Hannu Takkula (ALDE), in writing. (FI) Mr President, this report by Mr Brok is formally technical, but nevertheless very important. I voted in favour of adopting the report, and I believe that by adopting this agreement we in the European Parliament are showing our desire to strengthen our relations with the independent state of Israel, the only democratic country in the Middle East.
It is important that we in the European Parliament support countries where European values, such as democracy, human rights and the principles of the rule of law are in effect. Accordingly, Israel needs our undivided support.
I hope that this vote will send the signal that we in the European Parliament respect basic European values, and that we cannot permit cooperation or negotiations with the terrorist organisation Hamas, which has come to power in the Palestinian Autonomous Area. Before we can even talk about negotiations, Hamas must unambiguously 1) acknowledge Israel’s right to be a Jewish state, 2) cease all acts of terror, 3) give up its weapons, 4) refuse to support other violent groups, and 5) respect existing international agreements between Israel and the PA (Oslo Accords, the Roadmap, etc.).
I hope that the European Union will stand by its basic values. It is important to support independent, democratic Israel and its right to exist.
Andreas Schwab (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, people are starting to leave, so I shall be brief. Since I was unable to take the floor at the vote last week in Strasbourg, I should like to reiterate that it is important to separate the programmes for consumer protection and health from each other, even if the Commission did not give this a particularly positive assessment, because, ultimately, the two programmes have different legal bases, and hence consumer protection needs to be afforded in a different way.
Secondly, I should like to use this explanation of vote to reiterate that, generally speaking, attempting to create further EU agencies and thus spread the competences of the various authorities wider, hence decreasing transparency, is not an effective way to proceed. For this reason, I welcome the Thyssen report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, which takes full account of this concern. Adopting the report today with the oral amendment on financing was a good solution.
Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We voted in favour of this report, as it gives autonomy to the Consumer Protection Programme, in contrast with the Commission’s attempt to create one single programme also encompassing health.
Quite apart from this key difference, which we support, the report introduces significant improvements, in terms of the areas to be addressed, the overall amounts of money involved, and increased expenditure for the functioning of European consumer organisations representing consumer interests.
Although in some areas we would like to have gone further, we now hope that the Commission and the Council take on board Parliament’s position.
David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome the Community's Action Programme to set up a joint health and consumer protection programme. The Action Programme aims to deliver an opinion on the consumer protection aspect for the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection - the committee responsible.
It will do this by harmonising consumer protection throughout the single market, enabling citizens to move freely within the EU and buy goods with the same confidence as in their countries of origin.
By providing a better understanding of consumers and markets, this Action Programme protects citizens from risks and threats beyond the control of individuals. I am also particularly in favour of this Action Programme as it will put health and consumer issues at the centre of policy-making in the EU.
Bernadette Vergnaud (PSE), in writing. – (FR) I should like to congratulate Mrs Thyssen, who has done an excellent piece of work. I thank her all the more because she has been willing to incorporate the amendments that I had tabled concerning relations between consumers and craft enterprises.
Craft workers play a vital role everyday in terms of giving information and advice to consumers, with whom they are in direct contact.
I am also satisfied that the two programmes have been kept separate: health and consumer protection. These policies are of equal importance to people, and each of the programmes can only be reinforced by this.
Nevertheless, I am still extremely worried about the Council’s proposals concerning the Community’s budget for 2007 to 2013, which would lead in a few years time to a drastic reduction in the current policy for consumer protection at European level. It is unthinkable that this budget should be reduced to EUR 5 million a year in 2009, that is to say one cent a year for each European consumer. This is by no means enough to finance a consumer protection policy worthy of the name and, moreover, of fundamental importance to people’s daily lives.
Nonetheless, I am voting in favour of this report.
Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, I am including the Parish report when I say that there are three things that Europe needs to secure its future: firstly, a healthy environment, particularly in terms of air, water and soil; secondly, healthy food and enough of it; and, thirdly, energy.
Rural areas are capable of offering us all these three things in sufficient measure and independently of external sources, on which we would only become reliant. In this respect, it was disastrous when, a few months ago, in this Chamber, Tony Blair defamed farmers in Europe, in particular, as backward-looking. Every cent that we invest in agriculture and in rural areas is an investment in the future of Europe. These are three vital fields, which are full of innovation and future prospects.
