Index 
Debates
PDF 1052k
Wednesday, 29 November 2006 - Brussels OJ edition
1. Resumption of the session
 2. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes
 3. Documents received: see Minutes
 4. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes
 5. Written statements (tabling): see Minutes
 6. Texts of agreements forwarded by the Council: see Minutes
 7. Transfers of appropriations: see Minutes
 8. Agenda: see Minutes
 9. Debate on the future of Europe (debate)
 10. Verification of credentials: see Minutes
 11. Membership of Parliament: see Minutes
 12. Communication of Council common positions: see Minutes
 13. Russia-EU summit (debate)
 14. Accession of Bulgaria - Accession of Romania (debate)
 15. Economic and social consequences of restructuring in the automobile sector in Europe (debate)
 16. Financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide (debate)
 17. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
 18. Implementation of the Seventh Framework Programme of the EC and the EAEC (debate)
 19. The placing on the market of pyrotechnic articles (debate)
 20. Rights of patients in the EU (debate)
 21. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes
 22. Closure of sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: MR BORRELL FONTELLES
President

(The sitting was opened at 3.05 p.m.)

 
1. Resumption of the session
MPphoto
 
 

  President. I declare resumed the session of the European Parliament adjourned on Thursday 16 November 2006.

 

2. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes

3. Documents received: see Minutes

4. Decisions concerning certain documents: see Minutes

5. Written statements (tabling): see Minutes

6. Texts of agreements forwarded by the Council: see Minutes

7. Transfers of appropriations: see Minutes

8. Agenda: see Minutes

9. Debate on the future of Europe (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. The next item is the debate on the future of Europe, with the participation of the Irish Prime Minister, member of the European Council.

During this debate – for the first time and on an exceptional basis – we will have simultaneous interpreting from Irish into all of the official languages.

(Applause)

This first item on the agenda is scheduled to last until 4.30 p.m. After that we will have the Council and Commission statements on the Russia-EU Summit. Speaking times will have to conform to that timetable.

I would like to begin by welcoming the Prime Minister of Ireland on behalf of the European Parliament.

Taoiseach,

in a few weeks time, in the new year, our Parliament will adopt Irish as the twenty-first official language. In this multilingual House we will do everything we can to respect the commitments made in the Treaties and the rights of all languages to be used here.

Our visitor today – the Irish Taoiseach – is someone who has been taking part in the European Council for a long time. He is one of the doyens of the European Council, having been a member since 1997 (nearly ten years ago).

He began as head of the Irish Government a few days after the Amsterdam European Council, which was the first failed attempt at a serious reform of the European institutions.

He then lived through the Nice marathon, which led to a Treaty seen as unsatisfactory from an institutional point of view.

That Treaty of Nice was rejected by the Irish people in a referendum in 2001. But the Irish Prime Minister took on the challenge of carrying out an intensive public information campaign and, as a result, in the second referendum held 18 months later, in 2002, Ireland approved the Treaty of Nice. The European Parliament was delighted and congratulated him enthusiastically.

Then he held the Presidency of the European Council during the Intergovernmental Conference on the Constitutional Treaty, in June 2004. Those of us who sat in the Convention remember his pilgrimage to different European capitals in search of a delicate compromise that he achieved in the end.

You, Prime Minister, have therefore been a privileged witness to our institutional quest. It is therefore a privilege to have you here with us and to hear your views on how the European Union can move beyond the impasse it is currently in.

Furthermore, Ireland has developed an intense debate amongst its citizens. It has had a permanent forum for five years and this, at least, is one of the things we have gained from the 'no' vote in the referendums in certain countries: we have gone back to debating Europe, we have promoted the debate in civil society, and Ireland is probably the country that has done so in the most structured and permanent manner.

You will remember that the Belgian Prime Minister was our guest in May and that this is the second guest to visit us in this innovative manner, since, as a rule, this House only receives Heads of State or Government who are holding the Presidency of the Council.

The way we are receiving you today is innovative. You will have as much time as you need to explain your points of view to us and then there will be a first round of interventions with the Presidents of the political groups, to whom you may reply if you wish, and then we shall take speeches from other Members.

Thank you very much for being here, Taoiseach. You have the floor.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bertie Ahern, Prime Minister of Ireland. President Borrell, it is a great honour to be here again. I am very grateful for the invitation to exchange views on the future of Europe with all the Members of the European Parliament today. As someone who has spent more than half of my lifetime as a member of parliament, I cherish this renewed opportunity to address the only directly elected, multinational legislative body in the world.

Since I last addressed you in 2004, the constructive influence of the European Parliament in advancing the concerns of Europe’s citizens has continued to grow. Your vision is needed as we face the difficult challenges ahead. I wish you every success, Mr President, for the remainder of your term of office. I also wish your successor well. I wish you continued success and congratulate you on all that you have achieved.

We look forward in particular to your visit to Dublin in the days ahead as part of the Forum for Europe, into which we have put an enormous amount of effort. I thank you for your kind remarks about the Forum for Europe. It is not a government body: it represents all the organisations in the country and it is hugely successful. You do us an enormous honour by coming to address it.

Explaining Europe to the public remains probably our greatest challenge, at both European and national level. Therefore, Mr President, I particularly welcome and look forward to this discussion and to discussions with you in the days ahead. You will be visiting a country that has benefited enormously from its membership of the European Union. Some key facts stand out. Since we joined Europe in 1973, our national wealth stood at just 60 per cent of the European average at that stage. Even after accession, we were plagued by emigration, unemployment, high inflation and spiralling debt. These dismal conditions have been completely reversed in recent years.

The role of the European Union was vital to all of that. Europe provided invaluable assistance to us at a critical period in our national development. The phrase ‘the Future of Europe’, like so many phrases, has become part of our jargon. But let us recall for a moment the significance of what those words ‘the Future of Europe’ really mean, for ourselves and for the wider world.

For our own people in Europe, as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, it means consolidating and developing our extraordinary Union – a Union which has been so successful that many now take its success for granted. In a world which knows so much uncertainty, oppression, deprivation and violence, the Union is a bedrock of prosperity, stability and deep-rooted democracy.

The very essence of the European Union – this powerful blend of pragmatism, of patience and vision – was captured by Robert Schuman when he observed that: ‘Europe will not be made all at once, or according to one single plan: rather it will be formed by taking concrete measures which bring about real solidarity.’

Our Union is not, and must never become, an inward looking one. From 1 January we will be a Union of 27 with the very welcome accession of Bulgaria and Romania. We will remain open to further enlargement in line with our commitments, our responsibilities and our principles.

We also have growing responsibilities in relation to the wider international community. It is indeed a paradox that, at a time when we appear to be unsure internally of the precise direction which the future development of our Union should take, our role externally has never been more important or more clear. The wider world increasingly looks to Europe for leadership, for support and for the promotion of our values.

The founding fathers of Europe would be proud to see the Europe of today – what we are and what we bring to our world. However, they would insist that our benchmark must be set not against where we have come from, but rather against what we must still achieve.

Today Europe faces as great an array of challenges as ever, including globalisation, technological change, migration, energy security and terrorism. These challenges have not been dreamed up in Brussels or Strasbourg: they have risen up the Union’s agenda because they are very real and directly relevant to all our citizens. The challenge must not only be met but also addressed in a way which reassures our citizens and responds to their anxieties and aspirations.

The Union, in approaching these issues, is rightly pursuing two broad parallel tracks. In respect of both tracks, the role of the European Parliament will be crucial. On the one hand, we are continuing to reflect on the question of the constitutional treaty and we will return to it next June on the basis of a report by Chancellor Merkel. On the other hand, we are seeking to address the concerns of our citizens in practical ways under the existing Treaties. Both of these tracks are essential. We cannot put practical progress on hold; neither can we wish away the need to provide the Union with a coherent, streamlined basis for addressing the challenges of a new century.

The constitutional treaty is designed to provide a much-needed basis for practical progress; and the practical progress we strive for will continue and contribute to a positive context for reaching agreement on the urgent institutional questions. I would like to address these two twin issues in turn.

Nobody can predict with any certainty what the future holds for the constitutional treaty. There is, of course, no easy answer. I would, however, like to share with you briefly my own reflections and I look forward greatly to hearing your own perceptions in this afternoon’s debate.

A good starting point for trying to evaluate what lies ahead is often to reflect briefly on why and how we got to be where we are today. History is important because it can help us to make wise choices about the future. Since the Irish Presidency had the privilege of bringing the Intergovernmental Conference negotiations to a conclusion, I have a particular awareness of the processes which made that agreement possible. So let me start by recalling what seem to be three fundamental realities about the situation we have reached.

First, it is important to remember that the constitutional treaty was agreed because it was necessary. The need for the substantive provisions has grown rather than diminished. We need its more coherent external policy to meet our growing international responsibilities. We need its subtle, balanced and effective provisions in the area of justice and home affairs to strengthen our fight against crime. We need its more open, comprehensible, democratic and effective procedures, including its significantly enhanced role for the European Parliament. We need its principles and its values.

Moreover, apart from the constitutional treaty’s specific elements, we need it because the long term stability, prosperity and coherence of Europe are of fundamental importance for our people as well as for people beyond our borders.

Second, the process which led to the agreement of the constitutional treaty was long, complex and difficult. The Convention was unprecedented in its openness and achievement. The European Parliament was highly influential at the Convention, which also benefited greatly from the direct involvement of national parliaments. The subsequent IGC involved intensive bilateral and collective negotiations in which the views of each Member State, as well as of the Commission and Parliament, were taken very carefully into account. The process leading to agreement was a comprehensive and inclusive one. I visited every capital, as the President kindly recalled, and everyone was listened to and helped to shape the outcome.

Third, participants were in the end able to accept the outcome of the negotiations because they saw it as a balanced overall package. The institutional provisions in particular were closely interrelated and formed a single whole.

The difficulties of moving forward with the constitutional treaty are significant, but any analysis of what Europe needs, of how we got to where we are today and of the alternatives convince me that the right and realistic option is to return at the appropriate time to the substance and balance of the constitutional treaty. I understand that this is also broadly the view of this Parliament.

In moving forward, we must ensure that the basis for progress must be an inclusive one in which the concerns and views of all are taken into account, including the legitimate concerns expressed by the citizens in many Member States.

Chancellor Merkel will be consulting closely with each Member State and with the institutions. I have no doubt that her report to the June European Council will be soundly based and well judged. However, let me at this stage offer four reflections.

First, we must continue to work to change the context in which we will return to consider the constitutional treaty. This means continuing to address, as effectively as we can, the concerns of our citizens on issues from employment to mobile phone charges, from enlargement to the fight against crime. That is what you, the directly elected representatives of the people of Europe, do so effectively week-in, week-out.

Second, the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome next March offers an important opportunity to highlight for our citizens the achievements and potential of the Union. A succinct, consensual and eloquent declaration on that occasion, in the name of the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament, could represent a very positive element in creating a new context for our wider institutional debate and perhaps also in addressing some of the specific concerns which have arisen in the national debates on the constitutional treaty.

Third, as was the case on previous occasions when European Treaties ran into difficulties at national level, additional elements could be introduced to address concerns that have arisen. Such additions could enrich rather than undermine the substance and balance of the Treaty.

Fourth, the presentation, the length and, in some respects, the nature of the constitutional treaty could also be amended significantly without affecting its basic substance and balance. To give some examples, it could be brought out more clearly that what is involved is a treaty and that, in many respects, it essentially amends rather than replaces the existing Treaties.

For the Irish Government’s part, we remain resolutely and enthusiastically committed, as soon as the situation has been fully clarified, to holding a referendum on the substance of the constitutional treaty. The treaty remains important for Europe, for our people and for those who look to our values.

As I said at the outset, it is essential that Europe also pursue the second track which we have set for ourselves, namely addressing, as best we can under the existing Treaties, the priorities of our citizens. I believe it is important to maintain broadly the distinctiveness of the two tracks. We should be wary of the selective advance application of elements which form part of the balance in the constitutional treaty.

Let us not be unduly pessimistic about what we have achieved so far in terms of practical progress. The European economy is gaining in strength. More people are in work. An enlargement of historic proportions, which not long ago seemed unimaginable, has taken root and has greatly enriched our Union.

But we are not here, at either European or national level, to congratulate ourselves. The successful football club is not the one that focuses on the trophy room: it is the one that focuses on the matches ahead.

One only has to look at the agenda of any of your parliamentary sessions to appreciate the range and depth of the challenges we face. Time requires me to address what seem to be the strategic underlying challenges. Allow me to address briefly five of those challenges.

