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Debates
Wednesday, 3 July 2002 - Strasbourg OJ edition

7. Question Time (Council)
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  President. – The next item is Question Time (B5-0253/2002). The following questions are addressed to the Council.

The President-in-Office of the Council, Mr Haarder, is with us, with the added value that he was an MEP for a long time and he knows very well how this House operates and the wishes of the Members.

Question No 6 by Mr Gallagher will not be taken, as its author is no longer a Member of the European Parliament for a politically very interesting reason: he is now a Minister in the Irish Government. We will send him the written reply to his question.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 1 by Mihail Papayannakis (H-0356/02):

Subject: Draft law on the media in Turkey

The Turkish Government plans to adopt a controversial draft law on the media which is contrary to the country's constitution and Turkey's commitments to the EU. EU officials, Member States' diplomats and the Commission's representative in Ankara have already voiced their concerns about the content of the draft law.

The draft law extends the ban on broadcasting radio and television programmes in the Kurdish language, which Turkey had pledged it would lift at the end of the previous month, thereby jeopardising the fundamental democratic principle of freedom of expression and paving the way for the creation of an uncontrolled monopoly. Does the Council, therefore, consider that adoption of the draft law is politically and legally consistent with the Copenhagen accession criteria and the EU-Turkey customs union? Will the Council intervene to safeguard the democratic rules and human rights enshrined in international law?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, thank you for your friendly welcome. One might say that Mr Gallagher’s absence from the House and my own presence here are both due to our each having become ministers. That is the way it is sometimes.

In response to the question, I would say that the controversial law on the media to which the honourable Member refers was adopted by the Turkish parliament on 15 May of this year. The Council is of the view that, if it were to be implemented in practice, this law on the media would clearly be a retrograde step and would mean further tightening of the restrictions upon the freedom of radio and television broadcasting in Turkey. The Council would draw attention to the fact that on 13 June, after the matter had been introduced by the Turkish President, Mr Sezer, the Turkish constitutional court suspended five articles of this law, including the article concerning the appointment of members and that concerning economic sanctions in the event of infringements. I would also point out that the constitutional court is still investigating the substance of the rest of the text. The Council would remind the House that the European Commission reacted immediately to this law partly on the grounds that it was not consistent with the politically based Copenhagen criteria and partly on the grounds that it conflicted with the accession partnership, a necessary prerequisite of which is that all legal stipulations prohibiting Turkish citizens from using their mother tongues in TV and radio broadcasts are to be cancelled without delay. The EU has emphasised this precondition quite unambiguously in its discussion meetings with Turkey and did so most recently at the political directors’ meeting on 17 May in Madrid immediately after the Turkish parliament had adopted the law. The Council will monitor the situation carefully, since we are concerned here with absolutely crucial principles. The Council and Mr Papayannakis are therefore agreed on that point.

 
  
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  Papayannakis (GUE/NGL).(EL) I thank the President-in-Office of the Council or, perhaps I should say, the honourable Member. Thank you very much. You gave a very clear, excellent reply. I have nothing further to add. I just want to ask you one more thing: do we perhaps have any information as to when this saga will come to an end, for better or for worse? For better I hope of course. When will the final decision be taken on how long this law is to remain on the statute book?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) I should like to thank Mr Papayannakis for his kind words. I am pleased that we are agreed on this. I cannot, unfortunately, give any indication as to when this issue will be concluded. Can we not all agree to keep an eye on the matter and to continue to exert pressure? We can then hope that a solution will be found as soon as possible.

 
  
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  President. – As the author is not present, Question No 2 lapses.

Question No 3 by Alexandros Alavanos, which has been taken over by Mihail Papayannakis (H-0365/02):

Subject: Revocation of Nice decisions on European military force

At the Nice Summit, the '15' decided that only Member States of the European Union would take part in the planning of operations by the European military force, regardless of whether NATO facilities were used.

This last and unique decision by the European Union met with a vehement reaction from Ankara, which threatened to use its veto in NATO if it did not participate on an equal footing with the Member States in taking the relevant decisions. There then followed an 'extra-institutional' Anglo-American initiative which gave rise to the 'Ankara text', which is opposed the letter and the spirit of the Nice decisions.

Is the 'Ankara text', which was drawn up outside EU and NATO procedures, binding on the European Union? On the basis of which EU decision are its Presidency and the High Representative exerting pressure on Member States to accept the 'Ankara text'?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I can provide the following information about the Council position. At the last ministerial meeting on 14 May in Reykjavik, the EU and NATO repeated their promise to develop close and transparent links between the two organisations and stated that progress had been made on a number of points concerning the arrangement in relation to NATO support for EU-led operations. They also observed, however, that the decisions made at the NATO Summit in Washington in 1999 and subsequently by the Council of Ministers and the Nice European Council mean that there are a number of points requiring further discussion. As is well known, further progress could not be made because one NATO member had expressed misgivings. What is termed the Ankara text constitutes a non-binding attempt to define guidelines which, at the same time as taking account of these misgivings, can prepare the way for being able as quickly as possible to fulfil the promise of developing close and transparent links between the EU and NATO. In Barcelona, the European Council emphasised how important it is for a permanent arrangement to be reached as soon as possible between the EU and NATO. The Presidency was therefore requested to make relevant high-level contacts, in conjunction with the High Representative, Mr Solana, in order to ensure a positive outcome. The Presidency and the High Representative are doing their utmost to find an acceptable solution for all EU and NATO members, a solution which is, in all respects, in accordance with the decisions made by the Nice European Council and which can facilitate rapid progress towards the goal confirmed in Reykjavik by all the ministers from the EU and NATO countries.

Finally, between 21 and 22 June of this year in Seville, the European Council expressed its satisfaction with the progress made by the Spanish Presidency in implementing the Nice provisions with regard to involving those European allies which are not EU members. In Seville, the next Presidency – which is to say the Danish Presidency – was, moreover, given the task of furthering this cooperation in conjunction with the Secretary-General, that is to say the High Representative.

 
  
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  Papayannakis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President-in-Office, what you said was perfectly clear. I would just like to ask, if I may, for a few more details on what happens now, following the decisions taken in Seville. If I have understood rightly, the Spanish Presidency was praised on this account; it was decided that efforts to find a solution would continue but I believe that a number of addenda to this famous text were also discussed which will not be binding but which are politically significant. Is there any news since Seville? Do we know how this text is to be improved and what the alternatives are?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I have to say to Mr Papayannakis that I really cannot answer the question he has put or, indeed, his supplementary question. The fact is that, because of the Treaty derogation we have in the defence area, Denmark does not exercise the Presidency of the EU when it comes to preparing and implementing decisions and actions affecting the defence area. It is Greece which exercises the Presidency in these matters, and I would therefore recommend that any supplementary questions be put in writing, whereupon they will be answered on the basis of careful instructions from my Greek colleague.

 
  
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  President. – Since this is such an unusual case, we will give the floor to Mr Papayannakis for a point of order.

 
  
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  Papayannakis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, I honestly did not mean to allude to the Danish opt out, but the President-in-Office's reply means that, because the opt out also applies to common foreign policy and the euro, we may need, at some point, to invite the Greek representative to Question Time to the Council. I put it to you, Mr President, so that you can put it to the Bureau.

Written questions, as Mr Haarder recommends, are not enough. They are all well and good but verbal questions have a charm of their own because they raise supplementary questions and answers. Is this perhaps something we should be looking at?

 
  
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  President. – As President for the sitting, I take good note of this problem, but Mr Haarder has the floor.

