Can the Council make a statement as to its plans under the Finnish Presidency of the European Union to promote better transatlantic relations between the European Union and America?
(FI) The United States is an especially important partner for the EU. The transatlantic dialogue being very close, EU-US cooperation has led to concrete results in many fields. The transatlantic relationship is not restricted only to bilateral issues, but cooperation seeks to respond to different global challenges. The goal of the Finnish Presidency is to increase practical cooperation even further, and to deepen the strategic dialogue between the EU and the United States.
The transatlantic agenda of the Finnish Presidency is based to a large degree on the outcome of the EU-US Summit in Vienna on 21 June 2006. In Vienna the EU and the United States signed a common declaration, which consists of four separate entities:
promoting peace, human rights and democracy all over the world,
responding to global challenges, including security,
promoting prosperity and opportunities,
promoting strategic cooperation on energy and energy security, climate change and sustainable development.
The implementation of this declaration adopted in Vienna offers a basis for developing the EU-US relationship during the Finnish Presidency. The priorities in the EU-US relationship will be especially:
implementation of the economic initiative,
promoting democracy and stability, conflict settlement and supporting good governance especially in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.
Regarding climate policy, the Vienna Summit took a major step forward. In the declaration the EU and the US committed themselves to thinking about the possibilities for fighting climate change. Moreover, the EU and the United States agreed to meet in Helsinki this autumn and start a high-level dialogue on climate, clean energy and sustainable energy. On the basis of this mandate from the summit, a troika meeting at ministerial level in Helsinki is being planned.
In the sphere of economic cooperation one of the tangible results of the summit was the common working programme on intellectual property rights (IPR). Regulatory cooperation, which is so essential to economic partnership, has also moved forward in the last year. The declaration mentioned also that there will be an unofficial meeting of the Finance Mnisters during the Finnish Presidency. The issues on the agenda for the Finance Ministers’ meeting might be, for example, regulatory cooperation, innovations, competitiveness and energy. Another issue on the agenda will be the progress of the implementation of the EU-US economic initiative.
An efficient transatlantic partnership makes it possible to have a successful dialogue on subjects where different views initially seem to be far apart. The Finnish Presidency will continue to maintain the dialogue with the United States on all questions on the transatlantic agenda. Cooperation will continue to expand. In addition to the climate dialogue, one of the important outcomes of the Vienna summit was that EU-US energy cooperation has been raised to strategic level.
Can the Council make a statement as to how much the EU will be giving to promote the EU PEACE programme in Ireland between the years 2007-2013 and will it state how this money will be allocated?
(FI) On 5 May 2006 the Council adopted a common position concerning a proposal for a Council regulation laying down common rules for the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, and the Cohesion Fund. Parliament has not yet given its assent to the proposal. The regulation fleshes out the December 2005 European Council conclusions to the effect that EUR 200 m in all is to be granted to the Peace programme in the period from 2007 to 2013. Under the regulation the programme is to be implemented as a cross-border programme aimed at promoting social and economic stability, in particular through measures to bolster solidarity across community divides. The region eligible for support comprises the whole of Northern Ireland and the Irish border areas. As provided for in the proposed ERDF regulation, the programme is to be implemented as part of the European regional cooperation objective and will observe the additionality principle governing Structural Fund assistance. The allocation of funding and the substance of the programme will be determined by Ireland and the United Kingdom, which will draw up a joint proposal for the Peace programme for the years 2007 to 2013. The Commission will approve the programme proposal before the start of the programme.
Can the European Council make a statement as to the present situation in Montenegro after this country recently voted for independence and to state in broader terms how the political situation in the Balkans is presently evolving?
(FI) The Council is keeping the situation in the Balkans under permanent review.
In the wake of the independence referendum the Council adopted conclusions concerning Montenegro at its meeting of 12 June 2006. It drew attention to the fact that the Montenegrin Parliament had declared Montenegro an independent state and the Serbian Parliament had declared Serbia to be the succession state of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.
In the conclusions the EU and its Member States decided to ‘develop further their relations with the Republic of Montenegro as a sovereign, independent State, taking full account of the referendum result and the aforementioned Parliamentary Acts. Member States will take the subsequent measures implementing this decision nationally in accordance with international law and practice’. After the declaration was issued, several Member States recognised Montenegrin independence and sovereignty bilaterally and indicated their intention of establishing diplomatic relations with Montenegro. Other Member States are likewise preparing to follow suit.
In the conclusions the EU also called on Serbia and Montenegro ‘to pursue a direct and constructive dialogue on their future relations’. The dialogue between the two countries has got off to an encouraging start.
The EU gave an overview of the region in a declaration adopted at the European Council meeting of 15 and 16 June 2006. The Thessaloniki action plan still forms the basis of EU policy towards the Western Balkans. The European Council also summarised the matters on which attention will need to be brought to bear in the future with a view to finding solutions. Negotiations on a stabilisation and association agreement with Serbia will resume immediately once Serbia has begun to cooperate fully with the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The EU will continue its support for the ongoing talks on the future status of Kosovo and is willing to intensify its role once the region’s status has been determined (the priority at this stage is the plans for a possible future EU operation related to the rule of law). It intends to develop its relations with the independent Montenegro both at EU level and as regards each Member State separately. Bosnia and Herzegovina has to continue the necessary reforms and prove equal to taking difficult decisions, for instance in the sphere of constitutional reform. Now that the Stabilisation and Association Agreement has been signed, Albania needs to press ahead with reforms. Establishing a free trade area is essential for the region. The negotiation on visa facilitation and readmission agreements will do much to consolidate relations with the EU. The EU will continue to back its policies for the Western Balkans by economic means. The new Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) is to be introduced next year.
Can the European Council give a comprehensive update as to the present political situation in the Darfur region of Sudan and state what role the European Union is presently playing to promote peace in this region?
(FI) The Sudanese Government and one of the groupings in the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) signed the Darfur peace agreement on 5 May. Another main element in the SLM/A and a second major Darfur rebel movement, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), are still refusing to sign the agreement. Numerous representatives of those two factions have, however, indicated their support for the peace agreement. On 8 June, on the initiative of the African Union, they signed a declaration committing them to the agreement.
Since the peace agreement was signed the security situation in Darfur has reportedly been fairly calm and better than at any time in recent months, but remains extremely sensitive and volatile.
The EU has given its blessing to the peace agreement, which it regards as a precondition for lasting peace and security in Darfur. The Union has urged all sides to implement the agreement rapidly and in full. It has expressed its willingness to support implementation of the Darfur peace agreement and promote reconstruction and reconciliation in Darfur. The Council is planning the following measures to assist implementation of the agreement:
through the Special Representative, the EU will continue to support efforts to persuade those insurgents who have not yet signed to commit themselves to the agreement.
The EU is willing to undertake the tasks assigned to it under the Darfur peace agreement, first and foremost the vice-chairmanship of the ceasefire committee and of the committee preparing for dialogue and negotiations between the different parties involved in the Darfur crisis.
The EU has likewise stated its willingness to participate in the reconstruction and development of Darfur.
The EU will also continue to support the African Union operation (AMIS) in Darfur by providing further assistance (as regards funding, logistics, planning, and equipment) until such time as the mandate for the operation has come to an end. It has allocated EUR 50 m in special funding for AMIS under the African Peace Facility, bringing the total amount granted through that channel to EUR 212 m. At present the EU, in cooperation with the AU, is seeking to determine the areas in which it could provide additional military and/or police support for AMIS, bearing in mind the new tasks assigned to AMIS under the Darfur peace agreement and to enable the AMIS operation to be transferred to UN control under more favourable conditions.
Following the discovery by airport cleaning staff of a handcuffed and manacled prisoner being transported through Ireland's Shannon Airport, it has emerged that the Irish Government has no proper arrangements or protocols in place over such practices. It has further emerged that on the occasion in question US authorities transported a US marine prisoner on a chartered civilian aircraft through Shannon Airport without permission from the Irish authorities, who were unaware of the incident until notified the following day by the US Embassy. Is the Council satisfied that adequate measures are in place to ensure conformity with EU and international law governing the rights of prisoners in the custody of the US military who are brought to EU airports?
(FI) As far as the fight against terrorism is concerned, the Council constantly strives to promote absolute respect for all international human rights and unconditional observance of every rule laid down in international humanitarian law. Its attitude is clearly reflected in each of the acts and programmes that it has adopted.
The EU and its Member States regularly raise these matters in their dialogue with the United States seeking to combat terrorism; on such occasions they stress the need to observe international humanitarian law in full and respect human rights.
As regards alleged violations of fundamental rights on the territory of Member States, the Council would point out that it can act only on a proposal by one third of the Member States or by the Commission, and after obtaining the assent of the European Parliament, as it is not entitled under any other conditions to determine that a Member State has ‘seriously and persistently’ breached fundamental rights (Article 7(2) TEU).
The Pentagon's draft guide to soldier conduct omits Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, explicitly banning 'humiliating and degrading treatment', following the Bush Administration's refusal to be bound by the Geneva Conventions in the so-called 'War on Terror', and testimony of former detainees given to Human Rights Watch and the International Red Cross that US interrogators desecrated the Qu'ran and carried out religious humiliation of Muslim detainees at Guantanamo, Kandahar and Bagram.
What is the Council's view of such derogation from the basic tenets of international human rights law? Is the Council concerned that whilst working in coalition with the US on international security matters, military personnel from the EU and its Member States will be forced to collude in the illegality of US personnel by association? Is the Council concerned that the use of outrages upon personal dignity as a 'well-honed' interrogation technique will not only lead to false testimony being given under duress, but to the widening of divisions between the West and certain Islamic communities, hence deepening the 'War on Terror' rather than ending it?
(FI) The Council has not acquainted itself with the US guide to soldier conduct, because the US authorities have not published it.
As has been the consistent pattern for four years now, European offers for negotiations with the Iranian regime were followed by an acceleration in the pace of the Iranian nuclear programme, declarations of victory by its leaders, an increase in terrorism in neighbouring countries and a brutal increase in repression against Iranians.
Specifically, the CFSP High Representative's recent visit to Iran was followed by a fresh wave of abductions of wives and children of Ahwazi dissidents by the Iranian secret services and by a fresh wave of death sentences, as can be seen from the list of names compiled by the Ahwazi resistance and available at
Why does the Council continue to insist on its old policy without taking account of its disastrous results?
(FI) At its last meeting of 15-16 June 2006, the European Council confirmed that it was making efforts to find a political solution to the problems of Iran’s nuclear programme, one which takes into account the causes for concern expressed internationally with regard to the programme but which at the same time confirms Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
The Council is urging Iran to respond promptly and positively to the Community initiative on the Iranian nuclear programme, which the EU High Representative and the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Russia and the United States (the so-called EU3+3 group) presented to Iran. In addition, Iran must establish favourable preconditions for commencing talks on cooperation and entering into full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
With regard to human rights, the Council has frequently stated that it is concerned about discrimination against religious and ethic minorities in Iran.
The Council is still very worried about the human rights situation in Iran, as Iran is not complying with universal principles or its own special obligations. In its session of 15 May, the Council expressed its concern about the increase in the number of executions, the arbitrary arrests, increasing restrictions on access to information and increasing violations of freedom of expression and religious freedom. It alluded in particular to the intimidation and harassment of defenders of human rights, lawyers and minority groups. The EU intends in future to raise issues of human rights, including the treatment of ethnic minorities, directly with Iran and in international bodies.
The Council also hopes that before long we will able to hold a new meeting within the framework of the dialogue on human rights between the EU and Iran, at which we can discuss the status of minorities in Iran, including the situation of the Ahwazis minority referred to in the question.
According to a recent survey, only 22% of people in Finland support ratification of the EU Constitution by the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta). Yet the government of the country holding the Presidency is recommending that it be ratified. What purpose is the country which holds the Presidency pursuing through ratification when its government justifies this ratification by reference to the fact that it currently holds the Presidency of the EU?
Several leaders in the EU, including the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, have come out in favour of the idea of holding a referendum on the EU Constitution on the same day in all Member States and of the will of the overall majority deciding the outcome of such a referendum. Is this a possibility which the current Presidency supports? Does the Presidency consider that such a course of action is consistent with the democratic process, given that the people of France and the Netherlands voted against the EU Constitution in May and June last year respectively?
(FI) In Article 48, paragraph 3, of the Treaty on European Union the following is established with regard to amendment of the Treaties: “The amendments shall enter into force after being ratified by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements”. Similarly, Article IV-447 of the Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe states that the Treaty “shall be ratified by the High Contracting Parties in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.” Each Member State, therefore, is to decide on the procedure for ratifying the Treaty on a constitution for Europe, including a possible referendum, in accordance with its constitution.
In addition, the Council would remind you that when the European Council met on 15 and 16 June point 43 of the Presidency’s conclusions stated that since June 2005 the Constitutional Treaty had been ratified by five Member States, totalling 15 that had now done so. Two Member States had not ratified the Treaty, and eight were yet to conclude the ratification process. One of these had recently initiated the ratification process. It was to be hoped that the process would be brought to completion in June 2005 in accordance with the conclusions reached. In ratifying the Treaty, each country functions as a Member State. The Finnish Government’s proposal regarding ratification of the Constitutional Treaty will not contain any reference to the Presidency that has just begun.
Does the Council feel that Europe can still play a leading role in the Sri Lankan peace process when some of the key players are banned from entering EU territory?
(FI) The key players in the Sri Lankan peace process are the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). At the request of both parties Norway has played a leading role since the 1990s as a mediator. The Union has supported Norway in its mediating role all the time and is still giving it its full backing.
Having jointly chaired the 2002 Tokyo Conference, the EU plays an important role in assisting the Norwegian mediation efforts and encouraging the two parties to agree to a ceasefire and start new peace talks. The travel ban imposed by the EU on the LTTE as a listed terrorist organisation applies to the reception of official LTTE delegations in EU countries. The ban does not prevent individual members of the LTTE or LTTE supporters from travelling to the EU area. However, persons in these categories – like anyone else – may be barred from entering if they fail to satisfy the normal entry or visa requirements. The ban likewise does not prevent dialogue with the LTTE. The Tamil National Alliance, for example, which officially represents Tamils from the North and North-East in the Sri Lankan Parliament, in practice represents the LTTE and its interests, but there are no obstacles to the official reception of TNA delegations in EU countries. A delegation of TNA Members of Parliament is now on a tour of European countries in an attempt to persuade the governments and parliaments of the Member States to exert pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to keep to its ceasefire promises.
