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Procedure : 2004/2254(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Select a document :

Texts tabled :

A6-0013/2006

Debates :

PV 13/03/2006 - 18
CRE 13/03/2006 - 18

Votes :

PV 14/03/2006 - 11.2
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2006)0077

Debates
Tuesday, 14 March 2006 - Strasbourg OJ edition

12. Explanations of vote
PV
  

Kauppi report (A6-0050/2006)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of the excellent report by my colleague, Mrs Kauppi, on the proposal for an amendment of the directive of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding the capital of public limited liability companies.

At the same time as protecting the rights of shareholders and creditors, it was becoming urgent to simplify the means of maintaining and altering the capital of public limited liability companies in view of the large number of different situations facing economic operators. Expanding on the lines of thought underpinning these legislative developments, I believe that there is a need to engage in a broader political debate. The aim of such a debate, particularly where natural or legal persons not resident in the European Union are concerned, will be to regulate access – both direct and indirect – to the capital of companies operating in the European internal market.

 
  
  

Report: Gröner, Sartori (A6-0043/2006)

 
  
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  Frank Vanhecke (NI). – (NL) Mr President, let me say, for the sake of clarity, that I have voted against the Gröner report, not because I am opposed to gender equality, which is far from being the case, but because this report and the institute for gender equality to which it refers are typical of the suffocating, political correctness which is gradually tightening its grip on Europe.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights, a politically correct, left-wing policy document enforced by an equally politically correct office for fundamental rights, along with job quotas and the other measures proposed in the now deceased but ever-looming European Constitution, are framed by the same ideology.

I urge you to ignore those issues in favour of what really matters, which is that women are entitled to the same employment and must receive equal pay for equal work. We are all agreed on this. All the rest is mere political correctness.

 
  
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  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, I wished to emphasise that I am absolutely convinced of the need to safeguard human rights, of both men and women, but I am not sure that this specific text safeguards these rights or the subsidiarity of the Member States on the issues to which it relates.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We voted in favour because we recognise the importance of setting up a European Institute for Gender Equality. We also wish to stress that this Institute must not solely be involved in studies, analyses and the preparation of statistics, however important this activity may be.

Cooperation and dialogue with NGOs and bodies that specialise in the field of equal opportunities must be stepped up, at national and European level, and with third countries. Measures to put an end to discrimination must also be supported.

It is also essential that we analyse and monitor gender mainstreaming in all policies and in the EU’s budgetary process, especially with regard to the impact of relevant national Community policies on men and women. This was something that we proposed but that, regrettably, was not adopted.

Lastly, we hope that adequate Community funding will be forthcoming and that common sense prevails when it comes to the appointment of the management board.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin, Nils Lundgren and Lars Wohlin (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) The report proposes that a new European Institute for Gender Equality be set up.

The June List’s basic attitude is that issues of equality have very high priority. Equal treatment of women and men is an imperative demand that all EU countries must fulfil. This does not, however, mean that the EU should set up another bureaucracy for the purpose. Sweden has come a long way with its work on equality, and the June List is convinced that this work is best done at national level. An Institute for Gender Equality at European level means increased bureaucracy and less efficiency.

The fight for equality must be conducted from the bottom up in the Member States and not from the top down by appointed Eurocrats, if citizens of both genders are to be engaged in it. Eurostat can take care of the need for comparative statistics in this area.

We have thus chosen to vote against the report in its entirety.

 
  
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  Timothy Kirkhope (PPE-DE), in writing. I and my British Conservative colleagues are strong supporters of equality of opportunity in society. We believe in both men and women playing their full role in the life of our own nation and elsewhere and oppose any discrimination on the ground of gender.

However, we have voted against this report today as we do not support the proliferation of new EU agencies and institutes that will add to the burden of the taxpayer and increase bureaucracy without any proven benefit to the people they are supposed to serve. The creation of a separate institute in regard to this issue risks ghettoisation by leaving it open to single-issue pressure groups and thus easier to disregard and marginalise. The issue of gender equality should be dealt with in the framework of the global approach to fundamental rights.

 
  
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  Christa Klaß (PPE-DE), in writing. (DE) The Commission announced the creation of the European Institute on Gender Equality even before Parliament had delivered its report on the subject. Procedurally speaking, that is the wrong way to go about it. We are voting on it today, and Parliament’s voice carries weight in this matter.

The intention is that an Institute should be created, with a budget of EUR 54.5 million, with the specific function of monitoring men’s and women’s equality of opportunity by producing statistics and reports. This House has, however, for practical and financial reasons, and as recently as last year, recommended that the Institute for Gender Equality should form part of the European Human Rights Agency. More action and more resources are needed to address equality issues in an effective way, but no provision is as yet being made for them. It follows that the original idea of combining the two agencies in one single Agency for Fundamental Rights deserves support.

It is for that reason that I have tabled Amendment 73. Rejecting the creation of an independent institute on Gender Equality is not in any way to be seen as an expression of hostility to policy on women’s issues. The money available to us should be invested in women’s education. That would be the first step towards equality. The current debate on the reduction of bureaucracy is another reason why an additional agency does not make sense and would not be something readily explicable to the public. It is for that reason that I have not voted in favour of this report.

 
  
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  Astrid Lulling (PPE-DE), in writing. (DE) I have, for over 40 years, campaigned for women’s rights and for gender equality.

I cannot therefore be accused of lacking any sympathy for this matter.