The key to securing Europe’s future – and this is a revolutionary development of which we have yet to take nearly enough account – lies to an ever-increasing extent in our rural areas and rural, decentralised structures.
Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE). – (FI) Mr President, I would like to propose a calculation justifying why I voted in favour of nuclear power. If emissions in the EU are cut by approximately 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in the first phase of emissions trading, the market price in terms of emissions permits will be 2.5 billion a year at current prices. A cautious estimate is that the price of electricity in the European wholesale electricity market could rise on average by EUR 10 per megawatt-hour as a result of emissions trading.
Since electricity consumption in the EU stands at approximately 3 000 terawatt-hours a year, the costs of emissions trading in the wholesale electricity market will be around EUR 30 billion a year. One option which goes against the principle of the market would be to tax electricity. I am not suggesting that, but I do propose a thought experiment. If emissions trading were replaced with a tax on electricity and the revenue were used for genuine investment in emissions reduction, the 30 billion or so a year could be used as investment aid to build up a huge amount of capacity, which would remove the need for fossil fuels.
Nuclear power is an example of a form of emission-free energy which the electricity market does not support, and which in fact is not really needed either, unlike many other forms of energy. If you imagine, however, that an investment of 3 billion would result in cuts of approximately 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide through the use of nuclear power, the 30 billion would in fact result in that annual cut in emissions through the construction of nuclear power plants, with the difference that the electricity produced could still be sold.
Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted in favour of the joint resolution submitted by four political groups on the security of energy supply in the European Union. The issue of energy is going to become crucial in a post-oil age as far as guaranteeing environmentally-friendly economic development and social progress is concerned. The fact that nuclear power is no longer a taboo subject is a positive development, and I am delighted that sustainable energy sources have been highlighted, together with the urgent need for research and development programmes to gather pace in this area. I regret that the idea of introducing a Community tool to control oil prices has not been taken up. In this motion for a resolution, it is not a question of opposing the increase in oil prices, which is unavoidable, but rather of softening the brutal effects of such an increase by making it an annual one. Finally, it is very important that the European Council draft a clear policy in this sector which, it must be pointed out, is not the responsibility of Europe, and this so as not to give false hope to our fellow citizens who, if they were not satisfied, would once again turn against the European ideal.
Giles Chichester (PPE-DE), in writing. The PPE-DE Group has decided to abstain on paragraphs 10, 22, 27 and 29 not because we have objections to the content, but because these paragraphs were clearly defined as originated by the Verts/ALE Group.
That group regularly abuses the process of negotiating joint motions. Until the last moment they skilfully obtain the insertion of several paragraphs coming from their own resolution and the deletion of text they dislike, but at the end they refuse to sign the joint resolution, for some spurious reason such as one word in the text being unacceptable for the Greens.
Compromise means giving and taking on both sides and at the end accepting something that is not exactly what you originally wanted.
The PPE-DE Group believes that if the Verts/ALE Group wants to play its role in a democratic and fair way it has to play the game.
Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) As the resolution says, the import dependency for energy of the 25 EU Member States is extremely high – 48% in 2002, potentially rising to 71% in 2030 if no additional measures are taken.
Some of the figures paint a very clear picture:
- 76.6% of EU demand for oil, 53% of demand for gas, 35.4% for coal and almost 100% for uranium and uranium products is met from imports;
- EU-25 gross electricity generation is as follows: 31% nuclear, 25% solid fuel (predominantly coal), 18% gas, 14% renewable energy sources and 5% oil;
- final energy use in the EU-25 was 28% in the industrial sector, 31% for transport and 41% in buildings.
It is therefore clear that measures must be taken to strengthen cooperation, research, public policies and appropriate investments, if we are to reduce the Member States’ dependency and to increase energy efficiency. There are a number of proposals in the resolution to which we object, namely the prominence given to the liberalisation of the sector, to competition, and to the internal energy market. This path can only serve to strengthen the economic and financial groups, and will not lead to any improvement for the economically weakest countries and the people who live there.
Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. – (FR) We are partly in agreement with the statements made in this resolution: concern about our countries’ dependency on energy, and its possible economic and social consequences; and the need to promote local renewable energy sources that are more environmentally friendly, to invest in energy efficiency or to research new ways of saving energy. There is, however, a lack of attention paid to the predicted exhaustion of world fossil fuel resources.