According to the European Social Survey, in which 22 Member States and their national statistical services took part, Europe seems to be undergoing a crisis of values and general direction. Europeans appear not to have confidence either in national political figures or the political and economic institutions of their country or those of the EU. The degree of confidence in the EU institutions is in inverse proportion to that in national institutions, i.e. if the citizens of a Member State are distrustful of their national parliamentary institutions, they show more confidence in Community institutions and vice-versa. Thus, in countries where the feeling of confidence in the national political institutions is high, such as Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands, there is a lack of confidence in the European Parliament and the other EU institutions.
How is the Council addressing European citizens' lack of confidence in their national political institutions and the institutions of the EU? Might the above factors be one of the main reasons for the rejection of the constitutional treaty?
(FI) At its meeting of 15 and 16 June 2006, the European Council once again examined the issue raised by the honourable Member, which concerns how committed our citizens are to the European Union.
Despite the concern expressed in public debates in the Member States, the European Council believes that the people are still committed to Europe’s common project.
The Commission’s special Eurobarometer on Europe’s future which came out in May shows that the European Union’s image is mainly a positive one. Above all, it is considered to be democratic, modern and protective. The public have also of course criticised the EU, believing it to be technocratic and somewhat ineffective.
To respond to criticism of this kind, the European Council is aiming at closer dialogue with the public and wants to achieve concrete results. The conclusion of the President of the European Council was that the public expected the Union to show it was bringing value added and to respond, through action, to the challenges of our time and the potential it offers: a guarantee of peace, affluence and solidarity, increased security, sustainable development and the speedy promotion of European values in a globalising environment.
The European Council considered that providing the public with first hand information on the work of the Union was a precondition for increased confidence in it on the part of its citizens. The European Union has agreed on several measures to try and make the Union’s work more effective by fully exploiting the current Treaties and the possibilities they offer and, in particular, to make the Council’s work more transparent.
In real terms, this means that, in general, all Council debates under the codecision procedure will be public from here on, which will make the European Parliament and the Council just as open when these institutions are working together as legislators.
The European Council also reminded everyone that if the value added brought by the European Union were conveyed more clearly in EU legislation, this could boost public confidence in Europe’s common project. It urged the Union’s institutions consistently to verify that there was due compliance with the principles and guidelines established in the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.
Finally, I would like to add that the Union’s will, as expressed at the European Council, to become more democratic, transparent and effective is not just restricted to the EU’s present “period of reflection” regarding the future. Finland, as the current Presidency, will itself try to promote the implementation of these principles in practice in the work of the EU.
At the European Council meeting in June, it was proposed that an EU Crisis Response Committee must be 'operational as of 1 July 2006'. Is it?
(FI) As the honourable Member is aware, the European Council of 15 and 16 June endorsed the Presidency’s report on ‘Reinforcing the Union’s emergency and crisis response capacities’. The report referred to the EU ‘Emergency and Crisis Coordination Arrangements’, whereby, among other things, an ad hoc Crisis Steering Group was to be set up. These arrangements have been operational since 1 July 2006.
Will the Council provide a time line for the possible formulation of a Common European Defence Policy?
(FI) The Union is doing its utmost to implement and further develop European security and defence policy, specifically, at this moment, by carrying out several civil and military crisis management operations. The European Council has not taken a decision regarding the transition to common defence.
On 14 June Latvia observed 'the Day of Victims of Communist Genocide', marking the day on which 15 000 Latvians were deported to the interior of the USSR. The government was represented at the very highest level.
However, those who were deported on 14 June 1941 (just one week before the attack launched by Nazi Germany on the USSR) were members of fascist or pro-fascist organisations who were preparing a pro-Nazi uprising.
It is also on record that the Latvian authorities have mounted a historical vindication of the Nazis, awarding state decorations and pensions to Nazis of the 'Waffen SS', erecting monuments costing tens of thousands of euros, and publishing history books on the subject with a preface by the President of the country which present the Nazi concentration camps as 're-education centres'.
What view does the Council take of this escalation of pro-Nazi policy of the Latvian authorities with this new attempt to historically vindicate Nazism in Europe?
(FI) The Council has not discussed the matter raised by the honourable Member.
The Council would like to point out that Article 6, paragraph 1 of the Treaty on European Union states: “The Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, principles which are common to the Member States.”
The Latvian President, Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister have repeatedly condemned all forms of totalitarianism. On 14 February 2006, the Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Pabriks, proclaimed that his government harshly condemned the Holocaust and genocide and the actions of those who persist with these ideologies. The increase in the number of racist and xenophobic crimes in different countries in Europe showed that totalitarian ideologies were not defunct. In Latvia too, society’s institutions and those associated with social order must continue their work to do away with extremist movements.
Question no 25 by Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (H-0568/06)
For many years EU Member States have failed to make full use of the resources available to them under the Structural Funds.
What are the Council's views on a recycling fund, which could be funded from these unused resources? Under what principles would such a fund operate, what would be its main objective and on what basis would the resources be allocated?
(FI) The Council is not considering establishing a special fund consisting of unused resources under Heading 1b.
Question no 26 by Elena Valenciano Martínez-Orozco (H-0573/06)
Subject: Sexual exploitation of refugee children in Liberia
According to a recent report by the British organisation 'Save the Children', many girls aged between 8 and 18 are being sexually exploited in refugee camps in Liberia by the very UN troops and aid workers responsible for protecting them. It seems that almost 50% of the children have experienced this exploitation.
Despite the initiatives taken by the United Nations in 2002 to limit sexual exploitation and abuse, little has changed and men continue to abuse their power with impunity given the situation of need in which the children and their families find themselves.
Has the Council considered sponsoring measures that enable the perpetrators of this abuse to be reported, dismissed and brought to trial? Does it not feel it should increase its aid payments in order to support girls and their families in refugee camps in Liberia and allow them to lead dignified lives?
(FI) Respect for human rights is one of the aims of the EU’s external policy. The Council believes that it is very important to comply with the UN’s behavioural rules on the prevention of sexual exploitation. The UN has also come up with several initiatives with regard to this issue. Claims that UN personnel are guilty of sexual exploitation must be investigated thoroughly and, if necessary, they must lead to appropriate disciplinary action. It is no surprise that the serious allegations which the honourable Member mentions have caused much concern in the EU.
As the honourable Member says, the UN has behavioural rules on the prevention of sexual exploitation. These rules, which apply to all UN personnel, state that sexual exploitation is a serious crime, which may lead to disciplinary action, including immediate dismissal.
The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), to which the honourable Member refers in particular, has the task of protecting people and promoting human rights in Liberia, especially with regard to vulnerable groups such as women and children. After NGOs had reported allegations that UNMIL personnel were guilty of sexual exploitation, the EU raised the matter with UN Special Representative Alan Doss, who said there would be a policy of zero tolerance in this and action to investigate the claims of sexual exploitation, in accordance with UN rules.
After that a report by UNMIL, dated 7 June 2006, was published, stating that so far disciplinary action had been taken in six cases investigated. Investigations will continue with regard to the other 18 cases reported in 2005 and 17 cases reported in 2006.
The Council trusts that UNMIL will continue its objective to end any kind of abuse, and the Council will be monitoring the situation continuously.
As for development aid for Liberia, the Council recently decided to recommence full development cooperation with that country. Consequently, Liberia will be receiving cash from the ninth European development fund until the end of 2007 and from the tenth European development fund thereafter. This decision is based on the very positive political developments that have taken place in the country since democratic elections were held and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf elected as president. She is working with great determination to secure a better future for her country.
Question no 27 by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (H-0574/06)
There has been considerable movement recently in the field of urban transport policies. On 9 June the Council reached a political agreement on the Regulation on public transport services with the aim of giving the authorities (State, regional and local) more appropriate means to tailor their public transport services more closely to their needs while providing the indispensable legal security. Moreover, a few months ago, the Commission put forward a proposal for a directive to ensure that public authorities devoted a minimum share of their orders to purchase 'clean' public transport vehicles. At the same time, the development of innovative programmes to develop clean urban transport (CIVITAS, CUTE) continues.
Jacques Barrot, the Commissioner responsible for Transport, stated recently (on 15 June at the Salon Européen de la Mobilité) that he intend to propose that consultations be held with all members of the urban transport sector. Does the Council endorse this view and the Commissioner's view that a Green Paper should be drawn up on this subject? Does the Council intend to take initiatives in this area aimed at implementing policies in favour of promoting effective urban communications and transport?
(FI) The main goal of EU transport policy is the production of passenger transport services which are safe, efficient and of good quality, taking account of social, regional and environmental factors. The aim is also to offer special tariffs to certain categories of passenger or all passengers and eliminate differentials in transport companies in different Member States that might distort competition. For this reason, the Council will fully back any initiatives that propose public platforms for any parties involved in urban transport systems, so that they may be closely involved in the definition and implementation of policy.
The Council has adopted several Commission proposals for promoting efficient intercity and urban transport using various modes of transportation. The most recent of these is even referred to in the honourable Member’s question. That is the political agreement reached by the Council on 9 June on the Commission’s proposed Regulation on rail and road public transport services, which aims to bring legislation that is partially obsolete up-to-date and open up the markets in these sectors in Europe. Research into the subject and the experience of countries where there has been competition in the public transport sector for many years now show that controlled competition between transport companies, accompanied by the appropriate protection mechanisms, leads to more attractive and innovative services and lower fares, without this preventing producers of public services from discharging the responsibilities that they have been entrusted with.
This approach was also adopted by the European Council on 28 March 2006 with reference to the so-called Lisbon Process, when the Commission, the Council and the Member States were asked to expedite, within the framework of their competences, the liberalisation of the Market in the transport sector, among others.
The Council has not yet begun the debate on the Commission Communication on sustainable transport (“Keep Europe moving – Sustainable mobility for our continent – Mid-term review of the European Commission's 2001 Transport White Paper”), and, for that reason, cannot comment on the proposals it contains. A political debate on the Communication is due to take place at the Transport Council in October.
The debate on the Commission proposal for a European Parliament and Council directive to promote clean road transport is only in the initial stages.
Question no 28 by Laima Liucija Andrikienė (H-0579/06)
Subject: Position of the Finnish Presidency concerning effectively coordinated/common EU energy policy
Energy security has always been one of the main economic and political problems of the EU. Energy dependency on Russian oil and gas has become a hot topic of discussion in the EU, especially this year, and the EU has clearly understood that in the coming decade energy supplies will play a much more evident political role than before. The lack of an effective EU energy policy towards Russia allows the Kremlin to play European companies and their governments off against each other for access to gas and investment opportunities. The Green Paper on energy is filled with recommendations, but no enforcement power on the vital issues of energy diversity. What is the Finnish Presidency's programme concerning the coordination of energy policy? Does the Finnish Presidency foresee the possibility of having an EU common energy policy in the near future? If so, what steps does the Presidency plan to make? Is the Finnish Presidency ready to contribute to the security of reciprocity and greater transparency of Russia's energy sector?
(FI) For some time now the Council has been developing a more coordinated energy policy, drafting in stages a legislative package on energy which covers both the promotion of renewable energy sources and packages to liberalise successive markets, to ensure that common energy markets are completely opened up by July 2007.
The Council which convened in March 2006 submitted its conclusions to the European Council in the form of a document entitled “New Energy Policy for Europe”. The European Council dealt with this matter itself in its conclusions in March regarding an energy policy for Europe. It encouraged the development of a European energy policy that would strive for an effective Community policy, consistency of action by the Member States and coherent action in different areas of policy, and which would result, in a balanced way, in goals for reliability of supply, competitiveness and environmental sustainability. Reliability of supply should be improved by, for example, developing a common approach to external policy by taking the dialogue on energy between the EU and its main partners forward and though effective diversification of foreign and domestic energy sources, suppliers and transportation routes.
The recent decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on pan-European energy networks will be an important step towards the diversification of energy sources and transportation routes. The Energy Community Treaty established with the countries of South-east Europe will serve to promote achievement of this goal, because the internal market in energy approach will be extended to neighbouring countries.
For examples of how these strategies for diversification are being strengthened, the Council would direct the honourable Member’s attention to the strategic partnership with Algeria that is being discussed at the moment, and the cooperation strategy on energy with countries on the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. These are now concrete responses to the European Council’s request to open up new gas supply routes, especially from the Caspian region and North Africa.
The European Council which convened in June 2006 has recently reconfirmed its approach to this common energy policy and consolidated its position, especially with regard to external considerations relating to reliability of energy supplies, with reference inter alia to a document jointly produced by the Commission and the Secretary-General of the Council/High Representative called “An External Policy to Serve Europe’s Energy Interests”. The Council, together with the Commission and the Secretary-General of the Council/High Representative, intends to find ways in the future of speaking with one voice on external energy matters and to make use of all the available instruments, including the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the European Security and Defence Policy, and EU trade policy.
Regarding Russia, the Council means to exploit existing structures and work together with the European Commission to enhance the dialogue on energy between the EU and Russia. This will also entail ratification of the Energy Charter Treaty and bring to a conclusion the talks on the Transit Protocol, as the European Council has requested. The legal framework that these instruments provide would make the energy markets more open, increase competition and would help create a favourable operational environment for investment in the countries included in the agreements. In addition, the Council intends to work with the Commission to establish a bilateral energy agreement when the successors to the Partnership and Cooperation are being discussed. In this connection, and in the relevant forums, such as the dialogue on energy between the EU and Russia, there could be discussion of issues relating to reciprocity and transparency. In fact, these key issues have already been raised recently in a letter, which Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and President of the EU Energy Council Martin Bartenstein sent to the Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko. The Presidency also intends to resolve these issues with Russia at the Permanent Partnership Council on Energy and later at the EU-Russia Summit in November. External relations connected with energy, and especially those with Russia, will also be one of the topics at the informal meeting in October of the Heads of State or Government in Lahti. If we develop a common external energy policy with regard to Russia, there would be a real possibility of an energy partnership, which would be secure and predictable for both parties, and which would guarantee fair, reciprocal, open and non-discriminatory access to markets and the infrastructure.
