In seiner Ansprache vor dem Europäischen Parlament vom 26. Oktober im Vorfeld der nächsten informellen Tagung des Europäischen Rats hat der Ratsvorsitzende Folgendes erklärt: „Was die Arbeitszeitrichtlinie anbelangt, so hoffe ich, dass wir unter britischem Vorsitz eine Einigung erzielen können.“ Was genau hat der britische Vorsitz unternommen, um dieses Ziel zu verwirklichen, und welche Fortschritte wurden erreicht?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I can assure the honourable Member that we are endeavouring to reach an agreement on the amended proposal for a directive amending the Working Time Directive. In-depth discussions, both bilaterally and in the Council working groups, have enabled progress to be made on some key issues. Discussions at the Employment Council only last week were very positive. We made significant progress towards identifying the possible elements for an agreement. Regrettably, however, due to differences in labour market situations across the Member States, as well as the complexity of new provisions, it was not possible to reach overall agreement at this stage.
It is obviously vital that any solution strikes the right balance between the objectives of health and safety protection for workers, and the protection and promotion of Europe’s competitiveness in the context of globalisation.
Elizabeth Lynne (ALDE). – President-in-Office, thank you for that reply. I understand that, as you said, no agreement was reached. It is becoming very clear that a lot of Member States that are trying to get rid of the individual opt-out – which you are working to retain, as I am – are trying to get around the use of the opt-out, either by using autonomous workers as a way of opting out or by making sure that there are multiple contracts, i.e. two or three contracts for one employee, which makes the whole idea of the Working Time Directive seem ludicrous.
I should be grateful if you could say whether the Socialist Group of MEPs, including the Labour MEPs, might support us now on the retention of the individual opt-out?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am sure that honourable Members as experienced as Mrs Lynne recognise that it is not my responsibility to answer on this occasion on behalf of individual Members of this Parliament or of any group within this Parliament. My responsibility instead is to answer on behalf of the Presidency. However, I can assure her that she is correct in her analysis, in recognising that one of the main outstanding issues is how to apply the directive: per contract or per worker.
This confusion has arisen out of the discovery that, as she suggested, some Member States were applying the limits in the Working Time Directive per contract, thereby allowing people to work much longer than 48 hours per week by having more than one contract. We now need to consider further how to resolve this and seek to build on the significant progress that was made in the course of our Presidency, including last Thursday.
Alejandro Cercas (PSE). – Señor Ministro, no entiendo la preocupación de la Presidencia británica sobre los contratos múltiples. Sería muy loable si ustedes estuviesen en contra del opt-out, pero, con una directiva con opt-out, como ustedes defienden, es irrelevante que se vea el contrato o se vea al trabajador, porque todo el mundo podrá hacer más de 48 horas.
Yo creo que esto es una maniobra táctica; una maniobra que ha dividido al Consejo, que les está haciendo perder el tiempo y que no nos va a acercar la solución final.
Deben ustedes leerse mejor las resoluciones de este Parlamento. El Parlamento sí que ha encontrado el camino de la flexibilidad y de la seguridad.
Por favor, no inventen cuestiones nuevas y dedíquense a resolver los problemas importantes.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. With the greatest of respect, it is not the British Presidency that has been inventing responses to the working time directive. Let me assure the honourable Member that we remain committed to securing a European solution that respects national labour practices whilst providing appropriate levels of worker protection and promoting European competitiveness in line with Europe’s jobs and growth objectives.
Philip Bushill-Matthews (PPE-DE). – I should like to congratulate the Presidency and indeed those other countries within the Council that recognise the importance of retaining the opt-out. I know this is a difficult dossier which all of us would like to see resolved some way or another.
Although the ‘double deal’ of the opt-out is potentially on the table, and taking into account the issue of on-call time, given that it is clearly impossible to do the double deal, is it not at least still sensible for you and/or the Austrian Presidency to try and clear up the issue of on-call time in isolation?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. In response, I am grateful to the honourable Member for having rushed to the Chamber to ask the question. Let me seek to assure him that we came very close to being able to find that agreement which secured the objectives that I described last week. That is what gives me cautious optimism that we will, in time, be able to find a way forward in relation to the question that he put to me.
Our proposals, tabled for that discussion last week, marked a serious attempt to meet practical objections on the opt-out and reflected extensive consultation with Member States. No doubt there will now be further opportunities for discussions within the Council to see whether we can finally reach the consensus that has so far eluded us.
Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 1 von Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (H-0980/05)
Betrifft: Verbesserung der Eisenbahndienste in den Gebieten in Randlage in Europa
Kann der Rat mitteilen, welche konkreten lang- bzw. kurzfristigen Maßnahmen er in Anbetracht der Ölkrise und der hohen Transportkosten im Straßenverkehr treffen wird, um die Entwicklung des elektrisch betriebenen Schienenverkehrs insbesondere in den Gebieten in Randlage in Europa zu fördern?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I hope I do not disappoint the honourable Member, who has now joined us in the Chamber, with the answer that I can offer, but the Council has received no proposals from the Commission on this subject and it therefore has not addressed the issue.
Μαρία Παναγιωτοπούλου-Κασσιώτου (PPE-DE). – Κυρία Πρόεδρε, ευχαριστώ τον κ. Υπουργό για την απάντηση, θα ήθελα όμως να ρωτήσω αν εντάσσονται στο μελλοντικό σχεδιασμό κάποια τέτοια μέτρα για την ανάπτυξη, τη δημιουργία θέσεων εργασίας ή για την κινητικότητα, την οποία θα εορτάσουμε το 2006. Οι προετοιμασίες θα έπρεπε να είχαν γίνει το 2005.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I fear I must simply reiterate the point that I made in my earlier answer that no proposals have been received by the Council from the Commission in relation to this matter. I would respectfully suggest that, if this is a matter which she feels is more appropriately directed towards the Presidency rather than the Commission, it might be a matter she would wish to raise with our successors, the Austrian Presidency.