First, there is the competitiveness challenge. This has many important European dimensions: better regulation, a strong and appropriate competition policy, research and development, the removal of barriers in the internal market, and perhaps above all innovation, in relation to which the proposed European institute for technology can make an important contribution. Our objective should be to make Europe attractive for investment. I have repeatedly stressed to my colleagues in the European Council and to the Commission that Europe is increasingly in competition not within itself but with other parts of the world, notably Asia. The reality of this competition must give urgency as well as direction to the development and implementation of policies at European level.

Our second strategic objective should be to ensure that achieving competitiveness does not threaten the European social model, and that competitiveness and social inclusion are partners, not rivals. This is the key principle underpinning our own national system of social partnership. Our experience of extensive and intensive social dialogue has delivered 18 consecutive years of economic growth, improved living standards and greater social inclusion. In our approach at European level, including where appropriate through legislation, we should reflect the principle that economic and social policies can and should be mutually reinforcing. We must, above all, ensure that solidarity and opportunity are at the heart of the Union and must drive Europe’s future. The test of Europe’s credibility today is whether it can deliver policies which build up solidarity within the European Union and secure opportunities for all our people.

I also strongly believe that we need to give greater substance to the social dialogue at European level. At both European and national level, we must engage the social partners, in particular the trade unions, in a real debate on the reform of the European social model and on the modernisation of labour markets.

Our third strategic challenge is to confront the downsides of globalisation, including cross-border crime, human trafficking, illegal migration, and the scourge of illicit drugs that ruin so many lives. We know about the potential for pollution to trigger calamitous climate change. Of course, the responsibility in many of these areas falls significantly on the Member States. But as long as our climate and our criminals do not stop at the borders between our countries, we must work together to ensure all appropriate action at European level.

Fourth, Europe must play its full role across the range of its external competences. I shall not dwell on this further because I have already highlighted in my introduction the increasingly important role which the Union plays and is expected to play in the international arena. It is, of course, essential that Europe is adequately funded, including in the CFSP area, for addressing its growing responsibilities in the western Balkans, in our wider neighbourhood and further afield, especially towards the poorest who need our support and to whom Europe should continue to strive to be a special friend.

The fifth, and perhaps greatest strategic challenge is – I am sure you would agree – to connect Europe better with its citizens. Of course, this challenge is not unrelated to the other challenges. We can only communicate a positive message if we have a positive message to communicate. But we have to demonstrate clearly that Europe is part of the solution to globalisation, not part of the problem. We have to show that the European social model remains at the heart of increased competitiveness. Our people must not only be secure but also feel secure. We need to act, but we also need to explain what Europe is doing and can do to provide security for our citizens. We have to bring home much more effectively to the public that, through our external policies, we are increasingly and effectively promoting their interests, their priorities and their values. I fully accept that a large part of the responsibility of explaining Europe accurately and fairly falls at national level. It is certainly a priority for my Government.

Respect for diversity can play a particularly important part in connecting the Union with its citizens. I thank you, Mr President, for announcing that today is the first day that Irish will be used and that from 1 January 2007 it will become the 21st language of the European Union.

(GA) Nothing could illustrate better the respect which Europe has for the individual character of its Member States than the improved status which Irish will have from 1 January. Ireland is very grateful to Parliament for your support in introducing the new provisions.

Allow me, in conclusion, to say that we should not lose sight of the fact that at the heart of our Europe, when it was founded half a century ago, was the determination to bring permanent peace ‘among peoples long divided by bloody conflicts’, as the first Treaty put it. The Union has been resoundingly successful in that aim within our borders. The Union is also an increasingly important factor for stability beyond our borders.

I would like to pay particular tribute to the fact that the European Union has played a crucial role in relation to our peace process in Northern Ireland. The Union has provided not just generous financial support, but also a context and an example. I would like to convey to you today the deep-felt appreciation of the Irish people for Parliament’s valued, consistent and continuing support for peace on the island of Ireland.

In the second half of the 21st century, another generation of Europeans will be living with the consequences of the decisions we take. I hope that, when they cast an eye back to our generation of Europeans, they will be able to conclude that we had the imagination, courage and intelligence to consolidate our unique Union and to provide a solid, comprehensive and consensual basis for taking forward its achievements.

It is an honour to be here, Mr President, and I thank you.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. Thank you very much, Taoiseach Ahern.

There will now be speeches on behalf of the groups. Before giving them the floor, I would like to point out that two of them – Mr Schulz and Mr Watson – have today been re-elected Presidents of their political groups, and I would therefore like to congratulate them.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hans-Gert Poettering, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, It is wonderful, Mr President, how we complement one another. I, too, was on the point of expressing congratulations, but I shall start with you first, and congratulate you on your election, by European Voice yesterday, as the 2006 MEP of the Year; well done! I also want to congratulate Mr Schulz and Mr Watson on their re-elections; being a group chairman myself, I know, of course, just how much that means to them. I have just heard that Mr Cohn-Bendit has also been re-elected, and I assume that Mrs Frassoni has been as well, so warm congratulations to them too.

(Applause)

It is always a pleasant experience for group chairmen to get their mandate renewed for another two and a half years; I cannot, at present, say what my fate is going to be, but I rejoice all the more in the re-election of my counterparts.

In what you have said, Prime Minister, we hear the good European voice of Ireland, and what you said, you said not only because Ireland has done so well from the European Union, but as a convinced European, and that has always been the good experience we have had with Ireland. Whether it is your political family that is in power or our own – the last of your Prime Ministers from ours was John Bruton, who is now our ambassador in Washington – Ireland’s profound commitment to European integration is manifest, and your speech today made that clear once more. We rejoice and are glad that you are here today.

We now have to think about the future of Europe, and Prime Minister Ahern mentioned 25 March, which marks fifty years of the Treaties of Rome. I see the Berlin statement – a joint statement by the European Council, the European Parliament and the Commission – as a good opportunity to tell the citizens of the European Union that we, the European institutions – even though our opinions may well differ on one thing or another – are united in our determination to lead the European Union into a bright future. If we managed to achieve that in Berlin, we will have put down a significant political and psychological marker for the summit at the end of June, at which, firstly, a decision is to be taken on what is to be done next about the constitutional treaty, and, secondly, on what mandate we are to give the conference that is to consider that. Speaking on behalf of our group, and in particular of the PPE element in it, I can say that we do of course insist on this House participating in any such conference – effectively, powerfully, and efficiently – and we ask, Prime Minister, for your support in this.

We hope that will go ahead at the end of June and that we will be able to decide, under Portuguese and Slovene Presidency, what is to become of the constitutional treaty. I would like to make it quite clear, speaking on behalf of our group, and particularly of the European People's Party element in it, that we do not want to start again from the very beginning – it would be quite wrong to talk in terms of ‘new negotiations’ – but want as much as possible of the substance of the constitutional treaty to be retained, particularly as regards the reforms in Part 1 and the section dealing with values in the Charter. One reason for that is that we are convinced that we need these values. The European Union has no future unless it is founded upon values.

Another consideration is that we have to equip the European Union to face the challenges that are ahead, not only in its internal policies but also in its dealings with the outside world. We need to invigorate and strengthen the European Union, to make it more democratic, more effective and more transparent. You have affirmed your belief in that, and for that we are grateful to you. If we go down this road together, we will share in success.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. Thank you for your time, Mr Poettering. When I congratulated Mr Schulz and Mr Watson, I had not been told that Mr Cohn-Bendit and Mrs Frassoni had also been elected co-Presidents of their groups; I too would like to congratulate them.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the congratulations; I, in my turn, want to congratulate all those who have been elected, irrespective of to what, but I want, for the moment, to focus on Mr Ahern’s speech.

I think it is good that Mr Ahern has come to this House; I am grateful to him for being here, for the fact is that it is not the most obvious thing to do. Not all his colleagues in the European Council can manage to summon up the nerve to come here and affirm their belief in Europe. I want to make it clear that I think the Heads of Government who are publicly backing the European project deserve credit for coming here and saying that, whatever difficulties they face, they are standing up for Europe.

(Applause)

The fact is that there are too many of them who come here, who do not make their presence felt, who avoid this House and stop off perhaps only to collect some money from this or that European fund to take back home, where they will say that Europe is the problem! There are too many of their kind around. What we need are men and women who are in positions of leadership in Europe – be it in the Member States or in the European institutions – and who openly affirm their commitment to this project, and that, Mr Ahern, is why I have to start by thanking you for being here.

Let me make a second comment on the substance of your speech. One can say ‘yes’ to absolutely everything in it, Prime Minister; the five priorities that you set out, the conviction that Ireland is in favour of the Constitution as a matter of principle, your desire to retain what is at the heart of it, your warning to us not to abandon that, for its essential content is the foundation for Europe’s future – all these things are marvellous, but all that is missing is Ireland’s ratification of it, so I urge you to summon up your courage and do that; if your speech today is a cake, that would be the icing on it.

I do not, however, want to demand too much of you, for you have at least taken the right step in the right direction, and even if Ireland were to ratify now, that would get us little further down the road, but, in any case, nineteen out of twenty-seven states would then have ratified it, and the fact that eighteen already have done so or are about to do so means that we can and must take note that the majority of the Member States of the European Union want what is in the Constitution, while those who do not are in the minority. It is, I think, permissible to say that it is this minority that has to give way. It is not acceptable that we should all be debating the future of Europe, while those who said ‘no’ think it is nothing to do with them, so the Dutch, and the French too, must get into step in a future process on the basis of a document to which the overwhelming majority of Member States have said ‘yes’!

I believe that, if we do not move too far from this document, if we really can retain that which it contains, we will be saving the President of the Commission from having to run around like a water diviner in search of portfolios for his Commissioners. If you need proof that Nice does not work and that we need the Constitution as a matter of urgency, then what we see happening with the Commissioners from Bulgaria and Romania is it.

Many thanks, then, Mr Ahern; as we journey towards a renewed constitution, we need you, and we thank you for your encouraging speech.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, as Commissioner Wallström’s research – presented to one of our committees last week – has revealed, there is at least as much a communication crisis in the European Union as a constitutional crisis. We risk slowly but inexorably losing the confidence and trust of our citizens by our collective failure to respond to their concerns and our inability to frame a coherent and acceptable response.

Those concerns are many and varied, but to my mind they hinge around responses to the challenges of the world in which we live. We witness rapid world population growth, even though it is declining here, and failure to share equitably the fruits of our endeavours or the benefits of modernity. As a result, many vote with their feet. We are creating a global economy without forging a comparable global social contract. We face a major challenge, as the Prime Minister mentioned, from internationally organised crime, with some criminal gangs now more powerful than some national governments. Yet the Union seems more geared to solving yesterday’s problems than today’s or tomorrow’s.

The tools to solve these problems are at our disposal in a common foreign and security policy and a justice and home affairs policy, but they lie unemployed. The irony is that the Constitution as it emerged from the Convention probably met most critics’ concerns. Unfortunately, Europe’s political class failed to explain this, for which we all share responsibility. We left the field open to the Constitution’s detractors and there is little sign yet that France will have a more serene or informed debate on its place in Europe in the run-up to next May’s elections, or that the Netherlands, emerging from elections last week, has really made up its mind. It would be too easy to conclude that the victory for the anti-European parties is confirmation that we got it wrong, but we need the Prime Ministers of those two countries to come here to explain to us how they see the way forward. In Poland there is denial, and from across the English Channel an eerie silence reflecting relief and embarrassment in near equal measure.

I hope the Germans can relaunch the debate. I applaud Angela Merkel’s determination to do this, but I suspect she will find it extremely difficult within the period of the German Presidency. This is where Ireland can play such an important part, Prime Minister, not only because of the role you played in the Convention, or your experience of adverse referendum, but because of Ireland’s role in looking for what you called a return to the balance and the substance of the constitutional treaty, and in working together with Portugal and Slovenia. Go out and build a coalition of smaller countries that know how important it is to respond to the challenges of globalisation. Go out and build a coalition of the political forces which, in response to the challenges of globalisation, recognise that we need to keep the drawbridge down rather than pull it up.

We have to show our citizens that the European Union can work on energy policy, on issues like mobile phone roaming charges, and in particular on justice and home affairs. We can do that with the existing Treaties by use of the passerelle clause.

By any objective standards our Union is a great success. Therefore, think less about changes to the Constitution and more about building the collective courage to go out and persuade people why it is necessary.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Johannes Voggenhuber, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (DE) Mr President, Mr Ahern, re-election puts one in a good mood; perhaps that is the reason why my group has asked me to speak today, so that I might not be a mild-mannered group chairman.

I do, of course, Prime Minister, welcome you warmly on behalf of our group; thank you for coming. As you said, nobody knows what the future has in store for the constitutional treaty. I must admit that I would be happier if I definitely knew what the governments had in store for it; one and a half years’ break for reflection and thinking, one and a half years, already extended by a year, and what has come out of it? I can neither see nor hear anyone thinking, and nobody is talking to us, although you have today, and you are one of the few. We will perhaps return to your proposals, but what – over these eighteen months – has actually been thought or clarified? The great and good are not asking what lies behind this crisis; they do not want to know what motivated those who, in France and the Netherlands, said 'no', or about the disappointed expectation of the public, and just why it is that the public have been so systematically disappointed. Nor are they asking about new ways forward, about new exit routes from this crisis. Where, in fact, is any thought being given to that? I do not see much real cause for hope in a new beginning under the German Presidency of the Council.

