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 Index 
The Week
09-05-2005(s)
Working hours opt-out to end: on-call time to count as working time
60th Anniversary of World War II 
Address by HRH Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Motion of censure tabled
Future of Europe sixty years after the Second World War
Address by President of Afghanistan
Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, FYROM, Serbia and Montenegro - financial assistance
Situation in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia
EU financial assistance for McCartney Family campaign
Mutual recognition of professional qualifications
Cross-border mergers: a step towards clear European rules
MEPs give green light for appointment of Lorenzo Bini Smaghi to the ECB Executive Board
Recasting the 6th VAT directive
Foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses
Statistics on income and living conditions
MEPs want to improve bathing water standards
Aarhus Convention
Climate change ahead of key meeting
Enhancing port security
Preserving Europe's film heritage
Prevention, control and eradication of TSEs
Committee urges Commission to submit new proposal for exceptional market support measures
Protection of New Varieties of Plants
Switzerland to take part in European Environment Agency
Fruits and vegetable sector
Potato starch: MEPs want existing quota system to be extended until 2009
Drought in Spain
Situation in Sudan - conditional reintroduction of aid
European Parliament's budget for 2006
Doha Development Round
EU's information and communication strategy
Call for stronger measures against Burmese regime
MEPs condemn harassment of journalists in Mari El (Russia)
Togo: Parliament says fresh elections are needed

Plenary Session
9-12 May 2005
Strasbourg

Working hours opt-out to end

EU financial assistance for McCartney Family campaign

Address by President of Afghanistan

Statement by President Borrell on 60th anniversary
of World War II

Address by Grand Duke of Luxembourg

Motion of censure on Commission

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 0.68 as at 12.05.2005

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

Editor:

Richard Freedman

Secretariat:

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Brussels:

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Close: Thursday, 12 May 2005


Political groups in the European Parliament
Situation as at: 12.05.2005

 

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

15

12

2

7

4

9

4

77

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

27

19

11

5

1

10

 

3

76

Total

267

201

87

42

41

36

27

28

729

Outgoing Members
Ottaviano DEL TURCO (PES, IT) - 01.05.2005
Theresa VILLIERS (EPP-ED, UK) - 10.05.2005
Christopher HUHNE (ALDE, UK) - 10.05.2005

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

Social and Employment Policy

Working hours opt-out to end: on-call time to count as working time
 
Alejandro CERCAS (PES, ES)
Report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time
(COM(2004)0607 – C6 0122/2004 – 2004/0209(COD))
Doc.: A6-0105/2005
Procedure : Codecision (1st reading)
Debate : 10.05.2005
Vote : 11.05.2005

Vote

MEPs want the right of individual workers to opt out of the maximum 48-hour working week to be scrapped three years after the new working hours directive enters into force (Amendment 20 adopted with 378 votes in favour, 262 against with 15 abstentions). They also want hours "on-call" to count as working time in most cases. Parliament took these decisions when it adopted a legislative report by Alejandro CERCAS (PES, ES) by 345 votes to 264 against, with 43 abstentions.

Members thus disagree with the proposal put forward by the European Commission, which would keep the individual opt-out while tightening up the conditions for its application. Again in contrast to the Commission, MEPs want the entire period of any time spent on-call, including the "inactive part", to be regarded as working time. But it was decided that Member States could allow inactive parts of on-call time to be calculated in special ways in order to comply with the maximum weekly average working time. MEPs also clarify the definitions of "on-call time" and "inactive part of on-call time."

MEPs agree in general with the Commissions proposal to extend the reference period over which the average working week is calculated from 4 to 12 months, but Members want to strengthen the conditions. According to the rapporteur, extending the reference period meets reasonable concerns regarding the flexibility of regulations, but it has to be guaranteed that it's implemented reasonably with checks and a guarantee of protection of health and safety. That's why Members demand that either a collective agreement is necessary, or, in cases where workers are not covered by collective agreements, workers have to be consulted in an appropriate way and measures have to be taken to prevent any health and safety risks.

In further amendments to the Commission's text, MEPs decided that working hours should be organised in such a way as to give employees the opportunity for life-long learning. They also want to achieve the right balance between reconciling work and family life and the need for more flexible organisation of working time. And they want to make it clear that workers who have more than one employment contract are covered by the directive, so another amendment spells out that an individual's working time must be calculated as the sum of the periods under each of the contracts.

Background
The working time directive (Directive 2003/88/EC) provides a basic level of protection for most workers, with the notable exception of managers. It means an employee has the right to a daily 11-hour rest period, regular breaks, a weekly working time of no more than 48 hours, a minimum annual holiday of four weeks, and, in general, that night time working should be limited to eight hours out of 24. The original Directive 93/104/EC, adopted in 1993, was amended in 2000 by Directive 2000/34/EC. The two have been consolidated into Directive 2003/88/EC which is now up for review.

In 1993, the UK negotiated an opt-out system, which authorised Member States not to apply the 48-hour limit under certain conditions. The individual employee had to agree in advance, workers who refused to waive their rights must not be victimised and working hours of people who did waive their rights must be recorded. Although this opt-out was not limited to the UK, this is where it has been most widely used. Concerns have been raised about potential abuse of the individual opt-out system, for example by workers being presented with the opt-out clause at the same time as their contract, which could be seen as limiting the individual's real freedom of choice.

The lack of a definition of on-call time in the directive caused more problems. It led to Court of Justice rulings which state that on-call time must be counted as working time. This has major financial and organisational implications for many Member States. Most Member States need to adapt their national law as a result. The court rulings affect above all - but not exclusively - the health sector. Following the rulings, France, Germany and Spain applied the opt-out to their health care systems.

Debate

Speaking on the debate on the working time directive, Alejandro CERCAS (PES, ES), rapporteur for the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, said it was Parliament's responsibility to restore confidence in the European social model given the high expectations of Europe's citizens. He considered that working conditions were the way to do this. "We need to give a clear signal of our commitment to and trust in the European Social model. Just as citizens are looking for progress on the constitutional front, they are also asking what the EU can do for them".

He called for the opt-out to be scrapped without exceptions, saying that there must be the same legal base in all Member States. "The opt-out runs counter to the goals of worker health and safety, and violates the fundamental principles of the Constitutional treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights". Citing the Lisbon Strategy, he said that he was in favour of flexibility, but that the opt-out clause had to be struck out.

On the matter of on-call time, including the inactive part, he said that this had to be considered as working time. He stressed the need to respect the acquis communautaire and the ECJ's court rulings on the definition of working time. Finally, he called for a balance to be struck between the need for flexibility and the health and safety of workers, adding that these terms were wholly compatible. Acknowledging a consensus in Parliament, he called on the Commission and the Council not to break any agreement.

Stephen HUGHES (PES, UK) was in favour of the phasing out of the opt-out along with an annual calculation of working time so as to allow greater flexibility for business while also improving worker safety. He considered an opt-out to health and safety legislation to be "wrong in principle" and stressed the importance of a "proper balance between work and family life". On the danger of the opt-out, he said, "opening the door to a universal opt-out is in reality the path to a long-hours economy." And where the opt-out is not used, he said that it made more sense to repeal the legislation. Citing a 1996 ECJ ruling linking personal well-being to work and family life, he finished by emphasising the impact of work on quality of life. "Everything is to do with work and family life."
Jean LAMBERT (Greens, ALE) said that the working time directive was "an extremely important piece of legislation and an historic struggle for the labour movement". She expressed concern at the prevalence of long working hours throughout the European Union, reaching 60 hours per week according to UK-based Work Foundation. Considering that the legislation, in so far as it applied to employees, was all about the rights of employees, she rejected the demands for flexibility as "a one-way street". The issues, according to her, were social health and safety. "Tired workers are dangerous workers", she said. She criticised the way in which the opt-out is used by employers, taking away workers' choices, who often have no idea that there is a limit to working time. She concluded that all on-call time must be considered as working time, whether in the health sector or not, and saw as "crucial" the issue of compensatory rest because "stress is one of the biggest causes of time off work".

Derek CLARK (IND/DEM, UK) called for a "better deal" for workers, saying that "the best deal a worker can get is to have a job". He thus criticised the proposed directive on the basis that it would not improve employment or working life. He referred to the experience in the UK, which he said demonstrated that less regulation leads to more employment, and drew a link between the low unemployment rates of the UK, Denmark and Sweden, compared to the rest of the Member States, and the "non-indulgence" in EU restrictive practices. He concluded by saying that the EU was not in the real world.

Philip BUSHILL-MATTHEWS (EPP-ED, UK) focussed his comments on the opt-out. He disagreed with the rapporteur who stated that the opt-out "goes against the fundamental principles of the treaty". The Commission, he said, thought that the opt-out should exist 10 years ago and it is continuing to support it. The question on working time was about who decides; Mr Bushill-Matthews stated that it was not for "out of touch" politicians to decide but rather for the millions of workers to decide and for the opt-out to continue to exist. Many of the new Member States supported the opt-out as did all the social partners except the ETUC. SMEs disagreed, he said, with abolishing the opt-out. He stated that he would oppose the report from the rapporteur.

Chris DAVIES (ALDE, UK) stated that the opt-out was important on the grounds of subsidiarity. It was not for the EU to decide how to restrict working hours and the issue had nothing to with health and safety. It was not for the EU to interfere in this area and he disagreed strongly with Stephen Hughes his PES colleague. Despite the single market, countries continued to compete against each other and therefore should have the right to establish their own working time regulations. He was against blanket control by the EU. Mr Davies stated that he had never worked less than a 48-hour week and had no intention of doing so. Finally, he stated that the regulation would only serve to encourage euro-scepticism and lead to an increase in the black-market sector.