I do wonder, though, why a European Institute for Gender Equality is supposed to be necessary, quite simply because the idea of a Gender Institute was hatched over ten years ago, since when a lot of time has passed and we now set different priorities for spending money, which is in short supply, in a more effective way.

I can think of better ways of spending over EUR 50 million, and thereby promoting equality of opportunity for women and men, than by creating an Institute whose functions and powers would overlap with those of many bodies at national, European and global level.

The sight of this shopping list – which is what these 85 amendments amount to – causes me to worry about the eventual costs of what will be an oversized playground for women’s libbers with outdated ideas.

I endorse the amendment that reminds us that this House has already resolved that such an institute should form part of the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights. That would, at any rate, limit the damage it could do.

In view of the many things in it that make no sense, and of the absence from it of any financial perspectives, I cannot vote in favour of this report today.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome the report, in particular the effort to create an independent body focusing specifically on gender issues. I agree with the idea of a body dealing exclusively with gender equality matters, since it ensures that the objective of gender equality, as set out in the Treaty, will not be second to any other anti-discrimination policy at EU level.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The fact that opinions are practically policed and that one-track thinking has all but been established has turned serious, relevant debates addressing pressing issues into reaffirmations of faith in certain policies. This is clearly the case when it comes to so-called ‘gender policy’.

It is one thing to acknowledge the need for a better balance in society, which is characterised by a distribution of labour more in keeping with the modern world and by greater freedom of choice, yet policies that supposedly implement these ideas are all too often forced upon us.

It is as though some policy areas precluded the possibility of divergent opinion on methods and mechanisms. This is the nub of my primary objection to the idea of an EU Institute for Gender Equality. The fact that I support, as I said earlier, greater balance in the way in which our societies are organised does not lead me to advocate the creation of this Institute.

Making freedom bureaucratic does not strike me as the right way forward. The end does not always justify the means. What is more, the proliferation of ‘agencies’ and 'institutes’ does not strike me as an appropriate model for the organisation of Community institutions.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE), in writing. (DE) We, the Members of the European Parliament belonging to the Austrian People’s Party, are in favour of gender equality and also of politics playing an active role in this area. We therefore believe that having this matter handled by the planned European Human Rights Agency would send the right message and wish to reiterate our agreement to issues of gender equality being seen as an important task for the Agency, as stated in the European Parliament's resolution of 26 May 2006 on the Kinga Gal report.

We are, however, opposed to the establishment of additional independent institutions, the ultimate result of which will be the existence of new and expensive bureaucracies, and, since the financial issues have been left quite unresolved, reject the planned unspecified financial obligations to the tune of some EUR 52 million.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE), in writing. (SV) The EU has too many authorities and agencies. In spite of that, I am voting in favour of this institute being set up. Gender equality is a disaster, symbolised in particular by outdated rules governing parental leave, the complete lack of gender education, very poor legislation and the fact that 83% of top positions are occupied by men. It may be worth spending a few million euros on trying to improve this situation a little with the help of an institute designed to supplement the one that already exists to combat discrimination against minorities. It may actually make sense to have an institute to combat discrimination against the majority, who are women.

 
  
  

Report: Papadimoulis (A6-0027/2006)

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (UEN), in writing. This is an excellent report. We have become starkly aware of more frequent and more severe natural disasters across the EU and the world. Upon recalling the last 15 months, for example, we have witnessed the tsunami disaster in Asia; the strong tropical cyclone in Louisiana and Mississippi; the devastating floods in Romania, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and France; the serious drought in Spain and Portugal and the fires that have destroyed nearly 180 000 hectares of forest in Portugal. It is clear that natural hazards pose a global threat and warrant global responses.

I therefore welcome the proposal for a Council regulation and the European Parliament's report, specifically regarding the concept of prevention in shaping an EU response to natural disasters. Prevention is in every way as crucial as reaction to natural disasters and I welcome the inclusion of the concept of prevention in the report.

I also agree that the legal basis is clearer under Art. 175(1) of the Treaty establishing the European Community and support the rapporteur.

I agree that the EU´s civil protection doctrine has to be founded on a 'bottom-up' approach and that primary responsibility for civil protection activity should be with the Member States.

 
  
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  Johannes Blokland (IND/DEM), in writing.(NL) The Christian Union and SGP MEPs are unable to endorse the recommendation to the Council for the rapid response and readiness instrument for major emergencies. In particular, we do not support the change in the legal basis, the extension of the instrument’s scope to enable the funding of preventive measures, or the budget increase.

We specifically regret the change to the legal basis, particularly since Parliament did decide in favour of Article 308 being the only correct legal basis in previous, analogous votes. Stretching the definition of Article 175 of the Treaty, so that this instrument can fall within its scope is not the right way forward, and can only be interpreted as a majority position in Parliament in order to extend its influence to include topics that are not considered to fall within its remit in the Treaty.

In addition, the financial consequences of the deployment of aid teams should not be ruled by a Community instrument, but are rather a question of solidarity among countries.

 
  
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  David Casa (PPE-DE), in writing. (MT) Although there have been a lot of improvements where the response to an emergency due to a disaster is involved, I think that unfortunately there is still a lot more to be done, and thus there is the need for a collective effort so that we will be prepared as much as possible for these disasters to be avoided.

I think that we all agree that when we commit ourselves to work to prevent national-scale disasters, we would also be saving our countries and the European Union huge costs which we are facing due to our present policy.

We have to be ready to invest both money as well as human resources so that a study would be carried out to clearly indicate, or better still, evaluate, the places and regions which are most prone to disasters.

