Index 
Debates
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Thursday, 14 April 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Documents received: see Minutes
 3. Doping in sport
 4. Cultural diversity
 5. Renewal of fish stocks
 6. Agenda for next part-session: see Minutes
 7. Communication of Council common positions: see Minutes
 8. Request for the defence of parliamentary immunity: see Minutes
 9. Welcome
 10. Voting time
 11. Sole stocks
 12. Re-usability, recyclability and recoverability of motor vehicles
 13. Southern hake and Norway lobster stocks
 14. Balkans
 15. Common Foreign and Security Policy (2003)
 16. European Security Strategy
 17. Doping in sport
 18. Cultural diversity
 19. Explanations of vote
 20. Corrections to votes: see Minutes
 21. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes
 22. Transfers of appropriations: see Minutes
 23. Drought in Portugal
 24. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (Rule 115)
 25. Bangladesh
 26. Humanitarian assistance to refugees from Western Sahara
 27. Lampedusa
 28. Voting time
 29. Bangladesh
 30. Humanitarian assistance to refugees from Western Sahara
 31. Lampedusa
 32. Drought in Portugal
 33. Membership of delegations: see Minutes
 34. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes
 35. Written statements (Rule 116): see Minutes
 36. Forwarding of texts adopted during the sitting: see Minutes
 37. Dates for next sittings: see Minutes
 38. Adjournment of the session
 ANNEX


  

IN THE CHAIR: MR SARYUSZ-WOLSKI
Vice-President

 
1. Opening of the sitting
  

(The sitting was opened at 10 a.m.)

 

2. Documents received: see Minutes

3. Doping in sport
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  President.   The next item is the oral question to the Commission (O-0036/2005 - B6-0168/2005) by Mr Sifunakis, on combating doping in sport.

 
  
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  Sifunakis (PSE), rapporteur.(EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, today's oral question and the related motion for a resolution by the Committee on Culture and Education on combating doping in sport follows on from extended efforts by the European Parliament.

I would merely remind you that the first initiative by the European Parliament on doping was the resolution of 7 September 2000 on the Commission communication on a Community support plan to combat doping in sport and that the last major initiative was the public hearing organised by our committee just last November, entitled 'Drug-taking in sport: obstacle to the ideal of athleticism', at which a large number of invited experts gave their views.

This public hearing was held after the Olympic Games in Athens, which demonstrated once again that doping in sport continues, unfortunately, to be a real and worsening phenomenon. It is worth noting that we had 22 incidents of athletes who tested positive during doping controls at the Athens Olympics, which was twice the number at Sidney.

Today's oral question relating to the motion for a resolution is the result of these previous initiatives and of the acute concern in our committee about the proportions which doping has taken on today in a bid to increase athletic performances.

The problem is two-fold.

On the one hand, doping is contrary to the ideals of athleticism, as put forward in the Olympic Charter on sport. The spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play – in other words all the values which make sport a social, cultural and educational activity – are obviously irreconcilable with doping, the aims of which are to cheat and to acquire riches and fifteen minutes of fame.

On the other hand, doping is dangerous to the health of the athletes who take recourse to banned substances, often in knowledge of the inherent dangers. I should like here to comment in particular on the fact that chemical substances are used not only by professional athletes, but also by a large number of amateurs. According to a recent study by the European Commission, 6% of young people who train in fitness centres, in other words more than four million young people, use 'pharmaceutical' substances in a bid, of course, to enhance their performance. We believe that coordinated action by the Member States is vital in order to develop common methods for controlling and certifying the use of these so-called 'pharmaceutical' substances. At the same time, account must be taken of the fact that many of these substances are also sold via the Internet. It would also be advisable if widely available preparations carried labels stating that they were anabolic substances.

We are, I believe, all in agreement on these issues. We all share the conviction that specific action is needed to combat this dramatic phenomenon.

Consequently:

- taking account of the fact that the issue of doping is primarily a public health issue,

- likewise taking account of the fact that the Constitutional Treaty provides an appropriate legal basis to draw up and implement Community action,

- and again given the fact that, according to a survey by Eurobarometer, four out of five citizens believe that the European Union should take action to combat doping,

· we call on the Commission to tell us what initiatives it intends to take today to combat doping in sport:

· How does it intend to inform European public opinion, especially young people involved in amateur sports, about the very serious dangers inherent in the use of banned pharmaceutical substances?

· How does it intend, especially in cooperation with the Member States, to point out these dangers through education, given that raising awareness among young people, who are the most vulnerable group, starts at school?

· Does the Commission intend to finance, within the framework of the Seventh Framework Programme, research programmes into new, effective methods for detecting the use of banned pharmaceutical substances?

· How, finally, does it intend to cooperate with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the Council of Europe and the World Health Organisation, as well as with the Member States, in order to guarantee the success of the actions required?

Ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, today we are calling on the European Commission to take immediate action to ensure that the present situation improves quickly.

 
  
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  Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I have been asked by Commissioner Figeľ to represent him here this morning. He very much regrets that he is unable to be here himself.

Let me start by saying that the fight against doping remains a major concern for the Commission and one that we are determined to address. The Commission has taken this task very seriously and has promoted initiatives within its areas of responsibility. However, the European Community Treaty clearly does not provide for harmonisation in this specific area and, therefore, our actions will have to be guided by the legal framework within which we operate. In this difficult task, we thank the European Parliament for its continued support, and in particular its Committee on Culture and Education, which has been following this issue very closely.

Doping has been on the Commission’s agenda for some time. In 1998, the European Council invited the Commission to submit a Community support plan to combat doping in sport. The support plan formed the basis for pilot projects for a period of two years on the fight against doping between 2000 and 2002. Around half of these projects concerned research, the other half information and education. The European Parliament actively supported this plan.

Three of the pilot projects concerned the World Anti-Doping Agency. An external evaluation, carried out by an independent consultancy, gave a favourable opinion on the type of actions undertaken. The pilot projects were a positive and encouraging network-building exercise for all those involved. Secondly, apart from co-financing pilot projects, the Commission financed three studies on doping-related issues. Thirdly, the Commission continues to liaise closely with international organisations in this field, in particular the Council of Europe. In addition to these actions, important work has also been carried out by DG Research.

The Commission is pleased to see that Parliament continues to have a strong interest in this topic. For instance, the hearing of 29 November 2004 organised by Parliament’s Committee on Culture was a major event during which representatives of the sport movement made encouraging statements.

At the hearing, Mr Figeľ underlined that, provided that appropriate funding could be made available, action could be envisaged in three fields: research, information and education. These proposals would represent a natural sequel to the work undertaken by the Commission in 2000-2002. This is the way forward, given the absence of a specific legal basis to fight doping in sport. It would be premature to present more concrete proposals in the current environment, given the fact that these proposals depend on the budgetary situation.

Subject to the ratification of the Constitutional Treaty, the Commission will have a basis – the new Article III-282 – to develop the European dimension in the field of sport. In particular, it would enable us to promote initiatives on the moral and physical integrity of young sportspeople. It is, however, important to prepare the implementation of this new provision carefully. The Commission is committed to working closely with all interested parties in order to meet this challenge.

What can be done in order to lay the groundwork for the Constitution’s eventual entry into force? To answer that, let me return to the points that Mr Figeľ made at the hearing of 29 November 2004.

The first point Mr Figeľ mentioned referred to actions in the field of education. Here, substantial contributions would already be possible on the basis of areas for which the Community is already responsible. Around half of the anti-doping pilot projects that received Community funding 2000-2002 were education-based. We are currently examining the possibility of integrating doping-related issues into the Commission’s activities in the field of education.

The second point related to actions in the field of information. In fact, amongst the three studies on doping carried out in 2000-2001, one looked at the possibilities for a pan-European anti-doping campaign. This drew on experience from campaigns of this nature carried out in some Member States. Therefore, substantial preparatory work is already available. But it is important to note that such an initiative could not possibly be carried out without an autonomous, earmarked financial instrument.

Mr Figel’s third point dealt with actions in the field of research. There is already material to build on in this area. The Commission has helped to foster network-creation between eminent specialists in the field. In the absence of a specifically dedicated financial instrument, it may be possible to integrate anti-doping research more firmly and more visibly into existing Commission activities. Funding has been provided by the Commission via its research budget, including the recent CAFDIS and HARDOP projects. We now have to start looking to the future. This is why Mr Figel’ has initiated discussions with Mr Potočnik to see whether there is room for synergies between the work of our respective services.

Finally, the Commission will continue to liaise with international organisations and to support the role played by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The Commission believes that the relevant players have a moral duty to join this fight.

To conclude, I would like to thank the European Parliament for its continued support. It will remain crucial for the Commission’s current and future work in the field of sport and will play a key role to ensure the well-needed progress in the fight against doping.

 
  
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  Mavrommatis, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group.(EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the initiative by the European Parliament, as expressed in the motion for a resolution on doping by the Committee on Culture and Education, is an important step forward and a direct plea to all the jointly responsible agencies to combat this phenomenon in a more substantive and effective manner.

I feel optimistic about the future, because my tremendous awareness of the war on the scourge which threatens our young people and which has been the subject of questions and speeches in the past is today echoed by my honourable friends.

We must not forget that doping does not only concern professional athletes. On the contrary, it constitutes a threat which is growing constantly, both because of the constant increase in the range of recipients, which includes amateurs and young people throughout the world, and because of the emergence of newly developed products which change hands through various and constantly multiplying channels, such as gyms, the Internet, pharmacies and the ordinary postal service. May I remind you that turnover from the trade in anabolic substances exceeds two billion euros per annum in Europe and approximately six billion euros per annum in the entire world.

The European Commission must step up its cooperation with the competent organisations and support a mechanism for combating the problem, which will include the necessary research, proper information, education and the promotion of clean sport, with the objective of protecting public health and defending athletic ideals.

The Treaty establishing a Constitution allows for more satisfactory implementation of this objective, while the European Union should take account of the problem when adopting and implementing any policies which come within its jurisdiction. The European Union must take immediate action and must not forget this major scourge of young people, which is threatening children throughout the world.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Riera Madurell, on behalf of the PSE Group. (ES) Mr President, I believe that at this stage we all agree that combating doping is not just a question of cleaning up sporting competitions, but also of promoting the health of our fellow citizens. Combating doping in sport must therefore clearly be one of our political objectives, as it is in many of our countries.

I would like to deal with this issue by insisting on the need to provide anti-doping research with a European dimension. Some countries of the European Union have already included research programmes in their anti-doping plans, both with regard to what may be considered the new doping substances and their effects on the human body, and with regard to the possibility of providing laboratories with better and more appropriate instruments for detecting these substances. In other countries, such as my own, Spain, the government has already announced specific research programmes to be included in the national R+D plan.

But this issue obviously has a clear international dimension, and it is therefore very important for the European Union also to support the inclusion of anti-doping research in our research and development plans. I proposed this to Commissioner Potočnik at his first hearing with our Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, and he expressed interest in the proposal and promised to study it. I would like to encourage the Commission to take significant measures in this regard from this point of view.

Furthermore, Mr President, I believe that an initiative of this type would also comply with Article III-282 of the new European Constitution, which talks of developing a European dimension for sport, promoting fairness and equal opportunities in competitions and protecting the moral and physical integrity of our sportspeople.

 
  
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  Takkula, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (FI) Mr President, as we know, sport itself does not have sufficient resources to deal with the problem of doping. That is why all of us are needed in this important work. All those involved in the broad field of sport need to be active in support of values that are right and wholesome, all the way from the grass roots to international sports organisations and the official agencies that organise sport in different countries.

This work is not just restricted to our continent of Europe: this is a global task. Obviously, as Europeans, we wish to ensure primarily that our own house is in order, as it is difficult and it totally lacks credibility if we teach others while we ourselves are not in harmony with the agreed rules. The role of states and the actions they take are especially important if we are to be able to prevent the illegal manufacture, import, export and spread of doping substances effectively. Legislative cooperation to prevent the spread of doping substances and partnerships between the authorities are ways in which the doping problem can be effectively addressed and prevented.

The World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA, coordinates and develops the fight against doping worldwide. The international Olympic movement has been very closely involved in WADA’s administration, but the role that states play has not been so vibrant. It should be possible for the EU Member States to make a combined effort to strike a better balance with regard to the contributions the various countries make to the work of WADA, thus creating more effective preconditions for it to function efficiently. The EU should not establish its own doping agency: it should join the Council of Europe Anti-Doping Convention and this way be closely involved in work to combat doping across Europe.

Furthermore, Unesco is drafting a global anti-doping convention. The EU should actively monitor the preparation of the convention and coordinate the views of the Member States. With increasing powers in the field of sport, that is to say the Constitution, which will thus provide a future legal basis, the EU should take an active part in the implementation, promotion and support of the obligations under this future agreement.

Matters relating to the issue of doping often make up quite a conspicuous part of the sports news in the media. A sense of proportion, however, should be maintained here. As elsewhere in society, in sport there are and always will be those who do not follow the rules that apply to everyone. We in the EU nevertheless have to do all we can to promote a wholesome sports and physical exercise culture. In the midst of the debate, we should always remember that sport is a positive thing: it promotes human health and well-being.

 
  
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  Bennahmias, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, this resolution is, of course, moving in the right direction. At the last Olympic Games, we all saw a certain number of athletes – very few, in fact, compared to the thousands of competitors taking part – being caught for having taken a few doses of banned substances. These were mainly old doping products, and not particularly the new preparations available these days.

It is clear that the first thing we have to do is to adopt an attitude of defending the public health of our athletes, elite athletes, professional athletes. However, there is a contradiction at this level, as we saw recently. The World Anti-doping Agency, which undertakes some very important work, has just decided, with regard to corticosteroids in particular, that tests will be performed and that a certain level – I believe it is 30% – of corticosteroids will be accepted in the samples taken. They are, therefore, taking a stand against the medical profession, a stand that comes down to accepting a certain dose. This reminds us, and certainly reminds me, that, with regard to haematocrit in the world of professional cycling, a level less than or equal to 50% is accepted, but no more.

One demand is missing from our resolution. This demand will be expensive, but it is essential: we must provide permanent, independent medical monitoring for athletes. In this way, we will be able to see, regardless of the age of the sportsperson and the sport played, how athletes look after themselves throughout their career, right from the start – because athletes, too, have the right to look after themselves – and what legal, and unfortunately illegal, drugs they could have taken. If we do not have an instrument of this type in the field of doping, in Europe, in the European Union and in the world, then nothing we have said will count for much, as long as we do not have this independent, ongoing medical monitoring.

 
  
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  Toussas, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(EL) Mr President, the real cause of the huge problem of doping in sport is the commercialisation of sport through the capitalist method of production, the objective of which is to increase the profits of the monopoly business groups; the acceptance, in other words, that an athlete may be professional and that there can therefore be professional athleticism.

When a sports team is a business, winning at all costs becomes for the athlete and the team what the market demands in order to advertise and sell the products of the business groups, in other words in order to increase their profits. Children and young people become the object of savage exploitation. For example, there is a huge range of pharmaceutical preparations in supermarkets, where they are freely available and are poisoning every moral value of sport, as well as having particularly serious and painful repercussions as far as the physical and mental health of young people is concerned.

Allow me to draw particular attention to the hypocrisy which exists in the international organisations and in their relations with the major business groups, with the result that dozens of pharmaceutical substances are not banned and their use is permitted in sport.

In our view, sport is a social commodity and cannot be subject to the profit rationale. There needs to be a policy shift in sport. All forms of professionalism need to be abolished, all ties between companies and sport need to be severed and mass amateur sport needs to be strengthened.

Finally, allow me to say the following: as long as this more general anti-grass roots policy continues, which is predicated on the profit motive and the competitiveness of capital, the repercussions will be painful as far as young people and sport are concerned.

 
  
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  Czarnecki, Ryszard (NI).   (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, according to the Committee on Culture and Education the Athens Olympics demonstrated that doping in sport is a genuine threat. Yet the only reason why so many cases of doping were detected at the last Olympic Games was that the International Olympic Committee, under the leadership of its new President, Jacques Rogge, finally took determined action to combat doping. Political will frequently plays a large part in matters such as these. We are all aware that the US Olympic Committee covered up cases of doping involving its competitors, especially its athletes, and that it continued to do so until quite recently. We should have no illusions about the fact that the fight against doping involves not only thwarting the ambitions of certain competitors, trainers and campaigners, but also waging war on the huge drug industry and on powerful and well-funded lobbyists. Strategies we can employ in this fight include severe penalties, for example the instant imposition of no-questions-asked and life-long competition bans, clear rules to ensure that no one is more equal than anyone else and new methods of detecting doping techniques that are becoming increasingly sophisticated, as pointed out by the previous speakers. Like politics, sport will always be a dirty business, but there is undoubtedly room for it to clean up its act. This is the idea behind the motion for a resolution, and I should like to thank the authors for ensuring that this is the case.

 
  
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  Schmitt, Pál (PPE-DE). (HU) The EU Constitution refers to sport both as an important educational tool and as a means of fostering social cohesion and a healthy lifestyle. Doping puts the very essence of sport at risk, as it does away with the principle of equal chances and seriously violates the spirit of fair play; performance no longer reflects the quantity and quality of effort invested. Doping is dangerous for the competitors themselves; the literature reports several hundred fatalities. According to former IOC president Samaranch, doping is the death of sport. Dangerous performance-enhancing substances have made their appearance in the field of leisure sports and gyms too. Production, trade and consumption of these substances are now taking place on a massive scale; millions of people are affected and at risk.

Worldwide, the battle against doping is being waged at three levels: 1) prevention, information and education; 2) testing prior to, during and after competitions using the latest methods science has to offer; 3) imposing severe penalties or sanctions strong enough to act as a deterrent. The EU can participate in the first two areas of this broad-based, concerted effort to combat doping, given that punishing crime is not within the scope of our competences. Some countries have already passed legislation imposing severe penalties on doping akin to those for drug use.

For my part, I too recommend that we take an active role in cleaning up or, if you like, saving sport. Let us take the message of our Constitution seriously and cooperate more closely than hitherto with the WADA. At present, only 12 of the 25 EU countries have an accredited laboratory. Let us help enable the other 13 to obtain these valuable technical facilities. Let us set up a unified EU testing network to facilitate close cooperation, not only in the field of testing, but also in research in sports sciences. Let us not forget that sports science is already intensively studying a new form of doping that could prove even more dangerous than previous forms, namely genetic doping. I also recommend that the EU Ombudsman create a mechanism enabling European citizens to report any manufacture, trade or consumption of doping substances that they encounter.

 
  
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  Prets (PSE). (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, the European Union has, on many occasions – in resolutions and Council conclusions, in the Helsinki report on sport, in the report by the Committee on Culture and Education, in hearings and so on – made reference to the problem of doping; it has both demanded and taken various courses of action. The fact is, though, that doping in sport is on the rise. The pharmaceutical industry is developing products, constantly improving them, making them harder to detect, and bringing them onto the market in the most diverse formats, and improving its access to an ever-expanding interest group. Those who are opposed to these developments must counter them by doing more to bring them to light.

I therefore ask the Commission to make the investigation of doping a priority in the research work under the Seventh Research Framework Programme and to make additional funding available for it. The EU’s Constitution will open up new possibilities for sport, among other things, and I cannot but hope that voting for the Constitution will secure us these possibilities. Sport performs important tasks in society; it must not be brought low by doping and racism, which bring discredit on the work of thousands of enthusiasts.

 
  
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  Martin, Hans-Peter (NI). (DE) Mr President, all those who have so far contributed to this so-called debate by reading out texts have expressed their vehement opposition to doping. Nevertheless, there are probably two sorts of people in existence with an interest in sport. There are those who – at least partly thinking of the success it can bring – are indeed in favour of doping and turn a blind eye to it; and there are those who do not. It goes without saying that I count myself among the latter; I believe that every instance of doping strikes to the heart – so to speak – those who are interested in sport, and young people in particular. Our friend on the Left argued that doping is inseparably associated with capitalism and is foreign to totalitarian states; I believe the opposite to be the case. The purity of sport becomes all the more important as economic conditions become tougher and as the problems that small businesses and the self-employed face become greater; that is why we have a real chance to put a stop to doping.

