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L-Erbgħa, 7 ta' Settembru 2005 - Strasburgu Edizzjoni riveduta

Ħin tal-mistoqsijiet (mistoqsijiet għall-Kunsill)
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  Le Président. – L'ordre du jour appelle l'Heure des questions (B6-0330/2005).

Nous examinons toute une série de questions au Conseil.

 
  
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  Le Président. –

Question n° 1 de Sajjad Karim (H-0564/05)

Objet: Offre modifiée de l'UE concernant le secteur des services dans le cadre des négociations de Doha - Mobilité des personnes naturelles

L'offre modifiée de l'UE concernant le secteur des services dans le cadre des négociations de Doha prévoit des possibilités supplémentaires concernant le mouvement de "personnes naturelles hautement qualifiées" ou de "prestataires de services", qui permettraient à des ressortissants de pays tiers de se rendre dans l'UE pour fournir des services pour une durée limitée.

Le Conseil peut-il donner une définition plus précise des expressions "personnes naturelles hautement qualifiées" ou "prestataires de services"? Comment le Conseil évalue-t-il les principales répercussions que cette initiative pourrait avoir sur les secteurs professionnels des pays en développement et des pays les moins avancés?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. It is a pleasure to be here once again to answer on behalf of the Council. I shall await the judgement Members of this House on whether it is a pleasure for them.

In response to Mr Karim's question, a dynamic service sector is critical for the prosperity for any modern economy. No country, developed or developing, can prosper without one. It is therefore vital that we strive for an ambitious deal on services within the Doha development agenda negotiations.

The European Union's revised services offer, tabled in Geneva in early June, contains a significant number of new commitments, including the 'mode 4' commitments which allow people to travel to the European Union to provide services for a short time. Under the terms of these commitments, overseas companies, with a contract to provide services in 21 important designated sectors, will be able to send skilled employees to the European Union to provide these services for up to six months at a time.

As Mr Karim's question highlights, the contractual service suppliers in these cases must be skilled persons who enter the European Union for the purpose of providing a service associated with a bona fide services contract in certain defined economic areas. 'Skilled' means they possess a university degree or its equivalent and have the necessary professional qualifications to practise in the European Union. They must also have at least three years' professional experience, or six years for independent professionals. In all such cases, European Union and national working conditions, minimum wage requirements and collective wage agreements will apply. European Union Member States will also continue to be able to refuse entry to persons that pose a security threat or are considered to be at risk of abusing the terms of their entry.

 
  
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  Sajjad Karim (ALDE). The Minister can rest assured that this Parliament is equally as pleased as he is that he is here again today. Will the Council do anything to promote well-ordered international labour migration and, in turn, encourage EU Member States to set up mechanisms and provide incentives so that the expertise and experience gained by the service providers from the developing countries and LDCs can be applied in developing countries with under-serviced regions?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am grateful for the gracious words of Mr Karim, the questioner, and I hope his faith in my performance will be vindicated in the minutes to come. On the more general question that he raises, as we meet today in this Parliament, the European Union Summit with India is taking place. The Indian subcontinent is one place where skilled migrant labour is already proving to be of mutual benefit.

I have had the opportunity to travel to Bangalore and meet many of the service providers who are benefiting from the present proposals. I heard directly from the Indians that they considered there was genuine mutual benefit in having their employees working for a period either in the European Union or in North America. In Silicon Valley, for example, highly-skilled software engineers educated either in the United States or in India were able to gain experience in the United States and then either stay and continue to develop commercial contacts between the United States and India or return to India and establish businesses, which in turn do business with developed countries such as the United States. So I can assure you this is a far wider issue than simply the answer I provided on mode 4.

It is a matter about which there is much discussion, not least on the close commercial ties that can be established between less-developed countries and the European Union. I am optimistic that there can be genuine mutual benefit both for the countries providing the workers and for the European Union, which benefits from their skills and expertise.

 
  
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  Le Président. – Je suis moi aussi très heureux de la présence de M. Alexander. Je voudrais juste lui faire remarquer que nous ne sommes pas à Westminster. Peut-il attendre qu'on lui donne la parole, le temps que la traduction soit faite pour tous? Ce n'est pas tout à fait le Question time. Ça viendra peut-être quand nous aurons tous la même langue dans l'Union européenne, mais pour le moment, il faut que chacun ait le temps d'entendre vos réponses et les questions qui sont posées. M. Rübig avait une question complémentaire.

 
  
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  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE). Mich würde interessieren, ob die Mode 4-Regelung auch beinhaltet, dass in Zukunft das Sicherheitsrisiko nach gleichen Standards bewertet wird. Wird der Rat eine Definition vorlegen, was unter Sicherheitsrisiko zu verstehen ist?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am grateful for your guidance, Mr President. I certainly would not be as contentious in my appearance in Parliament today to suggest that there should be a single language for the European Union. In many ways our diversity has proved to be our strength in recent years.

On the important point that the questioner raised in relation to security, of course there has to be concern given to whether we have specific strategic interests. That extends beyond simply the question of labour and individual workers, to cover broader questions.

Before appearing in Parliament today, I read of the concerns over cyber-spying, which is now regrettably a feature of the modern world in which we live. It is essential, not just in our internal discussions but also in taking a broader view of this issue, to have an important and necessary regard for the security questions that the Member raised.

 
  
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  Le Président. – Pour ce qui est de la langue commune, la grande question serait de savoir quelle serait cette langue. Évitons ce débat pour le moment. M. Martin avait une question complémentaire.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE). President-in-Office, to give effect to your mode 4 proposals, which I welcome, would the Council consider encouraging the Commission to create a database for the whole of the European Union that companies and countries from outside the EU could access, so they could identify potential skills shortfalls and opportunities to provide services? This would extend the benefits from such access to include poorer developing countries, as well as countries that already have good intelligence about what is going on in the European Union.

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. Mr President, as a fellow Scot, along with the questioner, I will resist the temptation to discuss the closeness of relations between the Scottish people and the French people over many centuries and instead direct myself to the question that was asked.

I will certainly be happy to pass on to the Commission the point of view that was communicated to me this afternoon in relation to the merits of a database.

In my discussions previously with, for example, the Indian trade minister, the urgency and importance of progress on mode 4 as part of the wider Doha Development Round was impressed upon me.

