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Verbatim report of proceedings
Tuesday, 5 September 2000 - Strasbourg OJ edition

11. Question Time (Council)

  President. – The next item is Question Time (B5-0535/2000). We will examine questions to the Council.

You know that we have very little time. According to the Rules of Procedure, for supplementary questions – which are not obligatory – you have 1 minute, but there is a Parliament recommendation that only 30 seconds be used. I am not going to insist on 30 seconds, but I would ask you only to ask questions that are essential.

I must point out that Question Nos 1, 3 and 4 were included on the list of questions for the July Question Time but could not be replied to by the Council, because there was not sufficient time to translate them beforehand into all languages, and they are therefore being presented once again at the beginning of this part-session.


– Since they deal with the same subject, Question Nos 1 and 2 will be taken together.

Question No 1 by Ioannis Theonas (H-0626/00):

Subject: Inhuman exploitation and flagrant violation of the rights of children in the USA

A Human Rights Watch report entitled 'Fingers to the Bone: United States Failure to Protect Child Farmworkers' reveals that hundreds of thousands of children, primarily of Latin American origin, are labouring on the land in the USA under 'dangerous and gruelling conditions'. These children, aged between 13 and 16, work an average 12-14 hour day on farms, are exposed to particularly toxic pesticides which cause headaches, rashes, nausea and, in the long term, cancers and brain damage, and are forced to carry very heavy and often dangerous equipment. The report also stresses that these children are paid far less than the minimum wage, with some earning no more than 2 dollars an hour.

Does the Council condemn such conditions, which are a gross violation of the child protection charter, which illustrate the USA's hypocrisy when it invokes violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to justify not granting preferential trade arrangements and supporting unfair competition to promote its farm produce? Will the Council put this matter to the US authorities in the context of its dialogue with the USA?


Question No 2 by Glenys Kinnock (H-643/00):

Subject: United Nations General Assembly Special Session for Children

What action does the Council intend to take in order to ensure that the EU makes a positive and constructive contribution to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session for Children, in September 2001, when all states will review commitments and goals set ten years ago at the World Summit for Children? Does the Council agree that it is important that Member States, the Commission and the Council have a coherent approach to this Summit?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) Mr President, I would like to answer the questions from Mr Theonas and Mrs Kinnock together, because they both deal with the need to ensure that child labour is abolished for once and for all.

As regards Mr Theonas’ question, I must emphasise that the European Union fully recognises the importance of abolishing the exploitation of children, which deprives them of their right to a normal childhood and education, and their right not to be subjected to forced labour. The European Union actively supports the action of the United Nations, the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund, better known here as UNICEF. It salutes the adoption of the ILO Convention concerning immediate prohibition and action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, ratified by the United States on 2 December 1999, and it will work to ensure that this convention does indeed help eliminate the most intolerable forms of child labour.

The European Union regrets that the United States has not yet ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Our representatives have been urging the United States to ratify it in bilateral contacts. The Convention has been ratified by the Member States and is of capital importance for the European Union which is actively involved in the current preparations for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children, scheduled for September 2001, to assess progress achieved in the field of the rights of the child over the last ten years.

The European Union often raises human rights issues in the context of its political dialogue with the United States and the Council takes note of the case raised by the honourable Member.

On Mrs Kinnock’s question, the Council entirely agrees with her on the importance of good preparation of September’s UN General Assembly Special Session devoted to follow-up of the World Summit for Children. The European Union has started actively preparing for the event. It is one of our priorities for the 55th session of the UN General Assembly. Although the success of the event depends in large measure on the commitment of the international community as a whole, the Council recognises that the European Union can and must play a major role in the preparations, a role encouraged during informal contacts held with representatives of UNICEF.

In addition, the Council is constantly attentive to the rights of the child wherever issues relating to human rights are dealt with. The preparations for the special session are on the agenda of the Council’s human rights group, and it intends to devote a special section of the European Union’s annual human rights report to this issue.

Finally, the French Presidency has proposed holding a European Day of the Rights of the Child to its partners, possibly on 20 November 2000 – but I say that with reservations, because it has not yet been made official.

One last point: the Council is promoting the signature of two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted and opened for signature by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 May 2000, and we hope a lot of countries will sign at the Millennium Summit, which opens tomorrow and will implement these two optional protocols.


  Theonas (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, I really must thank Mr Moscovici for the quality and content of his reply and for the fact that the European Union feels that the international conventions of the United Nations Organisation, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, should be ratified. I should just like to observe, by way of a supplementary question, that ratification is extremely important, but often it is not enough. Because, if I am not mistaken, the United States have ratified the new International Labour Organisation Convention on Child Labour but the convention is not being applied. And where I think the minister needs to add to what he has told us is on whether the European Union, whether the Council will also demand at a practical level during the two days of contacts that the United States apply the provisions of the International Labour Organisation Convention and the United States convention on the Rights of the Child.


  Moscovici, Council.(FR) It is true that the important thing is implementation, but it is difficult to implement a convention which has not been ratified. That is why we want to start having a much more determined political dialogue with the United States on this issue and press for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United States. We will also hold informal consultations to try to convince them of the need not just to ratify that convention but to adhere to it.



Question No 3 by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, which has been taken over by Mr Folias (H-0627/00):

Subject: Involvement of labour and management

In various Member States there is no dialogue of substance or effective cooperation between government bodies and representatives of labour and management on employment-related issues or, in a broader context, efforts to modernise the European social model.

The conclusions of the European Council held in Santa Maria da Feira referred to the need for labour and management to play a more significant role.

How does the Council envisage strengthening the role of labour and management? How will it monitor their involvement more effectively?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) The Council has always regarded social dialogue as enormously important. But you will appreciate that it is not up to the Council to advocate any particular model of social dialogue at national level, because that lies entirely within the competence of each Member State. However, in terms of the social dialogue at European level, both sides of industry in Europe are already heavily involved in two aspects of Community action: coordination of economic policies, and the effort to implement the European strategy for jobs.