On the other hand, we do not agree with the role that the Commission has bestowed upon itself in the energy sector, a role that is not in the Treaties, that even your European Constitution reduced to a reaffirmation of the existing situation, but which this Parliament wishes to develop.
The liberalisation of the market for gas and electricity only results in an increase in the price of energy for the consumer, disruptions in supply and a general move towards the merging of businesses. Even my country, in which almost 90% of the electricity production comes from nuclear power or from sustainable energy sources, and which traditionally produces a surplus, is now encountering these problems. Thanks to Brussels!
The market principle alone is not compatible with the pursuit of national strategic objectives or the safeguarding of a country’s vital interests. The Member States must remain the only masters of their own energy policy.
Claude Moraes (PSE), in writing. I voted for this resolution because as a London MEP I believe that recently published energy sector inquiries found that some continental firms have been guilty of price fixing. It is this kind of price fixing and long-term contracts which have led to disparities between London and continental gas prices. I want the European Commission to respond to this robustly. I am also concerned about key issues of fuel poverty in my constituency not covered in this resolution.
Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The Commission’s Green Paper on a European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy makes an accurate analysis of the energy supply problems that have recently come to light.
What we can refer to as the ‘energy question’ is the expected result of economic progress, coupled with the restricted production and processing capacity of traditional energy sources. The most serious problem is that these elements of the equation are very difficult to change. The economic growth of giants such as Brazil, Russia, India and China is a predictable and, fortunately, incontrovertible fact. Furthermore, even if there is some increase in the production and processing capacity – assuming that the capacity of refineries is resolved in time – the finite nature of these resources is also irreversible. I should also like to say that I have major doubts as to the immediate effectiveness of reducing consumption, unless this process can be extended to the production of goods, equipment, transport and buildings.
I also feel that this debate can only be realistic if nuclear energy can be included in the debate alongside renewable energy.
Lastly, I endorse the Green Paper, and the resolution, especially as it introduces the issue of security into the debate.
- Peace-keeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo (B6-0190/2006)
Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, anyone who has ever flown over Africa in daylight knows how much the Democratic Republic of Congo is its geostrategic heart. For this reason, we have to attempt to secure democracy and stability there.
However, the present critical discussion of this issue should be seen as a last warning sign that the necessary structures should be created at long last, including to safeguard Europe’s own interests in a neighbouring continent of such great strategic importance. We are rightly making policy in other continents, we are taking responsibility for peace and freedom, but we are not managing to provide the instruments that are needed. We need a European army at long last, a professional army, to supplement our conscript and other armies. The national armies must continue to undertake domestic defence, but, largely, we are still lacking the instruments to intervene in other continents. We are risking taking on too much, and so I say ‘yes’ to this deployment. However, we must take this as a serious warning to make sure our common foreign and security policy also has the necessary instruments for peacekeeping at its disposal at long last.
Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) The current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is very worrying. For a long time, the country has suffered great instability, which has led to famine, brutality towards civilians and a very serious situation in the whole of the Great Lake region. We are, however, encouraged by the fact that elections are now being organised.
We in the June List are strongly opposed to the mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo being used further to strengthen the EU’s common foreign and security policy.
The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo must be resolved, but not through the deployment of a joint EU force. It is up to each Member State to decide, at the request of the UN, whether or not troops are to be deployed.
We have thus voted against the resolution.
Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Africa is a most appetising fruit. The main capitalist powers seek to dominate it and exploit its immense resources. This is evidenced by the increase in the presence on the continent, and the number of operations and military bases, of the USA, France, the UK and Germany.
Military action in the Democratic Republic of Congo is steeped in this approach and paves the way for further military operations in the future. Let us not forget that this is the second intervention under the ‘EU' umbrella in the country, following 'Artemis’, with French troops, in 2003.
The major powers in the EU, namely France and Germany, with the support of the Portuguese Government have failed to promote the end of the illegal exploitation of natural resources – in which companies from EU countries have been involved – and the end of external meddling in the country; have failed to respond to requests for humanitarian aid from the United Nations; and have failed to promote and provide financial support for the disarmament and socio-economic development process, thereby ensuring that it is the local population that uses and benefits from the natural resources in the country. Instead, they have sent more troops to a country in which more than 15 000 troops are already stationed as part of the Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC). Hence our vote against.
Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The EU decision to send the military forces of the Euro-army to the Democratic Republic of Congo relates to competition between the imperialist forces to control the markets and the wealth-producing resources of the Congo and Africa in general, which has paid for this policy with millions of lives.
The mantle of safeguarding peace and the electoral process is being used by the ΕU to cover the real objectives and create a situation of fait accompli for future interventions.
Moreover, this Euro-army mission constitutes the first application of the reactionary UN reform, the aim of which is to integrate regional organisations (ΝΑΤΟ, Euro-army) into UN mechanisms, in order to 'legalise' imperialist interventions.
It is no coincidence that the resolution refers to the need to reconstruct the Democratic Republic of Congo in accordance with the Iraqi standard for which provision is made in the 60th anniversary UN declaration.
The second organised military mission of the Euro-army after Bosnia also demonstrates its aggressive, interventionist character.
The peoples of the Congo and of Africa do not need 'international protectors' who are in any case responsible for the wars and the desperate situation they are in.
Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE), in writing. British Conservatives are opposed to EU involvement in military activities, which are an aspect of EU political integration, produce no additional military capabilities and undermine established military alliances. There is a tragedy brewing in the Congo, but the proposed international deployments do not address this. The EU is neither designed nor equipped to handle such matters from a military standpoint. Nor should it be. The EU has not even been able to fulfil its meagre security obligations to Sudan, where it insisted on a role when NATO was already committed. There have been two EU civil missions in the Congo and it is not clear what the mandate of any EU military mission would now be. The Congolese Government has not requested it. Clearly this exercise is cosmetic, designed more to publicise the EU label than to overcome the Congo's problems. The EU should respond to UN requests through use of its political, humanitarian, electoral observation and development assistance tools. Depending on the context, these matters should be the responsibility of nations, NATO or the UN. British Conservatives are supportive of the UN in its many difficult tasks but not of EU military adventures. We therefore voted against the resolution.
Carlo Fatuzzo (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to explain why I voted in favour of Mr Leinen’s report on the regulation of European political parties and on their funding. When, in Italy, I cry out ‘Pensioners, take a stand!’ all the pensioners fall in behind me, and young people do so together with the pensioners, because they believe in the Pensioners’ Party, of which I am the leader.
I am sure that, if I cried out ‘Pensioners, take a stand!’ in the 25 languages of the European Union, pensioners from the other 24 EU Member States would also support me because the European political party goes right to the heart of the population. I am absolutely certain that we will create Europe when we have created the European parties, just as the Pensioners’ Party is creating the European Pensioners’ Party. Pensioners, take a stand!
Frank Vanhecke (NI). – (NL) Mr President, running through the Leinen report is the belief that fully-fledged European political parties are necessary, because they truly benefit democracy at European level.
I think that it would be no exaggeration to say that the opposite is the case. The unbridled increase in scale of the decision-making process in a Europe which should, mark well, consist of very different and very definitely sovereign Member States, is the surest way of reducing democracy and making decision-making even less transparent by introducing bureaucracy that is virtually impossible to monitor, something of which there are many examples these days, by the way. Just think of the totalitarian way in which this Parliament is dealing with the rejection of the European Constitution in democratic referendums in France and the Netherlands.
The intention is, then, that the European political parties should serve the purpose of siphoning off yet more piles of money from the taxpayer and give even more of it to political parties, but only, that is, to the politically correct ones. It follows that when Europe talks about democracy, we do well to watch our step.
Richard Corbett (PSE). – Mr President, whilst I would disagree with the previous speaker and say that also at European level we need political parties to offer choice to citizens, I should like to place on record that I disagree with one of the suggestions that has been floated in the context of the Leinen report, namely that we should have European-level lists for elections to the European Parliament. Such a proposal would, for a start, need an amendment to the Treaties to be made now, while we are still in a period of reflection about what to do as regards Treaty amendment.
I also think it is not necessary. There is a risk that such lists might place the Members elected through them further away from citizens than those who are elected in the regions, as most of us are. Where we could explore a useful way of linking the European elections to the idea of choice for citizens, is by taking up the idea that our rapporteur made just a few minutes ago, namely that each European political party should name its candidate for President of the Commission. That would make a link between the vote for a parliament and the resultant composition of the executive that people are indeed used to when they vote in national elections in European countries.
