11. Financing instrument for development and economic cooperation – European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument – Instrument for Stability – Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) (debate)
President. The next item is the joint debate on the following reports:
- the second report A6-0109/2006 by Mr Mitchell, on behalf of the Committee on Development, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a financing instrument for development and economic cooperation [COM(2004)0629 C6-0128/2004 2004/0220(COD)];
- A6-0164/2006 by Mr Szymański, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down general provisions establishing a European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument [COM(2004)0628 – C6-0129/2004 – 2004/0219(COD)];
- A6-0157/2006 by Mrs Beer, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing an Instrument for Stability [COM(2004)0630 – C6-0251/2004 – 2004/0223(COD)];
- A6-0155/2006 by Mr Szent-Iványi, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the proposal for a Council regulation establishing an Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) [COM(2004)0627 – C6-0047/2005 – 2004/0222(CNS)].
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I greatly appreciate that Parliament has decided to discuss together the package of instruments for the delivery of external assistance for the future period spanning 2007 to 2013.
It is over a year and a half since the Commission tabled its proposals. I wish to acknowledge the efforts that have been made by Parliament and successive Council Presidencies to find imaginative and constructive solutions to the challenges that we have encountered on these innovative proposals. The new simplified architecture was the first attempt to streamline all the instruments for external spending. The simplification proposed was welcomed by both Parliament and the Council. And soon after Parliament began its work, a certain number of important questions were raised. These matters were set out in a letter in April last year from the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Brok, and the rapporteur for the Development Cooperation and Economic Cooperation Instrument, Mr Mitchell. There were six issues in total and on these I believe Parliament has obtained full satisfaction.
Your first concern was to ensure that the instruments were adopted under codecision whenever the Treaty made that possible. In response, the Council and the Commission agreed that the Stability Instrument should pass from consultation of Parliament to codecision. Three of the four instruments are codecided. This gives Parliament a fully legitimate but unprecedented degree of legislative power over the framework covering external spending.
Parliament also wished to ensure that the instruments would be subject to a mid-term review and to expiry dates. These points were accepted. We have also agreed that before undertaking the review, Parliament should examine the operation of this instrument to identify any dysfunctional situations that may have arisen, and Parliament’s report would be considered by the Commission in carrying out the review of the instrument. Should the review identify problems that require an adaptation of the relevant instruments and regulations, the Commission will submit the necessary legislative proposals. That review should be carried out in 2009, as requested by Parliament.
Parliament also wanted separate financial envelopes for different geographic regions and thematic sectors. The Commission has provided a breakdown of the envelopes for the codecided instruments and agrees to the inclusion of a breakdown in the regulations.
One of the most challenging points has been the involvement of Parliament in priority-setting and strategy documents. So far as priority-setting is concerned, the necessary policy elements will be included in the draft regulations. This has been done both for the Stability Instrument and for the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. Unfortunately, the progress achieved on these instruments has not yet been mirrored in the Development Cooperation and Economic Cooperation Instrument.
Parliament’s future involvement in strategy documents is now covered by two declarations annexed to the Interinstitutional Agreement. I have written to Mr Brok on how these could be put into practice. We envisage a mechanism for a dialogue with Parliament, which should allow us then to present the selected strategy documents, explain our choices and receive Parliament’s view on the choices and how the strategy should be implemented.
Finally, for the Development Cooperation and Economic Cooperation Instrument, Parliament wished to have a clear distinction between policy towards developing countries and towards industrialised countries. We have no difficulty in accepting that.
There has been a strong demand from Parliament for a separate instrument to support democracy and human rights. In January 2006, the Commission set out its vision for the thematic programme on democracy and human rights. I recognise that Parliament is not convinced on this. I have listened to Parliament and I understand its reasons. I am committed, therefore, to resolving this point to the satisfaction of Parliament as part of an overall agreement on the instruments. This is a clear commitment on behalf of the Commission to a separate human rights instrument. This position is shared by the Council.
I should now like to say a few words on each of the instruments that are before this House today.
The Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance – the IPA – has been welcomed by Parliament for its policy-driven approach. There has been a fruitful dialogue on the proposed regulation with Parliament’s rapporteur, Mr Szent-Iványi. Indeed, a compromise text for IPA, addressing a number of issues of concern to Parliament, was agreed by COREPER on 3 May. The Commission fully supports this compromise, which reflects to a large extent the amendments proposed by Mr Szent-Iványi in his report. I am pleased to make a formal declaration today, which I hope will also solve the major outstanding issue of Parliament’s involvement in the suspension of assistance:
‘The Commission will take due account of any request made by the European Parliament to the Commission to submit a proposal to suspend or restore Community assistance, and will provide a prompt and sufficiently detailed reply thereto’.
For the Stability Instrument, I should like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Beer, for the central and positive role she has played in the negotiations to date, which have touched on sensitive institutional issues. The report from the Committee on Foreign Affairs has had a very positive impact on the political compromise reached in COREPER, for which I thank you. That compromise is very finely balanced. I believe it will form the basis of a deal between the institutions.
Reflecting concerns of Parliament, we have also agreed more policy content under the Stability Instrument. There are strengthened references to respect for human rights in relation to the fight against terrorism. The Commission is ready to make a political declaration further underlining this and confirming its commitment to informing Parliament of exceptional assistance measures as they are adopted. I shall be writing to you shortly setting out some ideas on the establishment of a Peace-Building Partnership to improve practical implementation of civilian peace-building projects.
For the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, we have worked intensively with Mr Szymánski, Parliament’s rapporteur, and the Presidency. As a result, we now have a text which addresses the concerns of Parliament. An agreement on this text was reached in COREPER last week and we are very hopeful that, on this basis, an agreement is now within reach.
For the Development Cooperation and Economic Cooperation Instrument, work is not as advanced as for the other instruments. I am convinced that the main building blocks of a compromise are, however, within reach. Thanks to the cogent arguments of the rapporteur, Mr Mitchell, it is agreed that the new legislative set-up must preserve Parliament’s codecision rights. It is now a question of the best way to do it. The Commission is calling for pragmatism, given our shared objective of achieving genuine simplification of external assistance.
In more concrete terms, let me come to the main amendments proposed in Mr Mitchell’s report. Given their total number, I will concentrate on those that relate to the architecture of the instrument.
First of all, a series of amendments – Amendments 48, 50, 51, 54, 55, 56, 65, 66 and 67 – propose to establish separate policy-setting regulations and a multiannual financial framework to be adopted by codecision in addition to the DCECI. This alternative to the incorporation of policy content and financial provisions into the regulation goes against the objective of simplification. The Commission is more than willing to expand the geographic and thematic policy content of the DCECI to preserve Parliament’s rights. We have said so on several occasions. However, we consider that the best way to achieve this is to follow the Council Presidency’s proposal and to do it in a single regulation.
Secondly, three amendments – Amendments 4, 23 and 114 – reflect one of the general points made by Parliament which I referred to earlier: the continuation of an instrument in favour of human rights and democracy.
Thirdly, five amendments – Amendments 1, 5, 6, 23 and 115 – build on the initial request to establish a clear distinction between cooperation with industrialised countries and cooperation with developing countries. They actually go further and propose the splitting of cooperation with industrialised countries from the DCECI. The Commission understands the underlying concern behind these amendments. The Commission could consider, for instance – if this is a condition for a final compromise on a clear and logical structure – the splitting of cooperation with industrialised countries into a separate instrument.
Fourthly, three amendments – Amendments 2, 25 and 26 – call for a change in the legal basis, that is, a single legal basis, Article 179, without Article 181a of the Treaty. I know legal advice differs on this. For the Commission, the issue is one of legal security. The Commission also understands Parliament’s argument that a wide understanding of development cooperation should offer the necessary comfort. I would be ready to re-consider our position if a wide definition of development cooperation based on Article 179 is ensured.
Fifth, one amendment – Amendment 51 on sectoral spending targets – is of particular concern. This is the establishment of sectoral spending targets. This would run contrary to the principles of partnership and ownership with beneficiary countries and it would introduce rigidity in programme implementation.
There are also a number of other amendments that would need to be discussed in more depth. A document has been submitted to Parliament setting out the Commission’s position on each of the amendments(1). I do not want to give the impression that our positions are far apart on all these issues. Out of 117 amendments, the Commission can accept 26 in full and 40 in part or in principle. This means that half of the amendments are totally uncontroversial.
Finally, I should like to say a few words on nuclear safety. This has been an important part of our past work and will remain so. Originally included within the Stability Instrument, the change in the legal basis made it necessary to create a separate Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation. I understand that the draft text has now been sent by the Council to Parliament to allow you to begin preparing your opinion.
I should like to finish by saying a few words on the way forward. There are grounds for optimism that agreement could be found on the text of two of the codecided instruments: the Stability Instrument and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. Similarly, I hope that the declaration I made concerning the Pre-Accession Instrument is sufficient to allow Parliament to give its opinion.
What now of the Development Cooperation and Economic Cooperation Instrument? This is a key element in the architecture. This instrument covers assistance to Asia, Latin America and South Africa, as well as key thematic programmes. It is central to the package and too important to be left behind. I am convinced that we can do what needs to be done to ensure that the complete legislative framework is in place before the end of the year.
The Presidency has already done considerable work on the policy content of the DCECI. There will be a window of opportunity following Parliament’s first reading to reach a consensus on the key issues of substance before the adoption of the Council’s common position. This could cover some limited changes in the architecture, which would not undermine the principle of simplification and the essential policy provisions. The consensus reached would be reflected in the Council’s common position, which the Council Presidency hopes to adopt in June. This would greatly facilitate a timely agreement on second reading.