In that way we shall be ready for every eventuality which could occur and as I pointed out before, we would not only be saving many millions but we would be fulfilling our moral duty to protect the life of those more prone to these disasters.

I believe that we should give a political direction so that, through it, any country would be able to rely on help from the Union to launch projects to improve the standard of living of those who live in these regions which are, mostly prone to large-scale problems.

I believe that prevention is better than cure, and so we have to focus our energy in order to be ready for every eventuality.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Recent natural disasters, for example the floods, extreme drought and forest fires affecting not only EU countries, but also countries outside the EU – for example the Asian tsunami and the hurricanes in the USA – demonstrate the importance of effective civil protection mechanisms.

The Rapid Response and Preparedness Instrument for major emergencies proposed by the Commission is aimed at enhancing the EU’s response capacity in the context of the civil protection mechanism and at maximising assistance in terms of preparedness and rapid response to major emergencies. It does not, however, address the issue of prevention. We therefore feel that this report must be adopted, given that it attaches priority to this issue, proposing that it be included in the scope of this instrument.

We also wish to highlight the proposals on integrated environmental and natural resources, including the management of forests, of areas most at risk from flooding, of wetlands and other fragile ecosystems, and risk assessments in urban areas. Furthermore, we welcome the prominence given to remote and outlying areas, greater information and awareness-raising among the public and more and better training for those working in the sector.

 
  
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  Duarte Freitas (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The text put forward by the Commission contains some good proposals on European-level civil protection. Measures and activities for which this instrument can be activated will bring major benefits in terms of preparedness and response to emergencies.

With the amendments tabled in Parliament, the prevention of these phenomena now has a part to play in the instrument. This is a crucial factor in the drive to implement objectives as important as protecting communities, the environment and property.

In a country like Portugal, stricken year after year by forest fires and drought which have left indelible scars, this proposal will make it possible to train specialised personnel, to establish preparedness mechanisms and to share equipment and best practice with countries that are more advanced in this regard.

As such, I endorse the Papadimoulis report and the amendments to the Commission’s text.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin, Nils Lundgren and Lars Wohlin (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) There are good reasons for the Member States’ governments to give priority to measures that reduce the risk of natural disasters striking. We nonetheless question whether the EU should have the prominent role that the European Parliament wants it to have in this connection. Among other things, the European Parliament wants:

– the EU to play an active role in preventing disasters such as serious drought in Spain and Portugal or fires in southern European countries;

– the EU to become involved in disasters outside the EU through, for example, civil protection intervention;

– and the budget for a Rapid Response and Preparedness Instrument to be increased by EUR 105 million (in excess of the figure proposed by the Commission) for the period 2007–2013.

We believe that it is primarily the task of each Member State to take action in connection with natural disasters. Many forms of natural disaster (such as drought and fires) are recurrent and can be predicted. It should be entirely possible for the Member States independently to make the investments that minimise the risk of this type of disaster striking.

What is more, the UN already has a system in operation for helping countries hit by disasters and serious accidents. The Member States might do well to use this system instead of developing a parallel structure and thus risking unnecessary duplication of effort. On the basis of this reasoning, we have chosen to vote against this report.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of this regulation.

I very much welcome the improvement of the European Union's civil protection mechanisms for emergencies. This Community response instrument needs to be visible, coordinated, and very responsive, as natural disasters trigger a race against the clock. The key to success in these activities is complete cooperation between the various parties involved.

I hoped to use the amendments to put the emphasis on the preventative aspect: whilst it is important to know how to respond to disasters, it is even more important to know how to avoid them. Prevention is a fundamental part of risk reduction. For example, fires are very often caused by human activities. Therefore, a call for vigilance accompanied by information on the associated penalties is a preventative measure that we should not ignore.

However, before we draw up action plans, we need an inventory of the existing material and human resources. This inventory should be drawn up by the European Commission in cooperation with the Member States.

Finally, the initial responsibility for civil protection rests with the Member States. These Community mechanisms must therefore complement the policies pursued by national, regional or local authorities.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We naturally endorse the proposals in the report aimed at, inter alia, introducing and prioritising the dimension of prevention in the context of this instrument, as a key factor in reducing the risks of natural disasters, at stepping up the UN’s role in managing emergencies and helping communities, and at ensuring the protection of public health and cultural heritage.

Yet the debate on solidarity between different countries in the event of a disaster also serves to demonstrate – or rather, to show in stark relief – the appalling waste of resources of the arms race and the militarisation of international relations led by the main capitalist powers, and their ringleader the United States.

One wonders what could be achieved by channelling the colossal financial resources of militarisation and war into prevention, emergency help and immediate response, and the recovery of areas in the event of disasters.

How many lives, how much suffering, how much waste of economic, social and environmental resources could be avoided if there could be a policy of détente in international relations, peaceful resolution of conflicts, disarmament and effective, mutually advantageous cooperation between different countries and people?

 
  
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  Caroline Jackson (PPE-DE), in writing. The British Conservatives support the concept that there may be emergencies of a major nature where the Member States will wish to express European solidarity by means of a collective contribution through the EU budget to supplement the efforts of an individual Member State or States. We are therefore voting in support of the report as a whole. But we do not support the proposed changes in the legal base, nor the idea of extending the response to emergencies outside the EU, nor the increase in budget. If the response were to apply worldwide, no conceivable EU budget would be enough to support it. Parliament should not raise hopes that the EU will not want to fulfil.

