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Procedure : 2005/2134(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Select a document :

Texts tabled :

A6-0389/2005

Debates :

PV 01/02/2006 - 11
CRE 01/02/2006 - 11

Votes :

PV 02/02/2006 - 8.4
CRE 02/02/2006 - 8.4
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2006)0037

Verbatim report of proceedings
Thursday, 2 February 2006 - Brussels OJ edition

9. Explanations of vote
PV
  

- Markov report (A6-0005/2006)

 
  
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  Gyula Hegyi (PSE). – (HU) I was extremely pleased to vote for the legislation concerning working conditions of drivers engaged in road transport activities. I am delighted that drivers are granted guaranteed rest periods, and I believe that checking their implementation is also important. However, I must emphasise that the increase in the volume of road transport contradicts the fundamental principle of sustainable development. Wasteful energy consumption, severe air pollution and the deterioration of roads and the environment are all direct consequences of increasing lorry traffic. Therefore, the European Union should endeavour to develop alternative methods of transportation. Apart from the improvement of the working conditions of drivers, we should also address the situation of those living in towns and villages where lorries are rattling through, day and night.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome the new regulation which is primarily designed to strengthen and improve social legislation for drivers engaged in road transport activities.

The regulation lays down four main elements. It establishes that all new vehicles should be fitted with digital tachographs and it defines a ‘regular daily rest period’ as any uninterrupted period of rest of at least 11 hours, which alternatively may be taken in two periods. In addition, a new definition on ‘driving time’ has been agreed upon, as well as the provisions of the European agreement concerning the work of crews of vehicles engaged in international road transport, which are now being aligned with those of the regulation. Finally, it acknowledges that the maximum weekly working time of 60 hours per week must be respected.

All in all, I agree that the regulation contributes significantly to greater road safety in Europe.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The Markov reports on which Parliament voted today raise a number of questions for countries on the geographical periphery of Europe, such as Portugal, Spain and Greece.

I am aware of all the efforts that have been made throughout the period of negotiations. I must also say that this matter ought to be resolved in such a way as to contribute towards not only improving road safety on Europe’s motorways but also ensuring economic equity as regards development and growth in the transport sector throughout the Member States.

Reading these texts led me to the conclusion that, in spite of the efforts made by the negotiators, these proposals were drawn up with Central European transport operators in mind, whose journeys tend to be over shorter distances.

As an elected representative from Portugal, I must therefore vote against these arrangements and must point out that the completion of the internal market involves taking into account those countries in which this activity takes place over longer distances, and should reflect the interests of all Member States, without exception.

 
  
  

- Markov report (A6-0006/2006)

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) MEPs from the Portuguese Communist Party, in conjunction with representative organisations of motorway and urban transport workers, have long campaigned to improve the labour rights of professional drivers, in order to ensure that legal working hours and rest periods for drivers are adhered to, and that the sacred cow of competition, in its exploitative voracity, does not undermine those rights.

As the Unions have pointed out, although the regulation that has just been adopted may improve working conditions in some countries, it falls short of the collective working regulation in force in Portugal concerning the organisation of working time, the determination of minimum daily and weekly rest periods, and the monitoring thereof.

Among other aspects, the regulation calls for the retention of two different concepts, namely ‘driving time’ and ‘working time’, which penalises the workers. What is more, the ‘new’ concepts of reduced rest periods make the task of monitoring compliance with minimum rest periods more difficult and make it more likely that drivers’ working days and weeks will be overloaded. We therefore hope that the adoption of the regulation will not act as a (false) pretext for (wrongly) justifying fresh attacks on workers’ rights.

(Explanation of vote abbreviated in accordance with Rule 163(1) of the Rules of Procedure)

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE), in writing. (DE) The regulation on the harmonisation of social legislation relating to road transport was intended to introduce into the road transport sector uniform rules on working conditions and road safety that had been needed for a long time. It remains to be seen whether the social position of the drivers concerned will actually be improved as a result of this agreement. We may at last have achieved standardised driving times and rest periods in the road transport sector, but the final version does not incorporate, among other features that are of importance to me, comprehensive references to the Working Time Directive.

I find it deeply regrettable that the regulation we have adopted today will include no ban on drivers being paid according to the distances travelled and the quantities carried, something for which I have argued passionately as a means towards improving lorry-drivers’ social conditions. Fixed rates of pay really do protect every worker’s livelihood and I believe that workers in the road transport industry are entitled to that.

The decision to bring about uniform social standards in European road transport is, in general terms, the right one to take, but, when I consider the improvements I initially hoped to see to the conditions of lorry drivers, this result really does bring us down to earth. I can therefore do no other than vote against both these dossiers.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele (PSE), in writing. (DE) Although it is generally very desirable that social standards in the European transport sector should be harmonised, the social conditions of the vehicles’ drivers must also be improved. Since this has not happened on this occasion, I have voted against both these dossiers.

The regulation on the harmonisation of social legislation relating to road transport was intended to introduce into the road transport sector uniform rules on working conditions and safety on the road that had been needed for a long time. We may at last have achieved standardised driving times and rest periods in the road transport sector, but the final version does not incorporate, among other important features, comprehensive references to the Working Time Directive.