The question is whether the European Union's institutions are best placed to be aware of the constantly changing commercial opportunities available in a rapidly changing commercial sector. None the less, I am happy to give the undertaking that I will pass on that suggestion to the Commission.

 
  
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  Le Président. – Question n° 2 de Sarah Ludford, remplacée par Bill Newton-Dunn (H-0566/05)

Objet: Protection des données

Le gouvernement du Royaume-Uni plaide-t-il avec énergie en faveur de la nécessité, pour l'UE, d'instaurer un cadre de protection des données pour le troisième pilier afin de protéger la sphère privée des personnes, par exemple en introduisant des restrictions ciblées, lorsque l'information est accessible à des services d'information et de maintien de l'ordre de manière transfrontalière, ou bien estime-t-il que les 25 systèmes nationaux suffiront pour accomplir cette tâche, comme le suggère un ministre de l'intérieur (rapport de la commission "Union européenne" de la Chambre des Lords "Après Madrid : la réponse de l'UE après le terrorisme", 5ème rapport 2004 - 5, pages 128-141)?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The Presidency is waiting for the Commission to introduce its proposals for a framework decision laying down data protection rules in the third pillar. As soon as the proposal is formally introduced, the Presidency will ensure that it is discussed by the appropriate Council body and forwarded to the European Parliament in accordance with Article 39 of the Treaty on European Union.

 
  
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  Bill Newton Dunn (ALDE), Deputising for the author. That is a staggering reply, because it did not answer the question at all. We all know it is going to be introduced and we all know the Council and Parliament will discuss it, so you have told us absolutely nothing.

What you were actually asked, if you will read the question please, is whether the Government supports an EU regime or, as suggested by one of your Government ministers in the House of Lords last year, the 25 national regimes. Which is it? Mr Blair, the British Prime Minister, told Parliament when he introduced the British Presidency, 'I am a passionate pro-European'. He did not say another word back in the United Kingdom about it. Is this a case of being two-faced, saying one thing here and nothing back home? Tell us the truth!

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I should like to thank the Member for the characteristic grace with which he has directed his question towards me. It is not a question of being two-faced, but simply – and I hope he appreciates this point as a passionate European – a due regard for my position today, which is not to speak for the UK Government, but instead to represent the position of the Presidency of the European Union.

 
  
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  Agnes Schierhuber (PPE-DE). Ich pflichte dem bei, was Herr Newton Dunn gesagt hat. Ich bin auch enttäuscht über diese nicht inhaltvolle Antwort, die Sie uns hier gegeben haben. Der britischen Präsidentschaft ist doch sehr wohl bewusst, wie schwierig die Bekämpfung des organisierten Verbrechens ist. Daher erwarten wir dringend, dass endlich Maßnahmen gesetzt werden – schließlich ist das Verbrechen international globalisiert, und somit müssen wir den internationalen Terrorismus und das internationale Verbrechen ebenfalls globalisiert bekämpfen.

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I have been questioned on two substantive points in supplementary questions. The first supplementary question asked, 'have I read the question?' I can assure you I have, and it specifically and explicitly states, 'does the UK Government strongly support the need for an EU third pillar data protection framework?' It goes on to elaborate on that point.

I merely reiterate for clarity that my responsibilities today are to discharge my duties on behalf of the Presidency, rather than to articulate the national position of the United Kingdom Government. It would be a disservice to this Parliament were I to do anything else.

However, I think anybody who was present in this Chamber this morning and had the opportunity to hear the UK Home Secretary speak, again on behalf of the Presidency, in relation to data protection measures, would have a very clear understanding as to the importance that we attach to the service that can be provided by data protection measures, and the need for a transnational approach to tackling not just issues such as people trafficking and organised crime, but also the pressing threat of international terrorism.

 
  
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  Le Président. –

Question n° 3 de Chris Davies (H-0567/05)

Objet: Transparence et ouverture

Quand le Conseil aura-t-il la possibilité de voter pour modifier son règlement en vue de pouvoir rendre ses réunions publiques lorsqu'il examine des projets d'actes législatifs?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. On 23 June 2005, the United Kingdom's Prime Minister stated in this Chamber that, in the view of the Presidency, there is a strong case for increased Council transparency, but this is something we need to discuss with all Member States. As the Presidency, we have not made any formal proposals at this time. We are still considering measures and will be consulting with partners in due course, because, as I am sure the honourable Members will appreciate, this is not a matter that is entirely in the gift of the Presidency.

 
  
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  Chris Davies (ALDE). That was not a bad answer! I can vouch for some satisfaction with that.

Does the Presidency-in-Office accept that the British Government, in some four months' time, will be coming back, trying to point to achievements during its period of holding the Presidency of the European Union? Does the Minister accept that to be able to look at an example of having spread openness and transparency and having enhanced the ability of national parliaments to hold ministers to account would be quite a significant achievement?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I thank the questioner for his gracious remarks on my initial answer. Let me elaborate on that answer. As I said, the position of the British Government was stated by our Prime Minister and the strong case for increased Council transparency is clearly recognised. However, there is further work to be done, not least because a balance has to be struck between what I think are understandable objectives and desires on the part of the British Government and several other Member States and due regard for the decision by the European Council in June that a pause for reflection was necessary, following the decisive decisions in the Dutch and French referenda.

As I said, I would not seek to close down the discussion that will no doubt take place in light of the correspondence in the London Times yesterday. I merely offer what I think should be regarded as a holding reply while consideration is given as to the best way forward.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (PSE). President-in-Office, I appreciate that this issue is very sensitive and I understand very well that the decision must be taken unanimously. However, what is the position of other Member States in the Council? Perhaps some of them would agree that, in some special cases, it would be possible to meet in public.

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am grateful for this supplementary question. The acknowledgement of the sensitivity of this issue is a helpful one. The question alluded to the fact that there may be division within the members of the Council as regards how far and how quickly we are able to proceed. Therefore, it is appropriate that, as the Presidency, we recognise the case and the strength of the case that was put so volubly in The Times at the beginning of this week, but seek to work collaboratively at this stage, rather than making unilateral declarations. We are cognizant of our responsibilities and it would be to the disadvantage of everyone if division was to become the hallmark of this discussion, if there is an opportunity for moving forward together.

