Emanuel Jardim Fernandes (PSE), in writing. (PT) This report represents Parliament’s position on the Community’s strategic orientations for the cohesion policy for 2007-2013. As substitute for the Committee on Regional Development and permanent Member and shadow rapporteur on this report for the Committee on Transport and Tourism, I have made firm calls for European economic growth and competitiveness to be decentralised and shifted away from the centre of the Community area to cover all regions, in particular those less wealthy.
I also feel that these regions will only be able to make a decisive contribution towards creating sustainable employment and towards economic growth in the EU if the existing financial measures specially created to offset the negative effects on regional economies, the dispersion, small size and distance from the European mainland of the outermost regions are stepped up. In other words, I believe that a better and more effective Union requires better policies and more resources, with a view to sustainable development, which will in turn contribute towards economic and territorial cohesion, the primary objective of cohesion policy, as enshrined in the Treaties.
I therefore voted in favour of the Krehl report.
Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The Commission’s proposal on the Community’s strategic guidelines for 2007-2013 – on the basis of which the Member States will define their Structural Fund operational programmes – leaves no room for doubt as to the way in which the cohesion policy will be subordinate to the funding of the ‘Lisbon Strategy’ and to the interests of Europe’s captains of industry.
Among other objectives, competitiveness, privatisation, reducing the public sector and the role of the State in the economy, public-private partnerships, support for the infrastructure of recently privatised sectors and flexibility of the labour market have become objectives of the pseudo-policy of ‘cohesion’.
The consequences of the change of priority of the Funds – relegating ‘economic and social cohesion’ – is much more significant than it might first appear, even though some concerns do emerge as to whether this will be to the detriment of 'cohesion'.
Originally, the report clearly rejected the idea that a minimum of 60% of the amounts of the Structural Fund for convergence regions (75% for the others) must be earmarked for funding the objectives of the ‘Lisbon Strategy', and that that criterion had been accepted via Parliament's adoption of the interinstitutional agreement.
Hence our vote against.
Carl Lang (NI), in writing. – (FR) As the elected representative of a French region that has been particularly affected by unemployment and relocations – the Nord-Pas de Calais – I clearly approve of the ambition stated in the report, which is one of supporting growth and employment. European regional policy, however, cannot fulfil those objectives.
In 2000, the cantons of French Hainault already lost the structural funds allocated under Objective 1. Between 2007 and 2013, European regional expenditure will increase by 31% but, as a result of the unprepared-for enlargement, the proportion allocated to French regions will decrease further.
Above all, European regional aid does not call into question the policy of the Europe of Brussels without borders, a policy which, while shackling our businesses and our farmers with increasingly binding directives, abandons them to unfettered competition from countries such as China, which practise a genuine form of social dumping.
Almost one year ago, the people of France and the Netherlands said ‘No’ to this Europe of economic stagnation and social regression. Only another kind of Europe, founded on the sovereignty of its nations and on free cooperation, will enable our countries to benefit from genuine economic and social growth.
Bairbre de Brún, Kartika Tamara Liotard, Jonas Sjöstedt and Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL), in writing. I voted for the Krehl report on the Community strategic guidelines on the basis that it goes some way in attempting to inject a more social and environmental side to the Commission's proposed strategic guidelines and because it supports sound partnership between all parties and the strengthening of civil society.
However, this vote should not imply acceptance of every word of the report. I have grave concerns about the inclusion in Ms. Krehl's report of a call for the Commission to promote the use of Public-Private Partnerships and about the absence of a specific rejection of earmarking and the thinking behind that approach.
Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The idea of grouping resources and guidelines aimed at developing countries, countries in transition and industrialised countries into one single instrument, and the subsequent regulation thereof in accordance with their geopolitical and economic ‘roles’, is one that we find alarming. We are particularly concerned at the excessive prominence attached to the economic and business dimension that the rapporteur has sought to include in the regulation.
What is thus being promoted is a development policy in which the EU’s economic and geo-strategic interests take precedence over the interests of the countries with which it establishes relations. What is more, ‘cooperation with international financial institutions’ is being proposed, demonstrating the support for the policy of structural reforms and adjustments promoted by those institutions. This is seen, for example, in the plundering of the natural resources and the wealth of many countries, in the exploitation of the work force, and in the privatisation of essential goods and services, such as water, health and social security.
Attempts are being made, in a somewhat underhand manner, to export and intensify capitalist exploitation and the current neoliberal model under the cloak of ‘consolidation of the rule of law’ and ‘good governance’.
The set of general priorities and principles being established gives us the greatest concern with regard to the set of ‘simplified regulations’ to follow.
David Martin (PSE), in writing. This report on Financing Development and Economic Cooperation actions by the EU has been the subject of much debate. As draftsman for the INTA Committee, I have worked with colleagues to ensure that the future shape of this instrument reflects the progressive gains made by the European Parliament over the years in terms of poverty alleviation and empowerment.