Press enquiries:
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(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73780
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44302
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Statements

60th Anniversary of World War II 
09.05.2005

The President of the European Parliament Josep BORRELL opened the session by commemorating the 60th anniversary of the ending of the Second World War in Europe. He recalled the horrors of war: "regions had been reduced to rubble, 60 million people dead and 30 million displaced people". He further recalled that the war had continued until 16 August 1945 in the Pacific.

Europe, he said, had been destroyed. Following Yalta, the continent was divided and only half of Europe had benefited from "peace and freedom." Europe's reunification process, celebrated in Strasbourg, had meant that such a war could never happen again. The European Parliament, he said, was commemorating three events: 55 years of European integration, 60 years since the end of the Second World War and one year since enlargement of the EU or the reunification of Europe. The day, he said, should be about remembering and it marked a new era for Europe. Citizens, he said, expected a lot from Europe. They wanted action beyond guaranteeing peace.

The statement was followed by an interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach's Chaconne from the Second Partita for solo violin in D minor, by Baiba SKRIDE, the young Latvian professional violinist who won first prize at the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition (Brussels) in 2001. She played the Stradivarius "Wilhelmj" violin made in 1725.

Ms Skride had been invited not only because of her qualities as a violinist but also because, as a citizen of one of the European Union's new Member States, her presence highlights the message of a reunited Europe.


Address by HRH Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Formal Sitting - Address by HRH HENRI, Grand Duke of Luxembourg
11.05.2005

His Royal Highness Grand Duke HENRI of Luxembourg told the plenary that Europe needed to take stock of the challenges it faces in order to redefine its perspectives and visions. The future of Europe lies, he said, in its rebirth, which can only come from a new reflection on Europe's "collective ambition".

Speaking at a formal sitting, the Grand Duke began by recognising the enormous achievement that the European Union represents and the "undeniable, even spectacular successes" of a strong Europe united around common values, a single market and currency, an historic enlargement to the East and open internal borders accommodating some 450 million people. He recalled Europe's important role in facilitating the stability and democratisation of other countries, with its motto "Europe is strength", allowing it to be a "credible reference point for democracy and solidarity for developing countries".

As Europe commemorates the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the task of European integration, he said, is inspired by "a renewed vigilance to ensure that history never again repeats itself" and to confront new challenges. While he paid tribute to MEPs, saying, "the European Parliament has a unique position in the institutional balance of our Union", the Grand Duke went on to highlight the feeling of "malaise" among Europe's citizens, particularly the young, who feel marginalised in the integration process and disenchanted by their leaders. He described this as a "sign of the times, where great changes are taking place" in a Union that has become a centre for capital and investment, but said it was important to renew the passion and enthusiasm that led to the European Union.

On the question of how to advance Europe's future given the risks of a decline, he asked, "Why do 450 million of us wish to live together and share a common destiny? The European adventure can only be about people and nations in their diversity. The task is to return to the heritage of the past and continue with the challenges of the future". The Grand Duke spoke about his own country, Luxembourg, as part of a "Europe of small nations" whose thinking nevertheless affects the "Europe of large nations", and considered that Europe's future lay in building on this particularity and diversity.

He stressed the fact that progress can not be measured by GDP alone. "The best growth can only be achieved if we have better access to basic commodities, like education, culture, health, social justice and, above all, work". This project of society is best served by democratic debate, he said. He therefore urged MEPs to work outside of their political groups to promote the active involvement of all citizens in discussions on the ratification of the Constitution, and carry with them "all of the creative forces" that they have to help Europe "create its own future".


Motion of censure tabled
Motion of censure
Doc : B6-0318/2005
Debate : 25.05.2005
Vote : 6-9.06.2005

EP Vice President Manuel António dos SANTOS (PES, PT) announced to the plenary that he had received from Nigel FARAGE (IND/DEM, UK) and 76 other MEPs a motion of censure on the Commission concerning protection against the risk of conflict of interests. The debate on this motion will take place during the next plenary session in Brussels on 25 May 2005, with the vote to follow at the Strasbourg session of 6-9 June 2005. The procedure for motions of censure is set out in Rule 100 of Parliament's Rules of Procedure.

Press enquiries:
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External Relations

Future of Europe sixty years after the Second World War
Motion for a resolution on the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War on 8 May 1945
Doc. B6-0290/2005
Vote : 12.05.2005

Vote

MEPs adopted a joint resolution with 463 votes in favour to 49 against with 33 abstentions on the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War on 8 May 1945.

MEPs highlight the importance of keeping the memories of the past alive, because there cannot be reconciliation without truth and remembrance. The resolution emphasises that only a strong Europe can offer a means of overcoming the atrocities of the past and it expresses respect for, and pays tribute to, all who fought against tyranny, and particularly those who became its victims.

The resolution renews the Parliament's commitment to a peaceful and prosperous Europe founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. It confirms its united stand against all totalitarian rule of whatever ideological persuasion.

MEPs welcome this first opportunity to commemorate the anniversary with elected Members from all 25 EU countries as an expression of the ever closer union of our nations and citizens, who have overcome the divisions between aggressors and victims and between victors and defeated, an occasion to share and combine our remembrances on the way to a truly common European memory and an opportunity to prevent recurrences of nationalism and totalitarian rule. The resolution welcomes the fact that the Central and Eastern European states and peoples can now also enjoy freedom and the right to determine their destiny after so many decades under Soviet domination or occupation or other communist dictatorships.

The resolution welcomes German unification and the fact that ten of the Central and Eastern European states have joined, or will soon join, the European Union. The resolution stresses that the process of European integration has helped to overcome almost all post-war dictatorships on the European continent, both in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and in Spain, Portugal and Greece.

MEPs declare that the process of European integration and the further development of the European Union as a model of peace are the result of a free decision by the people to determine their own destiny and commit themselves to a shared future. Parliament also declares that, under the Helsinki Agreements, no country has the right to decide on the destiny of another country. Finally, MEPs call on all countries to open their archives pertaining to World War II.

Statement by President Borrell followed by debate

Opening the debate on the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the President of the European Parliament, Josep BORRELL said:

"Sixty years ago the world began to take stock of a horrific event, the after-effects of which would still be felt years later: 60 million soldiers and civilians killed on five continents; the systematic extermination of peoples and minorities; cities and regions reduced to rubble and ashes; public finances in ruins; 30 million displaced persons.

As you are aware, the war in the Pacific continued until 14 August and culminated in terrifying images of nuclear annihilation.

Europe at that time was a continent destroyed, starving and under threat. On 8 May 1945, certain contemporary political leaders proclaimed that the flags of freedom were flying 'across' Europe. However, the end of the war brought peace and freedom to only one half of the continent; the other half fell victim to the 'new international order' which had been laid down at Yalta.

Peace and freedom were not bestowed universally. On that 8 May, many countries saw the geography of Europe redrawn. In 1945 we defeated a totalitarian regime, yet half of Europe was promptly taken over by another one, which proved particularly vice-like and resilient. The world entered an era of bi-polarity and ideological conflict and lived through a nuclear-inspired age of terror.

Our continent was rent asunder. Today, 60 years on, we are able within the European Parliament to commemorate jointly a Europe which has both triumphed and rediscovered itself. On 1 May of this year we celebrated the first anniversary of our re-encounter with 10 new countries - which will soon be joined by more.

This gives greater significance to today: 9 May (Europe Day) - the date upon which, 55 years ago, foundations were laid which would enable our continent to come to terms with the desolation of war. With the new countries' recent accession to the European Union, those terms have now been met in full.

I should like this day - on which we are commemorating three events which are very different in nature but which have a common thread - to be a day of reflection.

Today is a fine opportunity for us to remind ourselves (and each other) of our duty to preserve a collective memory - and in doing so to involve in particular the younger generations, who have no experience of war.

The streets of Europe are full of the names of eminent persons and significant events which help to preserve our collective memory: the Westerplatte in Gdansk/Danzig, Montgomery Square in Brussels, the Stalingrad metro station in Paris, the Dresden Boulevard which is just a stone's throw away from here, the military cemeteries of both sides ... All of these constitute the heritage of our shared memory.

In our modern Europe the individual is no longer subordinate to the State, and law and order prevail. Our system - our genetic code - is based on the division of powers, on the sovereignty of the people and on human rights. We must all commit ourselves to the continuing struggle to uphold the values of peace, justice and tolerance - in the world as a whole and not just within Europe.

Peace is no longer what the people of Europe are hoping for. We already have peace amongst ourselves and we all regard it as irreversible. What people are hoping for is a European Union which will bolster their prosperity and their security as they face up to the threats posed by a world which is no longer the one carved out at Yalta.

Our obligation is to look to the future in order to make that future a reality."

On behalf of the Council, Jean-Claude JUNCKER, in an impassioned speech, said that it was important to "speak the truth" and recognise that May 8 1945 was a day of Liberation. But he also said that both a "free Europe" and a "paralysed Europe" had emerged from the end of the Second World War, with the people of Central and Eastern Europe "subjugated" and the Baltic States "thrown from one disaster to another". Noting that Europe was itself a product of the war, he concluded, "let us be proud of this Europe that our fore-bearers have built for us".