 
  
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  Catherine Stihler (PSE). –In this question on openness and transparency I should like to thank the President-in-Office for his answer. However, there is also another question, about Strasbourg itself. We are the only parliament in the world that has no say over where it sits. Can the President-in-Office comment on whether the Council will deliberate whether we can have our meetings solely in Brussels and not have to come to Strasbourg?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am not sure whether the question of the location of the European Parliament is judged more contentious or less contentious than the suggestion that there should be a single language for the European Union, but suffice it to say that I will tread cautiously in replying to this question.

I can assure you that I was asked a very similar question on the floor of the House of Commons by one of my Conservative colleagues, who asked whether, in light of our Prime Minister's speech to this Parliament, we were minded to consider a more efficient approach to the location of the European Parliament as a first step in negotiating the future financing of the EU. I have already been accused of not answering one question. I can assure you that I did not answer that question in the House of Commons either.

I believe it is fair to say that there has been a long-standing debate on this matter and the position of Member State governments has been very clear for some time. I have to say, however, that I have listened very carefully to the point that the questioner made. She is certainly not the only Member of the European Parliament who has forcibly put this point to me on this visit.

 
  
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  Le Président. – Sans doute, c'est sûrement vrai. Il se trouve que l'on peut discuter du nombre de langues dans l'Union européenne mais pour ce qui est des traités, je crois qu'il n'y en a qu'une seule version. On vit donc avec, les uns et les autres, quelle que soit notre nationalité.

 
  
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  Le Président. – La question n° 4 est retirée.

Question n° 5 de Dimitrios Papadimoulis (H-0575/05)

Objet: Déclarations de M. Gül sur le patriarcat et le séminaire de Chalkis

Dans des déclarations faites à la presse le 27 juin 2005, le ministre des affaires étrangères de Turquie, M. Gül, a, d'une part, exclu purement et simplement l'éventualité que le gouvernement turc reconnaisse le caractère œcuménique du patriarcat, et, d'autre part, précisé que la question du séminaire de Chalkis était examinée sur la base du cadre juridique en vigueur actuellement en Turquie, ce qui veut dire qu'il n'est pas question que l'école reprenne ses activités.

Vu les conclusions du Conseil européen de décembre 2004 et la communication de la Commission de décembre 2004 sur les progrès réalisés par la Turquie, qui contient une référence directe aux droits religieux des communautés non musulmanes, le Conseil pourrait-il indiquer quelle est sa réaction face aux déclarations de M. Gül?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I have not yet read Foreign Minister Gul's statement in full but, under the revised Accession Partnership adopted in May 2003, Turkey is required to establish conditions for the functioning of non-Muslim religious communities which are in line with the practice of European Union Member States.

However, as the European Commission indicated in its 2004 Regular Report, non-Muslim religious communities, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate, continue to encounter obstacles. Serious problems, in particular the legal status of non-Muslim communities, property registration and training of clergy, remain to be solved. New legislation, needed in order to remedy these difficulties, is still in preparation.

In this context, a draft law on foundations is currently pending in the Turkish Parliament. The Turkish authorities have invited and received comments from the Commission on this draft and the Union expects the Commission's comments to be seriously considered.

As the honourable Member of Parliament is well aware, the European Council of 16 and 17 December 2004, when reviewing whether Turkey sufficiently fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria to open accession negotiations, clearly stated that the Union would continue to monitor closely progress of the political reforms in Turkey. I can assure the honourable Member that the Council continues to do so.

 
  
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  Δημήτριος Παπαδημούλης (GUE/NGL). Κύριε Πρόεδρε, μου προκαλεί πολύ δυσάρεστη εντύπωση η άρνηση του Βρετανού προεδρεύοντος να σχολιάσει, μήνες μετά, τη συγκεκριμένη δήλωση του κ. Αμπντουλάχ Γκιούλ με την οποία αρνείται την αναγνώριση του οικουμενικού χαρακτήρα του Πατριαρχείου καθώς και την επαναλειτουργία της Θεολογικής Σχολής της Χάλκης.

Δεδομένου ότι στο θέμα αυτό υπάρχει σαφής κοινή θέση, και του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου και της Επιτροπής αλλά και όλων των εκκλησιών, κύριε Alexander σας ερωτώ ευθέως:

Είναι αυτή η συνεχιζόμενη άρνηση της τουρκικής ηγεσίας υπαναχώρηση από τα κριτήρια της Κοπεγχάγης, ναι ή όχι; Παρακαλώ, επιτέλους, για μία σαφή απάντηση.

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. With the greatest respect, I shall choose my own words on what is an issue of great interest but also of great controversy. I think it is fair to draw attention to the clearly stated position of the European Parliament on the opening of accession talks with Turkey and the decision reached, as I explained, in the European Council. It also has to be borne in mind that discussions are currently under way through the Permanent Representatives of Council members, ahead of what we anticipate to be the opening of accession talks, if that process is taken forward, on 3 October.

You have to understand the issue of Turkey in the broader context of what has been set out by the Commission in relation to not just the Copenhagen criteria, but the broader criteria for enlargement. At the recent Gymnich meeting that took place in the United Kingdom, Commissioner Rehn made clear that there were really three fundamentals that needed to be recognised in relation to enlargement: firstly, consolidation, secondly, conditionality and thirdly, communication.

I would merely state, in relation to Turkey, that there is a very clear understanding, as I sought to convey in my answer, on the issue of conditionality. The opening of accession talks would represent not the end of that process, but the beginning of a much longer one. I think that, as the question showed, the way forward is not to identify a particular statement by one individual or another, but instead to uphold the important and rigorous process of conditionality which is expected not just for any prospective member aspiring to join the European Union, but which should apply to every potential candidate for accession. Given the interest in this matter, I am confident that Turkey will undergo this process in the weeks, months and, indeed, years to come.

 
  
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  Michl Ebner (PPE-DE). Herr Präsident! Ich frage den Vertreter der Ratspräsidentschaft, ob die Religionsfreiheit unseren Menschenrechtsstandards entspricht.

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. Our standard of human rights is set down in the Copenhagen criteria. In that sense, the obligations which any candidate country has to meet are set out objectively and I hope, in the view of this Parliament, independently. It is therefore important that the Commission and others be given the opportunity to take forward that process of rigorous assessment, but I am cognisant of the strength of feeling, both within certain Member States and among representatives here in this Parliament. That is why we need to uphold the integrity of the process as we seek to move this particular dossier forward.

