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Utorok, 13. júna 2006 - Štrasburg Revidované vydanie

15. Hodina otázok (pre Komisiu)
PV
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  Die Präsidentin. Als nächster Punkt folgt die Fragestunde (B6-0224/2006).

Wir behandeln die folgenden Anfragen an die Kommission.

Erster Teil

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 45 von Carl Schlyter (H-0433/06)

Betrifft: Finanzierung des Sakhalin II-Projekts durch die EBWE

Die EBWE finanziert das Projekt Sakhalin II, ein Projekt des Unternehmens „Sakhalin Energy“, dessen größter Anteilseigner das Unternehmen Shell ist. Es gibt viele Bereiche, in denen keine wissenschaftliche Gewissheit über die Auswirkungen des Sakhalin II-Projekts von „Sakhalin Energy“ besteht, z.B. die Auswirkungen übermäßiger mit Lärm verbundener geologischer Untersuchungen oder Bautätigkeiten vor der Küste für die Tier- und Pflanzenwelt. Dennoch wird das Unternehmen nicht die vorsichtige Lösung wählen und seine Arbeiten nicht aufschieben.

Kann die Kommission angesichts der Tatsache, dass das Unternehmen Shell nicht die bestmögliche Vorgehensweise wählt und Empfehlungen ignoriert werden, mitteilen, wie dieses Projekt mit der Politik der EBWE vereinbar ist, die das Vorsichtsprinzip unterstützt?

 
  
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  Joaquín Almunia, Miembro de la Comisión. Señora Presidenta, señores diputados y diputadas, la política medioambiental del Banco Europeo de Reconstrucción y Desarrollo (BERD), que fue aprobada en abril de 2003, tiene como objetivo asegurar que los proyectos financiados por el Banco respetan el medio ambiente y los requisitos normativos aplicables. En este sentido, el BERD se reserva el derecho de rechazar cualquier proyecto presentado al Consejo de Dirección cuando considere que no se ajusta a dicha política.

Es un hecho públicamente reconocido —como sus Señorías saben— que la política del BERD en relación con las normas ambientales y el principio de precaución es extremadamente rigurosa. Desde el año 2002, el BERD viene prestando a Sajalin 2 una atención particular, colaborando estrechamente con la empresa, Sajalin Energy, para evaluar todos los aspectos del proyecto, en particular sus impactos ambiental y social, y elaborar las medidas adecuadas de seguimiento y atenuación de acuerdo con la política medioambiental del Banco.

Sin embargo, la Comisión reconoce que ha habido y sigue habiendo importantes motivos de inquietud con respecto al proyecto Sajalin 2, en particular en cuanto a la protección de la población de ballenas grises occidentales que vive en la zona.

El Banco ha reaccionado a esa preocupación contribuyendo a crear un grupo de científicos reconocidos, con participación de representantes de organizaciones no gubernamentales, para supervisar la situación de las ballenas y proponer medidas que reduzcan los posibles impactos negativos del proyecto.

La empresa ha aplicado estas medidas y los últimos comentarios del grupo han sido en gran medida positivos.

En otra difícil cuestión, como es la del cruce de ríos, el Banco también ha sido firme, pidiendo mejoras de la actuación de la empresa y, en particular, la elaboración de una estrategia de cruce de ríos que imponga restricciones y asegure que no va a haber pérdida neta de zonas de desove del salmón.

En definitiva, el BERD ha ejercido una presión considerable sobre Sajalin Energy para mejorar la calidad ambiental del proyecto. En breve, dispondremos de nuevos datos sobre evaluaciones y consultas públicas en curso que permitirán al responsable comunitario ante el BERD, al representante de la Comisión Europea ante el BERD, tomar una posición sobre el grado de ajuste del proyecto con la política medioambiental del Banco.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – Herr talman! Om jag förstår kommissionsledamoten rätt försvarar ni alltså en fortsatt satsning på Sakhalin II, trots att det strider mot de flesta av bankens egna kriterier. Kriterium ett är att det bara ska ges medel till projekt som inte annars kan finansieras på ett enkelt sätt. Shell, som äger företaget i fråga, tjänade förra året 23 miljarder dollar, så de har nog råd att hitta pengar någon annanstans.

Hållbar utveckling är högsta prioritet enligt EBRD, men i detta fall har man byggt först och kontrollerat sen. Råden från den expertgrupp som ni nämner togs det ingen hänsyn till förrän det var för sent. Miljöproblemen åtgärdades inte alls; jag har här en lång lista över miljöproblem som inte är åtgärdade. Stakeholderdialogen har inte heller genomförts enligt programmen. Sjutton organisationer har varit emot. Det är en monolog och inte dialog.

 
  
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  Joaquín Almunia, Miembro de la Comisión. Señora Presidenta, señor diputado, yo no he dicho que el Banco haya decidido financiar. He dicho que el Banco está analizando las conclusiones de los grupos de expertos que tienen que informar sobre si la situación se corresponde o no con los criterios de la política medioambiental del Banco.

Si el Banco está presente en la financiación global del proyecto, aunque participe en un porcentaje reducido, el Banco, por una serie de circunstancias que no tengo tiempo de explicar, tiene gran capacidad de influir sobre la empresa para mejorar las condiciones ambientales y sociales del proyecto.

Pero si, finalmente, la empresa no puede cumplir con esas condiciones, el representante de la Comisión Europea actuará en consecuencia, y yo confío en que el Banco también lo hará, aplicando los criterios de su política medioambiental, que, como he dicho al principio, son generalmente reconocidos como criterios rigurosos y son transparentes, porque son conocidos por todo el mundo desde su aprobación en el año 2003.

 
  
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  Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE). – Monsieur le Commissaire, qu'en est-il des peuples autochtones? Sur le papier, ils étaient pris en considération, mais lorsqu'on discute avec eux, leurs droits ne sont apparemment pas pris en compte.

Pouvez-vous nous en dire un mot dans le cadre de ce projet?

 
  
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  Joaquín Almunia, Miembro de la Comisión. Señora Presidenta, señora diputada, soy consciente también de la situación que afecta a los pueblos autóctonos de la zona. Entre otros elementos, el Secretario General del Banco, el señor Reichenbach, ha analizado y considerado esa situación en su visita a la zona del mes de enero.

También yo creía que la pregunta se refería exclusivamente a aspectos medioambientales, pero, desde luego, los aspectos sociales y el impacto sobre la población —que, por un lado, es positivo porque se crea empleo, pero, por otro lado, puede tener consecuencias sin duda preocupantes— está siendo considerado por el Banco. La pregunta que me ha hecho su compañero se refería estrictamente a las condiciones medioambientales, y a ésas me he referido en mi primera respuesta, pero le puedo asegurar que el representante de la Comisión en el Banco, el señor Lelakis, es perfectamente consciente y está siguiendo la repercusión del proyecto en la situación de los pueblos indígenas de la zona.

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 46 von Michl Ebner (H-0454/06)

Betrifft: Patentierbarkeit computerimplementierter Erfindungen in der Europäischen Union

Aufgrund der weiterhin ungelösten Problematik der Patentierbarkeit computerimplentierter Erfindungen (Softwarepatente) stellt sich die Frage, wie sich Kommission verhalten wird.

Welche Schritte gedenkt die Kommission in Zukunft in diesem Bereich zu unternehmen?

Entspricht es den Tatsachen, dass sich die Kommission trotz der am 6. Juli 2005 erfolgten eindeutigen Ablehnung des Europäischen Parlaments weiterhin um eine Regelung bemüht, die dem abgelehnten „Gemeinsamen Standpunkt“ entspricht?