On the latter aspect, both sides of industry participate, with the Council and Commission, in the work of the standing committee on employment with a view to facilitating coordination of employment policies in the Member States by harmonising them with Community objectives. Our social partners are also associated with the work of the committee on employment, consultation of both sides of industry in this context being informal.

As regards the efforts to strengthen the European strategy for jobs, when the employment guidelines are revised in 2001, both sides of industry, including those at national level, will be invited to play a more important role in their definition, and in implementing and evaluating the guidelines which fall within their scope. The stress will be on modernising the organisation of work, education for lifelong learning and raising the employment rate, especially for women.

There are also grounds for suggesting that it is up to the Commission, pursuant to Article 138 of the Treaty, to consult both sides of industry on the possible orientation of a Community action before presenting proposals in the area of social policy. As an example, the Commission has recently consulted its social partners on the possible orientation of a Community action on modernising and improving working relations.

As regards the modernisation of the European social model, both sides of industry will be associated with the work of the new committee on social protection, just as they are already associated with the work of the old committee on employment and the labour market and its successor, the committee on employment. Following the conclusions of the Lisbon European Council, the Fifteen are due to adopt a European social policy agenda at the Nice European Council in December 2000. That is an important priority for the French Presidency. The working document for that agenda is a communication from the Commission adopted on 28 June. There will be contributions to it and consultations on it under the French Presidency, and naturally both sides of industry are expected to be closely associated in drawing up the social policy agenda.


  Folias (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, I should like to thank the minister for his reply; I naturally endorse the fact that the importance and value of the social partners in shaping a new model are much greater than anyone can imagine. But what I should like to ask is this: when a tripartite dialogue takes place between the two sides of industry and the national government, how far can the national government ignore what was jointly agreed and proposed by the social partners? Or, taken the other way, how binding on a government are proposals decided jointly by the social partners, who know better than anyone what the problems of society and the causes of unemployment are and what problems need to be solved in order to deal with unemployment, or how binding should they be on any national government?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) Mr Folias, it would certainly be desirable to make things more restrictive, but this is not the route which has been adopted within the European Union. On the one hand, there is the subsidiary nature of social problems and, on the other, the selection of a method we call the open method of coordination. We are currently succeeding in reconciling the problems of economic coordination, the major objectives of economic policy, the problems of coordination in social terms, the guidelines for employment and the various methods, and the various bodies working on it. I think that this is an approach which must be continued because, as we know, Europe is very diverse. Europe must not and cannot interfere in everything. At the same time, the involvement of both sides of industry must be continually intensified.


  Rübig (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, the social partnership should be a forward-looking partnership. The first priority should be to implement what both sides want for themselves, and I believe that dialogue is an essential and important prerequisite in this respect.

What do you perceive the role of the existing Economic and Social Committee to be in this context, and what changes do you think will need to be made here, to enable it to become more actively involved in the work in future?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) The Council does not have any response to this question at this stage.



Question No 4 by Glyn Ford (H-0697/00):

Subject: Professor A Pelinka and Austria

Is the Council aware of the case of Professor Anton Pelinka who has had his work in the European Monitoring Centre deliberately impeded and sabotaged by the Austrian Government and who has consequently had to resign from his position as Vice-President and member of the Management Committee of the Monitoring Centre?

Does the Council not believe this to be a clear case of political interference of the kind many of us believed would follow from the entry into government of the Austrian Freedom Party?

Does the Council not believe that this case justifies the imposition of sanctions and makes it all the more important for the sanctions to be maintained?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) The Council is indeed aware of Professor Pelinka’s resignation from his post as Vice-President of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia on 31 May this year. However, the measures adopted by the 14 Member States on 31 January, which are going to be reassessed, or, at least, which are due to be reassessed in the light of the report of the Wise Men, are of a strictly bilateral nature. As such, they do not implicate the institutions of the European Union and, consequently, the Council is not justified in declaring an opinion on whether or not they should be maintained. As you know, three experts were designated by the President of the European Court of Human Rights on 12 July in order to check specifically whether the Austrian Government had contravened common European values since taking office on 4 February, and also to look into the decidedly unique political character of the Austrian Freedom Party. The Member States will, of course, be very interested to peruse the experts’ report when it is published, which, according to my information, should be very soon.


  Ford (PSE). – Mr President, I had the privilege of being a member of the Council of Ministers' Consultative Committee on Racism and Xenophobia, along with Professor Pelinka. He was a highly valued if not slightly boring member, who tried to prevent us going too far in our recommendations and acted as a brake on some of us who were more enthusiastic about pushing forward.

Is the Council aware that the management committee of the Monitoring Centre has passed a resolution expressing regret at the resignation of Professor Pelinka and the events leading to that resignation and is the Council prepared to draw the attention of the Wise Men to this particular incident and ask them to include that in their report because it clearly seems to be a possible example of how our common European values are being undermined by the current government in Austria?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) Mr Ford, I have my own personal opinion on the matter. I imagine that you know something of my views as a member of the French Government. They are known to Austria at least. The fact remains, however, that I am speaking right now on behalf of the Council and, let me repeat, these measures are bilateral measures, not measures undertaken in the context of the European Union.

As far as the report of the Wise Men is concerned, it is, by definition, a matter for them alone. I have no doubt but that in the detailed study they make of the Austrian situation, after a number of consultations, they will be able to take the diversity of individual situations into consideration, or, at least, I hope so. That, in any case, was the mandate given them.


  Sjöstedt (GUE/NGL).(SV) I have listened to the French Presidency’s answer with a great deal of interest. The Pelinka case is a very serious legal case which may be said to constitute direct interference with freedom of expression in so far as the legal apparatus is being used in practice to silence political criticism. The Council has now explained that it cannot comment “in its capacity as the Council of Ministers”, but the French Government may perhaps comment in its own capacity. Is this matter not thought to be serious and to need to be included in the assessment being made in the Wise Men’s report?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) I believe that the stance of the French Government and even the French authorities on this matter has been known from the outset. We were by no means the last to demand the bilateral measures which were taken. The fact remains that I am speaking right now, let me repeat, on behalf of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and that those measures are not measures undertaken within the context of the European institutions but rather a set of bilateral measures undertaken by 14 Member States with regard to the fifteenth.