Where the Seventh Research Programme is concerned, though, I would welcome it if you were to concentrate on football. There are practical issues here: is it indeed the case that the G 14 – the association that monitors the Champions League in particular – is preventing checks on doping? Is it the case that youth teams in particular avoid carrying out doping tests? I can do no other than encourage you to ensure transparency in these areas.

 
  
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  Beazley (PPE-DE). Mr President, this debate, looking at least at the great majority of contributions, has been very valuable. The whole issue of doping in sport has recently received much greater attention, which is important.

The objections to doping are threefold. First of all it distorts the very nature of sport. Those who take unfair advantage over their fellow athletes are simply destroying the whole purpose of sport. Secondly, as we know, it damages the health of athletes. Thirdly, I believe it damages society because it instils the notion that winning at all costs is the only purpose. Colleagues have referred to the very considerable financial benefits and advantages that can be now gained, which makes this issue even more difficult.

We have here present colleagues with Olympic experience, and I believe that three Member States are bidding to become hosts of the Olympic Games. Does the Commissioner think it might be appropriate, even this side of ratifying the Constitution, for the Council to adopt a joint resolution not merely condemning doping in sport, but stating what measures the individual governments that have a strong interest in winning the bid for the Olympic Games propose to take?

My final point is this question of winning at all costs. One of the most memorable events in the recent Olympic Games was the case of the long-distance athlete who was likely to win, but was prevented from doing so by a member of the crowd simply running out and stopping him. He was given a special award in recognition of the fact that he continued the race even though it was quite clear that his chances of winning had been spoiled.

It seems to me that if we are going to appeal to the young and to society at large, we have to get back to the basic purpose of sport. Doping is a scourge that has to be dealt with.

 
  
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  Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I have listened very attentively to the comments of the Members present. Your commitment is clearly strong, as is ours, to do what we can to have an effective campaign against doping in sport. As has been pointed out, doping has far-reaching effects on our societies, not least on young people. The Commission will have a clear legal basis with the entry into force of the Constitution. In the meantime, we will continue to take the necessary action to prepare the groundwork for this.

Parliament has rightly pointed out a number of levels on which the issue can be tackled. The Commission believes that prevention is an important facet of our efforts. Our actions must therefore focus on education, research and information. Commissioner Figeľ is committed to moving this issue forward within the context of budgetary means and in preparation for the Constitution’s entry into force.

I now turn to some specific points that have been raised. Firstly, with regard to relations with federations and with the World Anti-Doping Agency – WADA – Mr Figeľ is keen to develop such relations and has already held a number of meetings to that effect.

On the possibility of financing WADA, I should like to point out that we finance WADA on a case-by-case basis through projects. We do not finance the structure of WADA owing to certain problems of which we are all aware.

Regarding research, as I mentioned, Commissioners Figeľ and Potočnik are working together and we can be hopeful of a good outcome in that regard.

On the point raised concerning a European plan, I wish to remind you of the existence of the support plan of 1999. The Constitution’s entry into force will give us a more solid basis for moving forward.

A point was raised with respect to equal opportunities in sport. Commissioner Figeľ is committed to this aspect and takes it very much into account. Our source of inspiration is the Fraisse report adopted by Parliament in 2003.

A point was raised concerning the Unesco Convention on Doping. The Commission follows the work of this body and will continue to do so in the future. I have also taken note of the suggestion made by Mr Beazley and will forward it to Mr Figeľ.

The Commission welcomes Parliament’s resolution on combating doping in sport. The Commission has been very active and has been taking initiatives in this field for the last six years, as I pointed out in my introductory remarks. We intend to continue our efforts, with the support of the Member States and the European Parliament. Parliament’s resolution will help the Commission, in cooperation with Parliament, to continue its work and actions on doping.

The Commission has no objection to amendments 1 and 2. Amendment 2, in particular, could contribute to an effective fight against doping.

 
  
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  President.   The debate is closed.

The vote will take place at 12 noon.

 

4. Cultural diversity
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  President.   The next item is the oral question to the Commission (O-0037/2005 - B6-0169/2005) by Mr Sifunakis, on the draft UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity.

 
  
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  Sifunakis (PSE), rapporteur. – (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, this oral question by the Committee on Culture and Education and the following motion for a resolution on the draft UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity are the outcome of the acute interest which our committee has in the progress of negotiations on this important text.

The draft UNESCO Convention follows on from the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity made by UNESCO in November 2002, which was a positive step towards international cooperation but which has proved to be an inadequate response to threats to cultural diversity today from the intense globalisation of the market in cultural goods and services.

The UNESCO Convention has as its objective the defence and promotion of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions through appropriate measures and aims to facilitate the development of cultural policies and encourage wider international cultural exchanges.

This Convention must, in our opinion, be a tool of international cooperation in favour of cultural development. We believe that the draft Convention represents a serious attempt to address the challenges posed to cultural diversity through globalisation and international trade policy. We all hope that it will constitute a binding standard-setting instrument for the protection of cultural diversity.

This is the only way forward for Europe, given the domination today on the European markets of American television and film productions, for example. I would simply remind you that American productions account for between 60% and 90% of purchases of audiovisual material in the Member States of the ΕU, whereas the corresponding European share of the American market is in the order of a mere 1-2%.

Within this framework, however, efforts are being made by a limited number of non-European countries, mainly in the English-speaking world, in a bid to weaken the proposed UNESCO Convention. That is why we need to resist pressure from these few but strong countries, so that the final text of the Convention clearly underlines the right of States Parties to develop, maintain and implement policies and laws designed to promote and protect cultural diversity and media pluralism. It is essential that any attempts to dilute or weaken these rights in any way through the Convention in question be successfully resisted.

Given that, even within the Union, there are different conceptions as to the content of the Convention, the Member States must make every possible effort to coordinate their positions, both among themselves and with the Community. We should point out here that any lack of unity will undermine the Union's position and credibility in the negotiations.

That is why we are insisting that the European Union and its Member States should do nothing during the process of the negotiation and conclusion of the Convention in question to compromise cultural diversity or undermine the ability of governments to support cultural diversity.

Consequently, the question of the relationship between international trade law and the future UNESCO Convention is a key aspect which should be approached in the best possible way and which must on no account be given a lesser priority.

We also believe that the Convention must recognise the very important role played by public services, notably public service broadcasters, in efforts to safeguard, support and develop cultural diversity.

Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, given the constant presence of the European Commission at the negotiations and taking account of the acute interest of the European Parliament in progress in the negotiations and its institutionally protected right to be informed immediately and fully at all stages of the process of the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements,

· the European Parliament calls on the Commission to keep it informed about progress made in respect of the content and timetable of negotiations and

· the European Parliament asks when exactly the text is expected to be ready, so that it can be approved by the UNESCO General Assembly in Paris in October 2005.

Could the Commission please give us detailed updates on the various positions formulated within the framework of the negotiations?

 
  
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  Borg, Member of the Commission. I would like to thank the honourable Members for the question, which allows me, on behalf of Commissioner Figeľ, to update the European Parliament on the state of play of the ongoing negotiations for a Unesco Convention on Cultural Diversity.

This follows Parliament’s request to be kept informed of the discussions on this issue within the ambit of Unesco. The oral question and the motion for a resolution on Unesco follows on from Parliament's report and resolution on the safeguarding and promotion of cultural diversity and the role of the European region, and the international organisations such as Unesco and the Council of Europe. These were adopted on 2 December 2003 and 14 January 2004 respectively and the rapporteur was Mrs Christa Prets.

Both texts had called on the Commission to inform Parliament regularly, and in particular the Committee on Culture and Education, of the negotiations taking place in Unesco. The Commission responded to the invitation positively.

Following the provisional Unesco timetable for the negotiations on the future convention, the intergovernmental negotiations were launched in September 2004, and the negotiations on substance started in December 2004, with the first meeting of the Drafting Group. A few weeks after the end of the Drafting Group meeting, the Commission accepted Parliament's invitation to take part in a mini-hearing on the Unesco negotiations. This meeting was held on 25 January 2005 with members of the Culture Committee, with Mr Schmitt in the chair. It gave rise to a substantial discussion with the Commission and the Luxembourg presidency on the current negotiation process. The Commission remains available to take part in similar meetings in the future. The Culture Committee has already envisaged one such meeting for later this month.

Negotiations are well under way in Unesco. From an EU point of view, the last negotiating session, in February, took place in a good collaborative spirit, on the basis of a Code of Conduct adopted by COREPER on 27 January 2005. The unity of the EU's representation has been strictly respected throughout the session on the basis of common positions established through numerous Community coordination meetings.

With a single voice, the European Union has become a reference for the debate and a major partner in the negotiation. However, the Commission’s observer status in Unesco entails numerous restrictions that limit its ability to negotiate. The European Union has thus introduced a request for full participant status for the European Community in this negotiation, and this will be discussed at Unesco in April.

Although the February session has not been able to produce a new consolidated draft convention, the overall results of this negotiating session on substance are positive in relation to European Union expectations and positions. The general trend resulting from the plenary debates is in line with the European Union's common positions, including the articulation with other instruments.

The April session of the Unesco Executive Board will have to confirm the convening of a new intergovernmental negotiating session, provisionally scheduled for 25 May to 4 June 2005. It will also discuss the request made by the European Community for a reinforced status in the current negotiations.

The main next steps in the provisional timetable for the negotiations in Unesco are as follows. The Spring Executive Board will be held on 18-28 April 2005. Notably, this session will discuss the request from the European Community for a reinforced status in Unesco for the purpose of the current negotiations on the future convention. The next session of intergovernmental negotiations is scheduled for 25 May to 4 June 2005, while the Autumn Executive Board is to be held on 13-29 September 2005. Finally, the General Conference is to take place on 3-21 October 2005 when, on the basis of the provisional timetable, the Convention on Cultural Diversity should be adopted.

On behalf of Commissioner Figeľ I wish to thank Parliament, and in particular the Culture Committee, for its early and active involvement in the Unesco negotiations, and for its general support for the Commission in this process.

 
  
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  Hieronymi, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, it is because the European Union is an economic and values-based community that we require – and, in the treaties, have hitherto ensured – not only a working internal market, but also, at the same time, and with equal status, the safeguarding of cultural diversity.

The safeguarding of cultural diversity in the European Union is not something undertaken in opposition to the Member States; on the contrary, it explicitly signifies the safeguarding of cultural diversity within them. If though, we are to safeguard that cultural diversity around the world, we can only do so together – within the European Union and within UNESCO.

We demand that the Member States and the Commission should do three things in respect of the negotiations. Firstly, the UNESCO negotiations should be concluded in good time for the next rounds of negotiations on international trade law within the WTO and GATS. The reason why October 2005 is so crucial is that we would otherwise be put at a disadvantage in terms of trade law, and there is the risk of UNESCO being too late in producing a legal instrument.

Secondly, we need an effective instrument. By effective, I mean that it really does ensure equality, and ‘equality of arms’ for the legal instruments in business and cultural law.

Thirdly, the European Union needs to take cultural diversity seriously in its own lawmaking, which means that it must not, in the services directive, be absorbed into business law. Instead, audiovisual services must be taken out of the draft services directive if we are not to lose credibility in the eyes of UNESCO or become less capable of negotiating with it.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Prets, on behalf of the PSE Group. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, it was on 16 November 2004 that the Council gave the Commission a mandate to negotiate the UNESCO convention on the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions. This House has also expressed its view of this convention by voting to adopt the own-initiative report that I produced on the subject.

As Mrs Hieronymi has just said, negotiations are in progress in preparation for UNESCO’s general conference, which is to be held this October. All the items on the agenda must be worked through and completed by the end of May. It is for that reason that this House needs to make its position known in order to be able to influence them.

What does this mean? It means that every state is to have the right to retain, introduce and develop policies and regulations to protect and promote cultural diversity and media pluralism. This is not to be made subject to other international agreements and under no circumstances whatever to the WTO agreements. The convention must provide for a simple, unitary and binding mechanism for the resolution of disputes, enabling case law on cultural diversity to be developed within international law.

Achievement of these objectives requires that the Commission should take up an explicit position and provide for the best possible coordination among the 25 Member States. At the time of the first meetings of experts from the various states last September in Paris, the EU was not yet speaking with one voice. Those in favour included France, Finland was among the neutrals and the British, Danish and Dutch were among the opposition.

Now that the Commission can speak only through the Luxembourg Presidency, we have a new situation, the like of which we have not seen before, and the impression is given that the EU is not represented. This prompts me to reiterate my call for the representatives to carefully reconsider their strategic approach in order to avoid disunity and uncertainty.

What is to be noted on the positive side is that the Commission has opposed the subordination of the UNESCO convention to the WTO’s rules. If the convention is to be effective, we need an internally coherent and binding text. I do believe that we must certainly bring the next round of negotiations to a conclusion before – as has already been mentioned – the WTO negotiation round is completed. The USA has already managed, to some extent, to destabilise Canada, a country that has always played a leading role in this initiative, while also managing to find new allies in the shape of New Zealand, India and Australia.

Culture must not be made subordinate to economic considerations; it is a market in its own right, needing its own rules if it is to retain and develop its diversity. This is something for which we are all responsible.

 
  
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  Drčar Murko, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (SL) Thank you Mr President. Recognition of cultural diversity, which in practice means coexistence among people of differing traditions, also means respect for different cultural traditions. Respecting cultural diversity means having the opportunity to understand other people and accept them as they are. Cross-cultural relations can be exceptionally fruitful and can enrich society with a special kind of added value, while at the same time easing tensions in human relations.

The principles of cultural diversity mean respecting our fellow human beings because of their good human qualities and not because of their origin. If the principle takes root in society, it becomes a natural barrier to separations and divisions.

It has been shown that liberal and culturally diverse societies are also the most successful economically. The kinds of society that developed in Europe in the 20th century, despite two world wars, may be counted among the greatest achievements of human civilisation.

We previously held the belief that these achievements could no longer be brought into question, but we were wrong. Where, for instance, did the majorities suddenly appear from that approved of ethnic cleansing in the 90’s, that most brutal denial of cultural diversity?

Numerous, but thankfully isolated events tell us that reasonable criteria can be turned into their opposite. If societies start tolerating hate-filled speech, if extremist politicians can utter disparaging words about the cultures of others with impunity, this means that the brakes have failed. Public sensitivity is lower, and those that warn against intolerance towards other cultures are themselves declared intolerant.

Perhaps we have indeed expected too much from the model of multiculturalism, and have idealised it, but something is clear now. Despite their imperfections, we know that the rules of peaceful coexistence among people of different cultures have no alternative of equal value. Steps to promote global cultural exchange and the draft of the Unesco document addressed today are a major contribution and are our common political and economic investment in the future.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Trüpel, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (DE) Mr President, I too would like to highlight how crucial it is that this convention is, politically speaking, underpinned by the concept of art and culture possessing a dual character. On the one hand, we are dealing with commodities, but art and culture are never merely commodities; they are always bearers of meaning, of identity and of aesthetic expression. That is the crucial reason why they cannot simply be made subject to the operation of the market and the logic of liberalisation. That is the case where pluralism in the mass media is concerned, and it is particularly true in the protection of public broadcasting, which guarantees a particular quality and makes the claim of providing as many people as possible with access to culture. It is because pure market forces and doctrinaire liberalisation put such an approach at risk that it is so important that we should succeed in securing this convention on the protection of cultural diversity as a matter of policy.

I too would like to stress the absolute necessity of our remaining strong and united in these negotiations and of the Member States of the EU truly speaking with one voice. Internally speaking, this House’s participation – including in the definition of an explicit mandate – must be guaranteed. What is crucial in external terms is that – as has already been said – negotiations with UNESCO be concluded in good time, thus ensuring that we do not lag behind the WTO and GATS rounds.

If we, and our protective agreement, are not to be left standing by the logic of the market and made subject to it, what we need is an effective legal instrument. What we demand for the world out there must also be protected within the European Union. That is why the services directive must continue to guarantee the protection of cultural diversity, and that is why it must not apply to these goods.

 
  
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  Portas, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) Mr President, Mrs Murko rightly pointed out in her speech that cultural diversity is intended to defend and protect minorities. All cultures in the globalised world are nowadays minority cultures, yet the markets do not reflect this reality, and this discrepancy is at the root of the problem. At the polar opposite of cultural diversity are both ignorance and those people who see culture as merchandise, along with those who maintain that the worldwide media networks are simply platforms for ‘producing content’.

This is the prevailing tendency at international trade negotiations and has surfaced in the EU and in various governments; for example, in the proposal for a directive on the liberalisation of services. This is why this debate is so important right now. The opinion of this House, and of the Committee on Culture and Education, is that another way forward must be found, one that commits Parliament, the European institutions and each Member State to seeking different priorities, different policies and different instruments.

The resolution is very clear. The Member States have an obligation to protect cultural diversity; they have an obligation to protect pluralism in the media; and they have an obligation to take action, to invest in creating, producing and distributing cultural goods. To put it simply, the Member States have an obligation to stand firm, and this is, once again, the thrust of our request that the EU swiftly adopt a unified and resolute position in these negotiations.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Salvini, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, aside from a few misgivings and concerns, the resolution appears positive to us insofar as it has to do the job of expressing a common position. I should, however, like to express some doubts about how it can be accepted and enforced in individual Member States.

I listened earlier to the speech by the member of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, regarding which I should like to know what the criteria are in terms of tolerance and intolerance for deciding who is allowed to speak on a TV channel. I regret, for instance, that in Italy, a resolution on cultural diversity – the title of which, I think, can be agreed upon by all – will be used as a weapon against a politician who, whilst not represented by me, can be easily identified as the Prime Minister.

Various exponents of the Committee on Culture and Education, including those who hardly ever participate in its work, use projects such as this one for debates on internal policy that have very little to do with the fact that culture is not a commodity or a market. With regard to cultural diversity, moreover, much is spoken about minority languages; I have the impression, however, that these languages are seldom safeguarded.

I should like to ask the Commission how many European languages are in danger of disappearing? I am thinking of Catalan, Basque, the languages of my country, Lombard, Piedmontese, Ligurian, and Venetian. It is one thing to argue about linguistic diversity in the abstract, it is quite something else to safeguard in practice the languages that globalisation is seeking to destroy.

Aside from the resolution of which we, as Members of the Lega Nord and of the Independence and Democracy Group are in favour, therefore, I am concerned as to what could be the use of a document such as this in the individual Member States. Primarily, I should like to know which instruments and economic means the Union will use to insist upon safeguarding individual languages, so that the measure that we are about to approve is not simply a vague resolution, but has positive results in the regions concerned. Finally, I sincerely hope the Commission develops a map of the European languages in danger of dying out, whilst Parliament keeps quiet occupying itself with other matters.

 
  
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  Libicki, on behalf of the UEN Group.  (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the subject of our debate today is culture, but we must ask ourselves what we mean by this term. Does culture mean everything that surrounds a person and his or her entire way of life, or only cultural products, such as paintings, sculpture, architecture, music, and above all films, which have already been mentioned today? We should not forget that the role played by the state as a patron of culture has always been significant, but never crucial. One cannot fail to mention the role of the Medici or the popes in connection with Italy’s magnificent Renaissance art, yet they were not responsible for the fact that Renaissance art in Italy reached its zenith at that time. Similarly, the fact that the German princes acted as benefactors in the 18th and 19th centuries does not mean that they were responsible for the development of such marvellous music in that part of the world. No one can claim credit for the fact that Chopin was born and worked in Poland. Culture cannot be managed, and we should therefore not be fooled into thinking that any action we take will determine Europe’s success in this field. We should not forget that the market also has an important role to play, which is why we have fond memories of the magnificent Italian films of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, whereas American cinema now holds sway. Back then Italian or French films were hits, or even Polish films, which despite communism were really quite good, and today this distinction falls to American films. The media obviously have a large part to play in this process, even though it is an unfortunate fact that they sometimes neglect their duty by becoming entirely commercialised. We should not forget that statements to the effect that European films are almost unknown in America, and that American films are by far the most popular in Europe, are whinging plain and simple, and we should not overly concern ourselves with them. After all, American art and culture are essentially versions of European art, although we should not turn our backs on Henry James, Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck for being American. We should not lose hope, as after all the whole world is under the sway of European culture, even if this culture sometimes comes in an American edition.