 
  
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  Diamanto Manolakou (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) The facts demonstrate that the poor, grass-roots classes are the first victims of what is often a criminal lack of appropriate measures to safeguard them from natural disasters.

The huge floods in New Orleans killed thousands of people, even though they knew how to and could have taken preventive measures. By contrast, in Cuba, where there is universal government prevention and protection, there were no victims.

In this sense, preventive measures are needed to protect health and the environment for which the government alone, and not NGOs, are responsible and, of course, adequate resources needed to be provided.

The Commission proposal ignores the question of prevention, because then it would need to address the social and economic reasons which cause or exacerbate the consequences and provide the necessary resources, which are still inadequate.

However, it is curious how emergencies and the need for Community solidarity against natural, industrial or technological disasters include solidarity for terrorist actions. Thus the most repulsive article of the 'European Constitution' about solidarity in the event of terrorist actions has come in through the back door because, as we know, the definition of terrorism is elastic and is adapted by Euro-unifying capital to circumstances and directed mainly at the mass, grass-roots movement and its fight against the anti-grass roots, repressive policy of the EU and the governments.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The EU has been proactive and has shown solidarity in response to Member States’ requests for help in the event of major emergencies. That being said, recent major disasters, such as extreme drought and forest fires in Portugal and Spain, have demonstrated that strengthening the Community’s civil protection mechanism should be an immediate priority before fresh emergencies occur.

The text before us clearly improves upon the Commission's proposal to extend the scope of the regulation and to increase funding for prevention, preparedness and assistance in the event of a disaster.

There is also the issue of maritime pollution. After all, we must acknowledge that a coastal country cannot deal alone with an environmental emergency caused by a large-scale oil-spill hitting its coastline.

We are also an open Union with policies aimed at international solidarity. We must do as much as we can when other communities are affected by major emergencies, the crucial priority in this issue being to strengthen mutual assistance between EU Member States.

To sum up, these measures will enable us to react in the most appropriate manner to requests for assistance and this is why I voted in favour of this report.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE), in writing. (SV) The EU countries should develop structures for helping each other in the event of forest fires and other natural disasters. These are typically areas in which international coordination is constructive and necessary. Parliament is also changing the legal basis, a development that will increase civil society’s opportunities to exercise influence.

I am therefore voting in favour of the proposal, in spite of the fact that I was in a minority in opposing the proposal to include terrorist attacks. I believe that such attacks are of a quite different character to other disasters and that, in order to protect ourselves against them, quite different methods are required. They should not, therefore, be covered by the fund. A different kind of intervention is required in the case of terrorism, and only the purely civil aspects of such intervention, such as helping with reconstruction after an attack, should be covered.

Terrorism mainly affects countries with colonial foreign policies. Instead of changing these policies, as they ought to do, these countries want, however, to export them, together with their consequences, to all the EU countries. Now, only an exceedingly small proportion of the fund will probably be used for these purposes, however, and so the proposal is still acceptable.

 
  
  

Report: Hamon (A6-0022/2006)

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The IMF is one of the Bretton Woods institutions, which, like the World Bank and GATT/WTO, have served to entrench unequal development between the centre and the outer edges of the capitalist world. This has helped to liberalise trade in goods and services and has promoted the prevailing neoliberal ideology, which advocates, inter alia, the reduction of the role of the state, privatisations and a more flexible labour market, all of which form part of the so-called ‘Lisbon Strategy’.

The structural adjustment plans are an attempt at what they consider to be the adaptation of the economies of southern countries to the so-called market and competition economy, whereby the markets of such countries will be opened up to foreign investment and economic specialisation models that favour the centre will be ushered in. The disastrous economic and social consequences of these plans are well known. Even the much-vaunted stabilisation that they claim to aim for does not happen. What is more, the international monetary system is becoming more unstable and crises are happening with greater frequency.

What we need is a different monetary system, with the UN at its core, based on mutual advantage and the promotion of development. The IMF reform, even if it were based on greater involvement among developing countries, which is not in fact the case, does not alter its nature. Hence our abstention.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome this report which encourages the close coordination of Member States in negotiation inside the IMF. It is essential that, given the absence of full recognition of any EU representative bloc, with delegatory powers agreed by Member States, individual EU Member States continue to represent themselves inside the IMF. There are many key issues, such as development, which rely upon many voices to get a point of view across.

 
  
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  Claude Moraes (PSE), in writing. I welcome close coordination of Member States in negotiation inside the IMF. I believe that, in the absence of full recognition of any EU representative bloc, with delegatory powers agreed by Member States, individual EU members should continue to represent themselves inside the IMF. This is in line with many other international bodies such as the UN. There are key issues including development issues which rely upon many voices at the table to get a point of view across.

 
  
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  Peter Skinner (PSE), in writing. The EPLP welcomes close coordination of Member States in negotiations inside the IMF. It believes that, in the absence of full recognition of any EU representative bloc, with delegatory powers agreed by Member States, individual EU Member States should continue to represent themselves inside the IMF. This is in line with many other international bodies such as the UN. There are many key issues, such as development issues, which rely upon many voices at the table to get a point of view across. Reducing the EU's voice to one may, in certain circumstances, have an explicit effect on the weight of international opinion.

 
  
  

Report: Hutchinson (A6-0013/2006)

 
  
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  Oldřich Vlasák (PPE-DE).(CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to explain why I have voted against this report. It is a report that is superfluous, unbalanced and not based on any real results, only on assumptions that are not rooted in fact. An extension of the protection deadline from five to seven years is unacceptable and goes against the principles of free movement. If we continue to issue further regulations, instead of removing restrictions on business and freeing up the market for labour and services, this will not help the EU economy, but on the contrary will lead to its further stagnation.