That, sir, is all I wished to say, and I repeat, once again, that, by definition, if we want the Wise Men’s report to be truly wise, we must allow them to work wisely, and not try to influence them one way or the other. I place my trust in these important political and legal figures, especially the former Finnish President, Mr Ahtisaari, since he has shown in the past that he is capable of assessing complex situations.



Question No 5 by Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines (H-0597/00):

Subject: Request for a documented assessment of the education of children in the countries applying for EU membership

In view of the economic crisis and profound structural changes that the majority of the applicant countries in the enlargement process have undergone, will the Council say whether all children in these countries are receiving an education? To what age is education in these countries compulsory? Is there any means of guaranteeing that all future citizens of the EU receive an education?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) The Council is in possession of the latest statistics provided by Eurostat. I have them here and I am willing to offer them to the honourable Member. The data refer to the now distant school year 1997-1998, and show that in 11 countries which are candidates for membership of the European Union, the duration of compulsory schooling is nine or ten years, i.e. until the age of 15 or 16, depending on the case. It is therefore possible to estimate that the percentage of young people in education at 16 is approximately 90% and at 18 approximately 60%. Reliable statistics are not yet available for Cyprus and Malta, and Eurostat has not yet begun to collaborate with Turkey on educational statistics, but it is, understandably, not a simple matter where retrospective data is concerned.

If she requires further details, the Honourable Member can also consult a collection entitled “Key Data on Education in the European Union”, produced by Eurydice in collaboration with Eurostat and published by the Commission in French, German and English. Let me do a little advertising by announcing that the 1999-2000 edition is now available.

Finally, on the subject of the education of all European citizens, you should remember that it is up to every Member State and every candidate country to ensure that this objective is achieved. Once more, I should like to make the statistics, in the form in which I have them, available to Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines.


  Gutiérrez-Cortines (PPE-DE).(ES) In fact, I have consulted the statistics and I have consulted the information provided by the European Foundation for Education, and I am surprised by the rosy picture they paint of the situation in the countries of the East.

The news we ourselves have received all indicates that, while the system has fallen, an enormous crisis has been declared. There are problems in very many places. In rural areas, many teachers are in practice not being paid, and I do not believe that, with the crisis of structural change suffered in the rest of the system, education has been kept in the wonderful state indicated in the statistics.

It therefore concerns me that there is no way of searching or taking soundings. It is clear that, beyond subsidiarity, even beyond formal legitimacy, there is a moral legitimacy, which is based on our commitment to ensure that in the rural areas, in the new Europe, in the new countries which are going to join us, not a single child should remain without access to education or be deprived of the right to education which they deserve.


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) I was basing my answer on the facts available to me, i.e. the statistics. I am not willing to make a qualitative judgement which might not be justified. Let me repeat to the honourable Member that I have available a table which, in effect, shows that what I have said includes the disparities. There is an average, of course, but there are also cases of greater or lesser advantage, which undoubtedly illustrate situations at grass roots level which are not at all equal. I can give you this summary table if you wish, Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines.


  Αlavanos (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, I should like to take advantage of the question by Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines to touch on an aspect of tertiary education in candidate countries which affects young people not from these countries but from other Member States of the European Union, such as Greece, who attend universities in candidate countries in large numbers. My question to the President-in-Office is this: is there any thought, are there any prospects, are there any plans to extend the scope of the directive on the mutual recognition of tertiary education diplomas which applies to the Fifteen to the candidate countries? And if so, when? Will this be done once the accession procedures have been completed or could it be done earlier in order to solve the present problems? I understand that the President-in-Office may not be able to give me an answer right now but perhaps he could inform us if or when he has an answer.


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) At this stage I can give you an initial answer, to the effect that one of the objectives of the French Presidency, as you perhaps already know, is what we call the European Research Area. It is something we are working on together with Jack Lang, the objective being to remove all obstacles to the mobility of students, teachers and researchers. This, of course, also involves harmonising the recognition of qualifications. This is what we wish to do for the European Union. It is not an easy task. I think that, as far as we ourselves are concerned, it would be ambitious to set a target of five years.

For the rest, however, it is a complicated matter to attempt harmonisation with countries which are not yet members of the European Union. It must be considered, however, that if this is made a requirement within the European Union, then this is the requirement within the body to which the candidate countries wish and are going to accede. The question of whether it should be an approach like that used for the internal market or like that in use for the Schengen countries can be posed at a later date. The fact is, however, that we still have a few years to consider the matter.



Question No 6 by María Rodríguez Ramos, which has been taken over by Mr Medina Ortega (H-0605/00):

Subject: Negotiating mandate covering the agricultural section of the free trade agreement with the Maghreb

The Commission has submitted its proposal for a negotiating mandate for the free trade agreement with Morocco, Tunisia and Israel to the Council’s ‘Maghreb’ Working Party. The proposal covers all theoretically possible liberalisation measures, from increasing quotas to reducing customs duties, with various formulas for handling entry prices.

What are the scope and substance of the mandate?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) Morocco, Tunisia and Israel are the three partners of the European Union whose Euro-Mediterranean association agreements have entered into force. These agreements include a periodic review clause for agriculture, according to which the parties undertake to plan for the increased liberalisation of their agricultural trade, with this process complementing the gradual dismantling of the tariff system in preparation for the setting up of the industrial free trade area due in 2010. It is strictly limited to agriculture. It does not, therefore, concern, for example, fisheries products which are dealt with as part of other negotiations. The Morocco, Tunisia and Israel association agreements make provision for examination of the agricultural trade situation, as of 1 January 2000, with a view to the establishment of gradual liberalisation measures, beginning on 1 January 2001.

