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 Index 
The Week
10-01-2005(s)
Minute of silence for victims of Tsunami
Tsunami aid - pledged money must be spent
A clear "yes" to the Constitution
A more efficient vehicle insurance system
Election of European Ombudsman - Nikiforos DIAMANDOUROS re-elected
PEACE Programme for Ireland set to be extended
Debt relief
Transatlantic relations - MEPs call for fresh approach
Ukraine elections - new form of EU relations
Climate Change
Situation in Tibet
Torture in Iran
Trafficking of women and children in Cambodia

THE WEEK

10-13 January 2005

Strasbourg

Tsunami aid - pledged money must be spent
  • A clear "yes" to the European Constitution
  • European Ombudsman re-elected
  • PEACE Programme for Ireland - extension approved
  • Ukraine elections

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 0.70 as at 13.01.2005.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Editors:

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 173785

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, 13 January 2005


Political groups in the European Parliament
Situation as at: 13.01.2005

 

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 Session

Minute of silence for victims of Tsunami
 
10.01.2005

Parliament held one minute of silence for the victims of the Tsunami.


Development & Cooperation

Tsunami aid - pledged money must be spent
Motions for resolutions - EU aid for tidal wave victims in Asia
Doc.: B6-0034/2005, B6-0059/2005, B6-0060/2005, B6-0062/2005, B6-0063/2005, B6-0064/2005
Debate : 12.01.2004
Vote : 13.01.2005

Vote

In a joint resolution adopted by Parliament with 560 votes in favour, 1 against and 19 abstentions, MEPs expressed their condolences and deepest sympathy to the peoples and governments of the afflicted countries, as well as to all the families of victims in Southeast Asia, East Africa, Europe and elsewhere. The House expresses its thanks to the people of the countries affected for the way they responded to the human disaster, despite their own personal suffering and loss, giving so much succour to European nationals affected by the disaster.

The emergency response
MEPs call on the international community to pay special attention to the situation of the 1.5 million children who, according to UNICEF’s estimates, have been affected by the disaster. The House urges that relief be directed towards finding, identifying and reuniting children who have lost their families, ensuring that children are returned to school as soon as possible and, in the light of reports which suggest that child traffickers are emerging to take advantage of the disaster by selling the youngsters into forced labour or sexual slavery, directing the relief effort towards ensuring that children are protected from exploitation.

Financial response
MEPs fully support the announcement by the European Commission that it will provide for an additional amount of €100m from the emergency aid reserve. The House notes, moreover, the Commission’s intention of providing for additional financial assistance of up to €350m for rehabilitation and reconstruction aid to help in the relief efforts following the Asian tsunami disaster. MEPs welcome the EU’s rapid disbursement of the initial €23m, as well as the involvement of ECHO experts in the relief effort. The House further welcomes the mobilisation of the European Community Civil Protection Mechanism, which has been active since the tsunami occurred, as well as the supporting work of the European Commission’s Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), which has coordinated this assistance. The House welcomes the proposal for a €1bn ‘Indian Ocean tsunami lending facility’ to be managed by the European Investment Bank, but demands that any funding respect sustainable social and environmental standards. MEPs take the view that any substantial contribution by the EU to the reconstruction and development of tsunami-affected countries should not be offered to the detriment of assistance to other countries or region. EU assistance will be financed taking into consideration the budgetary procedures and, if necessary, on the basis of all possibilities provided for in the Interinstitutional Agreement of 6 May 1999 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline and improvement of the budgetary procedure.

Medium-term action
The House calls for the technology for a comprehensive and effective early warning system to be developed without delay and made available to the countries of the Indian Ocean, as well as those of other regions vulnerable to tsunami and other natural disasters

Long-term needs
Parliament stresses that rebuilding the affected areas must focus on improving the situation of the surviving inhabitants by aiming to reduce poverty as well as future vulnerability to tsunami. MEPs insist that all funds given for reconstruction must be subject to full transparency and accountability before their disbursement. Parliament calls on the governments concerned to develop National Reconstruction Plans which include mechanisms for a broad spectrum of civil society to participate in their design and implementation.

Sri Lanka and Indonesia
Finally, MEPs call on the European Union and the international community to promote the peace processes in Indonesia and Sri Lanka alongside long-term reconstruction and rehabilitation aid to those countries.

Debate

Statement by President Borrell

President Josep BORRELL called it a "terrible tragedy". President Borrell informed the House that Commission President José BARROSO had kept him up- to-date with developments. Mr Borrell stated that he had sent a message to the Jakarta Conference stating that there would be no delay in EU budgetary assistance. President Borrell outlined that the Budgets Committee, (along with the Council), would be deciding on Tuesday whether to release a further €100 million from the reserve. The Parliament would also examine any new proposals from the Commission on reconstruction. President Borrell stressed the importance of new financial resources to be able to meet these reconstruction needs. "One can not rob Peter to pay Paul."

Finally, Mr Borrell outlined that two MEPs would be going to the Geneva Donor Conference as part of the EU delegation. He also stressed the need for a prevention alarm system to be built up.

MEPs support aid to tsunami-hit countries

Representing the Council Presidency, Jean ASSELBORN, Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, opened the debate on the earthquake and tsunami in Asia. He said this had been an unprecedented disaster, causing at least 160 000 deaths, not counting the many who were still missing and the millions displaced or made homeless. He said the Luxembourg presidency had responded immediately - as well as sending representatives to the region, there had been immediate contacts with the UN and a special meeting of the General Affairs Council on 7 January.

This last meeting had reaffirmed the EU's solidarity with the region and he thanked the people of the affected countries for the help they had offered European citizens who were present. Mr Asselborn stressed the importance of the UN's co-ordinating role in managing emergency aid. He stated that it was important that EU assistance should not be at the expense of other development spending priorities. The Council had also discussed plans for the future: for an early warning mechanism and prevention strategy, and for the development of a rapid reaction force, an increased EU role in co-ordinating aid structures and the strengthening of consular help. They had also examined the options for debt servicing issues. On 31 January, the Council would meet again to take these ideas forward into an action plan for the future.

Commission President José Manuel BARROSO's intervention is summarised below.
"The first support package was announced on the day that the tsunami struck and we have now committed through ECHO €23m. However, as Kofi Annan has underlined, a billion US dollars will be needed immediately. In answer to this, I propose, as part of the pledge, that a further €100m is allocated from the emergency reserve to assist in this effort. I understand your committees have been discussing this proposal favourably.