I have been an observer of this since it all started. What brought about this constitution-making process was not insight or idealism; nor were the Heads of Government inspired by a vision to embark upon it. What did it was the lamentable fact that Amsterdam was a failure, that Nice was an outright disaster, that there was a massive crisis of confidence among all Europe’s peoples. It was the fact that this Union was up against a brick wall; the fact that it was, quite simply, impotent.

Then, of course, there was the double ‘no’. One ought to look into the reasons for it. What astonishes me is that politicians like opinion polls, and I have never heard of anyone who would shy away from quoting a good one. Eurobarometer ran very comprehensive and good surveys following the French and Dutch votes into the reasons for them, and into the public’s expectations, and – I am not going to talk about the people who voted ‘yes’ in what are now eighteen Member States with a massive majority of the people and states of Europe, but about the 62% of Dutch people and 65% of French people who said ‘no’ – well, they also said: ‘yes, we want a European constitution; we want it to be revised’ and they even said what they wanted this to achieve, namely more powers for the Union in social matters. I have never heard a member of a government reflect on that.

What you said today leaves me quite astonished. In essence, what you say boils down to two familiar proposals: a treaty instead of a constitution. I have to tell you, Prime Minister, that it was only the governments – and not the people of Europe – who were irritated by the idea that this political community should be endowed with a constitution. Forcing through the actual policies in the way you propose will fail, precisely because of this crisis of confidence in Europe, this crisis of European democracy.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gabriele Zimmer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (DE) Mr President, Mr Ahern, it was with some excitement that I listened to your speech. I think we have reached a point that could easily be defined as the ‘point of no future’ if we were working on the basis of ‘business as usual’.

While Mr Ahern was quite clear in making the future of Europe dependent on what becomes of a constitutional treaty for the European Union, that does, however, presuppose that there has to be a long-term discussion process with that Union’s citizens. There are more reasons than those already – and repeatedly – adduced for why people are afraid that this European Union will be unable to offer them a future.

I do not see the text as submitted as providing any answers to a dichotomy that is, alas, all too often put to one side, for, although we have defined what wealth has been brought into this European Union of ours by way of every kind of people and nation – namely their highly diverse cultural identities – we have not, however, managed to define what we, together, are going to do with all this wealth. It is one thing to ask what we bring with us, but considering what we are to do with it, how a shared political identity can be fashioned out of it, is a process that cannot be run as a sideline and certainly not on the basis of people being told the same thing over and over again, that being that they have not yet understood what good we are trying to do.

That is why I think that we have to take on board people’s day-to-day experiences of the European Union and make actual policies that have to do with their future and their present, on the basis of them. This is particularly true in relation to the issue of a social European Union, the neglect of which to date has been positively criminal. There is, in fact, no point in us discussing this or that while people experience the precise opposite, as we have seen from the debate in Brussels about the Volkswagen workers, and in assorted other areas too. The unfortunate fact is that, in the day-to-day lives of many, the European Union's presence is felt in the shape of decreasing job security and less social security, and that is not going to get people engaging with these processes and affirming their belief in them, even though that is precisely what we need, and I think we should have more discussion of how we create the conditions in which cultural identities can develop into shared political identities and into a civic identity for the European Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Brian Crowley, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (GA) Mr President, it is a great honour for me to extend a warm welcome to the Taoiseach here to the European Parliament today. Your visit shows your understanding of the important work of the European Parliament and the need for the European Union to find a solution to the constitutional difficulties which the Union is experiencing at present.

There are increasing difficulties within the European Union, not only on the Constitution but also, as other colleagues have mentioned, regarding globalisation, economic development and the common foreign and security policy. The Taoiseach has given us a great vision today, not just through his words but also because of the experience he brings with him. In nearly ten years in the European Council he has seen many leaders come and go, but he has also seen many of the crises that people previously thought would rent the European Union apart and found solutions for them, in particular concerning the agreement on the constitutional treaty.

There is no point going over what should or should not have been. It is now up to the Member States in their period of reflection to present ideas as regards what should be brought forward. Not just because we need a new treaty, or a new set of rules, but because we need to continue to demonstrate a vision to those countries on our borders which aspire to become part of the European Union and look to it as a model of peace, prosperity and stability. I am thinking in particular of the countries in the Balkans. We held out a candle of hope to them and, unfortunately, because we can no longer accommodate a further enlargement, that candle of hope could be extinguished, just when they are beginning to grow economically and find a new way forward in political and democratic terms.

With regard to globalisation, our main focus should be on making the European economy better able to deal with the situation in the 21st century. This requires greater investment in research and development, greater use of innovation and technology and, I must stress, greater collaboration between universities and research institutes in the European Union through the European institute of technology.

Finally, I should like to tell the Taoiseach that it rests on him as the leader of one country to present that vision. He spoke about the peace process in Northern Ireland and the importance of the European Union’s role in that regard, not only in economic and financial terms but also in the model and vision it provided.

We must find a new Europe for the 21st century, where everybody can belong to that commonality. But all groups must be sure that the diversity within the European Union today, and beyond it on the European continent, is respected in a process for collaboration and collective agreement rather than for domination.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kathy Sinnott, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, I welcome the Taoiseach here for an honest discussion about the future of Europe, but, as I was once told when asking for directions, I would not start from here.

Taoiseach, your government has cultivated Ireland’s image in Europe as a success story, the once poor nation made good, but this House deserves to know what lies behind this so-called success. As the Irish know, Ireland is now open for business, but closed for people. We spend freely to lure the market but cut every corner in social spending.

It is this mentality that has lengthened waiting times for vital hospital procedures to months instead of days. It has also seen families of children with disabilities badly treated, like the O’Cuanachains, hounded through the courts at a cost of millions just this year instead of their five-year-old child being given an appropriate education. This is also the mindset which makes our Environmental Protection Agency a rubber stamp of approval for even the dirtiest business, no matter how damaging it is to the environment; a mindset that opens Ireland to toxic industries like incineration, which Irish people do not want.

You also seem to believe that the mental health and suicide problem, which grows with our economic success, is a mere inconvenience and not a tragedy that our country has never really addressed. Similarly, there are tens of thousands of unpaid carers whom we should be supporting for the valuable work they are doing, but whom your government treats like Oliver Twist asking for more.

Why, Taoiseach, has your government destroyed our sugar industry for an EU scheme, when Irish agriculture is struggling for survival and when we need biofuels like ethanol? Why did your government vote to allow EU funding for embryo-destructive research, when our people have always cherished the most vulnerable citizens?

Finally, Taoiseach, why have you come here propositioning us with a dead Constitution that the Irish do not want. We already have a truly great Constitution, for which Irish men and women laid down their lives, a Constitution which gives us a genuine foundation for real and respectful cooperation with our European neighbours. Ireland is a great country with amazing people. They certainly deserve better and I think you will finally discover this when you put the Constitution, or whatever you decide to call it, to a referendum.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  James Hugh Allister (NI). – Mr President, to what do we owe the visit by the Irish Prime Minister today? Could it be connected to the upcoming Irish election, to allow Mr Ahern to be seen back home as a statesman on the European scene? One wonders!

The last time Mr Ahern was here at the end of the Irish Council Presidency, he was celebrating having overseen an agreement between the Heads of Governments on the EU Constitution. He readily basked in the adulation of Europhile fanatics in this House. By now, November 2006, he and they assured us that the EU Constitution would be in full operation. But, as often happens, they reckoned without the most important component of democratic politics: the views of the people.

As the Constitution floundered on the rocks of rejection in France and Holland, Mr Ahern – though an avowed Euro-enthusiast – and my government in the United Kingdom lost their nerve and hurriedly abandoned the prospect of giving the people of the British Isles a chance to give their verdict by postponing the referenda, because they were fearful of the result. Now he returns to tell us again of the marvels of European integration and that the rejected Constitution must be revived.

It seems to me that it is a stale message about a moribund Constitution from one who may well soon be judged by his own electorate to be a stale politician.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bertie Ahern, Prime-Minister of Ireland. Mr President, I shall try to deal quickly with the issues.

I want to thank everybody for their welcome – I did not detect that from the last speaker, but from everybody else anyway!

(Laughter)

I want to thank Mr Poettering for his remarks. The European Parliament’s participation in the IGC during the Irish Presidency was extremely important and constructive. The European Parliament was clearly very much part of it and it clearly should be involved in taking the process forward. I think that is what you requested, and you certainly have my support in that. I thank you for your remarks about the declaration in Berlin. I support you. Your issue about the reforms of Part I and the values and getting ourselves ready for the challenges in the future are all things that I readily agree with.

Mr Schulz spoke about the five priorities based on the future of Europe and the ratification process. Ireland would have preferred it if everyone had ratified it at the same time, as that would have resolved a lot of problems without all the debate. We have to remember that there are 16 or 17 countries that are committed to ratifying the Constitution: the majority of the parties, particularly the three large parties in our Parliament have clearly stated their support for it. We believe that there must be some clarity. Unlike other countries, because of our written Constitution, whatever happens we always have to have a referendum. We do not just want to be putting words out that we know will change in some format because whatever happens, it will be entered into our Constitution. We have to have certainty in that, but there is certainly no fear of us having referendums.

Mr Watson brought up the concerns of citizens and the global contract. The big issue for that is for countries to show their support. You mentioned the issues of JHA being consistent with the Treaties that are already there, dealing with issues of crime and the common foreign and security policy. The biggest way we can show the developing countries our support is through our commitment under the UN to ODA. That is what I try to practise, because you can talk all you like, but you have to be prepared to put your money into it. For us as a small country, getting to 0.7 per cent is the small matter of EUR 1.5 billion! That is a lot in our budget, but we are moving towards that fast, and we are doing that to help not only our own people but also the less well-of in various parts of the world. I agree that if Chancellor Merkel can get the balance and substance right, it would mean amendments. We accept that and we can move forward.

Mr Voggenhuber was right that a reflection of one and a half years has not brought us very far. I accept that point. However, neither have we gone back. We are here in a reflection period and we must find a way forward. Not everyone will agree, but I and 17 or 18 countries believe in the balance and substance of the constitutional treaty, with some amendments if it means accommodating France and the Netherlands – which we accept is the right thing to do. Ultimately we will have to do that and get the institutional balance right and find a way forward. It is not just some theoretical pro-European issue, it is to make the functioning of Europe correct for the future so that we can continue with our environmental and economic progress and our common foreign and security policy. That is why we negotiated a treaty. However, I accept your point: 13 months on is a long time, but there are still reasons for voting. We shall have to deal with those reasons. The reasons why we need a Union that can continually cater for new members – now 27 and in a few years’ time possibly 30 – and our new neighbourhood policy were outlined in the Nice and Amsterdam Treaties. We do not have the institutional changes and the balances that can cater for that. That was the whole project, and the European Parliament was as strong an advocate for that as anyone.

Mrs Zimmer asked about a common EU identity and social dialogue. From the time I entered political life in the 1972 referendum in Ireland I have always believed that social dialogue was absolutely essential to Ireland’s future. Ireland has succeeded and no longer has the high unemployment of 17 or 18% of the past, when the annual emigration equalled the entire labour market growth of the country; when our exports were in decline and economic growth was negative; when we had no money for the less well off in our society. That was when we did not have social dialogue. Economic performance and dealing with the agenda on competitiveness and social policy are mutual friends and they can work in harmony – they are not exclusive policies. It is when they work together.

With respect, I never quite understand when people are arguing the issue on Europe why we always forget all the positives. That applies to members of the European Council – I would accept that criticism – and I think it applies to Members of the European Parliament. However, look at what has been achieved because of the strength of Europe. Look at the equality agenda. Look at the health and safety agenda. Look at the welfare agenda. Look at the mobility of workers. Would any of these have been here if this institution had not been here, if Europe had not been here? Not a hope in hell! Europe has achieved this. So to talk against your own achievements is never a good idea, in my view. Europe has achieved all these things and the chance of our harmonising, getting stronger environmental laws, more cooperation and helping less developed countries – all these are European policies that never would have happened otherwise. Europe has pulled Ireland and other countries up and it has applied pressure, it has fined and prosecuted people. However, the fact is that the citizens have gained from every one of those issues.

I would say to my good colleague, Mrs Sinnott, that the reason we have progressive disabilities legislation, the reason that we are putting huge resources into disability, the reason we have an Environmental Protection Agency, the reason we have far greater health policy, the reason we are able to support these things, is not because there is any difference between the 1937 Constitution – which treasures all the people and children of Ireland equally – and what we have today. It is because we have been able to make progress because Europe has progressed. I think these are great issues.