The negotiations which are due to open must therefore make it possible to strengthen this Euro-Mediterranean partnership. They are also designed to achieve a better balance in agricultural trade with the three countries concerned, with regard to which the Union has a structural deficit. The European Union is the prime outlet for the agricultural production of its partners, and takes up two thirds of their exports. Currently, 95% of exports of agricultural products from Morocco, Tunisia and Israel to the European Union are exempt from customs duties. On 20 July 2000, the Council approved the Commission’s negotiating mandate, which comprises general guidelines. It is a matter of facilitating improved access to the markets of the partner countries for Community products and of greater balance in mutual preferences, including by means of exempting new products from customs duties. It also defines the room for manoeuvre the Commission is allowed in restoring balance in trade and concluding negotiations.

At the request of the Member States, the measures which may give rise to concessions are strictly delimited. The mandate therefore authorises the Community negotiator, if necessary, to grant the Mediterranean partners tariff preferences for new products or to improve existing concessions, while, however, taking the vulnerability of certain products and the mechanisms of the common agricultural policy into consideration. In this respect, it specifies that the Commission is, in collaboration with the Member States, to carry out an assessment of the potential impact of the concessions on the economic and commercial interests of the European Union, and obviously the Council will not take a decision until it has consulted the results of this assessment.


  Medina Ortega (PSE).(ES) Mr President, I am happy that the Council is also taking account in this negotiation of the sensitivity of certain regions and certain products, especially in the agricultural sector. At the moment there are agricultural sectors in the Mediterranean and also in the outermost regions of the Community, which could be threatened as a result of the very generous proposed concessions by the Commission.

I would just like to repeat what I said and encourage the Council to persist in maintaining the greatest possible vigilance so that those sectors are not fundamentally damaged by overly-generous concessions.


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) I believe that this is exactly the philosophy which will be guiding our negotiations. I can therefore only endorse what is more a compliment than a question.



Question No 7 by Alexandros Alavanos (H-0610/00):

Subject: EU-Turkey partnership

In the process of adopting Regulation EC/764/2000(1) regarding the implementation of measures to intensify the EU-Turkey customs union, on a proposal from the Commission, Parliament's amendments concerning democratisation, respect for human rights and the rights of minorities in Turkey were effectively rejected. This development has given rise to fears as to whether the 'partnership', which will reportedly be discussed in the Council at the end of the year, will abide by the political terms and conditions laid down by the Helsinki Summit.

Does the Council, therefore, intend to adopt the proposal for a Regulation (COM(2000)169) regarding the implementation of measures to promote economic and social development in Turkey, together with the partnership? Can it give assurances that the Helsinki political criteria will be clearly defined within the partnership and that the mechanisms for monitoring Turkey's progress towards democratisation will operate as they do for the other states applying for membership?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) Following the adoption, on 10 April this year, of the regulation regarding the implementation of measures intended to intensify the EU-Turkey customs union, on 13 June this year the Council adopted its common position on the proposal for a financial regulation on the implementation of actions to promote Turkey’s economic and social development. This common position was sent to the European Parliament for second reading at the July 2000 part-session. The Council awaits Parliament’s opinion with interest.

You know that, in December 1999, the Helsinki European Council recognised Turkey’s candidacy on an equal footing with the other candidates in terms of rights and obligations and decided to implement a pre-accession strategy for Turkey. In Feira, the Heads of State and Government invited the Commission to submit proposals regarding the single financial framework for aid to Turkey and the accession partnership as soon as possible. As you know, at the end of July, the Commission approved a proposal for a Council regulation on launching Turkey's accession partnership. It is on the basis of this regulation that the Commission will, at a later date, submit its proposal for partnership, but it will include the short- and medium-term priorities and objectives to prepare for accession in accordance with the model adopted for the other candidates.

The Commission will present its proposal on the implementation of a single financial framework at a later date. It goes without saying that, in working out this partnership, the Council will pay particular attention to compliance with the political criteria for accession, particularly in the areas of human rights, rule of law and the legal system. It will also ensure monitoring to verify that Turkish legislation is made compliant in this and in other areas, in order to ascertain that this is carried out in the same way as in the other candidate countries. In this connection, it should be noted that preparations for the examination of Turkish legislation in all the areas of the acquis communautaire have been undertaken within the EU-Turkey Association Council. In addition, the Feira European Council requested that the Commission submit a progress report to the Council on the work undertaken in this area.


  Αlavanos (GUE/NGL).(EL) I would like to thank the minister for his reply; however, I note that, whereas I specifically asked if the Helsinki criteria would be defined within the partnership, he evaded the question. I should therefore like to repeat and specify and update my question. The 15, and first and foremost the presidency, received a letter from Mr Gem a few days ago asking for the partnership between Turkey and the European Union which is now on the drawing board not to mention Helsinki Articles 4 and 9 relating to Greek-Turkish relations – in his words, border differences – and the question of progress on the Cyprus issue. I should therefore like to repeat my question to the minister and again raise the issue which he evaded: will mention be made of the Helsinki criteria on the Cyprus question and Greek-Turkish relations or will Mr Gem’s proposals be accepted? What is the Council’s reply to Mr Gem?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) I do not have a specific answer on this issue. What I do recall is the European Council in Helsinki, as I took part in this discussion there, having just a short time before been on a brief diplomatic mission to Turkey and Greece, and the Helsinki conclusions are the ones which are binding upon us and upon everyone. That is the general rule. That is the basis on which we conducted our negotiations.


  Κorakas (GUE/NGL).(EL) Minister, nine months after Turkey was granted candidate status in Helsinki, and irrespective of my opposition to Turkey’s accession, do you believe that there has been any progress with democratisation, which was one of the criteria for accession, or have you concluded that what we forecast at the time has come true, i.e. the Helsinki resolution has encouraged the Turkish regime to continue its inhumane policy?