It is to be regretted that the regulation we have adopted today will include no ban on drivers being paid according to the distances travelled and the quantities carried, even though fixed rates of pay really do protect every worker’s livelihood and workers in the road transport industry are, of course, entitled to that.

 
  
  

- Toubon report (A6-0412/2005)

 
  
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  James Hugh Allister (NI), in writing. Today I voted against a Commission proposal for uniformity and metrification of food products, including bread and milk. The effect would have been to end the British measuring of bottled milk in pints and would change the size of our standard loaf.

In addition to imposing meaningless uniformity, both proposals would have imposed immense cost on UK bread-makers and milk processors, because of the re-tooling which would have been required. I had met representatives of the bread industry in Northern Ireland and was in doubt as to the intolerable and costly imposition which was involved.

I am therefore delighted that the European Parliament rejected this aspect of Brussels’ latest crazed proposal.

 
  
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  Lena Ek and Cecilia Malmström (ALDE), in writing. (SV) If we are to have a functioning European market for goods, it is important for the consumer’s interests too to be safeguarded. The changes made by the European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection to the Commission’s draft legislation laying down rules on nominal quantities for pre-packed products would not, however, bring about such a situation. The rapporteur has proposed rules for the packaging of, for example, butter, milk, pasta and rice. I want European consumers to be able to choose between many products, and there is no intrinsic value in using regulations to dispense with today’s Swedish milk packs containing, for example, 300 ml of milk. Consumers are at present able to decide for themselves what they wish to purchase by comparing prices. We must legislate to improve basic conditions of competition and to increase consumer protection. However, we must, in accordance with the Commission’s ambition, do away with unnecessary rules. I voted therefore in favour of a slimmer but more focused EU, with no place for unnecessary regulation involving unnecessary costs for the food industry.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) In general terms, the proposal for a directive voted on today in plenary at first reading forms part of the drive, backed by the Commission, to simplify internal market legislation. The purpose of this proposal is to consolidate the existing legislation in a single act and to repeal (or deregulate) all existing pack sizes.

Certain sectors will continue, however, to be subject to the existing regulation based on total harmonisation. According to the proposal, mandatory ranges could be justified in very specific sectors, such as wines, spirits, soluble coffee, aerosols and white sugar, where Community rules had already fixed harmonised mandatory sizes.

Parliament has also specified that the directive will not apply to pre-packed bread, spreadable fats, or tea, for which national rules on nominal quantities will continue to apply. All sectors may manufacture, and consumers may purchase, products within a potentially infinite range of sizes.

The report also considers that some other staple foods, namely coffee, butter, salt, rice, pasta and drinking milk, should continue to be subject to mandatory ranges, as a derogation to liberalisation.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) The report discusses a proposal for deregulation but, at the same time, harmonisation of the permitted size of food packaging. On the one hand, it may, from the point of view of the internal market, be good to have standards that ultimately benefit the consumer. On the other hand, the report includes a proposal for far-reaching detailed regulation at EU level.

Among the amendments voted through by Parliament’s committee is one stating that studies carried out by the Commission show that unit prices are, in general, neither used nor understood by consumers. These statements in some degree declare people in the Member States incapable of managing their own affairs and are thus evidence of an unpleasant attitude towards the population.

I have today voted against the report because it involves regulation of an area about which decisions should really be made not at EU level but by each Member State.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) I welcome the Commission’s drive to simplify legislation. One of the most significant barriers to economic efficiency in EU Member States is excessive legislation and confusing regulations – in other words, what is referred to in English as red tape.

I am in favour of this proposal to simplify and liberalise, which has been somewhat watered down by the precautionary nature of the amendments tabled by Parliament. Where liberalisation has been proved beyond doubt to serve no useful purpose or even to act against the consumers’ interests, it has been scaled back. I therefore voted in favour.

 
  
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  Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE), in writing. The implications of some of the Commission proposals on a number of EU industries, in particular the whisky industry in Scotland, would have been negative, so I was glad that the IMCO Committee made a number of changes, which I am pleased to support. The internal market has been a massive advantage for EU producers, and we in this house must ensure that those advantages remain to the fore.

 
  
  

- Brok report (A6-0389/2005)

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI). – (DE) Mr President, there are at the moment two crisis hotspots that demand our complete attention and plenty of sensitivity, and the sort of fine words that we currently hear from the present Austrian Presidency of the Council will not make them go away.

For a start, we have to handle Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian elections, which, it is clear, must be accepted as an expression of the democratic will. Hamas is, however, a movement that has not yet renounced violence, while the Palestinian people need help from Europe – including financial aid – more than ever. We will of course, in the event of Hamas forming a government, have to demand of it that it renounces violence.

Turning to Iran, it is to be hoped that it is not yet too late for what we would prefer to see, that being a diplomatic solution, which would of course have to be agreed with Russia and China. Since Iran appears to be amenable to talks with Russia on uranium enrichment, that is the first line of approach we should attempt, but it is also important to express our opposition to nuclear cooperation between the USA and India, which seems to confirm Teheran’s negative estimate of the USA as a ‘self-appointed global policeman’ and as a hypocritical one at that.