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. In its vote of 6 July 2005, Parliament rejected the Council common position on the directive on computer-implemented inventions, which implies rejection of the proposed directive. As a result, there are no Community legal texts which will regulate this issue.

The vote and the far-reaching debate which preceded it demonstrated that the time was not ripe for a meaningful piece of legislation to be adopted on this issue. Therefore, a new proposal dealing specifically with the patentability of computer-implemented inventions would not be desirable. As a consequence, the legal framework applicable to computer-implemented inventions in Europe remains Article 52 of the European Patent Convention, which excludes computer programs as such from patentability.

Earlier this year, the Commission’s Directorate-General for the Internal Market and Services launched a broad consultation of all interested parties on the future patent policy in Europe, with a particular focus on the structure of the European patent system. The deadline for the consultation was 12 April 2006, and preliminary findings will be discussed with stakeholders at the hearing in Brussels on 12 July 2006. Consultation is intended to ensure that any further possible action in the area of EU patents policy takes account of all stakeholders’ needs without discrimination. Parliament will be duly informed of the results of this consultation.

One of the options presented to stakeholders refers to the Commission’s proposal for Community patent regulation. The Commission would like to point out that its possible adoption will not alter the substantive rules governing patentability which are set out in the EPC and would not extend patentability to software as such. Moreover, the new jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice would improve the safeguards against the grant of patents in error to a computer program.

Therefore, the Commission does not intend to present a new proposal along the lines of the rejected common position on CII.

 
  
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  Michl Ebner (PPE-DE). – Frau Präsidentin! Herr Kommissar, Ihre Antwort war kurz, aber verständlich und klar. Danke dafür. Ich bin sehr positiv angetan davon, wie breit Sie die Informationsaufnahme auslegen wollen, und auch von der Transparenz.

Zu einem Thema hätte ich noch gerne nähere Informationen von Ihnen bekommen. Sie haben erklärt, dass das Europäische Parlament informiert wird. Ich glaube, dass es in diesen Entscheidungsprozess wohl auch miteingebunden werden soll, und aus diesem Grunde möchte ich wissen, wie Sie sich das vorstellen.

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. The European Parliament will also participate in this consultation. As I said in my reply, we asked for a consultation on the whole area of patents policy. The closing date for submissions was 12 April 2006. There will be a hearing in Brussels on 12 July 2006. That will be a consultation about the whole area of patent policy and does not specifically refer to computer-implemented inventions.

I said in the debate leading up to the European Parliament vote that if the European Parliament were to reject the proposal at that stage I would not bring forward a further proposal in the area, so I shall not be bringing forward a further proposal.

 
  
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  Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE-DE). – I am very pleased to hear that, Commissioner. We made our position clear last year when we blocked the common position, which would have codified the EPO’s disputable software patent practice. That was the right decision, and your decision not to table a new proposal is also the right one.

I should like to ask a question regarding the more general work regarding patent policy. We now have a lot of proposals on the table, such as the Community patent, a European patent litigation agreement and maybe even some suggestions for finally changing the EPC. What do you think the procedure should be for this? Should Parliament have codecision?

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. As the honourable Member is aware, the proposal on the Community patent has been stuck at a certain stage and we have been unable to make progress. Therefore, at the end of last year I thought that, rather than waiting for things to evolve, it was important to have a general consultation as to how stakeholders felt we should move forward.

As I have said at committee meetings, it is still my intention to give the Community patent one last try during my term of office. I will decide when I think is the best time to get that done and give it my best efforts at that time. I thought it was not good to leave things in abeyance and that it would be better to have this consultation about general patent policy, and that is what these consultations are about.

The question the honourable Member asked regarding codecision is a matter for the Treaties. However, I personally favour codecision.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – Please, Commissioner, when we discuss this in the future, can we make sure that the small enterprises are more involved than the first time around. One of the reasons it was rejected was that many small developers felt threatened by this legislation and the big lobby organisations followed the big companies’ lines, which in most cases are contrary to the good healthy development of alternatives because they will be strangled by the patents of the big companies. So please make sure they have their voices heard from the beginning next time. If not, the next issue will be blocked the second time round.

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. The Commission did in fact consult SMEs on the last occasion, but I will pass on your remarks to the next Commissioner. As I have repeatedly said, I will not be going into this area in my time as Commissioner. However, I will gladly leave it on file and it will be available for the next Commissioner who takes over this responsibility.

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 47 von Saïd El Khadraoui (H-0498/06)

Betrifft: Machtmissbrauch durch Google

In Belgien hat das Unternehmen Serverscheck Klage gegen Google eingeleitet. Wenn auf der Toolbar von Google der Name Serverscheck eingegeben wird, schlägt das Programm dem Anwender über die „Suggest“-Funktion vor, sich auf Raubkopien der Produkte von Serverscheck weiterleiten zu lassen. Das Unternehmen will, dass Google diesen Vorschlag filtert. Google ließ wissen, dass es einen nicht eingetragenen Markennamen nicht berücksichtigen kann. Bei Serverscheck handelt es sich jedoch um einen Handelsnamen, was laut der Pariser Verbandsübereinkunft zum Schutze des gewerblichen Eigentums, die von den 25 Mitgliedstaaten der Europäischen Union unterzeichnet wurde, denselben Schutz gewährleisten müsste. Welchen Standpunkt vertritt die Europäische Kommission in dieser Angelegenheit, in der ein Unternehmen nicht willens ist, bestimmte – für Verbraucher und Unternehmer – schädliche Informationen zu filtern, und dadurch gegebenenfalls gegen eine Übereinkunft verstößt, die die 25 Mitgliedstaaten der EU unterzeichnet haben? Nutzt Google seine Monopolstellung aus, indem es in dieser Angelegenheit kein Entgegenkommen zeigt und bestimmte europäische Rechtsvorschriften nicht berücksichtigt?

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. In response to the honourable Member’s question on an alleged infringement of industrial property rights, the Commission stresses that it cannot intervene in a legal dispute between private parties pending before the court of a Member State. If a party believes that its industrial property rights have been infringed and sues in a national court, it is for the national judge to ascertain whether an infringement has taken place.

It is also for the national judge to consider whether the relevant national legislation is in line with European Community law and with international treaties to which the relevant country is a party. European Community law governing the enforcement of intellectual property rights applies to trade names only insofar as these are protected as exclusive property rights in the national law concerned. In any event, the European Community is not a contracting party to the Paris Convention on the Protection of Industrial Property.

The honourable Member should also note that Article 15.1 of the Electronic Commerce Directive prohibits the application of a general filtering obligation to Internet hosting services. According to Article 14.3 of that directive, it is only a court or an administrative authority that can require a given service provider to terminate or prevent a specific infringing activity.

In addition, the Commission does not consider that the points raised by the honourable Member relate to the market power or the potential monopoly that the company in question may have.

 
  
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  Saïd El Khadraoui (PSE). – Mijnheer de commissaris, dank u wel voor uw antwoord. Ik geloof toch dat er een belangrijke Europese dimensie is aan deze problematiek. U weet ook dat uit onderzoek blijkt dat de modale consument gebruik maakt van zoekrobots om terecht te komen op de juiste website, veel meer dan door het rechtstreeks intikken van het adres, omdat het makkelijker is, maar ook omdat de consument vertrouwen heeft in deze zoekmachine.

Nu blijkt dat dit vertrouwen niet altijd terecht is en het verontrust mij dat een privé-bedrijf zich blijkbaar niet aan de regels hoeft te houden. Ik denk dus dat de Commissie een initiatief moet nemen om ervoor te zorgen dat consumenten en bedrijven, ook kleine bedrijven, op een veilige manier van deze diensten gebruik kunnen maken.