What we have concluded, as you too can see, is that there has been no progress whatsoever in democratising the constitution and the penal code, parties such as the Communist party have been banned, the prison situation is festering, political prisoners are being treated inhumanely, new F-cells have been created for harsh, inhumane solitary confinement, lawyers who defend political prisoners are being humiliated, Kurdish villages in Iraq have again been bombed, more beatings have been carried out and arrests have been made in Diyarbakir, Istanbul and elsewhere for the events of 1 September, which is the international day of peace. Similarly, not only does Turkey continue to occupy 38% of Cyprus following its barbaric invasion in 1974, contrary to repeated UN resolutions which Turkey disregards in the most provocative manner, but Mr Ecevit states that the Cyprus question was resolved in 1974 and refuses to apply resolutions to pay...

(The President cut the speaker off)


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) I do not share the viewpoint which seems to underlie your question, namely this opposition to the candidacy of Turkey. Turkey’s candidacy was in fact made possible by a welcome rapprochement between Greece and Turkey, which, I hope, will continue, particularly under the enlightened leadership of the two great diplomatic leaders, Mr Papandreou and Mr Gem, both of whom I consider my friends. Having said that, let me repeat, Turkey’s candidacy has been accepted on equal terms with regard to both rights and duties. In order for Turkey to become a member of the European Union, it must respect its values and therefore make the necessary efforts. At the same time, we must greet its efforts positively. Nine months may be a long time for a human being to develop before birth, but it is an extremely short time for a candidate country.



Question No 8 by John Joseph McCartin (H-0614/00):

Subject: US farm subsidies

Has the Council of Ministers considered the recent substantial increases in agricultural subsidies provided for its farmers by the US Government, which now represent more than EUR 16 000 per farmer. Are these subsidies in violation of WTO agreements and does the Council propose to take any action on this?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) The United States have not yet notified the WTO of the measures to which the Honourable Member refers, which could warrant investigation under Article 18 of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. Moreover, I should point out that agricultural subsidies are among the subjects dealt with in the WTO negotiations which commenced in June 2000. The implementation of the reduction commitments agreed at the time of the 1994 Marrakech Accord is also scheduled for examination in the course of these negotiations, which are based on the principles outlined in Article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture.

The relevant Council bodies receive regular progress reports from the Commission with regard to the negotiations and other activities undertaken within the WTO’s agricultural bodies, and if the Commission considers it useful, the matter of the compliance of the United States’ subsidy policy with the commitments signed in the Uruguay Round and other measures to be taken in this respect will be referred to the Council.


  McCartin (PPE-DE). – I wish to raise the question with the President-in-Office of the change in American policy since we in the European Union changed the whole direction of the support we give to agriculture following the last round of GATT negotiations. The United States Government has more than doubled the level of subsidies per farmer. At the same time the European Union, in pursuit of its policies which were forced on us by the clearance group and the United States, has reduced its share of world markets in the dairy sector, in the cereal sector and in the meat sector. I consider that since the American Government has doubled the level of aid that it extends directly to its farmers the European Union has in fact been wrong-footed and that the policy which has led us to a reduction in our share of world markets is in fact outdated and should be reviewed.


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) I shall not go into the details, but these are, in fact, the sort of considerations which justify our rejecting attacks which may have been made on the common agricultural policy and our own system, and that is also the reason why the European Union adopted an overall negotiating mandate designed to safeguard the social model and the farm model, not to mention the European cultural model, with regard to the WTO. Rest assured that, as far as we are concerned, the mandate is still the basis for further negotiations.



Question No 9 by Myrsini Zorba (H-0616/00):

Subject: Change to the unanimity required for cultural issues in view of the Intergovernmental Conference

Europe’s common cultural heritage, alongside the development of the Member States’ cultures and respect for diversity, has been considered an important aspect of European integration and has been incorporated into the EU Treaties, in Article 151. This article specifically provides for the encouragement of cooperation between Member States, in order to support and supplement actions in various particularly vulnerable areas.

However, decisions in this area are subject to the unanimity procedure, which makes it difficult for important decisions on cultural issues to be taken.

Cultural realities and cultural policies vary widely, and large cultural disparities can be seen in the field of infrastructure, which are exacerbated by the introduction of new technologies. I believe that more decisions should be taken in the cultural field, and that they should be taken in a more flexible manner.

Therefore, in view of the Intergovernmental Conference, is there an intention to change the current legal regime and for the qualified majority procedure to be used for decision-taking? Secondly, how has Article 151(4) on the inclusion of cultural aspects in all the EU’s actions been implemented to date?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) It is true that extending qualified majority voting to European Union sectors of activity which currently require unanimous votes is indeed one of the major issues of the Intergovernmental Conference currently taking place. This is a crucial issue of democracy. In a democracy, decisions are agreed by the majority not by unanimity. In this context, Article 151 is one of the provisions likely to be converted to the rule of qualified majority voting.

I am sure that Mrs Zorba would agree that it is still too early to ascertain what direction the proceedings of the Intergovernmental Conference are going to take, even though I would hazard that, quite possibly, consensus will be reached quickly regarding Article 151, for not everything can be a source of disagreement. As regards the manner in which Article 151(4) of the Treaty has been applied, I shall simply respond by saying that respect for and furtherance of the diversity of the cultures of Europe remain at the heart of the entire Community structure.


  Ζorba (PSE).(EL) Minister, everyone who knows that we urgently need a cultural policy in the European Union also knows – and I agree with you – that the Intergovernmental Conference represents a huge chance to change the unanimity rule. The Intergovernmental Conference is not a procedure which is foreign or bears no relation to the Council and it obviously takes account of all points of view and all types of need. It does not operate in a vacuum. My question therefore is this: is the Council doing anything to change the unanimity rule and push for a change at the Intergovernmental Conference. The more economic policies progress, the more we need to study their cultural impact and develop a structural cultural policy. That was the meaning of my question; I do not think we should just stand around and wait because it may be too late by then and an agreement may not be so easy to reach.


