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 Index 
The Week
13-12-2004(s)
Changes to the agenda
Situation in Cambodia
Romania on track for 2007, although more to be done
Bulgaria up to the mark, says European Parliament
Turkey's prospects for EU membership - "yes .... but"
2005 EU Budget: Second reading
Budget for Iraq and PEACE II programme
Parliament sets out EU priorities for next five years
Sakharov Prize awarded to Belarus Association of Journalists
Situation in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Bhopal industrial disaster
Situation in Zimbabwe
International Fund for Ireland - yes to extension to 2006
Improving communication between employers and job applicants
Reports adopted
EU-Russia relations - regret at lack of progress
Tackling vehicle crime
European Asylum System
EU drug policy should be science-based
Pesticide residues in food: more emphasis on consumer health

THE WEEK

13-16 December 2004

Strasbourg

Turkey - start negotiations "without undue delay"
  • Bulgaria and Romania on track
  • EU Budget 2005 adopted
  • EU priorities for next five years
  • Sakharov Prize award to Belarus Association of Journalists
  • EU-Russia relations
  • EU drug policy should be science based

Codes for parliamentary procedures

A series

Reports and recommendations

B series

Resolutions and oral questions

C series

Documents of other institutions

*

Consultation procedure

**I

Cooperation procedure (1st reading)

**II

Cooperation procedure (2nd reading)

***

Assent procedure

***I

Codecision procedure (1st reading)

***II

Codecision procedure (2nd reading)

***III

Codecision procedure (3rd reading)

Abbreviations

- Political groups: see next page

BE

Belgium

IT

Italy

PL

Poland

CZ

Czech Republic

CY

Cyprus

PT

Portugal

DK

Denmark

LV

Latvia

SI

Slovenia

DE

Germany

LT

Lithuania

SK

Slovakia

EE

Estonia

LU

Luxembourg

FI

Finland

EL

Greece

HU

Hungary

SE

Sweden

ES

Spain

MT

Malta

UK

United Kingdom

FR

France

NL

Netherlands

   

IE

Ireland

AT

Austria

   

Conversion rates 

1 euro = £ sterling 0.69 as at 20.12.2004

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Editor:

Richard Freedman

Secretariat:

Sarah Donohoe

       
     
   

Brussels:

Strasbourg:

PHS 00A027

IPE3 F02/001

B-1047 Brussels

BP1024, F-67070 Strasbourg

Tel. (32-2) 28 41448

Tel. (33) 3 88 1 74751/73785

Fax (32-2) 28 46515

Fax (33) 3 88 1 79355

 

e-mail: presse-en@europarl.eu.int

Internet: http://www.europarl.eu.int/press/index_publi_en.htm

 

Close: Thursday, 16 December 2004


Political groups in the European Parliament
Situation as at: 20.12.2004

 

EPP-ED

PES

ALDE

Greens / EFA

GUE / NGL

IND / DEM

UEN

NA

Total

BE

6

7

6

2

     

3

24

CZ

14

2

   

6

1

 

1

24

DK

1

5

4

1

1

1

1

 

14

DE

49

23

7

13

7

     

99

EE

1

3

2

         

6

EL

11

8

   

4

1

   

24

ES

24

24

2

3

1

     

54

FR

17

31

11

6

3

3

 

7

78

IE

5

1

1

 

1

1

4

 

13

IT

24

16

12

2

7

4

9

4

78

CY

3

 

1

 

2

     

6

LV

3

 

1

1

   

4

 

9

LT

2

2

7

     

2

 

13

LU

3

1

1

1

       

6

HU

13

9

2

         

24

MT

2

3

           

5

NL

7

7

5

4

2

2

   

27

AT

6

7

 

2

     

3

18

PL

19

10

4

   

10

7

4

54

PT

9

12

   

3

     

24

SI

4

1

2

         

7

SK

8

3

         

3

14

FI

4

3

5

1

1

     

14

SE

5

5

3

1

2

3

   

19

UK

28

19

12

5

1

10

 

3

78

Total

268

202

88

42

41

36

27

28

732

Political groups

EPP-ED

Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats (includes the British Conservatives, the one Ulster Unionist MEP and Fine Gael from Ireland)

PES

Socialist Group in the European Parliament (includes the British Labour MEPs and the one Irish Labour Party MEP)

ALDE

Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (includes the British Liberal Democrats and one independent MEP from Ireland)

GREENS/EFA

Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance (includes the British Greens, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru)

GUE/NGL

Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (includes the two Sinn Fein MEPs)

IND/DEM

Independence and Democracy Group (includes 10 UKIP MEPs and one independent MEP from Ireland)

UEN

Union for Europe of the Nations Group (includes the Irish Fianna Fail Members)

NA

Non-attached MEPs

Opening of the Session

Changes to the agenda
 
13.12.2004

The report by MEPs voted 141 votes in favour, 111 against with 7 abstentions to remove the report by Carlos COELHO (EPP-ED, PT) on the uniform format for visas and residence permits, scheduled for debate on Wednesday, to be removed from the agenda. However, MEPs voted in favour of adding a report by Mr Coehlo on the fight against cross-border vehicle crime and this was added to Wednesday's votes.


Situation in Cambodia

Following interventions of Pasqualina NAPOLETANO (PES, IT) and Marco PANNELLA (ALDE, IT), President Josep BORRELL agreed to write a letter to the Cambodian authorities on the illegal abduction of more than 80 women destined for the sex industry.


Enlargement

Romania on track for 2007, although more to be done
Pierre MOSCOVICI (PES, FR)
Report on Romania’s progress towards accession
(COM(2004) 0657 – C6-0151/2004 – 2004/2184(INI))
Doc.: A6-0061/2004
Procedure : Own-initiative
Vote : 16.12.2004

Vote

The European Parliament "hopes and believes" that Romania can join the EU in January 2007. MEPs adopted a non-binding resolution saying that Romania fulfils the political and economic criteria for accession, but that it still has to make important efforts. They pointed out that if there is a serious risk that Romania might not be able to fulfil its obligations in time, accession may be postponed by one year, as is the case with Bulgaria. In the resolution, Parliament lists a number of important steps that Romania will have to take.

Thus, MEPs urge Romania "to give full effect to the laws on freedom of information", as they are alarmed at the growing number of serious assaults on investigative journalists. Also, the country should complete the reform of the judicial system, as MEPs were concerned about continuing attempts to influence the outcome of judicial proceedings. Corruption remains a serious worry as well, especially high-level corruption. MEPs also expressed their alarm at continuing reports on cases of ill-treatment at police stations, prisons and mental hospitals.

Furthermore, Romania should continue the reform of the social security and welfare system, particularly with regard to improving the health services and mental health care. Poverty still is an extremely serious problem in Romania as well.

On the incorporation of EU legislation, MEPs said that Romania had achieved a satisfactory degree of alignment, but that much more needs to be done to implement legislation in the fields of environment, state aid and justice and home affairs.

Press enquiries:
Joëlle Fiss
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73656
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41075
e-mail :  foreign-press@europarl.eu.int
&
Marjory van den Broeke
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74337
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44304
e-mail :  foreign-press@europarl.eu.int


Bulgaria up to the mark, says European Parliament
Geoffrey VAN ORDEN (EPP-ED, UK)
Report on Bulgaria's progress towards accession
(COM(2004)0657 – C6-0150/2004 – 2004/2183(INI))
Doc.: A6-0065/2004
Procedure : Own-initiative
Vote : 16.12.2004

Vote

Bulgaria should be in a position to join the European Union on 1 January 2007, believes the European Parliament. MEPs say Bulgaria meets the Copenhagen political criteria, has successfully overhauled its administration and judicial system, has a functioning market economy and has made efforts to resolve the problems of minorities. They therefore see no obstacle to speedy signature of the accession treaty, preferably in early spring 2005. And they emphasise that Bulgaria's accession timetable should not be linked to that of any other candidate country.

However, when it adopted the report by Geoffrey VAN ORDEN (EPP-ED, UK) by 527 votes in favour, 19 against and 21 abstentions, Parliament did not simply heap praise upon Bulgaria. MEPs are calling for even greater efforts to be made to fight organised crime, corruption and trafficking in human beings. On the last point, they argue that a database on ill-treated people and those who have disappeared would be useful. They add that measures are needed to speed up the integration of the Roma people through better access to education, healthcare and jobs. MEPs nevertheless stress the need for the Roma to take responsibility themselves in this area as well. Lastly, they point out that the economic situation of many Bulgarians is not improving, despite the country's positive economic performance.

Press enquiries:
Joëlle Fiss
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73656
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41075
e-mail :  foreign-press@europarl.eu.int
&
Marjory van den Broeke
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74337
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44304
e-mail :  foreign-press@europarl.eu.int


Turkey's prospects for EU membership - "yes .... but"
Camiel EURLINGS (EPP-ED, NL)
Report on the 2004 regular report and the recommendation of the European Commission on Turkey's progress towards accession
(COM(2004)0656 - C6-0148/2004 - 2004/2182(INI))
Doc.: A6-0063/2004
Procedure : Own initiative
Debate : 13.12.2004
Vote : 15.12.2004

Vote

The EU should begin accession negotiations with Turkey "without undue delay". Two days before a decision by the European Council, MEPs adopted a resolution saying that Turkey has made impressive progress in respecting the political criteria, enough for negotiations on EU membership to start. The resolution was adopted by 407 votes in favour, 262 against and 29 abstentions in a secret ballot (under rule 162 of Parliament's Rules of Procedure).