 
  
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  Agnes Schierhuber (PPE-DE). Herr Ratspräsident! Ich möchte hierzu auch eine Frage stellen. Wir alle haben im letzten Jahr erlebt, dass gerade im Hinblick auf Menschenrechte, auf Frauenrechte in der Türkei noch große Missstände herrschen. Daher meine dezidierte Frage an die Ratspräsidentschaft: Ist die Ratspräsidentschaft auch bereit, in Zukunft nicht nur den Vollbeitritt zu diskutieren, sondern auch eine andere Form des Beitritts oder der Assoziation, wie z.B. eine privilegierte Partnerschaft?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am fully aware of the long-standing interest in, and concern about, the issue of Turkey expressed by certain representatives in this Parliament. While I am respectful of the views that they hold, I would respectfully remind them of the decision both of this Parliament and, indeed, of the European Council on the issue of opening accession talks on 3 October – recognising, of course, the work that is presently under way.

On the specific points that were raised: firstly, in relation to women's rights, a package of major constitutional amendments was passed in May that confirms the equality between men and women. The new penal code significantly strengthens women's rights, removing sentence reductions for honour killings and abolishing the article that enabled rapists to escape jail if they married their victim.

I understand that the Turkish Parliament has agreed to set up a 15-member commission to investigate honour killings in Turkey, looking at the causes and possible preventative measures. I am sure that is a matter which would find widespread support and would be welcomed by many Members of this Parliament.

On the broader issue of religious minorities, which was the genesis of the question: it is also worth bearing in mind that the head of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Istanbul has said that, as a result of European Union harmonisation reforms, his community has found it easier to worship, and that attitudes towards them have changed in recent months.

 
  
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  Le Président. –

Question n° 6 de Bernd Posselt (H-0576/05)

Objet: Préparation de l'adhésion de la Croatie

Comment la Présidence britannique considère-t-elle l'état actuel de la préparation de l'adhésion de la Croatie à l'UE et quelles sont les étapes qui sont maintenant prévues et à quelles dates?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. – The Council appreciates the keen interest that honourable Members are taking in the question of Croatia's preparations for accession. As for the next steps, the Council reiterated on 13 June 2005 that the intergovernmental conference to launch accession negotiations with Croatia will be convened by common agreement, as soon as the Council has established that Croatia is cooperating fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia – ICTY. As the Member is aware, a high-level task force has been set up with the specific objective of examining, in close contact with ICTY and the Croatian authorities, the measures taken and to be taken by Croatia with a view to reaching full cooperation with ICTY.

In this context, Croatia has presented an action plan. In her letter to the Presidency, dated 7 June 2005, the ICTY Chief Prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, noted that, by implementing its action plan, Croatia was on the road to full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal but that more time was required to determine whether these further efforts had produced tangible results.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). Herr Ratspräsident! Ich hatte Sie nicht nach dem gefragt, was im Mai oder im Juni war. Das weiß ich selbst. Ich hatte Sie danach gefragt, was die Ratspräsidentschaft in den nächsten Wochen vorhat. Ganz konkret: Wird es vor dem 3. Oktober noch einen Allgemeinen Rat geben, der sich mit dem Beginn der Beitrittsverhandlungen für Kroatien befasst? Zweitens: In welcher Form gedenkt der Rat das demokratisch gewählte Europäische Parlament über die Arbeit der task force zu informieren? Arbeitet diese task force überhaupt, oder wird sie nur benutzt, um die Beitrittsverhandlungen zu blockieren?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. Let me seek to complete the story I began in my initial answer and hopefully address the points that the Member raised.

In June the Council took note of this new element – that is, the task force – with satisfaction and encouraged Croatia to continue with its efforts in that direction. Indeed, the Council committed itself to continuing its examination of this dossier in July and, under the United Kingdom Presidency, the Council therefore considered this issue at its meeting on 18 July, following the task force meeting a week earlier. At the Gymnich just this week, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made a commitment to seeking a further report from the Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal. It will be in light of that report that the task force will meet again in September.

I cannot at this stage anticipate the conclusions of the task force. The Council will, however, then discuss the matter further in light of the task force's conclusions.

 
  
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  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE). Wenn Sie die Beitrittsbedingungen der Türkei mit jenen Kroatiens vergleichen, sehen Sie dann keine Unterschiede in der Behandlung dieser beiden Staaten? Es ist völlig ungerecht, wenn man Kroatien eine Einzelbedingung stellt und damit die Verhandlungen aussetzt. Wenn man sieht, welche Probleme wir derzeit in der Türkei mit Menschenrechten haben und damit, was dort in der Vergangenheit geschehen ist, dann ist das, was derzeit hier geboten wird, eine zum Himmel schreiende Ungerechtigkeit. Ich möchte Sie wirklich bitten, die Regeln der Europäischen Union einzuhalten und den gleichen Maßstab anzusetzen.

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. With the greatest of respect to the questioner, I find there is a curious connection between the first part and second part of his question, in the sense that I can assure him that there is an honest endeavour on the part of the Council to uphold the rules and that is exactly what we are seeking to do in the case of Croatia.

Although I recognise that opinion in this Parliament is divided on the issue of Croatian accession, there can surely be few of us who would deny that upholding the international rule of law is one of the tenets of the European Union. In that regard it is important that Croatia is recognised to have upheld international law and its clear obligations to the International Criminal Tribunal under international law, not just in the interests of the Union but also in the more general interests of all of us who wish to see international law upheld within the western Balkans generally. It is also important that, at a critical time, we do not collectively resile from the very clear position on the steps Croatia needs to take.

I find it curious, as a British Minister standing here on behalf of the Presidency, that implicit in the questions is a suggestion that Britain is somehow averse to the accession of a country such as Croatia, given Britain's longstanding commitment to enlargement and our determination that Croatia should be able to take its place within the European Union in due course. The bar to that is simply the fact that it is obliged to uphold the international obligations as set out by the International Criminal Tribunal. That is why I am keen to emphasise today that the ball is primarily in the court of the Croatian Government and I am hopeful that, in light of the taskforce work that is being undertaken at the moment, we will see further progress in Croatia that will allow accession to move forward expeditiously.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE). I warmly welcome that last reply from the President-in-Office. Of course Croatia should not enter into negotiations with the EU until it complies with the International Criminal Tribunal's conditions. But will he accept that this is only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition and that Croatia also has to address the question of the Krajina Serbs and other major issues before we can enter into detailed negotiations about membership?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. As I have sought to suggest in previous answers I have given in the course of this Question Time, there are objective criteria which are set down for all potential candidate countries seeking membership of the European Union. They apply as much to Croatia as they would to any other potential Member State of the European Union. However, I would emphasise that, on this particular issue, which has attracted so much attention, Croatia's obligations are very clear, as is the opportunity that is available to Croatia if it meets those obligations in relation to the International Criminal Tribunal.