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) The Council as such is not, by definition, a member of the Intergovernmental Conference. I would urge you to trust the French Presidency of the Council and the European Council to further the cause of extending qualified majority voting. Let me abandon my official role for a second to say that we would like to see qualified majority voting become the general rule and unanimous voting the exception, rather than the opposite, which is the case at present.



Question No 10 by María Izquierdo Rojo (H-0617/00):

Subject: Cost of enlargement and Mediterranean agriculture

In the light of forecasts and the most recent legislative proposals on Mediterranean agriculture, which concern products such as cotton, rice, fruit and vegetables, tomatoes, nuts and olive oil, among others, and will have adverse effects on employment and social development in these poor regions of Europe, and bearing in mind also the budgetary plans for EU enlargement, what will the Council do to ensure that Mediterranean agriculture does not end up bearing the brunt of the costs of the forthcoming enlargement?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) I understand the concerns behind the honourable Member’s question. I feel, however, the question itself contained observations of quite a different kind.

Regarding your preliminary remark: the ongoing reforms of the common market organisations for predominantly Mediterranean products are intended to enable these markets to adapt to competition outside Europe, which is often extremely fierce, and to stabilise the production of these items within the European Union. The desired aim is, therefore, indeed to maintain employment in areas which generally offer few possibilities for conversion to the cultivation of other crops.

This is the spirit in which the Council will declare its opinion on the legislative proposals put forward by the Commission, when the time comes. Moreover, the European Union’s Ministers for Agriculture, whose informal six-monthly meeting has been held from Saturday until today in Biarritz, have just stressed their determination, now more clearly than in the past, to focus in agricultural policies on boosting product quality and diversity.

You then went on to make reference to the impact of European Union enlargement on the budget. In my view, this is not directly related to the adoption of the CMO reforms I was talking about just now. The impact of enlargement on the budget was the subject of intense discussion at the European Council in Berlin in March 1999 when the financial perspectives for 2000-2006 were drawn up. For each year in this period, and for each heading, the financial perspectives give the expenditure totals as commitment appropriations, and the commitment appropriations laid down under the various headings of the financial perspectives are not interchangeable.

There is hence no question of enlargement-related expenditure being funded at the expense of agricultural expenditure under heading 1 of the financial perspectives. I therefore do not see how future enlargement can be carried out at the expense of Mediterranean agriculture under the financial perspectives for 2000-2006. When the time comes, most probably by 2005 at the latest, we will, of course, have to establish a new institutional agreement on the future financial perspectives, but I am sure you will agree that this date is still too far away for us to be expected, reasonably, to discuss the matter today.


  Izquierdo Rojo (PSE).(ES) Would you be prepared to make some sort of recommendation with a view to preventing the negative impact of enlargement on the Mediterranean? In truth, through his actions and proposals, Mr Fischler, the Commissioner responsible for Agriculture, has made the anti-Mediterranean impact of enlargement a reality. It is a fact that the whole of the Mediterranean area is frightened about this. As I can see that the Council is standing firm in its political will, and in order to prevent – as you say – anything like this happening, not through good intentions but through facts, I would like to ask you whether the French Presidency, before it ends, would be willing to make, in the way it considers appropriate, some kind of recommendation which would dispel these concerns, that is to say, which would ensure that Mediterranean production would in no way pay the price for enlargement.


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) This is not a subject that I am prepared to make impromptu comments on. I can assure you of just one thing, Mrs Izquierdo Rojo, and that is that, as far as we are concerned, the financial perspectives, which were the product of tough negotiating in Berlin, represent a framework which it would be extremely difficult for us to shift. We do not wish to do so, and so, once again, we shall discuss the matter again in 2005.



Question No 11 by Anna Karamanou (H-0619/00):

Subject: Attack on Greek minority in the village of Dervitsani in Albania

The Greek inhabitants of Dervitsani, a village in Albania, passed the night of 3 to 4 July 2000 in shelters after being attacked by anti-tank missiles from the neighbouring village of Lazarati. The police who arrived on the scene failed to make any arrests. This is not the first attack against the Greek minority. The previous week the Council of Europe had recommended that the Albanian government take measures to protect the minorities living in Albania. Given the fact that the Council of the European Union adopted the action plan for Albania on 13/14 June 2000, will the Council say what political measures it intends to take and what immediate measures it will promote in order to strengthen security in the region and ensure the physical safety and the fundamental rights of minorities in Albania?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) The Council is aware of the armed attack upon the village of Dervitsani from the village of Lazarati which occurred during the night of 3 to 4 July 2000, during which automatic weapons and explosives were used. According to the information available, the firing was carried out by a small group of people allegedly wishing to prevent the Albanian policy carrying out arrests in their village. Even though the Greek minority was not the target of the attack in question, the attack nonetheless contributed to creating a climate of insecurity in the region.

The European Union supports the efforts of the Albanian Government to restructure and modernise its police forces in order to increase the security of Albanian citizens and of the region. The Multinational Advisory Police Element in Albania, formed under the authority of the WEU Council and deployed in Albania since 1997, has widened and developed the scope of its mission following the adoption, in March 1998, of a joint action on the European Union’s contribution to re-establishing a viable police force in Albania.

Following the adoption of the action programme for Albania and the neighbouring region, the Council is currently examining the proposed measures in order to identify those which can be implemented speedily. The action programme is basically devoted to matters relating to problems of migration and asylum.

The proposed measures do, however, include projects in the field of human rights and the protection of minorities. The European Union is, moreover, already active in these fields. Since Albania is eligible for an association and stabilisation agreement, its performance in terms of respect for democratic principles and human and minority rights and in terms of public order and the rule of law, are closely monitored by the European Union, I can assure you.