 
  
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  Dillen (NI). (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, no one in this Chamber will disagree with me when I say that the protection of cultural diversity and artistic expression, not only in the EU but also in the rest of the world, deserves our undivided attention. We should all lament the fact that these topics are not afforded more attention in this House; instead, as happens with all topics that concern society, including in this debate, ideology threatens to be given priority a lot of the time over genuine concern about this diversity. It has too often happened that vague and general concepts, including cultural diversity, have been given a different meaning and have served for some as a euphemism – the debate about the place of Islam in our western society is one example – in an attempt to manipulate the necessary division between church and state or gender equality. This is only one example of how a sacrosanct objective such as cultural diversity can serve less noble causes when cultural relativists interpret it in a different way. It follows that we should clearly define what we mean and identify the parties involved and, above all, ensure that the protection of cultural diversity does not lead to a set of standards derived from ideology being imposed from the top down. This will only be to the good of artistic freedom.

 
  
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  Pack (PPE-DE). (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the maintenance and promotion of cultural diversity is an important task both within and outside the European Union, one to which this House has always given political priority. This issue touches upon the most important democratic values – freedom of opinion, tolerance and dialogue between cultures among others – values deserving of protection. The convention under discussion is an important instrument of international cooperation in safeguarding these cultural values. In order to hold our own on the international stage, we need a mandate, and we need our position to be beyond any doubt.

Globalisation is a threat to cultural diversity and media pluralism. To the national governments, too, this convention gives a legal framework for taking measures necessary to the protection – and, where necessary, also the promotion – of cultural diversity. Contrary to what we are often told, it is not a protectionist instrument; nor is it a blank cheque. It does, however, improve the international exchange of cultural goods, and fosters diversity.

This is not about us going on a crusade against the WTO or – to put it bluntly – against America. We simply want the convention and the WTO and GATS negotiations to complement each other. What we have at the moment is something like the battle between David and Goliath. This is about strengthening David so that he may prevail in this battle, which is being fought in the interests of the cultural diversity that we have to protect, and it is for that reason that we need to agree on a common approach within UNESCO, so that we may prevail in the GATS and WTO negotiations. I want to underline what Mrs Hieronymi and Mrs Trüpel said: within the European Union, too, we have to ensure that the services directive does not apply to audiovisual materials.

 
  
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  Badía i Cutchet (PSE). (ES) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank Mr Borg for the information he has provided us with on the progress of the negotiation of the Convention on Cultural Diversity.

The Convention on Cultural Diversity must be a genuine instrument for international cooperation, which protects and promotes the diversity of cultural content and artistic expression in the face of the pressures from globalisation and international trade policy. Furthermore, it must guarantee pluralism in the audiovisual media and acknowledge the fundamental role of public services, in particular broadcasting.

I must welcome the Council’s decision to authorise the European Commission to negotiate on behalf of the Union. Nevertheless, and despite the great precedent being set within the Union, I would like to stress the need for the European Parliament to be kept constantly informed of the content and the timetable of the negotiation and also for the views of civil society to be taken into account.

Cultural services and products must be treated both as economic goods, on the one hand, but also as vectors of the identity of peoples, and I would like to stress that their regulation must also take account of their specific characteristics, including those of the workers in the sector.

Finally, I welcome the proposal to create an observatory for cultural diversity within Unesco, that will operate in cooperation with the professional organisations and I would call on the Commission and the members of the international community, particularly the United States, Canada and Mexico, to support this Convention as a binding legislative instrument. Its adoption, during the forthcoming Unesco General Conference in October 2005, would allow these objectives to be taken into account in the commercial negotiations of the World Trade Organisation in the field of culture.

 
  
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  Graça Moura (PPE-DE)(PT) Mr President, the proposed Unesco Convention sets out principles on the sovereignty of States and their right to take the steps that they wish to take as regards culture, but aims as its prime objective to remove it from the jurisdiction of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This arises from Articles 13 and 19 and the communication of 14 September 2004 of the International Liaison Committee of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity distributed by Unesco itself.

I quote, ‘the Convention must provide for a clear engagement, in unambiguous terms, by which States commit to uphold the objectives of this Convention in other fora, notably by abstaining from liberalisation commitments on culture in the context of international trade agreements’. This is not only tantamount to enshrining chauvinism, isolation, or worse, new powers to ‘police’ and block direct and fruitful contact between cultures. The complicated part is that hundreds of specifications feature on this non-exhaustive list of cultural goods attached to the draft; games, leisure activities and sports, culinary traditions, costumes, cultural tourism, pottery, textiles, embroidery, baskets, glassware, jewellery, leather goods, wood, metal, furniture, interior decorating, designer goods, and the list goes on. Anything you care to name is on there.

The EC Treaty covers cultural development and respect for national and regional diversity in Article 151. This only concerns Member State cultures, however. When it comes to third countries and international organisations, the Treaty only refers to cooperation in the sphere of culture. What we ought to do is to satisfy the Member States – all Member States – in a Europe of national identities that are sometimes in fierce conflict with one another, and that jealously guard their specific characteristics, but a Europe in which the sovereignty of each Member State is completely safeguarded.

The Treaty prohibits any harmonisation of Member States’ legislative and regulatory provisions in this area. To what extent, therefore, is the Commission involved in the proposed Convention? Is the Commission’s intention to drag Europe indirectly into the kind of harmonisation forbidden by its own Treaty? Will it want to subject Europe to the scope of the WTO, which has a dangerous abundance of situations that have unforeseen consequences?

 
  
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  Weber, Henri (PSE). (FR) The negotiations currently underway at UNESCO are extremely important for us Europeans. We have so far managed to gain acceptance for our principles in international circles. My predecessors have restated those principles in this forum: cultural goods and services are not just commodities like any others.

Cultural diversity is wealth for the whole of humanity. Every government should have the right to support cultural creativity and the dissemination of culture in its country without being subject to the sacrosanct requirements of free trade or to the authority of the WTO. We have succeeded in having these principles respected so far, and the cultural sector has been excluded from the international negotiations on the liberalisation of services at the World Trade Organisation.

Those who believe that cultural goods and services are part of the entertainment industry are once again on the offensive, however. On their initiative, bilateral free trade agreements that include the cultural sector are multiplying. At UNESCO, the representatives of the United States and its allies are trying, to a great extent successfully, to weaken the text originally put forward for the convention.

The only effective way of guaranteeing our right to cultural identity and cultural diversity is to make it a universal right recognised by all peoples and defended in the international institutions by their representatives. The UNESCO Convention must become the international legal instrument of reference on issues of cultural policy. It must not be subordinated to other commercial agreements. It must have an effective mechanism for dealing with differences of opinion. Finally, it must be ready in time for the next UNESCO general conference in October 2005, during which it can be adopted.

 
  
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  Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I have taken good note of what was said by the various honourable Members and I will pass on their comments and suggestions to Mr Figeľ. In general, let me say first of all that the Commission welcomes Parliament’s resolution on cultural diversity and that our views fully correspond. Parliament’s resolution will help the Commission continue its work on the negotiating process in cooperation with Parliament.

On a number of specific aspects that have been raised by speakers, I would like to make the following comments. On the involvement of Parliament, let me reaffirm our commitment to keep Parliament informed. We have regularly passed on information to Parliament and specifically to the Committee on Culture and Education. The next meeting is due to be held on 19 April and Mr Figeľ is committed to continuing the dialogue with the committee and to addressing the substance of the ongoing negotiations with the committee. We want to make good use of Parliament’s ideas during the negotiations. Parliament’s strong support is welcome and assists us in our tasks.

On the request for more information on the negotiations, let me state that at the moment most of the negotiations concern procedures. The discussions on the substance will come later, during the May and June part-sessions. Concerning deadlines, we would like to see the timetable respected so as to allow us to conclude the negotiations during the course of this year.

On issues of substance, we will be particularly attentive to the protection of cultural and national specificities, as also the interests of our media sector. On the point raised concerning languages, let me say that linguistic diversity is another aspect of our policy. In fact the Commission has included a proposal on lifelong learning in the financial perspective for 2007-2013. Linguistic diversity is a pillar of this proposal and the main education and culture programme.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

At the close of this debate, I have received one motion for a resolution(1). The vote on this resolution will take place at 12 noon

 
  

(1) See Minutes.


5. Renewal of fish stocks
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  President. – The next item is the joint debate on the report (A6-0051/2005) by Mrs Miguélez Ramos on the proposal for a Council regulation establishing measures for the recovery of the Southern hake and Norway lobster stocks in the Cantabrian Sea and Western Iberian peninsula and amending Regulation (EC) No 850/98, and the report (A6-0050/2005) by Mr Morillon on the proposal for a Council regulation establishing measures for the recovery of the sole stocks in the Western Channel and the Bay of Biscay.

 
  
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  Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, the Commission appreciates the hard work and close attention to detail by Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries in preparing for this debate with regard to the two files in front of Parliament this morning. The objective of the measures we are contemplating is that of safeguarding the needs of future generations from the demands of the present population. This is what we define as sustainability and we see long-term management plans as the right legislative instrument for achieving this. I am pleased to note that Parliament is broadly in agreement with our thinking.

As always, our shared commitment to achieving sustainability in fisheries remains unwavering. We cannot overstate this principle. Our aim remains common, but our approach may be somewhat different. In this instance we have some differences concerning the details.

With regard to the plan for Southern hake and Norway lobster we have held consultations with parties involved concerning the fisheries that catch these species, often catching them together in mixed fisheries. We agree that there should be the possibility for state aid to fishermen involved in these fisheries, but these should be applied equitably to all fishermen who may find themselves in similar situations, and should therefore be applied in the context of the European Fisheries Fund.

We consider that the limits on TAC changes should be plus or minus 15% to be in accordance with scientific advice. There is no technical basis to choose a different value. However, I accept that this limit should be applied from the first year of the plan’s implementation. We should not intentionally delay stock recovery if this is feasible within the plan. Recovery should occur as soon as possible and in no later than ten years.

We appreciate that there are special difficulties in the Gulf of Cadiz and that uncertainties are high. However, to be consistent with the precautionary approach that has been agreed in the UN and in Community legislation, greater uncertainty cannot be a reason to apply more lax conservation measures. We can agree to the exclusion of the Gulf of Cadiz from the same effort management scheme as elsewhere, if an alternative but equally effective management system is in place.

After discussions with stakeholders on this point we can now agree to remove the closed areas originally proposed for Nephrops, but we think they should be replaced with other closed areas that are better adapted to protecting the stock. Nephrops stocks require conservation measures to restore their ability to support significant fisheries.

I agree that Bay of Biscay sole could be moved to a management plan in accordance with its less serious biological state, but Western Channel sole should remain the subject of a recovery plan. Legally, a management plan cannot be applied to Western Channel sole until it is inside safe biological limits.

We are convening a scientific meeting of STECF to look at options for target fishing mortalities for sole that will be consistent with the objectives of the common fisheries policy and with international commitments at the UN and the FAO. Therefore, we have to reserve our position until we have seen the results of this evaluation.

 
  
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  Miguélez Ramos (PSE), rapporteur. (ES) Mr President, this report, which was approved in committee by a huge majority — I believe with just one vote against, and I would like to express enormous gratitude to all my colleagues — makes considerable changes to the Commission’s proposal establishing measures for the recovery of Southern hake and Norway lobster stocks in the Cantabrian Sea and the waters of the Western Iberian Peninsula. The recovery objective proposed by the Commission for hake took mortality by fishing as a reference, while my report proposes, as recommended by the scientists, an ideal biomass level, complemented by a fishing effort limitation scheme based on geographical areas and categories of fishing gear. Furthermore, with regard to the system for calculating fishing effort, we believe that the one presented by the Commission, based on kilowatts of power, is too complicated and we therefore propose that it be based on fishing days and that, furthermore, we establish a system of co-responsibility for fishermen in the control of fishing.

For us, Commissioner, the period of application is not negotiable. It is not sufficient to establish or decide on five years for this plan. We would be delighted if the fishing ground could recover in five years, but the ten years, as opposed to the five proposed by the Commission, are intended to allow the industry to adapt more gradually and more flexibly, ensuring greater stability for fishing without diminishing the ultimate objective, that everybody wants to see — not just the Commission — of the recovery of stocks. Furthermore, I have modified and relaxed the quantities laid down in the proposal on weight, supplementary catches and other technical measures, and in this way the margins of tolerance will be similar to those in other plans already in force.

With regard to the forecasts on Norway lobster, today everybody knows that the closed areas proposed are not suited to the stock situation, nor the duration, since the proposal is that it be indeterminate. Commissioner, according to the reports produced by the IEO, in only one of the areas proposed are there significant concentrations of Norway lobster and these are located in a much more restricted area than that pointed out by the Commission, at depths of 100 to 140 metres, and we therefore believe that, in the event that the closure is established, it should be limited both in area and in terms of its duration, between May and August.

We must mention something that the Commission tends to forget: the socio-economic repercussions. Commissioner, the Commission’s proposal is exclusively based on aspects relating to the conservation of resources and makes no mention at all of the socio-economic impact of its application, and I can assure you that, if the Commission's proposal is applied as it stands, it would have a dramatic effect on the sector, because, in practice, the closures proposed for Norway lobster mean that trawling will be impossible in all Iberian waters, and we are talking about multi-species fishing in which Norway lobster represents barely 1% of the total catches by these fleets. So I have considered it appropriate to insert a reference to the socio-economic measures to be adopted to deal with the possible loss of income for the sector, either by means of the new European Fisheries Fund, as you have said, or by means of any other specific instrument that the European Union may create, and I am delighted that the specific nature of the Gulf of Cádiz is recognised and that, in this respect, it has been considered more positive to exclude it from the proposal. Commissioner, its inclusion for this recovery plan must not under any circumstances mean that it does not include measures to provide for its recovery and sustainable management and, in this regard, you are aware that the national authorities are producing an emergency plan for this specific fishing ground.

I believe, Commissioner, that, as rapporteur, I have opted for the most realistic and viable approach and I must acknowledge that it is true that I placed great emphasis, as well as on the objective of preserving resources — which I believe to be extremely important and which, as you have said, guarantees the future – on that of preserving a prosperous, viable and restructured European fishing sector.

That is the purpose of the report I am presenting to this House today.

 
  
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  Morillon (ALDE), rapporteur. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, the Committee on Fisheries’ proposal establishing measures for the recovery of the sole stocks in the Western Channel and the Bay of Biscay was submitted to Parliament under the consultation procedure. It is based on proposals submitted to the Council in December 2002 aimed at the conservation and sustainable exploitation, as you said, of fish stocks as part of the reforms to the common fisheries policy.

The aim of this proposal is to ensure, in the two regions concerned and within a period of five to ten years, that these stocks are maintained within or rebuilt to safe biological limits. It comprises five chapters. The first chapter, specifying the criteria to be met in order to achieve the plan’s objectives, provided that, when stocks could be regarded as being within those limits, the Council could decide to cancel the plan at the proposal of the Commission. The other chapters specified the technical and inspection measures intended to allow this plan to be implemented.

During the debates held on this subject, it has become clear that, as you have said, in at least one of the two regions concerned, the Bay of Biscay, the most recent scientific reports indicate that sole stocks are not below the biological safety threshold. Consequently, instead of adopting a recovery plan as referred to in Article 5 of the 2002 regulation, it seemed preferable to adopt a management plan as laid down in Article 6 of that regulation.

This proposal obviously does not result in fishermen being free to recommence unchecked intensive fishing, which would certainly have a catastrophic effect on the future of the species. It has resulted in amendments to the technical provisions proposed by the Commission, but in such a way as, and I quote, ‘to ensure that these stocks remain within safe biological limits’, whilst at the same time stressing, and again I quote, that ‘the objective of the new common fisheries policy is to provide for the sustainable exploitation of living aquatic resources, taking account of the environmental, social and economic aspects in a balanced manner’.

I would point out that Parliament’s proposals specify in this regard that, where the Commission finds, on the basis of the annual evaluations, that any of the sole stocks concerned are at risk of collapse, it shall propose to the Commission additional measures to ensure recovery of the stock concerned.

That summarises the main proposals in the report, which will shortly be put to the vote in Parliament with no amendments and which gained very wide support in committee, demonstrating a desire to involve the fishermen themselves in the considerations of the scientists and politicians and to reconcile the expertise of the latter with the experience of the former. I would like to add that the debates leading to the drafting of this report were conducted in an excellent atmosphere and I would like to conclude, Commissioner, by expressing to you my gratitude.

 
  
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  Varela Suanzes-Carpegna, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am speaking on behalf of my group, the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, to stress the importance of the role played by Parliament in this area, with its deliberate strategy of providing time and improving on the Commission’s initial drastic proposals.

This debate began some time ago, during the last term in office. The Commission presented us with an initial proposal which treated the situations of hake and cod equally. We had to stop it and we managed to do so. The situation of each species could not be compared. The Commission eventually agreed with us and presented two separate proposals. We also managed to differentiate northern hake from southern hake, with two different proposals.

All of this happened following an important joint hearing in Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries with the sector and the scientists involved, in 2001. In the end we achieved a satisfactory result for northern hake and we also managed, in 2003, to postpone the debate on southern hake until this term in office, which allowed the sector and the scientists to provide more data and produce more specific proposals.

I believe that Mr Borg's visit to Spain has also been fundamental in terms of rectifying the Commission’s initial position on southern hake and Norway lobster. We should therefore all be pleased, since I believe that this is the right approach, as is being demonstrated in the case of the Mediterranean.

I would like to congratulate our rapporteur, Mrs Miguélez, on her work and on the final result of her report, and everybody who has contributed to it, including the Spanish and Portuguese Governments, both previous and current, and the Members from my group, Mr Fraga and Mr Freitas, for their valuable contributions. I would also like to highlight the amendment we are presenting today to Parliament on behalf of our group, the PPE-DE, which will give the Member States greater flexibility in the application of their recovery plans.

Finally, I would like to congratulate and warmly thank the Xunta de Galicia, which, within the Galician Advisory Committee, promoted and achieved the required unity in the sector in this decisive area, since their consensus has provided us with the basis for reaching a satisfactory and realistic agreement here.

 
  
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  Poignant, on behalf of the PSE Group. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, well done to the rapporteur for producing a report that does not present us with any major problems. I would like to take the opportunity to thank fishermen for fishing one of the best fish, sole, that nature, for some, or the good Lord, for others, has given us. Long may they continue to fish!

We need to take a few lessons from this report and this proposal. First, we must be able to adapt when we need to, and the decisions taken have not been taken against fishermen. If there are more sole than we expected, we must be able to adapt to the situation and not remain restricted or stuck.

Secondly, calmness in ports and confidence in the future depend a great deal on good work carried out between the fishermen and the scientists. One group does not necessarily believe the other, and, in my opinion, we need to persevere in improving relations between them. One forum, set up as part of the common fisheries policy, is, I believe, very useful: I am referring to the regional advisory councils. We must make the most of these bodies to ensure that these two main categories, the workers and the scientists, come to as good an understanding as possible.

In this case, Commissioner, your work is made all the easier and we share the same aim: to maintain the largest fish stocks possible in the sea, because, without fish, there will be no fishermen and, without fishermen, there will be no fish for consumers.

 
  
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  Ortuondo Larrea, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by thanking Mrs Miguélez Ramos and Mr Morillon for the magnificent reports they have presented to us and which we are debating today in this Parliament.

At the end of 2003, the Commission proposed a recovery plan for southern European stocks of hake and Norway lobster, which, according to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, would be threatened due to high levels of mortality resulting from the fishing of mature fish of those species, which was reducing their capacity for regeneration through natural biological reproduction.

I have certain reservations about the full validity of the reports which we considered in evaluating the situation of the stocks of these species, since the associations of shipowners and professionals from these fishing grounds, or at least those that I have consulted, claim that the best way to find out whether or not stocks are at risk is by casting a net into the sea. Of course, the net must fully comply with the legislation in force. If it comes out with fish in it, it cannot be claimed that the species is in danger, and they are bringing up more fish than ever.