The President of the European Commission, José Manuel BARROSO, recognised that true freedom for millions of Europeans came from the fall of the Berlin Wall. He expressed his admiration for Central and Eastern European countries' struggle for democracy, and reflecting on the progress made, he said, "How can we not be optimistic if we look at where we were just 60 years ago?" But he cautioned not to take the Europe of today for granted, saying, "the history of Europe has revealed we have to work for peace". In this sense, he saw the European Constitution as the way towards greater progress in the future.

Graham WATSON (ALDE, UK) said that the debate must be about the future, not the past. "Let us rejoice that Europe is united in peace", he said. But he sounded a note of caution. "There are no guarantees. Can we move forward or will our achievements melt before our eyes and be replaced by national conflicts?" He referred to new global challenges, such as climate change, international organised crime and terrorism, and saw greater convergence as the key to better facing such global challenges. He thus welcomed cooperation with Russia and China but warned against tolerating authoritarian regimes.

Nigel FARAGE (IND/DEM) asked what the arguments for the EU are, emphasising that it was wrong to say that the European Union had kept the peace in Europe for the last 60 years. He held NATO up as the sole guarantor of peace, which he said was an example of intergovernmental cooperation, and cited the examples of wars in Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union and the USA as proof that "federalism does not guarantee peace". He concluded by saying, "we must tell the peoples of Europe the truth about our ambitions and give them free and fair referendums or we will be heading for disaster".

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Address by President of Afghanistan
Address by Mr Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan
10.05.2005

His Excellency Hamid KARZAI, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan addressed the House.

I am delighted and honoured to address this distinguished gathering, particularly as this is my first visit to the European Parliament. It gives me great confidence for the future of Afghanistan and our region to see the countries of Europe come together here in a spirit of unity and cooperation. It was not so long ago that the Iron Curtain divided Europe into West and East. Yet, today, that curtain has been removed to reveal a mosaic, where each piece retains a distinct identity, but together form a greater entity.

Two days ago, Europe celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Victory in Europe day, the anniversary of Europe’s new beginning. While in the past, European conflicts had global implications, today European cooperation is improving lives and is a source of admiration across the world.

As you rebuilt after the Second World War, you had security guarantees, the Marshall Plan, and an international long-term commitment. We, the people of Afghanistan, are also grateful for the international security and economic support we have received over the last three years. The European Union, in particular, has been one of the largest supporters of Afghanistan. We are grateful for your generous contributions, the commitment of troops from your nations, and the technical assistance you have provided and continue to provide. Most importantly, you show us what our region’s future could be: a future of peace, a future of unity, and a future of cooperation.

Afghanistan was one of the least-developed countries, even before its invasion by the former Soviet Union. Ten years of fighting the Soviet invasion, followed by more than a decade of foreign interference and factional conflict, further impoverished our country. Our infrastructure was almost totally destroyed, our communities devastated and our state institutions crippled.

The long and dark years of suffering, however, did not dampen our aspirations to build a stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. Given that opportunity in 2001, the people of Afghanistan enthusiastically began the process of rebuilding our country. Today, we have an enlightened and progressive constitution which safeguards human rights, guaranteeing the equality of men and women, provides for a free-market economy and creates a framework for responsible government.

The first presidential election in our history was held last October in which more than eight million people participated. The success of the election graphically illustrated the defeat of terrorism in Afghanistan.

In particular, the massive participation by the women of Afghanistan, 42% of the national turnout, demonstrated emphatically that a new era of social and political rights for women had arrived.

Here, I would like to narrate a story to you that I witnessed about two and a half months ago. Two and a half months ago, I was having lunch with a group of tribal elders from a very conservative part of Afghanistan, and I noticed that with these tribal elders and clergy there were women. I felt as if the women were from the urban parts of the country, and I greeted the tribal chiefs by name. I knew many of them by name, and I said: ‘Mr so-and-so welcome and how are you?’. When I had finished greeting the men, I said to the ladies: ‘Welcome and good to see you’. Suddenly one of the ladies got up and said: ‘Mr President, you greeted the men by name. You did not greet us by name’. I was shocked. I said: ‘Well, madam, I am sorry I did not know your name’. She said: ‘You know, you are elected because of our vote. Next time I see you, you had better know my name or you will not be elected!’.

That is the change in Afghanistan for which we are very happy.

The presence of the International Security Assistance Force, led by Europe from the beginning, has provided us with a secure environment to exercise our political rights. With help from Europe and others in the international community, we have trained a new police force of some 50 000, along with a special force to conduct counter-narcotics operations. The new Afghan National Army, currently 20,000 strong, is increasingly taking responsibility for supporting security across the country. We are accelerating the disarmament process, disarming both regular armed forces and illegal armed groups. More than 50,000 former combatants have been disarmed, and over 95% of the heavy weaponry has been cantoned.

Extensive reforms are also under way in other sectors, including the judiciary and the civil service – the administration. Our judicial system is gradually recovering in effectiveness and credibility from the damages of war. Institutions of government and civil society are gaining increasingly in strength, giving the citizens more confidence, more services and more rights to enjoy. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission continues the important work of promoting human rights throughout the country. Thanks to the open political atmosphere in Afghanistan, the free press has enjoyed great development and success, as demonstrated by the publication of more than 300 independent papers, more than 30 independent radio stations and four independent television channels in less than two years.

We realised that political and security developments can be sustained only with corresponding improvements in the economic area. Over the last three years, we have introduced a new currency, stabilised inflation and enacted numerous legal and administrative reforms to simplify our customs and investment processes. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars in international investment have flowed into Afghanistan. Certain industries, such as the hospitality sector, banks and mobile communications, have particularly benefited. Wages have increased, as has trade and commerce with countries of the region, notably Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, China and beyond. I should like to give an example here of the changes that have occurred. Three years ago, Afghanistan’s trade with Pakistan was less than USD 50 million. Last year, this trade – in less than three years – surpassed USD 1 billion. Today, trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan amounts to USD 1 billion. The same applies to China and other countries around us.

Much has been done so far, but daunting challenges remain ahead of us. Afghanistan’s social development indicators are still dismal: we have one of the highest infant mortality rates and one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world; and we have unacceptable levels of illiteracy, particularly among women. Sadly, these social indicators place our country close to the bottom of the human development index: in fact, fifth from the bottom.

Terrorism has been defeated as a force, but its residues disturb our peace and tranquillity. While critical steps to establish an effective government have been taken, the ability of the new institutions to provide security and help lift the population out of extreme poverty is far from adequate. Poppy cultivation and the drug economy are still afflicting our communities and remain obstacles to Afghanistan’s stability.

Thirty years ago, when the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Afghanistan was a somewhat well-to-do agrarian society. In the years of conflict, drought and difficulties for the Afghan people, Afghan men and women – families, fathers, mothers, daughters – had no hope for the future. A father, a mother did not know whether their son or daughter would be alive or dead the next day; whether they would have food to eat or be hungry. In that situation, people destroyed vineyards and replaced them with poppies; people destroyed pomegranate orchards and replaced them with poppies; people destroyed apricot orchards and replaced them with poppies, because poppies were easy to grow – there was not much need for irrigation – and easy to sell. Therefore, because of a lack of confidence in the future and a lack of means, society became involved in that easy crop.

Last year, we began action against poppy cultivation, and the people responded because they have more hope for the future: they have more confidence in their country and in themselves. We hope that there will be a considerable reduction in poppy cultivation this year in Afghanistan, a great part of it voluntarily. My hope, and that of the Afghan people, is that the international community will continue to assist us in decreasing poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and to replace it with legitimate forms of agriculture. In other words, to replace it with alternative forms of livelihood, so that our people can return to growing vines, pomegranates, apricots and the other agricultural products which Afghanistan is very good at cultivating.

Afghanistan produces the best pomegranates, the best foods; it can compete in international markets. Please continue to help us bring a legitimate economy to the Afghan people again. Nobody wants to have a bad name in the world, and Afghanistan is no exception. Afghanistan wants to live an honourable life, a life where it can return to generating its own legitimate income. I am grateful for what you have done for us so far, but please continue to help us.

Parliamentary elections in September will mark the culmination of the Bonn process in Afghanistan. The Afghan constitution decrees that at least 27% of members of the Afghan Parliament should be women.

Yet, while we will have met all the benchmarks set out in the Bonn Agreement by the end of September, we will only be at the beginning of a long road towards achieving the vision set out for Afghanistan in that document. The end of the Bonn process, therefore, must not be the end of your commitment to and support for Afghanistan, but the beginning of a long term and more comprehensive partnership. The end of the Bonn process will not mean the success of Afghanistan or the total success of Afghanistan. The end of the Bonn process, the coming of the parliament, will lay the foundations for the success of Afghanistan but not constitute success itself. Success itself will take many more years to come, and for that your help is needed.

From Europe, we need support and the assurance that Afghanistan will continue to receive assistance in a sustainable manner. In particular, as you deliberate here about the European Union’s future international commitments, I hope you will see the need for multi-year pledges of aid to Afghanistan to support our efforts at rebuilding our country.

We also need the United Nations, the United States, Japan and others who have assisted us so far to reaffirm their commitment to partnership with Afghanistan: a partnership that is essential if Afghanistan is to achieve lasting stability, democratisation and development.