I believe the Parliament was right to reject the original 2004 proposals which prevented the Parliament from establishing priorities and allocating funds to concrete programmes. We were also right to reject an open-ended instrument which would prevent Parliament from fully co-determining, on a regular basis, the objectives, scope and methods to be employed by the different instruments. I am glad to see we have achieved breakthroughs on review and expiry clauses to allow for better modifications and reporting.
I firmly believe that, as the legislative authority, the European Parliament must continue to have a role both in the setting of priorities and through a call-back arrangement. Our citizens, who have mandated us to set policies and scrutinise the executive, expect no less.
Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The practical outcome of the vote on this report is that there is indeed divergence between Parliament – in the guise of the Committee on Development – and the Commission on the financial instruments for the purposes of economic cooperation and development. It is therefore important for us to deal with what we believe to be the final outcome of this debate.
Rather than the issue of whether there are one or two instruments, depending on whether the countries involved are industrialised or not, the important thing is that the EU ought to be aware of its financial limitations – all too evident in the next financial framework – and must therefore set out clear priorities and criteria for action. Given that it is impossible to attend to all situations, the priority regions and programmes need to be identified. This, rather than the number of programmes, is the crucial question. Furthermore, international cooperation is not an exercise in competition between possible world powers. More than anything, it must be a coherent expression of an external policy that respects values, principles and priorities.
Zsolt László Becsey (PPE-DE). – (HU) Mr President, I voted against Mr Berend’s report, in spite of the fact that it was an excellent report. I voted against it because, while we have extended the scope of the Solidarity Fund – which now includes everything from industrial disasters to terrorist attacks – we have narrowed down its regional scope, and in particular, we did not extend it to areas situated in potential Member States, in regions adjacent to the territory of current Member States.
We have excluded from it the entire Western Balkan region, which I find very regrettable, because if the Danube floods, the Solidarity Fund will assist Romania and Hungary, but it will not assist Serbia and Vojvodina. This is entirely unacceptable and contrary to the permanent requirement of considering the neighbouring Western Balkan regions as potential Member States. This is a concrete situation where selfishness has already won.
Francisco Assis, Luis Manuel Capoulas Santos, Paulo Casaca, Fausto Correia, Edite Estrela, Emanuel Jardim Fernandes, Elisa Ferreira, Ana Maria Gomes, Joel Hasse Ferreira, Jamila Madeira, Manuel António dos Santos e Sérgio Sousa Pinto (PSE), in writing. (PT) The Portuguese members of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament abstained from the vote on the report on the EU’s Solidarity Fund because, although this Fund is an instrument of the highest importance for the policy of European solidarity, it did not undergo the necessary reforms to make it more effective and workable in terms of its objectives.
On the other hand, despite the fact that the proposals aimed at including drought in the report before us were incorporated, some of which we had tabled, insufficient attention is paid to the phenomena of extreme drought and high temperatures, to the natural disasters that have lain waste to a number of European countries, especially in southern Europe. As they develop slowly, these phenomena are rarely perceptible over a short space of time.
These proposals also state that the removal of the regional criterion from the scope of the regulation, only appearing as a public criterion, is clearly inadequate. This amendment was a waste of time in terms of the objective of recovering the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the affected areas, with the support of this instrument.
We should like to emphasise the fact that, in spite of everything, some progress was made in relation to the doctrine, and that, accordingly, its particular character was acknowledged.
Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted in favour of the excellent report by my colleague, Mr Berend, on the proposal for a regulation, at first reading, of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing the European Union Solidarity Fund. It was becoming urgent to reform the Fund, which was created in 2002 and which has sole responsibility for dealing exclusively with natural disasters, in order to enlarge its scope, to simplify the way in which it is used from the point of view of emergencies and, lastly, to prevent misuse. Not only the major climate, industrial and technological changes, but also terrorism, health risks and so on were making it crucial for the European Union to provide its citizens and the Member States with access to a tool that is capable of coping with a disaster that would render a Member State, on its own, powerless. The reform of this Fund is a crucial safety element in today’s risk society.
Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Some of the proposals that we tabled were unfortunately rejected, which were as follows:
- maintaining the eligibility of regional disasters in the Solidarity Fund; and
- the possibility of higher levels of financial assistance from the Solidarity Fund – 75% rather than 50% of the total eligible costs – for ‘cohesion’ countries and for ‘convergence’ regions.
I should like to say that the same European Parliament adopted on the same day, in the Quecedo report, the recital stating that ‘the EUSF should continue to enable action to be taken in the case of disasters which although significant do not achieve the minimum level required and that assistance may also be provided in special circumstances in cases where most of the population in a specific region has been affected by a disaster which will have a serious, long-term effect on their living conditions’.
This contradiction between the content of the adopted resolutions – legislative and non-legislative – is highly significant.
In other words, when it comes to stating good intentions – such as in the ‘Quecedo’ report – the majority in Parliament approves, but when it comes to making the execution and the funding of those intentions a reality – such as in the Berend report – the majority in Parliament turns its back, rejecting the regional dimension of the Fund and clearly benefiting the large countries, with their majority representation in Parliament.
Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) I abstained from the vote on the EU Solidarity Fund because I believe that the review of this instrument fell well short of what is urgently required if we are to address natural disasters that occur without prior warning and that have devastated Union territory.
This review should have taken account of the serious nature of the situation, including the fires that have devastated entire forests, the droughts that have lasted for years and the torrential rains that have lain waste to whole regions in Europe.
Yet what we have is a review that failed to take account of the reforms needed to increase the effectiveness and workability of the Fund.
In spite of the timely inclusion of drought in this instrument, I feel that this phenomenon, which develops slowly and is barely perceptible in the short term, has not been given due prominence. Extreme drought has now affected France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Lastly, by opting for public, as opposed to regional, criteria, the opportunity has been missed for this instrument to be given the means to carry out adequate recovery of the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the affected areas.
Glyn Ford (PSE), in writing. I support this report. For too long the European Union has not paid sufficient attention to the need for a common energy policy. We have spent billions on security of food supplies via the CAP, yet nothing on security of energy supplies, leaving the prospect that Europe’s future would be, in a crisis, eating raw vegetables in the dark.
Recent events in Russia – and elsewhere – show the importance of energy security. This must become a key element of our foreign policy in cooperation with the world’s other major consumers whether the United States or Japan, China or India.
At the same time, we must stop tying our hands behind our backs. A tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary in my own constituency could supply up to 10% of Britain’s energy needs from a renewable green scheme with no CO2 emissions. Yet this scheme could be blocked with its enormous positive benefits by the fine print of the Habitats Directive leaving the unsafe alternative of nuclear power, which is infinitely more polluting to habitats across the world. We still have farms in the United Kingdom that have restrictions on stock movements left over from the Chernobyl disaster two decades ago!
Lydia Schenardi (NI), in writing. – (FR) Even if the basic idea of the Energy Community Treaty (ECT) appears sound, insofar as it is concerned with helping countries in south-east Europe, which are experiencing significant problems in that sphere, we believe that this Treaty has, inter alia, two major flaws.
Firstly, the Treaties do not confer any powers regarding energy – and, still less, powers of equivalent significance – on the European Union, the Commission having made use of provisions on competition policy to claim such powers.
Secondly, the ultimate aim of the ECT is to create an internal energy market between the European Union and nine other countries, even though, within the EU, this policy has already shown its limits: the gradual replacement of public monopolies by monopolies or quasi-monopolies, with an attack on public services; the rise in electricity prices even in those countries in which electricity generation depends very little on the price of oil; the risk of shortages in the short term because of a policy that gives priority to deregulation faced with the issue of security of supply; and so on.
There were other ways of helping our European neighbours to meet their energy needs aside from creating a controversial institutional and political system within the European Union itself. As usual, however, the pro-European ideology has prevailed.
Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE). – (FI) Mr President, the EU’s human rights policy needs to be independent and bold, and we cannot turn our back on human rights violations for economic interests, for example. Human rights cannot be relinquished, and no price can be put on them.
I have repeatedly expressed concern about the EU’s growing dependence on energy. That in itself is not a danger, but difficulties arise if the dependence is one-sided. EU dependence on Russian energy resources in particular seems to be growing. It is increasing to a level that could be regarded as worrying, both in terms of security of supply and, in particular, for political reasons. I would like us to have had the courage to say that there was a risk and draw the necessary conclusions.
Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted in favour of the report by my fellow Member, Mr Howitt, on Human Rights in the World 2005 and the EU’s policy on the matter. At a time when the major victories in the field of human rights are being continually and insidiously undermined, the role of the European Union, as an emerging humanist civilisation, is vital. As the representative of EU citizens, the European Parliament has a great and immense responsibility where human rights are concerned. Firstly, within the Union itself by ensuring that the Member States ratify and implement the major international human rights treaties. Secondly, the Union, as an area of peace and democracy, must remain the guarantor for human rights in the world by ensuring that our declarations based on our values are followed through in all European policies.
Proinsias De Rossa (PSE), in writing. In supporting this report, I am keenly aware that the EU stands accused of paying lip service to human rights, ignoring abuses by major trading partners, arguing for UN reforms it will not implement, and ignoring international legal obligations at home whilst preaching them abroad.
It is hypocrisy that Colombia gets trade advantages for workers' rights when it has the world's highest rate of murders of trade unionists and that EU officials in Zimbabwe are ignorant of key EU human rights guidelines.
It is even worse that EU governments fail to practice what they preach. Nine countries, including Ireland, Germany and Portugal, refuse to sign the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. Eleven countries have not signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Seven countries are considering opt-outs from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
I fully support the conclusions by my colleague Richard Howitt and his call for a unified EU human rights report identifying an annual list of countries of particular concern, a sliding scale of sanctions against abuser countries, removing the national veto for their agreement, implementing the human rights and democracy clause in the EU's international agreements and introducing human rights impact assessments for EU actions abroad.
Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) The promotion of human rights is an extremely important issue of which account should be taken in all policy areas. We believe that human rights are universal and that we should fight to ensure that they are respected in all countries. However, the European Parliament is using this report to promote the EU’s positions.
We are opposed to quite a few features of the report, for example those wordings designed to increase the power of the European Parliament, and we have therefore voted against the report. Obviously, we condemn all human rights violations.
Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This report contains some points with which we agree – such as the need to safeguard the fundamental rights of the Sahrawi people and to ensure a just and lasting solution to the conflict in Western Sahara based on the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, especially Resolution 1495. Yet in common with previous years, this report has been little more than an exercise in hypocrisy, a weapon of pressure and political interference, in which so-called ‘friendly’ countries are protected and the ‘others’, those that the USA and EU have designated as a target, are criticised.
This is an exercise with which we can have no truck.
Consequently, the majority in Parliament once again refuses to condemn the serious violations of human rights committed in Iraq, fails to note that the war in Iraq is illegal and runs counter to international law and the United Nations Charter, and omits to call on the UN to open up a detailed inquiry into the use of banned weapons, such as white phosphorous during the capture of Fallujah, and of ‘collective punishment’ against the Iraqi people.
The majority in Parliament has also not issued a single word of condemnation towards the Israeli Government for the occupation and oppression of Palestine.
Carl Lang (NI), in writing. – (FR) This report will no more improve the worldwide human rights situation than previous reports on the same subject did. Its real aim, however, is something different. It is aimed at increasing the powers of the Europe of Brussels regarding foreign policy.
In speaking of ‘the powerful impact the EU can have on human rights when it speaks with one voice’, particularly at the UN, and in drafting proposals designed to increase this ‘impact', Mr Howitt's report is in keeping with the idea that consists in gradually depriving the Member States of their sovereignty regarding foreign policy, to the advantage of the European institutions. That is the ambition of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the CFSP, which consists, inter alia, in stripping France of its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
On the other hand, Article 97, which requires European governments to be even more tolerant than at present with regard to non-European immigration, jeopardises the human rights situation in our very own countries. In fact, the areas of lawlessness that are multiplying in our urban areas are one of the consequences of the uncontrolled immigration to which our nations have been subjected for 30 years.
Claude Moraes (PSE), in writing. I voted for my colleague Richard Howitt's report on Human Rights in the World. In particular, I voted in favour of Amendment 12 on the violation of human rights in the Western Sahara, which was a free vote.
Tobias Pflüger (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (DE) It is unfortunate that, when it voted today, this House rejected a motion from my Group which condemns the grave human rights abuses in Iraq and recalls ‘that the war in Iraq is illegal and violates both international law and the Charter of the United Nations’. A majority in this House, voting by roll-call, was also found to reject the demand that the UN should mount an investigation ‘into the human rights violations committed by the international coalition, particularly as regards the use of prohibited weapons such as white phosphorus in the attack on Fallujah and the collective punishments inflicted on the Iraqi population, which are banned by international agreements’. This vote may be taken as emblematic of the double standards to be found in the human rights report. Human rights violations in states with which the European Union is on friendly terms are subject to insufficient criticism or to none whatever. One consequence of this is that no reference is made to the ongoing offences against human rights in Turkey. Restrictions imposed around the world on the right to refuse to do military service are simply whitewashed away, and, if one were to go by the human rights report, neither NATO nor EU Member States are waging war or participating in warfare at all. It was heartening, though, to note the adoption of a motion on the Western Sahara in which the Group of the Left denounced ‘the continued violations of the human rights of Saharaui population’ and called for ‘the protection of the Saharaui people’.
Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The extraordinary role played by the EU as a whole, and by the Member States individually, in promoting human rights on the world stage is something in which, as Europeans and as citizens of the world, we should all take pride. Let us face facts – the picture is on the whole a positive one.
Traditionally, Parliament used to publish every year what bordered on a list of violations of human rights around the world, and ultimately failed in its objective to monitor the activities of the Community institutions. Indeed, without prejudice to constant concern with human rights violations, Parliament’s main obligation is to assess the usefulness of our endeavours in combating these violations.
Accordingly, I welcome this new approach and believe that it will only be truly effective when it is accompanied by a genuine assessment of the impact of EU human rights actions at international level, in the short, medium and long term. The impact of our actions is a determining factor in whether or not those actions are worthwhile. In politics, good intentions are not only inadequate, they are also a waste.
Charles Tannock (PPE-DE), in writing. I and my British Conservative colleagues support the highest standards of human rights in the world. However, the issue of an absolute ban on the death sentence remains a conscience based issue for individual MEPs. Nevertheless, we all condemn the inappropriate and excessive use of the death penalty in countries such as China and Iran.
We believe that issues of international human rights violations should not be dealt with by the International Criminal Court but should be convened by UN ad hoc Tribunals.
Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The report by the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament on ‘human rights in the world’ cynically expresses the imperialist policy of the ΕU. It endeavours to present it like a global trustee and defender of human rights, an 'exporter' of democracy to the world.
The EU's respect for and devotion to human rights and democracy was experienced at first hand by the people of former Yugoslavia, by Afghanistan, by Iraq, by Palestine and so on, who have been drenched in blood by the imperialists of the ΕU, the USA and ΝΑΤΟ, in the name of human rights.
It uses human rights and their selective, so-called protection as a pretext which gives it the right to intervene in every corner of the planet. Through the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (ΕΙDHR) it finances 'coloured revolutions' and all sorts of submissive NGOs in order to coerce and undermine governments of countries which do not comply with its strategic aims.
The references in the report to poverty, the environment, employment rights and so forth are an insult to the peoples groaning beneath imperialist sovereignty and capitalist exploitation.
The Kommounistiko Komma Elladas voted against the report, denouncing the insulting hypocrisy of the ΕU and the selective use of human rights as a means of imperialist pressure and even of unleashing wars against peoples.
Richard James Ashworth (PPE-DE), in writing. I and my British Conservative colleagues welcome much of what is contained in this report. We support the emphasis on qualitative value for money, the proposals on cost-benefit studies and agree that the Commission should be providing greater vision on economic reform.
There are some areas of this report that we are unable to support, such as the CFSP text and the references to the new freedom, security and justice agenda. These are areas where the Conservative Party has had a long-standing opposition to moving to the Community method.
Charlotte Cederschiöld, Christofer Fjellner, Gunnar Hökmark and Anna Ibrisagic (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) The Swedish Conservatives have today voted in favour of Mr Elles’s report on the 2007 budget: the Commission’s report on the Annual Policy Strategy. We are, however, critical of the report’s assertion that setting up what is known as the Globalisation Fund may constitute important progress for the EU.
Moreover, we reject the report’s proposal that, in the long run, the EU should have its own resources rather than rely on contributions by the Member States. Our basic view is that it must be for the Member States to decide what resources the Union has at its disposal. Any form of EU tax would be a departure from this principle.
Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This report concerns the budgetary guidelines for 2007, the first of the financial framework 2007-2013, and is hindered by the most worrying aspects of the agreement on the financial perspective.
Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, the guidelines for 2007 give tangible form, in budgetary terms, to the EU’s policies of capitalist competition, liberalisation, interference, militarisation and securitarianism.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, the majority in Parliament rejected the observation that ‘the Lisbon Strategy has proved itself to be a failure as regards the implementation of its stated objectives of 3% average economic growth and full employment via the creation of 20 million jobs’.
It has also rejected the evidence that this ‘Strategy’ is ‘the main instrument of promoting the liberalisation and privatisation of public services, the flexibility and adaptability of the labour markets, lower salaries and the opening to private interests of the core provision of social security, including pensions and health’.
Even in the management of Community programmes and agencies, the policy of lowest cost (who would have thought it?), whereby services are 'outsourced' and 'hired out’, has been pursued with such zeal that even entities that support the EU’s propaganda effort run the risk of being closed or privatised.
David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome this report which addresses the Commission's strategic priorities for 2007. Establishing clear priorities has become increasingly important in the case of the external actions budget heading given the cuts amounting to around 20% in funds committed. More than ever the trade dimension continues to impact on domestic political priorities in the budget. If the Doha Round is successfully concluded, the conditional agreement on the definitive elimination of all forms of agricultural export subsidies by 2013 would translate into incremental yearly EC budget savings that are estimated to be around EUR 3 500-4 000 million per year, depending on internal and world market prices, as of 2013.
As rapporteur for a forthcoming report on trade-related assistance and draftsman for the annual strategic priorities, I have called for greater transparency in the funding of the so-called 'Barroso' billion, committed to support the trading capacity of developing countries. This pledge should not involve cosmetic re-labelling of funds given to infrastructure. The Commission must commit to producing an annual report on aid for trade to enable Parliament to scrutinise these funds and assure that they are truly additional.
Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The situation described in this report demonstrates how all of the shortcomings relating to the adoption of the financial perspective 2007-2013 have brought increasing, unnecessary difficulties for the functioning of the EU.
First and foremost, the glaring discrepancy between the Union’s budget and its increasing responsibilities can only have detrimental consequences for the EU's capacity to take action, and in turn for its image among the citizens. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that, on account of the delays that have occurred, this is a document that does not give a quantitative expression of priorities. Without values, it is difficult to appreciate the extent to which the proposed options are to be pursued.
This presents us with a twofold difficulty. In light of the circumstances, it was inevitable that this would be the case. Consequently, what remains is for us to draw the necessary lessons from this situation for the future, the main one being that we must first agree on the major objectives and the Union’s designs, and which policies we should be pursuing whereby we shall be able, in good time, to obtain an agreement as to the funds that they need.