  Κaramanou (PSE).(EL) I should like to thank the Council representative for his reply. However, the purpose of my question was to draw attention once again to the huge problems in the Balkans, problems caused by economic and social deprivation and, more importantly, the fact that there is no democratic infrastructure. The attacks on the Greek minority were just one in a series of incidents which occur in Albania on a daily basis. My question therefore, minister, is how far are you prepared to give real support to Albania so that the rule of law can operate? We saw no such support in the action programme decided for Albania. You place greater emphasis in the action programme on how to stop immigration and how to send refugees back to Albania, which is clearly not a safe country, than on how we can give his country the means to develop. We seem to have promised the Balkans a great deal but are unwilling to put our promises into practice. I should like answers to these questions, minister.


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) I share your view, Mrs Karamanou, that the incidents mentioned appear, at first sight, to indicate a general problem of security and public order in Albania rather than a campaign of deliberate attacks on the Greek minority. This is a general problem which must be dealt with as such.

The action plan for Albania to which you refer is a High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration action plan for Albania and the neighbouring region, adopted by the General Affairs Council on 13 and 14 June this year, intended, in effect, to define and coordinate European Union resources with a view to responding to the problems of asylum and migration in Albania and the neighbouring countries and, as such, it is not intended to promote the rights of any particular minority.

Nonetheless, the suggested actions do include projects or programmes seeking to step up democracy and respect for human rights and minority rights in general. The Council working groups are currently proceeding to examine the various measures proposed in order to identify which of them could be implemented in the near future. An interim report is expected for the European Council in Nice in December.



Question No 12 by Esko Olavi Seppänen, which has been taken over by Jonas Sjöstedt (H-0622/00):

Subject: Reduction of TACIS aid to Russia

The European Union has punished Russia for its military action in Chechnya by reducing aid paid under the TACIS programme. At the Feira European Council it was decided to relax sanctions. Under what conditions does the Council consider that the TACIS funds should be granted to Russia for this year and next year?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) In the wake of the Feira European Council, the General Affairs Council on 10 July this year requested that the Commission resume preparations for an indicative TACIS programme in favour of Russian, to cover the years 2000-2003, and to draw up a proposal for a TACIS action programme targeted at the year 2000.

The relevant management committee is scheduled to examine these proposals on 17 October this year. The priority objective of this programme will be to support the rule of law in Russia, complying with the democratic requirements of a modern democracy and benefiting Russian society as a whole. Special attention is to be paid to supporting institutional and economic reforms, schemes undertaken for the democratisation and reinforcement of civil society and the protection and development of independent media.

Moreover, the Council has agreed to adopt further decisions on guiding cooperation with Russia and the use of the available instruments, in the light of the development of the situation in Russia.


  Sjöstedt (GUE/NGL).(SV) I would thank the President of the Council for that answer. I should like to ask a follow-up question: What conditions are being laid down for in fact providing this aid? Does the Council believe that the present situation in Chechnya is such that it is reasonable to provide this aid to Russia?


  Moscovici, Council.(FR) Yes. In 2000, only EUR 34 million have been committed to date, following the reorientation of the Helsinki programme. A second tranche will be allocated to aid in support of the reform process initiated by the Russian authorities recently in order to establish a genuine rule of law, which will bring the TACIS appropriations allocated to Russia in 2000 to EUR 92 million at the most.

The only answer I can give you regarding the budget released in 2001 is that it will depend on the decisions the Council is induced to make at a later stage in the light of development of the situation in Russia. This situation will be assessed in relation to the criteria for the progress to be achieved in terms of institutional reforms, democratisation, the strengthening of civil society and human rights protection throughout the territory of Russia. Examination of the situation in Chechnya will thus clearly be part of the assessment process.



Question No 13 by Manuel Pérez Álvarez (H-0624/00):

Subject: Incidents at the Matosinhos market

During the night of 22 June 2000, various groups – probably coastal fishermen from Poboa de Varsím and Matosinhos according to various sources – used blunt instruments to break open the doors of four Spanish lorries containing sardines in front of the premises of the company Docapesa S.A. at Matosinhos market. They then removed the fish from the lorries and sprayed it with diesel oil or similar products in order to damage it permanently, while uttering threats.

Apart from the damage caused to the four companies concerned – one of them calculated that the damage to the fish amounted to nine million pesetas and the damage to the vehicles to 300 000 pesetas – incidents of this kind should not be allowed to happen (a similar incident involving mackerel occurred in 1998).

What steps will the Council take to prevent any recurrence of such incidents, which are against the law but in particular are contrary to the spirit and principles underlying the European Union? Does it plan to make any arrangements to compensate for the unfair and deliberate damage caused?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) Mr President, the Council deeply regrets the incidents which occurred at the Matosinhos market during the night of 22 June 2000 and the losses incurred by the victims of these acts of violence.

It is important to stress, however, in this connection, that it is up to the individual Member States to ensure compliance with the regulations of the common fisheries policy and the free movement of goods, and to take appropriate measures within their national legislative systems. The offences in question should be punished in accordance with the terms of the criminal and civil law of the Member State concerned.

To this end, let me remind you that on 7 December 1998 the Council adopted Regulation (EC) No 2679/98 on the functioning of the internal market in relation to the free movement of goods among the Member States, establishing procedures for the Commission to take action to require Member States, who alone are responsible for maintaining public order, to quickly remedy serious barriers to the free movement of goods caused by the actions of private individuals.


  Pérez Álvarez (PPE-DE).(ES) Mr President, first of all I would like to say that relations between Galicia and the North of Portugal have always been special, because the Miño river has never marked a boundary, it has not separated, but rather united. However, unfortunate events such as those which took place on 22 June, caused by a small number of people, must not become the general rule. It is therefore important to adopt measures which will prevent, in all events, their repetition and that the sanction adopted by the competent parties shall serve as an example.

Therefore, those of us from the other side of the river – and we are all Europeans – wanted to know how this issue is being dealt with and whether exemplary decisions have been taken so that these events will not be repeated in the future.


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) I can only repeat my previous answer, namely that the maintenance of public order and any application of penal sanctions are a matter, respectively, for the jurisdiction of the police forces and the legal authorities of the Member State concerned.

