Index 
Debates
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Thursday, 16 March 2006 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Membership of political groups
 3. Documents received: see Minutes
 4. Written declarations (Rule 116): see Minutes
 5. Community action programme in the field of health (2007-2013) (debate)
 6. Community action programme in the field of consumer protection (2007-2013) (debate)
 7. Communication of Council common positions: see Minutes
 8. Statement by the President
 9. Voting time
  9.1. Community action programme in the field of health (2007-2013) (vote)
  9.2. Agricultural products and foodstuffs as traditional specialities guaranteed (vote)
  9.3. Protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs (vote)
  9.4. 2005 enlargement strategy paper (vote)
  9.5. 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR, Geneva) (vote)
  9.6. Preparations for the COP-MOP meeting on biological diversity and security (Curitiba, Brazil) (vote)
 10. Agenda and tabling deadlines: see Minutes
 11. Explanations of vote
 12. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 13. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes
 14. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes
 15. Community action programme in the field of consumer protection (2007-2013) (continuation of the debate)
 16. Debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (Rule 115)
  16.1. Human rights in Moldova and in Transnistria in particular (debate)
  16.2. Kazakhstan (debate)
  16.3. Impunity in Africa and in particular the case of Hissène Habré (debate)
 17. Voting time
  17.1. Human rights in Moldova and in Transnistria in particular (vote)
  17.2. Kazakhstan (vote)
  17.3. Impunity in Africa and in particular the case of Hissène Habré (vote)
 18. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 19. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes
 20. Written declarations for entry in the register (Rule 116): see Minutes
 21. Forwarding of texts adopted during the sitting: see Minutes
 22. Action taken on Parliament’s positions and resolutions: see Minutes
 23. Dates for next sittings: see Minutes
 24. Adjournment of the session
 ANNEX (Written answers)


  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONYSZKIEWICZ
Vice-President

 
1. Opening of the sitting
  

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

 

2. Membership of political groups
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  President. The Independence and Democracy Group has informed me that as of yesterday, 15 March 2006, it is made up of the following 22 Members.

Gerard Batten, Bastiaan Belder, Johannes Blokland, Godfrey Bloom, Jens-Peter Bonde, Graham Booth, Derek Roland Clark, Paul Marie Coûteaux, Nigel Farage, Hélène Goudin, Georgios Karatzaferis, Roger Knapman, Patrick Louis, Nils Lundgren, Michael Henry Nattrass, Kathy Sinnott, Jeffrey Titford, Philippe de Villiers, John Whittaker, Thomas Wise, Lars Wohlin and Vladimír Železný.

For this reason, as of the aforesaid date, the following Members are non-attached.

Umberto Bossi, Matteo Salvini, Mario Borghezio, Francesco Enrico Speroni, Dariusz Maciej Grabowski, Urszula Krupa, Bogdan Pęk, Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski, Bogusław Rogalski, Witold Tomczak and Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio (IND/DEM). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I simply ask that it be recorded in the Minutes that Mr Bossi, Mr Borghezio, Mr Speroni and Mr Salvini object to the entirely irregular procedure that has been followed with regard to the subject of the communication presented just now by the President. We have not been informed of any meeting. This decision by the Independence and Democracy Group is entirely unjustified and irregular, and therefore the communication presented this morning by the President must also be regarded as being based on an irregular and unjustified decision.

 
  
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  President. Many thanks. Your comments have been noted.

 
  
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  Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, I am interrupting to request a change to the Minutes. I had omitted to sign the list of people present yesterday. I was there, of course, as is clear from the minutes of the voting session, and, indeed, I contributed to the debate on the Cottigny report. Thank you for noting that, Mr President.

 
  
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  President. Many thanks. Your comments have been noted.

 
  
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  Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, I wish to speak in relation to Rule 172, with regard to the Minutes of the previous sitting.

On Tuesday I presented a question to the Council on an issue which is extremely urgent for my region, the Canary Islands, relating to the humanitarian disasters involving immigrants, who are arriving in my region in their hundreds. I did not receive a reply − the Council replied to very few questions − but I expected at least to receive a written reply.

Today, Thursday, I have received the verbatim report: the reply does not appear there either and I have no way of knowing what that reply is, because Parliament’s services are not giving it to me.

I wished to protest at the delay in the operation of the services, because I believe that for urgent subjects, which is the purpose of these questions, the time between a question not being answered and the reply being received is too long, given that the written reply already exists.

I wished to register my protest and I hope to receive a written reply as soon as possible.

 
  
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  President. Many thanks. Your comments will be noted.

 
  
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  Francesco Enrico Speroni (IND/DEM). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, with regard to the communication on my exclusion and that of other members of the Independence and Democracy Group, you replied that you were taking note of this matter and that it would be recorded in the Minutes. I consider that to be an unsatisfactory reply, however. Through the head of our delegation, Mr Borghezio, we pointed out some irregularities in the procedure of excluding Members from the group, and so I call on the presidency to verify whether they are in order. If the presidency determines that everything is in order, then I shall consider myself no longer attached. However, I should like the presidency to verify whether the correct procedures have been followed.

 
  
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  President. Thank you very much. We will consider this matter in a separate procedure.

The debate is closed.

 

3. Documents received: see Minutes

4. Written declarations (Rule 116): see Minutes

5. Community action programme in the field of health (2007-2013) (debate)
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  President. The next item is the report (A6-0030/2006) by Mr Trakatellis, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Programme of Community Action in the field of Health and Consumer Protection 2007-2013 – Health aspects [COM(2005)0115 – C6-0097/2005 – 2005/0042A(COD)].

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Μember of the Commission. (EL) Mr President, I should like, first of all, to thank the rapporteur, Mr Trakatellis, for his excellent work in preparing this report. However, I should also like to thank the members of the two committees for their excellent work in studying and examining this programme. I am truly delighted at the large number of both speakers and proposals submitted on this programme. Similarly, I want to say as of now that I could not in fact, under different circumstances, disagree with the substance of the proposals made.

We may, as regards the split into two programmes, have different approaches, but the recommendations add to the actions under the programme, extend its scope and make it more effective, so that it covers more sectors. In addition – and this is equally important – not only is provision made for the resources sought by the Commission in order to support the programme, but also its budget has been further increased.

Unfortunately, however, under present circumstances – and I refer here in particular to economic circumstances – we must be careful and – to use a word which I do not particularly like – 'realistic'. The most serious issue which is pending at the moment is the closure of discussions on the financial perspective and Parliament has an important role to play here. At this point, I would highlight the support and positive positions of Parliament and the Commission on the financial strengthening of the programme.

It is a fact that, if the compromise achieved in the European Council in December is maintained, this will mean considerable cutbacks to the programme. President Barroso has already sent the relevant letter to President Borrell, in which he points out that, if the arrangement stays as it was in December, the health and consumer protection sector not only will not have sufficient resources, but also this sector will have fewer financial resources in 2007 than it had in 2006. In other words, there will be less money for the Europe of the 25 and 27 Member States than there was for the Europe of the 15. I believe, as President Barroso also points out in his letter, that this approach cannot be justified, especially at a time when we want to bring Europe close to its citizens. That is why President Borrell is asked for Parliament to make one more effort to cooperate in this sector.

The Commission proposal for the programme is also reflected in the relevant budget. If, however, the considerable reduction to which I referred earlier ultimately comes about, this will mean that numerous actions and numerous sectors of the proposal will have to be abandoned, because there is no point in allocating small amounts to numerous sectors in such a way that, in essence, no sector is supported effectively.

That is why the whole programme needs to be reassessed, priorities need to be set and the actions, initiatives and sectors covered need to be reduced considerably, so that we can cover effectively even just the few sectors selected.

Of course, I would like to hope that, in the debates which follow, this situation will be remedied and it will be understood that this was perhaps a mistake and that, given the huge political significance both of the issue of health and of the issue of consumer protection, even just some small amounts will at least be added to the programme.

As far as the question of splitting the programme is concerned, I understand the positions expressed. I know that both committees would prefer there to be separate programmes, I understand the arguments and I understand the concerns. We, however, continue in essence to consider that there are benefits if a joint programme is maintained. Better use can be made of resources. However, in all events, until the matter of the financial perspective has been cleared up, the Commission is not in a position to take a final decision on the extent to which it does or does not accept the split. That is why, at the present stage, the Commission will reject the amendments which promote the split into two programmes and, once we have the final outcome of the debate on the financial perspective, then we shall re-examine the matter. Parliament has made its position clear and we have noted that.

I will not go into other details due to lack of time. I had the pleasure of discussing the programme with the competent committee. I merely wish to emphasise, because there is no time and there are a great many amendments, that the Commission's position on each of the amendments will be circulated in writing and I would be obliged if it could be included in the Minutes of this debate(1). However, I would insist on the fact that the amendments which are being rejected are not being rejected due to disagreement in substance with their tenet. I would remind you, of course, that many of them are being accepted, but those which are being rejected are mainly not being accepted because of the need for there to be, on the one hand, some priorities within the framework of the financial situation and, on the other hand, because of issues of subsidiarity, in other words so that we do not intervene in the competences of the Member States and, of course, so that we do not overlap and do not repeat actions which are covered by other Community policies and actions.

To close, I should like to thank you once again and I shall follow the debate by the Members with a great deal of interest.

 
  
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  Antonios Trakatellis (PPE-DE), rapporteur.(EL) Mr President, the problem of bird 'flu was – I am sure you will agree – an opportunity for the Union and the Member States to act in a coordinated and effective manner, by strengthening citizens' confidence and feeling of security. However, it also provided further proof of the value which Community action has in the field of public health.

That is why I consider the timing of this debate to be the right time to support the present report, including the increased financing which is the necessary basis for achieving the objectives, objectives which, like the basic lines of action, safeguard the continuation and, at the same time, the development of the previous programme. This is achieved by a combination of objectives and actions, such as the protection of citizens from health threats from physical, chemical or biological sources, infectious diseases and so forth. We need a common defence system and a coordinated response at European level for possible pandemics, as the topical issue of bird 'flu proves.

The promotion of policies which result in a healthier lifestyle – health determinants. We owe it to our children, to future generations, to work for the adoption of lifestyle standards, taking serious account of health determinants: proper eating habits, stopping smoking, social and economic conditions that do not result in excessive stress.

Disease prevention cannot but be based primarily on addressing health determinants which demonstrably affect physical and mental health.

Helping to reduce the incidence of morbidity and mortality for major diseases and injuries is a further line of action which also requires coordinated and joint action.

Improving the effectiveness and efficacy of health systems: we need to examine jointly the health systems of the Member States in order to safeguard their compatibility, as this will allow them to perform better for the citizens of Europe.

Better information and knowledge, on the one hand, in order to develop health and, on the other hand, in order to incorporate the objectives of policies applied in the health sectors in other policies must be available to everyone, both those employed in the health professions and simple citizens.

Better medical practice which not only constitutes the most effective means of combating diseases, but also restricts further losses to our health. It is obvious that the criterion for evaluating treatments cannot be the financial cost and must be effectiveness, which also works out cheaper in the long run.

In addition, emphasis is placed on actions such as the effect of the environment on health and the collection of data relating to low birth rates, low fertility and sterility, which are developing into a scourge for aging European communities, which are already under threat from the demographic problem. The collection of data and the development of strategies for patient mobility, the further development of the electronic health card, mechanisms for the promotion of organ transplants, cooperation between the Commission and the Member States and with international organisations such as the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, are needed for there to be exchanges of opinions and for the promotion of health actions. The Member States are also being called on to play an important role, given that a large proportion of the data comes from them.

The element of coordination of the programme is, I think, material and instrumental to its success and certainly the open method of coordination can contribute to issues of subsidiarity through the strengthening of strategies in the health and healthcare sector, such as patient mobility.

Ladies and gentlemen, I could continue with an endless catalogue of prevention and care issues. However, I am certain that the need for a coordinated intervention that will combine joint action at European level with the facility and ability of the Member States to improve their efficiency now constitutes common ground. This truly ambitious aspiration is served by the proposed second programme. It is more integral and, given also the experience which we have acquired, I believe that it will return comparatively better results.

From this point of view, I believe that Amendment 64, which recommends a higher amount, because the programme is now fuller than and different from that tabled by the Commission, is needed because, without financing, the best programmes will not bring about any results. Consequently, as rapporteur, I cannot encourage you enough to vote in favour of Amendment 64 and I believe that, in doing so, you will send a message of decisiveness to the Council and a message of hope to the European citizens that we too really are concerned with and interested in the health of the citizens of Europe.

 
  
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  Anders Samuelsen (ALDE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budgets.(DA) Mr President, I wish to begin by thanking Mr Trakatellis on the sterling work he has done on the matter we are debating today. This is most certainly one of the areas for which real grass-roots support may be secured. There is a lot of talk about there being a rather defensive approach to European cooperation at the moment, especially after the votes in the Netherlands and France on the Constitutional Treaty. All investigations show, however, that it is very difficult to find grass-roots opposition to cross-border cooperation on precisely the areas we are debating today. It is, of course, therefore also important for me to emphasise that we support the work done so far. We support the attempt to split the two programmes up, and we are in favour of securing as substantial funding for the programmes as it is reasonably possible to obtain.

I would particularly emphasise that the report includes a proposal from the Committee on Budgets, designed to ensure that the Commission can grant core funding on a two-year basis by means of network partnership conventions. The idea is to make sure that as few resources as possible are expended on bureaucracy and that most go into increased efforts in those areas about which we are in agreement. With that, I should like once again to thank Mr Trakatellis for his considerable efforts. I hope that we really will succeed in sending a clear signal to Europeans that the EU can make a difference of benefit to us all in this area.

 
  
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  John Bowis, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. Mr President, I warmly commend my colleague’s report and indeed I welcome what he and the Commissioner said in their opening statements about the budget. I think that is something Parliament needs to listen to. At the moment we have an absurd budget of 0.15 cents per EU citizen – that is the total we spend each year on health in this European Union – and yet we have so many health threats, health challenges and health opportunities.

This week I met with iatrogenic patients. The Commissioner and my honourable friend the rapporteur will understand what that means, because it is Greek, but for other colleagues it means patients who have suffered severe disability or severe health problems as a result of accidents in hospital. It is one of the patient-safety issues on our agenda and was rightly put there during the British Presidency.

We face the challenge of an ageing population, with people living longer – mainly healthy – lives, but then becoming frail in older age and facing all the neuro-degenerative disease challenges that brings. We now have a drugs bill for Parkinson’s disease higher than the drugs bill for cancer.

We need to raise standards, and we raise standards in the European Union by describing good standards, not prescribing them. That is the way forward; it is not very expensive; we have done it on cancer screening, starting with the Irish Presidency and continuing with the Austrian Presidency. We are calling for that on diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, and the Commission itself is calling for something along those lines for mental health, one of the biggest challenges of our time. One in three of us will probably, at some point in our lives, have cause for concern, and indeed thanks are due if we have managed to make headway in that field.

But the budget is a concern. One of the greatest threats at the moment is the flu pandemic. One of the greatest needs is the establishment of the effective running of the European Centre for Disease Control. One of the problems, as we have heard directly from that board, is that it is under-resourced, under-financed and will not be able to do its job properly if the pandemic hits in the coming months, or even years. That must be a priority for us, but it must not be a priority which destroys the rest of our health work. We must devote time and energy and some resources to getting right the opportunities that are coming through the European courts for patient mobility. We need to concentrate on all those ranges of disease where there is public concern, whether it is heart or respiratory, rheumatological or brain disease.

We also need to think of the entire range of medical science, including those newest areas, like complementary medicine, which can play their part. I recently benefited from a course of acupuncture to remove the pain of sciatica and can guarantee and vouch for the effectiveness of at least one type of complementary treatment. I also commend that element of this report to the House.

 
  
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  Linda McAvan, on behalf of the PSE Group. Mr President, firstly I want to join those who are congratulating Mr Trakatellis for his work and for the open and cooperative way in which he has conducted the drafting of this report.

We all know that the EU has limited powers and limited resources, maybe even smaller resources than we would hope, to carry out work in field of health. It is, therefore, important that we focus our work on areas where the EU can add value and make a real difference. That is why the PSE Group has tried to ensure that we have real focus in the health programme.

We need a health programme that forms part of a health strategy for the European Union. At the moment we have a lot of ad-hoc initiatives, often coming from Presidencies, on this or that condition. That is not good enough: we need a strategy and we need to define what the strategy should cover. For my part I say it should include trans-border health threats; we have heard about those, we know about the flu pandemic. Secondly, it should include patient health mobility issues: with more and more people travelling, we have got to get the health card right. I get a lot of casework from people who still have problems with their health card. Then there are people travelling, who want health care abroad with the E112. We have to stop letting the Court make the rules about healthcare; the legislators have to make the healthcare rules. Thirdly, there is the area of cooperation, of exchange of good practice on tackling health determinants. As Mr Trakatellis said, that is extremely important. We get a lot of lobbying on this from organisations asking us to include in the programme actions on one or other disease or condition. The PSE Group does not support including a list of conditions in the report, because we feel we should be focusing on the health determinants. We do not want to create a hierarchy of diseases and conditions, because many of these diseases and conditions are terrible for those who have them.

Keeping this sharp focus on health in the health programme is not going to be easy. We need only look at the number of amendments tabled for plenary – nearly 200 – and at the many competing demands that are being made. However, unless we have focus in the programme, unless we can show that the EU is adding value and not just making a series of declarations at summits or conferences, it will be very difficult to convince the Council and the public of the need for an increased budget.

So, it is over to the Commission. I hope it will come forward with a health strategy, I hope we will have focus in a future health programme. We will be voting for Amendment 64; we think it is very important to send a signal that healthcare matters. We know the public is sceptical about Europe, but if people see us acting on things they care about, they might feel friendlier towards Europe.

I very much hope we will defend a good budget but also keep an eye on focus in the programme.

 
  
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  Holger Krahmer, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, health policy falls essentially within the competence of the Member States. There is a good reason for that. Health systems are paid for out of contributions and taxes, and the various systems are geared to specific needs. Moreover, the principle of subsidiarity applies for the field of health services and medical care.

Article 152 of the EU Treaty requires Member States to ensure a high level of health protection. The EU can also take measures in support of Member States’ policies. I sometimes get the impression that the Commission and some of our fellow Members, too, would prefer to compete with national policies on health. We have the same problem with health policy as also constantly recurs in other fields: Europe is suffering from being unable to do the important things it ought to be concerned with. The upshot is that the EU embraces many areas of policy which, if in doubt, would be better dealt with by the Member States and interferes assiduously in their affairs.

That does not of course mean that Europe should keep its hands off health policy. Rather, the EU must concentrate on things that have real European added value, and here I can pick up directly what the previous speaker was saying: Europe should take action primarily on cross-border questions that one Member State is unable to deal with alone. Top priority must be given to improving the exchange of information and to closer cooperation in coordinating the fight against epidemics and infectious diseases. The health risks resulting from bird flu show the urgency of cross-border coordination of measures.

The same goes for HIV and Aids, a major problem in the new Member States in particular, and one which is increasingly being forgotten and neglected even though infection rates are rising.

The EU should set stronger priorities for fighting disease. My group has tabled amendments on this, for which I would again like to canvas your support. The focus should be on the most important widespread diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases; that is where the EU’s measures and scarce resources must be concentrated.

We should not take it upon ourselves to make a shopping list. In Committee, we discussed at length what diseases and what preventive measures should have priority in the action programme. Let us be consistent in our demands here. Parliament’s December 2005 resolution on the work programme calls explicitly for measures to combat diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The terms of the proposal for the Commission action programme were too general, too broad. It is time for us to set political priorities and concentrate on the most widespread diseases.

I would also like to say a few words about the budget and the funding of NGOs. My Group supports the rapporteur’s proposal that the budget for the action programme be increased to EUR 1.2 billion. If we are serious about the priorities we are setting with this programme, we will of course need the resources to match. Patients’ associations and non-governmental organisations are playing an increasingly important role, which justifies them receiving EU support. When funding NGOs, however, we must ensure there are strict criteria and transparency. It cannot be acceptable that some organisations – as happens in the environmental field – are so lavishly endowed that they can pay for Brussels offices as though they were subsidiaries of the EU Commission.

 
  
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  Hiltrud Breyer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance quite clearly supports an independent, well-funded health programme.

Health heads the European public’s wish list, and we must give a very clear sign today that health policy is also a priority for us in the European Parliament, in the European Union, too. Services and systems are of course organised at national level, but we must discuss the objectives of health policy internationally and jointly in Europe. If a billion euros a year are spent subsidising tobacco, then health policy must be worth the same amount.

On the financing of NGOs, we in the Group of the Greens are quite clear that only NGOs that are independent of industry should be funded. Sadly, we have a very large number of NGOs that are in the pay of the pharmaceutical industry and are its mouthpiece, their only purpose being to advertise over-expensive medicines. That is not what we want. We want to support NGOs that are independent. And, Mr Krahmer, it is a contradiction to say they must not get state funding as well. What else are they to get? Are they really to be financed by the pharmaceutical industry and kept on a leash? We do not want that! Of course these NGOs also need funding to pay for their public relations work.

Support for complementary and alternative medicine is quite central for us. I am pleased that there have already been positive experiences with it. We have millions of people in the European Union who have had very positive experiences with complementary and alternative medicine, not forgetting environmental medicine. It is therefore discriminatory of the European Union to pay no attention to this field of medicine, which does not yet have even a shadowy existence.

If the Commission is serious when it proclaims in Lisbon that we are an innovative society, then we must use the knowledge and innovation of alternative and complementary medicine, develop it and make it available to the people of the European Union. That is really quite central and I think the Commission has staked far too much on the interests of the big pharmaceutical companies alone with its demand for blockbuster drugs. That cannot be allowed to continue. We must not go in for covert industrial and pharmaceutical research here, but our aim must be to really get innovation moving. Complementary and alternative medicine must of course have its place there.

My final point is this. We all again expressly ask that there really should be no discrimination, no genetic selection. We would therefore like to press Mr Trakatellis once again to accept our amendment as an additional clause in which we quite clearly say: work in this field should only continue postnatally and only where therapies are also available.

 
  
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  Adamos Adamou, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Trakatellis, I must congratulate you on the truly excellent job which you have done on such a complicated issue and agree with you on many counts, especially as regards the increase in the financing framework for the programme.

Nonetheless, I cannot agree with your wish that certain diseases, which are the big killers, should not be named and certainly they are not shopping lists, as Mr Krahmer said.

Cancer: one in four deaths is due to cancer. One in three European citizens will suffer from some form of cancer during their lifetime.

Cardiac diseases: first cause of death.

Rheumatism: over 150 diseases and syndromes. One in five Europeans are in permanent therapy for rheumatism or arthritis. Rheumatism is the second most frequent cause of visits to the doctor. In most countries, 20% of primary care is for people suffering from rheumatism. Then there are other diseases, such as diabetes and mental illness.

Given that the diseases which I have mentioned affect such a large proportion of the European population, and are so directly linked to the quality of life of Europeans, I am of the opinion that they should be included by name in the programme in question. Consequently, I have tabled the relevant amendment on behalf of my group – Amendment 156 – which I should like to ask you to support.

It is a fact that the rich members of our society enjoy direct and easy access, not only as regards information on health matters, but also as regards access to health services. They are well informed of the dangers and threats as regards health matters and have the facility to consult doctors regularly and in time.

By contrast, those in financial difficulty do not have direct and easy access to information and it is almost certain that they will have to wait a long time for medical care. Consequently, we need to make a huge effort to include the needs of these groups and the organisations that represent them in our health systems. We must take account of their experiences, so that we can create specially designed health systems which meet the needs of the Europeans who are victims of discrimination and receive poor treatment. That is why the relevant amendment has been tabled – Amendment 157 – which I again call on you to support and, to close, I wish once again to congratulate Mr Trakatellis on the truly excellent job he has done.

 
  
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  Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (NL) Mr President, first of all, I should like to thank Mr Trakatellis for his work on this dossier. His commitment to improving public health in Europe is commendable. Whilst I can support the gist of the report, I should nevertheless like to make three observations.

Firstly, with regard to the budget, Amendment 64 increases it substantially, albeit only indicatively. In my view, this amendment does not belong in this report, since the level of the budget is not decided upon today, but depends on the outcome of the negotiations on financial perspectives.

Secondly, I should like to speak out in favour of Amendment 148 of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats. Genetic screening can be a valuable addition to the present diagnostic techniques, but only if it is used in an ethically responsible manner. We must, for example, prevent insurance companies from excluding certain people from their policies on the basis of genetic profiling.

Lastly, I should like to draw the Commissioner’s attention to the very bureaucratic manner in which the research budget is now shared out. It has come to my notice that a single application can cost as much as a few thousand euros. Also, applicants are left in the dark as to the criteria on which basis they will eventually be tested and as to the basis on which applications can be granted or turned down. Moreover, whilst the Commission is very strict on the applicants when they exceed deadlines, there are no repercussions when the Commission postpones a decision. Needless to say, this leads to much frustration.

I suggest we introduce a preliminary procedure in which applications are tested on a limited number of points. Full applications would then be requested only of the projects that have real chances of success. This will reduce the work pressure in the Commission and can also considerably reduce the burden on the part of the applicants. I should like to hear a reaction from the Commissioner on this.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward, on behalf of the UEN Group. Mr President, public health in each country is crucial to the citizens and is clearly a matter for each Member State. One of the great advantages, however, of being a Member State of the European Union is having access to other Member States’ cooperation and knowledge base. It matters in any field and, in this case, if public health, by reason of its scale or effects, can be better achieved through the cooperation of Member States, then this should be encouraged.

The Irish Government continues to aim for top-quality healthcare for its citizens, including appropriate, prompt and safe healthcare in the right setting: healthcare provided in a way that is fair to patients, taxpayers and health professionals. It aims to provide professional staff ready for the job, training, equipment and support for promoting healthier living in a healthier environment.

In this age, in Ireland and across the European Union, we have major health challenges to tackle: cardiovascular disease, neuropsychiatric disorders, cancer, digestive diseases, respiratory diseases, sense organ disorders, obesity and diabetes, to mention a few. No one country can tackle this alone. The European Union, through the experience of its Member States and experts and by virtue of this proposal, which has been greatly improved by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, is rising to the challenge of assisting Member States in public health. I also wish to compliment Mr Trakatellis on his contribution in this report.

Communications, education, access to modern methods, application of sound medical advice and bridging gaps in the issue of public health at Member State level are vital.

Further, and more specifically, I welcome the amendments regarding the inclusion of alternative medicine in the programme. Better knowledge about complementary and alternative medicine can provide an important contribution to the ability of citizens to make better informed and responsible choices regarding their health.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI). – (DE) Mr President, many of the diseases that people in Europe suffer from today are more or less directly related to our lifestyle. One only has to think, for example, of the increase in nutrition-related diseases or in those caused by lack of exercise. The approach of promoting strategies for a healthier lifestyle is therefore certainly an important one. Their success will be doubtful, however, if some EUR 1.4 billion are put into an information system on health issues that serves only to exchange health reports. Most of the diseases people suffer from, even here in Europe, are not caused by a lack of available information.

The truth is that health starts with your attitude to life. Every child knows that people who take plenty of exercise and eat sparingly but naturally stay healthier. People have known for a long time what is harmful to health without it being written on cigarette packets, beer and wine, sweets or finished products; that is imposing on people and taking decisions for them, when they want to make their own judgments.

Such supposedly deterrent measures are of doubtful success and I do not believe the public wants them. As you may know, 66% of respondents in a survey were in favour of promoting health-conscious behaviour, by discounting insurance contributions for having regular medical check-ups, for example. We ought to move more in that promising direction. What is more, one thing is perfectly clear: preventing disease would also reduce the financial burden on our health system.

 
  
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  Ria Oomen-Ruijten (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, good health is always at the top of the European public’s wish list. If Europe can contribute to this, then that is very legitimate, and that is, in fact, what we have to do, for the Treaty requires of us that we guarantee a high level of public health.

I should like to congratulate the rapporteur on the programme. He has been open to the justified wishes of his fellow Members, and the Commission has tabled a sound programme, which Parliament did, however, tweak in a few areas. If I may start with one of those improvements, it is now expressly stipulated that the Member States must cooperate in making the purchase and supply of health care easier.

I come from a border region with university hospitals in Maastricht, Liège and Aachen. Standing on top of the Vaalser Berg – which stands just over 300 m tall, so we Limburgers call it a mountain – you can almost make out the three academic top hospitals. Surely it would make sense, also putting cost before benefit, if those regions joined forces, thus making sure that those top facilities did not grind to a standstill, and costing us all a great deal of money.

I am therefore pleased with the extended programme that included those cross-border options. That is the first point I wanted to make. The second point is about health systems that are under pressure everywhere, partly due to demography and partly because we need more, and also often therefore more expensive, facilities. Every Member State is adapting their care systems. Why do we need to re-invent the wheel everywhere? Why can we not learn from each other? Attention should go to that area too.

With regard to funding, cost must go before benefit. With bird flu, it is not if, but a matter of when. When I see – and Mr Bowis has echoed this sentiment – that the management team in Stockholm for contagious diseases asserts that ‘it cannot function at a time when a disaster of that kind strikes’, then I think we have to draw up fresh agreements with each other, and I hope that is exactly what the Commission will do.

I also believe it to be important that this programme should extend into complementary alternative care and provision, and that more should be done for diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s.

 
  
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  Evangelia Tzampazi (PSE).(EL) Mr President, allow me to congratulate Mr Trakatellis on his willingness to cooperate.

The Community action plan in the field of health is an important text, in that it aims to safeguard effective prevention, improved health services and a better quality of life for everyone, something that is our primary political objective.

The basic priority of the programme is to combat inequalities in health by strengthening existing networks in the field of public health.

As far as people with disabilities are concerned, we need to take account of the fact that a disability is not an illness or an inability; it is a different state of health that needs to be taken into account when processing and applying all Community policies and programmes. It is hugely important to develop strategies and exchange best practices in the aim of promoting the health of people with disabilities and providing reliable information in forms accessible to the disabled, who are one of the target groups of the programme. We also need to safeguard equal access to the corresponding medical and pharmaceutical systems.

Another basic priority is to safeguard the added value of Community actions in relation to national actions for health, in order to strengthen transnational cooperation in innovative sectors, such as telematics in medicine. For people with disabilities, these actions can forge new paths which will allow them to seek improved quality of life and timely and suitable access to health services while, at the same time, they will help to rationalise spending in the field of health.

 
  
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  Georgs Andrejevs (ALDE). – (LV) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to congratulate my colleague, Mr Trakatellis, on his fine report. In the Commission’s new Community action programme in the field of health and consumer protection for 2007–2013 the Commission has emphasised the European Union’s important role in reducing the number of illnesses, that is – and I would emphasise this – in the field of serious diseases. Cardiovascular diseases, as we all know, are without a shadow of a doubt one of the main causes of death in Europe. Each year two million European Union residents die as a direct result of these diseases. The decisions taken by the Council during the Irish Presidency were – and continue to be – a good start in our efforts to prevent cardiovascular diseases. I therefore believe, like many others of my colleagues here, that in this legislative document cardiovascular diseases ought definitely to be mentioned too. We should call a spade a spade. I would therefore like to call on my fellow Members to support Amendments 142 and 143, which make it clear what can be considered to be the main diseases in Europe, against which we must work together by putting in place prevention, screening and treatment. Thank you, Mr President.

 
  
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  Caroline Lucas (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, I warmly welcome Mr Trakatellis’s report. I thank and congratulate him for his excellent work on it. I also want to add my voice to those who deplore the reduced funding for the area concerned. My group will support Amendment 64. In fact my group originally proposed an even higher level of funding, as you may recall.

I should like to highlight, once again, one of the key issues that has already been raised and on which my group has tabled an amendment, namely the contribution of complementary and alternative medicine. Over 100 million EU citizens are already using complementary medicine and its popularity is growing rapidly. Improving people’s knowledge about complementary and alternative medicine can be an important way of enabling them to make more responsible and better informed choices about their health. Therefore, I believe it is vital that we bring that area of medicine out of the ghetto and into the mainstream and recognise the very real benefits it can bring.

Heightened public awareness of the dangers of chemicals in the food chain, growing resistance to antibiotics through over-use and concern about the side-effects of some conventional drugs are all contributing to a massive re-think about the way we live and how we seek to regain our health. Complementary medicines with a holistic and person-centred approach are attracting an ever-widening public. It is important to acknowledge that as a phenomenon. Yet there is still a huge disparity between public demand for those medicines and the negligible amount of funding for research in that field. It is vital that we close that gap.

I strongly support those amendments which refer to the seriousness of environmental pollution as a risk to health and a major source of concern for European citizens. That needs to be addressed urgently as part of a preventive healthcare strategy.

As Mrs Breyer has already set out, our group believes that the participation of civil society is vitally important to the formulation and implementation of European health policy. I welcome the proposed increase in funding to enable its greater involvement, as I do the criteria outlined in Amendment 53, which makes clear the need for independence from industry, commercial and business interests.

Amendment 141, by the Liberals, however, muddies the water and takes away precisely the legal certainty that Amendment 53 sets out. For that reason I would urge colleagues to reject it.

 
  
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  Bairbre de Brún (GUE/NGL).(The speaker spoke Irish)

Mr President, current fears regarding any possible mutation of bird flu means that the public is aware of the need for a joined-up strategy in relation to communicable diseases. At the same time, we need to recognise that non-communicable diseases are by far the greatest causes of the burden of disease and we need to put our resources where they will be most effective.

I also ask the House to support the amendment that calls for the involvement of disadvantaged communities in the shaping of future health policies. We cannot hope to tackle the inequalities in health without the active input of those whose life experience makes them experts in this field.

I also support the inclusion of complementary and alternative medicine in the action supported by the programme and I strongly support health as a separate programme from consumer protection.

The Community action programme in health has the potential to support the mainstreaming of health in all Community policies. The EU is in a unique position to complement the work undertaken in Member States, to study the impact of other policies on health, to promote access to information, to improve the early detection evaluation and communication of risks and to make recommendations on best practice.

(The speaker spoke Irish)

 
  
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  Urszula Krupa (IND/DEM).(PL) Mr President, as a doctor I would like to draw particular attention to the fact that modern science is seeking the psychological basis of the majority of diseases defined as psychosomatic, ranging from obesity to circulatory problems and high blood pressure, as well as autoimmune diseases and tumours, and that a knowledge-based society, and particularly the legislators in the European Union, should be informed of this.

Community polities can also play an important role in the prevention of diseases and the protection of public health, not just in respect of those diseases defined as diseases of civilisation, but also of mental illness. There does, however, need to be a change in lifestyle from a liberal model that does not observe any ethical principles, to a lifestyle based on ethical and moral values, as mental order and mental integration help to prevent personal underdevelopment due to mental illness and all forms of dependence, including nicotine, alcohol and drug addiction and other self-destructive forms of addiction.

Vast financial resources are being poured merely into remedying the effects of such dependence, but these are simply wasted due to the lack of legal restrictions. There is a similar problem with consumer protection, which is sometimes nothing but high-sounding phrases because of the predominance of wealthy monopolies on the market which look after their own interests and pour vast resources into advertising. The flood of such manipulative information should be countered, at the very least by ensuring that EU slogans about protecting basic rights become a reality.

 
  
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  Irena Belohorská (NI). – (SK) Ladies and gentlemen, I too would like to thank Mr Trakatellis for an excellent report. I fully support his idea of splitting it into two parts, one dealing with health promotion and the other with promoting consumer protection in 2007–2013. I too have contributed several amendments to this report, and I am glad that some of them have been adopted, in particular the amendment concerning the new Member States, which is the most important one to me.

There are some striking differences between the healthcare systems of the EU Member States. The new Member States seem to be in an inferior position in this regard, as they face major healthcare challenges and have little funding available for improving the situation. Insufficient spending on healthcare is a major obstacle to the development of these states and to the growth of the European Union as a whole. It is necessary to increase awareness of the possibility of financing healthcare programmes from EU structural funds. For the new Member States, this information could be a source of hope, providing an opportunity to raise the quality of services.

It is unfortunate that, in accordance with the subsidiarity principle, the healthcare sector does not fall under the purview of the European Union and is therefore subject to national legislation. I appreciate the effort to include the protection of patient safety in the report. The difficulties faced by EU citizens in accessing healthcare services while abroad constitute an obstacle to free movement. It is necessary to define more clearly the ambiguous regulations on reimbursements for medical services, as European citizens are finding the present-day provisions and rulings of the European Court of Justice unclear and difficult to understand. It might benefit patients if a database were to be set up with information on healthcare service providers in the other Member States. It would definitely improve the situation for patients, and would possibly eliminate long waiting lists for some services.

The mass media are also in a position to contribute to improving the health status of the population. It would be a good idea to replace various ‘reality shows’ with programmes that use an attractive format to highlight nutrition-related issues, the neglect of which may ultimately contribute to the onset of obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Encouraging the mass media to focus on healthcare issues is also important in terms of state security at the moment, because of the threat of possible attacks in the form of bioterrorism. In case of an epidemic, the public would be better informed about the basic strategies for containing the spread of disease. It is necessary to focus more and allocate larger budgets to healthcare, as we know that it will be impossible to attain the Lisbon Strategy goals without having a healthy population.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Mr Trakatellis for the excellent cooperation and his excellent report.

The three common core EU policy objectives in the fields of health and consumer protection are clearly brought out: to protect the public from risks and hazards over which the individual has no control and which cannot be effectively or completely dealt with by individual Member States. The focus is quite clear. Strengthening people’s ability to make decisions affecting their health – in this connection, a Commission initiative aimed at reducing the restrictions in the pharmaceutical industry’s information policy is also commendable. Thirdly, the incorporation of health policy into the other areas of Community policy.

In the field of health, this report introduces three new core subjects that relate to the new challenges of our time: the response to threats – taking as an example the epidemics that are at present very much in our minds with bird flu. Secondly, the prevention of diseases and patterns of behaviour – citing here only smoking, obesity, addictions and lack of exercise as examples. Thirdly, the necessary cooperation between national health authorities, where there is surely still room for improvement at many levels. I see no undermining of subsidiarity here, but on the contrary greater cooperation, effects of synergy and a strengthening of subsidiarity.

I believe the separation into consumer protection and health protection to be important and correct, since they are two fields of policy with different bases in law, which means they also entail different EU powers within the Community. Personally, I find all that we are wanting to do with 1.5 billion in seven years astonishing. I hope that a lot of it will be achieved. Let us only bear in mind that statutory social insurance has a turnover of EUR 180 billion a year in the Federal Republic of Germany alone.

I support Amendment 64 on expanding the financial framework. I believe it is the minimum if we are to do any meaningful work at all. Compared to what the Community spends in seven years on subsidising the cultivation of tobacco, this amount is still vanishingly small. It amounts to only about one fifth of tobacco subsidies.

We certainly cannot satisfy every desire of Europe’s citizens and institutions in a framework programme. We have tried to be as fair and balanced as possible. I see this as a great opportunity to take Europe a bit further into the midst of the citizens again through joint public relations work.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Dorette Corbey (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I should like to extend warm congratulations to Mr Trakatellis. His expertise on health is a considerable asset to our debate. Health is an important political topic, but is, first and foremost, a national concern. It is justified that Europe should devote attention to health, but Europe should only stir into action if there is a clearly added value to be had. Nevertheless, Commissioner, I expect a great deal from your policy.

First of all, I hope that you will actively encourage your fellow-Commissioners to adopt healthy policies. Have a look at agricultural subsidies through the eyes of health. Should we really continue to subsidise fat, sugar and tobacco? I would prefer us to opt in favour of vegetables and fruit. Alternatively, Commissioner, I invite you to plant yourself in the middle of the scrap between DG Industry and DG Environment on air quality, chemicals and plead strongly in favour of health. This will not cost any money and is one of the biggest favours you can do the European citizens.

Secondly, I would urge you to engage in the battle against inequality, and I would echo what Mrs Belohorská said in this connection. Access to adequate treatment for the citizens of Europe is very lopsided. Cancer patients have considerably higher chances of survival in some countries than in others. Methods of treatment differ, access to health is unequal. The patients’ knowledge of their diseases differs in each country. Prevention does not have the attention it deserves in all countries.

I would invite the Commissioner to pool knowledge. Member States, hospitals, patient associations and treatment providers can all learn from each other. Combine prevention and treatment. I would urge you, above all, not to collate statistics on the general health situation, but rather collect very practical information on the most important diseases, including cancer, rheumatism, diabetes, lung disorders and naturally heart and vascular diseases, and then assess where improvements can be made. You may be able to set up knowledge centres and networks that can be a valuable source of information for the treatment provider and patient alike. In that way, the European Union can make a worthwhile contribution.