Nevertheless, Parliament acknowledged that problems continue to exist, such as regarding minority rights, religious freedoms, trade union rights, women's rights, the role of the army, Cyprus and the relations with Armenia. Therefore it stressed that, in the first phase of negotiations, priority should be given to the full application of the political criteria. In case of serious breaches of the political criteria, negotiations must be suspended. MEPs also underlined that starting negotiations will not automatically result in Turkey's accession and that appropriate ways will have to be found "to ensure that Turkey remains fully anchored in European structures", should negotiations not be successfully concluded.

MEPs were satisfied that Turkey had fulfilled a number of recommendations and requirements included in earlier EP resolutions, such as the abolition of the death penalty, the extension of important fundamental rights and freedoms, reduction of the role of the National Security Council and the lifting of the state of emergency in the south-east. But they said that Turkey still had to adopt further reforms and put these, as well as current reforms, into practice. Thus it would have to lift all remaining restrictions on broadcasting and education in minority languages; put an end to the discrimination of religious minorities; completely eradicate torture; draft a new constitution; lower the threshold of ten percent in parliamentary elections; disband the village guard system in the south-east; apply ILO standards for trade union rights; limit the role of the army further; continue the process of reconciliation with Armenia and recognise the Republic of Cyprus. MEPs also mentioned the eradication of violence against women, freedom of expression and press freedom as issues they would monitor closely.

The Parliament also referred to earlier conclusions of EU government leaders that "the Union's capacity to absorb new members, while maintaining the momentum of European integration, constitutes an important criterion for accession, from the point of view both of the Union and of candidates for accession". And it noted that Turkey could only become a member after the EU's long-term budget planning for the period from 2014 onwards has been decided upon.

Debate

Camiel EURLINGS (PPE, NL), Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, opened the debate by stating that his draft report was based on facts and was "fair and balanced." Mr Eurlings stated that recently he had been in Turkey on several occasions and was "very impressed with the reforms undertaken". However, there was a clear need for further reforms as well as better implementation of existing legislation.

The priority, he said, was for Turkey to fulfil the political criteria necessary for eventual accession. Turkey had made considerable progress in the area of human rights. There was "no systematic torture", however, all forms of torture had to be stopped. Freedom of religion was still an issue. 30 per cent of the population could not fully enjoy this right. As to women's rights, Mr Eurlings stated that a lot more had to be done including outlawing the practice of "forced marriages and so-called honour killings as well as working to improve literacy levels among women." Regarding the Turkish constitution, Mr Eurlings stressed the need to clarify the role of the military. He also called for a new committee to be set up on the "Armenian genocide question". The recognition of Cyprus and the withdrawal of troops were also issues of paramount importance.

Olli REHN, the European Commissioner responsible for enlargement, welcomed Mr Eurlings draft report, since it followed, on the whole, the Commission's recommendation. He stressed that Turkey had introduced several new bills improving the human rights situation in the country. The reform of the legal system and the political process were key to Turkey making further steps towards the formal opening of negotiations. The Commission would be closely monitoring the situation with regard to freedom of religion under the framework of the Copenhagen criteria. Commissioner Rehn stressed the particularities of enlargement to Turkey as compared to previous enlargements; pointing out that Turkey's population was approximately equal to the population of the ten new Member States. As to Cyprus, Commissioner Rehn agreed with the comments made by Mr Eurlings and stressed that more would have to be done in this area.

The Commissioner pointed out that EU-Turkey relations had a long history dating back to the 1963 Association Agreement. The prospect of membership had been "a catalyst for reform." Commissioner Rehn stated that "the negotiations, by definition, would be an open-ended process and there was no alternative to full membership on the table."

Atzo NICOLAÏ, for the Dutch Presidency of the Council, recalled that Turkey had made considerable progress since the December 1999 Helsinki Council when it was decided to formally recognise Turkey's candidacy for accession. Turkey had made "impressive progress", however several challenges remained including the full respect of the political criteria for accession and the adoption of the six outstanding bills before the Turkish Parliament. The Commission, he said, would closely monitor progress made and, if necessary, would suspend negotiations. The Commission opinion was a good basis for the decision of the Heads of State and government. Mr Nicolaï recognised that this was "an open-ended process" and that Turkey "feared new criteria, further to the Copenhagen criteria being introduced". He welcomed Mr Eurling's draft report.

Political group speakers

Hans-Gert POETTERING (DE), leader of the EPP-ED group, said the Council's decision would have greater consequences than any decision made in EU history. Admitting Turkey would completely change the nature of the EU, he said, this could not be a reflex decision - rather, it should be a decision of conscience.

Within the EPP-ED group, some did not want to open negotiations, some were in favour and others wanted instead to negotiate a privileged partnership with Turkey. Turkey was a large and important country and the EU should seek friendship and partnership, he said. Mr Poettering said that he was one of those who wanted to aim for a privileged partnership: Turkish accession, he said, would be enlarging the EU to death, losing the common European identity and the basis for European solidarity. Despite the progress, there were still major human rights abuses, including torture, which "we are told is not systematic, but it is certainly comprehensive," he said. This was not a matter of internal politics, he said, but a question of taking decisions which could carry the support of Europe's citizens.

Martin SCHULZ (DE), leader of the Socialist group, praised the efforts of the rapporteur to reach a broad consensus. He argued that Turkish membership would not alter the nature of the EU - rather Turkey would have to accept the whole range of EU values, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and implement them in its internal laws if it were to join. The prize was to show that Islam and democracy were not incompatible. The reforms carried out under the Erdogan government were the most significant in decades, he said. Many Turkish people were saying that it was the prospect of EU membership which was changing their country into a normal parliamentary democracy. The journey was not complete, but that was the peace dividend available. Closing the door to Turkey might halt the reforms, he said. Opening the door could help the EU realise its potential as an exporter of peace and democracy to a growing region.

Emma BONINO (IT) spoke for the ALDE group, the majority of which, she said, supported Mr Eurling's report, with its call for negotiations to be opened. Some of them, herself included, would have preferred a more direct message, making clear that Turkish membership ought to be welcomed. This was a question of whether the EU was a reliable partner in international negotiations and whether its word stood for anything. She said Europe's identity was political, looking at the present and future, not founded looking back at what some called Europe's Christian or Catholic roots. Europe could negotiate with profound commitment, or it could close itself off. She said she wanted a Europe worth belonging to and fighting for, which was worthy of its citizens.

For the Greens/EFA group, Joost LAGENDIJK (NL) said the Greens in general supported the report as it had emerged from the committee. He warned MEPs who were against Turkish membership not to try to amend the report in this way, as this would lead to a failure. "We are not here to reward Christian Democrat symbol based politics, " he said. He had visited Turkey the previous week, and all the people with whom he discussed the matter had told him that while a lot was wrong, but to go ahead with negotiations was the best guarantee of continuing reform. His group believed there were sufficient safeguards to stop negotiations in the event of major human rights problems, but the chance to prove that Islam and democracy could go together should not be passed up.

André BRIE (DE) for the GUE/NGL group stated that a large majority of his group was in favour of eventual Turkish accession. However, his group was particularly concerned about the fact that amendments proposing measurable criteria to monitor Turkey's progress had been defeated in the Foreign Affairs Committee. The question of possible Turkish accession "was more than a question of philosophy and should be based on tangible concrete steps made by Turkey to modernise its constitution." His group, he said, opposed the idea of a privileged partnership.

Bastiaan BELDER (NL), for the IND/DEM group, stated that MEPs had been "too generous towards Turkey". He questioned whether Turkey had made sufficient progress in the area of freedom of religion and stated that the Commission and Parliament should be more critical of Turkey on the question of human rights. He questioned whether Turkey could truly be defined as a secular state.

Konrad SZYMAŃSKI (PL), for the UEN group, stated that were possible advantages of Turkish membership of the EU, but he preferred to see a different kind of partnership based on the European Economic Agreement model. Turkish accession would only serve to hinder the immigration issue in several Member States pointing out that Turkey would have the largest population of any Member State by 2020. He questioned the priority given to Turkey given Ukraine's vocation to become a member of the EU.

Alessandro BATTILOCCHIO (IT), speaking as non-aligned MEP and on behalf of the New Italian Socialist Party, stated that his party was in favour of eventual accession of Turkey into the EU. Turkey's accession would assist in strengthening peace in the Caucuses and bordering countries. There would also be, he said, economic benefits for the EU.

British and Irish MEPs

Andrew DUFF (ALDE, UK) stated that it is essential for the sake of stability as well as morality that we keep faith with Turkey. If we agree to start accession negotiations we should see them through. He believed that the so-called privileged partnership is a false prospectus designed to drive Turkey away from integration with Europe. Turkey, he said, has enjoyed a privileged partnership through the Customs Union and also NATO for several years. Whatever the outcome of the accession negotiations, it is only through the process of the accession negotiations that the European-Turkey relationship will develop, he stated.

Mr Duff stated that Jacques TOUBON (EPP-ED, FR) and his friends propose that Turkey be brought into a privileged partnership enjoying some aspects of membership, but without political representation and without the duty to respect European law and the principle of loyal cooperation. This is madness: it is bad for Turkey, subversive of the European Union and it displays a vast and astonishing absence of self-confidence inside this Parliament for European projects.