 
  
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  Jan Andersson, Anna Hedh, Ewa Hedkvist Petersen, Inger Segelström and Åsa Westlund (PSE), in writing. (SV) In the main, we Swedish Social Democrats support Mr Hutchinson’s report, but we take the following view of relocation. We do not believe that EU resources should be used for moving production because, in practice, this means that unemployment is moved around and that employees in different regions are pitted against each other. We do not, however, believe that all relocation is wrong as a matter of course. It must be possible to relocate industries if these are to be developed. An increased level of knowledge and skills in a region or country may give rise to a need for relocations if it is to be possible to develop the region.

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of the report on relocation in the context of regional development because it is crucial to reassure our fellow citizens of the fact that the European Union is the source of solutions with regard to today’s profound economic and social changes, and not the cause of problems.

The seriousness of the economic and social issues linked to relocation requires a strong European policy aimed at reconciling the necessary changes with the objective of cohesion. I am very pleased to emphasise the request aimed at obtaining any future, objective information on the relocation phenomenon. This information will be crucial to us, particularly in the context of the negotiations in the World Trade Organisation on economic sectors that are very exposed to these changes, which can be very brutal. Equally, it was becoming urgent to clarify the European aid arrangements with regard to relocation, not least by creating a link between aid and the obligation to produce on EU territory.

Finally, I welcome the request to introduce social clauses into the international treaties, and this on the basis of the International Labour Organisation’s priority agreements.

 
  
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  Brigitte Douay (PSE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of Mr Hutchinson's report on relocation in the context of regional development having participated in the discussions in committee and having amended it.

This report proposes preventing the Structural Funds from promoting measures that contribute to the relocations that have such a high social cost in our regions.

It advocates establishing a European strategy to combat relocation and setting up a European Relocation Observatory to assess the real impact of European aid on relocation.

This has nothing to do with returning to an administered economy, nor of damaging free and fair competition, which is the foundation of the common market. Nor is it a matter of controlling all businesses or of preventing the development of the new Member States. However, it is important to bear in mind that the Structural Funds must be tools for development and social cohesion, not weapons for a war between our regions, because, even in the richest countries in the European Union, there are still poor regions where workers watch with despair as their jobs disappear, often leaving them with no possibility of retraining.

 
  
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  Lena Ek and Cecilia Malmström (ALDE), in writing. (SV) An ever more globalised world creates new requirements. It presents new problems to get to grips with and gives rise to new opportunities to make the most of. Today, the European Parliament is voting on Mr Hutchinson’s own-initiative report on relocation in the context of regional development. We have chosen to vote against the report as we think that it goes the wrong way about tackling the problems of relocating companies.

We agree that there is no justification for using EU resources from, for example, the Structural Funds to fund improved conditions of competition for European companies that shortly afterwards decide to move their activities outside the EU. However, neither the state nor EU authorities should intervene to control how companies manage their affairs and to stipulate what is required to prevent companies from taking rational decisions in order to survive.

We shall not create full employment through increased state control. We shall do so by making life easier for more companies and by facilitating new investment in the private market. We cannot therefore vote, either, in favour of further limiting the movement of companies in the internal market, as proposed in this report. In order to overcome the problems and manage the relocations involved in a globalised market, we need a point of departure other than this new trend based on economic patriotism.

 
  
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  Anne Ferreira (PSE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of Mr Hutchinson's report on relocation, which emphasises how urgent it is for the EU to take account of the seriousness of the effects of company relocation on people and regions.

We need to shed more light on the course of this phenomenon and on its consequences, and an observatory will enable us to do so.

However, this also needs to go through a more restrictive legislative framework within the EU, and the inclusion of social and environmental clauses in international trade.

The interests of employees and protecting jobs must be at the heart of our political concerns. This is vital if we are going to achieve the goal of full employment and the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy as recommended in 2000 – we will not be able to achieve these objectives without a European industrial policy.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin, Nils Lundgren and Lars Wohlin (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) This report, which exists outside the legislative procedure, deals with an important subject. We should, however, have liked to have formulated the problems relating to this issue differently.

We believe that the relocation of companies to third countries outside the EU is something in which we cannot interfere. It is, as a rule, market considerations that should determine where in the world companies are finally located. In this context, EU Member States can make efforts to compete when it comes, for example, to offering knowledge, skills and stability.

Where the relocation of companies within the EU is concerned, we must attend to the problem arising from the fact that individual Member States supplement the EU’s structural aid in the form of discriminatory tax relief and state subsidies. This happened in 2002 when the tyre factory in Gislaved was closed down and the company concerned, Continental, instead invested in a tyre factory in northern Portugal. That something like that can happen in the EU’s internal market is, in our view, a major problem.

In his explanatory statement, the rapporteur also states that a European Relocation Observatory could be set up within the EU. Instead of establishing a new monitoring body, we should make it the job of the Commission to monitor closures as a result of restructuring and discriminatory tax systems.

We therefore choose to vote against the report. We believe the matter to be important in principle, but we should have liked to have seen a resolution with a different approach to this important issue.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The resolution adopted by Parliament on company relocations was the only feasible resolution, because, by rejecting the amendments that we proposed, the compromise agreement between the dominant political forces, namely the social democrats and the Right, turned its back on a more far-reaching resolution. Our proposals were as follows.

