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Debates
Wednesday, 3 July 2002 - Strasbourg OJ edition

8. Machinery
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  President. – The next item is the debate on the report (A5-0216/2002) by Mr Wieland, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market, on the proposal for a European Parliament and Council directive on machinery and amending Directive 95/16/EC (COM(2000) 899 – C5-0035/2001 – 2001/0004(COD)).

 
  
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  Wieland (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am reporting today on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market as the rapporteur on a highly technical directive, the Machinery Directive. The Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market has examined this issue at a total of nine meetings and hearings over the last year and a half. I myself am a lawyer, and these technical matters are sometimes very difficult for a lawyer to deal with, but they are issues which we must address nonetheless. This is why the amendments before us – and I hope that the Commission will not take this amiss – propose, among other things, that as things stand at present, the article on the Commission and commitology should simply be deleted from the Commission's proposal, for we still do not regard the arrangements regarding commitology as adequate and satisfactory.

In my country, the Government has opportunities to develop legal provisions further. However, the other side of the coin is the Commission's full accountability to Parliament. This relationship of accountability between the Commission and Parliament has yet to be established, which is why we find it difficult to leave the further development of legal provisions entirely to the Commission without any scrutiny or control, and have therefore proposed the deletion of this article. In the remaining provisions of this directive and the subject of our vote tomorrow, there is a great deal of dense technical content. In many cases, the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market has merely tried to improve the structure of the provisions, since we feel that they are far from perfect from a legal draftsman's point of view.

We are also aware that there is intensive debate in the Council on the structuring of the definitions. The discussions on the individual definitions have been outstanding. We have now reached agreement in the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market. I have the impression that the Committee's proposals will be widely endorsed tomorrow. I have had comprehensive discussions with the shadow rapporteur Bill Miller, who will rise in a moment and to whom I would also like to express my thanks, and I think that the Parliament's position on the first reading is generally clear.

I would like to draw your attention to a further issue which is addressed in the articles but which is set forth in more precise terms in the recitals. I have already mentioned that I am a lawyer, but when I was working through this directive, I sometimes had a minor crisis, for it is sometimes utterly incomprehensible even for a lawyer and extremely hard to wade through. We must ensure that the regulations are much clearer so that our clients – namely the European consumers and the subjects of European law – can actually understand them. This is why this report finally proposes the drafting of a horizontal directive, an overarching EC directive laying out uniform provisions governing all aspects relevant and important to CE markings in general, such as the form of the marking, implications of affixing the marking, market surveillance and so on. Below this level, there would be a general product safety directive, so that together, there would be two overarching directives. Then there would be the individual segment directives on low voltage, machinery, medical devices, and, if appropriate, on high voltage and so on. The segment directives should simply state that we need this or that declaration of conformity, or that we need a type-examination, or that we just need specific checks to be carried out by the manufacturer. In other words, what is required are clearer directives which the consumer can understand better, and also a more clearly structured format for the individual elements within the directive itself.

 
  
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  Pérez Álvarez (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. – (ES) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, the European strategy on health and safety at work 2002-2006 has recently been presented. If we wanted to highlight three of its characteristics, I believe it would be right to mention the need to greatly increase awareness, to promote a culture of prevention, as well as the need to promote concrete programmes and actions in small and medium-sized businesses and to consider the demographic reality within which this strategy is to be applied.

A fourth characteristic would be the approximation of polices on health at work. This is closely related to the subject of the debate we are dealing with here. The directive on machinery applies practically to all machines, fixed or mobile, of commercial industrial or private use, in the European Union.

As draftsman of the committee’s opinion, I was determined to understand the views of entrepreneurs, unions, economic and social agents, technical and legal advisors and academics.

The Employment Committee’s amendments intended, with the contribution of social dialogue, to prevent endangering or weakening the provisions relating to health and safety protection, to respond to the need to simplify certain clauses and provisions for the sake of the clarity of the protection regulations and to relate them to other Community provisions, in particular framework Directive 89/391/EEC. In this way, an approximation of national health and safety provisions will facilitate the free movement of machinery without reducing the existing obligatory levels of protection, and the specific measures will increase the quality of jobs, provided that the machinery is used in the prescribed manner. It also clearly stipulates the responsibilities of any person substantially modifying or having modified a piece of machinery.