Finally, the provision of effective assistance to our partners from 1 June 2007 onwards is a shared responsibility. With the agreement on the financial perspective and the advances made on this legislative package, I am convinced we are within striking distance of achieving that goal.
Hans Winkler, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that we have today, as far as the Financial Perspective and the various instruments are concerned, grounds for a certain optimism, and this morning afforded us the opportunity to sign an important document. You have, by a very clear majority, adopted an important compromise, and I believe that Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner’s speech just now gives us reason to take a fundamentally optimistic view of things. I hope, in my capacity as a representative of the Council, to be able to contribute to the generally optimistic mood. Much of what the Commissioner has said reflects the Council’s way of thinking. Here, too, we are singing from the same hymn sheet and hoping that we will succeed in very soon putting the finishing touches to the instruments we are discussing today.
Working together over the past few weeks has not been an easy matter, but it has, at the end of the day, proved to be constructive, and has shown just how much, in the final analysis, the institutions’ interests coincide with each other. On behalf of the Council, I would like to express gratitude for this cooperation, which was tough but constructive. It has already enabled us, as early as first reading stage in this House, to achieve agreement on the substance of three of the four instruments – the pre-accession instrument, the neighbourhood instrument, and the stability instrument. Given the complexity of the subject matter, this could certainly not have been taken for granted, and it amounts in itself to a gigantic leap forward.
I would also like to do as the Commissioner has just done and remind your House that the Council has adopted a number of amendments – and not the least significant ones – to every single one of these instruments and not just to those legal acts that are subject to the codecision procedure but also to the pre-accession instrument, which is subject to the consultation procedure. Nor do I wish to gloss over the fact that the package now before you was the cause of a great deal of contention in the Council, and that it took some effort – and a great deal of effort on the part of the President of the Council in COREPER – to get some of the delegations to accept it.
I would now like to say something in brief about each of the instruments in turn. As is well known, each of these instruments has its own history of negotiation behind it, and I would like to begin with the two that are subject to the codecision procedure, those being the Neighbourhood Instrument and the Stability Instrument. We are glad to be able to say that, where the Neighbourhood Instrument is concerned, we have largely achieved agreement, and I would like to thank Mr Szymański for his very constructive cooperation in this respect. I believe that I can say – speaking as the Council’s representative – that we have accommodated virtually all your House’s demands, in that we have made the instrument more flexible, done away with the restriction on the eligible priorities, have imposed further conditions on cooperation, and have made it clear that international conventions, particularly in relation to human rights issues, have to be adhered to. I would remind you of the debate that we had on this subject earlier on. We have also come to a firm agreement on the importance we attach to the role of civil society and our desire to support and promote it.
As for cross-border cooperation, we have not only laid down the partnership principle but have gone further and stressed – as your House demanded – that the regions have to be involved. As you will be aware, the stability instrument – and this is where it is only right that I should thank Mrs Beer – is a particularly sensitive instrument, and it needs to be handled with a great deal of care, for it occupies a grey area between the first and second pillars, and I, speaking as a representative of the Council, will readily concede that this raises serious institutional issues. We have, though, made a good deal of progress, and the Council has endeavoured to meet your House halfway on a number of issues in this respect. We have accommodated Parliament’s desire that it should not merely be consulted but also enjoy the power of codecision. We have managed, albeit as a result of difficult negotiations, to accede to Parliament’s request for a broad scope. The Commission has already made reference to this.
The present constitution specifies what is to be done in the areas of disarmament, improved crisis prevention instruments, crisis management, mediation and measures to take account of the position of women and children in crisis situations. All these things are requirements on which we have insisted, or which we have supported, in the previous debate on the coherence of European human rights policy.
We eventually succeeded, in the 10 May trilogue, in finding solutions that took account of Parliament’s demands for a conditionality clause for measures to combat terrorism by means of statements on the subject from the Commission. I am sure that I can say, on behalf of the Council, that this made it possible for us to come up with a good result. I have to thank Mr Szent-Iványi now that I come to speak to the pre-accession instrument, which is, by its very nature, particularly important. Nor do I need to explain just how important it is for the Austrian Presidency of the Council and its priorities in this very area, quite simply because it is inseparable from the future development of the European Union. The Council therefore saw it as important that it should negotiate with your House in the substance of the act and, in the same way as with the other instruments I have mentioned, to take on board Parliament’s concerns, even though this instrument is not subject to codecision. We have, for example, laid greater emphasis on the gender aspect and on social cohesion and made programmes for potential candidates more widely accessible. We have also agreed to Parliament’s demand that it should be consulted on strategic issues such as the suspension of IPA funds.
Our common objective is that the European Union should be capable of acting in every sphere of foreign policy, and it is regrettable that this – despite some encouraging progress – has not been achieved. What matters now is that we do something of some practical usefulness in moving the process forward as swiftly as possible and adopting the draft acts and regulations in short order. That must now be the common goal of the Council, Parliament and the Commission, and it is one that we must take seriously. I would like to take this opportunity to once more explain in detail why this process needs to be completed, and these draft regulations adopted, as soon as possible.
The existing regulations on the neighbourhood and stability instruments are due to lapse at the end of this year. If we do not ensure that they are replaced, we risk being unable to fund cooperation with the neighbourhood policy countries – which should be a particular matter of concern to all of us – with effect from next year, with it not even being possible to intervene in crisis and disaster situations if these instruments are not wrapped up in good time. A substantial implementing regulation for the pre-accession instrument still needs to be worked out and adopted if the financial resources – in respect of which negotiations were so long drawn-out and laborious – are to be put to work. It is for that reason that your House needs to vote on this by June at the latest. We do not want a financial black hole here.
I therefore want to appeal to you all on behalf of the Council not to jeopardise the timely adoption of the instruments. That brings me to the next – and perhaps the most difficult – heading, which is the instrument for development cooperation and economic cooperation, which, it has to be conceded, is our problem child and on which I would like to touch briefly. Here, the Council has shown itself willing to take your House’s main concerns on board, and I hope that this is a matter of common knowledge.
We are certainly willing, then, to divide up DCECI into two instruments, one for development and another for economic cooperation, and I am sure this will meet one of your House’s fundamental concerns; as the Commissioner has already mentioned, the Council also looks with favour on the idea of creating an additional instrument in the field of human rights, something that your House has also called for. In order to fully respect your House’s rights of codecision, the Council has for some considerable time been willing to have in-depth negotiations with your House on all the essential elements of the geographical and thematic programmes and to formulate them together in the same way that was done in respect of the other instruments.
As you can see, the Council is prepared to meet your House more than halfway on the things that matter to you. The only thing I have to say – and I have to spell this out – is that the development cooperation and economic cooperation instrument must not be broken down any further. To reduce it to still more component parts would quite simply make an absurdity of our aim of simplifying the overall structure of the European Union’s overseas aid. To do so would be the very opposite of what we are endeavouring to do under the heading of ‘better regulation’. The Commissioner has already said the same thing, and I – speaking on behalf of the Council – would like to back her up in the strongest terms.
The Council therefore finds it regrettable that, despite the willingness to negotiate and to make a variety of concessions, it has still not yet proved possible to find a solution to the problem of this instrument any more than it has to the other three.
We do not doubt that the European Parliament attaches every bit as much importance as does the Council to this deficit being made good as soon as possible. The poorest countries on this planet of ours would find it beyond their comprehension if they were, so to speak, to be presented with the bill for a controversy between one institution and another. I would therefore hope that we will succeed in finding a solution that would prevent us from ending up in a legal vacuum after 1 January 2007. This is a task that we cannot put off to the crack of doom, and I would like, by way of conclusion, to repeat what Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner has already said, namely that the Council needs this agreement in order to put the final finishing touches to the other three instruments. As we see it, the concessions we have made in respect of the pre-accession instrument, the neighbourhood instrument and the stability instrument, and our willingness to consider a separate human rights instrument, are absolutely conditional on agreement being reached to the development cooperation and economic cooperation instrument. That much is essential, and it is something on which both the Commission and the Council agree completely.
What is needed, then, is a package solution, and, in order to obtain one, we are relying on your House’s goodwill and willingness to compromise. That is something we owe not only to our partners, but also, in the final analysis, to the European public, which expects us to come up with solutions and has no interest in, or sympathy with, interinstitutional squabbles, and would certainly be disappointed if we were unable, from January 2007 onwards, to give overseas aid to the extent that we have all, together, undertaken to do.
Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – Mr President, before going into the substance I would like to welcome the presence of the Commission and the Council. I particularly appreciate the efforts of successive presidencies to find a solution to the outstanding problems linked to the original Commission proposal on the DCECI.
When debating this instrument, our overriding concern must be the interests of the developing countries, and in particular the poorest sections of their populations. The remit of the Committee on Development is to represent their interests at European Union level and to ensure that they are kept on the EU’s political agenda. That is why we argue in favour of a specific instrument for the needs of the developing countries, namely poverty alleviation with true economic cooperation and sustainable development, and not just a default instrument for all countries not covered by any other instrument. I believe that this view is now widely accepted and I hope that the Commission now accepts it also.
This Parliament obviously shares the Commission’s desire for greater efficiency, simplification and flexibility in the legislative domain, but cannot allow this to happen at the expense of its own competences and of democracy itself. Parliament essentially exercises its competences in the policy domain at three levels: determination of political priorities – which means codecision at policy-setting level, monitoring implementation, and budgetary powers.