Nevertheless, nobody has a greater interest in maintaining fish stocks than the people who live from this fishing sector and whose economy and way of life depends on them and, therefore, they largely accept, as we all do, that measures need to be established to protect stocks of southern hake and Norway lobster.

It is possible, however, that the application of some of the measures proposed may affect the socio-economic reality of the sector, and it is therefore absolutely essential that the regulation provides for some type of mechanism to alleviate the consequences that the planned restrictions of fishing capacity are going to have for the people affected and to compensate for the damage done to the sector.

Furthermore, the fishermen and companies must know that this assistance is available to them in order to provide them with the incentive to participate significantly in the recovery plans being considered. We are also in favour of controlling the quantities of mature fish of each species and not levels of mortality, and of the measures adopted extending over 10 years and the annual variations of allowable tonnes of catch not exceeding any more or less than 10%.

 
  
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  Aubert, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, I am sorry to have to bring a note of discord to this fine consensus. We would have liked to support the Commission’s proposal much more proactively, and we regret that, faced with a situation as serious as the continual decline in fish stocks, albeit with slight differences between species, Member States are systematically continuing, with the assistance of a large number of MEPs, to attempt at all costs to dilute the objectives to be achieved. Even if the whole world proclaims that they support the conservation of resources, in reality it is not true, and we cannot accept this situation.

That is why we will not vote for these two reports. There is no doubt that we need to hold discussions with local players and fishermen, regarding the amendment and simplification of measures that are sometimes too complicated. It is also important, of course, to take account of the socio-economic impact, to provide compensation, which must be made fair so that it does not always go to the same people, and also to preserve small-scale fisheries, which must also survive.

As much as we agree with all of that, we cannot accept the systematic reduction of the Commission’s objectives, which are based on scientific data. Neither can we continually argue, in view of the situation. That is why we will vote against these two reports, whilst supporting the Commission’s intentions in this field.

 
  
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  Guerreiro, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) We believe that the stock levels of Southern hake and Norwegian lobster are such that recovery measures must be taken. Such measures will lead to fishing restrictions, which will inevitably have social and economic consequences. In this context, in the event of any loss of income suffered by fishermen due to temporary suspensions or fishing restrictions arising from a recovery plan, provision must be made for fishermen to be offered financial compensation aimed at offsetting any consequent loss.

Indeed, compensation also represents an incentive for fishermen to be actively involved in carrying out the recovery plan, because the main aim of plans of this nature is to ensure the sustainability of fisheries resources as a means of safeguarding the future of fishing. Consequently, recovery plans must not, under any circumstances, lead to definitive measures to reduce fishing, such as fostering the scrapping of vessels, or the paralysis of economically untenable fleets in the absence of socio-economic compensation measures.

The scrapping of vessels leads to the permanent destruction of production resources and, in turn, to permanent unemployment for the fishermen. Socio-economic measures commensurate with the Community budget must be incorporated into this regulation. This is the thrust of the amendments that we have proposed and which we consider fair. We therefore trust that we will obtain your support.

 
  
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  Ó Neachtain, on behalf of the UEN Group. Mr President, it is not often that I can say that I am in total agreement with two separate reports from the Committee on Fisheries. This is one of those rare occasions. Chairman Morillon and Vice-Chairman Miguélez Ramos both highlight the need to ensure that the socio-economic impact and consequences of recovery plans are measured and addressed, with appropriate compensation.

Two years ago almost to the day, I stated in this House that decisions and objectives of fish recovery plans cannot disregard the social and economic consequences they will have. Recovery plans must seek a balance between the recovery and conservation of stocks, and measures to limit the impact on the fishing industry. The utmost respect must be paid to the need for social, economic and regional cohesion, and the highest priority must be given to the defence of the populations of those regions that are highly dependent on fisheries.

Let me say very clearly, as I have said many times in the past and will say again at every available opportunity, that the common fisheries policy is not only about fish but also, and most importantly, about fishermen. It is about their families and their families’ futures, their way of life – the only one possible in many areas – and the future of entire coastal communities.

Chairman Morillon and Vice-Chairman Miguélez Ramos both refuse the technocratic approach of rebuilding stocks at all cost, preferring instead to suggest ways to ensure that stocks remain within safe biological limits. I, for one, share that approach.

 
  
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  Freitas (PPE-DE) (PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should first like to say that I shall concentrate on the report by Mrs Miguélez and, as such, I wish to thank Mrs Miguélez, Mrs Fraga Estévez and Mr Varela for their participation, because this report focuses essentially on Southern hake and Norwegian lobster in Portugal and Spain.

I should also like to welcome the Commission’s proposal, which recommends that reform of the common fisheries policy should set out provisions for safeguard plans, recovery plans for areas and species with sustainability problems. It is undoubtedly true, however, that we had to carry out a thoroughgoing analysis in committee, in conjunction with the national authorities in Portugal and Spain, so that we could turn the Commission’s good intentions into reality.

In fact, the Commission’s proposal, in its original form, would damage fishing as a whole, because in order to safeguard the interests of Southern hake and Norwegian lobster, the entire fishing fleet would be affected and a recovery plan for all fisheries, including Portuguese fisheries, would be drawn up. We therefore had to table some amendments, which were adopted. I believe that we made significant improvements to the text.

I do not agree with some of the proposed amendments tabled in this House, because they are already laid down in the proposals that we made in committee. I should like to say, by way of justifying the proposal tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, that we want the Member States to have the opportunity to table their own proposals and to submit them to the Commission for approval. After all, the Member States know the situation best. In so doing, we will be avoiding generically restrictive proposals to a problem that was specific and could have been dealt with much more easily.

 
  
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  Capoulas Santos (PSE)(PT) Mr President, I should like to express my opinion on the report by Mrs Miguélez Ramos on measures for the recovery of Norwegian lobster and Southern hake in the Cantabrian Sea and Western Iberian Peninsula. I should like to begin, if I may, by congratulating Mrs Miguélez Ramos on her excellent work and on the extraordinary effort that she put into drawing up the report. The proposals therein deserve Parliament’s overwhelming support and I trust that the Commission will duly take them on board.

We completely share the Commission’s concerns as regards the need to protect Southern hake and Norwegian lobster stocks in those areas of the Atlantic and we acknowledge that appropriate emergency measures are called for in light of the current state of affairs. In the Member States in which most fishing is done, the fishermen and the vessel owners have the most to gain from seeing these measures implemented correctly. Let me stress that those measures must be appropriate measures, because the Commission’s proposals are clearly excessive given that the problem cannot be approached from one single perspective. As political decision-makers, we have a responsibility to seek solutions that strike the right balance between concern for defending biological resources and social and economic interests.

If the Commission’s proposal were adopted, it would have a devastating impact on the Portuguese fisheries sector, as it would affect some 2 000 vessels, most of which catch tiny amounts of these species. The proposals put forward in the reports before us will enable these species to be rebuilt within ten years, thereby absorbing the social and economic impact. Accordingly, I am sure that Parliament will give resounding support to this report.

 
  
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  Fraga Estévez (PPE-DE). (ES) Mr President, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the rapporteurs, and in particular Mrs Miguélez, because I am going to refer to her report, but not because the report of the chairman of the committee is not magnificent.

Firstly, I would like to point out that the first discrepancy between the Commission and the fishing sector usually relates to the duration of plans. In this regard, we must bear in mind that establishing a plan for the recovery of a species with a short life and rapid growth is not the same as establishing a plan for another species with the opposite characteristics. Furthermore, great emphasis must be placed, as many previous speakers have said, on the socio-economic effects of each plan, which vary widely depending on the fleets in question. In this case, therefore, we have established a minimum duration for recovery of ten years, which allows these conditions to be taken into account.

We must insist that the first stage in any recovery plan must be to prevent a continuing decline of the species in question and for its recovery to begin. The speed with which this is achieved is of less biological relevance, but may be a disaster for the regions dependent on fishing. We therefore believe that once the scientists have established the biological parameters — and this report includes, for example, the biomass objective to be achieved in order for a population to be considered recovered — the Member States must be allowed a degree of flexibility in achieving this objective in a manner most suited to the characteristics of their fleets. Once again, the important thing is that the species recovers, rather than how the reduction of the fishing effort is achieved. So, as Mr Freitas has said, we have presented an amendment on behalf of our group which calls for greater flexibility for fleets.

With regard to the issue of closures, I would refer to what the rapporteur has said; there is no scientific basis for it and, therefore, I would simply call on the Commission and the Council to support the amendments by Mrs Miguélez and the Committee on Fisheries, which introduce a good dose of common sense into this proposal.

 
  
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  Stihler (PSE). Mr President, I would like to concentrate on the issue of sole stocks. This regulation aims to recover sole stocks in the Western Channel and in the Bay of Biscay. It is crucial that we act to counter declining fish stocks, but it is always important that our response is proportionate. The Commission proposal combines tough rules for setting total allowable catches with a scheme to limit fishing effort.

The amendments proposed in Parliament’s report would replace the Commission’s proposal with one that aimed to manage the stock via agreed rules on setting catch limits. I welcome the amendments in the report by Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries. The Commission’s proposal was based on the premise that the sole stocks were in crisis and needed recovery plans. The amendments proposed in the committee’s report recognise that management action, rather than drastic fleet cuts, is more appropriate for this stock.

I also strongly support the Committee on Fisheries’ recognition that the management action for this stock should be developed with the involvement of regional advisory councils and other stakeholders.

 
  
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  Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I wish to begin by thanking the rapporteurs for their hard and constructive work. I also wish to thank Mr Varela Suanzes-Carpegna for his good work on the hake plan.

Concerning the proposal for a Council regulation establishing measures for the recovery of the Southern hake and Norway lobster stocks in the Cantabrian Sea and Western Iberian Peninsula and amending Regulation (EC) No 850/98, I can fully agree with 14 of the 26 amendments considered by the Committee on Fisheries. These are Amendments 2, 4, 10 in part, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 26.

It is appropriate to remove the out-of-date proposals concerning management by kilowatt days, to adapt the minimum quantities concerning control arrangements according to the measures set up for 2005, to establish tolerance margins and conversion factors consistent with those in the Northern hake recovery plan, and I can agree with the deletion of obsolete provisions concerning effort messages. The fishing mortality rate of 0.27 is acceptable because it is consistent with the Implementation Plan of the World Summit on Sustainable Development adopted in Johannesburg in 2002.

I also agree that it is appropriate that a recovery plan should anticipate a recovery taking place within less than five years. Although estimates of biomass of fish stocks are uncertain, observations of stock size above a precautionary level for two years in a row could be a way to signal the need to move from a recovery phase into a long-term management plan.

Concerning Amendment 10, we can, therefore, accept the 35 000 tonnes exit criterion, but not the requirement of a ten-year delay in recovery or the reference to ‘in a sufficient period of time’. Such an approach would be contrary to the FAO Code of Conduct. We do not fix the duration of the plans: we set an objective and estimate the approximate time we will need to achieve it.

I cannot accept Amendments 15 or 16 because the 10% constraint on TAC changes is too tight to allow an adaptation to real circumstances. In line with the opinion of the Advisory Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, the figure should be retained at 15% rather than 10%, but the 15% could apply in the first year of the plan.

I support the principles behind Amendment 17 and can accept paragraphs 1 and 2 of that amendment, with modifications committing the Council, as well as the Commission, and making reference to maintaining the arrangements embodied in Annex IVb of Regulation (EC) No 27/2005 on a comparable basis to the cod recovery plan. For these reasons, I cannot support Amendment 27.

In relation to paragraphs 3 and 4 of Amendment 17, and Amendments 3, 28 and 30, state aids should be decided in the context of the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance and the European Fisheries Fund, so that comparable financial resources are made available to all fishermen who find themselves in similar situations. As is the case with sole stocks, which I will come to later, it is appropriate to have an interim review procedure, but this should be done at reasonable intervals.

I could support Amendment 25, subject to the extension of the review period to four years rather than two years. I cannot support attempts to rebuild stock size year-by-year, because of the disruptions that this is likely to cause industry, and I cannot support Amendment 5.

After extensive consultation with my officials and with officials and fishing representatives in Member States, I can agree to some modification in the size and number of closed areas for fishing for Nephrops. However, complete deletion of any reference to closed areas, as in Amendments 6, 7, and 24, goes too far to be compatible with precautionary management at this stage.

Management of hake and Nephrops in the Gulf of Cadiz is an important issue given the abundance of juvenile hake in that area. On the basis of the precautionary principle, greater uncertainty in this area is not a reason to be less cautious, so I cannot support Amendments 1, 8 or 9, which would exclude this area. However, I accept that measures for the Gulf of Cadiz may need to be different.

I cannot accept Amendment 30. Capacity needs to be managed so as to be in balance with the productivity of the fish stocks. If either or both fishing effort and capacity were allowed to increase again once the stocks are recovered, the result would be a decline in the stocks and a reduction in the amount of fish available to the industry. This would not achieve the aim of sustainable exploitation.

Turning now to the Morillon report, I am pleased to say I can fully agree with Amendments 7, 16, 17, 18 19, 20, 21 and 22. It is entirely appropriate to remove the chapter concerning management of effort by kilowatt days, to apply control measures only to landings above 100 kg instead of 50 kg. I accept that the provision for the margin of tolerance in logbooks should be the same as that already adopted for Northern hake. I also accept that, as a general rule, variations in TAC should be limited to no more than 15% for these stocks.

Notwithstanding the deletion of the kilowatt days scheme from the proposal, it will be necessary to substitute alternative effort management measures. For the Western Channel sole, these should be based on the measures already introduced under Annex IVc of the current TAC and Quota Regulation.

The biological state of sole in the Bay of Biscay is apparently better than previously thought and it is appropriate to apply a management plan to this stock, rather than a recovery plan. I can therefore accept the substance of Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 12 and 13, but only insofar as it relates to Bay of Biscay sole. The biological conditions prevailing for Western Channel sole are sufficiently serious for recovery plan provisions to apply to that stock.

I also support the idea of an interim report mechanism as mooted in Amendment 11, as I mentioned when discussing southern hake and Nephrops. However, the plan needs to be given time to take effect before a review is useful, so a four-year interval would be appropriate here, which is a similar timescale to the one used for the interim evaluations of long-term measures agreed for the northern stocks shared with Norway.

I can also agree with the idea of setting a target fishing mortality rate for Bay of Biscay sole, as in Amendment 15. However, we should take account of the scientific advice that will be provided by STECF in June on this topic, and I will reserve my position on the right figure to use until I have seen that report.

However, I cannot agree with the idea of setting a TAC according to an annual increase in the quantity of adult fish in the sea. The scientific advice is simply not precise enough to allow such an approach and I fear the result would be an unwarranted, overly erratic adaptation of TACs. The fishing industry needs more stability than this method can provide. I am not therefore in a position to support Amendments 8 or 14.

I see legal problems with certain amendments. Amendment 5 would be in contradiction to the requirements of the last sentence of Article 5(2) of Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002 and the last sentence of Article 6(2) of the same Regulation. And while Regional Advisory Councils, where they exist, should be consulted when developing new legislation, the implementation of regulations is the responsibility of Member States. For this technical reason, I cannot support Amendments 5 or 6. However, we would certainly have no problem with Member State authorities consulting the Regional Advisory Council, on a voluntary basis, concerning such plans.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place during the next voting time, in a few minutes.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MOSCOVICI
Vice-President

 

6. Agenda for next part-session: see Minutes

7. Communication of Council common positions: see Minutes

8. Request for the defence of parliamentary immunity: see Minutes

9. Welcome
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  President. – I now have the pleasure of welcoming to the official gallery a delegation from the Armenian Parliament, led by Mr Armen Rustamyan.

(Applause)

The delegation took part, today and yesterday, in the seventh meeting of the EU-Armenia Cooperation Council. I wish them every success, following this welcome from the whole Parliament, in their meetings at the European Parliament, and a good stay in Strasbourg.

 

10. Voting time
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  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, we shall now proceed to the vote.

(For the results and other details of the votes: see Minutes)

 

11. Sole stocks

12. Re-usability, recyclability and recoverability of motor vehicles

13. Southern hake and Norway lobster stocks

14. Balkans
  

- Before the vote

 
  
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  Samuelsen (ALDE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. (DA) Mr President, in connection with adopting this resolution, we reached agreement in the Committee on Foreign Affairs on using the name ‘the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia’ when referring to this country in contexts not concerning the actual debate about the future name. I hope I can obtain Parliament’s support for sticking to this policy in the final resolution. This means, in other words, that, if amendments are adopted today with reference to Macedonia and if these are not concerned with the issue of the name, the term used in the final version will be ‘the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia’. We thus ensure that we shall vote on the substance of the resolution and that, irrespective of the outcome of the votes, the final result is clear to readers of the resolution. We can do something about the actual issue of the name when we come to Amendment 6 and Amendment 25.

 
  
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  President. – Thank you very much, Mr Samuelsen, I think that these precise details are extremely useful on a subject that is still so sensitive.

 
  
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  Pack (PPE-DE). (DE) Mr President, I would like to endorse what Mr Samuelsen has said, and, if we agree to this demand, to ask my colleagues to vote ‘yes’ rather than ‘no’ to Amendments 16 and 20, which have to do with the content rather than the name.

 

15. Common Foreign and Security Policy (2003)
  

before the vote on paragraph 32

 
  
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  Speroni (IND/DEM). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, three amendments have been tabled on paragraph 32, which have been marked as being identical. In actual fact, Amendment 13 differs from the other two by only one word. Nevertheless, the difference is important, because it is one thing to talk about the whole of China, and quite something else to talk about China. I therefore call for Amendment 13 to be put to the vote separately from Amendments 1 and 10.

 
  
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  President. – Before voting on Amendment 13 with the slight semantic difference emphasised by Mr Speroni, we shall first vote on Amendments 1 and 10, which are exactly identical.

(As Amendments 1 and 10 were adopted, Amendment 13 lapses)

 

16. European Security Strategy
  

– Before the vote on paragraph 8

 
  
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  Kuhne (PSE), rapporteur. (DE) Mr President, all Members have a copy of the update I have proposed, which involves the following substitution in paragraph 8:

‘… report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change presented to the UN Secretary-General on 1 December 2004’ with ‘… report presented by the Secretary-General of the UN entitled “In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all” on 21 March 2005.

(DE) This simply involves an update. As Mr Samuelsen raised the problem of names in connection with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, I would point out that this problem does not occur in the text to be voted on. If it were to occur at all, it would be in the justification, but that is not what we are dealing with.

 
  
  

(Parliament approved the oral amendment)

– Before the vote on paragraph 44

 
  
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  Beer (Verts/ALE). (DE) Mr President, I wish to move an oral amendment, with which we want to add emphasis to the demand for enhanced cooperation with the Americans rather than to oppose it in principle. Not only do we want to welcome the cooperation that is going on in relation to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but we also would like to see more efforts being made to that end in view of this year’s non-proliferation conference.

The non-proliferation strategy is an essential component in the European Security Strategy. Not least with reference to ongoing debates on non-proliferation and Iran, we wish to appeal for closer cooperation with our American partners in reinforcing non-proliferation as an instrument.

 
  
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  President. – Mrs Beer, please could you present the text of the amendment?

 
  
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  Beer (Verts/ALE). (DE) Mr President, the rapporteur has proposed the following:

‘Welcomes existing cooperation with the United States in the fields of non-proliferation’. Our proposed wording is: ‘Expresses its wish for stronger cooperation with the United States in the fields of non-proliferation’.

 
  
  

(Parliament accepted the oral amendment)

 

17. Doping in sport

18. Cultural diversity
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  President. – That concludes the vote.

 

19. Explanations of vote
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  President. – All the explanations of vote are in writing.

(The sitting was suspended at 12.45 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.)

Report: Morillon (A6-0050/2005)

 
  
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  Carlshamre and Malmström (ALDE), in writing. (SV) Despite some good efforts, current fisheries policy still involves the EU buying the right to misuse the natural resources of the poor. It is a modern form of colonialism. Genuine reform of fisheries policy is required, together with a totally changed view of our relationship with poor countries. We have therefore chosen to vote against the above-mentioned report in its entirety.

