Full text 
Verbatim report of proceedings
Tuesday, 5 July 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

29. Equal opportunities in employment and work

  President . The next item is the report (A6-0176/2005) by Mrs Niebler, on behalf of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation (COM(2004)0279 C6-0037/2004 2004/0084(COD)).


  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Niebler, and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality for their key report on our proposal for a revised directive. The purpose of this proposal is to simplify, modernise and improve Community legislation on equal treatment for men and women in employment. The revised directive is intended to gather the relevant provisions of previous directives on this issue in a single document, in order to make them more workable and easier to understand for all citizens. This ties in with our attempts to make the EU more open, more transparent and more relevant to everyday life.

The proposal does more than merely consolidate existing legislation, however; it also simplifies it and takes cautious steps to modernise it. This will result in significant improvements, the most important aspect of which will be the use of consistent terminology and, most importantly, consistent definitions, which will ensure that the legislation is more coherent. Explicit use has been made of a number of horizontal provisions relating to occupational social security schemes, and recent case law of the Court of Justice has been incorporated in order to increase legal certainty and clarity.

It is entirely true that the proposal fails to introduce new policies or innovative ideas, but it should be stressed that we are in a unique position in that we are revising a directive on the basis of an interinstitutional agreement. The major advantage of this legislative method is that it allows us to make technical improvements to EU legislation at Community level and to safeguard past achievements without reopening the debate and calling into question solutions that have already been found to be politically sensitive and complex issues. The Commission has endeavoured to take advantage of this method and of the potential it offers for legislative revision in order to better promote equality between men and women.


  Joachim Wuermeling (PPE-DE), deputy rapporteur. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Špidla, ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow’s vote on the recast directive will draw a line under the very in-depth discussions in the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, and so I am sure you will understand how much Mrs Niebler regrets her inability – due to a close family bereavement – to be present at this debate. She has asked me to make this statement on her behalf, and I ask the House’s indulgence for that.

Mrs Niebler is grateful to all of you for the good and fair cooperation in the Committee while preparing this important report. What the Commission has proposed in this instance is a rather tricky tightrope walk between a mere consolidation of current legislation and a partial improvement of the existing regulations with the intention of drafting them in more comprehensible terms, modernising and simplifying them, while also incorporating into the consolidated text the case-law of the European Court of Justice. Speaking as a former member of the Committee on Legal Affairs, I myself can do no other than endorse that objective. What Europe demands in this area needs to be expressed more transparently, more comprehensively and with greater clarity, and it is for that reason that we support this approach.

It is no secret that this proposal has arrived at a time when the process of transposing Community decisions in the Member States is the subject of decidedly vehement debate – I need mention only the over-heated debate in Germany, where the Red/Green government is, indeed, facing political defeat for going far beyond what Europe requires, but that is not the point at issue. This directive concerns itself solely with the equal rights of men and women at work, something that is at the very heart of European equality policy, and its being a matter for the European Union to deal with is not a matter of dispute.

After decades spent working towards equality, how do things stand now? Despite our efforts at equality in the world of work, we can see that there is still a gender gap, amounting to some 16% of wages. Men are twice as likely to occupy positions of leadership and three times as likely to be at the top of companies. At the highest decision-making levels of the 50 largest listed companies, the proportion of women amounts to a mere 10%.

Three subject areas gave rise to lively debate in the Committee. For a start, various members demanded that the directive should include reference to parental leave, but Mrs Niebler has taken the view that the use of this recasting to bring about such a fundamental change in European law is not opportune. The fact that rules differ so widely from one Member State to another – with parental leave varying from three months to three years – means that extending the directive to cover it would entail enormous changes and make both in-depth debate and an impact assessment necessary. It is therefore worth supporting the compromise that we have come up with, according to which the social partners, who are already doing something about this, are urged to review the existing regulations with this in mind.