I would finally like to urge you all to sign Declaration No. 1, which is about diabetes, and has been tabled by various Members of this House. We already have 260 signatures, and we need 80 more, so please let us have yours.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, health and consumer protection are two fields − as is shown repeatedly by each successive Eurobarometer − for which the people demand more of Europe, and therefore I must thank our two rapporteurs, Mr Trakatellis and, for this afternoon, Mrs Thyssen, who had the good sense to propose to us the splitting of the two programmes.

Having made this opening remark, I should like to join all those who are with Mr Trakatellis, with you, Commissioner, and with a number of others, who have expressed their support for an ambitious Health programme, even though, as we well know, we will not obtain the billion and a half euros we asked for, and will not reach that very symbolic threshold of the percentage of the European budget. Ultimately, then, we shall have to make cuts, painful sacrifices. That is why I believe it is important to concentrate our efforts on the five to seven diseases that are the main causes of mortality in Europe. We must, therefore, take into account what the WHO tells us and support Amendment 142, proposed by the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and not be afraid to specify certain diseases and work twice as hard at the prevention, for example, of cardio-vascular diseases and various cancers, because being ambitious does not mean trying to do too many things at once.

Our citizens want Europe to be effective and transparent. We must not fail them by spreading resources too thinly. They are asking us also to be responsive and to reassure them, especially today. It would not be right, therefore, to leave the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm without a decent budget. Let us remember, after all, that it was launched in 2005 following the lightning spread of SARS two years ago. It is therefore very much in our interest to see the ECDC fulfil its purpose now that avian influenza has arrived in our continent.

So, in conclusion, Commissioner, I have a question for you and, likewise, for the Council. How are you going to fund the health and environment action plan and reconcile it with this new public health programme? Europe must, we know, equip itself with the means of combating environmental pollution, which affects the most vulnerable among us, pregnant women and children. Protecting the very youngest among us is also the way to give every chance to the Europe of tomorrow.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – (SV) Mr President, I should like to thank both Mr Trakatellis and Mr Kyprianou, who have done a sterling job. We are, however, in an absurd situation in which we spend five times more money on tobacco subsidies than on promoting public health, that is to say five times more money on ruining people’s health than on improving it.

What I like is the fact that this report focuses on preventive work. Resources are so limited that they are only sufficient for the purposes of cooperation, sharing good examples and disseminating information. However, it is at national level that the big money is to be found and where the bulk of the work will take place. What I think is good about the European Parliament’s changes is Amendment 53, the importance of which I want to emphasise. Since there is so little money, it should not go to organisations that lobby, openly or otherwise, on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry. It is good that there would be careful monitoring to ensure that that did not happen.

We have not so far mentioned Amendments 92 and 144, which deal with gender equality. I think that this is an important aspect, which we must consider. Too large a portion of the available money goes to men and men’s health care and too little to women’s health care. However, it is in the relationship between public health and trade that Europe can make the biggest contribution in this area. The Treaty’s articles on public health are scarcely applied at all to trade policy. Where is the health dimension in alcohol policy? The same applies to chemicals and pesticides. It is in these areas that the really big efforts must be made.

Commissioner, you can make an initial contribution to bringing about that more comprehensive view by not approving the eight new pesticides that are coming on the scene and that are biopersistent, endocrine disruptive and class 2 carcinogenic – a wordy enumeration of the perfect reasons for banning chemicals. You can take the opportunity to do so now.

 
  
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  Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM). – Mr President, I congratulate Mr Trakatellis on the report. It is important to reaffirm that health is a national competence. However, it is appropriate for the EU to encourage health-promoting lifestyles and at least require minimum health service standards in the various countries. That is especially so in a country like mine, Ireland, which has the strongest economy in Europe while its health service is inadequate and people are put at risk because they cannot get the basic health services they need.

Diabetes is a good example of a disease that is under-funded in my wealthy constituency. We have half a diabetic nurse post to cater for 250 people, when there should be one for 50 people in order to be effective. Other experiences in the Irish health system have informed my reading of this report. On human organs, tissue and blood, I will request an oral amendment to include the concept of traceability. Our hepatitis C scandals in Ireland illustrated the medical dangers of not being able to trace sources of contamination. In the Irish organ retention scandal, dead children were routinely stripped of organs without the knowledge or consent of their families, illustrating the ethical necessity of traceability to ensure that human products are obtained legitimately.

To conclude, Europe has a role to play in promoting health. However, I do not think EU funds should be used to promote profit-making health industries; they have plenty of funds to promote themselves.

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE).(CS) I warmly applaud the work that Mr Trakatellis, rapporteur and Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats member, has devoted to preparing this report, in which Parliament has had its say. The citizens and healthcare professionals also welcome the new action plan before us in this debate. Most importantly, according to the report, politicians and healthcare managers will work together to mark out the path for solving problems that cut across Member State borders. The report paves the way for a modern strategy, especially as regards the coordination of activities, but unfortunately, after the Council radically amended the EU budget, this is not accompanied by adequate funding from European sources. Much remains for the Union to do, and in particular those tasks that individual Member States are not capable of accomplishing themselves. This is not only a matter of combating serious infectious diseases that cut across borders, such as AIDS and influenza, but also of combating the spread of drug addiction and lifestyle diseases. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control was set up for this very purpose, in conjunction with the national reference laboratories. Budget cuts are not good news and are indicative of shortcomings in the priorities of the EU’s political elite and of some MEPs.

I should at this point like to highlight a further problem. Modern medicine provides people with a longer, higher-quality life, but this comes at an ever-higher cost – some 60 to 90% of the public purse. The higher the proportion of Community funding for healthcare services, the less responsibility individual citizens take for their health. It is also the case that the more the state regulates, the further the law reduces personal responsibility on the part of individuals. Evidence of this can be found in countries that experienced centrally run and completely regulated healthcare, in which decisions on patients’ health, prevention and treatment – and in turn on the cost of that treatment – were taken without the patient being involved. Although specific reforms have been made, they have brought about a less effective system and more expensive services; old ideas and habits die hard among patients, doctors and politicians. I should therefore like to say that programmes intended to help health service clients to be better informed, and to help system compatibility, should not under any circumstances be cut. These resources pay for themselves many times over.

I have further qualms about the effectiveness of certain regulations – supposedly crucial to the protection of health and the environment – that we have foolishly adopted. I fear that sometimes the aim is to please certain industrial pressure groups and not enough money is spent on the citizens’ health. I therefore call on the Commission to devote a larger proportion of the budget to analysis based on empirical evidence. In this way, our decision-making on regulations can be more responsible, and we can become aware of the true impact on public health, the economic cost, and in turn, the impact on the European economy. For this reason I also support Amendment 64.

 
  
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  Anne Ferreira (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, firstly I should like, as other Members have done, to express my approval of the decision not to merge the health and consumer protection areas of the Community action plan within the field of health and consumer protection.

Quite apart from the different nature of the European Union’s competences in these two fields, health policy cannot be regarded as a consumer good.

Although I support the introduction of ‘e-Health’, this must not be used to provide a covert means of testing out an information policy.

I thank Mr Trakatellis for proposing a considerable increase in the budget allocation for this programme, an increase that is necessary if we are to see our objectives and actions brought to a successful conclusion. More funding would have been preferable in view of the challenges to be faced, but we shall already have cause for a certain satisfaction if the Council agrees to increase the funding allocations for health within the context of the financial perspective for 2007–2013.

I wish to emphasise two priorities. Firstly, we must improve cooperation and coordination in the field of health in order to respond more rapidly to cross-border health threats. Had that been the case, we should have been able now to avoid the extent of the spread of the chikungunya epidemic. This ought to prompt the European Union, the Member States and the pharmaceutical laboratories to establish a system for monitoring and for research into these kinds of disease, which may be rare in terms of world population but are catastrophic at a local level.

My second priority is this: to achieve the objective of a better standard of health for all Europeans, we must take into account the impact of environmental and social living conditions on health. In order to treat certain illnesses better we have to address the causes. Everyone knows that people who are vulnerable and socially excluded are more prone than others to certain diseases. We have to help the weakest.

If the Member States made rapid progress in these two areas, our people would feel a little more protected by the European Union.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Mr President, I congratulate Mr Trakatellis on his report, which was excellent as expected. An important aspect of the EU's health problem is protection against disease through prevention. The three main preventable curses affecting human health – tobacco, excessive alcohol and poor nutrition – are responsible for the premature deaths of millions of European citizens every year. Tobacco especially is thought to be implicated in the cause of death of one in every three smokers. Smoking kills far more people than drug addiction, road traffic accidents and HIV infection all put together. So, with tobacco being such a big killer, are we really doing enough to help our citizens get rid of this self-destructive habit? I think not quite enough.

First, we continue to subsidise tobacco growing in the EU. Surely this is unwise, as has been mentioned by many colleagues already. Second, we allow the ever-more powerful multinational tobacco manufacturers to lobby and influence important decision-making centres freely; they certainly freely lobby MEPs. Third, we lag behind in implementing an effective information strategy. For instance, we put scary warnings on cigarette packets which nobody takes any notice of any more, whereas the tobacco companies pay for movie star idols to smoke on screen.

We have no structured anti-smoking teaching programmes in our schools. We build expensive hospital departments to treat patients suffering from serious diseases caused by smoking, and yet we tolerate many doctors working in such departments giving the worst possible example by smoking in public themselves. Many Member States pay for expensive departments for smoking-related diseases, but they do not pay for smokers to go on anti-smoking programmes before they become ill. Finally, many Member States still leave passive smokers at the mercy of smokers, be it at work or in places of entertainment.

Now that we have a strongly anti-smoking Health Commissioner it is perhaps time to wage a truly full-scale war on the tobacco giants of death and be reasonably optimistic of winning.

 
  
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  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – Mr President, let me start by saying that I agree with absolutely every word the last speaker said; I shall not repeat it all, but well done! I should like to thank Mr Trakatellis for an excellent report and I also thank the Commissioner for being so honest with us here this morning and stating that this Community action plan on health already needs to be reviewed if it is to be effective, so that we can prioritise areas, because of – and I use his words – ‘the accounting muddle’. All I can say about that is that it is an embarrassment!

The EC Treaty states that ‘a high level of human health protection should be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Community policies’. This report is an important first step in making our citizens’ right to health protection, enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, a reality.

While health is a Member State competence, the European Community can add value and complement the activities of Member States through urgently needed coordination and collation of best practice models so that we can learn from each other and create centres of excellence. By mainstreaming health into all EU policies, by conducting extended health impact assessments and evaluations on all EU legislation and by promoting healthy lifestyles, the EU can provide the necessary platform for joined-up thinking across its Member States.

According to the World Health Organisation, in 2000, for the first time in history, the number of overweight people in the world equalled those who were underweight – more than one billion overweight, 300 million of whom are obese – with the huge implications this has for morbidity. In this respect, it is imperative that we encourage a preventive approach and I welcome a number of recent Commission initiatives in this area.

The broader behavioural, social and environmental factors that determine health can be optimally addressed at Community level through a holistic, as opposed to fragmented, approach. Complementary and alternative medicines, where scientifically substantiated, must be included in any Community action programme in the field of health.

The European Community is optimally positioned to combat transnational health problems, such as the threat posed by epidemics of infectious diseases and food-related incidences. BSE, SARS and the recent avian influenza concerns have all, to our cost, underlined the imperative of having proactive, pre-emptive coordinated action in the area of health.

The proliferation of EU agencies in the field of health – the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the European Food Safety Authority and others – is a very welcome and necessary development in tackling these health threats. However, these bodies cannot function without a clear Community-level policy and the necessary designated financial resources to underpin them. If the money is not secured in the budget and a preventive approach cannot be taken, the consequences, financial and otherwise, may be much greater. Less money from an EU of 25 than from an EU of 15 is not acceptable and is, frankly, irresponsible.

Could the Commissioner tell us where our health services directive is and when we will have a draft proposal?

 
  
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  Karin Jöns (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I, too, would like to sincerely thank Mr Trakatellis for his excellent report. It is in fact very difficult to do the greatest possible justice to all legitimate interests here while at the same time remaining cogent. I therefore regret, for example, that cancer is no longer explicitly mentioned as a priority in the new health action programme.

You are more than right, however, Mr Trakatellis, to point out in your report that there must of course also be sufficient resources for all the objectives we have set ourselves. At present we are a long way from that, however, not to mention the fact that we shall today be rejecting the Commission proposal for a joint action programme for health and consumer protection as totally unacceptable.

In health policy, too, the public wants more protection from Europe, not less. Health policy takes fourth place among the European policy priorities you mention. That itself makes it a matter of urgency that health should be given its own action programme again.

I cannot understand how even the Commission could propose such a low budget allocation or how the Council could cut it still further. We are therefore trying to remedy two cardinal errors here today. We want two separate programmes, and we want more money. I am saying that primarily to the Council. If the further reduction you want were to become reality, it would mean we only had one third of the previous funding for what will be 27 states. That would mean, however, that we would be completely unable to provide primary and secondary prevention of certain diseases or the urgently necessary protection against the risks of disease occasioned by globalisation.

 
  
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  Frederika Brepoels (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I too should, of course, like to start by congratulating Mr Trakatellis not only on his sterling report, but, above all, on the way in which he always had time for all Members, who were keen that their concerns should eventually be reflected in the report. It is a very important report, because it formulates the Community action programmes in terms of public health for the next six years, which cannot be fleshed out by the individual Member States. I think it is safe to say that the rapporteur has successfully managed to combine all relevant and specific aspects in such a vast, and at the same time sensitive, area as public health.

I am particularly delighted that for the first time, it is possible to include complementary and alternative medicine in the actions, as a result of which the public can make more informed and responsible choices in connection with their own health. I am all too aware that alternative methods of medicine are all too often greeted with jeers, but the many people who derive benefit from them claim otherwise, of course. Nevertheless, the Commission has quoted a figure according to which no less than 30% of the population and some hundreds of thousands of doctors and therapists demand these alternative methods.

Better knowledge of complementary medicine will be a major step forward for public health, and so I wholeheartedly endorse the tackling of the problem of the shortage of organs on an EU-wide scale. Both the setting up of common platforms for donors and recipients, and the development of activities to improve safety and the quality of organs can help in this throughout the EU.

As a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, I should, above all, like to stress that health is affected by environmental factors. All too often, people remain oblivious, for example, to the impact of exposure to certain toxic substances. Providing clear information, backed by scientific research, could go a long way in preventing much suffering and also avoid misunderstandings.

The action programme provides specific measures in the area of prevention, detection and raising awareness as well as in terms of information about serious diseases. As a member of MAC, ‘MEPs against Cancer’, recently set up at the heart of Parliament, I can do no other than applaud these concrete steps. There is one thing, however, that I, like many other Members, find hard to digest.

For as long as no agreement is reached about the financial perspectives for the next period, discussion of this action programme will remain merely academic. Even so, the need is considerable, the ambitions even more so, and Parliament will therefore need, in the next few months, to ensure that the necessary funds are actually made available.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE).(PL) Mr President, even though healthcare services fall within the competence of the Member States, the European Union should make the best possible use of its opportunities to supplement actions taken at national level in the interests of the entire Community. It is for this reason intolerable that in future years the EU budget will cut spending in areas that affect the quality of life of its inhabitants, including in particular healthcare.

The European Union can and must contribute towards protecting the health and safety of its citizens, particularly since the recent enlargement has increased the imbalance between Member States as regards healthcare. The marked disparities in citizens’ average life expectancy, health and access to healthcare are closely related to the level of development of individual Member States.

New healthcare programmes with an overall aim of improving the health of citizens and ensuring prevention in the broad sense of the word ought to level out these imbalances. High standards of healthcare should be the aim of all EU politicians. Efforts should now in particular be taken to reduce inequality of access to and quality of healthcare in Member States by introducing comparable standards and securing greater transparency of national healthcare systems. The new programme could prove particularly helpful in the case of cross-border public health threats, as it would make it possible to implement common strategies and actions to protect health and safety and to eliminate any threats, and to promote healthcare-related economic interests of citizens and reduce the cost of healthcare to citizens. Better information exchange on available medical services and the opportunity for having costs reimbursed on the territory of the European Union will also lead to the promotion of patient and healthcare specialist mobility, as the author of this very important report, Mr Trakatellis, correctly pointed out.

 
  
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  Christofer Fjellner (PPE-DE).(SV) Mr President, I have expressed quite a few views on the Commission’s health programme and kicked up a bit of a fuss. I do think, however, that it is really commendable, and I therefore wish to thank not only Mr Kyprianou but also Mr Trakatellis.

It has been self-evident to me that health is primarily an issue for the Member States, and I am delighted that the majority in this Chamber are of the same view. What we do at EU level needs to provide clear added value to patients. There are three aspects of this subject that I have been involved in and fought for and that I particularly want to emphasise today. First of all, there is the point of departure for this report, which is, and always must be, that the individual’s own commitment to his or her own health is what is most important. Where health care and work in the public health field are concerned, we politicians must always regard people, even if they happen to be ill, as adults with rights and duties, including the right to control their own lives and health care. We must never forget that active involvement in our own health is always the best medicine. That is precisely what is so unfortunate about the fact that the Social Democrats wish to remove the wordings designed to promote just such active involvement in our own health.

As Members of the European Parliament, we must also facilitate movement within and between countries so that everyone can seek the treatment and care they themselves most believe in. At present, those who enjoy least freedom of movement in the EU are those who need it most, that is to say the patients. For them, Europe’s borders become little Berlin Walls standing in the way of their ability to obtain treatment. For them, freedom of movement may be a matter of life or death. We must not believe that the most important aspects of the good society can be regulated and organised using the planned economy, which has so clearly proved to be the economic model most destructive of creativity and sound housekeeping. We must have more freedom of choice and of movement.

We must also make efforts to ensure that we as decision-makers, together with those who implement the decisions and, in particular, those who use health services obtain better access to information from those services. We must be able to compare results and not only, as at present, costs. These developments are needed not only so that we might learn from each other but also so that users might take advantage of the freedom of movement and of choice given to them by the European Court of Justice. These developments would be to the advantage of European patients.

Up until about the time of the Second World War, people coming into contact with health services were victims. More often than not, they were healthier before the doctor was called than after. Through the development of treatment methods and the advent of drugs, we have become patients in our health care systems. I am, however, convinced that, within the not too distant future, we shall be health care consumers, and that is a shift in perspective that we must help bring about: victims yesterday, patients today and health care consumers tomorrow. That would be a fantastic development that I believe would make us not only healthier but also freer.

 
  
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  David Casa (PPE-DE). (MT) I also wish to join my colleagues in thanking Mr Trakatellis for the excellent piece of work we have before us today. It is every government’s priority to establish a health system, for the health sector is of relevance to everybody without exception. It is a sector without frontiers, and one that is at the heart of every country. The Charter of Fundamental Human Rights sets all this out and emphasises that the European Union should give the health sector the necessary attention and priority. The European Union is duty-bound to intervene by establishing objectives for improving the public health system, helping prevent contagious diseases and trying to eliminate every risk that might endanger the health of the Community. It is therefore very important that we look at the Community action programme in the field of health in an objective and distinctive way that focuses exclusively on this particular sector. We cannot agree to have just one programme serving two different sectors, however these may be related to each other. Otherwise, what is essential might, I am afraid, be lost, and more harm than good might be done. What I am saying applies also to the consumer protection programme, which is in itself a complex subject to which separate attention needs to be given. We want to see a programme that, on the one hand, brings the health systems of the various countries closer together and, on the other hand, helps every country achieve its own individual aims. I cannot neglect also to mention the particular importance that needs to be given to cases of persons suffering from chronic diseases or from disabilities. We have to make sure that they are not marginalised and, over and above that, that they also enjoy a high standard of living. Those with difficulties should have the opportunity to benefit from assistance that makes their lives easier, as well as from research programmes to improve the conditions under which they live. We should also bear in mind the important role played by those who take care of people with difficulties, and we should have programmes whereby those who provide care are given the necessary training to carry out their duties more efficiently. We have a programme that will be an important tool enabling patients to benefit from the best treatment and medicines. We have a programme that will educate Europeans and help them make better choices in the interests of their health. This programme will help reduce the imbalances in health care that exist from one EU country to another, so that every country enjoys a higher level of services. Yes, we have a challenge before us, a challenge that must lead to our achieving effective prevention, a more efficient health service and a better quality of life.

 
  
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  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE). – (HU) Mr President, firstly, I would like to thank Mr Trakatellis for his excellent and thorough work.

Health is our most important asset, and therefore it is good that the European Union, too, addresses this issue. I agree with the words of Mr Fjellner, and as an MEP from a new Member State, I am pleased that the areas of health protection and consumer protection have been separated, as in our country, these two areas face entirely different problems.

A long life is not sufficient; it is equally important that we stay healthy for as long as possible. Therefore, I consider it particularly positive that the programme focuses on extending the healthy life expectancy of citizens, because enjoying good health for as long as possible is crucial to the welfare of European citizens.

In light of the demographic challenges we currently face, this also has a great significance for the sustainability of social care systems. This is a particularly important task in Hungary, where healthy life expectancy is ten years shorter than in the older Member States of the European Union. Therefore, the new programme must include special efforts to reduce the differences between the health levels of European Union citizens.

Our most important task is to ensure prevention, which is also a priority of this programme. This was the reason why I suggested in my amendment proposal that the programme should focus on the health of children and young people, because a healthy lifestyle adopted early in life is decisive in the prevention of problems that may occur later.

Finally, I would like to call attention to the fact that every cent we spend on improving the health of our citizens will bring a multiple return. We could hardly find a more profitable investment for the money of European taxpayers than health. Therefore, I hope that the appropriate financial resources required for the successful implementation of the programme tabled before us will also be available.

Once more, I would like to say thank you, on behalf of all of us, to Mr Trakatellis for his thorough work, and I do hope that everything contained in this programme will be implemented.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, I would like to add my thanks to those already expressed to Mr Trakatellis, he has really worked very hard. I would also like to express my thanks to the Commissioner, however, because the Commission is also working very hard, especially in the closely related field of bird flu.

Health is certainly the field of greatest interest to us all and of course also to our citizens. We do of course find that life expectancy has risen tremendously over the years. There are figures to show that life expectancy has been increasing steadily by two and a half years per decade since 1840. That of course also brings new challenges for our health and social systems. It means that while we are living longer, we also need to ensure – especially from the political and medical side – that the expectancy of a healthy life becomes longer and that people do not only get older but also healthier.

We are faced with new challenges. Some of them have already been mentioned, such as bird flu, which could mutate into a pandemic and present Europe with problems such as it has not experienced before. We need to be well prepared for this if we are to be able to take the right action in good time. I would also like to point out that problems surrounding Aids, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease must remain on the agenda because they still represent major risks for our citizens.

We must also be clear that the Member States are of course basically responsible for health. We on the European side need to think, however, where we can actually contribute this much vaunted European added value, where we can do something from Europe that will help our citizens to live longer healthy lives. This cross-border factor is certainly one area. Diseases do not stop at borders.

Knowledge is certainly another factor. I would like to mention another figure here. Medical knowledge in particular has increased tremendously, and it does of course entail costs. If we were to take the level of knowledge of Bismarck’s day and apply it to our own, then only 1% of our health budgets would be taken up. The remaining 99% relates to knowledge that was gained later. That also means, of course, that health costs money. I therefore back the rapporteur’s call for EUR 1.5 billion from the European Union very strongly. We cannot adopt lavish health programmes and not make the necessary money available.

Another point is the whole area of provision. As I have already said, people are getting older. That also means that healthy lifestyles and provision will increase. More importantly, a lot of research needs to be done here in order to put our health budgets on a sound footing in the long term.

Over all, we are on the right road, but we must not close our eyes to the challenges that lie ahead.

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I should like to thank the Members for a very interesting debate. I will make a few brief comments.

First of all, on the issue of the agencies, I totally agree that both the ECDC and EISS are very important policies, but they should not be at the cost of the other health policies. Unless we have increased financing, we will be faced with the impossible choice of either funding fully the two agencies and doing absolutely nothing else, or splitting the money, which I am not sure would be of benefit either. That is an important issue.

With regard to funding, I should like to thank the Members for their support. Given the way that we work in the Union in the area of health, which involves mostly non-legislative initiatives, more money is required. When you legislate, it is much easier to send the proposals that have been adopted and expect Member States to implement them. But when you want to take other initiatives of coordination, of recommendations, or of exchange of best practices, then you need more money. I agree that we will not expand into the competence of the Member States. We will emphasise and target areas where we can have European added value by taking action at European level. That is in fact what the programme is doing.

Health services fall within the competence of Member States. There is no question about that. But in a Union of solidarity, I do not believe we can accept the health inequalities that exist today in the European Union, where we have a life expectancy variation of more than ten years from one Member State to the other.

Patient mobility is an important issue. It is a reality that we have to deal with. We will produce proposals in that respect. But the target should be that patients be offered a high level of treatment where they live, where their families are, where they speak the language. That can be achieved through programmes of centres of reference, exchange of best practices, coordinating Member States, coordinating healthcare systems and working together and achieving the highest level of service. I repeat: that would not interfere with the issues of competence and subsidiarity.

We are working not only with ‘blockbusting’ medicine; on the contrary, I would like to remind you that there is provision in the programme for rare diseases, which is also followed by orphan drugs. We are promoting that area as well.

As regards tobacco, I could not agree more, and I would be very happy if we ever have the opportunity to have a specific debate on the tobacco area. The issue of subsidies is correct, but I would also like to add that subsidies will eventually be phased out and that is a decision which has already been taken, but the tobacco fund that we financed in European-level campaigns gets money through those subsidies. Once the subsidies finish, we will have no more money left for Europe-wide campaigns on tobacco, so that, again, is an impossible situation and I hope we come up with a solution in the near future.

As regards alcohol, I would like to remind you that by the end of this year, or some time after the summer, we will produce the Community strategy proposal for a European strategy on alcohol. I have noted the comments made about pesticides.

On financing, I would like to address Mrs Doyle: I raise an accounting error – or, at least, I hope it is an accounting error – because I cannot really believe that it was intentionally decided to reduce the funding of health and consumer protection. I hope in the overall arrangement that somebody noticed the impact that compromise would have on those two specific areas, which means it can be corrected. If it was intentional, then I very much regret that and I cannot say much more than that.

On the issue of complementary medicine, I have noted the comments made. We feel that this is more of an area of subsidiarity. The Commission proposal does not deal with specific medicine as such.

Regarding environment and health – I am addressing Mrs Ries – we already have measures under the current programme and they will continue under a new programme especially as regards environmental determinants on health.

Coming to the various diseases, I can assure you that cancer is our priority among other diseases, but we have included a new strand which provides for the reduction of disease burden, but we believed that in a seven-year programme we needed more flexibility, so we do not list specific diseases; however, that can be done through different decisions that can be taken in the course of the programme. By listing some diseases, you effectively exclude others, so we wanted a more flexible approach on this.

I would also like to remind the Members that I will be bringing forward a proposal on the health strategy, which will be more detailed and will elaborate on the programme based on the funding that we will eventually obtain; so there will be a fully-fledged, broader strategy and that will be done together with the stakeholders and citizens.

In conclusion, I would like once again to thank Mr Trakatellis for the excellent job he has done, as well as the members of the committee. I thank you again for your support in this very important policy area.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

We all thank Mr Trakatellis, once again, for his excellent work.

The vote will take place today at voting time.

Annex - Position of the Commission

 
  
  

Trakatellis report (A6-0030/2006)

The Commission can accept Amendments 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 17, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 30, 34, 35, 36, 44, 51, 55, 59, 60, 61, 65, 66, 69, 70, 72, 78, 80, 84, 85, 86, 88, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 106, 108, 111, 113, 119, 120, 122, 123, 124, 126, 132, 135, 139, 146 and 149.

Amendments 16, 31, 32, 56, 57 and 90 can be accepted in part.

Amendments 10, 14, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 39, 46, 50, 63, 67, 71, 73, 79, 81, 91, 110, 115, 116, 118 and 137 can be accepted subject to modifications.

The Commission cannot accept Amendments 5, 33, 47, 54, 58, 64, 68, 82, 83, 89, 95, 96, 98, 104, 105, 112, 128, 130, 141, 142, 143, 145, 147, 148, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156 and 157.

The Commission rejects mainly on grounds of split or resources Amendments 1, 2, 3, 15, 18, 19, 37, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43, 45, 48, 49, 52, 53, 62, 74, 75, 76, 77, 87, 92, 93, 94, 97, 107, 109, 114, 117, 121, 125, 127, 129, 131, 133, 134, 136, 138, 140 and 144.

(Amendments underlined are new amendments tabled by political groups on 8 March 2005.)

 
  

(1)Commission position on Parliament's amendments: see Minutes.


6. Community action programme in the field of consumer protection (2007-2013) (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the report (A6-0032/2006) by Mrs Thyssen, on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a programme of Community action in the field of health and consumer protection (2007–2013 – consumer aspects (COM(2005) 0115 – C6-0225/2005 – 2005/0042B(COD)).

Before handing over to the Commissioner, you may be aware, ladies and gentlemen, that we have only about 20 minutes left for the debate before Voting time. You will realise that, under these circumstances, we shall not be able to finish the debate. I prefer to tell you that straight away. I shall be obliged to suspend the debate.

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, first of all I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Thyssen, and the Members of Parliament and the members of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection for their excellent and close cooperation and the support they have expressed for the consumer programme.

I would like to apologise in advance for repeating some things I have already said regarding the health part of the programme. However, given that we are having separate debates, it is important to make some statements again in relation to the consumer programme.

The problem of the budget is again a similar one: a reduced budget means reduced policies and, again, it means less money for the Union of 27 – 25 plus 2 – than we had for the 15.

In the age of consumer protection, where we have to take strong initiatives, especially in the new Member States and the acceding Member States, this will cause serious problems and will of course affect the assistance we offer to consumer organisations, especially as regards funding of projects and training of staff.

On the same issue, I would like to remind you again of the letter sent by President Barroso to President Borrell raising these concerns, explaining that if the compromise stays in place it would mean less money than we had in 2006 and asking for additional efforts in this area. Again, as in the health area, if eventually we are left with such a major cut or reduction in our funding, it will mean that we cannot spread it thinly over many actions. Limited funds mean we have to re-evaluate and prioritise and decide where we actually want to concentrate, where we can achieve the greatest benefit. I hope that this can be corrected, that eventually the funding will be provided and that we will be able to cover the programme as it was proposed.

On splitting the programmes, I have to repeat that I fully understand the position of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection in this respect. I understand why it would prefer to have two separate programmes. As I said earlier, we believe that there would be some added value if we adhered to a merged programme, where we clearly distinguish between actions in health and in consumer protection; but we can benefit from having common areas and achieve better economies of scale.

Nevertheless, given that the financial perspectives negotiations are still ongoing, this would and will affect the Commission’s position on the splitting of the programme. At this point, therefore, we cannot take a final decision regarding splitting and have to reject the amendments relating to splitting. On the conclusion of the debate on the financial perspectives, the Commission will review this issue again. I repeat that Parliament has made its wishes very clear and I have taken note of the very strong – almost unanimous – position of Parliament.

I shall not comment on the amendments separately. A full list of the Commission’s position on each of the amendments is being made available to Parliament and I should be obliged if it could be included in the Verbatim Report of this sitting(1).

The amendments we are rejecting relate mostly to the splitting, and we are doing so either for the reason I explained earlier or because they go beyond the scope of Community consumer policy. It is not that we disagree with the substance of these proposals, but that we feel they go a bit further than the scope of Community consumer policy and – given the existing situation – we would not be able to finance some of them.

We agree on the other issues, especially as regards the need to integrate consumer interests into other policies. I count on Parliament’s support to ensure that consumer interests are given proper attention in many other key consumer policy initiatives.

That is a brief overview of the Commission’s position on this issue. I look forward to a very interesting debate.

 
  
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  Marianne Thyssen (PPE-DE), rapporteur. (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as rapporteur of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, I should like to confirm explicitly what was, in actual fact, already obvious from the previous debate. The Committee is opposed to an integrated public health and consumer protection programme, and with the backing of the Conference of Presidents, we are asking for a separate multi-annual programme for consumer protection. Since the Commissioner does not strike me as entirely convinced, here are the reasons again in a nutshell.

The Community competences in each of these two areas are too dissimilar from one another. This is also true of the social objectives of the civil-society organisations involved; internal distribution of competences, also in the Member States, is often at odds with an integrated approach. A patient is slightly different from a consumer and at the very least, we would like certainty in relation to the proportion of the budget that is available for consumer affairs and we want to prevent a situation, when we are faced with a public health crisis, where consumer policy would be the budgetary victim of an urgent public health need which should normally be resolved by means of a flexibility instrument.

If the truth be known, I feel, given the lack of financial perspectives, a little uneasy talking about this report today, because we have no idea as to the level of budget. At the same time, I am acutely aware that the extent of the budget and the fleshing out of the programme in terms of content are two sides of the same coin. It is difficult, though, to restrain our ambitions in the area of consumer policy. For years, all European institutions have used Community consumer policy to illustrate that Europe is very much concerned about the care of normal people. In times of enlargement, when the need to give the internal market a consumer dimension is greater than ever, when we also need to let the European Union keep its human face, in times like these, we cannot curb the ambitions in the area of consumer protection without this having any repercussions.

Since the three institutions are present today – and I assume that the Austrian Presidency is adequately represented – it is for that reason alone that I consider it useful today to argue in favour of keeping the budget as specified in the Commission proposal. I think we should really stick to it.

In consultation with Mr Trakatellis of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, we have carefully carved up the budget according to the scale of apportionment used by the Commission. Accordingly, for consumer protection, we arrive at a sum of EUR 233 million spread over seven years. In agreement with our financial perspectives negotiator, Mr Böge, we did not add anything in IMCO, but let us not misunderstand each other: this does not mean in any way that we will be satisfied with less at a later stage. The three budgetary authorities are asked to take this message literally. We are not satisfied with less, given the importance of the subject matter, the increased sphere of action resulting from enlargement, and the consumer’s vital confidence in the internal market.

I should like to thank my colleagues on the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, because they are right behind us on this, and also because we managed to confine ourselves to two major additional areas of concern at the Commission’s proposal which, incidentally, the Commissioner did an extremely good job of explaining.

1. We want the proramming procedure to be more open to involving the Member States that do not have a long tradition of consumer protection, consumer movement, the capacity development of consumer associations and their participation in policy preparation.

2. Special attention should go to the phenomenon of ageing among the population and also to other vulnerable consumer groups. People knowledgeable in the area of consumer law know that we cannot adequately provide for these vulnerable groups in legislation, which, by definition, has a general scope, but in a consumer programme, we can focus on target groups and we can accommodate this vulnerable consumer, and that is what we must do if we want to move towards a warm and human society.

This is the first report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection in more than ten years in which its late chairman, Mr Whitehead, has not taken the floor. We still miss him, and years of warm and friendly cooperation with him have led me to dedicate this report to him. Ladies and gentlemen, I ask your support for all of this, I also ask the Commission and the Council to support our proposal. I thank you for the cooperation, I thank you for your respect for Mr Whitehead, for we owe this to him, and I am also indebted to the people of the Committee’s Secretariat who have plotted the course of this dossier very professionally.

Mr President, allow me say a few words by way of conclusion. It is unlikely that all Members will have a chance to talk before lunch; as such, we will need to reach an agreement on the vote, because this is not a codecision report. If not everyone speaks before lunch, I would suggest moving the vote to next week’s part-session in Brussels, for I think that we cannot let coincidences determine the outcome of this, and that we cannot vote on a topic of this kind with a very small number of people present. That is my suggestion as rapporteur.

 
  
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  President. – Mrs Thyssen, your request for a postponement of the vote will be put to the House in a moment, right at the beginning of the voting session, by the Vice-President who takes my place.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, I want to mention the very situation that Mrs Thyssen has rightly raised. Yesterday we complained – and rightly so – that people were taking the floor and Commissioners were being called on to speak while Members were still coming in and no one could really hear them. Now we have the very same situation again.

If this House is unable either to organise debates so that they keep to time or else that some time is actually left between the vote and the end of the debate, then we really should think about other ways of doing things. On one point, at any rate, I fully support Mrs Thyssen’s suggestion: the vote should be postponed to a time when Members can actually be here.

 
  
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  President. – I quite understand, Mr Rack, but I must point out that it is at the request of the rapporteur herself, who, as I understand it, cannot be here this afternoon, that we have decided to begin the debate on this report this morning.

We shall now hear from the draftsmen.

 
  
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  Brigitte Douay (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. – (FR) Mr President, as well as their health, which we have just debated, the 460 million Europeans want us to give better and better protection to them as consumers. In the context of past and present health crises, or in that of globalisation, which no longer guarantees the traceability of all products, European consumer protection policy, therefore, takes on its full meaning. The internal market cannot indeed function properly without the confidence of consumers. By demonstrating to Europeans that it is genuinely concerned for their health and safety and that it is really equipping itself with the means to take action, the European Union can improve political clarity for them.

I should like to thank Mrs Thyssen for the quality of her report. The Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) has proposed a budget of EUR 233 million spread over seven years specifically for the ‘consumer protection’ action; this budget, which is an increase by comparison with the current programme, is essential if the objectives are to be achieved, ambitious as they are given the new obligations that enlargement entails. Let us hope that these actions will not be affected by drastic cuts in the event of a minimum financial perspective because what European consumers need is a budget that is able to deliver on the policies that they expect in response to their anxieties. This would not be possible if the European Union is on a starvation diet!

I deplore, however, the fact that the amendments on information and the fight against counterfeiting adopted in the Committee on Budgets were not taken up by the IMCO Committee. From the economic viewpoint, however, counterfeiting is a veritable curse as much for health as for consumers. It affects the major brand names, SMEs and all areas of economic and human activity: adulterated medicines, defective household appliances, substandard spare parts, dangerous toys, toxic cosmetics, to give but a few examples.

I feel it is important within the scope of a policy for consumer protection to give better information to the potential clients of counterfeiters about the risks involved. That is why, even if the fight against counterfeiting is included in other actions of this programme, I must insist once again on this aspect of consumer protection.

 
  
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  Aloyzas Sakalas (PSE), rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs. – (LT) I would like to congratulate Mrs Thyssen for preparing a splendid analysis of the European Commission's document. We must also celebrate the fact that the leaders of the European Parliament have decided to separate the consumer rights protection document from the health protection document. Had this not been done, consumer protection would continue to be overshadowed by health protection. However, the separation of the document still does not mean the actual separation of these problems. If control of these two systems is not divided, both of these areas will be run by the same agency. The Committee on Legal Affairs believes that to improve consumer rights protection it is essential to integrate consumer protection into civil law. Meanwhile, the Commission's Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection must cooperate closely with the Directorate-General for Justice and the Directorate-General for the Internal Market, as consumer protection is also partly the responsibility of these directorates-general. It is perfectly clear that with the expansion of the internal market it becomes practically impossible for an individual state to implement consumer rights protection without cooperating closely with other EU Member States. Therefore, the EU Consumer Rights Protection Agency must also cooperate closely with national agencies, especially public bodies, as they hold all the information on consumer rights violations. We must recognise that the most vulnerable consumers are children and the elderly, as they are unable to defend their rights effectively. Agencies must pay particular attention to these categories of people. The Committee on Legal Affairs has submitted amendments, which consolidate the aforementioned propositions. I urge everyone to endorse Mrs Thyssen's report together with the amendments proposed by the Committee on Legal Affairs.

 
  
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  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, I have a little problem that I will explain to you very briefly. We have just listened to the draftsmen of the different Committees responsible. I am supposed to stop the debate at this stage before the block of speakers giving their opinions on behalf of the political groups. However, the speaker for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, Mr Stubb, cannot be here this afternoon and has asked if he may speak now. His speaking time is three minutes. For the sake of fairness, I must ask the others speaking on behalf of the groups, that is, Mrs Patrie, for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Mrs Malmström, for the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Mrs Svensson, for the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left, Mr Batten, for the Independence and Democracy Group, Mr Kristovskis, for the Union for Europe of the Nations Group, and Mr Mölzer as a Non-attached Member, if they agree to allow Mr Stubb to speak this morning. If a single one of the Members I have just named objects, then I cannot allow Mr Stubb to speak. On the other hand, if there is no objection, Mr Stubb will speak for three minutes.

Does any one of the six Members I have just named object to Mr Stubb speaking now?

Nobody objects, and I thank them all for that. Mr Stubb, therefore, will be the last speaker this morning in this debate, which will resume at 3 p.m.

 
  
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  Alexander Stubb, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. –

(Loud background noise in the Chamber)

Mr President, there is an old Swahili saying: ‘Never stand between a river and a hippopotamus’. I feel a bit like that right now!

I should like to thank Mrs Thyssen for an excellent report. On behalf of my group and myself, I support each and every line. I should like to make three points.

Firstly, I do not believe that we need a separate consumer programme for new Member States. We are one big family. Let us stick to that basic line.

Secondly, we must improve cooperation, but we do not need a new agency to do that, so I would call upon the Commission not to create another agency.