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. Of course I hope that small companies, and every other company, can use these services safely. However, the question put to me related to the Commission’s role in this matter. As I pointed out in my reply, this is in fact a matter for a national court, and is not a matter for the European Commission. That is the situation under existing law.

 
  
  

Zweiter Teil

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 48 von Dimitrios Papadimoulis (H-0435/06)

Betrifft: Hohe Gebühren für Zahlungen mit Kreditkarten in Griechenland

Laut einer Pressemitteilung der Kommission vom 12. April 2006 über den Wettbewerb im Bereich der Kreditkarten (payments cards industry) sind im Binnenmarkt große Preisunterschiede zu verzeichnen. In manchen Mitgliedstaaten bezahlen die Verbraucher bis zu 100 % zusätzliche Bankgebühren, wenn sie Mastercard oder Visa verwenden. Ferner weisen die von den Unternehmen zu entrichtenden Gebühren in der gesamten Europäischen Union große Unterschiede auf und belaufen sich auf bis zu 500 % für Visa und 650 % für Mastercard.

Kann die Kommission angesichts der Tatsache, dass sich die Nutzer von Kreditkarten über den Mangel an Transparenz und die hohen Transaktionsgebühren beschweren, mitteilen, ob sie sich mit diesem Problem befasst? Wird sie Maßnahmen vorschlagen? Kann sie – auf der Grundlage der ihr zur Verfügung stehenden Daten – die Marktsituation in Griechenland mit der in den anderen Mitgliedstaaten der Europäischen Union vergleichen?

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. On 12 April 2006 we published a preliminary report on the findings of the inquiry into competition conditions in the payment card sector in the EU. That report confirms that businesses and consumers do not yet benefit from a fully competitive internal market in payment cards. The large price differentials which exist within the single market are a clear sign of this. In the Commission’s view these price differentials, and the high levels of fees that are currently charged, indicate that there is scope for significantly reducing prices at least in some Member States.

The Commission is now holding a public consultation on the interim report. We will listen carefully to the views of all interested parties, including the industry and consumers before we draw any conclusions on the way forward.

If the preliminary findings on payment cards are borne out by this consultation, the Commission will consider action under EC Treaty anti-trust rules in individual cases. However, the Commission would also like to emphasise that it is important that market participants themselves help to tackle the problems identified in the inquiry. So it is now also up to them.

There is a considerable lack of transparency in the current market. The preliminary result of the enquiry into the sector provides all stakeholders with substantial information on how the market functions, and the Commission sincerely hopes that this will help players in the industry to correct some of the problems themselves.

The more the payment card industry does on its own initiative, the less it is likely to face action under anti-trust rules and, as we are aware, prevention is better than cure.

The honourable Member refers in particular to the situation in Greece compared with other Member States. The inquiry indeed found that the fees charged to consumers and businesses in Greece are above the EU-25 average. At present the Commission has deliberately refrained from identifying individual countries or networks or banks as negative examples in this sector. The Commission prefers to encourage a generally constructive debate with a view to finding solutions to the problems from among stakeholders and from within the industry itself. The Commission will keep Parliament informed of the conclusions it draws, following the public consultation, and of any further action it considers appropriate in the light of those conclusions.

 
  
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  Δημήτριος Παπαδημούλης (GUE/NGL). – Κυρία Πρόεδρε, κυρία Επίτροπε, ευχαριστώ για την απάντηση, αν και σημειώνω ότι τα είπατε πολύ πιο στρογγυλά απαντώντας στο Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο απ' ό,τι τα λέει το ίδιο το προκαταρκτικό πόρισμα που εσείς δώσατε στη δημοσιότητα στις 12 Απριλίου. Θα ήθελα να σας ρωτήσω πότε σκοπεύει η Επιτροπή να εισηγηθεί και να παρουσιάσει μέτρα συγκεκριμένα. Πότε θα τελειώσει η μελέτη; Και για την Ελλάδα, μπορείτε να μας δώσετε κάποιους αριθμούς ή είναι απόρρητο;

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. In answer to your last question: no, not at this time. I have explained that, following the result of the preliminary findings, we shall be contacting those involved during the consultation procedure. Hopefully, they have already taken into account that there is something rotten in the state in certain circumstances and they will come up with certain decisions or proposals, or whatever, when we have finalised matters after the consultation, which will be before the end of the year. Then we will review the situation and either put forward proposals or just inform you that a couple of those that did not behave are reacting positively and correcting their behaviour.

 
  
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  Μανώλης Μαυρομμάτης (PPE-DE). – Κυρία Πρόεδρε, κυρία Επίτροπε, οι μικρομεσαίες επιχειρήσεις πληρώνουν μέχρι και 70% περισσότερο από τις μεγάλες εταιρείες προκειμένου για τη χρήση πιστωτικών καρτών από τους πελάτες τους. Αποτέλεσμα αυτού είναι η αύξηση του κόστους του τελικού προϊόντος για τον Ευρωπαίο καταναλωτή και η δημιουργία πληθωρισμού, που μπορεί να φθάσει μέχρι και το 2,5%. Επειδή είχα κάνει την ίδια ερώτηση με το συνάδελφο προηγουμένως, ερωτώ:

Η Επιτροπή πιστεύει ότι θα πρέπει ο τομέας των χρηματοπιστωτικών υπηρεσιών να ενταχθεί στα συστήματα της ενιαίας αγοράς και της ενιαίας περιοχής πληρωμών σε ευρώ;

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. The honourable Member is correct when he says that, especially in the SME sector, there is something that you could call ‘paying too much’. Businesses, including SMEs, and consumers are paying several billion euros too much every year because banks do not compete enough, and that is one of the problems that we are facing and on which we have to act. Let there be no misunderstanding about that.

Markets are still fragmented and we do not yet have a functioning single market for payments in Europe. That is the main purpose of our action: there will be change; there must be change, to be frank about it. All players, in particular in the financial industry, must work for this. You can be sure that your Commissioner will do her utmost.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE-DE). – Frau Präsidentin! Mich interessiert, wie die Kommission zu dem Problem steht, dass Kreditkartengebühren immer noch nach Umsatz gestaffelt werden, was insbesondere kleine und mittlere Unternehmen und vor allem kleine Tourismusbetriebe benachteiligt. Halten Sie das nach wettbewerbsrechtlichen Gesichtspunkten für gerechtfertigt?

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. Every time you use a card for payment you bear a cost of up to 2.5%, which is equivalent to a consumption tax. If the payment cards business becomes more competitive – and that is what we are pushing for – then every household could save up to several hundred euro per year. Competitiveness, competitiveness, competitiveness: that’s it!

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 49 von Boguslaw Sonik (H-0459/06)

Betrifft: Parallelvertrieb von Arzneimitteln

Polen hat gerade im Einklang mit dem Gemeinschaftsrecht Vorschriften eingeführt, die den Parallelvertrieb von Arzneimitteln ermöglichen. Die Preise vieler Arzneimittel sind in Polen im Gegensatz zur landläufigen Meinung oftmals höher als in den alten EU-Mitgliedstaaten. Der Parallelvertrieb ist ein gutes Instrument, um Wettbewerb in den Markt für Markenprodukte zu bringen. Dieser Wettbewerb soll zu Einsparungen für die polnische Regierung und zugleich auch für die Bürger führen. In der letzten Zeit wurde die Aufmerksamkeit des Verfassers der Anfrage auf die Tatsache gelenkt, dass die Möglichkeiten erheblicher Einsparungen durch den Parallelvertrieb in Polen nicht umfassend ausgeschöpft werden können, weil die Arzneimittelhersteller Arzneimittelgroßhändlern in Ländern mit niedrigeren Arzneimittelpreisen Lieferbeschränkungen auferlegt haben. Dieses Verhalten stellt einen offenkundigen Verstoß gegen das Gemeinschaftsrecht dar. Die Kommission hat in letzter Zeit ihre Entschlossenheit unter Beweis gestellt, die Interessen der Verbraucher zu schützen und den Wettbewerb in vielen Branchen zu gewährleisten, einschließlich der Automobilindustrie. Woher rührt die Zurückhaltung der Kommission in Bezug auf die strenge Anwendung der antimonopolistischen Vorschriften in der Pharmabranche und auf den Schutz der Interessen polnischer Patienten?