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you once again, on behalf of the Afghan people, for the generous support that the European Union, as one of the largest donors to Afghanistan, has provided over the last three years. The people of Afghanistan are especially grateful to your sons and daughters in uniform who are serving courageously in our country. To those who have given their lives to provide us with security, we offer once again our gratitude, our prayers and our pledge that we will never forget.

Today in Afghanistan, in a country which, not long ago, was totally isolated from the world, something unprecedented is taking place. In a true spirit of cooperation, people from all corners of the world, people from different faiths, cultures and backgrounds, are together helping to secure the lives of the Afghan people and rebuild our country. It is clear that without this cooperation Afghans would never have accomplished what we have accomplished over the past three years.

Afghanistan is as much in need of your help today as Europe was 60 years ago. Then, a long-term commitment from your friends around the world gave you the support you needed to rebuild your countries, your lives. Today, we are asking for that same opportunity. Thank you for what you have done so far for us. We are very grateful.


Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, FYROM, Serbia and Montenegro - financial assistance
Elmar BROK (EPP-ED, DE)
Report on the proposal for a Council decision
1. concerning the conclusion of a Framework Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Albania on the general principles for the participation of the Republic of Albania in Community programmes
(5532/2005 – COM(2004)0809 – C6 0039/2005 – 2004/0276(AVC))
2. concerning the conclusion of a Framework Agreement between the European Community and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the general principles for the participation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Community programmes
(5532/2005 – COM(2004)0809 – C6 0040/2005 – 2004/0277(AVC))
3. concerning the conclusion of a Framework Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Croatia on the general principles for the participation of the Republic of Croatia in Community programmes
(5532/2005 – COM(2004)0809 – C6 0041/2005 – 2004/0278(AVC))
4. concerning the conclusion of a Protocol to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between The European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, of the other part, on a Framework Agreement between the European Community and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the general principles for the participation of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Community programmes
(5532/2005 – COM(2004)0809 – C6 0042/2005 – 2004/0279(AVC))
5. concerning the conclusion of a Framework Agreement between the European Community and Serbia and Montenegro on the general principles for the participation of Serbia and Montenegro in Community programmes
(5532/2005 – COM(2004)0809 – C6 0043/2005 – 2004/0280(AVC))
Doc.: A6-0122/2005
Procedure : Assent
Vote : 10.05.2005

Parliament voted to give its assent to the EC-Albania Framework Agreement, EC-Bosnia and Herzegovina Framework Agreement, EC-Croatia Framework Agreement, EC-Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Framework Agreement and EC-Serbia and Montenegro Framework Agreement.

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


Situation in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia
Motions for resolutions to wind up the debate on statements by the Council and Commission on the situation in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia
Doc. B6-0295/2005, B6-0296/2005, B6-0297/2005, B6-0298/2005, B6-0299/2005, B6-0306/2005
Vote : 12.05.2005

Parliament adopted a joint resolution on the situation in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia.

Press enquiries:
Marjory van den Broeke
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74337
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44304
(32) 0498.983.586
e-mail :  foreign-press@europarl.eu.int


Justice and Home Affairs

EU financial assistance for McCartney Family campaign
Motion for a resolution (to wind up the debate on the statement by the Commission) on violence and criminality by the self-styled "Irish Republican Army" (IRA) in Northern Ireland, in particular the murder of Robert McCartney
Doc. B6-0281/2005
Debate : 09.05.2005
Vote : 10.05.2005

Vote

In adopting a joint resolution on the murder of Robert McCARTNEY by 555 votes in favour to 4 against, and 48 abstentions, the European Parliament proposes that, if the Police Service of Northern Ireland is unable to bring a prosecution in relation to the murder of Robert McCartney, the European Union grant a financial contribution, in conformity with the Financial Regulation, toward the cost of legal fees incurred by the McCartney family in their quest for justice by way of civil proceedings.

MEPs call on the Council and the Commission to provide all appropriate assistance to law enforcement authorities in Northern Ireland in order to ensure that the murderers of Robert McCartney are brought to justice. The House asks, in this connection, that the Commission make such a contribution from the budget line in the general budget of the EU intended for aid for the victims of terrorism.

MEPs condemn violence and criminality by the self-styled 'Irish Republican Army' (IRA) in Northern Ireland, in particular the murder of Robert McCartney. Parliament stresses in the strongest possible terms that the sisters and partner of Robert McCartney deserve the fullest support in their pursuit of justice. Parliament calls on the leadership of Sinn Féin to insist that those responsible for the murder and witnesses to the murder cooperate directly with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and be free from the threat of reprisals from the IRA. Finally, MEPs deplore the insidious whispering campaign aimed at intimidating and discrediting the sisters and fiancée of Robert McCartney in their fight for justice.

Debate

Commissioner Stavros DIMAS stated that the Commission condemned the murder of Robert McCARTNEY. He welcomed and supported the campaign for justice carried out by the family. He expressed his admiration and solidarity for the campaign. He recalled that the Commission could not interfere in the legal process but trusted that the investigation would lead to the full truth. The campaign, he said, was not about revenge but about justice.
Avril DOYLE (EPP-ED, IE) welcomed the McCartney family representatives to the Chamber, saluting Robert McCartney's sisters and partner for their courageous, dignified and determined search for justice. "This killing was ordered by a commander in the Belfast brigade of the IRA. It was no minor bar room brawl - rather it bore all the hallmarks of an IRA killing." She said the IRA had ruthlessly intimidated and covered up to protect those responsible - and the code of silence was still not broken. Mrs Doyle called on the leadership of Sinn Fein to ensure witnesses cooperate with the police service or the ombudsman. She described as barbaric the IRA's offer to shoot the perpetrators. This showed, she said, how few lessons the IRA had learned about the rule of law and democracy.

Marian HARKIN (ALDE, IE) gave a warm welcome to the McCartney family saying they should have the strongest possible support in their quest for justice. The murder, the intimidation and the forensic clean-up had outraged all those who believed in justice and democracy. She said the peace process in Northern Ireland required willingness on all sides for dialogue and power sharing.

Jean LAMBERT (Greens/EFA, UK) also welcomed the family. She raised the case of Brian Douglas, who had, she said, died at the hands of the police - his family were still waiting for justice. She condemned the misplaced loyalty and the fear of consequences which led to silence in such cases, handing the rule of law over to thugs. She said there could be no place for paramilitary justice in any section of the community. Her group supported the spirit of the resolution, despite doubts about EU funding for a civil case in this matter.

Kathy SINNOTT (IND/DEM, IE) said she was speaking not as a politician but as an individual: "I beseech those present to come forward to bring justice to the family." This, she said, would enable the family to grieve and find closure after this horrific killing.

Brian CROWLEY (UEN, IE) also welcomed the family. He spoke of the malicious intent of those who acted under instructions to take out and kill Robert McCartney and prevent him getting any help from the emergency services, then clean up the evidence. He said the McCartney family had done something extraordinary in uniting people across countries and political divides. It was incumbent on those with influence to give up the perpetrators to police and prosecution and allow justice to prevail.

Jim ALLISTER (NA, UK) saluted the family's courage. He said the IRA had always used fear and intimidation as a key weapon. Mr Allister said it was an IRA leader who gave the order to kill and a senior Sinn Fein official who wielded the knife, with an IRA unit conducting the clean-up operation. He rejected as spurious Sinn Fein's expulsion of a number of members, when those responsible were still strutting the streets of Belfast. He challenged the Sinn Fein MEPs to use their influence to get three individuals, who he listed by name, to tell the authorities what they knew. Finally, he supported the use of EU funds to help pursue a civil case if criminal prosecution could not be achieved.

James NICHOLSON (PPE, UK) welcomed the McCartney family to the Chamber and the opportunity for debate. He fully supported the family's campaign for justice. He rejected the collusion of IRA members in the clean-up operation following the murder. He said that witnesses had been intimidated and were afraid to come forward to the Northern Ireland Police Service. He supported the joint resolution which offers financial assistance to the McCartney family in the case of a civil trial.

Gary TITLEY (PES, UK) stated that the Parliament had been a long standing supporter of the peace process in Northern Ireland. He rejected those movements that justified their illegal activities by "political quarrels". He condemned the wall of silence surrounding the murder, comparing it to mafia activities elsewhere. Murders had been carried out not only by nationalists but also on the Unionist side but today was a discussion about the McCartney case. He, too, welcomed the joint resolution and the possibility of EU financing for a civil trial.

Bairbre de BRUN (GUE/EVN, UK) said that she supported a free and fair trial. She recalled that Sinn Féin President Gerry ADAMS had called on those responsible to come forward. She stated that 12 members of her party had been suspended. Of those 12, two had been expelled, four had resigned and the six others remained suspended. She said that she had met the McCartney sisters on a previous occasion and called for those responsible to speak to the Northern Ireland Police Service.

Eoin RYAN (UEN, IE) said that the guilty men were still walking the streets of Belfast. The question now, he said, was who controlled the IRA. He was appalled that there was no justice for the McCartney family and he too supported possible EU financing for legal fees.

Simon COVENEY (EPP-ED, IE) stated that there had been many brutal murders across Northern Ireland over recent years. The world, he said, had condemned the savage murder. He stated that there were 70 to 80 witnesses who had not come forward due to intimidation. He recalled the detailed clean-up operation and intimidation of witnesses that had led to the injustice. Sinn Fein and the IRA had not done enough to bring about justice. He called for impunity to be ended and for Northern Ireland to set an example to the rest of the world in terms of its justice system.