The second subject of critical scrutiny in debate was what are known as the ‘unisex tariffs’. At one point, the Committee, by a very narrow majority, expressed itself in favour of the idea that the distinction drawn between men and women in occupational pension schemes should be done away with, but Mrs Niebler has warned, in no uncertain terms, against resuming this debate at this stage, for it was only a few months ago that, after protracted negotiations, a very well thought-out compromise was reached in relation to provision for old age. Mrs Niebler regards it as very important that this should be mentioned, for, if we now reopen the debate on the ‘unisex tariffs’, a highly politically controversial issue, then there is the risk of the recasting directive being lost as a result of our expecting too much of this process of consolidating legislation currently in force.

The same argument holds good in respect of the third issue, namely our call for more pressure to be exerted on the Member States and the social partners to get them to improve matters. Let us not, then, put the whole directive at risk by weighing it down with substantial demands; that the law should be clear and comprehensible is of value in itself. That is what the directive aims at, and I ask you to help enable it to bring that about.


  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. – (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the report on the proposal for a revised directive on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women has been presented to plenary today in its new form, following months of laborious processing by the rapporteur, Mrs Niebler.

During this processing, all sides had the opportunity to express themselves and to be heard by everyone who helped to formulate today's proposal. The rapporteur deserves warm congratulations, because she combined the Commission's suggestions for simplification of the codification of older legislation with a broader scope for horizontal policies in basic sectors of European law, such as in the sectors of pay and insurance.

As draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, I find that the safeguarding of equal opportunity in the workplace is being improved, from access to training, access to employment, to career development, especially as regards pay.

The proposal strengthens the principle of subsidiarity, in that the Member States are repeatedly called on to decide on individual measures for equal treatment. The fundamental right of effective legal assistance and dissuasive sanctions for harassment are also safeguarded.

The different point of view between the revision procedure and the codecision procedure should not lead the Commission into continuing a vendetta between it and Parliament. The demographic problem of the European Union imposes the granting of equal opportunities to men and women as far as parental leave is concerned, which was decided in a directive between the Commission and the social partners alone. The Commission is, moreover, called on to propose a review of the directive.

Inequalities are created at times when women are occupied with underage children or people who require protection. That is why the proposal for measures to combine work and family life, with parallel protection for maternity, are not wide of the mark.

We are also calling on the Council to express its political will …

(The President cut off the speaker)


  Katalin Lévai (PSE), on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs. (HU) Equality of opportunities between men and women is a fundamental right and a priority in the European Union. Community policy aimed at ensuring equal opportunities has been on the Community’s agenda since the start of integration, albeit with variations in content. The directive that – we hope – will be adopted tomorrow summarises the directives already dealing with this issue, and thus reflects the aim of the legislators to set out uniform, simplified regulations bringing together all the existing provisions on the matter. A crucial component of the directive is that it sets out as a goal not only gender equality as regards treatment of men and women, but also equality between the genders. It is important to stress that the principle of equal opportunities cannot be narrowed down to employment, because it affects all areas of life.

This principle demands that there should be no discrimination of any form on the basis of gender, especially with regard to marriage and marital status, and most notably as regards conditions for access to social security schemes, in calculating contribution obligations and benefit entitlements. Since women’s traditional roles within the family are one of the main reasons for inequality in the workplace, the directive calls for more flexible working time arrangements in the workplace to enable both men and women to combine family and work commitments. The directive aims to enable injured parties to assert their legal rights effectively; this is facilitated by the reversal of the burden of proof in cases of discrimination, and by the prohibition of indirect or hidden discrimination. The directive also makes a special point of drawing Member States’ attention to the fact that elimination of the disadvantages faced by women is inconceivable unless governments take an active role, and furthermore, there is also a need for democratic institutions to monitor governments’ efforts in this regard. Let us have specialised institutions for guaranteeing women’s rights both within the government institutional system and outside it.


  Anna Záborská, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group.(FR) Mr President, I should like, first of all, to thank my colleagues on the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality for their helpful and constructive cooperation. Next, I should like to raise two issues of current interest: firstly, the obligation to comply fully with the legislative sovereignty of Member States; and, secondly, the economic recognition of the work of women in all its forms.