 
  
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  Glyn Ford (PSE), in writing. I will be voting in favour of the Brok report on common foreign and security policy. We have seen the successive development in Europe of Industrial, Social and Economic and Monetary Union. We now have a Union bigger than the US with 451 million citizens and an economy more powerful than that of the US. Yet we still lack a single voice in the world.

What Europe is missing is a common foreign and security policy that would give us that voice. Mr Brok’s report moves us in the right direction. We will have many battles over the details of such a policy. But need one we do and have one we must.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) Once again, a report on the EU’s common foreign and security policy, or CFSP, has appeared on the agenda. It is the June List’s firm conviction that issues relating to foreign and security policy should be dealt with not by the EU but at the level of the Member States.

The report also states that the European Parliament must be consulted when common foreign and security policy guidelines are devised at the beginning of each year. In that way, Parliament is trying to appropriate more power for itself, something to which the June List is opposed.

For the above-mentioned reasons, I have voted against the report in today’s vote.

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (PSE), in writing. The European Parliamentary Labour Party commends Mr Brok's report for its commitment to a strong CFSP, with an emphasis on conflict resolution, the fight against poverty and upholding human rights. We thank the Rapporteur for his condolences in respect of the London bombings. However, I also want to place on record our support for the trade and aid regulations for northern Cyprus, rather that the wording of Amendment 1, together with our longstanding opposition to military spending falling under the Community budget.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome this report, which stipulates that Parliament asserts the right to be consulted more effectively and to play a more active role in the EU’s common foreign and security policy and European Security and Defence Policy. The AFET Committee’s report sets out priorities needed to prevent conflicts and build international cooperation founded on respect for human rights and international law.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the report before us, because I identify with its broad thrust, both in terms of what are – and should be – the main grounds for concern at international level, and in terms of what the EU’s priorities should be in this regard.

Although I do not subscribe entirely to some of the points that it makes, especially on institutional matters, I feel that the general worldview that emerges here is the right one. I also believe that the EU’s international role depends more on practical action and on our ability to understand common concerns than on any discussion of theoretical models. When it comes to external policy, reality is, as a rule, more powerful than any theoretical consideration.

Lastly, I am happy to note that the tone of agreement between the transatlantic partners is on the rise, which strikes me as a vital element on the road to peace, democracy and prosperity in the world.

 
  
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  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE), in writing. Conservatives can support certain provisions in this Report, such as the recommendations to maintain the arms embargo on China, revive negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and make African governments fulfil their commitments to democracy and the rule of law.

However, it also contains many proposals to which we are firmly opposed. In general it seeks to extend the reach of CFSP into every area of national foreign policy. Paragraph 4 brazenly lists the measures taken "to anticipate the application of some of the provisions of the new Constitutional Treaty" despite the welcome rejection of the Constitution. Paragraph 10 mistakenly considers "home defence as a vital part of the European Union's security strategy", whereas it is the preserve of national governments. NATO, the cornerstone of European defence for over half a century and the key organisation for international crisis management missions involving military forces, barely warrants a mention in this report, with paragraph 12 misleadingly subsuming NATO to a role "within Europe's foreign and security policy." We also object to the idea of an EU military mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo and for an EU defence budget.

We therefore abstained in the final vote.

 
  
  

- Carlshamre report (A6-0404/2005)

 
  
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  Jan Andersson, Anna Hedh, Ewa Hedkvist Petersen, Inger Segelström and Åsa Westlund (PSE), in writing. (SV) We voted in favour of the report. We interpret the concept of a ‘minimum income’, which appears in paragraph 4 f), as signifying a guaranteed reasonable standard of living, as we are well disposed towards a guaranteed reasonable standard of living but opposed to the introduction of state-regulated minimum wages.

 
  
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  Charlotte Cederschiöld, Christofer Fjellner, Gunnar Hökmark and Anna Ibrisagic (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) The Swedish Conservative delegation has today chosen to abstain from voting in a vote on the current situation in combating violence against women and any future action. We have not been able to support the report because it to an unduly large degree seeks to make national areas of competence subject to EU decision-making. We are firmly convinced that issues concerning gender equality and policy on crime should be decided on by the Member States, which are best placed to make decisions in these areas. The Conservatives have set the pace at national level when it comes to many of the measures discussed in the report.

We believe that the state must fulfil its primary task, namely that of protecting people from criminal attacks, irrespective of the victim’s and the perpetrator’s genders. We should place the emphasis on the responsibility of the individual perpetrator of violence instead of proceeding on the basis of a view of society that reduces the responsibility of the individual.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Parliament must express its concern regarding violence against women. This is a phenomenon that affects women of all ages, levels of education and social backgrounds, although there are some forms of violence that are strongly linked to poverty and social exclusion.

We support the recommendation that the Member States adopt a zero tolerance approach to all forms of violence against women, which entails implementing effective methods of prevention and punishment, and measures aimed at raising awareness of the problem and at combating it.

It should not be forgotten that violence by men against women is a phenomenon associated with the unequal distribution of power between the sexes, which in itself is a further reason why this type of crime has not been sufficiently reported and condemned.

I welcome the adoption – albeit only partial – of some of the proposals that we tabled, especially the acknowledgement that poverty and marginalisation are underlying causes of the rise in the trafficking of women and that prostitution is not tantamount to a job.