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I should like to assure Mr Papayannakis that Denmark exercises the Presidency both in the Committee on Internal Affairs, in spite of the fact that the Danish derogation applies to certain subjects dealt with by the committee, and in the ECOFIN Council. In the case, however, of decisions and actions affecting the defence area, we have chosen, out of respect for the decision taken by the Danes getting on for many years ago now, to let the Greek Presidency exercise the Presidency of the Council on this point. I should like to add that, in common with the majority of the Danish parliament, the Danish Government would like to see these derogations removed as soon as possible. Until, however, they are removed following a referendum, we shall respect them. It is a democratic decision we are respecting, and I am pleased that Mr Papayannakis is sympathetic to our doing so. We are, moreover, very pleased that the Greek Government is so helpful and that there has been such splendid cooperation in connection with drawing up the Danish Presidency’s programme, for which Greece has written the section relating to defence.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 4 by Olivier Dupuis (H-0371/02):

Subject: Georgia

At its fourth meeting, which took place in Tbilisi on 29 and 30 April 2002, the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee adopted a final document in which (point 14) it ‘calls on the Georgian and EU authorities to fulfil, as soon as possible, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), in order to create the basis for starting negotiations for an Association Agreement’.

Can the Council provide a comprehensive list of points of the Cooperation Agreement which have not yet been implemented and the reasons why this is case, together with a statement of strategy and the timetable prepared by the Council so that the Agreement as a whole can be implemented as soon as possible?

Moreover, does the Council not consider that the PCA, or even a possible Association Agreement, is not a suitable EU response for Georgia to be able to face the challenges arising out of the region’s extremely problematic situation? Does the Council not consider that the issue of Georgia’s accession to the EU should no longer be evaded, and that therefore, without further delay, Georgia should be included in the list of candidate countries, on the understanding that its membership will depend on its ability to integrate the acquis communautaire into its national legislation?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Georgia came into effect on 1 July 1999. It was initially to last for ten years, whereupon it was to be automatically extended each year. The same condition exists in all the partnership and cooperation agreements entered into by the EU. It has therefore always been clear that the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Georgia was a long-term commitment for both parties.

When the purpose of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement is considered, it is clear that it has created a solid basis for closer links between the EU and Georgia. It has created a framework for political dialogue that has contributed to the development of the links between us, and it has also helped promote the economic ties between the parties. On the other hand, there is clearly still a long way to go, namely in connection with the need to support Georgia’s efforts to consolidate its democracy and develop its economy. There is also a lot to be done within the fields of legislative, administrative, economic, social, financial, civic, technological and cultural cooperation.

As I say, it has been clear that our cooperation under the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement will take some time. Moreover, Georgia has also had to struggle with some quite special problems. Since 1991, one million people have left Georgia, the gross national product per inhabitant has fallen by 70% and now 60% of the population are living under the poverty threshold. Two unresolved internal conflicts have meant that there are now almost 300 000 displaced persons within the country’s borders. Georgia is in a very difficult situation where regional security is concerned, and the fight against corruption has come up against considerable resistance from various quarters. It is a genuinely tragic situation. We support Georgia’s aspirations to become further integrated into the European models and structures. The EU has provided EUR 350 million by way of aid since independence in 1991 but, in the Council’s view, it would not at this stage be responsible to consider further steps that are subject to agreement. We are convinced that we must concentrate on the full implementation of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. This is also apparent from a recent letter from President Shevardnadze to Mr Solana, in which he talks about the need for further progress in the implementation of this agreement. That depends of course upon political, social and economic reforms, as well as upon the resolution of two internal conflicts for which Georgia itself must assume full responsibility. In that connection, the Council wishes to emphasise that the two internal conflicts in Georgia and the conflict between the other countries in the Southern Caucasus mean that conditions in the area are far from stable. The lack of stability leads to problems involving terrorism, poverty, corruption, weak political institutions, illicit trade, emigration and the risk of ethnic conflicts. Conflict resolution must therefore be our first priority. It demands effort and good will on the part of all the countries in the Southern Caucasus, as well as on the part of the international community.

We cooperate with Georgia in frequent meetings of our Cooperation Council and Cooperation Committee. There are still, however, measures which Georgia itself can take in order to help itself. Failure to implement existing legislation impedes progress and limits the impact of EU aid. The commitment Georgia entered into in October 2000 to adopt a national programme for the implementation of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement has still not been fulfilled. We look forward to progress in this area. Finally, I wish to thank Mr Dupuis for his considerable commitment to this issue. I hope my answer has shown that the Council is monitoring the situation very carefully and that we share Mr Dupuis's regret concerning the situation. We believe we are doing what we can. We are also obliged to ask Georgia to make an effort.

 
  
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  Dupuis (NI).(FR) Mr President-in-Office, I am absolutely in agreement with your assessment of the tragic nature of the situation in Georgia. I also concur entirely with what you said and with what Mr Rasmussen told us this morning about the importance of the enlargement process as a means of consigning the division of Europe to history once and for all. We are also aware of the major role that the prospect of accession has played for all the countries of Central Europe in resolving the enormous problems that have faced them and continue to face them.

What we are proposing is no different to what we have offered and given to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, namely the prospect of accession. A prospect of accession does not mean accession tomorrow, but it is the guarantee of a framework within which Georgia will be able to resolve its problems. We know today that Georgia has no such framework; we know of the pressure exerted by Russia, and we are familiar with the role of Russia in the internal conflicts of which you spoke.

This, then, is my question: would your Government, as the incumbent of the presidency of the Union, agree to propose to the Council that it consider the possibility of entering the name of Georgia in the list of applicant countries?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I have to say to my good friend and former colleague, Mr Dupuis, that it is, unfortunately, unrealistic to put Georgia on the list of possible candidate countries. I believe that we in the European Union must consider alternatives to membership for our near and distant neighbours in the east and south. For certain European countries, the obvious solution is membership; for others, that is completely unrealistic. We must be realistic about the hopes we awaken in the leaders of those countries with which we cooperate. I do not believe it would be wise, in any case at the present moment, to awaken any hopes at all of membership in either Mr Shevardnadze or other leaders in Georgia.

 
  
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  Posselt (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, I too would like to congratulate Mr Haarder and this House on his new role. My question also relates to Georgia. You rightly pointed out that Georgia's security depends on the security situation in the Caucasus, and I would like to ask you what measures are being adopted by the Council to improve the security situation in the Caucasus through the resolution of the Chechnya problem and thus achieve stability in Georgia as well. After all, while Chechnya is destabilised and war and a lack of liberty prevail, there can be no stability in Georgia either.

 
  
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  President. – They are neighbouring countries, Mr Posselt. I am not sure whether this is really a supplementary question relevant to the issue of Georgia, but the President-in-Office is entitled to respond.

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I can just briefly say in reply to Mr Posselt that there is of course an ongoing dialogue with the Russian Government concerning the Chechen problem. We must not underestimate this problem. Nor are we doing so. Discussion of the problem is a regular feature of the dialogue with Russia, and I would by no means dispute that there may be a connection between the Chechen problem and the problems in Georgia. So I agree with Mr Posselt in a way. I would just say that there is an ongoing dialogue concerning the matter. It has not been forgotten, as will also be apparent from subsequent questions if we get around to them.

 
  
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  Evans, Robert (PSE). – I would also like to welcome Mr Haarder in his new role. I was spurred into action by Mr Haarder saying that he did not wish to awaken hope in some countries like Georgia, to which Mr Dupuis referred.