- To highlight the fact that, in most cases, the purpose of business relocations is to derive the maximum profit, secure tax breaks and financial support, and to exploit cheap labour deprived of rights;

- To highlight the fact that relocations form part of the worldwide liberalisation of trade and the deregulation of the labour market, under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation;

- To set up a regulatory legal framework which, among other aspects, addresses: the contractual definition of a minimum seven-year period, guaranteeing stable and lasting employment and regional economic development, providing for sanctions to be applied in the event of non-compliance with contractual obligations (return of aid granted and prohibition from receiving any more Community aid), and protecting the workers by keeping them informed and giving them meaningful involvement, including voting rights;

- To draw up an annual communication on relocations and the impact thereof.

We do hope, however, that what has been adopted will at least be implemented.

 
  
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  Marine Le Pen (NI), in writing.(FR) In calling for the reimbursement of European aid paid to companies that relocate their activities, Mr Hutchinson's report adopts one of the proposals made by the Front National in Île de France during the regional elections, with regard to subsidies from the regional council.

The European institutions are starting to take notice of the economic and social consequences of their political choices: many of our businesses have been forced to relocate their operations because the destruction of borders has put them in competition with producers with very low labour costs.

In order to protect our economies from this social dumping and to protect our social model, we must pursue a different policy: rebuild our borders, and make our businesses more competitive by funding our social security from a social VAT rate instead of contributions. For this to be possible, the national governments need to retain their sovereignty over taxation.

Those are just some of the common-sense economic and social measures that could be taken, not by the current Europe of Brussels that the people of France disowned last year, but by a Europe of free, sovereign nations.

 
  
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  Toine Manders (ALDE), in writing.(NL) The VVD delegation felt it should vote against the Hutchinson report on relocation in the context of regional development, because this report openly supports the Commission proposal to set up a globalisation fund, to which the VVD is strongly opposed, on the grounds that this form of state intervention runs counter to the internal market. Social policy is a matter to be addressed by the Member States themselves. What is more, there is already a European system that provides for the possibilities to retrain workers, in that the existing European structural funds give the Member States the financial leg room to (re)train their people. The Hutchinson report also contains a number of unnecessary and interfering bureaucratic provisions that curtail the freedom of establishment and cause the internal market to lose its momentum.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome this report on relocation in the context of regional development. Through the principle of partnership, it is the Member States’ and the Commission’s responsibility to deny any involvement in the structural funds to companies which, having received European Union aid, relocate their activity to another Member State or third country within seven years after the granting of the aid.

In this regard, it is essential that the EU establish a European strategy to combat relocation in coordination with all the Member States as well as a European Relocation Observatory to study, evaluate, follow up and make concrete proposals on the subject of long-term agreements in the field of employment and local development.

Given the rise in statistically affected regions in Scotland, it is now more important than ever that positive measures are taken to ensure that allocated funds are spent effectively and respect the length of the entire programming period.

 
  
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  Jean-Claude Martinez (NI), in writing.(FR) Creating a single market between 25 States with very different labour, social and fiscal costs was bound to lead to the relocation of businesses to the countries with lower production costs, and that is indeed what has happened. The ten new Member States are attracting businesses from 'old Europe' and even US businesses based in Mexico.

It is particularly shocking that these countries are providing an attractive tax climate, and then getting their sanitary, social, road network and other improvements paid for by the western countries, which, by increasing their taxes to pay for the ten new countries, are worsening their own production problems.

For relocations outside the EU, there is a basic solution. We need to invent customs duties using new technologies with three characteristics. They must be variable according to the difference in costs between the two countries in question. They must be reimbursable, with the customs duty paid by the exporter becoming a 'tax credit' deductible from purchases from the importer's economy. In other words, the customs duty would give the exporter a drawing right on the importer's economy, which is a win-win situation for international trade.

Finally, they must be redeemable when the importer wants to grant a benefit to the exporter. The customs credit would thus become a matching credit of the kind already in existence in international tax law.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) My support for the report rests essentially on the diagnosis, whereas, to my mind, the medicine that has been prescribed follows a path that has proved largely unsuccessful.

In this context, despite these objections, I share the idea expressed in the report that we all too often look into relocations after they have taken place. This strikes me not only as being of little use, but also indicative of a terrible inability to anticipate situations. I therefore feel that a number of legislative measures should be put forward with the aim of preventing the misuse of the public purse and prohibiting the use of public aid, when private entities are not managed with a proper sense of responsibility.

I do not feel, however, that some forms of relocation are avoidable. I also take the view that this debate could not be held without taking account of the entire balance sheet, including both the upsides and the downsides. In other words, in addition to totalling the number of jobs that have been lost on account of the opening up of the markets, we must factor the jobs that have been created into the equation, not to mention the advantages to the consumer. Yes, we must prevent the ‘law of the jungle’ from prevailing, but must not at the same time dismiss something that is necessary. Quite the opposite, we should be trying to derive the maximum benefit from it.

 
  
  

Report: Matsakis (A6-0044/2006)

 
  
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  Milan Gaľa (PPE-DE). – (SK) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I have abstained from voting on the Matsakis report into the Commission’s strategy on mercury, and I would like to explain why. My formal background is that of a dentist, and I know that the amendments concerning the prompt banning of amalgam from dentistry are not feasible, especially in the new Member States, and primarily for economic reasons. As dental fillings made from materials other than amalgam are three times more expensive, their application would impose an unreasonable burden on health insurance companies. At the same time, the evidence concerning the harmful effects of amalgam is both unclear and incomplete. We should certainly improve the disposal of amalgam waste in dentistry departments, but we should not ban dentists from using mercury. I also believe that the Member States should be responsible for the relevant legislation. This view is shared by the Slovak Chamber of Dentists, and that is why I did not vote for the report to be approved.