I regret, however, the rejection of the proposal aimed at setting up the resources required to develop effective programmes for integrating women involved in prostitution, with the aim of gradually reducing and ultimately eliminating prostitution.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) I share many of the rapporteur’s views on this subject. It is extremely important that public awareness of these issues be raised in the Member States. I have voted in favour of the report because it does not expressly recommend legislation at EU level. A number of recommendations are presented to both the Commission and the Member States with a view to combating violence against women. I believe that this issue is ultimately one regarding which the national parliaments should take any legislative measures that may be necessary.

 
  
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  Filip Andrzej Kaczmarek (PPE-DE), in writing. (PL) Violence against women is a traumatic experience, not only for the women themselves, but also for their children, their relatives and even for those who try and help the victims. I have personal experience of this. I once drove a woman who had been beaten up by her husband to hospital and to the police station. On that occasion I was seized by an emotion that is probably often felt by women. It was a powerless rage. One feels this same rage on hearing that the police have taken a drunken man convicted of ill-treating his family back to his former wife’s home and hear the police justify their action on the grounds that the man’s last registered domicile was at his former wife’s home.

A few years ago a tragedy occurred in my own home town. A man got out of one of the centres where drunkards are taken to sober up. These centres are not prisons. The man managed to walk a couple of kilometres, killed his wife and threw her body out of the window. I do not want anything like that to happen again.

Violence is not a domestic matter. It can never be justified or perceived in relative terms. The whole of society must make a stand against violence. We cannot allow this problem to be sidelined or understate its importance for society. We must not play down the scale of the phenomenon either.

I supported Mrs Carlshamre’s report because we are bound to do all in our power to eliminate violence against women. The zero tolerance principle is not always necessary, but on this occasion it really is essential.

 
  
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  Timothy Kirkhope (PPE-DE), in writing. I and my British Conservative colleagues deplore all violence against women. Indeed, we deplore violence against both sexes being perpetrated by both sexes, or by anyone against anyone. We also believe that women must be protected from violent acts and those responsible for such acts should face the full force of the law.

However, we have abstained on this report as it is a missed opportunity to address a serious problem. The intemperate language detracts from the important message the report is trying to send out.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome this report, which reaffirms that men’s violence against women is a violation of human rights and that perpetrators of such violence should be prosecuted as vigorously as in those cases where violence is directed at men. There is a discrepancy between how crimes of violence are treated and punished depending on the gender of the victim. Whether such violence occurs in a public environment or in a private environment should not be relevant in tackling such violence as a criminal offence.

Whilst recognising that the declaration on the elimination of violence against women adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993 was an important milestone in the recognition of the problem of domestic violence against women, this report rightly stresses that, in the EU context, more can be done.

I especially support its calls for a fundamental analysis of the extent of the problem following studies carried out in three EU countries showing that 40-50% of women had, at some point in their lives, been subjected to violence by a man. In the EU we have a duty to recognise and ensure the rights of women to life and physical safety under the rule of law.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Issues in connection with women’s rights were among the problems resulting from the massive influx of other cultures to which, for decades, a blind eye was turned through misconceived tolerance. It is clear from the facts, not least that one in every four women in the EU suffers violence at the hands of a male family member, that half of all murders are committed within the family and that genital mutilation is carried out on some 500 000 women, that it is high time that we started to clamp down on this once and for all.

It can therefore be seen as nothing other than a disgrace that it appears to be possible, in this EU of ours, to enact regulations on the curvature of cucumbers and bananas, but not to devise across-the-board rules on how violence against women is to be punished. It is no less pathetic when state offices turn a blind eye to instances of polygamy or even take a supportive attitude towards it and thereby further encourage the abuse of human rights.

Laudable though it is for the Presidency of the Council to respond to this state of affairs by declaring its intention to do more to defend women’s rights, getting doctors, teachers and the police to provide a modicum more information will not be enough. The main problem has to do with the role models presented to men; those in our own Western society are competitive in nature, which is not absolutely ideal, but those in Muslim ideology go as far as to exemplify hatred of women. That is where we must start.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing.(FR) At least a third of women will at some point in their lives have been victims of a physical or sexual assault. That is the alarming figure taken from the excellent report by my colleague from the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Mrs Maria Carlshamre.

Faced with the escalation of violence against women and the way in which it is becoming an everyday phenomenon, there is only one firm, appropriate answer: zero tolerance whether the violence takes place in, or outside, the marriage.

Europe has, moreover, faced up to its responsibilities in order to combat this form of violence affecting women from every social group. Under the Daphne II Programme, EUR 50 million are being dedicated between 2004-2008 to protecting those women among us who are most at risk. This is a symbolic amount because we are well aware that, if the prevention and victim support policies are to be effective, then they have to be carried out on a national basis.

It is therefore alarming to learn that, each year, between five and ten million children see and hear inhuman acts of this kind take place.

It is therefore crucial that the 25 national criminal sets of legislation from now on consider children, like their mothers, to be victims.

Our society has for too long underestimated the seriousness of violent acts against women. We must put a stop to this cowardice.

 
  
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  Peter Skinner (PSE), in writing. My reasons for supporting this report are many and deep. For most people in society violence against women is abhorrent, but we know it exists.