Proinsias DE ROSSA (PES, IE) stated that the McCartney campaign was about finding justice. He condemned the politically motivated statements by the IRA offering to murder the murderers and for the detailed clean-up operation carried out after the murder. The IRA, he said, must stop its criminal activities in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the UK which only served to finance their illegal activities. The Charter of Fundamental Rights within the new Constitution for Europe upheld many rights of fair trial which the IRA was clearly flouting. He welcomed the joint resolution and condemned the GUE/NGL resolution.

Liam AYLWARD (UEN, IE) stated that as an Irish republican he condemned those who used that term as justification for violence. He condemned the IRA for refusing to cooperate with the police investigation and for their refusal to offer names to the police service.

In the response to the debate, Commissioner Dimas expressed once more his deep admiration for the McCartney family and recalled that the Commission had been a supporter of the peace process in Northern Ireland offering some €760 million from 2000 to 2006.

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


Internal Market

Mutual recognition of professional qualifications
Stefano ZAPPALÀ (EPP-ED, IT)
Report on the Council common position for adopting a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the recognition of professional qualifications
(13781/2/2004 – C6 0008/2005 – 2002/0061(COD))
Doc.: A6-0119/2005
Procedure : Codecision (2nd reading)
Debate : 10.05.2005
Vote : 11.05.2005

Want to work in a Member State other than your own? Nothing simpler, in theory, since this is one of the rights guaranteed by the European treaties. But in practice, it is not as easy as that because, in order to exercise a profession, it is necessary to prove one's qualifications. For forty years, the EU has been trying to set up a system for the mutual recognition of qualifications. The adoption of Stefano ZAPPALÀ's (EPP-ED, IT) report by Parliament, should be the start of real progress on this issue.

For an Italian to be able to exercise his profession in Poland under the same conditions as the Polish, without hindrance on grounds of nationality, the professional qualifications he obtained in his own country must be recognised in the host country. The proposal for a directive, examined in second reading in Parliament, covers all kinds of cases: salaried and liberal professions, the provision of temporary services and "regulated" professions such as doctors, nurses and architects. Qualifications will, in future, be recognised on the basis of coordinated minimum training standards.

Public authority professions excluded

MEPs spelt out, by a direct reference to the treaty, that professions linked to the exercise of public authority are to be excluded from scope of the directive. Parliament also insists on including a definition of liberal professions in the directive and it stresses that it will apply to people wishing to practise a regulated profession "including those belonging to the liberal professions". MEPs maintain the automatic recognition of medical and dental specialisations common to at least two Member States, which conflicts with the Council position but is in line with existing EU law.

An EU national wishing to have access to a regulated profession will be subject to the same conditions, in terms of qualifications, as nationals of the host country. This rule applies, for example, to the certificates of competence or the training qualifications required. The individuals concerned must meet a number of conditions, for example they must show evidence of having a level of training at least equivalent to the level immediately below that required in the host Member State.

The directive lays down a number of reference levels reflecting levels of education and training, which in turn enable equivalences to be established between levels of qualifications in different Member States. MEPs propose to increase the number of reference levels to five (instead of the four proposed by the Council), but without attaching any number, letter or other sign indicating a hierarchy.

Parliament is redefining certain levels in order to better respond to the reality of training cycles in the different Member States. The professions affected by these measures are listed, by level, in the annexes. The annexes also contain the naming designation of professions in the official languages of the EU since it is not always easy to know if Kinderkrankenschwester, zdravotnicky asistent, odontotecnico, zobarstniecibas masa, enestyrmand or even dyzurny ruchu belong to the same professional category.

A single committee for the recognition of professional qualifications

In a number of amendments, MEPs focus on the role played by professional bodies in the procedure for recognising qualifications. To streamline the management of the various recognition regimes set up by different sectoral directives and the general system, a single committee for the recognition of professional qualifications will be created to replace the existing bodies. It will be composed of representatives from the Member States and presided over by a representative from the Commission.

Given the differing national systems and the number of qualifications, professions and skills, MEPs want experts of the professional categories concerned to take part in this committee. To smooth freedom of movement and professional mobility, Parliament is proposing the introduction of an individual professional card. This would contain information on the worker's career (training, experience and any penalties imposed relating to his profession) and would speed up the exchange of information between the country of origin and the host country. The cards would be issued by the agencies and professional associations.

The directive on the recognition of professional qualifications is closely linked to the services directive. The aim is to make it easier to provide services throughout the EU while enabling the Member States to supervise the conditions under which a worker from another Member State is allowed practise his profession on their territory. By comparison with the Commission's initial proposal, which favoured easier access and backed the principle of supervision by the country of origin, the text adopted by Parliament recommends mutual recognition and the principle of control by the host country. It gives the host country greater powers to check qualifications and to make the right to practise a profession subject to certain constraints, e.g. in the name of the public interest. Safeguards to prevent abuses have also been approved, for example to prevent recognition of a qualification obtained in another Member State being used to circumvent higher standards in the country of origin or to ensure that someone providing temporary services is not acting as a front for a company which has in reality set up shop in another country.

The text adopted is the result of a compromise with the Council. This agreement will, without doubt, allow conciliation to be avoided.

Press enquiries:
Cezary Lewanowicz
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74903
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44659
e-mail :  imco-press@europarl.eu.int


Cross-border mergers: a step towards clear European rules
Klaus-Heiner LEHNE (EPP-ED, DE)
Report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on cross-border mergers of companies with share capital
(COM(2003)0703 – C5 0561/2003 – 2003/0277(COD))
Doc.: A6-0089/2005
Procedure : Codecision (1st reading)
Vote : 10.05.2005

MEPs backed, with a number of amendments, a Commission proposal to facilitate cross-border mergers between EU companies with share capital. The directive aims to increase transparency and legal certainty, by approximating cross-border merger procedures with domestic ones, which are already familiar to operators. By approving a report by Klaus-Heiner LEHNE (EPP-ED, DE), MEPs agreed on the general principle of the application of national law for mergers between companies of different Member States.

Members of the European Parliament were particularly concerned about the protection of employees' rights to information, consultation and participation. They adopted amendments to ensure that if a new merged company fails to give workers the same rights as one of the merging companies, the participation of employees is subject to negotiations according to rules provided in the rules of the European Company Statute (SE - Societas Europaea).

Press enquiries:
Federico de Girolamo
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 88 1 72033
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 31389
e-mail :  lega-press@europarl.eu.int


Economic & Monetary Affairs

MEPs give green light for appointment of Lorenzo Bini Smaghi to the ECB Executive Board
Pervenche BERÈS (PES, FR)
Report on the Council's recommendation on the appointment of Lorenzo Bini Smaghi as Executive Board Member of the European Central Bank
(6289/2005 – C6 0054/2005 – 2005/0802(CNS))
Doc.: A6-0094/2005
Procedure : Consultation
Debate : 10.05.2005
Vote : 11.05.2005

Parliament approved the nomination of Lorenzo BINI SMAGHI to the Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB). In a secret ballot, with 410 votes in favour to 88 against with 40 abstentions, MEPs adopted a consultative report from the chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, Pervenche BERÈS (PES, FR), giving a positive assessment of his candidature.

Speaking during the debate, Ms Berès said: "There is no doubt about Mr Bini Smaghi's professional experience or his credentials. He will be a good member of the Executive Board. He also brings added value as a good communicator and as someone with a multidisciplinary vision of things. He is willing to take a broader view and is attuned to the real aspirations of EU citizens."

Mr Bini Smaghi took part in a confirmation hearing before the committee on 19 April 2005. More details on the hearing, including Mr Bini Smaghi's CV, can be found here:
http://www.europarl.eu.int/comparl/econ/hearings/20050419/default_en.htm

The final decision on the appointment will be made by agreement between the Member States, at Head of State or Government level.

Press enquiries:
Ralph Pine
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74751
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 42941
e-mail :  econ-press@europarl.eu.int


Recasting the 6th VAT directive
Ian Stewart HUDGHTON (Greens/EFA, UK)
Report on the proposal for a Council directive on the common system of value added tax (Recast)
(COM(2004)0246 – C6 0009/2004 – 2004/0079(CNS))
Doc.: A6-0097/2005
Procedure : Consultation
Vote : 10.05.2005

Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution on the common system of value added tax (Recast).

Press enquiries:
Ralph Pine
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74751
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 42941
e-mail :  econ-press@europarl.eu.int


Public Health and Consumer Affairs

Foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses
Giuseppe GARGANI (EPP-ED, IT)
Report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses (codified version)
(COM(2004)0290 – C6 0035/2004 – 2004/0090(COD))
Doc.: A6-0110/2005
Procedure : Codecision (1st reading)
Vote : 11.05.2005

Parliament adopted a legislative resolution on foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses.

Press enquiries:
Federico de Girolamo
(Strasbourg) tel.(33) 388 1 72033
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 31389
e-mail :  lega-press@europarl.eu.int


Social and Employment Policy

Statistics on income and living conditions
Ottaviano DEL TURCO (PES, IT)
Report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 1177/2003 concerning Community statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC)
(COM(2005)0028 – C6 0034/2005 – 2005/0004(COD))
Doc.: A6-0107/2005
Procedure : Codecision (1st reading)
Vote : 10.05.2005

Parliament adopted a legislative resolution concerning Community statistics on income and living conditions.