 
  
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  Michl Ebner (PPE-DE). Herr Präsident! Laut Artikel 166 Absatz 2 der Geschäftsordnung des Europäischen Parlaments hat „eine Wortmeldung zur Geschäftsordnung Vorrang vor allen anderen Wortmeldungen“. Aus diesem Grund ist meine Wortmeldung völlig berechtigt.

Ich melde mich zu Artikel 109 „Fragestunde“ zu Wort. Hier wird in Absatz 4 auf Anlage II verwiesen. In Anhang II ist unter Zusatzfragen, Punkt 4, Folgendes vermerkt: „Jedes Mitglied kann zu jeder Anfrage im Anschluss an deren Beantwortung eine Zusatzfrage stellen. Es kann insgesamt nur zwei Zusatzfragen stellen.“ Ich habe auch die italienische Version, die dasselbe aussagt.

Der Herr Funktionär, der mir mit Kopfzeichen ständig mitteilt, dass ich kein Recht habe, eine zweite Zusatzfrage zu stellen, möge daher diesen Punkt von den zuständigen Stellen überprüfen lassen und wird feststellen, dass ich laut der gültigen Geschäftsordnung das Recht habe, die zweite Zusatzfrage zu stellen, soweit Sie mir dazu – laut Punkt 6a von Anlage II – Ihre Zustimmung erteilen.

 
  
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  Le Président. – Nous laisserons effectivement le soin aux services compétents d'interpréter cette question.

Il n'empêche que pour ma part, je lis à l'annexe du règlement qui concerne l'Heure des questions qu'il est recommandé, en ce qui concerne les questions complémentaires, que le Président autorise en règle générale une question complémentaire de l'auteur de la question principale et une ou au plus deux questions complémentaires posées par des membres appartenant de préférence à un groupe politique et/ou à un État membre différents de celui de l'auteur de la question principale. Il me semble que donner à cette recommandation une interprétation encore plus généreuse nous amènerait à modifier profondément l'esprit de l'Heure des question qui est conçue pour avoir un certain rythme et pour permettre d'appeler de nombreuses questions. Il ne s'agirait pas de permettre aux parlementaires qui en auraient envie de mener un débat de politique générale. Prenons l'exemple de la Croatie. Vous pourriez être ici quinze ou vingt à vouloir poursuivre les questions complémentaires sur la Croatie, ce qui aurait pour conséquence que les questions suivantes des autres parlementaires ne seraient jamais appelées. C'est pour éviter cela que le règlement a été conçu de cette manière.

Monsieur Ebner, vous avez dit ce que vous avez dit. La question a été renvoyée aux services compétents. Vous recevrez une réponse plus officielle, mais je crois que l'esprit de l'Heure des questions est extrêmement clair.

 
  
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  Le Président. –

Question n° 7 de Claude Moraes (H-0579/05)

Objet: Transparence d'EUROPOL

À la suite de la nomination d'un nouveau directeur d'EUROPOL, des résultats positifs de sa comparution devant des membres du Parlement européen lors de la réunion de la commission des libertés civiles, de la justice et des affaires intérieures, en juin 2005, ainsi que de la visite fructueuse effectuée par des députés européens au Quartier général d'EUROPOL en avril 2005, le Conseil peut-il indiquer de quelle manière il envisage la future coopération entre EUROPOL et les institutions européennes?

Le Conseil estime-t-il que le système actuel de reddition de comptes entre EUROPOL et les institutions européennes est entièrement transparent?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The Presidency was encouraged by Max-Peter Ratzel, the new director of Europol's positive meeting with the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs back in June. We are working with both the European Parliament and Europol to improve the exchange of information between the two institutions.

The Presidency is fully committed to making the system of accountability as transparent as possible. As Members of this House will know, Europol is directly funded by Member States and is directly accountable to Member States via the Europol management board and indeed the Council of Ministers. However, the Presidency hopes that Mr Ratzel will soon return to the European Parliament for further discussions.

 
  
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  Claude Moraes (PSE). In contrast to Mr Newton Dunn earlier, I am more than happy and satisfied with that answer. Could the President-in-Office amplify or underline what Charles Clarke has been saying over the past couple of days, that in order fully to deal with terrorism, with cross-border crime – a far more difficult task than it at first seems to the general public – we must attempt to promote a Europol that functions to its true potential and operates as transparently as possible within the rules, within the new directive – which you have rightly said is an efficient and good addition to Europol – so that we can attack terrorism at its roots as well as organised crime?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am grateful for those generous words by the questioner, and I would be happy to give him the affirmation of the point that he made in relation to Mr Charles Clarke's speech earlier today here in this Chamber.

If I was to identify a single area where I found myself in absolute agreement on this issue with the Home Secretary, it was when he recognised that it is by greater cooperation, not by seeking to put up walls between us, that, collectively within the European Union, we will be able to meet the challenge of the truly transnational nature, not just of the issues of people trafficking or drug trafficking, but also of organised crime and the challenge of terrorism.

What the Home Secretary was able to communicate in this Chamber today was the deep-seated belief within the UK Government – and, indeed, of the Presidency – that it is only by the kind of effective cooperation that we continue to support within Europol that we will be able truly to harness the potential of all the law enforcement agencies across Europe as, collectively, we strive to meet the challenge posed by the kind of threats that I have outlined in the course of my answer.

 
  
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  Le Président. –

Question n° 8 de Sahra Wagenknecht (H-0584/05)

Objet: Loi d'impunité pour des groupes paramilitaires en Colombie

Le gouvernement colombien vient de faire passer à la Chambre, avec l'appui bruyant des députés liés aux groupes paramilitaires, une loi garantissant à ceux-ci l'impunité de fait et permettant ainsi à des trafiquants de drogue notoires d'échapper à la justice.

Cette loi a été fortement critiquée par le représentant en Colombie du Haut-Commissariat des Nations unies aux droits de l'homme et par l'ensemble des organismes de défense des droits de l'homme.