Finally, I should point out that during the Finnish Presidency the Council intends to prepare the relevant input for the Commission for a strategic energy review, which the Commission will be presenting to the Council and the European Parliament in 2007, and which will discuss the targets and action required for an external energy policy, in particular, and what it considers to be adequate levels of diversification in the medium and long term.
A video has appeared showing that the occupying forces in Iraq have again been involved in the killing of civilians, on this occasion in the town of Isaki; it contradicts the official American version of events. It concerns the cold-blooded execution by American troops of civilians, including five children. This follows the slaughter of civilians in the city of Haditha and a series of other inhuman acts perpetrated against the civilian population, detainees and prisoners and raises urgent questions about the role of the occupying forces in Iraq and the violation of international law and international conventions and the need to withdraw these forces.
Does the Council condemn these fresh killings by the American occupying forces, whose essential impunity encourages the occupying forces to act barbarically? Does it intend to call for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq?
(FI) The EU deeply regrets all civilian losses in Iraq.
With regard to the multinational force, the Council wishes to state that the United Nations Security Council decided on the military presence in Iraq and its mandate at the specific request of the government of that country (se United Nations Security Council Resolution 1637 (2005) of 8 November 2005). The Security Council has at the same time said it is ready to review that mandate whenever the Iraqi Government proposes such a thing.
The Council believes that the events mentioned in the question are the subject of an investigation by both the US forces and the Iraqi competent authorities, and cannot therefore adopt a position in the matter.
The Council is responsible the appointment of Members of the European Court of Auditors. In this process, the utmost importance should be attached to the independence of candidates and their cessation of all political and other professional activities.
The Member of the Court of Auditors from Belgium, Karel Pinxten, admits that, de facto, he still holds the office of mayor in Belgium and is a member of the board of a large chemical company. In addition, Mr Pinxten has been accused of spending only one working day a month in Luxembourg.
Is the Council aware of this situation and the related criticisms? What action does the Council intend to take? Can the Council appreciate that the coordinators of the Committee on Budgetary Control would like this matter to be referred to the European Court of Justice (with reference to Article 247 of the Treaty) and can the Council associate itself with this course of action?
(FI) The members of the European Court of Auditors are selected from among those who belong or have belonged to bodies of external auditors in their own country or who are especially qualified for this job. Their independence must be indisputable. Having consulted the European Parliament, the Council adopts the list of members that is drawn up in accordance with the proposals made by each Member State.
As the honourable Member knows, the members of the Court of Auditors discharge their duties completely independently, and refrain from any action incompatible with their duties (Article 247, paragraph 4 of the EC Treaty). They may not, during their term of office, engage in any other occupation, whether gainful or not (Article 247, paragraph 5 of the EC Treaty).
The Council is ignorant of the situation regarding the case of Karel Pinxten and the honourable Member’s criticisms. The Council would like to remind the honourable Member that, by virtue of Article 247, paragraph 7 of the EC Treaty, a member of the Court of Auditors may be deprived of his office only if the Court of Justice, at the request of the Court of Auditors, finds that he no longer fulfils the requisite conditions or meets the obligations arising from his office.
The people of the Crimea have frustrated plans to hold NATO naval exercises in the Black Sea and removed the American marines who had been ordered to take part in them. This reaction by the people of the Crimea is one further demonstration of resistance to the intolerable pressure exerted by the imperialists on this country and the peoples of the region as a whole which takes the form of arbitrary statements and provocative interference by the USA and the EU.
Does the Council intend to refrain from any interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine and respect the non-negotiable right of the Ukrainian people, and indeed of all peoples, to determine their own future?
(FI) The Council is acting in cooperation with Ukraine to implement the jointly agreed European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plans. The issue of Ukraine’s relations with NATO is a matter for Ukraine and NATO.
What does the Council plan do to increase environmental security in the Baltic Sea region?
(FI) The Council is at present discussing an EU theme-related strategy for the protection and conservation of the marine environment and, in particular, a directive on the framework for a Community marine environment policy. The directive will aim at protection of the marine environment, including that in the Baltic Sea region. The Baltic Sea is one of the key areas in which the Member States will need to implement their obligations under the directive.
We have to remember that the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) Stakeholder Conference, which triggered the debate, recently approved the initial measures to draft the Baltic Sea Action Plan to protect and revive the Baltic marine environment. The action plan entails cooperation between the governments of the countries with a Baltic Sea coastline: Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Russia and Estonia. The purpose of the Baltic Sea Action Plan is to implement the EU’s marine strategy in the Baltic Sea with the cooperation of all the countries that have a Baltic coastline. The plan will adhere to the ecosystem-based operational model in attending to the needs of the Baltic Sea. It defines what a good environmental state would constitute for the Baltic Sea and reconfirms environmental objectives and measures that need to be taken. It will thus promote the successful implementation of the EU’s marine strategy in the region. The HELCOM Ministerial Meeting in autumn 2007 intends to adopt the Baltic Sea Action Plan.
The Commission has put forward a proposal on the ‘Third Maritime Safety Package’, which contains six proposals for directives and one proposal for a Regulation. The Council is right now discussing two proposals for directives. Being debated are an amendment to the Directive on port state control and an amendment to the Directive on traffic monitoring. These proposals are intended to prevent accidents and increase ecological security, in the Baltic Sea as well as elsewhere.
There is marked criticism in most Member States of the fact that the European Parliament meets in both Strasbourg and Brussels. According to an opinion poll reported by the Financial Times on 30 May 2006, 68% of those asked recommended that the European Parliament should have a single seat. 76% of those who took that view consider that Brussels should be the European Parliament's only seat. The chairmen of the political groups in the European Parliament have asked the President of Parliament to discuss the matter of the seat of the European Parliament with the Member States.
Does the Presidency consider it reasonable, in the light of public opinion, and the cost and loss of time which the current system entails, for the European Parliament to meet in both Brussels and Strasbourg? What is the Council's common position on this matter?
(FI) Under Article 289 of the EC Treaty, the seat of the institutions of the Community shall be determined by common accord of the governments of the Member States.
This understanding was reached for the first time on 12 December 1992. This is when the governments of the Member States took the Edinburgh Decision, which states that the seat of the European Parliament is Strasbourg. The decision was endorsed in the Protocol of the location of the seats of the institutions and of certain bodies and departments of the European Communities and of Europol, which representatives of the governments of the Member States adopted and which was annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam. Under this Protocol, the seat of the European Parliament is Strasbourg, where the 12 periods of monthly plenary sessions, including the budget session, are held. The committees of the European Parliament meet in Brussels. The periods of additional plenary sessions are held in Brussels. The General Secretariat of the European Parliament and its departments remain in Luxembourg.
The seat of the European Parliament or any other institution can only be changed by common accord of the governments of the Member States. The Council has not discussed the issue and no Member State has proposed changing the seat of the European Parliament.
Can the European Commission give a comprehensive statement as to how much money the European Union has given to promote peace in Iraq since the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and whether the EU is already committed to funding activities in Iraq into the future?
(EN) 2006 is the fourth year the Commission is providing financial resources to the reconstruction of Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein. At the Madrid Conference, the EC pledged €200 million launching the international reconstruction effort to assist Iraq. In the meantime, a total amount of €718,5 million will have been allocated from the European budget to Iraq by the end of this year.
In 2003, €100 million coming from ECHO plus €42 million funded from the budget for Iraq reconstruction,
In 2004, a total of €176.5 million,
In 2005, €200 million were allocated to Iraq,
And finally €200 million in 2006 of which €120 will be committed in the next few days.
In accordance with the World Bank's and the United Nations' needs assessment of August 2003 and, the Iraqi National Development Strategy, EU support has been concentrated on basic needs. Almost 50% of EU aid has been in support of developing basic services (education, health, water and sanitation). A further 25% has been devoted to income generating activities for the poor.
75% of allocated money went thus to activities alleviating the daily difficulties of the Iraqi population. The rest went to support the United Nations in its activities to promote democracy and human rights.
Although all funds allocated so far have been committed, contracted and largely disbursed, today, as in previous years, implementation depends heavily on 1) the political stability and, 2) the complicated security situation which seriously hampers the promotion of peace in the country.
The Commission remains committed to continue supporting Iraq’s political and economic reconstruction in the years to come. To that end it has put forward a new Communication for a renewed EU engagement with Iraq; it is in the process of launching the negotiations of contractual relations; and will continue devoting financial resources for reconstruction.
In the past two months, there has been a dramatic upturn of Tamil refugees arriving on south Indian shores in desperate and dangerous circumstances. Over 2000 people have arrived at Rameswaram and another 10 000 people are waiting at Mannar to risk high seas and naval interdiction to flee the island. They are fleeing systematic attacks by both Government of Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE, as well as paramilitary and proxy forces on both sides. The Ceasefire Agreement seems incapable of preventing this low-intensity conflict, which is deeply destabilising peace prospects and causing casualties which are 90% civilian.
As a co-chair in the peace process, what is the Commission doing to ensure the safety and security of civilians in North-East Sri Lanka and to provide safe passage and accommodation to those determined to seek refuge in India? Has the Commission pushed both sides to establish 'safe zones', such as the former Open Relief Centre at Madhu, where military actors would be forbidden from acting, thus saving hundreds of innocent lives?
(EN) The EC is following very closely the situation in Sri Lanka and is extremely worried about the escalation of the conflict. The European Union, as one of the Co-Chairs to the Tokyo Conference on the Sri Lanka peace process, continues to remain engaged in contributing to a peaceful solution of the conflict.
In terms of assistance to the people waiting in Mannar and to civilians in north east Sri Lanka, through our ECHO Office, the Commission is providing funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) who are working on protection issues. Other ECHO funded non-governmental organisations are providing relief items.
Like UNHCR, the Commission does not support or associate itself with the concept of Open Relief Centres, as they create a pull factor and other complex protection and assistance related issues. Instead, existing Welfare Centres, other public and communal buildings as well as the traditional host family system should be utilized. However, shelter assistance will be based on the assessment of locations in question.
On 4 May 2006, police units stormed the village of San Salvador Atenco, in the Mexican federal state of Mexico, with extreme brutality. During the raids, three EU citizens – Cristina Vals Hernández and Martía Cortés Torrida from Spain and Samantha Dietmar from Germany – were arrested, mistreated and deported. What information does the Commission have about the arrest and deportation of these three EU citizens? Have the Mexican authorities been questioned about the police operation and the arrest of the three EU citizens named above? How does the Commission intend to influence the Mexican Government to shed light on these cases in the near future? What does the Commission intend to do to ensure that the Mexican Government does not allow incidents of this kind to recur in future?
(EN) The promotion of human rights is an essential element of the bilateral agreements signed between the European Union and third countries. Human rights protection and promotion are institutionalized in the so-called “human rights and democracy clause” which constitutes a fundamental element of the EU-Mexico Association Agreement.
In the framework of EU-Mexico partnership, the Commission has developed an intense dialogue on human rights issues, in line and in coordination to what is done by other European Institutions and mainly by the Parliament. In the context of this dialogue, the Mexican authorities keep us regularly informed of their progress toward a more intense promotion of human rights and rule of law in Mexico, as well as of all difficulties and shortcomings such promotion occasionally meets.
The Commission supports Mexico efforts toward a more effective protection of human rights, internally and externally through cooperation programmes specifically targeted at helping Mexico in facing present challenges in the field.
Its approach has produced good results. Mexico has become a signatory and active supporter of all main international initiatives and conventions aimed at the promotion of human rights. The new role internationally played by Mexico in human rights promotion has been acknowledged by the international community and has lead to the appointment of Mexico at the Presidency of the newly created Human Rights Council of the United Nations. Having said that, the Commission has to notice that the battle has not yet been won, especially at state and local levels.
The sad facts of Atenco, the offences to human rights and dignity reported by some of the protesters indicate, as promptly admitted by the Mexican Government itself, that the professionalism and training of police forces still remain an open challenge for Mexico. The context in Atenco was a hard one. Some policemen were taken hostages; there was a situation of civil unrest. However, nothing justifies the humiliating treatment reserved to the detained persons and to the women in particular.
The Mexican Government has informed the Commission in writing about the incidents and since then it has maintained a dialogue with the Mexican authorities about the issues in Atenco and about other cases where human rights were not adequately protected in Mexico. The Commission has also obtained information from the civil society and from concerned non governmental organizations whose contributions have helped it in obtaining a wider understanding of the facts and have allowed it to consider them from different angles.
Administrative and judicial investigations are on-going in Mexico. Some policemen were fired, others were suspended, 23 of them received an arrest warrant and will have to face a trial. There was a healthy reaction by the Mexican society and State. In the context of its political dialogue with Mexico, the Commission will continue to follow the case of Atenco as well as all other cases where human rights are at stake.
Christian Egyptians (Copts) report that there is widespread discrimination against them on the labour market, in the State administration, the education system and when they wish to renovate churches or build new ones, etc.
There are also reports alleging that police have shielded rapists who have raped young Christian women as the first step in forcing them to convert to Islam.
What has the Commission done to highlight and improve the situation of Egypt's Christian population (the Copts)?
(EN) The Commission, together with Member States’ Embassies in Cairo, have made representations to the Egyptian Government on several occasions with respect to human rights issues involving the Egyptian Coptic community.
The Commission is working with the Egyptian authorities with a view to expanding dialogue and co-operation in the area of human rights and good governance. The European Neighbourhood Policy Joint Action Plan between the EU and Egypt (in its final stages of negotiation) contains commitments on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, dialogue between cultures and religions, and the promotion of respect for religions and cultures. The Action Plan provides adequate scope for raising the subject of the Coptic community with the Egyptian authorities.
The EU’s dialogue with Egypt is expected to reinforce the Egyptian Government’s own efforts to pursue and apply human rights principles, including through the offices of the National Human Rights Council in Cairo. The Commission has recently signed a €5 million grant project to support human rights and democracy in Egypt, working with state agencies and civil society. Addressing discrimination and religious tolerance will be one of the themes included in this project.
The Commission, in particular the Commission Delegation in Cairo, is following the situation regarding the Coptic community in Egypt, and in co-ordination with Member States’ Embassies, will continue to raise the subject with the Egyptian authorities when necessary.
The Chinese Government is continuing to take discriminatory measures against religious communities in China. Even during Easter week, the Catholic community in Heibei province was targeted by police raids and arbitrary arrests of seminarians and believers.