I know from my experience of Romania – which is 11th or 12th in the list of countries waiting to join the EU – that the one thing that holds that country together is the light at the end of the tunnel, the hope that it will be able to join the European Union, its rich neighbours, in a prosperous club. If you are saying to other countries – whether Georgia or some of the former Yugoslav Republics – that we will not awaken hope for them, is there not the danger that they will be pushed into unrest, internal strife, possibly violence, and the pressures for migration to the West will be increased? President-in-Office, would you clarify the position?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I understand that reasoning perfectly well, but the issue is that of whether this would be good advice to give Georgia and whether it would be a good solution to the current problems to switch on that light at the end of the tunnel. As it is in this case, the tunnel can, of course, be so long that the hope is too faint and might be said to be in danger of actually distracting Georgia’s attention from the eminently here and now demands upon it that it is not complying with, including certain agreements we have with Georgia. I do not believe that encouraging Georgia to work towards membership would be good advice. The Council must be much more up-front and say: fulfil the existing agreements and solve the immediate problems. As I am well aware, Georgia is, however, a part of Europe, and there is of course a theoretical possibility, which probably cannot be excluded, that Georgia might at some time or another be able to become a member of the EU. That is not, however, something that should play any role at all in the present depressing situation.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 5 by Liam Hyland (H-0379/02):

Subject: WTO and imports from world's poorest countries

The EU recently decided to accord imports from the 48 poorest countries, including farm products, unlimited duty-free access to EU markets. This is a world first. It was also hoped that other developed countries would follow the EU example. Will the Council now make a statement on the current situation regarding this decision and whether other developed countries are following the EU’s lead?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, the EU hosted the UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries in May 2001 in Brussels. At this conference, a declaration was adopted, together with an action programme, confirming the intention of improving the least developed countries’ preferential access to markets, while making progress towards the goal of giving all products from the least developed countries duty-free and quota-free access to the developed countries’ markets. On 26 February of last year, the General Affairs Council adopted its ‘Everything But Arms’ initiative and, during the preparations for the ministerial meeting of the WTO in Doha in November of last year, the EU called upon other developed countries to implement corresponding initiatives and so comply with the multinational undertaking – which is part of the WTO’s action plan, adopted in Singapore in 1996 – to give products from the less developed countries duty-free access. The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has also entreated them to do this. Right now, none of the measures implemented by the large countries are in any way comparable with the ‘Everything But Arms’ initiative. New Zealand’s initiative is the one that comes closest to the EU’s example. Canada, Japan and the United States have also made progress, but they are still behind in relation to the initiative taken by the EU.

An investigation recently undertaken by UNCTAD looks at the effects of the proposal. It concludes that the proposal will be to the advantage of all the least developed countries. The advantages would, however, be much greater if the other countries in the quartet of participants in the meeting – Canada, Japan and the United States – were to follow the EU’s example because, at the moment, duty is imposed on half of these countries’ exports in Canada, Japan and the United States. The recent G8 summit in Alberta, Canada, provided a new opportunity to discuss these issues. The summit focused particularly upon Africa, where the majority of these poor countries are situated. The matter is therefore evolving, and we in the European Union can be proud of the fact that we have taken the strongest global initiative in this field.

 
  
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  Hyland (UEN). – Mr President, I would like to join in welcoming the President-in-Office and indeed to thank him for a very detailed and comprehensive reply. The decision to allow the poorest countries access to EU markets is a practical expression of our desire to assist with their economic development in the long term. It is the only credible and sustainable way forward. But does the Council have any information on the extent to which some of those countries have been able to avail of this facility as far as the EU is concerned? Perhaps the President-in-Office might also be able to comment on what difficulties these countries are experiencing in meeting the requirements to export to the European Union?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, the questioner is right in saying that it is important to provide this aid. It is the Commission that must answer the more detailed part of the question, however. I would therefore urge that the question be put to the Commission.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 7 by Dirk Sterckx (H-0384/02):

Subject: Inadequacy of the 'strawberry regulation' in the event of serious obstruction of the free movement of goods

Since November 2001, the movement of goods by rail between France and the United Kingdom through the Channel Tunnel has been seriously obstructed. The Commission has taken all the measures it can under the ‘strawberry regulation’(1). If one considers the present situation, it is clear that the Commission’s powers under this regulation are inadequate. The free movement of goods through the Channel Tunnel continues to be seriously obstructed. Why has the Council rejected the Commission’s proposal to increase and improve the scope of this regulation, and what measures have Member States taken to implement the resolution of the Internal Market Council of 27 September 2001?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I am able to report that it is still the strawberry season in the northern Member States. In the conclusions of 27 September 2001, to which Mr Sterckx referred, the Council took note of the Commission’s report on the application of the regulation on the free movement of goods – what is termed the strawberry regulation. The Commission’s report contained, inter alia, a number of proposals for possible changes to the regulation with a view to enlarging its scope and expediting the procedures. The report was not, however, a formal proposal from the Commission on which the Council was to adopt a position. The Council and Parliament were merely called upon to take note of the report. Nonetheless, the Council chose to respond to the Commission’s report by adopting formal conclusions at the ‘internal market’ meeting on the day in question. The Council decided that the Member States and the Commission should closely cooperate in using the regulation in a more dynamic way so that account is taken of the need to protect basic civic rights, including the right or freedom to strike. Even though there was still limited experience of applying the regulation, the Council welcomed some of the Commission’s initiatives designed to facilitate its practical application, for example a handbook on the procedures to be followed if obstacles are placed in the way of the free movement of goods. The Council is still fully committed to protecting the free movement of goods between the Member States. That is a central feature of the internal market. The Council resolution of 7 December 1998, which was adopted at the same time as the regulation, and the conclusions of 27 September 2001 are expressions of this.

With regard to Mr Sterckx’s question concerning the arrangements made by the Member States for implementing the Council conclusions of 27 September, it has to be said that it is not the Council’s task to monitor what arrangements are made by the Member States in this area. Nor does the Council receive information from the Member States about such arrangements, so I regret to say that I cannot, unfortunately, answer that part of the question.

 
  
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  Sterckx (ELDR).(NL) Mr President-in-Office of the Council, it is, of course, a real pleasure for me to be able to address you in this capacity.

This is really about a barrier to the free movement of goods in the Channel Tunnel which, since November of last year, has been working at 40% of its capacity. This is therefore very unfortunate for a number of companies, and is a huge problem for the railways in general, which is, after all, an environmentally-friendly mode of transport. I should therefore like to ask the President-in-Office of the Council to ensure that, in the Council meetings, the presidency exerts pressure on the Member States so that they make every effort in order to maintain the free movement of goods.

My question is: what do you, as President, intend to do about this? At the moment, the strawberry regulation is too lightweight and should, in my view, be improved. In response to a question, Mr Bolkestein replies that the Council rejects this way of proceeding. Has Mr Bolkestein perhaps misread the situation? My question is: what can you do about this in practice to ensure that free movement is also guaranteed in the Channel Tunnel? I ask this because the issue is always being shelved.

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) I just want to make sure that I am right in thinking that it is the Commission which has to ensure that such rules are observed. Moreover, I do not wish in any way to trivialise the problem raised by Mr Sterckx. One can well imagine what it might lead to in terms of financial losses, and the people affected would be at a loss to understand its being EU regulations that were to ensure their dismissal. I do not, therefore, wish to trivialise the matter, and I should like to pursue it further in the Council, but it must be the Commission that undertakes the inspection.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 8 by Marit Paulsen (H-0389/02):

Subject: Fishing for industrial purposes and the ban on processed animal protein

The impact on the environment and biological diversity of fishing for industrial purposes is widely known. This form of fishing takes place mainly to supply protein-rich fishmeal for animal production and breeding high-quality fish.

The use of processed animal protein in feed is banned in the EU under Council Decision 2000/766/EC(2) of 4 December 2000. Has this ban had any negative impact on European animal production? If not, is the Presidency prepared to draw the conclusion that fishing for industrial purposes is not needed as a source of protein for agricultural production animals?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, in 1992, a report was submitted on fishing for industrial purposes in the North Sea, the Skagerrak and the Kattegat – the sea around Denmark. The Council has debated the effect of fishing for industrial purposes upon the environment on several occasions since then, but it has not at any time adopted a common position on this subject. On 28 May of this year, the Commission submitted a communication on the reform of the common fisheries policy in which it proposed that fishing with a view to producing fishmeal should be targeted at fish for which there is no commercial consumer market and that this type of fishing should continue to be monitored carefully. The Council has not yet debated this communication from the Commission. Council Decision 2000/766/EC applies only to fishmeal feed for ruminants, and then only if the feed fulfils the conditions in the Commission decision. That is what I can offer by way of a reply, and I recognise that it is not particularly satisfactory, but the Council has not yet debated the Commission communication. I should like finally to emphasise that I well understand why this question has been asked. I cannot, however, say any more at the present time.