Thirdly, let us try to activate the consumers and remember that the money we are allocating for consumer policy is really not that much: EUR 40 million per year, which is 0.03% of the total budget.

I should again like to congratulate Mrs Thyssen on her excellent work.

(Applause from the PPE-DE Group)

 
  
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  President. – Thank you for allowing the hippopotamus to get back to the river!

The debate on Mrs Thyssen’s report is suspended. It will resume at 3 p.m. this afternoon.

Annex - Position of the Commission

Thyssen report (A6-0032/2006)

The Commission can accept Amendments 13, 26, 28, 34, 35, 42, 43, 44, 47, 48 and 54.

Amendments 10, 41 and 50 can be accepted in part.

The Commission rejects Amendments 14, 17, 36, 37, 38, 39, 49, 56, 57, 58 and 59.

The Commission rejects on grounds of split Amendments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 15, 18, 19, 20, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 40, 45, 46, 51, 52, 53 and 55.

The Commission rejects/can accept consumer content in: Amendments 8, 12 and 16.

The Commission cannot accept Amendments 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 33 as there is a need for reformulation.

(Amendments underlined are new amendments tabled by political groups on 8 March 2005.)

 
  

(1) Commission’s position on amendments by Parliament: see Annex.


7. Communication of Council common positions: see Minutes
  

IN THE CHAIR: INGO FRIEDRICH
Vice-President

 

8. Statement by the President
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  President. Ladies and gentlemen, before the vote, I would like to announce an important statement by our Conference of Presidents. The statement concerns the arrest of opposition figures in the run-up to the presidential elections in Belarus. On 16 March, the Conference of Presidents noted that a growing number of opposition politicians, journalists and NGO activists have been arrested in Belarus. The Conference of Presidents regrets these measures, which massively call into question the democratic nature of the elections and are contrary to all democratic principles.

Seventeen names now follow. With your permission, I will read the 17 names aloud, because we can only expect and hope that this will have any effect if they are mentioned by name here in the European Parliament.

They are the following persons:

Siarhiej Malčyk

Viktar Sazonau

Vadzim Sarančukou

Andrej Pisalnik

Mikoła Lemianouski

Alaksiej Trubkin

Siaržuk Hudzilin

Jauhien Vaukauviec

Aleś Čyrejka

Vital Brouka

Vasil Leučanka

Tatsiana Klimovič

Dzimitry Šymanski

Ryhor Bakijevič

Anatol Labiedźka

Siarhiej Niarouny

Vincuk Viačorka

Four further persons have been arrested in Pinsk, including Mr Pavieł Lachnovič, and a further six persons in Svietłahorsk.

The Conference of Presidents calls for these persons’ immediate release.

(Loud, sustained applause)

(The Members rose to their feet)

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Belarus have begun a silent protest against the dictatorial regime entrenched in their country by lighting candles in their homes on the 16th day of every month. In connection with the upcoming presidential election next Sunday, I would like to ask, on behalf of my colleagues Petr Šťastný and Milan Gaľa, that you light a candle in your home or office at 4 p.m. sharp as a sign of solidarity with the Belarus nation, and in so doing, express support for the democratisation of Belarusian society. Candlelight symbolises hope for a new life and a new beginning, for freedom and democracy. This will constitute a wonderful show of European solidarity with Belarus.

 

9. Voting time
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  President. The next item is voting time.

(Outcome and other details of the vote: see Minutes)

 
  
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  Marianne Thyssen (PPE-DE), rapporteur. (NL) Mr President, I apologise for taking your time on this matter, but the list of reports that are to be voted on also contains a report for which I am responsible, on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, on the multi-annual programme in the field of consumer policy. We did not manage to finish off the debate on this report just now. Since not even the shadow rapporteurs of most groups have taken the floor, and out of respect for my fellow Members, I should like to ask you, since it makes little sense to vote before the end of a debate, not to vote on this now, but instead to continue the debate this afternoon, and to vote on it at next week’s part-session in Brussels. Since it is a codecision report, we cannot run the risk of voting on it with a very small number of people present and must ensure that as many people as possible can take part.

 
  
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  Evelyne Gebhardt (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, we have just heard from Commissioner Kyprianou that he is not prepared to accept the Committee’s proposals concerning the differentiation between health protection and consumer protection and that he also does not agree with what we are going to propose concerning the scope. It would therefore be very good if we could express the European Parliament’s opinion on these questions with a clear, large and qualified majority.

I would therefore like to suggest that we postpone this vote until March II instead of holding it this afternoon.

(Applause)

 
  
  

(Parliament approved the postponement of the vote on the Thyssen report.)

 
  
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  Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski (IND/DEM).(PL) Mr President, I am speaking under Rules 29 and 30 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament in respect of the pronouncement made today by the President of the European Parliament at 10 a.m. regarding the reconstitution of the Independence and Democracy Group. As Chairman of the Bureau of the IND/DEM Group I would like to say the following. The Independence and Democracy Group in the European Parliament consists of 33 Members from 10 EU Member States. This composition of the Independency and Democracy Group was confirmed at the IND/DEM Group meeting on 14 March this year. The IND/DEM Group has not held any other meeting since that date. As a result, no legal procedure has been instituted to reconstitute the Group. All information about the Group’s reconstitution should be regarded as groundless and of no legal consequence. The new list of IND/DEM members submitted to the President includes the names of seven Poles, but unfortunately we were not given the opportunity to sign it, in my opinion deliberately. Others would not have signed it if they had known that there were no Polish representatives on it. The fact that such covert action, counter to all democratic principles, has been taken means that there can only be one reason behind it: the money of the uninvited Members. For this reason, as Chairman of the Bureau of the IND/DEM Group, I demand that the Group’s funds be frozen until the situation has been clarified and set out in writing.

(Applause from the right)

 
  
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  President. That is noted, but disputes within political groups are not a subject for debate in plenary.

(Applause)

 

9.1. Community action programme in the field of health (2007-2013) (vote)
  

– Before the vote on Amendment 126:

 
  
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  Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM). – Mr President, I have an oral amendment, which I have cleared with the rapporteur and my fellow shadow rapporteurs, to add the word ‘traceability’ to Amendments 120 and 138.

This would mean that Amendment 120 would read: ‘Promoting the availability, traceability and accessibility across the Community of organs and substances of human origin of high quality and safety for medical use.’

Amendment 138 would read: ‘Activities to help enhance the safety, quality and traceability of organs and substances of human origin, including blood, blood components and blood precursors.’

This is for medical reasons and also for legitimacy reasons.

 
  
  

(The oral amendment was accepted.)

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Mr President, I rise on a point of order pursuant to Rule 151(3). When you asked if there were any objections, I stood up, but obviously you were unable to see me. Rule 151(3) states:

‘The President shall decide whether amendments are admissible.

‘The President’s decision pursuant to paragraph 3 concerning the admissibility of amendments is not based exclusively on the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Rule but on the provisions of the Rules in general.’

On the Rules in general, there is another rule that says our business should always be transparent. We have here 140 different amendments, which Mrs Sinnott wishes to change – even as we are discussing them – with an oral amendment. How is it possible to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on 140 different amendments? This is pure nonsense. I would ask you to interpret the Rules to the effect that they are inadmissible and that we vote on them on an individual basis.

 
  
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  President. We note what you say, but we have been doing it that way in the European Parliament for years.

 

9.2. Agricultural products and foodstuffs as traditional specialities guaranteed (vote)
  

– Before the vote:

 
  
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  Francis Wurtz (GUE/NGL). – (FR) Mr President, would it be possible, even if, I admit, it is not quite in accordance with the rules, to vote separately on Amendment 3 of the first report by Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf? Furthermore, I shall mention it straight away, concerning Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf’s second report, would it be possible to vote separately on Amendment 18? These are the amendments that form part of the package of amendments by the Commission.

 
  
  

(The oral amendment was accepted.)

 

9.3. Protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs (vote)

9.4. 2005 enlargement strategy paper (vote)
  

– Before the vote on paragraph 21:

 
  
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  Zbigniew Zaleski (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, this brief amendment requires a short explanation.

Mr President, in paragraph 21 we have ‘believes that a democratic and secular Turkey could play a constructive role ...’. I propose deleting the word ‘secular’ because it is ambiguous. If we think of the state, of the government, of the parliament, it would be right; but ‘a secular Turkey’ means the whole nation. We have no right to demand that Turkish people should be deprived of respect for their own religion.

Imagine if the Azerbaijani Parliament were say that it would supply us with petrol provided we were all believers – or non-believers. I think it is playing with fire to demand from people such ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
  

(The oral amendment was not accepted.)

– Before the vote on Amendment 4:

 
  
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  Jan Marinus Wiersma (PSE). – Mr President, where the words ‘the consultations held under the Luxembourg Presidency’ occur in our amendment, I should like to insert the words ‘taking into account’, so the amendment reads: ‘taking into account the consultations held under the Luxembourg Presidency’.

 
  
  

(The oral amendment was accepted.)

– Before the vote on Amendment 15:

 
  
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  Elmar Brok (PPE-DE), rapporteur. (DE) Mr President, acceptance of paragraph 43 makes Amendment 15 unnecessary. Paragraph 43 is about the name Macedonia or Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and we do not need another paragraph 43a on the same subject. It has been dealt with.

 
  
  

(Amendment 15 was dropped.)

 

9.5. 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR, Geneva) (vote)
  

– Before the vote on paragraph 5:

 
  
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  Ana Maria Gomes (PSE).(PT) We have proposed that the following be inserted at the end of the first sentence of paragraph 5: and hopes that this participation is improved and strengthened in the future.

‘and hopes that this participation is improved and strengthened in the future’.

 
  
  

– Before the vote on paragraph 18:

 
  
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  Ana Maria Gomes (PSE). (PT) In paragraph 18, we have proposed that reference to the United Nations Security Council be inserted in the middle of the sentence.

 
  
  

(The two oral amendments were accepted.)

 

9.6. Preparations for the COP-MOP meeting on biological diversity and security (Curitiba, Brazil) (vote)
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  President. That concludes voting time.

 

10. Agenda and tabling deadlines: see Minutes

11. Explanations of vote
  

Report: Trakatellis A6-0030/2006

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The Commission has put forward a programme of Community action in the field of health and consumer protection, combining two previous programmes in these fields on the premise that this would harness the energies of both. This overlooks the fact, however, that the two programmes overlap in terms of objectives, strategies and instruments.

On 30 June 2005, the Conference of Presidents decided, however, to split this programme once again. Accordingly, this report refers solely to the health programme, which in any event had a restricted scope and low funding levels.

There is nothing more important than health, of course, and protecting it is of interest to everyone, without exception. Against this backdrop, the report before us in Parliament today broadens these powers and proposes to increase both overall funding, and specific funding for measures to be pursued.

We are aware that it will still fall well short of what is required to satisfy demand and the interest aroused by this programme, yet we voted in favour of the report, as it improves considerably on the Commission’s proposal.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin, Nils Lundgren and Lars Wohlin (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) The report recommends that the EU set up a separate Community programme in the field of health for the period 2007–2013. The European Parliament advocates that the budget for this programme should be EUR 1 200 million (the Commission advocates one of EUR 969 million). The June List is of the firm view that health issues fall essentially within the competence of the individual Member States.

Quite a few of the objectives that the rapporteur would have the programme include for example, that of combating ill health caused by tobacco, alcohol and poor diet are ones that the Member States can pursue independently. In other words, insufficient account is being taken of the principle of subsidiarity.

Obviously, international cooperation is necessary in connection with, for example, viral epidemics and complex medical issues. International cooperation should, however, mainly take place through multilateral agreements and within the framework of the work already being done by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

We are opposed to appropriating additional resources for this purpose and, on the basis of the above-noted reasoning, have chosen to vote against this report.

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

I am particularly concerned about the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. This poses a real threat. It is advisable, therefore, to increase research in this area and to provide information for patients explaining the dangers of inappropriate use of these medicines.

One of the great advantages of the European Union lies in the exchange of data, and particularly in the area of rare diseases. On this point I expect there to be increased efforts to encourage synergies.

This programme of action is also an opportunity to consider patient mobility. There are some absurd situations in Europe. I met a patient who lives in Strasbourg and who, in order to treat the particular type of cancer from which she is suffering, has to go to Marseille, when the same type of therapy is available five kilometres from her home. That establishment, however, is in Kehl, Germany.

Furthermore, it is essential for funding to be equal to developments.

Finally, there is one point that I cannot support: that is, complementary or alternative medicine. These practices are not medicine, but surely an alternative to medicine. The European Union must focus on the essentials, and it is not appropriate for it to contribute funding to these kinds of practices.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I support the Community's action plan on public health. I believe it is a commodity of prime importance and its protection concerns everyone without exception.

The objectives of the programme protect citizens against health threats, promote policies that lead to a healthier way of life and contribute to the development of more effective and efficient health systems.

I particularly support the challenge to all to contribute to ensuring more effective prevention, improved health services, and a better quality of life. Bridging the gaps between existing differences in Member States' health services, in combination with synergy between the national health services, should be acknowledged as an important aspect of the programme.

 
  
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  Evangelia Tzampazi (PSE), in writing. (EL) I voted in favour of Recital 3b (new) on the definition of the duration of a healthy life, even though I consider that the English version of the text is wrong, in my opinion, to use the phrase 'disability-free life expectancy indicator', unlike the Greek translation, which presents no such problem.

I wish to emphasise that disability does not imply inability; it implies a different state of health, which should be taken into account when processing and applying all Community policies and programmes.

 
  
  

Report: Graefe zu Baringdorf (A6-0033/2006)

 
  
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  Duarte Freitas (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The purpose of this Commission proposal is to replace Regulation (EEC) No 2082/92 on certificates of specific character for agricultural products and foodstuffs with a new text introducing a number of simplifications and clarifications, in compliance with WTO rules.

I appreciate the need to amend Community legislation in this area. I agree with the thrust of the Commission proposal and shall be voting in favour of the Graefe zu Baringdorf report.

In the report, I should like to highlight, and shall be voting for, Amendments 6 (whereby a Member State can request any other information, provided this is duly justified) and 13 (setting a deadline for private inspection bodies which are already in existence to seek accreditation).

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The specific character of agricultural products and foodstuffs has enjoyed Community protection since 1993. This has ensured that traditional products with specific characteristics, in terms of their manufacture and preparation, have been accorded their due value.

The report before us introduces a great many simplifications and clarifications, in relation to procedures and the responsibilities of the different authorities involved in examining applications submitted.

This instrument is important because not only does it mean that products are accorded their due value, but also because consumers are protected against unfair practice, thereby ensuring that trade is pursued fairly.

This instrument will help create added value in the European rural area, and in so doing build new areas of interest to tourism. This will have very positive socio-economic knock-on effects both for tourism-related activities and for growth and territorial cohesion in the Union.

I should lastly like to point out that it is vital that our traditional products are accorded their due value, rescued, where necessary, and protected, because it falls to us to pass on our heritage to future generations.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE), in writing. (SV) I think that designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs are often helpful because, in contrast to the dominance of the WTO’s trademark giants in the global market, they boost and develop local production and trade. I am, however, opposed to the EU’s deciding about compulsory labelling for these goods. That is a matter that, in the future too, should be voluntary.

 
  
  

Report: Graefe zu Baringdorf (A6-0034/2006)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) I voted in favour of the report on the proposal for a Council regulation on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs because it was becoming urgent to adapt our system of protection for producers of regional specialities to the constraints of the World Trade Organisation, as the negotiations in Hong Kong (China), in December last year, have demonstrated. We must be ready to fight on this issue because some countries, notably the United States of America and Australia, who are the cause of the problem, will not just give in. We have to give better access for nationals from third countries to the European system and give them equal rights with citizens of the European Union in terms of making requests or objections. All things considered, the European Union must defend geographical indications with all its might in the face of the World Trade Organisation because they are a determining factor in the creation of added value. Finally, in the application and in the light of almost 300 requests still pending, the services of the European Commission must act more quickly in recognising these safeguards.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio (NI), in writing. (IT) We voted in favour of the report on the proposal for a Council regulation because, with this report, the EU is establishing a system of protection for the producers of ‘regional specialities’ in the context of agricultural foodstuff production. It is in fact extremely important for our producers in the Po valley that the scope of such a system of protection is properly regulated in terms of protecting both the designations of origin and the geographical indications of agricultural products.

In this context we intend, however, to emphasise the need for a specific protective measure to be introduced with the aim of supporting the extremely important European floriculture sector, which can be seen in its full glory in Padania and, more specifically, in the province of Imperia.

I must indeed point out the serious fact that the measures aimed at liberalising customs duties have ended up benefiting the floricultural production of non-EU countries such as Israel, Kenya, Colombia, Ecuador, Zimbabwe and South Africa, which have seen an exponential increase in their market share, to the detriment of European production.

There is therefore a need to renegotiate the policy of international agreements on imports and specifically to renegotiate in such a way that

- no tariff concessions will be granted for the production of third countries that fail to comply with European standards on employment (including child labour), the environment, taxation...

(The explanation of vote was abbreviated pursuant to Rule 163 of the Rules of Procedure)

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Protected geographical indications (PGI) and designations of origin (PDO) of agricultural products and foodstuffs make a significant contribution to improving standards of living for communities in rural areas of the EU, including Portugal.

By disseminating the idea that the existing regulations are incompatible with international trade agreements, not least the notorious Trade-Related Intellectual Property Services (TRIPS), the USA and Australia are exerting unacceptable pressure. The WTO’s own court of arbitration has ruled that, broadly speaking, they are indeed compatible with WTO obligations.

That being said, the EU has been forced to improve market access for third countries. In turn, the Commission is attempting to make adjustments, which, in most cases, Parliament decided to improve upon, to help protect farmers and the rural world.

Broadly speaking, we accept these improvements, and this explains why we voted in favour. We feel it is crucial that PDO, PGI and traditional specialities guaranteed be defended.

 
  
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  Duarte Freitas (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The purpose of this Commission proposal is to replace Regulation (EEC) No 2082/92 on certificates of specific character for agricultural products and foodstuffs with a new text, laying down clearer and simpler rules, in compliance with the decision adopted by the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body in response to complaints submitted by the USA and Australia. The deadline for compliance is 3 April 2006.

As I appreciate the need to amend this Community legislation, I agree with the thrust of the Commission proposal and shall be voting in favour of the Graefe zu Baringdorf report.

 
  
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  Christa Klaß (PPE-DE), in writing. (DE) In a world of globalisation, standardisation and universal access to food, awareness of our origin, our tradition and ultimately also of our culture is a good and firm foundation on which we can build and further develop. European tradition and European origin are a unity in diversity. And that diversity distinguishes Europe, its regions and especially its people. The people have adapted to their regional conditions, which differ greatly. They have given rise to traditional ways of life and traditional products. We associate quite particular ideas and expectations with traditional and geographical labels.

Today our products are traded all over the world. However, that makes it necessary to regulate these products, which go out into the world rather as ‘ambassadors’ for a town or region. We must ensure that whatever is behind a good name continues to be good. And we must ensure that there continues to be a link between the name of a product and its origin in a particular region. All this must be regulated as simply as possible, but effectively. This report serves that objective in every respect.

 
  
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  Jean-Claude Martinez (NI), in writing.(FR) Inspired by the French AOC, the European legal tool for the protection of our agricultural products, with labels such as PGI, is at the very heart of the agricultural conflict between Europe and the Anglo-Saxon countries. For the United States, agriculture has to be industrial, with logos and brand names, wine included. For Europe, agriculture is primarily a quality, family-run concern with land whose produce is protected in its geographical origin. Symbolic of this is wine, born of fermentation and a sign of civilisation, while in Australia it is an industrial commodity.

At the WTO the conflict between the United States and Europe, the southern hemisphere and Europe, the Anglo-Saxon world and Europe, is a real clash of civilisations between the sickle and McDonalds. In Hong Kong, however, the Commission did not even bring up the matter of the multilateral register for labels of origin to protect our small farmers’ wines in competition with big wine merchants.

In Geneva, at the end of April, to continue to reduce agricultural tariff protection and to allow the dumping of 1.2 million tonnes of meat from the southern hemisphere and those Australian liquids, factory-coloured, wooded, fruited, sweetened and called wines, is to destroy our agricultural identity of which the PGIs are a tool.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The protection of geographical indications and designations of origin of agricultural products and foodstuffs enables the producers concerned to safeguard the production, processing and preparation of a product of a particular origin, via the registration thereof.

In the context of the need to amend regulations, and in light of the WTO’s ruling in arbitration, this report improves these instruments, which have made a significant contribution to market access at higher prices, and have served to create jobs in rural areas of Europe. Furthermore, there have been very positive socio-economic effects for tourism-related activities.

Europe has ancient traditions which are hugely appealing for tourists. Port wine and Roquefort cheese are European products that set the standard around the world. Naturally, it is important to set out clearly what information is to be provided to the consumer, not only in order to protect these products but also to provide the right to raise objections.

I wish to highlight the clarification of the division of powers between the Member States and the Commission, underlining the need for Union activities always to comply with the subsidiarity principle. This will help to ensure that maximum benefit is derived from the measures provided for.

 
  
  

Reports: Graefe zu Baringdorf (A6-0033/2006) and (A6-0034/2006)

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin, Nils Lundgren and Lars Wohlin (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) Geographical indications and designations of origin are sources of enrichment for Europe. It is life-enhancing to share culinary traditions. At the same time, account has to be taken, however, of the disadvantages of these designations. We do not want designations of origin to be used for protectionist purposes. For a couple of centuries in their new homelands, emigrants from Europe have produced foodstuffs and drink whose traditions they have brought with them from their countries of origin. The European Union needs, within the World Trade Organisation, to show understanding of such traditions and of the fact that generic names and designations of origin can sometimes come into conflict with each other.

The European Parliament’s two reports on this subject are only supplementary proposals in accordance with the consultation procedure. We do not believe that they have very much to add - better though it is that some proposals be put forward than not be - and believe that this subject should be dealt with by the Council of Ministers. We also firmly reject the idea that an EU authority could be given the task of monitoring geographical indications and designations of origin. We believe that, on this particular issue, we must rely on the authorities in the Member States.

We have thus chosen to vote against both reports.

 
  
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  Roger Knapman (IND/DEM), in writing. We are voting against this report as we want to keep our sovereignty on the registration of the agricultural products. The application process is over-bureaucratic. We can not accept a Community agency with responsibility for the registration procedure. However, we believe that Member States should be responsible for the registration procedure. We do not want to have a Community label as well. We want to protect clotted cream just as the Greeks want to defend their feta. but to be even-handed. We do not understand why, provided labelling is clear, such as in the case of Yorkshire feta, which is quite clearly not Greek feta, we cannot allow both of these products to coexist in British food stores. We do not think that harmonisation is a positive idea.

 
  
  

Report: Brok (A6-0025/2006)

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (DE) Mr President, I will speak for two minutes on behalf of my Group. My Group has asked me to give an official explanation of vote on the Brok report.

Articles in the press have given the impression in many parts of Europe that the European Parliament has backtracked on its call for Croatia to quickly be given full membership, something on which it has voted several times. As you know, our Group has strongly advocated starting accession negotiations with Croatia and bringing them to a successful conclusion before the 2009 European elections. On behalf of my Group, I would like to say that we stand by that objective unequivocally and that it is quite clear from the Brok report that Croatia is an accession candidate that meets the criteria exceptionally well.

There are a few points of criticism, it is true, but I would not like to think that Croatia is somehow a candidate for the new structure of multilateral cooperation proposed in the Brok report. That is not the case. Croatia is a Central European country that really ought to have been accepted into the European Union in 2004 and which largely satisfies the criteria. Our criticism is of details that are only criticised in a country that is relatively close to accession, whereas in Turkey not even the abolition of torture is guaranteed.

I would therefore once again like to make it absolutely clear on behalf of my Group that Croatia is a candidate for accession. It must be judged by what it has achieved. It really should be separated from accession negotiations with Turkey and given clear prospects for accession, and that before the end of the decade.

(Applause from the right)

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI). – (DE) Mr President, it is well known that many empires in history fell because they grew too quickly and were unable to control their conflicting cultures and movements within that growth. A debate about the European Union’s ability to admit new members is therefore in my opinion long overdue. We must not forget that the name European Union itself implies a clear limit simply with the term Europe. We must also be clear in our minds that Europe rests on a foundation of Christian values. That in itself is a reason why I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Posselt with regard to Croatia.

On the other hand, it must nevertheless be said that the events of the recent past in particular show that the belief in boundless tolerance, which is so widespread today, is misguided. Tolerance ought to work both ways, but so far, in our increasingly multicultural society, that tolerance has taken the form of Muslim immigrants expecting the Christian host countries to adapt and increasingly demanding it with violence. In the accession negotiations, Turkey has repeatedly shown its true face briefly, for example in the Cyprus agreement with threats of punishment for supposed insults to the state and now also in the dispute over the cartoons. It is time the truth finally dawned on the last of the starry-eyed supporters of enlargement that we must set clear European limits.

(Applause from the right)

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Mr President, like most of my British Conservative delegation colleagues, I voted in favour of Mr Brok’s excellent report and I congratulate him. Nevertheless, my party opposes the Constitutional Treaty for the European Union and therefore we voted to delete paragraph 6, as it is clear that the current wave of enlargement from 15 to 25 Member States has worked extremely well under the Nice formula, without an EU Constitution.

British Conservatives believe that the previous five waves of enlargement have been a success story, as will the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, in all probability scheduled now for 1 January 2007. Enlargement beyond that can be accommodated by new intergovernmental conferences. We as Conservatives believe in a wider, looser European Union of cooperating nation states, hence our overall support for Mr Brok’s excellent report.

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE). – (FI) Mr President, I would like to state separately that I voted in favour of Amendment 13 in Mr Brok’s resolution, which calls for the racist and anti-Semitic Grey Wolves organisation to be declared illegal. The organisation is responsible for repeated terror attacks on Christian and Jewish institutions in Turkey. The wording is strong, of course, but this is an unfortunate reflection of reality. This group terrorises people just as Hitler’s gangs did before he came to power; not on such a large scale, but with the same arrogance and using some of the same methods. In my opinion, the problem deserves the attention of this Chamber. Jewish communities and Christian churches have become targets of physical and spiritual terrorism at the hands of the Grey Wolves, and the matter calls for international attention.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Jan Andersson, Anna Hedh, Ewa Hedkvist Petersen, Inger Segelström and Åsa Westlund (PSE), in writing. (SV) We Swedish Social Democrats want to see an open EU in which solidarity is the rule and which welcomes new countries into membership on the basis of the Copenhagen criteria. We therefore regret the fact that the report focuses too much on the EU’s own capacity for absorption, because it can give the impression that the European Parliament questions the EU’s ability to include more Member States. The EU’s own capacity for absorption is ultimately dependent on the EU’s willingness to include more Member States. We also view with concern the widespread inclination to exclude countries from membership on the basis of, for example, their economic situations.

 
  
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  Georgios Dimitrakopoulos (PPE-DE), in writing. (EL) We MEPs of Nea Dimokratia would clarify that the second part of paragraph 43 of the report does not express our views on this specific matter.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin, Nils Lundgren and Lars Wohlin (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) This own-initiative report discusses the important issue of the EU’s continued enlargement.

The June List is, in principle, well disposed to continued enlargement of the EU, provided that the proposed Member States share the fundamental values that constitute the basis of the EU in terms of what it stands for. These include, above all, human rights, democracy and the principle of the state governed by law. When it comes to legislation not concerned with these values, nation states are sovereign.

The rapporteur also proposes a very considerable increase in the budget, corresponding to approximately SEK 25 billion, and that is something to which we object.

We have therefore voted against the report.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Although the Union is still digesting the ten countries that joined in 2007, with Bulgaria and Romania on the way, the wheels have been set in motion as regards the accession of Turkey and the Balkan countries, such is the insatiable appetite; this after the proactive involvement in the destruction of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

From out of the fug of ‘political correctness’, the true objectives of such a race always emerge, namely the establishment of a free trade area and the sharing of natural resources in exchange for practical incentives; in other words, economic domination and exploitation of these people and their countries by the large economic and financial groups from the major EU powers, with Germany at the front of the queue. This is no coincidence, given that Germany, in conjunction with the USA, is the dominant force in the region and is involved in the military occupation thereof.

How about this for interference in a sovereign state by the majority in Parliament? ‘draws attention... to weaknesses… such as excessive state intervention in the economy and the complex rules… in public administration which are hampering development in the private sector and in the field of foreign direct investment.’

Note also the support for the division of Serbia, circumventing international law, in calls for ‘a Kosovo whose territorial integrity is safeguarded by the UN and the EU…

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

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (PSE), in writing. The European Parliamentary Labour Party supports a positive attitude towards future EU enlargement, in particular honouring commitments made to candidate and potential candidate countries. In this respect, it is inappropriate to propose other 'operational possibilities' in paragraph 10 of the resolution, as relations with neighbouring countries are clearly covered by the Accession Process and the European Neighbourhood Policy.

 
  
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  Cecilia Malmström (ALDE), in writing. (SV) On 1 May 2004, the EU was enlarged to include ten new Member States from Eastern and Central Europe. With the help of the EU’s carrot and stick approach, countries that were previously behind the Iron Curtain were turned into democracies with market economies. It was an historic event. We must now fulfil our pledges regarding continued enlargement of the EU to include countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia. However, we must also be receptive to new membership applications. Those countries that fulfil the requirements must be allowed to become Member States.

Today, we are voting on a strategy paper for continued enlargement, which contains a proposal that the EU define its geographical borders. That is something I shall vote against. The borders cannot be closed. Defining Europe’s borders would be interpreted by, for example, the Ukrainian people, currently poised between democracy and dictatorship, as a case of our slamming the door in their faces. That would be an historic setback.

 
  
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  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. (EL) The report, the Council and Commission decisions and the debate in the European Parliament coincide with the 7th anniversary of the dirty US-ΝΑΤΟ-ΕU war against Yugoslavia and the organised murder of Milosevic. The plans of the European and American imperialists and executioners of the Balkans, which were to annex and create protectorates subordinate to the EU and imperialism and allow Euro-unifying capital to plunder their wealth-producing resources, are being revealed in an insulting manner. Already, the situation of the Balkan peoples is drastic and it will worsen when they join the ΕU. Competition and the new round of border changes are creating new tensions.

The Kommounistiko Komma Elladas, repeating its position against the ΕU and its enlargement, will help to galvanise the fight of the peoples against the European and American imperialism that imposed the occupation of the area.

For the FYROM, it repeats that the problem relates to imperialist interventions and border changes, with the stirring up, also, of minority issues, actions on which Nea Dimokratia, Panellinio Socialistiko Kinima and Synaspismos have kept quiet or consented to in the past, focusing their attention on the name of the neighbouring country. Any demagogic crowing and political adjustments by the other parties are an attempt to disorientate the people and launder the huge political responsibilities which they have in going along with imperialism.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) The Brok report on enlargement is an excellent snapshot of the applicants for the next round of EU enlargement. More importantly, however, it is also a warning of the difficulties posed by future enlargements.

In this regard, I feel that two ideas should be made clear.

The first of these is the ‘constitutional impasse’. Given the need for clarification, or even reorganisation, of the institutional structure before any new enlargement, it would also appear that the citizens and political leaders should not be restricted to one sole institutional/constitutional solution to enlargement.

The ‘absorption capacity’ factor is increasingly becoming one of the fundamental criteria. The prospect of accession and the neighbourhood policy have helped in the democratisation and development of potential candidate countries, but that in itself is not sufficient. The EU must also be ready to welcome new partners and this must form part of a drive to guarantee the same conditions for those who join, as opposed to a selfish approach on the part of those who are already members. This is a responsible approach to addressing the need to have European citizens sign up to the enlargement process.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing.(FR) Today, Parliament has given its opinion on the strategy for managing future enlargements of the European Union.

Enlargement ‘reunions’ with our brothers in Europe – Bulgarians, Romanians, Croats, Macedonians and others, arbitrarily separated from us after Yalta. They are as destined to join us as the European Union is to integrate them. It is not the substance that I am contesting, but the form and the timescale, and that is the reason why I voted for paragraphs 5 and 6.

It is time for the European Union to enter into a proper debate about its own borders. This is something it carefully avoided doing throughout all the work of the Convention. It is a black hole in the Constitution that has amply fuelled scepticism and anxiety. Avoiding unpleasantness is an attitude unworthy of us and of our electors, and asking for a debate does not make us ‘refuseniks’ against enlargement.

A Europe without borders is of no use to those who want a European power.

Our borders may be geographical, historical and moral, of course, but they are necessary to preserve a model, a vision and common values.

 
  
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  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE), in writing. I am a strong supporter of enlargement of the EU. While the report contains much with which I agree, I cannot support the negative slant given to Turkey, in particular the inaccurate statement in paragraph 31 that Turkey is in some way obstructive within NATO. Furthermore, along with other British Conservatives, I am profoundly opposed to a European Constitution and cannot accept the language of paragraph 6.

 
  
  

62nd session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR, Geneva) (B6-0150/2006)

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) A resolution was adopted yesterday to set up the Human Rights Council, replacing the Human Rights Commission.

This process has been characterised by the USA’s attempts to create an instrument that it can manipulate, so that it can justify its policy of interference and aggression in sovereign peoples and states. It is a process in which the USA, always placing more and more demands, has sought to impose as many of its conditions as it can. The USA had wanted it to be worse still and for this reason alone we voted against.

Among many other modifications and aspects that could be expanded, I wish to highlight that the new Council has a reduced number of countries, down from 53 to 47 (the USA wanted 30). Its members are elected by the UN General Assembly, via an absolute majority (the USA and the EU wanted a voting system in which they and their allies had the power of veto), although restrictions had been sought.

This is a process that for some is merely the first step, as part of a broader drive, on the part of the USA and its allies, to dominate and manipulate the UN.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) In the context of the vote on the joint resolution on the 62nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC, Geneva), I wish to mention what I consider to be a possible solution, albeit not an ideal one, as regards one of the most significant points raised in the debate.

One of the UN's biggest shortcomings on human rights has always been the lack of legitimacy of some of its Human Rights Commission members, especially when they have chaired it. The list has been well-documented and I do not feel the need to repeat it here. The outcome, namely the method of electing the members of the future Human Rights Council, does not guarantee that this will not happen again, but at least represents an attempt effectively to legitimise its members, and this should be acknowledged.

I also feel that this is an opportunity to reinforce the idea that EU Member States and their allies should try to set an example on human rights, in their own countries or in their international relations.

 
  
  

Preparations for the COP-MOP meeting on biological diversity and security (Curitiba, Brazil) (B6-0170/2006)

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) We voted in favour of this resolution, although we feel that some of its points are unclear and somewhat incoherent. We feel that biological diversity must be protected and that there should be the broadest possible global agreement on the protection of biodiversity. The Convention on biological diversity gives practical form to this. Accordingly, the EU and its Member States must take an appropriate stance at the Conference of the Parties taking place in Curitiba, Brazil, at the end of the month.

We know, however, that equally important, if not more so, is the need to stem the loss of biodiversity, by incorporating the aims of the Convention into development policy in Community policies such as agricultural and forest policies aimed at halting the spread of GMOs, supporting family farming and traditional forestry, as this is the best way of protecting biodiversity.

Marine biodiversity must be saved from destructive practices. Traditional coastal fishing, the best protection for biodiversity, must be supported.

Lastly, previous resolutions on the issue must be taken on board, particularly regarding the fight against the illegal felling of trees and the trade in those trees.

 
  
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  Robert Goebbels (PSE), in writing. – (FR) I voted against the resolution on the Curitiba conference on biodiversity. Parliament is making a big mistake in confusing biodiversity and genetic engineering.

All the diversity of living things is the result of changes in the genetic structure of all living organisms. Those people who, in Europe, continue their reactionary battle against transgenic agriculture do not want to know that it causes no harm to human health in the rest of the world. In 2004, nine million small farmers cultivated almost 90 million hectares of GMOs in the world, while in the European Union of 25, 11 million small farmers cultivated 97 million hectares, of which some tens of thousands consisted only of transgenic crops.

Europe is in the process of losing another battle.

 
  
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  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) We agree with the majority of the findings, which confirm the deterioration of the environment, the destruction of forest ecosystems and the continuing loss of biodiversity. We also agree with many of the proposals, except for those which are referred to within the framework of the existing legal order, because in many states, as in Member States of the ΕU, these things are happening legally. For example, the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agricultural production and in the production of foods which threaten the environment and biodiversity was liberalised under Community regulations. Forests are being commercialised under Community regulations, with the result that they are being destroyed even faster, and so forth.

We disagree radically with the proposal in the motion for a resolution which 'calls on the European Commission and the Member States to show leadership and conviction, by agreeing to and facilitating concrete measures for the protection of biodiversity, both domestically and internationally', because it is like asking the wolves to look after the sheep. They are calling on those responsible for the destruction to lead according to their own policy.

We call on the grass-roots movement and its organisations (trades union, ecological organisations, agents and so on) to fight to impose measures and policies which will prevent any further deterioration of the environment, destruction of forests or loss of biodiversity.

 
  
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  Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, the protection of biodiversity is a fascinating subject. My group, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, is completely satisfied with the resolution that was approved by a very, very large majority of the European Parliament and it is completely satisfied also that Parliament is sending to the eighth Conference on biodiversity, three years after Kuala Lumpur, a delegation that will defend the protection of biodiversity. With this in view, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to remind you of some basic principles that are all too often forgotten here in this Parliament.

Food safety depends on three things: water, soil and phytogenetic diversity, and only 12 plant varieties, including wheat, rice, maize and potatoes provide virtually 80% of the energy requirements of the world’s population. It is a great temptation, therefore, for industry to acquire the monopoly on seeds by making use of technologies derived from biotechnology.

Consequently, we call on the Council of the European Union, which will be present, to support the moratorium that is currently in place on trials and commercialisation of genetically modified varieties in order to restrict their use. Put more simply, ladies and gentlemen, the Terminator must not re-emerge in the guise of some biotechnological innovation.

Furthermore, in order to limit the invasive nature, for our ecosystems, of varieties of biotechnological origin, biological diversity must be protected by protocols that force researchers to carry out their experiments in confined areas.

In conclusion, we must remember that the fight against the erosion of biodiversity presupposes some action on conservation. Of course, it is not a matter of putting away biodiversity in test tubes, but rather of allowing indigenous populations, which, moreover, we support, to continue to make use of their traditional expertise and of their supremacy over genetic resources.

It has to be recognised that here too, money is the sinews of war. I shall therefore be asking you also to support the Global Environment Facility. We know very well that, in the case of Natura 2000, if the European Union does not allocate money to this network, biodiversity will not be protected. In the same way, if we do not give money to the Global Environment Facility, nature conservation will be, once again, nothing more than a tissue of fine words spoken in plenary.

 

12. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
  

(The sitting was suspended at 1.10 p.m. and resumed at 3.00 p.m.)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MAURO
Vice-President

 

13. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes

14. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes

15. Community action programme in the field of consumer protection (2007-2013) (continuation of the debate)
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  President. The next item is the continuation of the debate on the report by Mrs Thyssen on the Community action programme in the field of health and consumer protection (2007-2013) – consumer aspects.

 
  
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  Béatrice Patrie, on behalf of the PSE Group. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I should like to thank Mrs Thyssen for her report and for her cooperative spirit.

Although it has been adopted unanimously within the parliamentary committee responsible, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament has asked for a debate on this report. In fact, even if the groups as a whole agree in good faith to afford the highest political priority to consumer protection, I can see that there are still differences of opinion about the right way to go about it. Also, while the feasibility of this programme is on hold pending the outcome of the negotiations on the financial perspective, I should like to go over a few basic points from the Socialist Group.

First of all, I should like to remind you of our support for separating the two action plans, for public health and for consumer protection. Next, in relation to the horizontal objectives of the plan, the Socialist Group considers that the means of redress, both for individuals and for groups, available in some Member States, constitute real progress for consumers. That is the reason for our Amendment 55.

Next, with regard to the specific actions of the programme, I should like to highlight the importance of the following: the development of tools to enable scientific assessment of the effects on consumers of exposure to chemicals released from products; the compilation of an inventory, what one might call a vade-mecum, of the existing legislation, regulations and practices in the Member States in relation to consumer protection and including an assessment of the implementation of Community legislation at national level; and exchanges between national and local consumer associations in order to assist public authorities to make legislation at a European level in matters concerning the protection of users in the field of services of general economic interest, and that is the meaning of our Amendment 58.

Thirdly, regarding the legislative measures to accompany this programme, I wish to address myself in particular to Mr Kyprianou concerning the political and legislative measures that he has promised to present to us in the autumn, specifically to accompany this programme. The terms of the debate are familiar. How best to intervene at European level? Is it better to favour European law or to favour self-regulation on the part of the economic operators? How are we to link emerging European law in relation to consumer protection with national laws that are older and that often afford greater protection for the citizens in some Member States?