Finally, Mr Duff asked the Commission and the presidency to flesh out the proposal for a mechanism to suspend the negotiations should there be a crisis. He trusted that the European Council will follow the spirit of the Constitution, which requires a third of Member States to trigger such a mechanism and not simply a single truculent member.

Eoin RYAN (UEN, IE) stated that this week is undoubtedly an historically important one for the broader development of the European Union. The European Parliament will vote on whether it supports the opening of accession talks between Turkey and the EU. Leaders of the 25 governments of the European Union meeting in Brussels later this week will formally give the go-ahead – or not – to accession negotiations between the European Union and the Turkish Government.

Let us, he said, not underestimate the magnitude of this decision. There is no acceptable middle ground when it comes to the issue of membership of the European Union. A country is either a member of the European Union or it is not and he believed that a country seeking to join the European Union must clearly comply with all aspects of the Copenhagen criteria.

One must recall that the European Commission carried out an evaluation report on the progress that Turkey has made in its efforts to join the European Union. In this report last October the Commission stated that the Turkish Government had brought forward a significant package of proposals this year which included the following: the abolition of State Security Courts, which would ensure that civil-military relations are brought into line with EU standards, the strengthening of the freedom of the press, the introduction of a constitutional clause on gender equality, and removal of all references to the death penalty. In the last election my own party had a slogan which stated: 'A lot done, more to do'. I believe that this is the case here. More needs to be done, but a lot has been done and we must recognise that.

Mr Ryan supports the terms of the report which states that the European Council should vote for accession negotiations with Turkey to begin without delay and the objective of these negotiations is Turkey's EU membership. But there is also a realisation that further substantial political reforms are going to have to take place in Turkey before final accession negotiations can conclude.

It was intimated earlier in this debate that one of the reasons why Turkey should be kept out of the European Union is because Turkish people are not Christian. Surely that flies in the face of the very thing that Christianity stands for. Christianity is about being open and welcoming to people. Concluding Mr Ryan stated that we should be open and welcoming and let these negotiations begin.

Jim ALLISTER (NA, UK) questioned as to whether this is the European Union or do some have expansionist ambitions beyond the boundaries of Europe? That is a key and defining question which arises from Turkey's application for EU membership.

Turkey, he stated, is not part of Europe, it is part of Asia: only a finger of land flanking Istanbul lies in Europe. That does not make it a European nation. You might as well say that Spain is African because it has some outposts on the North African coast. It is a shameless agenda of expansionism which drives the EU in wanting to encompass Turkey.

Turkey itself has a shameful history of expansionism. Witness its brutal invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus. Witness its genocide of the Armenian people. Witness also, despite the massive inducements of pre-accession aid from Brussels, its intolerant suppression of religious freedom, in particular with regard to Christians.

Mr Allister concluded "No – Turkey is one country and culture that we can well do without."

Geoffrey VAN ORDEN (EPP-ED, UK) stated that many on this side of the House are very supportive of Turkey's EU membership. Over the past 80 years enormous changes have taken place in Turkey; the process of reform has accelerated dramatically since the formal recognition in 1999 of Turkey as a candidate for the European Union. He recalled that Turkey has been a staunch ally in NATO for some 50 years and that during much of that time the country was subject to terrorist attacks by organisations sponsored by the Soviet Union. Those of us, he stated, who are supportive of Turkey are under no illusions about the challenges ahead and the work still to be done. That is why negotiations are likely to take 10 or 15 years. The alarmists talk as if Turkey is going to join in a month's time. Turkey has many very successful industrial sectors and a vibrant economy in many respects, but it is still a poor country. The economic challenges are formidable but the potential rewards are great.

Much still needs to be done to improve human rights, but let us not forget that some extremist groups misuse the label of human rights in order to promote sympathy for their own cause. It would be naive of those of us on the centre right in European politics to give any comfort to political groups that are closely linked to terrorists.

We could talk at length about Cyprus. It is not Turkey that should be in the dock. Turkish Cypriots, fully backed by Ankara, supported the United Nations plan which, among other features, would have phased out the non-Cypriot forces from the island, both Turkish and Greek. Many say that Turkish accession would fundamentally change the nature of the EU. If this means an end to the inexorable drive towards political integration and the end of the idea of some European state, then I welcome this.

Mr van Orden shared his concerns about free movement of people, but this is a problem wider than Turkish accession. At this time, four days before the European Council meets, Parliament needs to send a strong positive signal to Turkey that it is welcome as a member of the European Union. This signal will have wider positive reverberations. Let us, he said, give the green light now to the opening of negotiations with Turkey, not grudgingly, but with enthusiasm.

Richard HOWITT (PES, UK) stated that the prospect of EU accession has been the motive for democratic reform in Eastern Europe, and this week the EU will decide if it will be so for Turkey too. As Commissioner VERHEUGEN said, there is no more that the Turkish Government could have done. It is time, 41 years after the promise was first made, for the EU to honour its side of the promise and for the talks to start.
It is agreed that Turkey should be treated the same as every other applicant country, yet some in this debate seek to suggest that referenda be held in existing Member States, that a new type of status be invented, that permanent 'safeguards' be introduced against EU freedoms, or that big countries should be treated differently from small ones. No other accession country has been treated in this way and Parliament should reject these amendments. Indeed, Mr Howitt asked Commissioner Rehn "if the Council decides to start talks 'without delay', would he indicate in his reply how he would interpret this? What timescale would he recommend?"

No-one denies that there are important issues of concern relating to Turkey and these are well dealt with by compromises in the text in the Eurlings report. But if Leyla ZANA, ten years a political prisoner, came as she did two months ago to this Parliament saying that the promotion of human rights requires us to open the talks, who in this Chamber can with any credibility use human rights objections to support the rejection of Turkey?

The plain truth is that too many people use these arguments. They talk about European identity and the fundamental character of the Union to hide their true belief that a country with a majority Muslim population should never be allowed to join. They seek to talk up the clash of civilisations, yet for three million Turkish people in today's European Union, and for one million Muslims in my own country, the United Kingdom, the only civilised Europe is one based on the freedom of all religions and of none, of ethnic diversity and of combating racism.

No new preconditions, no further delays. Vote yes for a better Turkey, but vote yes, too, for a stronger, more prosperous, more influential, more tolerant and more secure Europe for us all.

Baroness Sarah LUDFORD (ALDE, UK) welcomed the prospect of Turkey's vibrant and generous culture enriching the European Union, as it already does in North London, not least through the presence of Turkish and Kurdish people as well as the excellent food.

She also regards Turkey's Muslim identity – a secular Muslim identity – as a positive contribution to a harmonious development of the EU as a multicultural society. But she would like to stress the paragraph of Mr Eurling's report that invites the Turkish Government to take more active steps to bring about reconciliation with those Kurdish forces who have chosen to abandon the use of arms. She hoped that, as part of the accession process, Turkey will be persuaded to seek a political solution to the desire of the Kurdish people to express their identity, perhaps through some kind of political devolution. The PKK's 1999 ceasefire is under strain, and only political negotiations can ensure permanent peace.

Response to the debate

Mr NICOLAÏ, in his response to the debate, stated that the concerns expressed by several MEPs with regard to human rights, torture, freedom of religion and minority rights, are also the concerns of the European Council. That is why it is hoped that the European Council will come to a new framework for negotiations, a new way of negotiating that will provide for better guarantees. One of most important elements in this new framework, he said, would be the possibility of halting the negotiations when things go wrong. The Presidency proposes that one third of the Member States will have the right to ask the Commission for a proposal on the suspension of the negotiations. The Council shall then vote on such a proposal by qualified majority.

Mr Nicolaï did not share the concerns some MEPs have with Turkey being a Muslim nation. The EU is about values, not about religion, he said. The European project of integration is a political and not a religious project.

On Friday, 17 December, the Presidency will try to obtain from Turkey a formal recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey can recognise Cyprus by signing the Protocol to the Association Agreement (i.e. extending the customs union).

Mr Nicolaï stated that the negotiations will be directed toward full membership and nothing less. However, the procedure will be an open-ended one.

In his response to the debate, Commissioner REHN expressed his thanks to MEPs for a very rich, analytical and multi-dimensional debate, which has covered virtually the whole spectrum of European public opinion ranging from future peace dividends to past crusades and, more seriously, from women's rights to religious communities and their rights in Turkey.

The Commissioner touched on a limited number of questions that MEPs addressed directly to the Commission. First, there have been numerous requests for rigorous monitoring of legal reforms and human rights in general. He fully agreed with this. The rigorous monitoring mechanism and the annexed suspension clause are indeed at the core of our negotiation strategy with regard to Turkey in the coming years. It is also very much in the interests of Turkey because it maintains the strong incentive to implement and consolidate the necessary legal and political reforms. We will be preparing a monitoring report during 2005 concerning the fulfilment of criteria in the field of human rights in general.