 
  
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  President. – To put the question again? Very good. We thank Mrs Paulsen for this decision.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 9 by Cecilia Malmström (H-0396/02):

Subject: Measures against the Cuban Government and support for the democracy movement

Gisela Delgado Sablón, the leader of the independent libraries movement in Cuba, has been awarded the Lars Leijonborg democracy prize. The prize is awarded by my party to individuals in state dictatorships who have made valuable contributions to democracy and human rights. Mrs Delgado Sablón has been invited to Stockholm to receive the prize and I myself have invited her to take part in a seminar on the situation in Cuba to be held at the European Parliament.

We have, unfortunately, been informed that the Cuban Government refuses to grant Mrs Delgado Sablón an exit visa to travel from Cuba. This is only a further example of how the communist regime in Cuba systematically persecutes democrats. It would have been extremely valuable for the democracy movement if Mrs Delgado Sablón had been able to visit Stockholm and Brussels to report on the situation in her country.

What measures does the Council intend to take against the Cuban Government to persuade it to cease the persecution of democrats and to support those who are working for democracy and human rights in Cuba?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, the Council is absolutely clear about the human rights and basic civil rights situation in Cuba, as well as the need to introduce a system based on civic and other rights. Such a system is laid down in the Cuban constitution but has not been put into effect. That is the main reason why Cuba is now the only country in Latin America with which the EU has not entered into a cooperation agreement. Since 1996, the EU’s links with Cuba have been defined by the EU’s common position on Cuba.

As stated in the common position, the objective of the links with Cuba is to promote the transition to a pluralist democracy and respect for human and civic rights, as well as sustainable economic recovery and an improvement in the Cuban population’s standard of living. We believe that a results-oriented dialogue and humanitarian aid are the best means of achieving that objective. The dialogue with Cuba, which was broken off by the Cuban authorities in April 2000, was officially resumed on 1 and 2 December of last year when the EU Troika, consisting of high-ranking officials, travelled to Havana. The Troika met the Cuban delegation led by foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque. Its experts also met experts from the Cuban delegation when the UN Commission on Human Rights held a meeting in April of this year.

At its meeting on 17 June of this year in Luxembourg, the General Affairs Council approved the eleventh review of the EU’s common position on Cuba. The Council again confirmed that the objectives are still valid. The Council thought it was important to continue the dialogue with Cuba so that practical results might be achieved, and it also let it be known that it is awaiting clear signals from the Cuban Government that the latter is fulfilling the objectives laid down in the common position.

On 20 May of this year, when the Varela Project was presented to Cuba’s National Assembly, the Presidency submitted a declaration on behalf of the European Union in which it welcomed the Varela initiative. We believe that the Varela Project is an important initiative which, with the strong support of Cuban civil society, can pave the way for the changes which the country needs and which Cuban society is calling for. The purpose of the initiative, which is warranted by the Cuban constitution, is to introduce a system of civic and other rights which are laid down in the constitution itself but which have not been put into effect. In the declaration, the EU expresses the hope that the National Assembly will adopt the initiative being considered and that the Varela Project will be the jumping-off point for a debate that will be able to promote a peaceful transition to a pluralist democracy and a Cuban society at peace with itself.

The Council took note of this eleventh review of the EU’s common position on Cuba at the meeting on 17 June in Luxembourg. It was confirmed that the common position continues to form the basis of the EU’s policy towards Cuba, and it was noted that this policy still applies. The Council observed certain positive signs, such as greater religious freedom, fewer political prisoners, no use of the death penalty for the last two and a half years and the ratification of several UN instruments concerning human rights. It observed that there have recently been signs of greater openness on the part of the Cuban authorities. This was seen as a start, and the Cuban Government was expected to take positive steps that could lead to practical reforms in preparation for a political system based on democratic values. In that connection, the Council is following with interest developments in the project referred to, which is warranted by the constitution. The Council is calling upon the Cuban Government to regard it as a legitimate initiative, since it represents a significant effort to introduce the reforms in question. The conclusion, therefore, is that the Council should give maximum attention to Cuba, follow developments there and persist in making demands upon the country but, at the same time, note the modest forms of progress which have taken place in spite of everything and which the Council hopes may lead to more such progress in the near future.

 
  
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  Malmström (ELDR). (SV) Welcome, President-in-Office. It is a pleasure to see you. I thank you very much for your reply and I would like to point out that new events have taken place since I submitted my question. Tomorrow, the Group of the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party is holding a seminar on the democratisation of Cuba. We had invited four Cuban citizens to take part in the meeting, but they were refused exit visas by the Cuban authorities. A quarter of an hour ago, I received a fax from the Cuban Ambassador, stating that the seminar was an affront to the people of Cuba. As you know, the Cuban regime has also pushed through an amendment to the constitution which gives Socialism a permanent place in the constitution. What is happening in Cuba is naturally an extreme provocation for the Communist regime.

I wonder whether the Danish Presidency is preparing to bring further pressure to bear now that so many different initiatives in favour of democratisation are to be seen. The tentative improvements we saw appear not to be leading anywhere. The EU has a vital role to play in this matter, and the Cuban opposition desperately needs us.

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I was very much aware of the fact that there was a question. The question concerned what I think of the initiative of the Group of the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party and what I have to say about the fact that no visas can be obtained for travelling from Cuba in order to participate in the seminar mentioned. My answer is that it sounds like an exciting and positive initiative. What it has shown, unfortunately, is that there is still a long way to go before quite basic human rights are respected in Cuba. That must not cause us to give up, and I am pleased to have received the information provided by Mrs Malmström in this House. It is instructive, and we must of course take it into account.

 
  
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  Korakas (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President-in-Office, do you not think that this interest in democracy and human rights is, to say the least, hypocritical when it comes to a country which, despite the long-standing and inhumane embargo imposed on it and the inexorable war being waged against it by the USA, has achieved the highest standard of living and education in Central and Latin America? Do you not also think that we should respect the desire of the overwhelming majority of the Cuban people to defend their Socialist homeland and that we should start by calling on the administration of the USA to halt its criminal embargo and terrorism against Cuba and the leaders of the Cuban people? Seriously, what do you intend to do, Mr President-in-Office, to liberate the five Cuban freedom fighters in jail in the USA for condemning the terrorism being inflicted on Cuba and its leaders by the administration of the United States of America?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) I should like to say to Mr Korakas that I hope that socialist advances do not need to be bound up with an absence of democracy and human rights and a lack of opportunities to travel to other countries and participate in discussions. In my view, it would not be wise to have such a definition of socialist achievements. Whatever may be thought of the American boycott – and I must not rake up the whole history of this – there is of course no doubt that there could have been free elections in Cuba and much greater progress made on human rights and that, if these things had in fact happened, those who want to see the boycott lifted would have had very strong arguments available to them.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 10 by Lennart Sacrédeus (H-0399/02):

Subject: UN special session on children

In its resolution adopted on 11 April 2002 ahead of the UN's special session on children, Parliament states, inter alia, that it 'supports the view that the family is the fundamental unit of society and holds primary responsibility for the protection, upbringing and development of children' and that, therefore, a ''world fit for children (...) has to be at the same time a world fit for families'.

What steps did the Council take during the special session on children to have Parliament's views incorporated into the final document adopted at the session and what success was achieved in accentuating the family as the fundamental unit of society?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I should like first of all to refer Mr Sacrédeus to the answer given by the Council to a similar question in October of last year concerning the UN Special Session on Children which was planned to have taken place in September 2001. As you know, the session was postponed to 10-12 May 2002 because of the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001.

I would also point out that the final outcome of the special session is now available on UNICEF’s home page. I am pleased to be able to inform Parliament that the action plan adopted at the session does in fact contain a section on the family, proposed by the European Union. The section reads as follows in English:

 
  
  

"The family is the basic unit of society and as such, should be strengthened. It is entitled to receive comprehensive protection and support. The primary responsibility for the protection, upbringing and development of children rests with the family. All institutions of society should respect children's rights and secure their wellbeing and render appropriate assistance to parents, families, legal guardians and other care givers so that children can grow and develop in a safe and stable environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding, bearing mind that in different cultural, social and political systems various forms of the family exist."

