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Debates
Thursday, 14 April 2005 - StrasbourgOJ edition
 ANNEX
QUESTIONS TO COUNCIL
QUESTIONS TO THE COMMISSION

QUESTIONS TO COUNCIL
Question no 17 by Eoin Ryan (H-0197/05)
 Subject: EU-Syria Economic Association Agreement
 

Can the Council give a progress report on the EU-Syria Economic Association Agreement? In the light of the growing political instability in the Lebanon/Syria region, does the Council agree that this Association Agreement could be used for a positive contribution towards a solution of the crisis?

 
  
 

(FR) A conventional cooperation agreement between the Community and Syria has been in force since 1978. On the basis of the 1995 Barcelona Declaration, new-generation agreements, known as Euro-Mediterranean association agreements, which encompass not only economic but also political, social and cultural cooperation, have been concluded with most of the countries involved in the Barcelona Process. Syria was the final such country with which negotiations had not been concluded. In October 2004, an agreement was initialled by the Commission at chief-negotiator level. The agreement still has to be signed and, subsequently, ratified by both parties thereto. Since this is a shared-competences agreement, it requires, from the Union’s point of view, ratification by both the Community and the Member States. The European Parliament will be asked to give its assent thereto.

The agreement as negotiated reflects the progress made by the European Union’s external policy. The substance thereof is ambitious and modern. It includes the foundations required to commit Syria along the path towards economic and political reforms and regional cooperation. The provisions relating to political dialogue and cooperation are also extremely ambitious. The agreement is based on respect for human rights, which constitutes a key clause. Cooperation is envisaged in the fight against terrorism and, for the first time in a Euro-Mediterranean agreement, with regard to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, the parties to the agreement have declared their determination to contribute towards the prosperity, stability and security of the Mediterranean region and to create a climate of understanding and tolerance among cultures.

In December 2004, the Commission submitted a proposal to the Council with a view to the agreement being signed. The Council is currently waiting for the Commission to forward to it the annexes and protocols to the said agreement, together with the translations thereof into the official languages of the EU, so that it may act on the proposal for a decision submitted by the Commission.

 

Question no 18 by Brian Crowley (H-0199/05)
 Subject: Political cooperation between the EC and Central America
 

Does the Council Presidency intend to initiate any new programmes for the development of political cooperation between the European Union and Central America, in particular with a view to enhancing democratic links with the countries of the Caribbean?

 
  
 

(FR) Cooperation between the EU and the Caribbean region is covered by the partnership between the EU and the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) States under the Cotonou Agreement. The regional cooperation provided for in that agreement covers a wide spectrum of mutual concerns, ranging from infrastructure to the environment and health via education, research and development, and the fight against drugs, organised crime, money-laundering, fraud and corruption. A regional political dialogue is also provided for in the field of conflict-prevention and conflict-settlement, human rights and democratisation, trade, the networking of civil society, etc. Following the recent revision of the Cotonou Agreement, new topics, such as the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the International Criminal Court, will enable that dialogue to be widened.

The meeting between the Heads of State or Government of the Caribbean ACP States (CARIFORUM) and the EU Troika, held on 29 May 2004, constitutes the most recent embodiment of the dialogue. At that meeting, the EU emphasised the importance that it attaches to common values such as respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and people-centred development. Similarly, the EU reaffirmed its determination to contribute to the worldwide campaign against all forms of terrorism and to promote international peace and security, in due compliance with the UN Charter and international law. Other topics, such as the enlargement of the EU, the fight against HIV/AIDS and the negotiations under way for a regional Economic Partnership Agreement were also addressed.

In this respect, the Council would recall that the development of this political dialogue is closely connected with these other, equally crucial, negotiations. The Caribbean region is one of the six ACP regions with which negotiations for a regional Economic Partnership Agreement are under way. As you are, no doubt, aware, the objective is to strengthen regional integration and facilitate development by taking measures designed to strengthen the competitiveness of local industries and promote diversification. The Council receives regular updates about the progress of the negotiations.

 

Question no 19 by Seán Ó Neachtain (H-0201/05)
 Subject: Atrocities in Darfur
 

In response to a recent question from reporters, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi A. Annan, said he had told the Security Council that 'we are concerned that we are not moving fast enough in Darfur. We are concerned that the atrocities have not stopped. We are concerned that we are not gaining access to all those in need.'

In the light of this statement, does the Council consider that the time for talking is over and that sanctions should now be applied to Sudan?

 
  
 

(EN) From the beginning of the Darfur conflict, the EU has put substantial pressure on the parties to guarantee free and unconditional access for humanitarian aid, to protect and ensure the security of the civil population, and for a negotiated solution to the conflict. In particular, the EU has been exerting pressure on the Sudanese Government to deliver on its commitments and live up to the demands expressed by the international community as reflected in the UN Security Council Resolutions 1556, 1564 and 1574 and in the various set of conclusions adopted by the Council (General Affairs and External Relations) in recent months.

The Council has been closely monitoring the fulfilment of these demands and has given its full support to three further Security Council Resolutions passed in March. UNSCR 1591 imposes targeted sanctions against those responsible for prolonging the ongoing conflict and humanitarian conflict in Darfur. This will be closely implemented with the existing EU arms embargo. UNSCR 1590 mandates the deployment of a UN Peace Support Operation of up to 10,000 troops and UNSCR 1593 refers the situation to the International Criminal Court. The Council welcomes these developments which demonstrate the strong stance the UN is prepared to take in Darfur and the wider Sudan. Referral to the ICC is a very encouraging development for both Sudan and for the wider international community. It sends a strong message that impunity for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide will end. The EU will continue to press all the parties to abide by their commitments and to fully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

 

Question no 20 by Liam Aylward (H-0203/05)
 Subject: Middle East peace talks
 

Can the Council give a progress report on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks? Can the Council further confirm that it is working in full cooperation with our Quartet partners so as to ensure total compliance with 'the roadmap'?

 
  
 

(FR) At its meeting of 21 February 2005, the Council expressed its great satisfaction at the outcome of the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit of 8 February 2005, and strongly encouraged the Israelis and Palestinians to swiftly implement the undertakings entered into on that occasion.

At the end of a meeting of the Ministerial Quartet held on 1 March 2005, on the sidelines of the London Conference to support the Palestinian Authority, a declaration was made setting out the concrete actions for the forthcoming stages:

Reinforced activity in the field of security, involving General Ward from the USA, who had recently been appointed security coordinator, and the EU team of police advisers;

In connection with the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a northern section of the West Bank, there was additional need for financial support to the Palestinians. This support should be rapidly mobilised through a conference of donors grouped within the AHLC that should be convened as early as possible and focus on 'pledging'.

The EU is playing a full part in these efforts and also plans to send an observation mission to the Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for mid-July 2005.

 

Question no 21 by Åsa Westlund (H-0207/05)
 Subject: Implementation of EU decisions
 

All too frequently, decisions take by the EU are not put into effect in the Member States. What steps will the Council take to improve the implementation of EU decisions?

 
  
 

(FR) The Council would like to remind the honourable Member that the Commission is responsible for ensuring that Community legislation is correctly implemented at Member State level. The Council accordingly invites the honourable Member to put his question directly to the Commission.

It points out, nonetheless, that the need for Community legislation to be correctly transposed is a concern shared by the Council, which, through the mechanism of the interinstitutional agreement on better lawmaking, regularly calls on the Member States to honour their commitments. The fact that a network of national coordinators has been set up for Member State level transposition is an illustration of this. Furthermore, in its meeting of 22 and 23 March 2005, the European Council also impressed upon the Member States the importance of transposing directives by calling on them to spare no effort in honouring the commitments undertaken in Barcelona in March 2002.

 

Question no 22 by Carl Schlyter (H-0209/05)
 Subject: Biometric data in passports and visas
 

What is the cost of including biometric data in passports and visas under the new rules? No specific information is given; the decision merely states that the costs will fall with technological developments and 'pooling'. There is a more detailed study entitled 'Study for the Extended Impact Assessment of Visa Information System' dated December 2004 but it does not give any exact amounts.

What is the Council's estimate of the cost of inserting face recognition and fingerprint data in passports/visas/residence permits? How many border posts/authorities will have to be equipped? On how many annual passports, visas and residence permits are the calculations based? (In particular with the new 5-year limit on passports). Who will bear the cost?

I fail to understand the Legal Service's opinion that these decisions are consistent with Article 18(3) of the EC Treaty; is a specific prohibition on taking a decision not sufficient? How is the new Constitution to be interpreted in the light of this decision when an express prohibition is not an express prohibition? Is that not confusing for voters in a referendum?

Was the decision lawful in the light of Article 18(3) and the lack of financial information in the impact analysis?

 
  
 

(FR) It is not for the Council to calculate expenses incumbent on Member States for the implementation of Council Regulation 2252/2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States or for the future regulations on the introduction of biometric data in visa stickers and residence permits issued to third country nationals. As far as the implementation of the Visa Information System is concerned, the Commission has made cost estimates to be charged to the budget of the EU in the Extended Impact Assessment of the VIS, as noted by the honourable Member of Parliament.

Attention is drawn, however, to the fact that the Community is only responsible for creating the central part of VIS including the interface with Member States' systems. The national parts of VIS remain the responsibility of Member States.

Member States are also responsible for the infrastructure needed at the control posts at all their external borders.

The Council has considered Article 62 (2)(a) TEC as the appropriate legal base for the adoption of Regulation 2252/2004. It is not for the Council to interpret the Constitutional Treaty nor to give ‘statements’ with respect to the process concerning its adoption by the Member States.

 

Question no 23 by Ewa Hedkvist Petersen (H-0211/05)
 Subject: Timetable for negotiations on the financial perspective
 

The Luxembourg Presidency has stated its intention to reach an agreement on the financial perspective in June this year. How does the Presidency intend to work towards resolving the most important issues in the long-term budget and bringing about an agreement in the Council? Are there reasons to believe that the Presidency's timetable will be met?

 
  
 

(FR) The December 2004 European Council called on the Luxembourg Presidency to work towards establishing the next Financial Perspective by June 2005, in accordance with the 2004-2006 Multiannual Strategic Programme. The Presidency will spare no effort to accomplish this EU objective. To this end, it has proposed – and the Council has accepted – an approach that entails speeding up the work from March onwards, using the ‘negotiating box’ as the tool and the framework for carrying out this work. Both the work plan and the first version of the Presidency’s ‘negotiating box’ have been forwarded to Parliament.

 

Question no 24 by Claude Moraes (H-0214/05)
 Subject: Council position on USA and Kyoto Protocol
 

What is the latest position of the Council on the position of the USA affixing its signature to the Kyoto Protocol which entered into force on 16 February, setting the stage for non-fossil fuel energy players to promote their sector?

Was any clarity achieved on this issue following the EU-US summit in Brussels on 22 February?

 
  
 

(FR) The European Union is ready to do everything in its power to ensure that the United States is once more involved in the multilateral process to deal with climate change.

The Kyoto Protocol’s entry into force on 16 February 2005 provides a further legal basis for international efforts to combat climate change and should offer an example of effective worldwide cooperation for all countries that have not yet ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

The fact that 144 Parties have ratified the Protocol to date sends a clear signal that this legally binding instrument setting out commitments in figures to limit or reduce emissions is an essential multilateral instrument in combating climate change.

The Conference of Parties acting as a meeting of Parties will begin examination of the commitments for the period after 2012 at least seven years before the end of the initial commitment period (2008-2012), that is, in November 2005. It is important that all Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the United States, are involved in the negotiations to achieve a post-2012 climate regime for the whole world.

During the EU-US Summit of 22 February 2005, President Bush recognised the existence of the serious problem of climate change and expressed the hope of working with the EU to find solutions, especially in the area of research and technology, and of developing clean technologies, also with the involvement of emerging powers such as India and China.

The recent Spring European Council has sent out a strong message on this subject, stressing that it attaches the highest importance to the widest possible national cooperation and participation and that the EU is firmly committed to giving new impetus to international negotiations. On that basis, the Luxembourg Presidency will have bilateral meetings with some key countries in the climate change process.

The Luxembourg Presidency is also counting on the European Parliament’s support in continuing to explain the Protocol’s validity and all its potential benefits for the Parties that have not yet ratified it, particularly the United States.

 

Question no 25 by Chris Davies (H-0225/05)
 Subject: Direct trade with northern Cyprus
 

What progress has been made to date towards the conclusion of an agreement to commence direct trade between residents in the northern part of Cyprus and the remainder of the European Union, and what is preventing more rapid progress from being made on this matter?

 
  
 

(FR) The Council has constantly stated its concern to continue efforts towards the reunification of Cyprus and its wish that all Cypriots should soon be citizens of a reunified island in the European Union.

With this in mind, the European Union has considered measures likely to end the Turkish Cypriot community’s isolation and facilitate the reunification of Cyprus, while encouraging the Turkish Cypriot community’s economic development. Some measures have already been taken to this end: for example the Green Line Regulation adopted in 2004 and recently amended to extend its scope and increase its effectiveness. There has also been a substantial amount of work on other measures such as the Commission’s proposals for financial help (the release of EUR 259 million already allocated to northern Cyprus in the event of a settlement) and direct trade between northern Cyprus and the rest of the European Union. Adoption of these two proposals is not yet possible as there are still difficulties to be overcome, particularly in respect of direct trade.

The Council can assure the honourable Member, through the Presidency, that it will continue its efforts to encourage the economic integration of Cyprus and improve contact between the two Cypriot communities and with the European Union.

 

Question no 26 by Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (H-0228/05)
 Subject: Foreign-owned properties in occupied Cyprus
 

During a press conference following the visit to London of the Turkish Foreign Minister Mr Gül, the British Foreign Minister Mr Straw indicated in a reply to a journalist’s question that British nationals purchasing property in Northern Cyprus should obtain the necessary legal advice and be aware of the British Government’s position on the matter.

Given that the United Kingdom is next in line to assume the presidency of the Council of Ministers, what is the Council’s official position regarding the purchase by British and other foreign nationals of properties rightfully, belonging to Greek Cypriot nationals of the Cypriot Republic which were appropriated by the illegal puppet regime of Mr Denktaç?

 
  
 

(FR) The Council has always stated its preference for a fair and workable solution to the Cypriot question and its wish that all Cypriots can soon be brought together as citizens of a single unified island of Cyprus within the EU. Against this backdrop, the Council has always supported – and continues to support – all attempts, including those of the UN Secretary General, at achieving a comprehensive settlement of the problem. The question of property rights, to which the honourable Member refers, forms part of the Cypriot question. In order to reach an effective solution to this question, UN resolutions on Cyprus and rulings by the European Court of Human Rights – encompassing property rights, of course – must be upheld and implemented.

 

Question no 27 by Avril Doyle (H-0231/05)
 Subject: Fluorinated greenhouse gases: dual environment-internal market legal basis
 

Given the doubts expressed in Parliament about the legal certainty and applicability of a dual environment-internal market legal basis in the common position on the proposal for a regulation on certain greenhouse gases (COM(2003)0492 final), and given the environmental objectives underpinning the proposal for a regulation, can the Council indicate whether it would accept a sole environment legal basis under Article 175 of the Treaty or would it accept a further splitting of the regulation into two separate instruments, with the provisions concerning labelling, control of use and placing on the market being governed by a regulation based on Article 95 of the Treaty and the remainder being governed by a regulation based on Article 175 of the Treaty?

 
  
 

(EN) The initial proposal from the Commission was based on Article 95 of the Treaty. However, following long and difficult negotiations, the Council agreed in his common position to split the draft proposal into two legal instruments:

a Directive on the basis of Article 95 of the Treaty, covering in particular the question of the use of fluorinated greenhouse gases in mobile air-conditioning systems and amending Council Directive 70/156/EEC;

a Regulation covering the remaining matters, on the basis of Article 175 of the Treaty, except for the Articles 7, 8 and 9, relating to the labelling, the control of use and the placing on the market which are based on the Article 95 of the Treaty.

The examination of the texts continues within the framework of the co-decision procedure under Article 251 of the Treaty.

 

Question no 28 by Dimitrios Papadimoulis (H-0234/05)
 Subject: Procedure for signing customs union between the European Union and Turkey
 

The procedure for signing the protocol to Turkey's customs union with the ten new Member States of the European Union has three stages. Firstly, initialling by the Commission and Turkey. Secondly, signing by the Council and Turkey and, thirdly, ratification by the national parliaments (including the Turkish parliament).

Given that this procedure must be completed by 3 October 2005 and that strict observance thereof is not simply a formal procedure but a political procedure of substance through which the Turkish Republic will recognise a Member State of the European Union which it has hitherto refused to recognise, will the Council categorically confirm to the European Parliament that there will be strict observance of the above procedure which ends in the ratification of the protocol by the national parliaments?

What timetable has been drawn up to ensure that the procedure will have been completed by 3 October 2005?