In my view, while our fellow citizens’ mobility is increasing, I consider that the role of European public authorities is to ensure the best possible protection for consumers. I do not object at all to initiatives concerning self-regulation, but they must be the responsibility of the economic agents themselves and their aim must be to improve on the minimum standards fixed by the legislator.

Finally, we should be extremely careful in respect of two dossiers that relate to today’s debate. The first concerns discussions about the common framework of reference in relation to European contract law and the second concerns the extension of standardisation procedures in the services sector, including services that are given collective preferences, such as social housing.

These are the comments that I wished to make on behalf of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Cecilia Malmström, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (SV) Mr President, because we had so much to do this morning, this debate has been rather delayed, and it is unfortunate that the rapporteur and many others who have worked on this issue cannot be in the Chamber. However, that is the way it is. I was suddenly given a very great deal of speaking time by my group and declined to use the last five minutes, even though I was offered the chance to sing a song. That is not something I shall do, however.

The internal market has created millions of jobs, as well as increased prosperity. It has torn down borders and opened doors. We can do whatever we want: travel, study, work and set up house. Consumers have been given access to a host of new products. We must therefore go further and also create an internal market for consumers. That means common regulations and a high level of consumer protection throughout the EU. As border trade increases, so too does trade at an individual level, so people need to know what kind of goods they are buying, what to do if there is something wrong with them, how to complain and what kind of regulations exist. How are they to know that a particular product really does what it purports to do? What is available in terms of service, warranties and the resolution of disputes?

If we are to win back people’s confidence, there must be guarantees regarding these matters, for they are day-to-day issues concerning the conditions encountered by consumers every day. These are the matters we need to engage with at EU level. It is therefore really excellent that the Commission has put forward this proposal for a long-term multiannual programme in the field of consumer protection.

The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe does not, however, agree with the Commission about the need to combine consumer protection and public health. We share the rapporteur’s view that they should be kept separate. Even though there are naturally points of contact, they are two distinct policy areas requiring different approaches, and the two should be kept separate. We do not want to see any special authority or agency in this connection, either.

Other important elements we are delighted to see included in the proposal include the views that consumer policy needs to be integrated into all policy, that it is important to cooperate with the various consumer organisations in our Member States and that additional support and attention might be given to those states that have not yet managed to make much progress in the field of consumer protection. I am delighted that we have been able to agree on these matters and that there is a broad consensus among the groups regarding them. I wish to than Mrs Thyssen – hopefully, she will read the Minutes – for the far-sightedness and willingness to cooperate that she has shown. We are ambitious when it comes to consumer matters, whether what is at issue is cooperation, evaluation or the provision of information. There must, of course, be a proper budget, therefore.

I hope that, in the future too, there will be constructive cooperation when it comes to the consumer programmes that the Commission is to present this autumn. Perhaps we really should have proceeded the other way round and first dealt with the major policy guidelines and then this programme, but what is done is done. We back what has been proposed and shall support the report by a large majority – or, I in actual fact believe, unanimously -–when it is voted on during the next part-session.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. Mr President, the European Union wants to fund consumer organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, to the amount of EUR 1.2 billion, to bring them into line with existing and future legislation. Like so much that comes from this Parliament, it is not possible to object to the subject-matter itself. Who would object to better and more efficient consumer protection measures where they are required?

In Britain we already have high standards of consumer protection legislation and have had for many years. No doubt European countries should learn from each other and from non-European countries by adopting international best practice on a national basis, selecting that which is best suited for their particular needs.

But as we would expect, this report speaks of uniformity, integration and harmonisation. The objective of this report is not the adoption of legislation – that is good in itself – but, like everything else that comes from this Parliament, it serves the purpose and process of extending power and dominion to the European Union. It will add to the acquis communautaire, the body of law that, once accrued to the European Union, is never returned to nation states.

There are also some disturbing overtones contained in suggestions that patterns of consumption, linked to sectors of the population, should be adopted. Such intelligence-gathering in terms of consumer consumption could compromise the privacy of the citizen. That is already being done in Britain by private retail companies using such devices as loyalty cards. However, the consumer has some choice about whether to participate, depending on where and how they choose to shop.

That kind of information-gathering on the citizen is not something that should be undertaken by the state; certainly not in the form as represented by the European Union.

 
  
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  Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański, on behalf of the UEN Group.(PL) Mr President, the Community action programme in the field of healthcare and consumer protection for 2007-2013 defines the way in which the EU intends to improve healthcare and boost consumer confidence by applying the provisions of the Treaty.

The joint strategy in the field of consumer protection in the European Union is a collection of actions such as better understanding of consumers and markets, better consumer protection regulations, improved means of implementing the law, monitoring and settling claims, and better provision of information to and education of consumers.

The problem lies elsewhere, however. Food safety is becoming worse in Europe. Genetically modified foods are multiplying on the EU market. These foods are unwanted and are potentially damaging to human health and to the environment. Society feels threatened by GMOs. This has been expressed in numerous protests, in a growing anti-GMO public movement and in local authority regulations. Another threat to health and consumers, aside from the spread of genetically modified food, is the increasing concentration of agricultural production which squeezes out family farms producing healthy food. Chemicals in farming and the pollution of the soil, the water, the air and of many food products are not beneficial to humans. The time has come for human health and wellbeing to become the highest value of all, so that humanity may benefit.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI). – (DE) Mr President, contrary to the opinion that prevails in many economic circles, consumer protection has nothing to do with protectionism. Quite the opposite: industry cannot flourish without the confidence of consumers, and customers are more capable of mature judgment than the multinationals and the EU generally give them credit for.

The Commission’s attitude in this field is strangely contradictory. On the one hand, with the Green Paper on healthy diet and physical activity, for example, it initiates coordinated policy, while on the other it undermines consumer protection with the Services Directive. Among other things, for example, the latter makes the nuisance of telephone advertising, which has been prohibited until now, suddenly legal, provided it is not done from domestic call centres. Then again, it worries about the level of its citizens’ debts and wants to deter even slight overdrafts at great bureaucratic expense. But those overdrafts are the consequence of our consumer society and a life on credit, with the budgetary policies of many EU Member States setting the example.

As the latest scandal surrounding bad meat in Germany once again proves, there are not enough inspectors to deal with the black sheep in the food industry. In the field of electrical goods and toys, too, the number of dangerous products has almost doubled. Publishing the names of the firms concerned would be more effective than any fine. Perhaps then we would have real consumer protection.

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) Ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to thank Mrs Thyssen for her work on this report, which has not been particularly easy. I fully support the rapporteur’s justification as to why the action programme in the field of consumer protection cannot be integrated with the programme for public health protection. By separating these programmes, the two policies, both of which are very important to our citizens, will gain in significance. Despite the fact that the original European Union, and also the new Member States, are now paying more attention to consumer issues, we should not be complacent about the current situation.

Support for consumer protection chiefly involves the funding of consumer organisations, particularly in the new Member States, and current levels are inadequate, not to say worrying. For instance, in Slovakia, subsidies amount to less than a tenth of the comparable aid granted in neighbouring states. Scheduled payments tend to be delayed, and subsidies, already low, are very often cut back, jeopardising the survival and creativity of these organisations. I am convinced that a joint action programme would only worsen these negative consequences.

Consumers form the bedrock of a market economy. It is becoming increasingly more complicated to be a consumer, especially after EU enlargement. We, the 450 million citizens of Europe, are directly affected by issues ranging from the safety of the goods that we buy and our trust in retailers to on-line shopping and advertising. Since many of these issues traverse national borders, we need intensive and preventive awareness-raising campaigns that will equip us with the self-confidence to prevent us becoming the pawns of big corporations. The Commission must surely find these reasons sufficiently compelling for it to approve a separate and adequately funded action programme for consumer protection policy.

The Community action programme for consumer protection in the period 2007–2013 provides an important framework for achieving equilibrium in the internal market, meeting consumer needs and requirements, and creating a balanced and proper relationship between consumers and businesses. The independent European organisations that are educating the European consumers of tomorrow want substantial change and financial security. They expect the European Union to supply a clear vision and a set of rules, and to eliminate bureaucratic and administrative obstacles.

However, particular attention should be paid to aiding the new Member States and accession countries. The date set for the debate on this report is symbolic, as 15 March is World Consumer Rights Day. By approving this report we will send a message that the European Parliament considers it a priority to create in Europe a decent and just society for consumers.

 
  
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  Evelyne Gebhardt (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, like many or almost all of the Members who have spoken before me, I, too, would again like to stress that it is not sensible to combine consumer protection and public health in a joint action programme. We need two different action programmes, because a very large number of very different questions are discussed and dealt with here.

As regards consumer protection, I would like to say that it is very important – that is why I would also like to urge you to pay great attention, in Parliament’s motion, which I hope will be accepted as it stands, to the fact that we are especially supportive of consumer protection organisations in particular. We have found that there is still some catching up to be done in the new Member States in particular, and we want to ensure that consumers there get the highest possible common standard of consumer protection, just like we do; there is still room for improvement here, too, it is not as if we were always the best. This is a matter of great concern to us.

That is why we need to ensure that consumer protection organisations are well able to be effective on the public’s behalf. Citizens have repeatedly told us that consumer protection is what they want. We want a Europe where the citizens, the people, are at the centre, a Europe where their rights to protection are respected. For that reason, my Group is also particularly concerned that we should get harmonised consumer protection legislation in the field of services of general economic interest.

Where, if not in water, postal services, gas or electricity and other areas, is it important to have a minimum of harmonisation so that a high level of rights relating to access, safety, reliability, price, quality and choice is guaranteed and these forms of protection are as high as absolutely possible. These are the things that concern our citizens, what they need and what they want.

 
  
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  Adam Jerzy Bielan (UEN). (PL) Mr President, international cooperation in the field of consumer protection pursues the goal of protecting against risk and increasing the opportunities available to citizens to make their own choices. It results in better quality of life for EU citizens by increasing safety and confidence in products on the internal market. For this reason the Community networks that provide consumers with essential information and support in terms of legal aid, mediation and other forms of dispute resolution should be supported and developed. The Solvit system is of great importance in this respect, since it is a mechanism for serving consumers that already exists. It is also important to build confidence in products by taking action to step up the fight against counterfeit goods, which should be regarded as common theft of a brand or a trademark. Particular attention should be paid to providing consumers with better information about the dangers to health and safety that may arise as a result of using certain counterfeit products such as drugs or cosmetics.

Consumer protection policy must also be implemented through consumer organisations. Such organisations are active in the majority of Member States, but their budgets and scope for action are often limited, especially in the new Member States. There is an unquestionable need for additional funding for organisations of this kind. Consumer protection may cost money, but it is a cost we have to bear.

 
  
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  Edit Herczog (PSE). – (HU) Mr President, I agree with all the arguments brought by the rapporteur and the Conference of Chairmen to support the separation of health and consumer protection tasks, and I support the separation.

I would like to present a further argument. Consumer protection faces very specific challenges both in the new and old Member States, which are totally independent of health issues. These challenges should be treated with the highest degree of independence.

Consumer protection had initially involved goods, and in particular food and household items. However, this situation has changed radically over the past decade. On the one hand, together with market integration, consumer protection, too, must extend beyond goods to include services. On the other hand, consumer protection must adapt to the market restructuring caused by the rapid development and expansion of information technologies.

Nowadays it is possible, for instance, for a French consumer sitting in a Belgian home to ask for a consumer loan from a Dutch bank by sending an SMS text message, and then, with a few mouse clicks, to purchase a Swedish electronic product from a Lithuanian Internet store, to be delivered by a British service provider. Such situations are quite usual these days, and they only reflect the normal operation of our internal market.

And yet, within the current legal frameworks, it is not only difficult to guess which consumer protection regulation of which country is applicable at any given time, but even the competence of the various possible authorities is difficult to determine, especially for the consumer. For this reason, with the integration of the services market and the irreversible expansion of online purchases, the future European Consumer Protection Agency will also have, apart from the traditional task of consumer protection, other crucially important tasks in the areas of research, analysis and planning.

Like industry, our legal system and institutions also need innovation. The frameworks ensuring protection for the European consumer in the 21st century must be sufficiently flexible to adapt to the immeasurable variety of potential real-life situations. In order to accomplish this work, we need independent resources, excellent and versatile specialists, and I am convinced that it is in the joint interest of the 450 million European consumers that the Consumer Protection Agency becomes an independent pole of excellence. I ask for the support of the Commissioner to achieve this.

 
  
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  President. I beg your pardon, but allow me to make a suggestion to our fellow Members from the new Member States, who are accustomed to reading out their speeches in Parliament. Reading out the speech too quickly compromises its translation and makes it impossible to understand the speech itself. I therefore suggest that you omit a sentence, provided that the speech is read out at a manageable speed for the interpreters, or else that you submit your speech to the interpreters beforehand so that they might keep up with the speed of your delivery. Doing so will help us understand our parliamentary business.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE).(PL) Mr President, I would like to protest against the accusation that ‘colleagues from the new Member States’ read too quickly. If a Member reads too quickly, he reads too quickly, regardless of whether he is from a new Member State or an old Member State.

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I shall briefly make a few comments on the issues raised by the Members. I would like to thank them for the very interesting debate we had, and now we have the advantage of having them split into two parts, but I still think the issues raised here today were very interesting.

I know I tend to repeat myself, but many of the issues raised will face financial challenges; so issues such as support for consumer organisations or increased support for consumer organisations, or even more active/strengthened initiatives in the new Member States will be affected by the final outcome of the budget discussions. Nevertheless, especially on the issue of the new Member States, I agree that there is a need for priority, not so much having a separate strategy – and this has already been described in the morning session – but rather giving priority and emphasis and focusing on the newest Member States, at least those where the consumer protection tradition is less apparent than in other Member States. These will be reflected, as you will see in the near future, in the consumer strategy which is being drawn up in a more detailed way, and you will see how the focus will be concentrated on the new Member States, especially in education, in the training of consumer organisations and in areas where we could strengthen consumer protection mentality.

On the issue of vulnerable groups, I agree that certain consumer groups need increased protection. Again, I am not sure if inclusion or specific provision in the programme is the best way to achieve this; nevertheless, in specific actions, in specific initiatives and legislation, we should take into account the particular needs of vulnerable groups, children for example. I refer you to the relatively recent legislation we have adopted jointly on unfair commercial practices, where we take into account vulnerable consumer groups.

There is a misunderstanding about the agency. I see that Mr Stubb is not here this afternoon, but the proposal for an agency is not in the sense of an agency that will be formulating policy or taking initiatives in the area of consumer protection; it will be an executive agency, it will be a management body which will do the accounting and all the practical aspects that do not involve policy. It will actually operate from the practical accounting management aspect, so it will free the resources we have in the Commission actually to promote and propose policies. We already have an executive agency for the health programme, and this is something that has been working very well because it makes better use of resources, and we propose something similar now for consumer protection. So, it is not a separate agency or institution in the sense that it was described today by the speaker of the group concerned.

I said a few things about splitting this morning. I understand Parliament’s position. Before we take our final decision, we will wait to see the outcome of the discussion on the financial perspectives, so at this point we do not agree: we still feel that there are benefits in having a joint programme whilst safeguarding the specific needs and financing provisions of the two areas. Nevertheless, we will revisit this issue once we have a specific picture in front of us regarding the budget.

Finally, I have taken the point on services on board. We are already funding programmes for consumers in relation to services as well. One point on the consumer protection area in general is that we should always bear in mind the benefits of offering consumer protection, not just for the consumers, not just for the protection of the citizen, but also the benefits that increased consumer confidence will have on the internal market, the economic growth that this will promote and, of course, the competitiveness of the European economy.

Once again, I would like to thank the rapporteur and the members of the committee for their strong support of this programme, and I am looking forward to working with them in the consumer protection area in the following period.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on 23 March 2006.

 

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

16.1. Human rights in Moldova and in Transnistria in particular (debate)
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  President. The next item is the debate on six motions for resolutions on human rights in Moldova and in Transnistria in particular(1).

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE), author. Mr President, despite an international outcry, Transnistria, which illegally declared independence from the Moldovan Republic 12 years ago after an armed conflict involving Russian military support, continues to exist, along with the deep-rooted corruption within its undemocratic authoritarian regime. The situation is of great concern, not just because of the violation of the human rights of the citizens of this region, but also because it continues to be a source of conflict and instability between Moldova and Ukraine. A border crisis could easily escalate, with unforeseen consequences.

It is of the utmost importance that, through the exhibition of goodwill, common sense and a desire for peace and reform, all parties directly involved in the Transnistrian dispute – namely Moldova, the Transnistrian region of Moldova, Ukraine and Russia – refrain from any action that may cause the deterioration of the already heated situation and proceed immediately to fully engage themselves in honest negotiations in order to speedily reach an amicable solution to the problem.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE), author. – (PL) Mr President, the political situation in Moldova is an example of how political declarations fail to tally with either the opportunities available to implement them or the goodwill to do so.

In 1999 Russia undertook to withdraw its troops stationed on Moldovan territory in Transnistria by the end of 2002. As yet, however, Russia has failed to acknowledge the sovereignty and constitutional integrity of that country’s territory by withdrawing them. Transnistria is one of the most industrialised areas of Moldova. The continuing existence of a self-proclaimed political entity stands in the way of any chance of the country’s economic situation returning to normal, or of the country being able to start the necessary preparations for any kind of talks with the European Union, whether about membership or even just about association.

Russian policy strives to use all possible means to retain its superpower influence in Central and Eastern Europe, which it regards as its natural sphere of influence. The Transnistrian regime, supported by the former Red Army, is a blatant example of disregard for people, citizens and their rights. Corrupt troops carry on large-scale illegal arms trading there, along with many other criminal activities. The Russian Government’s promises to withdraw its army have yet again proved to be a political ploy made without any respect for political partners, including the Member States of the European Union. It is a ploy aimed at allaying public opinion.

My question is as follows. How do we intend to formulate a European defence policy if we are unable to force our partners to abide by such clear obligations in respect of areas so close to us? Where can we show the power of persuasion of the 25 EU Member States if not in urgent matters like this one, which is key from the point of view of our own safety?

If we want any of our declarations on defence policy to have any meaning at all, we need to prove ourselves equal to the task in specific cases such as this one, and to demonstrate our will to ensure that every partner, no matter how powerful, observes his undertakings.

 
  
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  Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL), author. (NL) Mr President, whilst the diverse political forces in Moldova are keen to join the European Union, that country is not a candidate country and is unlikely to become one in the foreseeable future. Today, we voted on the enlargement strategy as proposed in the Brok report. If we, on that basis, restrict access to newcomers, the only chance Moldova has of joining is by circuitous means, according to the model of German reunification from 1990.

This would mean that, in due course, Moldova would have to relinquish its independence to return to Romania, from which it broke away in 1940. A solution of this kind was also mooted straight after the break-up of the Soviet Union, but Romania appeared not attractive enough at the time to implement this plan in the short term.

This may change if Romania’s EU membership proves to be a runaway success and if Moldova realises that as a neighbouring country, it is much worse off. A reunification of this kind has never met with the support of the Slavic-speaking minority, though, who are mainly to be found in the east of the country and would much rather maintain the old ties with Ukraine and Russia. A solution may not present itself for the factual separation of the eastern fringe, the long and thin region of Transnistria situated along the border with Ukraine, until Ukraine joins the European Union. In the mean time – which can be some time – we should look to find peaceful solutions, cooperation and democratic changes within Transnistria, which is still being ruled with an iron fist.

My group has highlighted this in its own draft resolution. We regret that the joint resolution mentions a weakening of the Transnistrian Government, rather than its reform. For the rest, we can endorse the compromise document because, on the one hand, it does not incite violence against Transnistria and, on the other, this resolution does not seek to isolate Moldova by way of punishment for the strong position which the Communist Party has been accorded in that country by its voters.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Schroedter (Verts/ALE), author. – (DE) Mr President, I can tell from the speeches that many who are working on Eastern Europe are aware of the situation in Belarus, which is getting worse every day.

As Mrs Ferrero-Waldner is present, I will also again point out that the way she behaved towards Parliament in this matter was extremely unfortunate and a considerable violation of the rights of European parliamentarians themselves. We are aware of the correspondence with Mr Klich, but that is no way to behave! I have been involved in policy towards the country of Belarus for 12 years and I can only say that in that time the Commission has never behaved as she did. I just wanted to say that straight away because she is present.

In contrast, while the Republic of Moldova is ruled by a communist party, it is interested in a rapprochement with the EU and is, at least as I see it, an active partner in the neighbourhood policy. The problem is a completely different one: it lies east of the River Nister. There are still Russian troops there, outside Russian territory, 15 years after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

That is precisely the problem: the stationing of Russian troops and the violation of the integrity of the Republic of Moldova, that is the conflict we are talking about. It is not an ethnic conflict. I therefore believe the problems can only be solved by very tough talking between the EU and Russia, with an ultimatum for the complete withdrawal of the troops. That is also in Europe’s interest because it is the only way the border can be completely controlled. The regime that is living on those troops in Transnistria can then become a democratic part of Moldova instead.

The poverty in the country has greatly encouraged the trafficking of women, and that is another reason why it should also become part of the neighbourhood policy towards Moldova.

 
  
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  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE) , author. – (PL) Mr President, the dictatorship of the self-appointed authorities in Transnistria, characterised by severe repression and ideological backwardness, has aroused great concern in Europe.

While Moldova has already taken significant steps on the path towards democracy and respect for civil liberties, Transnistria continues to violate fundamental human rights. Brutal arrests, inhuman detention conditions and a lack of freedom of speech or assembly are facts of everyday life in this region, and cannot be tolerated in today’s Europe. Transnistria is well known for ignoring the rulings of the international community. Eighteen months have passed since the International Court of Human Rights issued its judgment in the case of Ilascu and other opposition figures, but not one of them has yet been released.

An important step towards resolving the conflict with Moldova is Russia’s withdrawal of troops from the self-proclaimed Republic of Transnistria, in line with the resolutions of the OSCE summit in Istanbul in 1999. To date, Moscow has violated its undertakings by continuing to give economic and political support to the local dictatorship and its repressive regime.

At the same time as welcoming Moldova’s efforts as regards institutional reforms and respect for the rights of national minorities, including the Romanian minority, as a real step towards democratic dialogue with the European Union, we are at the same time aware of information about rampant corruption and illegal trafficking in women and children. The Moldovan authorities must continue their efforts to establish a stable and independent judiciary, as well as political pluralism in their country. For its part, the European Union must take decisive steps to resolve the issue of Transnistria, and increased dialogue between the EU and Moldova can help to resolve this long-standing conflict and to stabilise the situation in this region of Europe.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. Mr President, I wish to begin by thanking our colleagues who initiated this very important debate and resolution on the situation in Moldova, and Transnistria in particular.

The Transnistrian conflict, frozen since 1992, was recently described as a front line in EU-Russia relations. Following long discussions and major preparatory work, last December the EU finally launched a new mission – the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine – thus contributing to both countries’ joint action to fight against smuggling and black-market trade in the region.

Surprise, surprise! This very balanced move led Russia to put its 1100 troops – so-called peacekeepers – in Transnistria on alert last week. The illegal regime of Transnistria, which is not recognised by any democracy in the world, broke off the 5+2 talks.

We should express our concern about the human rights situation in Transnistria, where people do not have the right to hold democratic elections, where harassment, repression and intimidation of the independent media, human rights defenders, NGOs and opponents to the self-proclaimed regime is common practice. In addition, we should express our support for the Moldovan and Ukrainian authorities working to stabilise the situation in the region and free it from corruption, smuggling, etc.

I call on the Commission and the Council to support the Moldovan authorities in their democratic reform process and use all diplomatic means available to solve the Transnistria conflict.

 
  
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  Józef Pinior, on behalf of the PSE Group. (PL) Commissioner, the so-called Moldovan Republic of Transnistria, which covers one fifth of the territory of the independent state of Moldova and the majority of its industry, is being recognised as a state despite international opposition. I urge you to pay attention to the violations of human rights, media restrictions and the populist-authoritarian system in Transnistria, which flies the flag of the former Soviet Republic of Moldova.

Non-governmental organisations are having particular problems functioning in Transnistria. The new political initiative of President Igor Smirnov and the international youth corporation Proryv is modelled on Nashi, the pro-Putin youth movement in Russia. Proryv is an extreme populist organisation whose aim is not to allow democratic changes in Transnistria. Its ideology is based on a Soviet/Slavophile ideology of pro-Russian nationalism. Proryv is associated with the Transnistrian section of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Russian party, and collaborates closely with the Eurasian Russian movement.

The European Union must take a closer interest in the situation in Transnistria from the viewpoint of human rights and democratic development in this part of Europe.

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki (NI).(PL) Mr President, today we have talked a great deal about Belarus, and I should like to speak out in defence of the country.

It is untrue that Belarus is the least democratic country in Europe. The leader of this black list is the so-called Moldovan Republic of Transnistria. Nobody in the world recognises this country other than Russia, a country which does not recognise human and civil rights. Evidence of this includes the political prisoners being held and the attacks on non-governmental organisations, which the press has described as parasites. This situation does not prevail in the Republic of Moldova either, but we welcome that country’s efforts to move towards full democracy and, in time, the European Union.

The conflict between Transnistria and Moldova is proceeding in the shadow of Russian interests. Russia appears to be stoking the flames of the conflict, and this aspect cannot be ignored. The Moldovan President, the Communist Mr Voronin, talks of the demilitarisation, democratisation and decriminalisation of Transnistria. For its part, the official newspaper of the regime of Transnistria’s President Smirnov is advocating the devoronisation of Moldova and calling for help to democratise the country, or in other words to rid the Republic of Moldova of the Communists and their leader. This may be laughable, but it stops being funny when human rights are violated and people are locked up in prison. That is when the joke turns sour.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, the only reason why the territory of present-day Moldova will not be joining the European Union next year or the year after is that the country was forcibly detached from Romania under the Hitler-Stalin pact. We should not forget that piece of history. It is a deeply European country and we must make intense efforts to bring about three things. Firstly, the dismantling of the criminal and militaristic structure in Transnistria by peaceful means. Thank God, Hitler was defeated and had to surrender his spoils. Stalin’s spoils were not released until 1991, and there are still forces in Moscow today that are keeping this dangerous structure alive.

The second major task is the democratisation of Moldova with the rule of law and minority rights, and the third major task we have is the fight against cross-border crime. I am very grateful here to our fellow Member Albert Deß as the representative of a border region of Upper Palatinate, who is vehement in urging us to fight, jointly as a European Union, against trafficking in drugs, human beings and arms, which originates with this criminal structure in Transnistria; that is in the interests of this beautiful country on the eastern edge of Central Europe, which needs to be integrated because otherwise it will fester like a wound between Romania, which is soon to be a Member State, and Ukraine, with which we have entered into a more intensive partnership since the orange revolution there. The process of democratisation in this region that is so important for our own destiny will only succeed if this militaristic, tyrannical structure finally makes way for a democracy based on the rule of law.

This is our duty as the European Parliament, and I am therefore grateful to Mr Sonik and others for getting this debate held. The European Parliament must send out clear signals here.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, let me first answer a few of the political questions, then also say a word about Belarus. I will also be very happy to respond to Mrs Schroedter before talking about the real substance of today’s debate: human rights.

First, on the political issue, Moldova is a country in the European Neighbourhood Policy and we are trying, through that policy, to bring Moldova closer to the European Union and – I point this out to Mr Posselt – slowly democratise it, although a lot still has to be done. However, this is the way forward. For that purpose, it is also very important to cut the illegal trafficking of goods, people, arms, perhaps also drugs, and to cut criminal activities.

I thank all those who have mentioned a border mission. The European Union has introduced a border mission very recently in Transnistria, between Moldova and Ukraine. We have to thank Ukrainian President Yushchenko who, when he came to power, really started this initiative and has taken it up together with President Voronin. With my colleagues the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine and Moldova, we have succeeded in putting this in place. I think it works quite well, by the way, under a Hungarian leader in this region. Its real objective, in my view, is to cut illegal trafficking. That is not always easy, but in the long run it will reach its goal.

You all spoke about the Transnistrian conflict and how we can resolve it. Indeed, the OSCE has been trying to do everything to help and the European Union is more and more involved too. By the way, we have achieved some progress because the Russians did in fact accept the ‘five plus two’ talks to which we, the European Union, together with the United States of America, have been invited as observers in order to find a settlement.

It is true that Russian troops have not yet been withdrawn, as had been foreseen at the OSCE in Istanbul, and this still has to take place. Of course, the question is, what will replace them? First, all things political have to continue, although, unfortunately as someone said, Transnistria did in fact walk out of the talks before. Therefore, a lot still remains to be done.

Now I come to Belarus and, with your permission, I will continue in German.

(DE) Mrs Schroedter, I believe to begin with I was completely misinterpreted here. The journalist who was sitting in our room at the press conference in Brussels asked me as Commissioner whether we as the European Commission were sending an EU election observation mission to Belarus. I said: ‘No, the observation is being done by the OSCE/ODIHR’. You know that is the case. I then added that the parliamentarians were not part of an official EU mission, because we do not have one. That was completely misinterpreted. Please accept that again as my explanation. I am glad you raised the matter because it has allowed me to clear it up.

I not only wrote a letter to Mr Klich yesterday, I also spoke to him; he understood completely. I have also already issued a statement today on Belarus, where I am of course following events in the run-up to the elections, in which I also said how much I regret that the parliamentarians were denied admission by refusing them visas; they are of course always welcome here, that goes without saying and you ought to know that, since I am so much in favour of EU observer missions and am doing something for them to actually strengthen them.

I am coming to my third point, which concerns today’s debate on the resolutions on breaches of human rights in Moldova.

The motion for a resolution draws attention to the failures of the judicial system to secure fair trials. I should note that in 2005 Moldova adopted three laws which significantly strengthened the independence of the judiciary. So far as the Pasat case – the case of the former Defence Minister – is concerned, the Commission has raised the problems surrounding this case several times. I am in direct contact with Mr Stratan, the Moldovan Foreign Minister. I have just written a letter to President Voronin on this issue, in order to have transparency and not to delay Mr Pasat’s appeal.

Democracy, the rule of law and human rights will feature very prominently at the forthcoming Cooperation Council meeting with Moldova.

Today’s debate puts special emphasis on human rights in Transnistria. However, as you all know, because of its status as a self-proclaimed independent republic, we have only limited insight concerning developments in Transnistria. However, it is clear that there are very significant problems. In summer 2004, for instance, the Transnistrian authorities forcibly closed six schools that taught the Moldovan language using the Latin script. We are pleased to see that negotiations between Moldovan and Transnistrian officials on the issue of these Latin-script schools restarted in February after a hiatus of seven months. The Commission will follow the development of these negotiations very carefully.

Let me say a few words about the Ilascu case, which remains a very serious example of the violation of human rights. Since Moldova is unable to intervene in Transnistria, we raise the issue with Russia whenever the opportunity arises. The last occasion was about two weeks ago in Vienna at the Troika of Foreign Ministers, when I met Foreign Minister Lavrov. The recent reports that Andrei Ivantoc, one of the two prisoners, has begun a hunger strike underline the need for the immediate release of both prisoners. We have to apply pressure to make that happen.

The Commission is working with all the partner countries, including Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, in order to achieve a withdrawal of the Russian troops, the demilitarisation of Transnistria, the democratisation of Moldova – including Transnistria – and the establishment of effective and legal control of Transnistria by Moldova proper.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place at 5 p.m.

 
  

(1) See Minutes.


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

 
  
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  Ona Juknevičienė (ALDE), author. (LT) On 13 February, the well-known Kazakh politician and opposition leader A. Sarsenbayev was brutally murdered in Almaty, along with his driver and bodyguard. Not long ago, another opposition leader Z. Nurkadilov was found with three gunshot wounds after he accused the government of corruption and of being responsible for the killing of the freelance journalist Sharipzhanov. The official version of the investigation suicide. As one of the most advanced states in the region, Kazakhstan is trying to include itself among the democratic states of the world. Moreover, it aims to chair the OSCE from 2009. An organisation which has to ensure democracy and stability within the Community and beyond its borders. An organisation which in December acknowledged that the presidential elections in Kazakhstan did not comply with international requirements. We recognise that Kazakhstan's economy is growing rapidly. Kazakhstan is a very important trade partner for the Community, but colleagues, we are not just an economic union, but also a union of values. In foreign policy, we cannot pursue narrow economic interests and under no circumstances can we allow the violation of human rights. President N. Nazarbayev openly admits that in the past there was no democracy in his country and says that we cannot expect it to appear overnight. This is an attempt to assure us that there can be a controlled democracy in Kazakhstan, but essentially, it is a desire to justify an authoritarian regime from the Soviet period. Mr President, we all know that democracy either exists or does not exist. It cannot be controlled or partial.

 
  
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  Albert Jan Maat (PPE-DE), author. (NL) Mr President, (... the speaker spoke without a microphone) we would not have held this debate this afternoon. It is not that we do not care about Kazakhstan or that we think that nothing is wrong there; of course, we worry, but in the last term of office, this House accepted a strict resolution on Kazakhstan, one which both this Parliament and the Government of Kazakhstan took seriously at the time. It has led to the admission of more political parties and has, in any event, resulted in a step forward in the freedom of the press.

We worry again today, but what is striking now compared to the previous resolution on the situation in Kazakhstan, is the fact that the government, the President, is at least trying to introduce transparency, in the sense that in relation to killings, or matters that can be called into question, there is in any event every opportunity for foreign observers to watch what is happening.

One thing is for sure. Something is brewing in Kazakhstan, that is true, but that does mean that you cannot assess the situation in the right manner, and we think that in that light, this resolution is premature at the moment. Another reason is that whilst we do not think that everything is wonderful, we do see for the first time that in sensitive areas, where people may have been killed and people have definitely been killed, although the circumstances or perpetrators are unknown, there is a willingness to show what is happening, how the process is drawing to a close. It is these points we should like to highlight in order to strengthen the relationship that we in the European Union have with Kazakhstan.

The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats propose, then, that we should make use of the cooperation between the parliamentary delegations. The parliamentary delegation from Kazakhstan will be visiting Brussels in May, during which we will have an opportunity to discuss all these issues as fellow-parliamentarians. We in the PPE-DE Group would like to see some progress in relation to the countries in Central Asia. As for Kazakhstan, we must clearly debate the topic of partnership to find out whether we can team up in those areas in which we cooperate well.

In a nutshell, we are concerned about Kazakhstan. While we are not always impressed by democracy in that country, we can see at this very moment that there is more transparency, that something is brewing, that there is much uncertainty. I should in any event like to congratulate the Commissioner on the sound information we have received from her representative in Almaty on this score, which we greatly appreciated.

As far as the vote is concerned, although we have contributed to this resolution, for not doing so is excluding ourselves from the game in hand, we did apply for five split votes, the outcome of which will determine whether we will back this resolution or not. In short, although we have concerns, we would like to talk these over with our Kazakh colleagues on amicable terms to see whether we can take a few steps forward in relation to democracy.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, just a brief word. This lunchtime, Mrs Pleštinská said that people are putting candles in their windows in Slovakia and many other countries today as a sign of solidarity with the opposition and the freedom movement in Belarus. To avoid setting off the fire alarms, we have only brought a small symbolic candle into plenary, which is burning at Mrs Pleštinská’s place, but it is intended to make clear the strength of our ties with the freedom movement in Belarus.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. In reaffirming our support for the initiative, I must point out that, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure, it is strictly forbidden to bring any incandescent or burning object into the Chamber, and so I kindly ask our fellow Member to extinguish it. Thank you.

 
  
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  Józef Pinior (PSE), author. (PL) Mr President, the political opposition in Kazakhstan is protesting against the murder of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, the former minister and ambassador who joined the opposition in 2003 and started criticising the political system under President Nursultan Nazarbayev. On 26 February this year in Almaty around 1 500 people took part in a demonstration, and 43-year-old Sarsenbayev’s body was found with gunshot wounds to the shoulders and the head beside the bodies of his bodyguard and driver. The National Security Committee officers suspected of the killing have been arrested, and the head of the National Security Committee, Nartay Dutbayev, has resigned.

I would also like to point out that the organisation Reporters without Borders has accused the Kazakh authorities of Internet censorship and restricting freedom of expression in traditional media. On 15 December last year, the security forces searched the offices of the weekly Law Economy Politics Culture after it published a letter signed by the head of the Election Commission stating that electoral fraud had taken place to some extent in the 4 December presidential elections. Furthermore, on 20 December the weekly Juma-Times was closed by a decision of the court in Almaty after being accused of libel against President Nazarbayev.

 
  
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  Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL), author. – (NL) Mr President, the collapse of the Soviet Union has not proved to be a guarantee for democracy – quite the opposite, in fact. Some politicians with Communist pasts may have abandoned their ideology, but are for that very reason now even less hindered than before in their manoeuvring to remain in power for the long haul or to transfer state power to their offspring. One of those sleights of hand is to extend the term in office of presidents in power by ten years or even to the end of his life by means of a referendum without the option of putting forward one or two rival candidates.

Another technique is to eliminate serious opponents by locking them up on the basis of false accusations, getting them killed in car accidents or having them simply disappear. In Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, widely-supported popular uprisings against regimes of that kind have been successful, but it remains to be seen whether those countries will be better off in the long term. So far in Belarus, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and the much larger Kazakhstan, those in power have managed to break any opposition. Some have been able to use their role in the supply of energy to buy themselves powerful foreign friends.

For a long time, Kazakhstan was mainly a dry and sparsely populated area where, in the middle of a small population speaking a Turkic language, Russian colonisation took place in areas where industry or mining appeared possible or where an experimental space rocket base could be set up. Meanwhile, a new capital has been created, far from the large city of Almaty, and the influence of the Russian inhabitants is being reduced considerably.

Kazakhstan is a large, sparsely populated country, with two large population groups and the remainder consisting of minorities banished to that country from the Russian empire, and its future is extremely precarious. In our relations with it, the resolution is right to insist on due account being given not only to economic relations, but also, and above all, to political prisoners, scope for opposition, democratic decision-making and human rights.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE), author. (SV) Mr President, not everything is pitch-black in Kazakhstan. Compared with a number of other countries in the region, positive things too are happening, for example the moratorium on the death penalty and the prosecution of policemen accused of torture. The latest development is, however, that, paradoxically, when the opposition is growing and becoming stronger, so too is the oppression directed against it. These two murders have exacerbated the situation.

The OSCE said that the election did not proceed correctly. In reality, it was quite unnecessary to rig the election, because, according to all the opinion polls, Mr Nazarbayev would still have won it. Given the media situation in Kazakhstan, these developments are not perhaps so odd. A climate of fear also prevails. Governors did not dare report the worst voting figures and did not hesitate to season them with a few extra votes out of a fear of seeing their positions, financial or otherwise, undermined. We cannot have such a climate in a democracy, and we must be on our guard.

In reality, the European Parliament is not demanding a lot: only that Kazakhstan obey its own constitution and that court decisions be required in connection, for example, with arrests. In paragraph three, we state that we want international observers to monitor the murder investigation. The FBI has been invited to take part in the investigations of the murders, and we should ensure that other international bodies too be allowed to study information concerning these crimes so that we have some grasp, and clarification of, the investigation.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski (UEN), author.(PL) Mr President, Kazakhstan is an important country with a great history, and one of the largest countries in Europe – yes, Europe, because about 150 000 km2 of its territory is within the geographical borders of our continent. It is a country where, to this day, thousands of my Polish compatriots live, having been exiled there at the time of the Stalin regime. Historically and politically, however, it is obvious that Kazakhstan belongs to Central Asia. It is also a post-communist and post-Soviet country. We have to take this history into account and remember that the word ‘democracy’ is not always understood there in the same way as it is here in the countries of Europe, with their centuries of democratic tradition.

I was one of the European Parliament’s observers in Kazakhstan during the presidential elections. The country is by no means a model of democracy, but in fairness it must be said that the authorities there are doing a great deal to democratise public life and, above all, to bring the country closer to Western values and to modernise it. This is something we should appreciate, and we should offer prudent support for this process.

The motion for a resolution under debate deserves support insofar as it demands an investigation into the death of Mr Sarsenbayev, the opposition politician, but it also has some elements that are an expression of unjustified suspicion. Politicians are killed in many countries in assassination attempts or accidents, without the cause always being political intrigue. For this reason I appeal for moderation in the contents of the resolution, and for several of the proposed amendments to be adopted.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. Mr President, I, like all my MEP colleagues, am horrified by the brutal murder of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbayev on 13 February. I welcome the fact that President Nazarbayev has called in the FBI to track down the culprits, and his statement of 21 February on punishing the perpetrators. I am also encouraged by the recent arrest of five suspects. Of course there are still concerns regarding democracy and human rights in Kazakhstan. We in the EU are rightly concerned about any instability in this key strategic central Asian Republic, which is anxious not to get too close to Russia or China, but to get closer to us in the EU.