L'UE – et notamment la Grande-Bretagne –, à Carthagène, avait clairement posé comme condition de la poursuite de son aide en Colombie, qu'il y ait un cadre légal pour cette démobilisation.

Quelle attitude le Conseil compte-t-il adopter à l'égard du gouvernement colombien après cette décision qui favorise les auteurs de crimes contre l'humanité et qui constitue une atteinte grave aux droits des victimes à la vérité, à la justice et à la réparation?

Compte-t-il continuer à continuer de favoriser la coopération policière avec un pays qui fait de tels cadeaux à des terroristes et trafiquants de drogue notoires?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The Council has been informed of initial reactions to the justice and peace law by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who drew attention to insufficiencies of the law as concerns impunity, provisions on investigating heinous crimes and due restitutions or reparations for victims.

To prepare a thorough and comprehensive assessment of the situation by the Council, European Union Heads of Mission were asked to produce for September a considered analysis of the law and recommendations for the European Union's policy, taking into account the Council conclusions of December 2004. In this context, they will consult widely, including the government, civil society, the group of 24 and the United Nations.

As concerns police cooperation, the Council is convinced that training police in Colombia in accordance with the values and standards of the European Union will contribute to security and greater respect for human rights.

 
  
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  Vittorio Agnoletto (GUE/NGL), Autore supplente. Signor Presidente, onorevoli colleghi, la risposta mi sembra molto vaga e un rinvio sine die a una decisione.

Ci troviamo di fronte a una legge che, in pratica, regolarizza i paramilitari, offrendo la possibilità a mafiosi e narcotrafficanti di trasformarsi in paramilitari e, quindi, di utilizzare questa legge, peraltro anche fortemente criticata da Amnesty International, la quale afferma che - nei fatti - questa smilitarizzazione e questa smobilitazione non ci sono state.

Chiedo pertanto una risposta estremamente precisa sulla questione dei fondi: l'Unione europea ha ancora intenzione di finanziare questo tipo di progetto, che formalmente si prefigge la smobilitazione, mentre nei fatti finisce per sostenere questi gruppi paramilitari?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I have listened carefully to the terms of the questioner's supplementary. I would respectfully suggest that if he is concerned about and desirous of a thorough answer, then that rather vindicates the point that I sought to make in terms of the need for EU heads of mission to prepare a very thorough statement in terms of what should inform the European Union's decision-making process.

Of course it is the case that the Union is committed to helping Colombia to resolve inter-related problems of internal armed conflict, trade in illegal drugs and human rights abuses about which he is rightly concerned. The Council conclusions back in December underlined the importance of the establishment of a proper legal framework that addresses the issues of truth, justice and reparation for the victims of that armed conflict.

However, I would reiterate the point I made in my initial answer, that we have a responsibility, given the need and seriousness of the issues that the questioner raised, to make sure that our decisions are informed by a thorough analysis of the true situation in Colombia at the moment.

 
  
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  José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra (PPE-DE). Señor Presidente, quisiera preguntar a la Presidencia en ejercicio del Consejo si comparte las declaraciones que ha hecho el Alto Representante para la Política Exterior y de Seguridad Común y Secretario General del Consejo de Ministros de la Unión Europea, señor Solana, en apoyo de los esfuerzos de paz del Presidente Uribe en Colombia; si piensa que el hecho de que un colectivo autor de odiosos crímenes, como los paramilitares, deje las armas es una buena o mala noticia; y si piensa que una decisión tomada por un órgano, como el Parlamento colombiano, democráticamente elegido, es una decisión ilegítima.

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am aware that the European Union could be more formally involved through timely political endorsement for the ongoing peace process to which the honourable Member referred. But that would take place once the Colombian Government has set out a comprehensive legal framework. This position has not changed and the Union is currently studying carefully the new Colombian legislation, the 'Justice and Peace Law' agreed in late June, to gauge whether these conditions have now been met.

 
  
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  James Hugh Allister (NI). President-in-Office, in dealing with a sovereign government, is it not important, unlike the initial questioner, to always keep a sense of balance? In that regard, has the Council yet discussed and acted upon the disgraceful fact that three convicted international terrorists, who are fugitives from justice in Colombia, are now enjoying sanctuary in a European Union Member State, namely the Republic of Ireland? Is the Council content with this situation and, if not, what action is proposed?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. In the course of my replies to questioners this afternoon, I have already been clear as to the distinction that is appropriately drawn between those matters for which a reply can reasonably be expected from the Presidency and those matters which instead lie within the domain of individual Member State governments.

The case to which the honourable Member refers, the so-called Colombia three, is a matter between the Irish Government and the Colombian Government. It is for the Irish authorities to pursue any extradition request with the Colombian Government if that is what they choose to do, but it is essentially a matter for the Irish authorities. In that regard, I think that is all it would be appropriate for me to say at this stage.

 
  
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  Le Président. –

Question n° 9 de Struan Stevenson (H-0589/05)

Objet: Secteur postal et asymétrie réglementaire

La priorité de la présidence britannique de promouvoir une meilleure réglementation comprend-elle des actions visant à assurer un équilibre réglementaire dans l'Union européenne pour éliminer l'asymétrie réglementaire qui commence à se développer dans des secteurs tels que les services postaux? Étant donné les grandes disparités du double point de vue de l'indépendance et de l'efficacité entre les autorités de réglementation nationales, quelles initiatives la présidence compte-t-elle prendre pour garantir que les entreprises britanniques, qui sont soumises à des régimes réglementaires nationaux rigoureux, ne soient pas désavantagées face à des concurrents qui disposent de beaucoup plus de liberté sur leurs marchés nationaux dans des domaines tels que la fixation des prix et les objectifs de performance?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. Improved communication and cooperation between regulators is vital to the smooth operation of the internal market. In its recent report on the application of the Postal Directive, the Commission has proposed intensifying cooperation and indeed benchmarking with national regulatory agencies, either bilaterally or within the framework of the Postal Directive Committee, in order to tackle the irregularities that may persist in this sector.

As well as benchmarking exercises, we should also consider initiatives such as the Solve-it Scheme. Such initiatives encourage regulators to communicate directly with one another to solve problems.

We also need to make sure that we review existing legislation to see whether it has achieved its objectives on the ground. With that in mind, the Telecommunications and Energy Council, meeting in December, will discuss Commission implementation reports in these relevant sectors.