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. The Commission’s competition enforcement priorities in the pharmaceutical sector have two key objectives: one is to tackle intra-brand competition between the producers of patented prescription products and the parallel importers of those products; the other is to promote competition in innovation for patented medicines between the pharmaceutical producers, which has declined in Europe in the last decade, and to encourage intra-brand competition from generic substitutes after patent expiry. That should, in time, contribute to ensuring a wider choice of both patented and generic pharmaceutical products to European patients at affordable prices. Due account is taken of the need for the industry to recover its research and development costs, given the industry’s heavy dependence on innovation for its further competitiveness. In that context, the honourable Member can be assured that the Commission is not circumspect about rigorously applying the anti-monopoly provisions in the pharmaceutical sector, for generic competition is an area which has suffered from under-enforcement in the past. However, the importance of the generic segment for the provision of affordable medicines in the enlarged Union cannot be ignored. That is why the Commission will give greater priority to competition in the generic sector in the immediate future.

On the issue of parallel trade, the Commission has always taken an active approach to combating restrictions on parallel trade in pharmaceuticals. In the Commission’s opinion, parallel imports are a legal form of trade between the Member States, constituting an alternative means of supply in the import countries.

The Commission is aware of the supply quota systems put in place by several pharmaceutical companies. Under those systems, pharmaceutical companies unilaterally allocate a quota of medicines to their wholesalers. In principle the quota covers domestic demand for the medicines in question in a particular Member State.

The European courts have held that such unilateral supply quota systems are not within the scope of Article 81 of the EC Treaty when there is not enough evidence that they are the result of an agreement with wholesalers. However, another type of practice aimed at curbing parallel trade such as ‘dual pricing systems’ – which, as you know, are systems where prices differ according to whether the product is for local consumption or for export to the other Member States – has been held to infringe Article 81 in, for example, the Glaxo-Wellcome decision of May 2001.

The Greek national competition authority has initiated proceedings against restrictions on parallel trade on the basis of Article 82, which prohibits the abuse of a dominant position. There are also parallel civil litigation proceedings pending in Greece, dealing with the same matter. The Commission is monitoring these developments closely.

Article 152 makes clear that the organisation and the delivery of health services and medical care are the responsibility of the Member States. The competent national authorities are free to make their own decisions on pricing and reimbursement for pharmaceuticals, provided that these decisions are made in a transparent manner and do not create barriers to trade.

The Commission understands that in Poland the price of reimbursable pharmaceuticals is subject to a Ministry of Health decision following representations from the industry. In discharging that duty, the Polish authorities could and do use prices in other EU Member States – including low-price countries – as a reference point.

It should also be noted that the Commission has recently launched a project under the pharmaceutical forum, which addresses the issue of national pricing and reimbursement practices. That project will take account of the interests of patients, Member States, wholesalers, manufacturers and other stakeholders.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – Pani Przewodnicząca! Ja przede wszystkim chciałem podziękować pani komisarz za tak szczegółową odpowiedź. Po raz pierwszy spotkałem się z tak precyzyjną odpowiedzią na pytanie. Moja dodatkowa prośba jest taka, żeby jednak wyjaśnić, że sytuacja w Polsce wygląda w ten sposób, iż nie można wykorzystać w pełni dystrybucji równoległej dlatego, że producenci leków nakładają na hurtownie farmaceutyczne zakazy importowania lekarstw o niższych cenach i z tego ...

(Przewodnicząca odebrała głos mówcy)

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. The Commission certainly knows that it has traditionally taken a proactive approach and has adopted several decisions under Article 81 prohibiting restrictive agreements between the pharmaceutical companies and the wholesalers aimed at impeding parallel exports.

Earlier Commission prohibition decisions – for example Johnson [amp] Johnson in 1980 and Sandoz in 1987 – concerned agreed export bans. The Sandoz prohibition decision was appealed against in the European Court of Justice, but the Court upheld the decision. So we are aware of your point.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (PSE). – Aš norėčiau paklausti komisijos narės. Kaip ir Lenkijoje, panaši padėtis ir Lietuvoje, pas mus vaistai dažnai kainuoja brangiau negu senosiose Europos Sąjungos šalyse. Paradoksas, kai, sakykime, anapus Baltijos jūros, Švedijoje, kur gyvenimo lygis žymiai aukštesnis, vaistai kainuoja pigiau. Todėl noriu tiesiai paklausti, ar čia nacionalinės vyriausybės kaltė, kad tokia padėtis susidaro, ar tam įtakos turi Europos Sąjungos veikla, įskaitant Europos Komisijos veiklą, ir įstatymų netobulumas.

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. Article 152 makes it clear that the organisation and delivery of health services and medical care are the responsibility of Member States, as I mentioned before.

Competent national authorities are free to make their own decisions on the pricing and reimbursement of pharmaceutical articles, provided that these decisions are made in a transparent manner and do not create barriers to trade. Member States therefore play a key role, as do the national competition authorities. However, they need to be transparent in the decisions they take in that national context.

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 50 von Ivo Belet (H-0485/06)

Betrifft: Fusion von Suez und Gaz de France - Folgen für den Wettbewerb auf dem belgischen Energiemarkt - Schutz der Verbraucherinteressen

Obwohl die Kommission meint, dass die Verschmelzung von Suez und Gaz de France nach der Fusionsverordnung der EU in Ordnung ist, schafft diese Konzentration große Unsicherheit in Belgien.

Durch diese Fusion droht der Wettbewerb auf dem belgischen Energiemarkt doch ernsthaft verzerrt zu werden, da die neue fusionierte Gruppe den ganzen Energiemarkt sowohl im Bereich Erzeugung als auch bei Vertrieb und Speicherung von Gas und Elektrizität kontrollieren wird.

Kann die Kommission darlegen, welche Folgen die vollzogene Fusion von Gaz de France und Suez für den Wettbewerb auf dem belgischen Energiemarkt haben wird?

Welche Maßnahmen wird die Kommission ergreifen, um die Interessen der Verbraucher in dieser Hinsicht zu schützen? Ganz konkret: Wird die Kommission den aus dieser Fusion entstehenden Konzern verpflichten, Tätigkeiten in Belgien (Erzeugung, Verteilung) abzustoßen, um den Wettbewerb zu schützen?

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. As we are all aware, there are quite a number of issues to be dealt with. But first let me first correct one point in the oral question by the honourable Member. Contrary to what he is implying in his question, the Commission has not yet formed any opinion on whether the proposed merger between Suez and Gaz de France complies with the EC merger regulation. The proposed merger was indeed notified on 10 May 2006 and the Commission will take a decision by 19 June 2006 as to whether or not a thorough second-phase investigation under the EU merger regulation will be necessary. This assessment will be based on the wide-ranging market investigation currently under way.

The honourable Member can rest assured that the Commission is investigating this case very carefully – like all other cases, by the way – in order to assess the impact of this operation on the European energy sector, and in particular in Belgium and in France, where those parties have a very important market position.

The Commission cannot prejudge the result of the investigation – you would not blame me for that. The extent and gravity of any possible competition problems can only be established after the market investigation; but, should this investigation confirm the existence of any competition problems, then the parties would have the opportunity to propose appropriate remedies, and this is in line with the usual practice.