As the rapporteur for the European Neighbourhood Policy, I have suggested including Kazakhstan in that policy. This follows a tradition in which it was the European Parliament that first raised the question of such a status for the three Caucasus republics, which was duly granted by the Council in due course. Kazakhstan has a westward extension, which makes a strong case geographically for its European Neighbourhood status. It also has a strong secular tradition inherited from its Soviet past, with a very large European Christian minority living in harmony with the indigenous Kazakh Muslim people.

Of strategic importance to the EU are its vast oil and gas reserves, which it is anxious to sell to the EU without depending entirely on Russian pipelines to transport its natural resources. Moreover, the Kazakh Diversification Policy includes plans to liquefy its natural gas for export via the trans-Caspian route.

In this context, and less appreciated, is the vast potential supply of Kazakh yellow cake uranium from mines coming onstream, which will be vital to supplying the EU’s future nuclear energy needs. The EU must extend every help to this vast, under-populated, geopolitically key country and we in the PPE-DE Group will not support the biased joint text unless our amendments are carried.

 
  
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  John Attard-Montalto, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Mr President, allow me to speak in my own language.

(MT) It worries me to hear a speech like the one that has just been made. I worry that, because the West and the United States have an interest in Kazakhstan – mainly because it is rich in minerals and an ally in the war against terrorism - its government might feel able to do certain things with impunity. This is something we should be on our guard against. Some time ago, Kazakhstan applied to become a member of the Council of Europe, and I went on a mission there. It is true that, geographically, part of Kazakhstan is in Europe, but everybody knows that this country still has a lot to learn in terms of acquiring democratic credentials. It is clear, moreover, that, in recent times, the political climate has deteriorated. We know that, over a period of three months, two opposition politicians have been killed and that human rights are in one way or another being denied. We should not therefore allow Kazakhstan’s wealth and the fact that the country is an ally against terrorism to delude us into thinking that there need be no controls whatsoever on its conduct.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, up until now Kazakh President Nasarbayev has acted according to the old proverb ‘keep your friends close and your enemies even closer’ and tried to include them in his regime. Although he spent a week at a spa in my home province of Carinthia only recently, evidently to recover his strength, he seems to be enjoying less and less success with this, because criticism of him is growing, as you know.

It may be no coincidence that, as we have heard, two opposition politicians died in mysterious circumstances after revealing dishonest machinations by the presidential clan. In my opinion, it really is essential that these murders be investigated transparently by independent parties.

Progressive as Kazakhstan may be in its economic development – not least because of its many mineral resources – we are all agreed that it is equally halting when it comes to democracy. There were complaints of vote rigging in last December’s presidential elections, and the daughter of the president elected under such dubious circumstances is known to be the director of the largest television station, her husband head of the tax authority. Some parties are being refused registration and activists are known to be persecuted. So it is not surprising if the murdered man’s mourners are punished.

When it is so doubtful that Kazakhstan is capable of behaving like a democracy, it cannot be allowed to take the chairmanship of the OSCE in 2009 as it wishes. The EU must in my opinion stand strongly against that. It is perhaps also worth considering following the US lead and making financial and economic assistance more dependent on progress being made in the areas of democracy and civil and human rights.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, it is now a month since the prominent politician Sarsenbayev was brutally murdered, and I believe now is the right time to hold an urgent debate here on the situation in Kazakhstan. Two prominent opposition politicians have been murdered in the space of three months and the political climate has greatly deteriorated.

We call on the Kazakh authorities to allow a full, independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances of the deaths and to allow the presence of international observers.

Politically motivated murders are only the tip of the iceberg. Internet censorship has been mentioned and pressure on opposition politicians and journalists has increased over all. We condemn the detention of the people taking part in a peaceful gathering to mark the death of Altynbek Sarsenbayev and call on the Kazakh Government to comply with its obligations under the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and in particular to ensure respect for democracy and human rights.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, there is much to say about Kazakhstan. On the one hand, Kazakhstan is and should be a key partner for promoting stability and regional cooperation in Central Asia. Indeed, it is the most important of these countries and it is also rich in energy supplies and therefore it is being courted by many countries today.

Let us analyse President Nazarbayev’s State of the Nation address on 1 March. It was very comprehensive on economic development. However, it was not very detailed on the programme of democratic reforms, despite promises of a programme of democratic changes and promises to the international community. The concept of ‘managed democracy’ was reconfirmed; in fact, it was reinforced.

Let me say a few words about the positive side and the negative side, because we have to see both sides. On a positive note, I would like to welcome Kazakhstan’s ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in January this year. This is a good step. We also hope that Kazakhstan will now take steps to ratify the optional protocols allowing individual complaints. The continuing moratorium on the death penalty is also a step in the right direction.

On the negative side, and as regards issues we should criticise, what has happened to the leading political opposition leader Mr Sarsenbayev is of the utmost concern to us. His murder points towards a very dangerous trend of criminalisation in Kazakh politics. In the absence of clear constitutional mechanisms guaranteeing a peaceful transfer of executive power in Kazakhstan, this development is clearly worrying. We have therefore urged the authorities to ensure complete transparency in the investigation process. I am pleased that the FBI can go there, but some Europeans should be there as well. We are also following very closely the investigation into the murder of Oksana Nikitina, the daughter of another prominent member of the opposition. I have also been very troubled by reports on harassment of opposition figures following two peaceful memorial marches in Almaty, held after Mr Sarsenbayev’s funeral. Some of you have alluded to that.

I would also like to mention the two essential issues of media freedom and restrictions on civil society. We are concerned at reports of numerous instances of harassment of journalists and actions taken against five newspapers and one opposition website. The new law on national security, adopted in July 2005, also permits undue restrictions on civil society and NGO activities.

We have welcomed, on the one hand, improvements noted by the OSCE/ODIHR in the administration of the December 2005 presidential election – a few of you were there to observe them. However, we also regret that the election did not meet a number of OSCE commitments and that no action was taken to amend the legislative framework in line with OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. We will certainly want to continue to monitor the investigations about alleged malpractices.

One lingering core concern is political freedom. For the sake of its internal stability, Kazakhstan needs a political opposition and it is urgent for the authorities to legalise political opposition parties and open a real dialogue with them, for example through the state commission on democratisation, which is to be established soon and chaired by President Nazarbayev. In particular I think that the Kazakh authorities will reconsider their refusal to register the opposition political parties Alga and True Ak Zhol.

I would very much welcome it if you form a parliamentary delegation and if you reinforce your cooperation with delegations from Kazakhstan. It is another very important channel to give them clear messages and it is also an opportunity. Let us not prejudge a decision on Kazakhstan’s bid for the chairmanship of the OSCE in 2009. Perhaps it might provide Kazakhstan with an important challenge in achieving higher standards of democracy.

Finally, we are also concerned about reports of numerous instances of harassment of journalists and actions taken against five newspapers and one opposition website. The new law on national security that was adopted in July last year also permits undue restrictions on civil society and NGO activities. I think therefore that this is a country with which we have to engage very strongly but at the same time we have to deliver firm messages.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place at 5 p.m.

 
  

(1) See Minutes.


16.3. Impunity in Africa and in particular the case of Hissène Habré (debate)
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  President. The next item is the debate on six motions for resolutions on impunity in Africa and in particular the case of Hissène Habré(1).

 
  
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  Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE), author. (ES) Mr President, many opportunities are currently opening up in Africa to come to terms with what is often a blood-stained past.

Nevertheless, moving towards peace requires that impunity be combated unequivocally and this means, in turn, that the truth must come to light, however painful that may be, and justice must be done. The trials of Pinochet or Milosevic, though imperfect and sadly incomplete, are clear indications of the direction things should take in Africa as well. Names such as Charles Taylor, Mengistu Haile Mariam and Hissène Habré, amongst others, must be added to the list of ex-dictators who must answer to national and international justice.

There are already various mechanisms for calling people to account by means of ad hoc tribunals for the perpetrators of crimes and atrocities, such as those that exist in relation to Rwanda or Sierra Leone, for example. Unfortunately, however, a lack of resources, and in some cases of political will and of capacity, mean that these tribunals are often inefficient and insufficient.

Combating impunity is undoubtedly one of the pillars of the Union's policy in the field of human rights. We must therefore remember that, without an International Criminal Court to establish individual responsibility as a mechanism for applying the law, acts of genocide and flagrant violations of human rights will often go unpunished.

We would therefore urge the States of the African Union that have yet to ratify the Rome Statute, to do so and to set up an action plan for its effective application as soon as possible.

It would be presumptuous − and that is not my intention − for Europe to lecture Africa, when we too have many open or unresolved cases of impunity or insufficient justice in relation to ex-dictators. But I do firmly believe that this is a task that must be tackled in a universal manner, jointly by Europe and Africa.

Without truth, without justice and without reparations for the victims, peace can be no more than a dream, but combating impunity may help us to one day make that dream a reality.

 
  
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  Jürgen Schröder (PPE-DE), author. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, the case of the former dictator of Chad, Hissène Habré, should not be viewed in isolation but must be considered in the African context, because impunity of former despots is still widespread in Africa. I need only remind you of Charles Taylor from Liberia or Mengistu Haile Mariam from Ethiopia. African Dictators have ruled with extreme violence, suppressed their own people and maintained their positions of power through torture, murder and tyranny. What all of them also have in common is that they have found refuge in other African countries unpunished and have nowhere been called to account.

That is the very thing we can no longer accept, however, because the victims and their families have been fighting for a long time for a trial at which the despots will have to face up to their responsibility. I therefore very much welcome the great amount of progress that has been made in the case of Hissène Habré. In September 2005, a Belgian judge issued an international arrest warrant, as a result of which Hissène Habré was placed under house arrest in Senegal in November.

Senegal has stressed, however, that Hissène Habré should be brought before an African court and that the African Union should decide about it. At its last meeting in January, the African Union set up a committee, which will report in July on what such a court should look like.

Mr President, Commissioner, I believe there are several possible ways of bringing Hissène Habré to court. The most realistic is his extradition to Belgium, since he could quickly be examined by a fair court in Europe. The International Criminal Court might also take on the case. An ad hoc African court, on the other hand, will require a tremendous amount of political will and is probably scarcely possible without an enormous amount of money, time and administrative effort.

It is now up to the African Union to make every effort to ensure that the case of Hissène Habré is finally brought to a conclusion before a court. If, on the other hand, extradition to Belgium is ruled out, then the African Union will have to put forward a precise plan as to how an African court can deal with the matter as quickly as possible.

I would be pleased if a precedent were set here and Hissène Habré were brought to court. The many victims demand it.

 
  
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  Ana Maria Gomes (PSE), author. – (PT) Mr President, we in Europe are dismayed that survivors of the genocide orchestrated by Slobodan Milosevic could not see him convicted in the Hague.

In Africa, the victims of governments that violate human rights and of war criminals have the right to justice and are seeking justice. Their names are: Hissène Habré, Charles Taylor, Mengistu Haile Mariam and Robert Mugabe.

A few days ago in the Committee on Human Rights, we heard a lawyer from Chad underline this in relation to the dictator Hissène Habré, who has lived in exile in Senegal for a number of years. The lawyer advocated his extradition to Belgium, where a court is seeking him at the request of the victims. She also explained that extradition is needed because in the context of the African Union, there are unfortunately no mechanisms yet in place, nor is there the political will, to try this criminal, who was responsible for the political assassinations of over 40 000 of his compatriots and the detention and torture of many more. She went on to say that the Senegalese authorities referring the matter to the African Union was intended not to facilitate justice and to preserve African dignity, but to block justice and to cause further offence to the victims seeking to bring Hissène Habré to justice.

Mr President, Commissioner, I was recently in Senegal, where I spoke to human rights activists, members of the Senegalese Parliament and journalists. All confirmed the same impression, unfortunately: The EU has responsibilities in Africa and this is why we have adopted this resolution today. Hopefully, as a result, Portuguese politicians will use their influence and seek an end to impunity for all of these criminals in Africa.

 
  
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  Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL), author. – (NL) Mr President, African states do not owe their origins to the African people themselves, but to European colonisation. Their boundaries were drawn by foreigners and sliced through population groups who wanted to stay together, while people were lumped together who had very little in common in terms of history, culture, language and religion. It is impossible for those people to see the authorities as something that is their own.

In practice, this translates into a serious barrier to democracy. In those situations, there is a great deal of scope for people who, by violent means, favour one population group while suppressing another. Only by horrific means can they keep their unstable states together. Under those circumstances, it is only violent profiteers who manage to hold onto state power for any length of time. Situations of this kind can be found in all parts of Africa, but particularly where Arabic-Islamic and non-Islamic population groups have been combined in one country. Everyone is now familiar with the tragedies, permanent civil wars and streams of refugees that have cursed Sudan.

We adopted a resolution on its neighbour Chad only yesterday. Hissène Habré was once the leader of that desert country, and was automatically accepted by the outside world, holding on to power in part of it until 1990, when he was forced to escape to Senegal. Even after his departure, there is no room for political opposition, the people are starving and terrorised by armed gangs, while neighbouring countries try to gain control over part of the territory. Charles Taylor fled from Liberia to Nigeria; Mengistu Haile Mariam fled from Ethiopia, and now lives in Zimbabwe, and for such as these, sentences imposed by a court of law might be appropriate. They might even deter future African politicians from developing into violent dictators.

The situation in Rwanda is not completely comparable. Some see the present dominance of the Tutsi minority as fair punishment for the Hutu majority’s attempt at driving out and massacring their age-old oppressors. The long-term continuation of the present situation – for indeed we must take into account the possibility of this situation continuing for the foreseeable future – continues to feed an age-long feeling of mutual hatred. That is why we should not lump all the countries together, but instead give due attention to the atrocities that have been committed in them.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE), author. Mr President, the fight against impunity should be one of the cornerstones of the Union’s policy in the field of human rights. That principle applies only too well to Africa, in parts of which numerous horrific human rights abuses have occurred, sometimes on a massive scale. Unfortunately, however, the perpetrators of these crimes have rarely been brought to justice and the victims are very frequently denied any form of effective remedy.

It is imperative that infamous people like Charles Taylor, Colonel Mengistu and Chad’s devious exiled former President Hissène Habré face trial in an internationally recognised court of law in respect of the atrocities and crimes against humanity they have allegedly carried out.

It is truly shameful and distinctly disgraceful for the governments of countries like Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Senegal to continue to be an obstacle to the course of justice by providing a safe refuge to such alleged criminals. It is my view that if these governments ignore what this resolution calls for, then the EU, in conjunction with the international community, must consider taking more drastic, peaceful action to force a proper remedy.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, today we are discussing impunity in Africa and it has already been said how important the institution of the International Criminal Court is. But we are also specifically discussing the case of the former dictator of Chad. Habré ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, and his one-party system was marked by severe violations of human rights and large-scale campaigns of violence against his own people. The US and France backed Habré for a long time, because they saw his regime as a bulwark against Gaddafi. During Ronald Reagan’s period of office, Habré received massive military aid as well as paramilitary aid through the CIA.

That also has to be said. It is not simply that we should not be teaching other continents lessons; we must also be clear in our minds that for many years major Western countries gave their backing wherever bloody dictators were in power. The question now is how to end Habré’s impunity. I welcome the search for an African solution. If that fails, Habré should be handed over to the Belgian authorities to put an end to the impunity of a bloody dictator.

 
  
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  Urszula Krupa, on behalf of the NI Group. – (PL) Mr President, today’s debate on human rights violations relates to the impunity of various former heads of African states accused of dictatorship and of barbaric methods of rule.

The matter raised in Parliament’s resolution relates specifically to the former President of the Republic of Chad, Hissène Habré, who is responsible for 40 000 political murders and 200 000 cases of torture. However, the resolution also names other dictators from Libya and Ethiopia, and examples cited include the conflicts in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where three million people have died during the six-year conflict.

An analysis of the political situation in Africa leads one to ask questions about the causes of the conflicts between African ruling elites and the masses of their compatriots who are subjected to such inhuman treatment. It should be remembered that the composition and role of the African elites were largely determined by the colonial powers, as were any changes to these elites. As in the majority of colonised societies, in Africa too the elites were formed under the influence of European models and Communist interference, which was decisive in shaping the administrative and intellectual character of the elites who came to power. The colonial powers, focusing on the exploitation of manpower and the export of raw materials, deliberately restricted political activity together with the development of these countries’ economies. At the same time, the elites who were given access to education at European and American universities adopted a style of rule in which vast budgetary resources were allocated not only to the military, to swelling the ranks of the administration, to trips abroad and to delegations, but also to civil servants’ salaries, ostentatious lifestyles, luxury houses and cars, or in other words to models of life that were far removed from the conditions in which the majority of starving Africans lived. Economic dependence was aggravated by the fact that key industries were run by foreign capital, and that these were also environmentally harmful. The ongoing economic drain of Africa has been perpetuated by unequal economic exchange, and instead of development opportunities, the policy pursued has been one of systematically indebting the poor countries.

We support a resolution which calls for criminal rulers to be made accountable, but it is a matter of greater urgency to improve the overall situation of the African population in such a way as to secure sustainable development, which the aforementioned conditions make difficult to implement.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, we are very pleased that there has been a discussion on impunity. The Commission is committed to fighting impunity by all means at its disposal, be they political or financial.

At the international level, as you know, we have consistently expressed strong support for the International Criminal Court through both our common position and our action plan. In addition, the European Union, through its Member States, is the largest contributor to the ICC and its budget. The Court’s credibility and chances of working effectively are largely dependent on the international community’s general acceptance of it. That is why we are really working towards making the Court truly universal by encouraging as many countries as possible to ratify the Rome Statute. I am particularly happy that the European Union and the 77 ACP countries agreed to include in the revised Cotonou Agreement a commitment to take steps to ratify and implement the Statute. This is a good step forward.

In July 2004, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor opened investigations into crimes allegedly committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Uganda after 2002. These notifications, followed by arrest warrants in Uganda, are clear indications of the contribution that the ICC can and will make to the fight against impunity on the African continent. In addition, in March 2005 the UN Security Council – after much lobbying from the EU and other players – adopted a resolution referring the situation in Darfur to the ICC.

It is unfortunate that it was not possible to resolve the case of Hissène Habré in Senegal, but I welcome the African Union’s decision of January 2006 to set up a Committee of Eminent African Jurists to consider the case further. The committee appears to have quite a strong mandate. Of particular note is its adherence to ‘the principles of total rejection of impunity’.

I hope that a solution that meets the requirements of justice is reached soon. In addition to the case of Hissène Habré, a pragmatic way forward must be found – as some of you have said – to bring to justice Charles Taylor, who is currently in exile in Nigeria.

In terms of funding, we are contributing to the international criminal tribunals of Sierra Leone and Rwanda. In addition, a large project is being prepared for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which will seek to underpin our work in the ICC.

Finally, states have a duty under international law to try or to extradite those charged with international crimes, such as crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. It is primarily, therefore, a matter for the Heads of State concerned to ensure that this happens in the cases of Hissène Habré, Charles Taylor and Mengistu Haile Mariam. The importance of the role of the International Criminal Court comes into play when states refuse to observe their duties in this regard. That is why it is so important that the European Union should continue to support the universal ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place immediately.

Written statement (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Filip Andrzej Kaczmarek (PPE-DE).(PL) Impunity is the greatest enemy of justice. Nameless crimes, crimes that go uncondemned, criminals living with a sense of impunity, and often even in luxury, all lead to the trivialisation of death and human suffering. The peoples of Africa have suffered a great deal under their rulers. It is our duty to help them, and to help them not only in terms of material aid, but also in terms of aid associated with higher values, such as a sense of justice. Modernisation has meant that evil people can cause others greater harm. Modernisation should also mean quicker and more effective justice for those who blatantly abuse their power. Immunity and privileges were designed to protect people from abuse by the authorities, and not to protect those who abuse power.

Forgiveness can come from high moral authorities, but there is no real forgiveness without repentance. Unfortunately, those criminals who do not have a sense of individual responsibility, and do not recognise the right of others to condemn their actions, are rarely mature enough for feelings such as repentance. We must therefore support any actions that will force them to answer the questions: why did they kill, why did they rape, why did they torture? It is not a question of revenge, but of restoring a balance between what is evil and what is good. Without a fundamental balance like this, the future of humanity will be under persistent threat, and not only in Africa.

 
  

(1) See Minutes.


17. Voting time
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  President. The next item is the vote.

(For details of the outcome of the vote: see Minutes)

 

17.1. Human rights in Moldova and in Transnistria in particular (vote)

17.2. Kazakhstan (vote)
  

- Before the vote on recital H:

 
  
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  Albert Jan Maat (PPE-DE), author. Mr President, I have an oral amendment. I should like to change the wording of ‘whereas on 12 November 2005 another opposition leader, Nurkadilov Zamanbek, was killed’ to ‘was found shot dead’. That reads better in the Dutch and English translations, so that is my proposal.

 
  
  

(The oral amendment was accepted)

 

17.3. Impunity in Africa and in particular the case of Hissène Habré (vote)
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  President. That concludes the vote.

 

18. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes

19. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes

20. Written declarations for entry in the register (Rule 116): see Minutes

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

22. Action taken on Parliament’s positions and resolutions: see Minutes

23. Dates for next sittings: see Minutes

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

(The sitting was closed at 4.50 p.m.)

 

ANNEX (Written answers)
QUESTIONS TO THE COUNCIL (The Presidency-in-Office of the Council of the European Union bears sole responsibility for these answers)
Question no 9 by Brian Crowley (H-1117/05)
 Subject: International terrorism
 

Can the European Council make a statement as to what new legislative initiatives it is promoting so as to defeat the ongoing threat of international terrorism in Europe?

 
  
 

(DE)Many of the legislative proposals currently being discussed in the various bodies of the Council are, in part, related to the fight against terrorism. These include, for example, the new structure for the Schengen information system, the draft framework decision on data protection, the directive on the retention of data, the European evidence warrant, the exchange of law enforcement information, implementation of the principle of availability, and so on.

A comprehensive overview of the Council's legislative priorities for the next few years is included in the Council and Commission Action Plan implementing the Hague Programme on strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union, which was adopted on 2/3 June 2005, and in the EU Action Plan on combating terrorism of June 2004, which is updated twice a year. The latest update to the action plan was adopted by the Permanent Representatives Committee in February 2006.

 

Question no 10 by Claude Moraes (H-1135/05)
 Subject: Radicalisation
 

What action will the Council be taking on the Commission Communication concerning 'Terrorist recruitment: Addressing the factors contributing to violent radicalisation', and does the Council plan any activities around this Communication?

 
  
 

(DE)At its meeting on 1 and 2 December 2005, the Council approved the EU strategy for combating radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism. The Council intends to work actively to follow up the proposals and plans included in the strategy. For example, the draft action plan on combating terrorism, which is currently being discussed in the appropriate bodies of the Council, contains numerous proposals. The Austrian Presidency has also given a high priority to combating radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism.

 

Question no 11 by Bill Newton Dunn (H-1145/05)
 Subject: Europol's Counter-Terrorism Task Force
 

According to the latest evaluation report from EuroPol's Counter-Terrorism Task Force, only six Member States are contributing to its work ‘in a considerable way’, and ‘a very low number’ of officers from national security services have been designated as experts in the Task Force.

Is this a sign of how urgently national governments are treating the threat of terrorism? What is the Council doing, and especially its Joint Situation Centre (SitCen), to improve this situation?

 
  
 

(DE)The report to which the honourable Member refers takes, overall, a positive view of the way in which Europol’s Counter-Terrorism Task Force operates. The fact that only a few Member States have seconded national experts to it, and the remarks on the flow of information, do not allow the conclusion to be drawn that the Member States are not actively engaged in combating terrorism, in that they give no indication as to what use is being made of the Task Force. The fact is that the evaluation report passes an unequivocally favourable judgment on the work of the second Task Force.

As regards SitCen, the Joint Situation Centre, it should be noted that, at the end of October 2005, an agreement was reached between the Council and Europol, according to which the exchange of classified information between Europol and SitCen is permitted. SitCen is also actively collaborating with Europol in many other areas.

 

Question no 12 by Ivo Belet (H-0082/06)
 Subject: Sale of Dutch drugs at the Belgian border
 

On 20 December 2005 Maastricht municipal council in the Netherlands decided to relocate the coffee shops which sell legal drugs in the Netherlands to the border with Belgium to reduce congestion in the town centre.

The Netherlands has, however, subscribed to the joint declaration on Article 71(2) of the Final Act of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement, stating that it would take the necessary administrative and penal measures to prevent and punish the illicit export of narcotic drugs to the territory of other contracting parties.

Has the Belgian government already raised this matter with the Council? Does the Council consider that the decision taken by Maastricht municipal council is compatible with the declaration referred to above? What action does the Council intend to take in this matter?

 
  
 

(DE)The Belgian Government has not yet raised this problem with the Council. The honourable Member's question could therefore not be discussed in Council, and the Council does not currently have an opinion on the matter.

 

Question no 13 by Liam Aylward (H-0119/06)
 Subject: EU Drugs Strategy 2005-2012
 

The EU now has up to two million dependent drug users, and the use of drugs is now at historically high levels.

Can the Council make a statement as to the practical progress that is being made to fully implement the new EU Drugs Strategy 2005-2012?

 
  
 

(DE)The Council would inform the honourable Member that to give effect to the EU Drugs Strategy (2005-2012) it adopted the EU Drugs Action Plan (2005-2008), setting out practical measures to implement the strategy, in June 2005.

The Plan includes clear definitions on the powers and deadlines for implementing the measures for all the main areas of anti-drugs policy, including the reduction of supply and demand, coordination, international cooperation and information, research and evaluation. The Council’s Horizontal Drugs Group is coordinating the measures to be implemented by the Member States, the Commission, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol.

The Commission will be giving the Council and the European Parliament an annual progress report on implementing the action plan and putting forward proposals to eliminate the failings identified and deal with any new challenges. The Commission will be submitting the first progress report in late 2006.

The Horizontal Drugs Group began its deliberations on implementing various measures under the British and Austrian presidencies. A series of subject-related discussions have been held, some of which have concerned the action plan’s implementation. The results of these discussions, on such subjects as cocaine, involving civil society, youth and drugs, and the improved use of research findings, will become apparent in the progress report.

 

Question no 14 by Manuel Medina Ortega (H-0097/06)
 Subject: Actions to promote the reception and integration of immigrants
 

In view of the large numbers of immigrants resident in the EU today, can the Council state what concrete policies it proposes in order to facilitate their reception and integration in our society and economy, especially so as to avoid discrimination against immigrants and the creation of 'two-speed' societies?

 
  
 

(DE)The integration of third-country nationals legally resident in the European Union is a top priority in the Council's admissions policy. The EU has played an important role in the field of integration, and intends to develop its activities in this domain.

Although the Member States have and will continue to have the primary responsibility for adopting and implementing their national integration policies, the EU can support them in this, particularly by promoting the exchange of experiences and good practices.

In November 2004, the Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States adopted conclusions setting out common principles for the integration of immigrants to the European Union. These conclusions contain 11 principles on which the Member States should base their integration policies.

Moreover, the Hague Programme on strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union, which was approved by the European Council in November 2004, calls on the Member States, the Council and the Commission to promote the structured exchange of experience and information in the field of integration, with this exchange being supported by an easily accessible website.

In order to fulfil this task, on 1/2 December 2005 the Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States adopted conclusions on the topic of integration. These conclusions, which build on the Commission communication 'A Common Agenda for Integration - Framework for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals in the European Union', call for greater cooperation in this area, in particular via the network of national contact points on integration. This network, which was set up in 2003 and is supported by the Commission, has taken on an important role in the exchange of information and good practices and made a very valuable contribution to drafting the Handbook on Integration for policy-makers and practitioners, which the Commission published in 2004. A second handbook on issues not covered in the first one is expected to be published in Spring/Summer 2006.

Finally, the subject of integration is also referred to in the Policy Plan on legal migration, which the Commission published in December 2005, as one of the areas where the Commission wants to take further action in future.

 

Question no 15 by Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (H-0099/06)
 Subject: Measures in the field of justice and home affairs to promote the mobility of workers
 

What measures to implement existing Community legislation or what new initiatives is the Council taking in the field of justice and home affairs to facilitate the mobility of EU citizens who are in training or employment and members of their families?

Does the Council consider that European citizens, as a category, take precedence in terms of facilitating their movement for training or work?

 
  
 

(DE)Freedom of movement for citizens of the European Union, workers and their families is fundamentally laid down in Title III of the Treaty establishing the European Community entitled 'Free movement of persons, services and capital'. Under Article 39 of the Treaty, 'freedom of movement for workers shall be secured within the Community' (paragraph 1) and this freedom of movement 'shall entail the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment' (paragraph 2). In line with Article 40 of the Treaty, the European Parliament and the Council have adopted directives and regulations in the codecision procedure to give workers from the Member States freedom of movement. In particular in Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, the previous directives were amended and repealed in order to safeguard the right of citizens of the EU and their families to move and live freely in the territory of the Member States.

As regards the precedence of EU citizens, Article 11 of Directive 2003/109/EC concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents contains provisions on equal treatment for third-country nationals who are long-term residents and nationals in matters such as access to employment and to education and vocational training. On the same basis, the Member States may also retain restrictions to access to employment or self-employed activities in cases where, in accordance with existing national or Community legislation, these activities are reserved to nationals, EU or EEA citizens.

This means that, under Article 14 of this directive, which relates to the right of third-country nationals who are long-term residents to reside in the territory of Member States other than the one which granted them long-term resident status, the Member States may give precedence to EU citizens for labour market policy reasons, if the third-country nationals wish to access employment or self-employed activities.

 

Question no 16 by Laima Liucija Andrikienė (H-0153/06)
 Subject: Impact of the Service Directive on the scale of immigration in the EU and Community immigration policy
 

The adoption of the Service Directive is one of the priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the European Union. Following the European Parliament's vote of 16 February, the process of adoption of the Directive could be completed by the end of the Austrian Presidency.

Does the Presidency-in-Office expect a significant increase in immigration into the EU once the Directive enters into force? What short-term and more long-term effects is its implementation likely to have on immigration and worker mobility in the EU? Will it not lead to a further reform of EU immigration policy?

 
  
 

(DE)As the honourable Member is doubtless aware, the proposal to which she refers creates a legal framework that removes the barriers to the freedom of establishment for service providers and to the free movement of services between the Member States. It is therefore a tool to complete the internal market, and should not be used to facilitate the immigration of family members from third countries into the EU.

 

Question no 17 by Bernd Posselt (H-0114/06)
 Subject: Police cooperation with countries neighbouring the EU
 

What steps does the Presidency of the Council suggest to improve police cooperation with Ukraine, Moldova and the countries of south-eastern Europe? What is the current state of the EU’s fight against cross-border crime with these neighbouring countries?

 
  
 

(DE)On 1 December 2005, the European Union set up the EU Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM). The mission's mandate is laid down in an agreement between the European Commission, Moldova and Ukraine, and is currently funded by the Commission's rapid-reaction mechanism. The head of the mission also acts as the senior policy advisor to the EU special representative for Moldova. The EUBAM is staffed by police and customs officials from the Member States of the EU. It was established at the joint request of the presidents of the Ukraine and Moldova to the EU.

The mission is now fully operational and reports regularly to the Commission, the relevant bodies of the Council, Member States and partner countries. With this mission, the EU is contributing to the fight against cross-border crime and corruption on the Ukraine-Moldova border. The Presidency and the Council are observing the EUBAM's activities closely and are very satisfied with its work.

In addition, the fight against cross-border crime forms part of the action plans with Ukraine and Moldova under the European Neighbourhood Policy.

The Council Decision of 25 October 2004 added Ukraine and Moldova to the list of third countries with which Europol may enter into negotiations; this list includes, inter alia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in accordance with the Council Decision of 13 June 2002.

Moreover, cooperation between law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border in the regions at the EU's external frontiers forms part of the management of borders within the framework of the Schengen acquis, which Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – and in future Romania too – are preparing to apply.

 

Question no 18 by Chris Davies (H-0116/06)
 Subject: Investigative powers for Europol
 

What role for the European Parliament does the Council envisage as it considers how to equip Europol as a body able to investigate cross-border crime throughout the EU?

 
  
 

(DE)The European Parliament’s role is set out in Article 34 of the Europol Convention. Once the third Protocol amending the Europol Convention(1) has come into force, the arrangements for informing the European Parliament about Europol’s activities will be further improved. Until then, the Presidency, acting with the support of the Director of Europol, intends to keep the European Parliament regularly informed about Europol’s activities and to start an open dialogue with Parliament on any issues which may arise.

A fundamental debate on the development of Europol has been initiated under the Austrian Presidency and is set to continue over several subsequent Presidencies. Europol’s role as the key instrument in police cooperation in the EU is to be strengthened. In addition to this discussion of the nature of Europol’s future role, Austria is also calling for an exchange of views on a modernisation of Europol’s legal basis.

The interior and justice ministers of the 25 EU Member States have already discussed the future of Europol at their meeting from 12 to 14 January 2006 in Vienna. They gave a clear commitment to strengthening Europol and the Austrian Presidency agreed to draw up an ‘options report’ setting out possible ways of developing Europol’s future role. With a view to improving the EU’s inner security, the Member States called for a strengthening of Europol’s operational capabilities. A clear remit for and a clear allocation of responsibilities to Europol are equally important.

As regards Europol’s future development, an extension of its powers beyond the current legal framework would necessitate the amendment of the Europol Convention. The European Parliament’s role will also have to be considered as part of the debate on Europol’s future tasks. Once formal proposals have been put forward, the European Parliament will be consulted, pursuant to Article 39 of the Treaty on European Union, and due account will be taken of its standpoint.

 
 

(1) OJ C 2, 6.1.2004, p. 1.

 

Question no 19 by Dimitrios Papadimoulis (H-0118/06)
 Subject: Meeting of Council on Justice and Home Affairs in December 2005
 

The press release issued by the Council after the meeting of the Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs (1-2 December 2005) states that, in the context of 'combating terrorism', a series of documents were agreed on, including: (1) a new EU strategy for terrorism (14469/4/05), (2) a report on implementation of the action plan (14734/1/05), (3) a strategy for combating radicalisation and recruitment (14781/1/05), (4) an evaluation of national arrangements, (5) policy recommendations on counter-terrorism, (6) a report on combating terrorism financing, and (7) EU emergency and crisis-coordination arrangements. While the press release states the reference numbers and content of the first three documents, there is no information at all about the other four.

Could the Council provide details of the content of the other four documents and say why they are not available to the public? The press release refers to 'a series of documents'. Did the Council also approve any other documents at this particular meeting in addition to the 7 referred to above?

 
  
 

(DE)In response to both questions, the Council would first of all like to point out that all of the documents that it examined and/or approved at its meeting on 1/2 December 2005 are either on the provisional agenda (1) or on the list of A points (2), which were drawn up and published on 30 November 2005 in view of this Council.

As can be seen from the press release (3) to which the honourable Member refers, the Council did indeed adopt or approve other documents (4) at its meeting on 1/2 December 2005, in addition to the seven documents mentioned in his question. If, however, the question relates only to documents on combating terrorism, the Council did not adopt or approve any documents on this matter other than the seven listed in the press release. Six of these seven documents were made available to the public either shortly before or immediately after the Council.

The Council would also like to inform the honourable Member that, if a document has already been or can be made available to the public, its press service informs the public once the document has been adopted or approved by the Council, putting the number of the relevant document in brackets in its press releases.

The honourable Members will therefore find the references to the documents on combating terrorism on pages 7, 8, 25 and 26 of the aforesaid press release.

The seventh document, which is classified as 'RESTREINT UE' (5), contains a range of detailed recommendations for combating terrorism. I am sure that the honourable Member will understand that, in view of the operational importance of these recommendations, the Council is not currently in a position to provide more detailed information regarding the content of this document.

 
 

(1) Doc. 14989/05 OJ/CONS 66 JAI 461 of 30 November 2005.
(2) Doc. 15055/05 PTS A 55.
(3) Doc. 14390/05 (Presse 296).
(4) See in particular Doc. 14390/05 (Presse 296), p. 24 et seq. ('Other items approved').
(5) Doc. 14732/05 ENFOPOL 161 RESTREINT UE.

 

Question no 20 by Maria Berger (H-0147/06)
 Subject: Monitoring of practices in connection with the issuing of visas
 

Even though I raised this issue in 2004, the Council, or the Standing Committee on Schengen Evaluation, has thus far refused to carry out effective monitoring of the practices employed by the Member States in connection with the issuing of visas. In the light of events at Austrian and other consulates, does the Council not see a need to change this passive approach?

 
  
 

(DE)When assessing the application of the Schengen acquis with regard to visas, it needs to be determined whether the methods used by the Member States, the human resources they employ, the set-up of their consular services and the measures they take to train their staff are sufficient to guarantee the satisfactory application of the Common Consular Instructions. Investigation of suspected irregularities is not a matter for the Council; nor is investigation in cases where fraud in issuing visas is suspected, which is a matter for the Member States.

 

Question no 21 by Sajjad Karim (H-0161/06)
 Subject: UK: the erosion of human rights in the fight against terrorism
 

The UK's legitimate fight against terrorism has generated a system of laws and practices, including internment, control orders and deportation proceedings, which has led to gross violations of human rights. Legislation has eroded the powers and independence of the judiciary, undermining its role in the enforcement of anti-terrorism legislation. Seeking diplomatic assurances from third countries, to allow for the deportation of persons to countries where they are at risk of torture and failure to meet obligations regarding abuses committed by third states, through the evasion of responsibilities concerning rendition flights, poses a threat to the absolute prohibition of torture. The UK also seeks to circumvent domestic and international obligations in relation to actions of its personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo.

Existing national checks and balances are insufficient to prevent abuses of power by the state. If the EU remains silent in the face of abuses carried out by Member States, it risks losing credibility.

How far does the Council scrutinise national practices in this area? Does the Council see the use of Article 7 TEU as anything more than a theoretical threat? How does the Council plan to use its political power to promote, as a matter of urgency, a real debate on the human rights issues at stake and the EU instruments that can be developed within the EU framework?

 
  
 

(DE)Bilateral agreements and contacts between Member States and third countries concerning deportation of their nationals and their internal legislation referred to by the honourable Member do not fall within the Council's terms of reference.

EU Member States are required to respect their commitments under international law, including the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Furthermore, all Member States are signatories to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, of which Article 3 states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The European Court of Justice offers effective protective mechanisms against deportation in infringement of this ban, Rule 39 providing for interim measures making it possible to delay wrongful deportation pending a final decision. In addition, the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishments provides for the protection of detainees by non-judicial means of a preventive nature, involving regular or, where necessary, ad hoc visits by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPE).

Respect for human rights is central to EU anti-terrorism strategy, a principle which will continue to be given the greatest importance regarding the future development of this strategy.

 

Question no 22 by Christa Prets (H-0162/06)
 Subject:Austrian EU Presidency action to combat trafficking in women
 

What specific action will be taken during the Austrian EU Presidency to combat the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation?

What measures are to be taken with regard to trafficking in women and forced prostitution in connection with the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the 2008 European Football Championship in Austria?

 
  
 

(DE)Combating human trafficking is one of the Austrian Presidency's priorities.

The Council adopted the Action Plan for combating trafficking in human beings on 1/2 December 2005, and the Austrian Presidency will observe the follow-up measures necessary to implement it very closely.

At its meeting on 27 and 28 April 2006, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will discuss in detail the question of what measures Germany will take in order to prevent an increase in trafficking in women and prostitution during the football World Cup.

 

Question no 23 by Richard Seeber (H-0167/06)
 Subject: The Hague Programme 2005-2010
 

Cooperation on justice and home affairs at EU level is supposed to be strengthened by the Hague Programme (2005-2010). What objectives has the Council set itself?

 
  
 

(DE)The Hague Programme, adopted by the Council on 4 November 2004, aims to strengthen cooperation between the Member States in the domains of justice and internal affairs in the period 2005-2010, in order to make Europe an 'area of freedom, security and justice'. In this context, the Council and the Commission adopted an action plan on 2 and 3 June 2005 to implement the Hague Programme through specific measures in three fields of action: strengthening freedom, particularly with regard to asylum, immigration and borders; strengthening security, in particular due to police and customs cooperation; and finally strengthening justice, both in the field of criminal law and in the field of civil and commercial law.

Europe is above all an area of freedom.

Europe is also – according to the Hague Programme – an area of security.

Finally, the action plan to implement the Hague Programme will strengthen justice in both criminal and civil law.

In criminal law, the EU is endeavouring to strike an effective balance between fighting crime and protecting fundamental rights. In the first field of action, the Council is extending its application of the principle of mutual recognition and is promoting the harmonisation of legislation: the adoption of the European arrest warrant represents an important first step in this connection; and the European evidence warrant is another important step. In addition, Austria, together with Finland and Sweden, has proposed an initiative for a framework decision on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to judicial decisions in criminal matters imposing a custodial sentence, for the purposes of enforcement in the EU; this is currently being discussed at working group level. This initiative, which is one of the Austrian Presidency's priorities, regulates the commitment of convicted persons to their country of origin to serve the sentence imposed in the country of conviction.