Jan Andersson, Anna Hedh, Ewa Hedkvist Petersen, Inger Segelström and Åsa Westlund (PSE), in writing. (SV) It is important for us to have political parties at European level. They play an important role in disseminating political information and knowledge of European policy, as well as in promoting democratic values and creating a European consciousness. We do not, however, believe that the EU should decide on how membership, lists and nominations are to be dealt with. It must be up to each party to lay down rules concerning the ways in which they wish to handle issues such as these.
Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Our vote against is consistent with our position on Europe’s political parties. Given the enormous chasm between the citizens and the European institutions, the solution is not to set up more European parties or to increase the funding of those already in existence. Each national party must retain the ability to organise itself autonomously, not least with regard to its relations with the Union and Parliament.
In order to encourage the citizens to become more involved in politics at Community level, what is needed is a complete sea change away from neoliberal policies, the end of the Stability and Growth Pact, the withdrawal of the so-called Bolkestein Directive, and the replacement of the Lisbon Strategy with a strategy characterised by solidarity, sustainable development and social cohesion. What is needed is more high-quality jobs with rights, better public services, more employment-generating investment and greater social inclusion, along with fairer distribution of wealth.
Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. – (FR) The European political parties are merely extremely lucrative organisations. The basic points in this report amount to a demand for them to have more money and more freedom in how they use it, as well as more status and a tax exemption system. For what purpose though? Just to exist and to meet, for the moment.
Since the aim is to give these parties a monopoly to spread the good word of Europeism. Their creation depends, moreover, on some unacceptable certificate of European ‘right-thinking’ bestowed by this institution, based on the programmes that they are required to submit to its authorities. We know too that you would like at least some of the seats in this Parliament to be reserved for those elected from lists drawn up at European level, lists that could only be presented by European parties. The ultimate outcome for you would be if they were authorised to participate as such in national and local ballots, thereby allowing unacceptable political meddling at all levels of decision making in the Member States.
Democracy consists of allowing nations to govern themselves or to choose representatives to defend their interests within decision-making authorities, parliaments or governments. Imposing artificial entities that are representative only of themselves and subject to the ideology of Brussels is anything but democracy.
Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) We oppose the subsidised system now being developed for European political parties. Parties must be constructed from the bottom up by the parties in the Member States. If these parties find no justification for increasing their appropriations to their European parties, it may be questioned whether there really is a need for European political parties to exist. We object to setting up parties at EU level that are heavily subsidised by EU taxpayers.
We are therefore voting against this report.
Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (NL) Today, nearly 85% of the members of this Parliament have agreed to an increase in subsidies that benefit their own political parties and to soften up the rules on how this money can be spent. Moreover, the current budget of EUR 8.4 million that was spent last year on subsidies for European parties will be further increased, and those parties will be allowed to put these subsidies aside if they fail to spend them within the space of one year.
In many cases, politicians develop a logic all of their own, quite independently of their electorate. That was the case in the failed proposal for a European Constitution and this is even more the case in subsidies of this kind. Initially, funds voted by Parliament were used, illegally for cooperation at European level between political parties. On 18 June 2003, I voted against legalisation of this abuse, and today, I am voting against a further expansion. Whether national parties want to unite in European parties is up to them, but I cannot see why they should not fund some things themselves. The fact that they are now demanding an increase in subsidies and more flexible rules that apply to those subsidies, creates the impression that politicians are more concerned about the interests of their own groups than those of their electorate.
Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The Kommounistiko Komma Elladas opposes the EU decision to create European political parties which it wants to control and use to defend or promote a one-way street in Europe.
The report promotes the upgrading of their role and makes the funding system more flexible, so that they can be used as part of the brain-washing mechanism in preparation for the Euro-Constitution and its policy, in order to break grass-roots opposition.
Within the framework of the so-called 'European communications policy', in other words of the ideological attack by capital, and making use of the 'phase of reflection’, it mobilises initiatives, regional authorities, NGOs, the media, journalists and political parties in favour of a one-way street in Europe for the purposes of propaganda and in order to resurrect the Euro-Constitution and raise the 'low stock' of the ΕU in the eyes of the workers of Europe.
Particular importance is attached to young people, by strengthening the 'European parties' in order to create European youth organisations.
At the same time, it safeguards absolute control and the lack of independence of these parties, up to the point of defining their internal rules of procedure.