These criteria include the issue of trade union rights, which Poul RASMUSSEN (PES, DK) raised. He referred to an ongoing court case of which the Commission is aware. We are monitoring this case very closely. In our report we consider this to be a serious test-case with regard to the depth of legal reform in Turkey, which touches upon trade union rights, language rights and the rights of minorities in Turkey. This also involves the question of non-Muslim religious minorities, which has been addressed in depth by Mr Eurlings in his report and referred to by several MEPs in the debate. I would like to underline that although freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Turkey's constitution, non-Muslim religious communities nevertheless face a series of structural difficulties, such as the lack of a legal personality and the lack of full economic rights. The Turkish authorities are committed to adopting a law addressing these structural problems. A draft law on foundations is currently being discussed and the Commission has been officially invited to submit its comments to the Turkish authorities on this critical piece of legislation. We will continue to have dialogue and pressure the Turkish Government on this particular subject.

Concerning the enforcement mechanism of the suspension clause – to which Mr Duff referred – the origin of the suspension clause lies in the development of the acquis communautaire. The Union now has clauses in Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union and in the draft Constitutional Treaty that provide for a procedure to deal with cases where a Member State seriously and persistently breaches the basic principles of the Union. It is only logical and normal that similar rules should also apply to candidate countries. In fact, it has always been the case even in the past that such serious situations would lead to a suspension of negotiations. Thus the inclusion of an explicit suspension procedure is based on a new acquis and the Commission will base its proposal on these principles of the Treaty. Thus I am fully in agreement with Mr Nicolaï and with Mr Duff.

On the question of the privileged partnership, the instrument of a special partnership is provided for under the draft Constitutional Treaty. It is intended to give special treatment to neighbours or other partners representing a strategic interest for the European Union. The idea of the special partnership underlines in particular the New Neighbourhood policy, which the EU seeks to extend to its eastern and southern neighbours. This initiative does not apply to Turkey, which has been a candidate country since the Helsinki summit in 1999. It is hard to figure out how any more could be offered to Turkey than it already has under the privileged partnership.

First of all, Turkey and the EU are bound by a customs union which constitutes a far-reaching instrument of bilateral cooperation in the area of trade and economic cooperation, implying a great degree of economic integration. Second, Turkey already participates in numerous Community programmes in a wide range of areas such as culture, drugs, justice and home affairs, education, research and development. Third, in the key area of security and defence, Turkey participates as a NATO member – via both NATO and the European Security and Defence Policy – in the development of EU security operations. For instance, there are Turkish troops in many countries in the Balkans, and even in the 'European army', as one British newspaper recently dubbed the 'Althea' operation in Bosnia.

With regard to the privileged partnership, and as Mr Nicolaï also said, in my view, the clear objective of the accession negotiations will and should be accession if Turkey meets all the criteria for membership by the end of the negotiations. It would not be wise to set any final target date because we have recently learned that schedule should not override substance. We should set realistic targets, not deadlines that we cannot meet.

Finally, Mr Howitt asked about the start-date from the point of view of the Commission. Our mandate is to evaluate whether Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria. This is what we did. Concerning the start-date of the negotiations, we trust the wisdom of the European Council, of the Prime Ministers and Presidents to make the political judgment with regard to when in 2005 they deem it appropriate to start the accession negotiations.

From the point of view of the Commission, I can say that we are ready to start work – in the words of Parliament's resolution – 'without undue delay'. I only hope that somebody will explain to me the difference between 'undue' and 'due' delay. Nevertheless, we are ready to work without delay once the negotiations have been made and the process can be started.

Johannes SWOBODA (PES, AT) István SZENT-IVÁNYI (ALDE, HU) and several others made the very important point that if we succeed in this long process of negotiations, it should and will make the EU strategically stronger. This is the fundamental issue at stake here and the strategic, geopolitical and geocultural crux of the matter. We can learn some lessons from history – we do not have to apply them blindly, be we can indeed learn something. During the Cold War, Europe contained Communism and the Soviet Union and cooperated in terms of enhancing security and human rights with impressive results. We can see this from the significant number of colleagues from free eastern and central Europe who are here among us today as Members of this Parliament.

Now and in the future, the challenge is very much the relationship between Europe and Islam. Europe must, on the one hand, contain Islamic fundamentalism using all the means available and, on the other hand, it must build bridges and dialogue with those representing moderate Islam. If, after long and difficult negotiations, we achieve a situation where the rule of law genuinely prevails in Turkey, and where European democracy meets a predominantly Muslim population, then such a Turkey would certainly be an asset for Europe and a very important crossroads of civilisations.

Press enquiries:
Joëlle Fiss
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73656
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41075
e-mail :  foreign-press@europarl.eu.int
&
Marjory van den Broeke
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74337
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44304
e-mail :  foreign-press@europarl.eu.int


Budget

2005 EU Budget: Second reading
Salvador GARRIGA POLLEDO (EPP-ED, ES) & Anne Elisabet JENSEN (ALDE, DK)
Report on the draft general budget of the European Union for the 2005 financial exercise as modified by the Council (all sections)
Doc.: A6-0068/2004
Procedure: Budgetary
Vote: 16.12.2004

Vote

On the basis of the agreement reached at the budget conciliation meeting with the Council on 25 November, MEPs adopted the EU budget for 2005. As agreed with the Council, payment appropriations will be limited to €106.3 billion (+6.1% on 2004) whilst payments are limited to some €116.5 billion (+4.4%). The level of payments represents exactly 1.004% if the Gross National Income of the EU 25.Funding for Parliament's priorities is guaranteed in the 2005 Budget," said Janusz LEWANDOWSKI (EPP-ED, PL), Chair of the Budgets Committee, after the vote. "Nevertheless, the EU must make sure that it maintains the budget at a level appropriate to its ambitions."

What follows is a heading-by-heading summary of the Budget adopted by Parliament:

Agriculture
The Council has the final word on heading 1a (obligatory expenditure) and Parliament's amendments have been rejected - a move deplored by MEPs. The Council has reduced the heading by €1 billion. Two pilot projects which Parliament has identified as priorities have nevertheless been continued in the 2005 budget: one focuses on quality promotion, the other relates to a financing model incorporating the risks of disease outbreaks in cattle.

Structural funding
In accordance with the conciliation agreement, the Parliament has not restored amendments aimed at increasing payment appropriations under this heading. Despite this, in the light of the utilisation level of these funds in 2004, MEPs insist that new payment appropriations should be made available, if required, through an amending budget during the 2005 budget year. The PEACE II programme, which aims to support the Northern Ireland peace process, has been prolonged until 2006 with a total amount of €108m of which €50m is for the 2005 budget year.

Internal policies
The financing of decentralised agencies, which have dramatically increased in number in recent years, will be met via an eventual agreement with the Council to increase the ceiling of the financial perspective in Heading 3 and through a more modest increase in the funds allocated for supporting small and medium sized enterprises. Furthermore, a new pilot project for the fight against terrorism has been created and assigned funding of €7m for 2005.

External action
Here too, the funds available were insufficient to meet new needs while also respecting the Parliament's traditional priorities, so the funding for 2005 has been increased by an exceptional increase in the budgetary ceiling. It had already been agreed with the Council that funding for reconstruction in Iraq would be covered to a total of €190m precisely.

Pre-accession support
The two institutions have agreed to include €120m for promoting the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community. Financing for Croatia amounts to some €105m, reflecting the pre-accession strategy for that country.

Press enquiries:
Jean-Yves Loog
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73636
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44652
e-mail :  budg-press@europarl.eu.int


Budget for Iraq and PEACE II programme
Reimer BÖGE (EPP-ED, DE)
Report on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the mobilisation of the flexibility instrument in favour of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Iraq according to point 24 of the Interinstitutional Agreement of 6 May 1999
Doc.: A6-0069 /2004
Procedure : Interinstitutional agreement
Vote: 16.12.2004

Vote

Parliament adopted a report on the use of the flexibility instrument primarily for the budget for Iraq. The Commission proposes to continue the support to the stabilisation and reconstruction process in Iraq initiated in 2003 and 2004 as one of its key external responsibility priorities in 2005. For that purpose, an amount of €200m is set aside in the 2005 budget, of which €190m to be implemented under "Aid for rehabilitation and reconstruction of Iraq" and €10m under "Development and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law – Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms". These amounts will be financed by redeployment and mobilisation of the margin existing under the ceiling of Heading 4 "External actions" of the financial perspective, and by mobilising the flexibility instrument for an amount of €115m.

The budget for the PEACE II programme is extended to 2006. The total budget is €108m, €50m is allocated for 2005.

The second Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland (2000-2004) demonstrates concrete European Union solidarity and support for the peace process established by the Belfast Agreement. It is designed to address the economic and social legacy of 30 years of conflict in the region and to take advantage of new opportunities arising from the restoration of peace. This programme - unique in Europe - follows the work pioneered in the Special Support Programme Community Initiative (1995-1999).

The programme benefits a wide range of sectors, areas, groups and communities which have been particularly affected by the conflict and encourages cross-community projects. The greatest share of the funding is managed by locally-based partnership structures and by non-government organisations. These structures allow all parts of the community to come together and work at grassroots level, both North and South of the border. This approach has proved successful over the years in paving the way to reconciliation among local stakeholders and extending the reach of EU funding to parts of the communities which would not otherwise have benefited.

This joint UK/Ireland programme forms part of the Community Support Frameworks of both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. The total budget available for funding projects is estimated over €740m, of which the European Structural Funds will provide €531m (75 per cent of public funding). Around 80 per cent of the total programme's allocation will go to projects in Northern Ireland and 20 per cent to the Border Region of Ireland; 15 per cent of the overall programme will be attributed to cross-border projects.