In terms of fundamental rights, the Presidency's work programme includes the establishment of a European Fundamental Rights Agency, to supersede the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, as one of its top priorities.

In civil law, the Council is determined to press on with measures for the mutual recognition and enforcement of judicial decisions throughout the territory of the EU, and thus to make it possible to create a true area of justice in civil and commercial matters. In this connection, the adoption of the Rome II proposal on the rules regarding non-contractual obligations should constitute a significant step forward. The Council is working particularly hard to promote cooperation between the individual players and to improve the civil judicial network. A third objective involves ensuring the consistency of civil law in all areas within the European area and in the external actions of the Community. This objective serves, for example, to conclude bilateral or multilateral agreements such as a new Lugano Agreement.

 

Question no 24 by Paul Rübig (H-0168/06)
 Subject: Judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters
 

Judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters can greatly benefit individual EU citizens if they are confronted with a legal dispute in connection with their cross-border transactions. In many cases, various EU legal acts which have already been adopted and which are implemented in practice make it possible for a more local court to recognise and enforce existing decisions more easily, and also cover the cross-border provision of aid with the cost of legal proceedings for all stages of the procedure.

What measures is the Council taking, or does it plan to take, to make the public aware of what has been achieved to date in making it easier to enforce cross-border legal claims? In what way could the provision of such information be supplemented and extended?

 
  
 

(DE)With regard to judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters, a number of milestones have been placed over the past few years. For example, cross-border consumer protection has been extended and strengthened. However, in sensitive areas too, relating to child welfare, for example, rules are already in existence on the mutual recognition and enforcement of custody and visiting rights. There is no doubt that this ongoing ‘communitarisation’ in ever more numerous areas of the law has made more legal remedies available to individual citizens of the EU. The recently proposed Council regulation on the whole area of the law on maintenance is the next step in this development, and the meetings of working groups on it organised by the Austrian presidency began as long ago as February.

The task of making EU citizens aware of what has been achieved thus far is not for any one presidency alone. A great deal of information is already available to the public and the range is being extended on a continuous basis. One particularly valuable instrument in this respect is the European Commission’s Judicial Atlas on the Internet, which provides comprehensive information and help in all areas of the law. It should always be remembered, though, that not every EU citizen will have regular dealings with the judicial system and with court proceedings. This numerous category of persons was formerly in the fortunate position of not having to commence judicial proceedings in order to defend their rights at law. Austria is therefore supporting all efforts towards supplying the largest possible amount of information to the EU public, so that private individuals know, should the worst happen, what is actually possible and to which offices they should address themselves. Good and comprehensive information can, however, be provided only and always through the joint efforts of all the institutions involved, and so Austria will, specifically at official level, maintain, as it previously has done, intensive contact with the European Parliament and the Commission.

The Council takes the view that judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters is of the utmost importance to the European public, and so such issues as family, business and employment law and good cooperation in these areas between the courts of the Member States assume importance in their lives.

The Council has introduced three types of initiative for informing the European public as to what has been embarked on in this area, and so it was that, in 2005, a book was put together and published containing the most important legal acts adopted by the Council in this area and an explanation of their content. This publication is primarily aimed at members of the legal professions.

The second initiative involved the production of a ten-minute-long film, available on CD-ROM and intended to explain in simple terms what the European Union is doing in this area. The film was produced in 2005 and is aimed at those members of the public who do not necessarily have any direct connection with the legal professions.

The third measure consists in the participation by the responsible officials of the Council in conferences, seminars or other initiatives in the course of which the EU’s work in the field of judicial cooperation in civil matters may be communicated and explained to judges, advocates, notaries, other members of the legal professions and to the general public.

As regards its future efforts, it is the Council’s intention to update the book and the film in 2007 and to continue to participate in relevant conferences and seminars. The Council is currently considering other measures in order to make available even more complete and comprehensive information on European judicial cooperation in civil matters.

 

Question no 25 by Othmar Karas (H-0176/06)
 Subject: Regulation on service of documents
 

However mundane and technical the cross-border service of judicial and extrajudicial documents may appear at first sight, it is of the utmost importance in the interest of the efficiency and public acceptance of a ‘European jurisdiction’ that the system for the service of legal documents should function properly. Rapid progress in this area would be particularly welcome. That being so, what in the Council’s view is the likelihood of the proposed improvement to the Regulation on cross-border service of documents, which is so important for practical reasons, being concluded at first reading under the Austrian Presidency?

 
  
 

(DE)The Council does indeed take the view that it would be reasonable to do everything possible to enable an agreement to be reached with Parliament at first reading stage. It is with that in mind that discussions are currently in progress with representatives of the European Parliament to the end that solutions may be found that are acceptable to Parliament, the Council and the Commission.

 

Question no 26 by Hubert Pirker (H-0178/06)
 Subject: European Judicial Network
 

What are the strengths of the European Judicial Network (EJN) as compared to other European-level institutions, particularly Eurojust, in terms of improving and speeding up judicial cooperation in criminal matters between the Member States? In the Council's opinion, which tasks should be given priority when expanding the EJN? What steps falling within the competence of the judicial authorities have been taken at EU level on the highly important topic of combating terrorism?

 
  
 

(DE)Both institutions, the European Judicial Network and Eurojust, have their own strengths and functions in improving and speeding up judicial cooperation between the Member States in criminal cases.

The European Judicial Network operates at various levels within the Member States in accordance with the laws of the Member State in question. Its contact points liaise with representatives of the justice authorities of their own country and of others and cooperate with them on a day-to-day basis. The IT tools that the EJN has developed, which help to facilitate communication between the contact points and to circulate information on the various legal systems and the legal remedies that the individual Member States are able to provide, make the EJN, when combined with Eurojust, an indispensable partner in combating cross-border organised crime.

The EJN has often shown itself more suitable as an institution for dealing with bilateral cases, although such cases can also often be of such an order of complexity that they should be handled by Eurojust. The close connection between the two institutions made it necessary for guidelines to be produced on their dealings with one another in practice.

In addition, several Member States have organised practical cooperation between the contact points and the national members of Eurojust, by, for example, designating contact points as deputy national members of Eurojust. Both institutions are responsible for the combating of serious and organised crime and terrorism, although these agreements on mutual cooperation did ensure that scarce resources would be used as efficiently as possible.

The EU regards the fight against terrorism as one of its priorities, even though tackling terrorism is primarily a task for the Member States and their authorities. The EU is able, by means of what it terms its strategic commitment, guided by the principle of 'combating terrorism globally while respecting human rights, and making Europe safer, allowing its citizens to live in an area of freedom, security and justice', to contribute to the fight against terrorism in four areas:

Prevention: We need to prevent people turning to terrorism by tackling the factors or root causes which can lead to radicalisation and recruitment, in Europe and internationally.

Protection: At the same time, we need to protect citizens and infrastructure and reduce our vulnerability to attack, including through improved security of borders, transport and critical infrastructure.

Repression: It is necessary to pursue and investigate terrorists across our borders and globally; to impede planning, travel, and communications; to disrupt support networks; to cut off funding and access to attack materials; and bring terrorists to justice.

Reaction: We need to prepare ourselves to manage and minimise the consequences of a terrorist attack, by improving capabilities to deal with: the aftermath; the coordination of the response; and the needs of victims.

By adopting general legal instruments on judicial cooperation, such as the 2000 agreement on mutual assistance in criminal matters and the European Arrest Warrant, the EU can support the Member States in combating terrorism by guaranteeing efficient cooperation between the judicial authorities. The Council can also, by adopting specific legal instruments, such as the Council decision of 20 September 2005 on the exchange of information and cooperation concerning terrorist offences, ensure that Eurojust (and Europol) have access to specific information on current investigations, in order to be able, in accordance with their mandates, to assist the national authorities in performing their functions.

 

Question no 27 by Pedro Guerreiro (H-0107/06)
 Subject: Report on Israeli policy in East Jerusalem
 

The Council has decided not to publish the report on Israeli policy in East Jerusalem which has been submitted by diplomats from EU countries who are posted to the Occupied Territories. The report apparently contains a detailed analysis of what those diplomats describe as Israel's deliberate policy of pursuing the annexation of East Jerusalem and draws attention to the fact that the country's action constitutes an infringement of the obligations laid down in international law: Israel has adopted a strategy of completely surrounding the city with settlements and of isolating the Palestinian part of Jerusalem from the other Palestinian territories, thereby compromising the viability of a future Palestinian state.

Is the Council intending to reconsider its position and to publish the report and the recommendations which it contains?

 
  
 

(DE)The issues to which the honourable Member's question refers were discussed by Secretary of State Hans Winkler in his speech to the plenary sitting of the European Parliament on 1 February 2006, and by Mr Jack Straw, the UK Foreign Secretary, at the press conference following the meeting of the General Affairs and Foreign Relations Council on 12 December 2005.

The Council had asked the relevant Council departments to draw up an in-depth analysis of the situation in East Jerusalem on the basis of reports from the EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah. The Council decided that this study would not be published by the EU, which would instead continue to make strong representations to the Israeli Government. Secretary of State Winkler informed the European Parliament that, in the meantime, two démarches had been undertaken, one by the EU troika on 19 December 2005 to the Israeli foreign ministry and one by the Presidency to the major Israeli political parties on 23 December 2005.

The Council remains fully aware of every aspect of the East Jerusalem issue.

 

Question no 28 by Georgios Toussas (H-0108/06)
 Subject: US provocation of Cuba
 

In line with the numerous provocative acts by the USA against the people and government of Cuba, the US Interests Section in Havana has projected a provocative, laser-illuminated display of messages targeting the Cuban revolution. Such actions are a flagrant violation of the basic principles of international law and are unprecedented in the diplomatic history of international relations.

Does the Council condemn this manifestly hostile act by the USA against Cuba, which violates both international law and the sovereign rights of States?

 
  
 

(DE)The Council has not discussed this issue, which has to do with bilateral relations between third countries.

 

Question no 29 by Seán Ó Neachtain (H-0109/06)
 Subject: Erasmus programme
 

In the year 2005, EUR 17 million was made available to support 260 projects under the Erasmus programme.

Can the Council state what measures it intends to undertake to expand the operation of the Erasmus programme into the future?

 
  
 

(DE)The Council would respectfully remind the honourable Member that in general the implementation of Community programmes such as the Erasmus programme is the sole responsibility of the Commission and through it the network of national administrative bodies involved. The Council is therefore not in a position to know immediately how many projects will be finally selected and what amounts will be allocated to them.

Regarding the specific question of possible future expansion of the programme referred to by the honourable Member, the Council would like to point out that European Parliament and Council deliberations concerning the financial framework for the future integrated lifelong learning programme, which will encompass the Erasmus and all other programmes related to education, have not yet been concluded. The scope and framework of the Erasmus programme and the allocation of funds to individual programmes within the financial ceiling for the period 2007-2013 will depend on the final outcome of current deliberations between Parliament and Council concerning the financial ceiling, bearing in mind also the conclusions reached by the European Council in December 2005.

 

Question no 30 by Robert Evans (H-0125/06)
 Subject: Enlargement
 

What does the Council consider were the major lessons learnt from the enlargement of the EU in 2004? How will these lessons be applied as future enlargement approaches?

 
  
 

(DE)The Council has not carried out any comprehensive evaluation of the outcome and impact of the latest enlargement of the European Union. However, it is clear from initial results that the 2004 enlargement was very successful and that initial fears of institutional paralysis, for example, were exaggerated.

As the honourable Member will no doubt be aware, in the consultation on future enlargement and the Commission's 2005 strategy paper, on 12 December 2005, the Council came to the conclusion that the strategy paper forms a good basis for the further consultations which will have to be held on this topic in 2006. The Council also agreed that the following aspects must be carefully considered in the debate:

EU-wide support for the enlargement process must be consolidated and developed. In this connection particular consideration should be given to publicity work and to the views of citizens, with the Union’s capacity for absorbing new members remaining an important aspect of our deliberations.

The conditionality principle must be applied fairly but strictly at all stages of the process.

The candidate countries and the countries of the Western Balkans must continue to receive strong encouragement, in the form of re-affirmation of their European prospects, as they progress along the road to reform and stability; the effective implementation of agreements with the EU is part of this process.

The Austrian Presidency is currently considering what form such a debate could best take, particularly given that the main objective is greater clarity and better communications, and it will at any event take account of the experience of the 2004 EU enlargement.

 

Question no 31 by Aloyzas Sakalas (H-0144/06)
 Subject: Agreement between Germany and Russia on the construction of a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea
 

In early September 2005, a Member State of the European Union, Germany, signed a bilateral agreement with Russia concerning the construction of a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. The pipeline is to run alongside four EU Member States bordering on the Baltic Sea (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) and is detrimental to the energy and environmental interests of these states.

Does the Council think that an EU Member State (Germany) should be able unilaterally to conclude an agreement with a third country (Russia) concerning the construction of a gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, when its implementation will affect and directly harm the very important interests of other EU Member States?

 
  
 

(DE)The North European gas pipeline is a private business project involving the participation of enterprises from Russia and from EU Member States. It is not a joint project between Russia and a single Member State.

The North European gas pipeline is part of the trans-European energy networks (decision of the European Parliament and the Council of 26 June 2003, confirmed by the energy ministers’ decision of 28 June 2005).

The Council does not, as a matter of principle, wish to comment on private business agreements. At the same time, it should be noted that the Council, in view of the latest developments in the energy sector, will be discussing issues relating to energy at the spring summit of the European Council in March 2006.

 

Question no 32 by Jacky Henin (H-0152/06)
 Subject: Council Regulation on the indication of the country of origin of certain products imported from third countries COM(2005)0661 final - ACC 2005/0254
 

The proposal for a Council Regulation on the indication of the country of origin is a first step towards providing consumers with honest information and protecting European know-how.

This regulation will help to safeguard employment in the Union by limiting the number of cases of unfair competition: a company from EU country X will no longer be able with impunity to manufacture a product in a third country and affix a label saying ‘made in X’ in order to promote sales fraudulently.

European cutlery industry professionals are asking for cutlery products, which involve a huge variety of artisanal skills, to be listed in the annex to the proposal for a regulation. The future of the European cutlery industry and thousands of skilled jobs are at stake.

Will the Council respond to this request by adding to the regulation’s annex the products in Chapter 82 of the ‘European Combined Nomenclature’, and in particular the following codes: 82.08, 82.11, 82.12, 82.13, 82.14 and 82.15?

 
  
 

(DE)On 16 December 2005, the Commission presented its proposal for a Council Regulation on the indication of the country of origin of certain products imported from third countries. This regulation would be applicable to certain commercial products, which were listed in an annex to it.

As the Council’s departments responsible for the preparation of legislation have only just now started to examine this proposal, it is not possible to predict whether, and if so when, the proposed regulation will be adopted, or to which products it will apply.

The Council is obliged for the suggestions contained in the question and will consider them in its deliberations.

 

Question no 33 by Athanasios Pafilis (H-0160/06)
 Subject: Major resurgence of fascism in Latvia
 

The Latvian Parliament (Seim) recently voted to expel one of its members, Nikolai Kabanov, from the International Affairs Committee as a 'disciplinary measure' in response to his involvement in a screening of a film entitled 'Nazism in the Baltic' depicting the actions of the 'SS legions'. He was accused of acting 'against the interests of the State' and of addressing in Russian a meeting being held in the Latvian parliamentary chamber.

Following this unacceptable political decision which can only be interpreted as a gesture of support for efforts to justify past membership of the SS in Latvia, what view does the Council take of the increasingly pro-Nazi leanings of the Latvian authorities? What does it think of calls for the ban on Communist Party activities to be lifted, the overturning of undemocratic election laws preventing members of the former Communist parties and other organisations from participating in national and local elections and the enfranchisement of a large (Russian speaking ) section of the Latvian population deprived of its civic rights since 1991?

 
  
 

(DE)It is not part of the Council’s competences to intervene in votes in the parliament of one of its Member States.

However, the Council does firmly repudiate assertions of what are claimed to be ‘pro-Nazi leanings’ on the part of the Latvian authorities. Such assertions have no basis in fact. The President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Latvia have on many occasions condemned totalitarianism in all its forms. On 14 February 2006, the Latvian Foreign Minister, Mr Pabriks, made the following statement: ‘We categorically condemn the Holocaust and genocide, as well as the activities of those persons who continue to be adherents of such ideologies. The rise in racist and xenophobic offence in various European states is evidence of the fact that the totalitarian ideologies have not gone away. Both society in general and the institutions responsible for maintaining law and order in Latvia must continue to work at uprooting extremism.’

It was on 10 September 1991 that the Latvian parliament voted to ban the Latvian Communist Party, which, at the time, constituted a sub-group of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and had, for as long as the Soviet Union lasted, operated as a de facto part of the government.

Where it is established that rights under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of assembly) or the First Protocol thereto (right to free elections), appeal can be made to the European Court of Human Rights.

As regards the general issue of promotion of the principle of non-discrimination in the EU, the Council has adopted a package of measures to combat such occurrences, notably two directives(1), to which a Community action plan on the combating of discrimination, to run for a period of six years, has been added.

The European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, based in Vienna, is also giving additional assistance. In December 2003, the European heads of state and of government resolved that the mandate of the EUMC should be extended with the effect of making it an Agency for Fundamental Rights and an addition to the existing machinery for protecting fundamental rights. The Agency will assist and advise the EU institutions and the Member States, thereby constituting a further step towards the realisation of a more effective and more coherent human rights policy in the EU.

 
 

(1) The Directive implementing the principle of equal treatment regardless of race or ethnic origin (2000/43/EC) and the Employment Framework Directive (2000/87/EC).

 

Question no 34 by John Bowis (H-0164/06)
 Subject: Diabetes
 

What was the outcome of the Presidency’s conference on diabetes?

 
  
 

(DE)Type 2 diabetes is a serious chronic disease which is becoming more widespread and which is increasingly affecting younger people. For this reason, the prevention of type 2 diabetes and its concomitant complications constitutes an important public health concern.

In order to step up the transfer of knowledge and consider possible steps to be adopted at EU level, the Austrian Presidency brought this issue to the fore and, with the support of the European Commission, organised a conference which brought together 200 experts from all the Member States and the applicant countries, in order to consider what initiatives were necessary and to put forward suggestions for future strategies. The experts represented various professions (healthcare, national authorities, diabetes and patient associations as well as representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the WHO).

The following four issues were given particular consideration in four parallel working parties:

Prevention of cardiovascular diseases in conjunction with diabetes

Disease management –reduction of diabetes-related complications

Primary prevention of type 2 diabetes

Social and gender-specific aspects of type 2 diabetes

The experts concluded that the Council should issue a recommendation on the prevention, early diagnosis and disease management of diabetes. This should contain suggested European data standards for diabetes and should explicitly address issues such as disadvantaged social groups, women of child-bearing age and the danger of discrimination.

Moreover, it was noted that appropriate measures to tackle diabetes required coordinated national diabetes programmes in all Member States covering, inter alia, prevention and early diagnosis. Particular importance should be attached to raising awareness of healthy lifestyles, since this was proven to be effective and could, if broadly implemented, have an effect on the health of future generations. The swift implementation of national diabetes programmes should be a priority.

The results of the conference would be documented in a conference report and presented in a summarised form to the health ministers at the informal meeting on 25/26 April 2006.

 

Question no 35 by Manolis Mavrommatis (H-0170/06)
 Subject: Transposition of internal market directives
 

The six-monthly report by the Commission’s Directorate-General for the Internal Market regarding the incorporation of Community law into the national legislation of the Member States has revealed numerous cases of non-compliance. It would appear that Austria is the country which acts most promptly in this respect, given that, on 1 December 2005, only 1.5% of directives remained to be fully implemented, while in Luxembourg, for example, the figure was 4.4%. What action does the Council intend to take to remedy shortcomings regarding the transposition and implementation of internal market provisions?

 
  
 

(DE)The Council has stated repeatedly that it regards the prompt and correct transposition of the internal market directives into Member States’ domestic legislation as extremely important, since it is indispensable to the functioning of the internal market. At its meetings in 2001 in Stockholm and the following year in Barcelona, the European Council set quantitative goals for the reduction of the transposition deficit, laying down a maximum of 1.5%, and it is evident that this prompted the Member States to redouble their efforts in this regard. It is clear from the Commission’s latest information (Internal Market Scoreboard 14a, February 2006) that all 25 Member States have made remarkable progress in reducing the transposition deficit, some of them reducing it to as low as 1.6%. This does not, admittedly, achieve the 1.5% target, but it is the best result yet achieved. This progress notwithstanding, the level of transposition varies from one Member State to another. It therefore follows that even more needs to be done to create the conditions for a fully-functioning internal market. The Council and the European Council will therefore follow with close attention the further developments in the transposition of the internal market directives, and will, in so doing, rely on the documentation regularly presented in the Internal Market Scoreboard and on other relevant Commission communications. They may well have to further insist on all Member States transposing Community law, giving effect to it and implementing it to its fullest extent, so that members of the public and businesses may be able to avail themselves of the benefits of the internal market.

 

Question no 36 by Frank Vanhecke (H-0171/06)
 Subject: Human rights situation in Algeria and Jordan
 

On 4 February 2006, the Jordanian authorities arrested Mr al-Mu'mani and Mr Hashim al-Khalidi, the publishers of Mehwar, because the newspaper had published the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed which had first appeared in Jyllands-Posten in Denmark. On 12 February 2006 the publishers were released on bail, but they are shortly to appear in court.

In Algeria, the authorities have apparently closed down two daily newspapers, Panorama and Essafir, and arrested two publishers, Mr Kamel Bousaad and Mr Berkana Bouderbala, for publishing the same cartoons.

What will the Council do to ensure that Algeria and Jordan respect their obligations regarding human rights and democracy pursuant to their association agreements with the EU? What sanctions does the Council envisage imposing if these obligations are not complied with?

 
  
 

(DE)Last year, the European Union and Jordan agreed on an extensive action plan under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The objects of this action plan include support for the reform process that Jordan has initiated. One of the four priorities set by this reform strategy is to strengthen the media and to make them more professional while also developing an independent media sector. Despite the difficult geographical and political conditions in that country, Jordan, its government, and King Abdullah personally, have set themselves the task of moving political reform forward and consolidating democracy, accountability, transparency and justice, and to become a model of a modern, knowledge-based, Islamic and Arab country. It has to be said, though, that Jordan is itself well aware of the fact that this process will be a long one and not always easy.

It is with specific reference to the press that action is to be taken, as a priority under the ENP action plan, to further develop freedom of the media and of the expression of opinion. At the meeting in June last year of the EU-Jordan sub-committee on human rights, democracy and governance, the EU and Jordan discussed the current position of Jordanian legislation, the legal framework and the training programmes for journalists. These discussions will continue. The EU regards itself as under an obligation to support Jordan in this process.

On Algeria

The first meeting of the EU/Algeria Association Council will be held on 21 March 2006. It will represent a resumption of bilateral contacts at ministerial level between the EU and Algeria, the last ministerial troika meeting having been held in Algiers in November 2003.

The honourable Member may be assured that the EU will, in the course of the political dialogue on democracy and human rights, raise its concerns about the freedom of the press in Algeria and in particular about the way in which many journalists have, by means of the systematic and inappropriate use of the law on defamation, been harassed, fined and imprisoned.

 

Question no 37 by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (H-0181/06)
 Subject: The right to strike and measures to ensure economic, territorial and social cohesion in the Member States
 

Over the last few days an extended seamen's strike in Greece has caused major difficulties in terms of territorial economic and social cohesion (regarding the supply of food and fuels to island communities, the transport of invalids, etc.). While the right of workers to strike is indisputably established being codified in Article 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union Article 36 of the same Charter and Article II-96 of the European Constitution state that the European Union recognises and respects access to services of general economic interest as provided for in national laws and practices in order to promote the social and territorial cohesion of the Union and its competitivity.

Does the Council agree that massive strike action of this kind infringes the right of European citizens to access to basic services and undermines the proper function of internal market mechanisms? Does the Council have any comparative studies and information on responses to such situations in the various Member States? Does it agree that measures should be taken to ensure the compulsory provision of minimum services as is already the case in certain Member States?

 
  
 

(DE)Although the honourable Member is right to say that Article 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights accords workers the right to take collective action in defence of their interests, including going on strike, the same article does go on to state that they enjoy that right subject to Community law and to the legislation and practice of individual Member States. Since, however, the EC Treaty removed the right to strike from the scope of Article 137, issues connected with strike action are matters of solely national responsibility.

The Council takes note of the difficulties caused by the latest strikes of seafarers in Greece. No comparative studies are available to the Council of how similar situations are handled in other Member States, and it may be that the Commission is in possession of such information.

 

Question no 38 by Ryszard Czarnecki (H-0187/06)
 Subject: Removal of barriers to an EU-wide labour market
 

Has the Austrian Presidency made an assessment of the increase in the number of workers from the 'new' Member States following the removal of barriers to an EU-wide labour market, particularly in countries such as Austria and Germany, which are clearly delaying this process?

 
  
 

(DE)Under the 2003 accession treaty, the decision as to whether or not to continue with the transitional arrangements applicable to freedom of movement is solely a matter for the Member States concerned. Those Member States that wish to continue to apply the transitional arrangement for a further three years after 30 April 2006 must notify the Commission to that effect by that date.

The Austrian Presidency takes the view that the Member States should take their decisions without bias and on the basis of the report, presented by the Commission on 8 February 2006, on the implementation of the transitional rules laid down in the 2003 accession treaty and of the differing situations obtaining in them, while also taking into account all relevant factors relating to the migration of workers. Prime among these factors is the condition of the economy and labour market in the Member States concerned, since it is this that will determine whether it can be guaranteed, at least within a reasonable and predictable period, that migrant workers will be able to support themselves with their income from labour. In addition to that, it is to be expected that the geographical situation will play a crucial part in reaching the decision, since the extent of migration is likely to be determined largely by the distance between the country of origin and the place of work.

Following the presentation and discussion of the Commission’s report at the meeting of the Council (Employment, social policy, health and consumer protection) on 10 March 2006, the Member States are currently examining all factors of relevance to their decision on the continuation of the transitional arrangements, in particular the situation in their own labour markets. It goes without saying that the Member States will come to this decision only after careful consideration and on the basis of an objective evaluation.

 

Question no 39 by Antonio Masip Hidalgo (H-0188/06)
 Subject: Community regulation on family maintenance obligations
 

Maintenance payments are often vital to those in need, and the fact that this area of legislation is subject to unanimity in the Council causes problems and delays.

In view of this, what position does the Presidency think the Council should take on the Commission’s request that the proposal for a Community regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions, and cooperation in matters relating to family maintenance obligations should be subject to the codecision procedure, rather than requiring unanimity? In short, what role does the Presidency think the European Parliament should play in this matter? Should it have a merely consultative role (as would be the case if unanimity is retained), or a legislative role (codecision)?

 
  
 

(DE)The Council would remind the honourable Member of the Commission’s statement, in its proposal for a regulation on maintenance obligations, that such matters are subject to family law and that the hearings procedure laid down in the Treaty is therefore applicable.

The Council has also already started to deliberate the question of whether it is desirable to do as the Commission suggested in its communication to the Council and apply Article 251 of the Treaty to the measures taken under Article 65 of the Treaty establishing the European Community to deal with maintenance obligations.

Following initial deliberations in the relevant Council departments, the Council has decided to consult the European Parliament regarding a regulation on maintenance obligations, without, however, thereby pre-empting further proceedings in respect of the proposal put forward by the Commission in its communication for applying the procedure under Article 251 to issues relating to maintenance obligations.

 

Question no 40 by Anna Hedh (H-0189/06)
 Subject: Problem of increased consumption of alcohol by young people in Europe
 

Gratifyingly, there is a tendency for general alcohol consumption in Europe to decline, but in the case of young people the opposite trend may be observed. Girls, in particular, are drinking more, and young people are drinking at earlier and earlier ages. This is indicated by an as yet unpublished report produced for the Commission. There are many causes. The social climate has become harsher, with unemployment and growing demands, but young people have also become more independent and have more money nowadays. The alcohol industry is naturally responding to all these trends and focusing on young people in the range of beverages it offers and in advertising.

One death in four in the 15-29 age group in Europe is due to alcohol-related road accidents, poisonings, suicides and murders, according to statistics supplied by the WHO, which is calling for higher taxes on alcohol in order to stem the trend. What will the Presidency do to alter this tragic trend in alcohol consumption among young people in Europe?

 
  
 

(DE)The Council is obliged to the honourable lady Member for taking up this important issue.

Alcohol is one of the health issues included in the Council work programme for 2006 as presented by the Austrian Presidency and by its Finnish future successor.

The Commission will, in Spring 2006, be presenting its communication on the European Union’s strategy against alcohol abuse and will be explaining it to the Council at its meeting on 1-2 June 2006.

Following the presentation of this communication, it is the Council’s intention that an exchange of views should take place at ministerial level and should give particular attention to the problem of increasing alcohol consumption by young people.

The Health Group will also consider the question of what action should be taken following this communication.

 

Question no 41 by Gisela Kallenbach (H-0190/06)
 Subject: Return of Roma refugees in Kosovo
 

It is known that some 560 Roma in Kosovo have been living as internally displaced refugees in camps in the Mitrovica area. These camps are heavily contaminated, especially with heavy metals, resulting in serious health problems. In February the European Roma Rights Centre, which is located in Budapest, brought an action against UNMIK before the European Court of Human Rights. UNMIK is working hard on a solution and is now offering relocation to KFOR's former Camp Osterode as an interim solution. A genuine solution is the resettlement of those concerned to their home, Roma Mahala. Rebuilding houses is very expensive, and so far only Germany has made € 500 000 available.

What are the EU Member States doing to make a financial contribution to the long-term resettlement of the Kosovo Roma families in southern Mitrovica?

 
  
 

(DE)The EU Member States’ financial commitments to Roma Mahalla amount – besides the EUR 500 000 provided by Germany, which the question mentions – to EUR 800 000 from Sweden and EUR 250 000 promised by Ireland, whilst Greece is expected to commit itself to EUR 10 000, but has not yet done so.

In addition to these commitments by the Member States, the European Agency for Reconstruction has made EUR 1.12 million available through the offices of the Danish refugee aid agency. Norway has undertaken to give EUR 600 000, and the provisional institutions of self-government EUR 200 000, while UNMIK has committed itself to giving EUR 250 000.

These sums will be used for reconstruction, for employment and education measures and for comprehensive assistance with repatriation.

 

Question no 42 by Avril Doyle (H-0192/06)
 Subject: Free movement of workers from new Member States
 

Given the fundamental right of workers, their families, and all EU citizens to travel and reside freely within the territories of the Member States;

Taking into account the Commission´s report, published on 8 February, which advocated the lifting of 'transitional measures' and restrictions on the free movement of workers from the 10 new Member States in place, in 12 of the EU 15, since May 1st 2004;

With a view to the Member States´ upcoming decision in April 2006 on whether to keep restrictions on migrant workers in place, what measures is the Council taking to encourage the lifting of transitional measures? What conclusions does the Council draw as to the benefits or otherwise of the work permit system operated by Member States, especially in relation to its effect on the black economy? What steps are being taken to simplify and harmonise the procedure for applying for such work permits in those Member States which choose to extend their transitional measures for a further two years?

 
  
 

(DE)As the honourable Member will know, the Accession Treaty with the ten new Member States provides for a transitional period of up to seven years for the free movement of workers. During that period the EU-15 Member States are entitled to apply national measures regulating access to their labour markets to nationals of the new Member States with the exception of Cyprus and Malta. A special provision in the Treaty also allows Germany and Austria to take measures to counteract serious disruption in sensitive service industries that may result from the transitional dispatch of labour as part of the cross-border provision of services. Three new Member States may also, on a reciprocal basis, apply restrictions to nationals from the old Member States which are applying restrictions themselves.

The first transitional period of two years from accession does indeed expire on 30 April. The Council is now required to review the operation of the transitional provisions in the light of a Commission report, which was adopted on 8 February 2006. In this report the Commission recommends that the Member States consider carefully whether it is necessary to continue with the transitional regulations.

The Presidency plans to hold an exchange of views on the Commission report in the Council before the end of April. The Member States are currently reviewing the situation on their labour markets in the light of the Commission report and their own experience. Some Member States have already stated that they intend to discontinue the labour restrictions; but not all Member States have completed their own country’s review or informed the Commission whether they wish to continue with their national measures.

It should be borne in mind that the decision on whether to continue to apply the national measures, and the nature of those measures, is a matter for each individual Member State.

 

QUESTIONS TO THE COMMISSION
Question no 52 by Nils Lundgren (H-0200/06)
 Subject: Reappointment of Mr Brüner as Director-General of OLAF
 

During his five years in office Mr Brüner has faced severe criticism on numerous occasions. Yet on 14 February the Commission decided to reappoint him even though the COCOBU and the Council had found other candidates more suitable. This decision clearly indicates that the Commission's promises of reform, improvement of financial control and fighting fraud are not a priority.

Does the Commission not agree that the reappointment will have consequences for OLAF's credibility and independence, with Mr Brüner owing so much to the good will of the Commission and influential lobbying in order to be reappointed, making it difficult to investigate fraud? Under these circumstances, how can the Commission describe this as a strong mandate?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission reminds the Honourable Member that it followed the procedure laid down in the Regulation 1073 of 1999 for the appointment of the OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office) Director General in a transparent and participative way. The Commission took decision to re-appoint Mr Brüner in full agreement with the Parliament and the Council who had had ample opportunity to participate in the selection. All three institutions were duly represented when the agreement was reached during the trialogue of 7 February and on that day all three institutions voiced their support for Mr Brüner.

The Commission does not share the opinion of the Honourable Member that the Council and Parliament had found other candidates more suitable. Mr Brüner was short-listed as a suitable candidate by all three Institutions. The COCOBU(1) at the hearings in October 2005 confirmed his suitability for the post and retained his amongst only two names. The Council retained his amongst three names shortlisted. It is worth remembering that the initial list comprised 180 names, and that the COCOBU was impressed by the quality and expertise of the five candidates on the shortlist.

It is the procedure followed to reach this decision which allows the Commission to now assert that the new Director General has a necessary end strong mandate. The procedure, its thoroughness, its transparency, a broad comparison of candidates, the participation of the OLAF Supervisory Committee and of the three institutions, and finally the consensus of the three institutions on one name are a solid guarantee of the joint and firm support, which will help the new Director General to lead the Office independently.

The appointment of Mr. Bruener was made because he was the person that all three institutions considered in the end to be the best candidate. Mr Brüner’s experience and professionalism were considered as key factors, amongst others, in the decision making process leading to the appointment.

The Commission can not agree with the Honourable Member either when he says that this decision clearly indicates that the Commission's promises of reform, improvement of financial control and fighting fraud are not a priority. The Commission has over the last years demonstrated that it is serious on this subject. A new staff statute, a new financial regulation, a new internal audit service, a new accounting system and radical changes in the organisation can be cited. The opinion of the European Court of Auditors on its financial management has gradually improved. The hearing held by the Parliament in July 2005 on the strengthening of OLAF allows the Commission to conclude that what the fight against fraud at European level needs is constant improvement and not radical change. As concerns the fight against fraud,

The Commission cannot see how this appointment can negatively affect OLAF’s credibility and independence. Again the hearing last summer and the European Court of Auditors said that the independence of OLAF was never jeopardized by the Commission. The newly appointed Supervisory Committee has furthermore already demonstrated its commitment to fulfil its responsibilities to be a ‘critical friend of OLAF’, in particular by ensuring the independence of OLAF. Quite on the contrary, the appointment should be seen as an expression of trust and lend credibility to the new Director General.

 
 

(1) European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control

 

Question no 55 by Alessandro Battilocchio (H-0159/06)
 Subject: Adoptions in Romania
 

With reference to the cases of international adoption still pending after the entry into force of the new law in Romania and to my two previous questions on the subject, the answers to which were evasive and incomplete, can the Commission say:

what progress has been made by the expert working party that, according to statements made on several occasions by the Romanian government, was supposed to decide, on a case-by-case basis, on the advisability of proceeding with international adoptions applications for which were submitted before 1 January 2005;

what progress the Romanian government is making in this direction, following the promises repeatedly given by the representatives of the authorities and the formal requests made by the European Parliament in its resolutions on the accession of Romania with regard to finding a solution for these unsettled cases;

whether it considers that Romania is really able to guarantee a family, a home, education and health care for the 84 000 children currently in the care of the social services?

 
  
 

(EN)The Romanian authorities are on track concerning the solution of pending petitions for adoption that were filed in before the entry into force of the new law on 1 January 2005.

The Romanian authorities have activated a working group that will finalise its work on 31 March 2006. The Commission is committed to a follow-up on the issue and will report back in its May Commission Monitoring Report.

With this in view the Romanian authorities are following up the European Parliament’s repeated statements as last formulated under point 23 of Parliament resolution dated 15 December 2005.

The current 82.000 children under social protection (residential care, foster-care and placement in enlarged families) are benefiting from a child protection structure in line with the United Nations Charter for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This is also the case for access to health care and education.

 

Question no 56 by John Bowis (H-0165/06)
 Subject: Caged beds, Romania
 

Is the Commission aware of the use of caged beds for disturbed children in Romania and will they discuss this with the Romanian Government with a view to bringing the practice to a speedy end?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission is committed to following up developments in the area of child protection in Romania.

During the Commission’s 15 years of follow up, it has never had any suspicion about the use of caged-beds in Romania.

However, the Commission will follow up the issue within the framework of its regular contacts with various non-governmental organisations.

 

Question no 57 by Leopold Józef Rutowicz (H-0197/06)
 Subject: Implementation of anti-corruption legislation in Romania
 

Last year, the Commission stated that Romania met the political criteria for EU membership. However, the Romanian Senate's rejection of anti-corruption legislation on 9 February in addition to claims in the international media that the Romanian Government supports certain interest groups that benefit financially from this arrangement prompt the question of whether Romania is ready for this final, decisive step in the accession process. The Commission is currently drafting a monitoring report on the country's progress in fulfilling membership requirements. The fight against corruption should be one of the main priorities, as it is a threat to the correct application of the European Union's policies.

What specific measures does the Commission intend to take to ensure that Romania steps up its efforts to implement anti-corruption legislation effectively?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission very much welcomes the decisive vote on 3 March by the Romanian Senate to reverse the earlier decision referred to by the Honourable Member. This follows intense domestic discussions at the highest political levels in Romania and there is now a broad political consensus behind the Government’s anti-corruption programme.

Following this vote, the National Anti-Corruption Directorate has been given a solid legal base to continue its investigations into high-level corruption, including allegations against Members of Parliament. At this crucial moment in Romania’s preparations for EU membership this shows the political will to ensure no one is above the law.

The Commission can confirm that progress in the fight against corruption will be among the most important issues in the Commission’s Report to be published on 16 May 2006.

The Commission takes every opportunity to raise these matters in dialogue with the Romanian authorities. Our assessment will be based on a number of indicators such as: existence of an anti-corruption strategy ; state of legislation on anti-corruption strategy ; state of legislation on anti-corruption issues; evidence of effective criminal investigations leading to prosecutions.

 

Question no 58 by Bart Staes (H-0103/06)
 Subject: Negotiations on the status of Kosovo and economic development of the region with a view to a future enlargement
 

The talks on the future status of Kosovo and its forthcoming independence led by UN special envoy Martti Athisaari will probably involve an exit strategy for the UN in which the EU will be asked to take on even greater responsibility in the region, particularly as the vast majority of Kosovo's population eventually want to join the EU.

To what extent does the EU intend to devise a strategy for the economic development of the region that goes beyond the existing initiatives under the fourth pillar of UNMIK?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission cannot predict the exact outcome of the Kosovo status process led by the United Nations (UN) Special Envoy Marti Ahtisaari until an agreement is reached. However, the Commission expects that the settlement of the future status of Kosovo will consolidate peace, stability and progress achieved to date. It also expects that the future status settlement will contribute to sustainable economic development and the achievement of the common objective of Western Balkans to become members of the European Union family.

Currently and beyond the initiatives under the EC-funded UNMIK (United Nation Mission in Kosovo) Pillar IV, the Community contributes to the economic development of Kosovo by various means. These include, among others, considerable financial support mainly through the CARDS programme (e.g. € 80 million in 2005), trade facilitation measures, support to the participation of Kosovo in regional initiatives like the Energy Community Treaty and advice and guidance in sectors of particular economic importance. In this respect, the Commission has issued a Communication on “A European Future for Kosovo”(1). The Commission has also appointed a liaison officer with the UN Status Envoy inter alia to contribute to a proper handling of status-related economic issues. In addition, the Commission is actively involved in the design of the post-status international presence in Kosovo in the area of economy.