 
  
 

(FR) The Council wishes to point out that the European Council of 16 and 17 December 2004 welcomed Turkey’s decision to sign the protocol regarding the adaptation of the association agreement between the Community and Turkey, known as the Ankara Agreement, one of the aspects of which is the customs union.

The Commission, which acted as negotiator on the Community’s behalf, and the Turkish authorities recently completed their talks on the draft protocol. The Commission is now set to table a formal proposal to the Council, so that the Council can take a decision on signing and concluding the protocol. The Council is not yet in a position to say what legal basis the Commission will propose.

Naturally, the Presidency cannot pre-empt either the outcome of the proceedings in the Council as regards the substance, or the internal procedures on the Turkish side. It can assure the honourable Member, however, that once the Commission’s proposal has been passed on, it will be analysed by the Council bodies with all due care and attention, including the legal and procedural aspects.

 

Question no 29 by Antonio López-Istúriz White (H-0235/05)
 Subject: Recognition for the work of the fishing sector
 

The work of employees of the EU's fishing and maritime industry deserves greater social recognition.

Owing to my links with the Balearic Isles, I would like to draw attention to the work carried out by the fishing community of Palma de Mallorca. Over the last few years, these people have become involved in cleaning up the waters for purely altruistic reasons by placing themselves and their vessels at the disposal of Palma de Mallorca City Council. Their help has prevented an average of 250 tonnes of waste being washed up onto local beaches.

In view of the great many tourists that visit the islands, the region's fishing community would like to launch what is known as 'fishing tourism' in order to show visitors what working in the fishing industry entails. This is a new form of tourism that already exists in other Member States, such as Italy, and enables fishermen to acquaint people with the work they do while earning a living by occupying themselves with something other than the arduous work of fishing.

Unfortunately, this work is unknown to the vast majority of the population. This being the case, what is the Council's view on this kind of initiative, which should help to improve the sector's image by familiarising people with the work of fishermen and boosting the fishing community's recognition among other sections of the population? Does the Council intend to implement a project of this kind?

 
  
 

(FR) As the honourable Member is no doubt aware, in the field of tourism, competence lies largely with the Member States at the present time. The Community plays a supporting role in ensuring that the appropriate framework conditions for the economic development of the tourism sector prevail.

In this respect the Tourism Advisory Committee and the Tourism Sustainability Group set up under the chairmanship of the European Commission play an important role.

Against this background, any political initiatives dealing with special forms or sub-sectors of tourism should thus largely be launched by the Member States themselves and guidance and legislation at the European level is inappropriate. The supporting role referred to above would normally not go beyond a certain degree of coordination and the dissemination and exchange of information to the relevant parties.

At a more general level, the Council has responded to a number of Communications from the Commission relating to the tourism sector. For example, the Council resolution of 21 May 2002(1) referred to new tasks for the European tourism sector, notably with reference to the preservation of the natural environment and the development of quality indicators with a view to improving the exchange of information and good practises. As regards the latest Communication from the Commission of November 2003 ‘Basic orientations for the sustainability of European Tourism’(2), the Luxembourg Presidency intends to have the Council adopt conclusions on the sustainability of European tourism at a forthcoming session.

 
 

(1) OJ C 135 (6.6.2002).
(2) doc. 15289/03 TOUR 16 COMPET 72 ENV 641 SOC 489 COM (2003) 716 final.

 

Question no 30 by Yiannakis Matsis (H-0237/05)
 Subject: Proposal concerning Famagusta and funding for Turkish Cypriots
 

What is the Council's position and what stage has been reached in respect of the Cypriot Government's proposal to return the town of Famagusta to its lawful residents and to re-open the town's port under the joint management of Greek and Turkish Cypriots under the aegis of the European Union? Is the Council in favour? Why are the € 259 million not being given to the Turkish Cypriots when the Republic of Cyprus has given its assent? Who is raising objections?

 
  
 

(FR) The Council has always stated its support for attempts to reunify the island of Cyprus and its desire for all Cypriots, in the near future, to fulfil their shared destiny as citizens of a reunited island within the EU. Against this backdrop, it has always supported attempts, including those of the UN Secretary General, at a comprehensive settlement of the problem and has, moreover, recognised that this aim can only be achieved if there is a gradual rapprochement between the two communities. The proposal made by the government of the Republic of Cyprus, to which the honourable Member refers, could be considered within this context, but it is not for the Council to express its opinion at this stage. Mr Tassos Papadopoulos, the President of the Republic of Cyprus, recently discussed this proposal with the Luxembourg Presidency and with a number of EU leaders and Commission representatives. The Cyprus question remains on the agenda of the UN Security Council.

At the same time, the EU is involved in looking into potential ways of ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, and in facilitating the reunification of Cyprus by fostering economic development in the Turkish Cypriot community. Some measures have been taken to this end, such as the ‘green line’ regulation, adopted in 2004 and recently amended in order to widen its scope of application and to enhance its effectiveness. A considerable amount of work has also been done on other measures, such as Commission proposals on financial aid (release of EUR 259 million already earmarked for Northern Cyprus in the event of a settlement) and direct trade between Northern Cyprus and the rest of the European Union. It is not yet possible to adopt these two proposals because some difficulties must be overcome, not least with regard to the direct trade.

The Council does not usually predict the final outcome of its work, nor comment on positions expressed by the various Member States. Nonetheless, the honourable Member can rest assured that every effort will be made to implement the conclusions of the General Affairs Council of 26 April 2004.

 

Question no 31 by Gay Mitchell (H-0244/05)
 Subject: China arms embargo
 

Recently there have been conflicting reports on the status of the EU's approach to lifting the arms embargo against China. In light of China's new law against Taiwan secession, can the Council confirm whether it plans to go ahead with the lifting of the embargo, and if so, can it specify a timeframe for this?

 
  
 

(EN) The European Council held on 16 and 17 December 2004 discussed the arms embargo on China and invited the Luxembourg Presidency to finalise the well-advanced work in order to allow for a decision on this matter. The European Council recalled ‘the importance of the criteria of the Code of conduct on arms exports, in particular criteria regarding human rights, stability and security in the region and the national security of friendly and allied countries’. These conclusions are still valid.

The Council has always followed very closely the developments in North East Asia. The Council therefore reacted on the anti-secession law on the day of its adoption, asking all parties to avoid any unilateral action which might rekindle cross-Straits tensions. The EU would be concerned if this law were to invalidate some recent signs of reconciliation between the two shores.

The Council is not in a position to indicate whether or when the arms embargo on China would be lifted. Work on the Code of Conduct on arms sales and its ‘toolbox’ is still going on in the Council’s instances. A high-level mission will soon be dispatched to a number of Asian countries to explain the technicalities of the Code of Conduct and the toolbox.

 

Question no 32 by Proinsias De Rossa (H-0246/05)
 Subject: Torture Equipment Regulation
 

I would appreciate if the Council Presidency would read my written question E-3184/04 which asked about progress in Council on the draft Regulation on the trade in certain equipment and products which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel or degrading treatment or punishment. The question was addressed to the Council, not to the Commission, and the Commission is not in a position to state when the Council should be in a position to adopt a proposal.

To repeat, when does the Council expect to be in a position to adopt the revised proposal - COM(2004)0731 final - forwarded by the Commission to the Council on 29 October 2004?

 
  
 

(FR) As the Council had occasion to indicate to the honourable Member in connection with written question E-3184/04, which he had already put to the Council, it is up to the Commission to provide a response regarding the main changes contained in the amended proposal it submitted to the Council on 29 October 2004. It appears, moreover, that the Commission has already done this in its answers to Parliamentary questions.

With regard to the specific question asked by the honourable Member at this part-session, the Council wishes to emphasise that it is fully aware of the importance of this proposal, the aim of which is to contribute to the prevention of human rights violations, which constitutes one of the European Union's fundamental objectives. Therefore, although it is unable to provide a hard-and-fast timetable, the Luxembourg Presidency confirms that it will spare no effort to reach an agreement before the summer.

 

Question no 33 by Jonas Sjöstedt (H-0247/05)
 Subject: Violation of rights in Turkey
 

Property belonging to St Afrem's church in Botes (Bardakci), consisting mainly of land, was confiscated in 1984 under procedures which violated a convention. Since then, the land has been used by people loyal to the Turkish State - armed village guards, to be precise. The area of land confiscated is 101 ha.

Now the land registry in Midyat has announced that the property is to be sold by compulsory auction within two weeks.

In 2000, the Turkish State destroyed a whole district of the same village, comprising some 50 historic buildings, which belonged to the Assyrians/Syrians. Previously, likewise in the same village, the Turkish State had converted the Syrian Catholic St Mary's Church into a mosque.

The Turkish State has also confiscated large areas of real estate belonging to Assyrians/Syrians, Armenians and Greeks in other villages in the region. In addition, on 1 March 2005 the Turkish State sold off real estate in Istanbul belonging to Armenian church foundations.

Turkey still continues to apply the discriminatory law on foundations to the country's non-Islamic foundations.

Is the Council aware of the illegal confiscations and the compulsory auctions, and will measures be taken to influence Turkey's actions in this regard?

 
  
 

(FR) The events to which the honourable Member refers form part of the overall question of religious freedom in Turkey. The Council has already underlined several times, in response to questions of a similar nature in this House ((1)), that despite the fact that the Turkish Constitution safeguards freedom of religious observance, certain conditions necessary to the functioning of non-Muslim religious communities, in line with practices in force in EU Member States, have yet to be established. In its 2004 regular report, the Commission acknowledged that Turkey had made some progress in this regard, but that numerous gaps remained to be plugged, such as the legal personality and the property rights of non-Muslim communities, along with the training of clergy. Against this backdrop, an important draft Law on Foundations is still being analysed by Turkish ministers. The Commission – on the invitation of the Turkish authorities – has provided comments on this draft, which is now at the revision stage.

The European Council of 16 and 17 December 2004 clearly indicated that full and effective implementation of political reform in Turkey should continue to be monitored closely. The Commission was called upon to look into all matters of concern detailed in its regular report and its recommendation – including, of course, religious freedom – and to report regularly on such matters to the Council.

The Council can therefore reaffirm that it will continue to follow closely Turkey’s progress in this area, via the mechanism of a partnership for accession setting out the priorities for the reform process, of which a draft revised text will be forwarded to the Council by the Commission in autumn. Furthermore, as in the past, the Union will ensure that any outstanding questions are raised in the various political fora and in the bodies set up as part of the Association Agreement.

 
 

(1) Please refer to oral question no H-0177/05 by Bernd Posselt.

 

Question no 34 by Ivo Belet (H-0248/05)
 Subject: Preferential tariffs applied to imports from the areas hit by the tsunami
 

Under the reformed Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), imports to the EU of, inter alia, textiles products from the Asian countries affected by the tsunami are to be subject to a zero rate of duty (provided that the countries concerned comply with the relevant environmental and employment criteria).

Can the Council indicate when what is known as the GSP Plus will actually enter into force and the level of the market share in excess of which the countries involved will lose their entitlement to the zero rate?

Instead of (provisionally) applying a zero rate, has the Council any plans to apply an alternative preferential tariff to exports from the countries concerned?

Does not the Council feel that, by delaying the introduction of the projected GSP Plus, the EU is, in this way, undermining its own aid and development policy vis-à-vis the countries concerned and, actually, robbing Peter to pay Paul?

 
  
 

(FR) With regard to GSP Plus, the Council wishes to inform the honourable Member that, once the new GSP has entered into force, the special regime aimed at fostering sustainable development and good governance (GSP+) should apply to developing countries that are deemed vulnerable, provided that they comply with international standards on fundamental rights, workers’ rights, the environment and good governance. The countries in question would benefit from zero rates of duty (ad valorem and specific rates), which would be granted on the basis of objective criteria to a small group of countries.

GSP+ will enter into force along with the remainder of the regulation. As things stand, the talks on the new scheme have yet to reach a conclusion and the Council is doing all it can in order to find a quick solution.

With regard to graduation, the Council stresses that preferential tariffs granted under the banner of GSP+ (as under the general regime) should of course only be provisional. As soon as the average over three consecutive years of Community imports of a product from a beneficiary country exceeds 15% of total EU imports of the same product from countries under the GSP, that product will be withdrawn from the list of products eligible for preferential tariffs. This is what is known as graduation. The Council is continuing to work towards setting a graduation threshold for textiles.

With regard to the general regime, the other countries affected by the tsunami should benefit from a general GSP regime, which is much more advantageous than the current regime, given the increased number of products covered under the new scheme (300 extra tariff lines) and the accession to the EU of ten new Member States. Graduation by section would also have the effect of reducing the number of graduated products for Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand. It is not possible to apply an alternative tariff to those countries, as the GSP must be non-discriminatory.

The Council is aware of the interest, among the countries in question, in benefiting as quickly as possible from the introduction of GSP+. The Presidency will therefore continue to make determined efforts to conclude its talks in the Council.

 

Question no 35 by Ryszard Czarnecki (H-0254/05)
 Subject: 4% of GDP limit on EU aid
 

A fundamental problem for the new Member States is the ceiling of 4% of a given state's GDP placed on aid provided to that country by the EU. At present, the GDP of the countries of the 'old Union' is a lot higher than that of the new Member States. This is causing substantial problems for many representatives of the 'new Union' by limiting, 'ex definitione', the financial aid framework. Is there any possibility of a change in this situation, involving the raising of the 4% of GDP limit? This is not possible without the agreement of the governments of the 25.

 
  
 

(FR) The Council wishes to remind the honourable Member that when the 4% threshold was set at the time of finalising the last financial package, the Heads of State or Government were concerned that a balance needed to be struck between the level of aid provided and the ability of the Member States in question to absorb that aid. As regards the Council’s position on this question of the 4% of GDP aid ceiling (referring to cohesion resources), which a Member State can enjoy during the next period, that position is being discussed within the framework of the debate on the Financial Perspective for 2007 - 2013. This debate is ongoing and it is, at this stage, impossible to pre-empt its outcome.

 

Question no 36 by Georgios Toussas (H-0258/05)
 Subject: Belittling the significance of the day commemorating the victory against fascism
 

The new Ukrainian Government, which is clearly in step with the tendency in the EU towards changing the nature of 9 May, the day commemorating the victory against fascism, has abolished the traditional celebrations marking that day, as part of President Viktor Yushchenko's policy of 'reconciliation' between those who fought with the Red Army against the Nazis and those who fought in the nationalist forces alongside the Nazis.

Will the Council say whether it intends to contribute to devaluing and undermining the historical importance of the victory against fascism or whether it intends to take initiatives to safeguard 9 May as the day of the victory against fascism, and as the day for remembering the struggle of peoples for freedom and the tens of millions of victims of the Nazi and fascist onslaught, particularly in view of the forthcoming sixtieth anniversary of the events in question?

 
  
 

(FR) The Council informs the honourable Member that national commemorations or celebrations in Ukraine are a Ukrainian internal matter.

 

Question no 37 by Diamanto Manolakou (H-0260/05)
 Subject: Repression of civil liberties in Bosnia
 

Goran Markovic, chairman of the Worker's Communist Party of Bosnia Herzegovina, has been dismissed from the private university 'Slobodan Pavolic' for refusing to write a letter of repentance, admitting his 'mistake' of being a Communist and condemning the composition and activities of the Worker's Communist Party of Bosnia Herzegovina. His dismissal, which constitutes a violation of fundamental rights and civil liberties, has been justified on the grounds that 'as a Communist, he is not fit to educate the young'.

What initiatives does the Council intend to take to ensure that basic democratic rights and the principle of the free movement of ideas are respected in a country in which the EU plays a particularly important role (the Althea operation), to obtain the reinstatement of Goran Markovic at the university and, in general, to put an end to the persecution of Communists for their political beliefs and political activities and to defend and extend workers' rights?

 
  
 

(FR) The Council has not discussed the case referred to by the honourable Member in his question. It is not therefore in a position to answer the question regarding the individual case.

Nevertheless the Council underlines that on the basis of its commitment to promote and defend the rule of law and fundamental rights, the EU is extending significant assistance to the BIH judiciary and domestic human rights instances and continues to prioritise this important aspect of the country’s stabilisation and association process. The Council would also like to recall that the pace of the further movement of the Western Balkans countries towards the EU will depend on each country’s performance in implementing reforms, thus respecting the criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council of 1993 and the SAP conditionality.

 

Question no 38 by Athanasios Pafilis (H-0262/05)
 Subject: Revival of fascism in Latvia
 

On 16 March, with the authorisation of the municipal authorities, parades took place in the Latvian capital, Riga, and in the city of Liepaja, in honour of those who fought with the Nazis in the Second World War; these parades were organised by veterans of the 'Waffen SS', the nationalist organisation 'Everything for Latvia' and 'Club 415'. Applications by organisations and parties which had planned to hold counter-demonstrations were rejected on the grounds that they were submitted too late, and the police violently repulsed anti-fascist demonstrators and carried out 35 arrests, so that the parade in honour of the SS could take place.