Violence between people who know each other, such as partners, needs to be treated extremely seriously by the authorities. I support the actions proposed to facilitate changes, especially in the area of trafficking and domestic violence.

 
  
  

- Estrela report (A6-0401/2005)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of the excellent report by my fellow Member, Mrs Edite Estrela, on equality between women and men in the European Union, and I am delighted that it should have been adopted almost unanimously by the European Parliament.

Equal opportunities form part of France’s great republican principles, and I argue for them to be respected at European level in accordance, for example, with the Treaty of Rome instituting the European Community and with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Any inequality based on a person’s gender is a source of injustice, social violence and incomprehension among our fellow citizens. The European Union has a duty to ensure the equal treatment of human beings, which is a source of harmony, peace and progress. By doing this, the EU will set a clear example to the whole world in favour of the human values that we champion and that together constitute one of the pillars of European integration.

 
  
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  Charlotte Cederschiöld, Christofer Fjellner, Gunnar Hökmark and Anna Ibrisagic (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) The Swedish Conservative delegation has today chosen to abstain from voting in a vote on equality between women and men in the EU. We Conservatives wish to combat the lack of freedom entailed by inequality and prejudices. It is not, however, the EU’s task to define which measures should be taken in the Member States or by other actors in society. We cannot, therefore, support the report, which makes numerous proposals that encroach on the Member States’ areas of competence, for example proposals concerning the provision of child care, where the Member States’ traditions and distinctive cultural features are so widely different from one another.

What is more, the report strays into areas that not even the Member States should regulate, for example that of whether political parties are examining strategies for getting more women into their party structures. There are, however, other important matters discussed in the report, for example the need to gather comparable statistics concerning, respectively, men’s and women’s wages and concerning the fight against discrimination.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We voted in favour of this report because we endorse its content. We are aware, however, that it is merely another statement of intent on Parliament’s part, at variance with the policies already put in place, which, in some cases, are undermining equal rights and exacerbating discrimination, for example in the labour market.

We welcome the adoption of a proposal urging the Commission to notify Parliament of the progress made in the various Member States with regard to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, not least in the area of reproductive and sexual health, and to disclose statistical data on all Member States.

We also hope that the European Institute for Equality Between Men and Women will be given the necessary resources whereby it can make a positive contribution towards the promotion of equal rights and towards ensuring that women are treated with the dignity that they deserve.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality’s own-initiative report on the future of the Lisbon Strategy with regard to the gender perspective. I agree that measures must be taken to promote employment for women as well as reduce the continuing inequalities between women and men.

The report stresses the disparities that still exist in underlying factors such as employment, the wage gap, lifelong education and training. It also assesses the ways in which professional, family and private life can be successfully combined.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing.(FR) Dealing with equality between men and women means above all being aware of just how far things have come in over a century and since the initial struggles for female emancipation, but it also means keeping in mind how much still needs to be done if gender equality is to become an integral part of everyday life.

That is why I welcome the adoption this lunchtime of Mrs Estrela’s report, which points out various forms of discrimination that are suffered by members of the female sex and that therefore constitute so many challenges to be taken up. To mention only two of them: a pay gap estimated at 16% and an employment rate of females aged between 15 and 24 that is stagnant, despite women in this age group being educated to a higher level.

Removing the obstacles to women entering the job market obviously means putting in place a sufficient number of public or private amenities for young children, and this at least until the latter reach compulsory school age. It also means applying in practice equal parental rights. In order to ensure all of these improvements to people’s everyday lives, the European Union must champion the best standards and raise their sights and aspire to the success of the Scandinavian countries where gender equality measures are concerned.

 
  
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  Georgios Τoussas (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The Communist Party of Greece voted against the report, because it uses social problems of the working classes to speed up and extend capitalist restructurings which affect both sexes.

In order to combat female unemployment, it is proposed to extend 'flexible forms of employment'. For the lack of state welfare structures, it is proposed to shift the burden to the family, but equally. In other words, for men too to take recourse to part-time employment in order to replace the lack of state care in reproduction and care of the elderly and disabled, meaning that working class families will ultimately be unable to meet fundamental needs.

The so-called abolition of sexual discrimination at work has been used as an alibi for removing rights derived from the specific needs of women due to their reproductive function.

We condemn as disorientating the talk about changing the gender composition of power. Policy is not determined by gender. The power of the plutocracy will not change with more women in the institutions that serve it.

Women's problems are rooted in the capitalist system which exploits women and men, using gender and age to spread the capitalist policy to both sexes.

The basis for equality can only be laid within the framework of grass-roots power, in which grass-roots wealth comes through production and the goods produced.

 
  
  

- Ferber report (A6-0390/2005)

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE).(PT) As regards the vote on the postal directive, I feel it is extremely important to mention the need to maintain guaranteed universal service. The completion of the internal market in postal services needs to take account not only of the sector’s economic importance, but also its irreplaceable territorial and social dimension.

The local services provided by the post office in each Member State play a considerable social role that we must not dispense with. We must therefore pay particular attention to the territorial and social dimension of postal networks when we are called on to make decisions on the reforms in the sector, in light of the far-reaching impact that those decisions may have when the postal services are entirely opened up to competition. I therefore feel it is crucial that the planned study analyse whether the provisions of the postal directive are sufficiently clear as regards the obligation to provide a universal service and whether an adequate framework is established for the Member States.