Regarding the future strategy to foster the economic development of Kosovo, the Commission intends to continue with all available instruments, including future pre-accession financial assistance, to further promote EU compatible reforms and socio-economic development. The European Partnership adopted by the Council on 30 January 2006(2) will be a key tool for guiding Kosovo’s efforts.

The European Partnership addresses a series of precise recommendations to the Kosovo authorities in the economic field, in particular the need to advance in the formulation of a medium term development strategy. The EC financial assistance will help Kosovo’s authorities to prepare and implement this strategy and to benefit from any other regional economic development initiatives, such as the ones outlined in the recent Communication from the Commission on the Western Balkans(3).

 
 

(1) COM (2005) 156 of 20 April 2005.
(2) Council Decision 2006/56/EC of 30 January 2006 on the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the European Partnership with Serbia and Montenegro including Kosovo as defined by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999 (OJ L35, 7.2.2006, p. 32).
(3) COM(2006) 27 of 27 January 2006: “The Western Balkans on the road to the EU: consolidating stability and raising prosperity”

 

Question no 59 by Panagiotis Beglitis (H-0130/06)
 Subject: Developments in Kosovo
 

Both the statement issued by the Contact Group on Kosovo (London, 31 January 2006) and the recent report of the UN Secretary-General (25 January 2006) emphasise the particular importance which the international community attaches to the full and effective implementation of the conditions laid down in accordance with Security Council resolution 1244/1999 in the context of negotiations on the final status of Kosovo. In particular, Mr Annan's report highlights the serious delays and problems in implementing all the conditions affecting the minorities, principally the Serbian minority, because of the continuing insecurity, the uncertainty surrounding final status and the guarded attitude of the Kosovan authorities.

What representations will the Commission make to the Kosovan authorities to facilitate implementation of the conditions, given that the Commissioner responsible is a member of the Contact Group? In the event that the delays and problems persist, will it consider postponing the negotiations, insofar as the international community now agrees on the parallel nature of the two processes, in contrast to the relevant provisions of Resolution 1244/1999? Will this adverse situation affect progress towards European partnership which the Commission proposed for Kosovo on 12 December 2005?

 
  
 

(EN)As the Honourable Member rightly observes, the respect of the ongoing implementation of standards is an issue of paramount importance.

In his recent visit to Pristina, the President of the Commission voiced concern over the slow progress in the implementation of the standards for Kosovo and called for implementation to be accelerated. The Commissioner in charge of enlargement has also made clear that democratic values are an integral part of European integration and that the implementation of standards is vital to move forward both in the status process and towards EU membership.

However, the ultimate responsibility in decision-making regarding the speed of the political process designed to determine Kosovo’s future status is in the hands of the United Nations (UN) Special Envoy appointed by the UN Secretary-General, Martti Ahtisaari.

The Commission has made sure that the recommendations in the European Partnership(1) are consistent and mutually reinforcing with the implementation of the Kosovo standards. The European Partnership should be a key tool for guiding Kosovo’s efforts in the respect of human and minority rights during the status process and in view of the approximation to EU legislation in due course.

 
 

(1) Council Decision 2006/56/EC of 30 January 2006 on the principles, priorities and conditions contained in the European Partnership with Serbia and Montenegro including Kosovo as defined by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 10 June 1999 (OJ L35, 7.2.2006).

 

Question no 60 by Gisela Kallenbach (H-0191/06)
 Subject: Return of Roma refugees in Kosovo
 

It is known that some 560 Roma in Kosovo have been living as internally displaced refugees in camps in the Mitrovica area. These camps are heavily contaminated, especially with heavy metals, resulting in serious health problems. In February the European Roma Rights Centre, which is located in Budapest, brought an action against UNMIK before the European Court of Human Rights. UNMIK is working hard on a solution and is now offering relocation to KFOR's former Camp Osterode as an interim solution. A genuine solution is the resettlement of those concerned to their home, Roma Mahala. Rebuilding houses is very expensive, and so far only Germany has made € 500 000 available.

What are the EU Member States doing to make a financial contribution to the long-term resettlement of the Kosovo Roma families in southern Mitrovica?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission is aware that the situation of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities in Kosovo is very difficult. The 2005 Commission progress report for Kosovo provided an assessment of the situation of minorities including Roma.

As part of our wider effort to support non majority communities in Kosovo, in December 2005 an EC funded project to support Roma returns to the Roma Mahalla in Mitrovica started.

The project will last for 12 months and the Swedish development agency Sida has pledged additional funds. In total, some 57 families should be able to return.

The EC contribution is € 1.2 million. The EC components of the project include plans to reconstruct 35 houses with its necessary infrastructure works, employment possibilities and income generation activities and community projects.

However, the local Roma leaders have not always acted in the interest of their constituency: for instance by delaying their move to uncontaminated sites in the north before being repatriated eventually to southern Mitrovica. The Commission understands the concern about so called temporary solutions which turn semi-permanent (as is the case in northern Mitrovica) but here the health of the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) community is at risk.

 

Question no 61 by Chris Davies (H-0105/06)
 Subject: Direct trade with Northern Cyprus
 

How does the Commission intend to overcome the obstructive approach taken by the President of Cyprus towards the Commission's proposals for providing Turkish Cypriots with financial assistance and direct trade links?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission welcomed the adoption of the Aid Regulation by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 27 February 2006.

At this occasion, the Commissioner in charge of Enlargement stated the following: “The Commission welcomes today’s decision of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) to adopt the Regulation establishing an instrument of financial support for encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community.

Adopting this Regulation enables the EU to bring assistance where it is urgently needed in fields such as energy and environment. Many concrete projects can now be realised which bring the Turkish Cypriot community closer to the European Union. The Aid Regulation will also allow the Commission to prepare the Turkish Cypriot community for the future application of EU Law following a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

The adoption of the aid package should be seen as a first step by the EU towards putting an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and facilitating the reunification of Cyprus as laid down in the conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 26 April 2004. The Commission encourages the Council to move towards adoption of the proposal made in 2004 on trade between the EU and the Turkish Cypriot community.

In line with its long-standing position, the Commission remains fully committed to supporting a resumption of United Nations-led talks for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue as soon as possible.”

 

Question no 62 by Bernd Posselt (H-0115/06)
 Subject: Minorities in Serbia
 

What role does the issue of the minorities in Vojvodina and in the Presevo valley play in the EU’s negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro?

 
  
 

(EN)Respect for human and minority rights is an essential element of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) which is currently under negotiation. This means that once the SAA is in force, its application can be suspended in case human and minority rights are violated. Therefore, in the course of the negotiations of the SAA, a particular attention is paid to the situation of human and minority rights.

In this context, the Commission is closely monitoring the situation in Vojvodina and the Preševo Valley, as well as other ethnically diverse parts of Serbia and Montenegro, including Sandžak.

The Commission is using every occasion to stress the importance of minority rights. In November 2005, a meeting of the Enhanced Permanent Dialogue (EPD) took place back-to-back with the first official round of the SAA negotiations. The EPD meeting reviewed the situation of minority rights in Serbia and Montenegro. Issues of particular relevance to the Preševo Valley and Vojvodina, such as education, police and the judiciary, were raised in this forum.

 

Question no 63 by Justas Vincas Paleckis (H-0146/06)
 Subject: The EU's negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro
 

A referendum is due to be held in the spring of this year in which the people of Montenegro will be asked whether they wish to live in an independent state. If the answer is no, the status quo will be maintained, but it would appear that the Commission is also preparing for the other eventuality.

If the referendum results in a vote in favour of independence for Montenegro, how would this affect the EU’s negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro on a stabilisation and association agreement? Would the Commission immediately open negotiations on stabilisation and association agreements with the two separate countries? Would the break-up delay negotiations while the two countries settle the formalities of separation?

 
  
 

(EN)With regard to the forthcoming referendum in Montenegro, the Commission attaches the greatest importance to the full respect of internationally recognised democratic standards in line with the agreement on the modalities of the referendum reached between the Montenegrin government and opposition. This is a prerequisite for the legitimacy of the outcome of the referendum process. As the Commission has already mentioned to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament on 23 February, should the referendum in Montenegro results in the withdrawal of this Republic from the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, the Commission may seek new negotiating directives for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Montenegro. This would be subject to the international recognition of an independent Montenegro by the Member States of the European Union and to the establishment of diplomatic relations.

In the event of Montenegro’s independence, it is the intention of the Commission to build on –subject to Council approval and depending on the fulfilment of all criteria related to the conduct and conclusion of the negotiations– the results of the current twin-track SAA negotiations and therefore make sure that the technical progress achieved so-far in ongoing negotiations will not be lost.

 

Question no 64 by Josu Ortuondo Larrea (H-0117/06)
 Subject: Possible case of corruption at a court in Pazardzhik (Bulgaria)
 

In November 2004 Ibermanagement Bulgaria EOOD (IB), a business set up with Spanish capital, acquired machinery and equipment produced by DGF Dragor EOOD, completely free from any burden or obligations, from Mr Wilfrid Birk, a German citizen. In May 2005 Mr Birk, apparently providing false dates and forged signatures, alleged that the machinery stood as surety for a prior debt of EUR 600 000 which DGF Dragor owed to the off-shore company Lodicort. This led to the seizure of the machinery legally acquired by IB, which is protesting against what it sees as a case of bribery and corruption. The investigations made by the regional police department in Pazardzhik, inter alia, came to the conclusion that the documents relating to the prior debt were false. Judgment 605/31.10.2005 of Pazardzhik district court ordered that the seizure be annulled, as did other rulings handed down by various judges. However, the executive judge in Pazardzhik, Mr Veselin Ljungov, executed the seizure without notifying IB, appointed a personal friend of Mr Birk to act as custodian of the machinery and allowed his associates to use IB's machinery and equipment for their own ends. It is possible that this is a case of bribery and corruption.

Can the Commission raise this case at its meetings with the Bulgarian Government with a view to clarifying matters and ensuring that justice is done in accordance with the principles and rights enshrined in the acquis communautaire?

 
  
 

(EN)First of all, the Commission wishes to underline that it cannot intervene in individual legal cases.

However, the Commission is closely following problems related to the overall functioning of the judicial system in Bulgaria. These issues were also clearly outlined in the Comprehensive Monitoring Report of October 2005.

The Commission has particularly insisted on the fact that efforts to combat corruption efficiently have to be strengthened, including the investigation and prosecution of high level corruption.

Furthermore, in the framework of its monitoring role, the Commission has carried out a peer review on Justice and Home Affairs in Bulgaria in the week of 20 February. The results of this peer review will have an impact on the Commission’s assessment of Bulgaria’s judiciary system in the upcoming report to be issued in May 2006.

Since 2005, a twinning project is underway in Bulgaria in cooperation with Austria which aims at reforming the Civil Procedural Code. This twinning project also includes activities related to the execution of judgements.

 

Question no 65 by Dimitrios Papadimoulis (H-0129/06)
 Subject: Five Turkish journalists on trial for violating Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TPC)
 

On 7 February 2006 five well-known Turkish journalists went on trial in Istanbul, charged under Article 301 of the TPC with perverting the course of justice: they had dared to criticize a court's decision banning the holding of a conference on the Armenians.

Article 301 of the TPC clearly provides ample scope for blatantly violating the freedom of expression of citizens who are prosecuted for publicly insulting the Turkish nation, the Turkish Republic, Turkish justice, the parliament, the government, the justice system or the army.

Amnesty International issued a statement on 1 December 2005 listing a whole series of cases in which Turkish citizens have been charged with violating the provisions of Article 301 of the TPC.

What measures does the Commission intend to take to end these prosecutions? Does it intend to propose amendments to the TPC with a view to putting an end to the arbitrary prosecution of any persons daring to utter public criticisms?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission is aware of the case of the five Turkish journalists to which the Honourable Member refers.

Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental freedoms on which the European Union is founded and is included in the Copenhagen political criteria. The Commission closely follows up the situation with respect to freedom of expression in Turkey.

Implementation of the important legislative reforms of the past few years remains uneven. Several judgements, including in the cases of novelist Orhan Pamuk and of journalist Hrant Dink, suggest that the judiciary is increasingly acting in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. However, there have also been a number of recent decisions, in particular in relation to the expression of opinions on traditionally sensitive subjects, which have led to both prosecutions and convictions.

Should similar cases continue to occur, the Commission expects that the Turkish authorities take action to close the loopholes of the Penal Code that give rise to restrictive interpretations. The simplest way would be to amend the Penal Code.

The Commission will continue to monitor closely developments in this area and to raise its concerns relating to freedom of expression in every occasion, including during political dialogue meetings between the EU troika and Turkey, as well as in the regular monitoring of Turkey’s compliance with the Copenhagen political criteria conducted by the Commission.

 

Question no 66 by Georgios Karatzaferis (H-0135/06)
 Subject: Provocation by the Commission's Directorate-General for Enlargement
 

According to reports in the Greek press, the Commission's Directorate-General for Enlargement has issued instructions to officials in the Directorates-General for Employment, Agriculture and Regional Policy to use the term 'Macedonia' when there are no Greeks present instead of the term (which is recognised by the EU itself) FYROM. Moreover, the author of this outrageous document reportedly notes that it is very important to the Macedonians to call them by their name and not FYROM, which is an insult(!), and he urges officials to use the term 'Macedonia' provided there are no Greeks present(!).

Does such a provocative document actually exist? Why is it still in circulation and why was it not withdrawn by the Commission as soon as it was revealed?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission's policy is to refer to the country as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which is the provisional name agreed at the moment of admission of this country to the United Nations, following its independence.

The Commission uses consistently the full name the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in all its official documents and proposals for draft legislation submitted to the Council.

The Commission fully supports all efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution within the framework of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 817/93 and 845/93, in the interest of regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.

 

Question no 67 by Laima Liucija Andrikienė (H-0156/06)
 Subject: Implementation of the European Parliament resolution on the opening of negotiations with Turkey
 

On 28 September 2005, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the opening of negotiations with Turkey, in which Members of the European Parliament highlighted the basic problems causing serious difficulties to the negotiations, including: Turkey’s embargo on vessels flying the Cypriot flag; the Protocol signed by Turkey on 29 July 2005 and the statement released at the same time, i.e. the unresolved problem of the recognition of Cyprus; the fact that Turkey has not recognised the Armenian genocide, although this is considered by the EU to be a prerequisite for accession; the compatibility of the Turkish criminal code and of certain other laws with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; and issues relating to financial aid and trade facilitation with the northern part of Cyprus.

What is the Commission’s assessment of the process of negotiations with Turkey? What progress has been made towards resolving the problems referred to in the above European Parliament resolution? In the Commission’s view, has there been even minimal progress in the area of safeguarding human rights and freedoms, particularly women’s rights and freedoms, in Turkey – a country that is seeking membership of the EU?

 
  
 

(EN)The first stage of the accession negotiations with Turkey, the screening process, is proceeding normally. The Commission has held screening meetings with Turkey on some ten chapters, and the first reports have been sent to the Council.

The Commission is following all issues set out in the negotiating framework approved by the opening session of the Accession Conference with Turkey on 3 October 2005. This includes the monitoring of Turkey’s progress in complying with the Copenhagen criteria.

Most of the issues set out in the Parliament’s Resolution on the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey adopted on 28 September 2005 are mentioned in the negotiating framework document and/or the Accession Partnership adopted by Council Decision of 23 January 2006.

As regards the political criteria, the Commission’s assessment, as indicated in the Progress Report published in November 2005, is that “political transition is ongoing in Turkey and the country continues to sufficiently fulfil the Copenhagen political criteria. However, the pace of change has slowed in 2005 and implementation of the reforms remains uneven”. In certain areas significant further reforms are needed.

More specifically, on the issues concerning the recognition of Cyprus and other related questions (access to Cypriot ports, Ankara Protocol, etc) the Commission would like to refer the Honourable Member to its replies to recent parliamentary questions (H-0001/06, H-0004/06, H-0046/06 and P-0208/06).

On women’s rights, the Progress Report referred to certain positive developments but stressed that significant further efforts are needed to confront a number of concerns.

 

Question no 68 by Feleknas Uca (H-0163/06)
 Subject: Life imprisonment demanded for Turkish sociologist Pinar Selek
 

In the trial of sociologist Pinar Selek and four other defendants, life imprisonment has been demanded. They are accused of involvement in a bombing in Istanbul in 1998. Despite several independent expert opinions, which found that the explosion had been caused by an exploding gas cylinder in the Egyptian Bazaar, Pinar Selek was detained for two and a half years. She was released in December 2000.

Despite expert opinion to the contrary, the Public Prosecutor’s Office took the police report as the basis for renewing its demand in December 2005, seven years on, for life imprisonment for Pinar Selek and her codefendants. The trial is to continue on 17 May 2006.

What action does the Commission propose to take to prevent innocent persons from being sentenced to life imprisonment? How does the Commission propose to prevail upon Turkey’s judicial and political authorities to comply with the rule of law?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission recalls that ensuring the respect of the rule of law and the independence, efficiency and effectiveness of the judiciary are core elements of the Copenhagen political criteria.

The negotiating framework outlining the principles governing accession negotiations with Turkey, adopted by Member States in October 2005, indicates that the course of negotiations will be guided by Turkey's progress in complying with the Copenhagen criteria, including in the area of the rule of law.

The revised Accession Partnership, approved by the Council in December 2005, includes a number of specific short-term priorities that Turkey is expected to meet to ensure respect of the rule of law and a proper functioning of the judiciary, in line with international best practices, the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

The Commission closely follows developments in the light of the Copenhagen political criteria, notably in the framework of the Regular Political Monitoring and in the framework of the relevant institutions under the Association Agreement. Furthermore, the Commission carries out regular advisory visits on the functioning of the judiciary in Turkey with participation of EU Member States experts. While implementation on the ground of the important legislative reforms of the past few years remains uneven, several judgements suggest that the judiciary is increasingly acting in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

A considerable part of the EU’s pre-accession financial assistance to Turkey is devoted to funding projects supporting Turkish efforts to reform the judiciary and aimed at training judges, public prosecutors and law enforcement bodies on European and international best practices and standards, on the application of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

 

Question no 69 by Elizabeth Lynne (H-0106/06)
 Subject: Better Lawmaking
 

How is the Institutional Agreement on Better Lawmaking, which includes impact assessments of any proposed legislation at Council, Commission and Parliament level, working in practice?

 
  
 

(EN)The High Level Technical Group (HLTG), made up of representatives from the Council, Commission and Parliament, was given the mandate to monitor the implementation of the 2003 Inter-Institutional Agreement (IIA) on Better Lawmaking.(1) In monitoring the progress in implementation of the IIA, the HLTG meets on a regular basis. The most recent meeting took place on 16 December 2005.

Although some progress in implementing the terms of the IIA is clearly evident, the Commission believes that better use could be made of the IIA as an instrument to improve inter-institutional cooperation and promote better regulation.

The Commission believes that greater progress could have been achieved in the following areas:

On “Better Coordination of the legislative process”: the technical instrument for inter-institutional programming developed by the Parliament ‘PROBO’ enjoys the support of the Commission. However, it has not yet been possible for the Council to make any commitment in this area and thus it has so far resulted in no real progress for better regulation.

On “Improving the quality of legislation”: the preparation of a “common approach to impact assessment”, setting out some 'traffic rules' on how impact assessments are dealt with throughout the legislative process, is an important forward step. However, negotiating the text was a difficult and lengthy process, and the Commission believes that the outcome could have been more ambitious and balanced in terms of the relative degrees of commitment from the institutions. With regard to the consistency of texts, the Commission is of the opinion that the arrangements put in place to ensure that the wording of amendments put forward to proposals under the co-decision procedure are concordant with the existing text and with the rules on legislative drafting would benefit from a further injection of time and resources.

On “Better transposition and application”: In the IIA, the Council commitment to encourage Member States to draw-up “transposition tables” to facilitate implementation and reduce possible problems of interpretation has yet to result in any concrete improvements. In addition, the task of drawing-up a list of national transposition coordinators remains incomplete.

On “Simplifying and reducing the volume of legislation”: the Council and the Parliament committed, within six months of the entry into force of the IIA, to modify their working methods by introducing, for example, ad hoc structures with the specific task of simplifying legislation. It is clear that concrete improvements to the regulatory environment will only be seen when simplification proposals from the Commission are adopted by the Council and Parliament. There are a significant number of Commission simplification proposals still pending before the Council and Parliament. The need to make rapid progress on modifying working methods is further underlined as a result of the Commission’s launch of a new phase of its simplification programme, which will see more than 200 areas for simplification presented in the next three years.

The disappointing progress to date in implementing the IIA on Better Lawmaking illustrates the need for greater efforts to be made by all three Institutions, and for a greater balance in terms of respective levels of commitment and ambition.

 
 

(1) OJ 31.12.2003, C321/1.

 

Question no 70 by Marian Harkin (H-0112/06)
 Subject: Defective and unsafe products in the Common Market
 

Will the Commission indicate if, when a Member State authority, such as a Director of Consumer Affairs, finds a product which has originated from another Member State to be defective or unsafe, can the EU ensure that the manufacturer will recall the faulty product?

 
  
 

(EN)The revised General Product Safety Directive, which entered into force on 15 January 2004, requires producers to place only safe products on the market.

For any product deemed to be dangerous, the Directive gives power to the Member States to require manufacturers to withdraw such a product from the market and to recall it from consumers.

Should the manufacturer not be present in its territory, a Member State can direct the measures to other appropriate actors such as importers and distributors.

In the case of a product which presents a serious risk, the Member States are obliged to inform the Commission of the measures taken via a rapid alert system called RAPEX(1).

Subsequently, the Commission distributes the information to all other Member States, so that they, in turn, can take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of consumers in their territory.

If Member States fail to take appropriate action, the Commission will in the first instance use the relevant administrative co-operation provisions of the Directive to encourage Member States to act.

Should this not be sufficient, the Commission can adopt a specific Decision to get the Member States to implement the necessary measures to ensure consumer safety across the European Union.

Please note that the General Product Safety Directive addresses product safety. Defective products, which do not present a safety risk, are typically dealt with via normal guarantee provisions.

 
 

(1) Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products

 

Question no 71 by Liam Aylward (H-0120/06)
 Subject: New EU energy policies
 

We all witnessed with concern the events which took place earlier this year relating to the halting of gas supplies by Russia into the European Union.

Can the Commission make a statement as to the progress it is making both in terms of reducing the dependency by the EU on gas supplies from Russia, and can it also state what new alternative energy proposals are being pursued by the Commission at this time?

 
  
 

(EN)Currently, about 25% of natural gas consumption in EU-25 is imported from Russia, the rest being domestic production and imports from other sources, mainly Norway and Algeria.

In a business-as-usual scenario(1), natural gas consumption in the EU is projected to grow substantially. As domestic production is expected to decrease, net imports and import dependence will increase. Net imports are projected to rise from roughly 250 millions tonnes of oil equipment (MTOE) today to over 500 MTOE in 2030. Import dependence is projected to rise from today’s 50% or so to approximately 80% in 2030.

In this scenario, an increase in volume terms in imports from Russia could be expected. However, the potential of other sources of natural gas and the growing development of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) alongside pipeline gas, will act as a limit on the relative importance of Russia in Europe’s gas imports.

A broad range of actions, both domestic and external, of the EU and Member States would have an impact on the EU dependence on gas imports from Russia. Others would strengthen the framework for the relations between the EU and Russia in the energy field. The Commission has outlined these in its recent Green Paper on a European Strategy for Secure, Competitive and Sustainable Energy for Europe, inter alia.

 
 

(1) European Energy and Transport – Scenarios on key drivers, Commission, September 2004

 

Question no 72 by Brian Crowley (H-0121/06)
 Subject: European Commission White Paper on Communication
 

Can the Commission outline clearly the objectives that it seeks tangibly to achieve by means of the implementation of the new European Commission White Paper on Communication?

 
  
 

(EN)The overall purpose of the White Paper on a European Communication Policy is to propose ways of closing the communication gap between the European Union and its citizens. In spring 2005, the Commission under its President decided to propose a new approach, moving away from institution-centred to citizen-centred communication based on a genuine dialogue between the people and the policymakers.

As a first step, in July 2005, the Commission published its own Action Plan, listing a series of steps it is now taking to put its own house in order as regards public communication. As a second step, in October 2005, it adopted ‘Plan D for democracy, dialogue and debate’, which is the Commission’s contribution to the period of reflection on the future of Europe.

As a third but not final step, in February 2006 the Commission published its White Paper on a European Communication Policy. This opens a period of consultation with all the stakeholders concerned - the EU institutions, Member States’ governments at national, regional and local level, European political parties and civil society. The aim is to mobilize these stakeholders, and in particular the Member States, so that they take concerted action to show citizens how European policies affect their daily lives and to open up European issues for public discussion at national, regional and local levels.

This is the first time the Commission has launched a six-month long consultation on Communication Policy. It focuses on five areas for action, in partnership with the stakeholders, where tangible objectives could be achieved:

defining common principles which could be set out in a European Charter on Communication or a Code of Conduct on Communication;

empowering citizens by improving civic education and better connecting citizens with each other and with public institutions;

working with the media and exploiting the potential of new technologies in order to give Europe a human face and to help citizens understand the European dimension of national and local issues;

improving policy-makers’ understanding of European public opinion, and

improving cooperation between all the key actors at national and European levels.

At the end of the consultation period, the Commission will summarize the results and, as a further step, draw up plans for concrete action by all the stakeholders

The Commission looks forward to hearing the Member States’ and stakeholders’ views and welcomes their active participation in the ongoing consultation process.

 

Question no 73 by Seán Ó Neachtain (H-0122/06)
 Subject: International Fund for Ireland
 

The European Union has been a large contributor to the International Fund for Ireland.

Can the Commission state exactly the amount of EU monies that has been given to the IFI and if the Commission intends to continue as a contributor to the International Fund for Ireland in the coming years?

 
  
 

(EN)Since 1989, the European Union has committed €289 million and paid €259 million into the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).

In its meeting of 15-16 December 2005, the European Council noted the important work carried out by the IFI in promoting peace and reconciliation. It asked the Commission to take the necessary steps with a view to continued EU support for the Fund as it enters the crucial final phase of its work up to 2010.

The Commission is now preparing the necessary actions to continue its support for the IFI.

 

Question no 74 by Eoin Ryan (H-0123/06)
 Subject: Role of NGOs in implementing the Millennium Development Goals
 

Can the Commission outline clearly the role of European NGOs in terms of implementing the Millennium Development Goals as well as specifying the role that European NGOs play in terms of spending EU development aid monies?

 
  
 

(EN)The bulk of EC financed development assistance channelled through European Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) goes to interventions in the field carried out in developing countries. Furthermore, European NGOs are key actors in terms of promoting effective awareness raising and development education in Europe, which are essential conditions for mobilising support to reach the MDG targets, including the renewed commitment by the European Union and the Member States to increase Overseas Development Aid (ODA) levels with a view to achieving a level of 0.7% by 2015. European NGOs also play an important role as advocates, for example through enhancing civil society involvement in the definition of cooperation strategies in partner countries, thereby advancing ownership of the development process.

European NGOs receive financial support both to implement their “own initiatives” and to act as implementing partners within the framework of thematic and geographic priorities as defined in the EC cooperation programmes. In accordance with the Communication on the participation of Non-State Actors (NSA) in development policy(1) the main objective is to facilitate and promote the dialogue between state and non-state actors in partner countries, strengthening the capacity of civil society to make an effective contribution to the development process, and creating conditions for greater equity, the inclusion of the poor in the economic, environmental and social benefits of equitable growth, and the consolidation of democracy.

 
 

(1) COM(2002) 598 final of 07.11.2002

 

Question no 75 by Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (H-0124/06)
 Subject: Restriction on milk quota production in Poland
 

In 2005, a total of 8.4m tonnes of milk was bought in Poland, an increase of almost 10% on 2004 bringing the amount close to the country's production limit. Dairies are already receiving advance penalty payments from farmers of 20 groszy a litre of milk, which is around 20% of its value. This has caused great disquiet and unrest among farmers.

With regard to Poland's so-called restructuring quota of 416 000 tonnes, is it possible for the quota to be allocated among farmers in 2006 in order to prevent them incurring penalties for milk production?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission notes with satisfaction that the Polish milk producers and dairy industry has quickly adapted to the new situation created by the commercial opportunities in an extended European market. Encouraged by substantially higher milk prices than before Accession the Polish producers have expanded their production dramatically.

Consequently, in respect of the 2005/06 quota year, a number of producers are likely, to pay the Community super-levy which is claimed from all Community producers who contribute to overshooting the national quota in their respective country.

The Polish authorities are responsible for the implementation in Poland of the Community quota provisions. In that context, they have the right to secure that the super-levy is actually going to be paid by the producers concerned, if need be via an advanced payment.

A supplementary restructuring quota may be granted to Poland as from 1 April 2006, in accordance with the Act of Accession. The release of that quantity is, however, depending on reliable information that a sufficient shift from on-farm consumption of dairy products to commercial sales has taken place. A report from Poland on that issue has been communicated to the Commission.

The Commission is currently studying the report and a final conclusion is expected in March 2006.

 

Question no 76 by Willy Meyer Pleite (H-0127/06)
 Subject: United States veto on the contract between the European consortium CASA-EADS and Venezuela
 

The Government of the United States of America has vetoed the sale of 12 aircraft by the Spanish aerospace company CASA, a member of the European consortium EADS, to the Venezuelan Government because the equipment contains US technology.

What are the Commission's views on this US veto on a contract with a European consortium?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission is aware that the United States (US) has stringent export rules which prohibit or subject to limitations or prior authorisation exports of equipment by foreign countries to certain countries if this equipment includes components covered by the US military and dual use regulations. These restrictions on exports and their negative impact on trade have been mentioned in the yearly Commission reports on US barriers to trade, the last of which was issued on 1st March 2006(1).

The Commission has been regularly raising its concerns with US authorities regarding the application of such controls especially on civilian goods which contains controlled US technology or components, and will continue to seek ways with the US to ease such restrictions as they constitute barriers to trade. However, as regards exports from Member States of military items, these fall outside the European Community’s common commercial policy, and for this reason the means for the Commission to influence US actions are more limited. Nevertheless a dialogue between the US and European countries to review the application of export controls in this area would be welcome.

 
 

(1) http://trade-info.cec.eu.int/doclib/docs/2006/march/tradoc_127632.pdf, cf. sections 3.1 and 5.9).

 

Question no 78 by Claude Moraes (H-0131/06)
 Subject: Appealing against an EU audit
 

Could the Commission outline the process of appealing against an EU audit? A constituent of mine was nearly forced into bankruptcy due to demands by the EC, despite his case being under review by the European Ombudsman. What protection is offered to small businesses when trying to appeal against the results of an audit, and what guarantees are offered?

 
  
 

(EN)Audits enable the Commission to check that the action financed with Community money and the provisions of the grant agreement or contract signed by the beneficiary or contractor and the Commission are being properly implemented. Where appropriate, the audit findings may lead to the suspension of payments, the reduction of the grant or recovery decisions by the Commission.

Authorising officers have the duty to take the appropriate measures notably where the agreed action is not carried out properly (Articles 119, 103 of the Financial Regulation). The beneficiary is given the opportunity to present its comments before a reduction of a grant or a request for reimbursement is decided.

The result of the audit as such cannot be challenged but any dispute between a contractor or grant beneficiary and the Commission resulting from the interpretation or application of a contract or grant agreement which cannot be settled amicably can be brought before the competent court as defined in the contract or grant agreement.

Grant beneficiaries or contractors may also refer a complaint to the European Ombudsman which is competent to examine claims of maladministration in the activities of the Community Institutions and bodies. Such complaints do not affect time limits for appeals in administrative or judicial proceedings.

 

Question no 79 by Jens-Peter Bonde (H-0133/06)
 Subject: Fluorinated gases (F-gases)
 

Following the agreement reached on 31 January in conciliation on the directive on F-gases, will the Commission be withdrawing its letter of formal notice of infringement proceedings against Denmark for banning F-gases?

 
  
 

(EN)The Honourable Member will be aware that the infringement procedure in question is still pending. In this context the Commission can confirm that it is currently examining the outcome of the conciliation procedure on the regulation on F-gases which is about to be adopted.

 

Question no 80 by Ioannis Varvitsiotis (H-0136/06)
 Subject: Creation of new agencies of the European Union
 

Discussions are taking place on setting up new European agencies. Since the annual operating cost of the 24 decentralised agencies of the European Union was around € 557 million in 2005 and is forecast to be around € 600 million in 2006, will the Commission say how, in practice, their contribution to the operation of the European Union is assessed and how these large sums are justified?

How many people are employed by each of these agencies and are they all essential at this point in time? How many new agencies are there plans to create in the immediate future and what will their set-up and operating costs be?

 
  
 

(FR)There are currently 21 regulatory agencies with a legal base in the first pillar of the European Union Treaty, three with a legal base in the second and a further three in the third. When each regulatory agency is set up, the European legislator assumes responsibility for adopting the new agency’s founding regulation, based on the Commission’s proposal and in codecision if the legal base of the regulation so requires. Three new agencies are in the process of being examined by the legislator, namely the European Chemicals Agency, the European Institute for Gender Equality and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights(1), the latter set up to replace the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.

As regards budgetary and human resources allocated to the regulatory agencies, the decision on the final amounts allocated to these bodies rests with the budgetary authority, with the Council’s approval. The Commission would confirm the EU budget subsidy figures quoted by the honourable Member. The amount of human resources in the regulatory agencies depends on the agency’s annual budget, which may consist of third-party revenue and possibly Union budget subsidies(2). The details of each agency’s budget, including third-party revenue, notified to the budgetary authority, appear in the budget remarks relating to the relevant budget heading, and the establishment plans are reproduced in volume 1 of the budget. The total number of people employed in the regulatory agencies rose to 2 710 in 2005. For further details, the Commission would invite the honourable Member to refer directly to the agencies themselves. Insofar as they are independent bodies, they enjoy complete autonomy when it comes to human resources management within the limits granted by the statutory rules and the establishment plan adopted by the budgetary authority.

The regulatory agencies perform an important role in support of the executive functions. They are assigned the following tasks:

Adopting individual decisions which are legally binding on third parties;

providing direct assistance to the Commission and, where necessary, to the Member States in the interests of the Community, in the form of technical or scientific advice and/or inspection reports;

creating a network of national competent authorities and organising cooperation between them in the interests of the Community with a view to gathering, exchanging and comparing information and good practice.

Each European regulatory agency will also be responsible for gathering, analysing and transmitting objective, reliable and easy-to-access information concerning its area of activity.

In light of the importance and variety of tasks performed by the regulatory agencies, the above-mentioned global amounts relating to budget and human resources do not appear unreasonable and meet the objectives laid down by the founding regulations.

 
 

(1) Com(2003) 644 du 29/10/2003, Com(2005)81 du 08/03/2005, Com(2005)280 du 30/06/2005.
(2) The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM), the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) and the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union (CdT) do not receive any direct subsidies from the Union budget, whereas the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) and a number of others receive third-party revenue and subsidies from the Union budget.

 

Question no 81 by Gay Mitchell (H-0139/06)
 Subject: Intercultural tensions
 

Given recent events, how does the Commission intend to defuse any intercultural tensions that have arisen?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission assumes that the question of the Honourable Member refers to the events relating to the publication of the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. The Commission has already stated on 15 February 2006, during the debate in the European Parliament on this issue, that the publication of cartoons in Danish and other European newspapers and the reactions to this have revealed sensitive and fundamental issues. The cartoons have aggrieved many Muslims all over the world. The Commission respects these sensitivities and the expression of them through peaceful protest.

The Commission shares the views expressed by Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen, where he made clear that his government respects Islam as one of the world’s major religions and that it has no intention to insult Muslims and does not support activities in this sense.

The Commission’s concern is not with the peaceful response of the majority to the cartoons. It is with the violent reactions of a minority. Reactions which have been disowned by many Muslims.

The Commission condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the violence perpetrated against our office in Gaza, and against the missions of the Member States, in particular those of Denmark. The aim of these missions is to bring real benefits to the lives of the people of their host countries. The Commission expressed its solidarity with the Member States concerned.

Nor is a trade boycott an appropriate way of addressing the issue. It would hurt the economic interests of all parties and could damage the growing trading links between the EU and the countries concerned. Trade, and the greater interconnections it brings, is a means to promote mutual understanding. A boycott of Danish goods is by definition a boycott of European goods.

The Commission will continue to work with the Austrian Presidency and all parties to resolve the problem peacefully and efficiently. In this respect the Commission promotes the idea of using all present instruments and policies for intercultural dialogue (the Barcelona process, the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), the Euro Mediterranean Partnership (ENP)…) in the relations with third countries to strengthen mutual tolerance and respect. It should also be noted that the General Affairs and External Relations Council adopted, on 27 February 2006, Conclusions on “Reactions in the Muslim world to publications in European and other media.

Freedom of expression is part of Europe’s values and traditions and is not negotiable. Governments or other public authorities do not prescribe or authorize the opinions expressed by individuals. Conversely, the opinions expressed by individuals engage these individuals, and only them. They do not engage a country, a people, a religion. Freedom of expression is the basis not only of the possibility to publish an opinion, but also to criticize it. Freedom of expression has limits defined and enforced by the law and legal systems of the Member States of the European Union.

Freedom of religion is not negotiable either. Just as Europe respects freedom of speech so it must, and does, respect freedom of religion. Religious freedom is a fundamental right of individuals and communities, it entails respect for the integrity of all religious convictions and all ways in which they are exercised. Muslims must be able to practise their faith in the same way as the adherents of other religions and convictions practise theirs.

The European Union and its Member States have for a long time promoted dialogue between different communities both within the EU and with neighbouring Muslim countries and Muslim countries in other parts of the world. It is through a vigorous but peaceful dialogue of opinions under the protection of the freedom of expression that mutual understanding can be deepened and mutual respect can be built. The Commission is fostering and will continue to foster dialogue between cultures and with religions. This dialogue must be based on tolerance, not prejudice, and on freedom of expression and religion and the values connected with them. Violence is the enemy of dialogue.

The Commission already uses the existing cooperation and intercultural dialogue instruments (Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the dialogue between cultures, Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), etc…) in order to promote a better knowledge and understanding of the different cultures and, to this end, to identify a series of concrete and visible activities, both in the EU and in the partner countries. The Commission is ready to identify also the possibilities to reinforce co-operation in the promotion of mutual understanding with regional organisations.

The Commission has already supported various initiatives to promote intercultural dialogue and is now working to give it a highly visible priority and to develop a coherent long term action. The Commission will promote exchange of best practises and reflect this priority in new Community programmes, in particular in the field of Life Long Learning, Culture, Youth and Citizenship.

Moreover, the Commission proposed to declare the Year 2008 as the Year of Intercultural Dialogue. The preparation of the Year and the Year itself should provide major opportunities to raise awareness of all people living in the EU that the intercultural dialogue is possible and relevant as a tool for managing an increasingly multicultural environment.

Candidate countries will be closely associated to these developments, in particular through their participation in a number of relevant Community programmes. The Commission will also coordinate complementary actions to be developed within the relevant cooperation and dialogue frameworks with the countries of the western Balkans and the partner countries of the European neighbourhood policy.

Finally, the Commission has never suggested imposing a code of conduct on the press, it is up to the media themselves to self-regulate or not, and it is up to the media to formulate such a voluntary code of conduct if it is found necessary, appropriate and useful by them. The Commission has offered to facilitate a dialogue between the media representatives and between them and faith leaders if that would be found useful by both parties.

 

Question no 82 by Alain Hutchinson (H-0140/06)
 Subject: Developing-country debt
 

Developing-country debt is now a key challenge for development and is present on the Commission's and the EU's agenda. The Commission has recently proposed an integrated, long-term global strategy for Africa, as well as a relaunched partnership to help that continent achieve the Millennium Goals. However, it does not seem to view itself as directly concerned by the issue of the writing-off of the debts of the countries in question.

In this connection, does the Commission intend to develop a position on the debt of the African countries, and, if so, what will this position be? Does the Commission not consider that the Union needs to step up its efforts to achieve the writing-off of those countries' debts if it is to help them achieve the Millennium Goals, given that the G8 decision of July 2005 concerns only a limited number of countries and does not guarantee additionality of resources for the beneficiary countries?

 
  
 

(FR)The Commission welcomes the G8 decision taken last summer to go further in writing off multilateral debt for countries that show they are committed to combating poverty.

In order to help countries of the south to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the Commission is convinced that development aid must be increased substantially. Accordingly, it warmly welcomes the commitment of the June 2005 European Council to raising public development aid by some EUR 20 billion, half of which will be earmarked for Africa. It now falls, of course, to the Member States to put this commitment into action. The Commission must now ensure that the quantity and the effectiveness of Community aid increases.

The issue of debt relief is nothing new and has already formed a significant part of the following ongoing political initiatives:

Following the Cotonou Agreement, the European Development Fund (EDF) now works essentially on the basis of donations and no longer increases the debt burden of African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries. The Commission is therefore a ‘small’ creditor by comparison with multilateral creditors.