Safe machinery and installations plus prevention – in other words, more awareness and a culture of prevention – will mean less possibility of risks becoming accidents and therefore better jobs in accordance with the strategy of the Lisbon European Council.

The rapporteur has said that these measures will guarantee the safety of products. Allow me to add that they will also guarantee the safety of workers, in particular, and that of citizens, in general. The safety of products implies and demands the safety of workers.

 
  
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  Harbour (PPE-DE). – Mr President, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group I should like to very much welcome Mr Wieland and congratulate him on all the work he has done over a long period. It has been a test of endurance and, as he says, it is a complex and technical report. He has struggled with it as a lawyer. I have to say that as an engineer I also found it difficult to work with. On reflection, bearing in mind this is a first reading, I would say to the Commission tonight that it still has a lot more work to do on this with the Council.

In the light of the recent communication from Mr Prodi on simpler and better regulation, this is a candidate for the Commission to have a further look at. After all, we are looking for a regulation that will make the internal market work and, as colleagues said, will also ensure a consistently high level of safety standards for users of machinery and people who work with them.

Having said that this is a technical directive, it is important that I say to the Commission tonight that there are some important political signals contained in the work of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market. In particular, there is an issue that Mr Miller and I have worked on – I know he will refer to it in a moment – which is the treatment of particular categories of lifts for disabled people, in particular those installed in private dwellings. We were disturbed when we saw the draft to find that this directive discriminated against this important category of machinery. This type of machinery operates very satisfactorily. It significantly improves the quality of life for disabled people, because it is installed in their own homes. I have seen these installations. They are engineered to very high standards of safety. We need to make sure that they are allowed to continue. It is not the business of this directive to take satisfactory equipment off the market without any basis for doing so. So we ask the Commission to make sure that this machinery is properly included. Some work still needs to be done; there are still some aspects to be considered.

In conclusion, I want to say that we must put the internal market aspect to the fore, in particular the primacy of the CE markings. This is still not fully satisfactory.

 
  
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  Miller (PSE). – Mr President, I also add my thanks to Mr Wieland, the rapporteur. He has done a long and hard job on this. If he, as a lawyer, and Mr Harbour, as an engineer, found it difficult to understand this, can you please have some sympathy for myself as a milkman – I found it even harder.

There are a couple of areas I would like to touch upon. I would like to add an oral amendment tomorrow to Amendment No 14(2), because while we put in "seagoing vessels", I was remiss not to mention "inland waterway vessels". That has been pointed out to me and I have raised it with the rapporteur, who has agreed to its insertion through an oral amendment, which I hope everyone will support.

I turn now to the point Mr Harbour raised about lift platforms. It might not be the most riveting of subjects but it is an important point, because it helps and assists thousands of people with disabilities throughout Europe.

I should like to point out that there is a mistake in the English version. The speed mentioned in the English version is "0.015 metres per second". That should read "0.15 metres per second". If the speed were to be reduced by a tenth, people would be dead by the time they reached the other end. Lift platforms are slow enough, let us not make them any slower.

I will not criticise the Commission in this instance because it was not the Commission that introduced the technicalities which would have made the lift platforms inoperable in this directive. That came during the discussion in the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market. I lay no blame on the Commission. I thank the rapporteur once again for accepting the amendments tabled by Mr Harbour and myself and which we have worked on for a long period of time. This is important, as I indicated, to thousands of people.

Those are the two main areas which I have identified as being pertinent and relevant. They are still being discussed in the Council. There seems to be a blockage there and I hope that is resolved fairly quickly, because the whole question of lifts and lift platforms is important to a large number of people. We do not want to let them down. Please get this resolved as quickly as possible.

 
  
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  Zappalà (PPE-DE).(IT) Mr President, I too should like to congratulate Mr Wieland on the excellent work he has done on this proposal for a directive, the content of which is highly technical. Even though I am an engineer, it was not easy even for me to understand all the mechanisms.

Compared with the Commission’s original proposal, the amendments adopted in the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market have the effect of facilitating the free movement of goods in Europe and improving both production aimed at consumers and consumers’ health. Indeed, in the end, the text will be clearer and forgery of the CE marking will be more difficult.