In this regard, I fully support the Parliament’s approach of underlining the co-ordination role of the UN.

On the reconstruction side, I propose that €350m is made available. I had envisioned that part of this would come from fresh funds and part from a reprogramming of funds already planned for the affected countries. Although the reconstruction task will take up several years, the financing of this reconstruction effort should be provided in this and next year.

I understand the reprogramming part of my proposal has caused some concern in Parliament. So why am I proposing this? The main reason is speed – the funds for projects planned for 2005 are already on the table and can be used for the urgent immediate reconstruction work. Waiting for fresh funds to come on stream will take up to six months – we need to move with reconstruction funds now. All donors are responding in the same way – including the World Bank – to leverage funds for tsunami as fast as possible.

I also do not believe this approach will have any negative side effects. Will this lead to a cancellation of already planned projects? No – if governments decide with us that a tsunami related project takes immediate priority, the originally planned project can be taken up in 2006 or 2007, under the new financial perspective.

Will this lead to Asia robbing other regions of their funds? No. Any projects that would be reprioritised and delayed in this way will be within the Asia envelope which, if necessary, will need to be readapted and I count on your support in this regard. Quoting from a draft resolution I have seen from Parliament, I can assure you that ”the poor across the world will not pay the price of this disaster.”

In Indonesia, the Commission has a €35m programme which aims to improve access and quality of health care at the community level. If government agrees, this can be extended quickly to help rebuild and strengthen health care facilities damaged by the tsunami. Alternatively, in Sri Lanka, we are planning to co-operate with the World Bank on a housing programme to help resettlement of internally displaced persons. Similarly, this could be broadened quickly to help rehouse families displaced by the tsunami.

Whatever the level of new funding, I stress that the Commission needs to look at how planned projects can be reprogrammed in this way to ensure that we can respond on reconstruction within the critical first months.

But the Commission’s pledge was provisional and could be revisited once final costings are in. We already know needs are huge and there could be room even for a higher contribution of fresh funds if both Parliament and Council would agree to it.

The Commission will need to also address punctual and particular projects that will be better delivered by direct implementation rather than passing through the national budgets. For example, there may be some specific work that is started in the humanitarian phase that can be usefully continued under the initial reconstruction phase. Alternatively, there may be specific conditions that prevent easy access for the national budget to certain geographic regions or indeed to the poorest communities who must benefit from this tsunami reconstruction. Such cases would also warrant the continued channelling of a part of our funds through NGOs.

In every successful emergency programme organised by the Commission, the Parliament has played a pivotal role. In this regard, I think of Afghanistan or the Balkans. And this role is not simply to agree on funding but to follow the programme and to lend political weight when needed to ensure the programme’s political goals remain on track.

I recognise the importance placed by Parliament on additional measures beyond aid that the EU can provide to further help the countries affected by the tsunami. You can rest assured that all Commission departments are mobilised to investigate in their particular areas what can be done in this regard. This includes support to G8 debt moratorium initiatives, investigation of possible trade initiatives ease trade access to the Union for the countries’ concerned and work with the governments in seeking to facilitate the implementation of the European Investment Bank’s ”Indian Ocean Tsunami Facility”. The Member States and Commission agreed in the General Affairs Council to offer direct support to the countries in their efforts to develop early warning systems so they will be better able to respond to future natural disasters.

The Commission is also considering proposals for a new EU approach to reinforce capacity for disaster prevention. I welcome proposals for the development of a rapid response humanitarian capacity for the European Union which would permit it to enhance its assistance in future disasters and humanitarian crises.

I noted with interest the ideas being floated on the possibility of supplying fishing vessels from decommissioned EU fleets to the fishing communities in the affected countries. The idea is very appealing - we have all seen pictures of boats wrecked by the tsunami and our own fishing industry is about to destroy boats from its own fleet in line with fishery limits. My services are currently exploring whether vessels are available, what state of repair they are in and, if they meet the needs of the fishing communities in the tsunami affected areas, how they could be made available to fishermen in the tsunami affected areas. I hope that this initiative will work and will report back to you with the results of our work.

Last, but not least, we must recognise the political dimension of the tsunami crisis on the political problems in Aceh and in the north and east of Sri Lanka. The international community must impress on the players involved that the tsunami crisis must not lead to a drift back towards conflict but that instead it is recognised as an opportunity to reinvigorate the search for peaceful and long term solutions to these problems. In doing that, we will of course pay due attention to the sensitivities of the two countries concerned. "

Political Group interventions

Nirj DEVA (UK), for the EPP-ED group, reported that he had just returned from Sri Lanka and he expressed his gratitude to all those who had donated aid. Aid from EU countries, he said, now was close to €1.5bn and rising. He welcomed the initial €23m released by the EU and the further €350m promised. Mr Deva also welcomed the possibility of setting up a €1bn lending facility from the European Investment Bank. He also welcomed the "hands on" approach of EU Development Commissioner Louis MICHEL. Mr Deva stressed the importance of "aid not being stolen" and ensuring accountable and transparent delivery mechanisms. The need to end conflicts both in Aceh and Sri Lanka was highlighted by Mr Deva. He called for "a hand up and not merely a hand out."

Martin SCHULZ (DE), for the PES group, stated that he had agreed with much of the discourse on the aftermath of the Tsunami from all EU institutions. The tragedy underlined, he said, the "global village nature of the world" and the need for solidarity at a supranational level. This is why the EU's contribution was particularly important. He welcomed the reconstruction proposals from the Commission. The most striking piece of news he had heard in recent days, he said, was the fact that the citizens of Beslan had raised 1 million rubles (€30 000) for the victims of the tragedy in Asia. This, he said, showed the remarkable solidarity between peoples.

Graham WATSON (UK), for the ALDE group, also underlined that the "global tragedy required a global response." He stated that it would be a challenge for the United Nations. He welcomed the initial EU response and the generous private and public aid. He stressed the importance of pledges being fulfilled and cited that only 2 per cent of the money pledged after the earthquake in Bam in Iran had been spent. In the future, the EU should be able to send infrastructure following major disasters including floating hospitals. Mr Watson pointed out that the stricken countries would pay more in trade tariffs in one year then they would receive in aid. He also stressed that existing technology could save many lives if it were available in all nations.