I am delighted to see Mr Allister here. His party has moved forward progressively. It has moved away from the past, even if not all of its members have, including himself. However, we are moving on, we are making progress. I will deal with my electorate and I wish you well in your February election, too.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. Thank you very much. It is inevitable that our debates should always have a national component.

Various Members will now speak.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – Mr President, as leader of the Fine Gael delegation in the largest and most influential group in the European Parliament, the PPE-DE Group, and on behalf of my colleagues Mr Coveney, Mr Higgins, Mrs McGuinness and Mr Mitchell, I have great pleasure in joining in the welcome to the Taoiseach today as the Prime Minister of our esteemed republic (notwithstanding the politically-hyped and inaccurate reports to the contrary in recent times).

We are Irish, Taoiseach, and as such we are European. Our ancestors, the Celts, lived, thrived and established settlements throughout the European continent, from the shores of the Mediterranean to the peaks of the Alps, from the plains of Romania to the Atlantic coast, and, like many recent new arrivals in our own country, we migrated here to the continent seeking asylum from war, disease and over-population, seeking economic opportunity. Over the subsequent centuries, Vikings, Saxons, Anglo-Normans, Jews, English, Scots, Spaniards, French Huguenots and many other races came, saw and intermarried with the Celts. The modern day Irish you see around you at home, and indeed around here today, are the result of this genetic soup of different European races.

The history of Ireland and that of mainland Europe are inextricably linked. The Irish monks travelled throughout Europe establishing Christian monasteries in such far-flung places as Iceland and Ukraine. Our cultural and political links with Spain and France lasted for centuries, throughout the time when we were ruled by the British Crown. Many Irish battalions served in the armies of the great European powers down the years. Our very Constitution makes reference to our gallant allies in Europe.

And yet, for some reason during the past decade, an apathy, an ignorance about Europe or the European project has seeped into the Irish society, into European society. Europe has become associated with Brussels and viewed from the Member State perspective as a place far away, with little relevance to the day-to-day lives of our citizens.

I believe that the rationale for the European project which rose out of the ashes of the Second World War, its very raison d’être, has never been fully explained or understood. Yes, Europe’s political class, as another colleague said, continues to fail to explain the project and claims all the credit for itself at national level instead of acknowledging the European Union’s role.

It is only since we joined the European Union that Ireland has become truly independent. Culturally and psychologically, membership of the Union has broadened our horizons and encouraged us to look outwards. Ireland’s success in leaving behind the oppressive legacy of colonialism and building the new relationship with the UK, which has underpinned the Northern Ireland peace process, must be seen as a significant part of modern European history paralleling the fundamental rapprochement between France and Germany.

I admire Ireland’s membership of and contribution to the Union. I look around me at home and I see a confident, pluralistic society far removed from the introspective, sectarian Ireland in which our parents and grandparents were raised. Europe has helped define our place in the wider world. I salute the Taoiseach’s Presidency of Europe and his particular contribution towards the finality of the Convention and the wonderful work being done by the Forum on Europe under the chairmanship of Maurice Hayes at home at the moment.

(GA) Thank you all very much.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Proinsias De Rossa (PSE). – (GA) Mr President, I welcome the Taoiseach. It is extremely important that you are willing, Mr Taoiseach, to discuss matters pertaining to the future of Europe with us. We all understand that the population of Europe is concerned. It is not easy to arrive at a solution to the problems which are the basis of that concern.

I welcome your commitment to the substance of the constitutional text. However, Member States and the Council are currently denying Europeans the accountable, democratic, and socially engaged Europe they want. Why, Taoiseach, are you and other Heads of Government blocking key social directives on ferry crews, working time, migration and temporary work agencies? Will you now help unblock all of these, as a means of rebuilding Europeans’ confidence in Europe?

The Constitution must not be filleted. A mini-treaty will give us a mini-Europe, when we need a strong, democratic Europe capable of coping with the global challenges we all face. The most democratic way forward is to negotiate legally-binding protocols to address the concerns raised by the pro-European French and Dutch electorates. Such an approach would reassure those pro-Europeans who voted ‘no’, would not oblige those who have already ratified to reopen the issue and would make it more likely that those yet to ratify, such as Ireland, can do so.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE). – (NL) Mr President, it is unfortunate that not more Dutch people are taking part in this debate, because the Netherlands rejected the Constitution last year, and all the parties that were opposed to this Constitution achieved huge gains in the elections last week. We do not yet know what form the coalition will take, but I hope that the Netherlands will once again show the ambition and vision to which Europe was accustomed from us, instead of constantly putting our foot on the brake, because Europe must, as a matter of urgency, be reformed.

Since the veto has a paralysing effect in the area of security, Member States increasingly resort to informal arrangements, thereby ducking both national and European parliamentary control in a kind of parallel, opaque and undemocratic decision-making structure. Vetoes can also be abolished without the Constitution, for example in the area of police and judicial cooperation. Without the Constitution, Council meetings can be completely out in the open and attention can be devoted to citizens’ initiatives that are backed up by a million signatures. The Europe of the governments and diplomats has reached its limits.

It is therefore more logical to look for a solution in a public debate, for example in the Convention, rather than in closed negotiations between ministers and Heads of Government. That is how we also avoid blockades by individual countries.

Prime Minister Ahern is probably right in saying that it is better to improve the Constitution by adding bits to it rather than by reducing it to its bare bones. He is also right to say that simultaneous ratification across Europe would be much better than national procedures. The highest priority, though, must be the adoption of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The European fundamental rights are the beating heart, the very soul, of our community, and Europe will not exist unless it has a soul. I therefore endorse what Prime Minister Ahern had to say.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Johannes Voggenhuber (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, as you can see, my group has organised a collection of speaking time today, so what you are getting is a speech in instalments – European rhetoric, new style.

As I said earlier, Prime Minister, we have had a two-year period of reflection in which there has been no reflection, any more than we have had the loudly-trumpeted debate with the European public. The Commission’s ‘Plan D’ exists on paper and nowhere else. Even though I hear all the promises from the governments, who never tire of telling us about their plans for rescuing the constitution, if I listen very carefully, I am reminded of the Trojan Horse, in that, if you put your ear to the wooden horse, you hear the clink of weapons and become aware that it exists with quite different purposes in mind, things that have absolutely nothing to do with what we have been, for years, hearing and discussing in the European public square, or with what I see as being the causes of this crisis.

What do we hear from the governments? We hear that they are putting a treaty together! Well, an international organisation really is the last thing that we need. It is not the sort of political community that will defeat nationalism. In actual practice, Europe always loses out from any such balance between it and nationalism. The public want a constitution because they can see that it is about a political community, and because what they had been promised was the political unification of Europe, the political unification of this continent. What we get instead is more talk of a treaty.

You also, today, promised us even more competition. Never – in the Netherlands, in France, or anywhere else in Europe, at hundreds of debates and events – have I heard calls for more competition. ‘More competition’ is something demanded only by the elites, by the neoliberals, and by governments. Let me tell you, speaking as one who has been given the chance to pick up what the people are saying, that what we need is a balance between economic and political integration, in the shape of a social Union. How often do you propose – through your intergovernmental, self-aggrandising management of the Lisbon process – to report to the public that it has yielded nothing? That is what the public demand to know. What has become of the governments’ dialogue on a social Union, on putting an end to tax dumping and social dumping in Europe? That is what the public want to know.

You talk about a sense of security; now that, if you do not mind, is what I call populism, for appealing to security always presses the right buttons, but not a word has been said about the Charter of Fundamental Rights for months, not even about parliamentary monitoring, as shown by the CIA abductions and the failure to explain just how and to what extent European governments helped it with them. Nothing is being said about the enhancement of Parliament’s functions, about a Charter of Fundamental Rights enforceable at law, or about the protection of the public – yet that is what the public themselves are talking about!

From deep within the Trojan Horse, I keep on hearing other things, like talk of military cooperation – security again – but nothing whatever about a common, democratic, autonomous foreign policy, about playing a responsible role both globally and within the WTO, a role defending a fair system of global trade and putting development policy on a completely different level.

I get the feeling that, in amidst this crisis, the ordinary citizen has been lost from sight. The governments, in the armour and costume of knights, have reappeared before us and are blocking Europe’s way.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mary Lou McDonald (GUE/NGL). – (GA) Mr President, I would like to welcome the Taoiseach here today.

I am very pleased that the Taoiseach is addressing today’s plenary session.

The European Union is in a phase of transition, continued expansion, new cultures, new ideas and new challenges. The important question is how to meet these challenges. Is it through a race to the bottom, as evidenced in Ireland during the Irish ferries dispute last year and repeated many times since, or is it by ensuring that we are at the fore in demanding the highest standards regarding rights, reform of bureaucratic EU structures and a political programme that truly puts the people of the European Union first?

We must promote a Europe that seeks to protect the most vulnerable, particularly the 65 million living in poverty across the Union. Taoiseach, we must do the same in Ireland, and this means succeeding in our peace process, ending partition, building strong public services and promoting equality in every aspect of life. I believe that we can meet all these challenges, but only if there is real political will: a will to radically alter the EU’s current and future priorities.

This is not a matter of presentational nuance. It is a matter of substance. I would ask you, Taoiseach, and other EU leaders to truly listen to people across the EU and to respond to their needs. This can be best done by defending workers’ rights, protecting public services and halting the drive towards a militarised and fortressed European Union. We in Sinn Féin, and our colleagues in the GUE/NGL Group, are committed to ensuring that the future of Europe is based on principles of democracy, equality and solidarity.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Seán Ó Neachtain (UEN). – (GA) Mr President, I extend a warm welcome to the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to the European Parliament. I am delighted to hear him speaking about the future of Europe in Parliament today in our own native language, Irish. This is a symbolic step as Irish will very shortly be an official working language at Institutional level in Europe. The Taoiseach is greatly to be praised for his efforts to influence the Council of Europe and the various governments, to ensure their support for his proposal: to upgrade Irish at European level. Romania and Bulgaria, who are poised to gain representation at the level of the European Commission, made a comprehensive presentation in Parliament this week. I fully support the decision of José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, to give the responsibilities for multilingualism to Leonard Orban, Romania’s nominated Commissioner. We all know that Europe is hanging in the balance at present as regards reform and greater efficiency of Institutional procedure. I believe that modern Institutional procedure will strengthen the role of the European Union and ensure that the Union is able to speak, able to address economic challenges which face many of the Member States at present. Germany will assume Presidency of the Union on New Year’s Day next year, God willing. President Merkel has already indicated that she intends to address the difficulties concerning the Constitution of the Union during her period in charge. It does not help that the Union’s Constitution was rejected in the Netherlands and France last year. France will have a newly elected President next year and I hope that he or she will be able to make greater efforts than have been made heretofore. There are great challenges ahead for us but let us not beguile ourselves about that. Reforms must be made within the European Union and priority must be given to the work programme of the various Institutions for this reform. There is a danger that the Union will be ineffective if this is not done immediately. Thank you very much.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Georgios Karatzaferis (IND/DEM).(EL) Mr President, Mr Prime Minister of Ireland, if I were an artist and I was asked to draw the future of Europe, I would use black paint.

We are following in exactly the footsteps which destroyed the Holy Alliance, in other words the previous unified Europe two centuries ago. We may have laws in Europe, but we have no national conscience. We may have capital but we do not have sufficient development. We may have industry, but we have no energy. We may have a great deal of land, but we have no borders. My question is: who here can tell me where the southeast borders of Europe are? They are flexible. There are two problems: energy and the guardianship of America.

It is a lie that America is leading us into permanent adversity with Russia, into reservations about China and into entanglement in Afghanistan and Iran? Is it not America that distorts our vision of what is happening in the Middle East? Is it not America that prevents us from developing an independent foreign policy? That is the truth. Is there any reaction? Is there any inclination for Europe to acquire autonomy?

We have a strong currency and we also have a central bank; but we do not have our own army. We can pass a constitution, but which army will defend the principles and values which that constitution will profess? ΝΑΤΟ, with its American supreme commander, Turkish chief of staff and its Canadian chairman? We need to decide. Do we want to take on the structure of a state or will we be – what we are – under the guardianship of the Americans?

Apparently we have no energy. There is a great deal of oil in the Aegean. Come and get it. The American and Turkish economies do not allow that. There is oil which can resolve all of Europe's problems. So let us make an effort to be independent, to be masters of our own house, so that we do not depend on the Americans.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Francesco Enrico Speroni (NI). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I too would like to welcome the Irish Prime Minister. The Institutions – the Council, Parliament and the Commission – are in favour of a new model of Europe: we need to find out whether this new model is in line with what the voters want, voters who, at least in France and the Netherlands, have rejected the proposals made by the Convention. May we never forget to take account of the will of the people and not of certain ideals, which, noble and grand as they may be, are not shared by citizens and voters.