Finally, the flexibility instrument will also be used to the tune of €40m in order to find a solution to the financing of agencies, whose numbers have increased over recent years which causes certain difficulties in the financing of internal policies.

Press enquiries:
Jean-Yves Loog
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73636
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44652
e-mail :  budg-press@europarl.eu.int


Commission Work Programme

Parliament sets out EU priorities for next five years
Motions for resolutions - Strategic political orientations
Doc.: B6-0205/2004, B6-0210/2004, B6-0211/2004, B6-0213/2004, B6-0214/2004, B6-0215 /2004
Vote: 16.12.2004

Vote

Parliament believes that the central objectives of the 2004-09 European Commission should be: (i) to increase the competitiveness and dynamism of Europe’s social-market economy, on the basis of sustainable development, (ii) to ensure the cohesion and consolidation of Europe, underpinned by the success of enlargement, (iii) to develop an area of freedom, security and justice, while protecting citizens’ fundamental rights, (iv) to make Europe a stronger and more effective force in building a safer and more prosperous world, (v) to improve the quality of life of Europe’s citizens, and (vi) to make Europe work better and bring it closer to the citizen. This was the message set out in a joint resolution adopted by 284 votes in favour, 154 votes against and 17 abstentions on the new Commission's political strategy. The resolution was put forward by the EPP-ED, ALDE and UEN groups.

A more competitive, more cohesive Europe

MEPs reiterate their support for the EU’s Lisbon strategy as the best way of achieving a competitive European economy, and maintains that sustainable economic development should be the guiding principle for future policy. The House stresses, however, that the EU’s Lisbon strategy currently addresses too many, often competing, objectives. MEPs urge the Commission, in the context of the Kok report and next spring’s mid-term review, to invest significant political capital in streamlining and refocusing Lisbon on the central objective of generating sustainable growth and employment, with a more precise timetable for the achievement of its goals over the next five years.

An area of freedom, security and justice

Parliament believes that the domestic and international fight against terrorism and organised crime – and the structures which sustain them – is critical to building a safer Europe for our citizens. Parliament believes that Europe should pursue a stronger common approach to security and an effective, coordinated counter-terrorism policy. The House stresses the importance in this process of ensuring the right balance between the requirements of law enforcement and the protection of fundamental freedoms and personal data.

A stronger Europe in a safer world

Believes that, in the interests of prosperity and peace, it is important that Europe uses the next five years to project stability among its neighbours, promote democracy, human rights and good governance around the world, extend international free trade, and encourage sustainable development. Parliament believes that the promotion of regional stability and democracy is a distinctive value-added which the EU can offer to the international community, often with striking success. MEPs believe that every effort should me made in this process to give more consistency and coherence to the external actions of the Union.

A Europe that works better and is closer to the citizen

Invites the Commission to come forward with innovative ideas for giving greater substance to the concept of European citizenship, so that Europe delivers visible benefit to real people in their daily lives. The House encourages the Commission to accelerate work in the field of better law-making, with a view to (i) simplifying and reducing the volume of existing legislation, (ii) ensuring that consistent principles are applied in the drafting of new legislation, and (iii) securing agreed procedures between EU institutions for the prior assessment of the likely impact of all substantive legislative proposals.

Press enquiries:
Richard Freedman
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73785
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41448
e-mail :  rfreedman@europarl.eu.int


Human Rights

Sakharov Prize awarded to Belarus Association of Journalists
Award of Sakharov Prize 2004 to the Association of Journalists of Belarus
14.12.2004

President Josep BORRELL stated that it was a great honour and pleasure to welcome the representatives of the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ) to the Parliament to receive the 2004 Sakharov Prize. "The prize recognises the work of journalists who often put their lives at risk to inform their co-citizens." He recalled that this year, 50 journalists and 14 press assistants had been killed, and 200 journalists had been imprisoned. He also recalled the terrible situation of the two French journalists being held hostage for the last 100 days in Iraq.

In Belarus, "things are getting worse and newspapers are being shut down." Society has a right to be heard. Mr Borrell pointed out that the recent elections in Belarus were not recognised by the international community. "Fifteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there are still reminisces of the past". Belarus, he stated, was the only country in Europe to use the death penalty. The European Parliament "would raise its voice high in defence of freedom of expression in Belarus" and will continue to support the Association.

Zhanna LITVINA, President of the Belarus Association of Journalists, stated that it was a great honour for her and her colleagues to receive this prize, which is awarded for defending human rights and basic freedoms.

She gave her speech in Belarusian:

"We consider this award to be a sign of your support of the united democratic movement in Belarus, aiming to defend fundamental values of civil society. The very fact that this year two Belarusian organisations were nominated for the Sakharov prize is a sign that Belarus is in the focus of international attention, that Belarus will become one of priorities for the European Union's New Neighbourhood programme, that European institutions are ready for bilateral cooperation with civil society in my country, and that Belarus, which one of my colleagues has compared to a chess figure fallen off a chess board, will once become an independent subject of international European politics and a potential member of the European Union.

The prize is a signal that we are not alone in upholding our professional principles and rights of our citizens to receive objective information.

Unfortunately, Belarusian authorities have managed to create a closed society built on isolation, ignoring democratic values, international standards and agreements. They still ensure their stability and safety by means of total control over information. The authorities treat mass-media as a component of the administrative mechanism. Mass-media should become the main mechanism of implementing state ideology, said the head of state early this year, fixing this decree in the charter of the Belarusian TV and Radio Company.

Electronic and printed mass-media in Belarus are monopolised by the authorities beyond all measure. Besides, they are considered as a major link in the 'ideological work' and are used for discrediting political opponents, imposing stereotypes and manipulating public consciousness. Access of opponents to electronic mass-media is still completely blocked. Control over electronic mass-media is one of the ways of political survival of the Belarusian authorities.

Contrary to constitutional norms, state ideology is imposed in Belarus as a unique and obligatory ideology. A special course of ideology has been introduced in schools and higher educational institutions, and the creation of a new state structure – ideological 'vertical' in the country has been completed.

In any civilised society the existence of opposition press is a sign of 'bon ton'. In Belarus criticism of the head of the state or a state official can be easily interpreted as an attempt on his honour and dignity. Two years ago, Criminal Code articles were used for the first time in relation to journalists, Mikola Markevich, Paval Mazheika and Viktar Ivashkevich for slander and insult of the head of state. BAJ has carried out action to gather signatures and petitioned the Parliament with an initiative to annul these articles. However, the majority of deputies of the Belarusian Parliament decided not to consider this question.

The situation of freedom of expression usually deteriorates during political campaigns. The Referendum and elections to the Parliament carried out this year in Belarus were no exception.

On the eve of the Referendum, a court fined Elena Ravbetskaya, the editor of the newspaper, Birzha Informatsii, for distributing information offending the honour and dignity of the President. In her article Elena called the Referendum «a challenge to the society» and expressed her opinion, that in carrying out the referendum «one should not only lack any conscience, but also have an absolute neglect of the grassroots…».

Two weeks ago, under the orders of the Ministry of Information, the newspaper was suspended for 3 months for the same publication. This decision will be appealed against in the courts.

However, common practice is that the courts in Belarus as a rule make politically motivated decisions against critical newspapers. This year, lawyers of the Law Centre for Media Protection at BAJ have already taken part in dozens of cases, half of which have been won. Two weeks ago Garry Pahaniayla, vice-president of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee was charged with slandering the head of state. In September, he gave an interview to a journalist of Swedish TV-4, in which was mentioned the names of those who are suspected of involvement in disappearance of Belarusian opposition politicians. The tapes were confiscated at the Belarusian border and were later passed to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Mr. Pahaniayla could be imprisoned for up to 5 years.

Despite the results of investigation of disappearances of Belarusian politicians and a journalist carried out by Christos Pourgurides, a special rapporteur of the Council of Europe, and despite close attention of the international community, it seems that the Belarusian authorities are still not interested in a comprehensive and objective investigation of the disappearance cases.

Belarusian authorities have not given any answer to what happened to a member of our organisation, TV cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky, who disappeared over 4 years ago. We still insist that the investigation should be continued.

During the last presidential election campaign in 2001, direct censorship was carried out in relation to independent media, and newspapers were forced to print with blank spaces. This year, during preparations for the Parliamentary Elections and the Referendum, the biggest problem for non-state newspapers was intervention of the enforcement authorities in their activities, and, in particular, the extra-judicial termination of operations by the Ministry of Information.

In total in 2004, the Ministry of Information has suspended the activities of 19 independent media outlets. The Minister of Information, Uladzimir Rusakevich, justified these actions by minor infringements relating to registration documents. Even when these infringements really took place, they could have been easily eliminated. However, the ministry cynically warned the publications of infringements of the law on the same day as issuing orders to suspend the publishing of the newspapers.

In particular, several days prior to elections, a regional independent newspaper «Mestnaya Gazeta» was suspended for 1 month. In protest, its publisher and editor-in-chief Andrey Shantarovich declared a hunger-strike, which lasted 21 days. After the hunger-strike ended, the journalist was charged with carrying out a non-authorised picket and fined.

Suspending the activities of newspapers is aimed first of all at bankrupting the publications, reducing the number of their subscribers and advertisers. Economic discrimination has become one of the tools of the restriction of activities of an independent press. Higher tariffs for printing and distribution of independent newspapers are vivid examples. One of the tools of pressure on non-state press is a restriction on distribution.