Firstly, yes to a social Europe, permitting full equality between men and women, but also yes to a respect for countries’ different cultures. The Beijing action plan is clear, and the European Union should also comply with it. It states that the implementation of any political programme is the sovereign responsibility of each State, acting in conformity with all human rights and fundamental freedoms; moreover, the taking into account of, and full respect for, various religious and ethical values and the cultural heritage and philosophical beliefs of individuals and their communities should contribute to the full enjoyment by women of their human rights in order to achieve equality, development and peace.

Finally, since we are concerned here with a revision, it has only been possible to adopt what was already in previous directives. However, a directive on the economic value of female work in the non-commercial and informal sector, or non-remunerated work of women in the area of social, inter-generational or professional solidarity would be useful. It has an economic value. I invite all fellow Members to familiarise themselves with the ideas of Nobel Prize-winner Gary Becker, whose studies have accurately assessed the economic value of women’s work in all its forms. This work is worth full reconsideration, evaluation and quantification in the interests of full economic equality between men and women.


  Bernadette Vergnaud, on behalf of the PSE Group. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like first of all to congratulate our rapporteur, Mrs Niebler, on the comprehensive and balanced text she has prepared. This compromise wording, with the amendments that have been made, represents an important and high-quality parliamentary contribution.

Its main aim is the revision of the terms of the previous directives on equal pay, equal treatment in access to employment, training and promotion, working conditions, occupational social security systems and the prevention of harassment. This revision will enable us to present a single coherent wording, free of any contradictory definitions, to increase the transparency and clarity of the legislation on equality of treatment and to facilitate effective implementation by reinforcing the acquis communautaire, avoiding any regression and incorporating all recent developments of European jurisprudence. By including also all the definitions of direct and indirect discrimination and of harassment, together with the principle of equality of pay and occupational pension arrangements, this text will provide the clarification and simplification that are essential to good implementation in the Member States and will ensure a high degree of legal certainty.

However, I regret that, of the three main aims set out by the Commission – to simplify, modernise and improve Community legislation – the aim of effecting improvements has not resulted in any concrete proposals in the text. A vigorous policy on the protection of self-employed women, particularly in the areas of agriculture and crafts, on parental leave and on the reconciliation of professional and family life should have formed part of this objective, and I deplore its absence.

I therefore ask the Commission to send a strong signal, firstly by urgently revising and improving Directive 86/613 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in a self-employed activity, and, secondly, by re-examining Directive 96/34 on parental leave, in order to adapt it to the current situation through the introduction of incentives in the Member States, such as reasonable compensation and statistical recognition of the value of this unpaid work.

Essential improvements have to be made to combat traditional segregation of roles within the family and to ensure a better balance of women and men in the labour market. In short, a better reconciliation of work and family life. Equality of treatment is an essential condition for achieving the goals of sustainable economic, social and environmental growth and development which form part of the relaunch of the Lisbon strategy. Europe must ensure minimum rights for all men and all women and must urgently ensure they are respected in the Member States. This aim requires us all – Parliament, the Council and the Commission – to show a strong political determination and intelligent cooperation in the service of our fellow citizens.


  Anneli Jäätteenmäki, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, addressing the issue of equality of pay has been one of our biggest equality-related problems for several decades now. Community legislation up till now has been unable to eliminate this area of inequality. Mere incentives and recommendations will not be enough to achieve equality of pay in the future either. It has to be made clear that unjustified differences in pay are unacceptable. We need stricter requirements, we need legal sanctions, and we need results.

Member States should report how they implement the principle of equal treatment in practice. There is insufficient information on how it is implemented in law. We need to adopt proper procedures in the Member States. We were just saying that Turkey needs to implement legislation and that it is not enough merely to agree with just laws. In this respect, the EU and its current Member States could take a look in the mirror and implement the laws and regulations that we have adopted jointly.

Instead of spurring on the social partners, the Member States should ensure that they implement and promote the principle of equal treatment, and thus do what EU treaties and legislation prescribe. If an employer flouts a regulation, he or she should have to answer for it.