We must not jeopardise the directive’s key objective, which is to guarantee minimum Community-level territorial and social postal services, at a certain quality and at affordable prices.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The liberalisation of postal services forms part of the so-called ‘Lisbon Strategy’, and is aimed at opening up the sector to private capital. The ultimate aim is to privatise this public sector, starting with the most profitable sections, and ‘obviously’ continuing to be supported by public funding (the model applied to hospital management being a case in point).

The struggle of the workers in the sector, and that of the people – I refer in particular to the numerous demonstrations against post office closures and in favour of ensuring postal delivery – has succeeded in delaying and in some cases actually blocking this process, in some of its most detrimental aspects.

The purpose of this report by Parliament is to assess the impact thus far of the liberalisation in the EU Member States, ahead of new initiatives by the Commission aimed at deepening it.

The report fails to criticise the current process of liberalisation, or to expose the detrimental consequences thereof, such as the closure of outlets, the cuts to daily home delivery and the reduction in employment levels; it does quite the opposite, in fact. It also fails to call into question the liberalisation of the sector in 2009, promoting instead the opening up of the sector and the primacy of competition in this regard.

Hence our vote against.

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE), in writing. (DE) The year 1997 saw the beginning of the liberalisation process in the European postal market, the intention of which was to create an open market accessible to every service provider in what are now 25 Member States.

The national postal services responded to the pressure from this liberalisation process by starting to change their structures and to reposition themselves.

All this progress notwithstanding, the transposition of the directive at national level needs to be closely observed. It is, for example, unacceptable that Austrian postal legislation should impose disproportionately high sanctions on those who omit to fit new letterboxes on their houses. That is not something for which the EU’s 2002 Post Directive can be blamed, for it prescribed no such sanctions at national level. Implementing directives in this way further encourages the public in their sceptical attitude towards the EU, and in their belief that the responsibility for this state of affairs lies with Brussels and nowhere else.

I call on the Commission to monitor the transposition of the Postal Directive with a particular view to ensuring that the penalties planned at national level are not disproportionate and do not imperil the functioning of the postal market. This should be given priority as a matter for examination in the forthcoming prospective study.

Since this own-initiative report makes the same demand as I do, I welcome it.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution: Situation in the Middle East (RC-B6-0086/2006)

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The situation is extremely complicated but the election results should not be used to undermine the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to freedom, to an independent sovereign state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to resist the occupation. Nor should they be used to jeopardise financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, which meets the most basic needs of the Palestinian people, or to fuel the USA’s increasing military involvement throughout the Middle East. It is as vital as ever to show solidarity with the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people and with the Palestinian national movement.

Lastly I wish to express my disappointment that the majority in Parliament rejected the amendments tabled by our group, which called on Israel to abide by United Nations resolutions and the recommendations made by the International Court of Justice, and which sought to bring to the top of our list of priorities the need to put an end to the impasse in the peace process, to military occupation, to the settlements, to the wall, to assassinations, to detentions, to refusals to release prisoners, to the violence to which the Palestinian people are subjected and to the dramatic fall in their living conditions.

(Explanation of vote abbreviated in accordance with Rule 163(1) of the Rules of Procedure)

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I voted in favour of the joint motion for a resolution on the situation in Palestine. While we are right to call on Hamas to recognise Israel and end terrorism, we should not bring into question the outcome of fair and free democratic elections. The EU must continue to give aid to the Palestinian people and remain fully engaged as a member of the Quartet pushing the ‘roadmap for peace’.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) When democracy engenders an unwanted result, there is a temptation to condemn the idea that such an outcome can happen. This is understandable, but of little value. What democracy must strive to do is to act effectively to stop people from joining such movements.

What is far from certain is that there is democracy in Palestine, regardless of the regular elections that have taken place, and this is where our concerns should lie. Democracy and the rule of law, which imply, inter alia, peaceful coexistence with other countries, not wishing to destroy one’s neighbours and, obviously, eliminating terrorism, must be the cornerstone of our policy in relation to this part of the world.

Irrespective of the current nature of the movement that has won the Palestinian election, the important thing now is to demand that the government-elect of the Palestinian Authority respect international agreements and uphold the principles required for the peaceful coexistence of the two countries, without which it will be impossible to help the Palestinians. Despite the fact that this result reflects the will of the people, the potential consequences remain very serious.

 
  
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  Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE), in writing. The election of Hamas was the democratic will of the Palestinian people, and while I have grave misgivings about the policies of that organisation, there is no question that they form the legitimate government. The aid the EU gives to the peace process can, and indeed must, be conditional upon continued moves towards peace. To shut off the aid now would risk alienating an organisation the EU must remain engaged with. I believe continued application of EU pressure will help to deliver a long-term solution. We cannot disengage now because of distaste for individual partners we are obliged to work with.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution: Cuba (RC-B6-0075/2006)

 
  
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  James Hugh Allister (NI), in writing. Today I voted for the joint resolution on Cuba, though I would have preferred it to have expressly regretted the 2005 abandonment of sanctions.