Die Präsidentin. Da die Fragestellerin nicht anwesend ist, ist die Anfrage Nr. 10 hinfällig.
Wie beurteilt der Rat die Lage in Mazedonien und wie sehen die nächsten Schritte im Heranführungsprozess dieses Landes an die Europäische Union aus?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. On 9 November, the Commission presented its opinion on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and its application for European Union membership, and recommended that it be granted candidate country status.
The European Council next week is likely to assess the opinion with a view to establishing the European Union’s position. The Commission’s opinion notes the important progress achieved by FYROM. Less than five years ago, the stability of FYROM was threatened by an internal conflict. Fortunately, the country is today engaged in a constructive drive for European Union membership.
The Commission’s opinion notes that FYROM is now a functioning democracy, with stable institutions generally guaranteeing the rule of law. Important steps have been taken towards establishing a functioning market economy, and FYROM is likely to be able to take on most of the obligations of membership in the medium term, provided that considerable efforts are made in its alignment with the acquis.
Although important progress has been made, it is clear that there are many areas where more and harder work is now needed: the effective implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement must continue, public administration and institutions should be strengthened, the rule of law has to improve, including through a determined fight against crime and corruption, and the economy needs to develop.
The Council’s recommendation to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at this stage is to stay focused on reforms and to implement fully all the measures identified in the new European partnership.
Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). – Frau Präsidentin, Herr Ratspräsident! Ich möchte Sie ergänzend fragen, was die Europäische Union konkret tut, um vor allem gegen die Jugendarbeitslosigkeit, gegen die Perspektivlosigkeit der Jugend in Mazedonien vorzugehen, und ob es für das Land konkret auch massivere Wirtschaftshilfen geben wird. Denn Beitrittsperspektiven allein, die sehr vage sind, werden dem Land nicht helfen. Wie sieht es außerdem mit der Mobilität der Jugend aus, vor allem, was Studienmöglichkeiten und Ausbildung in der Europäischen Union betrifft?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. In the course of our Presidency, I myself have had the opportunity to travel to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and meet directly with the Deputy Prime Minister of that country. That meeting afforded me the opportunity to discuss with her the very ambitious plans she had for continued economic reform. I believe that the kind of economic reforms of which I spoke in my initial answer is the surest foundation on which to tackle the kind of youth unemployment of which the honourable Member speaks.
In relation to the specific financial contribution that the European Union is making to that country for the year 2005, the European Union will provide EUR 34.5 million intended to support its European integration reform agenda, as well as an additional EUR 2.8 million for cross-border cooperation. Between 1992 and 2004 the European Union committed some EUR 736 million to the country.
Die Präsidentin. Die Anfrage Nr. 12 ist vom Fragesteller zurückgezogen worden, so dass wir die Frage nicht behandeln.
Der Rat hat erklärt, er möchte erreichen, dass der öffentliche Dienst eine Vorbildrolle im Bereich der Energieeffizienz beim Endverbrauch übernimmt. Teilt der Rat die Auffassung, dass das monatliche Pendeln des Europäischen Parlaments zwischen Brüssel und Straßburg ein Beispiel für eine ineffiziente Energienutzung im öffentlichen Sektor ist, und welche Maßnahmen schlägt der Rat angesichts der Tatsache, dass einzig und allein er befugt ist, über den Sitz des Parlaments zu entscheiden, vor, um für Abhilfe zu sorgen?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. As the honourable Member will be aware, Article 289 of the EC Treaty provides that the seat of the institutions of the Community shall be determined by common accord of the governments of the Member States. In accordance with the Protocol (8) annexed to the EC Treaty, and I quote directly from it: ‘The European Parliament shall have its seat in Strasbourg where the twelve periods of monthly plenary sessions, including the budget session, shall be held’.
The Council has not discussed the question of energy efficiency and the monthly movement of the European Parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg.
Fiona Hall (ALDE). – Is this key issue not a sort of litmus test for the adaptability of the Union? Energy saving was not an issue in Europe 50 years ago but it is now and the Council and Parliament agree on that.
The public is entitled to some joined-up thinking. So, as you say, it is in the Treaty but it is up to Member State governments to change that. Therefore will the Council agree to include discussion on a single seat for the Parliament in the forthcoming Plan D post-Constitution debate?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. Let me reply, firstly, by saying that the spirit of the honourable Member's question suggested that the process of Treaty change could be easy or quick. I have to say that one needs only to reflect – during this period of reflection – on the fate of the draft Constitutional Treaty in the hands of the voters of France and the Netherlands to call that assertion somewhat into question.
I certainly take seriously the question of energy efficiency and there have been various steps taken by the European Union – commendably – in that regard. However, again, if this is a matter which is of concern to the honourable Member, I would suggest that, given the very heavy programme that we face in the next couple of days in relation to future financing, it might be an issue better directed towards our successors.
Richard Corbett (PSE). – It is not just a matter of energy efficiency, but of financial efficiency. The EUR 300 million a year spent on bringing Parliament here for part-sessions amounts to EUR 2 billion over a financial perspective. You mentioned the need to ratify any change to this system. Seeing that the own-resources decision is likely to need national ratification, could not a few extra clauses that would save the European taxpayer an enormous amount of money be added at the same time?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The honourable Member who raised this question is not the first colleague from the EPLP to do so. I perhaps have a clearer understanding of the potency of this issue for MEPs after taking up my responsibilities as Minister for Europe in the course of the Presidency and having seen for myself the challenges that all Members face in negotiating the journey between Brussels and Strasbourg on a monthly basis.