What measures does the Council intend to take to prevent the revival of fascism and Nazism, which is particularly striking in Latvia, but also in other countries, where anti-fascists and veterans of the anti-fascist struggle are being persecuted, while measures are being taken to rehabilitate Nazi collaborators?

 
  
 

(FR) The Council wishes to inform the honourable Member that it has not looked into the case to which he refers. It would also point out that, as a rule, it is concerned by any demonstration of a nature that contravenes the principle of non-discrimination, which is at the heart of the European Project, and that it condemns in principle any demonstration under the banner of Nazism and Fascism in Europe. This is one of the reasons why it has decided to resume its examination of a framework decision to combat racism and xenophobia, which has been on the agenda since 2002. The Council believes that it is vitally important that public speech of a Nazi or fascist nature be combated by any appropriate legal and political means, whilst upholding the fundamental rights and freedoms of every individual.

 

Question no 39 by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (H-0264/05)
 Subject: Extension of the trans-European transport networks to the Mediterranean
 

The conclusions of the report of the High Level Group on Trans-European Transport Networks (June 2003), as part of efforts to mobilise and coordinate investments to promote the implementation of Trans-European Network projects, specifically refers to the urgent need to develop the Euro-Mediterranean Transport Network. The Commission's communication on the development of a Euro-Mediterranean Transport Network (June 2003)(1) analyses the economic and political aspects and the importance of the transport sector for the Mediterranean partners and Euro-Mediterranean relations.

Is the Council satisfied by progress in planning the network and determining primary projects (which has already begun under MEDA II)? Has final agreement been reached between the partners and the EU on large-scale regional infrastructure projects? What stage have they reached? Ten years after Euro-Mediterranean cooperation began, does the Council intend to mark the occasion by undertaking specific initiatives to promote Euro-Mediterranean Transport networks and providing an assessment of the state of transport today?

 
  
 

(FR) The Council wishes to inform the honourable Member that the question of extending the trans-European transport networks to the Mediterranean, and to other neighbouring countries of the Union, was, following the Van Miert report, the subject of a ministerial seminar ‘A Wider Europe for Transport’ which was jointly organised by Mrs Loyola de Palacio, Vice-President of the Commission, and Mr Costa, chairman of the Committee on Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism, in Santiago de Compostela on 7 and 8 June 2004.

Following the seminar, a new high-level group was set up by the Commission, the aim of which is to draw up proposals for better links between the EU and its neighbours by means of an efficient transport network that is properly up and running by the year 2020. This high-level group, entitled ‘Extension of the major trans-European transport axes to the neighbouring countries and regions’, which is made up of representatives from the 24 third countries that border the Union, met for the first time on 18 and 19 October 2004 and is still carrying out its work, both in plenary and in regional groups divided into an eastern Mediterranean group and a western Mediterranean group. It is due to submit a report during the second half of 2005. At this stage, therefore, the honourable Member should address her question directly to the Commission.

 
 

(1) OJ C 76, 25.3.2004, p. 2.

 

Question no 40 by Hans-Peter Martin (H-0266/05)
 Subject: Lobbyists' activities
 

At a meeting of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Berlin, the Vice-President of the Commission, Siim Kallas, referred to the need for a 'European Transparency Initiative', such as has already begun to be developed since December 2000 under www.eti.info. At that meeting the Commissioner also criticised the fact that there are no binding rules on recording or registering of the approximately 15 000 EU lobbyists. Self-regulatory codes of conduct have been signed by only a few, and there are at present no serious sanctions, the Commissioner is quoted as saying.

What specific steps does the Council intend to take on the basis of this analysis? What part can the report adopted by the European Parliament's Industry Committee on 10 July 2003 on the role of European industrial associations in the determination of the Union's policies (2002/2264(INI)) play in this? Is the Council prepared to present to Parliament in particular a fully transparent picture of lobbyists' activities?

 
  
 

(FR) The Council wishes to remind the honourable Member that he received an answer to an identical question during the July 2003 part-session. On that occasion, the Council was able to detail the actions and the information rights that it had at the time put in place in order to facilitate lobbyists’ access to information and documents. The Council has continued along this path, but points out that, on the one hand, it is incumbent upon all Member States to establish the mechanisms whereby their representatives in the Council set out their positions, and, on the other hand, that it can only act on the basis of a Commission proposal in the direction that the honourable Member wishes to see. At present no such proposal exists. It also wishes to stress the different nature of relations between the lobbyists and Parliament, the Commission and the Council, bearing in mind their respective institutional roles.

Lastly, the Council wishes to point out that a practice has developed in the area of transparency and access to documents, the real beneficiaries of which are professional associations. Provisions have in fact been laid down to provide representatives of these associations with access, under certain conditions, to the Council’s press centre during ministerial meetings. Furthermore, Members of the Council’s General Secretariat, in particular the press service, are at the disposal of representatives from interest groups to keep them abreast of the outcome of ministerial meetings. Of course, lobbyists can also follow the Council’s public debates and proceedings.

 

Question no 41 by Ilda Figueiredo (H-0271/05)
 Subject: Situation in Cuba
 

The Commission on Human Rights is now meeting in Geneva, and, once again and as has happened several times since the 1990s, the US Administration is attempting to force through a resolution under which that commission would condemn Cuba.

There is no doubt that, once again, the US Administration is endeavouring to give the UN a pretext for maintaining the blockade against Cuba, thus ensuring that the US's own human rights violations in Guantánamo and Iraq remain undiscussed.

What is the Council's position on the matter, given the need for a properly independent position which does not rubber-stamp the US line and for a clear condemnation of the US blockade against Cuba?

 
  
 

(FR) The Council is certainly aware of the US Government’s intention to table a resolution on the human rights situation in Cuba. At this point, it is a somewhat procedural text that does not go into detail. The EU is currently examining the content and setting out the conditions whereby it could endorse the resolution, in accordance with the position that it has consistently stated on the human rights situation in Cuba.

The Council also notes that a Parliament delegation attended the Geneva talks held on 4 to 7 April 2005, in order to be brought up to date on the work of the Commission on Human Rights. That delegation had the opportunity to hold talks with the Presidency and with other actors on the ground and will therefore be in a position to inform other Members of Parliament of the latest developments.

With regard to the links that the honourable Member makes between the US blockade against Cuba and the broader issue before us, the Council wishes to stress the fact that it had not approached the matter from this perspective and that it will set out its position on the resolution tabled by the United States on the resolution’s own merits. In this respect, the EU will act perfectly autonomously, as it has always done.

 

QUESTIONS TO THE COMMISSION
Question no 51 by Caroline Lucas (H-0182/05)
 Subject: Validity of animal testing
 

What is the Commission's opinion on the many challenges to the validity of animal testing, and what does it intend to do in order to speed up the development and use of alternative methods?

 
  
 

(EN) In response to the honourable Member’s question about the validity of animal testing, the Commission would like first to express its strong conviction that animal testing should be minimised as far as possible, and that all efforts should be put into development of alternative methods.

Now, to address the question put forward by the honourable Member, it is often argued that results of animal tests are not valid in order to predict effects on humans. For that reason – and to try to give an answer to these concerns –, the Commission requested its Scientific Committee for Toxicity, Eco-toxicity and Environment (CSTEE) to assess the validity of animal testing.

In its opinion of 8 January 2004, the Scientific Committee for Toxicity, Eco-toxicity and Environment stated that scientific literature is full of examples demonstrating that animal models are good predictors for chemically-induced disorders in humans.

Certainly, there may be differences in responses between animals and humans, but they are most often of a quantitative, rather than a qualitative, nature.

Finally, the Scientific Committee for Toxicity, Eco-toxicity and Environment notes that there are exceptions to this rule: there are some chemicals that induce toxic effects in humans that are not seen in animals, and vice versa: some chemically-induced diseases in humans have not been modelled in animals. However, according to the Scientific Committee, these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

Development of alternative methods and assessment of the validity of test methods fall within the competence of my colleague Commissioner Potocnik, and I will respond to this part of the question on his behalf.

Before new test guidelines can be accepted into Community legislation, their scientific validity has to be established. This is done by national co-ordinators from the Member States through meetings steered by the European Chemicals Bureau (ECB), as part of the Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

The development, validation and use of alternative methods have been a priority for the Commission for quite some time. Specifically, there have been four main strands of activity.

Firstly, the development of in vitro tests as alternatives to animal experiments has been a priority for the various European Community research programmes since 1985.

The Commission is funding development of novel alternative, non-animal testing methods through two specific parts of the current ‘Sixth Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities, contributing to the creation of the European Research Area and to innovation (2002 to 2006)’(1)

So far, € 39 million has been allocated for projects in this area, and additional calls for proposals will be published in the forthcoming months. In the 7th Framework Programme, the development of alternative test methods will be further pursued under two priorities, Priority 1, ‘Health’, and Priority 6, ‘Environment’.

Secondly, the Commission supports validation of alternative methods through Directorate General JR(2) European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM). ECVAM ensures the necessary information flow on supported projects and transfer of results obtained.

Thirdly, to speed up the use of alternative methods, the Commission proposes their inclusion as a matter of priority in the relevant Community legislation as appropriate.

Finally, to promote alternative methods to animal tests on the international level, the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods is working closely with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the validation, acceptance and promotion of alternative methods. It is a major success that, in 2004, the OECD adopted, for the first time, alternative methods that are aiming at replacing animal tests (they are in particular used for skin absorption, skin corrosion, photo-toxicity).

The Commission takes also a leading role in the international regulatory dialogues with authorities in the United States and Japan. This is very important to facilitate mutual recognition, acceptance and implementation of scientifically validated testing methods.

In addition, in order to speed up the use of alternative methods, the 7th Amendment of the Cosmetics Directive 76/768/EEC established in 2003 new provisions related to non-animal testing of cosmetic finished products and ingredients. The amendments will gradually introduce an animal testing ban for cosmetics, and a marketing ban for cosmetic products which were tested on animals.

Finally, the Commission has set up an Ad Hoc Group with representatives from industry, academia, animal welfare groups and governmental bodies to monitor the progress in this field.

 
 

(1) These are Development of new in vitro tests to replace animal experimentation (Thematic Priority 1 - Life Sciences, Genomics and Biotechnology for Health) and Development of alternative in vitro testing methods and strategies for chemical substances (Specific activities covering a wider field of research - Policy support and anticipating scientific and technological needs).
(2) int Research Center

 

Question no 52 by Åsa Westlund (H-0208/05)
 Subject: Emission rights trading
 

At the time of writing this question, several Member States have yet to begin trading emission rights as stipulated under the commitments in the Kyoto Protocol. In several countries, the allocation of emission rights has been very generous, which creates a risk of unhealthy competition and of emissions not being reduced to the required extent.

What does the Commission intend to do in response to this situation?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission would not agree that the assessed national allocation plans have been too generous. The 22 national allocation plans adopted so far allocate a total of 1786 million tonnes per year. This is 63 million tonnes less than the amount initially proposed by these Member States.

The Commission is satisfied with the allocation amounts it has approved. The current price of EU carbon dioxide allowances, which is at present above 10 €, indicates that financial markets believe that the allocation process has succeeded in generating the scarcity of allowances that is necessary to enable trading.

If there are differences between the levels of scarcity imposed by different Member States, that is due to their varying distance from their respective emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. This distance is determined by the Member State’s target, its past efforts to reduce emissions and the growth of its economy. It is not the purpose of national allocation plans to eliminate such differences.

Furthermore, it is for the Member States to decide in which sectors they intend to achieve any required emission reductions. Some choose to concentrate on emission reductions outside the scope of the emissions trading Directive, while some choose to resort to buying emission reductions from abroad by using the Kyoto Protocol’s flexible mechanisms. These differences in approach are allowed by the Directive, although the Commission will always ensure that the Treaty’s provisions on State aid and fair competition are fully respected by Member States.

 

Question no 53 by Proinsias De Rossa (H-0223/05)
 Subject: Bushmeat
 

The resolution included in the EP reports on the illegal trade in bushmeat (Doc. A5-0355/2003) calls on the Commission to take action to stop the illegal trade and to help prevent the extinction of (the bushmeat) species.

Is the Commission aware that the threat of more species extinction, on land and in the sea, is increasing inexorably and that many species might be lost forever over the next few decades? Is the Commission willing to give absolute priority to the prevention of such imminent extinction? In an attempt to find ways and means of combating this extinction, is the Commission willing to organise a workshop, seminar or conference of experts with a view to the drafting of recommendations for the Commission to implement?

 
  
 

(EN) While the object addresses a particular issue – bushmeat -which has already been dealt with in a letter to the honourable Member by the Commissioner in charge of Development and Humanitarian Aid dated 22 March 2005, the question is much wider and addresses the extinction of species and the loss of biodiversity. The Commission’s reply will therefore focus on the latter.

The Commission is fully aware of the fact that the world is losing biodiversity at land and sea at an unprecedented rate. Biodiversity is fundamental for human livelihoods and halting its loss is key to achieve Millennium Development Goals on, for example, poverty, sanitation, health and environment. Heads of States have agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss globally by 2010 – and, at the EU Göteborg Summit, to halt biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010. The European Community is a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity and fully committed to achieve these 2010 targets, which also implies reducing the rate of species extinction. The Commission has repeatedly said that biodiversity is one of its top priorities. The Commission is currently preparing a Communication to the Council and Parliament on Biodiversity scheduled for adoption in November 2005. It will address both the EU and the global dimension (including for example development cooperation and trade in endangered species). Preparations are already well advanced. This Communication will be the Commission’s response to the ‘Message from Malahide’ which resulted from an important stakeholder conference- which the Commission organised with the Irish Presidency in May 2004 in Malahide, Ireland, and which achieved a broad degree of stakeholder consensus on priority objectives and targets towards meeting the 2010 commitments. The Communication will provide a road map specifying priority actions – for both the Commission and Member States - towards meeting the 2010 targets.

 

Question no 54 by Avril Doyle (H-0232/05)
 Subject: Fluorinated greenhouse gases: dual environment-internal market legal basis
 

Given the doubts expressed in Parliament about the legal certainty and applicability of a dual environment-internal market legal basis in the common position on the proposal for a regulation on certain greenhouse gases (COM(2003)0492 final), and given the environmental objectives underpinning the proposal for a regulation, can the Commission indicate whether it would accept a sole environment legal basis under Article 175 of the Treaty or would it accept a further splitting of the regulation into two separate instruments, with the provisions concerning labelling, control of use and placing on the market being governed by a regulation based on Article 95 of the Treaty and the remainder being governed by a regulation based on Article 175 of the Treaty?

 
  
 

(EN) This important proposal will put in place a legislative framework that will contribute to the reduction of emissions of the fluorinated greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol and thereby help to meet the European Union's and Member States’ Kyoto targets and beyond.

In the Political Agreement on the Commission’s proposal, reached at Luxembourg on the 14.10.2004, the Council took a decision to change its form. The ‘package’ now consists of two elements, a proposal for a Directive dealing specifically with the issue of hydrofluorocarbons in mobile air conditioning systems in motor vehicles which will become one element of the EC type approval system for cars, and a proposal for a Regulation to cover the remainder of the original Commission proposal.

The Commission agreed to this change of form on the basis that the two elements are considered as an overall integrated package, notably with a view to fully guarantee the environmental ambition of the overall proposal. The Council agreed to this and it is reflected in the recitals to the Political Agreement.

As regards the legal base, the Commission accepts, as suggested by the Council, that the Directive should be based on Article 95 alone, and that the Regulation should have a dual legal basis of Article 175 and Article 95 in relation to Articles 7, 8 and 9 of the Regulation. This was reflected in the Political Agreement reached in October last year.

The three articles based on Article 95 concern labelling requirements, and marketing and use restrictions. This legal base is the appropriate one considering the clear implications of these articles in terms of single market and free circulation of goods.

The Commission does not believe that there is a sound case for splitting the Regulation into two separate instruments. The Regulation and indeed the whole proposal must be seen as an overall package that aims to reduce emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases. This proposal is only a first step, the review clause in the Regulation provides a platform for further evaluation and where appropriate additional measures which need to be handled in a coherent and integrated manner.

 

Question no 55 by Nikolaos Vakalis (H-0251/05)
 Subject: Air transport and the trade in greenhouse gas emission allowances
 

The directive establishing a trading scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowances within the Community does not cover air transport. It should be pointed out that emissions from air transport increased by 70% between 1990 and 2002 (data for EU 15).

Does the Commission intend to include the air transport sector in this scheme and, if so, when? Does it intend to propose that the scheme include all the greenhouse gases contained in the Kyoto Protocol and not only carbon dioxide (CO2)? Given the continual procrastination within the ICAO about restricting air transport emissions, does the Commission intend to propose that these emissions be included in the new package of commitments being discussed for the post-Kyoto strategy (second commitment period after 2012) within the framework of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)?