Will the Commission raise this matter with the Chinese Government?
(EN) The Commission shares the concerns expressed by the Honourable Member over the constraints on religious freedom in China. This is an issue which the Commission attaches great importance to and which it has raised and will continue to raise with the Chinese Government.
The EU has sought to focus its human rights dialogue with China on civil and political rights; in overall terms urging ratification of the ICCPR (the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights), but also discussing specific areas – including religious freedom – in as much depth as possible.
The Commission has expressed its concerns in clear terms, stressing the importance of respect for fundamental freedoms. Those freedoms include freedom for individuals to express their beliefs and opinions, and to practice the religion of their choice in an unfettered manner.
The Commission can reassure the Honourable Member that it will continue to raise this important issue with the Chinese Government and to push for progress, primarily and in more depth through the human rights dialogue, but through other channels as appropriate.
Question no 47 by Laima Liucija Andrikienė (H-0580/06)
Subject: Future plans for EU cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council
On 15 March 2006 the United Nations General Assembly approved the establishment of a new Human Rights Council which will replace the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights on 19 June 2006. The resolution creating the Human Rights Council is said to be in pursuance of the mandate given to the General Assembly by the world's leaders at the 2005 World Summit.
How does the Commission envisage the role of the EU in the implementation of the UN Human Rights Council's objectives? Has the Commission prepared a programme for cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council? What are the main aspects of such cooperation?
(EN) The EU will strive to implement the objectives of the Human Rights Council to ensure as far as possible that it is an improvement on the Commission on Human Rights. In the longer term, this will include trying to establish a new culture of, and approach to, human rights in the United Nations (UN). This means that apart from political declarations more emphasis will be put on greater cooperation, understanding and technical assistance. In the shorter term, this will involve working hard to ensure that the review of the mandates, mechanisms and functions transferred from the Commission on Human Rights in the first year of the Council’s existence do actually lead to practical improvements. None of these will be easy tasks, and much will depend on the commitment of the newly elected members of the Council, but the EU is determined to work to this end.
There is no formal programme of cooperation between the EU and the Council, nor does the resolution establishing the Council foresee such formal cooperation with other intergovernmental organisations. The EU Member States elected to the Council will, however, promote good cooperation between the Council and the EU as part of their functions as members of the Council.
In addition, the Commission, which has formal observer status in the Council, will be closely associated with the work of the Council. Where appropriate and possible, its human rights policy and funding priorities will reflect the priorities of the Council. The Commission will also continue to work closely with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, which is identified as the key partner of the Council within the UN.
Question no 51 by Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (H-0527/06)
Subject: Children of parents in prison and the European perspective
In parallel with the recent Council of Europe recommendation on European prison rules (Rec(2006)2) and having regard to Article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, does the Commission intend to put forward a common framework of measures in support of parents in prison, with particular emphasis on appropriate conditions of detention for mothers with small children? Does it consider that the provision of such measures within the European Union would ensure a more positive approach to the normal development and maintenance of prisoners' family relationships?
(FR) There is currently no European Union legislation intended to help parents in prison or relating to the specific problem of the conditions of detention for women with young children. There is currently no intention to draw up any such legislation.
This is because, in the field of judicial cooperation in criminal matters, actions aimed at harmonising national rules can only be taken if they are necessary in order to improve cooperation amongst the Member States.
Nevertheless, the Commission takes an interest in conditions of detention in general and takes part in various working groups on this subject within the Council of Europe. In particular, the Commission takes part in the work of the group of experts responsible for updating the recommendation of European prison rules, which deals indirectly with this issue. This is the case in particular with Rule 36, which deals with the issue of whether young children should be authorised to stay in prison with one of their parents, and if so, for how long. Ideally, parents of young children should not be imprisoned, something that is not always possible. The solution adopted here is to stress that the decision must be taken according to the interests of the young child. Nevertheless, the parental authority of the mother, if it has not been withdrawn, must be recognised, just like that of the father. It must be stressed that, when young children are kept in prisons, they must not be classed as prisoners. They must preserve all the rights of young children living freely in society. The Rule does not define any upper limit in terms of the age from which a young children must be separated from their detained parent. There are very significant cultural differences in this regard. Furthermore, the needs of each young child vary greatly and the interest of the child may dictate whether that child should continue to live with their parent in prison beyond the normal age.
Question no 52 by Elena Valenciano Martínez-Orozco (H-0539/06)
Subject: Prostitution in the EU and trafficking in women
Is the Commission aware that the countries neighbouring the European Union are serving as the supply source for prostitutes for the majority of Member States? What measures are envisaged to combat trafficking in women from these neighbouring countries for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and using what funds?
(EN) In its Communication Fighting trafficking in human beings - an integrated approach and proposals for an action plan of 18 October 2005(1) the Commission stressed the need for an integrated approach to combat trafficking in human beings, taking into account the global nature of the crime and calling for a coordinated policy response that includes the areas of external relations and development cooperation.
Against this background programmes such as TACIS (for Eastern Europe and Central Asia), CARDS (for South-East Europe), AENEAS (focusing on asylum and migration projects in third countries) and EIDHR (European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights) can be and are used to financially support projects to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings. Such projects include the protection of and assistance for victims, the strengthening of relevant law enforcement authorities, the support for capacity-building in the field of drafting, implementing and ensuring the effectiveness of national legislation and management systems as regards the fight against criminal activities as well as prevention of trafficking in human beings through awareness raising campaigns and labour market based measures.
Furthermore, organisations from Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro may participate in projects supported under the Community action programme on measures providing Community-wide support to Member States' action relating to violence against children, young persons and women (DAPHNE II) as associate partners. However, in order for organisations from these countries to be eligible for EC funding under a Daphne project, these countries must have entered into specific agreements with the Commission regarding financial participation in the Programme. None of these countries has entered into such an agreement. Therefore, for the time being in the framework of DAPHNE II only participation without EC funding is allowed for organisations from these countries.
In addition, anti trafficking projects that are financially supported under the AGIS(2) programme, although the latter focuses on cooperation within the Union, often involve third countries neighbouring the European Union, in particular from Eastern and Southeast Europe.
Furthermore, the Commission, in its recently adopted Communication on the Roadmap for equality between women and men, for the period 2006-2010, reiterated its commitment for the elimination of trafficking in human beings, as outlined in the EU Action on Trafficking in Human Beings, and for the promotion of the use of all existing instruments, including the European Social Fund, for the reintegration of victims.
Some Member State parliaments have been unforgivably slow in ratifying protocols to the Europol Convention, thus holding back the fight against international organised crime which feeds happily off our societies. The Commission kindly sent me a list of the national parliaments' failures in answer to my question E-4029/05.
What progress forwards with ratification has been made since then?
(FR) In response to the question of the Honourable Member, the Commission will be pleased to send him a table presenting the current state of play with respect to the notification of ratifications of the three Protocols amending the Europol Convention, should the Honourable Member so wish. When comparing the current situation with the response given to written question E-4029/05, also posed by the Honourable Member, the good news is that now also Austria, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Sweden have completed their ratification procedures for the three Protocols.
The issue of ratification of the three Protocols has also been discussed at numerous occasions within the Council structures, and at those occasions the Member States which have not yet formally notified ratification of the three Protocols all indicated that they expect their ratification procedures to be finalised before the end of 2006.
RATIFICATION OF THE EUROPOL CONVENTION AND ITS PROTOCOLS
Convention of 26 July 1995
Protocol of 30 November 2000
Protocol of 28 November 2002 (JITs)
Protocol of 27 November 2003
Question no 54 by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (H-0575/06)
Subject: Implementation of the Directive on right to family reunification
Council Directive 2003/86/EC(1) of 22 September 2003 on the right to family reunification entered into force on 22 September 2003, and Member States were required to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by not later than 3 October 2005.
Owing to the importance of this issue for attaining the objectives of the common immigration policy and the special objectives of the Green Paper on economic migration, will the Commission furnish initial information about the evaluation and assessment of the implementation of the Directive by Member States, given that it is required to submit an evaluation report on this subject?
Does it already have comparative data for individual Member States on the procedures for reuniting family members (mainly women and children), particularly as regards their status (autonomous - dependent), their rights (access to work, social rights) and a series of sensitive issues such as bogus or forced marriages, polygamy and the loss of status of legal immigrants in the event of divorce or death of spouse?
(EN) The deadline for transposition by Member States of Directive 2003/86 on the right to family reunification expired on 3 October 2005. That means that by this date the law of all respective Member States should reflect the provisions of the Directive. There are 22 Member States which are bound by the Directive i.e. all except Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
In spite of the clear legal obligation in Article 20 of the Directive, at present only 12 Member States have communicated measures fully transposing the Directive. In this situation the Commission has taken the standard procedural steps as required by the Treaty. In December 2005 letters of formal notice asking Member States to provide their transposition measures were sent by the Commission.
Those ten Member States which persist in this violation of the Directive will soon receive reasoned opinions urging them to communicate within 2 months the measures transposing the Directive. Should they fail to do so the Commission will consider launching cases before the European Court of Justice against all these Member States.
In addition, it is important to stress that the Directive has been applicable for a relatively short time. For this reason, it would be premature to present a comparative analysis of the ways in which Member States have implemented the Directive, notwithstanding the non communication of transposition measures. This exercise requires an in-depth examination of both the measures adopted by the Member States and the practice of their authorities in the application of the Directive.
Article 19 of the Directive obliges the Commission to prepare a report on the application of this act in the Member States by October 2007. The report will be presented to the Parliament as well as to the Council. This document will provide all necessary data to assess the level and appropriateness of measures used to transpose the Directive by all the Member States concerned. The report will also contain information on the issues raised in the question.
Does Directive 2004/58/EC(1) of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States apply to EU citizens who have been convicted of a criminal offence in a host Member State and have served their full sentence?
Is it necessary for Member States to notify the Commission of any derogation from the ‘protection against expulsion’ provision contained in Article 28(3) of the above Directive? If so, what is the procedure for notification?
Finally, in reliance on the Article 28(3) derogation based on ‘imperative grounds of public security’, can such citizens be legally detained in custody after their release date while immigration investigations and deliberations on expulsion to another EU Member State are taking place?
(EN) Directive 2004/38/EC(2) of the Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, applies to Union citizens who are beneficiaries of the Directive, have been convicted of a criminal offence in a host Member State and have served their full sentence.
In particular, Article 33 of Directive 2004/38/EC provides that expulsion orders may not be issued by the host Member State as a penalty or legal consequence of a custodial penalty, unless they conform to the requirements laid down in the Directive. This Article also provides that if an expulsion order is enforced more than two years after it was issued, the Member State shall check that the individual concerned is currently and genuinely a threat to public policy or public security and shall assess whether there has been any material change in the circumstances since the expulsion order was issued.
Member States may not derogate from any provision of the Directive.
Under Article 28.3 of Directive 2004/38/EC, an expulsion decision may not be taken against a Union citizen except if the decision is based on imperative grounds of public security if they have resided in the host Member State for the previous ten years or if they are a minor, except if the expulsion is necessary for the best interests of the child as provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child of 20 November 1989.
As noted by the Court of Justice in its decision of 17 February 2005 in case C-215/03, Oulane, a detention order can only be based on an express derogating provision, such as Article 8 of Directive 73/148 (now replaced by Article 27 of Directive 2004/38/3C), which allows Member States to place restrictions on the right of residence of nationals of other Member States in so far as such restrictions are justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health.
In the case of Union citizens who benefit from the increased protection against expulsion afforded by Article 28.3 of Directive 2004/38/EC, a measure of detention in view their expulsion must therefore necessarily be based on imperative grounds of public security and respect the material and procedural guarantees laid down in this Directive and in particular those foreseen under Article 33 concerning expulsion as a penalty or legal consequence of a custodial penalty.
In relation to the Commission's recommendation to the Council for an authorisation to the Presidency to open negotiations for a new agreement with the US on passenger name records (PNR), I would like to ask why there is no reference to the two-phase strategy proposed by the European Parliament and agreed by Commissioner Frattini, that for the period after 2007 a new agreement should be renegotiated with the involvement of the EP by activating the passerelle clause of Art. 42 TEU, and what is the reason for not having integrated the US undertakings in the text, so as to make them binding and ensure an adequate level of data protection, as the Article 29 Working Party and the European Parliament considers necessary?
(EN) The Commission is indeed following a twin-track approach, on the basis of advice received, amongst others, from the Parliament and the Article 29 Working Party.
In the short term, its Recommendation to the Council deals with the current situation, i.e. proposing a solution to the Council for the period covered by the actual agreement (November 2007).
The Commission is currently examining how to maintain the content of the current Passenger Name Records (PNR) package into a new agreement which provides for the same level of data protection and legal security, including a reference to the US CBP Undertakings.
The Recommendation is not the appropriate place to make a reference to possible solutions as it should only be concerned with what we want to achieve in the immediate future.
This does not preclude starting to reflect already on possible ways ahead in the medium term, as it is the Commission's intention to limit the duration of the soon to be negotiated agreement until the end of November 2007. The use of Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union should be amongst the options to consider, but the time needed for any such decision to enter into force needs to be kept in mind, in view in particular of the need to respect national constitutional requirements.
The annulment by the Court of Justice, on grounds of legal basis, of the agreement between the EU and the USA concerning the obligation of airlines to supply the US authorities with full personal data of passengers travelling to American destinations vindicates those who claimed that the agreement was a flagrant violation of fundamental democratic rights. There are, however, other, similar agreements signed between the USA and the EU which are still in force and under which personal data is exchanged, while the persons concerned remain totally unaware.
Will the Commission take effective measures to put an end to the collection and transfer to US agencies of sensitive personal data not only by airlines but also by other public and private bodies?
(EN) The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on 30 May 2006 that the transfer of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data to the United States (US) - Customs and Border Protection Agency dealing with the protection of public security and the public activities in criminal law matters is excluded from the scope of the Data protection Directive 95/46/EC.
For that sole reason, the Court has annulled the Commission Decision on adequacy regarding the transfer of PNR data to the US and, for the same reason, the Council Decision authorising the conclusion of an international agreement with the US, which could not be adopted under Article 95 EC.