We are voting against the report, refusing any declaration of loyalty to the imperialist alliance of capital, the ΕU, and we call for opposition, insubordination and disobedience.
Carlo Fatuzzo (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, before boarding my flight yesterday to come to Brussels today, I shouted out ‘Pensioners, take a stand!’, as I always do. I turned around and saw that elderly people and young people were following me because, in the Pensioners’ Party, everyone works together, whether old or young.
The report by Mr Bushill-Matthews – whom I thank for his customary diligence – rightly talks about solidarity between the generations. Mr President, everyone – young people and pensioners alike – has asked me the following question, which is one that I also ask myself: should it be the elderly who provide for the young or, on the contrary, should it be the young who provide for the elderly? Undoubtedly it is the elderly that, after having given their entire lives to society and to everyone in it, are supposed, even as senior citizens, to hand over their pensions to young people. I believe that the governments of the 25 EU Member States would like this to happen, but are we really sure that it would be the best solution? Might not a better solution be for young people to finally give elderly people the recognition that they deserve? Long live pensioners!
Frank Vanhecke (NI). – (NL) Mr President, I have abstained from the vote on the present Bushill-Matthews report because I disagree with some of its recommendations.
Recital 70 on immigration policy springs to mind, although I have to confess, incidentally, that even this recital contains a phrase that is remarkably nuanced for this House.
Admittedly, this report is actually relatively even-handed and, if nothing else, has the merit of once again placing the demographic problem of Europe on the agenda. What I do not find in this report, though, is the conclusion that very many parents today still opt voluntarily in favour of staying at home and decide in favour of the family, and that probably many more people would take that option should this be made financially viable by the government.
In this connection, my group has for a long time argued in favour of fully-fledged parent wages, including social security and accrual of pension rights for the parent staying at home and looking after under-age children. I am convinced that this measure could also go a long way towards providing an answer to the enormous demographic challenge which we are currently facing.
Andreas Mölzer (NI). – (DE) Mr President, singles are praised in the contemporary media as the measure of all things. Families with several children are virtually seen as antisocial. Yet the higher the proportion of childless people today, the more young people will, in turn, want to remain childless. In my opinion, the parents of tomorrow need to grow up with children to be able to appreciate them. Therefore, we have to step up action to put the contemporary image of the family straight.
If we want to avoid a scenario where, in cities, the traditional family only exists among immigrants, I believe that we need to increasingly orient the promotion of the family towards the indigenous population of Europe, too.
Another important starting point, of course, is the reconciliation of family and career. It is no coincidence that those countries that have succeeded in this have higher birth rates.
Jan Andersson, Anna Hedh, Ewa Hedkvist Petersen, Inger Segelström and Åsa Westlund (PSE), in writing. (SV) We voted in favour of the report on demographic challenges and solidarity between the generations. However, we voted against the wording to the effect that increased taxes designed to fund social security offer a less sustainable solution in the long term. Moreover, we interpret an increase in the retirement age as an increase in the actual, rather than the statutory, retirement age. Because the wording was insufficiently clear on this point, we were unable to support it. Nor do we support the European Parliament’s calling on the Member States and private companies to break the link between higher ages and higher wage levels.
Charlotte Cederschiöld, Christofer Fjellner and Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) The Swedish Conservatives have today chosen to abstain from voting in the vote on demographic challenges and solidarity between the generations.
Even though the report puts forward many relevant proposals, we cannot support it. The reason is that it concerns issues that fall within the Member States’ areas of competence.
Gérard Deprez (ALDE), in writing. – (FR) I voted in favour of Mr Bushill-Matthews’ report on demographic challenges and solidarity between the generations.
The facts are there and are irrefutable: Europe is growing older. In my country, the equation is a simple one: since we live under a system of redistribution for the payment of statutory pensions, whereby each generation of working people pays for the pensions of the generation that has gone before it, that means, in very practical terms, that fewer working people will have to fund the retirement and health care of a greater number of pensioners, who will be living longer and longer.
If nothing is done, either future generations will have to bear much heavier costs to the detriment of their own standard of living, or, if they were to refuse to do so, tomorrow’s pensioners would find themselves reduced progressively to a subsistence standard of living and to the rationing of health care.