Daniel COHN-BENDIT (DE), for the Greens/EFA group, stated that it was difficult to debate after such a tragedy. He supported the Council and Commission proposals to increase the EU's civil intervention capacity. National governments alone were not in a position to cope with the tragedy. He stressed the importance of conflict prevention and stated that the EU would have to intervene both in the Aceh and Sri Lanka conflicts as well as providing aid and assistance.

Speaking for the GUE/NGL group, Vittorio Emanuele AGNOLETTO (IT) expressed concern that after the first few weeks had passed, there was a risk of cynical manipulation. He said there should be no 'reprogramming': all the €350m of immediate support should be new money and there should be no strings attached to longer term funding. Foreign debt for the affected countries should be written off, he said. He also called for at least a temporary relaxation of immigration rules.

Georgios KARATZAFERIS (EL) spoke for the Independence and Democracy group. He asked how it would be possible to avoid intermediaries taking a cut of aid money. We should, he said, bear in mind that the effects of the tsunami had been something like a nuclear holocaust in the worst affected places. He said the disaster showed it was wrong to shift EU funding from basic research to space research, when the former was the best way to address the risk of future such catastrophes.

Sebastiano MUSUMECI (IT), for the UEN group, said it was vital for the EU to have a civil protection unit, to prevent the spectacle of the EU impotently standing by while the disaster affected areas asked for support. This would be the best way to structure future aid to deal with natural disasters.

The non-aligned MEP Ryszard CZARNECKI (PL) said that in response to the disaster the citizens of Europe wanted honesty not empty speechifying. He questioned whether United States support was more about polishing its image and re-establishing influence in the region than about help for the victims. It was time to show solidarity and speedily send aid - slow, bureaucratic responses should be avoided.

Other speakers

Neena GILL (PES, UK) said 26 December would never be the same again. The disaster had shown we all had a shared fate in the global theatre of environmental risk. She said she had been moved by the heartfelt global response to the events. Having travelled to South India to see relief operations at first hand, she praised the EU's immediate response and also the selfless decision of the Indian government to say that aid should go as a priority to the worst affected countries. In the longer run, however, it was vital that support for India should not be reduced to release funds for reconstruction elsewhere.

Eoin RYAN (UEN, IE) welcomed the "extraordinary response" of governments and people around the world. He called for military and civil resources to be made available in the future as the US had already done. He also insisted that financial support should be new resources and not taken from existing budgets.

John BOWIS (EPP-ED, UK) stated that "on 26 December, the earth moved, and tragedy struck". Mr Bowis expressed his concern for the plight of the many orphans. The general public was the first to move, he said, and shamed governments into matching their generous contributions. He called for lasting effective action including reform of the debt system. Mr Bowis also called for the development of an early warning system, a technology, he said, that was already available in laboratories in Vienna. He also insisted on a fairer trading system between North and South.

Glenys KINNOCK (PES, UK) was concerned "that money was being moved from one need to another, perhaps from Africa to Aceh". The resources, she said, had to be new additional money. The money should not be taken away from fighting preventable diseases such as malaria. She called for the ACP to have their own disaster emergency faculty and was particularly concerned for the Seychelles and Somalia since EDF money might not be available for these countries.

Gay MITCHELL (EPP-ED, IE) stated that the world was shocked by the tsunami. He stated that the EU's reaction only served to demonstrate the EU's inability to react compared to the USA. There was, he said, a clear need for an EU Foreign Minister. Senior EU leaders, he said, had not been visible in the region. He also stressed the risk of taking donor aid for granted once media attention had died down. The 0.7 per cent target of GNP to be allocated to developing countries should be met, he stated, by all EU countries and legislation should be brought in to ensure this. He also insisted that financial commitments and pledges should be actually spent, which had not been the case in the past.

Response to the debate

Responding to the debate for the Council, Nicolas SCHMIT, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Luxembourg, thanked all those who had taken part. While the Council was sensitive to criticisms, he said, it was clear that the EU had not been passive or inactive. There had been a fast response at all levels.

He promised the Council would continue to work closely with Parliament on this matter. He pointed to Wednesday morning's 'trialogue' agreement to release a €100m tranche of aid as an example. The decisions taken by the Council on 7 January would be followed up and all further measures which proved necessary would be taken, he said.

On specific points raised, he agreed on the need to strengthen EU aid coordination mechanisms and looked forward to the Commission's proposals on this at the next General Affairs Council meeting. He stated that support for children at risk was vital, and that work was going on in cooperation with UNICEF and various NGOs on this matter. He argued that internal conflicts in at least two of the affected countries should, at a minimum be prevented from disrupting aid delivery. The Council, he said, would closely monitor the implementation of financial commitments and there was a meeting taking place the same day on debt relief. His own view was that this should be granted to those affected countries which requested it. Finally, he stressed the importance of investing more in alert and disaster prevention mechanisms.

In his response to the debate Commissioner Janez POTOČNIK stated that the response to the disaster would be worked out in close co-operation with the European Parliament. A series of proposals would be made in the short, mid and long-term. The Commission had already released a further €100 million from the emergency reserve. A further €350 million would be available for reconstruction, some of which would be fresh funds, and some resources from programmed funds. A number of flanking measures were required particularly in the areas of debt relief, trade tariffs, immigration, health and the setting up of an early warning system. The Commission, he said, foresaw the possibility of accelerating the revised General System of Preferences in order to benefit trade from the stricken countries.

Press enquiries:
Armelle Douaud
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74779
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 43806
e-mail :  deve-press@europarl.eu.int


Constitutional Affairs

A clear "yes" to the Constitution
Richard CORBETT (PES, UK) & Íñigo MÉNDEZ DE VIGO (EPP-ED, ES)
Report on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe
(2004/2129(INI))
Doc.: A6-0070/2005
Procedure : Own-initiative
Debate : 11.01.2005
Vote :12.01.2005

Vote

By a large majority, the European Parliament has endorsed the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe and says it "wholeheartedly supports its ratification." The report by Richard CORBETT (PES, UK) and Íñigo MÉNDEZ DE VIGO (EPP-ED, ES) was adopted by 500 votes in favour to 137 votes against, with 40 abstentions.

The report contains two parts: the first part is the formal parliamentary resolution, written in language seeking to be as accessible as possible for the general public, which aims to explain to European citizens the advantages of the Constitution compared to the existing treaties. The second part is the explanatory statement, a much longer document which analyses in depth the changes introduced in the Constitution. The co-rapporteurs decided to use the term 'Constitution' throughout rather than 'constitutional treaty.'