 
  
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  Goudin and Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) Mr Kuhne’s report deals with the European Security Strategy, and Mr Brok’s report deals with the Common Foreign and Security Policy. We are voting against both these resolutions in their entirety because they are aimed at further militarising EU cooperation and turning the EU into a major power speaking with a single voice in international contexts. This development would lead to the EU being given substantial resources that could be made better use of by other organisations.

We believe that the OSCE and the Council of Europe should be given priority in conflict prevention work at European level. On a global scale, the UN - with its importance, experience and legitimacy - is best suited to this work. The UN should also have the main responsibility for global disarmament and for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The UN should also be guaranteed resources for military crisis management.

There are no reasons for lifting the arms embargo against China, because demands regarding human rights are not being complied with. Encouragement should be given to the strict control of Sweden’s export of munitions.

We are opposed to Mr Brok’s call for the immediate implementation of the proposals in the EU Constitution designed to strengthen the EU’s defence and security policy, despite the Constitution not having been approved in all the countries and thus not having formally come into force. It shows amazing arrogance towards Europe’s voters.

 
  
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  Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) As we have repeatedly stated, the need to preserve fish stocks must be compatible with the needs of the populations whose livelihoods depend on fishing and the needs of industries associated with fishing. As well as this clear need for compatibility, the medium and long-term sustainability of fisheries must be guaranteed. Yet it must also be guaranteed in the short term.

Whilst this particular issue will not affect Portugal directly, it does have parallels with similar situations in which Portugal’s interests are at stake. I therefore voted in favour.

 
  
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  Wijkman (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) The Commission’s proposal is aimed at getting to grips with unduly high fishing mortality rates and the problems of obtaining adequate reproduction in these areas. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea showed, for example, in its report that fishing mortality rates had led to the quantities of mature Southern hake and Norway lobster in the Cantabrian Sea and Iberian peninsula being so low that stocks were no longer being replenished through reproduction and were now threatened with collapse. There is no reason for doing what the Committee on Fisheries has successfully done and voting in favour of watering down the Commission’s proposal at a time when the Commission is no doubt taking measures to get on top of the problems. Genuine reform of fisheries policy is required, together with a totally different view of our relationship with poor countries and of what constitutes a sustainable use of our natural resources. I have therefore chosen to vote against the two above-mentioned reports.

 
  
  

Report: Krahmer (A6-0004/2005)

 
  
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  Estrela (PSE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the report by Mr Krahmer on the proposal for a directive on the type-approval of motor vehicles with regard to their re-usability, recyclability and recoverability, for the following reasons:

Firstly, the directive attaches importance to the environment. According to the proposal, at least 85% by mass of any vehicle should be re-usable and/or recyclable, and at least 95% by mass of any vehicle should be re-usable and/or recoverable. Otherwise, the model in question cannot be placed on the market.

Secondly, the directive provides constructors and the type-approval authorities with a reasonable amount of time to carry out compliance checks on the 600 or so types on the market, a period that takes into account the car industry’s normal production cycles.

 
  
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  Marques (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) I wish to congratulate Mr Krahmer on his important report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the type-approval of motor vehicles with regard to their re-usability, recyclability and recoverability and amending Council Directive 70/156/EEC. I support the report, in particular the guarantees provided by car manufacturers as regards the ‘re-usability’, ‘recyclability’ and ‘recoverability’ of their cars.

Following the Lisbon Strategy, the EU must not overlook environmental policy. In this regard, one must agree that the manufacturer has a duty to prove that the vehicle concerned is environmentally friendly and to provide disposal firms with a detailed description of a recycling strategy. Measures such as Member States appointing type-approval authorities to check whether cars are environmentally friendly, and the provision of a longer period in which to implement this directive, 54 months, will ensure that this directive will be properly transposed and that the car industry will be prepared for the entry into force of this Community initiative.

 
  
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  Martin, David (PSE), in writing. I welcome the aim of these proposals to help reduce waste and provide information for consumers. These proposals reinforce good practice already established in the UK where around 75% of the two million cars and vans reaching the end of their lives are traditionally recovered or re-used. However, I have some reservations about the benefits of applying the design standard to existing vehicle types, in which case the economic and administrative burden may outweigh the environmental gain.

 
  
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  Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) There is concern about the damage to the environment caused by the inexorable rise in personal car use. This has given rise to initiatives such as the one before us, aimed at reducing adverse effects by improving conditions for recyclability, re-usability and recoverability.

Given the adoption of amendments intended to make this proposal for a directive more workable, regarding the date of its entry into force, for example, I voted in favour.

 
  
  

Report: Miguélez Ramos (A6-0051/2005)

 
  
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  Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We are disappointed that our amendments to the regulation before us were rejected, the purpose of which was to safeguard the present and future of fishermen, of fisheries and of this sector’s vital role in our diet, particularly in Portugal.

We are compelled to condemn as an act of hypocrisy the fact that Parliament has accepted the inclusion of socio-economic measures aimed at ‘mitigating’ the socio-economic effects of these plans, while there is no legal guarantee of Community funding and the recovery plans are not dependent on the existence of these socio-economic measures.

This was precisely the thrust of our amendments: to implement socio-economic measures that would fully compensate the fishermen’s loss of income, so that fishing would have a future.

Unlike those who see the scrapping of vessels as a way of making easy money in the short term, without a view to guaranteeing the sector’s future and disregarding the fact that many fishermen will lose their livelihoods, we are seeking to guarantee the future of fishing.

Given the problem of sustaining certain stocks of Southern hake and the need for their recovery, the fishermen affected must be fully compensated for the loss of income following the paralysis of their fleets. In that way, we will meet the prime objective, which is the future of fisheries.

This is why we do not support the report before us.

 
  
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  Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) I support the report before us in the form in which Parliament received it, because it strikes the balance sought by Portugal and jeopardised by the initial proposal, which laid down a range of measures that would have been damaging to national interests, especially in the short term, without sufficient justification.

Now that that balance has been struck, I voted in favour.

 
  
  

- Balkans (B6-0094/2005)

 
  
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  Goudin and Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) We are in favour of Croatia, Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Albania being more closely associated with the EU. Once these countries fully comply with the Copenhagen criteria, they should become members. That would be a natural development of the enlargement of the EU begun with the ten new members in May 2004. We are opposed, however, to strengthening the EU’s foreign policy, which is in many respects the aim of the resolution.

 
  
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  Howitt (PSE), in writing. The European Parliamentary Labour Party strongly supports the work being carried out tirelessly by Lord Ashdown, the High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Of course, we would wish that the functions of the office of the High Representative are gradually incorporated into sovereign domestic institutions. However, in the interim period, It is vital that the High Representative retains the right to use the powers expressed in his mandate when the circumstances require it.

 
  
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  Meijer (GUE/NGL), in writing.(NL) Ever since the early 90s, there has been an issue surrounding the name of Greece’s northerly neighbour. Three northern Greek provinces bear names with Macedonia in them, and it also plays a role in Greece’s ancient history. In the neighbouring country, the resistance movement against the Ottoman Empire before 1912 also used the name Macedonia, and that also became the name of Yugoslavia’s southern federal state between 1945 and 1991. It would be obvious to use this self-selected constitutional name ‘Republic of Macedonia’ generally.

Although every state chooses its own name without interference from other states or international bodies, attempts are still being made here from the outside to impose a different name in which only the last letter is indicative of the real name. If we were to condone this, then Luxembourg would no longer be allowed to be called Luxembourg, because there is the south-eastern Belgian province of the same name. Meanwhile, Macedonia has been recognised under its real name not only by the US, Russia and China, but also by Slovenia, which is an EU Member State, and by Bulgaria, which will one day be one. If the EU were to continue to refer to Macedonia by a different name, that would amount to unfair and discriminatory treatment meted out to what may one day be one of its Member States.

 
  
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  Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) In its neighbourhood policy, the EU must pay close attention to the Balkans, because we must monitor closely the development of countries moving towards various integration processes, and because experience of the recent past has taught us that peace cannot always be taken for granted in Europe.

Now that a number of years have gone by since the conflict was at its worst, the Balkan countries are slowly but surely following a path that should give us cause for satisfaction, albeit tempered by the knowledge that much remains to be done. Let us emphasise, however, that, looking back at the past, we must feel pleased and that, happily, looking into the future, we can feel hopeful.

 
  
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  Toussas (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The European Parliament resolution on the western Balkans expresses the more general move of the USA and the EU towards new border changes, the competition between them to divide up the area and the EU's attempts to annex it to Euro-transatlantic structures. The push for the independence of Kosovo, the discussion of the revision of the Dayton accords and the reference to functional problems in Serbia-Montenegro confirm the new cycle of border changes. However, setting such developments in motion will create a serious situation in the Balkans, which may turn into an explosive situation as a result of the more intense fight between the imperialists to control and divide up the area. The Balkan people have already paid with death and destruction for border changes as a result of imperialist interventions and wars by the USA, NATO and the EU. Consequently, Greece as a country, its people, and the other peoples are not safeguarded under any Euro-transatlantic agreements. There is an immediate and urgent need to strengthen the common fight of the peoples against the ΕU, the USA and ΝΑΤΟ which, among other things, are the main parties responsible for the tragic situation which the Balkan people are experiencing.

 
  
  

Report: Brok (A6-0062/2005)

 
  
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  Fotyga (UEN), in writing. The majority of this brilliant text is related to provisions of the Constitutional Treaty. I consider this step premature and undermining the sole competence of the Member States in pushing still undecided adoption of the Treaty. Therefore I vote against the report.

 
  
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  Howitt (PSE), in writing. The European Parliamentary Labour Party fully supports reform of the UN Security Council, in order that it better reflects today's world, and also supports improvements in the way that the EU speaks at the UN. However, it is inappropriate to talk of an EU seat, as the UN Charter does not allow for organisations such as the EU to become members. We would not wish to prejudge the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference.

 
  
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  Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) When we adopt this report, among the various ideas of major importance, we must not overlook the importance of combating terrorism as one of the central planks of the EU’s common foreign and security policy. Dialogue with third countries, international cooperation and the implementation of the 2004 EU/US Declaration are crucial factors in this regard. Against this backdrop, it is essential that we share with our Atlantic allies an awareness of the serious nature of the threats hanging over the free world.

 
  
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  Wijkman (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) In general, I support the development of the common foreign and security policy. In certain crisis situations, it is natural to use both military and civil resources. At the same time, it is important that humanitarian principles should not be watered down and that humanitarian operations should not be used for military purposes (something that has unfortunately happened in Iraq and Afghanistan).

It is also important to ensure that resources intended for long-term development cooperation are not used for other purposes. For these reasons, I have chosen to abstain because the wordings of both paragraphs 45 and 46 can offer scope for arbitrariness regarding these aspects.

 
  
  

Report: Kuhne (A6-0072/2005)

 
  
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  Marques (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of this report on the European Security Strategy (ESS), which for the first time provides a detailed definition of the concept of security. The ESS sees security as a prerequisite for development and focuses on factors that had not thus far been considered fundamental to security. In this regard, among the main threats to global security, it highlights the destructive power of poverty, malnutrition and disease.

The ESS lays down three strategic objectives. The EU must be capable of, firstly, identifying threats and taking swift action by military as well as non-military means; secondly, promoting security within its immediate border areas, but also those of the future; and, lastly, strengthening the international order.

I should like to emphasise, however, that the EU has serious shortcomings in terms of military means that may hinder its ability to carry out high-intensity humanitarian missions. The EU must be equipped with the technological wherewithal to assess potential threats.

 
  
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  Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) Whilst I welcome the fact that this report raises issues that are of immediate importance, it does not dispel my objections to the original document on which it is based.

By contrast with what one might expect from a document of this nature, the time spent on identifying threats is kept brief and questions requiring thorough analysis are summed up in short paragraphs, whereas the document devotes much attention to the ways in which to press the European Security Strategy into service. Either the EU knows very well why it wants these resources – and the reason is not mentioned here – or it does not know why it wants them, but knows that without those resources it has no clout.

Either way, we must express our concern at the lack of depth and substance, by contrast with similar documents drawn up by our allies.

 
  
  

– Doping in sport (B6-0215/2005)

 
  
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  Goudin and Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) We see the fight against doping in sport as a very important issue. It is so important that, in each and every one of the Member States, it needs to be handled by the national parliament. We do not view sport and athletics as issues for the EU.

We demand, however, that each Member State should have effective control of the EU’s external borders and combat the trade in illegal substances.

Citation E of the motion for a resolution states that the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe provides an appropriate legal basis for drawing up and implementing Community action in the field of sport.

One of the reasons for opposing the draft Constitution for Europe is precisely that, absurdly, it regulates matters that the Member States themselves should decide about.

We are therefore voting against this resolution.

 
  
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  Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) ‘Doping’ in sport is a multifaceted public health issue that concerns everyone, especially those directly involved – sportsmen and sportswomen.

The need to reach certain levels and achieve certain results, imposed by economic – sometimes colossal sums of money are involved – and political interests and mechanisms, which fly in the face of what ought to be the true values and aims of sport, fosters the use of a whole range of illicit substances that are often harmful to the health of sportsmen and women.

Sport should be seen not as a highly profitable money-making scheme for the benefit of a few, but as an educational, cultural and social activity that plays a key role in every aspect of a person’s physical, psychological and social makeup.

Among other measures, an educational and preventative policy must be introduced intended to encourage the healthy physical exercise of playing sport, starting during childhood and continuing throughout a person’s life.

 
  
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  Mann, Thomas (PPE-DE), in writing. (DE) I fully endorse the motion for a resolution on ‘Doping in Sport’. Over a decade ago, I was myself an active weightlifter, although I never, unfortunately, managed to achieve that bodybuilder’s dream figure that was so much in favour with women. Today, I am glad that I took only lots of protein, and never clenbuterol or anabolic steroids.

Both amateurs and professionals who dope themselves in the hope of finding sponsors, or financial support, and thereby perhaps fame, pay a high price for it. So often, what was then a star body is now not something you would want to look at.

The IOC’s World Anti-Doping-Agency, which organises intensive research and the monitoring and listing of prohibited substances has acted late in the day, but not too late. Last year, Germany’s national anti-doping agency carried out 8 000 inspections of training camps and competitions. In future, doping tests are going to be carried out at 20% of all UEFA competitions.

We need common international standards if monitored athletes are not to be put at a disadvantage in comparison to those who have not been adequately tested. What is needed is for those who manipulate the winning of their medals and prizes for the sake of profit or fame to be socially stigmatised for it. Only if sport is doping-free does it deserve recognition, and only if they are clean are sportsmen real examples to others.

 
  
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  Martin, David (PSE), in writing. I welcome this resolution drawing attention to the problem of doping in sport. The number of doping incidents over the 2004 Olympic Games again demonstrates the need to combat this very real problem.

The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe provides an appropriate legal basis to draw up and implement Community action in the field of sport. Therefore we have the legal means to protect not only increasingly pressurised sport professionals, but also the countless minors and amateurs vulnerable to doping in sport.

I particularly welcome the call for the Commission to support a sustained information campaign in order to establish an effective prevention policy. It is also important for Member States and the Commission to co-operate closely with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the Council of Europe and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a way which enables the European Union to act effectively with regard to the prevention and control of doping.

 
  
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  Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) By voting in favour of this resolution I am sharing the concerns as regards the use of drugs in sport, because it debases everything that sporting competition should stand for and because of the public health issues. Without prejudice to the rules on subsidiarity, it is clear that there is a level of intervention at which it would make sense for the Union to take action that, most importantly, might prove effective.

 
  
  

– Cultural diversity (B6-0216/2005)

 
  
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  Goudin and Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) We see this as an issue between the Member States and Unesco, even though the Council of Ministers has authorised the Commission to negotiate on the EU’s behalf regarding those parts of Unesco’s draft document that come within the EU’s competence. We do not believe that these issues should be for the EU to deal with.

It is patently absurd that the EU should speak with one voice for 25 Member States on issues concerning the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions.

We have therefore voted against this resolution in the final vote.

 
  
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  Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We acknowledge the importance of this Committee on Culture and Education initiative on the convention on protecting the diversity of cultural goods and artistic expression, given the importance of preserving and promoting cultural diversity and on the current negotiations at Unesco, particularly during the current fresh round of talks at the World Trade Organisation, which, under pressure from the large financial and economic groups, would prefer to liberalise all markets and put almost everything up for sale.

The creation of an international instrument in this area will help to consolidate the sovereign and cultural rights of people and countries and foster the development of public policies on international cooperation, and will ensure that cultural products will not be considered merchandise and put at the mercy of free trade and that the citizens have a fundamental right to access to a wide range of cultural goods.

Against this backdrop, it is essential to highlight the crucial role played by the public services in safeguarding, supporting and developing cultural identity and diversity, in guaranteeing pluralism and in ensuring that all citizens have access to content and knowledge.

Consequently, we must also acknowledge the importance of public funding and the determination on the part of the Member States to provide such funding.

 
  
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  Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) If there are areas in which subsidiarity makes perfect sense, one of those areas, as I have said on many occasions, is culture. This is without prejudice to all efforts aimed at, inter alia, cooperation, co-production experiments and Community programming, and without prejudice to international efforts, which should be channelled into ensuring effective diversity in cultural content and artistic expression. In so doing, we must always ensure that creative freedom, one of the prerequisites of such diversity, is not undermined.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR VIDAL-QUADRAS ROCA
Vice-President

 

20. Corrections to votes: see Minutes

21. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes

22. Transfers of appropriations: see Minutes

23. Drought in Portugal
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  President. The next item is the Commission Statement on the drought in Portugal.

 
  
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  Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, the Commission is well aware of the severity of the drought situation in Portugal. It understands the concerns and is fully committed to assist Portugal. My colleague, Commissioner Fischer Boel, met the Portuguese Minister of Agriculture, Mr Silva, on 6 April 2005 in relation to this issue.

There are three sets of instruments that are of particular importance in assisting Portuguese farmers. The first concerns market support and direct aid, where the Commission has already acted. It has adopted two decisions: one on 4 March to increase the advance payments for the bovine premiums for 2004 to 80%, and another on 7 April to allow the use of set-aside land for animal feeding in the affected regions.

Three more decisions are currently in preparation. The first concerns a temporary derogation from the density requirements of the regulation on the conversion of arable land to extensive livestock farming. It introduces a corrective correlation coefficient to be applied to the number of livestock units recorded on the holding. Another decision will extend the use of set-aside land for the feeding of animals to the whole continental territory of Portugal.

In this context, I also want to mention the Portuguese request for transfer of intervention stocks. Traditionally, the Commission is opposed to such transfers in light of abundant market supplies. Commissioner Fischer Boel has, in discussion with the Portuguese Minister of Agriculture, accepted the particularly difficult circumstances due to the prolonged drought in Portugal. She has asked the services of the Directorate-General for Agriculture to discuss the arrangements with Portuguese officials with regard to the disposal of the transferred stocks.

A third decision will authorise, under certain conditions, the advance payment of a number of premiums. These include an advance of 80% of the amount of the suckler cow premium, and 50% of the sheep, goats and dairy premium for 2005. Under Article 28(3)(c) of Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003, the single farm payment might be advanced as well, provided that it is not paid out before 16 October at the earliest and subject to controls being carried out.

The second instrument concerns rural development. When natural disasters occur, re-programming is possible. However, this possibility seems limited as we approach the end of the programming period and resources are scarce. Portugal asked that farmers continue to receive rural development payments even if certain conditions cannot be met due to the drought.

At the end of January 2005, the Portuguese authorities requested recognition of the drought as a force majeure under Article 39 of Regulation (EC) No 817/2004 and to accept derogations to certain conditions concerning the agri-environment measure.

Application of a force majeure requires a number of objective criteria, in particular the severity of the drought and the quantification of the consequences on agriculture and the farming economy. Some reports are already available and paint an initial picture of the expected consequences. On the basis of the information available, the Commission has no objection to the Portuguese request. However, Portugal will be asked for a more comprehensive report.