 
  
 

(EN) The climate change impact of aviation has grown a lot in recent years and will grow further if nothing is done. The Commission is currently considering what possible EU action to recommend, and expects to present a Communication later this year. This will focus on the use of economic instruments to cut emissions. The options being considered include fuel taxation, emissions charges and inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. The feasibility of the last option is currently being studied, and it is too early to say if this option could be implemented and if so how and when.

One of the problems of international aviation emissions is that they are not allocated to national inventories under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Consequently, these emissions do not count against the Kyoto targets and what share of them each State is accountable for is unclear. Furthermore, although covered in the UNFCCC, the obligation to take specific action is only mentioned in the Kyoto Protocol, which some Parties to the Convention have not ratified. In addition to EU action, the Commission believes this situation should be remedied in any international post-2012 climate regime.

 

Question no 56 by Evangelia Tzampazi (H-0252/05)
 Subject: Inspections to monitor implementation of environmental legislation
 

There are very many violations of environmental legislation in Greece and other EU countries, which cause environmental pollution and lead to time-consuming procedures, in most cases judicial procedures. Furthermore, the central and regional authorities only carry out inspections and controls at the project approval stage. In view of the above, what actions does the Commission intend to take to ensure a more complete and substantive implementation of environmental legislation in the Member States and make compulsory regular inspections and controls throughout the duration of various projects in case they have environmental consequences and thus are contrary to existing legislation?

 
  
 

(EN) The question refers to the environmental controls carried out in Greece but also in some other Member States regarding the implementation of the European environmental legislation. According to the question most of these inspections and controls take place only during the phase of granting an environmental permit and therefore are inadequate for an effective implementation of the environmental legislation.

The Recommendation 2001/331/EC of the Parliament and the Council providing the Minimum Criteria for Environmental Inspections in the Member States(1) (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Recommendation’) seeks to improve the enforcement of environmental law in the Member States by establishing plans for environmental inspections, performing site visits and by investigating serious accidents, incidents and occurrences of non-compliance.

The Recommendation applies to all industrial installations and other enterprises and facilities, whose air emissions and/or water discharges and/or waste disposal or recovery activities are subject to authorisation, permit or licensing requirements under Community law, without prejudice to specific inspection provisions in existing Community legislation.

Although it is a formal legal act, the provisions of the Recommendation are not binding for the Member States. However, all Member States have submitted reports based on point VIII of the Recommendation, which invites them to report to the Commission on their experience of the operation of this recommendation using, to the extent possible, any data available from regional and local inspecting authorities.

As far as the Seveso-II-Directive 96/82/EC of the Council, for the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances(2), is concerned, on-site inspections should in principle be carried out at least every 12 months unless the competent authority has established a programme of inspections based upon a systematic appraisal of major-accident hazards. However, this obligation only applies to establishments where dangerous substances are present in quantities equal to or in excess of the thresholds in Annex I, parts 1 and 2.

The Commission has launched a technical assessment of the Member State reports to analyse the completeness and plausibility of the reported data, and to technically assess whether the entire scope of application of the Recommendation is covered, including an assessment of the adequacy of inspections and inspection systems in each Member State vis-à-vis requirements of the Directives in the four sectors covered by the Recommendation (water, air, waste, integrated pollution prevention and control).

In the light of the findings of the technical assessment and taking into account any further information about the inspection systems in the Member States, the Commission will assess their effectiveness and will possibly consider reviewing the Recommendation with a view to address any shortcomings and gaps in its implementation in the Member States.

 
 

(1) OJ L118 of 27 April 2001
(2) OJ L 010 of 14 January 1997

 

Question no 57 by John Bowis (H-0253/05)
 Subject: Shipments of contaminated waste to low-income countries
 

Is the Commission aware of the growing scandal of unwanted contaminated waste being sent by EU countries to China, Indonesia and other low-income countries? Is it aware that the Port of Rotterdam has been the starting point on the route to such countries? Is it aware that over 1 000 tonnes of contaminated waste, disguised as waste paper, from Britain was recently intercepted and sent back to the UK? What action is the Commission taking to stop this illegal export and the flouting of EU legislation on the safe disposal of waste and hazardous substances?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission is aware of the fact that illegal waste shipments take place from the Community to non-OECD countries and that large container ports like Rotterdam and Antwerp are particularly used for this purpose. Recent reports by the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL) have pointed to several examples of illegal shipments to China, India and other developing countries. Although there are no exact data available, the illegal export of waste to China seems to be growing.

The Commission has been informed about the fact that more than 1,000 tonnes of British household waste, declared to be waste paper, were recently intercepted in Rotterdam on the way to China. The Commission services are in contact with the UK authorities to get more information on the case.

The application and enforcement of Community waste shipment law falls primarily within the competence of the Member States. Their authorities have to take the necessary measures to ensure that waste is shipped in accordance with the provisions of the Waste Shipment Regulation, including inspections of establishments and undertakings and spot checks of shipments. However, the Commission supports the enforcement activities of Member States in various ways, especially by providing human and financial resources for the division of the IMPEL network that focuses on transfrontier shipments of waste and promotes cooperation of Member States in the fight against illegal waste traffic.

Should it become evident that a Member State does not take the necessary measures to comply with Community law, the Commission will not hesitate to open infringement procedures in accordance with the Treaty.

 

Question no 58 by Georgios Toussas (H-0259/05)
 Subject: Public health threat in the Psyttalia area
 

The Athens Irrigation and Sewage Company had decided to go ahead with the gasification of the sewage sludge which has accumulated on the island of Psyttalia because it is cheaper than the process provided for by the Ministry of the Environment, Regional Planning and Public Works of drying and disposal by means of an international call for tenders which is already under way. This has caused anger and triggered protests among inhabitants and local government bodies in the vicinity of the Psyttalia wastewater treatment centre

.

What measures does the Commission intend to take to protect public health, to prevent gasification which is totally contrary to the original scheme for the treatment of waste and sewage in Attica which is receiving EU funding, to remove immediately the thousands of tonnes of sewage sludge which endanger the health of citizens and to enable the international call for tenders to proceed unhindered so that a definitive solution can be found to the problem?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission is aware of the issues raised by this question and has already expressed its view in its replies to previous written questions (E-506/05 and P-916/05). After clarifying the situation regarding the current and future treatment of the sludge, the Commission will refer to the measures it has taken.

The construction of the Psytallia waste water treatment station was co-financed by the Cohesion Fund. The whole scheme has now been fully operational since December 2004 and ensures a tertiary treatment of the waste water discharged into the Gulf of Saronikos. Before the operation of the tertiary treatment, 300 tons of sludge were produced per day; this quantity will almost triple (to 800 tons per day). Until now, the sludge has been transported untreated by boat and lorry to the Ano Liosia landfill site on the mainland.

With respect to the treatment of the sludge produced, the Commission approved in December 2004 a Cohesion Fund project for 48.55 Mio € (75% co-financing). On the basis of the solution approved by the Greek authorities, the drying of the sludge is endorsed. A plant will be constructed on the island of Psytallia and will convert the sludge through drying into solid material, which can be disposed of in appropriate installations. No residues are expected to be produced by this process. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2007 and to definitely resolve the current treatment sludge problem.

The question refers to the transitional proposal for the treatment of the sludge, which aims to provide a temporary solution to the current sludge problem. This proposal concerns the treatment of the sludge already stored on the island as well as the sludge which will be produced on a daily basis until the proposed drying plant becomes operational at the end of 2007. The Commission has not been involved in the selection of this project for a temporary solution, which is being undertaken by the Greek authorities without any Community co-funding. According to the information available, a specific tender has been completed with regard to the method to be used for the temporary treatment of the sludge to be produced until the completion of the proposed drying plant. However, the commencement of the works is still pending. The Commission understands from its contacts with the Greek authorities that all relevant environmental legislation will be respected with regard to this temporary solution, which is expected to receive all the necessary authorisations in the coming months, after the detailed plans and operational aspects are fully elaborated.

The Commission is not satisfied with the current treatment of sludge and, in accordance with Article 226 EC Treaty, it initiated infringement procedure against Greece. In July 2003, the Commission issued a Reasoned Opinion on the basis that Greece had failed to comply with the requirements of Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban waste-water treatment(1) and Directive 75/442/EEC on waste(2). The reply of the Greek authorities and the recent developments are being analysed and the Commission will not hesitate to take all necessary measures to ensure that Greece complies with Community environmental legislation.

 
 

(1) OJ L 135, 30.5.91, p. 40.
(2) OJ L 194, 25.7.75. Directive as amended by Council Directive 91/156/EEC of 18 March 1991 amending Directive 75/442/EEC on waste , OJ L 78, 26.3.91

 

Question no 63 by Chris Davies (H-0226/05)
 Subject: Direct trade with northern Cyprus
 

What progress has been made to date towards the conclusion of an agreement to commence direct trade between residents in the northern part of Cyprus and the remainder of the European Union, and what is preventing more rapid progress from being made on this matter?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission would like to recall that it proposed a council regulation on special conditions for trade with the northern part of Cyprus already on 7 July 2004. Since then the proposal is pending in the Council.

Given the stalemate in the Council and in the spirit of compromise, the Commissioner in charge of Enlargement expressed in an AFET meeting in January the readiness of the Commission to consider adding Article 308 EC as a second legal basis of the regulation.

The Commission can assure the honourable Member that it remains ready to support any compromise which would finally allow the adoption of the long-awaited regulations (aid and trade).

More generally, the Commission remains ready to support any initiative to solve the Cyprus issue. The decision of the European Council to open accession negotiations with Turkey, the EU membership of the Republic of Cyprus and the likely success of the pro-European forces in the northern part of the island in the next elections could create sufficient momentum for a new initiative with a successful perspective. While it is clear that the talks have to take place under the aegis of the United Nations, the Commission is ready to play a more active and a more prominent role in future talks, as the Cyprus issue is more and more becoming a European Union issue very much related to the EU acquis communautaire.

 

Question no 64 by Jonas Sjöstedt (H-0227/05)
 Subject: Threats against environmental activist
 

During the 1980s, construction began on a nuclear power plant at Belene in Bulgaria, though it was subsequently abandoned owing to a lack of resources and local opposition. In 2003, the Bulgarian Government announced that construction of the plant would resume, and the Commission has previously expressed its support for the project.

Reports are now circulating that Albena Simeonova, the environmental activist coordinating opposition to the building of the nuclear power plant, has had her life threatened and has been urged to abandon her campaign.

Is the Commission aware of the Simeonova case and does the Commission intend to take steps to help Simeonova receive the protection in Bulgaria that she needs?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission is aware that Mme Simeonova would have received threats concerning her opposition to the planned resumption of construction of the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria.

It is understood that Mme Simeonova would have referred her case to the police and prosecution in Bulgaria. So far, the Commission has not been approached on this situation by Simeonova or other opponents to the construction of this nuclear power station. The Commission will continue to closely follow the evolution of the situation before the relevant Bulgarian authorities and will remain, of course, available to receive information on this subject.

With regard to the resumption of the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant, the Commission recalls that each Member and Acceding State is free to invest in new generating capacities including nuclear power provided that a high level of nuclear safety is ensured.

 

Question no 65 by Tadeusz Zwiefka (H-0229/05)
 Subject: Phare Project 2002/000-580.04.01.03/04
 

Would the Commission kindly indicate the tender procedure used for the selection of the winner of lot 3 - Rapid tests for BSE and SCRAPIE diagnosis and equipment to perform tests - Phare Project 2002/000-580.04.01.03/04 TSE control in Poland. According to the information available to me, the contract in question was awarded after the previous contract had been cancelled because of serious procedural failures. In the current procedure, the company awarded the contract had not fulfilled the technical requirements specified in the tender but offered the lowest price by far (almost three times lower than the market average), giving rise to the suspicion of price dumping. In the light of such information, would the Commission please indicate how a company not fulfilling the technical requirements could have won the contract.

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission views the proper application of EC Veterinary regulations in the new Member States as particularly important, which is why projects to support the efforts from the veterinary authorities in those countries have been funded by PHARE.

Tendering and financial management of the Phare funds in this area have been delegated to Polish bodies. Nevertheless, those governmental bodies must respect the rules laid down by the EU legislators in the Financial Regulation and in the Public Procurement Directives.

In the case mentioned by the honourable Member, the tender was cancelled by the Contracting Authority after complaints from several bidders.

Information was transmitted to OLAF regarding specific circumstances pertaining to this tender.

 

Question no 66 by Frederika Brepoels (H-0230/05)
 Subject: The situation of the Kurds in Turkey
 

Human rights organisations report that the situation in Turkey has worsened during the first few months of 2005. There is talk of dubious arrests and torture. Even the proposed or adopted reforms regarding the recognition of Kurdish identity appear to have been stopped or have not been implemented on the ground. Our assessments show, among other things, that the authorities are currently exerting enormous pressure on Kurds who stand up for their rights. For example, action is being taken against the use of the Kurdish language in public, people are being strongly discouraged from giving their children Kurdish names, and education in their mother tongue is available to Kurdish children only at private institutions. The logical consequence of the European Council’s conclusions should be that, in the event of a serious and persistent breach of the principles of freedom, democracy and human rights, negotiations may not be opened. Does the Commission acknowledge these assessments to be true following the working visit? If so, what conclusions have been drawn as a result, and what specific measures relating to the rights of the Kurdish minority still need to be implemented before negotiations can begin?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission considers that the assessment given in the 2004 Regular Report of the situation in the East and the South East of Turkey, where people of Kurdish origin mostly live, remains valid. More specifically:

On the question of torture and ill-treatment, the Commission is not aware of a particular trend relating to the Kurds.

TV and radio broadcasts in Kurdish are ongoing and there are currently four applications from local private channels to broadcast in minority languages. However, there are still restrictions curtailing the use of Kurdish, in particular in political discourse.

Following a Regulation passed in 2003 allowing for teaching in languages and dialects other than Turkish, 7 private schools have been authorised to teach Kurdish courses.

Discriminatory language against minorities has started to be removed from the textbooks used in schools.

In its Regular Reports the Commission has encouraged the establishment of a dialogue between Turkey and the OSCE on minority issues, and in February 2005 the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities visited Turkey to discuss these matters with the authorities.

In line with the European Council decision, the Commission continues to monitor Turkey’s compliance with the Copenhagen political criteria. Later this year, the Commission will prepare a revised Association Partnership, including priorities regarding cultural rights and the protection of minorities.

 

Question no 67 by Yiannakis Matsis (H-0238/05)
 Subject: Turkish embargo on vessels from Republic of Cyprus
 

What measures will the European Union take to put an end to the restrictions imposed by Turkey on the mooring in port of vessels flying the flag of the Republic of Cyprus, a Member State of the European Union, be they associated with Cypriot interests or ownership, and thus prevent infringements of European Union law and its interests? (The same also applies to aircraft from the Republic of Cyprus which are prohibited from flying over Turkey.)

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission is aware of the problem concerning the restrictions on access to Turkish ports for vessels flying a Cypriot flag or having landed in a Cypriot port.

The Commission considers that these restrictions are not in line with the provisions of Decision 1/95 of the EC-Turkey Association Council establishing the EC-Turkey Customs Union. Although Turkey claims to have extended the Customs Union to all EU-Member States, the restrictions are still in place.

The Commission takes every opportunity to remind Turkey to remove any restrictions to transport and trade with Cyprus, for example during the recent visit of the Commissioner in charge of Enlargement to Turkey and at the meeting of the EC-Turkey Association Committee on 17 March 2005. It will do so at the next meeting of the Association Council as well.

As for the future, the Commissioner in charge of Enlargement recalls to the honourable Member the Commission’s intention to set strict benchmarks for the opening of negotiation chapters, taking into account for instance the extent to which previous commitments have been met.

 

Question no 68 by Georgios Papastamkos (H-0242/05)
 Subject: Progress of FYROM towards accession to the EU
 

In February 2005, the Government of FYROM sent the Commission its answers to the 'questionnaire' on FYROM's application for accession to the EU.

What opinion has the Commission so far arrived at regarding the quality and credibility of the answers? What is the timetable for action by the Commission in connection with the pre-accession strategy for FYROM? When is the Commission likely to deliver its opinion? What is the further procedure for FYROM's accession to the EU? What is the role of the present Member States, under European law, both in considering such an application and in the formal procedure relating to the accession of a new Member State, and what will that role be in future under the Constitution?

 
  
 

(EN) It is still too early to make a detailed assessment of the replies given to the Commission’s questionnaire. This is a complex process, involving all the Commission’s services, and our pre-assessment work is still going on.