Jan Andersson, Anna Hedh and Inger Segelström (PSE), in writing. (SV) The report proposes an insurance scheme for farmers, jointly financed by farmers, the Member States and the EU within the framework of the common agricultural policy. That is something about which we have our doubts.
We Swedish Social Democrats are opposed to new instruments and more funding for the agricultural sector. Given the heavy funding of the EU’s common agricultural policy from the budget, the sector itself should be able to finance aid to farmers hit by natural disasters. Moreover, there is no scope in the budget for increased appropriations.
We therefore voted against the report.
Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) In an EU with 25 Member States, the report focuses too much on the problems in the Mediterranean area of Europe. Within the EU, there is a host of problems resulting from freaks of nature, such as floods in central Europe and heavy storms and frost in northern Europe, yet it is forest fires in southern Europe that are the problem constantly addressed by the European Parliament as one that needs to be remedied through the EU. We believe, however, that it is exclusively the Member States affected that are responsible for ensuring that measures are taken in this area. The fact is that, if the Member States are relieved of responsibility for taking such measures and for putting preventive systems in place to forestall disasters of this type, the risks will increase. In insurance theory, this is called ‘moral hazard’.
The report lists a host of different measures at EU level, all with attendant costs requiring significant increases in the budget. We are opposed to a specific EU programme for forest protection because we believe that it is the Member States that should assume responsibility for protecting forests. The report’s idea of awareness campaigns at EU level with a view to promoting a change of attitude towards the use of fire (paragraph 23) is one of several examples of the way in which the wealth of ideas that emerged while the report was being prepared has completely lost touch with reality.
We have therefore voted against the report.
Diamanto Manolakou (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) Agricultural and forestry production are closely bound up with nature and constantly exposed to it. Consequently, there needs to be a compensation fund, especially for small- and medium-sized holdings which, unless they receive compensation from the ΕU and the state, cannot continue their activities because, apart from the consequences of the anti-farming policy of the ΕU, they have to deal with climatic dangers, as in my country, in the areas of Thrace and Thessalia, where their production has been destroyed by floods and they face an acute problem of survival.
Nonetheless, we cannot ignore the fact that the frequency of unforeseen natural phenomena and the risk of the viability of farmers is a consequence of the predatory plundering of natural wealth and commercialisation of the environment, a policy which constitutes the cause and which, unfortunately, is being promoted by the ΕU with tragic consequences.
If this philosophy continues of not addressing the cause and of fire-fighting by giving compensation, then the consequences of the fatal climatic phenomena will soon be so great that it will be impossible to satisfy the people affected with compensation, even if it accounts for a large sum in Community and national funds.
A review of this policy is therefore the best way of preventing and protecting against natural disasters.
Claude Moraes (PSE), in writing. As with the Estrela report, I do not believe that there is practical or financial justification for creating an agency on drought and floods. Other forms of environmental action on floods are urgently required.
Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) Following the natural disasters across large parts of Europe, we have seen the inadequacy of the Solidarity Fund since it was set up in 2002, given the unpredictable nature of these phenomena. The vulnerability of farming to the climate has been shown in stark relief in recent years by cases of extreme drought in Portugal, Spain, Italy and France.
In light of these situations, and the need to prevent future recurrences, the rapporteur has suggested a fresh approach to improving protection for communities and farmers from the devastating impact. I therefore feel it is vitally important to set up a disaster management system, a risk management system and a stabilisation support system following such crises.
Lastly, training for prevention is a further crucial measure in such situations. As part of the civil protection measures, the Forest Focus programme and the rural development programmes, we have a framework in place for the necessary measures for raising awareness among communities and prevention training and information for those responsible for crisis management in these situations. All measures – both those already in existence and those proposed here – need to be available.
For these reasons, I voted in favour of the Capoulas Santos report.
Michl Ebner (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, even though this does not come under the explanations of vote, I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank you for the expertise you have demonstrated in presiding over the House. You will have noticed that many of us support you in that regard.
It was with great conviction that I voted in favour of the Galeote Quecedo report, particularly Articles 18 and 32. Article 18 refers to best practices, by maintaining that the experience built up both at national and at regional and local levels should be disseminated and used in other countries. In that connection, I believe that we could genuinely help other countries a great deal, through volunteering, for instance, as done by fire fighters, whose work can be carried out in many other regions and countries. I sincerely hope, therefore, that we will proceed along those lines.
Article 32, on the other hand, refers to the removal of administrative barriers, particularly for border regions, which have specific needs. I completely agree with this.
Emanuel Jardim Fernandes (PSE), in writing. (PT) In view of the fact that the report acknowledges the following issues:
1 – The ‘specific nature of natural disasters occurring in the Mediterranean’;
2 – The necessary adaptation of Community instruments on prevention, research and risk management, civil protection and solidarity;
3 – The need to carry out an exhaustive survey of the locations which are most vulnerable to fires and to prolonged droughts;
4 – The need to adapt future strategies to outlying and outermost regions, and in the least favoured regions concerned by the ‘convergence’ objective.