The Commission is involved in the Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative as a creditor on EDF resources (to the tune of EUR 680 million). During the period 2000 to 2005, EUR 344.5 million was disbursed. Add to this the EUR 900 million paid into the Trust Fund managed by the World Bank to finance debt relief by other multilateral organisations, in particular the African Development Bank; between 2000 and 2005, USD 697 million was actually spent.

The Commission also went further than the terms of the initiative by writing off all outstanding special loans among the least developed countries.

It has also been involved in writing off multilateral arrears, on a case-by-case basis, for post-conflict countries, to enable them to take part in the HIPC initiative. In the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Commission has provided budgetary support of EUR 106 million to write off arrears on EDF resources and USD 40 million to help write off the arrears of the African Development Bank.

The commitment by a number of our Member States to write off all of the bilateral credit of HIPCs should also be taken on board in this context.

These points explain the place set aside for debt relief in our strategy for Africa.

 

Question no 83 by Diamanto Manolakou (H-0141/06)
 Subject: Incineration of hazardous waste by Viokeral
 

The incineration of hazardous and pollutant waste from the processing of petroleum coke by the Viokeral tile factory is provoking an outcry from the public and organisations in the Larissa region. The company's use of petroleum coke - since when is unknown - which was declared illegal by the competent authorities until 2004, was subsequently legalised and there is now a risk that the incineration of petroleum coke by tile factories will become more widespread, at least in Thessaly, for competitive reasons.

In view of the danger posed by this waste - which has a particularly high content of sulphur, heavy metals, carcinogenic polyaromatic hydrocarbons and other substances hazardous to human health - and the previous refusals of the competent Greek authorities to grant authorisation for its use, what measures does the Commission intend to take to put an end to the use of petroleum coke, which is in breach of national and Community environment legislation?

 
  
 

(EN)The use of petroleum coke as a fuel is not prohibited in the EU. However, the provisions of the relevant community legislation have to be complied with by the installation.

The applicable legislation varies depending on whether the petroleum coke is considered “waste” as defined under Directive 75/442/EEC on waste(1). In the first instance it is for the designated competent authorities of the Member States to decide on this matter, taking account of the judgments of the European Court of Justice(2).

Incineration of waste is covered by Directive 2000/76/EC on the incineration of waste(3) (WID). Plants treating only certain types of wastes are excluded from the scope of the WID, but the petroleum coke is not listed among the exclusions.

Should the petroleum coke not be considered as waste, Directive 2001/80/EC on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants(4) (LCPD) applies, provided that the thermal input of the installation is equal to or greater than 50 Mega Watt.

Whether petroleum coke is considered waste or not Directive 96/61/EC concerning integrated pollution prevention and control(5) (IPPCD) applies, provided that the relevant capacity threshold (10 tonnes per day) is exceeded.

The requirements of the WID must be met by existing incineration plants from 28 December 2005. The deadline for compliance of existing installations is 30 October 2007 in case of the IPPCD, while for the LCPD it is 1 January 2008.

 
 

(1) OJ L 194, 25.7.1975, as amended
(2) See for instance case C-235/02 (“Petroleum coke which is produced intentionally or in the course of producing other petroleum fuels in an oil refinery and is certain to be used as fuel to meet the energy needs of the refinery and those of other industries does not constitute waste within the meaning of Council Directive 75/442/EEC…”)
(3) OJ L 332, 28.12.2000
(4) OJ L 309, 27.11.2001
(5) OJ L 257, 10.10.1996

 

Question no 84 by Bogusław Sonik (H-0145/06)
 Subject: Compatibility of projects co-financed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Union's environmental protection policy
 

Expert evaluations on hydrotechnical projects receiving EIB loans, drawn up on the instructions of a Polish environmental organisation, have revealed major irregularities and the infringement of Community law.

In 2001, the EIB granted the Polish Government a loan for the rebuilding of infrastructure destroyed during flooding and for the strengthening of flood defences in the Małopolska region. However, during the reconstruction work serious and irreparable damage was inflicted on river and forest fauna. The hydrotechnical work was carried out using old techniques, irreversibly upsetting the balance of river and forest ecosystems. As a result of this work, a sharp decline was noted in 16 bird species covered by the 1979 Birds Directive as part of the Natura 2000 network. The removal of backwaters and islands in order to regulate the river flow has resulted in the disappearance of habitats on many rivers.

On what basis does the EIB award loans in the EU? Why are projects approved by the EIB not carried out in line with the EU's environmental protection policy? What control measures does the Commission intend to take with regard to the above situation?

 
  
 

(EN)Projects in the EU, financed by the European Investment Bank (EIB), should conform to EU environmental law. In this regard, the Bank carries out an environmental assessment of the projects that it finances and assumes responsibility for monitoring projects during implementation.

The Commission is consulted by the EIB on projects prior to approval by the EIB Board, according to article 21 of the EIB statute with a view to providing an opinion on the conformity of such projects with Community legislation and policies, including environment.

As far as the specific project in Poland is concerned, the Bank confirmed that the project was in line with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive(1) as amended; it was also a condition of financing that the Polish authorities would respect the requirements of the Birds and Habitats Directives and the designation of sites of conservation interest making up Natura 2000.

If the Honourable Member has any further detailed information that indicates that Community legislation is being breached, this should be sent to the Commission for further consideration.

 
 

(1) Directive 85/337/EC on Environmental Impact Assessment

 

Question no 85 by Cecilia Malmström (H-0149/06)
 Subject: Support for democracy in Iran
 

Political developments in Iran are very disturbing. The reactionary and anti-democratic mullahs consolidated their power with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. It is now highly important that the international community, including the EU, should support the democratic forces operating in Iran. The pressure on those holding political power must increase in response to the lack of respect for human rights, financial support for terrorist organisations, and the development of nuclear weapons. Last week, the US Secretary of State revealed that the Administration is to request a further 75 million dollars to promote democracy in Iran. Much of this funding will be invested in radio and television for the population of Iran. Sustained efforts will also be made to reach the Iranian people via the Internet. The USA also intends to increase its aid to the radio station FARDA, which broadcasts news critical of the regime inside Iran.

What measures does the Commission intend to take within the EU to strengthen independent radio and television stations and other democratic forces in Iran?

 
  
 

(EN)The EU has been supporting Human Rights and Democracy in Iran for a long time already.

For instance, the establishment in 2002 of a Human rights dialogue between the EU and Iran is one of the practical means through which the EU can make a contribution to improving the situation on the ground. It provides a structured forum which allows formal discussion of individual cases, as well as a comprehensive range of Human Rights issues. So far, the majority of our interlocutors have shown a clear understanding of the benefit of engagement over isolation.

It is also one of the only ways of reaching out to, and supporting, Human Rights defenders and reformers in Iran, who otherwise would be more isolated than ever. The EU issued a public statement on the state of the EU-Iran Human Rights dialogue in December 2005(1). As of date, despite difficulties, the EU is still pursuing its efforts to hold a session of the dialogue in the near future.

The EU-Iran Dialogue is not an alternative to, but complementary with other means of action. For instance, through its diplomatic missions in Tehran, the EU is regularly démarching the Iranian authorities over individual cases, such as Mr. Abdolfattah Soltani –released on bail on 6 March- and Mr. Akbar Ganji –still in prison.

Moreover, given the deterioration of the human rights situation over the past couple of years –in fact, even before the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad-, the EU has maintained an overall vigorous public line. This led to a decision by all EU Member States to co-sponsor a Resolution adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran in December 2004, and again in December 2005.

Concerning promotion activities, since 2002, under the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the EU has devoted € 3.4 million to the promotion of human rights and the rule of law in Iran. This includes three projects for a total amount of € 2.9 million which were initiated in 2004, and launched in 2004-05 (for reference, EU partners have committed around € 2 million in total bilateral assistance in these areas). Two of these projects - Prison & Judiciary Reform and Child Protection & Women Empowerment, are implemented by UN agencies, and are expected to provide a useful complement to the EIDHR-sponsored Human Rights (HR) exchanges which have been taking place since 2002 within the framework of the EU-Iran Human Rights dialogue. EC support to civil society development will be further expanded in 2006 through a new € 1,1 million project in cooperation with United Nations Development Program (UNDP) aiming at fostering human rights and greater access to justice.

The Commission agrees with the Honourable Member that freedom of expression in Iran deserves to be specifically supported. Indeed, the EIDHR provides funding to Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) projects related to freedom of association and freedom of expression in Iran through an open Call for Proposals (Campaign 3 – “Promoting the Democratic Process). However, the EIDHR is not an appropriate instrument to support large-scale European media projects devoted to reach out to the Iranian public.

Lastly, it should be noted that the EU pursues such activities with a long-term perspective, in an open and transparent way, devoid of any particular political agenda. Indeed, our principled view and practical assessment is that efforts to use the “civil society” channel to “weaken” or “change” the Iranian regime would only backfire on the very people we wish to support.

 
 

(1) http://www.eu2005.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage& c=Page&cid=1107293561746& a=KArticle&aid=1134648912892&date=2005-12-20

 

Question no 86 by Manolis Mavrommatis (H-0151/06)
 Subject: European cooperation to protect monuments in the event of earthquake
 

The Mediterranean is a region of intense seismic activity which constantly endangers ancient and Byzantine monuments, such as the Parthenon in Greece and Aghia Sofia in Turkey. The same problem is also faced by other countries in the Mediterranean basin, such as Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Malta, with their wealth of monuments and historic settlements. Community research programmes on natural risks and disasters, particularly seismic risks, have been adopted and implemented for decades already.

Will the Commission examine the possibility of setting up an agency, in the context of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation programme, which would operate within the EU to protect all these monuments from the disastrous consequences of earthquakes?

 
  
 

(EN)May the Commission draw the attention of the Honourable Member to the fact that the principle of subsidiarity applies here. Nevertheless the Commission considers that several existing instruments – within Commission competences limits – are already addressing concerns raised by the Honourable Member.

In fact, the need to further strengthen co-operation in the field of natural disaster prevention was highlighted at the Barcelona Summit in November 2005. Although not specifically aimed at protecting monuments from consequences of earthquakes, the 2005-2007 ‘Bridge Programme for the Creation of a Euro-Mediterranean System of Mitigation, Prevention and Management of Natural and Man-made Disasters’ contributes to the development of a regional civil protection system. The system aims at ensuring the effective prevention, preparedness and response to natural and man made disasters, including prevention, risk mitigation and pre-disaster planning. Risks related to earthquakes, to tsunamis and to forest fires are covered by the thematic component of this regional Programme. A long term programme (2008-2013) is being prepared, in consultation with all Euromed partners.

Moreover, it is important to mention here the activities of the Community Civil Protection Mechanism. Created by the Council Decision of 2001, the Mechanism is designed to respond to natural and man made disasters regardless of their location. Its aim is provide the appropriate protection of people, environment and property including cultural heritage.

The Mediterranean is the cradle of many civilisations and its cultural heritage is part of our common legacy: we are all responsible for its conservation and development. Since this unique cultural endowment is a resource under threat and a shared responsibility, another regional programme within the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, ‘Euromed Heritage’, is helping all Euromed Partners to transform their cultural capital into a social and economic asset, and to appreciate their common interests. One of the objectives of Euromed Heritage is to preserve the historical and cultural identity of traditional Mediterranean architecture through the establishing and use of a multidisciplinary working methodology for the rehabilitation and sustainable maintenance of buildings and monuments.

Hence, the Commission does not envisage for the time being to set up a Euromed agency aimed at protecting monuments from consequences of earthquakes.

 

Question no 87 by Javier Moreno Sánchez (H-0154/06)
 Subject: Union citizenship abroad
 

All EU citizens should enjoy guaranteed recognition of their individual right to freedom of movement and residence within the EU, to vote and stand in EP elections and local elections in their Member State of residence; diplomatic and consular protection on the part of any Member State in a third country where their own national Member State is not represented, access to the Ombudsman, and the right to petition the EP. Given that Union citizenship guarantees the same rights to all its citizens, independently of their place of origin and whether their place of residence is within the Union or in a third country:

Is the Commission in possession of any kind of analysis assessing the conditions which obtain with regard to the exercise of their Union citizenship by EU citizens residing outwith the territory of the Union? If not, does it intend to carry out any such analytical assessment? Does it, furthermore, plan to adopt any measures with a view to, on the one hand, to informing EU citizens residing outwith the Union of their European citizenship rights, and on the other, guaranteeing those citizens the full exercise of these rights?

 
  
 

(FR)In its fourth report on European citizenship of 26 October 2004(1), the Commission stressed the importance of information and communication regarding the rights conferred by EU citizenship. To this end, it is working hard to improve EU citizens’ general knowledge and to provide access to reliable information on the subject(2). Information of this nature is published, inter alia, on the Commission’s website and is, as such, accessible to everyone, including people living outside the Union.

Although some EU citizenship rights may be exercised by persons residing outside the EU, most of these rights are intended exclusively or primarily for EU citizens residing in a Member State other than that of their nationality.

According to Article 18 of the Treaty, every citizen has the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. The secondary legislation Community instruments on free movement and residence are based on the provisions governing the exercise of the citizens’ right to enter and reside in a Member State other than that from which they hail. The Commission issues regular reports on the implementation of the different instruments in force. In response to the need to codify and reinforce Community legislation in the area of free movement and residence, the new directive 2004/38/EC(3) on the right of Union citizens and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, adopted on 29 April 2004, brought together, in the form of a single instrument, the complex legislative corpus and the copious amount of case law in force, which will clarify this fundamental right and make it more transparent for Union citizens. The directive facilitates the exercise of the right of residence by simplifying the conditions to be met and the formalities to be completed, and creates a permanent leave to remain after five years’ residence in the host Member State. The Member States must bring into force the national provisions needed to comply with this directive by 30 April 2006 at the latest.

The political citizenship rights accorded by Article 19 of the Treaty are not extended to citizens residing in third countries, but to those residing in an EU Member State, under the same conditions as nationals of that State. Directive 94/80/EC sets out the provisions whereby Union citizens residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals can exercise the right to vote and to stand as candidates in municipal elections; Directive 93/109/EC also sets out the provisions whereby citizens residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals can exercise the right to vote and to stand in elections. The Commission has published several reports on the implementation of these directives(4).

The right to apply to the Ombudsman and to petition Parliament under Article 21 of the EC Treaty is conferred on EU citizens, and in any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State. These instruments were intended as resources at the citizens’ disposal in instances of maladministration in the activities of Community institutions and bodies, and where the citizens’ rights relating to the Community’s areas of activity have been violated.

The fourth report on Union citizenship mentioned above contains detailed information on the number of petitions submitted to Parliament and the Ombudsman during the reference period (May 2001 – April 2004). The Ombudsman is, moreover, preparing an annual report on his activities, including information such as statistics on the geographical origins of the complaints submitted.

The entitlement to protection by diplomatic or consular authorities laid down by Article 20 of the EC Treaty is the only citizenship right specifically created for citizens of EU Member States outside the European Union.

Under Article 20 of the EC Treaty, protection can be accorded by any Member State with a representation (embassy, consulate) in a country outside the EU.

According to Article 20 of the EC Treaty, each Member State must offer protection to the citizens of other Member States ‘on the same conditions’ as the nationals of that State.

Decision 95/553/EC on the protection of EU citizens by diplomatic and consular representations in countries outside the EU has been implemented in the legislation of all Member States, which implies that every EU citizen can enjoy this right. Distressed citizens may apply to any Member State represented in a third country, if the State of the citizen concerned is a national of a country that has neither an embassy nor a consulate in that third country. As the preamble to the above-mentioned decision states, diplomatic and consular protection laid down by Article 20 of the EC will reinforce the perception of common EU citizenship, of an EU identity and of European solidarity.

The concept and definition of ‘distressed state’ are not set in stone on a finite list; far from it, Decision 95/553/EC lays down a range of example situations in which the citizen can be deemed in need of assistance (arrest, detention, death of a spouse, etc). Among the cases provided for by the abovementioned decision, the protection offered by embassies and/or consulates covers assistance in individual cases, such as EU citizens who have lost their passport, those who have been victims of violence, or indeed the relief and repatriation of distressed citizens.

Protection also has a very specific meaning in emergencies, such as those caused by natural disasters, or disasters with a collective impact.

On the abovementioned issues, the Commission will contribute to the ongoing reflections in the Council under the Austrian Presidency and based on the wishes expressed in the Hague Programme.

Furthermore, the Commission, which is currently drafting reports on EU citizenship rights – including the right to diplomatic and consular protection – laid down by Article 22 of the EC Treaty, will draw up a communication on this issue.

Article 22 of the EC Treaty states that, on the basis of these reports, proposals can be made to extend the content of EU citizenship rights, including the right to diplomatic and consular protection. The next report will cover the period until the year 2007, the year in which Decision 95/553/EC is to be reviewed in the light of the experience acquired in five years since its entry into force.

As regards information to the citizens, the subject of the honourable Member’s question, the EU’s institutions have put together an information brochure entitled 'European consular protection’ which is intended for the general public, published in the EU official languages, and which is in the process of being disseminated and distributed. The brochure explains that there is a range of situations in which the Member State cannot be obliged to provide assistance to EU citizens ‘as part of consular and diplomatic protection’ (for example, settlement of lawyers’ fees or legal assistance in the event of legal protection, settlement of transport costs, etc.).

Consequently, the Commission does not deem it useful to devote specific analysis to the issue of the exercise of EU citizenship rights by citizens residing outside the Union. It also wishes to emphasise the regular reports on EU citizenship and on the specific rights relating thereto.

 
 

(1) COM(2004) 695 final of 26.10.2004
(2) See annex to the fourth report on Citizenship of the Union with regard to information, education and assistance concerning citizens’ rights (SEC (2004) 1280 of 26.10.2004.
(3) OJ L 158, 30.4.2004.
(4) The most recent reports: Commission report to Parliament and the Council on the implementation of Council Directive 94/80/EC laying down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in municipal elections, COM(2002) 260 final; Commission Communication on the implementation of Directive 93/109/EC on the occasion of elections to the European Parliament in 1999 – the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament for citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals, COM (2000) 843 final.

 

Question no 88 by Jonas Sjöstedt (H-0155/06)
 Subject: Commission's change of position on approval of pesticides
 

The Commission is expected to approve eight controversial pesticides in the near future, in particular four fungicides with hormone-disrupting properties which have detrimental effects on laboratory animals. Young rats, for example, suffer irreparable damage.

Last year, the Commission notified the manufacturers that the fungicides would be prohibited. Subsequently, sustained pressure was brought to bear on the Commission to persuade it to change its position, which it now has. The Commission is now saying that it may allow limited use of the substances, which implies that they will be released on to the market.

The Nordic Member States are among those outraged at this outcome. The Swedish Environment Minister, for instance, commented that the situation is very, very troubling and implies that the Commission has lowered the bar for the approval of pesticides in the EU.

Can the Commission provide details of its contacts with various companies since the first letter was written to manufacturers last year notifying them that the pesticides would be prohibited? Does the Commission share the Swedish Environment Minister's view that the bar has been lowered for the approval of pesticides in the EU?

 
  
 

(EN)The evaluation of the eight substances has shown that they have hazardous properties. However, the Commission has to take into account the conditions of use. This means that, as provided in Article 5 of Directive 91/414/EEC concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, a substance which is intrinsically hazardous could be used in a limited way if the risks can be managed by appropriate mitigation measures.

Therefore the Commission has imposed a number of restrictions:

The crops for which the use is authorised are only those evaluated and agreed at EU level.

The inclusion of an active substance in the positive list of the Directive is normally valid for 10 years. In this case it has been restricted to 7 years to ensure early review when more experience on their possible impact on human health and the environment is available. Authorisation holders will have to report annually on any effect on operator health.

As regards conditions of use, the same detailed risk mitigation measures are mandatory throughout the Union.

The suspected endocrine disruptors will be reviewed as soon as OECD(1) protocols for the necessary studies are adopted. Companies will have to provide these studies in given time limits.

To ensure transparency, the Commission wrote to all concerned notifiers that it was considering the possible non-inclusion of their substance. It did not write that prohibition had already been decided. The Commission invited the notifiers to comment and confirmed that it would not examine further studies or accept changes to the evaluated uses.

There have been meetings between the Commission and the notifiers to explain the approach and to discuss their comments.

It is correct that notifiers have opposed the proposed restrictions, in particular the fact that extension of the scope of crops on which the substances could be used should be evaluated at EU level. Nevertheless, the Commission has maintained these restrictions.

The Commission submitted its proposals to the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health on 3 March 2006. The Committee did not deliver a favourable opinion on the proposals, which will be transmitted to the Council in accordance with the comitology procedure.

 
 

(1) Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

 

Question no 89 by Avril Doyle (H-0158/06)
 Subject: Assessment of the Tobacco Products Directive
 

The Commission is no doubt aware of the Dutch lawsuit last year, in which a number of tobacco manufacturers attacked the Tobacco Products Directive's requirement to furnish all additives in tobacco products (see Commission's assessment report on Directive 2001/37/EC dated 27 July 2005, pages 6-7). Seven tobacco manufacturers argued that their trade secrets would be violated.

What does the Commission intend to do about this argument on trade secrets being used, not merely in the Netherlands, to create stalling tactics and unnecessary obstacles to the efficient working of this disclosure provision (Article 6 of the Tobacco Products Directive 2001/37/EC)?

Given that other industries - including cosmetics and medicines - are subject to strict regulations about the ingredients they put into their products, does the Commission agree that the tobacco industry should be brought into line and forced to disclose the ingredients in their products and the smoke released on combustion?

Does the Commission also agree that full disclosure should be a prerequisite for the placing on the market of tobacco products within the EU?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission would like to state clearly that trade secrets cannot be used as an argument not to disclose all tobacco ingredients to the competent authorities of Member States, as required by Article 6 of the Tobacco Products Directive. The Dutch lawsuit confirms this.

The issue of trade secrets only arises at the second stage, when informing the public. Here the Tobacco Products Directive already requires Member States to take due account of trade secrets.

The Commission has set up a working group to develop a harmonised data reporting format for ingredients – one format for the submission of ingredients data to the authorities and another format for the information of consumers.

The Commission supports the Member States in their efforts to achieve full disclosure of ingredients to the regulator.

Finally, the Commission wishes to inform the Honourable Member that the Tobacco Products Directive does not link the obligation to submit ingredients data to the placing on the market of tobacco products

 

Question no 91 by Anna Hedh (H-0174/06)
 Subject: Participation by women in peaceful conflict resolution
 

In November 2000, the European Parliament adopted a report comprising a resolution (2000/2025(INI)(1)) on participation of women in peaceful conflict resolution. The report urged the Commission and Member States to increase women's participation in conflict prevention and peace-keeping measures and effectively support women who are victims of violence during armed conflicts. The Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality has recently begun work on a follow-up to the resolution from 2000. In this connection, I would ask the Commission what measures have been taken since the adoption of the resolution in November 2000 and what measures, if any, the Commission has planned in this field?

 
  
 

(EN)Women are important actors in peace-building processes and in preventing the outbreak of conflict. However, many times they tend to work at the grass roots level and carry out work that is overlooked, whereas men tend to make up the official delegations that represent the parties to the conflict or the mediators.

We are in this context fully committed to implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 of October 2000 concerning women, peace and security. This commitment is reinstated in the new Commission Communication “Roadmap on gender equality”.

Important recommendations in this regard exist also in the operational paper of September 2005 by the Council on practical measures for implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in planning and implementation of European Security and Defence Policy missions.

Through the European Initiative on Democracy and Human Rights the Commission is supporting training in the area of crisis management. This training, intended for Member States experts to be deployed in the field, has as its integral part the promotion of gender equality in crisis management and conflict resolution.

Support to non governmental organisations including women’s organisations in this field plays a key role. An ongoing project example in this field is the training of women in peaceful conflict resolution in Rwanda (€ 350.000). There has also been support to strengthen women’s active participation in peace processes and long-term peace building in other parts of the world, including in the cases of Georgia and Colombia.

Through the European Initiative on Democracy and Human Rights, we are expecting a number of civil society organisations to soon submit to us project proposals for funding under the theme of rights of vulnerable groups in armed conflict. Particular accent is put on gender based violence.

 
 

(1) OJ C 228, 13.8.2001, p. 187.

 

Question no 93 by Georgios Toussas (H-0180/06)
 Subject: Drafting of seamen into the military
 

The disgraceful decision of the Greek Government of 21 February 2006 to draft the seamen who have come out on strike in support of their legitimate claims is a direct infringement of the Constitution, in particular Article 22(2) thereof prohibiting any form of compulsory work, the EHCR, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Articles 29 and 105 of the International Labour Convention, which have been ratified by Greece and are binding on it.

This unacceptable treatment of seamen and workers in other sectors, to which both ND and PASOK governments have resorted in the past, seriously undermines the basic civil rights and freedoms, including the right to strike, hard won by the working class through their sweat and blood. The order for the seamen to be drafted must therefore be immediately countermanded and this reactionary and repressive measure revoked.

Does the Commission condemn these unacceptable government attempts to restrict the undeniable basic social rights and freedoms of the entire Greek working population?

 
  
 

(EN)Article 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union provides that workers or their respective organisations have, in accordance with Community law and national laws and practices, the right, in cases of conflicts of interest, to take collective action to defend their interests, including strike action(1).

The right to strike is also enshrined in several international conventions and constitutions of EU Member States.

However, it should be noted that the right to adopt, by means of directives, minimum requirements under the social policy provisions of the EC Treaty is excluded as regards the right to strike pursuant Article 137(5) of the EC Treaty.

 
 

(1) This Charter is however not legally binding.

 

Question no 94 by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (H-0182/06)
 Subject: The right to strike and measures to guarantee economic, territorial and social cohesion in the Member States
 

Over the last few days an extended seamen's strike in Greece has caused major difficulties in terms of territorial economic and social cohesion (regarding the supply of food and fuels to island communities, the transport of invalids, etc.). While the guaranteed right of workers to strike is undisputed, being codified in Article 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Article 36 of the same Charter and Article II-96 of the European Constitution explicitly state that the European Union recognises and respects access to services of general economic interest as provided for in national laws and practices in order to promote the social and territorial cohesion of the Union and its competitivity.

Does the Commission agree that massive strike action of this kind infringes the right of European citizens to access to basic services and undermines the proper functioning of internal market mechanisms? Does the Commission have any comparative studies and information on responses to such situations in the various Member States? Does it agree that measures should be taken to ensure the compulsory provision of a minimum level of services as already provided for in certain Member States? Has it raised the matter in the context of the European social dialogue?

 
  
 

(EN)Article 28 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights provides that workers or their respective organisations have, in accordance with Community law and national laws and practices, the right, in cases of conflicts of interest, to take collective action to defend their interests, including strike action(1).

The right to strike is also enshrined in several international conventions and constitutions of EU Member States.

At EU-level, Article 137(5) of the EC Treaty provides that the provisions in Article 137 EC (Chapter on Social Policy) do not apply to the right to strike. Therefore, there is no EC legislation specifically regulating this right. In the present case, the Commission notes that the questions put by the Honourable Member refer to difficulties linked to the territorial, economic and social cohesion of Greece caused by a strike (impossibility to supply food and fuels to island communities, impossibility to transport sick persons, etc). On the basis of the information provided by the Honourable Member, the situation seems to be of an internal and not of a cross-border nature. It is for the Greek competent authorities, including courts, to appreciate the legality of the strike in accordance with national law and with due respect to the international obligations of the country.

 
 

(1) Please note that this Charter is not legally binding.

 

Question no 95 by Antonio López-Istúriz White (H-0183/06)
 Subject: Cooperation in the transport sector and specific measures for island regions
 

At a recent meeting in Marrakesh the Transport Ministers from the EU and the neighbouring countries around the Mediterranean agreed to cooperate more extensively in the transport sector (including travel by air and sea).

Will the Commission explain what benefits will accrue to the parts of the EU which are closest to the countries in the Mediterranean basin?

Will the Commission explain whether the more extensive cooperation referred to above includes any specific measures for EU regions in the area which are insular in nature - such as the Balearic Islands?

Lastly, does the Commission expect that the increase in cooperation with regard to transport by air and sea will have a positive impact on the tourist industry?

 
  
 

(EN)At the Ministerial Conference of Marrakech on 15 December 2005, the Transport Ministers of the European Union and the Mediterranean Partners affirmed their commitment to achieving the main objective of the Barcelona Process in the field of transport, namely the setting up of an integrated, efficient, safe and secure transport system in the Mediterranean region. The Ministers also welcomed the fact that the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) will contribute to identify the cooperation towards more integration between the EU and the Mediterranean Partners through the implementation of ENP Action plans, including in the transport sector. The development of this transport system will promote the intra-regional trade and cross-border co-operation which will have a positive impact on economic growth and job creation in EU, especially those countries which are closest to the Mediterranean basin.

The EU financial support, by means of technical assistance to the Mediterranean partners, but also the realisation of missing infrastructure interconnections (both at North-South and South-South levels) opens new markets for the transport industry of the EU Mediterranean territories.

Sea and air transport are the main transport modes in the Mediterranean area. The implementation of international standards on maritime and air safety and security as well as the approximation to the relevant EU legislations are essential measures for the development of a safe and secure transport system. Therefore the implementation of these measures is of utmost importance for the tourist industry of the Mediterranean region as a whole, and islands like the Balearic Islands, will benefit from the improvement of the regional transport system they belong to. The tourist industry will also benefit from the open aviation agreements that the Commission may negotiate with the different Mediterranean Parties, as it has done with Morocco, the agreement having been initialled in Marrakech in the margins of the Euromed Ministerial meeting.

 

Question no 96 by Athanasios Pafilis (H-0184/06)
 Subject: Closure of phosphate fertiliser plant
 

The closure of the BFL phosphate fertiliser plant in Thessaloniki and the prospect of the closure of another plant belonging to the same banking consortium in Kavala, resulting in hundreds of job losses, have understandably provoked indignation and ongoing mass protests by workers. Other workers in Thessaloniki are also expressing their solidarity in the face of continued job losses and mass redundancies, with the support of farmers objecting to the impact of the CAP on the dwindling rural populace.

What view does the Commission take of this wave of mass redundancies being caused by structural adjustments under the Lisbon Strategy and the growing unemployment situation, which is still being further aggravated by the revised CAP?

 
  
 

(FR)The Commission is aware of the detrimental impact that a factory closure can have on the workers affected, on their families and on the region in question. The Commission may not, however, express its opinion or interfere in companies’ internal decision-making, except where Community law has been violated.

The Commission would point out in this regard that Community legislation comprises different directives intended to ensure that cases of restructuring are both justified and appropriately managed – that is, ensuring that the workers are informed and consulted – especially when companies close down.

On 31 March 2005(1), the Commission adopted a communication entitled ‘Restructuring and employment’ in which it set out a global, coherent EU approach to restructuring.

Different Community policies help to pre-empt and keep pace with economic change, to support employment and to encourage regional development. Alongside the two pillars of agricultural policy, the Commission’s industrial policy, the employment strategy and the intervention of the structural funds are especially important in the situation raised by the honourable Member. For example, the mobilisation of the different Community instruments and a coordinated approach were in a position to be activated as part of the process of accompanying the profound restructuring relating to the reform of the sugar common market organisation (CMO), in particular by setting up a contact group between the social partners and the various services of the Commission.

Furthermore, following an invitation by the European Council of 15 and 16 December 2005, the Commission adopted on 1 March 2006 a proposal relating to the creation of a European globalisation adjustment fund to support workers made redundant in the regions and sectors affected by the major structural changes taking place in world trade.

 
 

(1) COM(2005) 120 of 31.3.2005

 

Question no 97 by Ryszard Czarnecki (H-0185/06)
 Subject: Fight against corruption in the new Member States
 

What progress has been made in the fight against corruption in the new EU Member States since they joined the Union in May 2004?

 
  
 

(EN)Countries preparing to join the European Union must meet certain criteria which were established by the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993. These criteria include the requirement to incorporate the “Acquis Communautaire”, and hence the existing EU instruments relating to corruption, into national law. The Member States had to fulfil the requirements in that area to join the EU. Following the enlargement of the Union on 1 May 2004, the new Member States became subject to the same monitoring and evaluation procedures as the existing Member States.

Since they are members of the EU, there is therefore no special mechanism in place at present to specifically monitor any Member State’s “progress in fighting corruption”. They are treated in the same manner as the other member states.

Legal instruments in the area of police and judicial cooperation in relation to the prevention of, and fight against, corruption are drawn up under Title VI of the Treaty on European Union. Such instruments may include provisions whereby Member States are required to inform the Commission and the Council of the steps taken for their transposition.

Work is currently underway, however, within the overall context of the development of comparable crime statistics, to develop a methodology over the coming years for recording and sharing comparable statistics on crime and criminal justice, including corruption. In addition, for the first time questions on corruption were included within a Eurobarometer survey, as carried out in late 2005. All twenty five Member States were included in the survey. This was the first occasion on which a Eurobarometer survey was used to ascertain European Union citizens’ perceptions and experience of corruption, and it is anticipated that its results will be published in the coming weeks. Both of these initiatives will, in due course, enable the Commission and Member States alike to gain a clearer understanding of the corruption phenomenon in all Member States.

 

Question no 99 by Miroslav Mikolášik (H-0198/06)
 Subject: EU foreign policy in relation to Palestine and Israel
 

The radical Palestinian movement Hamas won the Palestinian elections held on 25 January 2006. The European Union now finds itself in a very complex situation because Hamas features on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations. At the same time, however, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Hamas was victorious in a democratic election, which the EU helped to organise and which was monitored by the EU itself. As a member of the Delegation to the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, I would therefore be interested to know: what is the Commission’s position on the new situation in the Middle East after the Palestinian legislative elections, and what is its position on the Hamas movement? What further steps can the EU take towards fostering peace politics between Palestine and Israel? What specific steps does the EU intend to take to help create two sovereign states: Palestine and Israel?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission has recognised the right of the Palestininian people to express their democratic will and supported the organisation and holding of democratic and transparent elections in line with international standards.

Following the victory of Hamas, the Quartet and the General Affairs and External Relations Council set out, on 30 January 2006, the principles for political engagement with the future Palestinian Authority (PA), namely that new government should pursue peace by peaceful means, work with Israel and accept previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap. The Commission fully subscribes these principles.

We will therefore need to see how – or indeed if - the election victory of Hamas will translate into a platform for the next Palestinian Government that will allow continued engagement with the Palestinian Authority on the basis of these principles.

In the intervening period, the interim Palestinian administration is facing a severe fiscal crisis. The Commission has responded by providing over €120 million to help the caretaker government stabilise PA finances and meet the needs of the population. This commitment has been endorsed by the Council and supported by the Quartet.

Looking beyond the period of the caretaker government, the Commission is ready to continue humanitarian and emergency aid to ease the plight of the Palestinians. The rest of the Commission programme will need to be reviewed against the evolving political situation and will depend on the composition and programme of the new Palestinian Government and its commitment to pursuing peace by peaceful means.

The Commission will continue its civil society intiatives and trilateral EU-Israel-Palestinian dialogue as part of its ongoing effort to foster mutual understanding and to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

 

Question no 100 by Jelko Kacin (H-0199/06)
 Subject: Difficulties experienced by gaming operators in advertising their activities in certain EU Member States
 

In July and September 2005 I tabled questions to the Commission concerning the evident difficulties experienced by Slovenian gaming operators in advertising their activities in Austria. A Slovenian company recently submitted an official complaint to Commissioner McCreevy concerning this unjustified restriction on the freedom to provide services in the tourism sector, together with a request for an official procedure to be initiated against Austria over this infringement.

I would like to remind the Commission that, for example, the Slovenian company Hit Nova Gorica, which operates games of chance, is not permitted to advertise its activities in Austria, while no such restriction applies to Austrian operators. Austria is thereby infringing the basic principles of free trade, and in particular Article 49 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, which concerns the freedom to provide services.

What has the Commission ascertained on the basis of the documents and detailed account submitted by the aforementioned Slovenian company with regard to this practical example? Has the Commission examined the Austrian law (amended in 2003) to determine whether it is in compliance with Community law? What has the Commission decided on the question of initiating an infringement procedure against Austria?

 
  
 

(EN)The Commission can confirm that it received the complaint referred to on the 20th of February 2006. It will examine the complaint, in particular the Austrian law's compatibility with Article 49 of the EC Treaty. As with all complaints it will carefully assess not only the restrictive elements of the law but also if the relevant restrictions (1) are justified by imperative reasons relating to the public interest, and (2) are not disproportionate i.e. are not excessive and cannot be replaced by less restrictive measures. The Commission will then decide on the basis of this examination, whether or not to open an infringement procedure.

The Commission can assure the Honourable Member that it will keep the complainant informed of progress in this matter.

 

Question no 101 by Antolín Sánchez Presedo (H-0201/06)
 Subject: Romania and economic convergence
 

The Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Joaquín Almunia, met the Romanian Prime Minister, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, and the Minister for Public Works, Sebastián Vladescu, in Bucharest on 23 February 2006 to discuss macro-economic developments in Romania in 2005 and tax policy priorities for 2006. At the meeting, the Commissioner drew attention to the adverse impact that a cut in taxation could have in the medium term on the collection of the revenue required for infrastructure and education reforms and the cofunding of European projects. He also said that inflation control and bringing the trade balance into equilibrium were priority objectives.

How, in the Commission's view, is Romania going to be able to meet these challenges in order to achieve the necessary economic convergence and ensure that its forthcoming accession is a success for all Romanians and for the European Union as a whole?

 
  
 

(EN)In the assessment of the Commission, in terms of the Copenhagen economic criteria for accession, Romania continues to comply with the criterion of being a functioning market economy.

Romania has broadly maintained macroeconomic stability, but the policy mix turned less prudent in 2005 and raised concerns about the sustainability of recent stabilisation achievements. Romania would be advised to re-establish a prudent fiscal policy, notably by taking additional measures to strengthen permanently revenues and by a cautious public sector wage policy. This would contribute to sustaining macroeconomic stability, in particular by keeping the widening of external imbalances in check and by contributing to a further decline in inflation. The Commission welcomes that the 2006 budget increasingly reflects these objectives. The Commission also notes the recent tightening of the monetary policy stance, which may help to further reduce inflation.

Current efforts to broaden the tax base and improve further revenue collection are welcome. This would contribute to achieve Romania’s objective of significantly raising the revenue-to-Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, which remains low compared to other countries in the region.

Romania is currently experiencing an upward pressure on public expenditure, which may further increase in the years to come, not only due to co-financing of EU projects, but also because of the needs for public spending on infrastructure, education, health and administrative capacity. The Commission would encourage a clearer prioritisation of public expenditure, aiming at increasing the quality of public finances by directing expenditures towards accession-related areas and towards areas strengthening the economy’s growth potential. Such strategy should equally give emphasis to the sustainability of public finances, notably by addressing problems in the labour market and by undertaking more comprehensive reforms of the pension and health systems.

 

Question no 102 by Neena Gill (H-0202/06)
 Subject: Scamming of developing country nationals
 

Can the Commission please inform Members what is being done to stop international con-merchants from scamming citizens of non-Member States by using an e-mail or postal address in the EU to give them legitimacy in the eyes of the inhabitants of developing countries?

As Chairman of the EP Delegation to SAARC and South Asian countries I have been contacted by people living in that area of the world, most recently the Maldives, who have been conned into transferring their personal savings into supposed EU country firm accounts in order, they are told, to be able to receive lottery winnings. The people of developing countries are particularly vulnerable to such dishonest practices and easily fall victim to cons that we in the West are more aware of and have been working to try to stamp out at home.

Is the Commission sensitive to this problem and what steps are being taken to ensure that the reputation of the EU is not damaged by such criminal activity?

 
  
 

(EN)Scamming is a worldwide type of fraud that does not affect developing country nationals only. This form of fraud does not involve specific target Countries. In many cases (e.g. Nigerian letter scams) the centre of fraud dissemination is actually based in third Countries. These types of fraud are particularly difficult to counter due to the little costs and time involved for criminals to send e-mails on a very large scale. Normally the best response against these scams is consumer awareness.

Even if Member State and third country authorities have primary responsibility for fighting this type of fraud, it is widely recognised that the Commission’s involvement in fraud prevention in certain areas provided an added value. From a general point of view the Commission is promoting a better information exchange; it is raising awareness and strengthening cross-border cooperation. In particular cases (non-cash fraud), it established a framework where fraud prevention specialists could meet and create synergies, including the exchange of best practices and educational material.

As a result, the co-operation to prevent fraud has intensified, notably at cross-border level. The Commission and EU Member States support international cooperation among law enforcement agencies on spam, on fraud and on cybercrime. During the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) which took place in Tunisia in November 2005, the EU supported the Agenda for Action, stressing, inter alia, the importance of enforcement, including for acts committed in one jurisdiction but having effects in another, which is the case here.

 
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