Let me quote the relevant part of the Regulation, which stipulates that, “Where the Commission considers that an obstacle is occurring in a Member State, it shall notify the Member State concerned of the reasons that have led the Commission to such a conclusion and shall request the Member State to take all necessary and proportionate measures to remove the said obstacle.”

I therefore feel – and I am not saying that in order to duck the question, as we say – that the honourable Member would do better to address the question to the Commission, which does have the necessary means to provide a reliable and up-to-date response.


  Kauppi (PPE-DE). – (FI) Mr President, Mr Moscovici, very serious attacks have also taken place in Finland on one certain means of livelihood, namely fur farming. The principle of the freedom to pursue a trade is firmly upheld in the European Union. Now, however, one Member State, Great Britain, has just banned fur farming in its territory. Do you not think this might have harmful repercussions for the internal market in fur goods? I would ask you to reply now, as President-in-Office of the Council, and not so much as a representative of the French Government. The French Government has already expressed its own views on the matter in the Agricultural Council.


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) I am answering on behalf of the Council and not on behalf of the French Government. The situation you mention may share some of the features of the previous situation, but it is not the result of the same regulation, which is to do with fisheries issues. I consequently feel entitled to ask you, please, to submit your question in the usual manner, i.e. in writing, and the Council will be pleased to respond. I am not going to respond ad hoc to a question on such a difficult subject.


  President. – In support of the President-in-Office of the Council, I must point out that the Rules of Procedure for this Question Time state that supplementary questions must be closely related.



Question No 14 by Jonas Sjöstedt (H-0625/00):

Subject: Public Council meetings

One of the three goals of the French Presidency is to bring Europe closer to its citizens. The logical consequence of this aim should, therefore, be to make Council proceedings more open.

How many fully public Council meetings will be held during the French Presidency from 1 July to 31 December 2000?


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) The French Presidency attaches special importance to ensuring that Council proceedings are accessible to the European citizens and that its legislative decisions are made in a transparent manner.

The public debates are, moreover, an established practice. They lead to the European Union’s long-term evolution towards greater openness towards civil society.

Moreover, Rule 8 of the Council's Rules of Procedure provides for the organisation of public debates. One of the top priorities of the French Presidency was, therefore, to draw up a list of public debates, covering a wide range of subjects, which was adopted by the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) on 5 July 2000. Two debates were held in July, a debate on the presentation of the presidency’s programme at the General Affairs Council on 10 July 2000, and a second debate on the presidency programme at the ECOFIN Council on 17 July.

I must specify that six further public debates are scheduled to take place before the end of the French Presidency: a debate on general interest services on 28 September 2000 at the Internal Market, Consumers and Tourism Council – I shall have the honour of chairing this council meeting; a debate on maritime safety on 2 October 2000 at the Transport Council in Luxembourg; a debate on noise protection on 10 October 2000 as part of the Environment Council; and a debate on information, consultation of workers regarding employment on 17 October 2000, as part of the Employment and Social Policy Council, again in Luxembourg. On 9 November 2000, there will be a public debate on young people and Europe as part of the Education and Youth Council. Finally, on 20 November 2000, there will be a debate on food safety as part of the Agriculture Council.

I should like to draw the attention of the Members of the European Parliament to the fact that a substantial effort has already been devoted towards informing the public about the Council debates organised. Over 3000 detailed reports of the public debates have been delivered by post. Furthermore, any interested parties will easily be able to access the Internet networks which deal with this subject. In addition, television channels have the opportunity to broadcast these debates, in total or in part, via the ‘Europe by Satellite’ channel.

Finally, the French Presidency strives to make as much information as possible on all Council proceedings available to the public on its Internet website, as well as subject indexes for the main topics under discussion.


  Sjöstedt (GUE/NGL).(SV) I want to thank the Council for its detailed answer. In an ordinary democracy it is, of course, the rule that all decisions concerning new laws are made publicly in a parliament and that the debates too are held in public. The curious situation in the Council of Ministers is that the public only has access to certain debates. There is therefore an obvious risk of meetings being closed in cases where more controversial subjects are being dealt with.

I therefore wonder whether the French Presidency, given its high level of ambition, will hold any entire meetings in public, that is to say ministerial meetings which, from beginning to end, with all the debates and all the decision-making, take place in public, without the doors being closed for any part of them.


  Moscovici, Council. – (FR) Quite the opposite. I think I have shown that the French Presidency is determined to open debates up to the public as much as possible, and I believe that our programme is perfectly sound.

I should just like to remind the honourable Member of the different roles of the various institutions of the European Union. It is true that the Council is co-legislator alongside the European Parliament, which does not fit into the pattern of the clear separation between executive and legislative power in the form that it may exist in a parliamentary democracy in the context of a State. Let us be aware, at the same time, however, that the European Council is not just a legislative body but also an executive body, a function which, this time, is shared with the Commission, and that it undertakes a whole range of debates which have nothing to do with the legislative process.

Consequently, in the same way that these things are managed within a government, for that is what we are talking about here, the intergovernmental aspect, debates often take place in camera. I am fortunate enough to be a member of the cabinet in the government of my country. The French Council of Ministers in the Elysée Palace is not open to the press, nor is it filmed. I consider this to be reasonable, as it is a context in which decisions must be taken which are then passed on to the citizens quite openly.

So there you are. It is because of this concept of the separation of powers that debates are designated as either open or closed. I think that it is, quite frankly, to the Council’s credit that they have opened up some of these debates, running counter to what I was saying earlier about the operation of a government. This is the situation we have, if we take the hybrid nature of the Council into due account.


  President. Thank you very much, Mr Moscovici, for showing such dedication to Parliament this afternoon.

Since the time allotted to Questions to the Council has elapsed, Question Nos 15 to 40 will be replied to in writing(2).

That concludes Question to the Council.

(The sitting was suspended at 7.15 p.m. and resumed at 9.00 p.m.).




(1) OJ L 94, 14.4.2000, p. 6
(2) See Annex “Question Time”.

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