We parliamentarians want to improve current legislation, so that it might promote the equal treatment of women and men. Hopefully, we will reach consensus with the Commission and the Council regarding objectives.


  Hiltrud Breyer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the European Union has, in the past, been an unfailing beacon of equality for women. In the debate on Turkey, a lot was said about being a community of values, and about the value of equality in the European Union, one that I hope is not being eroded. We regard the inclusion of occupational pensions in this report as indispensable, knowing as we do that women suffer discrimination on the grounds of their gender, for the firm has no idea whether they or their male colleagues will live longer. Not only is discrimination in occupational pensions incompatible with Article 13 of the Treaty, but also with the principle of equality in the workplace. I therefore expect the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality as a whole to support this proposal, and hope that they will do so.

I might add, moreover, that I think it improper of Mr Wuermeling and others in this House to make, in passing, sweepingly derogatory comments about the idea that the anti-discrimination directives should apply outside working life. I expect you, Commissioner Špidla, to reiterate your clear and explicit backing for the anti-discrimination directives, not only in respect of discrimination at work but also outside the workplace. Where women’s policy is concerned, one cannot say ‘stop’ one day and ‘go’ the next, but, rather, we must instead make it clear that it constitutes one of the values of the European Union. Equal opportunity policy is not something one can back out of.


  Eva-Britt Svensson, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (SV) Mr President, the whole report concerns the very basis of all work on gender equality, namely the right and the opportunity to earn one’s own living. I wish especially to emphasise three parts of this directive.

The first matter concerns equal pay for equal work. That is nothing new, but something also included in previous directives. The point is reinforced, however, in that the two sides of industry are called upon to take both the initiative and the responsibility in connection with the principle of equal pay. Despite the fact that we have had the directive on the principle of equal pay, there are still big differences in pay, meaning that discrimination still goes on.

The second part to which I wish to draw attention is that concerning parental leave. Parenthood is no longer seen as an issue for just one of the sexes. Instead, parents are to be given the opportunity to share the responsibility for children.

The third part I wish to highlight is that concerning equal treatment in matters of employment and occupation. We should be concerned here not only with equal treatment for women already established in the labour market but also with non-discrimination when it comes to recruitment and employment conditions.


  Urszula Krupa, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (PL) Mr President, this resolution was intended to increase equal opportunities and improve the situation of women in the job market. Many of the amendments will help change things for the better, but it would appear that if actual improvements are to be made, we must not only introduce legal standards, but above all change the way we think about women’s role in social and economic life. We must abandon liberal ideas, which are based on moral relativism, and move to an approach based on ethical and moral principles, which pay attention to the individual, whether female or male, and do not just see an item that may be used for profit. Weaker individuals, and especially women, are particularly vulnerable to the risks of a utilitarian approach, which involves corporations, concerns and commercial chains refusing to grant maternity leave or pay wages, and women being forced into humiliating jobs or services.

Changes in the way we think must begin with education at school, at home, in the workplace and in all areas of life. Women are different in psychological and physical terms, and in our opinion should be prohibited from working in a number of jobs for their own protection. Women who fight for equal treatment often find themselves in unfavourable situations, competing and fighting with men instead of cooperating and sharing responsibilities in line with their predispositions.

I believe that it is very unfair that the draft omits to mention the significant number of women who are either retired or not receiving a pension. This runs counter to the resolution’s declarations. Unless the aforesaid provisions are included, the directive under discussion will be yet another dead document.


  Lissy Gröner (PSE). (DE) Mr President, this directive deals with the position of women in the labour market. It is therefore primarily addressed to women, and it is we women whose cause is yet again being advanced by the completion of the bonfire of red tape that we promised the public. I hope that we will vote as one tomorrow, and also that the reference to the anti-discrimination law was a bit of verbal skirmishing on Mr Wuermeling’s part. A national election is already underway and it has nothing to do with this directive.