This, in my opinion, is the fundamental issue for the foundations of a possible future treaty. Let us begin, for example, to dispel certain myths: some say that we need to change because we now have so many more Member States. The United States grew from 13 to 50 States, keeping the same Constitution more or less unchanged since 1776. If the bureaucrats need a new instrument, the same is not necessarily true for voters. Voters must be persuaded of the advantage of a new Europe: we need to make them understand, for instance, why being in the European Union is better than being in Switzerland or Norway, which do not belong to the Union. If we do not succeed in making them understand this concept, it will be difficult to achieve a consensus.

I have one final observation to make: the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, has called for ratification of the treaty, but the treaty is already dead. This would only be a waste of time and energy now that, without the two ratifications by the Dutch and the French, it is pointless to continue with others, which, in any case, would have no practical effect.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Timothy Kirkhope (PPE-DE). – Mr President, firstly I would like to welcome the Taoiseach to Parliament. I would like to start on a note of harmony in saying that I have read with great interest his recent statements on the passerelle clause in matters relating to justice and home affairs and I entirely agree with him that we should not proceed down that road. Criminal justice policy, the fight against terrorism and action to defeat trafficking and illegal emigration, are matters that rightly belong to the nation state, yet we have not even explored all the options to improve intergovernmental cooperation in these and other justice fields, and I believe that we should.

As for the Constitution, the debate now seems to be entering the realms of fantasy. The French and Dutch people delivered the fatal blow, and yet we hear this week that the Finnish Presidency has been quietly stock-taking with Member States to see whether it can somehow be resuscitated.

Mr Sarkozy calls for a ‘mini-Constitution’. The Commission rejects it. The German Government says it wants the Constitution kept intact and then resurrected. The outgoing Dutch Government made clear it would not have a second referendum. The British Government, true to form, appears to be split: the Foreign Secretary says it was a grandiose scheme which had failed; the junior Europe Minister says we need to address the substance of the Constitution. Well, has the penny dropped yet? Europe needs to move on. It needs to move on to stop alienating the electorate in a dangerous way.

I have called consistently for reforms. We must have economic reforms. We must address the failure to achieve the Kyoto emission targets. We must have those fundamental reforms, enabling us to compete with the emerging giants in Asia. We need to have agricultural policies that do not undermine the fight against global poverty and we need effective leadership. As my party leader has said, it is because we want to see a future for the EU and believe in a strong Europe that we call for a change of direction. Our continent is crying out for leadership and we debate a piece of paper. I have to say that history is sadly littered with unwanted and inappropriate pieces of paper.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, six months have elapsed since the last debate on the future of Europe held by the European Parliament. Initially, the legal framework for the future of Europe was to have been provided by the Constitutional Treaty. This future is unfolding before our very eyes, since then it has been decided to proceed with the next phase of enlargement and welcome Bulgaria and Romania into the Union. At the same time, however, there is a sense in which the future has been put on ice until the second half of 2008, which is when the reflection period for the Constitutional Treaty is due to end after being extended for a second time.

In my view, we should use this second period of reflection primarily to consider the increased scepticism expressed by Europeans on further enlargements of the Union. The citizens of Europe need to appreciate and understand that decisions on the accession of new Member States are taken entirely responsibly. They also need to have the assurance that such decisions are made with full consideration for the Union’s budgetary capacity, thus guaranteeing that it can function efficiently in the future.

As earlier strategic decisions to ensure Europe’s economic competitiveness with other parts of the world are implemented, it is important that we strengthen the role of education in the development of future generations of innovative Europeans. We should promote a creative economy based on knowledge and imagination, as this will be the key to success for European businesses at global level. A well-educated and dynamic European Union society is a sine qua non for the Union to play a leading role on the world stage, and to prove that as well as dealing with its own problems, it can also successfully combat international crime and terrorism.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – (GA) Mr President, firstly, I would like to welcome the Taoiseach.

I am happy to say that, broadly speaking, I agree with your analysis. We do need to change the context, highlight the positives and retain the balance and essential substance of the Constitution.

The impasse in the Constitution was precipitated by the ‘no’ vote in France and the Netherlands, but, in my opinion, this was not a ‘no, no, no’ to everything European. It was a wake-up call saying, ‘The future of Europe concerns us as ordinary citizens and we too have a role to play’. Democracy, like life, can be a messy business and, while leaders must lead, they must also listen. We have had our period of reflection and we now need a period of consolidation, where the EU is seen to deliver for it citizens on the Lisbon Agenda, on protection of workers, on support for European business, on environmental sustainability and on the ability of the EU to compete as a player on the global stage.

In essence, the EU must manage the challenge of globalisation for all its citizens. If the EU can deliver on this major task, then I believe it has a solid future.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bairbre de Brún (GUE/NGL). – (GA) Mr President, I also welcome the Taoiseach to the European Parliament today. During this period of reflection, it is clear that certain people are contemplating one thing only, namely, how to get the best response. Be that as it may be, so much importance attaches to the debate about the future of Europe that it is necessary to include as many voices as possible from every sector of society and the range of the various opinions must be respected and attended to. We welcome and even encourage such debate. There is a vision of Europe which places people, equality, social and economic rights and civic rights at its centre. That is our vision in Sinn Féin and the vision of our partners in the GUE/NGL Group. Citizens are concerned, they are concerned about militarism and about making Europe into a fortress, they are concerned about political and economic power going further away from the ordinary person. They are also concerned about privatisation and that equality, sustainability and social cohesion will suffer as a consequence. We heard part of the response to that from the Taoiseach today, but the Council and the European Commission must state clearly whether or not they have heard those concerns and tell us how they are to proceed from here.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Koenraad Dillen (NI). – (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the subject of today’s debate is the future of Europe, in respect of which we fear the worst in view of Turkey’s persistent refusal to abide by its obligations in international law resulting from its customs agreement with the EU, and hence to allow Cypriot ships in its ports, and particularly in view of the way in which Europe has reacted to this.

Turkey still fails to respect basic human rights and flouts international commitments. It is a state that categorically refuses to reconcile itself with its neighbours Cyprus and Armenia and is already intimidating European Member States. Despite all this, official Europe insists that the negotiations be continued.

Turkey aspires to be European, but takes its cue from the United Nations, the United States in other words, in order to escape its European obligations. In the current circumstances, then, its accession to the EU remains out of the question. If Turkey is laying down the law even now, what will happen if it is allowed to join us at the negotiating table?

If the EU wants to remain credible in the eyes of its citizens and to safeguard its future, then Europe must send out a strong signal and cease the accession negotiations with Ankara with immediate effect.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MOSCOVICI
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ioannis Varvitsiotis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, Prime Minister, I too shall take my turn in congratulating you on your presence here today.

I think that all of us here in this Chamber agree that the European Union of the 25 today and of the 27 in a month's time cannot function with the same rules as the Europe of the 6, the 9, the 10 or the 15 Member States functioned.

I recall that in May, during the previous debate again on the future of Europe, the Belgian Prime Minister highlighted the importance of the next German Presidency. Mrs Merkel expressed its intention to table proposals for the European Constitutional Treaty. We welcome her intentions, but I wonder if something of the sort is realistic or if this is an effort to resuscitate a text which is already dead. The answer cannot be unequivocal, because it obviously depends on the objective which is set.

I sent letters to the then President-in-Office of the Council, Mr Blair, and to the President of the Commission, Mr Barroso, back in July 2005, in which I referred to the limitation of our demands to the regulation of institutional matters alone, such as the legal personality of the European Union, the new weighting of votes in the Council, the increase in the competences of the European Parliament, the creation of a position of Minister of Foreign Affairs and even the creation of a position of president of the Union, a reduction in the number of Commissioners, the abolition of the system of the three pillars and the strengthening of the institution of reinforced cooperation between the Member States. I believe this is the only way that Europe can get out of the crisis it is in today.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jo Leinen (PSE).(DE) Mr President, I congratulate the Prime Minister on his speech to this House, and am also grateful for his clear line on the constitutional treaty – no new negotiations, no cherry-picking, no residual stump of a treaty, no mini-treaty regulating just a few institutional matters – for such a thing, as has already been said here, really would rob the new treaty of its heart and soul. The Charter of Fundamental Rights, the popular participation aspects, the democratic aspects – all these things belong together. The whole thing was a package deal, an all-embracing compromise, and it must not be torn asunder. That is why our watchword must be that we will not yield on the substance that the new treaty can have, but we will be flexible about the form it can take. I fully agree with you that such a treaty must not be a book, but must instead be compact, precise and brief. All the things we might consider cutting out of the treaty are to be found in its third part.

You also made reference to additional elements; it is by these that we may be enabled to address the concerns and fears of people in the Netherlands and in France, but we also need these two countries to give us a clear idea of what they want to see changed. There are Members in this House who seem to know what the people wanted; I found their ‘no’ utterly vague, with no clear indication of where it was actually coming from. That is why we will have to wait for the French election and for the new Dutch Government if we want to know exactly what additional elements will be needed.

I would like to see you deliver this speech not only in this House, but also in many of the capitals in the EU. It was under your presidency of the Council that agreement was achieved, and so you have a responsibility to seek out those who are friends of the Constitution and get this project completed after all.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andrew Duff (ALDE). – Mr President, the Taoiseach properly said that the achievement of the 2004 package was extremely tricky and complex. Surely it would be sensible, therefore, to ring-fence the preamble and the first and second parts from renegotiation and to focus all the effort on modernising and improving Part III? Surely we cannot achieve greater competitiveness, a strengthened social partnership, improvements to a common energy policy and so forth without a substantive improvement to Part III?

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Richard Corbett (PSE). – Mr President, in the language of some of my ancestors, I should like to say to the Taoiseach:

(GA) Welcome to the European Parliament.

Welcome to the Parliament of Europe, which symbolises the motto of the European Union, ‘unity with diversity’. There are representatives of every political party in Europe, from Left to Right, from capital cities to regions, from governing parties to opposition parties. It is the Parliament that voted by 500 votes to 137 to endorse this constitutional treaty as the best way forward for the future of Europe. So I am particularly glad to hear you say today that we must find the solution to these issues, because the problems the constitutional treaty was intended to solve have not disappeared overnight. They have not gone away. We must find a solution acceptable to all 27 countries, including the two that voted ‘no’, but also taking account of the 18 that have voted ‘yes’, which will wish to keep the text as intact as possible.

I was glad to hear that, though it has not yet ratified, Ireland also wishes to keep the text as intact as possible. That is an important message for us. In the UK too, my Government signed the constitutional treaty and was re-elected on the basis of a manifesto that said that it would campaign with enthusiasm for this constitutional treaty. There is wide recognition that whatever solution is found next June, and one must be found, it should take account of the will of the majority and keep as much as can be salvaged of this constitutional treaty.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bertie Ahern, Prime Minister of Ireland. Mr President, in response to all of the speakers, there is obviously a great divergence of views and opinions, but this Parliament, by an enormous majority, did ratify and support the Constitution. However, I want to thank all the Members for their points of view. It is useful for me as a Member of the European Council, and having been so involved in the Constitution, just to hear those points. I think the exchange from that has been very valuable. It gives me a perspective that I suppose is difficult to get from this remove.

As all of those Members have said, it is important we listen to the people. It is not always possible to listen to all the people, but in that case you can listen to their elected representatives. This has afforded me the opportunity of explaining the rationale underpinning so many views on the Constitution. I have also had an opportunity to give my views.

I think that the Constitution is a very balanced and fair document. I think it is an equitable document. Of course it is made up of compromises. When you are trying to get 25 countries – as it was then – to agree, there have to be compromises in the text. It was not just a quick question of any one person saying ‘this is the position’. Things change. As I went around Europe there were many issues that were totally different in different countries, that caught the public imagination, that created a lot of difficulties in the media, and then people had to change or deliberate on what wording they could agree on, so it is not perfect insofar as it is just written with no ambiguities whatever, but it has been negotiated.

There are those who believe that perhaps it was written in isolation – I think there were some comments about that. I understand that after a few years, but I would remind Members of Parliament that the Convention had a very active group from Parliament. They worked very hard. They were the representatives of the people, they were elected by the people, they were answerable to the people and I think the governments are too. You cannot have a Constitution that is negotiated by 500 million people. You have to have their representatives doing it, and I think they did a good job on it. So sometimes that is the issue about legitimacy and democracy.

I noted the points about fighting for the issues of human rights and values, and that this is what people are about, and not crime and drugs. The people I meet are far more concerned with both issues. They want to see that the rule of law, the rule of courts, the legal system protects everybody equally. However, they also want to see that those who are involved in criminality across borders and those who are engaged in criminal activity are dealt with. So if you are a supporter of human rights, then you are obviously a supporter of the Constitution, because the Charter for Fundamental Rights is the first time in Europe that we have put all these things into the Constitution so I think you should definitely be a strong advocate of the Constitution.