I have to say, respectfully, however, that, given the sentiment within Parliament this morning about the urgent and pressing need to find agreement on future financing, I am not entirely convinced that raising this issue with our colleagues from Paris, at this particular stage, would be considered the most constructive contribution the British Presidency could make to finding agreement on future financing.
Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). – Frau Präsidentin! Herr Ratspräsident, können Sie bestätigen dass das Europäische Parlament laut Vertrag nur einen einzigen Sitz hat? Es ist nämlich falsch zu behaupten, es hätte zwei Sitze. Dieser einzige Sitz ist Straßburg. Wir könnten ohne weiteres die Mini-Plenarsitzungen in Brüssel abschaffen und würden dann enorme Energie sparen. Denn in diesen übrigen Wochen könnten wir zu Hause bleiben und die entsprechende Arbeit am Freitag hier in Straßburg erledigen.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I do not wish to intrude on what appears to be an interparliamentary debate now on the relative merits of Brussels and Strasbourg. Suffice to say, on the legal basis for the establishment of Parliament, I have nothing to add to my previous answer.
Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 14 von Mary Lou McDonald (H-0999/05)
Betrifft: Europäisches Sozialmodell
Ist der Rat der Ansicht, dass die Tatsache, dass die Ausgaben für den britischen Wohlfahrtsstaat (ausgedrückt in Prozent des BIP) fast 30 % unter denen in Frankreich und Deutschland liegen, erklärt, warum das Vereinigte Königreich im Armutsindex 2004 der Vereinten Nationen (bei dem Faktoren wie Gesundheit, Bildung, Lebensstandard und soziale Ausgrenzung berücksichtigt werden) schlechter dasteht als die Staaten auf dem Kontinent und warum seine Kinderarmutsrate um 51 % über der von Deutschland liegt und mehr als doppelt so hoch ist wie in Frankreich?
Ist er der Ansicht, dass der Entwicklung des Europäischen Sozialmodells am besten dadurch gedient ist, wenn das britische Konzept übernommen wird, das seit dem Regierungsantritt der Labour Party im Jahre 1997 zu noch gravierenderen Ungleichheiten geführt hat, während in Frankreich, Deutschland und Italien ein Rückgang zu verzeichnen ist?
Vertritt der Rat in Anbetracht der Tatsache, dass die nordischen Länder, die ein hohes Sozialschutzniveau haben, beim globalen Wettbewerbsfähigkeitsindex ebenfalls besser abschneiden als andere EU-Mitgliedstaaten, die Auffassung, dass der Strategie von Lissabon besser gedient wäre, wenn man sich auf den sozialen Schutz und den sozialen Zusammenhalt konzentrieren würde?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The Council is not in a position to comment on the ranking of the Member States in the United Nations Human Poverty Index 2004.
The Joint Council-Commission report on social protection and social inclusion provides useful information on policies for combating poverty within Member States. There is no single European social model. Although we share a common and distinctly European commitment to social justice and, indeed, solidarity, there is enormous variety in national responses to welfare and social challenges within our Union. It is right that the different models should reflect the very different traditions and practices in individual Member States.
Heads of State and Government agreed back in October in Hampton Court that, whilst the operation of their social systems was a matter for individual Member States, Europe needed economic reforms and social modernisation to safeguard its values and meet the challenges and opportunities of globalisation and demographic change. This agreement will build on the outcome of the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy agreed at the European Council in March, which set out a new strategic focus on jobs and on growth. The spring European Council specifically reaffirmed that strengthening social cohesion would remain a core objective of the Union and that modernising social protection and fostering social inclusion were key priorities.
Mary Lou McDonald (GUE/NGL). – I suppose, very much like motherhood and apple pie, everybody in the European Union, the Member States, all the political groupings, rhetorically at least, share a commitment to social solidarity, social justice, social cohesion. However, I would put it to the Council that, particularly in the course of this Presidency, much of the credibility around that rhetoric has been undermined.
I do not believe that there is a faith amongst people in the Member States that in fact what we rhetorically commit ourselves to we are prepared financially to commit ourselves to. Can I ask you to comment on a number of things, please: Firstly, on the issue of the budget and the financial perspectives, I am sure you have a view in terms of how this will be financed, and secondly to comment on measures such as the Services Directive ...
(The President cut off the speaker)
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I shall endeavour to answer at least the first part of the honourable Member’s question.
Firstly, if she is talking about solidarity, I recognise that is a concept that is of relevance to us, as is social justice, not simply within the borders of Member States or European Union, but far beyond the boundaries of the European Union. That is why it is a matter of immense pride to me that, in recent months, we have seen a commitment from European Development Ministers, and then a decision endorsed by European Finance Ministers, to effectively double the level of European overseas development assistance, from USD 40 billion to USD 80 billion. I make no apology, therefore, and in no way resile from the fact that every Member in this House should feel huge pride in this matter as we seek to meet our obligations towards the world’s poorest people.
In relation to the honourable Member’s specific question in relation to the Services Directive, the charge is often levelled at the British Presidency that an element hostile to the founding principles of the European Union is present in Britain’s national approach towards this Union. I believe in completing the single market and I believe the services directive, given the original terms of the Treaty of Rome, has a contribution to make towards finishing and completing that single market. However, we must recognise that the market has to be balanced by the kind of social funding which has been provided historically within this Union. That is why, on the second point raised in relation to the coming financial prospective, I want to see the position articulated by the British Presidency this afternoon, the second negotiating box, form the basis on which agreement can be reached.
The sums of money in question are considerable and will provide the basis on which not just the new accession countries but all countries can strengthen their economies and thereby strengthen their capability to secure the very solidarity and social justice so often discussed in this Parliament.
Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL). – Vilken social modell man väljer påverkar jämställdheten oerhört mycket. Senare studier som jag har tagit del av visar att samhällsmodellen med ett generellt välfärdssystem, relativt höga skatter osv. är den modell som bäst gynnar jämställdheten. Min fråga är om rådet delar den uppfattningen om dess betydelse för jämställdheten och kopplingen till välfärdsstaten, gemensamt offentligt finansierad.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. There is an important gender perspective towards the policies that we should advocate for our welfare states, but it is right to recognise that there is, as I said in my introductory remarks to this question, a diversity of social models within Europe. It is a matter of profound concern to me that 20 million fellow European citizens are out of work. Upholding the European social model, as is often suggested, is of little comfort to those 20 million citizens. The necessary practical steps must be taken to secure the economic reforms that will create the prosperity to provide further opportunity for those individuals. The core insight that the surest means to tackle poverty is to provide somebody with a job – one of my main political convictions – must also be recognised.
Philip Bushill-Matthews (PPE-DE). – May I say again that I welcome your remarks about there being no such thing as a single European social model. I believe that is absolutely right, but could you confirm to me and colleagues whether, in making that remark, you feel that you are just saying that on behalf of the Presidency, or are you speaking on behalf of the Council as a whole?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am reflecting both the spirit and the outcome of the discussion at Hampton Court of which I spoke earlier. There was a clear recognition both of the challenges that Europe faces in the face of globalisation and that different courses have been set, in the face of those challenges, by individual Member States.
Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 15 von Manuel Medina Ortega (H-1002/05)
Betrifft: Sonderregelung für die Gebiete in äußerster Randlage
Die Ratifizierung der Verfassung für Europa, in deren Artikel 167 im Rahmen der staatlichen Beihilfen ein Sonderstatus für die Gebiete in äußerster Randlage vorgesehen ist, hat sich verzögert. Plant der Rat in Anbetracht dessen, Übergangsmaßnahmen zu erlassen, die diese Sonderbehandlung, die in der Abgelegenheit dieser Gebiete vom Kerngebiet des Binnenmarktes und anderen sie benachteiligenden Faktoren begründet ist, gewährleisten?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. Any amendment of the Treaties on which the Union is founded can enter into force only after being ratified by all Member States. Under the current Treaty, the Council can already adopt specific measures aimed at the outermost regions. This includes common policies. The regional state aid guidelines, which are currently being revised, already make special provision for the outermost regions.
Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE). – Señora Presidenta, agradezco al Señor Presidente en ejercicio del Consejo su observación sobre las previsiones de las nuevas directrices en materia de ayudas de estado para las regiones ultraperiféricas, pero, en todo caso, en Derecho internacional hay una figura, que es la de los tratados firmados y no ratificados, que tienen unas ciertas consecuencias jurídicas. Concretamente, en la región a la que yo pertenezco, Canarias, se aprobó la Constitución Europea con un 90 % de los votos.
En estos momentos, más de la mitad de la población de Europa ha aprobado la ratificación de este Tratado constitucional y me da la impresión de que esta ratificación no es irrelevante desde el punto de vista del Derecho europeo.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I stand by the answer I have just given in terms of European law. In relation to the Canaries in particular, however, Parliament should be aware that the NUTS level 2 region of the Canaries will benefit from an additional envelope of EUR 100 million over the 2007-2013 period under the envisaged proposals.
Agnes Schierhuber (PPE-DE). – Frau Präsidentin! Meine Frage an den Ratspräsidenten ist folgende: Wie gedenkt man, diesem Auftrag für unsere Randgebiete, die es im Süden ebenso wie im Norden gibt, nachzukommen, wenn wir keinen entsprechenden Haushaltsrahmen für all diese Maßnahmen haben?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I hope that we are able to secure that budget framework. The important first step is to secure the agreement at the European Council on the future financial perspective and I assure the honourable Member that we will be giving it our very best endeavours in the hours and days ahead.
Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 16 von Claude Moraes (H-1008/05)
Betrifft: Integration und Chancengleichheit innerhalb der EU
Kann der Rat seine Ansicht zu den jüngsten Unruhen in Frankreich darlegen und sagen, ob daraus irgendwelche Lehren hinsichtlich einer weitergehenden Integration und Chancengleichheit in der EU zu ziehen sind?
Kann der Rat beispielsweise mitteilen, wie er über den Austausch bewährter Verfahren im Bereich der Integrationspolitik durch Instrumente wie die offene Koordinierungsmethode denkt, oder ob er weitere EU-Vorschläge für erforderlich hält?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. It would not be appropriate for the Council to comment on the specific recent events in France, but while Member States are and remain primarily responsible for the adoption and implementation of their national integration policies, the Council seeks to provide support to them, in particular by promoting the exchange of experience and best practice.
The Hague Programme for strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union, approved by the European Council in November 2004, has invited Member States, the Council and the Commission to promote the structural exchange of experience and information on integration, supported by the development of a widely accessible website on the internet.
In December, ministers agreed on the need to reinforce cooperation on integration, in particular via the network of national contact points on integration. This commitment built on the Commission communication: A common agenda for integration of third-country nationals in the European Union.
This integration network, established in 2003 and supported by the Commission, has played an important role in the framework of the exchange of information and best practice and has provided very valuable contributions in the drafting of the ‘Handbook on integration for policy-makers and practitioners’, published by the Commission in 2004. An expanded handbook is due to be published next year.
Claude Moraes (PSE). – I should like to ask the President-in-Office to continue the good work done during the UK Presidency of looking at the best possible models of diversity and of best practice and integration. It is valuable work, which we must keep up in the coming months. It is a very serious issue for EU Member States, in particular EU cities.
As this is your last Council Question Time, let me take this opportunity to say what many Members across this House have said to me: that you have answered criticism with good grace and you and your civil service team sitting behind you will leave this Presidency with a reputation for listening to Members and making every effort to answer their questions.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am almost speechless, given the level of criticism usually directed towards me, that such a generous compliment has been paid, albeit in the final hours of my appearance before Parliament.