Finally, the Commission would wish to recall its extensive experience in assessing remedies based on earlier cases, especially in this sector.

 
  
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  Ivo Belet (PPE-DE). – Mevrouw de Commissaris, heel kort. Ik begrijp dat u voorzichtig wilt zijn en u verwijst naar remedies, maar u beseft uiteraard dat u de belangrijkste garantie bent voor de Belgische consument en voor de Belgische bedrijven die afnemers van gas en elektriciteit zijn, dat de prijzen betaalbaar blijven.

Kunt u op zijn minst hier bevestigen dat u zult ingrijpen en kunt u iets meer zeggen over de aard van die remedies? Kunt u ook bevestigen dat u kunt garanderen dat de concurrentie zal worden gewaarborgd, dat er geen monopolie ontstaat en dat het fusiebedrijf eventueel verplicht zal worden om, afhankelijk van de resultaten van het onderzoek, een deel van zijn activiteiten in België af te stoten?

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Lid van de Commissie. Ik ga niet vooruitlopen op hetgeen mogelijkerwijze bij de onderzoeken boven water zal komen. In ieder geval zijn we ons zeer bewust van het feit dat we het hier hebben over een uiteindelijk fusie die een van de grootste Europese energieconcerns zal opleveren. Dit betekent dat we ons met die conclusie - die een kind kan trekken - zeer bewust zijn van het feit dat we het buitengewoon zorgvuldig zullen moeten doen en dat we naar eer en geweten moeten vaststellen of een en ander strookt met de Europese mededingingsregels. U kunt ervan overtuigd zijn dat de consument een buitengewoon belangrijke rol speelt in het mededingingsbeleid, want uiteindelijk is de consument in onze beleving met eerlijke concurrentie en een goede situatie van groeperingen op de markt zeer gediend.

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 52 von Bart Staes (H-0407/06)

Betrifft: Einsetzung einer Europäischen Influenza-Arbeitsgruppe

Die Antwort auf die Anfrage P-1238/06 enthält keinerlei Angaben darüber, was die konkreten Ergebnisse von Maßnahmen wie Gedankenaustausch und dem Austausch bewährter Praktiken, des Besuchs von Mitgliedstaaten und der Abhaltung von Konferenzen sind noch welche Lösungen sie vorsehen. Insbesondere im Fall der globalen Partnerschaft Vogelgrippe und Grippepandemie bleibt unklar, welche Strategie eingeschlagen wird, um zu einer Partnerschaft zu gelangen, und welche Akteure vom Projekt betroffen werden.

Kann die Kommission mitteilen, ob sie ihre aktive Unterstützung für eine bereits fortgeschrittene Initiative zusagt, die die Einsetzung einer Europäischen Influenza-Arbeitsgruppe beabsichtigt, und kann sie Angaben darüber machen, welche Rolle sie in diesem Wissenschaftszentrum einnehmen wird, das die bestehenden Erfahrungen bündelt und eine strukturierte Zusammenarbeit zwischen allen Betroffenen möglich macht?

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. I am afraid that this is my second interaction today with the honourable Member, Mr Staes, and I have to disappoint him for a second time in one afternoon.

Even though the idea and the proposal are very interesting and would have been worth exploring in the past, we have already reached a very advanced level of cooperation at various levels within and outside the European Union on avian flu, not only as regards a possible pandemic but also on the animal health side. Therefore, we feel that, at this point, it would not offer any added value to have any more coordinating bodies. I should like to assure the honourable Member that the tasks this task force would have performed are already at very advanced stages – if not completed – in the European Union. That also applies to the WHO, WHO Europe, the G8 and other international organisations. We therefore feel that adding another coordinating group could have the negative effect of confusing responsibilities which have already clearly been defined.

We believe strongly in close collaboration with our different partners and we have already reached an advanced stage there. We hold joint meetings of the chief health officers, the chief veterinary officers and all the experts on animal and human health. We are also funding various research projects. For example, we have launched a major initiative on the development of pandemic influenza vaccines.

On the availability of research data, the European Centre for Disease Control is already active in making such data available and early-warning networks for outbreaks in humans and animals are already in place. The creation very recently of an EU-wide network of media officers is also a major step.

In the area of seasonal vaccination coverage, I remind health ministers repeatedly of the WHO objectives and the advantage of extending and expanding the coverage of seasonal influenza vaccination in readiness for a possible pandemic.

In terms of global partnership, the European Union is actively engaged in close collaboration with China and the United States – these are the two international initiatives brought together after the Beijing conference. Only last week we had the follow-up meeting in Vienna, in which we discussed practical ways of taking this forward. It is true that there was a delay in delivering the funds pledged in Beijing. Nevertheless, the decision has now been taken to proceed as quickly as possible. It is very appropriate that the next meeting on this issue will take place in Africa, which is a region that has recently been affected.

Nevertheless, and in conclusion, I should like to say that we are always open to suggestions. We do not have any prejudices and are not afraid of sharing views, responsibilities and cooperation. We are always open to ideas and suggestions that would improve both the effectiveness of our preparedness measures and collaboration at both EU and international level.

 
  
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  Bart Staes (Verts/ALE). – Mijnheer de Commissaris, dank voor uw antwoord dat inderdaad een beetje ontgoochelt, vooral omdat het in tegenspraak is met het verslag van de heer Adamou dat we hier vandaag besproken hebben, en waarin in artikel 23 juist gevraagd wordt om zo'n task force, zo'n influenzawerkgroep.

U zegt dat deze geen toegevoegde waarde zal hebben, maar alle wetenschappers die ik gesproken heb in de voorbereiding van het verslag-Adamou, zeggen juist dat er inderdaad heel veel expertise is, maar dat deze heel verspreid is en dat zo'n influenzawerkgroep wel degelijk een toegevoegde waarde zou hebben en zelfs beter zou werken dan de ECDC die nu een aantal taken waarneemt. Dus, kunt u nog eens toelichten waarom deze werkgroep geen toegevoegde waarde zou hebben?

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. I noted the paragraph in the report we were discussing earlier today, but the fact remains that at this stage we feel that we already have the structures and mechanisms to take advantage of the knowledge, expertise and experience on both animal and human health, which is why adding one more body at this point would not offer any advantages but might, on the contrary, pose problems.

I assure you that our criterion is purely a practical one and that we evaluate the best way to obtain practical results. We have no objection to the idea as such; it is just that we feel this point would not offer any practical advantages.

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 53 von Robert Evans (H-0425/06)

Betrifft: Mietwagensektor

Sind der Kommission die Ungleichheiten im Bereich der Autovermietung in Europa bekannt, durch die einige Urlauber Gefahr laufen können, eine hohe Selbstbeteiligung für unvorhergesehene zusätzliche Kosten übernehmen zu müssen? Die Kunden beschweren sich unter anderem darüber, dass sie gedrängt werden, teure Versicherungen abzuschließen, dass sie Rechnungen für von ihnen nicht verursachte Schäden bezahlen müssen, dass der Service zu wünschen übrig lässt, dass keine ausreichende Dokumentation zur Verfügung gestellt wird und dass sie über grundlegende Verfahren wie das Verhalten bei Unfällen und das Auftanken nicht richtig informiert werden. Zieht die Kommission europaweite Maßnahmen in Betracht, um die Frage des mangelnden Verbraucherschutzes im Bereich der Autovermietung in Angriff zu nehmen?

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. The Commission is aware of the problems experienced by consumers in connection with car hire and we have legislation that could help to a certain extent. One such piece of legislation is the one on unfair terms of consumer contracts. It provides relevant protection. The implementation of these provisions lies, of course, with the Member States. Nevertheless, even these provisions do not offer sufficient protection, especially in relation to difficulties where pressure and unfair business practices generally are involved.