The debate in the Committee on Legal Affairs focused on a number of points. One of these has already been mentioned. Article 14(3) of the amended Lifts Directive contained a reference aimed at excluding from its scope lifting devices with a speed of less than 0.15 metres per second. This was to exempt low-risk devices from the burden of compliance. Such devices also include lift platforms for the disabled or elderly.

The Committee on Legal Affairs rightly rejected the amendments aimed at introducing more binding parameters than those laid down by the Commission regarding speed, distance of travel and use by authorised persons of lift platforms. Had they been adopted, these amendments would have considerably limited the use of such devices and would have made many platforms already installed in public places and private dwellings in our countries unusable without valid safety grounds. The impact really would have been very, very negative. The provision would have helped turn the citizens against the process of European integration. The current new wording of the provisions of the Wieland report relating to Article 24 of the proposal for a directive on the specifications referred to in Annex 1, section 7, as the report was amended following …

(The President cut the speaker off)

 
  
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  Vitorino, Commission. – Mr President, I would like to welcome the conclusion of the first reading of the revision of the machinery directive and I would especially like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Wieland, and the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market.

The aim of the proposal is, as has been stressed by the speakers, to enhance legal certainty by clarifying the directive's scope and meaning and by removing ambiguities that have led to different interpretations. At the same time the highest possible level of health protection and consumer safety should be ensured.

The European mechanical engineering sector which is subject to the machinery directive contains a very large range of products: machines, mechanical appliances and components. In 1998 it produced goods to the value of EUR 300 billion. It employs over 2.2 million highly skilled people in the 15 Member States. The sector's production volume exceeds Japan's and rivals that of the United States of America.

The European Union is the world's largest exporter of machines and mechanical equipment, ahead of the USA and Japan. Based on the experience of the past 12 years, the proposal reflects the Commission's determination to cut red tape whilst facilitating compliance with European Union legislation, taking due account of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles. It is also fully in line with the recommendations of expert groups acting within the framework of better regulation of the internal market. The proposal and its implications have been extensively discussed with a very wide audience of stakeholders.

I would like to emphasise that the aim of the proposal is to improve areas that have proved to cause difficulties in terms of application. Many of the numerous proposed amendments improve the Commission proposal. Some could be included in a revised proposal as they stand, whilst others could be retained in part, or in principle.

Some proposed amendments concern detailed, highly technical items and do not add any value and will therefore not be part of a revised proposal. Still others are outside the scope we perceive as the correct scope for the machinery directive.

Concerning Amendment No 5 on fairground equipment, the Commission is aware of the question and we are prepared to launch a study into the matter. We are currently preparing a Commission communication on the functioning of the new approach to be published this autumn. The new approach to technical harmonisation and standardisation provides for the free movement of goods and a high level of health, consumer and environmental protection.

We do not want to interfere in the general debate on commitology. We want to concentrate on the practical application of the current directive. We therefore prefer to hold back the discussion of subjects that are common to the around 20 new-approach directives until the future communication that I have already mentioned, in order to have a coherent approach.

Practical application of the current machinery directive has shown a need for a regulatory committee procedure in order to resolve technical matters that do not infringe the democratic control by the European Parliament. We also share the principle that there is a need to improve the complete texts of amended directives, as suggested in Amendment No 13. However, this amendment goes beyond the scope of the machinery directive. Therefore, for legal reasons, we cannot accept this amendment. In practice, consolidated texts of amended directives are often presented on the Commission website, as will be the case for the amended lifts directive. Consequently, the Commission position on amendments is as follows.

Amendments that the Commission could accept in full, or in part, are Amendments Nos 2, 3, 14 to 18, 23, 27, 42, 45, 47, 49, 56, 57, 59, 63, 66, 69, 72, 74 to 76 and 80. Amendments that the Commission could accept in principle are Amendments Nos 22, 30, 41, 51, 61, 62 and 64. Finally the Commission cannot accept all other amendments: Amendments Nos 1, 4 to 13, 19 to 21, 24 to 26, 28, 29, 31 to 40, 44, 48, 50, 55, 58, 60, 65, 67, 70, 71, 73, 77 to 79, 82 and 83.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 12 noon.(1)

 
  

(1) Membership of Parliament: see Minutes.

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