As a society built on the imperative of Marxist domination, it is no surprise that Cuba is a bastion of repression, where dissent is crushed and freedom denied.

It is a telling insight into the totalitarian and Marxist reality, which lurks behind its democratic facade, that Sinn Fein/IRA maintains representation in Cuba. It was most notoriously exposed when, in 2001, that representative, Niall Connolly, infamously organised for himself and others to train FARC guerrillas in Columbia.

The EU’s abandonment of sanctions in 2005 has been an utter failure. Human rights abuses have increased, not diminished. As ever with Marxist extremists, be they Castro or Sinn Fein, they simply pocket the concessions and carry on regardless. I say it is time we learnt the lesson and put some steel back into our stand against this hideous regime.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM), in writing.(NL) Cuba leaves a great deal to be desired in terms of fundamental freedoms, as is evident from both the oral question and the present, otherwise adequate, resolution.

There is one issue which I would like to highlight, and that is the position of house churches. New legislation contained in Directive 43 and Resolution 46 requires all operational house communities to register with the authorities. It is a regular occurrence that applications for registration result in extremely complicated negotiations with the authorities. These involve detailed information about the community members and their pastors. This new legislation has already resulted in the closure of several house churches.

In 1992, the Cuban authorities changed the constitution, the effect being to change the country from an atheist state to a secular one. That was a first step in the right direction. New legislation, however, appears to reflect a trend towards new restrictions. While the Cuban constitution recognises the right of the citizens to freedom of religion, de facto restrictions are increasingly being imposed. Why are Christian churches, including those that are registered, so closely scrutinised, checked out and even infiltrated? This hardly amounts to real freedom of religion in Cuba.

I would ask the Council and Commission to broach these issues in talks with the Cuban authorities.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) I voted against the resolution, because I object to its content, which takes absolutely no account of the context in which Cuba has been forced to live for many years, namely the US embargo and all of the attacks that Cuba has suffered.

The resolution also omits any reference to the existence of the US base at Guantanamo, where the Bush Administration is holding prisoners without trial and is riding roughshod over human rights and the Geneva Convention.

It also makes no reference to the five Cuban citizens still being held in the USA, some of whom are not allowed to receive family visits, this despite the court in Atlanta overturning the ruling that had led to their initial detention.

This position held by the majority in Parliament is very much one of double standards, and toes the US line, which is one of continuous pressure on people and governments failing to follow its guidelines and resisting subjugation.

It is similarly disappointing that there is not one word about the important contribution that Cuba is making to the social development of the people of Latin America and Africa. Young people from these areas go to Cuba to receive training and education, and Cuba sends thousands of doctors and other professionals to other countries.

(Explanation of vote abbreviated in accordance with Rules 163(1) of the Rules of Procedure)

 
  
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  Glyn Ford (PSE), in writing. I will vote with reluctance for this resolution. The situation of human rights in Cuba is by no means perfect and on some occasions the Cuban authorities have been their own worst enemies in refusing permission for representatives of the Damas de Blanco to travel to Strasbourg to receive their share of the Sakharov Prize recently. Yet there is, in my opinion, no climate of fear in Havana, such as that I have witnessed in Kashmir or, until recently, Aceh.

There is an issue of proportionality. Yes, Cuba violates human rights but not to the extent of Colombia with its death squads or Haiti with the anarchy of criminal gangs and violent politics which have seen more than 1000 deaths. Hopefully next week’s elections there might start to bring that to an end. Where is Parliament’s constant concern on these and other human rights in the region outside of Cuba? Where are our concerns about ‘occupied’ Cuba in Guantanamo Bay, where reports indicate that the situation is far worse than Cuba’s worst jails?

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) Of course I believe that Cuba should be a parliamentary democracy. I also believe, however, that foreign policy is a national matter and that multilateral channels, such as the UN, are the only acceptable alternative for influencing countries not in the immediate vicinity of the EU.

For the above-mentioned reasons, I have voted against the resolution.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Two hundred words will never be enough to undo yet another manoeuvre that forms part of the EU’s policy of isolation and discrimination against Cuba, which panders to the demands of the USA.

This is the same EU that, lest we forget, called for a change to the political system in Cuba in its 1996 common position, thereby interfering in an issue that is exclusively the responsibility of the Cuban people.

The majority in this very Parliament, in a cynical move, criticised the US embargo on Cuba, yet also called for continued sanctions imposed on Cuba by the EU. Furthermore, it does not manage one single word of solidarity with the five Cuban patriots held in the USA for defending their country against terrorism.

Though it pains the majority in the House, Cuba means hope for, and confidence in, a decent life for millions of men and women. This is a country that, in spite of the embargo, achieved the highest economic growth in the past 45 years in 2005, a country that is set to take on the presidency of the non-aligned movement and to host its 2006 summit, and a country that sends thousands of doctors, teachers and sports coaches to other countries, rather than armies to occupy, exploit and oppress.

(Explanation of vote abbreviated in accordance with Rule 163(1) of the Rules of Procedure)

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) Cuba is proof that in the western world not all of the walls of shame have come down. Between the absurd idealism of some and the shameless pragmatism of others, there have been those who seem determined to forget that in Cuba there is no democracy, no human rights, no freedom, nothing that we would consider to be the essential building blocks of our societies. No unfathomable romanticism, nor pragmatism, can justify any change to the essential position: consistent condemnation of Cuba and calls for democratisation, without which it will not be possible to maintain close ties with this tyrannical government.