 
  
  

(DA) This section was part of a package proposed by the chairperson on the last day of the special session when the Presidency of the European Union made it perfectly clear that this was a subject which the EU insisted on having incorporated into the action plan. The EU can be proud of the fact that the action plan did not go on merely to state that the family is the basic unit of society, but also stated that there are various forms of the family. It did so in spite of the mood of controversy surrounding some of the issues that were solved at the last moment. I think Mr Sacrédeus knows what I am thinking of.

I should also like to draw attention to the fact that, in the declaration adopted at the special session, the UN specifically calls upon all members of society “to join us in a global movement that will help build a world fit for children through upholding our commitments”, end of quotation. If the honourable Member would like more specific information about the debates at the UN Special Session on Children, I would urge him to contact the delegation sent by the European Parliament to the special session, for there are quite a few Members of this Parliament who are able to confirm the answer I have given in this House.

 
  
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  Sacrédeus (PPE-DE). (SV) I would like to thank Mr Haarder for his reply and welcome our former colleague to the European Parliament as the Danish Minister for European Affairs.

I would like to express my thanks for the work which the European Union has put into highlighting the family as the fundamental social unit. I would like to put a few follow-up questions to Mr Haarder:

Will this have any impact on the Council’s own work with regard to the demographic challenge, the subject which, at the Stockholm European Council in March, Mr Persson set out as one of the EU’s most important areas for the future? Does the emphasis on the fact that the family may take various forms mean that the EU does not stress that children have a right to a mother and a father, to live in a spirit of community and so enjoy extra security?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I should like to apologise for having put the emphasis on the wrong syllable of Mr Sacrédeus’s name. It will not happen again. In fact, I am used to people putting the wrong emphasis on my own name.

I think my choice of words was very well balanced. I agree that the presence of both a father and a mother normally offers the best basis for bringing up a child, but it is not, of course, always the case that matters work out so well. On the other hand, there are children who grow up without either a father or mother but who can nonetheless have a happy childhood and a good life, and I therefore think it important for us not to have too narrow a definition of the concept of the family.

The demographic challenge constituted by the falling population can be discussed at length. I do not believe that the problem is as dramatic as some people make out, but it is not my task, here on behalf of the Council, to adopt a position on the ongoing discussion I think we should have concerning this issue. We are also concerned here with the issue of immigration in our countries, and I think it would be too much of a digression to begin a discussion on that.

 
  
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  President. – As they deal with the same subject, Questions Nos 11 and 12 will be taken together.

Question No 11 by Carlos Carnero González (H-0402/02):

Subject: Democratic opposition leaders on trial in Equatorial Guinea

Today, 23 May, various leaders of the Democratic opposition in Equatorial Guinea, including Plácido Micó, the leader of one of the most important of the opposition parties, Convergencia para la Democracia Social (Social Democratic Alliance), will be sentenced on the basis of utterly groundless accusation, and without the minimum legal guarantees befitting a constitutional state.

This court case is glaring proof of the absolute lack of my will on the part of the regime to meet the commitments given to the international community, including the EU, to begin the transition to democracy.

What actions has the EU taken or will it take in connection with this court case, to protect the democratic opposition from the disgraceful attacks of the dictatorship of Teodoro Obiang.

Question No 12 by Raimon Obiols i Germà (H-0407/02):

Subject: Arrest of opposition leaders in Equatorial Guinea

The Secretary-General of the party Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) in Equatorial Guinea, Plácido Micó Abogo, has been under house arrest since he was arrested on 9 May 2002 on the grounds that an alleged 'meeting' at his house, at which plans for a coup against President Obiang are claimed to have been discussed, had included the participation of Emilio Ndong Biyogo and Felipe Ondo Obiang.

The CPDS was legalised in February 1993 in the wake of pressure from the international community: the regime had put up considerable resistance to the legalisation of this and other political organisations, and had denigrated the CPDS as being incompatible with the 'experiment in democracy' which was then being officially promoted by the government of Equatorial Guinea.

What information can the Council Presidency supply on the arrests in Equatorial Guinea of opposition politicians belonging to democratic parties such as the CPDS?

What is the Presidency's view on the democratisation process in Equatorial Guinea?

What action has the Council taken with a view to ensuring respect for the fundamental rights of the individual and for the political rights of the democratic political organisations in Equatorial Guinea?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, the Council has carefully monitored the arrest of opposition politicians in Equatorial Guinea, together with the dubious circumstances of their detention, the court case and the most recent judgments. Even though the prosecution demanded the death penalty, the opposition leaders were, in the very end, sentenced to imprisonment of between six and twenty years for allegedly having plotted to overthrow President Obiang.

In spite of the president’s assurances that human rights are respected, the EU has expressed its concern about procedural irregularities during the court case, as well as about the allegations of torture and maltreatment suffered by the accused. There continue to be serious doubts about the legality of the detentions.

On Monday 10 June, straight after the judgments had been pronounced, the Presidency issued a declaration on behalf of the EU in which it appealed to the relevant authorities in Equatorial Guinea to make the necessary arrangements to have the judgements quashed in order to ensure that the basic rights of the accused were respected. In the EU’s view, the evidence against the accused politicians is flimsy, in sharp contrast to the severity of the judgments. Hence, our demand that the cases be re-examined.

The EU expressed serious doubts about the authorities’ willingness to defend the principle of the Rule of Law and to fulfil its human rights obligations, recently entered into in connection with the 58th meeting of the UN’s Commission on Human Rights. The EU also referred to Equatorial Guinea’s obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – the convention recently signed by Equatorial Guinea. The EU has therefore been prompt, consistent and firm and, as can be seen, it has a considerable lack of confidence in the court decisions in Equatorial Guinea to which I have referred.

 
  
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  Carnero González (PSE).(ES) With respect, I believe that the President-in-Office of the Council has offered a reply which may belong somewhere, but not on Earth or in the European Union, and much less in Equatorial Guinea.

Mr President-in-Office of the Council, your reply demonstrates that either you do not know or that you do not want to know that in Equatorial Guinea a trial has taken place with no democratic guarantees, with punishments based on non-existent accusations and, furthermore, in a situation in which, after being found guilty, the lives of the accused are in grave danger. I do not know if you are aware, for example, that for a week they have not been provided with any kind of food and that 48 hours ago two of them have had to be taken to the Malabo hospital urgently with serious pains.

Mr President-in-Office of the Council, do you intend to honour the response of the European Commission to the situation in Equatorial Guinea, delivered by the relevant Commissioner at the last plenary, and, furthermore, comply with this Parliament’s resolution on this situation, by applying the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, the Cotonou Agreement does of course contain paragraphs which make it possible for the European Union to initiate a dialogue, to criticise and to ask for explanations, and that is what the European Union has done. Nor have I in any way excused Equatorial Guinea in my answer. On the contrary, I have used some strong words. I began by expressing the EU’s lack of confidence in the courts and of the judgments that are given and, if Mr Carnero González wishes me to, I should also be happy to express a lack of confidence, on behalf of the EU, in the way in which prisoners and people charged with offences are treated in Equatorial Guinea.

 
  
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  Obiols i Germà (PSE).(ES) Mr President, I will speak briefly and avoid using any euphemisms.

We are talking about the life or death of people who are very close to us. I am a personal friend of Plácido Micó, General Secretary of the CPDS (social democratic party and member of the Socialist International), who has been found guilty at this trial, which was a disgraceful farce which demonstrated not just a complete lack of compliance with any guarantee, but also the existence of very serious physical torture.

We would therefore like to ask the Presidency of the Council to take immediate action, since the information we have from Malabo, from the day before yesterday, is – as Carlos Carnero pointed out – extremely worrying. It is not simply a question of condemning this situation in some euphemistic way, but of exercising all the European Union’s powers to put an end to this terrible scandal for good.