On the face of it, neither of these possibilities is acceptable. Neither will be accepted in any case. We have to find other ways, and urgently; all the countries of the European Union are faced with this challenge. It is the duty of a democracy to look ahead for an answer to challenges that it knows are unavoidable. We owe it to the future generations of Europeans.
David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome this report which is a response to the trends resulting in demographic changes.
According to the Commission, in order to face up to demographic change, Europe should pursue three essential priorities: a return to demographic growth, ensuring a balance between the generations, and 'finding new bridges between the stages of life'.
In our society, it is more important than ever that we confront our demographic challenges and harness the knowledge of our older citizens to the best of our ability.
Jean-Claude Martinez (NI), in writing. – (FR) From China to Europe, passing through Russia, not to mention Africa, a huge demographic problem is emerging. The world is growing older. What is worse, in some countries of Europe, the population is declining or is going to decline, as in Germany or Russia.
The demographic consequences are well-known: increases in expenditure on health and pensions, the need for millions of jobs providing personal care and a shortage of staff resulting in a migration influx, which has the psychological effect of pushing societies towards cautious, do nothing attitudes and Malthusian ‘no future’ policies, of which the ‘austerity budget pact’ has been the expression since Maastricht.
In other words, who is going to pay the taxes to finance this situation? The Gods of the stadium or old people on their last legs?
Of course, family policies will endeavour to create contributors and contributions. While we wait, however, for the increase in the birth rate and, hence, new workers, in the vacuum of the next 20 years unfolding before us, the Belgian, Dutch or Swiss laws on euthanasia, dressed up as the right to choose one’s own death, demonstrate the ‘Journey to the End of the Night’ that the policies, especially in Europe, have begun.
José Albino Silva Peneda (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) Europe is facing an unprecedented demographic problem.
In 2030, the EU will have 18 million fewer young people than at the moment, and in 2050, it will have 60 million fewer inhabitants. Between 2005 and 2030, there will be a 52.3% increase in the number of people over 65 (40 million more), whereas there will be a 6.8% drop in the 15 to 64 age group (21 million fewer). The proportion of inactive people (the young, the elderly and other dependent persons) in relation to people of working age will rise from 49% in 2005 to 66% in 2030.
These developments can be put down to two factors: firstly, people are living longer and, secondly, the birth rate has dropped. Average life expectancy for 60 year olds has risen by five years since 1960 for women, and almost four years for men, meaning that the number of over 80 year olds will grow by 180% by 2050, whereas the birth rate has been falling. The number of children per woman in 2003 was 1.48, whilst at least 2.1 children per woman would be required to maintain the population level.
Mindful of the consequences of these factors on prosperity, standards of living and relations between the generations, I voted for this report.
Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE). – (FI) Mr President, I strongly support the maximal development of bioenergy, but when we talk about promoting the cultivation of non-food crops in connection with self-sufficiency in energy, we need to point out that liquid biofuels are by no means cost-effective. Also, the EU cannot even produce enough biofuels to meet the targets set out in the biofuel directive.
I think it is important to call things by their right name in order to prevent a situation where, unnoticed by us, the Directorate-General for Agriculture starts managing EU energy policy. This will therefore be about subsidies for agriculture, not carbon dioxide efficiency or self-sufficiency in energy, as long as the costs of liquid biofuels are clearly greater than those for the conventional fuels they are expected to replace, or while the fossil energy used to manufacture them is greater than what is obtained from them. That is how things stand, especially with Nordic field-based energy.
Consequently, an increase in the use of biofuels would raise both EU energy costs and the price of food. That would inevitably impact on the EU’s competitiveness. With liquid biofuels, we need an honest life cycle analysis, which would be undertaken by an independent, impartial agency.
Liam Aylward (UEN), in writing. Mr President, I support the Parish report.
Remember, colleagues, that using sugar as raw material, Brazil is the world’s ethanol superpower, with an interesting ownership of the sector – not all Brazilian.
I am deeply disappointed and saddened by the decision to close the last sugar factory in Ireland. Hundreds of jobs will be lost. This is a cruel blow for all those who faithfully served the industry for generations. The Commission’s decision to reform the sugar industry and to cut the supports it paid to growers never favoured the Irish sugar industry. We must now ensure that those who served the sugar industry loyally for many years receive equitable compensation.