Let me return the compliment by saying that I know that the honourable Member has a strong reputation in the United Kingdom for his committed work on diversity over many years. It was therefore no surprise to me to see that he had tabled such a question before this Chamber today. I can certainly give him the assurance he seeks: we will continue to work hard to share the best practice, as I described, to ensure that there is effective cooperation on this issue of diversity, both in the remaining period of the British Presidency and well beyond that in the years to come.
Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 17 von Mairead McGuinness (H-1013/05)
Betrifft: Abschluss der WTO-Verhandlungen
Es wurde eine heftige Debatte über die Doha-Verhandlungsrunde bei der WTO geführt, wobei der Schwerpunkt hauptsächlich auf den Zugeständnissen lag, die von allen Partnern notwendig sein werden, insbesondere in Bezug auf den Agrarmarkt der EU, um diese Verhandlungsrunde zu einem erfolgreichem Abschluss zu bringen. Ich bin nicht der Meinung, dass genügend Einzelheiten zu der Frage vorgelegt wurden, welche Vorteile eine Einigung für die Mitgliedstaaten Europas und seine Bürger bieten würde.
Kann der Rat seine Meinung zu den spezifischen Vorteilen einer Einigung in der Doha-Verhandlungsrunde darlegen und begründen, die sich für die Wirtschaft der EU und ihre Bürger ergeben würden, und dazu, welche Konsequenzen es hätte, wenn keine Einigung erfolgt?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The Council has on several occasions noted the possible benefits of an agreement on further changes in the World Trade Organization’s outcomes during negotiations in the framework of the Doha Development Agenda within the WTO.
The Council has expressed support for future comprehensive multilateral negotiations, which reflects its wish for substantial progress in world trade liberalisation, securing continuing global economic growth, increased job creation, prosperity and sustainable development, and addressing the concerns of civil society. The Council has noted that a further multilateral change of trade was the best way to meet the challenges posed by economic and technological change and increasing globalisation. The Council sees this multilateral change as the most appropriate approach for achieving substantial and balanced results for the benefit of all WTO members.
A number of studies have tried to assess the magnitude of the benefits for the European Union. For example, a widely-cited World Bank study in 2005 estimates that the potential gains from full liberalisation of global merchandise trade would be around USD 65 billion for the EU-25 and the EFTA countries by 2015.
The Council has not explicitly commented on the consequences ‘if no deal is done’. The ramifications of a failed round go much wider than trade. It would send a negative message about multilateral cooperation. On the contrary, a good trade deal is an important part of our efforts to tackle poverty and promote global security in the long term, which have been such a focus of our work in the course of our Presidency.
Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – As it is Christmas, I should like to thank the President-in-Office of the Council for his handling of Question Time and his wit. Very often a laugh is no harm in this Chamber, and you have given us a few this evening. Well done! If we had the chirpiness of your voice in airports when they called for the last passengers to board, I would be grateful!
With regard to the WTO, could you comment on the difference between free trade and fair trade? There is a world of a difference. We need to be honest in terms of what we are looking for. When you talk about the benefits, we need to know how they are distributed. Who gains? Because not everyone gains equally.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am increasingly humbled by the compliments that are being paid to me. I now see a whole new employment possibility opening up before me. If we fail to reach agreement at the European Council this weekend, you will be able to enjoy my dulcet tones at Brussels airport in the future, announcing flights departing for Dublin and for Edinburgh. I sincerely hope that does not turn out to be the outcome of the European Council this weekend. I am not sure if my observations were always intentionally humorous, but I shall take the compliment in the spirit in which it was intended in this holiday season.
On the serious and substantive point that the honourable lady raises with me, I can assure you this has been a matter that we have given much thought to in the course of our Presidency, both as a result of the extraordinary meeting of the General Affairs Council that took place to discuss the terms of the mandate for Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, in light of the fact that, from the government that presently holds the Presidency, not only Margaret Beckett but also Hilary Benn and Alan Johnson are presently in Hong Kong doing what they can to sustain our case that the best outcome in Hong Kong would be a balanced and ambitious outcome which would allow a successful conclusion of the round.
However, that raises exactly the point that the honourable Member addressed: what is a balanced and ambitious outcome for the Hong Kong talks and, indeed, for the Doha development round in general?
I have always been clear that there is and should be no contradiction between an agenda which is pro-jobs in the European Union and pro-poor in the world. One need only consider the potential gains for the developing world from a successful outcome to the Hong Kong meeting and indeed the Doha round to be encouraged to take whatever steps are necessary to see the progress that would not only be in the interests of this Union, but in the interests of the broader cause of proving that globalisation can work, not simply for a minority of the world’s citizens but, if the right public policy choices are made, in the interests of the poorest people and well as the rich people in this world today.
Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 18 von Gay Mitchell (H-1015/05)
Betrifft: Normen für das Pflegewesen in Rumänien
Die Normen für die Pflege von Kindern und Behinderten in Rumänien sind zweifellos eine Frage für die Menschenrechte, und die Union hat die grundlegende Pflicht, das Wohlbefinden dieser künftigen Unionsbürger sicherzustellen. Zwar hat es in diesem Bereich durchaus begrüßenswerte Fortschritte gegeben, es bleibt aber noch viel zu tun. In dem zusammenfassenden Überwachungsbericht für Rumänien 2005 werden die neuen Rechtsvorschriften für die Rechte von Kindern und deren Inkrafttreten im Januar 2005 begrüßt. In dem Bericht wird jedoch auch darauf hingewiesen, dass auch drei Jahre nach der Verabschiedung des Gesetzes über geistige Gesundheit und den Schutz von Menschen mit psychischen Störungen Personen mit einer psychischen Schwäche in Rumänien nach wie vor unter Überbelegung, schlechter Behandlung und Gewalt leiden.