I think what is necessary for us now is not to try to renegotiate everything. With the German Presidency coming up, the Chancellor has clearly stated that she will set up a small group of officials to deal with a small group of officials in every country to identify where there are differences or difficulties. In my view, that should count 90% of the Constitution out. The focus and the concentration and effort will then be on the remaining 10%.

My colleague from Ireland, Mr De Rossa, made a very fair point, one I have made several times, and it happened in the case of Ireland and Nice. The issue then is to try to get protocols to deal with the issues, that is the sensible thing: not throwing away parts of the Constitution that have been agreed upon by Parliament, by the Council, by 18 countries across Europe, but to try to find and accommodate the difficulties and analyse what the difficulties are in those countries which have voted ‘no’, or perhaps others which have reservations. That is not an impossible task. It has been done already in the countries where the Constitution was lost. As stated earlier on, there were opinion polls looking into what those issues were and trying to deal with those issues. I think that is possible. If those issues are looked at in the IGC or the Council, it should be possible. I do not think it should take a long time.

I would just ask Parliament, and hope – as I will try to do in Council – to keep supporting the Constitution with the balanced view that we have to deal with a small number of outstanding issues as regards some countries and perhaps as regards countries that have declared their positions recently because of changes in governments. We should try to deal with that. If we can do that, then with the reason and purpose and the whole desire to have a European Constitution – if that is what it is called; that is not something I get too excited about – we can move forward collectively to do that. I really believe it is possible.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – Thank you, Prime Minister, for your speech which I personally found very useful and pragmatic.

The debate is closed.

 

10. Verification of credentials: see Minutes

11. Membership of Parliament: see Minutes

12. Communication of Council common positions: see Minutes

13. Russia-EU summit (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the Russia-European Union summit.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paula Lehtomäki, President-in-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the eighteenth EU-Russia Summit was held last week in Helsinki. In accordance with established practice, the Summit dealt with the ‘four common spaces’ the two sides share, as well as international issues more widely. The Northern Dimension Summit between the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland was held at the same time.

Our wide-ranging discussion on matters crucial to relations between the EU and Russia was conducted in a constructive atmosphere. With regard to the new EU-Russia treaty, we saw that the process of establishing a negotiating mandate had been an intensive one over the previous few weeks. The EU will continue to deal with the issue of the mandate, with the aim of commencing talks as soon as possible. Four Permanent Partnership Council ministerial meetings have been held this autumn to enhance concrete cooperation. These have been between the EU and Russian Ministers for Transport, the Environment, Justice and Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs.

With regard to the Common Economic Space, we found that there had been positive developments in many sectors of cooperation. Agreement was reached at the Summit on charges for Siberian overflights and putting an end to them. Furthermore, European Union and Russian Heads of State or Government recognised the enormous common interest that they had and the dependence on both sides in energy relations. The European Union highlighted the importance of the principles of transparency, predictability, reciprocity and openness in energy markets, investment and the transit infrastructure. These principles should also be incorporated in the new EU-Russia treaty. The Union insisted that the parties must guarantee their commitment to comply with the Energy Charter.

Other themes of the discussion were the growth in trade and investment between the European Union and Russia, traffic congestion and the development of an electronic customs clearance system, on which we made very obvious headway. We said that progress in the talks on Russia’s membership of the World Trade Organisation will have a very positive effect on the economic space shared by the EU and Russia. Negotiations on extensive and comprehensive free trade between the EU and Russia can be started when Russia has joined the WTO. The dialogue on the environment endorsed at the EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Council (Environment) in October will create a basis for wide-ranging cooperation.

Cooperation in the area of justice and home affairs has made progress in many sectors. We considered it of major importance that the agreements on visa facilitation and the readmission of illegal immigrants signed in May should come into force as quickly as possible.

On human rights, the European Union voiced its concern regarding the situation in Chechnya, and was of the opinion that it was important that all human rights crimes should be investigated thoroughly and individuals guilty of them brought to justice. The EU also mentioned the matter of preconditions for developments in the rule of law, for freedom of expression and for an independent media, including investigations into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya and the Mikhail Khodorkovski case. The EU referred to the human rights consultations organised at the start of November, which went more deeply into these issues and examined the human rights situation in Russia more exhaustively. The EU said that it was committed to closer cooperation on human rights and developing consultations on the subject.

The European Union and Russia stressed the importance of direct contact between their citizens as a basis for a strategic partnership. This partnership can be enhanced in particular in the domains of education and culture. Cooperation between universities, as well as student exchange programmes between the Union and Russia, have been high up on the agenda this autumn, and we want to put effort into this in the future too.

Our view was that cooperation in international matters is important for security and prosperity in Europe as a whole. We recognised how positively relations had developed in the context of several international matters. Cooperation between the Union and Russia must nevertheless be made to move in a more obvious direction. Some of the international issues raised were the Western Balkans, the Middle East peace process, the situation regarding North Korea, Georgia, Belarus and Moldova.

A Northern Dimension Summit was held to run alongside the EU-Russia Summit. At this summit, new basic documents, the Political Declaration and the Framework Document, were approved. With these decisions in place, the Northern Dimension will be renewed from the start of next year. The renewed Northern Dimension represents the common policy of four equal partners: the European Union, Russia, Norway and Iceland.

The Northern Dimension policy covers a vast geographical area, including the Baltic Sea, Northwest Russia, and the Arctic regions. It supports the implementation of the four common spaces between the EU and Russia in this geographical area. Moreover, the Northern Dimension focuses on special issues in northern regions, such as the vulnerable environment, indigenous peoples and health.

A joint steering group of partners is to be set up for the Northern Dimension to speed up practical cooperation. The existing Northern Dimension partnerships – that is, the Environmental Partnership and the Partnership in Public Health and Well-being – we want to continue and develop further. We shall also aim to examine the potential for applying the partnership model in the transport and logistics sector and strengthen cooperation in the area of energy efficiency.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I am most grateful for the opportunity to inform you about the EU-Russia Summit, which took place in Helsinki. This was the third EU meeting with President Putin this year, following the one in Sochi in May and the dinner in Lahti, which gave us a good opportunity to speak about energy issues.

Like my colleague, I greatly welcome the fact that Commission Vice-President Barrot and Minister Levitin were finally able to sign the Protocol on Siberian overflights. We have been working on this issue for many years and this is an important achievement, bringing an end to a persistent irritant in EU-Russia relations. It was also one of our conditions for Russia’s WTO accession. Therefore I warmly welcome this achievement and thank Mr Barrot for his efforts.

Immediately before the summit, we had a very good discussion on closer economic integration with EU and Russian business leaders. They delivered a message of strong support for the benefits this would bring to the business communities on both sides. Later, at the summit, there was a consensus that we should carry forward work on this subject over the coming months. Our vision is the creation of a common economic area, essentially operating the same rules and providing for fair trade.

On energy, President Putin confirmed that the Energy Charter Treaty would not be ratified as it stands, but he also clearly expressed willingness to come to a deal that would respect the interests of both sides and include the principles of the Energy Treaty, as he said in Sochi. He called for reciprocity, including access for Russian capital to key strategic industries in the European Union.

It is unfortunate that it was not possible to announce the opening of negotiations for our new strategic agreement. However, I am confident that the remaining difficulties will be resolved shortly. President Barroso made it clear, after the inspection carried out by officials of our Food and Veterinary Office, that we consider that the ban on certain Polish exports is not proportionate. He pressed President Putin strongly to lift it and, in any case, to agree to tripartite talks between Poland, Russia and the Commission to settle this issue. President Putin made it clear that the issue was not Polish meat as such, but the transit of meat from other countries through Poland to Russia. Finally, as far as the new agreement is concerned, it was reconfirmed, vitally, that there will be no legal vacuum when the current agreement reaches the end of its initial ten-year period. Even though we have not yet started negotiations for an agreement, we can continue and we have a legal basis.

Another important issue already mentioned tonight is that of the long queues of vehicles waiting to enter Russia at EU borders. We agreed to give urgent attention to that. A mission involving the Commissioner for Taxation and some Member States had already taken place at the various borders between Russia and the Member States. We all noted that the origin of this problem was the growth in trade, namely the increase in trade between the EU and Russia, on the one hand, and the overall increase of trade with Russia, including transiting, on the other. But the infrastructure is already at maximum capacity and Russian procedures are cumbersome. For instance, there are currently seven security procedures, which Mr Putin has promised to reduce to two. That is very important. For its part, the Commission will shortly be making proposals in its report to address some of these customs issues. We also offered to cooperate on a pilot project. The question is whether data can be dealt with on the basis of a computer-based system.

There was also a generally positive assessment of cooperation on Freedom, Security and Justice. The Russian side said that the agreements on visa facilitation and readmission would be sent for ratification soon. This is very positive, because readmission also helps the European Union.

I would like to express my appreciation for the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee’s input on Kaliningrad. On this matter, Russia raised the future of the Lithuanian scheme for cost-free visas, aluminium export duties and the treatment of minorities in Latvia and Estonia. We made it clear that these issues have either already been resolved or, in the case of visas for visitors from Kaliningrad to Lithuania, can be addressed.

On external security, the European Union pressed for more cooperation in the common neighbourhood, while Russia emphasised non-proliferation and disarmament, particularly with regard to Iran and North Korea. President Barroso outlined progress towards meeting the Kananaskis commitments. It was agreed that new ways to cooperate on crisis management should be pursued.

We also raised concerns regarding the human rights situation in Russia, notably the killing of Mrs Politkovskaya. President Barroso indicated that the perceived lack of due process caused concern in the European Union. As requested by the President of Parliament and other honourable Members, he also raised the case of Mikhail Khordorkovsky. President Putin defended the situation in Russia.

I will not repeat the comments made by the Presidency on foreign policy issues other than to note the importance we attach to cooperation at the United Nations on Iran, to promote the six-party talks on North Korea and to work with Russia in the Middle East through the Quartet. Russia asked for an urgent meeting of the Quartet, which we hope will take place before Christmas. We also need to work intensively to reduce our differences on Georgia and Kosovo, on which an exchange of views was held.

Finally, as my colleague said, the special Northern Dimension Summit took place for the first time. It was a success and I welcome Russia’s involvement in that overall idea.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Camiel Eurlings, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Mr President, a close partnership between Russia and the European Union is of vital interest to both sides, but for that partnership to be viable it must be based on balance: balance between the interests of the Union and the interests of Russia, and balance as regards economic issues and issues of democracy and fundamental human rights.

Looking at recent summits, some progress was made. As was mentioned, rights in respect of Siberian overflights will meet WTO standards. That is a good thing. The visa facilitation of last year is also a good development. However, in general, the summit was disappointing. The Polish veto plays a major role. Although in general we are against vetoes and we must all work together to get this veto from the table, I must say that the European People’s Party understands the Polish position. We agree with Commission President Barroso, who has called the ban on Polish meat by Russia an excessive reaction. He saw no reasons for maintaining this ban. That is why the European People’s Party calls upon Russia to work constructively with us to get this veto from the table by finding ways to lift the ban on Polish meat.

We would like to see the same attitude to Georgia. We hope that, as regards Moldova, the ban will go from the table – we saw an announcement about that today and we would ask Russia not to threaten to have bans on all of the European Union when Romania and Bulgaria enter.

If we can proceed with the negotiations, let us talk about balance and economy. If Russia wants to invest in our industries, we must be able to invest in the same way in Russian industries. Let us talk about the energy chapter, where we hope, after the agreement in principle, that the basic principles of the chapter will be accepted.

Last but not least, let us talk about human rights. I hope the human rights dialogue can take place in public. I really hope that Russia will send good signals after the recent suspicious assassinations by first of all catching the killers of Anna Politkovskaya. Let us, as Europe, be united on this more than ever before.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, as the representatives both of the Council and of the Commission have indicated – without, however, spelling it out explicitly – there is no doubt that relations between the European Union and Russia have become problematic. My group was in favour of embarking on negotiations with Russia, on the grounds that this would have been the test of whether or not that country really was willing to engage in fair negotiations and arrive at fair outcomes, but we do very much understand what motivated Poland to exercise its veto, and, if discriminatory action is being taken – for that is how I understand what the Commissioner said – then Poland deserves our full solidarity. We cannot tolerate discriminatory or unfair treatment of any one or more Member States of the EU.

Secondly, what is absolutely necessary now is that the European Union should act as one. It is not acceptable that individual countries should set off on solo jaunts and make it possible for Russia to cherrypick certain countries with which to carry on separate negotiations. I trust that solidarity within the European Union will remain unimpaired.