Press enquiries:
Constanze Beckerhoff
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73780
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44302
e-mail :  empl-press@europarl.eu.int


Environment

MEPs want to improve bathing water standards
Jules MAATEN (ALDE, NL)
Report on the Council common position for adopting a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the management of bathing water quality and repealing Directive 76/160/EEC
(12884/1/2004 – C6 0006/2005 – 2002/0254(COD))
Doc.: A6-0102/2005
Procedure : Codecision (2nd reading)
Debate : 09.05.2005
Vote : 10.05.2005

Parliament adopted a legislative resolution, in second reading, on a new directive on the quality of bathing water with Member States reluctant to establish more stringent standards than exist today. The assembly adopted the report of Jules MAATEN (ALDE, NL) in a spirit of compromise, giving up some of the Environment Committee's demands in the hope of coming to an agreement with the Council (the 25 Member States).

"The directive on bathing water is without doubt one of the directives best-known to the European citizens", declared Mr Maaten. the European Parliament rapporteur, in Monday's debate. The old directive from 1976 has greatly improved the quality of water. But due to scientific developments and health concerns, "it is no longer good enough", indicated the rapporteur. "If we stick to today's standards, one bathing area in eight, in the Union, runs health risks", revealed Mr. Maaten.

Against the hopes of the Environment Committee, the plenary approved, in particular, the inclusion, for a transitional period of 8 years, of an extra category, "sufficient quality", which was introduced in the Council's common position. But MEPs imposed stricter standards for this category than those hoped for by the Council.

The plenary also accepted another of the Council's demands that there be a distinction between coastal waters and inland waters, and less strict microbiological standards applied to the latter. On the other hand, contrary to the wishes of the Council, Parliament succeeded in laying down a series of detailed binding requirements for national and regional authorities to follow in case of emergency.

Some MEPs, notably from the Greens, wanted the directive to cover not only bathing water but also stretches of water where water sports are practised, such as surfing and canoeing. But their amendments were rejected.

Throughout the debate, Environment Commissioner Stavros DIMAS indicated that he was favourable to the introduction of a "sufficient quality" category. He considered that the standards proposed by Parliament were too strict. However, it is now up to the Council to say what it thinks, and, if any divergence with Parliament remains, MEPs and the Council will have to go to conciliation.

When this directive comes into force, there will have to be a "simple standardised system of symbols" to keep the public informed about the state of bathing water (to be devised by the Commission within 2 years of the consultation). The Internet, too, will provide this information. Good quality bathing water in the EU will, according to these new rules, have to be achieved "at the latest by the end of the 2011 bathing season".
MEPs during the debate stated:

Christa KLASS (EPP-ED, DE): "The Council common position goes no way towards improving the situation in relation to the 1976 directive, for fear of the costs involved. But many of the costs are already included in the directives on nitrates or the treatment of used water".

Gyula HEGYI (PES, HU): "The Council's approach is realistic", but the position of the Environment Commission ruins it. "We have to avoid rules which go too far in the way of detail". On the same question, Peter Olajos (EPP-ED, HU) said: "Too much goodwill can be harmful. If we adopt the report as it stands, that is what will happen. We cannot raise the bar higher than the Council." Mr Olajos spoke about the Balaton lake, where such a directive would have disastrous consequences for tourism and unemployment.

Holger KRAHMER (ALDE, DE) called for competence to be returned to the Member States: "This directive is a good example of a piece of legislation that the EU can give up!" On the same subject Christofer FJELLNER (EPP-ED, SE) stated: "The EU is in the process of legislating in an area full of large differences from one country to another. A law must be able to be applied, otherwise it is better to put an end to this stupidity."

Marie Anne ISLER BÉGUIN (Greens/EFA, FR) called for the extension of the standards to stretches of water where water sports are practised: "What value would this directive have in the eyes of those, particularly the young, who practise water sports? A petition to include these areas has received 10,000 signatures."

Johannes BLOKLAND (IND/DEM, NL): "The Council's position is not positive. Whereas it does not seek to strengthen the rules, 85% of community water is in compliance with the 1976 directive and 80% with the rules of this proposal. The new directive must be more ambitious."

Dorette CORBEY (PES, NL): "The Council is playing a cynical game. Avoiding standards is not a good idea when health is at stake."

Frederique RIES (ALDE, BE):"This directive must be practicable. In Wallonia (southern Belgium), a river of less than 10cm deep has been described as bathing water and, as a result, required 750,000 euros of investment."

Françoise GROSSETÊTE (EPP-ED, FR) called for "a balance between realism in relation to health concerns, and tourism activities. We should not create fear unnecessarily."

Press enquiries:
André Riche
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Aarhus Convention
Motion for a resolution on the EU strategy for the Almaty Conference on the Aarhus Convention
Doc. B6-0277/2005

Parliament adopted a resolution on the EU strategy for the Almaty Conference on the Aarhus Convention.

Press enquiries:
André Riche
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Climate change ahead of key meeting
Motion for a resolution on the Seminar of Governmental Experts on Climate Change
Doc. B6-0278/2005
Vote : 12.05.2005

Parliament adopted a resolution on climate change which set out the Parliament's position ahead of the Seminar of Governmental Experts on Climate Change held in Bonn on 16-17 May 2005.

Parliament regrets that the Tenth Conference of Parties, in spite of the efforts of the EU delegation, only agreed a very narrow mandate for this meeting. MEPs believe that the European Union should retain its leading role, the House welcomes the conclusions adopted by the Brussels European Council of 22 and 23 March 2005 and, in particular, the fact that reduction targets in the order of 15-30% by 2020 for the group of developed countries have been agreed upon. It regrets, however, that no indication was given by the European Council with regard to longer term reduction targets and suggests that reductions in the order of 60-80% by 2050 be required.

Parliament is convinced that internationally competing companies, in particular energy intensive industries, require a sector approach to future international reduction targets in order to ensure an international level-playing field.

Background

The decision-making body of the Convention is its Conference of the Parties (COP). It meets every year and reviews the implementation of the Convention, adopts decisions to further develop the Convention’s rules, and negotiates substantive new commitments.

Two subsidiary bodies meet at least twice a year to carry out preparatory work for the COP: the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI). Since 1996 the government of Germany in Bonn has hosted the secretariat.

COP 10 (Buenos Aires, December 2004) marked the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It agreed to hold a seminar of governmental experts to assist Parties to continue to develop responses to climate change and to review the policies and measures adopted to implement the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. That seminar was held on the 16-17 May 2005 in Bonn, immediately prior to the 22nd session of the Convention's subsidiary bodies.

Canada will host the 11th meeting of the COP at the end of the year, in conjunction with the first meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

Press enquiries:
André Riche
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Transport

Enhancing port security
Jeanine HENNIS-PLASSCHAERT (ALDE, NL)
Report on the amended proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on enhancing port security
(COM(2004)0393 – C6 0072/2004 – 2004/0031(COD))
Doc.: A6-0031/2005
Procedure : Codecision (1st reading)
Vote : 10.05.2005

Ports are an essential link within the transport chain, linking up maritime areas with landslide and passenger flows. They are often the focal point for trans-shipments of dangerous cargo and are often situated near cities. Terrorist attacks in ports can result in serious disruptions to transport systems and trigger knock-on effects, as well as harming people in the port and the neighbouring population. Therefore, Parliament has adopted a legislative report by Jeanine HENNIS-PLASSCHAERT (ELDR, NL) on a directive on enhancing port security.

Following negotiations between Council, Commission and Parliament, a range of compromise amendments have been adopted, thus avoiding second reading and ensuring an earlier entry into force of this legislation. The key element of the directive is that the actors and procedures that are crucial to enhancing port security are clearly defined. Member States shall designate a port security authority and appoint a port security officer for every port. Given the fact that the security situations in, for example, the port of Rotterdam and the port of Marseille are totally different, Member States shall, under the subsidiarity principle, determine themselves the security levels in use for each port or part of a port.

The effective and standard application of security measures raises important questions in relation to its funding. The House took the view that the funding of extra security measures should not lead to a distortion in competition. In order to ensure a level playing field, the Commission should, by 30 June at the latest, submit the findings of a study on the costs involved in measures taken under this directive and addressing in particular the way financing is shared between the public authorities, port authorities and operators.

Mrs Hennis-Plasschaert stressed that the success of this directive depended on its effective implementation and enforcement. Therefore, the Commission should carry out inspections and should guarantee that the directive is implemented to the same level in all the Member States.

Press enquiries:
Ton Huyssoon
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73856
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 42408
e-mail :  tran-press@europarl.eu.int


Culture

Preserving Europe's film heritage
Gyula HEGYI (PES, HU)
Report on the proposal for a recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on film heritage and the competitiveness of related industrial activities
(COM(2004)0171 – C6 0133/2004 – 2004/0066(COD))
Doc.: A6-0101/2005
Procedure : Codecision (1st reading)
Vote : 09.05.2005

Parliament has adopted a package of compromise amendments to the report of Gyula HEGYI (ESP, HU) to avoid a second reading on film heritage and the competitiveness of related industrial activities. The recommendation aims at encouraging Member States to preserve European film heritage as an essential component of European cultural and art heritage as well as an element of competitiveness. Appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that audiovisual heritage is systematically collected, catalogued (deposited), preserved and made accessible to the public.