 
  
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  Esko Seppänen (GUE/NGL), in writing. I have voted for the joint motion for a resolution on Cuba, but it is missing several important facts in the political context.

The main problem in the Cuban situation is caused by the US-led blockade and the aggressive US threats against Cuba.

Putting an end to the blockade and stopping the aggressive threats by the US would be the most important step in creating an atmosphere in which there would be better possibilities to create true democracy in Cuba.

But the aggressive US policy is not the only reason for the severe restrictions on freedom of expression and democracy in Cuba. The Cuban Government has also its own individual responsibility to bear.

One example, among others, is the decision not to let the Sakharov Prize winners, the Damas de Blanco leave the country to receive the prize in Strasbourg.

I have voted for the resolution, but I protest against the Cuban Government’s travel ban on the Damas de Blanco.

 
  
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  Jonas Sjöstedt (GUE/NGL), in writing. I have voted in favour of the proposed resolution on Cuba, even though it is missing several important facts in the political context.

The main problem in the Cuban situation is caused by the US-lead blockade and the aggressive US threats against Cuba.

Putting an end to the blockade and stopping the aggressive threats by the US would be the most important step in creating an atmosphere in which there would be better possibilities to create a true democracy in Cuba.

But the aggressive US policy is not the only reason for the severe restrictions on freedom of expression and democracy in Cuba. The Cuban government also has its own individual responsibility to bear.

One example, among others, is the decision not to let the Sakharov prize-winners, the Damas de Blanco, leave the country to receive the prize in Strasbourg.

I am voting in favour of the resolution, despite its imperfections, since I want to protest against the Cuban government’s travel ban on the Damas de Blanco.

 
  
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  Sahra Wagenknecht (GUE/NGL), in writing. (DE) I reject this resolution on Cuba, which is one-sided and does no justice whatsoever to the complexities of real life in that country. If we condemn Cuba,

– we are treating as of no account that country’s efforts at developing in another way, which it is doing in the teeth of resistance from many quarters;

– we are ignoring Cuba’s exemplary achievement in making provision for its people’s welfare, which it continues to do despite the American embargo and serious economic problems;

– we are denying that the continued existence of the Cuban system offers a glimmer of hope to those in the so-called Third World who are on the losing side in a globalised world in which markets and profits matter more than anything else.

This resolution takes a reductivist view of the concept of human rights, and the way it makes use of them betrays an intolerable dual morality. This resolution is not aimed at defending human rights, but rather at condemning the Cuban system and contributing to its downfall. I will have no part in it.

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution: EU/Budgetary management (RC-B6-0074/2006)

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The implementation of the Community budget, that is, ensuring that political decisions are actually implemented, is an extremely important issue.

Unfortunately the budgetary process is increasingly less transparent and more scattered, making it difficult to ascertain the final destination of funds.

The budget savings imposed by the Stability and Growth Pact and by the major contributing countries has meant that, following adoption of the annual Community budget, many priority areas are underfunded, which has led to a policy of redistribution and cuts across the budgetary headings and countless amending budgets. In other words, non-execution is encouraged in certain areas to finance others, regardless of the adopted budget.

There are also policies and instruments such as the Stability and Growth Pact, that are factors in non-implementation. In this regard, the Commission and the Council cannot wash their hands of their responsibilities, in view of the constant reduction in payments in respect of authorisations.

National implementation must go hand in hand with the definition of national priorities on the ground, especially when it comes to the Structural Funds. Irrespective of the instruments that have just been proposed, we do not think that the negotiations on the new financial perspective should be contingent on the proposals being adopted.

(Explanation of vote abbreviated in accordance with Rule 163(1) of the Rules of Procedure)

 
  
  

- Motion for a resolution: Fishery resources (RC-B6-0076/2006)

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The motion for a resolution on which we have just voted highlights the need for new management measures to be taken for the Mediterranean. Care must always be taken to uphold the principle that the sustainability of fishery resources must be guaranteed in order to ensure that fisheries activities are viable, that fleets can continue to operate, that jobs can be maintained and that fishing communities can be developed.

We therefore feel that the Council must adopt the management regulation on which Parliament has now given its opinion.

Given that the current situation may result in discrimination among fishermen operating in other waters, however, we believe that there must be effective decentralisation and that the main stakeholders, namely the fishermen and their representative bodies, must be involved in management decisions, given that practical measures must reflect the specific realities of each fishing area or region.

We also feel that the management regulation should be accompanied by the necessary measures to compensate for the social and economic impact caused by the regulation itself, with Community funding. All measures must be based on scientific fisheries research.

 
  
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  Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE), in writing. There are many instances where an EU of 25 states does not make sense, and one-size-fits-all does not work any more – if it ever did. There is no reason why I as a Scottish Member of this house should have a say over the Mediterranean, and I have accordingly abstained on this vote. The EU needs to find new ways of working to ensure legitimacy of our decisions. Continuing the notion that everyone is equally interested in everything is untenable and discredits the EU itself.

 
  
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  President. – That concludes the explanations of vote.

 
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