Therefore, the Commission does not share the point of view of the Honourable Member that the Agreement is a flagrant violation of fundamental democratic rights. To the contrary, the Commission, like the Advocate General of the Court, considers it fully in line with the principles applying to the protection of personal data and fundamental rights. In fact, the Court did not address in its judgement the content of the Commission Decision or the Agreement, which latter remains in force until it is denounced with ninety days’ notice. The Court therefore left the Commission decision in force until 30 September 2006 in order to allow the necessary time for its ruling to be implemented.
To respect this ruling and to comply with it within the given time-frame, the Council adopted on 27 June 2006 two initiatives, as recommended by the Commission on 16 June 2006:
to denounce the current International Agreement with the US in accordance with the provisions of Article 233 of the EC Treaty, and
an authorisation to open negotiations for an Agreement on the basis of articles 24 and 38 EU.
The aim of the Recommendation is to comply with the Ruling of the ECJ regarding the correct legal basis for the International Agreement, as the Court ruled that the access to data of law enforcement authorities in the framework of the protection of public security and public activities in criminal law matters falls outside the scope of the Directive and Article 95 EC.
Article 38 of TEU is the correct reference to conclude an International Agreement with this content. Article 38 refers to the procedure provided for in Article 24 EU. Consequently the Commission recommended the Council to authorise its Presidency, assisted by the Commission, to open negotiations to conclude an Agreement with the US on the use of PNR data.
The negotiating directives aim at the conclusion of an agreement having the same content as the measures annulled by the Court and offering the same level of safeguards regarding the legal certainty for the air carriers, the respect of Human Rights, notably the respect of privacy, and the purposes for which these PNR may be used.
The Commission is not aware of any similar agreements with the US.
On 2 and 3 June general elections were held in the Czech Republic in an intensely anti-communist climate which began with government attempts to outlaw the Communist Youth Association of the Czech Republic and continued with the beating-up of Jiří Doleyš, the Vice-Chairman of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (the Czech Republic) and a Communist Member of Parliament. In addition, T shirts with aggressive slogans, such as 'Kill a Communist - Help Peace' were produced with the support of the Foreign Ministry itself, and there was also a campaign by 'independents' calling on Czechs to steal and destroy the ballot cards of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia which were sent by mail to voters and offering deductions on various goods for people who could show they had not voted for the Communist Party.
Does the Commission condemn these practices which violate basic rules on free and fair elections and amount to an open attack on the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and political action?
(FR) The Commission attaches the greatest of importance to the principles of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the rule of law. These principles are clearly laid down in Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union. Furthermore, freedom of expression, of assembly and of association are confirmed in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights (Articles 11 and 12).
The right to vote is a fundamental political right. The universality, equality, freedom and secrecy of voting are principles enshrined in the constitutional traditions of the Member States.
However, with regard to the field of electoral rights, the European Union only has competence in relation to certain aspects of municipal elections and European elections insofar as the Community legislation, on the one hand, guarantees Union citizens the right to take part in these elections in the Member State of residence and, on the other, establishes the general framework for the European elections.
The Commission cannot therefore express an opinion on the case mentioned by the honourable Member. The competent national authorities should therefore be called upon – if necessary – to ensure respect for the fundamental principles mentioned.
The increased mobility of labour that has resulted from the easing of restrictions on the right of migrant workers from eastern European to work in a variety of Member States across the EU has proved to be a positive feature of the most recent enlargement.
However, given the potential that exists for unscrupulous employers to exploit such workers and within the context of the future enlargement of the EU to include Bulgaria and Romania, does the Commission have any concerns about whether Member States are doing enough to ensure that the rights of these workers, notably with regard to minimum wage, maximum working hours and adequate social protection, are being respected across the EU?
(EN) The Commission has repeatedly voiced concern about the issues mentioned by the Honourable Member, and in particular in its Report on the Functioning of the Transitional Arrangements set out in the 2003 Accession Treaty (period 1 May 2004-30 April 2006), adopted on 8 February 2006(1).
In this report, the Commission emphasised the need to avoid erosion of labour standards and "social dumping" and observed that restrictions to labour market access may result in higher undeclared work. In the conclusions and recommendations of this report, the Commission also urged Member States to increase their efforts to ensure proper enforcement of existing EC legislation, labour standards and in particular the provisions of the posted workers Directive, with appropriate reinforcement of administrative cooperation, where justified. Furthermore, it observed that lacunae in enforcement by national authorities of existing Community and national legislation may indeed have created an adverse and wrong impression of enlargement and of the benefits of free movement of workers in some countries.
Would next year - the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All - be a good time to raise awareness of the discrimination encountered by EU citizens who leave their homes to live and work elsewhere in the EU? It is increasingly clear that none of the various national policies for integrating immigrants are working well. The Commission, at least, recognises the potential future problems posed by the lack of a Europe-wide strategy and is to be commended for seeking solutions with national governments. But is the Commission also aware that hundreds of thousands of EU citizens feel isolated too?
What plans does it have to address the discrimination experienced by men and women who move to another Member State to live and work and does it agree that the time has come to bolster its proud record on anti-discrimination by amending the Charter of Fundamental Rights and giving every citizen the right to vote and stand as a candidate in national elections?
(FR) The European Year 2007 on Equal Opportunities for All aims to promote diversity and combat discrimination on the basis of sex, age, disability, sexual orientation and religion and belief under Article 13 of the EC Treaty. It does not directly deal with issues linked to cross-border mobility of EU citizens.
The Commission is aware of the challenges faced by EU citizens when moving to another Member State. Therefore, the Commission proposed to designate 2006 as European Year of Workers' Mobility to tackle the issues raised by the Honourable Member.
The objectives of the Year are threefold:
Raising the awareness of EU citizens on the rights, opportunities and instruments in the area of geographic and job-to-job mobility;
identifying new means to improve the environment of migrant workers;
removing remaining obstacles to mobility.
Workers' mobility is identified in the revised Lisbon Strategy on Growth and Jobs as well as in the European Employment Strategy as an essential instrument to create employment and contribute to the creation of a genuine labour market in Europe. Furthermore, the EURES portal provides all EU citizens with direct access to all job vacancies published by the public employment services, i.e. around 1 million jobs at any given time. It also contains information on living and working conditions in the EU. EURES also comprises a network of over 750 advisors who provide assistance to workers and their families in matters relating to cross-border job mobility.
As a guardian of the Treaties, the Commission is fully committed to ensuring that rights granted by the Treaty or secondary legislation to EU citizens concerning free movement and equal treatment are complied with by Member States and public authorities at national, regional and local level.
In its fourth report on citizenship of the Union, the Commission referred to the recurrent petitions it receives concerning the fact that Union citizens residing in a Member State that is not their country of origin do not have the right to vote or stand in national elections in the Member State in which they reside (with the exception of Irish nationals residing in the United Kingdom and vice versa).
The Commission admits that this situation is unsatisfactory, as it means that Union citizens may find themselves deprived of some of their political rights if they make use of their freedom of movement.
It also stresses that any future decision on measures to be taken to widen the range of rights conferred upon Union citizens should be subject to careful reflection, taking into account the decision-making process set out in Article 22 in Part 2 of the EC Treaty, which deals with citizenship, as well as the specific nature of and the differing sensibilities on this subject.
As from the next football season, UEFA will apply the 'home-grown' rule, compelling clubs to include among their players a core comprising a minimum number of players who have been trained at their own club or in the competition in which the club participates.
UEFA approved this rule last year and is conducting talks with the Commission concerning it.
In Parliament too, the subject has been raised several times. During the hearing on football which Parliament organised on 3 May, it became apparent that most clubs supported the rule, but that they feared legal uncertainty.
Does the Commission agree that this measure is proportionate, and moreover is extremely desirable for social reasons (to encourage clubs to invest in youth training), and does the Commission therefore support the home-grown rule?
(EN) The Commission is currently in the process of evaluating the compatibility of the Union of UEFA’s(1) new measures on home grown players with Community law. The Commission is aware of the sensitivity of the issue and will give due consideration to the views of all the parties concerned with a view to striking the right balance between the need to comply with Community law and the autonomy of sports organisations, in light of the Declaration annexed to the Amsterdam Treaty and the Nice Declaration of the European Council in 2000.
Furthermore, as comprehensive comparative information on football academies in Member States and on home grown players is not available, the Commission is launching in parallel a study on sport academies in the Member States, including the issue of home grown players.
How does the Commission intend to promote mental well-being in the workplace, and how will it encourage employers to give annual progress reports on this?
(FR) As stated in the Communication from the Commission “Adapting to change in work and society: a new Community strategy on health and safety at work 2002-2006”(1), Community policy on health and safety at work must keep pace with new needs, in order to promote 'well-being at work'.
Well-being at work means physical, moral and social well-being and therefore goes beyond protection against accidents and occupational diseases. Emerging illnesses such as stress, depression, anxiety, violence at work, harassment and intimidation, which account for 18% of all problems related to health at work, are linked to a wide range of possible factors (such as work organisation, working time arrangements, hierarchical relations, transport-related fatigue) as opposed to exposure to a particular risk.
These principles were built into Framework Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work. This Directive contains general principles on prevention of occupational risks, protection of safety and health, elimination of risk and accident factors, information, consultation and training of workers and their representatives according to national laws and/or practices.
In accordance with the subsidiarity principle, the Framework Directive is also clear regarding responsibilities. The well-being of workers is clearly a responsibility of all stakeholders concerned (Member States, employers and workers), albeit at different levels. For example, Recital 8 of the Directive states that Member States have a responsibility to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers on their territory as measures shall be introduced in accordance with national law and/or practices.
As to reporting obligations and monitoring progress, the Framework Directive provides that national authorities report to the Commission on the practical implementation of the Directive, after consultation of the social partners. The Commission then informs Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Advisory Committee on Safety, Hygiene and Health Protection at Work, and periodically submits a report on the implementation of the Directive to Parliament, the Council and the Economic and Social Committee.
There are two aspects, work-related stress and violence in the workplace, which may influence the psychological well-being of workers.
On the first one, the Commission would like to draw the attention of the Honourable Member to the fact that a Framework Agreement was signed on 8 October 2004 between the European social partners(2). As regards the second aspect, it is important to note that, in its communication 'Adapting to change in work and society: a new Community strategy on health and safety at work 2002-2006', the Commission announced that it would 'examine the appropriateness and the scope of a Community instrument on psychological harassment and violence at work'.
On 23 December 2004, the Commission adopted the document concerning the first stage of the consultation of the social partners on violence at work, pursuant to Article 138(2) of the Treaty, taking account of the fact that the social partners had included the subject of harassment in their joint programme of work for 2003-2005. The social partners have decided to initiate discussions with a view to negotiating a voluntary agreement on this subject. The discussions began in February 2006, and are expected to continue until the end of 2006.
The importance of work-related aspects of mental wellbeing was also emphasised in the Commission’s Green Paper 'Improving the mental health of the population. Towards a strategy on mental health for the European Union'(3) and the subsequent consultation meetings. The consultation on this Green Paper ended on 31 May 2006. The Commission is now analysing the contribution
The negotiations on work-related stress between ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation), UNICE/UEAPME (Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations in Europe /European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) and CEEP (European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation and Enterprises of General Economic Interest) were envisaged in the European Union’s Social Policy Agenda 2000-2005 and the work programme of the EU social dialogue 2003-2005. Subsequently, an official consultation of the social partners was launched by the European Commission on the issue of stress.
In Poland there are some 5.5 million disabled persons, including 202 000 children. One disabled child in three lives in rural areas, where access to medical care, rehabilitation treatment and educational services is difficult.
The great majority of disabled persons (84%) live on social welfare, pensions and benefits. Only 8% derive most of their income from employment, while a further 8% have no means of subsistence and are dependent on third persons. Around half of the disabled have only primary school education, making it still more difficult for them to gain access to the labour market and find employment.
In the light of the above, will the Commission increase the financial aid under the Structural Funds to improve access to vocational training for the disabled so as to enable them to improve their level of education? Will it also increase subsidies for special schools aimed at preparing young people for work and thus make it easier for them to find employment?
(EN) Promoting the full integration and participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of society is a key element of EU policies. Article 16 of the draft Structural Funds' General Regulation prohibits discrimination in the implementation and access to the funds on the basis of disability. Moreover, it requires that "accessibility for disabled persons shall be one of the criteria to be observed in defining operations co-financed by the Funds and to be taken into account during the various stages of implementation".
The European Social Fund (ESF) aims at improving employment opportunities for all. Since disabled people constitute a particularly vulnerable group with low employment rates, it is important to pay particular attention to their integration in the labour market. Promoting the social inclusion of people at a disadvantage, including people with disabilities, is a key area of support of the ESF. The draft Community Strategic Guidelines for Cohesion also highlight the importance of addressing the employment needs of disabled people and calls Member States to pay particular attention to addressing the needs of disadvantaged groups in terms of training.
Actions to improve access to vocational training for the disabled people and support for preparing young disabled people for work are important areas where the ESF may intervene and co-finance activities. Such activities should be programmed in the national strategies (National Strategic Reference Frameworks) and Operational Programmes drafted by Member States and agreed with the Commission. Financial allocations are also drawn up by the Member States and agreed with the Commission only at the level of priority axis, which is generally set up at a broader level. The Commission, however, shares the view that national programmes should pay adequate attention to the integration of people with disabilities in the labour market and increase their educational level.
How does the Commission intend to speed up action in the new Member States to reduce unemployment among young workers (18 to 30 year-olds), given that this is the age group hardest hit by the effects of unemployment in the eight Central and Eastern European countries that have joined the Union, with particular reference to university graduates?
(EN) The EU's Jobs and Growth Strategy and the Employment Guidelines provide the political framework for action to address youth unemployment. The Guidelines call for more efforts to develop employment pathways for young people and for more and better investment in education and training. The guidelines also underline that increasing the level of investment is not enough, but that adaptation and capacity-building of education and training systems is necessary to improve their labour market relevance, their responsiveness to the needs of the knowledge-based economy and society and their efficiency.
At the Spring Council 2006, Heads of State and Governments confirmed their commitment to combat youth unemployment, through providing every young unemployed person with the opportunity for a new start in the form of training, retraining, work practice, a job or other employability measure within six months of unemployment. As part of the monitoring of the National Reform Programmes submitted by Member States each autumn, the Commission will pay particular attention to questions relating to youth employment.