It requires in particular looking at any significant divergences between the legislation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the acquis communautaire, as well as at analysing the country’s administrative capacity in all sectors. It also includes obtaining further clarifications and updates from the authorities of the country.

At the same time the Commission reviews the implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement in the sub-committees it has set up with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Commission is also engaged in a dialogue with the authorities of the country on a number of areas of particular sensitive nature since they mostly deal with what are called the political criteria for membership.

It is on this basis that the Commission will make its assessment whether and to what extent the country is meeting the criteria defined at the European Council of Copenhagen in 1993 and the Stabilisation and Association Process conditionalities established by the Council in 1997.

The Commission’s intention is to finalise its opinion before the European Council in December so that it could be discussed by the Heads of State and Government.

However, as the Commission signalled to Prime Minister Bučkovski when he came to Brussels in February, this would depend not only on the quality of the dialogue with the local authorities but also on the progress achieved in the reforms and political stability in the country.

As regards the way forward, the purpose of the Commission’s Opinion is to recommend to the Council whether negotiations for accession should be opened or not, and then the Council will decide. The further procedure, including the possible adoption of a ‘pre-accession strategy’, will depend on that decision.

Finally, under the current Treaty provisions as well as under the provisions of the Constitution, the decision to open negotiations is taken by the Member States by unanimity.

 

Question no 69 by Esko Seppänen (H-0166/05)
 Subject: Funding for public information campaigns
 

The draft EU Constitution is currently undergoing ratification in the Member States. In some countries, referendums are being held on it. How much does the Commission intend to spend on public information campaigns for this project, how will the funds be distributed between countries which are holding referendums and those which are not, and what will be done to ensure that the information provided is neutral and does not merely constitute propaganda for one side of the argument?

 
  
 

(FR) The sum of EUR 9 million was earmarked by the budgetary authority in the 2005 budget under the heading ‘Prince Programme – debate on the future of the European Union’. EUR 8 million will be made available to the Commission Representations in the Member States, ideally on the basis of the communication plans drawn up by the governments within the framework of a tripartite strategic partnership, between the national governments, the Commission and Parliament.

Moreover, the neutrality of information campaigns must be guaranteed by the governments organising these campaigns.

Lastly, the Commission has prepared information packs presenting and explaining the content of the Treaty. The complete text of the Constitution can be accessed directly, in all languages, through the Europa site (http://europa.eu.int/constitution).

 

Question no 70 by Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (H-0170/05)
 Subject: Ageing of the European population and revision of early-retirement schemes
 

Since the ageing of the EU's population will in future threaten the sustainability of pension schemes, has the Commission a clear picture of the action which has been taken by each Member State as regards early-retirement schemes?

What means is the Commission intending to propose in order to encourage the Member States to revise their early-retirement schemes with a view to persuading more over-55s to stay in the job market (and thus make their valuable experience available to European society), without at the same time excluding young people from that market?

 
  
 

(FR) Social protection systems in the Member States offer different opportunities for leaving the job market prior to the legal retirement age. Early retirement schemes are therefore merely one device among many and are typically geared towards workers with long careers. Not every Member State has an early retirement scheme, and there are other social protection schemes that can help people leave the job market. In some countries, unemployment insurance schemes have been adjusted to enable early retirement to be taken, whereby older unemployed people can enjoy higher benefits and are not required to look for and accept work. Invalidity insurance schemes are another way of leaving the job market and can sometimes encourage people to take full retirement, although giving people more suitable work, involving better working conditions and shorter hours, would be a possible solution.

The elements of social protection systems encouraging early retirement – or, at the other end of the scale, encouraging longer careers – were analysed in a report by the Social Protection Committee adopted in March 2004. The report is available – only in English – on the Committee’s website, albeit covering only the 15 old Member States(1).

The Commission will examine the situation in all Member States on the back of fresh national strategy reports, which should be forwarded in July 2005 within the framework of the open method of coordination applied to retirement. The Member States will be asked to look into early retirement schemes, in light of the above-mentioned Social Protection Committee report. The Member States are also invited to table appropriate measures for updating these schemes enabling people to take early retirement, with the aim of encouraging older workers to remain active.

The Commission is of the opinion that extending working lives and higher take-up among older workers does not undermine young people’s chances in the job market. The retirement of older, 55 to 64-year-old, workers and the entry into the job market of younger, 15 to 24-year-old, workers, do not necessarily take place in the same sectors. It is also the case that, on the whole, trends in employment – be they positive or negative – are the same for younger and older workers; in other words, there is no discrepancy between employment trends among older and younger workers.

In this regard, the Commission would like to draw the honourable Member’s attention to the Green Paper ‘Confronting demographic change: a new solidarity between the generations’, adopted on 16 March 2005.(2)

 
 

(1) Promoting Longer Working Lives Through Better Social Protection Systems Report by the Social Protection Committee, March 2004. http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/social_protection/pensions_en.htm
(2) COM(2005) 94 final.

 

Question no 71 by Robert Evans (H-0179/05)
 Subject: Photographic market
 

The increase in the use of digital technology is undoubtedly having an affect on the photographic market, but the recent decision by Kodak to withdraw some of its graphics products to the USA could have serious consequences for European employment in the industry, not least at their plant in Harrow, north-west London. What steps is the Commission taking to try to influence global companies and to protect European jobs, not least in the photographic market?

 
  
 

(EN) The dramatic changes in the imaging industry worldwide, driven by technological shifts, stress the need for better anticipation and management of change at sectoral and company level, in dialogue with the different stakeholders, especially the workers. The Community framework already provides for financial and legislative instruments with this aim.

The Commission is further committed to promoting an industrial policy aimed at fostering innovation, supporting the necessary changes and fully realising the European industrial potential in the different branches. It invites the honourable Member to refer to its Communication ‘Fostering structural change: an industrial policy for an enlarged Europe’ adopted in April 2004.(1)

This Communication highlights the need to improve the framework conditions in which industry operates in Europe to ensure that Europe is seen as a ‘business-friendly’ location for investments and industrial activities. In particular, this Commission is committed to improving the regulatory framework in which industry operates through all the actions carried out under the framework of ‘better regulation’.

Having said that, the Commission would point out that many of the framework conditions which determine investment decisions (including those to relocate activities) do not exclusively depend on the EU; others (such as taxation and training/education) are exclusively of national competence. The Commission has frequently invited Member States to ponder on their responsibilities in such matters, and has requested that Member States complement the Commission’s drive to improve the regulatory framework in which business operates through their own, national, ‘better regulation’ programmes.

Moreover, as the social consequences of corporate restructuring are a serious concern, the Commission has adopted on 31 March 2005 a Communication on ‘Restructuring and Employment - Anticipating and accompanying restructuring in order to develop employment: the role of the European Union’(2) outlining an EU global approach to these phenomena.

 
 

(1) COM (2004) 274 final
(2) COM (2005) 120 final

 

Question no 72 by Alfredo Antoniozzi (H-0180/05)
 Subject: Means of payment - dual pricing in euros and former national currencies
 

The introduction of single currency in the eurozone countries has created a bond among EU citizens around that currency that is not merely monetary but also political and cultural. However, in many Member States. including Italy, fuller information starting from the initial decision would have avoided counter-productive oversimplifications as regards means of payment. In some Member States, such as France, dual pricing is still being practised, with prices being indicated in both euros and the former national currency.

Does the Commission not consider it desirable to take steps to avoid, at national level, errors liable to harm the public and the economy, with a view to ensuring respect for the proper equivalences between the former national currencies and the euro?

Can the Commission state whether, notwithstanding the laws, regulations and administrative provisions adopted at national level, it will adopt suitable recommendations or suggestions on the matter?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission agrees with the honourable Member that the euro is not only a currency but also a symbol of a common identity and shared values. The Commission moreover shares the view that a comprehensive information campaign for citizens on the implications and benefits of the euro should form an integral part of the preparations for the introduction of the single currency in each country. While the responsibility for such information campaigns lies with the different national authorities, the Commission has actively co-operated in the past, in particular by organising regular meetings of the national administrations’ communication directors in order to discuss information activities. The Union has also made financial support available through the PRINCE budget line, which aims at increasing public knowledge within and outside the Union of the working of EMU and to contribute to a smooth changeover in those Member States which adopt the euro, in the form of a partnership agreement.

As the honourable Member rightly points out, dual display of prices and other amounts plays an essential role in helping consumers in their mental changeover process. It moreover helps preventing potential abusive price increases or the erroneous perception thereof by consumers. In order to encourage the use of dual display and to establish a number of good practices in this field, the Commission adopted Commission Recommendation (98/287/EC) 23 April 1998 concerning dual display of prices and other monetary amounts. This recommendation notably provides that dual displays should fully respect the legal provisions on conversion and rounding. It is essential that only the official conversion rate is applied and that the amounts displayed after conversion should neither be rounded off for convenience nor be transformed into ‘psychological’ prices.

As regards the possibility to adopt binding legal provisions in this area, the Commission considered at the time that no legislative measures were necessary at Community level, although Member States were obviously entitled to enact appropriate regulatory provisions at national level (as some Member States did during the previous changeover to the euro).

Finally, it should be stressed that the use of dual price display should be restricted to a reasonable period of time. If dual displays are kept in place for too long they risk becoming counterproductive by prolonging the reference to the national currency beyond what is necessary and thereby delay the mental changeover to the euro. The Commission therefore recommended on 19 December 2002 (02/747/EC) that dual displays in the first-wave euro- area countries should be gradually phased out with a view to being discontinued by 30 June 2003 at the latest.

 

Question no 73 by Georgios Karatzaferis (H-0181/05)
 Subject: Appointment of Turkish officials to Community institutions
 

Last December's European Council meeting in Brussels decided (contrary to the wishes of the general public and of the 25 Member States of the EU, as reflected in separate surveys in all the Member States) to launch accession negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005. Never before has there been such a unanimous rejection of the accession of a new country to the Union by public opinion in all its Member States and yet the governments continue to insist on its accession.

Will Turkish officials be admitted to the Community's institutions before 3 October 2005 and after that date? If so, how many is it estimated will be admitted to the Commission before the full accession of Turkey, what arrangements will apply to them and how many of them will be assigned to senior administrative duties?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission would refer the honourable Member to Article 27 of the Staff Regulations which provides that ‘Recruitment shall be directed to securing for the institution the services of officials […] from among nationals of Member States of the Communities’.

Article 28 adds that ‘an official may be appointed only on condition that he is a national of one of the Member States of the Communities, unless an exception is authorised by the appointing authority […]’.

The Commission has no intention to use this exception for systematic recruitment of nationals from candidate countries. It should be noted that the forward planning for 2004-2006 prepared by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) does not include any selection procedures or open competitions for Turkish citizens.

As for senior administrative duties, the Commission can confirm that, in general, they are not assigned to a person recruited under the exception provided for in Article 28 of the Staff Regulations.

 

Question no 74 by María Elena Valenciano Martínez-Orozco (H-0184/05)
 Subject: European Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings
 

In the negotiations on the European Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings held in Strasbourg in March, the Commission rejected the incorporation of a number of amendments to enhance the protection of the victims of trafficking. During the week of the negotiations the author of this question received a written answer backing measures that were eventually rejected in the negotiations.

Can the Commission explain its reasons for rejecting the possibility of extending medical protection for the victims of trafficking to include psychological care where necessary? Does it not consider that that it has failed in its efforts to advise the Member States, since the clause concerning the non-penalisation of victims has not been clearly incorporated and that using the services of a victim of trafficking is not criminalised either? Does it not consider that the families of the victims should, if need be, also be protected by the authorities?

 
  
 

(EN) 1. Medical Protection and protection for families of the victims

The role of the Commission in the negotiations currently held in Council of Europe was already the subject of the reply to oral questions H-0570/04(1) and H-0067/05(2). As pointed out in these responses, the Commission has negotiated on behalf of the European Community further to a Council Decision of 28 June 2004 authorizing the Commission to negotiate the Draft European Convention on combating trafficking in human beings along precise negotiating directives. This Council Decision covers those provisions of the Draft Convention that concern Community law (first pillar). It was adopted on the basis of existing EC legislation, in particular on Council Directive 2004/81/EC of 29 April 2004 ‘on the residence permit issued to third-country nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings or who have been the subject of an action to facilitate illegal immigration, who cooperate with the competent authorities’. Consequently, in the negotiations in Strasbourg the Commission was bound to respect the negotiating directives included in the above mentioned Council Decision. It must be underlined that the Commission can deviate from the negotiating directives received only if there is an amended Council Decision or, in a less formal way, if the Council decides at unanimity (this sector is still covered by unanimity) to endorse a text going beyond the said negotiating directives. Concerning the two amendments proposed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe the honourable Member is referring to (necessary medical assistance during the reflection period and protection of the families), the Commission would have been in favour of including them in the draft Convention, but lacked the necessary support by the Member States. In a similar, but not identical, case(3) – fixation of a recovery and reflection period of a minimum of 30 days granted to victims of trafficking – a consensus was reached in the Council and the Commission could negotiate the inclusion of such a minimum delay in the draft Convention. It must be recalled that Member States will anyway be free to grant more favourable provisions to third-country nationals victims of trafficking when transposing the Convention in their national legislation.

As to the psychological assistance, this is already provided for in the draft Convention in article 12(1) (a) and article 12(3).

2. Non punishment clause; using the services of a victim of trafficking

The negotiating Parties in Strasbourg agreed to include into the draft European Convention on action against trafficking in human beings a provision concerning the criminalisation of the use of services of a victim and a so-called non punishment provision.

The provision concerning the criminalisation of the use of services of a victim is not binding as some negotiating Parties, including EU Member States, strongly opposed a binding provision. According to the agreed draft, Parties shall consider adopting the relevant measures. From a legal point of view and taking into consideration the relevant Common Position adopted by the Council in October 2004 Member States were not obliged to actively support a binding provision. However, the Commission is aware of an ongoing debate about the issue in a number of Member States. A discussion of the question in the Union will be necessary and should take place further to the Communication on trafficking in human beings the Commission will issue in 2005.

According to the non-punishment provision agreed within the Council of Europe each Party shall, in accordance with the basic principles of its legal system, provide for the possibility of not imposing penalties on victims for their involvement in unlawful activities, to the extent that they have been compelled to do so. This formulation remains behind the expectations of some negotiating Parties and a number stakeholders. On the other hand, it has to be taken into consideration that the positions of the negotiating Parties in Strasbourg were very divergent and that there was a real risk of having no non punishment provision at all in the European Convention on action against trafficking in human beings.

 
 

(1) Written answer on 11 January 2005
(2) Written answer on 22 February 2005
(3) In this specific case, even though the 30 days are not in the EC Directive, the Legal Service of the Commission was of the opinion that the amendment fell anyway within the negotiating directive. Nevertheless, for political reasons, the Commission preferred to reach a consensus in the Council.

 

Question no 75 by Simon Coveney (H-0190/05)
 Subject: Post LEADER+
 

The LEADER+ Programme will come to an end in 2006. What further schemes does the Commission intend to set up with a view to continuing its programme of rural development, what form will the new programme take, and what level of finance will it receive?

 
  
 

(EN) For the future programming period, Leader will no longer exist as a separate community initiative as this is currently the case. Building on the experience of three programming periods, the Commission believes that the Leader Initiative has reached sufficient maturity enabling the rural areas to implement the Leader approach more widely in mainstream rural development programming. Given the importance of Leader the Commission has opted to have a separate axis for the implementation of the Leader approach including all characteristics of the current initiative such as partnership capacity, the implementation of local strategies, cooperation, networking and acquisition of skills. Within each programme, at least 7% should be earmarked for the Leader axis. This is the minimum necessary for a credible integration of the Leader approach into rural development programming. Concerning the financing of the Leader axis, a co-financing percentage of maximum 55% (80 % in Convergence regions) has been proposed.

Moreover, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) can contribute to the diversification of the activities in rural areas according to the three priorities defined for the future programming period (convergence, competitiveness and employment, territorial co-operation), in particular to improve access to transport, telecommunications and other services of general interest, to stimulate eco-innovation in SMEs, to support networks and clusters of rural and urban SMEs and to promote green tourism.

 

Question no 80 by Manuel Medina Ortega (H-0194/05)
 Subject: Trade negotiations with the Andean Community
 

Can the Commission give a general outline of the negotiations with the Andean Community of Nations on a free-trade agreement with the European Union?

 
  
 

(EN) The EU and the Andean Community are not yet negotiating a Free Trade Agreement. However, the EU and Andean Community’s Heads of State and Government declared in Guadalajara in May 2004 that the conclusion of an Association Agreement between the Andean Community and the EU has become their ‘common strategic objective’.

While stressing the need to build upon the outcome of the Doha negotiations, it was decided at this Summit to start preparing the way for future negotiations through launching a ‘joint assessment’ exercise focusing on the level of regional economic integration existing within the Andean Community.