 
  
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  Johannes Blokland (IND/DEM), in writing.(NL) While the Christian Union and SGP MEPs can endorse the draft resolution on the mercury strategy, they would like to add that exceptions to the ban on the use of mercury in measuring and control equipment should remain possible.

One of those exceptions should apply to the production of traditional mercury barometers, as indicated in the adopted text of the resolution. The quantity used for production is minimal, and its environmental risk, since it is contained in glass, relatively small.

Various small businesses in the EU rely on the production of these for their income and would, due to a lack of sufficient suitable alternatives, have to close down if an absolute ban were introduced. We think that the production of this European heritage should remain permitted in a controlled environment.

 
  
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  Duarte Freitas (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The purpose of this proposal by the Commission is to plug gaps and to propose a European strategy for the coming years as regards the production and use of mercury in Europe.

Among the important points raised in this report are an end to mercury exports, an end to the use of mercury in measuring equipment and in dental amalgam, controls on emissions, and studies into the effects of mercury in vaccines, something that could bring major benefits for public health.

The licence provided for in Amendment 2 safeguards the activities of small producers under controlled conditions, museum exhibits, traditional barometers and items with historical value. Amendment 6 brings forward the deadline for restricting exports. This may prove a precipitous move and may harm Europe by favouring only third-country mercury exporters.

I endorse the Commission’s proposal and the main thrust of the Matsakis report.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin, Nils Lundgren and Lars Wohlin (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) The June List supports the proposal that measures be taken to reduce and eventually phase out mercury emissions. This is a cross-border environmental issue for which a joint and coordinated strategy is justified. We have thus chosen to vote in favour of this report.

We nonetheless have views concerning individual points in the European Parliament’s proposal. We believe, for example, that the Member States are fully capable of carrying out independent information campaigns concerning the health risks entailed in exposure to mercury. Moreover, we are of the view that it is primarily the task of the Member States, rather than of the EU, to deal with the social consequences of mercury mines being closed down.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of this text.

We must have a firm Community strategy with regard to mercury. Having said that, being firm also means being realistic.

Merthiolate, which contains mercury, is used as a preservative in some medicines, including in vaccines. There are around 1 million doses of vaccine that are produced using merthiolate as a decontamination agent. That represents 0.0000003% of the mercury used annually in Europe.

In view of the tremendously positive impact that vaccinations have on public health, including in developing countries, it would not therefore be justifiable to impose an immediate ban on the use of this product in vaccines.

For all that, it is advisable to encourage research into alternative methods so as to reduce or eliminate the future use of merthiolate.

I would also point out that, under pharmaceutical legislation, manufacturers must prove that their products do not harm the environment.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome this report on the Community strategy for dealing with the impact of mercury on the environment and on humans. Mercury is a highly toxic substance and it is vital that scientific evidence is used to establish where it can be used safely and where it should be banned. I urge the Commission to bring forward the results of its investigation as a matter of urgency.

 
  
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  Linda McAvan (PSE), in writing. Labour MEPs support the strategy to control mercury proposed by the Commission. Mercury is a highly toxic substance which must be subject to strict controls. However, we believe that bans/restrictions must only be introduced after dialogue with interested parties and after a thorough impact assessment of the consequences, with industry being given sufficient lead time to adapt to change.

 
  
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  Claude Moraes (PSE), in writing. My grounds for voting the way I did on the Matsakis Report on a Commission strategy for dealing with mercury in the environment are that the Commission has identified the areas it wishes to investigate further before recommending further EU legislation/action. My approach is to recognise that mercury is a highly toxic substance and to support the Commission strategy and impact assessment.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing.(FR) By adopting, on Tuesday, the report by my colleague, Mr Matsakis, on the Community strategy concerning mercury, the European Parliament has just sent a powerful signal to the international community: the most highly toxic chemical substances must be strictly controlled, and the Europe of 25 must set an example by swiftly banning their export.

Such is the fate that will be reserved in the future for mercury, a heavy metal that is toxic to human beings and ecosystems and of which Europe is the world’s leading exporter.

I particularly welcome the adoption of paragraph 17, which proposes to restrict the use of mercury in dental amalgams by the end of 2007. Parliament thus confirms its vote of 25 January 2005 on my report relating to the European Environment and Health Action Plan, point 6 of which proposed the use of safer alternatives to the mercury used in dental amalgams. Common sense has prevailed here. Human exposure must be restricted to an absolute minimum. That is why it is just as crucial that the European Union quickly find a solution to the problem of handling the 12 000 tonnes of mercury waste that the chlorine and soda industries will produce in the next 15 years.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele (PSE), in writing. (DE) Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to human beings, eco-systems and animals in the wild. Mercury is classified as a priority hazardous substance under the Water Framework Directive and also retards microbiological activity in soil.

Mercury is a persistent substance and can change in the environment into methyl mercury, which has enormously adverse effects on human health.

Dental amalgam, which is discharged in the course of dental surgery and from crematoria, is a significant source of mercury emissions.

This makes it necessary for dental amalgam waste to be properly disposed of.

The use of mercury in dental amalgam is a live issue. The approach to be endorsed is that all the potential dangers involved in the use of mercury in dental amalgam should be examined, and action taken on the basis of what emerges from that examination.