Youth employment issues have also taken a high profile in the Commission's Strategic Guidelines for Cohesion for the period 2007-2013 as well as in the new European Social Fund (ESF) Regulation. The ESF provides financial support to Member States to combat youth unemployment and to improve education and training systems. In all countries where the situation of young unemployment is critical, the Commission will pay particular attention to this issue in the context of the forthcoming with Member States on the National Strategic Reference Frameworks and the Operational Programmes for the Structural Funds, including ESF.
On 12 May 2006, the company Dim Branded Apparel announced to the European Works Council that it intended to cut 950 jobs in Europe, of which 450 were in France, 300 in Spain and 140 in Italy. The management has undertaken to keep the European Works Council informed, but has refused to enter into any consultation at European level. This case illustrates the importance of the workers' right to information and consultation with a view to the introduction of measures to support restructuring.
How does the Commission ensure that the workers' right to consultation is respected in practice?
Does it intend to review Council Directive 94/45/EC(1) of 22 September 1994 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees?
(FR) Community legislation contains various provisions aimed at guaranteeing information and consultation for employees in the event of restructuring, in particular the directives on collective redundancies(2), transfers of undertakings(3) and the directive establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees(4). Employees' right to information and consultation in Community-scale undertakings and groups also appears in Article 1 as the aim of Directive 94/45/EC on European Works Councils(5).
It is the responsibility of the Member States to ensure the correct and effective application of these directives. The States must take every necessary measure to ensure that they are fully effective, in particular ensuring that sanctions in the event of violation of Community law are effective, proportionate and dissuasive. As guardian of the Treaties, the Commission is responsible for ensuring that the Member States apply Community law. Complaints relating to actions or omissions by an individual person or body are dealt with by the Commission in the event that public authorities are involved or have failed to act in response to these actions or omissions.
Pursuant to Article 138 of the EC Treaty, the Commission consults the social partners twice before presenting proposals in the field of social policy. On 20 April 2004, the Commission began the first phase of consultation of the social partners on the re-examination of the directive on European Works Councils. On 31 March 2005, within the framework of the Communication “restructuring and employment”(6), the Commission began the second phase of consultation of the social partners, on the issue of European Works Councils and on that of restructurings jointly. In it, the Commission encourages the social partners to intensify their joint work and to negotiate with a view to improving the functioning and efficiency of the European Works Councils, particularly with regard to their role in the anticipation and management of change.
At the tripartite Social Summit of 23 March 2006, the European social partners presented their working programme 2006-2008, in which they state that they will “complete the national studies on economic and social change in the EU 10, enlarge them to cover the EU 15 and on that basis promote and assess the orientations for reference on managing change and its social consequences and the joint lessons learned on EWCs”. The Commission will constantly assess the results of this work and, if necessary, could take any necessary further action.
Directive 2001/23/EC of the Council of 12 March 2001 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the safeguarding of employees' rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, businesses or parts of undertakings or businesses - OJ L82 of 22.03.2001
Directive 2002/14/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for informing and consulting employees in the European Community - OJ L80 of 23 March 2002
Directive 94/45/EC of the Council of 22 September 1994 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of informing and consulting employees, OJ L254 of 30.09.1994
In a previous question (H-0501/04)(1), I raised the matter of indoor air fresheners, protection of consumers from misleading information concerning the spurious properties and the hidden risks of these products. A scientific study carried out by the Commission subsequently confirmed that there were grounds for concern and proposed that research into the matter should continue. The Commission recently launched an initiative to improve the labelling of sun protection products with a view to issuing a recommendation to the European industry. The aim is to make it easier, through standardised labelling, for consumers to avoid spurious and unacceptable claims (e.g. 100% protection) which give them a false sense of security.
Will there also be a consumer information campaign on sun protection products to complement this initiative in an appropriate manner by including the very important and delicate matter of protection against the sun? In conjunction with this initiative, what additional measures does the Commission intend to take to ensure that these products are subject to quality control and are correctly labelled, bearing in mind that there was a considerable delay before a specific study was carried out in the case of indoor air fresheners?
(EN) The Commission is aware that product labelling alone does not suffice in order to provide the consumer with necessary safety-information.
For these reasons, the Commission has issued in May 2006 detailed information to the European press with a view to ensure full information of the broad public. Further information will have to be distributed to the public, once the labels of sun protection products have been revised in the light of the new recommendations which are under preparation at present. Additional information is to be provided to the public by Member States’ authorities.
To control the quality and the correct labelling of cosmetics products falls primarily under the responsibility of the Member States. However, the Commission will pay attention to the correct application of Community law in this context and will address the situation of sun protection products during the regular meetings with Member States’ competent authorities.
During the period 2000-2006, the French region of Hainaut (Valenciennois, Sambre-Avesnois, Douaisis) received a total of €405 million from Objective 1 now referred to as Convergence. Over the same period, the Belgian region of Hainaut was entitled to €644 million.
At the European summit in December an amount of €70 million was allocated to compensate for the end of Objective 1 although the Belgian region of Hainaut will have €577 million under the Convergence objective for the period 2007-2013.
These figures do not add up. As the French region of Hainaut has the same ratios as the Belgian region of Hainaut, it should receive €360 million.
Does the Commission intend to confirm this decision, thereby accentuating the discrepancy in treatment between the French and Belgian regions of Hainaut and creating unfair competition between the areas, jeopardising efforts to forge partnerships between the two regions, or will it grant an exemption to allow the French region of Hainaut to benefit from Convergence funds as was the case in 2000?
(FR) The only statistical criterion for a region to be eligible for the “convergence” objective is GDP per inhabitant calculated at “level 2” of the system for classification of European regions known as “NUTS”(1). It must be less than 75% of the Community average. This is not the case for any French metropolitan region.
The calculation of GDP per inhabitant operates exclusively on a regional basis (at NUTS level 2). This calculation provides the basis for the financial allocations for each Member State in question. Levels beneath that of region, such as départements (NUTS level 3) or even smaller, such as arrondissements, cannot under any circumstances constitute specific territories subject to their own eligibility rules.
No parallel can be drawn with the Belgian region of Hainaut, since this region, unlike the French region of Hainaut, is a NUTS 2 region and it conforms to the eligibility criterion of the future 'convergence' objective for regions affected by the statistical effect of enlargement.
The involvement of the Structural Funds for 2007-2013 will not just concern the least developed regions, eligible for the ‘convergence’ objective, but it will also cover all others within the context of the ‘regional competitiveness and employment' objective. On the basis of a proposal from the French authorities, the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, taken as a whole, will receive an envelope of around EUR 926 million within the framework of the 'regional competitiveness and employment' objective. It will therefore remain the French metropolitan region receiving the most funds for a third successive programming period. Within this regional framework, the French region of Hainaut will therefore be able to receive European funds. This envelope includes an additional sum of EUR 70 million for the French Region of Hainaut, decided upon by the European Council, which will enhance the lever effect of the Structural Funds on the territory of these three arrondissements.
It will fall to the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, during the programming, to define its priorities for the future programming period. It will therefore fall to the regional partnership to establish its approach to using the funds.
Within the context of the negotiation of the operational programmes, the Commission will ensure that financial resources are used in accordance with the relative disparities within each region.
The Commission does not have the power to alter the allocations of the different objectives decided upon by the Council and Parliament.
The nomenclature of territorial units for statistics (NUTS) was created by the European statistics office Eurostat in order to provide a single uniform territorial breakdown. It has been used since 1988 in the Community legislation on the Structural Funds.
Today, contrary to the US, plano cosmetic lenses are not regulated as medical devices in Europe. However, both corrective lenses and non-corrective coloured contact lenses have the same potential health risks and effects on the eye if improperly manufactured or used without the consultation and supervision of an eye care practitioner.
What is the Commission's position on greater regulation of plano contact lenses in the framework of the Medical Devices Directive in light of the above?
What does the Commission intend to do to ensure the safe manufacture and use of plano lenses and to ensure the consumer is protected in the eye care domain?
(EN) Plano contact lenses do not correct vision and are intended solely to change the appearance of the eye. These contact lenses are considered to be decorative.
The definition of ‘medical device’ in Directive 93/42/EEC(1) on medical devices, requires that they are intended to be mainly used for a medical purpose. This medical purpose is assigned to the product by the manufacturer. Its specific medical purpose is determined by the manufacturer through the label, the instruction for use and the promotional material related to a given device.
Therefore products intended to have a merely aesthetic purpose are not medical devices.
In the drafting process of the guidance document on the definition of medical devices (MEDDEV 2.1) all stakeholders were consulted, and it was concluded that a medical purpose can normally not be established for “contact lenses without corrective function intended to provide another colour to the eyes”.
Conclusively, these products do not fall within the scope of the Directive 93/42/EEC on medical devices.
The applicable regulatory framework for these type of lenses is Directive 2001/95/EC(2) on general product safety. It is through this regulatory framework that the safe use of these contact lenses is provided for.
Article 174 of the EC Treaty lists the prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources as one of the objectives of Community policy on the environment.
With regard to the state of anchovy stocks in the Bay of Biscay, the Commission decided last year to halt this fishery. The ICES reports advised that the anchovy fishery should not be reopened until June 2006, provided that the acoustic and egg surveys carried out showed that the stock had recovered strongly. In view of similar advice from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries, the Commission's intention was for the closure to remain in force until scientific assessments of the state of stocks were available in June 2006.
Why was the anchovy fishery opened in 2006 without waiting for June and the corresponding scientific assessment reports? Is the Commission aware of the report by the Basque Technological Centre for Marine and Food Research (AZTI), which estimates that the anchovy biomass is below the 'risk of collapse' indicators, set at 21 000 tonnes? Why has this fishery not already been halted, as requested by Basque fishermen working in the sector, when the Council of EU Fisheries Ministers agreed in December 2005 that anchovy fishing would be stopped if the biomass was less than 28 000 tonnes?
(EN) As the Honourable Member is aware, the Commission proposed in December 2005 that the anchovy fishery should remain closed in 2006 until scientific evidence indicated an improved state of the stock that would justify a re-opening of the fishery. The Council of Ministers did not, however, accept that proposal. An opportunity to conduct a limited fishery for anchovy was therefore provided for 2006 on the specific request of Spain and France, subject to a re-evaluation thereof during 2006 albeit.
The Commission is aware of the AZTI(1) report "Provisional estimate of the anchovy biomass in May 2006 from the daily egg production method." Information in that report, together with other relevant information, is being reviewed by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries. This Committee has established a sub-group that met between 14 and 16 June 2006. Immediately that the Committee provides its definitive advice about the state of the anchovy stock, the Commission will take the necessary action and fulfil its responsibilities in respect of the management of anchovy in accordance with the decisions taken at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of December 2005.
The EU invests political, human and financial resources in maintaining security in the world. Particular policies and operations pursued under the umbrella of the ESDP on three continents are practical and creative contributions by way of external Union action in regions undergoing security crises. Can the Commission say how credible the effectiveness of the Union externally is when, within the Union, a Member State (Greece) is threatened, to the extent of having to take security measures, by an applicant country (Turkey)? What is the Commission's position regarding an applicant country which violates the sovereign rights of a Member State by military means in contravention of the provisions of international and European law? The promotion and acceptance of security standards externally is contingent upon the existence of a secure European area combined with the strategy for the second enlargement of the EU. Will the Commission draw up an integrated strategic security plan for the territory of the EU, including the area covered by the second enlargement?
(EN) The Commission considers that the carefully managed enlargement process is a powerful tool in extending peace, stability and prosperity across Europe. After generations of division and conflict, the EU is peacefully creating a united Europe.
The negotiating framework with Turkey agreed in October 2005 provides in its Paragraph 6, that progress in the accession negotiations is to be measured against a number of requirements. One of these requirements is precisely "Turkey’s unequivocal commitment to good neighbourly relations and its undertaking to resolve any outstanding border disputes in conformity with the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, including if necessary compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice".
In addition, the Accession Partnership with Turkey, adopted on 17 January 2006, identifies as a priority for Turkey to “unequivocally commit to good neighbourly relations; address any sources of friction with neighbours; and refrain from any action which could negatively affect the process of peaceful settlement of border disputes”.
Furthermore, in the accession process, Turkey will have to align with EU foreign, security and defence policy. In this context, the Commission recalls the European Security Strategy approved by the European Council on 12 December 2003.
Can the Commission make a statement as to its plans for the next six months to promote new EU policies and initiatives to the citizens of Europe under the heading of the ‘Communicating Europe’ programme?
(EN) On the 1st of February 2006 the Commission adopted the White Paper on a European Communication Policy(1), which proposes a fundamentally new approach to be followed regarding information and communication activities on European issues. In particular, the White Paper proposes a citizens’ centred approach in communicating Europe, and invites all EU institutions, Member States and other relevant stakeholders to join forces to address the “communication gap” with citizens.
A public consultation is currently ongoing (deadline for submissions has been prolonged until the 30th September 2006) with a view to collecting the reactions to the Commission proposals and to feed new ideas into the process. Only at the end of the consultation, and on the basis of the contributions received from the other institutions, will the Commission propose concrete measures and actions for the years to come.
Connecting Europe with citizens is also at the very heart of Plan D(2) for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate. By presenting it, the Commission has shown its willingness to fulfil the “special role” assigned by the Heads of States and Government in June 2005. Many of the 13 different actions foreseen in the framework of Plan D are particularly important in order to bring Europe closer to the citizens.
At present, these initiatives are beginning to show results in terms of reaching the citizens: The web-based forum ‘DebateEurope’ has received the contributions of over 10.000 citizens from all countries in all EU languages. Commissioners have been active in visiting Member States, including visits in the national Parliaments. The Commission Representations, together with the Parliament information offices, have been active in reaching out to citizens (several hundred projects have taken place).
However, it should be recalled that Member States remain primarily responsible for the organisation of debates at national, regional and local levels. The role of the Commission in the framework of Plan D is to help structure the debate, providing Member States with organisational help and, if necessary and possible, financial support.
It has always been the Commission’s intention to pursue dialogue and debate beyond June 2006, and to promote a true and long-lasting listening exercise between citizens and European institutions. In order to go to the second stage of plan D, the “explaining phase”, some new actions will be set up by the Commission. To do so, with view of the results of the European Council of June 2006 and of the Parliament, the current above-mentioned actions will continue and will be enhanced. Some of the initiatives, such as the support to citizens’ transnational projects, will be developed in the second half of 2006.