Portugal may decide to compensate farmers through state aid for income losses resulting from severe drought. They have to notify their plans to the Commission. The Commission will do its best to approve such plans quickly. However, it is essential to prove that the losses due to a climatic event reached a threshold of 20% or 30%; secondly, that there is a direct link between the losses and the adverse weather conditions; and thirdly, that no over-compensation occurs.

The Portuguese authorities can also use the de minimis regulation on state aid. Over a period of three years, up to EUR 3 000 per farmer can be granted in aid without the Commission being notified, provided that, among other conditions, the total amount for the period does not exceed EUR 17 832 000.

 
  
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  Queiró, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group.(PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, when we called for this debate, we were naturally counting on Parliament’s commitment, and, at this point, I should like to express my appreciation to all of the political groups for Parliament’s show of solidarity.

The drought in Portugal is extremely serious, as we know, and as Mr Borg has just described. Only a month ago, on 15 March, around 88% of Portuguese territory was suffering severe, or even extreme, drought, and despite recent rainfall, much has been irrecoverably lost. According to available data, even with average rainfall over the coming months – and the forecasts do not suggest in any way that this will be the case – we could be facing a situation that only happens once every 40 years.

Farming has been damaged, livestock is at risk, supplies to some communities have already been restricted and all of this in already habitually depressed regions. Indeed, as the situation becomes worse towards the summer, there is a danger that tourism, one of Portugal’s most important industries, will be seriously affected, and the effects of the drought will spread to many sectors and many thousands of Portuguese people. Immediate action is also needed to prevent a repeat of the devastating fires of two years ago, which were partly caused by a dry period, albeit not even approaching the scale of this one.

The situation is therefore worthy of EU solidarity and the longer we leave it to show that solidarity, the greater the cost and the less effective the impact. We therefore hope that the impulse of Parliament’s adoption of the proposed resolution leads the Commission to take quick and effective action to follow up Portugal’s requests, and there is clear evidence here that they are prepared to do this.

We also hope, should this become necessary, that the Commission will analyse and approve any plan for state aid – already mentioned here – with the aim of creating appropriations to compensate for losses, and of meeting the need to reinvest and restructure the debts incurred by farmers, whose survival is, after all, the reason why we are here today.

 
  
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  Capoulas Santos, on behalf of the PSE Group.(PT) Mr President, I should like to begin by thanking the Commissioner for his speech and for the Commission’s openness in relation to the difficult situation that Portugal is currently enduring. As you know, there is a severe drought in my country at the moment, which is especially acute in the regions of the south of the country.

Mr President, I should like to express my gratitude for the displays of solidarity and support from all Members to whom I have had the opportunity to explain the situation. I should also like to say how pleased I am to have had the opportunity to table this joint proposal, endorsed by the main political groups in Parliament.

We are at the start of a new dry season in Portugal, after almost no rainfall in autumn and winter, which is normally the country’s rainy season. In some regions, ground water levels are less than 20% of the average of the past 40 years. Consequently, all stocks of animal feed have run out, and, given that neither grazing land nor arable farmland has been growing, and that the use already in reservoirs is still restricted, it will not be possible to deliver new supplies in sufficient quantities for next autumn and winter. Furthermore, it will be necessary to feed cattle until spring of next year, in view of the fact that normal rainfall is expected next autumn.

This situation is utterly unbearable for both arable and livestock farmers and justifies a swift Commission response to the requests put forward by the Portuguese Government, which will have a negligible impact on the Community budget. After all, as Mr Borg rightly pointed out, the request is for advance payments and derogations from the rules of various regulations that would, in such circumstances, be impossible to comply with, whereby farmers will not be penalised, and for the granting of state aid to be authorised, especially for small farmers.

Nevertheless, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the situation in Portugal should constitute a warning for the future. We must therefore consider medium- and long-term solutions to this type of problem, such as setting up a protection system for safeguarding European farmers against risks and crises – a timely debate was held recently by the Commission on this issue – and, on a broader scale, reinforcing the Union’s role at the forefront of international efforts to address climate change and presenting practical proposals for strategic action beyond 2012.

I feel that in the short time I have had at my disposal, I have provided sufficient reason for Parliament to give this motion for a resolution its overwhelming support. I therefore call on you to vote in favour, secure in the knowledge that, as the Commissioner just said, the Commission will be taking the matter seriously.

 
  
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  Guardans Cambó, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (ES) Mr President, I would like to welcome the initiative which has led to this urgent debate in Parliament on the drought in Portugal and begin by expressing all the sympathy and solidarity I feel with regard to this problem as someone who also comes from the Iberian Peninsula.

It is clearly not necessary to be an expert in meteorology nor a weatherman to know that, if it does not rain in Portugal, it does not rain in certain areas of Spain either. I believe that is pretty obvious and that, therefore, with regard to the climatological dimension of what we are discussing here, the problem faced by Portugal is practically identical to that faced by a large part of Spain.

There is no question that the specific economic effects in the country are different depending on the particular geography or territory in question, however. But the problem of drought, the problem of lack of water, is a shared problem. That is why we have introduced certain amendments into this motion for resolution, some paragraphs of which extend its scope somewhat so that it does not just effect Portugal, but also, in part, the whole of the Iberian Peninsula. And I believe that that is what we must do.

Of course, my group is absolutely delighted that specific effects are highlighted, in some cases with very specific references to problems that affect Portugal in particular, and, specifically, the south of Portugal. But, as the previous speaker said, we should all begin to consider this issue in more depth, because this is not an isolated situation. The European Commission, therefore, has a responsibility for studying, anticipating and planning in relation to the consequences of climate change, which is not just an issue for great political speeches during great debates, but which has immediate and at times dramatic consequences for the economy of the countries, as we can see in this case. So that is the first thing I wished to stress: this is not an isolated situation, it is not a crisis that will pass, but it is something that warrants in-depth consideration and therefore requires medium- and long-term political measures.

With regard to the resolution itself, which discusses very specific issues, I would like to stress two or three. The first is essentially the insistence that the economic impact is a general impact, which goes beyond agriculture; the impact of the drought, for example, directly affects tourism and its entire rural dimension, and that is something that must always be taken into account, especially when we are discussing this issue.

Secondly, the reference to the drama that brings Spain and Portugal very close together, and I would go as far as to say Catalonia and Portugal as well: the issue of fires, of forest fires. That is an amendment that has been introduced and that does not just affect Portugal and, therefore, I would like to link the consequences of the drought with the extremely serious risk of fires and at the same time appeal for the possible application of the Solidarity Fund to deal with these issues. I believe this to be very important and that at the appropriate time it will probably require a resolution and debate directly dedicated to this issue.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Guerreiro, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) We have been warning the Commission and Parliament since the beginning of the year about the seriousness of one of the severest droughts in Portugal, the social, economic and environmental effects of which are set to worsen as the summer approaches.

In our question to the Commission in January, and our speech to Parliament in February, we said that urgent measures were needed to address the difficult situation in farming and that immediate steps should be taken to ensure that the water supply in various regions is not cut off. The situation for farming is giving cause for concern. The autumn/winter crops were lost and the spring/summer crops, such as tomatoes, maize, rice, fruit and vegetables are at risk; this is also the case with animal feed, and to the normal growth of autumn crops such as citrus and grapes. Some reforesting that was carried out after the 2003 and 2004 fires has been lost for good due to the lack of humidity in the soil.

This situation plunges thousands of small and medium-sized farms into serious financial difficulty. Practical measures are therefore urgently required to support Portuguese farmers, such as those measures provided for in the resolution, or, as we proposed, the creation of a public farmers’ insurance fund, financed by the Community, which will enable farmers to be paid a minimum income in the event of a disaster, such as drought or fire; financial support to offset the increased costs and the drop in agricultural production; temporary exemption from social security contributions, with no loss of rights, for full-time farmers with an income of less than 12 Economic Size Units (ESUs) and the extension of interest-free loans for two years.

Furthermore, short- and long-term measures must also be introduced, in order to guarantee that water – a public asset and a universal human right – is made available to the people in sufficient quantity and quality. We have therefore proposed an amendment emphasising the need to introduce practical measures to support local authorities in the parts of Portugal worst affected by the drought, whilst ensuring that the European Solidarity Fund is activated fairly.

Lastly, this situation once again points up the need to implement the important objectives laid down in the Kyoto Protocol, in order to prevent global warming and the effects that this has on climate change.

 
  
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  Coelho (PPE-DE).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, Portugal is enduring an appalling drought, with crops being lost, animals dying without food or water, environmental deterioration in the areas affected, increased risk of more forest fires in the summer and populations already relying on water supplies coming in from outside.

Mr Queiró mentioned earlier that 80% of the country is suffering from the drought. The agriculture sector has already incurred losses exceeding EUR 1 billion and that figure is set to rise. The hottest months are approaching, the temperature will rise significantly and no rainfall is expected been May and October.

At this time when we are looking to foster European solidarity with those worst affected, there is support that the EU must provide, much of which has nothing to do with money or subsidies, as Mr Capoulas Santos mentioned, but good will and an understanding of the difficulties on the ground.

Firstly, state aid; the Commission should authorise the Portuguese Government to grant state aid to support farmers who have lost their livelihoods, supporting the acquisition of animal feed and investment in water collection and distribution, and facilitating the restructuring of farmers’ bank debts; secondly, to make advance payment of premiums to which farmers are entitled – in full, not just in part, Commissioner; thirdly, to facilitate the transfer of cereal from Community intervention stocks arising from the surpluses in some Member States; fourthly, to grant derogations from various Community regulations, to which you referred, Commissioner, thereby authorising grazing in set-aside zones or on land planted with cereals already affected by the drought; fifthly, to release funds and mobilise resources to prevent a high number of forest fires this summer following the drought; sixthly, to look into the possibility of drawing on the European Solidarity Fund on such occasions; and seventhly, to reaffirm European positions on climate change and the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr President, Commissioner, the EU works best when it is closest to the citizens. The Portuguese citizens worst affected by the drought must also be made to feel that they are European citizens.

 
  
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  Casaca (PSE).(PT) Mr President, my first word is solidarity. We must show solidarity with the people in the worst affected areas, particularly farmers in the south of Portugal and in the border area. The situation is at its most severe in the Serra Algarvia and Margem Esquerda do Guadiana regions. We must show that this solidarity does not stop at the border and I wish to reassure Mr Guardans Cambó that it naturally extends to the whole of the population of Seville, Huelva, Badajoz, Cáceres and so forth, regions that are indeed also suffering the impact of what can only be termed a large-scale natural disaster. No matter what the regulation says, this is the reality of the situation and this is why solidarity is a key word to use here, too.

I am very pleased to see that nobody has mentioned the word ‘exaggeration’ – the situation has never been exaggerated, but has been described objectively and accurately. I am also pleased with the Commission’s commitment towards helping to tackle these problems.

I should like to place particular emphasis, however, on aspects that are, indisputably, intrinsically linked with a forest strategy that of course depends on Member States’ definitions, but which the Commission must also define accurately. Accordingly, when I hear that, as part of the revision of the forest strategy, the period in which aid due to loss of income can be paid has been reduced from 20 to 10 years, it strikes me that in the European institutions we have still not understood the crucial importance of a proper forestation strategy to combat these instances of near desertification.

It is absolutely vital that income support continue for decades as regards species that take dozens of years to grow, before which nothing whatsoever is produced. It is crucial that support for the forests in the south of the Iberian Peninsula be maintained and that that support be stepped up in relation to the alternatives. I would therefore ask the Commission to attach the highest importance to this aspect.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Portas (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, as has been said several times in this debate, my country is dry and the situation for arable and livestock farming is verging on critical. Things are already disastrous, hence the major importance of the proposals on which we are voting today. They partially alleviate and offset the losses incurred by the farmers. Other measures are required, though.

It is essential that water, which is a very scarce public asset in the southern countries of the EU, be managed sensibly. Our civilisation, and my country in particular, continues to waste a great deal of water and this must change. The same could be said of the current agricultural policy, which undervalues the Mediterranean countries, does not encourage sensible land occupation and does not foster sustainable ecology in the rural world. In August, when the fires inevitably hit again, we shall once again pay for this irresponsibility.

Lastly, we need new European risk prevention instruments. Mr Capoulas Santos is right in this respect. One thing we must do is set up a European farmers’ insurance fund that can channel part of the farmers’ contributions into a disaster fund, a participatory fund on the part of the Member States and the Union, a fund that can be automatically mobilised in situations such as the one in Portugal and the South of Spain, and on other occasions, in whatever country that may be.

 
  
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  Korhola (PPE-DE). (FI) Mr President, I wish to express my sympathy on account of the Portuguese drought and my support for the resolution. I would now like to speak of the phenomenon that is behind it, however: climate change. The subject relates precisely to what Finland’s leading university professors in the field of the environment were speaking about at a seminar held in Parliament here in Strasbourg this week. One of our themes was climate change. The seminar was also attended by a leading official from the Commission’s Directorate General for Research, who had been genuinely delighted with the contact between science and politics in Parliament. Such cooperation between scientists and politicians is welcome, but, obviously, we should not take it for granted. The world is not shaped in such a way that academic knowledge simply flows in the direction of politicians. Sometimes it takes application. Scientists have no pressing need to come and lobby us. Although society engages in scientific research, legislators are often unfortunately kept in the dark when it comes to knowledge of this kind.

We often wonder if, for example, the drought of 2003 is an indication of climate change. Researchers say that the question has been put the wrong way and that there is no straight answer to that. If we ask whether more droughts can be expected, however, they answer yes; if heat waves are to become more frequent, they answer yes; and if modern society will become more and more vulnerable to extreme weather phenomena, they answer yes.

Now is the time for action, then. We can no longer wait for more certain answers. The information we have now should be enough for us to take ever more effective action to avert or slow down climate change. That is one of our principle political priorities. An essential ingredient will also be adaptation policies, in which we need to make a determined effort to invest, by redefining our very policy areas and investing in research. We need, for example, a proper forestry strategy in this situation. Climate change, regrettably, cannot be entirely avoided, but it is now vitally important to minimise the extent of the human and material damage.

 
  
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  Madeira, (PSE). (PT) Mr President, as has been mentioned several times today, Portugal is experiencing possibly its most severe drought since 1990 or 1981. The figures are clear. As a consequence of this drought, the Alentejo and Algarve regions are at less than 50% of the maximum ground water capacity.

It is April, and as things stand around 25% of Portuguese municipalities have implemented precautionary measures to offset the effects of the drought. If I mention these figures, and all those that we have heard here today, with particularly strong emphasis, I do so because these have been the most devastated regions of the Portuguese mainland in recent years. I mention this to you, because these were the areas that received support from the Solidarity Fund when it was activated following the fires in 2003, in which thousands of people saw their livelihoods and their possessions go up in smoke. I mention the 2004 fires, which ravaged everything that had stoutly resisted the raging fire of 2003. I mention the areas that are worst affected by the enlargement and that, in theory, became wealthy overnight due to the well-documented statistical effect.

The people who have suffered most are all those who had for many years shown strength and resolve in the face of disaster after disaster, people who make a living from the land, from livestock, from forests, from tourism and from the environment, people of meagre resources. They have suffered from the drought caused by the weather and from the water shortage, because the reservoirs that ought to act as a safety net are already down to just 30 to 40% of useful capacity.

Commissioner, this would not have happened, or would have been appreciably less severe, if at least in the south the Commission showed it was ready to settle its differences with Portugal over the Odelouca dam and the remaining reservoir network. This situation is dragging on and has led us into the difficulties in which we find ourselves at the moment. I therefore ask you, Commissioner, whether you are prepared – whether the Commission is prepared – to solve this structural problem, so that in the future the people do not have to see such disasters happening again and again.

I naturally thank the Commission for all of the proposals that it has tabled here today as emergency solutions, yet as many Members of this House have said, what we need are practical proposals, some of which are on the table and simply need the Commission’s approval.

 
  
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  Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I thank the honourable Members for their comments on the Commission statement. The Commission shares the concerns expressed here on the effects of the drought in Portugal. As I stated at the start of this debate, we will do what we can to assist those most affected by the drought, i.e. the agricultural community. These measures will, in turn, also help the affected rural economies.

I have listened to your concerns and your information about the hardship on the ground. Certainly the Commission will demonstrate its solidarity by putting in place the measures that I listed earlier. My colleague, Commissioner Fischer Boel, is conscious of the problems and has done and is doing everything possible to address the situation.

As for the idea of setting up a more permanent structure to deal with such situations, I will forward the information to my colleagues, who will doubtless give it careful consideration. Other ideas and suggestions have been put forward, which will be given due consideration by the Commission. A number of you mentioned the need to take a wider look at the issue and at the causes of this kind of drought, which range from climate change to forestry policy.

I thank you for your suggestions and your proposals, which seek to take a longer-term and more coordinated approach to this phenomenon. They certainly give me much food for thought and demonstrate Parliament’s commitment to sustainable development, a commitment that is shared fully by the Commission.

The Commission is very sensitive to this issue and to the hardship that it has caused. We will do what we can and will demonstrate our solidarity with those most affected by this drought.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. To end this debate, I have received four motions for resolutions(1) which we will vote on this afternoon following the debates.

Written statement (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Gutiérrez-Cortines (PPE-DE). (ES) It is surprising that the European Union has yet to draw up and implement a short- and long-term strategy to combat drought and desertification, since, in the countries of the south and the Mediterranean, this is one of the main threats to economic and social sustainability. The lack of a joint plan between the countries and the Commission (Agriculture and Environment) is, however, all the more striking given that the European Environment Agency has recently stressed that the areas that will suffer most from the negative affects of the expected climate change are the Mediterranean countries.

We therefore support a policy to combat drought in Portugal and any assistance to alleviate the impact of this water shortage on productivity, the market and cultivation itself. Furthermore, we are asking that it be extended to other countries of the south.

 
  

(1) See Minutes.


24. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (Rule 115)

25. Bangladesh
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  President. The next item is the debate on the six motions for resolutions on Bangladesh(1).

 
  
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  Schlyter (Verts/ALE), rapporteur. (SV) Mr President, imagine that, in one of our Member States, bomb attacks were to take place against former ministers, journalists were to be killed and opposition politicians murdered, and people were to be imprisoned and tortured by paramilitary forces. Imagine if these things were to happen in your own countries. In that case, we should be debating them every day in Parliament, demanding immediate measures and tackling the problems as rapidly as possible.

That is precisely what the government in Bangladesh has failed to do. It has not grappled with these problems in time and with sufficient vigour. This is all the more regrettable inasmuch as Bangladesh has for a long time been a country in which women have had a lot of freedom and the ability to exercise political power. In many ways, it has been possible to see Bangladesh as a good example of positive development in both economic and political terms. All this is now in danger of being destroyed if the Bangladeshi Government does not take vigorous action. I think we must do everything in our power to help solve the problems and improve the situation in Bangladesh. I find it sad that there are fellow MEPs in this House who want to weaken the resolution when we know how serious the problems are. I hope that we shall today obtain a majority in favour of maintaining the resolution, without it being weakened by amendments designed to describe the reality as other than it is. I am pleased that we have finally taken this initiative and are putting Bangladesh on the agenda. Its people need our support, and that is what we can offer them today.

 
  
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  Mann, Thomas (PPE-DE) – (DE) Mr President, Shah Kibria, a former finance minister of Bangladesh, had just finished a speech at an event of that country’s main opposition party, of which he was a member. There, upon the spot, he was blown to bits by a grenade; three other people were killed and fifty wounded. It is with attacks such as this that Islamic extremists have created a climate of fear. There are parts of the country in which public offices appear to be collaborating with them. This is an intolerable situation. Amnesty International and the United States confirm that members of religious minorities are being systematically intimidated, persecuted and are subject to arbitrary arrest.

No satisfactory improvement has occurred either in response to the last resolution by this House, in November 2002, or to the last visit to the country by our SAARC delegation, in February 2003. Recently, though, the government has had two leaders of Muslim criminal organisations imprisoned and their bank accounts frozen.