According to Article 119 of the Treaty, European law promises women equal rights, and they need to see these put into effect. Many women Members of this House have made reference to the areas in which they have not been, and to the need for awareness to be raised of the direct and indirect discrimination that goes on. Discrimination may well begin in people’s heads, but its removal requires that we change the rights, and laws and their transposition into national law will follow.

There is a need for political will, and this Commission has demonstrated that it possesses it. This House is contributing its own. I hope that, tomorrow, we will be able to get what we want and send women in the EU the message that we are still the engine that moves women’s rights forward in Europe.


  Věra Flasarová (GUE/NGL).  – (CS) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, problems relating to reconciling the work-life balance have become part of modern-day life. One of the reasons for women’s unequal status in the workplace is that employers are wary of conflicts of interest between work and family responsibilities. Even though women account for almost 44% of participants in the Czech labour market, the best-case scenario according to our research is that there are five times as many men as women in managerial positions. Women who are keen to move up the career ladder have to perform exceptionally well in order to be regarded as equal partners to men; in fact, they have to go to greater lengths to succeed than men doing the same job.

The average wage for women in the Czech Republic is currently 19% lower than that for men. It is also a proven fact that women themselves often ask for lower wages in interviews than men applying for the same job, which in itself indicates women’s lack of self-confidence in employment relations.

It therefore follows that the promotion of equal rights for women and men should not merely be a matter of adopting various directives and laws. I am all in favour of a directive, but it must be rooted in fundamental changes within European culture as a whole. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that its starting point must be the complete eradication of our medieval attitudes, and of the mistaken belief that equality between men and women is merely a problem for women, and that there is no such a thing as discrimination against men.


  Christa Prets (PSE). (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, in the present situation, in which the European Union finds it difficult to speak its mind, or at least to do so in such a way that it is understood by the public, it is all the more important that the EU legislation and case law should become clearer and more readily comprehensible. That is why I welcome this proposal.

When it comes, though, to the modernisation and improvement that are mentioned in this document, I regret to have to say that the method of recasting leaves no scope for changing or adding anything of any substance, such as equality in occupational pensions, for example.

When we were preparing the last directive relating to Article 13, we were promised that this issue would be dealt with later on in the recast directive. Both the Commission and the Council are now opposed to this being done, and I find myself wondering why this opportunity has not been made use of. What was needed was for this point to be given greater emphasis, and I regret that this was not done.


  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to express my thanks for an extremely animated and focused debate. I should like to start by emphasising that an opportunity is available to us to adopt this crucial directive without delay. In the interests of Europe’s citizens, this opportunity must be seized. I would note that this is a key step forward that must be taken in order to promote equality between men and women in the eyes of all stakeholders, regardless of the different opinions held by the institutions on the thinking behind this revision.

If I may, I should now like to explain the Commission’s position on the amendments in a little more detail. The Commission can readily accept a significant number of them, and indeed we believe that they are also consistent with the Council’s position as set out in its general approach of 7 December 2004. They go a long way towards improving Community legislation in this field and making it more accessible. A variety of tools are employed to this end, including technical measures, legal clarifications and provisions that will give fresh political impetus to the promotion of equality between men and women, for example with regard to equal pay.

The Commission cannot accept a second set of amendments for purely technical reasons, and it will outline these reasons in detail in its amended proposal. In addition, it has rejected a certain number of amendments because they go beyond the scope of what can reasonably be achieved during this revision process. The specific aim of the latter is to facilitate the ongoing and parallel procedures of codifying Community legislation on the one hand, and laying the groundwork for fundamental changes on the other.

The first of these amendments relates to the new Article 3(a), which would oblige Member States to implement positive action measures, instead of this being an option. Given that Article 141(4) of the Treaty, which is a source of primary law, clearly states that the Member States are competent to take whatever action they deem necessary in this field, any act of secondary law that cited this Article of the Treaty, while at the same time encroaching upon this competence, would in our opinion face major obstacles.

Secondly, the Commission cannot agree to the obligation incumbent upon Member States to support certain measures in the framework of social dialogue being turned into an obligation to guarantee certain outcomes of this dialogue, in line with the amendments to Articles 24 and 27. It would be hard to square these amendments with the principle of social partners’ autonomy.