For example, the honourable Member refers to complaints from consumers who have been under pressure to take out expensive insurance. We have new legislation in place. As you know, last year we adopted the legislation on unfair commercial practices. This covers pressure selling. Its provisions will come into force at the beginning of next year and it regulates aggressive commercial business, both misleading practices and aggressive practices. One advantage of this directive is that it has a list of criteria helping to determine whether a commercial practice involves harassment, coercion, including physical force, or undue influence, but also of course misleading representations.

At the same time, I would like to inform the honourable Member that we are currently in the process of conducting a review of eight of the consumer directives. Some of them could be relevant to car hire. One which is very important is the one on distance selling. Unfortunately, based on a ruling of the Court of Justice, this does not cover car hire. Therefore we have included these directives in our review, but will also examine, through consultations, whether it is useful and necessary to amend this directive so as to cover car hire under these provisions, that is, distance selling.

We are gathering evidence in this respect and are discussing it with stakeholders. The outcome of this debate and consultation will determine whether we should amend this directive. If this happens, then we will fill one gap in the legal protection of consumers when they rent cars from a distance.

 
  
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  Robert Evans (PSE). – Thank you very much, Commissioner, for that comprehensive reply. If should just add that – as you are probably aware – if you pay by credit card for something in a shop or for a room in a hotel, that information cannot be used retrospectively, with more charges being added on.

However, this does seem to happen in the car hire industry. There are many companies who also charge people for damage that has not occurred or is very minor.

This is an industry that affects Europeans who are travelling around Europe, so I very much welcome your commitment to look again at the consumer directives, distance selling, unfair aggressive practices, and hope very much that my colleagues and I can work with you, introduce amendments and address the current car hire situation

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Very briefly, I agree with the honourable Member. We are in the process of reviewing the acquis and working on the distance selling directive – which has a problem, admittedly. That does not mean that the other two directives do not offer protection to a certain extent, which is why it is important for Parliament and the Commission to raise the issue with the Member States who are in charge and have responsibility for the implementation of Community legislation.

 
  
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  Malcolm Harbour (PPE-DE). – Would the Commissioner agree with me that the car hire sector is one that should be a prime beneficiary of the Services Directive, and that the provisions of that directive, which we approved to encourage sectors to develop good codes of practice and quality standards, would be an ideal application in this case?

Perhaps he could take up the suggestion by my colleague, Robert Evans, with which I associate myself, to call the car hire companies together, present them with some of these disserving consumer reports and suggest that they might set up a Europe-wide set of codes of practice, standards and quality marks that really would benefit the consumer very quickly?

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. I think Mr Harbour is trying to get me into trouble. Every time we deal with the services directive it is always a risky business!

I shall be very happy to take up this issue with my colleague Mr McCreevy, who is in charge of the services directive. I see it more from the consumer protection point of view, which is what I referred to earlier. The reason for the exclusion of car hire from our directives is that it is considered to be a transport issue, therefore it has to be dealt with specifically under that legislation. But I shall be very happy to take up this suggestion with my colleague and see how we can make sure that both consumers and the industry benefit from European legislation.

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Da sie dasselbe Thema betreffen, werden die folgenden Anfragen gemeinsam behandelt

Anfrage Nr. 54 von Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuzmiuk (H-0428/06)

Betrifft: Importverbot von Lebensmitteln nach Russland

Das Importverbot für polnische Lebensmittel nach Russland dauert seit fast einem halben Jahr an. Seitdem das Verbot auferlegt wurde, werden über seine Abschaffung Gespräche geführt, die allerdings bisher nur zu noch schärferen Forderungen der russischen Seite geführt haben. Die Kommission hat sich bereit erklärt bei der Lösung des Konflikts zu helfen, doch bisher scheint sie nur eine passive Rolle einzunehmen. Die Verluste der polnischen Exporteure belaufen sich mittlerweile auf einige Hundert Millionen Euro. Zu berücksichtigen ist dabei, dass sich diese Schätzung lediglich auf die halbjährlichen Einnahmen aus dem Import nach Russland und nicht auf den folgenschweren Verlust dieses russischen Marktsegments beziehen, den die polnischen Unternehmen in Zukunft nur sehr schwer zurückgewinnen werden können.

Es gibt viele Gründe zur Annahme, dass der tatsächliche Auslöser für die jetzige Situation die dauerhafte Blockade des russischen Marktes für die polnischen Lebensmittelerzeuger ist. Während der letzten Gesprächsrunde am 26. April 2006 forderte die russische Seite, dass Polen unter anderem separate Grenzübergänge festlegt, über die polnische Landwirtschaftserzeugnisse nach Russland eingeführt werden. Diese Forderung, die in keinem Verhältnis zu den angeblichen Vergehen polnischer Lieferanten steht und aus offensichtlichen Gründen nicht von Polen akzeptiert werden kann, liefert einen weiteren Beweis dafür, dass die russische Seite gezielt nicht erfüllbare Bedingungen an Polen stellt. Die Kommission ist gemäß den Beitrittsverträgen verpflichtet, in einer derartigen Situation zu intervenieren. Welche konkreten Maßnahmen wird die Kommission angesichts dieser Situation ergreifen und zu welchem Zeitpunkt?

Anfrage Nr. 59 von Ryszard Czarnecki (H-0484/06)

Betrifft: Embargo für die Ausfuhr von polnischem Fleisch in die Ukraine und nach Russland

Welche Maßnahmen hat die Kommission im Namen der EU ergriffen, damit das absurde Embargo für die Ausfuhr von polnischem Fleisch in die Ukraine und nach Russland aufgehoben wird?

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. It is true that both questions deal with more or less the same issue, so I will cover them in one reply.

I am aware of the problems raised regarding Polish exports to Russia and more recently Ukraine and the Commission is involved – and my services as well – in trying to sort out the situation. I had meetings with Russian officials and tried to emphasize that from the technical, the veterinary point of view, the Polish authorities are committed to the necessary measures to make sure that the Russian concerns are addressed.

It is very important – and we insisted on this with the Russian authorities – that solutions are found as quickly as possible. It is also extremely important that the Polish authorities implement these agreed measures and convince the Russian authorities that they have been implemented and are now in force. In that respect, my services will visit Poland very soon to work together with the Polish authorities to gather this evidence which can be used in negotiations and discussions with the Russian side.

My colleague Mr Mandelson has been dealing with this issue from the trade point of view, especially since, from a technical point of view, the requirements have been met, and it now becomes a trade issue. We also raised the matter in our discussions within the context of Russia's WTO accession negotiations. It is important that Russia's SPS measures comply with the WTO SPS Agreement.

We are following this issue. We are in constant communication and coordination with the Polish authorities and now it has been agreed that the Commission will formally participate in the discussions with the Polish and Russian sides. At the beginning, given that it related to exports which fall under the responsibility of the Member States, the Commission was facilitating the discussions but could not be part of them. Nevertheless, not only has it now been agreed by both sides, but also, given that some of the issues raised by Russia relate to the exports of other Member States through Poland and also to European Community legislation as a whole, it provides legal standing for the Commission also to be involved in these discussions. As I said, our experts will shortly visit Poland to gather information and evidence to be used during the meetings with the Russian side.

As far as the Ukraine measures are concerned, the Commission met with the Ukrainian Chief Veterinary Officer in April, and asked him to speed up efforts to get the problem solved. It seems that Ukraine has agreed to lift the ban, but it has not taken place yet. Today there was to be a meeting between the European Union and Ukraine – the Sub-Committee on Trade – and this issue would be raised there too.