We call upon the government to be more vigorous in taking action against extremists. Bangladesh must also meet its obligations under the internal conventions on human rights that it has ratified. It must outlaw torture, guarantee press freedom and the free expression of opinion, and press on with the fight against corruption. Only if it achieves perceptible progress in these areas should the conditions of the 2001 EU/Bangladesh cooperation agreement apply, for it was and is founded upon respect for human rights and the maintenance of democracy.

The differences that exist between the government and the opposition must not stand in the way of their at least agreeing to allow the parliament, currently suspended, to resume its functions. Both sides must then work to create conditions that do not allow radicalism, paramilitary activity and religious extremism to operate.

 
  
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  Meijer (GUE/NGL), author. (NL) Mr President, when, in 1947, the enormous British colonial empire in South-Asia was divided on the basis of the regions’ predominant religion, the east of the province of Bengal was apportioned to the Muslim State of Pakistan. It was an overpopulated and flood-prone area, which attracted the sympathy of the entire world, and, in 1971, it broke away from Pakistan, the faraway land in the west that had no interest whatsoever in helping to solve the problems of this eastern colony. The new state could have made a good start had it, for example, followed the Dutch example of building sea walls and draining populated areas which flooded during storm tides; there would have been more space for the inhabitants and their food supply. Instead, we witnessed in Bangladesh a grim, clan-based struggle between two parties that are fighting a feud while both denying each other’s right to exist.

In addition, the country has for some time been dominated by the sort of intolerant religious fanaticism that hardly existed in other parts of the Islamic world until 20 years ago. This fanaticism leaves no room for religious minorities, including Ahmadiyya Muslims or Hindus. Intimidation and violent attacks by government supporters go unpunished. Paramilitary groups, which claiming to fight crime, commit acts of torture and murder. Bangladesh is at risk of sliding into a spiral of self-destruction. Widely supported though it has been, a statement denouncing intimidation, violence, torture, exemption from punishment and economic stagnation will do nothing to solve the problem; instead, it should be a starting point to determine how we in Europe can best deal with that unfortunate country in future. That presupposes, at the very least, solidarity with the victims.

 
  
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  Tannock, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. Mr President, about a third of this poor, over-populated but democratic country of 140 million people is landless and forced to live on, and cultivate, flood-prone land. Traditionally the majority Muslim population has lived peacefully with other religious minorities, and Bangladesh has a good record on education and civil rights for women. The majority BNP Government, in power since 2001, has particular problems with economic reform as it is often blocked by political in-fighting and corruption. Matters are not helped by the current boycott of parliamentary dialogue by the Awami League opposition.

There have been attacks on opposition figures, that is true, but the authorities to their credit have arrested eight suspects, in spite of them being part of the ruling party coalition, and two radical Islamist groups have recently been banned. Bangladesh also protests at India’s understandable attempts to fence off the porous international border which is subject to contraband, including illegal drug smuggling.

One encouraging note is that growth has been steady at 5% for the past few years, but Bangladesh now feels threatened by unlimited Chinese textile exports. We in the European Union need to be patient and give Bangladesh every political and financial support, encourage good governance and the fight against corruption and Islamic fundamentalism.

I call upon the House to support my amendments to produce a more balanced resolution.

 
  
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  Stroz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(CS) The state of Bangladesh was established in 1971 following a struggle for independence. This predominantly Muslim country is attempting to find solutions to daunting problems in the face of a very high population density, natural disasters and poverty. The resolution leads one to believe that very little progress has been made, and ignores the fact that successes have in fact been achieved; for example, the country produces enough food to feed its citizens. It is a great shame that Bangladeshi government and opposition representatives could not have been asked in advance for their views on the resolution, which highlights the modest progress that has been made in a number of fields and emphasises the need to continue moving in the right direction. The fact that they were not does not reflect well on the European Parliament. Our attempts to boost democracy in the country are welcome, but it is a pity that we failed to mention any positive signs of democratic developments in the joint motion for a resolution. Even though we disagree with a number of unproven statements in the resolution, we support the country’s progress towards democracy and hope it will continue, particularly with regard to preparations for the next parliamentary elections.

 
  
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  Belder, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (NL) Mr President, today is New Year’s Day in Bangladesh. It is my heartfelt wish that the blessing of the Lord may rest upon that country’s leaders and its inhabitants for the New Year. While there is room for improvement in Europe too, we also have a few suggestions for Bangladesh in terms of New Year’s resolutions. Although it is regrettable that the constitution has since 1998 declared Islam the state religion, it does allow other religions to be professed, practised and propagated, so it is odd that it does not protect the ‘right to convert’. Would it not be a sound resolve to better regulate the freedom of religion in the constitution and abolish state religion?

I should like to illustrate the need for this with a real-life example. On Monday 4 April, reliable sources confirmed that Dulal Sarkar, a Christian, was killed on 8 March of this year. He was the pastor of the Bangladesh Free Baptist Church in the village of Jalalpur in the south-western district of Khulna. This man was simply doing his job and was not offending against the constitution in any way. On his way home, he was attacked by ten armed Muslim extremists and subsequently beheaded. These Muslim extremists are reported to have links with the Jamaat-e-Islami, a political party currently forming part of the government coalition. Dulal Sarkar leaves behind his mother, his wife and five children, and at present, his wife and family are forced to move from house to house in an effort to avoid retaliatory action from Muslim extremists.

The draft resolution that we co-signed is therefore extremely clear. We are indeed deeply concerned about growing Muslim fundamentalism with its paramilitary groups and the abuse of power by fundamentalist Muslim parties. I am at the same time emphatically opposed to moderating amendments that have been tabled in respect of this unambiguous draft resolution. I urge the Council and the Commission, in conjunction with the State Department referred to in citation 2(2), to fight these expressions of Muslim fundamentalism. This can be done by applying the penalties referred to in cooperation agreements to violations of democratic principles, all of this in a bid to improve the plight of the Bengali citizens.

 
  
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  Czarnecki, Ryszard (NI).   (PL) Mr President, Bangladesh is exactly 34 years and 19 days old, which means that it is a very young state. At the same time, it is a very poor state. Despite the fact that poverty levels have dropped by around 1% per year over the past decade, 50% of the population still lives below the poverty line. Every year 325 000 children die, or in other words 900 every day, and on average one woman dies every 20 minutes in Bangladesh, or 26 000 every year, due to childbirth-related causes. The proportion of low birth weight babies is between 30% and 50%, and 30% of the population has no access at all to clean water. On the positive side, access to sanitary facilities has doubled over the past decade, and now stands at 43% of the population.

The debate we are holding today is political in nature, but I see it as an opportunity to highlight the tragic conditions in Bangladesh, which was formerly known as East Bengal. I am delighted that the European Parliament has taken up this matter.

 
  
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  Deva (PPE-DE). Mr President, this motion is ridiculous. We are talking about a country of 143 million people. It is one of the poorest countries in the world still able to manage its own affairs. It has been a democracy for some time now. There are parliamentary elections, parliamentary democracy and governance. The country is about the size of Belgium but has 143 million people. They are managing to feed themselves for the first time after many years of independence and of course there are problems. In Sudan, 300 000 people were killed, but that does not relate to the issue about which we have just heard: the outrage at somebody being killed. A total of two ministers out of a government of fifty-six ministers does not make the government Islamist. We need to have proportionality in our debates otherwise the world will laugh at us.

The European Parliament is supposed to be an important institution, but look at how many Members are here. There are no more than fifty Members in this Chamber and they are apparently so concerned about this. We must use these human rights debates to talk about serious matters affecting people and their human rights. Three hundred thousand people have been killed in Darfur. What are we doing about that?

Let us introduce some proportionality and balance to our debates and give the issues we discuss in these human rights debates some serious consideration.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, the European Commission welcomes the European Parliament’s initiative to draw public attention to the serious governance and human rights situation in Bangladesh.

Today’s debate is very timely; it is being held against the background of a law and order situation that has suffered a serious decline since the last European Parliament resolution of November 2002. Abuses against human rights activists, journalists and minorities are on the increase. The governance situation is at an all-time low and political violence has reached a new climax, as sadly exemplified by the grenade attack in August 2004 and the tragic assassination of former Finance Minister Kibria in January.

We share your concerns about the dysfunction of the country’s institutions, the culture of impunity, mounting fundamentalism, the human rights abuses of minorities and the escalating confrontation between ruling and opposition parties. All these factors, combined with mounting religious militancy, make us believe that Bangladesh’s democratic and secular foundations are in jeopardy.

The European Community has been very vocal on these issues, not least in view of our development mandate and the human rights clause that provides the basis of our aid relationship with Bangladesh.

Over the last months the European Community and the Member States have repeatedly called on the government to condemn the persecution of political opponents, intellectuals, journalists, NGOs and minorities. The European Union has reacted strongly to the attack on Mrs Sheikh Hasina and the assassination of former Minister Kibria by urging the government to restore justice without delay and to give clear signals that acts of terrorism are not acceptable.

We are continuously stressing our concerns about the climate of impunity reigning in the country, the confrontational politics, the mounting attacks against the tribal people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Ahmadiyya Community and the extrajudicial killings in ‘crossfire’ by special police forces. Let me also note that the European Union showed great unity on Bangladesh at this year’s Human Rights Commission in Geneva, where the EU agreed to single out Bangladesh as one of five countries in its statement of principle on human rights in the world.

The deteriorating governance situation has compelled us to enhance donor unity. In February the European Community, the World Bank and the US Department of State convened a meeting in Washington with all major international donors to discuss how we can foster key governance reforms.

The exchanges confirmed that our concerns are fully shared by the international donor community. This donor unity has allowed us to define common priorities and to convey strong private messages to the government on the poor governance and the urgent need to deliver on reforms.

The gathering in Washington had a clear impact on the country: it prompted the government to admit publicly the existence of an Islamic fundamentalist problem. Alas, the government crackdown on Islamic militants is already petering out, as demonstrated by charges being dropped against a prominent Islamic leader.

For its part, the Commission will continue closely to monitor the political situation in the country and pursue these fundamental issues through our political dialogue with the government and close donor coordination. In that context we will also increase the focus of our attention on the next parliamentary elections in late 2006 and the conditions for free and fair elections. The political dialogue will be underpinned by our offer to support pressing institutional reforms in the next aid strategy which, if accepted by the government, would contribute to a meaningful change and thus to more progress and prosperity for the people of Bangladesh.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place this afternoon following the debates.

 
  

(1) See Minutes.


26. Humanitarian assistance to refugees from Western Sahara
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  President. The next item is the debate on the five motions for resolutions on humanitarian assistance to refugees from Western Sahara(1).

 
  
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  Guardans Cambó (ALDE), author. (ES) Mr President, I was prepared to add my name to a list of speakers and not to begin a debate. In any event, it is the case that this joint resolution that we are going to approve on the situation of the refugees in the Sahara is self-explanatory and deals with a strictly humanitarian drama.

When dealing with the situation of human rights in the world, we will find a paragraph on the situation in the Sahara. Moreover, the political situation in the Sahara warrants further consideration. The strictly humanitarian situation is what we are dealing with now, however.

We are talking about around 200 000 refugees who have been living in refugee camps for almost 30 years and whose only resource is international humanitarian aid. That is what we are talking about today. That, moreover, is what is in jeopardy for various reasons, including some purely bureaucratic reasons affecting the European Commission.

All of this is on the point of creating a genuine humanitarian crisis. That is what this motion for a resolution is intended to deal with, calling urgently on the Commission to adopt a series of measures to prevent a humanitarian crisis of unforeseeable proportions. Furthermore, certain very specific measures are proposed, such as better cooperation with non-governmental organisations on the ground and greater support for the Sahrawi institutions which, within the refugee camps, cooperate in the administration of that humanitarian aid, which, I would emphasise, is the only source of income for 200 000 people.

There is no question but that this resolution only resolves and deals with part of the problem and that we cannot turn a blind eye to the fundamental problem. There is a serious problem on Europe’s doorstep, and sooner or later we will have to exert every possible political and diplomatic pressure on the various players involved in resolving this conflict so that we can put an end to the need for debates such as this one as soon as possible: how we can feed 200 000 people who, without us, will have nothing to eat.

 
  
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  Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), author. (ES) Mr President, the resolution we are presenting and voting on today relates to the increasing deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Sahrawi camps. We are talking about a commitment made by the parliamentary delegation that visited the camps a few weeks ago, and which we are now fulfilling. Assistance is running out, and we must respond urgently to this situation.

Nevertheless, we must also be very aware that the humanitarian issue actually hides the real problem, which is a political one. Humanitarian assistance is necessary, because the Sahrawi people are obliged to live in camps, far from their homes, and cannot live normal lives in those circumstances. After thirty years with no solution to the conflict, patience is running out in the camps. Some voices are even calling for a return to an armed approach if the situation is not resolved soon. This is very worrying; the European Union cannot ignore this fact. The most worrying thing, however, is that the solution is on the table, it exists and is called the Baker Plan II. It is an imperfect plan, certainly, but it is a plan that the Sahrawi people have accepted, and they have given way significantly on some of their positions. Despite this, the other party, Morocco, refuses to sign it, however.

Europe is looking to Spain, and the Spanish Government must therefore lead the process of resolving this conflict. Let us not forget that the Sahrawi population is in the camps today as a result of incomplete decolonisation, and the main culprit here is the Spanish Government. I would therefore urge President Rodríguez Zapatero to give Spain the kind of role played by Portugal in relation to Timor.

After thirty years of being ignored, of silence and of broken promises, the time has come for the world in general, and Europe in particular, to stop turning its back on the problem and to face it head on. It is time for the Sahrawi people to be granted their fair and understandable request for a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara, in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter.

Finally, I would also like to express my solidarity with the Moroccan journalist Alí Lmrabet, who has been unfairly convicted of defamation after stating that the people living in the camps are not prisoners but refugees.

 
  
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  Portas (GUE/NGL), author.(PT) Mr President, you are aware of the biblical story in which a people wandered in the desert for 40 years. There is much myth in this adventure and in fact it is our adventure. In the case of the Sahrawi population, we are not speaking about myths but about real events taking place in contemporary history. These people have been waiting for 30 years in the Saharan desert of deserts. They are not looking for the promised land, but simply wish to regain sovereignty over their land.

Mr President, when I was a journalist I visited many refugee camps. In Ethiopia, I discovered that there is a fourth world, a place where the people walk, walk and walk, because walking is a way of surviving, but I have never seen anything like the Tindouf camps. Out there in the sands, there is no electricity, but solidarity has brought them solar panels; out there, there is not a drop of water, but the water that aid has supplied has reached each refugee equally, along with flour, sugar and olive oil. The Sahrawi people depend on aid but they are not beggars.

Parliament therefore has an urgent responsibility, namely to restore levels of humanitarian support in all its facets, and an emergency that is a responsibility. Real aid is the type of aid that can put an end to aid. Europe must commit itself to a referendum on self-determination, not only in words but also in deeds, because while they, the Sahrawis, have time, we have the clock.

 
  
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  Scheele (PSE), author. (DE) Mr President, the reason why we have again, today, been discussing humanitarian aid for refugees from the Western Sahara is that their homeland was not decolonised in the way planned by the United Nations as long ago as 1965, but has instead been occupied for over 30 years by its neighbour, Morocco. At the beginning of March, a number of us MEPs visited the refugee camps, where the conditions are very difficult, and were able to inform ourselves about not only the political, but also the humanitarian, situation.

As we know that their most important food reserves will be exhausted by the end of next month, we call on ECHO and the Commission not only to provide immediate aid measures, but also to give the amounts that were laid down in 2002. I believe that the change in ECHO’s policy, which now involves channelling aid through the World Food Programme, has brought problems in its train in so far as it now adds up to less aid for an increasing number of Saharan refugees and also less variety in the types of aid provided. This House must play its part in securing for the people of the Sahara not only humanitarian aid, but also self-determination, to both of which they are entitled.

 
  
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  Pomés Ruiz (PPE-DE), author. (ES) Mr President, this resolution is the result of the commitment made by certain Members of the European Parliament, including Mr Portas, Mr Romeva and Mrs Scheele, in the refugee camps in Tindouf, where we spent four days together experiencing the harshness of living in the middle of the desert. We spent a few days there witnessing the suffering of the Sahrawi people, because they have no political, peaceful or ordered solution to their situation.

Like them, we lived without water or electricity. In addition to these harsh conditions in Tindouf because these 150 000 human beings live in the middle of the desert without any comforts they are faced, however, with a situation in which our humanitarian assistance is being reduced.

The resolution we are proposing here talks strictly about humanitarian assistance, because we witnessed directly the humanitarian difficulties faced by the Sahrawi people as a result of a lack of assistance. The assistance they were receiving is being reduced. I do not know whether any particular Member State of the European Union is responsible for this. France’s position on this conflict is very clear... I do not want to talk about that, however, because what we are saying here is that it is important for the European Union to continue to provide the assistance it has been providing for these 150 000 Sahrawis who are trying to find a solution.

Political problems are one thing, and we will have to seek solutions in this regard, and other resolutions will deal with them. We cannot, however, ignore the fact that, just a few kilometres from the European Union, we have 150 000 Sahrawis who are suffering because we are not sufficiently generous and because, by no longer sending flour or by reducing the quotas of food that we were sending, we are contributing to the deterioration of the living conditions in the refugee camps, which are quite difficult enough in themselves.

The European Union also has a responsibility as the main donor of aid from the United Nations. We will have to make our voice heard there as well.

 
  
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  Varvitsiotis, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group.(EL) Mr President, it is about 30 years since thousands of nomads from the Western Sahara fled to remote areas of neighbouring Algeria in order to escape the conflicts which had broken out between the guerrillas of the Western Sahara and Morocco following the withdrawal of Spain from its former colony. Today the exiles, estimated to number between approximately 160 000 and 200 000 people, are living in the Algerian desert and are totally dependent on donations from the international community, on the humanitarian aid sent to them via the UN World Food Programme. An acute lack of humanitarian food aid and inadequate funding are threatening the old, isolated camps, which find it hard to withstand the savage desert climate.

That is why we are calling for the granting of immediate emergency aid, which will guarantee satisfactory distribution of food and of the food distribution teams needed, without overlooking the need for proper shelter and education. We are calling on the Commission to keep aid at the same levels at least as ECHO and to coordinate donors and European non-governmental organisations which already have a great deal of experience on the ground in saving refugees.

The international community has no right to remain indifferent. Its response must be commensurate with its responsibilities. The global dimension of the causes and extent and of the methods for dealing with numerous problems is no longer in dispute. The joint resolution gives strength to this conviction on our part.

 
  
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  Gomes, on behalf of the PSE Group. (PT) In March, I spent three days, along with other Members of Parliament, in tents and I saw the appalling conditions in which people live there. We came home and they stayed there. My conviction grew that it is of pressing importance for the EU to work to free us from the duty to continue for many more years to provide for the Sahrawi people’s most basic needs. The Sahrawis know – and have shown that they know – how to work, how to organise themselves and how to survive in the most inhospitable conditions, were they able to go back and regain control of their land, which is illegally occupied by Morocco.

Through humanitarian aid, the EU must not resign itself to appeasing the conscience of the international community and its Member States with particular responsibilities in the process towards decolonisation in Sahara, which has found its path blocked by obstacles. The EU must take action to give impetus to the search for a political solution to the process, under the auspices of the UN. Morocco has blocked the process, repeatedly vetoing the most up-to-date proposals made by James Baker, and this ultimately led to his resignation.

The Member States, and in particular those on the Security Council, must not continue to overlook the nub of the issue. The conflict is directly linked to Europe and not only because of historical responsibility. European interests are at stake.

Western Sahara could be a supplier to Europe, if its abundant natural resources of oil, phosphates, fish and others could be legitimately and sustainably exploited, something that is not happening under the illegal occupation. It is also the case that Europe’s very security is at stake.

Western Sahara is on our doorstep, and we have an immediate obligation to understand the underlying problems that feed into international terrorism. What kind of anger is being passed on to new generations of Sahrawis in the Tindouf refugee camps involved in the resistance in occupied Sahara, if they are not taken from the arms of fundamentalist radicals, if the EU, the United States, the Arab world and the rest of the international community denies them an outlet for resolving their conflict, thereby condemning them to impotent despair in the face of injustice, violence and destitution? I shall finish by saying that the EU must also make Rabat understand that it is in Morocco’s interest to end the illegal occupation of Western Sahara.