If a publication is critical of the authorities, it almost automatically starts to have problems with printing houses. Today, five independent publications can not be printed on the territory of our country and are forced to use printing facilities in the Russian city of Smolensk.

Belarusian authorities do not respect the legal norms accepted in the democratic world in the field of mass media. It is a deadlock for the authorities, since a state can not normally function if its citizens are deprived of truthful and unbiased information.
But even in these conditions, non-state press in Belarus has managed to stick to the principles of journalistic professionalism. In conditions of information war that authorities wage against its opponents and political opposition, the independent mass media in Belarus remains a source of uncensored and truthful information, one of the last institutions of civil society, controlling the authorities by distributing objective information on political and economic realities.

It would be impossible without the corporate solidarity and support of dozens of European journalistic and human rights organisations – Article 19, International Federation of Journalists, «Reporters without borders», World Association of Newspapers, International League for Human Rights, Danish organisations like the Union of Journalists and International Media Support, FOJO, Norwegian and Swedish Helsinki Committees, Glasnost Defence Foundation, Centre of Extreme Journalism and Lithuanian Union of Journalists with which we have carried out a large programme aimed at the development of the democratic mass-media in Belarus with support of European Commission over the last three years.

We are not alone. Our power is in partnership and cooperation.

I would once again like to thank the Members of the European Parliament for their support and for such an honourable award as the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. It is very important for us that the positions of European institutions regarding principles of freedom of speech and human rights remain strong. Recently, politicians of East European countries have expressed concerns about Belarus at the international level, suggesting formulating a common European strategy in relation to Belarus. The aim of further support of the independent press, civil society and political forces in Belarus should be supported. The prospect of joining European Union in the future is key. I would like to ask for your support for the idea of carrying out hearings on the issues of mass-media and freedom of speech in Belarus with participation of Members of the European Parliament. The purpose of the hearings could be:

- analysis of observation of constitutional norms and guarantees of freedom of speech and observation of international treaties and agreements by the Belarusian side,
and also
- development of recommendations to the Belarusian side
(changing Belarusian legislation in the field of mass-media in line with European standards;
carrying out privatisation and de-monopolisation of mass-media;
transformation of state broadcasting into public service broadcasting;
creation of equal economic conditions for media activities;

We can cope with the authoritarian regime only once the state monopoly has been broken on information, by creating open information, in which there will be a place for freedom of expression and opinions, a place for discussions and forums. We have very little time. In two years there will be presidential elections in the country. It is our chance to become a part of the united Europe."

President Josep Borrell then presented the Sakharov Prize to Zhanna Litvina, President of the Belarus Association of Journalists.

For more information on the Sakharov Prize, please see:
http://www.europarl.eu.int/comparl/afet/droi/sakharov/2004_en.htm


Situation in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Joint motion for a resolution on the situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo
Doc.: B6-0218/2004, B6-0220/2004, B6-0222/2004, B6-0224/2004, B6-0229/2004, B6-0232/2004
Debate/Vote: 16.12.2004

Vote

In adopting a joint resolution on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MEPs condemn the unilateral military action by Rwanda and called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of its troops from Congolese territory. Parliament considers that this unilateral action may have serious consequences for the peace process and stability in the Great Lakes region. Parliament stresses that all commitments must be respected. The House calls on the Government of Rwanda to respect the territorial integrity of the DRC and on all parties to the conflict to respect and comply with the 2003 peace agreements and United Nations Security Council resolutions. MEPs stress that at the International Peace and Security Conference on the Great Lakes, held on 20 November in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, the heads of state committed themselves to ending conflicts in the region. The House strongly condemns the sexual violence and rapes committed in very large numbers in the DRC by armed groups and by certain members of the military and civilian personnel of MONUC.

Parliament calls on the Government of the DRC to implement an emergency medical programme for victims of sexual violence in the eastern part of the DRC. MEPs call on the Government of the DRC, in connection with the restoration of the rule of law, to bring to justice all the individuals responsible for acts of violence. The House welcomes the decision by the United Nations to carry out an inquiry into the allegations of acts of sexual violence against women and, pending the conclusions of the inquiry, calls for the persons involved to be suspended.

Parliament calls on the Council to take all measures to support the African Union which are necessary in order to organise, in liaison with MONUC and under a UN mandate, the disarmament of the illegal armed groups within the territory of the DRC, particularly those of the former Rwandan authorities (the Interahamwe and ex-FAR). The House hopes that the armed forces of Member States of the European Union will participate actively in the formation of the peace-keeping forces of the African Union and of the Congolese unified national army. MEPs call on the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions (travel restrictions, bans on banking services) on persons who are known to have participated in the pillaging of assets and on any person whose actions jeopardise the peace process. Finally, MEPs call for the timetable for the elections to be respected so that the people of the DRC can freely and democratically choose their leaders.

Press enquiries:
Richard Freedman
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73785
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41448
e-mail :  rfreedman@europarl.eu.int


Bhopal industrial disaster
Joint motion for a resolution on Bhopal
Doc.: B6-0216/2004, B6-0221/2004, B6-0223/2004, B6-0226/2004, B6-0228/2004, B6-0233/2004
Debate/Vote: 16.12.2004

Vote

MEPs adopted a joint resolution expressing their sincerest sympathy to the relatives of the deceased and those still suffering from the after-affects of exposure to the gas, and calls for better compensation and treatment for the victims. Parliament condemns the fact that inhabitants still do not have access to anything near their daily requirements in clean water while lawyers continue debating who should shoulder responsibility for those affected by the disaster. In particular MEPs calls on the Governments of India and Madhya Pradesh to: (a) ensure the effective and prompt decontamination and clean-up of the Bhopal site, (b) ensure regular supplies of adequate safe water for domestic use by the affected communities, in line with the order issued by the Supreme Court, and ensure adequate and accessible healthcare for all survivors, (c) reassess the compensation received by victims, following the 1989 settlement, and make up any shortfall, in line with the Supreme Court’s 1991 order.

The House deeply regrets that the 1989 settlement between Union Carbide and the Indian Government has never had any positive impact on those exposed to the gas, nor indeed paid any attention to the environmental impact thereof. MEPs stress that the overall efforts by survivors to get proper justice through both the US and Indian courts has so far been unsuccessful. They call for an independent inquiry into the actual situation in Bhopal, possibly under the auspices of the UN Commission on Human Rights, engaging the relevant Special Rapporteurs to visit India in order to examine the effect of UCIL/UCC activities and the Bhopal disaster on contamination of the groundwater and the environment, and consequently on the human rights of affected communities.

MEPs support the WHO initiative launched in December 2001, through the International Program on Chemical Safety (IPCS), for improving both national and global chemical incident preparedness and response through the development of an early warning system and a programme of capacity strengthening in Member States. The House underlines that bad working conditions, the lack of any proper security systems, totally inadequate risk assessment in the plant in Bhopal, elements which were well known to the executive management of the plant as well to the Indian authorities, were the main causes of the disaster. MEPs call on the Commission to look into ways in which the European Union could assist in the comprehensive and definitive decontamination of the site and, in the meantime, in the supply of drinking water. Finally, MEPs welcome the Commission's legislative proposals to make more information available about some 30 000 chemical substances currently in use.

Press enquiries:
Richard Freedman
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73785
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41448
e-mail :  rfreedman@europarl.eu.int


Situation in Zimbabwe
Joint motion for a resolution on Zimbabwe
Doc.: B6-0212/2004, B6-0217/2004, B6-0219/2004, B6-0225/2004, B6-0227/2004, B6-0230/2004, B6-0231/2004
Debate/Vote: 16.12.2004

Vote

In adopting a joint resolution by 76 votes in favour, 0 against with 1 abstention, MEPs insist that all political interference in the distribution of international food aid be halted without delay, to prevent the Zanu-PF government from using food as a political weapon. The House insists that repressive legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act be repealed and that the forthcoming elections in Zimbabwe be held in accordance with the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections, including those agreed in Mauritius on 17 August 2004, with unimpeded access for international observers and an end to intimidation of opposition supporters. Parliament demands the immediate release of Roy Bennett MP and the cessation of all violence and intimidation towards his family and employees.

MEPs call upon Zimbabwe’s neighbours and, in particular, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who recently addressed the European Parliament, to undertake on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe to bring about change for the better and ensure that the Zimbabwean Government fully cooperates with SADC and the wider international community to guarantee free and fair elections and a robust and timely international monitoring presence. Parliament welcomes the steps taken by the African Union Commission on Human and People’s Rights to report on abuses in Zimbabwe, and stresses that the AU must continue to monitor, and also act in regard to, the human rights, civil rights and political situation in Zimbabwe and to keep up this process of peer review throughout Africa. Finally, the House reiterates its demand to the Council and Commission that loopholes in the EU’s targeted sanctions against the Mugabe regime be closed, and that the sanctions be rigorously enforced. MEPs also request that the Council and Commission provide maximum support for international efforts to ensure free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, and in particular technical support to local, regional and international observer missions.

Press enquiries:
Richard Freedman
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73785
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41448
e-mail :  rfreedman@europarl.eu.int


Regional Policy

International Fund for Ireland - yes to extension to 2006
James NICHOLSON (PPE, UK)
Report on the proposal for a Council regulation concerning Community financial contributions to the International Fund for Ireland (2005-2005)
Doc. A6-0071/2004
Procedure: Consultation
Vote: 14.12.2004

In adopting a non-binding resolution on the EU's financial contributions to the International Fund for Ireland (2005-2006), MEPs agree to extend the annual EU contribution of €15m to the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) be continued for a further 2 years until the end of 2006. This period coincides with the end of the current programming period for the Structural Funds and the extended period for the PEACE II programme.