The rapporteur was very happy with the debate as the Council has accepted his and the Parliament's main requirements. Thus the deposit of films will be mandatory by legal or contractual or other means (the Member States may choose between the two systems) so that a systematic collection is secured throughout Europe. In order to make common film heritage as comprehensive as possible it is stipulated that after a transitional period of two years every film should, when possible, be deposited and not only those that receive public funding. In order to know what collection each Member State has, the Parliament proposes a network of databases where already existing Council of Europe institutions such as the European Observatory in Strasbourg can play an important role.

Last but not least, the use of the film heritage as a way of strengthening the European dimension in education and promoting cultural diversity should also be stressed in the recommendation, as well as fostering and promoting visual education, film studies and media literacy in education at all levels, professional training programmes and European programmes. MEPs also insisted on the use of digital and new technologies in the collection, cataloguing, preservation and restoration of cinematographic works.

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


Prevention, control and eradication of TSEs
Dagmar ROTH-BEHRENDT (PES, DE)
Report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 laying down rules for the prevention, control and eradication of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies
(COM(2004)0775 – C6 0223/2004 – 2004/0270(COD))
Doc.: A6-0098/2005
Procedure : Codecision (1st reading)
Vote : 10.05.2005

Parliament adopted a legislative resolution on laying down rules for the prevention, control and eradication of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

Press enquiries:
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Agriculture

Committee urges Commission to submit new proposal for exceptional market support measures
Niels BUSK (ALDE, DK)
Report on the proposal for a Council regulation amending Regulations (EEC) No 2759/75, (EEC) No 2771/75, (EEC) No 2777/75,
(EC) No 1254/1999, (EC) No 1255/1999 and (EC) No 2529/2001
as regards exceptional market support measures
(COM(2004)0712 – C6 0220/2004 – 2004/0254(CNS))
Doc.: A6-0126/2005
Procedure : Consultation
Vote : 10.05.2005

Parliament rejected this report by 334 votes against, with only 272 in favour and 14 abstentions. The Commission proposal now returns to the Agriculture Committee. The committee has two months to draw up a new report since the Commission has not withdrawn its proposal.

Press enquiries:
Jean-Yves Loog
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73636
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Protection of New Varieties of Plants
Joseph DAUL (EPP-ED, FR)
Report on the proposal for a Council decision approving the accession of the European Community to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, as revised at Geneva on 19 March 1991
(COM(2004)0798 – C6 0010/2005 – 2004/0275(CNS))
Doc.: A6-0052/2005
Procedure : Consultation
Vote : 10.05.2005

Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution by 568 votes in favour, 17 against and 8 abstentions approving the accession of the European Community to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, as revised at Geneva on 19 March 1991.

Press enquiries:
Jean-Yves Loog
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Switzerland to take part in European Environment Agency
Karl-Heinz FLORENZ (EPP-ED, DE)
Reporton the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation concerning the latter’s participation in the European Environment Agency and the European Environment Information and Observation Network
(COM(2004)0658 – C6 0173/2004 – 2004/0233(CNS))
Doc.: A6-0088/2005
Procedure : Consultation
Vote : 09.05.2005

Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution by 601 votes in favour, 4 against and 4 abstentions on Switzerland's participation in the European Environment Agency and the European Environment Information and Observation Network

Press enquiries:
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Fruits and vegetable sector
María Esther HERRANZ GARCÍA (EPP-ED, ES)
Report on the simplification of the common market organisation in fruit and vegetables
Doc.: A6-0121/2005
Procedure : Own-initiative
Debate : 10.05.2005
Vote : 11.05.2005

In adopting a non-binding resolution on the reform of the fruit and vegetable sector, Parliament expresses its firm opposition to the Commission’s decision to postpone presentation of a proposal to reform the fruit and vegetable sector.

Parliament considers the postponement of this proposal for one or two years unacceptable and excessive as there is an urgent need to find a solution to the market crises, which cannot be resolved with the available management instruments. Parliament argues that the Commission should not ignore a sector that occupies a very important place (17 %) in the European Union’s final agricultural output and which risks being marginalised in the negotiations on the new financial perspective. MEPs say that new market management mechanisms should be found to deal with the liberalisation of trade during the WTO negotiations.

Press enquiries:
Jean-Yves Loog
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Potato starch: MEPs want existing quota system to be extended until 2009
Janusz WOJCIECHOWSKI (EPP-ED, PL)
Report on the proposal for a Council regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 1868/94 establishing a quota system in relation to the production of potato starch
(COM(2004)0772 – C6 0014/2005 – 2004/0269(CNS))
Doc.: A6-0096/2005
Procedure : Consultation
Debate : 10.05.2005
Vote : 11.05.2005

Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution by 546 votes in favour, to 23 against and 9 abstentions, on establishing a quota system in relation to the production of potato starch.

Press enquiries:
Jean-Yves Loog
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 73636
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 44652
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Drought in Spain
Motion for resolutions to wind up the debate on the statement by the Commission on the drought in Spain
Doc. B6-0307/0308/0309/0310/2005
Vote : 12.05.2005

Parliament adopted a resolution expressing its solidarity with farmers and stockbreeders in Spain and in the Iberian peninsula as a whole, in view of the generally unfavourable climatic conditions they are facing.

Press enquiries:
Ralph Pine
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Development & Cooperation

Situation in Sudan - conditional reintroduction of aid
Motions for resolutions on the situation in Sudan
Doc. B6-0300/2005, B6-0301/2005, B6-0302/2005, B6-0303/2005, B6-0304/2005, B6-0305/2005
Vote : 12.05.2005

MEPs adopted a joint resolution on the situation in Sudan urging the Commission to ensure that the €450m in aid be disbursed gradually and as far as possible via humanitarian organisations. The House stresses that the government of Sudan should only be granted access to these funds if substantial progress towards peace in Darfur is achieved, including the end of all violence, the reining in of government-sponsored militias, and cooperation with the ICC criminal investigation.

The House welcomes the decision of the UN to refer the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court. The House also welcomes the handing-over of 51 names of those suspected of war crimes by Kofi Annan on 5 April 2005 to the chief prosecutor. Parliament urges the government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict to do their utmost to cooperate fully with the Court. Parliament calls upon all parties to back the International Criminal Court in order to end the culture of impunity within Darfur. The House strongly believes that compliance with the resolution will boost the peace process in Darfur and aid development in Sudan as a whole.

MEPs welcome the decision of the African Union to increase its peacekeeping force to Darfur to some 7,700 troops.
The House condemns the arrest of Dr Adam, chairperson of the Sudan Social Development organisation, as well as the arrest of his colleague Mr Saleem and driver Mr Taha. Parliament calls on the Sudanese authorities to release all three without delay. MEPs insist that the Sudanese authorities make it clear where they are holding Dr Adam and allow him access to family and lawyers. Finally, the House urges the EU to put intensive pressure on the Sudanese authorities to immediately release and put a stop to the systematic harassment of Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, and especially his seven-month detention in 2004.

The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution on the situation in Sudan at its last meeting in Bamako, Mali on 21 April 2005. The resolution can be found here:

http://www.europarl.eu.int/intcoop/acp/60_09/pdf/re_sudan_en.pdf

Press enquiries:
Armelle Douaud
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Budget

European Parliament's budget for 2006
Valdis DOMBROVSKIS (EPP-ED, LV)
Report on the estimates of revenue and expenditure of Parliament for the financial year 2006
(2005/2012(BUD))
Doc.: A6-0106/2005
Procedure : Budgetary
Debate : 10.05.2005
Vote : 12.05.2005

Parliament adopted a report by Valdis DOMBROVSKIS (EPP-ED, LV) which aims to identify Parliament's financial needs for the year 2006. Proper preparation for the 2007 enlargement, as well as the consolidation of the 2004 enlargement and the reinforcement of information and linguistic services are identified as key priorities for the coming year.

Parliament has estimated at €13.8m the cost of pre-accession needs for Bulgaria and Romania. This amount will cover costs related to observers from the two countries as well as linguistic and support staff. As for the 2004 enlargement, Parliament expresses its concern that a high number of posts for officials of the new EU10 are still to be allocated and regrets the delays in recruitment procedures.

As for Parliament's information and communication policy, the Bureau of the EP is set to come up with proposals to raise the profile of the institution. A better link with citizens should be ensured by the EP's external offices. The House also expects that appropriations will be entered in next year's budget for external offices in Bulgaria and Romania.

Members of the European Parliament should be given enhanced support from linguistic services to allow them to work in their own languages, Parliament argues. Therefore translation capacities should be increased, while interpretation facilities should be more available for political groups and working parties. Synergies with other institutions should also be explored.

The report also points out that assistants are key for the work of MEPs and calls for a statute for assistants, for the sake of budgetary transparency.

Press enquiries:
Jean-Yves Loog
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(32) 0498.983.589
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Trade


Doha Development Round
Javier MORENO SÁNCHEZ (PES, ES)
Report on the assessment of the Doha Round following the WTO agreement on 1 August 2004
(2004/2138(INI))
Doc.: A6-0095/2005
Procedure : Own-initiative
Debate : 11.05.2005
Vote : 12.05.2005

The House adopted by 437 votes in favour, to 94 against with 12 abstentions, an own-initiative report on the Doha Round following the WTO agreement on 1 August 2004.