Those three levels are complementary and Parliament, being the only institution directly elected by the European citizens, should strive to have a greater say in all three of them. We should not, however, accept an increase in parliamentary powers at one level at the expense of our existing powers at another level. Codecision is not negotiable. Parliament fought for many years to get it and it is now enshrined in the Treaty.
I am pleased to hear the Commissioner’s assurances on codecision here today. May I say to the Presidency that the difference with the DCECI is that it seeks to replace 16 codecided regulations with one regulation. I am absolutely amazed that the Commission and Council can so easily agree on taking away the role of Parliament. We should also not permit the human rights instrument, which Parliament has consistently been calling for, to be used to make us relinquish our policy-setting powers. Human rights are too important to be used as a bargaining chip in interinstitutional negotiations.
The ball is now in the Commission’s court. My proposal to make the Development Cooperation Instrument the single administrative and procedural regulation for development cooperation not only gives the Commission the administrative simplification and flexibility it seeks, but also ensures that policy implementation is kept apart from the unpredictability of political life. Priorities may change rapidly, according to our political agendas and those of our partners, but a procedural regulation will ensure that implementation can go on unhindered.
As rapporteur on the DCECI, I am fully determined to continue the intensive work that has gone into it and to ensure that it is in place as a procedural regulation well before the end of the year. Now that the Commission has recognised that the policy content for development cooperation must be established by codecision, it is time for it to submit formal legislative proposals on geographical and thematic priorities, so that Parliament and Council can finally start the process of legislating. Both the geographical and the thematic content are close to the heart of the European Parliament and require a thorough debate.
We are talking about priorities for our cooperation with Latin America, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Far East and South Africa; our priorities in the fields of human and social development; sustainable management of natural resources such as water and energy; the environment and the role of non-State actors. These require a full and proper debate in Parliament. Since we know that the debate on such vast and sensitive issues will be difficult and the time is now running out, I want to inform the Council and the Commission that the Committee on Development is setting up a working group to discuss the policy content. This will speed up negotiations within Parliament and with the other institutions once we have received formal proposals.
As I said at the beginning, we are talking about cooperation with hundreds of millions of poor people in the world. They need our continued support. For that, we need a legal base. It is up to the Commission to propose it in time. I welcome the tone and content of the Commissioner’s contribution here today, but there is a lot of work to be done and I hope we will soon get down to doing it.
Konrad Szymański (UEN), rapporteur. – (PL) Mr President, if someone in Parliament wanted to adopt a good cop, bad cop approach towards the Commission and the Council, it would be difficult to find a better way of doing this than to schedule speeches by Mr Mitchell and myself one after the other.
When the European Commission presented its package in 2004, one thing was uncontroversial and universally praised, and that was simplification. Simplification is a great virtue of the whole package presented in 2004, as it makes it easier for parties from outside the EU to use our legal bases for external aid. However, Parliament clearly believes that this simplification cannot be implemented at the cost of restricting the political aims of our external aid, and neither can it be implemented at the cost of Parliament’s monitoring powers. This is why 124 amendments appeared in my report for the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
I would like to thank the people responsible in the political groups for their work and dedication. They include Mr Tannock, Mrs Morgantini, Mrs Napoletano, Mr Belder and Mr Väyrynen. Without the involvement of the secretariat of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and also of the political group to which I belong, it would not have been possible for us to have such a clear negotiating position today. Furthermore, without the enormous commitment and dedication of the Austrian Presidency headed by Ambassador Woschnagg, without the involvement of Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner and without the involvement of Mr Brok, who leads our negotiating team as the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, we would not realistically be able today to think about accepting this instrument at first reading, something that is extremely important. We must remember that at the end of the year our current legal basis, in the form of MEDA and TACIS, the main instruments of neighbourhood and partnership aid, will expire. We should give our external partners as much time as possible to prepare for this enormous and important change with regard to the legal basis for the provision of external aid.
In the course of 18 months of parliamentary work, we have made significant progress. First of all, we have broadened the palette of political aims for the funding instruments of the Neighbourhood and Partnership Policy and we have introduced clauses making the provision of aid dependent on respect for human rights and democratic standards. We have introduced changes which will allow the Neighbourhood Policy to be applied to countries such as Belarus which avoid cooperation with the European Union. We have safeguarded the role of the EEA and of Switzerland in the performance of tasks associated with the Neighbourhood Policy, and made it possible for these countries to participate in the implementation of the Neighbourhood Policy in the European Union. In spite of what I would call the governmental character of the Neighbourhood Policy, we have increased the role of non-governmental organisations.
Having heard Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner and Mr Winkler’s speeches, we could say today that, thanks to the interinstitutional agreements, we have a guarantee that a new, separate human rights and democracy instrument will be introduced. This instrument will be flexible enough to achieve our aims in a legally and politically hostile environment. As we all know, we face such hostile situations fairly frequently.
Today everything points towards our ability to achieve a compromise on this most important matter, namely the European Parliament’s monitoring role, in terms of both planning and implementing the Neighbourhood Policy. Of course, I am aware that any compromise is uneasy, as this one is for Parliament. However, I will recommend that it be accepted, as everyone who takes part in a compromise has to bear in mind that it will give us the satisfaction of having brought a great process to a close, but that it will also be a slightly uneasy compromise. I am sure that this compromise does not sit easily with any of us, but I am certain that the most important feeling here is that of satisfaction at having been able to reach an understanding.
I hope that this agreement will be reached before the summer break and, more importantly, before the end of the Austrian Presidency. The Austrian Presidency has put a lot of hard work into this matter, and they deserve credit for their work. I hardly need to add that our southern and eastern neighbours are eagerly awaiting the completion of our work. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the completion of this work.
Angelika Beer (Verts/ALE), rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, Mr Winkler, as rapporteur for the Committee on Foreign Affairs on the stability instrument, I would like, once more, to briefly look back and emphasise just what a good idea on the part of the Commission the so-called Prodi package was, in that, whatever else may be said about it, forty instruments have been whittled down to six in order to speed up foreign policymaking and make it more effective. We were happy to go down this road hand in hand with the Commission, even though this was not always characterised by complete harmony.
The profound reform of the Community’s foreign policy that we are debating today cannot be considered in isolation from the upgrading of Parliament’s role, which is long overdue, for we, considering the extent of the European Union’s activities as a global player, are no longer prepared to stand looking over the fence while the governments take the decisions; on the contrary, we want to get actively involved in taking them.
It is for that reason that I have included in this report on the stability instrument a proposal for the introduction of a call-back procedure, which is intended to allow us in this House to bring politically irresponsible measures to a halt at the planning stage. As I see it, there is a correlation between our increased activity in the sphere of foreign policy and the need for Parliament to have a greater say. I want to emphasise once more that Europe’s 450 million citizens expect this democratic legitimacy, and expect it to be monitored. That is what we are here to do, and so, once this stability instrument enters into force, the Committee on Foreign Affairs will have new tasks to perform, in that we will have things to scrutinise and will need to be informed in advance. We are now being given the chance to do these things, and we will certainly make use of it.
Negotiations with the Council and the Commission to this end were, admittedly, tough and slow-moving at first – we spent eighteen months waiting for the Council to come up with concrete proposals – but we have now reached the final stage, and that is encouraging. It is at this point that I would like to thank Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner and all the other participants in the trilogue, especially Ambassador Woschnak, but also, of course, Mr Brok, the chairman of our own committee, and all those – too many to name – who have made our work easier.
I just want to briefly review the points that were of particular concern to us, and on which we have now reached agreement. The call-back procedure that Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner proposed to us is one in line with our way of thinking, and she has now – and this is my second point – assured us that the Commission will take into consideration Parliament's wishes as regards the review clause. Thirdly, we have come to an agreement on matters of content. We saw this as vitally important, and it will also be vitally important in terms of practical external policy, for example, our demand as regards the peacebuilding commission. We have been able to reach agreement on landmines, on issues relating to women and children, on the conditionality of anti-terrorism measures, and on the revision clause.
In order to give you a better picture of what that means, let me say that, in the aftermath of the tsunami, we had a very cooperative dialogue in which we gave consideration to how the instruments that were now all working at once could be brought together, and how aid from the European Union could be got more quickly to the people who needed it. I am very grateful to you for the completion of the Commission’s feasibility study on the civilian peace corps, the coordination of which will, I think, involve us politicians in being responsible for bringing together and simplifying the right approaches.
Following the last two trilogues, there was evidence of compromise in the statement we got yesterday from the Commission, which stated that these measures were being taken on the basis of human rights and of international law. We regard that as an important and fundamental precondition if the war on terror is to be steered in the right direction.
Turning, if I may, to the coordination of peacebuilding, I will be discussing the proposal you made yesterday evening with the Members who have up to now been actively working alongside me on this. On this point, too, I think it should be possible for us to come to an agreement, which will make it clear to us how the Commission is contemplating bringing the Council and other actors in on its activities in this area.
It may be unusual to do so at this hour of the day, but the debate we are having today is a debate on fundamental principles. We are going for a final spurt in order to be able to vote on the stability instrument in June, at first reading. Let me conclude, though, by reiterating, and very clearly, that, if we really are to take seriously our commitment to human rights, then we would ask you to ensure that the proposal for a democracy and human rights instrument is brought before this House as quickly as possible, for we do not regard human rights and democracy as a bargaining counter, and nor should they be used as a means of putting pressure on the Development Committee.