In its final version, the resolution concludes that "taken as a whole, the Constitution is a good compromise and a vast improvement on the existing treaties, which will, once implemented, bring about visible benefits for citizens (and the European Parliament and the national parliaments as their democratic representation), the Member States (including their regions and local authorities) and the effective functioning of the European Union institutions, and thus the Union as a whole."
Clarity, effectiveness, democratic accountability, citizenship

The improvements brought in by the Constitution are laid out in the four main themes of the report:

  • greater clarity regarding the objectives of the Union: the treaties will be replaced by a single more readable document, the dual legitimacy of the EU as a Union of states and of citizens is reaffirmed, the canon of common values is made explicit and widened, the confusion between the European Community and the European Union will end, European legal acts are simplified, there are guarantees that the Union will never become a centralised all powerful "superstate", the symbols of the Union are included in the Constitution and there is a solidarity clause in case of terrorist attack or natural disaster.
  • greater effectiveness and a strengthened role in the world: qualified majority voting is to be extended, the European Council will have a two-and-a-half-year chair instead of a six month rotating one, there will be a reduction in the number of members of the Commission, the Union's visibility and capacity as a global actor will be enhanced through the creation of a Union Minister for Foreign Affairs and a single external action service, and by giving the EU legal personality.
  • more democratic accountability: the European Parliament will as a rule decide on an equal footing with the Council on the Union's legislation, the Council will meet in public when debating and adopting Union legislation, national parliaments will receive EU legislative proposals in good time to discuss them with ministers before the Council adopts a position, the President of the Commission will be elected by the European Parliament, all EU spending will be brought under full democratic control, requiring approval of both Council and Parliament.
  • more rights for citizens: the Charter of Fundamental Rights will be incorporated in the Constitution, the EU will accede to the European Convention on Human Rights, a citizens' right of initiative will be introduced, individuals will have greater access to justice in connection with EU law.

Unfounded criticisms rejected

The report also rejects a number of unfounded criticisms: "the Constitution has been the object of some criticism voiced in public debate that does not reflect the real content and legal consequences of its provisions, insofar as the Constitution will not lead to the creation of a centralised superstate, will strengthen rather than weaken the Union's social dimension and does not ignore the historical and spiritual roots of Europe since it refers to its cultural, religious and humanist inheritance."

The future

The Constitution is not set in stone: while it will "provide a stable and lasting framework for the future development of the European Union," many improvements "remain possible in the future." Furthermore, the plenary adopted an amendment announcing "its intention of using the new right of initiative conferred upon it by the Constitution to propose amendments to the latter." In the immediate future, MEPs call for "all possible efforts to be deployed in order to inform European citizens clearly and objectively about the content of the Constitution," and invite in this regard the European institutions and the Member States, when distributing the text of the constitutional treaty to citizens (in unabridged or summary versions) to make a clear distinction between the elements already in force in the existing treaties and new provisions introduced by the Constitution.

MEPs also adopted an amendment inviting the European institutions and the Member States to "recognise the role of civil society organisations within the ratification debates and to make available sufficient support ... to promote the active engagement of citizens in the discussions on ratification."

The plenary also gave a clear mandate to Parliament's administration, and notably its information offices, to "provide ample information about the Constitution and Parliament's position on it." As a reminder, the European Parliament has 25 information offices, one in each Member State's capital, with a further 6 sub-offices in other major cities.

The resolution says Parliament "hopes that all Member States of the European Union will be in a position to achieve ratification by mid-2006" allowing the Constitution to enter force in November of that year. Lithuania and Hungary have already ratified the text through a parliamentary vote. Nine countries will decide by referendum, while thirteen (including the two mentioned above) have chosen the parliamentary route. The remaining three Member States have yet to decide on the procedure for ratification.

Debate

Richard CORBETT (PES, UK), co-rapporteur, stated that the Constitution would enable the EU to "upgrade from a 15 seat mini-bus to a full sized coach with seats for 25 and more." A larger bus would need a larger motor, stronger brakes and even an emergency brake. The Constitution sets out a new set of rules and provided greater clarity encompassed in a single treaty. It also sets out who is responsible for what, with clear procedures and puts to rest the idea of creating a European super-state.

It would, he said, make the Union more effective with more decisions taken by qualified majority voting and would create a single EU Foreign Minister. The Union would also be more democratic, increasing the role of national parliaments. Compared with other international organisations, such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, the EU, he said, was by far the most democratic. The Constitution also gave more rights to citizens, including the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. While the text may not be perfect, he, nevertheless, endorsed his draft joint report to the House and was confident that Parliament would vote in favour of it.

Íñigo MÉNDEZ DE VIGO (EPP-ED, ES) reflected that Europe's founding fathers, Monnet, Schuman and Spinelli, would have seen the Constitution as a unique opportunity to guarantee the Union's values. The Constitution, he said, was built on pillars of democracy. It removed ambiguities from existing treaties. Europe, he said, was more than a simple economic market. The Constitution would remove the so-called democratic deficit from the EU, clarifying and strengthening roles at all levels of government. He too trusted that there would be a large vote in favour.

Political group speakers

Hans-Gert POETTERING (DE), for the EPP-ED group, said that the Constitution had "come a long way given the Nice Treaty as a basis". The EPP side of his group would be giving an unreserved "yes." He welcomed the explicit definition of the Union's values within the Constitution. Mr Poettering also recognised that many had wanted an explicit reference to Christianity or the EU's Judeo-Christian roots. Europe, he stressed, was based on national identity and its strength came from diversity. However, Europe could not be governed solely by intergovernmental methods and the Union's institutions were important. He also stressed the importance of the EU's Near Neighbourhood Policy and called for a single EU seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Martin SCHULZ (DE), for the PES group, recalled that the EU had been borne out of the despicable ways of fascism. Sixty years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the Constitution represented the unprecedented success of the EU as a supranational democratic organisation. He welcomed the inclusion of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and stated that his group would support the draft resolution. The values included in the Constitution, he said, were universal values and were not dependent on religion, belief or creed. He called on all who believed in Europe to support and put their weight behind the Constitution.