I should also like to remind the House that corresponding provisions were included in Directive 2002/73/EC, following lengthy negotiations with Parliament and the Council. This Directive and the rules it lays down, which represent an innovative approach intended to increase the involvement of social partners, will not come into force until October 2005. As we see it, it would be inappropriate to amend these provisions before they have had a chance to prove their worth in practice.

The new Article 28(b), which proposes a review clause for the Parental Leave Directive, is unacceptable because this Directive does not fall within the scope of the present revision. A clause to this effect would be difficult to reconcile with the relevant provisions in the Parental Leave Directive and with those in the European-level framework agreement between the social partners, upon which the Directive is based. What is more, problems would arise regarding the compatibility of this amendment with the autonomy of social partners and their role, as enshrined in Articles 138 and 139 of the Treaty.

Finally, the Commission cannot accept the amendments to Article 8 that are aimed at prohibiting the use of gender as a factor when calculating insurance premiums and benefits for employee insurance schemes. These amendments also go beyond what is involved in drafting legislative proposals such as the directive under debate. That is not to say that this issue should not be a subject of political debate in the future. Even though opinions are divided on the matter, and the position currently held by the Council is quite clear, I am absolutely convinced that this is an important issue that requires our attention.

Furthermore, the Commission does not of course believe that applying different schemes for second- and third-pillar pensions would give rise to ambiguity in the present context, as was also suggested during the debate. This is an entirely separate issue, and one that transcends purely technical considerations.

In conclusion, I would note that the Commission can accept a number of amendments in full on the basis of these considerations, and, if I may, I will run through the amendments in question. The Commission can accept in full Amendments 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 45, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 68, 69, 70, 74, 75, 77, 78, 79, 80, 82, 83, 85, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 96, 101, 106, 107, 108 and 109. The Commission can accept in part Amendments 5, 24, 71, 72, 73, 76, 84, 98, 102, 103, 104 and 105. The Commission cannot, however, accept Amendments 3, 12, 13, 29, 30, 36, 44, 46, 53, 63, 67, 81, 86, 94, 95, 97, 99 or 100. I have already set out the rationale behind the Commission’s position.


  Hiltrud Breyer (Verts/ALE). (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, this leads me to put a question to you. In the proposal from the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, there are two essential elements – parental leave and occupational pensions – that actually constituted the core of the proposal, and you have rejected them. Your response to occupational pensions was along the lines of ‘yes, that is a very important issue, and we will take it up at some point’. It is my belief, Commissioner Špidla, that you promised us that at the time when we were working on the directive ...

(The President interrupted the speaker)

I ask you, though, Mr President, to let me put the question. You described this as an important issue, and as one that would at some point be taken up. What I want to know is: when you will do that, and in what form will it be taken up? What about your actual timetable? I really would ask you to make a statement on the occupational pensions issue – as you have promised to do –, because it is in fact in breach of the Treaty, ...

(The President cut off the speech)


  President . (PL) I apologise, but that did not relate to the matter at hand. It concerned a completely different matter, but I will allow the question, and I would ask the Commissioner to take the floor.


  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission (CS) As I see it, it has emerged quite clearly from the debate that the aim behind this proposal for a directive is to make technical improvements to the EU legislation currently in force, and not to introduce extensive and far-reaching changes. It is for this reason that the Commission cannot accept the two key amendments to which Mrs Breyer referred, since that would clearly be at odds with the thinking behind the drafting of this directive. The two issues she mentioned are of such enormous importance that I will be dealing with them in the course of my work, although at this moment in time I cannot give the House any exact dates. What I can say, however, is that these are issues that we will debate in the very near future, and indeed I am quite sure that an opportunity to do so will present itself during next week’s debate on the Green Paper on demographic change. How we reach our conclusion is still an open question, however, and it would be inappropriate to go into any more detail on the matter.


  President . The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Wednesday at 12 noon.

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