 
  
  

Paasilinna report (A6-0036/2006)

 
  
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  Nina Škottová (PPE-DE). – (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to make some observations as an explanation for voting against the report on a European Information Society for Growth and Employment by Mr Paasilinna. The aims of Project 2010 include innovation and investment in research. I was surprised to discover that the report does not cover the issue of research in much detail and does not give it the attention it deserves. Research is mentioned only in connection with support for research into individual technologies.

On the other hand, however, research gives rise in all fields of human endeavour to demand for information and communications technology. It is precisely this aspect of feedback that seems to me to be lacking in this report, and yet it can be one of the motors for economic growth and job creation within the framework of the Lisbon Strategy. The passing reference to the Seventh Framework Programme is not commensurate with the importance of this programme for growth and employment. Work skills in digital technologies are now viewed as one of the key competencies and we must develop them within a framework of lifelong learning.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI).(DE) Mr President, here we are now, seeking new ways of making more and more things digital. The idea is that digital libraries, digital equipment for recording journeys, biometric passports and e-government will bring miracles to pass. The fact that information and communications technology accounts for 40% of economic growth is indeed impressive.

With all this euphoria about new technologies, though, we must not lose sight of reality. Even though there are, again, encouraging signs of growth in the digital sector, these will do more to put an end to jobs than to create new ones, for the fact is that the high-tech sector is a particularly mobile one, moving first to the eastern Member States and then, in due course, to such countries as India and China.

Yet again, the EU’s dreams of a corporate job-creation machine will not become reality, but it is good to see that small and medium-sized enterprises are tending more and more to upgrade their equipment, with the aim of becoming more productive and competitive, and of opening up new markets. It is to these small and medium-sized businesses that we will have to give more support.

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted in favour of the report on a European Information Society for growth and employment because I believe that access to information and communication technologies is a prerequisite for economic development and social progress. The use of these technologies affects practically all of the technical, administrative, commercial, cultural, social and health sectors, among others. It is imperative that all the inhabitants of the European Union have equal opportunities when it comes to accessing these technologies, and this at a cost that corresponds to standard market prices. I welcome the idea of combating the digital divide, and it is worth pointing out just how much the European Union has missed out by not applying a coherent policy with regard to the licences of the third generation of mobile telephones – the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecom System) – which were sold at auction by the Member States in appalling conditions given the possibilities that this technology offered in terms of political coherence. This mistake cannot be repeated. I wholeheartedly support the need to invest in research and innovation in these technologies, which are important catalysts of competitiveness, growth and employment.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We are disappointed that the amendments to this report tabled by our group, the Confederal Group of the European United Left, were not adopted. Our amendments were aimed at guaranteeing free access to technology and knowledge, freedom of movement and exchange of knowledge, and at strengthening the role of intellectual property in relation to the free movement and dissemination of knowledge. Otherwise, there is a risk that a knowledge-based society would be confined to an elite.

The report supports the continued policy of liberalisation and the use of communications for the purpose of transmitting ‘European ideas and values’, in other words that of turning Information and Communications Technology (ICT) into yet another EU propaganda tool.

Although the report refers to the role of ICT in promoting social and territorial cohesion and warns that new technology can serve to deepen social exclusion, it fails to develop the theme and does not put forward any proposals to prevent this from happening.

We abstained on account of the contradictions in the report.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE), in writing. I support the main thrust of the Paasilinna report and I fully recognise the significant contribution that ICTs can make towards the realisation of the Lisbon goals. However, I oppose the creation of a common consolidated corporate tax as I believe the principle of subsidiarity should apply and decisions in relation to taxation should be retained at national level.

 
  
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  Sérgio Marques (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) I wish to congratulate Mr Paasilinna on his important and timely report on a European Information Society for growth and employment, to which I lend my full support. I particularly welcome the call for the early adoption of the 7th Research Framework Programme and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (2007-2013), both aimed at providing the appropriate financial resources to support the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a driving force for competitiveness, growth and employment.

These two programmes will help to develop entrepreneurial spirit and a culture of entrepreneurship in the EU, which are vital to regional development, as they will put an end to 'digital isolation’ and support SMEs in developing innovative projects.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome this report, which was launched in June 2005 to foster growth and jobs in the information society and media industries.

The report has three main priority objectives. Firstly, to promote an information space without borders, secondly to stimulate innovation through investment and research, and thirdly to make ICTs accessible everywhere and to everyone in the EU.

Despite concerns over further regulation, I am encouraged by the fact that i2010 should benefit all citizens in helping to bridge the digital divide and narrow social and regional imbalances.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) There are two key ideas in this report that led me to vote in favour, although I take exception to other points raised in the report.

On the one hand, I feel it is extremely important to realise that in terms of new technologies, almost everything that is said reflects a backward-looking approach. We do not know what the future will be; we only know that it will be fast-moving and new. Accordingly, the purpose of this regulation should be, on the one hand, to open up the markets to competition, and on the other to boost investment in innovation. Europe's economy will only be competitive if it is an innovation-driven economy and if it becomes an economy of the near future and not one of the present.

That being said, I share the concern over issues of privacy and information security. The society being created is at risk of becoming a vigilante society under constant surveillance, and this will be a major modern tragedy in terms of public freedoms.

Lastly, we recognise that innovation, in particular new technology, has been responsible for a democratic revolution in modern societies, and this is something that should be welcomed, preserved and encouraged.

 
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