Paavo Väyrynen (ALDE), deputising for the rapporteur. – (FI) Mr President, Mr Szent-Iványi is the rapporteur on the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, but he is not here, because the Commissioner has sent him far away to oversee the elections in Fiji. Mr Szent-Iványi sends his greetings and asks us on his behalf to thank the Commissioner for her speech, which is in complete harmony with the agreement which has been reached on this issue.
A major reorganisation in the financing of external relations is to be introduced through the regulations now being discussed. Previous financial instruments are being combined and the decision-making process reformed. The European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument is to replace the current TACIS and MEDA systems. Cross-border cooperation is to feature a new arrangement, which will permit the flexible combination of the financing of external relations via the Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, on the one hand, with funding for the territory of the Member States out of the European Regional Development Fund, on the other.
Hitherto, cross-border cooperation has been very unwieldy, as the decision-making systems for funding under TACIS in external relations and regional development financing within the Union have been very different. It will be a massive challenge to harmonise the administrative procedures and interlink them. The pending implementing regulation must be drafted carefully and take Parliament’s views on the matter into account.
For all the financial instruments we need a decision-making system that safeguards Parliament’s influence even after the regulations are adopted. The negotiations on this matter have gone very well indeed. The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is pleased that the other institutions have at last approved Parliament’s call for establishing an instrument for human rights and democracy.
The external relations instruments form a whole, and consensus must be reached on all of its components between the Council, the Commission and Parliament. This will require flexibility on all sides, including the European Parliament. The changes to the financing mechanisms are so significant that problems can be expected in their practical application. All the institutions must be ready to make changes, if necessary, to the regulations now being decided upon within the current Financing Period.
I was shadow rapporteur on behalf of the ALDE Group when the ENPI Regulation was being discussed and I would like to thank my colleague, Mr Szymański, for his cooperation. I am especially glad that the Northern Dimension and cooperation with our northern neighbours were also covered by the regulation.
Irena Belohorská (NI), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee for Foreign Affairs. – (SK) I would like to call upon my colleagues to consider their positions regarding the legal basis of the proposed regulation. It is necessary to retain a dual legal system and thereby to ensure that the Committee on Foreign Affairs will in future play a role in the processes of development and economic cooperation. If Article 179 provided the sole legal basis, this process would be exclusively in the hands of the Committee for Development, and our committee would lose its authority. You have already spoken of human rights here, although these are in the AFET portfolio.
I would also like to draw attention to the fact that I have been informed that a dual legal basis would undermine the authority of the European Parliament. This information is untrue, insofar as Article 25 of the Opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs of Parliament clearly states that if there is a dual system, then Articles 179 and 181a will implement a codecision process, thereby giving Parliament greater authority. If we have a single legal basis relying on Article 179 alone there is a danger that programmes such as Erasmus Mondus or other educational programmes and student grants will disappear.
Article 179 is not able to cover the broad spectrum of development and economic cooperation. For example, it would not cover sectoral cooperation in areas such as transport and energy. Not all types of cooperation can be subsumed under the term ‘development cooperation’. Furthermore, Article 179 applies only to developing countries, and the EU does not have its own definition of developing countries, which it has borrowed from the OECD. Article 181a, on the other hand, speaks of third countries, which means its definition is less restrictive. If Article 181 were dropped, some countries would be automatically excluded.
Ladies and gentlemen, if we pass this directive with a single legal basis, it means that Article 181 will no longer have a basis in the agreements and we will thereby be giving carte blanche to the Commission.
Mauro Zani (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Development. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the subject of my speech is the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, which I have followed as draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Development.
This new policy, which became necessary after the last major enlargement, covers a vast geographical area. The primary objective of this policy is, as you know, the creation of a common area of prosperity and security for developing economic integration and political cooperation between the Union and its partner countries. This is a challenge and, at the same time, a chance to take advantage of the opportunities that derive from this policy, including in terms of development, since most of the countries benefiting from the Neighbourhood Policy are indeed developing countries.
The Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument establishes a close relationship between internal and external cohesion: from that perspective, security is therefore linked to development. I would therefore draw the Commission's and the Council's attention to the fact that development policy must have greater scope as an instrument of the Union’s external relations.
Ignasi Guardans Cambó (ALDE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education. – (ES) Mr President, I welcome this neighbourhood instrument that we will soon approve and which we are debating today and, in particular, I am pleased with all of the amendments that have increased the role played by civil society in the neighbourhood policy.
The spokesmen who have spoken before me have said that we are still awaiting a genuine instrument, which the Commission has said it will present, for strengthening human rights and support for democracy. It is clear, however, that this neighbourhood instrument that we are debating now, following its passage through Parliament, has been filled with numerous references to that protection of human rights and the relationship with civil society and non-State actors. I would call upon the Commission to bear this in mind and, when it comes to implementing this agreement with neighbouring countries, to remember that many of them are not democracies. It must therefore bear very much in mind that this instrument cannot be allowed to strengthen non-democratic regimes and that it must therefore take very good account of these non-governmental actors.
Elisabeth Schroedter (Verts/ALE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the rapporteur on the Neighbourhood Instrument, Mr Szymański, for having taken on board so many of our committee’s suggestions, which has added value to the Commission proposal.
I can do no other than stress – and in this I am expressing the Employment Committee’s view – how important it is that the social dimension be given greater emphasis in promoting the Neighbourhood Instrument. It is particularly at the outermost border of the European Union that an enormous economic disparity is to be found, and tensions can be reduced only if the social dimension is given an equal priority as the country draws nearer to the EU.
I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate how important is the role played by the social partners in the Neighbourhood Instrument. If there is to be partnership with these countries, then it is absolutely essential that their role be strengthened and promoted. This House can count the implementation of educational measures and their social role as accompaniments to the action plans among its successes.
László Surján (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budget. – (HU) Mr President, the Committee on Budgets was pleased to address the financial aspects of these issues. We were glad that in the future our foreign policy and neighbourhood policy activities would be conducted within a more transparent and more simplified structure.
We have a saying: a bad neighbourhood is a Turkish curse. It originated in the times when a large part of Hungary was under the occupation of the Ottoman Empire. We are interested in a good neighbourhood, and I believe that this instrument will help prevent the European Union from building walls or erecting a Chinese Wall around itself, and will encourage it to efficiently help its neighbours to prosper, instead. This will also be in the interest of our safety.
We supported the idea that in some cases we could, for instance, waive the cofinancing contribution, because in many of our neighbouring countries the organisations involved would be unable to support such a programme from their own resources. I ask the House to support the proposal, and I would like to thank everybody for their work.
Andres Tarand (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Trade, Research and Energy – (ET) Mr President, relations between the old and newer neighbours play an important role in European Union foreign policy. In recent times, however, we have found out from the media that the financing of projects is in some cases quite unclear. While I would like to commend the work done by the rapporteur, as the draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Trade, Research and Energy I do have two critical observations concerning the vagueness of the European Union’s expenditures.
The first concerns the role of the European Parliament in the preparation, management and auditing of projects, which was included in the amendments proposed by the Committee on Industry, but is not in the final text. The status of legal entity submitted concerning partners is also missing.
The second observation concerns the introduction of the Northern Dimension into the draft from the same position. The Northern Dimension is undoubtedly a most successful step by Finland in relations between the European Union and Russia. Its extent has, however, not been defined. From time to time it is presented as an immediate neighbourhood policy of the Member States – that is, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
The third and best possibility is good-neighbourly relations between the eight Member States from the Baltic Sea region and Russia, which naturally does not rule out the involvement of other countries.
Thank you, Mr President.
Barbara Kudrycka (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. – (PL) Mr President, it was entirely natural that the members of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs should take an interest in standardising and simplifying the procedure for integrated border management and in migration, asylum policy, crime prevention and the prevention of human trafficking on the one hand, at the same time as in promoting the rule of law, the independence of courts and good administrative practices as laid out in the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument.
We cannot jointly fight crime or build border infrastructure if the funds allocated for this purpose sink in a mire of corruption or incompetence. That is why I wish to stress that the members of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs are counting on the fact that practical support in the fight against crime and human trafficking will go hand in hand with support for an independent legal system, good administration and civil liberties. This is necessary in order to achieve a balance between costs and benefits, and so that the demands and the profits are balanced in such a way as to ensure that our neighbours will not only be aware of the weight of their obligations but also perceive values that, to them, seem independently and convincingly necessary for a better, safer life.
Tokia Saïfi (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on International Trade. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Winkler, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument simplifies the European Union's external aid and strengthens cooperation with our neighbours, and that is a good thing.
Nevertheless, we must be prudent with regard to the funding we grant to the neighbourhood policy. We need to bear in mind the differences between our neighbours to the East and those to the South, and the fact that reforms are being implemented at variable speeds. Let us ensure that European financial aid remains stable and, in particular, that it continues to be divided as at present.
I am thinking here of our neighbours in the Mediterranean, who, as part of the Barcelona process, have a particular relationship with the European Union. We need to show and prove that our partnership continues to be a high priority, by increasing our political, economic and cultural cooperation.
Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. – (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, members of the Council, what we in the Committee on Regional Development, and I as co-rapporteur (Article 47) in particular, have committed ourselves to is concrete support for citizens on both sides of the EU’s external borders in the coming years. As Mr Szymański has already said, agreement on the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument at first reading is now within reach.
The European border regions are offered the opportunity, in the coming years, partly with some EUR 700 million per annum in funds from the European Regional Development Fund, of carrying out concrete programmes that cover a wide spectrum, including public health, education, the economy and the environment at Europe’s external borders.