Welches ist die Auffassung des Rates in Bezug auf diesen Sachverhalt, insbesondere unter Berücksichtigung der Tatsache, dass das Gesetz über geistig Behinderte noch älter ist als das kürzlich verabschiedete Gesetz über den Schutz von Kindern?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The Council is aware of Parliament’s long-standing interest in this issue and has already had the opportunity to reply to several questions from Parliament on these matters. This was a subject that featured prominently in the debate we have just concluded on the potential accession of Bulgaria and Romania.
Parliament has consistently stressed the great importance that it attaches to the issue of care of children, the disabled and the mentally ill in Romania. The Union’s clear position that Romania, as a future member of the European Union, must comply with high standards in these areas, has been expressed throughout Romania’s accession process. The Union’s views were reiterated during the latest meeting with the European Union-Romania Association Council on 14 June 2005.
The Commission’s 2005 comprehensive monitoring report on Romania, to which the honourable Member refers, is still being examined by the Council. The Council’s general opinion, however, remains clear on these issues. These are priority areas, in which remaining shortcomings must be adequately addressed as soon as possible. The progress already made needs to be followed by further implementation, further improvements and the allocation of both adequate funding and staffing levels. This applies to all areas of care, but is particularly important with regard to the situation for the disabled and the mentally ill.
The Council will closely follow and evaluate future developments and continue to raise these concerns directly with Romania.
Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE). – I thank the President-in-Office for his reply. The EU monitoring and advocacy programme of the Open Society Institute has stated that there is a total absence of reliable, comprehensive data on mentally disabled persons in Romania, which has contributed to a general lack of public attention to people with intellectual disabilities. From the Minister’s reply, I take it that assistance in this area would be an immediate priority as part of the EU’s monitoring of issues in relation to persons with mental disabilities in Romania.
I should like to ask the Minister, in the spirit of Christmas, by wishing him well, if he does get that job at the airport, could he do something about direct flights to Strasbourg?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. Firstly, in relation to his final remark, I have even more sympathy with him on exactly that point than I did at the beginning of the UK Presidency. If I do not manage a job in Brussels airport, perhaps I will manage one in Frankfurt airport, to where I often have to travel, given the length of the questions I face here in this Chamber.
In relation to the substantive point that he raises, however, this matter was addressed directly in the Commission monitoring report to which I referred. Romania has started to develop a strategy to close large residential institutions for the disabled and replace them with alternative Community-based services in smaller residential units. A public campaign is also under way to raise awareness of disabled rights, I hope addressing some of the points that the honourable Member raises. However, clearly, as he suggests, more work is needed. But the new policies, I have to say, are encouraging.
Psychiatric care requires more immediate attention: living conditions for patients are poor and budgetary resources, as was implied, are limited. The 2002 Law on Mental Health and Protection of People with Psychological Disorders is still not being implemented. The government has begun to tackle this issue and we want to see this work stepped up.
Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – This is a very serious issue. I have recently been to Romania and visited some of the institutions we have discussed. The conditions are deplorable from a health and safety point of view, if nothing else. I ask you to do whatever you can, in your last days in office, to ensure that this issue is given a higher priority in the progress towards accession.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The comments that have been put to me today are communicated, in turn, to the European Commission, in view of their ongoing monitoring role in this accession process, and given the strength of feeling being communicated in the Chamber this evening.
Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 19 von Zdzisław Kazimierz Chmielewski (H-1019/05)
In der Verordnung (EG) Nr. 27/2005 des Rates vom 22. Dezember 2004(1) zur Festsetzung der Fangmöglichkeiten werden auch für die Ostsee grundsätzliche Fragen der Quotenaufteilung und Schonzeiten geregelt. Die meisten dieser Quoten gelten für jeweils ein Kalenderjahr und müssen folglich jedes Jahr neu ausgehandelt werden.
Kann der Rat angesichts fehlender genauer Angaben über die diesbezüglichen Verhandlungen im Rat sowie im Hinblick auf den immer näher rückenden endgültigen Entscheidungstermin mitteilen, wie weit die Verhandlungen in dieser Frage gediehen sind, und dabei insbesondere darauf eingehen, ob es im Jahr 2006 im Vergleich zum Jahr 2005 veränderte Fangquoten geben wird?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. Fisheries quotas for the Baltic Sea for 2006 were jointly agreed by the European Community and Russia in September on the basis of scientific advice produced by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea in May.
The relevant details are set out in the Commission’s proposals to put such quotas into Community law. This should be adopted at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 20 and 21 December 2005.
Zdzisław Kazimierz Chmielewski (PPE-DE). – Pani Przewodnicząca! Panie Ministrze! Dziękuję Panu za odpowiedź, wolałbym jednak usłyszeć bardziej jednoznaczną deklarację wychodzącą naprzeciw istocie mojego pytania, czyli zasad podziału kwot oraz okresów ochronnych. Coroczne negocjacje w tej sprawie muszą być wreszcie oparte na obiektywnych przekonywujących przesłankach. Te, o których Pan wspomniał, zdaje się, że takimi nie są. Zakres dotychczasowych badań pogłowia ryb w Bałtyku był, jak wiadomo, ograniczony zbyt rzadkimi połowami sondażowymi oraz brakiem, w gruncie rzeczy, pełnej zgodności co do podstaw metodologicznych oceny biomasy. Jak Panu się znudzą lotniska, to z całego serca zapraszam Pana nad Bałtyk.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. The Council will meet on 20 and 21 December to agree next year’s fishing deal for European Union waters. I referred the honourable Member to the relevant details that have been set out in the Commission’s proposals and, for his assistance, I would recommend document COM(2005)0598, which sets out the relevant details for the Commission’s proposals to put such quotas into Community law.