The EU attaches a lot of importance to regional integration, for political motives (or the idea that regional integration will enhance political stability), for economic reasons (or the idea that the market should be big enough to attract European economic operators) as well as from a purely practical point of view (or not wanting to have very long and difficult negotiations such as with Mercosur and the Gulf Cooperation Council).

The joint assessment exercise has been launched officially on the occasion of an EU-Andean Community Joint Committee meeting which took place on 21 January 2005. At that moment, it was decided to set up an ‘Ad Hoc Joint Working Group’ that will meet three times this year and report to the following EU-Andean Community Joint Committee to be organised before the end of this year. The first meeting of the Ad hoc Joint Working Group took place during the first week of April.

While the subjects of the joint assessment exercise are very much Free Trade related, the EU’s ambition is larger than the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement. The ‘Association Agreement’ which the EU has in mind also covers its region to region political dialogue and its cooperation activities.

 

Question no 81 by Bill Newton Dunn (H-0196/05)
 Subject: EU diplomatic immunity
 

The mass-circulation Sun newspaper in London reported on 7 March this year about the EU that 'staff in charge of food, trains, and translation', and even 'lowly officials in charge of plants' have been granted diplomatic immunity.

Will the Commission clarify which of its employees, which employees in other EU institutions, and which employees in EU agencies are entitled to diplomatic immunity ?

 
  
 

(EN) The staff of the European institutions having their place of work in one of the Member states does not benefit from diplomatic immunity.

However, the statutory personnel, meaning the officials as well as the other servants, of all Community institutions benefits from legal immunity under the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Communities,(1) and the Staff Regulations, including the EU agencies, to which these Staff Regulations also apply.

According to article 12 of the ‘Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Communities’ ‘officials and other servants of the Communities shall be immune from legal proceedings in respect to acts performed by them in their official capacity […]’.

At the same time shall ‘each institution … be required to waive the immunity accorded to an official or other servant wherever that institution considers that the waiver of such immunity is not contrary to the interests of the Communities.’ (article 18 of the protocol)

Article 23 of the ‘Staff Regulations’ further specifies that: ‘The privileges and immunities enjoyed by officials are accorded solely in the interest of the Communities. Subject to the protocol on privileges and immunities, officials shall not be exempt from fulfilling their private obligations, or from complying with the laws and the police regulations in force’.

It is clear from the wording of these provisions that such legal immunity applies to acts performed in an official capacity, and only to those.

The situation is however different for personnel attached to a delegation in a Third country. These persons (and the members of their families) generally enjoy the rights, privileges and immunities and are subject to the obligations as laid down in the Vienna Convention of 18 April 1961 on Diplomatic Relations.

 
 

(1) Protocol on the privileges and immunities of the European Communities of 8 April 1965 (OJ L 152, 13.7.1967, p. 15).

 

Question no 82 by Eoin Ryan (H-0198/05)
 Subject: Advisory Committee on Education and Training in the field of Architecture
 

Will the Commission give an undertaking that all necessary measures will be taken to ensure full cooperation with the Advisory Committee on Education and Training in the field of Architecture, in accordance with Article 7 of Council Decision 85/385/EEC(1)? Furthermore, does the Commission agree that there is a need to ensure trust between the Commission and the architectural profession, with regard to both the remaining life of Directive 85/384/EEC(2) and to the bringing into force of the proposed Qualifications Directive and with particular regard to the consultative mechanism proposed by the Directive?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission has made - and is making - every effort to ensure full co-operation with the Advisory Committee on Education and Training (ACETA) in the field of architecture. It is presently awaiting a Council decision to appoint representatives of the ten new Member States which will allow further meetings of ACETA to be convened, if necessary.

The Commission will work closely with Member States and the architectural profession to ensure a smooth transition to the consultative mechanism provided for by the proposed qualifications Directive. It is confident that the Expert Group, which will be established, will help promote trust and be capable of advising the Commission on any concerns which may arise with regard to the formal qualifications of architects. Overall, the Commission believes that the new consultative mechanism will be more responsive to developments than the current system which is based on rather inflexible procedures.

 
 

(1) OJ L 223, 21.8.1985, p. 26.
(2) OJ L 223, 21.8.1985, p. 15.

 

Question no 83 by Brian Crowley (H-0200/05)
 Subject: Software patents and the European Patents Office
 

Would the Commission inform the House what analysis and comparison it has have carried out with regard to the granting of patents for software technology, by the European Patents Office?

When carrying out that analysis and comparison, did the Commission find any indication that the absence of such patents seriously restricts innovation and technological developments by SMEs in the sector?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission's analysis and studies, reported in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Commission proposal(1), took into account patents granted by the European Patent Office as well as those granted by national patent offices of the EU Member States.

One of the studies conducted in the context of the Commission’s analysis, taking account of the situation in the United States, found that ‘the patentability of computer program related inventions has helped the growth of computer program related industries in the United States, in particular the growth of SMEs and independent software developers into sizable indeed major companies’.

The study also concluded that in Europe there is increasing, even though still relatively low, use by independent software developers of patents in raising finance or in licensing. The authors of the study considered that harmonisation on the basis of the status quo would have no consequence save for the important one that SMEs and independent software developers will be less likely to consider computer program related inventions unpatentable.

The Commission proposal seeks to clarify the legal rules on patentability for software-related inventions. This does not include computer programmes or other software as such. It means inventions which make a technical contribution and which are truly novel.

Such inventions are present in a number of everyday consumer goods such as cars, mobile telephones and domestic appliances. The Commission’s intention in making its proposal was to avoid patenting of pure software and clearly differentiate the EU from the US. Nothing that is not patentable now will be made patentable by the directive and its impact on innovation and competition, as well as on European businesses, will anyhow be monitored by the Commission (draft Article 7).

With regard to the second question of the honourable member of the Parliament, as stated earlier, the Commission found that patentability of software related inventions contributed to the growth of SME’s and independent developers. Exclusions of fields of technology from patentability are undesirable as a matter of policy.

 
 

(1) COM (2002) 92 final

 

Question no 84 by Seán Ó Neachtain (H-0202/05)
 Subject: Measures to combat terrorism
 

Can the Commission give an update as to the practical measures that it is currently implementing or that it intends to implement in the near future in order to combat terrorism in Europe? Will the Commission also indicate to what extent their measures are coordinated with the Governments of the Member States?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission is currently working on a number of measures in the fight against terrorism, beyond those already taken over the last years.

Work is underway for a central system (ARGUS) that links all existing specialised rapid alert systems at EU level that aim at ensuring safety and security.. It will provide a new central entry point for all alerts, including those resulting from terrorist acts, while respecting the specific characteristics, competence and expertise of the individual and specialised alert systems which will continue to carry out their current functions. In connection with ARGUS, the Commission is now preparing to set up a central Commission Crisis Centre that would, during an emergency, bring together representatives from the different services of the Commission. This Centre will coordinate efforts so as to evaluate the best practicable options for action and to decide on the appropriate response measures. Work is underway for preparation of a Commission decision.

The Commission is working on the creation and implementation of a Critical Infrastructure Warning Information Network (CIWIN) - an EU network to assist Member States, EU Institutions, owners and operators of critical infrastructure to exchange information on shared threats, vulnerabilities and appropriate measures and strategies to mitigate risk in support of critical infrastructure protection. Work is underway for preparation of a Council decision. This is an element of a wider programme for the protection of critical infrastructure protection (EPCIP).

The Commission is now preparing the ground (impact assessment) for the creation of a rapid alert system at EU level that allows law enforcement authorities of different Member States to be in contact with one another in an emergency situation or a Law Enforcement Network (LEN). This will be proposed for decision by the Council.

The Commission will produce a Communication on Radicalisation and Terrorism Recruitment before the end of the first half of the year as its contribution to the Council elaboration of a long-term strategy on the subject by the end of 2005.

The Commission will also be tabling a Communication on ensuring greater security in explosives, bomb-making equipment and firearms.

A Communication on Sky Marshals as part of an in-flight security legislative package can also be expected this year. A draft legal act is under development establishing common rules on the use of In Flight Security Officers (Sky Marshals) in the EU. The main objective of this legal act is to establish and implement appropriate Union measures, in order to prevent acts of unlawful interference against civil aviation by means of the introduction of In Flight Security Officers. Member States will be free to implement additional or alternative security measures if they so wish. States not wishing to deploy in flight security officers would be able to address a specific threat by alternative security measures.

A harmonised Community position on in-flight security officers is essential in light of the impact such measures have on the aviation security and confidence in the transport industry. The Community approach addressing this critical issue is aligned with international standards and has greatly benefited from the recommendations and work by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). These arrangements do not remove the obligation imposed on states by the ICAO to consider a request by another state to authorise its sky marshals to board an aircraft of the requesting state.

The Commission is mainstreaming counter-terrorism into all EU external actions with third countries. Many countries need assistance to set up the basic capacities to counter terrorism. The United Nations (UN) has developed a framework of conventions, resolutions and instruments which set the international norms for counter terrorism action. Commission assistance programmes support, amongst other things, these UN objectives. Our programmes are building government capacities and spreading the rule of law worldwide to around 80 countries. We coordinate with the various international donors and actors in the field so as to avoid any duplication of effort. Development assistance is also one way of addressing the underlying causes of terrorism assistance to erode the support base for terrorist networks, through a focus on poverty reduction, good governance, and the promotion of participatory development processes

Further to the Hague Programme and, in addition, recent discussions in the EU Council, the Commission intends to put forward before the end of 2005 a proposal for a Council Framework Decision ensuring adequate safeguards for the transfer of personal data for the purpose of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. This proposal on data protection in the so-called third pillar shall strike a balance between the necessary investigative tools of law enforcement in the fight against serious crime on the one hand and the necessary protection of the private sphere of EU citizens on the other hand.

The Commission will submit a proposal for a Council Decision on the establishment of a principle of equivalent access to law enforcement relevant information. This proposal should present an innovative legal concept, as requested by the Hague Programme, to speed up information exchange between the law enforcement authorities of the Member States. This legal concept should establish a right of equivalent access to information held by another Member State. That concept was already outlined in the Communication on enhancing access to information by law enforcement agencies(1). The right of equivalent access denotes that the conditions under which a law enforcement authority of a given Member State can have to certain information should be the same as those under which a colleague of another Member State could have access to the same information.

The Commission will present a proposal for a Council decision on the improvement of police cooperation between the Member States of the European Union, especially at the internal borders and amending the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement.

This Decision aims at improving police cooperation especially at the internal borders of the European Union by multilateral means in order to bring about an improved exchange of information, better coordination, and operational cooperation. This Decision should aim at standardisation, simplification and acceleration of procedures, emphasise operational aspects based on common strategic considerations, and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the deployment of human and material.

Taking into consideration the very high potential of forensic evidence in the fight against organised crime and terrorism, the Commission is working on a Proposal for a Council Decision on mutual consultation of DNA databases. The idea behind this proposal is to enable police officers to compare the DNA extracted from stains collected on a scene of crime to DNA data contained in the other EU Member States database, in order to enhance and to accelerate the possibilities of identifying the authors of serious crimes such as terrorism attacks. This proposal should be discussed in the Council before the end of this year.

The Commission is also working on a proposal for a Council Framework Decision on the use of Passenger Name Records for law enforcement purposes.

Commission activity in the Fight against the Financing of Terrorism

As recognised by the European Council’s Declaration on Combating Terrorism(2) reducing the access of terrorists to financial and other economic resources is a vital component in the prevention of and fight against terrorism. The Commission Communication(3) of October 2004 sets out the key aspects of the fight against financing of terrorism. These are (i) improve exchange of information and cooperation structures between intelligence services / law enforcement / Financial Intelligence Units / private sector; (ii) strengthen transparency in particular in connection with non-profit and charitable organisations and (iii) enhance traceability of financial transactions. Following and based on the Communication, the Counter Terrorism Coordinator and Commission produced an Overall EU Strategy Paper on the Fight against Terrorism Financing. This was endorsed by the December 2004 meeting of the European Council. The Overall EU Strategy Paper and the Conclusions of the European Council set out the core objectives for the Commission’s work in the fight against terrorist financing:

Propose EU level implementation of international standards (namely standards adopted by the financial action task force established by the G7 in 1989 to address global money laundering concerns) to address vulnerability of the non-profit and charitable sector to misuse by terrorism financiers. By way of example we are looking into the possibility of a (non-mandatory) European Statute of Associations that would include heightened levels of transparency and accountability.

We are looking at possible measures to strengthen the legal framework regarding the freezing of terrorist assets to ensure that Member States can freeze assets of designated persons effectively and without delay. Accordingly the Commission is exploring the possibilities for third pillar legislation (i) whereby Member States would apply freezing measures in the case of ‘internal’ terrorists; (ii) addressing the question of ‘preventive’ freezing in Member States, (iii) putting in place a fair and transparent system for removal of persons from the EU list in appropriate circumstances.

Together with Europol we are looking at improvements to the sharing of information to facilitate sharing of financial information between law enforcement/intelligence services and the private sector, including real time access to financial information within the private sector. A report will be prepared by end 2005.

Since identifying customers is a core element of financial institutions’ work to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, we are looking at ways to give financial institutions access to image archiving databases of sample identity documentation from around the world.

The Commission is undertaking an assessment of national information exchange and coordination structures as between law enforcement services, intelligence community, Financial Intelligence Units and other governmental bodies and the private sector. The Commission has sent a questionnaire to the Member States and will use replies to identify best practice. In light of this work the Commission will prepare a report on possible improvements to coordination structures.

A number of proposed legislative measures should also be referred to in this context, namely:

In 2002 the Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation on harmonised border controls for cash movements. This requires any person entering or leaving the European Union with a cash sum or equivalent instruments of € 10.000 or more to declare that fact to the appropriate authorities.

The proposal was adopted by the Economical and Financial Council as a common position in February 2005 and is now in its second reading.

The Commission is thus working on the draft measures to implement other financial action task force standards, namely to ensure that appropriate identifying information accompanies wires transfers and on the licensing of alternative remittance systems.

Coordination with the Governments of the Member States

As a matter of general practice, the actions undertaken by the Commission, the Council and Member States in the fight against terrorism are part of the European Union Revised Action Plan on fighting terrorism attacks, based on the priorities established by the European Council on 25 March 2004, assigns specific objectives and tasks to the different European Union actors. Coordination with Member States takes place within the Council and as far as community measures are concerned in various coordination and consultation meeting organised by the Commission.

Furthermore, the Critical Infrastructure Warning Internal Network and Law Enforcement Network will clearly be intensely coordinated with the Member States. Indeed, their success is dependent on such coordination. The same applies for the network bringing together the bomb disposal units of all the Member States that would allow States to draw on each other’s best practices regarding response strategies in explosives, firearms or bomb related situations. It will serve as an important forum in which the experts of the Member States can keep each other abreast with new risks and threats (gathering and real) and techniques for neutralising them. The Communication on ensuring greater security of explosives, bomb-making equipment and firearms may contain a proposal to make specific recommendations to Member States as well as proposals to create other networks like for instance, a forensic network, which could be the starting point of a common strategy for forensic and investigation techniques.

 
 

(1) COM(2004)429 final of 16 June 2004
(2) Brussels 29th March 2004 7906/04
(3) COM(2004) 700 final

 

Question no 85 by Inger Segelström (H-0212/05)
 Subject: Evaluation of current directive on money laundering
 

The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs is at present considering the Commission's proposal for a new directive on money laundering. When will the Commission's promised evaluation of the current directive be forwarded to the European Parliament?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission has not yet been able to prepare an evaluation on how the existing Directive on money laundering is being applied, in particular as regards the legal professions, because of the significant delay in some Member States in implementing the directive.

The Commission intends to finalise the evaluation before June 2006, i.e. within three years after the implementation deadline of the existing Directive. This evaluation will be based on the relevant information available at that time.

In the meantime, the Commission is closely monitoring the implementation of existing Directive and is taking the appropriate actions under the EC Treaty to ensure correct implementation by all Member States.

As work proceeds on the new directive, the Commission will, of course ensure that any practical experience together with the results of the evaluation of the second directive are made available and taken into account.

 

Question no 86 by Claude Moraes (H-0215/05)
 Subject: Drug trafficking in the enlarged Europe
 

What research has the Commission done on the effects of the last enlargement of the EU and the next proposed enlargement on trafficking in drugs?

What is the Commission's response to the recent UN report(1) which suggests an increase in the volume of illegal drugs being trafficked into the EU since the last EU enlargement?

 
  
 

(EN) According to the information provided by the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in Lisbon, and Europol in The Hague, the drug trafficking situation has remained relatively stable. As regards the new Member States as well as the Candidate Countries, the Commission continues to work very closely with these countries to strengthen their law enforcement capacity against drug trafficking within the framework of different Community programmes. Such assistance has, in particular, been targeted towards developing cooperation between the different law enforcement agencies and judiciaries. Special training has also been provided for the detection of illicit laboratories used for manufacture of synthetic drugs.