The whole area of growing alternative crops which may be used among other things for the production of bioethanol must now be given serious consideration and support at both EU and national level, particularly for the sugar beet sector.
Biofuels offer excellent new opportunities and can utilise the expertise notably of Irish tillage farmers. Biofuels will contribute to Europe’s energy self-sufficiency, at a time of rising oil prices and in light of the recent controversy over gas supplies from Russia.
Charlotte Cederschiöld, Christofer Fjellner and Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) We have voted in favour of the report on the promotion of crops for non-food purposes because we think it is a good idea for farmers to plant crops other than the traditional ones when the latter no longer pay their way. Technological development is important where alternative forms of energy are concerned, and we are also aware of the opportunities provided by the restructuring of agricultural policy.
We do not, however, believe that a transition to energy crops should be allowed to slow down the phasing-out of the common agricultural policy. It is important for these new products to be developed and to thrive in a free market without subsidies. To the extent that it is provided at all, temporary aid should be targeted not at subsidised production but at infrastructural measures designed to get activities up and running.
Gérard Deprez (ALDE), in writing. – (FR) On the occasion of the adoption of this report, which I supported, I would like to mention the recent developments in the field of bioenergy in Belgium. In addition to microeconomic projects relating to the use of biofuels in farming, large-scale industrial projects are finally emerging in my country, and I am delighted. As regards production, six major projects are currently under way, the two most important ones being situated in Ghent (biodiesel sector) and in Wanze (bioethanol sector).
What is more, the programme for tax exemption for biofuels, adopted by Belgium and approved by the European Commission, fixes, in the case of biodiesel, the ratio of the mixture with traditional diesel at 3.37% for 2006 and at 4.29% for 2007. For bioethanol, the mixture has been fixed at 7%. At this rate, we might even achieve the objective recommended in Directive 2003/30, namely that 5.75% of all fuel sold should be ‘green’ by 2010.
To this end, the Parish report calls for these targets to be made compulsory. The utilisation for energy purposes of agricultural products, which is both a real opportunity for the future for our farmers and environmentally friendly, indeed deserves restrictive targets to be set, especially if they are reasonable.
Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The rapporteur says, and we agree, that ‘the production of renewable raw materials and the use of organic waste can contribute to the improvement of the environment, the sustainable production of energy, employment and regional balance, while playing a role in rendering multifunctional agriculture more diverse and self-sufficient’.
Nevertheless, we feel that attention should be drawn to existing capacities as regards alternative energy, and the existing relationship between energy, the environment and farming within the framework of sustainable development. This will ultimately benefit the citizens and their quality of life, as well as the economic sectors involved.
We feel, however, that an appropriate balance must be struck between food crops and energy crops, so as to ensure that food sovereignty and safety are not put in jeopardy.
The production of crops for non-food purposes is not protected by the CAP, given that aid is less than EUR 80 per hectare per year, and the rapporteur calls for steps to be taken to put an end to public aid. This measure would render such production dependent on the energy industry and the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Hence my abstention.
Glyn Ford (PSE), in writing. I welcome in principle this report by my colleague Neil Parish on the promotion of crops for non-food purposes. While these techniques will not solve our energy problems, they can make a small but significant contribution. Fast-growing willows and poplars can be used, as I saw some years ago in Austria, to provide small-scale heat and electricity supply in remote, isolated areas. Oil-seed rape and wheat can be used in the production of biofuels whether diesel or petrol and save on CO2 release. Yet one warning: the schemes must be part of the solution, not the problem. Where they make economic, environmental and energy sense, I will support them, when they merely maintain agricultural expenditure at the expense of common sense, I will not.
Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) The report is just the European Parliament’s own take on the matter concerned and involves no legislative procedure. It looks towards further extending the existing common agricultural policy within the field of energy crops. There is a lot more to be said in the debate about energy crops.
We have chosen to vote against the report.
David Martin (PSE), in writing. The report on the promotion of crops for non-food purposes is extremely timely given the rapidly declining reserve of fossil fuels. The cultivation of biomass, for example, can contribute efficiently in decreasing the greenhouse effect, which is primarily caused by CO2, by buffering the CO2 emission.
I am in favour of the promotion of renewable energy through the production of crops. Several current technologies, such as energy derived from biomass, are economically viable and competitive and will, in turn, open up new markets for farmers in the European Union, thus stimulating economic, social and environmental growth.