Press enquiries:
Armelle Douaud
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74779
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e-mail :  inta-press@europarl.eu.int


Information and communication

EU's information and communication strategy
Luis Francisco HERRERO-TEJEDOR ALGAR (EPP-ED, ES)
Report on the implementation of the European Union’s information and communication strategy
(2004/2238(INI))
Doc.: A6-0111/2005
Procedure : Own-initiative
Vote: 12.05.2005

Parliament adopted a non-binding report on the EU's information and communication strategy with 398 votes in favour, 54 against and 55 abstentions.
MEPs stress that the object of the information and communication strategy should primarily be to keep the Union’s citizens continually and properly informed about the functioning of the Union’s Institutions in order to develop their knowledge, concern and participation in the Union’s affairs and bring them closer to the Union. The House considers it necessary to pay greater attention to the content of the messages put out, so as to stimulate the interest of citizens by tackling their concerns.

MEPs stress the need to establish a decentralised information system to make it easier to reach specific groups which should be targeted with individually tailored messages in all cases. Parliament is convinced that information and communication policy will not be effective until knowledge of the EU and its institutions is included as a subject in the Member States’ school curricula; universities should also be called upon to be proactive in spreading and fostering common European values.

Parliament stresses the importance of making greater use of communications media with the technological capacity to reach the homes of all European citizens, such as television, radio and the Internet. The House stresses the need for the European Union to create a centre of excellence for communication within which there would be structured cooperation amongst all the EU institutions and which would provide scope for working with professionals and experts in the communication sector. It stresses the need for the institutions to improve their press releases and the quality of all information intended for the press, in order to facilitate the work of all professional journalists closely following events in Brussels. MEPs call also for the institutions’ press releases to be prepared as far as possible by professional communications experts.

Further to that, MEPs call the EU institutions to devise drama series, competitions, films, news reports and all kinds of high-quality, accessible programmes, appealing to popular taste, by reaching agreements with audiovisual producers.

MEPs believe that some of the information resources should be devoted to promoting the Europe ‘brand’ and believes that in the next few years pilot schemes should be introduced with a view to making certain programmes such as ‘Media’, ‘Youth’, ‘Culture’ or ‘Education’ more appealing to the general public and to promoting the positive ‘image’ of the Union. Parliament welcomes, therefore, the organisation of a European Youth Week with activity days under the banner ‘Young People in Parliament’, which will strengthen young people’s links with Europe.

With regard to the European Constitution, the House stresses that the campaign of information and communication should become the main priority in the Union’s information and communication strategy in the years ahead.. MEPs consider that this priority should be approached from a dual perspective:

- the Union’s institutions have a duty to inform citizens clearly and objectively about the content of the Constitution and the meaning of the changes it introduces as compared to the current Treaties,
- in addition, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission have the political responsibility to support the ratification of the Constitution, always acting in agreement with Member States and taking into account the relevant national legislation.

As to the European Parliament's information strategy, the House welcomes the decision of the Parliament’s Bureau to commission a feasibility study on the possible establishment of a parliamentary information channel or genuine European Parliament television channel. Parliament recognises that there are a range of different options for such a project and believes that any channel should be independent. Parliament believes that such a channel could make a significant contribution to the development of a European public space. MEPs note that, on earlier occasions, it has requested the Commission to launch an in-house impact study on such a European channel. Finally, the House stresses the need for there to be greater synergy between the activities of Parliament’s external offices and those of the Commission’s representations.

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


Human Rights

Call for stronger measures against Burmese regime
Joint motion for a resolution on Burma
Doc : B6-0284/2005, B6-0287/2005, B6-0289/2005, B6-0293/2005, B6-0313/2005, B6-0315/2005
Vote : 12.05.2005

In a resolution on Burma, adopted by 65 votes in favour with none against and 3 abstentions, Parliament points out that any meeting with senior members of the Burmese regime cannot be taken as an indicator of a relaxation of EU opposition to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) dictatorship. It condemns the total disregard of the Burma junta for the welfare of the people of Burma and strongly condemns the bomb attacks that took place in Rangoon on 7 May 2005, killing 11 people and wounding 162 others. Parliament asks for a policy of peaceful solution of political problems, and expresses its condolences to the victims and the families of those who died in the 7 May bomb attacks.

MEPs deplore the Burmese regime's campaign of ethnic cleansing against several major ethnic groups fighting for autonomy and condemn the use of chemical weapons. They urge the government of Burma immediately to stop any new attack using chemical arms.

Parliament demands the immediate release of and full freedom of movement and expression for Aung San Suu Kyi, Hkun Htun Oo, General Hso Hten, other political leaders and all political prisoners held by the SPDC. It calls on the SPDC to initiate immediately a meaningful dialogue with the National League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic groups to bring about a return to democracy and respect for human rights, including ethnic minorities' rights and state rights in Burma.

MEPs call for the severe restrictions on constitutional discussions to be lifted and insist that the SPDC respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in the results of the 1990 elections. They call for a strengthening of the EU's common policy on Burma, notably by widening and deepening the restrictions on business contact with Burmese state-owned enterprises by EU companies, and by ending all non-humanitarian or development aid, including from the World Bank.

Among other points, MEPs call for an investigation to be carried out into the decision to hold the 'Burma Day' to ensure that such a use of public funding cannot be repeated. They also call for a a high-ranking EU envoy to be appointed to work towards securing the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and developing a comprehensive EU strategy on Burma and urge the ASEAN states to reconsider the assumption that Burma should chair ASEAN in 2006.
Press enquiries:
Ralph Pine
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e-mail :  rpine@europarl.eu.int


MEPs condemn harassment of journalists in Mari El (Russia)
Joint motion for a resolution on Mari El
Doc.: B6-0283/2005, B6-0286/2005, B6-0291/2005, B6-0292/2005, B6-0294/2005, B6-0316/2005
Vote : 12.05.2005

In a resolution on the situation in Mari El, a republic within the Russian Federation, the European Parliament says it is convinced that the multiethnic character of the Russian Federation greatly contributes to the cultural and linguistic diversity of Europe, and is a phenomenon that all citizens of the Russian Federation are justifiably proud of and that should be preserved for the benefit of all Europeans.

MEPs strongly condemn the harassment of and assaults on independent journalists in Mari El, and call on the federal and local authorities to bring the perpetrators of such acts to justice, and ensure respect for freedom of expression. They call for a speedy, comprehensive and independent inquiry by federal and local authorities into the allegations of irregularities before and during the presidential elections in Mari El on 4 February 2005.

Parliament calls on the Government of Mari El to immediately stop political retribution and intimidation directed at dissenting public servants, and refrain from undue political interference in the affairs of educational and cultural institutions. It calls on the local and federal authorities to respect their obligations under international law, and to take adequate steps to facilitate the practical implementation of the provisions of the State Constitution and other legislation relating to the maintenance and development of minority languages and cultures, with particular emphasis on providing quality education in people's native language at all levels, thus ensuring that the Mari language and Russian are placed on the same footing throughout the republic

Press enquiries:
Ralph Pine
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74751
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 42941
(32) 0498.983.587
e-mail :  rpine@europarl.eu.int


Togo: Parliament says fresh elections are needed
 
Joint motion for a resolution on Togo
Doc.: B6-0282/2005, B6-0285/2005, B6-0288/2005, B6-0311/2005, B6-0312/2005, B6-0314/2005
Vote : 12.05.2005

In a resolution on Togo, adopted by 56 votes in favour to 3 against with 4 abstentions, Parliament firmly condemns both the brutal repression perpetrated by the police against people disputing the regularity of the elections and the abusive treatment of foreigners, as well as the arson attack which completely destroyed the Goethe Institute in Lomé. It calls on the Togolese authorities to ensure that all foreign citizens and institutions are properly protected.

MEPs call on the security forces to stop all abusive and intimidatory acts against the civilian population, to put an end to the activities of armed gangs and to carry out their duty to maintain order while strictly respecting human rights. They call for the establishment of an independent fact-finding commission to be responsible for clarifying the abusive acts carried out and to assign responsibility so that the guilty parties may be prosecuted and made to answer for their actions, while respecting their right to a fair trial.

Parliament takes the view that the circumstances in which recent elections were held did not comply with the principles of transparency, pluralism and the freedom of the people to determine their own future, principles which were guaranteed by the relevant regional and international instruments, and that the legitimacy of the authorities established on the basis of these elections may not be acknowledged. It emphasises that these elections do not comply with the conditions laid down as a precondition for the resumption of cooperation between Togo and the European Union.

MEPs call on the Togolese authorities to convene a national conference, to be attended by the opposition parties and representatives of civil society, with a view to finding a solution to the crisis and to envisage new presidential and legislative elections worthy of the name: i.e. democratic, free, fair and transparent, under international supervision and after a consensual review of the code and the electoral rolls. They call on the European Commission, the Council and all regional and international institutions to work for a return to security and dialogue so that the leaders of all the political movements and civilian and military institutions may set out along the road towards national reconciliation and a genuine transitional process, in compliance with the democratic decision of all Togolese.

Parliament says EU Member States should abstain from making unilateral declarations on the regularity of the elections and, instead, seek a common position within the EU. MEPs urge the Togolese authorities to comply with the 22 undertakings given in connection with the consultations under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement as regards the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Finally, they take the view that the Togolese authorities must assume total responsibility for all acts of violence perpetrated against the physical integrity of civilians and, in particular, against representatives of the opposition political parties, human rights activists and journalists.

Press enquiries:
Ralph Pine
(Strasbourg) tel.(33-3) 881 74751
(Brussels)  tel.(32-2) 28 42941
(32) 0498.983.587
e-mail :  rpine@europarl.eu.int


Last updated: 17 May 2005Legal notice