At the present time (December 2004), the Institutions set up under the terms of the April 1998 Good Friday Agreement remain in suspension as talks aimed at their reestablishment proceed. The ending of the Community’s financial contribution to the IFI or the PEACE Programme would amount to sending precisely the wrong political message at this critical time in what is, by necessity, an on-going peace process.

For this reason, Parliament rapidly approved the proposal, without amendment, so as to allow this Regulation to come into force on 1 January 2005.

The Commission aims to promote a closer alignment between the Fund’s activities and the objectives of the EU’s cohesion policy and to ensure that funding is genuinely additional to other public and private finance. In particular, it intends that the Community contribution be allocated so as to favour cross-border or cross-community cooperation, to promote sustainable economic and social improvement.

The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) was established as an independent international organisation by the British and Irish Governments in 1986 as a result of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 15 November 1985. This committed both governments to promoting "the economic and social development of those areas of both parts of Ireland which have suffered most severely from the consequences of the instability of recent years" and "to consider the possibility of securing international support for this work".

The objectives of the Fund are:

• to promote economic and social advances; and
• to encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation between nationalists and unionists throughout Ireland.

With contributions from the United States of America, the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the total resources committed by the Fund to date amount to some €712m. The EU began contributing to the Fund in 1989 and now officially accounts for 44% of annual income. However, if recent currency fluctuations are taken into account, the EU is now the largest single donor providing more than half of the Fund’s revenue. Thus in 2004, the EU contributed €15m, compared to $18.5m from the US (€14.5 at the current rate of exchange) and 0.333m (€0.212) from Canada.

The Board of the Fund is appointed jointly by the British and Irish Governments. It is assisted by an Advisory Committee of officials appointed by the two Governments. The administration of the Fund is provided by a Secretariat, headed by Joint Directors General based in Belfast and Dublin. Where appropriate, Government Departments and public bodies act as administering agencies for the Fund, North and South.

Press enquiries:
Richard Freedman
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73785
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41448
e-mail :  rfreedman@europarl.eu.int


Youth and Education

Improving communication between employers and job applicants
Ljudmila NOVAK (EPP-ED, SI)
Report on the Council common position for adopting a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a single Community framework for the transparency of qualifications and competences (Europass)
(12242/1/2004 – C6-0158/2004 – 2003/0307(COD))
Doc.: A6-0056/2004
Procedure : Codecision (2nd reading)
Debate : 13.12.2004
Vote : 14.12.2004

Parliament adopted a legislative resolution to develop a coherent framework for the various documents which certify the qualifications and experience of EU citizens. The whole project, known as EUROPASS, will make it easier for employers to assess job applicants from other Member States, as their qualifications and experience will be presented in a common format. This should improve the level of communication between applicant and employer. The use of any element of the EUROPASS system is purely voluntary. It is based around the 'European CV' developed in 2002, to which the other documents will be linked. The Commission's proposal suggested the package would include:

- the European CV;
- the 'MobiliPass' which shows periods of training in other Member States;
-  the Diploma Supplement, an existing document produced by educational establishments to give additional information on exactly what educational pathway the individual concerned followed to obtain the diploma;
-  the Certificate Supplement, which provides more detail as to what a particular vocational qualification entails;
- the European Language Portfolio, where citizens can document their linguistic skills.

These various documents already exist in one form or another - the EUROPASS will bring them together.

At the first reading stage, Parliament adopted fourteen amendments, twelve of which have been essentially agreed by the Council. The two remaining amendments have also been adopted in a revised form. Parliament adopted the report without further amendment.

Like Parliament, the Council has added further documents to the EUROPASS package, including one relating to IT skills. It also suggested that citizens' access to the proposed EUROPASS information system should be more clearly set out in the legislation, and that the EUROPASS logo should be on all the documents in the portfolio.

EUROPASS will now be able to come into force, as planned, on 1 January 2005.

Press enquiries:
Pernilla Jourde
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 72420
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 43411
e-mail :  cult-press@europarl.eu.int


Other items

Reports adopted
Vote: 14/16.12.2004

The following reports were adopted.

Jean-Louis BOURLANGES (ALDE, FR) on application of Article 251 of the EC Treaty -

(502 votes in favour, 62 against and 20 abstentions).
Edward McMILLAN-SCOTT (EPP-ED, UK) on democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms in third countries
Dimitrios PAPADIMOULIS (GUE/NGL, EL) on extension of the Community action programme in the field of civil protection (562 votes in favour, 16 against and 7 abstentions)
Philippe MORILLON (ALDE, FR) on extension of the EC-Comoros Fisheries Protocol
Sérgio RIBEIRO (GUE/NGL, PT) on protection of deep-water coral reefs in certain areas of the Atlantic Ocean
Esko SEPPÄNEN (GUE/NGL, FI) on granting a Community guarantee to the EIB against losses under loans for certain types of projects in Russia and the WesternNew Independent States (WNIS)
EAFDR - consultation of the ESC
ERDF, ESF and Cohesion Fund - consultation of the CoR
EGCC - consultation of the CoR
Joseph DAUL (EPP-ED, FR) on storage of semen of bovine animals
Joseph DAUL (EPP-ED, FR) on support for rural deveopment (603/20/16)
Joseph DAUL (EPP-ED, FR) on support schemes for farmers/milk and milk products
Elmar BROK (EPP-ED, DE) on Croatia's candidate status
Enrique BARÓN CRESPO (PES, ES) on EC-Mexico Economic Partnership
Enrique BARÓN CRESPO (PES, ES) on EC-San Marino Cooperation and Customs Union Agreement
Pervenche BERÈS (PES, FR) on EC-Swiss Confederation Agreement in the field of statistics
Ian HUDGHTON (Verts/ALE, UK) on adaptation of Directive 77/388/EEC on VAT following enlargement
Giuseppe GARGANI (EPP-ED, IT)
- on Euro-Med partnership
- on credit insurance, credit guarantees and
financial credits
- on stocks of crude oil and/or petroleum
- on verification of credentials
Philippe MORILLON (ALDE, FR) on EC withdrawal from Baltic Fishing Convention
Alexander STUBB (EPP-ED, FI) on Convention on the future of the European Union
Ewa KLAMT (EPP-ED, DE) on EC-Sri Lanka Agreement on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation
Francesco SPERONI (IND/DEM, IT) on request for the waiver of Mr Wieland's parliamentary immunity

Press enquiries:
Richard Freedman
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73785
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41448
e-mail :  rfreedman@europarl.eu.int


External Relations

EU-Russia relations - regret at lack of progress
Motions for resolutions - EU-Russia Summit
Doc. B6-0197/2004, B6-0198/2004, B6-0206/2004, B6-0207/2004, B6-0208/2004, B6-0209/2004
Vote: 15.12.2004

Vote

In a resolution adopted by 547 votes in favour, 30 against and 10 abstentions, MEPs regretted the lack of substantial progress at the November EU-Russia Summit on creating common areas of freedom, security and justice, external security and education and culture. They condemned recent terrorist attacks in Russia and neighbouring countries and welcomed counter-terrorism cooperation measures, as long as these would not lead to an erosion of democratic rights or civil society.

Parliament recognised that Russia has a legitimate interest in good relations with its neighbouring countries, such as Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the South Caucasus, but stressed that it should respect the principle of non-interference. MEPs also expressed their concern about "persistent and recurring mass violations of humanitarian law and human rights committed against the civilian population of Chechnya by Russian forces" and about the democratisation process in Russia, including further accumulation of powers by the central government in Moscow. MEPs deplored President Putin's announcement that Russia is developing new nuclear weapons.

However, Parliament welcomed the ratification of the Kyoto protocol by the Duma as well as President Putin's announcement that Russia will shortly sign the border agreements with Estonia and Latvia. MEPs encouraged Russia and other parties to open up Kaliningrad and integrate it economically into the region, as this would be important for the overall development of the Baltic Sea area.

Press enquiries:
Joëlle Fiss
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73656
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41075
e-mail :  foreign-press@europarl.eu.int
&
Marjory van den Broeke
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74337
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44304
e-mail :  foreign-press@europarl.eu.int


Justice and Home Affairs

Tackling vehicle crime
Carlos COELHO (EPP-ED, PT)
Report on the initiative by the Kingdom of the Netherlands for adoption of a Council Decision on tackling vehicle crime with cross-border implications
(5450/2004, 5216/2004 – C5-0056/2004 – 2004/0803(CNS))
Doc.: A6-0052/2004
Procedure : Consultation
Vote : 15.12.2004

Vote

MEPs adopted a non-binding resolution on how to better tackle vehicle crime. Tackling this type of crime is a matter mainly for the competence of the Member States but its perpetrators pay no heed to national borders and therefore a European approach is needed. The draft decision contains specific proposals as regards the co-operation between national competent authorities and the private sector, and the creation of national vehicle crime contact points. This has no financial impact on the EU budget.