Thirdly, our common neighbours need support, for they are in a difficult position where Russia is concerned. It is the idea of offering them support that underpins our ideas for an EU/Black Sea community, which we will be discussing in this House in December.

Fourthly, there is the human rights issue, about which we will not be silent, whether or not we now start negotiations, but we cannot possibly accept it when President Putin says, on the one hand, that he has nothing to do with all the things that are going on, while, on the other, doing nothing to ensure that those who are responsible end up before a judge. It is the President of Russia who now needs to deal with this matter – him and nobody else. None of us – certainly none of the members of my own group – wants another Cold War with Russia, but we will not be silent for as long as such violations of human rights are going on as we see at present, resulting in the deaths of people who are contending for the free expression of opinion in Russia.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paavo Väyrynen, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FI) Mr President, a new atmosphere of cooperation has emerged between the European Union and Russia in recent months: the Spirit of Lahti, as it was called after the informal summit in the autumn. Furthermore, it was in this selfsame spirit that we were able to bring off the recent EU-Russia Summit.

A feature of the Spirit of Lahti is the ability to deal with difficult matters openly. There were also frank discussions in Lahti and Helsinki on questions of human rights and democracy. At the summit meeting in Helsinki, agreement was hampered by a row which prevented the recommencement of talks on the new partnership agreement. The parties might nevertheless have realised that they could work together on the basis of the current agreement, which is still in force for the time being.

Talks on the new partnership agreement must get under way as soon as possible. New ideas on how to improve cooperation, on the other hand, can be generated on the basis of the current agreement.

There was a positive outcome at the Summit in two important areas. First, payments for Siberian overflights will gradually start to be reduced, and they will be phased out entirely by 2013. Next, agreements between the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland on the Northern Dimension were signed while the Summit was being held. Thus, in the north we reached a new agreement which will provide a framework for cooperation in the four ‘spaces’ which the EU and Russia have agreed on establishing.

Lorry queues on the border between the EU and Russia were discussed. Discussions on this have been taking place today at talks between the Finnish and Russian Prime Ministers in Moscow. The problem is that checks on the Russian side can be carried out by as many as seven officials. Now that number is being dropped to two, and border checks will be speeded up in other ways too. In any case, we need a quick solution to this urgent problem.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the relations and discussions between Europe and Russia are like surrealist art or a Woody Allen film.

One of two things is true. Either Polish meat is bad, in which case Mr Putin is right and this meat must no longer be distributed in Europe. Or Polish meat is good, in which case it can be distributed in Europe and what Mr Putin and Russia are doing is unjust and sanctions must be taken against them. There is no question of exaggerating or not exaggerating: either it is true or it is not true, that is all.

Secondly, with regard to human rights, Mr Putin, with his angelic face of a judoka trained by the KGB, repeats to us time and again: ‘I have nothing to do with this business’. Assassinations take place all over Europe, a woman is assassinated in Moscow, an ex-KGB agent is assassinated in London and Mr Putin repeats: ‘I have nothing to do with it’. Evidently, it was Mr Khodorkovsky who, from his prison, organised the assassination of Mrs Politkovskaya and it was Mr Lebedev who, from his prison, organised the assassination of the ex-KGB agent.

Only one thing is certain: the laws passed in the Duma are laws that have been passed by Mr Putin’s party, with the result that the opposition no longer has the right to speak, that non-governmental organisations no longer have the right to voice their opinions and that European foundations no longer have the right to exist. Again, on this subject, Mr Putin tells us: ‘I have nothing to do with these events. I was at a conference in Paris, in London or I do not know where and I do not know what has been passed in the Duma.’

We must not be taken for fools. I would prefer it if there were no prospect of cold war. No one wants cold war, but everything has its limits. We cannot accept that a public politician should lie to us continually: either Mr Putin chooses to be polite and to answer our questions, or we will take a different tone with Mr Putin. We may need his energy, but we do not need someone who constantly mocks us.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vladimír Remek, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, it would be very bold to claim that the last summit in Finland was a success, although we made our own contribution to the summit. Our so-called solidarity was of absolutely no use. Whilst it is true that Russia needs the Union, it is also the case that the Union needs Russia. As long as we pursue an increasingly fierce Russophobic line, Russia will pragmatically continue to work together with the no-less-pragmatic EU Member States that are her biggest economic partners, that is to say, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, among others. This cooperation continues apace, to no one's great surprise. We will not integrate a Community perspective into the energy agreement with Russia if we simply favour European firms and help them to make profits from Russian energy supplies. We will not enjoy mutually advantageous and much-needed relations with Russia, if, for example, in official negotiations between EU and Russian parliamentary delegations, some of the seats reserved for the EU Parliament’s representatives remain empty. It is hard to negotiate properly with one’s eyes and ears closed.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Konrad Szymański, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, there is every indication that Russia does not wish to accept the implications of the 2004 enlargement. It is failing to proceed with the signature of border treaties with Latvia and Estonia, and has resorted to the use of gas to blackmail some Member States. Most recently, Russia has been conducting discriminatory trade policy against Poland, on the basis of forged veterinary certificates. Poland cannot tolerate such discrimination. More importantly, Poland cannot agree to opening talks under conditions dictated by Russia.

I am grateful to the Commission for recognising these problems and seeking solutions to them. I would point out also that the tension surrounding the latest summit involves much more than relations between the Union and Russia, and how that is resolved will determine the standing and future of the whole Union. If Russia succeeds in dividing us, the chances of developing a political Europe and of institutional change will be much reduced, particularly as regards a common foreign policy. It does not make sense to create new institutions if they are not underpinned by common convictions, and if a common political will is lacking.

Should Russia succeed in dividing us now, it will go one step further next year, and in the meantime our common foreign policy will be two steps behind. We should not therefore be surprised if NATO is assuming the political initiative, for instance regarding a common energy policy. NATO is already drawing up a detailed outline of its future role on this vital issue.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (PL) Mr President, the latest EU-Russia Summit did not bring any specific results. Nonetheless, the way the meeting unfolded allows us to draw several conclusions which could be relevant to future negotiations on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

Firstly, it is standard practice for Russia to resort to tactics aimed at shattering the Union’s unity, by presenting current disagreements as bilateral problems with particular Member States. This is what has happened with regard to the ban on imports of Polish foodstuffs. The same tactic had been applied previously to Latvia and other Baltic States. This approach has proved successful because certain groups within the Union joined in with the criticism of Poland, drawing on elements of the rhetoric used by Russia.

Secondly, whilst the Union is very sensitive to the issue of respect for human rights in the Member States and throughout the world, such as in relation to the war on terror, it applies different standards to Russia in this regard. EU decision-makers deliberately avoid posing difficult questions, and if such questions do arise, for example, concerning politically inspired murders or the situation in Chechnya, they unreservedly accept President Putin’s evasive responses.

It is worth emphasising that good political and economic cooperation between Russia and the EU is highly desirable, but the unduly submissive attitude the EU has adopted in its dealings with Russia so far will not help attain that objective. Ratifying the Energy Charter Treaty and a more determined response to human rights violations should be deemed priorities in relations with Russia. Maintaining European Union solidarity in dealing with a difficult partner is just as necessary.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Mr President, Russia, in its four common spaces engaging with the EU, remains our strategic partner. We need a strong, united and stable Russia as an ally against rising Islamist terrorism, working with us through the Quartet in solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, preventing in the UN Security Council Iranian and North Korean nuclear proliferation, as well as being a reliable trading partner in its supply of 30% of the EU’s gas needs.

Nevertheless, we take a dim view of the atrocities in Chechnya, the deterioration in human rights and democratic freedoms – in particular press freedom, and contract killings of journalists and opponents of the Government, such as my constituent from London, Alexander Litvinenko.

We also reject the traditional Russian habit of cosying up bilaterally to big Member States such as Britain, France and Germany, in order to pressurise others such as the Baltic States and, most recently, Poland, by banning its beef exports. Russia all too frequently invokes phytosanitary regulations to bully troublesome ‘near-abroad neighbours’ such as Moldova and Georgia, where wine and mineral waters were banned.

Otherwise, Russia uses differential gas pricing by Gazprom as a foreign policy instrument to put pressure on neighbours such as Ukraine. Recently, NATO released a report suggesting that Russia is planning a ‘gas OPEC’ with Algeria, Qatar, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which would be a serious threat to the EU’s external energy security interests. One way of responding to this, particularly after Russia’s refusal to sign the Energy Charter Treaty, is to tell President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, on his visit to Brussels next week, that his country, like its ethnic cousin Azerbaijan, would be welcome in the European Neighbourhood Policy, rather than Kazakhstan joining Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in the Yalta Treaty’s Single Economic Space.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Reino Paasilinna (PSE). – (FI) Mr President, Minister, I will only speak about energy, because one cannot speak about everything, and I want to raise half a dozen points or so. For us, it is vital to have security of energy supply, but what is important for Russia is that it has the security of a permanent customer. We need the market to be opened up on both sides. We also need long-term trade agreements. Russia needs them too, as it has to invest in its energy industry, which is almost in tatters.

The energy debate needs more political guidance on our part. Energy is a very political issue. Despite that, we talk about all manner of things here, but we do not even go to Russia to familiarise ourselves with the energy situation. We need to go there. It has been a long time since anyone went there with this in mind.

Finally, I want to say that energy is now a source of conflict for us with Russia. It cannot be taken care of with electricity or gas, but is a job for the politicians. So we have to act as politicians in the domain of energy, and together with Russia find a form of cooperation that is satisfactory to both sides.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Inese Vaidere (UEN) . (LV) Ladies and gentlemen, the conclusion of the new partnership agreement with Russia is a significant step in our cooperation, which will also help to resolve the energy issue. In the name of good relations, however, we should not disregard the package of demands which we need to put forward to Russia in order for this cooperation to be possible. We should not ignore the fact that in Russia democracy is being squeezed, and there are shocking restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Intimidation of political opponents and the murder of journalists are becoming more frequent. In the last seven years, 13 journalists have been killed, but not one contract killing of a journalist has been uncovered. At the same time, Russia’s authorities are doing nothing to tackle racism and xenophobia. Quite the reverse: in Russia, violence has become part of the system of government. Russia is using the trade sphere as a foreign policy tool, by putting forward very high standards for its partners, which it, however, uses selectively. The European Union must ensure that Russia displays a genuine will to resolve these issues, and that it concludes border agreements without delay with Estonia and Latvia. This requirement must also be stated in documents, and I would like to thank the Commission for addressing these questions.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Elmar Brok (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, our relations with Russia are of strategic importance. Looking at the developments in the Middle East and considering the use made of Russia in the Security Council in matters relating to problem areas such as Iran and North Korea, we know that it is in our interests to have Russia on our side when dealing with these. We also know that mandate to negotiate a new partnership and cooperation agreement is to be extended to include the incorporation into that agreement of matters touching on energy security, democracy and human rights in Russia, and, if that is to be done, then negotiations are necessary, and a veto, by preventing the resolution of such issues, is not helpful.

At the same time, though, it strikes me as of the utmost importance that the Commission and the Council, in the course of their negotiations, should bear it in mind – and you can use this as an argument, if you like – that any such agreement must, at the end of the day, be ratified by Parliament and that we will not accept an agreement that does not include certain conditions that are decisive in terms of solidarity between all Member States of the European Union.

I would like to address one thing that makes it clear that it is self-evidently in our own strategic interest if the European Union acts as one in foreign policy matters, while also making clear that solidarity can be manifested also in smaller matters such as, for example, the issue of trade with Poland. If the impression is given that we are up in arms about the trade measures of a third country when they affect Germany, or the United Kingdom, or France, and make a great song and dance about it, smaller or newer Member States get the idea that their problems are not treated as being equally important, and we end up with a credibility problem. In view of the way in which this issue of trade between Russia and Poland has been handled so far, I can quite understand what the Poles are getting at. No actions are now being taken against a single country, quite simply because there is now only one trade policy.

I therefore ask the Commission, and the member of it with responsibility for trade matters, to put this on the priority list in future, something that was not done for Poland, or, indeed, in the matter between Iran and Denmark three-quarters of a year ago. I think the Commission has to come to understand that this sends an important message to the people living in the Member States, that message being that we take their concerns seriously and care about them. That makes it easier to achieve agreement on other matters.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marek Siwiec (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, the Russian Federation applies double standards to Member States of the European Union, dividing them into good and bad states. The good ones are rewarded with normal relations, whereas the bad ones are penalised with sanctions such as trade restrictions. This is the age-old policy of divide and rule.