Andrew DUFF (UK), for the ALDE group, stated that, in the past, Parliament had often adopted resolutions which were peppered with criticisms on the state of the treaties. This time, however, MEPs had been involved in the drafting of the text. The Constitution strengthened the EU, he said. It defined the relationship between citizens and authority and as Giscard d'Estaing put it, "between dreams and reality". He stated that "if you are for Europe, then you are for the Constitution". It gave the European Parliament more powers and defined clearly who is responsible for what.

Monica FRASSONI (IT), for the Greens/EFA group, stated that the majority of her group would vote in favour of the draft resolution. Mrs Frassoni was satisfied that the Constitution made progress in the areas of sustainable development, increased transparency and simplified procedures. The IGC had made changes to the text adopted by the Convention which only diminished the Constitution. It would be inevitable that Euro-sceptics would oppose it but, in the end, it would mean more democracy at the European level.

Francis WURTZ (FR), for the GUE/NGL group, stated that the draft resolution focussed too much on changes to the existing treaties. The question was more fundamental: what kind of Europe do we want? Mr Wurtz stated that we needed a Europe that would control financial markets. He stated that his group was for Europe and for a more democratic Europe, far opposed to the views of the UKIP. His group also opposed the idea of settling conflict by force and advocated a new policy for international trade. His group would be voting no, but it was a "European no".

Philippe de VILLIERS (FR), for the IND/DEM group, stated that the key word missing from the debate was "sovereignty". He opposed the notion of supranational law, stating that there was no longer the possibility for a single nation to oppose a draft law given the number of decisions taken by majority, generated by a "Brussels bureaucracy".

Brian CROWLEY (IE), for the UEN group, stated that those who had opposed previous treaties were simply rehashing previous arguments about a loss of sovereignty. The Constitution, he said, was a good document which set out clearly the competencies of all levels of government and fully respected the powers of Member States, in particular the smaller ones.

Jim ALLISTER (UK), a non-aligned MEP, stated that the ultimate decision on the Constitution lay with the Member States and not the European Parliament. He stated that it was not simply a tidying up exercise as some in the UK had argued.

Other speakers

Ian HUDGHTON (Greens/EFA, UK) drafted the opinion for the Fisheries Committee and called on the House to support his proposed amendment which states: "Considers that, within the context of the other exclusive competences of the EU which are detailed in the Constitution, the inclusion of the conservation of marine biological resources is anomalous and unjustified".

Timothy KIRKHOPE (UK), the new leader of the UK Conservatives in the European Parliament, recalled that the goal of the Laeken declaration was of bringing Europe closer to the citizens. This had not been achieved through the Constitution. Europe did not need a Constitution, rather it needed a simplifying treaty. There was nothing anti-European about voting against the Constitution. He also criticised the amount of money being spent to mark the vote in Parliament on the European Constitution.

Nigel FARAGE (IND/DEM, UK) stated that so far it had been somewhat a "one sided exercise" and the way some had debated the Constitution it was like debating the "Second Coming". He too criticised "tax payers money being spent on promoting the Constitution". He also made further criticisms of Commissioner Siim KALLAS and accused the Parliament of "burying the truth". The whole process, he said, had been brought into disrepute.

Marian HARKIN (ALDE, IE) said the Nice Treaty initially failed to win the support of the Irish people because politicians took the people for granted. This time, she said, we should ensure all citizens had the information they needed - she favoured sending every household a copy of the document, and the publication of a comparison of the aspects which already existed and those which were new. She said it would bring the EU closer to citizens, notably through the provision for one million EU citizens to have the power to formally call on the Commission to draw up a proposal.

Alyn SMITH (Greens/EFA, UK) said there were some things to admire in the Constitution, but many to dislike. His party (the SNP) would be recommending to the people of Scotland to vote against. He stated that his reasons were principally the inadequate provisions for subsidiarity, which left too small a role for the Scottish Parliament. The disaster of the Common Fisheries Policy showed, he said, the problems when decisions were made without considering the effect on individual nations. Overall, the Constitution did not sufficiently respect the dignity of Scotland.

Kathy SINNOTT (IND/DEM, IE) said her country's Constitution recognised that real fundamental rights came from God, not from human institutions. If human institutions set themselves up as givers of rights, then they would be limited, restricted and could be removed. She said she would defend the Irish Constitution from what she called "this usurpation."

Diana WALLIS (ALDE, UK) also wanted to draw attention to the citizens' right of initiative. In the UK, citizens' petitions lay on shelves gathering dust and individual parliamentarians' proposals were usually talked out. She said she was proud that the EU would be letting its citizens set the agenda in this aspect of direct democracy: the people could move Europe.

Baroness Sarah LUDFORD (ALDE, UK) stated that there were many myths surrounding the Constitution. She welcomed the report by Mr Corbett and Mr Méndez de Vigo with its clear explanations. Baroness Ludford stated that she intended to use these explanations in a pamphlet for her constituents. People, she said, should not be afraid of the word "constitution" as every club and nation has one, although in the UK it has never been written down in its entirety. The Constitution clarified competences and gave citizens more rights. In the area of justice and home affairs in particular, the Constitution would enable the EU to better manage its borders and better tackle serious crime. "The Charter of Fundamental Rights was not a threat but an opportunity, nobody had anything to fear from either the Constitution or the draft report."

Proinsias DE ROSSA (PES, IE) welcomed the draft report stating that it added weight and clarity to the debate. He recalled that he was one of the 200 parliamentarians to take part in the Convention. He doubted whether any previous constitution had been drawn up in such a democratic way. He also recalled that only eight out of the 200 parliamentarians had signed an alternative text that would have lead to a disintegration of Europe. Given the recent disaster in Asia, it was clear that the world needed more transnational governance.

James NICHOLSON (EPP-ED, UK) recalled that the ratification process had just got under way. He had recently been in Bratislava to witness the opening of the "House of Europe". One had also opened in the Czech Republic and there were plans to open such a building in all of the Member States. The aim of these Houses was to bring the EU closer to its citizens. He stressed the need to strengthen ties between the European Parliament and national parliaments. It was not a case of "us and them". Mr Nicholson also underlined the importance of both sides being heard in the debate and for the rights of the minority to be heard and not to be disenfranchised.