The rapporteur, Carlos COELHO (EPP-ED, PT), welcomed the initiative by the Netherlands, particularly the creation of the national contact points. He clarified that the contact points are authorised to exchange experience, expertise and technical information concerning vehicle crime on the basis of existing legislation. Exchange of information shall extend to best practice and shall not include exchange of personal data.

There were 1 175 000 cars stolen in the EU in 2001 of which 63.25 % were recovered. Car theft is estimated to cost €10 billion per year in the EU.

Press enquiries:
Pia Siitonen
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73612
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41498
e-mail :  libe-press@europarl.eu.int


European Asylum System
Jean LAMBERT (Greens/EFA, UK)
Report on asylum procedure and protection in regions of origin
(2004/2121(INI))
Doc.: A6-0051/2004
Procedure : Own.initiative
Debate : 14.12.2004
Vote : 15.12.2004

Vote

Parliament adopted an own-initiative report with 321 votes in favour, 246 against and 13 abstentions on the European Asylum System in which it reacts to two Commission communications:

  • "the managed entry in the EU of persons in need of international protection and the enhancement of the protection capacity of the regions of origin" (COM/2004/410);
  • "a more efficient common European asylum system: the single procedure as the next step" (COM/2004/503).

The procedure establishes whether someone is a political refugee or is in need of subsidiarity protection. Subsidarity protection is a protection regime for those who are not political refugees in the sense of the Geneva Convention, but can not return to their home because of the general situation in their home country, such as war.

Parliament deplores the fact that harmonisation of asylum laws has so far been based on the lowest common denominator of the Member States.. Parliament believes that the objectives of a European common asylum policy should be:

  • to improve the quality of asylum decision-making in the EU;
  • to help countries provide effective protection for asylum-seekers and refugees, using international human rights standards as a benchmark;
  • to deal with applications for protection at a level as close as possible to the needs and to regulate safe access to the EU for some of the persons in need of international protection;
  • the fair sharing of responsibility.

MEPs believe support to asylum seekers in their region of origin to be a complement to a common asylum procedure within the EU based upon high standards and in full recognition of international obligations. Such support can not be a replacement for an asylum procedure within the EU. Members stress that enhancing protection capacity in the regions of origin ensures an orderly manner of entry into the EU, while further maintaining the existing right of application for asylum upon spontaneous arrival in an EU Member State. Not only is it unacceptable to abolish the right to ask for asylum within the EU, but Members deem it also unacceptable to set up centres for the holding of would-be migrants in countries of final transit.

Parliament is in favour of resettling in another Member State those who have been entitled by a Member State to international protection. Such a resettlement system should be based on respect for individual wishes and the voluntary participation of all the Member States.. Furthermore, Members call on the EU to ensure that extra money be made available to enhance protection capacities in developing countries that are ready to share responsibility with the EU, instead of redirecting development aid funds for this purpose. However, MEPs urge the EU to exclude the possibility of the financing of holding camps or any other centre limiting the personal freedom of asylum seekers. Furthermore, MEPs call on the Union to explore the possibility of allowing third-country nationals to submit their application for asylum, or another form of international protection, to a potential host Member State from outside its territory.

Parliament proposes that systems be put in place to monitor what happens to those returned to their country of origin when their claim has been deemed unfounded, in order to assess whether correct decisions have been made.

On the single procedure for international protection, Members back the Commission proposals and request that the EU should have an accelerated procedure for granting asylum, taking not more than six months. Not only those who ask for asylum, but also those who ask for subsidiary protection should have opportunities to defend themselves and exercise their right to appeal against decisions which they consider unlawful. Such appeals should have the effect of suspending the decision.

Parliament urges the Commission and the Council to reverse the readmission policy which paves the way for European charter flights to return immigrants to countries of origin. Finally, MEPs see no case for transferring responsibility for deciding asylum claims from the Member States to the EU in view of the legal, practical and political difficulties.

Press enquiries:
Danny de Paepe
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73605
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 42531
e-mail :  libe-press@europarl.eu.int


EU drug policy should be science-based
Giusto CATANIA (GUE/NGL, IT)
Proposal for a European Parliament recommendation to the Council on the European strategy on fighting drugs (2005-2012)
(2004/2221(INI))
Doc.: A6-0067/2004
Procedure : Own-initiative
Debate : 14.12.2004
Vote : 15.12.2004

Vote

With a narrow margin of 285 votes in favour, 273 against with 23 abstentions, Parliament adopted a recommendation to the Council on the European strategy on fighting drugs (2005-2012). MEPs stress that problems such as drug trafficking and drug abuse cannot be solved by each country acting alone, so the EU needs to adopt a common strategy to tackle drug problems. However, they also want national drug policies to be based on scientific knowledge about each type of drug, not on "an emotional response".

The EU Summit (or European Council) is set to adopt a new EU Drugs Strategy for 2005-2012 on 17 December. MEPs are urging the summit to revamp existing European cooperation on drugs policy so as to tackle cross-border and large-scale drug trafficking and to take account of all the implications of the problem, using a scientific approach. It says the new drugs strategy should not be adopted until the results of the previous strategy are known.

MEPs want the Council to propose measures totally different from those currently being used to achieve overall EU drugs strategy goals. For example, they want priority to be given to protecting the lives and health of users of illicit substances and improving their wellbeing and protection. They add that the Council should make harm reduction programmes more widely available, especially to prevent the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases among drug users. MEPs also want the Council to set minimum standards for rehabilitation measures instead of placing too much emphasis on treatment with drug substitutes.

Information and prevention should be stressed, and measures should be taken to protect the lives and health of people with drug problems and prevent them being marginalised. Parliament is keen for rehabilitation programmes to be set up for offenders and users as alternatives to prison and it urges governments to do more to prevent drugs entering prisons. Parliament adopted an amendment by Dutch MEP Sophia IN'T VELD (ALDE) recommending to the Council to take account of the encouraging results achieved by various Member States and other European countries, that are implementing alternative drugs policies.

MEPs call on the Council to boost funding for science-based information campaigns and to fund consultations with civil society organisations and professionals about the impact of drug policies.

Following the arrival of ten new Member States, more cooperation is needed with the states on the EU's new frontiers as these are closer to the countries where drugs originate.

The Council is also urged to take steps to prevent the profits from illegal drug trafficking being used to fund international terrorism, and to apply current legislation on confiscating goods and fighting money laundering. In this respect, MEPs feel the Council should support Italian anti-mafia legislation which authorises the assets confiscated from criminal organisations to be redeployed for community projects. Parliament considers drug production and trade to be the main source of profit for European mafia, a source that contributes to the mafia's capacity for corruption and impunity. MEPs would like to increase development aid to drug-producing countries through programmes to fund sustainable alternative crops and increase research into the use of plants like hemp, opium and coca leaves for medical applications, food security and other beneficial purposes.

Press enquiries:
Pia Siitonen
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73612
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 41498
e-mail :  libe-press@europarl.eu.int


Environment

Pesticide residues in food: more emphasis on consumer health
 
Robert William STURDY (EPP-ED, UK)
Report on the Council common position for adopting a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on maximum residue levels of pesticides in or on food and feed of plant and animal origin and amending Council Directive 91/414/EEC
(9262/1/2004 – C6-0110/2004 – 2003/0052(COD))
Doc.: A6- 0049/2004
Procedure : Codecision (2nd reading)

Vote : 15.12.2004

Parliament approved, by a large majority, a compromise package reached by the Environment Committee's rapporteur, Robert STURDY (EPP-ED, UK), other political groups and the Council presidency on a new regulation on pesticide residue levels in food or animal feed. The agreement places greater emphasis on consumer protection. In order to close the procedure the Council still has formally to adopt it.

The draft regulation is intended to simplify existing legislation on maximum residue levels (MRLs) of pesticides in food or feed. It replaces four existing directives and amends another. It defines the roles of the different actors in the process, particularly that of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). All MRLs are to be harmonised after a transitional 'phasing-in' period and will be set at European level and not national, as is the case now. They will be listed in annexes, to be established by EFSA, the Commission and the Member States for around 1000 pesticides and 160 crops. For the interim, temporary MRLs, already in existence or based on national MRLs, will be used.

In its second-reading vote, MEPs strengthened the core aim of the regulation by introducing a compromise amendment to the purpose of the legislation. The amendment clarifies the aim of the regulation as being to set harmonised MRLs of pesticides in products in order to "ensure a high level of consumer protection".

Another amendment passed calls on the Member States to publish, on annual basis, all the results of national residue monitoring on the Internet. Where MRLs are exceeded Member States may name the retailers, traders or producers concerned. The compromise also states that MRLs for imported commodities should not normally exceed the MRL limits set for domestic commodities. The deal also reiterates a demand for a separate assessment for herbal infusions due to their many component parts.

The compromise also seeks to clarify the definitions of certain terms used in the regulation. In the vote, Parliament supported the compromise view that ”good agricultural practice” should entail integrated pest control in certain climate zones, as well as using the minimum quantity of pesticides and setting MRLs at the lowest level. In addition, the concepts of an "acute reference dose" (the amount of a substance in food that can be ingested over a short time without appreciable risk to the consumer) and of "acceptable daily intake" (the amount of a substance that can be ingested daily over a lifetime) should take account of "the sensitive groups within the population (e.g. children and the unborn)".

Press enquiries:
Leena Maria Linnus
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 887 63969
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 42825
e-mail :  envi-press@europarl.eu.int


Last updated: 20 December 2004Legal notice