It may also be of assistance to the honourable Member to be aware that there will be two separate regulations, one for the north-east Atlantic, but one, which I judge to be his primary interest, for the Baltic, in particular.
Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 20 von Ewa Hedkvist Petersen (H-1021/05)
Betrifft: Züchtigen von Kindern
Kinder sind europäische Mitbürger und haben ebenso wie die Erwachsenen Anspruch darauf, von Gewalt verschont zu sein. Sind Kinder aber trotzdem Opfer von Gewalt, so sind Rechtsvorschriften zu ihrem Schutz erforderlich. Die Bemühungen um Rechtsvorschriften, die die Züchtigung von Kindern in den EU-Ländern verbieten, kommen jedoch nur schleppend voran. In 17 der EU-Mitgliedstaaten gibt es keine Gesetze, die Kinder vor körperlicher Züchtigung schützen.
Welche Maßnahmen werden in der EU ergriffen, damit die Kinder in der gesamten Union die gleichen Rechte genießen können?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. There is at present no proposal before the Council to establish a European Union ban on corporal punishment of children in European Union Member States. The Council does not have information on, nor does it deem it appropriate to comment on the state of the domestic legislation of Member States in this regard.
Ewa Hedkvist Petersen (PSE). – Tack för det mycket kortfattade svaret. Vi har ju en värdegemenskap i Europeiska unionen. Jag undrar om det är tänkbart att EU-länderna, precis som när det gäller den sociala situationen i Frankrike, med rådet i spetsen skulle kunna utbyta praxis för att barn inte ska utsättas för våld i hemmet och i skolan i våra europeiska demokratiska länder.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I would reiterate that the Council does not deem it appropriate to comment on the state of domestic legislation of individual Member States, but I would certainly recognise that the use of corporal punishment in individual Member States and the rights of children are not within the competence of the European Union, which explains the brevity of my response.
Barbara Kudrycka (PPE-DE). – Pani Przewodnicząca! Niestety, nie przekonuje mnie odpowiedź pana ministra, ponieważ Rada niewiele zrobiła, aby państwa Unii Europejskiej ratyfikowały Konwencję Haską w zakresie praw rodziców i ochrony praw dzieci, a te sprawy właśnie tam są regulowane. Jak wiemy, tylko sześć państw ratyfikowało Konwencję Haską, natomiast pozostałe państwa nie, więc takie przypadki mogą nadal mieć miejsce i chciałam zapytać, co zrobiła Rada w tej sprawie.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. In relation to this question, I would suggest that this is not a matter for the Presidency. Member States are signatories to conventions individually, rather than collectively.
I would, however, refute the allegation that no action has been taken on the general issue of child welfare. Over the past few years, the European Union institutions, working with Member States, have made significant progress on children’s rights. The European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights (2000) explicitly recognises the rights of children as fundamental to European values. Article 24 of the Charter is based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which has been ratified by all Member States of the European Union.
Agnes Schierhuber (PPE-DE). – Frau Präsidentin! Auch ich bin nicht einverstanden mit der Antwort des Ratspräsidenten. Denn auch wenn die Ratspräsidentschaft dieses Thema nicht als Priorität für diese Präsidentschaft betrachtet hat, so glaube ich doch – wie wahrscheinlich alle hier im Parlament –, dass wir in der Europäischen Union in einer Wertegemeinschaft leben und dass Gewalt gerade gegen Kinder, die auch die leibliche Züchtigung beinhaltet, wirklich ein Verbrechen gegenüber den Kindern ist. Ich bitte sehr darum, diesbezüglich in Zukunft mit Unterstützung aller Mitgliedstaaten entsprechend zu agieren.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. Nobody is denying that there can be a community of values. What, I sense, is an issue between me and the honourable Member is whether there is a legal basis for the Council to take action in this regard. In that sense, I would simply reiterate the points that I have made previously, that I judge this not to be a matter for the Presidency. Member States are signatories to conventions individually, rather than collectively.
Die Präsidentin. Da der Fragesteller nicht anwesend ist, ist die Anfrage 21 hinfällig.
Betrifft: Phase der Reflexion über den EU-Verfassungsvertrag
Wann wird die Reflexionsphase, die nach den Ergebnissen der Referenden in den Niederlanden und in Frankreich eingeleitet wurde, beendet sein?
Ist der Rat jetzt bereit, Vorschläge für Reformen zu prüfen, die im EU-Verfassungsvertrag enthalten sind?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. Given that the period of reflection will itself extend beyond the British Presidency, it somehow seems fitting that the final question that I answer in this Parliament, as the representative of the British Presidency, anticipates what will be an important subject in the months to come.
Perhaps with your indulgence, Madam President, I could also take this opportunity – given that you have intimated that this is the final question to be answered – to thank all the members of the Council secretariat for their very considerable hard work in producing the draft replies in the course of our Presidency to the questions that have been raised by Members of this Parliament. Rather like an author in the foreword to a book, I would, at this point, respectfully say that all the mistakes are entirely my own, and I am sure all the factual accuracy is reflective of the considerable expertise of the Council secretariat.
To address myself directly to the honourable Member’s question, as he is aware, Heads of State and Government agreed on 17 June that there was a need for a period of reflection to enable a broad debate to take place within each Member State. Provisions for reform within the Constitutional Treaty – and I have certainly experienced this in the course of our Presidency – may be sensible to one Member State but controversial to another. Therefore, the focus of the United Kingdom Presidency has been to engage consciously in a wider debate about the future of Europe. It was agreed to come back to the matter in the first half of 2006, in the Spring Council of the Austrian Presidency, to make an overall assessment of the national debates and agree on how to proceed at that stage.
Chris Davies (ALDE). – If you indulge me, may I take the opportunity to thank the representatives of the Presidency for all the help and assistance they have given my colleagues over the recent months.
