kiyonga, Ministers for Defence of the DRC and Uganda respectively,

M.   whereas since the end of 2006 the conflict in the DRC has also forced some 400 000 people to flee their homes and whereas there is now a total of 800 000 displaced persons in the province of North Kivu,

N.   whereas the civil war, which has been under way for three years, has been marked by the systematic pillaging of the country's wealth by the allies and enemies of the Congolese Government,

O.   whereas, in order to achieve a significant improvement in health and a reduction in the mortality rate in the DRC as a whole and in North Kivu in particular, years of sustained commitment and a substantial financial investment will be required both from the Congolese Government and the international community,

P.   whereas on 3 February 2008 an earthquake measuring 6 on the Richter scale struck the Great Lakes region and, in particular, the towns of Bukavu and Goma and surrounding areas, which had already been badly hit by the conflict, causing deaths, injuries and substantial material damage,

Q.   whereas several humanitarian organisations have been forced to suspend their activities following the hostilities at the end of 2007, while health centres remain without supplies or have been abandoned by their medical staff,

R.   whereas Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has reported that the local and displaced populations in North Kivu are growing progressively weaker and that the continuing warfare is preventing aid workers from gaining access to certain areas which are in need of urgent food and medical aid,

S.   whereas malnutrition is a further aspect of the extreme vulnerability suffered by the populations now living in North Kivu and whereas the data from MSF's medical aid programmes offer an alarming indication of the scale of malnutrition in North Kivu, arousing fears for those families whom aid cannot reach,

1.   Expresses its deep outrage at the massacres and crimes against humanity which have been continuing for too many years in North Kivu and calls on all relevant national and international authorities systematically to bring the perpetrators to justice, whoever they may be; calls on the United Nations Security Council as a matter of urgency to take all measures capable of genuinely preventing any further attacks on the civilian populations of North Kivu;

2.   Notes that, despite its broad mandate, MONUC has not had sufficient resources to enable it to prevent these massacres, rapes, pillaging, forced recruitment of civilians and child soldiers, and countless other acts of violence and human rights abuses, and therefore calls on the Council and the Commission to ensure that the recent strengthening of MONUC leads to a significant improvement in the security of the populations of North Kivu and, should this not ensue, to urge the United Nations Security Council to give MONUC the means to fulfil its mission, beginning with the effective and lasting protection of the civilian populations of the region;

3.   Calls for zero tolerance of the sexual violence against girls and women which is used as a weapon of war and demands severe criminal penalties against the perpetrators of these crimes; recalls the importance of access to reproductive health services in conflict situations and refugee camps;

4.   Welcomes the holding of the peace conference in Goma, given the need to find a political solution to the conflict affecting the East of the DRC; underlines, however, besides the notable absence of representatives of Interhamwes (FDLR), the fragility of the demobilisation undertakings and ceasefire commitment agreed on 23 January 2008 at the end of the Conference and therefore continues to urge all parties to this conflict to work unceasingly for peace and to put an end to violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law, cease all attacks on civilians and allow humanitarian agencies to come to the aid of the civilian population;

5.   Points out that the practical details of this demobilisation have yet to be worked out within the framework of the Joint Technical Peace and Security Commission under the co-presidency of the DRC Government and the international facilitation of that commitment, and therefore calls for that Commission to be set up as swiftly as possible so as to finalise demobilisation issues;

6.   Welcomes the meeting held in September 2007 between the Congolese and Rwandan Foreign Ministers and calls on the Rwandan authorities to play a tangible role in the various efforts to resolve the conflict in North Kivu, particularly as regards prosecutions, disarmament, demobilisation and the repatriation of Interhamwes present in North Kivu;

7.   Calls on the Council and the Commission to release emergency funds, in view of the extreme gravity of the humanitarian situation faced by the populations of North Kivu, not only because of the conflicts which continue to affect that region, but also as a result of the earthquake of 3 February 2008, and to ensure that humanitarian workers are able to operate under the best possible conditions;

8.   Calls on the Council and the Commission to implement large-scale medical assistance programmes for the civilian populations in Eastern DRC with immediate effect, in order to both to meet the immediate needs of the population and in anticipation of the reconstruction of the region which will be required;

9.   Calls for the effective establishment of monitoring mechanisms, such as the Kimberley process for the certification of the origin of natural resources imported into the EU market;

10.   Calls on the Council and every Member Sate to provide special aid to the populations of Eastern DRC;

11.   Calls on the European Union mission to North Kivu scheduled for March 2008 to report back to it;

12.   Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the institutions of the African Union, the High Representative for the CFSP, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Untied Nations Security Council, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the President, parliament and government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the President, parliament and government of the Republic of Rwanda.

(1) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0022 .
(2) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2007)0540 .

Last updated: 18 March 2009Legal notice