We will follow this issue very closely and will continue to play an active role, but it is also very important that Poland actively demonstrates to its trade partner that legitimate concerns are taken seriously and are being met. In that effort also, we will support Poland.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN). – Pani Przewodnicząca! Chciałbym bardzo serdecznie podziękować za zainteresowanie Komisji sprawami eksportu Polski na rynek rosyjski i ukraiński, ale chcę również zwrócić uwagę, że ten problem nie jest rozwiązany już od siedmiu miesięcy. To są bardzo poważne straty polskich eksporterów. Jeżeli to będzie trwało jeszcze dłużej, to te straty będą jeszcze większe. Co więcej, pewna część eksporterów na stałe zostanie wyparta z rynku rosyjskiego i z rynku ukraińskiego, więc nalegamy na stanowcze działania Komisji Europejskiej w tej sprawie.

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. First of all, this is not the first time – at least during my term – that we have had problems with exports through Russia. That is why it is extremely important for Member States not to give any excuse for the introduction of bans, because once they are introduced it is very difficult to have them lifted. Therefore, it is very important that both EU legislation and bilateral agreements are strictly implemented by every Member State so as not to give this initial justification for the introduction of bans.

At the same time, it is true that it has been going on for some time, but there were problems in communications between Russia and Poland and, as I said, from the beginning this was a bilateral issue, so we could only facilitate. Nevertheless, we intervened, we brought the parties together and, through mediation, we managed to reach an agreement. Now we are following very closely the developments in this tripartite meeting, in which we will also be involved, and will try to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE). – Herr Kommissar, glauben Sie, dass diese Probleme die Aufnahme Russlands in die WTO verzögern werden?

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. I do not think so, because it seems that Russia is ready to accept the WTO’s SPS requirements. Nevertheless, it is not enough for Russia to accept these. It has to implement them as well. Therefore, these ‘clouds’ over the negotiations, while not blocking them, certainly create an unpleasant atmosphere. It is for that reason that it is important for Russia to implement these SPS requirements.

 
  
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  Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE). – Monsieur le Commissaire, étant donné que vous allez discuter avec nos homologues russes, je souhaiterais poser une question complémentaire et qui va dans le même sens, à propos cette fois de la Géorgie.

Vous savez que la Russie a instauré un embargo identique à l'égard du vin géorgien. Étant donné que la Géorgie est couverte par l'initiative "nouveau voisinage" et qu'un plan d'action a été mis en place en sa faveur, êtes-vous au fait de cette question et, dans la négative, pouvez-vous l'examiner en vue de savoir quelle réponse la Russie entend donner à la Géorgie?

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. I am not aware of it. It does not fall under my sphere of responsibility, but I would be very happy to refer the issue to my colleague who is responsible for that area and see what she can make of the situation.

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 60 von Marie Anne Isler Béguin (H-0409/06)

Betrifft: Unterstützung des Demokratisierungsprozesses in Mauretanien

Mauretanien, Mitglied der Paritätischen Parlamentarischen Versammlung AKP-EU, ist seit dem Sturz der Diktatur von Ould Taya am 4. August 2005 in einem demokratischen Übergangsprozess begriffen.

Der Militärrat hat sich einerseits verpflichtet, innerhalb von zwei Jahren die notwendigen Reformen für die Demokratisierung durchzuführen und das Land zu freien Wahlen zu führen, und andererseits, dass keines der Mitglieder der jetzigen Regierung sich als Kandidat an den Wahlen beteiligt.

Nun, da die Reformen eingeleitet sind und der Zeitplan für die Wahlen festgelegt ist, appelliert Mauretanien an die internationale Gemeinschaft und insbesondere an die Europäische Union, diesen Demokratisierungsprozess zu unterstützen.

Beabsichtigt die Kommission, die Vorbereitung und Abhaltung freier und fairer Wahlen technisch und politisch zu unterstützen?

Kann Mauretanien in diesem spezifischen geopolitischen Kontext als Brückenstaat zwischen Schwarzafrika und dem Maghreb um seine Aufnahme in die Paritätische Parlamentarische Versammlung Euromed ersuchen?

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. The undertakings made by the Mauritanian Government as regards respect for democratic principles when the consultations were opened under Article 96 were centred on the re-establishment of a properly-functioning democracy and the rule of law.

 
  
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  Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE). – Madame la Commissaire, je peux vous dire que je ne suis pas du tout satisfaite de la réponse. Je regrette que M. Michel ne soit pas là parce qu'il connait très bien la question de la Mauritanie. J'estime que la Commission aurait pu apporter plus de renseignements vu le coup d'état d'août dernier, puisqu'elle s'est proposée d'envoyer une délégation de l'Union européenne pour y surveiller les élections. Je vous rappelle qu'un référendum aura lieu dans ce pays à la fin du mois de juin. Par conséquent, êtes-vous en mesure de nous dire si cette délégation aura une mission à court ou à long terme vis-à-vis des élections?

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. As I am sure that the honourable Member is aware, the lateral timetable set by the Mauritania transition authorities is as follows: referendum on 25 June, municipal and legislative elections on 19 November, senatorial elections on 21 January 2007 and presidential elections on 11 March 2007 (first round) and 25 March 2007 (second round).

This 19-month schedule is tighter than the 24-month period initially planned by the Military Council for Justice and Democracy. Its aim is a return to constitutional and democratic rule by the end of May 2007 at the latest. When consultations were opened under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement, Mauritania gave undertakings in the areas of respect for democratic principles, fundamental rights and freedoms, the rule of law and good governance.

The European Union declared its willingness to provide support for the implementation of these undertakings and decided to support the transition process in Mauritania during the consultation period itself by means of institutional support projects. In particular, a EUR 6 million technical support project for the electoral processes was drawn up by the Commission and approved in April 2006. The European Community’s financial contribution of approximately 75% of total donor contributions will be implemented by the UN Development Programme.

The project’s specific objective is to strengthen the capacities and resources of the national independent electoral commission, the Ministry of Justice and civil society. It is also aimed at helping to ensure that the elections are free, fair and transparent, are conducted efficiently and lead to results that are nationally and internationally recognised and legitimate.

Regarding observation of the electoral processes, the Commission plans to send a team of electoral experts in early June 2006 - around now - to help with the constitutional referendum and, in July, a fact-finding mission to assess the advisability, usefulness and feasibility of future observation missions as well as, if necessary, electoral observation missions to observe the general and municipal elections in November 2006 and the presidential elections in March 2007.

As you know, Mauritania is not a member of either ECOWAS, which it left in 2000 or UEMOA, but it is member of the Arab-Magreb Union. The country takes part in the Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean dialogue as an observer, and formally applied for membership at the end of May 2005. No response to that request can be given before the country returns to constitutional and democratic rule.

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 61 von Bernd Posselt (H-0412/06)

Betrifft: Entwicklungszusammenarbeit mit Nigeria

Wie beurteilt die Kommission die Lage der Christen in Nigeria, und was tut sie, um im Rahmen der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit Rechtstaatlichkeit und Religionsfreiheit in diesem wichtigen afrikanischen Land zu stärken?

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. The Commission attaches great importance to the rights of freedom of religion, belief and expression in its dialogues with third countries.

Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief is one of the fundamental human rights and, as such, is enshrined in a number of international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. In addition, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights makes clear that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and that cultural, religious and linguistic diversity should be respected.

Respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law underpins the Cotonou Partnership signed by the ACP States and the Community and its Member States. Article 8 of the agreement indicates the topics on which regular political dialogues should focus, referring specifically to ethnic, religious and racial discrimination.

There is no state religion in Nigeria. In 1999, the Constitution provided for freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the federal government generally respects those freedoms.