It is vitally important that we, in consultation with the Council, have reached agreement on how we go about this. Specifically, we have managed to maintain the INTERREG method under regional policy. In that connection, we have consulted the association of the European border regions and the newly formed network of external eastern border regions, called NEIGHBOUR, who claim they know how to use this method, for they have received and adopted workable suggestions.
Finally, we have also reached agreement on the transitional regulation, which means that preparatory measures can now be funded. Should we fail to reach agreement on the external border with the regions and the nation state, we will take concrete action after 1 June 2010 to ensure that the funds can be spent in our own Member States on this side of the border and are not wasted. A readily implementable Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Initiative (EMPI) will be before us from 2007 onwards. In that connection, I would like to thank Mr Szymański and the Council for their unyielding commitment to reach agreement.
Zbigniew Zaleski (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on International Trade. – (PL) Mr President, I am very pleased that Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner views the economic cooperation instrument as important, and I do not see anything wrong with it becoming a matter to which the codecision procedure is applied at some point, even if that is not yet the case today.
As the rapporteur of the Committee on International Trade on the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, I would like to say that we want to help candidate countries in cross-border activities related to establishing a market economy, non-governmental organisations, implementing WTO principles and all academic exchanges. At the same time, we strongly demand that the Commission present annual reports to Parliament so that we may see what the funds have been earmarked for, and so that, in a few years’ time, we can avoid feeling disappointed that they have disappeared somewhere and we do not know if the aid really reached European Union candidate countries or not.
Gábor Harangozó (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. – Mr President, firstly I would like to thank our rapporteur, Mr Szent-Iványi, for our positive cooperation on the drafting of the Regional Development Committee opinion on the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance. My opinion is that this report is an opportunity to provide at all stages for the involvement of the European Parliament in the control and management of the new IPA.
In that respect, consultation is not sufficient. In fact, due to the budgetary and political character of the issues at stake, provision should be made for codecision procedures. I believe that the lack of visibility in the level of funding per country, objectives and components should be clearly addressed and that the new instrument should ensure clarity and predictability of the Union’s commitments to its partner countries. Moreover, proper account should be taken of the specific situations and potential difficulties of the beneficiary countries. Alternative implementing arrangements should therefore be in force in order to avoid any shared management problems.
Pierre Schapira (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Development. – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, once again I am very pleased at the change to the legal basis of the stability instrument, and am grateful to the Commission and the Council for having accepted this change. I am also pleased that the negotiations with the Council made it possible to restrict the scope of the stability instrument by limiting cooperation in the fields of peacekeeping and anti-terrorist activities. Nevertheless, the Commission's proposal aiming to establish a non-compulsory call-back mechanism does not make up for the deficiencies in Parliament's power of codecision on the political content.
With regard to the Mitchell report, I am delighted that Parliament has not yielded to the Commission or the Council. Tomorrow, we are going to vote on a text that maintains Parliament's powers and allows it to retain its role as colegislator regarding the political direction to be taken by the new cooperation and development instrument. There is no reason to yield because this power is an established right. Indeed, the political guidelines on which we want to secure codecision will replace 16 regulations that underwent the codecision procedure. Now that the initial battle has been fought, we expect the Commission to propose a policy soon so that we can complete the second reading before the end of this year.
Nevertheless, I am concerned about the neighbourhood instrument. It raises the same problems as the development instrument, but the response provided is considerably different. As in the case of the Development Cooperation and Economic Cooperation instrument (DCECI), this instrument is subject to the codecision procedure but has no political content. As in the case of the DCECI, the political content to be defined will, for 15 of the 17 countries covered by the neighbourhood instrument, replace around a dozen subject-related regulations subject to the codecision procedure.
In an effort to retain its competences, Parliament itself proposed the call-back mechanism to express its opinion on the political content of the neighbourhood instrument within the framework of the codecision procedure in the case of differences with the Commission. We are an elected assembly and our work is, by definition, political. We have chosen, though, to legislate on the most technical aspect of the partnership – the procedural framework – but to keep our peace on the political strategy. Today, we are prepared to give up the call-back mechanism and to yield to the Commission and the Council in order to adopt this text at first reading.
Why should we go back on an established right? Why should our legislative power be curtailed at a time when Parliament is achieving significant legislative victories in other areas, such as port services, the Services Directive and, tomorrow, the DCECI? I understand that we need to reach a speedy compromise on this instrument with the Council and the Commission, but how can any elected representative vote to lose his prerogatives?
Antonis Samaras (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. – (EL) Mr President, the facility to respond to threats against human rights and democracy is a self-evident and necessary objective.
On the essence of the proposal, on behalf of the Committee on Budgets, I should like to say, as regards the instrument for stability, that the codecision procedure – which is now accepted by all sides – is certainly, legally speaking, the right procedure.
On the question of transparency and flexibility, transparency safeguards the avoidance of overlaps in the various activities, mainly with the CFSP, while flexibility affords the facility for timely intervention and improved efficacy.
I close by saying that certainly I have no objection to the proposed indicative financial framework and I would like to say that, through the annual budget procedure, we shall fight in the Committee on Budgets for maximum efficiency of the instrument for stability.
David Martin (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on International Trade. – Mr President, I fully support the objectives of the ‘Prodi package’ of simplifying the structure of our external actions. As the largest provider of overseas development assistance, a key trading partner for the LDCs and an important provider of technical and financial assistance, the EU has an obligation to ensure that our actions add value, are properly coordinated and are coherent.
The Committee on International Trade has three main concerns about the packages in general and the DCECI Instrument in particular. Firstly, in relation to the legal base, we took the view that Article 179 was an insufficient base and that we needed a legal base that included cooperation with both developing and industrialised countries: in other words the inclusion of Article 181a. Nevertheless, we respect the view of the Committee on Development that having this in a single instrument involved the risk of vulnerability between development objectives and industrial objectives.
Our second concern is the apparent downplaying of the importance of trade in the package as a whole. We want trade-related assistance to be given a clearer focus and wonder, in the absence of a thematic programme, how trade will be handled in the proposed structures for the new instruments.
Finally, we share the other committees’ concerns about the erosion of parliamentary control and believe that Parliament was right to reject the original 2004 proposals. The breakthrough we have achieved with the Council and the Commission on review and expiry clauses should lead to a positive vote tomorrow, but Parliament must now be fully engaged in setting policy priorities throughout the package.
Charles Tannock, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Mr President, firstly I would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Szymánski, on the ENPI. The European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument – which will replace the existing Tacis and Meda programmes in 2007 – is, in my view, essential to budgetary discipline and procedure. It will cover the Euromed countries of the Barcelona Process and the Western NIS countries, as well as the three Caucasus republics, which currently constitute the European Neighbourhood Policy countries on which I am Parliament’s rapporteur. Like Russia, which is not part of the ENP but enjoys the four Common Spaces, these are all key neighbouring countries whose geopolitical stability and economic prosperity is vital to EU interests. We need to be surrounded by a ring of friends who enjoy free markets, security within their borders and shared values with the European Union, particularly on human rights and democracy-building.
Although generous, the aid provided in these dedicated instruments – in the case of the ENPI it is of the order of EUR 12 billion for the next financial perspective – is less per capita than that granted in the pre-accession process to EU candidate countries. Nevertheless, it is an important contribution in technical assistance and investment in key infrastructure projects, which can complement the work of the EIB and the EBRD.
I also believe that aid and trade privileges must be the carrot that can be coupled to the stick of conditionality as part of the ENP, to ensure that the closer these countries move towards the European Union’s values, the more they can be rewarded in future. The ENPI must remain part of the codecision procedure under Article 179, with suitable monitoring and oversight by our Parliament.
I also welcome the concession by the Commission – and I gather the Council will also fall into line on this – to set up a dedicated instrument for human rights and democracy that will facilitate the EU’s priority support for building greater values of human rights, democracy and freedom in the rest of the world.
Miguel Ángel Martínez Martínez, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (ES) Mr President, there is disquiet within the Committee on Development at the difficulties that have arisen with the European Commission and the Council with regard to the negotiation of the instrument for development cooperation.
We approved the first Mitchell report more than a year ago in the Committee on Development and, since then, it has been at a standstill while we waited for the Commission and the Council to stand by their promise to take account of our arguments and criticisms of the Commission’s initial proposal. Nevertheless, those promises have not been fulfilled, despite some effort and progress, and they have not been reflected in any text presented to Parliament by the Commission.
There were three main problems with what has been proposed to us. Firstly, it did not appear reasonable to have a single instrument for development cooperation and cooperation with the developed world. We were concerned that resources intended for the development of the countries of the South could be transferred to cooperation with the countries of the North. With regard to this point, the Council and the Commission appeared to sympathise with our position.
The second point was more serious. We could not accept the idea of Parliament losing competences that it had had with regard to the seventeen instruments which were now intended to be compacted into one or two. The entire process of European integration has been characterised by a constant effort to consolidate the democratic progress made within the interinstitutional relationship, which has essentially taken the form of greater competences for Parliament in decision-making.
We are surprised, and somewhat indignant, at the approach advocated by the Commission, which sets efficiency against democracy. The intention has been to reduce Parliament’s competences, on the grounds that they complicate the process and make it less efficient. It is not the hierarchy of the Committee on Development that is at stake, but rather the competence of Parliament, and in that regard we cannot take a single step backwards. In this respect, there has not been the least progress that can be objectively measured.