5 – the need to set up a forest fire protection programme, with a view to developing a more prominent and better integrated pan-European culture of forest fire risk prevention and management, in order to complement current national instruments;
6 – The need to set up a European monitoring centre for drought and desertification integrated into the activities of the seventh framework research programme (2007-2013);
7 – the need to warn Member States as to the importance of carrying out their rural development plans, and of including within those plans proposals aimed at resolving demographic decline and the low levels of retraining the work force, the abandonment, reforestation and excessive fragmentation of these areas,
I voted in favour of this report.
Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We warmly welcome the fact that some of the proposals we tabled were adopted, which were as follows:
- protecting the scope of the Solidarity Fund, which should continue to cover intervention in the case of disasters which are, though significant, under the damage threshold laid down but embody severe and lasting repercussions on the living conditions of the inhabitants of a given region, with the possibility of extraordinary assistance existing in such cases;
- the existence of a wide network of agricultural SMEs and an agricultural policy promoting more sustainable production methods, notably as regards water and soil use, is a vital precondition for fighting the effects of drought and forest fires;
- believes it is essential, in the context of the new financial framework for 2007-2013, to establish a Community programme for protection against forest fires, with a view to promoting awareness campaigns and risk prevention and management measures in respect of forest fires, suitably funded and complementing agricultural and structural policy, taking account of the specific nature of forests in the Mediterranean.
We therefore voted in favour of the report, although we regret the fact that other proposals that we tabled were not adopted, which would have made the report more complete in terms of policies aimed at supporting farmers affected by disasters.
Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The following points were adopted in plenary:
1 – The acknowledgement of the specific nature of natural disasters occurring in the Mediterranean;
2. The establishment of a Community forest fire protection programme;
3. The assessment of the possibility of creating a farming disaster fund;
4. Maintaining the eligibility of regional disasters in the Solidarity Fund;
5. Adapting the Solidarity Fund, in terms of time limits and eligible actions, in order to enable it to deal with the specific nature of natural disasters, such as drought and forest fire;
6. Special attention to the least favoured regions in the event of natural disasters.
It should be noted that, on the basis of proposals by Members from central and northern European Member States, the inclusion of the specific nature of the Mediterranean forest, which we had previously managed to ensure, has been watered down, in spite of our vote against.
This is another example of a situation in which those in control call the shots; that is to say that in this ‘federalist’ Parliament, the weighting of Members from each country, with central and northern European MEPs the dominant force, is a decisive factor in undermining the interests of Mediterranean countries, in which more than 90% of forest fires take place.
Carlos Coelho (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) I welcome the Estrela report. Although it does not introduce any technical innovations in terms of natural disaster management and prevention, it does offer an important survey of the possibilities and the knowledge currently available.
I warmly welcome the proposals to create directives on the prevention and management of fires and drought, which I believe to be an extremely important factor in forward planning and a more efficient response to natural disasters.
I also welcome the proposal to set up a European Monitoring Centre on drought, desertification, floods and other effects of climate change, which should play a vital role in studying and coordinating best practice as regards civil protection.
The report mainly relates to the problem of forest fires and drought, and refers occasionally to floods, which means that it is of crucial importance to Portugal and the other Mediterranean countries.
Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We believe it is crucial that a Community programme to protect forests from the scourge of fires should be created in the next financial framework 2007-2013, with the appropriate funding, with the aim of fostering awareness raising activities, and fire risk prevention and management. This programme should be given adequate funding, should go hand in hand with farming and structural policy, and should take account of the specific character of Mediterranean forests.
We therefore believe that the Solidarity Fund should attach special prominence to time limits and eligible actions, and to natural disasters specific to the Mediterranean, including drought and forest fires.
On the other hand, Solidarity Fund intervention must be possible even when disasters, however serious, do not reach the required level, and that aid should be provided in exceptional circumstances when the majority of the population in a region has suffered from a disaster with serious and lasting impact on their living conditions;
Although the report does not address all of these questions, we voted for it, because it is a positive, albeit inadequate contribution.
Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) In her report, the rapporteur discusses natural disasters from an environmental perspective. It is proposed, for example, that a European observatory be established. We do believe that cross-border environmental problems should be dealt with at EU level. It is, however, extremely doubtful whether natural disasters are cross-border in character. The issue of rivers bursting their banks may be something that can be resolved at EU level, but there is already a rivers directive that regulates how this type of problem might be tackled. Where fires are concerned, we believe that it is up to each Member State to create the structures required for preventing these and the damage they cause. If the EU were to cough up every time a natural disaster occurred, there would naturally be fewer incentives to do preventive work. This would lead to further and more serious disasters occurring in the future, something that would obviously be very harmful to the environment and expensive for taxpayers.
The rapporteur wants the EU to call on the Member States to establish national forest funds for the prevention of natural disasters. That is something we believe to be an issue for the Member States, which should therefore decide for themselves whether or not it is necessary to do this.
For the aforesaid reasons, we have voted against the report in today’s vote.