The Constitution also prohibits state and local government from adopting an official religion. However, state governors have great autonomy and it is alleged that Islam has been adopted de facto as a state religion in several northern states.

The return of Nigeria to democracy in 1999 has seen an improvement in the human rights situation, but it has also seen an increase in tensions and violent conflicts, which currently provide the most threatening challenges to the new democratic Nigeria.

In this complex and unstable situation, the Commission has been trying to identify the most common causes of conflicts with the objective of helping to address and prevent them. Conflicts and violence have historically marked relationships between Muslims and Christians, particularly in the central states, where communities of different religions are numerically equivalent. It is generally not possible to cast Muslims or Christians systematically in the role of aggressor or victim, as they have historically been both. It is apparent, however, that conflicts always involve extremely poor people and that conflicts presented as religiously motivated are often triggered by other causes, including conflicts between traditional rulers, land and resource struggles amongst communities, political in-fighting, and tensions between state and federal governments.

The significance of the tension between indigenes and non-indigenes is crucial to understanding the frequent cause of conflicts in Nigeria. A recent report by Human Rights Watch, 'They do not own this place', blames the federal government policies that discriminate amongst non-indigenes, defined as people who, no matter how long they have lived in an area, cannot trace their origins to the ethnic and genealogical roots of the original inhabitants of that area. In a country with more than 250 ethnic groups, these discriminatory practices spreading at state and local government level have relegated millions of Nigerians to the status of second-class citizens, increased poverty and created the conditions for intercommunal violence.

According to Father George Ehusani, secretary-general of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, interviewed by Human Rights Watch, 'poverty in Nigeria has assumed the moral character of war and that is what you see reflected in much of the ethnic violence in this country'. The Commission and the EU Member States are engaged in regular dialogue in Nigeria to promote respect for human rights, basic freedoms and the rule of law among communities, religious and ethnic groups, state and federal authorities.

Since the first Niger Delta crisis in November 2004, regular visits of the EU Heads of Mission have been organised to various areas: the Niger Delta, some northern states and some middle-belt states. While one of the focal sectors of EU development cooperation with Nigeria is supporting and promoting good governance at federal and state level, the Commission is also engaged in financing Community projects in the Niger Delta and is about to approve a project to support non-state actors. Moreover, the EC budget lines have for years been financing projects to promote democracy and human rights.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). – Vielen Dank für die sehr gute und sehr ausführliche Antwort. Mir ist auch Frau Kroes viel sympathischer als Herr Michel, was nicht an Herrn Michel liegt, sondern an Frau Kroes. Ich möchte trotzdem die Frage stellen, warum er heute nicht da ist.

Meine zweite Frage lautet: Was tut die Kommission, um konkret zu thematisieren, dass in einigen nigerianischen Bundesstaaten die Scharia eingeführt wird, und um auch konkrete Gewaltakte wie das Töten von Christen oder das Abbrennen von Kirchen in den Mittelstaaten zu thematisieren, wovon Sie schon gesprochen haben?

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. You can be assured that this is something very important for my colleague. Mr Michel is most fond of the debates in your House, so I am not aware what the specific reason is, but I am absolutely sure that if he could have made it then he would have done, but I think he is travelling, perhaps to the regions you are interested in.

I want to underline that the Commission is fully engaged in the effort to combat extremism of all types through its overall efforts to address the root causes of discontent and to promote peace, stability and security through its development cooperation and assistance. In addition, it is engaged in numerous specific initiatives to promote peaceful coexistence between peoples, as well as inter-religious and intercultural understanding. Political dialogue with the central government and support to institutional development is a main issue.

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Anfrage Nr. 62 von Eoin Ryan (H-0415/06)

Betrifft: EU-Unterstützung zur Bekämpfung von Aids in Afrika

Kann die Europäische Kommission ausführliche Angaben über die Höhe der finanziellen Unterstützung machen, die die EU zur Bekämpfung von Aids in Afrika gewährt, und die Art dieser Unterstützung erläutern sowie die Länder nennen, die in den Genuss dieser finanziellen Unterstützung kommen?

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. The European Community's efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa are financed by the European Development Fund and the budget of the European Community. Within the framework of national and regional programming, the EDF finances projects to fight AIDS and projects aimed at strengthening healthcare systems. Since 2002, 15 national projects and three regional projects to fight AIDS and/or strengthen healthcare systems have been initiated in 13 countries and in the ACP region, representing a total commitment of EUR 244.6 million.

The EDF also supports the implementation of national poverty reduction plans and therefore, directly or indirectly, the fight against AIDS by providing general budget support. Since 2002 the Commission has provided general budget support to 24 African countries with commitments representing around EUR 2.4 billion. Already EUR 1.5 billion of that has been spent.

The European Community's budget has a thematic budget line to help combat poverty-related diseases – not only AIDS, but also malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries. The budget line is based on Regulation 1568/2003. Since 2002 the Commission has allocated on that line more than EUR 86.2 million to NGOs as a contribution to 25 projects combating HIV/AIDS being implemented in 16 African countries.

A total of EUR 9.42 million has also been allocated to two research projects: one in central Africa and the other in southern Africa. A total of EUR 5 million has been allocated to large-scale awareness programmes, as well as to international partnerships, such as the International Partnership for Microbicides and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.

A second budget line relating to health, reproductive and sexual rights in developing countries, based on Regulation 1567/2003, also contributes to the fight against AIDS. EUR 73.95 million is available on this line for 2003-2006. Since 2003, the Commission has been able to allocate on this line EUR 17.5 million for 10 projects for the fight against AIDS implemented in eight African countries. The Commission's budget also finances projects to combat AIDS and strengthen healthcare systems in South Africa, on the basis of Regulation 1726.

Since 2002, three projects are being undertaken in South Africa for a total amount of EUR 55 million. The EDF and EC budget are the two sources of EC contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The European Commission has contributed EUR 522 million to the Global Fund since the latter's creation in 2001, and this amount has been supplemented by contributions from EU Member States.

We are the leading donor to the GFFATM; 57% of the funds go to the fight against HIV/AIDS and 55% are allocated to African countries. Moreover, the European Community is devoting increasing funds to research programmes targeting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. For the period 2002-2006, the financing devoted to these three diseases, most of which funds go to HIV/AIDS, quadrupled, reaching EUR 400 million currently. Half of those funds are managed by the European Community, DG Research, and the other half, to which is added EUR 400 million from EU Member States and the private sector, are funnelled through the European and developing countries' clinical trial partnership.

The Commission does not have any details on aid from the Member States to African countries in the fight against HIV/AIDS because this information has not been made available to us.

 
  
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  Eoin Ryan (UEN). – I should like to thank the Commissioner for her comprehensive answer to my question. Could the Commissioner tell me whether discussions or negotiations are taking place between the major pharmaceutical companies regarding the supply of antiretroviral drugs to people in Africa? If so, how extensive are they? Has any progress been made and have these drugs been made more widely available to people?

 
  
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  Neelie Kroes, Member of the Commission. I gather from the papers that discussions are being held. However, I should like you to permit me, Madam President, to ask my colleague to give you a written answer that is to the point and states precisely what stage the discussions have reached.

 
  
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  Die Präsidentin. Die Anfragen, die aus Zeitgründen nicht behandelt wurden, werden schriftlich beantwortet (siehe Anlage).

Die Fragestunde ist geschlossen.

(Die Sitzung wird um 19.30 Uhr unterbrochen und um 21.05 Uhr wieder aufgenommen.)

 
  
  

PRZEWODNICZY: J. SARYUSZ-WOLSKI
Wiceprzewodniczący

 
Posledná úprava: 27. júna 2006Právne oznámenie