May I thank the President-in-Office in particular; I have much enjoyed these exchanges over the recent weeks, taking place in a rather empty public library though, sometimes it may seem.
I welcome the opportunity to come back to an oft-repeated subject. Every head of government has publicly supported the principle that the Council should meet in public when it is debating legislative acts. If the fine words and good intentions of the President-in-Office could deliver firm results, the Council would have ensured that changes in its Rules of Procedure were now on the way to being put into practice. Instead we have the suggestion that the Council will review the functioning of these measures in future presidencies and examine how further to increase openness and transparency, including the possibility of amending the Rules of Procedure.
Will the President-in-Office say where the substance is in this proposal?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. Let me seek to answer the honourable Member’s question directly. Firstly, we will both recall the terms of the statement made by our Prime Minister before this Assembly at the outset of the British Presidency and that has informed the approach that I have taken to this issue of transparency in the Council. It explained the basis on which I first sought the agreement of colleagues within the United Kingdom Government and the process on that basis that we then took forward with other countries in the course of our Presidency.
The Presidency tabled an options paper on improving Council transparency in November 2005. The proposals have been discussed by the Antici Group and by both Coreper I and II, and we now aim to agree Council conclusions on 20 December. The honourable Member will have to wait a little longer before, I hope, we secure the kind of agreement that will give him the satisfaction he seeks this evening.
Richard Corbett (PSE). – On the wider package of the Constitutional Treaty as a whole, does the President-in-Office of the Council accept that the European Council was right, in the light of the fact that a majority of Member States have actually ratified this Constitutional Treaty? It was right not to declare the text dead, but to inaugurate a period of reflection – one which has been much more about the context than about the text. Does he agree that in due course, once we are in a new context, we will have to return to the question of the text and what to do about it, if not in 2006, then in 2007?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I find myself in agreement and sympathy with the point the honourable Member makes. The British Government, even before assuming the office of the Presidency of the European Union, argued for the need for a period of reflection. We did not feel it was appropriate for any one government to make a unilateral declaration as to the status of the draft Constitutional Treaty, given the fact that the Constitutional Treaty was owned by the totality of the members of the European Union.
It is right to recognise that, even before the decisive votes in France and the Netherlands, there had been, in the case of Spain, a referendum which had found in favour of the draft Constitutional Treaty and a whole range of other countries had in turn ratified the draft Constitutional Treaty by parliamentary procedure. That is why I hold to the position that was first articulated immediately prior to the British Presidency. During our Presidency we have maintained that position.
In the course of that Presidency our Prime Minister has made clear his personal judgement that he believes it is necessary to get the politics in a better place before returning to the institutional question. But in the course of this Presidency we have also made it clear that we regard it as necessary to have the kind of practical, sensible reforms that will allow a Union of 25 to operate more effectively than on the basis of the present Treaty arrangements.
Den Dover (PPE-DE). – If I could join with other colleagues from the United Kingdom to thank you for your efforts over the last six months and also say that, in connection with the Constitution, we were delighted that there were two ‘no’ votes in Holland and France and we will not – unexpectedly to you – be demanding a referendum in the United Kingdom if any part of the Constitution is proposed for bringing forward in future.
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. I am deeply conscious of my responsibilities, not least in my final answer, to seek to answer on behalf of the Presidency and not simply indulge in what would be a fascinating debate with a domestic political opponent in relation to their present position, not only in terms of where they sit within this Chamber but where they sit on the issue of the draft Constitutional Treaty.
The statement I have just heard is clearly in contradiction to at least some of the assertions that have come from other Conservative colleagues in relation to some of the practical and sensible changes of which I have just spoken. However, I have a clear feeling that there are much bigger issues at stake for the modern Conservative Party in terms of its engagement with Europe than even the answer we have just heard.
Gary Titley (PSE). – I wondered whether the Minister would like to make any comment on the possibility of British Conservative MEPs sitting on the same bench as Mrs Mussolini?
Douglas Alexander, President-in-Office of the Council. If I can manage just under the wire before the conclusion, let me simply say this. Kenneth Clarke is a serious figure within the United Kingdom, a figure well known to this Chamber. He has described the modern British Conservative Party under its new leader as being faced with a proposal – and I quote directly – that is ‘head-banging’ in its extremism. He has said that the modern Conservative Party is more extreme than the Conservative Party under William Hague or indeed Iain Duncan Smith.
It is up to the honourable Members on the Conservative benches in this Chamber to decide whether to marginalise themselves further, not simply within the United Kingdom, but also within the European Union.
I have already paid generous tribute to the work of one of the British Conservatives in this Chamber today, who through his role as a rapporteur in relation to the accession of one of the potential candidate countries of the European Union, has undertaken important work on behalf of this Parliament. The marginalisation of what was once a great political party, as envisaged by its new leader, would be a diminution not simply of the Conservative Party but of Britain’s national interest. But ultimately it is not the only misjudgement they will make. I fear it will be the first of many by the new Conservative leader.
Die Präsidentin. Die Frage 23 ist hinfällig, da es um eine Problematik geht, die wir heute Nachmittag behandelt haben.
Da die für die Fragestunde vorgesehene Redezeit erschöpft ist, werden die Anfragen Nr. 24 bis 54 schriftlich beantwortet (nicht behandelte Anfragen siehe Anlage ‚Fragestunde’).
Gestatten Sie mir zum Abschluss noch eine persönliche Bemerkung. Herr Minister, Sie haben heute erfahren, dass es nicht nur Kritik in diesem Haus gibt, sondern auch Lob für Ihre Arbeit. Ich wünsche Ihnen Erfolg für Ihre Tätigkeit, erholsame Feiertage und bedanke mich für die Zusammenarbeit.
Die Fragestunde ist geschlossen.
(Die Sitzung wird um 20.10 Uhr unterbrochen und um 21.00 Uhr wieder aufgenommen.)