Claude Moraes (PSE), in writing. I voted for the Estrela report on the environmental aspects of natural disasters, but against the creation of a special agency on drought and floods. I believe there is no justification for creating such an agency and no budget either.
Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) Natural disasters are crises that may strike at any given moment, and without prior warning. For this reason, prevention measures must be taken. Disasters of this nature that my country and other EU Member States have suffered lead me to join the rapporteur in calling for effective prevention measures, such as technological research and development and the establishment of a European Monitoring Centre for Drought and Desertification.
This kind of phenomenon has a serious impact on the lives of the communities affected for an indefinite period. It is for this reason that the Solidarity Fund should include extreme drought in its instruments, and should take account of the necessary civil protection aspects. In this regard, it is vital to raise awareness among the communities involved. Furthermore, the Member States must show mutual solidarity in order to act and to combat these events and the serious repercussions that they engender in the living conditions of the people affected, if necessary with joint resources.
I therefore voted in favour of the Estrela report.
Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) The relentless quest for all forms of prevention and, to that end, the carrying out of technological research and development activities, public awareness raising, the coordination of emergency assistance and the deployment of a civilian force in the event of a natural disaster are crucial elements that we must provide for and put in place as soon as possible.
On the other hand, I am opposed to any creation of an observatory. That structure is in fact likely to cost a great deal of money for little reward. Above all, the amount of money spent on funding to ensure that this observatory could operate would be cut from the crucial aid for activities on the ground. It is, moreover, always very easy to create observatories, but virtually impossible to do away with them.
Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM), in writing. (NL) To my regret, I am unable to go along with the Berend and Galeote reports, although I would emphasise that this is not out of any opposition to mutual solidarity between Member States when disasters strike.
What both reports have in common is that they rely heavily on an EU framework with the primary intention of preventing (natural) disasters, responding to them and dealing with them. This might be justified if all Member States were facing the same problem to a greater or lesser degree, but that is far from being the case, and so any action by the EU ought to be restricted to supplementary operations that the Member States themselves are unable to support.
Better use is made of the EU whenever its initiatives are concentrated on disasters affecting more than one Member State and that are either not capable of being prevented or of being insured against, and the consequences of which are beyond the capacities of Member States to manage. I would therefore have been able to support a limited additional instrument of which use could be made where circumstances justified it.
These proposals do, nevertheless and very rightly, remind us of the importance of preventative action. It is my hope and expectation that both the Member States and the EU will use all means at their disposal to minimise the risks of a disaster occurring. After all, prevention is always better than cure.
Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) The reports propose that a number of funds be established and that more use be made of Structural Funds and the Solidarity Fund to finance EU measures designed to prevent natural disasters and to tackle their consequences. They also propose that a European monitoring centre for drought and desertification, a European Fire or Forest Fund and a disaster fund be established within the framework of the common agricultural policy and that intensive information campaigns on the sustainable use of water be conducted. It is also proposed that the scope of the European Solidarity Fund be extended to cover the consequences of public health crises, terrorist attacks and technological disasters.
The June List welcomes international solidarity when a country is hit by disasters. The EU must not, however, use these disasters as an argument for extending its power and developing a common policy in this area or for establishing further institutions. If the Member States are relieved of responsibility for taking measures and for putting systems in place to prevent disasters of this type, the risks will increase. In insurance theory, this is called ‘moral hazard’.
We have therefore voted against both reports.
Oldřich Vlasák (PPE-DE). – (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased that we are discussing the coordination of solutions to natural disasters and cooperation on such matters. I am naturally happy that the report proposes an information and education campaign and the prevention of such events. I am sure that help will be targeted mainly at areas of high risk, and that it is necessary to protect the environment and safeguard natural resources. I am convinced that such cooperation should be on a voluntary basis, and I am in favour of individual countries endeavouring to make major improvements to the coordination and communication of information. However, I strongly believe that contributions to individual agencies and to the setting up of European units should be made on a voluntary basis and should not be mandatory. Consequently, I did not support the adoption of point 31 and I abstained from the vote on this report.
Markus Pieper (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, that we in Europe must stand together in contending against the adverse consequences of natural disasters is not a matter of doubt, and for that the regions affected rely on the solidarity of neighbouring Member States; European programmes are also needed to help in crisis situations. The report provides a whole range of examples of how to go about this.
To European aid in a crisis, then, one has to say ‘yes’, but the prevention of disasters is primarily a responsibility for the Member States, and it is a responsibility from which we should not discharge them by passing it on to the European level; the same is true when it comes to organising the response to crisis situations, otherwise known as ‘European civil protection’. There is no need for new powers in respect of civil protection and disaster prevention; they would result in twin-tracking and wasted money in administrative systems.
That neighbouring states within Europe should help each other when disaster strikes is, then, perfectly obvious; what Europe can do is to help with programmes promoting improved coordination and alleviating material need. New European powers, though, would do more harm than good, and these reports do not alter the fact that this is still something we need to talk about.