 
  
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  Struan Stevenson (PPE-DE). There are so many Scots in the Chamber that I think, if we are going to have a common language, it should probably be Scottish.

I am grateful to the President-in-Office for his reply and it goes some way towards answering my supplementary question as well. He appears to be agreeing with me that there is not a level playing field at the present time, causing this asymmetry. Therefore, what concrete proposals is the Presidency planning to improve the coordination between national regulatory authorities in order to ensure that there is a genuine, free and fair internal market for all operators?

 
  
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  Le Président. Monsieur Stevenson, je ne sais pas si on traduit directement de l'écossais, mais on est probablement obligé de passer par une autre langue qui est parlée au Royaume-Uni et que beaucoup de gens parlent ici.

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The last time I saw so many Scots gathered together was probably around the British Cabinet table, but I am not sure I would be brave enough to make that point back in London.

As regards the point raised by the honourable Member, it is a matter of which I have had some direct experience, having myself been the minister responsible for postal services in the United Kingdom when I was at the Department of Trade and Industry. At that time I was aware of exactly the kinds of concerns he raised. I can assure you that there is an awareness of these issues, not simply from a Presidency point of view but in the context of a Member State.

As regards the concrete steps to be taken on cooperation between national regulators, I reiterate the point I made in my earlier response. In terms of the application of the Postal Services Directive and in particular the report published by the Commission, the Commission strongly recommended that there should be intensified cooperation between national regulators, and that certainly has our full support. A balance has to be struck between the constructive oversight that the Commission can provide in this area of work and a greater involvement by national regulators themselves in what surely is of common interest to them, ensuring a level playing field.

 
  
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  Gary Titley (PSE). Does the President-in-Office agree with me that part of the problem is that different countries are proceeding with liberalisation at different rates? The United Kingdom will soon fully liberalise, along with Germany and the Netherlands, which means that 60% of the market will be liberalised. Therefore, the key element will be the Commission's forthcoming report on the final steps towards full liberalisation in 2009, dealing with regulatory authorities, access arrangements, and also the differing treatment of VAT between the reserved and non-reserved sectors, which is a very sensitive issue and needs to be treated with due care.

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I find myself in concurrence with the points that the honourable Member raises. I can assure you that when serving as a British minister with responsibilities for the Postal Services Directive, these were points that were made very vocally to me by the Communication Workers Union, never mind by the Royal Mail and others. So I am aware of the concerns that have been expressed in a number of Member States in terms of the relative liberalisation of the markets that has taken place and indeed the extent of openness within markets at the present time.

In relation to the specific point on VAT and regulatory asymmetry, the Commission has proposed amending the relative VAT Directive. The Council has not yet reached agreement on the proposal and understands that the Commission is currently exploring ways of achieving a common interpretation of the current framework. In that regard, we await the outcome of those further areas of work.

 
  
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  Le Président. –

Question n° 10 de Liam Aylward (H-0590/05)

Objet: Point sur la situation au Zimbabwe

Dix rapporteurs spéciaux des Nations unies pour les droits de l'homme et les libertés ont récemment publié une déclaration faisant part de leurs préoccupations sur les expulsions forcées massives au Zimbabwe et les violations des droits de l'homme dont elles s'accompagnent, et soulevant des questions sur les répercussions négatives de ces actes sur l'approvisionnement en eau et en nourriture, l'éducation et les soins de santé, y compris le traitement contre le VIH/SIDA.

Le Conseil va-t-il faire le point sur la situation au Zimbabwe après la visite prolongée de l'envoyée spéciale des Nations unies, Mme Anna Tibaijuka, qui est également la directrice de l'Agence des Nations unies pour les établissements humains?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. It is not within the Council's remit to report on situations following the visit of a United Nations special envoy to a country. The report of the UN special envoy Mrs Anna Kajumulo will be available through the usual United Nations sources, I am reliably informed.

In the context of the annual report from the Council to the European Parliament on the main aspects and basic choices of CFSP, the Council will, of course, report on the situation in the said country.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (UEN). President-in-Office, it is absolutely disgraceful that up to 700 000 people have been displaced from their homes, their houses and businesses completely destroyed. I understand that blood transfusion stocks are now almost non-existent. The United Nations is organising an international appeal for humanitarian and other aid. The international community has no option but to cooperate in helping these unfortunate people. Is it not outrageous that a regime led by what can only be described as a tyrant, along with his cronies, can carry on with the ruination of a country and its people with total impunity?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I find myself in complete agreement with the honourable Member in deploring the actions of the said government and the impoverishment of its people that has followed as a consequence of the misrule in that country for so long. The European Union continues to call on the Government of Zimbabwe to cooperate with the international relief efforts which tragically have now proved necessary and to allow humanitarian assistance to be provided free from political interference. It is also the case that the European Union continues through sanctions to place pressure on the regime. These sanctions have the support of the democratic opposition and the non-governmental organisation community within Zimbabwe and they show that the European Union is determined to make its voice heard on human rights and the rule of law.

I deplore the situation and hope and wish that it will change in due course and, in that regard, will take interest in the report that is being produced by the United Nations Special Envoy.

 
  
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  Le Président. –

Question n° 11 de Brian Crowley (H-0592/05)

Objet: Restrictions à l'égard de tous les chefs politiques au Myanmar

Nous saluons la récente libération, par les autorités du Myanmar, de 249 "prisonniers" politiques dans l'ensemble du pays, parmi lesquels figureraient deux éminents journalistes et un proche assistant du chef de la ligue nationale pour la démocratie (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi, toujours emprisonnée.

Le Conseil reconnaît-il que les autorités du Myanmar devraient lever les restrictions qui pèsent encore sur tous les chefs politiques et reprendre le dialogue politique avec toutes les parties intéressées?

De surcroît, le Conseil fera-t-il usage de ses bons offices afin d'inviter le gouvernement militaire du Myanmar à lever toutes les restrictions, à commencer par la fin de l'assignation à résidence de Aung San Suu Kyi, chef du mouvement pour la démocratie et lauréate du prix Nobel?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The European Union pointed out that the releases of political prisoners mentioned by the honourable Member were a welcome step towards national reconciliation in Burma. The European Union has repeatedly called for the liberation of Aung San Suu Kyi, most recently on 17 June, ahead of her 60th birthday. On that occasion, the European Union hoped that this would be the last birthday she spent deprived of her freedom and urged the State Peace and Development Council – SPDC – to release her, U Tin Oo and all the other political prisoners immediately.