Daniel J. HANNAN (EPP-ED, UK) stated that he "did not want to spoil a party" but questioned whether the celebrations were not a "touch premature" given that 10 countries were still to hold referenda. The EU, he said, was going ahead with the Constitution before it had been formally adopted, for example by creating an EU diplomatic service. In the field of justice and home affairs, the EU was going ahead with the creation of a pan-European legal system and the creation of a European public prosecutor. He also regretted that the Court of Justice had said that the "Charter of Fundamental Rights is legally binding before the Constitution had been adopted." Twenty of twenty-five Commissioners, he said, had also stated that they would implement provisions of the Constitution before it was adopted. He stated that if one country voted against the Constitution it should mean an end to it. "No means no"

Response to the debate

In his response to the debate, Richard CORBETT (PES, UK) stated that the debate reflected broad support across the political spectrum. He expected at least a two-thirds majority and some 400 MEPs to vote in favour. One criticism was that the Constitution did not go far enough, Mr Corbett's response was that it was an improvement on the status quo and therefore should be supported. The same was true for those who had wanted to see an explicit reference to the Judeo-Christian traditions. In the existing treaties there was no such reference, he said, however the Constitution did make references to the EU's religious values. Values, he stated, that could be supported by those of all religions and of none.

As to those who said that the Constitution would create a European superstate, he stated that the principal of the supremacy of EU law had been longstanding. He stated those who attacked the Constitution really wanted their Member States to leave the EU and they should stand up and say so. He recalled that the European Commission had "less employees than the city of Leeds in my constituency". It was a case of "myth against reality."

Nicolas SCHMIT, Luxembourg's Minister Delegate of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, for the Council, in his response to the debate, called for both sides of the debate to be respected. However, he stated 19th century language on sovereignty would not answer Europe's needs. The text was not perfect, but as he put it "democracy is about dealing with imperfections". The Constitution recognised "unity in diversity" and recognised the balances required between larger and smaller Member States. All politicians had a responsibility to explain the facts of the Constitution.

Commissioner WALLSTRÖM stated that this was the first time in recent history that the Parliament had not made a series of critical remarks about the outcome of an Intergovernmental Conference. There was no such thing as a perfect document and the Constitution was a result of a compromise. Moreover, it was based on clear values that underpin the Union. Those who argued that it would create a European superstate would have to back up such arguments with concrete facts.

Press enquiries:
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Internal Market

A more efficient vehicle insurance system
Manuel MEDINA ORTEGA (PES, ES)
Report on the Council common position for adopting a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Directives 72/166/EEC, 84/5/EEC, 88/357/EEC and 90/232/EEC and Directive 2000/26/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council relating to insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles
(16182/2003 – C6-0112/2004 – 2002/0124(COD))
Doc.: A6-0073/2005
Procedure : Codecision (2nd reading)
Debate : 10.01.2005
Vote : 12.01.1005

Vote

Parliament adopted a compromise package on insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles. It will be easier to insure, buy and sell a car and to obtain valid cover outside the country of residence. These are the objectives of the fifth automobile insurance directive. The directive is a response to the concerns and complaints, which, the European Parliament was the first to take on board, in calling on the Commission, as early as 2001, to modernise and improve the existing regulations in the field of vehicle insurance.

The new directive goes further than previous regulations. Notably, it makes provisions for short-term insurance. The directive will allow insurance cover for a temporary stay in another Member State other than the country where the vehicle is insured (periods of study, work, second home residences). Indeed, where a vehicle is dispatched from one Member State to another, the Member State where the risk is situated will be considered to be the Member State of destination immediately upon acceptance of delivery by the purchaser for a period of thirty days, even though the vehicle has not formally been registered in the Member State of destination.

The minimum amount of cover for personal injury should be calculated so as to compensate fully and fairly all victims who have suffered very serious injuries, whilst taking into account the low frequency of accidents involving several victims and the small number of accidents in which several victims suffer very serious injuries in the course of one and the same event. A minimum amount of cover of €1m per victim and/or €5m per claim event, regardless of the number of victims, is a reasonable and adequate amount.

Parliament also states that Member States should take all appropriate measures to facilitate the availability in due time to the victims, their insurers or their legal representatives of the minimal data set necessary for the settlement of claims. This minimal data set should possibly be made available in electronic form in a central register in each Member State, and be accessible to parties involved in the case at their explicit request.

Press enquiries:
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Petitions

Election of European Ombudsman - Nikiforos DIAMANDOUROS re-elected
Vote : 11.01.2005

The European Parliament voted to elect the European Ombudsman. The election result was as follows:

VOTES CAST

643

VALID VOTES CAST

609

Number of votes required for an absolute majority

305

Nikiforos DIAMANDOUROS

564

Giuseppe FORTUNATO

45

Abstentions

34

Mr Nikiforos DIAMANDOUROS was therefore elected to serve as European Ombudsman. The election of the European Ombudsman is governed by Rule 194 of the Parliament's Rules of Procedure.

Mr Diamandouros was immediately called upon to take an oath before the Court of Justice.

For more information on the Ombudsman, click here:
http://www.euro-ombudsman.eu.int/home/en/default.htm


Regional Policy

PEACE Programme for Ireland set to be extended
James NICHOLSON (EPP-ED, UK)
Report on the proposal for a Council regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999 laying down general provisions on the Structural Funds concerning the extension of the duration of the PEACE programme and the granting of new commitment appropriations
Doc.: A6-0001/2005
Procedure : Assent
Vote : 11.01.2005

Parliament approved, by 598 votes in favour, 15 against and 18 abstentions, the extension of the duration of the PEACE programme. The Commission is proposing that Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999 be amended so as to extend the implementation of the PEACE programme by two years until the end of 2006, coinciding with the programming period for the Structural Funds. This coincides with a proposal to extend the annual Community contribution of €15m to the International Fund for Ireland for the same period. The wider aim, therefore, is to align the measures financed by these two instruments with interventions carried out in the region under EU cohesion policy.

Press enquiries:
Richard Freedman
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Development & Cooperation

Debt relief
Motions for resolutions - Debt relief for developing countries
Doc.: B6-0022/2005, B6-0023/2005, B6-0024/2005, B6-0027/2005, B6-0030/2005, B6-0031/2005
Vote : 13.01.2005

Parliament adopted a joint resolution from the EPP-ED, PES and ALDE groups on debt relief for developing countries.

MEPs note the cutting of Iraq’s debts by 80%. The House stresses, however, that all creditors, and especially international institutions and national governments, must agree to phase out the debt of the developing world, giving least developed countries (LDCs) priority. The House calls on the Commission and the Member States to take the lead, in multilateral and bilateral fora, in phasing out the external debt of all developing countries. MEPs also demand that they actively pursue the objective of giving 0.7% of GDP as Overseas Development Assistance in order to attain the Millennium Development Goals. MEPs underline that debt relief should prioritise LDCs and only be undertaken on the condition that money gained by governments from such relief must be channelled towards helping the poorest in their communities.