Both communications of the Commission to the June 2006 European Council underline these issues; i.e. “A citizens’ Agenda for Europe” and “The period of reflection and Plan D”. The Commission’s plans for the next 6 months will therefore concentrate on the effective implementation of those of the actions in Plan D, which maximize citizen involvement and have proven to be successful. Moreover, Plan D will be extended to cover citizen to citizen initiatives.
Can the European Commission make a statement as to what EU-backed audiovisual programmes are in existence to promote the use of the Irish language in Ireland?
(EN) Community action for the audiovisual sector within the European Union takes the form of the MEDIA Plus and MEDIA Training Programmes. MEDIA runs from 2001-2006 and has a budget of €513 million. It co-finances training initiatives for audiovisual industry professionals, the development of production projects (feature films, television drama, documentaries, animation and new media), and the distribution and promotion of European audiovisual works. Pilot projects are used to support the use of new technologies in the development, production and distribution stages.
One of the objectives of the MEDIA Plus Programme is respect for and promotion of linguistic and cultural diversity in Europe. One of the actions in this respect is to award subsidies for dubbing or subtitling of films at the request of distributors. However, the Programme leaves the choice of language to the applicant and the promotion of the use of the Irish language is not as such an objective of the MEDIA Programme.
Finally, it should be noted that the European Union’s TV information service Europe by Satellite (EbS) is now technically equipped to transmit the Irish language when available.
Can the European Commission give a timetable for the likely resumption of World Trade Talks and make a statement as to what the key stumbling blocks are from a European perspective to any future WTO agreement?
(EN) The Commission negotiating team is currently in Geneva, taking part in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade negotiations at Ministerial level. The Commission will be in a position to report and assess the results of the meetings when they are completed on 2 July 2006.
As Commissioner in charge of Trade explained to the INTA Committee on 29 May 2006, there is a window of opportunity for a deal in the coming weeks. But it requires that all major players undergo a difficult but necessary adjustment of their positions so that they can converge on a middle way that brings sufficient gain to all.
For the EU, the Commission made clear that we are prepared to find ways to improve its offer on agriculture market access, to bring it closer to the requests made by the G20 group while staying within its mandate from the Council. But we will only take a new offer if, at the same time, others come with satisfactory offers in agriculture domestic support and industrial tariffs. There remains at present some uncertainty about the position of the United States (US). This is not surprising given the change at the helm of USTR (United States Trade Representative).
The Commission hopes the US can respond to the WTO Director General’s request for major players to show further flexibility. If the US can come closer to what the G20 developing countries are seeking in the reduction of farm subsidies - as we can on market access – the Commission is confident that a deal will be in sight.
Another condition is that the most advanced developing countries will have to be prepared to reduce their applied industrial tariffs to a level that gives some real new market access to European, US and other exporters.
Of course, contributions to the Round should be based on each developing country’s capacity to contribute. This remains a Development Round. Above all we must bear in mind that the poorest countries have different negotiating priorities, such as agricultural commodity tariffs, preference erosion, protection of small and weak economies, and trade capacity, which we must also address.
Finally, let us also recall that the outcome on the modalities for agriculture and industrial goods will be significantly influenced by the progress we can make on further liberalisation in the services sector and strengthening WTO rules, including Geographical indications. In the negotiations on agriculture we also need to achieve "parallelism" for the elimination of all form of export subsidies.
One of my constituents has complained to me that he was stopped and fined EUR 1200 by the contractor working on behalf of the Austrian authorities when returning from transporting his son’s household goods from England to Austria. The vehicle in question was ‘on hire’, but he was told that he should have had an ‘electronic box’ fitted on the dashboard and that it was illegal to drive in Austria without one. As an elderly pensioner he could ill afford to pay the ‘fine’, worse the hire company claimed to know nothing of the legislation.
On what basis do such unilateral regulations exist in the context of the Treaty of Rome free movement of goods, services, capital and people?
(EN) As far as it concerns charging for heavy goods vehicles, the Eurovignette Directive(1) into force at the time in which the facts took place provided the legal frame for levying tolls or user charges on motorways. The Directive applied for heavy goods vehicles of at least 12 tonnes mass but Member States were free to apply road charges also for vehicles below 12 tonnes mass. Austria charges vehicles of 3,5 tonnes mass or more when using motorways and requires that these vehicles are equipped with a self-adhesive little plastic box in the driver cabin. Similarly as with the London congestion fee, the information that the use of Austrian motorways is subject to a road toll is clearly displayed on road signs before entering the charged section. The necessary box can be purchased at 220 selling points in and outside Austria, including all main petrol stations alongside the main Austrian transit roads, and costs only €5. When returning the box to any selling point the purchasing price is reimbursed.
The Commission regret that the person was not made aware by the hiring company.
As far as the amount of fine is concerned there is of course the possibility to lodge an official complaint to the Austrian authorities who have levied the fine and to go to court if the levied fine is considered as not proportionate.
As a result of effective controls Denmark has very few cases of salmonella poisoning following the consumption of Danish-produced meat. However, Danish food authorities are not allowed under EU rules on the free movement of goods to carry out random checks on foreign meat at the border. This is despite the fact that most cases of illness arise following the consumption of foreign meat.
This being so, will the Commission state the reasons for Denmark not being allowed to adopt special rules to keep foreign meat containing salmonella out of the country when both Sweden and Finland have just such special rules?
(EN) The Commission is aware of the satisfactory situation with regard to salmonella in Denmark and appreciates the efficient efforts of national authorities and producers to reach a high level of protection of Danish consumers.
The Commission would like to clarify that EU legislation does enable Member States to carry out random checks on meat placed on their market coming from any Member State.
With regard to special salmonella guarantees applied by Sweden and Finland, the Commission can confirm to the Honourable Member that Community law provides for the possibility to extend such guarantees to other Member States having a control programme recognised equivalent to that approved for Sweden and Finland. With this in mind, when a Member State, Denmark included, achieves the same level of prevalence of salmonella as Finland and Sweden, it can apply to obtain a similar guarantee.
The Commission is currently exploring with Denmark any other alternative approach, as for example an official national criterion for restricting salmonella.
Question no 80 by Íñigo Méndez de Vigo (H-0548/06)
On 5 June 2005, José Antonio Jáuregui, ‘Jean Monnet’ professor and Commission external expert died on 5 June 2005 during a trip to Sibiu (Romania), organised jointly by the Commission’s Education DG’s Directorate C and the Romanian Government. Professor Jáuregui was in Sibiu as Chairman of the jury assessing the city’s candidacy for European Cultural Capital 2007.
Given that Professor Jáuregui died while on official business as a Commission expert, what has the Commission done, a year later, for his family? What insurance cover did his trip have? What compensation does the Commission provide for in such cases?
(FR) The Commission has expressed its great sadness at the unexpected death of Professor José Antonio Jáuregui, who has participated actively in certain Community activities.
Professor Jáuregui was invited by the Commission to Brussels as an expert on two occasions (14 May 2003 and 5 April 2004). This was done in accordance with the rules governing the reimbursement of travel, subsistence and other expenses incurred in the course of journeys made by persons not employed by the Commission who are invited to attend meetings in an expert capacity(1).
Nevertheless, Professor Jáuregui’s visit to Sibiu (Romania) on 5 June 2005, to which the honourable Member refers, was solely at the request of the Romanian authorities.
Furthermore, the Commission would point out that, even if Professor Jáuregui had been invited by the Commission in an expert capacity in accordance with the above-mentioned rules, any compensation would have been excluded pursuant to Article 3, which states that “No action may be brought against the Commission in respect of any personal or material loss or injury suffered by a person invited to a meeting in the course of the journey or during the stay at the place where the meeting is held, unless such loss or injury is attributable to the Commission. […]”
OFFICE FOR THE ADMINISTRATION AND SETTLEMENT OF INDIVIDUAL ENTITLEMENTS
« EXPERTS » SECTION
RULES FOR THE REIMBURSEMENT OF TRAVEL,
SUBSISTENCE AND OTHER EXPENSES
FOR OUTSIDE EXPERTS
I. GENERAL PROVISION
A. Travel expenses
The following persons from outside the Commission invited to meetings are entitled to reimbursement of their travel expenses:
(a) members, their alternates and experts accompanying them, of the standing committees provided for in the Treaties or specially set up by an act of the Commission or the Council, with the exception of the members of the Consultative Committee provided for in Article 18 0f the ECSC Treaty;
(b) members, their alternates and experts accompanying them, of consultative committees;
(c) experts invited on an individual basis to give their professional opinion on a particular subject.
1. Travel expenses shall be reimbursed on the following basis:
- the shortest and.most economical route by first-class rail between the departure point, stated in the invitation, and the place where the meeting is held;
- where the journey includes not less than six hours of night travel between 2200 hours and 0700 hours, sleeping car accommodation up to the cost of two-berth class;
-. the cost of seat reservations and transport of necessary luggage, and supplements for fast trains.
2. The cost of journeys by sea shall be reimbursed on production of documentary evidence. The cost of transporting a car by car-ferry shall not be reimbursed.
3. Where the person travels by car, his travel expenses shall be reimbursed on the basis of the first-class rail fare, excluding sleeping car or any other supplement. Where two or more persons entitled to reimbursement of travel expenses use the same car, only the person responsible for the car shall be reimbursed, at the rate of 150%.
4. If the distance by rail is more than 400 km or if the expert is obliged to make a sea crossing, the air fare shall be reimbursed on production of the ticket, which shall be for economy class or, failing that, business class.
5. Taxi fares shall not be reimbursed.
No moral, material or bodily harm incurred by the person in the course of his journey or of his stay in the place where the meeting is held may be the subject of a claim against the Commission unless it can be imputed to the Commission.
In particular, a person using his own vehicle shall remain fully liable for any accidents in which he may be involved.
B. Subsistence allowance
1. The persons referred to in Article 1 may receive the allowance for subsistence expenses where the invitation to the meeting so provides and if they can declare that they have not received an allowance or are not entitled to a similar allowance from another organization or person for the same trip. This allowance shall be paid direct to the natural persons referred to in Article 1.
2. The subsistence allowance shall be a standard amount covering all expenses at the place where the meeting is held, including the cost or accommodation, meals and local travel.
3. The allowance per day of meeting shall be the same as the daily mission allowance for officials in Grades A4 to A8 and Category B in Brussels and Luxembourg.
4. Where the point of departure referred to in the invitation is 100 km or less from the place of the meeting, no allowance shall be paid.
1. A subsistence allowance may also be paid in the following circumstances:
- where the interval between two meetings is insufficient for the person to return to his point of departure;
- if exceptional circumstances prevent him from leaving the place where the meeting is being held;
- where the person has travelled on a cut-price ticket requiring him to spend a certain number of days at the place where the meeting is being held.
2. The total amount of this allowance may not exceed the price of the return air fare referred to in Article 2
II. SPECIAL PROVISIONS
1. Where the expert invited is very highly qualified, the authorizing Director-General may, by a special and duly motivated decision, grant reimbursement of the cost of a “single” or, failing this a “special” sleeper or of the first—class air fare, or reimbursement of subsistence expenses up to twice the amounts laid down in Article 4.
2. In exceptional cases the authorizing Director-General may, on production of documentary evidence, authorize reimbursement of expenses incurred by the person invited by reason of special instructions which make the daily allowance manifestly inadequate.
III SPECIAL PROVISIONS APPLYING TO MEETING EXPERTS ON STATUTORY COMMITTEES
1 The persons referred to in Article 1 (a) and (b) shall be considered as “meeting experts”.
2. The “meeting experts” referred to in this article may receive reimbursement of travel and/or subsistence expenses under the conditions which apply to the committee of which they are members. The committees are divided into the following groups:
Group 1: Government and non-government experts receiving reimbursement of travel and subsistence expenses.
Group 2: Non-government experts receiving reimbursement of travel and subsistence expenses.
Croup 3: Government experts receiving reimbursement of travel expenses only.
Group 4: Government and non-government experts, the former receiving reimbursement of travel expenses only, the latter receiving reimbursement of travel and subsistence expenses.
3. The group to which the Committee belongs shall be decided by the Secretariat-General in its capacity as coordinator of committees and working parties.
4. A committee may only be included in Group 1 with the express authorization of the Secretariat-General of the Commission and the Directorate—General for Budgets
1. A maximum of two experts per Member State invited as government experts and 25 experts invited in a private capacity shall be entitled to reimbursement of expenses.(2)
2. The authorizing Director-General may allow exceptions to this rule in the following cases;
- when convening a joint meeting stating reasons;
- where the regulation setting up the committee provides for more than
two members per Member State.
In all other cases the approval of the Secretariat-General is required.
3. National, regional or local civil servants shall be invited on a private basis only in special cases duly motivated by the authorizing Director-General. The reasons given must be attached to the invitation.
IV. ARRANGEMENTS FOR PAYMENT
The appropriations in the budget for the expenditure resulting from these rules may be administered either by the Directorate-General responsible for authorizing the expenditure or by the Directorate-General for Personnel and Administration.
The payment order shall be accompanied by the application for reimbursement as a supporting document; this must be signed by one of the persons referred to in Article 1, who must declare that he/she has not received an allowance and is not entitled to a similar allowance from any other organisation or person for the same journey or the same period. The application must also be signed by the Secretary of the meeting - on behalf of the authorizing DG - specifying the number of days the person is present before the start of the meeting and the expenses incurred by one of the persons referred to in Article h.
1 The administering department may at any time cross-check the statements made in an application for reimbursement with other signatories of the application.
2 The recipient will be required to repay any sums paid in error.
1 Travel expenses shall be reimbursed in ecus at the rate ruling on the first day of the month in which the meeting is held.
2 Subsistence expenses shall be reimbursed in ecus at the rate ruling on the first day of the month following the decision to adjust the mission allowances of officials.
V. FINAL PROVISIONS
1. The rules concerning the reimbursement of the travel, subsistence and miscellaneous expenses of experts from outside the Commission invited to meetings (Min 688 – SEC(83) (298), which entered into force on 12 April 1983, are repealed.