The third area of conflict relates to the fact that, perhaps more on the part of the Council than of the Commission, the intention has been to include actions relating to security, terrorism and immigration within development cooperation. Some of them may appear appropriate; what is unacceptable is that they should be funded with resources earmarked for development cooperation.
For example, funding the repatriation of illegal immigrants from the instrument for development cooperation is not acceptable to us. These programmes require a differentiated instrument funded from other sources. In this area as well, there has been some progress in our debate with the Commission and the Council.
Mr President, we are going to vote for the text proposed to us, in the hope that, at second reading, the Commission will understand and accept our arguments, hopefully with the understanding and support of the Council.
Frithjof Schmidt, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, there is indeed consensus in this House on the need for reform of the development cooperation instruments, and that it needs to happen without delay. In this field, there are already 16 different regulations, with differing priorities and running for different periods of time. The existing procedure is complex, incomprehensible and opaque.
The Commission’s draft, though, is a model of how not to tackle this state of affairs. Simplification and efficiency are not the same things as the voiding of Parliament’s right of codecision, the systematic blurring of the lines between development cooperation and foreign economic policy in our dealings with industrialised countries, or an obscure legal basis for the use of funds earmarked for development policy.
What I have heard from you today, Commissioner, amounts – putting it cautiously – to contradictory statements on these three core issues. Perhaps we can take that as a reason to hope that the Commission might stir itself into life, which, in view of the fact that time is now running out, is precisely what it needs to do; many regulations will lapse at the end of the year, and, if we fail to reach agreement, our legal position will be a precarious one.
We want Parliament to vote right now, so that there can be no speculation about it being Parliament that delayed the agreement. It is on that basis that we need to negotiate. The Austrian Presidency of the Council has circulated some good ideas as to what a compromise might look like, and now the Commission really must abandon its tactic of sitting on the sidelines when these points are being discussed and meet us halfway and negotiate a compromise in which simplification and Parliament’s full right of codecision are not seen as antithetical.
Luisa Morgantini, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, despite the dissatisfaction expressed, I feel I must sincerely thank the Commission and the Presidency, as well as Mr Mitchell, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and all the members of the parliamentary committees and the relevant secretaries for the hard work they lavished on reaching an agreement on four instruments for external action. Interinstitutional cooperation and dialogue constitute a testing ground that will enable us to achieve a positive and effective outcome in the interest of all the actors involved, particularly those from developing countries.
As regards the development cooperation instrument, significant progress has been made on the expiry date, on the revision clause and on other topics too. The negotiation process has succeeded in overcoming the differences.
With this first reading, we are concluding this initial phase so as to move on as quickly as possible to the creation of a task force of the Committee on Development, this being a decision that the committee itself has already made. This task force will enable us, once we have received some formal proposals from the Commission, to discuss structures and contents with the aim of reaching a comprehensive agreement as soon as possible, since responsibility for any potential ‘gaps’ would lie with everyone and not just with one party.
A solution, which we consider positive, has been found on one of the decisive points of the Mitchell report, namely that of keeping cooperation with developing countries and with industrial countries separate. I sincerely hope that we will succeed in finding a solution, too, regarding Parliament's powers to define thematic and geographical priorities, priorities that cannot be abandoned, not least in view of the fact that the document in question replaces 16 codecided regulations.
Paul Marie Coûteaux, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (FR) Mr President, I should like, if you will allow me, to extend this debate, because we must remember that all of our discussions and our speeches today assume that we have a common policy on external relations.
However, it seems to have escaped the notice of some that, when the French and then the Dutch rejected the European Constitution a year ago, it was precisely because they did not want to let go of what they hold most dear, namely their world view as expressed in their foreign policy.
They have no intention of creating, as the Constitution proposes, a minister for foreign affairs, not even if it is Mr Solana, and they have even less intention of giving him services and funding. No, they do not intend to have the same foreign policy as, for example, the United Kingdom or Italy, or of others, when they invade Iraq, a member of the United Nations, without the consent of the Security Council, thus disregarding international law and even the existence of international law.
They do not want a superpower that kidnaps, deports and tortures like the United States does, as we saw with the infamous affair of the CIA's supposedly secret flights, carried out with the tacit approval of our authorities, particularly of Mr Solana, who certainly does not let you forget that he was Secretary General of NATO. If Mr Solana wants to defend human rights, then let him condemn Washington and their European accomplices, which, by remaining silent, have made themselves accessories to kidnapping and torture, rather than starting arguments with the southern countries that are insufficiently aligned for his taste, or perhaps too close to France.
We will certainly vote against these funds and this financial perspective, which is a fatal perspective for Europe and its dignity.
IN THE CHAIR: MRS KAUFMANN Vice-President
Eoin Ryan, on behalf of the UEN Group. – Madam President, I should like to congratulate my colleague, Mr Mitchell, for the work that he has done on this report. There are a number of points that I wish to make today.
I believe that it is imperative for Parliament to retain the power of codecision on strategic priorities, geographical and thematic aid programmes. It must also apply for the multiannual financial framework. It is essential that we do not allow the European Commission to introduce a single instrument in such matters. I believe that, in keeping with the Millennium Development Goals, the scope of EU development aid should be restricted to the developing countries only.
On the question of aid funding, I believe that the budget support must be approved by the Court of Auditors and the parliament of the partner country. Any suspension of aid must be decided by the Council of Ministers by qualified majority after the European Parliament, but we must ensure that any financial aid and debt relief is organised in such a way as to ensure that some corrupt African leaders, without mentioning names, cannot rearm themselves to bolster highly questionable regimes.
The EU is the world’s biggest aid donor and is responsible for 55% of all development aid. Unfortunately, much of that aid is of very little use to developing countries unless we also make trade work for them. I propose a significant boost in aid for trade, which would be aimed at helping developing countries help themselves by enabling them to turn market opportunities into reality.
I believe it is vital that the European Parliament does not lose its joint legislative power with the Council on the issue of development policy.
Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE). – (ET) Mrs Commissioner, Mr Winkler, as shadow rapporteur for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and the European Democrats’ faction, I support Parliament’s efforts to find a role for itself as an active joint partner in areas involving strategic foreign policy choices. I was pleasantly surprised by Mrs Ferrero-Waldner’s statement today that the commission would agree with both the implementation of the auditing clause and the European Parliament’s right of participation in the case of the stabilisation instrument.
What is important is that these documents create a direct link between crisis aid, European Union development cooperation and the implementation of human rights policy. The objective of establishing mutual additionality between the aid channelled through the stabilisation instrument and the aid provided in the framework of the three remaining foreign instruments is also worthy of recognition. Thus we have an opportunity to create an integrated European Union strategic programme connecting the main policy instruments with the elements of the new stabilisation instrument.
I am pleased that the council and now the commission have supported the Committee on Foreign Affairs’ request for a separate ‘human rights and democracy instrument’. With the perspective of implementing this instrument, there arises an opportunity for agreements to be concluded concerning the remaining three foreign policy instruments.
Today’s message is that the European Parliament has established the objective of considerably increasing its right of participation in the issues mentioned. We also now expect the commission to offer legislative initiatives for realising the foreign aid instruments in question.
The implementation of these instruments concerning all third countries, and on the same criteria is, however, a much more difficult question. To that end, it is of the utmost necessity that the European Union’s integral foreign and security policy should be implemented in practice, not only in theory. This policy must be coordinated more firmly and effectively in order for it to create the necessary generally established framework for reacting to crisis situations.
Thank you very much.
Margrietus van den Berg (PSE). – (NL) Madam President, it was one and a half years ago that the Commission tabled new proposals for the financial foreign policy instruments, including development cooperation, in an attempt at simplification and rationalisation, and that is something of which I am entirely in favour. The way in which the Commission wanted to achieve this, however, would mean that, while Parliament now – thanks to 16 regulations – has codecision powers, it would soon only have an advisory role in the area of development cooperation.
What Parliament wants is a say in how policy is fleshed out in terms of topics and geography and in the distribution of funds across the priorities. Also – and that is a different matter in this instrument – the Commission would like to lump together economic cooperation with non-Development Cooperation countries and development cooperation by using a dual legal basis. That is something that remains unacceptable to this House.
Although we feel we have now, for lack of new proposals from the Commission, wasted 18 months, all is not lost. The Committee on Development is prepared, on the basis of the Mitchell report, to set up a task force, and we are prepared to get our skates on, on one condition though, namely that the Commission tables its proposals within the next few weeks.
Firstly, we want a rationalised instrument, intended for development aid alone, with only Article 179 as its basis, and thus restricted to official development spending. Secondly, we would like to see separate proposals for programmes arranged according to topic and geography. We are prepared to restrict the number of regulations. We want the right of codecision on the broad outlines of policy. Thirdly, we want financial priorities either on the basis of a multi-annual financial framework or by including a very low percentage in the geographical and thematic proposals. What we propose is that 50% of all EU Official Development Assistance spending should be spent on Millennium goals and within this context, present spending levels for basic education and basic health care should be doubled.
It is now up to the Commission to decide whether it wants to do business, or remain at loggerheads with us, in which case we will obstruct its simplification and rationalisation initiatives and will revert back to those 16 instruments and all the unworkable micro-management that they entail. I would urge the Council and the Commission, in order that poverty may be reduced in a credible and effective way, to accept our offer. I would thank the Austrian Presidency for the commitment it has shown to date in this respect.
Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Madam President, with its various financial instruments, is the EU providing itself with the means to pursue its external policies sincerely and in full? If Europe disappoints, euroscepticism will increase. If we disappoint our partners, we are taking the risk that they will turn away from us. I hope that the neighbourhood instrument will be effective and will bring the regional stability for which we hope.