 
 

(1) International Narcotics Control Board Report released at the UN, 1.3.2005

 

Question no 87 by Francesco Enrico Speroni (H-0220/05)
 Subject: Religious discrimination by Alitalia
 

On flights to and from specific countries Alitalia serves business-class meals which do not contain pork, as indicated in a leaflet, despite the fact that it is possible to request in advance a particular type of meal (vegetarian, Muslim, kosher, fish-based) without pork.

I assume, given the countries concerned, that this practice is based on respect for the dietary requirements of the religions to which many passengers belong. However, no such respect is shown for Catholics, who are served meat on Fridays during Lent, contrary to the requirements of their faith.

Is this not tantamount to religious discrimination?

 
  
 

(FR) The honourable Member’s question on the dietary habits of Alitalia passengers does not fall within the scope of Community law. The Commission therefore has no power to act in this matter.

 

Question no 88 by Ilda Figueiredo (H-0222/05)
 Subject: Increased textile and clothing imports from China, and activating the safeguard clause
 

With the liberalisation of international trade in textiles and clothing resulting from the end of the Textile and Clothing Agreement on 1 January this year, and China's adhesion to the WTO rules since December 2001, the economic and social situation of the textile and clothing industry is worsening. The demand for licences demonstrates the scale of the increase in imports from China which, if they are confirmed, will have a devastating effect on the textile and clothing industry.

What is the Commission's assessment of the increase in imports of textile and clothing products from China? Is it prepared to activate as of now the specific safeguard clause, in accordance with paragraph 1(2) of Regulation (EC) 138/2003(1), so as to reduce or prevent market disturbances?

 
  
 

(EN) As the Commissioner in charge of Trade stated on the 15 March before the Trade Committee of the Parliament, it is essential that decisions about recourse to possible safeguard against China be based on actual facts establishing market disruption rather than the level of import licenses granted. It will therefore be necessary to examine whether real import figures during the first months of the year substantiate allegations of real market disruption, given the political implications of adopting safeguard measures against a country as important as China.

The Commission has just published guidelines aimed at giving maximum scope for the prevention of market disruption. Safeguards measures should only be taken as a last resort. Any spill-over effects from possible counter-measures or retaliation will also have to be taken into account in our bilateral commercial relations, given the magnitude of trade involved between China and the EU.

 
 

(1) OJ L 23, 28.1.2003, p. 1.

 

Question no 89 by Bogusław Sonik (H-0224/05)
 Subject: Changes to the institutions' public procurement system
 

It is essential for companies seeking specific information to be able to consult public procurement announcements in their own language. To cancel this would be in breach of the principle of transparency and of the right to receive information in one's own language, and would damage the interests of the Member States and small and medium-sized enterprises throughout the whole EU. Is it true that the Commission is planning to amend Regulation (EC, Euratom) 2342/2002 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) 1605/2002 on the Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities, so that tenders would be published exclusively in the original language with only a short summary available in the remaining languages?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission adopted in October 2004 a proposal(1) for the revision of the Implementing Rules of the Financial Regulation(2) . This proposal, which is currently subject to an inter-institutional consultation before its final adoption by the College, does not comprise proposals related to the linguistic arrangements of the documents related to the award of public works , and in particular the publication of contract notices in the Official Journal of the European Union and the terms of reference which are made available to candidates and tenderers.

However, it should be stressed that:

the Council, after consultation and in agreement with the Parliament, by adopting unanimously the Financial Regulation on 25 June 2002(3), requested that ‘as regards contracts awarded by the institutions of the Communities on their own account, provision should be made for the rules contained in the directives of the European Parliament and of the Council coordinating the procedures for the award of public works, service and supply contracts to apply’;

the Parliament and the Council, by adopting directive 2004/18/EC on the co-ordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts, have decided that ‘contract notices shall be published in full in an official language of the Community as chosen by the contracting authority, this original language version constituting the sole authentic text. A summary of the important elements of each notice shall be published in the other official languages’.

The Commission has not yet taken a position on how best to apply the procedures laid down in the directive 2004/18/EC to the European Institutions. It will do so in the context of the current three-year review of the Financial Regulation(4).

 
 

(1) SEC(2004)1310
(2) Commission Regulation (EC, Euratom) N° 2342/2002 of 23/12/2004 in OJ L 357 31/12/2002 ;
(3) Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) N° 1605/2002 of 25 June 2002 in OJ L 248 16/09/2002 – recital (24)
(4) as foreseen in its article 184

 

Question no 90 by Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (H-0233/05)
 Subject: Reform of the sugar sector
 

It appears that the idea of quota transfers between Member States is increasingly out-of-step with the wishes of producer countries. Parliament has begun to float an alternative idea, consisting of the introduction of a quota purchase system. In my opinion, the introduction of such a system should be conditional on a report on the impact of the reform in each of the various Member States, and producers must, in one form or another, be adequately compensated for the losses they will suffer following the disappearance of less competitive industries.

Has the Commission examined alternative systems to the one proposed in the Communication of summer 2004? Does it believe that the European Union has a sufficient budgetary margin to cope with the reform of the sugar sector, in the context of the current negotiations on the forthcoming financial programming period?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission has carried out impact analyses that give clear answers to the main questions of the reform proposals, including the regional effects and is not convinced that more studies will now provide facts that are not already known.

The Commission is examining carefully the different reactions, including and in particular of the European Parliament, and will take them into account in its formal reform proposal.

In any case, the whole sugar reform will certainly have to be done in the limits of budgetary neutrality for EAGGF (European Agriculture Guidance and Guarantee Fund).

 

Question no 91 by Antonio López-Istúriz White (H-0236/05)
 Subject: Recognition for the work of the fishing sector
 

The work of employees of the EU's fishing and maritime industry deserves greater social recognition.

Owing to my links with the Balearic Isles, I would like to draw attention to the work carried out by the fishing community of Palma de Mallorca. Over the last few years, these people have become involved in cleaning up the waters for purely altruistic reasons by placing themselves and their vessels at the disposal of Palma de Mallorca City Council. Their help has prevented an average of 250 tonnes of waste being washed up onto local beaches.

In view of the great many tourists that visit the islands, the region's fishing community would like to launch what is known as 'fishing tourism' in order to show visitors what working in the fishing industry entails. This is a new form of tourism that already exists in other Member States, such as Italy, and enables fishermen to acquaint people with the work they do while earning a living by occupying themselves with something other than the arduous work of fishing.

Unfortunately, this work is unknown to the vast majority of the population. This being the case, what is the Commission's view on this kind of initiative, which should help to improve the sector's image by familiarising people with the work of fishermen and boosting the fishing community's recognition among other sections of the population? Does the Commission intend to implement a project of this kind?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission shares the feeling of the honourable Member regarding the work carried out by the fishing -community of Palma de Mallorca in cleaning up the waters for purely altruistic reasons by placing themselves and their vessels at the disposal of the Palma de Mallorca City Council in the execution of these tasks.

During the present programming period (2000-2006) projects aiming at improving the sector’s image and at boosting the fishing community’s recognition among others sections of the population, are not included.

However, in the framework of the Commission’ proposal for a Council Regulation establishing the European Fisheries Fund for the period (2007-2013), measures such as the diversification of activities through the promotion of multiple jobs for people actively employed in the fisheries sector, the creation of additional jobs outside the fisheries sector (tourism) or the protection of coastal environment to maintain its attractiveness and safeguard the natural heritage, are being proposed.

 

Question no 92 by Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (H-0239/05)
 Subject: Interpretation of the Stability and Growth Pact for EMU members and new candidates
 

The position of the Commission to date has been to demand that new candidates to the EMU, including Poland, adhere absolutely to the requirements for a budget deficit under 3% of GDP and public debt under 60% of GDP for two years prior to joining the euro zone. The restrictive nature of this position is particularly evident when it is considered that Germany and France have escaped any kind of financial penalty, despite not complying with the 3% of GDP criterion for the fourth year in a row.

In this situation, it is understandable that I welcome the decision taken at the Council meeting on 22 March indicating a certain relaxation of the Stability and Growth Pact. Nevertheless, the doubt remains as to whether the current agreement is also to be applied to the situation of France and Germany for 2002 to 2004.

Could the Commission, therefore, explain whether the failure to penalise these countries sets a specific precedent from which other euro zone countries, having problems with the size of their budget deficit and public debt, could benefit in future?

 
  
 

(EN) Germany and France were placed in excessive deficit in 2003. When later that year it became apparent that neither of the two countries would be able to correct their deficit by 2004, the Commission recommended to the Council to move to the next step foreseen by the excessive deficit procedure, a notice under article 104(9), accompanied by an extension of the deadline for correcting the deficit to 2005. The move was resisted by the Council, which opted instead for political conclusions. The ensuing case brought by the Commission before the Court of Justice has created an exceptional and unprecedented situation. The excessive deficit procedures for Germany and France therefore do not set a specific precedent for future applications of the excessive deficit procedures.

On 14 December 2004 the Commission adopted a Communication, outlining its position on how to ensure a satisfactory resolution of the budgetary problems in Germany and France within the framework of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). It explained that in the light of the unique circumstances of the case – specifically the fact that until the Council conclusions were annulled by the Court on 13 July 2004 Germany and France were entitled to consider them as valid and therefore to act in accordance with the 2005 deadline – the assessment of the actions taken by the two countries to correct the excessive deficit should refer to 2005 as the relevant deadline. The Communication highlighted the risks to the budgetary plans of each of the two countries and explicitly referred to the possibility of recommending to the Council to take further steps under the excessive deficit procedure, should failures in implementation emerge at a later stage.

Both in Germany and France, on current information, the correction of the excessive deficit in 2005 remains within reach conditional on a full and effective implementation of all the measures envisaged and possibly the adoption of additional measures. For both countries, in view of the uncertainties attached to the 2005 outcome, continuous monitoring of the budgetary situation, which remains vulnerable, is required. In the coming months, uncertainty about the outcome for 2005 will lessen.

This monitoring will take place against the background of the consensus on the reform of the EU fiscal policy rules reflected in the ECOFIN Council report endorsed by the European Council, ‘Improving the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact’. If a Member State fails to comply with the recommendations addressed to it under the excessive deficit procedure, the Council has the power to apply the available sanctions.

 

Question no 93 by María Isabel Salinas García (H-0243/05)
 Subject: Increase in the Moroccan tomato quota
 

The Commission has recently announced that it has decided to increase the Moroccan tomato import quota by 13 000 tonnes.

Does the Commission believe that this increase is fully justified by the enlargement to 25 Member States? When taking the decision, did it bear in mind the repercussions of such a measure on major Community producing areas, such as Almeria?

Does it not believe that the Moroccan import should be spread out over the largest possible period of time so as not to coincide with peaks in Community tomato production? Is it considering drawing up an impact assessment on the effects of the increased Moroccan quota on Community tomato-growing areas?

 
  
 

(EN) First, the Commission would like to emphasize that the establishment in 2003 of an EU preferential quota on imports of Moroccan tomatoes should be seen as being part of an overall strategy, the so-called Barcelona process, aiming at the creation of an Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area by 2010.

Now some facts related to the honourable Member’s questions:

The recent decision to increase the EU preferential quotas on imports of Moroccan tomatoes by 13000 tons has been taken as a direct consequence of the EU enlargement, in the context of the exercise under article XXIV.6 of the GATT rules. The cited amount corresponds to the average flow of new Member States imports of Moroccan tomatoes from 2001 to 2003. The 13000-ton increase raises the EU initial quota from 200000 to a total of 213 000 tons, in other words 6.5% more than the level set out for EU15.

Preferential imports of tomatoes from Morocco are based on a system of reduced entry prices combined with monthly quotas that have their lowest level at the height of the ‘EU season’. This gives a guarantee to EU producers in terms of market outlets, as demonstrated by the fact that imports from Morocco have increased overall by 30% from 1990/92 to 2002/04 (2% on an annual basis from 1990), while intra-EU trade has increased by 62% over the same period (3.8% on a yearly basis).

The Commission will continue to monitor very attentively the state of the tomato market as well as the management of the preferential quota in reference. Thus, the Commission considers that no specific impact evaluation is needed on that respect.

 

Question no 94 by Ivo Belet (H-0249/05)
 Subject: Preferential tariffs applied to imports from the areas hit by the tsunami
 

Under the reformed Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), imports to the EU of, inter alia, textiles products from the Asian countries affected by the tsunami are to be subject to a zero rate of duty (provided that the countries concerned comply with the relevant environmental and employment criteria).

Can the Commission indicate when what is known as the GSP Plus will actually enter into force and the level of the market share in excess of which the countries concerned will lose their entitlement to the zero rate?

Instead of (provisionally) applying a zero rate, has the Commission any plans to apply an alternative preferential tariff to exports from the countries concerned?

Does not the Commission feel that, by delaying the introduction of the projected GSP Plus, the EU is, in this way, undermining its own aid and development policy vis-à-vis the countries concerned and, actually, robbing Peter to pay Paul?

 
  
 

(FR) In common with the honourable Member, the Commission feels it is crucial that measures announced to help the countries affected by the tsunami enter into force as soon as possible, so as not to diminish the credibility of the EU’s political message.

On 10 February 2005, the Commission decided to amend the proposal for a regulation that it had presented to the Council in October 2004, in order that the countries in question should benefit as quickly as possible from the new Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). Ten countries have since objected to the proposal as it stands, for reasons that have nothing to do with the action to help the tsunami victims that the EU decided unanimously to take.

The Commission is appalled by this state of affairs and, like the honourable Member, feels that the EU’s credibility has been severely damaged in the eyes of those countries affected. Ten Member States believe that India should pay full duty on textiles and clothing (in other words, 12% customs duty, instead of 9.6%), and for this reason have blocked the reform of the GSP, affecting dozens of countries, in particular Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

That undermining of credibility particularly affects Sri Lanka, which is a potential beneficiary of the new GSP Plus, the special scheme to foster sustainable development and good governance. Until the new GSP is adopted, Sri Lanka cannot enjoy the zero rate of duty for textiles and clothing, which accounts for a large proportion of its exports.

Furthermore, the Community market share above which beneficiary countries cannot benefit from GSP for certain products has risen to 15%. In comparison with the GSP that is set to be replaced, this new criterion is more generously weighted in favour of the benefiting countries, especially those affected by the tsunami, for which some EUR 3 billion in additional exports can thus benefit from preferential tariffs.

Accordingly, the Commission intends to look into adopting a compromise solution with the Member States in the next few weeks in order not to stray too far from the original target of 1 April, which was unanimously accepted in principle by the Council and Parliament.

Lastly, the Commission does not intend to grant zero rates solely to the countries affected by the tsunami. It can only grant such concessions on the basis of objective criteria, such as GSP+, which Sri Lanka will benefit from. Any other criteria would be incompatible with the international trade rules set by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

 

Question no 95 by Herbert Reul (H-0250/05)
 Subject: Promotion and protection of fundamental rights: the role of the national and European institutions, including the agency for fundamental rights
 

In connection with the debate on the promotion and protection of fundamental rights, the role of the existing national and European institutions is under discussion and there are calls for the establishment of a new agency for fundamental rights.

Which institutions are already responsible at national and European level for the promotion and protection of fundamental rights, what are their exact remits and to what extent will the agency for fundamental rights represent added value?

 
  
 

(EN) The honourable Member refers to a decision of the Member States, in the framework of the European Council in December 2003 to extend the mandate of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia in order to transfer it into a Fundamental Rights Agency for the European Union.

The Commission supports this project. It will submit a legislative proposal on the Agency end of May 2005.

Before that, the Commission issued a Communication(1) of 25 October 2005 in the framework of public consultation for the purpose of an impact assessment of the Agency. The Commission refers to this Communication to clarify that the Agency would complement the Community system of protecting and promoting existing fundamental rights, characterised by different elements:

judicial review by the Court of Justice, which will be reinforced by external review by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) when the Union will accede to the ECHR;

monitoring by the European Ombudsman to ensure that EU institutions respect the right to sound administration;

monitoring by the European Data protection Supervisor of the protection of the freedoms and fundamental rights of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by a Community institution or body;

policy follow-up by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, both inside and outside the Union, through the adoption of annual reports with a broader remit than the Community powers relating to fundamental rights;

setting up in the Member States, as required by Community legislation, independent institutions responsible for enforcing compliance with fundamental rights in certain areas such as the fight against discrimination or the protection of personal data.

Preparatory work for the Agency is still ongoing and the Commission is therefore not yet able to take definitive firm position on the subject. However, the Commission considers that the Agency should become an important tool helping the EU institutions and the Member States when implementing EU legislation, to ensure the full respect and promotion of Fundamental Rights in the ambit of EU fields of competences. To that end it would provide the relevant institutions and authorities of the Union and of Member States with information, assistance and expertise on fundamental rights.