2. These rules shall enter into force on the first day of the month following their adoption by the Commission.
Swedish farmers have reported that they have problems with applying EU legislation and complying with the Swedish requirement of litter for pigs (Directive 91/630/EEC)(1). In view of the complexity of the current system, it would be appropriate to make an amendment of the directive on the protection of pigs a priority and to simplify the process of keeping records on animals in the context of the 'Better regulation' programme. Does the Commission intend to do so?
(EN) Community legislation on the protection of pigs(2) requires since January 2003 that pigs should have access to material such as straw to enable explorative behaviour and to improve their welfare.
Scientific data highlight the importance of such measures.
Based on an opinion of the European Food Safety Authority, the Commission is considering the revision of certain provisions concerning floor types and space for fattening pigs, as signalled in the Community Action Plan for the Protection and Welfare of Animals.
In this context, the Commission may also consider adapting the requirement on manipulable material.
Concerning the record keeping on mortality and medical treatments, it is widely recognised that this activity is essential to monitor the proper implementation of animal welfare, animal health and food safety requirements.
The Commission attaches great importance to the “Better regulation” process and welcomes all contributions in this respect. For the specific instance raised by the Honourable Member, however, the Commission would need more precise indications on the aspects of record keeping that would, in the Honourable Member’s view, need to be simplified.
Does EU legislation make it compulsory to lay high-tension cables underground in areas which are already or are about to be included for the first time in 'town planning' schemes? If so, which Community legal text contains these provisions?
(EN) No Community rules concerning technical requirements for electricity transmission networks are currently in force. The matter referred to by the Honourable Member, the laying of high-tension cables, is of national competence.
The Council on 12 July 1999 adopted a Recommendation on the limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields (0 Hz to 300 GHz)(1).
This text recommends that Member States, in order to provide for a high level of public health protection, should adopt a framework of basic restrictions and reference levels.
The Recommendations on limitation of exposure have been based only on established effects on human health. In reply to a questionnaire from the Commission, the situation of Member States with regard to implementation of the Recommendation was summarised in a report in 2002(2).
In order to take account of new scientific data, the Commission has asked its Scientific Committee on Newly Identified and Emerging Health Risks (SCENIHR)(3) to undertake a comprehensive review of the opinion(4) of the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Eco-toxicity and the Environment (SCTEE)(5) of 30 October 2001 on possible health effects of electromagnetic fields, radio frequency fields and microwave radiation. In view of the substantial quantity of new scientific information that has become available since 2001, the SCENIHR opinion is programmed for September 2006.
Implementation of protection measures concerning electromagnetic fields produced by high voltage cables are therefore a matter for national authorities to address, using where appropriate the European Recommendation referred to above as a basis.
Implementation report on the Council Recommendation limiting the public exposure to electromagnetic fields (0 Hz to 300 GHz), http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/environment/EMF/implement_rep_en.pdf .(*) http://europa.eu.int/comm/health/horiz_publications_en.htm#2
Energy is increasingly taking centre stage in political debate in the European Union, not least whenever we talk about economic growth, employment and the achievement of the other objectives of the Lisbon strategy. It is known that nuclear energy accounts for 30% of all electricity in the EU, it does not produce greenhouse gases and it spreads our dependence on imports. At the same time as prompting concerns about the highest level of nuclear safety and about appropriately qualified human resources, nuclear energy may be an exceptionally important component in Europe's future energy mix.
The European Parliament has no right of codecision with regard to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, so that the timely exchange of information about the framing of policy in this area is all the more important. I should like to know what the Commission's activities with regard to the peaceful use of nuclear energy are or will be. Is the Commission planning any new measures? And how does the Commission intend to work together with the European Parliament in this area, and in framing its planned activities, to ensure the most effective cooperation?
(EN) It is for the individual national governments to evaluate and decide upon the potential role of nuclear energy in meeting the concerns and requirements of their citizens. It is the Commission's role to ensure that all Member States comply with their obligations under both he Euratom and EC Treaties as well as international agreements with respect to radiological protection and nuclear related issues such as safety, security and non-proliferation.
The Commission considers nuclear safety and the radiological protection of EU citizens to be paramount with regard to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Support to research and development on the above issues is made through the Euratom Framework Programme, both through direct actions carried out by the Joint Research Centre and indirect actions through collaboration with national research organisations.
The Commission therefore is in close contact with the Parliament and regularly reports to its competent committee (ITRE) with respect to existing and new legislative measures concerning nuclear activities with the joint aim of protecting the welfare of the EU and its citizens.
With respect to the use of financial resources earmarked for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants, a draft annual report for 2005 is already prepared by the Commission and is provided to the Parliament.
The Parliament has been informed on the Commission's Proposal for a Council Directive on the supervision and control on shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel(1).
Likewise the Commission regularly reports to the Parliament on its progress with respect to negotiations with third countries for agreements on the peaceful uses of nuclear materials.
The Commission's Work Programme for 2006 includes the so-called “PINC” report which is based on the legal requirements of the Euratom Treaty on the Commission(2).
Art. 40: “In order to stimulate action by persons and undertakings and to facilitate coordinated development of their investment in the nuclear field, the Commission shall periodically publish illustrative programmes indicating in particular nuclear energy production targets and the type of investments required for their attainment.”
Will the Commission outline what plans it has to alter the worsening compliance rate of inland bathing sites, which this year decreased by almost four percentage points to 86, as given in the recent EU report on Blue Flags for beaches?
(EN) As explained in the 2006 Bathing Water Report, compliance of inland bathing sites showed a decrease of 3.8 % in comparison with 2005 Report results (from 89.4% to 85.6%). These figures do not take into account the de-listed freshwater sites. Detailed statistics are available in the bathing water reports which are on the web(1).
From the figures in the report it can be observed that the decrease of 3.8% in compliance rates for EU-25 compared to the previous season is entirely due to the increase by 3.8% of sites which are not sufficiently sampled. It should be noted that the compliance rates for inland sites in the former EU-15 remained relative high (91.4%) and stable compared to the previous year. The situation in the EU-10 is significantly different however.
The issue of areas insufficiently frequently sampled is for many bathing sites related to the fact that several new Member States reduced their sampling frequency on the basis of results in water quality prior to their accession to the EU. The Commission already informed Member States last year that at least 2 consecutive years with compliance of bathing water standards is required after date of accession before sampling may be reduced. The Commission expects that a change will be implemented for the bathing season 2006.
Further examination of all inland sites including those not sufficiently sampled shows that, for the 4 new Member States who reported for the first time this year, only 51.3% of a total of 731 sites comply with the minimum water quality values. There exists therefore equally a problem in EU-10 of sites not complying with the water quality standards.
It should be noted that new Member States did not have any transitional period for the implementation of the Bathing Water Directive. Bathing waters were therefore required to comply with the Bathing Water Directive on the date of accession.
The Commission will address a detailed letter to Member States that have a significant portion of sites not complying with the minimum water quality standards and/or sites that are not sufficiently sampled. Member States will be required to indicate those measures that are taken (i) to trace and tackle the sources of pollution and (ii) to protect the health of bathers in waters which are not meeting the minimum standards. If necessary, the Commission will examine at a later stage launching infringements procedures under article 226 EC.
Welfare at work is a crucial development area for the European Union. Mental health problems have grown as a proportion of overall welfare at work issues. According to a study carried out in 1991 in the USA, 11% of the lawyers who took part in the study had contemplated suicide. Another study carried out the same year charted the likelihood of representatives of 100 different occupations to suffer from depression. Lawyers topped the depression curve in this survey too.
Within the European Union, to my knowledge the only study charting the welfare at work of legal staff is the one by the Swedish lawyers’ association. Data from this study was published in the professional journal Advokaten no. 3 / 2006. Does any comparable research data exist in the European Union quantifying the mental health problems of people working in different occupations throughout the Union? Are there any statistics on mental health issues for workers in the legal professions in particular?
(EN) Remedying the lack of complete and comparable data on mental health and mental disorders in the European Union is one of the great challenges, which was highlighted in the Commission’s Green paper on Mental Health of October 2005.
The Commission does not at this stage have data about the levels of mental health problems in different professions, and in particular in the legal profession.
However, the Commission would like to draw the attention of the Honourable Member to a report “Types of employment and health in the European Union”. Another study “Work-related stress” of 2005 identified seven sectors at increased risk of stress. The sectors ranking at the top of stress levels were health and social services and education. Both of these studies were published by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Work and Living Conditions in 2002 and are available on its website.
Furthermore, in 2007 an ad hoc module on accidents at work and work-related health problems of the Eurostat’s Labour Force Survey will include variables on work-related mental health-related issues. It will thus be possible to link this information to the occupation of the respondent. The results of the survey will be available in 2008.
Similarly, the future European Health Interview Survey, an instrument in the field of public health statistics, will in the coming years collect data about psychological distress and mental wellbeing, which can be linked with occupations.
Finally, the Commission is now analysing the about 250 responses to the Mental Health Green paper consultation.
In deciding on the follow-up to the Green paper, the issue of actions to improve the availability of mental health statistics for the EU will need to be assessed.
The continuous improvement of well-being at work is indeed a major preoccupation of the European Union, as stated in the Communication from the Commission - Adapting to change in work and society: a new Community strategy on health and safety at work 2002-2006(1). The concept of well-being at work shall be taken to include the physical, moral and social dimensions, and not just something that can be measured by an absence of accidents or occupational illnesses. This implies "emerging" illnesses such as stress, depression, anxiety, violence at work, harassment and intimidation, which are responsible for 18% of all problems associated with health at work, with a quarter of them resulting in two weeks or more absence from work.
What conclusions has the Commission drawn concerning the utilisation of cohesion policy resources in the poorest EU countries during the last programming period (2000-2006)?
Would it be justified for the Commission to reduce its own contribution, which is often an obstacle to the use of available funds in the poorest countries?
(EN) The Commission will present a first assessment of the results achieved over the 2000-2006 programming period in the fourth report on economic and social cohesion which will be published in 2007. The analysis will draw mainly on the mid-term evaluations updates carried out under the responsibility of the Member States and the strategic evaluation launched at the initiative of the Commission. The proper ex-post evaluations will be launched in 2007 and completed by 2009 in close cooperation with the Member States.
Under three generations of cohesion policy programmes since 1989, a major investment effort has been organised at Community level to promote growth and convergence, competitiveness and employment. To this effort at Community level resources have been added at national level, both public and private, in view of the rules that European programmes must always be co-financed by Member States. In the absence of EU cohesion programmes, it is most unlikely that such an effort would have been maintained with the same multi-annual consistency and determination.
Rather, the evidence suggests that the weaker national budgets in poorer Member States, less developed capital markets, lower levels of qualification of the labour force and poorer infrastructures would have made it much more difficult to raise economic performance. The likely outcome would be a widening of the gaps in the Union.
That said national co-financing remains a key principle of cohesion policy to ensure common ownership of strategies and programmes and the responsibility of the Member States and regions concerned to use Community funding on the basis of sound management. The Commission notes that maximum co-financing rates will be substantially increased for the programmes of the next period 2007-2013 compared to the current period. The Commission therefore considers that it is not appropriate to further reduce the minimum obligatory mobilisation of national resources to co-finance cohesion policy.
How high is the average pension for EU officials who have taken retirement under Article 22 of Annex XIII to the Staff Regulations?
How high is the average pension for EU officials who have taken retirement under Article 23 of Annex XIII to the Staff Regulations?
How many EU officials have been assigned non-active status under Article 41 of the Staff Regulations?
(FR) In 2005, the number of retirement pensions paid on 31 December was 7 472(1). Of these 7 472 pensions, 6 942 were paid to officials who had retired having reached the retirement age laid down in Article 22 of Annex XIII of the Staff Regulations of the European Communities. For these people, the average pension stands at around EUR 4 800 net(2) and around EUR 5 120 with family allowances included.
On the same date, 530 pensions were paid to officials who had retired before reaching the retirement age laid down in Article 23 of Annex XIII of the Staff Regulations. For these people, the average pension stands at around EUR 3 100 net(3) and around EUR 3 480 with family allowances included.
No officials were assigned under Article 41 of the Staff Regulations.
This figure applies to pensioners from all of the European Institutions (Commission, Parliament, Council, Economic and Social Committee, Committee of the Regions, Court of Justice and Court of Auditors) as well as the Offices and Agencies.
On various occasions and by different means I have called for a solution to be found as a matter of urgency to the problem of soft fruit. Similar calls have been made by other Members, including Zbigniew Kuźmiuk, Czesław Siekerski and Janusz Wojciechowski.
The Commission has visited Poland on two occasions to examine the situation on the ground. The European Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development also visited Poland from 9 to 12 May 2006.
Unfortunately, farmers have still to receive any aid, while Parliament has not even received a report on the visit to Poland by the Commission representatives.
The Commission is giving the impression that it has no desire to resolve the problem faced by European soft fruit producers and that it is the interests of producers from China and Morocco that are being protected.
In the light of the above, does the Commission intend to take any protective measures in this sector and, if so, what measures and when?
(EN) In line with the Conclusions drawn in November 2004 by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers concerning the simplification of the Common Market Organisation (CMO) for fruit and vegetables, the Commission has adopted on 28 June 2006 a report that contains an analysis of the Community market for soft fruit intended for processing.
Work on this analysis implied to carry out missions in the concerned Member States to collect relevant information. Missions took place in the following countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland (two missions) and the United Kingdom.
This analysis covers four major EU sub-sectors: blackcurrants, cherries, raspberries and strawberries.
The Commission has identified three main categories of factors that have created difficulties in the sector:
Imports of frozen strawberries - anti-dumping investigations concerning imports from China are on-going. Nothing can yet be said on the possible outcome of these investigations.
Excessive production in comparison with market needs (blackcurrants, sour cherries). Rural development programmes can be mobilised to facilitate farm reorientation towards other activities. On the demand side, promotion and rural development measures can be mobilised to increase consumption and exports opportunities.
The competitiveness of the sector is constrained by fragmented commodity chains. In particular, fragmentation of production and of marketing to the industry imposes a heavy burden. Existing instruments in both the CMO for fruits and vegetables and in Rural Development programmes can be mobilised to foster the competitiveness of the sector.
In order to improve the monitoring of the economic situation in the sector at EU level, it could be envisaged to establish regular meetings of concerned experts in Brussels, as is currently done for some other fruits and vegetables.
In the context of the reform of CMO fruit and vegetables, the results of the report will be duly considered.