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I have of course myself been a Member of the European Parliament and myself been involved in formulating decisions in cases where atrocities and acts of cruelty have taken place in countries around the world. What can be done in many of these cases is what I have stated in this House on behalf of the Council. Appeals can be made and investigations carried out, and the countries in question can be held to the obligations they have signed up to. As a rule, it is of course difficult – and forgive me for saying this – to invade the countries in question and engage in policing. I therefore think that, in this case, the Council is doing precisely what Parliament does on many occasions when it makes appeals, adopts decisions, holds countries to obligations they have entered into, refers to international conventions they have signed, and so on. That is what we have done and that is what can in fact be done in this type of case. Moreover, I can assure you that, in the immediate future too, the situation will be very carefully monitored by the Council.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 13 by Bill Newton Dunn (H-0405/02):

Subject: Cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions

In view of binding commitments made by the fifteen Member States under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce their emissions of the six greenhouse gases, what plans does the Council itself have to reduce its own consumption of energy?

Does it recognise that it could make an enormous reduction simply by agreeing to a single working place for the European Parliament?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) I should like to assure Mr Newton Dunn that the Council is strongly in favour of the Kyoto Protocol’s being put into practice, and I would also assure him that the Council regards energy consumption in buildings as a very important concern. I would call attention to a resolution on energy efficiency in the European Community, adopted in 1998, as well as to the conclusions adopted by the Council on, respectively, 30 May 2000 and 5 December 2000 in response to the Commission’s action plan for energy efficiency, calling for special arrangements in the construction sector. The Council has also recognised the importance of energy efficiency in the conclusions adopted on 10 October 2000 on common and coordinated policies and arrangements in the EU for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, designed to help achieve the objectives of the European Climate Change Programme.

As far as the specific arrangements proposed in the action plan are concerned, the Commission has since presented the Council with a proposal for a directive on the energy efficiency of buildings. On the basis of Parliament’s statement, the Council submitted its common position to Parliament in advance of last month’s part-session.

With regard to the second question, it must be remembered that matters such as the EU institutions’ seats are regulated by the Protocol, annexed to the Treaty on European Union, the ECSC Treaty and the Euratom Treaty, on the location of the seats of the institutions and of certain bodies and departments of the European Communities and of Europol. This protocol may only be amended in accordance with the procedure described in Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union. The issue must therefore be raised in another forum, as I believe Mr Newton Dunn will fully agree.

 
  
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  Newton Dunn (ELDR). – I also would like to express my pleasure at seeing the President-in-Office of the Council here. As a friend and colleague it is very nice to see him back and, if ever things go wrong in Copenhagen, I am sure we would be very delighted to see him back in one of these seats. However, let us not talk about that bad possibility, until it happens.

Thank you for your answer to my question. I understand that the question of the seat is really for another place, though it would save a lot of energy if we eliminated this building.

I am particularly interested since the EU institutions should be setting a lead. I hope we are setting an example to the world by trying to save on energy conservation. So I would suggest that if I table a question to the President-in-Office for the December part-session, perhaps he will give me an undertaking that he will tell me specifically what the Council has done with its own buildings as regards saving energy and setting an example to the world: energy-efficient light switches, for example, or any other measures that the Council is going to adopt within the next six months to set an example to the world.

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I should like to thank Mr Newton Dunn most sincerely for his welcome. He has made his point very clear, and I shall be happy to communicate that point to the services of the Council.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 14 by Bernd Posselt (H-0408/02):

Subject: Loya Jirga and Afghanistan's future

What is the Council Presidency's assessment of preparations for the Loya Jirga in Afghanistan, and what measures is it planning with a view to stabilising the country further?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I should like to thank Mr Posselt for his question. Like UNAMA and other international observers, the Council is generally satisfied with the outcome of the extraordinary meeting held in Kabul in the middle of June. In general, the Loya Jirga process has successfully fulfilled the objectives set in the Bonn Agreement, that is to say of choosing a Head of State and approving the structure of the transitional administration, together with its key personalities. The most important political forces in the country have supported this Loya Jirga, and there has been unusually strong popular support throughout the process. This Loya Jirga was apparently the most representative the country has ever had. It had a good ethnic balance and there was a significant number of women among the delegates. That is a noteworthy achievement in view of the difficult political and security environment and the tight timetable, a partially displaced population and the lack of reliable infrastructure and statistics. The Council is, however, also clear about the difficulties and problems there have been in the period leading up to the Loya Jirga. In a number of cases, the election of delegates was disrupted by organisational problems and also by attempts to harass, bribe, intimidate or kill candidates. That being said, these episodes were rare and did not alter the structure and timetable of the process. Nor were they able to undermine its legitimacy. The Council remains convinced that the extraordinary meeting has paved the way for further reconciliation between the various ethnic groups and for its now being possible to create a stable political structure, something which is essential for the further reconstruction of Afghanistan.

In this connection, the Council would once again emphasise that the reconstruction aid from the EU, pledged in Tokyo, is still conditional upon all the Afghan parties’ making a positive contribution to the process and the objectives established in the Bonn Agreement. With regard to further stabilisation of the country, the EU has confirmed many times since the beginning of the Bonn process that it is firmly resolved to support the reconstruction of Afghanistan. In the future too, the Member States will supply most of the ISAF forces in Kabul. The Community and the Member States will continue to supply the reconstruction aid pledged at the international donor conference held in Tokyo in January of this year. The Community and the Member States have pledged to donate EUR 600 million in this year alone, and EUR 2.3 billion in the subsequent years up until 2006. As one of the four leaders of the steering group for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the EU will continue to play an active role in the country’s reconstruction. The EU will also go on providing the much needed humanitarian aid and will therefore continue to be by far the largest donor of aid to Afghanistan. I might add that it was stated in the declaration in Seville that repatriation aid will be provided to Afghanistan, as requested by the UNHCR.

In recent months, a good many projects designed rapidly to take effect have been implemented on the spot, and ever more medium and long-term reconstruction and development projects are in the process of getting under way. The EU will continue to be heavily involved in the necessary reform of the security sector, where a number of Member States will continue to play a leading role in the training of the army, border guards, police forces, anti-drugs squads and so on. High-level visits by quite a few EU delegations have deepened political contacts with the Afghan leaders, and these contacts will continue. Last but not least, they will also form a sound basis for a continued dialogue on matters of substance with the Afghan authorities. They will also increase the visibility of the EU and raise its profile in the country, as well as help channel future EU aid to Afghanistan. That is why it is important for the EU to have a special representative in Kabul, for the Member States to open embassies there and for the Commission to open a representation.

 
  
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  Posselt (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, I would like to voice my thanks for this very precise answer, also on the issue of women. I must say that we are often very unfair in this respect. The Czech Republic's social democratic government – and it is after all an accession candidate – still does not have a single female member. Hopefully, this situation will now change! Yet we are demanding that an ancient tribal society should change overnight.

I think we should focus on two points, and would therefore like to ask you this. Firstly, it is important to foster inter-ethnic dialogue, for the Loya Jirga has opened up wounds among the Pashto community, not least as a result of the ineptitude of some American representatives. Secondly, we must provide training for young people at local level. I would like to ask you specifically about institution building, and whether the Council could launch an initiative here, such as its own funding programme for institution building.

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I am able to state that we are strengthening the EU’s capacity in the field of institution building so that we can improve our support for this. With regard to Mr Posselt’s observation that the Loya Jirga has deeply offended the Pashtuns, I would go on to say that nothing is perfect and that I did not maintain that the Loya Jirga is the expression of a perfect democracy. Nor have I heard the European media say that. In view, however, of the mediaeval nature of what preceded this, it is rather impressive and, in any case, promising in terms of the future, that things have, in spite of everything, progressed as far as they have. The fact that Czech social democracy is apparently not perfect, either, might be considered comforting in the circumstances. I do not know whether the two situations have very much in common with each other, but I shall leave it entirely to Mr Posselt, who has a better understanding of the Czech Republic than I do, to decide about that.