Limiting the scope of action of the Agency to EU fields of competence, would avoid any overlapping with the excellent work done by other organisations, e.g. the Council of Europe and the national institutions for promotion and protection of human rights. This means both avoiding double costs but also, and even more importantly, differentiating messages as regards fundamental rights. The Commission aims for dialogue and the development of synergies between all the parties.

Lastly, as regards the national human rights institutions, the honourable Member is invited to refer to a report ordered by the Commission and prepared by the Network of Independent Experts on the role of the national institutions for the protection of human rights in the Member States of the European Union.(2)

 
 

(1) COM(2004)693final, 25.10.2004 and accompanying working paper SEC(2004)1281, 25.10.2004.
(2) The report was publicized in 2004. It is accessible in the website: http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/cfr_cdf/doc/avis/2004_1_en.pdf

 

Question no 96 by Ryszard Czarnecki (H-0255/05)
 Subject: Poles in top-level management posts within the Commission
 

In December 2003, according to the official figures, the geographic breakdown of top-level management posts within the Commission was as follows: France 48, Germany 40, United Kingdom 38, Spain 26, Italy 27, to name but the largest 'old' Member States. What is the situation today, following the enlargement, as regards the participation of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the other 'new' Member States?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission would like to inform the honourable Member that in relation to nomination decisions of senior officials from the new Member States the situation as of 1 April 2005 is as follows:

Director General and Deputy Director General Functions (A*15)

A*15 Functions

CY

CZ

EE

HU

LT

LV

MT

PL

SI

SK

Total

Target

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

10

Actual

0

2

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

4

Director, Principal Advisor and Head of Cabinet Functions (A*14)

A*14 functions

CY

CZ

EE

HU

LT

LV

MT

PL

SI

SK

Total

Target

1

6

1

6

3

2

1

16

2

3

Actual

0

1

2

3

0

1

1

0

1

2

11

The honourable Member should take account of the fact that a number of recruitment procedures are nearing the decision stage. In addition, about 15 more Director and Director-General/Deputy Director General procedures will be published later this year.

 

Question no 97 by Karin Riis-Jørgensen (H-0256/05)
 Subject: Suspicion of cross-subsidy in the railway sector
 

Private operators of railway services in Denmark are subject to difficult conditions. This may partly be because the largest operator in the country, DSB (Danish National Railways) is state-subsidised and because 90% of DSB’s revenue derives from activities arranged directly with the state without any exposure to competition.

In 1998 EU legislation on de-regulation was implemented, opening bus and railway services to competition. DSB is still involved in activities where it faces competition, both in Denmark and abroad. This can cause problems, since the DSB’s competitive position may be strengthened by the fact that it is in state ownership. In the past, there were suspicions that money from state subsidies was being used in commercial tendering procedures to undercut private operators. The first tendering procedure which took place in respect of DSB’s rail traffic, the tender for the Mid- and West Jutland lines, is a case in point, in which it emerged that illegal cross-subsidy was taking place. DSB put in a bid far below its own cost of operating the same routes when not faced with competition. The bid was subsequently disallowed by the Ministry of Transport. This situation has become topical again, since a major new tendering procedure is in the offing in Denmark.

What is the Commission’s view of this, and how does the Commission propose to ensure that the risk of cross-subsidy and favouritism towards public-sector undertakings is eliminated, so that private bidders are not placed in an inferior position in free competition?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission is not aware of any public funds that have been granted to DSB by Danish public authorities in breach of Community rules on State aid. Nor has the Commission received any information or indications that that would be the case. In this respect it should also be recalled that EC Treaty does in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership (Article 295 EC Treaty). Accordingly, the Commission is neutral as to the ownership of an undertaking carrying out commercial activities and applies the rules of competition, including State aid, to public and private companies equally.

Nevertheless, the Commission is aware of the potential risk of cross-subsidisation to fair competition. This is why the EU legislation for the railway sector, in particular, Directive 91/440, as amended by Directives 2001/12 and 2004/51, requires railway undertakings to keep separate accounts and prohibits in particular the transfer of funds between infrastructure management activities and transport service activities. The directive also requires that public funds for the provision of public passenger services must be shown separately and may not be transferred to any other transport service or other business activity.

 

Question no 98 by Pierre Schapira (H-0257/05)
 Subject: Rationalising EuropeAid's procedures for calls for proposals
 

The EuropeAid Co-operation Office's procedures for calls for proposals are too cumbersome and complex to allow all those playing a role in development to participate on an equal footing. The resources needed to submit a proposal are disproportionate to the size, financial situation and level of expertise of a large number of NGOs. As a result, numerous projects necessary to achieving the objectives of development policy are not being implemented because they are not receiving the necessary European funding. EuropeAid is favouring funding of very large-scale, long-term projects at the expense of more targeted projects that are more closely adapted to specific needs. Does the Commission have the political will to rationalise its procedures for calls for proposals? If so, what reforms does it intend to implement to facilitate the granting of European assistance?

 
  
 

(FR) The Commission is aware of the need to rationalise procedures for calls for proposals. Indeed, it would like to press ahead with simplifying the existing rules, inter alia by revising the Financial Regulation and its implementation, of which one aspect should cover the introduction of a special regime for micro-projects.

As it is in permanent contact with the NGOs, the Commission is ready to listen to any difficulties that may arise in terms of the procedures for calls for proposals, and, as far as possible, to take on board their demands by adapting and simplifying the standard documents for calls for proposals and the standard application form for the European Community’s external actions.

In this context, the Commission would however like to draw the honourable Member’s attention to the need to ensure compliance with procedures enabling fair competition between NGOs taking part in calls for proposals, so as to ensure that grants are awarded on an equal and impartial basis.

 

Question no 99 by Diamanto Manolakou (H-0261/05)
 Subject: Health threats posed by genetically modified organisms
 

EU regulations legalising imports of genetically modified products have caused terrible problems: according to information supplied by the relevant services, over 500 000 tonnes of genetically modified products intended for human consumption and animal feedingstuffs entered Greece in 2004. Consumers are completely unprotected, since the rules on labelling are inadequate and are not respected and in any case do not apply to derivative products. Public health is being exposed to enormous risks so that a handful of multinational companies producing genetically modified products can get rich.

How does the Commission view in practice the regulations on genetically modified organisms one year after their entry into force? What measures does it intend to take to avert the threats to public health posed by genetically modified products and to enable the consumer to know whether the final product is derived from genetically modified organisms?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission wishes to reassure the honourable Member that the new legislative framework on GM food and feed that has been put in place by 2004 ensures both a high level of consumer safety and information to enable consumer choice.

GM food or feed is authorised to be placed on the market only once its safety has been established, in accordance with the highest standards set by the European Food Safety Authority.

At the same time, all GM food and feed placed on the market needs to be clearly labelled. This includes not only food and feed consisting of a GMO or containing a GMO, but also food and feed produced from a GMO, irrespective of the detectability of modified DNA or protein in the final product.

The Commission believes that the concern of the honourable Member according to which the consumer should know whether a food or feed has been produced from a GMO therefore is already addressed by Community legislation.

This legislation, which arose from close dialogue with Member States and stakeholders, was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in co-decision, but so far only limited experience has been gained since its implementation.

The GM Food and Feed legislation foresees that a report on its implementation be submitted to the Parliament and the Council by the end of 2005, accompanied if necessary by a proposal for review of the legislation.

It is of course the Member States who are responsible for ensuring that inspection and control measures are carried out to ensure compliance with the Regulation. Member States should, therefore, have already gained some first-hand experience in terms of both the implementation and enforcement of the Regulation.

The Commission has therefore requested information from Member States on their experience to contribute to the preparation of the report. In addition, contact has been made and will continue to be made with the relevant industries regarding their experience with implementing the Regulation, and again this information will be included in the report.

Such information should allow the Commission to gain a clear picture as to the operability and effectiveness of the Regulation.

It is however important that the Member States assume clearer ownership of the decision-making process, both in terms of their legal responsibilities during the process and in terms of political accountability for the ensuring decisions.

 

Question no 100 by Athanasios Pafilis (H-0263/05)
 Subject: Greece's architectural heritage under threat
 

Nothing stands in the way of the sale of public property in Greece, not even the need to preserve important buildings and their immediate surroundings which constitute part of the country's cultural heritage and bear witness to its architectural and its economic history. The 'Xenia' hotels which were built by Greek architects (Aris Konstantinidis, for example) in the 1960s and are jewels of Greek and international architecture are facing demolition, despite the fact that their value has been recognised internationally in books and periodicals.

What measures does the Commission intend to take, in response to appeals by the largest Greek architects' organisation, to ensure the protection of Greece's architectural heritage and prevent the demolition of buildings such as the 'Xenia' hotels which are important architecturally?

 
  
 

(EN) Under the third Community Support Framework (CSF) for Greece (2000-2006), the Operational Programme ‘Competitiveness’ includes a measure to support private initiatives for the development of alternative tourism. A specific action foresees the valorisation of the cultural Greek patrimony. Public budget for this action is € 15.1 millions. The contribution from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) amounts to 50% of the public cost and the final beneficiary is the Hellenic Tourism Institute.

A project, such as the one envisaged by the honourable Member, could be proposed under this heading.

The preservation and protection measures for the architectural heritage, and namely for the heritage mentioned in the honourable Member's question, is the responsibility of the National competent authorities. The Commission does not have the competence and can not therefore intervene on the subject in question.

 

Question no 101 by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (H-0265/05)
 Subject: Extension of trans-European transport network to the Mediterranean
 

The conclusions of the report of the Van Miert High Level Group on the Trans-European Transport Network (June 2003), as part of efforts to mobilise and coordinate investments to promote the implementation of Trans-European Network projects, refer specifically to the urgent need to develop the Euro-Mediterranean Transport Network. The Commission's communication on the development of a Euro-Mediterranean Transport Network (June 2003)(1) analyses the economic and political aspects and the importance of the transport sector for the Mediterranean partners and Euro-Mediterranean relations.

Given that the planning of the network and the selection of priority projects have already began under MEDA II, have these projects progressed as expected in 2004-2005? Has final agreement between reached between the partners and the EU concerning large-scale regional infrastructure projects? Has the Commission undertaken a qualitative and quantitative study concerning the results of interconnecting the European Union and the partner countries and the role of transport in attaining the Barcelona process objectives and especially in creating the free trade area?

 
  
 

(EN) The Euro-Mediterranean Regional Transport project (main contract and infrastructure component) was launched under the framework of MEDA II in 2003. At the end of 2004, the project produced a diagnostic report on the situation of the transport system in the Mediterranean area and proposed a list of actions to be considered as priorities for the future transport development in the region. It also produced a first analysis of transport infrastructure axes as well as projects in the region and developed traffic forecasts and analysis for the horizon of 2010 (year of the establishment of the Free Trade area in Mediterranean) and 2020.

In 2005, work will be ongoing on transport sector reform issues and the planning of the regional transport infrastructure network in the framework of the Euromed Transport Project. Extensive discussions on infrastructure priorities will also take place between the Commission and the countries within the High Level Group, on the ‘extension of the major trans-European transport axes to the neighbouring countries and regions’. In the framework of this High Level Group, chaired by Ms Loyola de Palacio, which will submit its final report to the Commission in autumn 2005, political discussion will take place between the EC and the Mediterranean partners on the transport priorities for the interconnection between the EU and the region. In December 2005, a Euromed Transport Ministerial Conference will take place, which should endorse the regional transport infrastructure network as well as a list of priority projects, and agree on the main orientations of future cooperation activities.

 
 

(1) OJ C 76, 25.3.2004, p. 2.

 

Question no 102 by Hans-Peter Martin (H-0267/05)
 Subject: Lobbyists' activities
 

At a meeting of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Berlin, the Vice-President of the Commission, Siim Kallas, referred to the need for a 'European Transparency Initiative', such as has already begun to be developed since December 2000 under www.eti.info. At that meeting the Commissioner also criticised the fact that there are no binding rules on recording or registering of the approximately 15 000 EU lobbyists. Self-regulatory codes of conduct have been signed by only a few, and there are at present no serious sanctions, the Commissioner is quoted as saying.

What specific steps does the Commission now intend to take? Does it intend to draw up a Green Paper? What part can the report adopted by the European Parliament's Industry Committee on 10 July 2003 on the role of European industrial associations in the determination of the Union's policies (2002/2264(INI)) play in this? Is the Commission prepared to present to Parliament in particular a fully transparent picture of lobbyists' activities?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission is planning to hold an orientation debate on the idea of launching a European Transparency Initiative with a view to drawing up a Green Paper thereafter. The Green Paper could for the first time seek to give a global overview of the many different areas concerned with the aim to ensure a more coherent approach to transparency in general as well as to draw attention to and analyse measures already taken with a view to increase transparency, assess the impact of these steps and identify and propose possible further measures.

The Commission is aware that the Parliament has already discussed the role of European industrial associations in the determination of the Union's policies and the findings of the report adopted by the European Parliament's Industry Committee on 10 July 2003 on (2002/2264(INI)), to which the honourable Member refers, will constitute an important contribution when drawing up the relevant parts of the Green Paper.

One of the issues which could be raised in the Green Paper could be whether there is a need to establish a framework aimed at seeking greater transparency on the activities of lobbyists, and if so, what would be required to do so. The Parliament would have a key role both in assembling, monitoring and using such information.

 

Question no 103 by Hélène Goudin (H-0268/05)
 Subject: REACH
 

At present neither medicines nor cosmetics and hygiene products are regarded as chemicals for purposes of classification and labelling. Some Member States have debated whether these products should fall under the proposed REACH legislation on chemicals or whether they should continue to be covered by separate directives.

Does the Commission consider that medicines, cosmetics and hygiene products should fall under the proposed REACH legislation on chemicals, or do existing directives adequately guarantee the provision of consumer information and environmental information on these products?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission carefully designed the scope of REACH taking into account existing specific legislation on Community level.

As a result substances used in medicinal products are exempted both from registration and authorisation in REACH. Substances used in cosmetic products have to be registered but the chemical safety report only has to examine the risks to the environment from the use of the substance in cosmetics as the relevant directive on cosmetics only covers the effects on human health. The same applies to the authorisation requirement for substances used in cosmetic products.

REACH does not change the current requirements on how to classify and label a substance or a mixture of substances, e.g. a cosmetic product. Directive 67/458/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances as well as Directive 1999/45/EC on the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous preparations exempt medicinal products and cosmetic products from the provisions for classification and labelling. The Commission is currently working on a proposal for the implementation of the UN agreed Globally Harmonised System of the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. The scope of this internationally agreed systems also excludes the labelling of medicinal products and cosmetics at the stage where they reach the final user or the consumer.

 

Question no 104 by Nikolaos Sifunakis (H-0270/05)
 Subject: Possibly consequences of using mobile phones
 

Technological progress in mobile telephony has greatly facilitated communications between people. However, scientific views are occasionally published which have alarmed public opinion about the possible consequences for human health of using mobile phones.

Given these concerns and in order to ensure that the public is correctly and responsibly informed, will the Commission say:

Has it drawn up a scientific study investigating thoroughly whether and to what extent radiation from mobile phones affects human health?

If there is any evidence of possible consequences, does it intend to take some initiative to promote the correct use of mobile phones?

 
  
 

(EN) The Commission is aware of a number of national and international research projects and scientific reviews on potential health impacts of mobile ‘phone usage. These range from the potential impact of electromagnetic fields (EMF) on the body (including possible carcinogenic effects) to mobile ‘phone use whilst driving; and, enhanced security of vulnerable groups through access to mobile ‘phones.

At Community level, various research projects have contributed to the development of knowledge in this field. The Commission has committed over 12 million Euros to financing such projects, primarily under the 5th Research Framework Programme. Many of these projects have recently come to a conclusion or will conclude in the coming months and the Commission will take action towards the end of the year to draw together these various results.

For further details on some of these projects, the honourable Member is kindly referred to the written questions put to the Commission by Mr Brie (E-1589/04), Ms Breyer (E-2521/04) and Ms Gröner (E-3246/04).

As regards the protection of public health, the Commission refers to the provisions of Council Recommendation 1999/519/EC of 12 July 1999 on the limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields (0 Hz to 300GHz), which fixes basic restrictions and reference levels for exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields. In addition, Community product legislation (Directives 1999/5/EC an 73/23/EC) uses these limits in setting safety standards for products.

The Commission sought the opinion on this matter from the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment, which confirmed the validity of these limits on 30 October 2001. However, the Commission will shortly commence developing a report to the Council on the implementation of the Recommendation and approach Member States in this respect to ascertain the current state of implementation. In addition, the Commission will ask its’ Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks to re-examine the latest scientific evidence.

 
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