The European Union is committed to supporting national reconciliation and respect for human rights and democracy in Burma and continues to call on the SPDC to enter into a genuine dialogue with the NLD and with ethnic representatives to find peaceful political solutions. Like Ann Sang Suu Kyi, the European Union supports an approach to resolving the long-standing political problems in Burma based on dialogue and non-violence. Consequently, the Union looks forward to the immediate and unconditional release of all remaining political detainees in order to enable all social and political forces to participate in that reconciliation process.

The European Union has shared the above concerns with the Burmese leadership on several occasions, most recently on 6 May at a ministerial meeting held in the margins of the ASEAN ministerial meeting in Kyoto. At that meeting, the European Union handed over a list of political prisoners whose release was requested on urgent humanitarian grounds. At the EU-ASEAN ministerial meeting and the ARF ministerial meeting on 28 and 29 July in Laos, the Union again voiced its concerns about the situation in Burma.

 
  
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  Brian Crowley (UEN). I would like to thank the President-in-Office for his response and understanding that actions have been taken, words have been said. Is the Minister aware that the Indonesian Foreign Minister has recently taken up this case in a big way and is planning to make a presentation during the UN General Summit which takes place later on this year? Could I urge the Council, and the President-in-Office in particular, to give support to the Indonesian Foreign Minister in ensuring the release of all political prisoners, in particular Aung San Suu Kyi?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am sincerely grateful to the honourable gentleman for the question that he raises and pay tribute to his long-standing interest in this matter.

I myself, before assuming my responsibilities as Minister for Europe, had responsibility for South Asia and South East Asia within the UK Foreign Office and I took the opportunity, anticipating in some ways his question, to meet directly with the ASEAN ambassadors in London, to press home to them directly the critical role that other Asian countries can play in bringing to bear a full awareness by that regime of the strength of international feeling.

In that regard, of course, the European Union continues to support efforts, both internationally and in the United Nations General Assembly, to bring pressure to bear on the regime, to take forward the process of national reconciliation that we all seek and to address urgently the deep concerns we feel in relation to the unfair detention of political prisoners.

 
  
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  Le Président. – Question n° 12 de Seán Ó Neachtain (H-0594/05)

Objet: Le viol en tant qu'arme de guerre

Une organisation d'aide médicale a soigné en quatre mois 500 victimes de violences sexuelles dans le Darfour, et ces cas ne représentent qu'une fraction des viols commis dans cette région du Soudan, a déclaré un haut responsable de l'ONU, le sous-secrétaire général Jan Egeland. Il a ajouté que les femmes et les enfants étaient systématiquement violés et agressés dans cette région dévastée.

Le Conseil reconnaît-il que les autorités soudanaises ferment les yeux sur ces atrocités? Reconnaît-il également que la communauté internationale doit d'urgence s'investir davantage afin de protéger des civils innocents contre ces comportements barbares et de mettre un terme à la culture de l'impunité au Soudan?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The Council has, on various occasions, condemned the massive humanitarian rights violations taking place in Darfur, including the systematic rape of women, demanding that those responsible at all levels be held accountable for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The European Union strongly supported the creation of the International Commission of Inquiry on the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law in Darfur, which found that government forces and militia conducted indiscriminate attacks, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, throughout Darfur on a widespread and systematic basis, as well as the referral of the findings of the Commission to the International Criminal Court.

The EU has contributed more than EUR 150 million to the humanitarian programme in Sudan, including funding for United Nations agencies and NGOs in Darfur engaged in protection issues and the treatment of victims of sexual violence. The European Union has also allocated EUR 92 million from its Africa Peace Facility to the African Union Mission in Sudan. The latest report by the United Nations Secretary-General states that, 'The presence of the African Union and its patrols directly resulted in a decrease in both sexual and gender-based violence and other violations of human rights.'

In its conclusions of 23 May 2005, the Council particularly welcomed the adoption of the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan by the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which expresses deep concern at the situation of human rights in Darfur, including gender-based violence, condemns sexual violence against women and girls and calls upon all parties to the conflict to protect women and girls from sexual and other forms of violence. The Council urged the Sudanese Government to implement all the recommendations set out in the resolution.

Human rights issues, including sexual violence, are permanently addressed in the political dialogue conducted with the Government of Sudan, most recently in June, on the occasion of the demarche conducted by the European Union Troika in Khartoum, concerning the arrest of two staff members of Médecins Sans Frontières, accused of disseminating false information on sexual violence in Darfur.

 
  
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  Seán Ó Neachtain (UEN). I wish to thank the President-in-Office for his reply and for the information. However, I hope that he would agree with me that these atrocities in Darfur, where 180 000 people have been killed in two years and more than two million have been driven from their homes, need more urgent attention. Would the President-in-Office not agree that the international community, including the European Union, should do more, because this has gone on for far too long?

 
  
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  Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. There is of course a desire for urgency, given the scale of the atrocities that appear to have been perpetrated in that country. It is clear that there can be no immunity for the people who have committed those crimes and those responsible must be brought to justice as a matter of urgency. That is why the European Union strongly supported the referral of Darfur to the International Criminal Court and I think that represented a significant milestone in the progress that we still wish to see.

We have also made it clear that there must be full cooperation with the Court by all sides. The prosecutor has already decided, on 6 June, that he has sufficient evidence of the scope and nature of the crimes committed within his jurisdiction to mount a formal investigation and he has reached this decision independently. That is why, although I recognise the strength of feeling there is about urgent action on this matter, we must respect the fact that the Court is now in its investigation phase. It will need the support of the international community, and that includes the European Union, if it is to fulfil the mandate given to it by the Security Council.

I can assure the questioner that I am acutely aware of the desire for a speedy conclusion, but I am confident that the way forward has been found through referral to the International Criminal Court. I can assure you of the continuing support for the International Criminal Court in its efforts to ensure that no-one can commit such terrible crimes with impunity.

 
  
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  Le Président. – L'Heure des questions est close.

Les questions 13 à 37 recevront une réponse par écrit.(1)

(La séance, suspendue à 19 heures, est reprise à 21 heures)

 
  
  

PRÉSIDENCE DE M. ONESTA
Vice-président

 
  

(1) Pour les questions non traitées en plénière, voir l'annexe "Heure des questions".

Aġġornata l-aħħar: 16 ta' Settembru 2005Avviż legali