In bringing the countries of the southern Caucasus into the neighbourhood policy, for example, has the Union taken account of the expectations of the people concerned? I am talking about a sub-region that I know well. Bordered by Russia, Turkey and Iran, it is now at the centre of European and international debate. By guaranteeing their security, we are also guaranteeing our own. For this to work, our neighbours need considerable resources to implement the action plans they are currently drawing up, and it is regrettable that the European Union and Parliament are not involved in the negotiations. However, the important thing is that this instrument, the neighbourhood policy, must assist these countries on the path to democracy, that the Union must be a real player in the peaceful resolution of conflicts, namely, in the case of the southern Caucasus, the 'frozen' conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia, and in the peace plans for South Ossetia. These countries have voluntarily turned towards our European values, and they must be supported in their action plans.
Because we now need to do more and better with the available resources – which seems to be the theme for today – I therefore call on the Commission to get the allocation of the scarce resources right and to invest in projects based on the fundamental principles of lasting peace and regional stability, respect for human rights and democracy, and sustainable development.
Tobias Pflüger (GUE/NGL). – (DE) Madam President, very interesting though this stability instrument is as an approach, there is a quite fundamental problem with it, for it amounts to something like an attempt to disregard what is stated in the Treaty of Nice – namely, that there is no free-standing military budget – and introduce something of the sort by a circuitous route, and that I do regard as highly problematic. This draft, however, states quite openly that the intention is that the new financial instruments should play a crucial role in ‘developing the Union as a global player’. It is fairly plain to see that what it is talking about here is military expenditure.
According to the Treaty of Nice, there can be no freestanding military budget, and we should actually leave it at that. What is happening instead is a piecemeal approach to exploring alternative means of funding and developing them. Another problem is the vagueness of this financial instrument, for it is capable of being used to fund not only civilian but also military projects. I would urge you to be quite open in saying that you want to fund military operations, and be quite open about doing it, for that is something that can be handled politically. That is why this is so very problematic.
Derek Roland Clark (IND/DEM). – Madam President, we are constantly told to listen to the people, not least by the Greek President this very morning. Let us do that and recognise that the people, when asked directly, say ‘no’ to the Constitution, not least because they view with dismay the allocation of more and more of their money to pre-accession and even pre-candidate countries, some of which are undeveloped. Here it is essential that developed and undeveloped countries be separated and that these funds are not for European countries alone. So the EU should remember Third World countries outside the EU where its funds would be put to better use.
In fact, its activities often lead to poverty in the Third World, which is why my party wishes to put this aid back in the hands of Member States alone. Only yesterday, this House voted to allow EU fleets the rights to fish the waters of São Tomé, Príncipe and Angola. We all know what happens then: the EU fleets rape the waters, putting locals out of business and destroying fish stocks for years to come. What price external relations then?
Yesterday, we gave rights to EU fleets to fish Moroccan waters and specifically rejected proposals that Member States could prohibit their fleets from fishing the waters of Western Sahara. Half the people of that unhappy country live in Algerian refugee camps because of Morocco’s military takeover. Now there is political, uncivil insecurity for you! Thus is Western Sahara impoverished when it could be helped. But there are only 300 000 people there; they have renounced violence, unlike some other countries in receipt of EU funds, so the world forgets them.
Mieczysław Edmund Janowski (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, while I would like to express my admiration for the rapporteur, Mr Szymański, as well as for the other rapporteurs, I would also just like to highlight a few matters related to the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. We are talking today about an instrument that constitutes one of the tools for creating partnerships and neighbourly relations between the Union and third countries. Yet are the funds which, as far as I know, amount to only 1.5% of Union spending, sufficient? Are we really going to be able, with this money, to promote the spread of democracy, respect for human rights and civil society building?
With this kind of approach, specific attention needs to be paid to ensuring that objective criteria are used to determine how the funds are distributed. Implementing provisions will also be important. We do not have a lot of time. It is good that Russia is mentioned in paragraph nine of the explanatory statement. It is a shame, however, that the same emphasis was not placed on Ukraine. Finally, I would like to say that this financial instrument constitutes an opportunity for the European Union, which is home to barely 7% of the world’s population, to contribute to global stability and security and to poverty reduction. It will be beneficial to us all and will constitute European added value.
Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos (PPE-DE). – (EL) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, I should like to start by emphasising the importance of our debate today, both as regards the subject and as regards the fact that it is a debate based on broad agreement.
We are all aware of the fact that the message that we send today, by debating this subject in the European Parliament, to third countries, irrespective of the relationship which these countries have with the European Union, is important.
I wish, of course, to congratulate all the rapporteurs, especially Mr Szent-Iványi, to whose report I devoted most time, both for the fact that he was extremely cooperative throughout the procedure in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and for the proposals which he formulated. The very fact that for Mr Iványi's report we have an agreement between us in the European Parliament and also with the European Commission and the European Council is something that I consider very important.
It is also important that pre-accession assistance is being given, of course, to the two candidate countries, Croatia and Turkey, and to countries with European prospects, such as the countries of the Western Balkans.
Finally, I am delighted that we have resolved with the agreement what I consider to be the serious matter of the legal basis of Article 181. In other words, I consider that the agreement made – take heed – is important and I trust that it will be applied in the best possible way.
Ana Maria Gomes (PSE). – Madam President, the idea that six regulations that are not subject to codecision and concern a range of detailed topics could be integrated into a single regulation and be labelled part of the better regulation effort is unacceptable to my group.
Do the Commission and the Council really believe that better regulation is achieved by cutting the European Parliament out of the procedure altogether? How can you bring the EU closer to its citizens whilst attempting to take powers from the only directly elected EU institution, whose Members have the closest contact with the European citizens? This Parliament cannot give up its competence and scrutinising role. We need to maintain democratic oversight and, indeed, build on our responsibilities in development and external actions.
Seven months are left before the external actions regulations should come into force. Let us see the Commission put its money where its mouth is and allow Parliament adequate time to legislate on the proposals which, let us remember, the Commission is desperate to have but has not yet formally put forward.
The Commission and the Council should pay attention: this Parliament will not be blackmailed on the Human Rights and Democracy Instrument. Furthermore, giving up codecision would mark a dangerous step backwards for the development of the European Union as a whole. This Parliament will not allow that to happen.
Gisela Kallenbach (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Madam President, I am glad that the new pre-accession assistance programmes are to be given an unequivocally political slant, and conclusions have been drawn from our experience with them, so that funds will from now on be spent in a more targeted, efficient and flexible way.
We know that progressive European integration is the driving force behind the processes of change in the countries of the western Balkans, and in Turkey as well. This House has an interest in being consulted in good time when the framework rules are drawn up, when results are assessed and when conclusions are drawn, and we will consider very seriously the Commission’s undertakings in this regard and also in respect of the Neighbourhood Policy. If our solidarity is to be taken as read, then we must insist on unambiguous compliance with international law and conventions being expected in the same way. By so doing, we will not only be reinforcing sound economic development, but also, and in particular, helping to underpin civil society as the seedbed of European integration.
Nirj Deva (PPE-DE). – Madam President, last year we saw millions of young people marching to make poverty history. Poverty matters to them; it matters to us.
Also last year, we saw the people of Europe – France and the Netherlands – reject the Constitution, because to them the EU was too remote from their concerns. We now have a chance to bring their concerns about poverty and our concerns about connecting with the people of Europe together.
This Parliament is the point of connection, the point of transparency and accountability. That is why codecision is so important. That is why transparency is so important. That is why accountability is so important. That is why replacing 16 codecision instruments with one will not work: replacing instruments on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, replacing policies on sexual and reproductive health, on measures to promote the full integration of environmental dimensions, on measures to promote the consolidation of sustainable management of forests – including those in developing counties, policies on consolidating democracy and the rule of law, on respecting human rights, on promoting gender equality in developing countries, on decentralised cooperation, on cofinancing with other NGOs, on food aid and food management, on development cooperation with South Africa, with Latin America, with Asia – it must be dotty! Whoever in the Commission thought this up? I do not think that the Commissioner has anything to do with it. We have to be accountable; we have to report back to our people. Our people expect us to tell them what we are doing with their money, and we cannot do that if there is only one development cooperation instrument that will cover this whole gamut of policy.
We have to set policy. Parliaments are there to set policy, to implement and oversee the implementation of policy and to account for money. That is what parliaments are for and we cannot avoid our responsibilities. I do not think that anybody in the Commission should think that the MEPs in this Parliament are going to abrogate their duties.
I congratulate Mr Mitchell on a very good report.
Marianne Mikko (PSE). – (ET) Ladies and gentlemen, our representatives’ amendments to the neighbourhood policy instrument justifiably emphasise European values. It is good that the instrument provides for the possibility of bypassing governments. Unfortunately, however, we are sidestepping the definition of geopolitical priorities. The final objective the European Union wishes to achieve with these not at all insignificant amounts is not specified.
There are lots of hints. It is clear that in addition to the neighbourhood policy instrument, Russia has a separate framework and a Northern Dimension. In other words, the European Union by default recognises the existence of a Russian sphere of influence.
At present, Moldova is a plaything in the hands of the Russian bear. The Kremlin closes off the gas pipelines and dries up the country’s largest source of export revenue – the wine industry. In so doing, Moscow is not only testing the resilience of Moldova, Georgia and the Ukraine, but also whether the European Union has any foreign policy backbone at all. Therefore, we must use our taxpayers’ money as a tool with which to sweep away the last traces of the Cold War in this united Europe. In the interests of stability, more financial resources must be focused on democratising the areas of the former Soviet Union.