 
  
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  President. – As they deal with the same subject, Questions Nos 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24 will be taken together.

Question No 15 by Luigi Vinci (H-0412/02):

Subject: The PKK and the 'anti-terrorist list'

Would the Council not agree that, by including the PKK in the 'anti-terrorist list' on 2 May 2002, it became a party to the Turkish policy of military and police repression against the whole of the Kurdish people? What steps does the Council intend to take to get the peace process in Turkey back on the rails and, in particular, who will be involved in the discussions?

Question No 16 by Giuseppe Di Lello Finuoli (H-0414/02):

Subject: The European Union, the PKK and Turkey

Having included the PKK in the list of terrorist organisations provided for in Regulation (EC) 2580/2001(3), how does the Council intend to exert pressure on Turkey with a view to ensuring that respect is shown for the fundamental rights of the Kurdish people? Or is it its intention to promote and sponsor the Turkish policy of exterminating the Kurdish people?

Question No 17 by Fausto Bertinotti (H-0416/02):

Subject: Turkey, the PKK/KADEK and the 'anti-terrorist list'

By including the PKK in the 'anti-terrorist list', the Council has in effect fallen into line behind the Turkish policy of denying the rights of the Kurdish people. What immediate steps does the Council intend to take to ensure that Turkey shows due respect for the fundamental rights of the Kurdish people in accordance with the large number of international instruments dealing with human rights and the rights of peoples? Would it not agree that it should support the holding of an international conference on the Kurdish question?

Question No 18 by Luisa Morgantini (H-0421/02):

Subject: Turkey, KADEK and the 'anti-terrorist list'

What is the Council's political assessment concerning the creation of the KADEK party, which has risen from the ashes of the PKK? Does the Council intend to include KADEK on the 'anti-terrorist list', even though this would place the Council on the side of Turkey in its repressive treatment of the Kurdish people?

Question No 19 by Feleknas Uca (H-0428/02):

Subject: Inclusion of the Kurdish Workers' Party on the European list of terrorist organisations

Since 2 May 2002, the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) has been regarded throughout the European Union as a terrorist organisation. However, by its own admission, the PKK abandoned its armed struggle against the Turkish army when it declared a cease-fire in 1999.

In April 2002, the PKK was dissolved. In that same month, the Congress for Freedom and Democracy in Kurdistan (KADEK) was founded. By its own admission, KADEK is seeking a solution to the Kurdish question through peaceful, democratic and political means.

What is the Council’s assessment of the fledgling Kurdish organisation KADEK?

In the future, will KADEK also be included in the list of terrorist organisations?

What impact does the list have on civilian organisations in Turkey and in Europe in the light of the announcement that human rights organisations are also to be included in the list of terrorist organisations?

Question No 20 by Matti Wuori (H-0457/02):

Subject: Peace process in Turkey

Following the recent extension of the EU list of terrorist organisations to include the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), there is a growing fear that the Turkish state's policy of oppression against the Kurdish people will be reinforced.

How will this decision, in the Council's view, affect a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question?

Whom does the Council consider to be its interlocutor in the peace process on the Kurdish side, now that the PKK has been included on the list of terrorist organisations?

Question No 21 by Eurig Wyn (H-0463/02):

Subject: Peace process in Turkey

The inclusion of the now dissolved PKK on the official list of terrorist organisations is not helping the peace process in Turkey and serves only to increase the oppression of the Kurdish population by the Turkish authorities.

Could the Council clarify on what criteria they based the decision to include the PKK on the list of 2 May 2002, bearing in mind that this organisation dissolved itself in April 2002?

Question No 22 by Nelly Maes (H-0477/02):

Subject: Peace process in Turkey

After the PKK has been placed on the list of terrorist organisations, the Kurds are very anxious because the Turkish authorities see it as an opportunity to increase the oppression against the Kurds.

Can the Council explain who they see as their partner of dialogue in the peace process on the Kurdish side since the PKK has been put on the list of terrorist organisations?

Question No 23 by Alain Lipietz (H-0478/02):

Subject: Peace process in Turkey

After the PKK has been placed on the list of terrorist organisations, the Kurds are very anxious because the Turkish authorities see it as an opportunity to increase the oppression against the Kurds.

Is the Council aware of the legitimacy it gave to Turkish repression after the decision of 3 May to put the PKK on the terrorist list?

Question No 24 by Koldo Gorostiaga Atxalandabaso (H-0479/02):

Subject: Political dialogue in Turkey

What is the Council's position on the Kurdish question after the PKK's inclusion on the list of terrorist organisations?

How can we imagine a political dialogue in Turkey if the EU is backing the exclusion of imperative partners?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I should like to thank the many MEPs who have asked these well-founded questions. The Council would like to emphasise that reviews are regularly carried out of the list of groups and entities included in the annex to the Council’s common position on the application of specific arrangements for combating terrorism. The recent review led to the PKK’s being added to the list. This happened following a careful assessment on the basis of the provisions in Article 1 of the common position I have just mentioned. The Council does not share the view that inclusion of the PKK on the list will lead to increased oppression of the Kurdish population of Turkey. Attention should be paid to the recent recommendation by Turkey’s National Security Council that the state of emergency which still applies in four predominantly Kurdish provinces in the south-eastern part of the country be lifted. The Council is fully aware that there are still significant and regrettable restrictions upon basic freedoms, human rights and, especially, cultural rights, particularly in those areas in which the state of emergency is still in force. These circumstances are naturally covered by the political Copenhagen criteria, and it goes without saying that accession negotiations cannot be initiated until these criteria have been fulfilled to the letter. The EU uses all the political discussion meetings with Turkey to press for further progress in terms of democratic reforms. It is made clear on these occasions that human rights and principles of the Rule of Law must be fully observed in the fight against terrorism and that the latter may in no way be used as an excuse for introducing or maintaining restrictions upon these rights.

 
  
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  Di Lello Finuoli (GUE/NGL).(IT) President-in-Office Haarder, I do not think the Council wanted to consider the fact that the PKK has dissolved itself, that it has not committed any more armed actions and that many of its leading members have handed themselves over to the Turks. It is absurd to have included the PKK on the list of terrorists, particularly in view of these recent events that I have mentioned, and this will encourage Turkey to be even more cruel towards the Kurds; it will prevent any further peace agreement and will exacerbate the situation. I must emphasise the fact that the PKK was included on this list at the moment when it had unilaterally started to respect the human rights of the Turkish people far more than Turkey itself. I therefore believe that the Council should reconsider its decision and remove the PKK from the terrorist list, particularly because its members are no longer terrorists.

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) I believe the honourable Member can rest assured that the matter has been carefully considered by experts. This action has not been taken by accident. Consideration has been given to it. It can, of course, always be hoped that there will be developments as a result of which it will be possible at some time or another to remove the PKK from the list. Now, however, that the PKK is on the list, it is not without reason. The matter has been carefully investigated. There is no question of a subjective decision’s having been made. It is objective criteria that have formed the basis for the decision. Precisely because they are objective criteria, however, it might of course subsequently be possible to remove the PKK from the list on the basis of the same objective criteria. Finally, I should like to contest or contradict the reasoning according to which Turkey will now engage in worse behaviour – or whatever one wishes to call it – towards the Kurds in Turkey. There is nothing to suggest that it will. In my answer, I gave an example of events in actual fact taking the opposite course. I hope and believe, therefore, that my former fellow MEP is wrong about this matter.

 
  
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  Uca (GUE/NGL).(DE) Mr President, I should like to thank Mr Haarder for his reply. Unfortunately, my questions about KADEK were not answered. This was what I asked: what is your assessment of the organisation and, in the future, will KADEK also be included in the list of terrorist organisations? Mr Haarder has not said a word about this.