 
  
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  Guerreiro, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) We feel that this resolution is very important, albeit inadequate, given the difficult humanitarian situation faced by the Sahrawi people in the refugee camps.

We must show immediate and practical solidarity with these people in terms of food, health care and education, and must ensure that such support is maintained in the future.

Solidarity and practical, immediate and effective action is also required to put an end to the unacceptable occupation in Western Sahara, to guarantee the Sahrawi people the right to self-determination and independence and to ensure compliance with United Nations resolutions.

 
  
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  Romagnoli (NI). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is truly necessary for Parliament and the European Union to commit themselves much more than they have done so far in defence of peoples’ right to self-determination, particularly in such striking cases as that of the Sahrawi people.

Although this matter has been dragging on since the time of Spanish decolonisation, little attention is paid to the Western Sahara: it does not involve large-scale interests or large-scale numbers, it does not interest bankers to any great degree and does not whet particular geopolitical appetites. Perhaps it is also because the Sahrawi people have not waged their own war for self-determination outside the desert, they have not resorted to degrading terrorist actions, and they have not served the interests of powerful allies formerly in conflict.

Europe must therefore commit to immediate humanitarian aid for the Sahrawi, but above all it must impose sanctions on the Kingdom of Morocco, so that it will respect the self-determination rights of this decent and proud people.

 
  
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  García Pérez (PSE). (ES) Mr President, forgetting is the great enemy of many situations of injustice in the world. It is therefore more necessary today than ever to draw attention to one of these situations: that of the Sahrawi people. After thirty years, these men and women survive in an entirely inhumane situation, deprived of the most basic needs and living in extremely difficult conditions. In spite of this, they offer an excellent example of organisation and work, which keep them united in great dignity, and in particular we should stress the courage of the Sahrawi women, who have been able to create a well-structured society out of nothing.

We in Europe have a moral and political obligation today. We are talking about an extreme situation that demands an immediate response. The Sahrawi people would like to live from their own resources and their own work, but unfortunately they must rely on our solidarity. The Sahrawi people have demonstrated their capacity for organisation and for managing resources. What, therefore, we are calling for today in this Assembly is an increase in European assistance and faith in the ability of the Sahrawi structures to manage it.

We cannot forget that the cause of this humanitarian problem originates from a political conflict which needs to be dealt with. We must be in a position to resolve the political issue, and the referendum on self-determination for the Sahrawi people must become a reality. We must be able to find a fair and definitive solution.

Peace and freedom for the Sahrawi people.

 
  
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  Borg, Member of the Commission. Thank you for your initiative, which gives me the opportunity to express the Commission’s views concerning the Western Sahara conflict.

First of all, let me stress that the Commission would like to see this conflict resolved soon and its resolution is crucial for the stability, regional integration and development in the Maghreb and in the Mediterranean.

From a humanitarian point of view, one cannot but feel concern regarding the dramatic conditions for the thousands of Sahrawi refugees, the ongoing detention by the Polisario of 408 Moroccan prisoners of war, the difficulties for the families divided between the refugee camps and the Western Sahara, and the fate of people unaccounted for on both sides. All these issues impress on us the need for an end to this crisis, which has been going on for nearly 30 years.

As you know, the provision of humanitarian aid by the Commission respects the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence and is based on real needs. The Commission’s humanitarian office, ECHO, also acts in accordance with the criteria of non-discrimination and not subjecting policies to political objectives. This means that anyone affected by a humanitarian crisis is entitled to receive aid, no matter which side of the conflict they are on.

In full observance of these principles and criteria, the Commission has provided humanitarian aid totalling EUR 108 million to the Sahrawi refugees since 1993. Thanks to these continuing efforts, the Commission has become the principle donor of humanitarian aid to the Sahrawi refugees.

The Commission has never interrupted its assistance. It has, however, adapted the timing and the level of the most recent funding decisions to the situation on the ground. I would like to emphasise that, thanks to the essential role of the ‘buffer stock’, created and funded by the Commission in 2000, we have been able to avoid any interruption in food supplies.

The current humanitarian situation in the camps has not deteriorated. However, it remains worrying. There is a risk of deterioration when and if the possible break in the food pipeline, as announced by the World Food Programme, is not compensated for in a timely and sufficient manner. ECHO intends to propose a funding decision next month to deal with this situation. The funding for 2005 will depend both on the needs of the Sahrawi refugees and on the conditions for the implementation of ECHO-funded projects.

I would like to stress that the Commission has a dual responsibility. It not only needs to address the humanitarian needs of refugees in a timely and dedicated manner but it also has to protect the financial interests of the European Union. Its operations in the Sahrawi refugee camps are designed to carry out this dual responsibility effectively. That is why the Commission attaches such importance to the proper identification of beneficiaries and full transparency of its operations.

With a view to properly assessing the humanitarian needs of the Sahrawi refugees, the Commission is continuing its discussions with the principal agencies and organisations, in particular the Algerian and Sahrawi authorities, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme and non-governmental organisations. These NGOs have played and continue to play an important role as ECHO’s partner in the implementation of its operations in the Sahrawi camps.

Beyond its purely humanitarian dimension, I believe that the international community’s assistance to the Sahrawi refugees helps to create and maintain conditions that are favourable to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. More generally, I would like to state for the record that the Commission and the European Union’s position on the political aspects of this conflict has always been to remain impartial. The European Union continues to fully support the United Nations’ efforts towards finding a fair and lasting solution in accordance with international law.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place this afternoon following the debates.

 
  

(1) See Minutes.


27. Lampedusa
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  President. The next item is the debate on the five motions for resolutions on Lampedusa(1).

 
  
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  Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), author. (ES) The collective expulsions of immigrants by the Italian authorities between October 2004 and March 2005 from the Italian island of Lampedusa to Libya are extremely worrying.

Specifically, the High Commission for Refugees condemned the return of 180 people on 17 March and stated that it was not at all clear whether Italy had taken the necessary precautions to guarantee the safe return of those people to Libya, a country which can in no way be considered a safe asylum country. We therefore profoundly regret that the Italian authorities have not allowed UNHCR access to the holding centre in Lampedusa.

For all these reasons, we wish to call on the European Commission to guarantee respect for the right to asylum in the European Union and to put an end to collective expulsions. Furthermore, we demand that the Italian authorities respect their obligations in accordance with European Union law.

We are therefore calling for a delegation consisting of members of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the Human Rights Sub-Committee to be sent to the refugee centre in Lampedusa, and to Libya, in order to assess the scale of the problem and how it is being dealt with and, in particular, how the people are being treated, which in particular would involve investigating the final destination and fate of the people who have been expelled.

In conclusion, we must be concerned about the fact that, in the field of asylum and immigration, cases of violations of the fundamental principles to which the European Union and its Member States are committed are becoming increasingly frequent. Lampedusa is simply one more of those cases, and we must ensure that there are no more of them.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR DOS SANTOS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Romagnoli (NI). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I refer to Rule 166 of the Rules of Procedure and, secondarily, to Rule 167.

In my opinion, the Lampedusa issue should not have been marked down for debate because it is a matter of bilateral agreements between Italy and Libya and the enforcement of Italian laws that do not contravene the EU Treaties. It must be remembered, moreover, that Italy is not Burma, China or Guantanamo, but rather a Member State whose dignity people are seeking to disgrace, and whose institutions, armed forces and law enforcement agencies they are seeking to condemn out of hand. On the contrary, the law enforcement agencies have, for many years, committed themselves generously and far beyond their institutional duties not only to the immense task of controlling the legal entry of non-EU nationals into Italy – and thus into Europe, according to the rules laid down in the Schengen Agreement – and not only to trying to arrest and expel slave traders, but above all to humanitarian aid work and to the extremely difficult – if not outright impossible – work of identifying illegal immigrants.

I have personally witnessed what I am asserting here and I invite my fellow Members to verify it for themselves. I wish to express my strong outrage – and on this issue I also appeal to the sensibility of every Italian Member – at the vile attempt to offend Italy’s national dignity and cast judgment on our sovereignty.

 
  
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  President. Mr Romagnoli, you have made your point of order, but unfortunately I cannot deal with it, for the simple reason that you should have raised this issue 24 hours before this debate. The debate was arranged at the Conference of Presidents, no point of order was raised 24 hours before, so I cannot deal with your point of order.

 
  
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  Matsakis (ALDE), author. Mr President, instead of being associated with joy and happiness, Lampedusa – a beautiful island basking lazily in the hot Mediterranean sun – has become synonymous with pain and human suffering of tragic proportions. The southernmost piece of EU land reaching out as though to link Europe with Africa is the graveyard of the hopes and sometimes the lives of thousands of immigrant men, women and children; desperate people who are either running away from torture and death or are just seeking to achieve a better way of life. Their only crime is that they had a dream, which they thought had a slim chance of becoming reality in the otherwise civilised Europe; a dream of being in a land where they would feel safe and be treated as human beings. A dream that for many of them soon turned into a nightmare, when they discovered that the strict allegiance to the principles of respect for human life and dignity, so eloquently and loudly pronounced on every possible occasion by some European governments, is just a big illusion when it comes to Lampedusa. The responsible authorities are ready, willing and able, in gross violation of international conventions and treaties and against widespread condemnation, to hand them back to those murderous totalitarian regimes in Africa from which they are so desperately seeking to escape.

Let us not beat about the bush: Lampedusa is a bloodstain of shame for the Italian Government, for acting in such an irresponsible, inhumane and un-European way. It is also a bloodstain of shame for the Commission and the Council for not taking any effective action to remedy the situation and bring the Italian Government to order. As far as the Libyan Government is concerned, its deeply shameful behaviour in the Lampedusa affair is understandable, as we expect nothing less from an undemocratic regime.

I strongly urge you to support this joint motion for a resolution.

 
  
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  Meijer (GUE/NGL), author. (NL) Mr President, for people who have had to leave their countries of origin as a result of oppression, war, disasters and poverty, the Mediterranean Sea is an important gate to Europe. If Europe fails to do enough towards easing the problems in Asia and Africa, an increasing number of people will take the risk of entering Europe using dilapidated dinghies and neglected ships. That is, of course, a problem for Europe and, above all, for the countries around the Mediterranean. This additional burden does not justify the infringement of human rights. These refugees are equally entitled to an individual assessment of their motives and the correct application of the 1951 Geneva Convention.

The same cannot be said for the hundreds of refugees who have been sent from the Italian island Lampedusa to Libya over the past few months, because that country does not recognise the Geneva Convention, and the agreements Italy has with Libya are not public. Between arrival in Europe and possible return to the country of origin, European law should apply rather than the arbitrariness of a country with a non-transparent government. Adoption of the two amendments tabled by the Liberals and Amendments 2 and 3 from the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left will make that possible and will stress that these refugees have the same rights as other refugees and cannot simply be moved on to Libya without Europe taking any responsibility.

 
  
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  Roure (PSE), author. (FR) Mr President, large numbers of migrants regularly arrive on the island of Lampedusa in Italy. These people have taken the painful decision to leave their countries, often because they are fleeing from political situations that are threatening their lives.

On 18 March, the Italian authorities expelled 180 people from the centre on Lampedusa to Libya. The lack of transparency of and access to the centre and the conditions under which these people were expelled raise questions with regard to respect for the right to asylum and the Geneva Convention. The speed of the expulsions and the fact that the people expelled were sorted according to nationality show that their applications cannot have been examined individually and that the necessary precautions cannot have been taken. As a result, we cannot be certain that genuine asylum seekers have not been sent back to dangerous situations.

We are also particularly concerned that the High Commissioner for Refugees is being prevented from fulfilling her responsibilities. She needs to have access to asylum seekers to ensure that anyone who wants to apply for asylum can do so and that their applications are examined carefully. These expulsions are all the more alarming because we are sending vulnerable people back to a country that does not allow them to be protected: Libya is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention and has no asylum system. It consequently cannot provide international protection for those who need it. Finally, Libya itself deports refugees outside its borders to dangerous regions.

We therefore call on the Italian authorities to give the High Commissioner for Refugees immediate unlimited access to the centre on Lampedusa. The expulsions must also be stopped until the centre on Lampedusa complies with Community and international law.

 
  
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  Zappalà, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I must declare my outrage at the assertions made in this House – by people taking advantage of being seated in this House – with regard to Italy and its Government.

As everyone is aware, there is no Community policy on immigration: each individual Member State tackles the problem according to its internal rules and with its own resources. A joint debate was begun only recently and, personally, I have had the opportunity to represent this Parliament many times in the informal meetings of immigration ministers.

It seems obvious that the attack launched against the Italian Government is political and is an attempt to exploit the situation at this particular moment in time. There is a law in Italy – the Turco-Napolitano law – introduced by a left-wing government and unchanged by the current centre-right government, Article 10 of which is being used to confront this issue.

The Court of Justice has been called upon to give its opinion, and therefore it would be more desirable to await such a decision, and not to put on political trial a government which is facing a continued state of emergency, with the arrival of thousands of impoverished people in a small area with limited accommodation options, with the not altogether remote danger of indirectly encouraging human traffickers and terrorists.

Every possible rescue at sea is effected by the armed forces, every request and individual situation is assessed by the law enforcement agencies and competent associations. No one is mistreated, no one is imprisoned; indeed, although they come seeking asylum, they slip away from accommodation centres in their hundreds with extreme ease, disappearing throughout Italy and perhaps Europe.

Anyone who denies the embarrassment of organisations such as the UNHCR for this attack on Italy is lying; the official acts of the Italian Ministry of the Interior prove the contrary. Why do we not visit every accommodation centre in Europe? Then we can confirm the situation everywhere. Ladies and gentlemen, we must tackle this problem seriously and from a European viewpoint, and avoid bringing hypothetical political charges against a legitimate government, when such charges could tomorrow be brought against any other Member State and any other government.

 
  
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  Napoletano, on behalf of the PSE Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I shall keep this very brief as I only wish to reaffirm some of the ideas already present in the resolution.

Whilst the right to counter illegal immigration is indisputable, it is equally true that such a right must be exercised with respect for human rights and international conventions, refraining from collective expulsions and from the indifference shown by some of the receiving countries to the future fate of these people, particularly when they are repatriated to countries that have not signed international conventions, such as Libya.

These are the two points that have been raised on the Lampedusa case, not by those seeking to exploit the situation, but by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and by the Court of Strasbourg itself, which has asked Italy to clarify its position before the start of May. We are in a situation in which, to my mind, we, as Europeans, have an element of prestige that is also recognised by countries that do not respect human rights, which is precisely that we respect those rights, or strive to. Let us please not lose this element of civilisation.

 
  
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  Posselt (PPE-DE). (DE) Mr President, what is the connection between the Western Sahara, the topic before last in our debate, and Lampedusa, which we are discussing now? At the beginning of the 1980s, this House – on another Thursday afternoon – held an urgent debate on North Africa. The topic was the Western Sahara and Gaddafi’s influence in North Africa. This House was, on that occasion, forthrightly critical of Gaddafi, as was the then Italian government under its then Prime Minister Andreotti, and in consequence of that, Gaddafi had missiles fired at the little island, which was the first time that Lampedusa became known around the world. What that highlights is Lampedusa’s exposed position off the coast of Africa and the Libyan mainland.

What is happening on Lampedusa is not about one or two immigrants landing on it here and there; what is going on there is systematic and brutal trafficking in human beings. People are quite deliberately being brought to Lampedusa via Libya and from there on smuggled into the European Union. As soon as they are on the European mainland, they can get to Munich, Strasbourg, The Hague or wherever, without once being checked up on. If we do not want this systematic traffic in human beings to continue, we have to act, and act together. This issue is, for that reason, too important for us to allow it to be downgraded to a cheap way of scoring points in an election.

If we are going to talk as if we were fighting an election, then I would like to say that I was advocating years ago that we should lay down common quotas for refugees, sharing the burden between the Member States and bringing their standards for refugees and asylum seekers into line, arguing that what we needed most of all was fixed quotas in order to share the burden. Who or what was it that did nothing to achieve this? The Commission, which was then under Mr Prodi! He, then, the leader of the Italian opposition, should clean his own side of the street first. This is not about domestic policy on the cheap; instead, we should discharge our responsibility as Europeans.

 
  
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  De Rossa (PSE). Mr President, Mr Posselt, we have to accept our responsibilities to ensure that the credibility of Parliament is defended in relation to human rights and humanitarian norms. We have an obligation to raise the question of Lampedusa and the appalling treatment of the hundreds of poor and weak people who are deported en masse by the Italian Government to a regime which would not qualify for membership of this Union.

If we are to have any credibility whatsoever in relation to human rights and international law we must insist that all Member States respect those norms. The Italian Government is not respecting those norms by any measure, and I would urge the Commission to insist that the Italian Government – and indeed any other Member State, if it is in breach of these norms – be hauled before the European Court of Justice to ensure that these laws are respected.

I want to draw particular attention to paragraph 4 of this resolution, which refers to Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union, and also to paragraph 9. I urge the Commission to press the Libyan Government to stop arbitrary arrests of those whom they consider to be migrants, and to respect the Geneva Convention and the mandate of the High Commissioner for Refugees.

 
  
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  Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, the Commission followed the events in Lampedusa very closely and contacts were made with Mr Pisanu, the Italian Minister of Internal Affairs in order to obtain certain clarifications. To date the Italian authorities maintain that all measures taken in respect of those that arrived irregularly on the island of Lampedusa were not in breach of international obligations. They have promised to send the Commission a detailed report on the events which took place, and also on the actions taken in order to guarantee respect for the fundamental rights of all persons concerned.

The Commission has encouraged the Italian Government to adopt measures that guarantee the right of each individual to submit an asylum request, and not to expel anybody while a decision on the request is pending. I would like to mention the Council Directive on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status, which aims to provide a level playing field common to all Member States. This concerns procedures to be applied to asylum-seekers and will be formally adopted by the Council after Parliament gives its opinion in June, thus paving the way for its transposition by Member States into their national legislation.

I would also like to underline that, in the absence of Community legislation on the matter, the assessment of whether the Italian authorities have contravened their international obligations under the Geneva Convention lies with the national jurisdictions. Having said that, the Commission will continue to follow this matter very closely. I emphasise that addressing the pressures underlying forced migratory movements, particularly in the Mediterranean region, is a priority for the European Union. It is thus the Commission’s intention to continue working towards this objective, while at the same time ensuring that the rights of those in need of international protection are respected.

The Commission is aware of the concerns expressed by NGOs and UNHCR on Libya’s respect of human rights, in particular as regards refugees’ protection. During the mission the Commission conducted in Libya at the end of 2004 concerning illegal immigration, issues relating to human rights and asylum were given particular importance. Meetings were held with the Gadaffi Foundation and UNHCR. The Commission considers that such issues should be part of any possible future cooperation with Libya on illegal immigration.

I would like to emphasise that EU regional cooperation with countries generating migrants and refugees must be firmly grounded in the principles of respect for human rights.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place immediately.

 
  

(1) See Minutes.


28. Voting time
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  President. We shall now proceed to the vote.

(For the outcome of the vote and other information: see Minutes)

 

29. Bangladesh

30. Humanitarian assistance to refugees from Western Sahara

31. Lampedusa
  

- Before the final vote on the motion for a resolution

 
  
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  Posselt (PPE-DE). (DE) Mr President, I am speaking on behalf of my group. There has been a technical glitch. We had asked for the final vote on the other group’s motion on Lampedusa to be by roll call. That has gone astray for some reason. On behalf of my group, I ask you to conduct the final vote on the Lampedusa resolution by roll call.

 

32. Drought in Portugal

33. Membership of delegations: see Minutes

34. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes

35. Written statements (Rule 116): see Minutes

36. Forwarding of texts adopted during the sitting: see Minutes

37. Dates for next sittings: see Minutes

38. Adjournment of the session
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  President. I declare the session of the European Parliament adjourned.

(The sitting was closed at 4.55 p.m.)

 

ANNEX
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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