Elmar Brok (PPE-DE). – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, I would like to thank the Council and the Commission for the success of the negotiations that we have held on a range of instruments for which the Committee on Foreign Affairs is responsible, and also the three rapporteurs, two of whom had to deal with matters subject to codecision, for having conducted proceedings in a manner worthy of codecision, the result of which is that we can be quite certain, if the human rights instrument is added, of bringing matters to a conclusion at first reading in June.
What I would like to say is that it is not the number of regulations that determines Parliament’s prerogatives, but rather their content. I think we have achieved a great deal in the three areas for which my committee is responsible, with the codecision on the stability instrument, with the options made available to us by financial regulation, with the breakdown of appropriations and enhanced political substance. The review clause, which the present Commission has yet to guarantee within the life of this Parliament, the commitment to establish a legislative process on the basis of it, the possibility of this House having codecision on a mid-term review of the substance – these are just a few of the things that offer us more possibilities in comparison with what we had in the past.
It is important that there are few rules, and that they are readily comprehensible, for that is what transparency is all about. Scarcely anybody – least of all we ourselves – knew how to find their way through the thirty rules that we had before, and that is why I think this is a better way for us to go down – which, I hope, we will. We can take pride in having made a good job of this. The European Union gives four times as much overseas aid as does the United States of America, and it is for that reason that we should make the effort to do it better and negotiate regulations for its speedy implementation, for implementation is what this is all about. We need to take a closer look at European policy on the way the instruments are used, and it is particularly with this in mind that we in this House will attach great importance to checking up on the Commission.
Justas Vincas Paleckis (PSE). – Madam President, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument is important to the new EU Member States, including Lithuania. Our border with our neighbouring countries is almost 1 000 kilometres long. We are very keen that behind this border, in Russia and Belarus, democracy, human rights, economic prosperity and greater public welfare should take root. Paraphrasing the former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, we could say that European Union citizens will never be safe and happy if, beyond the borders of the Union, people live in economic deprivation and in the absence of rights and fundamental freedoms.
I would like to stress that the document also offers the possibility of using financial resources for those countries that are inclined to freeze cooperation with the EU. We need to coordinate these possibilities with a project to create a European democratic fund in support of civil society, as suggested by the Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, German Social Democrats and Members of the European Parliament.
Hubert Pirker (PPE-DE). – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, it is in the interests of the European Union to encourage our neighbours, particularly the countries in south-eastern Europe, to adopt our standards. It will bring stability not only to that region, but also to the European Union as a whole.
The programmes we have had in the past have, for the most part, been implemented extremely effectively: we could list a whole host of examples, particularly with regard to the Balkans. I therefore welcome the fact that the Commission has started, in cooperation with Parliament, to develop new programmes for the period post-2007. We need to do this, because it is in the interests of both sides. However, it is also in the interests of Parliament and of everyone to ensure that the funds for these programmes are used optimally. I can tell you from my own experience that there are too many projects in which there is too much discussion and not enough concrete action and aid. There are too many projects that run in parallel and overlap with one another, and sometimes our projects compete with those from the USA and other states. At any rate, there is no coordination.
My request to the Commission therefore comprises three points. First, we need to draw up a specific overview of the projects in progress, and then keep this overview up to date and ensure that the resources and projects are coordinated. Secondly, projects should only be approved if they actually provide practical aid ensuring that standards are raised. Thirdly, the provision of funding must be linked with appropriate success.
I was pleased to hear the Commissioner state that we will undertake an initial review in 2009, which will show where we are making good progress and where we have problems. In general, it comes down to being able to guarantee that the European Union's money is used optimally in the interests of security and stability in the region as a whole.
Alexandra Dobolyi (PSE). – (HU) Madam President, in order to extend the numerous benefits of the economic and political cooperation to the neighbouring countries, the European Union has created the so-called European Neighbouring Policy. Using the new and often more flexible European neighbourhood and partnership instruments proposed by the European Commission, the European Union will have a direct or indirect effect on approximately 400 million citizens in 17 external countries. The new financial instrument is very important, and it will have a significant added value in the development and facilitation of cross-border and regional cooperation, and in strengthening the rule of law and developing good governance.
We have come through a long negotiation process, and although the Commission has invested a lot of work in this issue, I can still not consider its approach regarding Parliament as being altogether cooperative as far as the four instruments are concerned. The Commission and Council are aware of the fact that Parliament welcomes the simplification of procedures, but it does not accept that, for the sake of simplification, the controlling role of Parliament should decrease, whether in respect of the external representation of the European Union or its budget.
Panagiotis Beglitis (PSE). – (EL) Madam President, today's commitment by Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner that the Commission is prepared to submit a proposal for a separate financing instrument in favour of democracy and human rights is already a positive development. We await the proposal from the European Commission, which will have its own legal basis. However, this proposal by the European Commission must not be at the expense of the legislative competences of the European Parliament, especially its competences in the field of the budget, especially when we refer to matters connected with the foreign policy of the European Union. European citizens, as we all know, are calling for the competences of the European Parliament to be strengthened, not weakened.
I wish to say and to point out to Mrs Ferrero-Waldner that the new financing programme for democracy and human rights which she submits – and this is a particularly important and sensitive point – will need to include financing for the rehabilitation centres for the victims of torture inside or outside the European Union. So far the European Commission has been the main source of funding for these centres and, consequently, their continuing operation is a fundamental humanitarian responsibility.
Libor Rouček (PSE). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, today is an important day for Europe. We have finally adopted the financial perspective for 2007-2013, which is also good news for the candidate countries and for countries of the Western Balkans. Those countries will now have a clearer idea of the resources available under the instrument for pre accession assistance (IPA). I warmly welcome the establishment of the IPA. I strongly believe that it will facilitate higher quality and more flexible individual policies during the pre-accession period, and will also make possible more cross-border and regional cooperation between countries that are preparing for accession and those already in the Union, something I consider very important. In common with previous speakers, however, I would have welcomed a greater involvement by Parliament in the formulation and creation of individual strategies and in areas such as decision-making on suspending assistance.
Riitta Myller (PSE). – (FI) Madam President, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument is actually very welcome. The European Parliament has been calling for cooperation between the EU and its neighbours to be made easier for a long time now. In practice it has been very problematic that the EU’s own Interreg programmes and the programmes being implemented in the neighbouring regions have been completely separate, and that it has been impossible to realise joint projects on both sides of the borders.
Although we are now introducing the one-stop shop principle we have wanted for so long into neighbourhood and partnership policy, it will be challenging to put the programme into effect. We have to remember that the external border regions are different. Not just the population base but also political needs must be taken into consideration when channelling resources regionally.
Hans Winkler, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I shall be brief, since time is getting on. This debate has convinced me that there is a joint effort here, a common interest, to conclude the negotiations on all the instruments as soon as possible. The Presidency of the Council has already stated, in a letter to the rapporteurs Mr Mitchell and Mr van den Berg, that it is prepared to start talks next week, and I was grateful to hear Mrs Morgantini discuss the necessity for these talks in her speech. We want to do that in all good faith.
At this point, I should particularly like to thank Mr Brok, who said what I, as President-in-Office of the Council, tried to say in the Committee on Development, namely that it is of course not the Council's intention to curtail Parliament's rights. We have absolutely no intention – in the interests of credibility in the eyes of our partners – of curtailing Parliament's rights or opportunities for participation. Quite the contrary: we are committed to credibility and greater efficiency. It is therefore not necessary to count the instruments and to use that to measure how efficient we are; it is much more important for us to make progress in terms of content.
I am grateful to all of you for your willingness to cooperate with the Presidency, and I should like to end by quoting from the letter to which I referred earlier:
‘I can assure you that the Presidency and the Council are fully committed to finalising a compromise on the DCECI before the summer break and will not spare any efforts as far as working time and personnel capacities are concerned.’
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Madam President, President-in-Office, first of all I would like to say that this was a very intense debate on very important instruments. I think you have seen that we have been very open. However, I must also correct a misunderstanding by saying that we are clearly not opposed to codecision. The DCECI instrument is fully subject to codecision. Let me state clearly that we do not want to abolish codecision. This is a complete misunderstanding and an incorrect interpretation.
We think that it is possible to work on the basis we have. The Commission has accepted that the addition of additional policy content to the DCECI should follow very closely the policy provisions of the 16 existing regulations as far as they still reflect current realities and policy priorities. However, let us not keep the current structure as the sole reference. It is unnecessarily complicated. We are saying that the policy provisions of these regulations can be perfectly imported, and adapted as necessary, into the main DCECI regulation.
I remember that you all always want quick, swift, efficient delivery. How can we do that if we make things even more complicated? I could not agree more with Mr Brok. It is not the number of regulations but the content of the regulations that makes codecision possible.
A second minor point regarding the request for new Commission proposals: at this stage of the discussion, and given the urgent need to come to a prompt agreement, the Commission considers it necessary to use the President’s proposal as a basis. All the elements are already on the table. I think they are a very fair reflection of what the Commission itself would have proposed, as we were closely involved in their development. Moreover, the Council itself is now preparing its position on the basis of these proposals, so it is also in Parliament’s interest to work on this basis, provide input and consequently establish the basis for a negotiated common position. Let me also reiterate our wish to move forward, but now we really have to start negotiating.
President. The joint debate is closed.
The vote on the Mitchell report will take place tomorrow at 12 noon. The vote on the other reports will take place in June.