As regards the other point, I would like to point out once again that if we are going to discuss the list of terrorist organisations, we should look at the situation from the Kurdish perspective as well. More than four thousand Kurdish villages have been completely destroyed. Who will take action here and protect the Kurdish people? Surely terrorists are at work here too? Or let's take the case of Leyla Zana. The European Parliament honoured Leyla Zana with its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. She was sentenced to imprisonment in Turkey for supporting the PKK. According to the new list published in Turkey, Leyla Zana is a terrorist. The question is this: what terrorist act did Leyla Zana, a Member of the Turkish Parliament, commit to warrant her being classed as a terrorist?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) I can assure Mrs Uca that I am aware both of the many thousands of destroyed villages and also of the fate that has overtaken Leyla Zana. I myself was among those who presented her with the Sakharov Prize. Specifically in order to enable everything to proceed on an objective basis, it is, however, important for matters to be investigated thoroughly. KADEK, which is the PKK’s successor, is under investigation, but I cannot at the moment say what the outcome of this investigation will be. Anything I said would be subjective. Matters must proceed properly. We must follow the rules we ourselves have set, and we must listen to the experts whom we are asking to assess whether our criteria have, or have not, been fulfilled.

 
  
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  Wuori (Verts/ALE). – (FI) Mr President, the fight against terrorism has also led to excessive military strikes and an excess of justifiable defence, which can easily defeat their purpose. For that reason it is extremely important for the European Union and its Council of Ministers to act consistently and remain realistic and cool-headed in the way they approach these problems. That is especially true now that we have our attitude to the charter of the International Criminal Court as well as peacekeeping in Bosnia to consider. This is entirely relevant to the question we are debating today.

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Yes, I agree with what, if I understood them correctly, were the last remarks of my former fellow MEP and good friend, Mr Wuori. I do not have very much to add other than that it is important for us to maintain an objective distinction between what are, and are not, terrorist organisations. Matters must proceed on an objective basis. Allow me, moreover, to say, finally, that I have the greatest respect for the work done by Mr Wuori for human rights here in Parliament, and I thank him for the book he gave me this afternoon. I shall make a point of reading it.

 
  
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  Maes (Verts/ALE).(NL) Mr President-in-Office of the Council, I have two questions for further clarification. My first question is: which criteria exactly have led to the conclusion that the PKK is a terrorist organisation? My second question is: in what way is this concept being interpreted as regards those who cooperate with such an organisation? After all, this could go very far when we talk about a movement which is actually being recognised as a kind of national liberation movement by the Kurds themselves.

Finally, who do you consider as a contact to talk on behalf of the Kurds when the peace process is underway, bearing in mind that in Northern Ireland too, partners had to be selected who were initially thought inappropriate?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, I would point out that the criteria governing what are, and are not, terrorist organisations are to be found in the Council’s common position of 2 May 2002 which states very precisely that it is experts who assess whether these criteria have been fulfilled. I perfectly understand Mrs Maes’s being able to cite Northern Ireland and other places where compromises have ended up being made with former terrorist organisations. We must hope that this can also happen in the future, for it is often the way in which terrorist organisations can stop being terrorist organisations. In the light, however, of what has happened and of the threat clearly facing our countries, the international community has reached a broad agreement about the need to take action against possible terrorist organisations. Hence, these criteria and this list. I find it hard to see what else could be done, and it does not of course exclude the possibility of former PKK members’ being able to play a role in a future arrangement designed to secure the rights for which Kurdish organisations have fought and of which I have as great an appreciation, I believe, as Mrs Maes. We were fully agreed about these matters during the period in which we sat almost side by side here in Parliament.

 
  
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  President.(ES) Mr Haarder, we are going to ask you the final question within the time available today, which we have extended until 7 p.m. because we started more than fifteen minutes late.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 25 by Konstantinos Alyssandrakis (H-0420/02):

Subject: Attempt to criminalise political beliefs in Slovakia

A proposal has been tabled in Slovakia's parliament to amend the Criminal Code (Law 140/1961), to make provision for prison sentences for anyone expressing sympathy with communist ideas. This attempt to criminalise political activity is being made with a view to the parliamentary elections in September 2002, at which it is forecast that the Communist Party of Slovakia could reach the 5% threshold required to obtain parliamentary representation. The aim is to terrorise voters and to criminalise their political views, by providing the sanction of a prison term ranging from six months to three years for anyone expressing merely 'sympathy for communism' or 'doubt regarding its crimes', and thus to prevent citizens from expressing themselves democratically.

Does the Council condemn this unacceptable and deeply undemocratic move, and does it intend to approach the Slovakian authorities to ensure that moves of this kind do not have any effect, at the very least in a country which is on the threshold of membership of the EU?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) Mr President, the Council attaches great importance to the candidate countries’ fulfilling the political criteria for accession, established in Copenhagen in 1993 and relating to democracy, the Rule of Law, human rights and the protection of minorities. It was decided that these criteria should be met before accession negotiations could be begun. The negotiations with Slovakia were not, therefore, begun until the European Council in Helsinki in December 1999 was able to state that the criteria had now been met. In its 2001 report on the future of Slovakia, the Commission concluded that the country continued to fulfil the political Copenhagen criteria. The Commission also observed that, since 1999, Slovakia had done a lot in order further to consolidate and firmly establish the stability of its institutions and so strengthen democracy, the Rule of Law and human rights. With regard to the specific question raised by the honourable Member, the bill in question is, according to what we have been told, being debated right now by the Slovakian parliament. The second reading, which should have taken place in the middle of June, may possibly be deferred because there are a lot of other bills to be debated. The Council is not at the present time able to assess the content of this bill. It would be inappropriate for the EU to interfere in the democratic process in a third country. If the bill is adopted, the EU will no doubt adopt a position on the content and, should it prove that the fundamental democratic principles, and particularly the Copenhagen criteria, have been violated, the EU will of course not hesitate to raise the issue at every available opportunity, and specifically in those bodies set up under the terms of the Europe Agreement. The Council is therefore carefully monitoring developments in relation to the bill in question and is awaiting more detailed information about the debate in Slovakia’s legislative assembly.

 
  
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  Αlyssandrakis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President-in-Office, the Council's sounds in its reply like someone who knows that a crime is going to be committed and does nothing to prevent it but reserves the right to prosecute the perpetrator once the crime has been committed. The bill in question has already affected political life in Slovakia, especially in the run up to the elections due to be held in September, in which the Communist party is expected to exceed the 5% threshold and obtain seats in parliament. Unless, of course, the Council is comfortable with this and does not consider that a bill which criminalizes political beliefs and threatens anything from six months to three years in prison for anyone who even expresses sympathy with the Communists or doubts their crimes to be an infringement of human rights. What I should like to know is, does the Council see this sort of threat, this sort of criminalisation, as falling inside or outside respect for rudimentary political rights?

 
  
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  Haarder, Council.(DA) I should like to draw attention to the fact that we have established a number of very clear criteria – what are termed the Copenhagen criteria. They constitute the preventive tool called for by this House. I have said – and this has been stated at every opportunity – that these criteria must be observed by every country which wishes to become a member of the European Union. It is still only a question of a bill, and one submitted in a third country. It must be up to the European Union to assess the situation if the bill is adopted with or without amendments. In that way, it will be determined whether it is in conflict with the Copenhagen criteria. I do not wish, on behalf of the Council, to pronounce any judgment here in this House today.

 
  
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  President. – Thank you very much, Mr Haarder, for cooperating for so long today. We look forward to seeing you next month for Question Time, after the holiday.

As the time allocated to Question Time is at an end, Questions Nos 26 to 53 will be answered in writing.(4)

That concludes Question Time to the Council.(5)

(The sitting was adjourned at 7.25 p.m. and resumed at 9 p.m.)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR COLOM I NAVAL
Vice-President

 
  

(1) Council Regulation (EC) 2679/98, OJ L 337, 12.12.1998.
(2) OJ L 306, 7.12.2000, p. 32
(3) OJ L 344, 28.12.2001, p. 70.
(4) see Annex "Question Time".
(5) Forwarding of common positions of the Council: see Minutes.

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