MEPs call for additional debt relief focused on reconciliation and infrastructure rehabilitation for these countries, in order to reduce the likelihood of further conflicts. The House considers that whatever additional funds governments obtain through debt relief should be allocated to social projects by means of plans agreed with donors and civil society, so as to increase social expenditure in areas such as basic education, primary health care and HIV/AIDS. Finally, MEPs call on the Commission and Member States to ensure – through effective coordination within the G8 group, the World Bank and the IMF – that no country genuinely committed to poverty reduction, good governance and economic reform is denied the chance to achieve the Millennium Development Goals through lack of finance.

Press enquiries:
Armelle Douaud
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74779
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External Relations

Transatlantic relations - MEPs call for fresh approach
Motions for resolutions - Transatlantic relations
Doc.: B6-0021/2005, B6-0025/2005, B6-0026/2005, B6-0028/2005, B6-0029/2005, B6-0033/2005
Vote : 13.01.2005

Parliament adopted a joint resolution on transatlantic relations by 319 votes in favour, 94 against and 151 abstentions hoping that the second term in office of President BUSH and the new administration will lead to a fresh start in EU-US transatlantic relations. The House declares the willingness of the European Union, and specifically the European Parliament, to co-operate and work together to solve global problems which require global efforts and a common approach. MEPs in this respect, welcome the visit by President Bush to the European institutions in February 2005. Parliament welcomes the progress achieved at the last EU-US summit on 26 June 2004 in Ireland in strengthening the transatlantic partnership. MEPs consider the readiness to take joint actions in a wide range of fields as a good indicator for the future of the partnership, reflecting the realisation that working together is better than going in different directions. Parliament is aware that in several policy areas, such as the International Criminal Court and Kyoto, differences in analysis, diagnosis and policy approach exist between the EU and the US. The House is concerned about the potentially dangerous impact of the growing US federal budget deficit on the global economy and the balance of international currency markets. MEPs call for a further debate on these policy areas where positions between the EU and the US remain strongly divided and hopes that the new administration will make a real effort to build on the partnership between the EU and the US.

MEPs propose the building of a transatlantic ‘community of action’ for regional and global cooperation and challenges, focusing in particular on the following three joint actions:

(a)  the development of a peace initiative in the Middle East in agreement with the governments and peoples of the region, with the aim of contributing to a solution to the existing conflicts, including encouraging democracy in Palestine, Iran and Iraq;
(b)  the search for global security, which should be tackled with the following priorities in mind: - the fight against international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as the revival of negotiated arms control and disarmament at multilateral level, within the UN system, and at bilateral level;
- the need to address the sources of terrorism through, for example, coordination in the area of development assistance and support for emerging democratic processes on the basis of full respect for human rights and international law. MEPs call on both partners to actively engage in a reform of the UN, and in particular its Security Council, including its composition, in order to make it more effective and accountable and increase capacity to implement its decisions;
- the need for an effective response - on the shared basis of the Millennium development goals - to new global challenges which cut across national boundaries, notably poverty reduction, communicable diseases and degradation of the environment, in particular by promoting dialogues on climate protection and transport emissions. MEPs believe, in this regard, that the tsunami disaster provides the opportunity for a joint concerted assistance and relief action for the countries affected in support of the UN, action which must be followed by a long-term programme of rehabilitation and reconstruction aimed at the sustainable development of the region;
(c)  a new impetus for the strengthening of the economic partnership, by focusing on specific ideas to further transatlantic economic integration to the fullest, working towards a comprehensive Transatlantic Aviation Agreement and accelerating the Financial Market Regulatory Dialogue to promote a vibrant and open transatlantic capital market. Parliament considers that such a dialogue could be used as a model in other sectors to make progress towards the objective of completing the transatlantic market by 2015.

MEPs consider that the above-mentioned initiatives should lead, by December 2005, to agreement between the transatlantic partners to update the 1995 New Transatlantic Agenda, replacing it with a ‘Transatlantic Partnership Agreement’, to be implemented from 2007. The House also considers that the Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue (TLD) should be fully activated, that an early warning system should immediately be put in place between the two sides, and that the existing interparliamentary exchange should be gradually transformed into a de facto ‘Transatlantic Assembly’.

Press enquiries:
Marjory van den Broeke
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Ukraine elections - new form of EU relations
Motions for resolutions - Results of Ukraine elections
B6-0038/2005, B6-0039/2005, B6-0041/2005, B6-0048/2005, B6-0049/2005, B6-0061/2005
Vote : 13.01.2005

MEPs welcomed the "substantially fair elections held on 26 December" in Ukraine, in a resolution adopted by 467 votes in favour, 19 against and 7 abstentions. They congratulated the Ukrainian people for resolving a political crisis and "setting their country firmly on the path towards democracy" in a non-violent and mature way. They said it was now time to consider other forms of association with Ukraine besides the Neighbourhood Policy, giving the country a clear European perspective, possibly leading to EU membership.

MEPs felt that the EU Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan for relations with Ukraine should be revised in order to help Ukraine in its political and economic reforms. During the debate in plenary, MEPs expressed disappointment over the Commission's lack of enthusiasm on this issue. They also advocated relaxing visa requirements for Ukraine, recognition of Ukraine's market economy and support for the country joining the World Trade Organisation. In order to support economic and administrative reforms, financial assistance to Ukraine should be increased considerably.

Parliament urged all sides in Ukraine to accept the election results and called for a speedy transfer of power. It urged the new Ukrainian political leadership to consolidate the espousal of common European values and objectives by taking further steps to promote democracy. MEPs were concerned about the deep divisions within Ukraine and called on all political leaders to make efforts to heal those rifts. Threats of separatism were deemed unacceptable.

Parliament stressed the role of the mediators in resolving the Ukrainian crisis, including the CFSP High Representative, the Presidents of Poland and Lithuania, and the missions of the European Parliament.

Press enquiries:
Marjory van den Broeke
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74337
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44304
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Environment

Climate Change
Motion for a resolution - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Doc.: B6-0032/2005
Vote : 13.01.2005

Parliament adopted a resolution on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Press enquiries:
Leena Maria Linnus
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 887 63969
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Human Rights

Situation in Tibet
Joint motion for a resolution on Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche - Tibet
Doc. :B6-0037/2005, B6-0043/2005, B6-0047/2005, B6-0050/2005, B6-0051/2005, B6-0056/2005
Debate/Vote : 13.01.2005

Parliament adopted a joint resolution with 99 votes in favour, 2 against with 7 abstentions reiterating their support for the rule of law and urges the Chinese government to immediately commute the death sentence handed down to Tenzin Deleg RINPOCHE. The House affirms its call for the abolition of the death penalty and an immediate moratorium on capital punishment in China. Parliament welcomes the statement of the Chinese authorities according to which anyone who is sentenced to death with a suspension of execution and commits no intentional crime during the period of suspension shall have their punishment commuted to life imprisonment on the expiration of the two-year period. MEPs call on the Chinese judicial authorities to put this statement into practice through an official ruling. The House calls once more on the Government of the People's Republic of China to stop its continued violation of the human rights of the Tibetan people and other minorities and to ensure that international standards of human rights and humanitarian law, as well as religious rights, are respected by it. Parliament calls on the Council and the Member States to maintain the EU embargo on trade in arms with the People's Republic of China and not to weaken the existing national limitations on such arms sales. The House considers that this embargo should be maintained until such time as the EU has adopted a legally binding Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and the People's Republic of China has taken concrete steps towards improving the human rights situation, inter alia by ratifying the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and by fully respecting the rights of minorities.

Finally, MEPs call on the Government of the People's Republic of China to step up the ongoing dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama so as to reach a mutually acceptable solution to the Tibet issue without further delay.

Press enquiries:
Richard Freedman
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73785
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Torture in Iran
Joint motion for a resolution on torture in Iran
Doc. : B6-0036/2005, B6-0040/2005, B6-0044/2005, B6-0052/2005, B6-0054/2005, B6-0057/2005, B6-0058/2005
Debate/Vote : 13.01.2005

MEPs adopted a joint resolution by 104 votes in favour, 2 against with 5 abstentions reiterating their general opposition to the death penalty, and in particular strongly condemning the death sentences against and/or the execution of juvenile offenders, pregnant women and mentally handicapped persons. The House calls on the Iranian authorities to give evidence that they are implementing their declared moratorium on stoning, and demands the immediate implementation of the ban on torture as announced, passed by Parliament and approved by the Guardian Council. MEPs condemn the campaign by the judiciary against journalists, cyberjournalists and webloggers leading to the closure of publications, imprisonment, and, according to reports, widespread torture and forced false confessions, and calls on the authorities to release all those detained, prosecuted or sentenced for non-violent press- and opinion-related offences.

The House calls on the Iranian Parliament to adapt the Iranian press law and penal code in the light of Iran's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and, notably, to repeal all criminal law provisions concerning the peaceful expression of opinion, including in the press. Parliament calls upon the authorities to respect internationally recognised legal safeguards, inter alia with regard to persons belonging to religious minorities, officially recognised or otherwise. MEPs welcome the stay of execution concerning Hajieh Esmailvand, and reports that Leyla Moafi's case has been referred to forensic psychiatrists 'to examine her mental condition'. MEPs insist, however, that their alleged 'crimes' are not internationally recognisable criminal offences and that their prosecution does not comply with international human rights standards. Parliament insists that adult consensual sexual activity in private is covered by the concept of 'privacy' and calls for the immediate release of all persons held for such activity. MEPs welcome and support the EU-Iran negotiating process on nuclear issues, also as an occasion to promote progress in the EU-Iran political and human rights dialogues and EU-Iran economic and trade relations, and supports the Council in expecting action by Iran to address also other concerns of the EU, such as ending its support for terrorist organisations, improving respect for human rights and altering its approach to the Middle East peace process. Finally, Parliament hopes that the setting-up of its interparliamentary delegation for relations with Iran will enable it to engage in productive discussions with the Iranian Parliament and also with Iranian civil society.

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


Trafficking of women and children in Cambodia
 
Joint motion for a resolution on the trafficking of women and children in Cambodia
Doc. : B6-0035/2005, B6-0042/2005, B6-0045/2005, B6-0046/2005, B6-0053/2005, B6-0055/2005
Debate/Vote : 13.01.2005

In adopting a joint resolution on Cambodia with 107 votes in favour, 0 against and 1 abstention, MEPs denounce the sexual exploitation of minors as a crime 'erga omnes' and an attack on the fundamental rights of children which must be fought at all levels. They stress its preoccupation with child prostitution in Cambodia and with the trafficking in human beings both to and from Cambodia, with the objective of using them for forced labour, prostitution, begging and illegal adoptions. Parliament recalls the principles of the Charter of Human Rights and especially the rights of girls, in the case of sexual exploitation of minors in Asia and in the rest of the world. The House condemns the attack of 8 December 2004 on the AFESIP shelter for victims of human trafficking in Phnom Penh and the abduction of 91 women and girls, some of them minors. MEPs condemn the sex tourism industry in Cambodia and the other countries where it occurs, and requests that EU Member States create and apply the necessary legislation needed to bring to justice all those involved in sex tourism with minors. Parliament insists that the Commission takes into account the rights of children and women who are victims of trafficking in the programming of its human rights policy, within the framework of the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights. MEPs request that the Commission supports the human rights organisations in Cambodia, especially those dedicated to the protection of victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. The House welcomes the decision of the Government of Cambodia to establish an interministerial committee including representatives of the foreign missions the national and international non-governmental organisations, as observers to witness, further investigate and personally interview the women concerned. MEPs are confident of a positive and fair result from the Interministerial Committee which has just been set up, and recognises that the Cambodian authorities have made efforts to combat trafficking in women and children; underlines, however, the need to increase the number of prosecutions and convictions of traffickers so to put an end to trafficking in women and child prostitution.

The House calls on the Cambodian authorities to guarantee the safety of child protection organisations and their workers, especially for those organisations working to help trafficking and sexual exploitation victims. MEPs call on the Cambodian authorities to guarantee the safety of Somaly Mam, whose life is in danger. Parliament calls on the Government of Cambodia to ratify the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, and the UN Convention against Organised Crime. Finally, MEPs call on the EU Member States to act together in the fight against organised crime and trafficking in human beings, especially the trafficking of minors.

Press enquiries:
Richard Freedman
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73785
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Last updated: 17 January 2005Legal notice