We do not have any influence on the Kremlin’s ambitions, because it is enjoying a renaissance of its imperialist outlook. Its leaders can afford to think this way as the prices of oil and gas are rising and we have to pay them. The way we react to this policy is crucial. If we do not all stand shoulder to shoulder in our response, we will simply be fuelling Russia’s imperialist approach to international relations. I am not saying this to put the fear of Russia into us, but to ensure that improved relations between the European Union and Russia are based on a sound and stable footing, and all divisions between the good and the bad, the victors and the vanquished are done away with.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ryszard Czarnecki (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, the outcome of the summit in Finland was not what it might have been. Our esteemed Russian partners would do well to learn the lesson of that experience.

Russia and the European Union must recognise that this spells the end of a certain method of resolving issues between Moscow and the EU, and in particular between Moscow and some of the stronger and richer Member States. There can and must be an end to bilateral schemes between Russia and Germany, Russia and France or Russia and the United Kingdom and there must instead be honest debate with the European Union as a whole.

The European Union also needs to learn from this experience. Any issues that might be an obstacle to inclusive agreements should be fully resolved in advance of such a summit. The Russian embargo on Polish meat was a case in point. The rest of the EU should not be surprised that Poland dug its heels in over this issue, which is of great importance to us. We saw it as a kind of litmus test not only of Russia’s intentions towards Poland, but also of the intentions of the other Member States towards our country.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasise that we must never allow European solidarity to be an empty slogan.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I should like to thank the Commissioner for raising these human rights issues with our Russian partners. However, in the present situation, it is not enough to raise delicate issues. We are also entitled to receive meaningful answers, and then to see changes in the negative pattern that can currently be observed. Only such changes, by means of positive reforms, could stimulate the new trust we badly need to continue our strategic partnership.

At this point, the Commission has to convince the Russian administration that democratic values do not have a second-rate status in our negotiating package. This is just what the democratically minded citizens of Russia expect from us, and we cannot betray them.

Secondly, I encourage the Commission to be more active in standing up for EU solidarity – our basic principle. All too often, the EU regards Member States’ relations with Russia as merely a bilateral issue. The EU’s message to Russia at this point should be that if political or economic pressure is put on one Member State, then that will be a problem for the whole of Europe. This could convince our partners to change their behaviour.

Finally, the EU does have leverage over Russia. Russia does not care any less about its relations with the EU than we care about them. Russia cares about its image as a global partner, so we should also make Mr Putin work to convince and prove that Russia could get rid of this negative pattern, or at least stop lying to us.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ANTONIOS TRAKATELLIS
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Rihards Pīks (PPE-DE) . (LV) Thank you, Mr President, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner and Mrs Lehtomäki. I think that the work which you have accomplished at the summit and what you discussed was all very good. Of course, we wanted talks to be begun on the new agreement. Why? Because, of course, we want security of energy supplies. I do not think, however, in any case, that we should ignore any of our Member States. What we need here is solidarity. I would just like to point to a few examples from the past year which, in my view, show that Russia’s attitude is selective. It began on 1 January by the cutting of gas supplies to Ukraine, and after that we learnt that wine from Moldova was no longer acceptable, but that wine from Transnistria, where the technologies are the same, was acceptable. Next, Georgia failed to obey – suddenly some scoundrel blew up the gas pipeline near Georgia’s border, and Georgia had no gas supply for a week or two. Lithuania – the country is selling its shares in the Mazeiku oil refinery to the Poles, not the Russians. Suddenly an oil pipeline cracks, and oil no longer reaches the Mazeiku refinery. Just a short while ago, some of Latvia’s canned fish was withdrawn from circulation in Russia. Our food health inspectorate checked tinned food originating from Russia in our country and in Germany, and found the same increase in these substances for which Russia had taken us to task. So I mention these examples of how Russia, unfortunately, always finds a reason to reproach others or suspend supplies or impose an embargo. Thus it seems to me that it is extremely important to include security of these energy supplies in the new agreement. I wish you success in your task.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Béla Glattfelder (PPE-DE).(HU) Mr President, trade is a very important element of the relations between Russia and the European Union. The basis for trade is legal security and predictability, and to this end, joint trade agreements must be respected.

The EU must insist on full compliance with the principles and rules laid down in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The Russian import ban on Polish meat products and other agricultural produce is an infringement of these principles and rules. These measures are excessive and unjustified. They should have been withdrawn long ago. The debate on trade remains unresolved because Russia does not show any willingness to cooperate.

The EU must insist on the observance of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, and must stand in solidarity with our Polish friends, speaking with one voice in order to encourage the Russian party to honour the trade agreements. We must make it absolutely clear that the EU does not tolerate any of its trading partners using discriminatory measures against one of the Member States. A unified position is important as well because Russia is now threatening to impose an import ban on all meat products from the EU because of the accession of Romania and Bulgaria.

This matter also has particular significance from Hungary’s point of view, since large quantities of wine are sold in Russia under the label of ‘Tokaji’ although they have nothing whatsoever to do with the Tokaj region. Russia is thus infringing on the various rules protecting origins laid down in the partnership agreement. It is because of this as well that the EU must take a unified stand on this issue.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, the European Union must show solidarity in its dealings with Russia. Moscow wishes to divide the countries of the Union into good and bad partners. The good ones are the largest and richest countries such as Germany and France. Those are the countries with which Mr Putin wishes to conduct his European policy. Bowing to such treatment will mean the end and the enslavement of the European Union. We must speak with one voice in our dealings with Russia. The European Commission should have intervened earlier over the issue of Polish food. Poland’s concerns over the building of the northern gas pipeline should also have been taken more seriously.

Russia is an important partner for the EU. We must insist on respect for freedom of expression and association within Russia, and also on respect for human rights and freedom of activity for the opposition.

It is not true that all Poles are anti-Russian. We appreciate Russian culture. We believe Russia is a remarkable nation that has produced outstanding figures in culture, science and music. It paid a very high price for the madness of Bolshevik-Communist utopia. We shall always support those who like Hertzen, Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, Bukovski, Kovalev or Politkovskaya dared to speak openly about the need for a free and democratic Russia determined to devote all its energies to its own development and to improving the lot of its own citizens, whilst refraining from imperialist subjugation of its neighbours.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paula Lehtomäki, President-on-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, thank you for this intense but worthwhile debate. A sign of good cooperation is that everything, even problematic issues, can be discussed. This prerequisite for good cooperation was met at the EU-Russia Summit. We were able to discuss even these difficult issues in concrete terms, and not just in terms of the principles involved.

It is very obvious from this debate that we need a balance in cooperation between the EU and Russia. In the opening speeches of the Summit, both sides laid great emphasis on the fact that we, the European Union and Russia, exist in a state of great mutual dependence. We are dependent on them for many things, and they are dependent on us.

Part of this balance is the notion that one approaches the partner on an equal footing and, furthermore, with respect. Moreover, the best results in cooperation with Russia are achieved specifically through dialogue and working closely together. That will not come about if we approach the partner in the belief that everything is right with us and everything with them is hopelessly wrong, and that we will teach them what they need to do. The best results are achieved through open dialogue on all issues, at the same time maintaining respect for the partner. The European Union’s basic values are not up for negotiation in this dialogue. Our values are not for sale.

The matter of human rights is central to the dialogue between the Union and Russia. Absolutely crucial to their practical implementation is progress in the area of the rule of law in Russia. The Union will be working closely with Russia in many ways to establish the principle of the rule of law.

Our four ‘spaces’ for cooperation are a good opportunity for closer cooperation, not just in the energy sector, but in many other areas too. Now that we have to work to achieve a new mandate for a new partnership agreement, it is worth remembering that the existing agreement also allows us to cooperate more closely and effectively. So we do not have to just wait around for a new mandate: we can move on on the basis of the present one.

The debate also made much of the importance of solidarity within the European Union. In this case solidarity is very evident in the fact that, right to the last, the Commission and the Presidency of the Council did their utmost to find a solution to the remaining areas of discord and to start talks on the new agreement. In that, unfortunately, we failed, however.

President Putin said very clearly several times that Polish meat is welcome in Russia. From their point of view, the problem is that meat produced elsewhere with Polish labels on it is coming into the country, and that they cannot accept. Continued efforts need to be made to resolve this problem and reach agreement.

Just prior to the Summit, the news broke that the United States of America and Russia had concluded a bilateral agreement on Russia’s membership of the World Trade Organisation. As this major step on the road towards Russia’s membership of the WTO has now been taken, it is clear that Russia will be joining the WTO in the near future. That will also bring with it new and really positive prospects for economic cooperation between the European Union and Russia. Commissioner Mandelson and Russian Trade Minister Gref also put forward their views at the Summit. We therefore have plenty of excellent opportunities, but also plenty of problem areas where cooperation has to be continued. Cooperation has to be on an equal basis, and one where there is mutual respect.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, EU-Russia relations are indeed highly complex. On the one hand, Russia is a strategic partner, and on the other hand it is a common neighbour. We have to find a balance between these two very important elements.

Second, with regard to the issue of meat, we have worked very hard with the Poles and with the Russians, but we as a Commission do not even have an official responsibility for that. We are responsible for imports, but we are not responsible for exports. Sometimes these things matter; for instance we have asked for trilateral committees. That is what we have offered. We have asked why we do not sit down together trilaterally and try to find a solution. At the end of a lengthy discussion, as regards illegally imported meat from third countries to Russia – it was not about Polish meat, I can only subscribe to that – Mr Putin agreed that he will now instruct his agriculture minister to work more intensively with the Poles. I hope that means the path towards finding a solution is clear.

Unfortunately, I do not think we have more legal possibilities. Our colleague’s comments on the WTO were very true. This will give us more legal possibilities.

I am also happy to tell you that today we adopted the Neighbourhood Policy communication, which will be coming to Parliament in a few days’ time. I will officially present it to the media on Monday, because today we had the discussion on Turkey.

We are also talking about cooperation around the Black Sea. I wanted to mention that, because it came up in the debate. We think it is highly important to have the neighbours to the east together with the Black Sea cooperation – that means Turkey and Russia together. In the end, we have to re-engage and find solutions together.

In this new agreement, there will also be the whole issue of energy. Many of those issues have already been addressed. The other day we had a very important energy conference in Brussels, and there is a whole set of different ideas on transparency, reciprocity and legal certainty for investments. That progress was made at Lahti, and that progress also has to be incorporated into our agreement, because we need a stable market of technology and a stable market that will help all of us using Russian revenues and resources, and help our own possibilities as consumers.

Let me also say that we have shown the highest possible level of solidarity with Poland. I do not accept that this has not been done at the maximum possible level. On the other hand, we want to go on working, so I think we have to have this complex, balanced relationship.

It was a very frank and open meeting. That is always good. I prefer a frank and open talk, and having a chance to solve one issue, maybe solving others the next time around.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place during the December part-session.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bogdan Golik (PSE). – (PL) I would like to express my grave concern about the ban on the import of plant and animal products from Poland that the Russian Federation has imposed over the last 12 months. I appeal to the European Commission to take more decisive action to resolve the problem. In view of the impasse in relations with Moscow it would seem that the best way forward is for this matter to be dealt by Russia and the European Union at the highest political level.

Given the difficulties concerning trade in agricultural products with Russia, I believe it would be appropriate to empower the European Commission to determine trade policy as a whole, encompassing not just import-related, but also export-related issues. The whole of the EU may well experience difficulties trading with Russia, not just Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. The existing principles of separation of access to third country markets by individual Member States result in an uneven playing field for exports and discriminatory treatment of certain Member States.

The division of competences regarding imports and exports appears to run counter to the principles of the single market and the provisions of Article 133 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community, according to which the common commercial policy must be based on uniform principles, relating to export policy amongst other matters. In addition, current European Commission practices should be improved, so that it does not take unduly long to resolve any problems that may arise, and to allow a swift response to unexpected situations.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bruno Gollnisch (NI).(FR) Those who take the hardest line against Russia today are often those who, for a long time, denied the existence of the gulag, the totalitarian nature of communism and the threat of Soviet imperialism.

For 74 years, the communists violated the most fundamental freedoms and solidarity, going as far as to force children to denounce their parents. It is not surprising that, coming out of this nightmare, Russian democracy is not yet perfect.

Our democracies are no better. In France, for example, the Front National, representing over 15% of the electorate, has no representatives in the National Assembly, and the parties in power want to prevent its candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen, from standing in the Presidential election.

Unlike Turkey, which the Europe of Brussels wants to welcome, Russia is a fully European nation. United by the same Helleno-Christian roots, our peoples are also sadly united by the same threats: falling birth rates and immigration, materialism and Islamism. The time has now come to reunite the Eastern and Western branches of our civilisation, beyond the dividing line of Theodosius, to reconcile the heirs of Saint Benedict with those of Saint Cyril.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Filip Kaczmarek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Russia is a very important neighbour of the European Union, and the European Union is an important partner for Russia. For this partnership to be sound and genuine, Russia needs to understand the nature of the EU, and the EU ought to help it to do so. The European Union is based on the principle of solidarity among its members. Consequently, this policy of sowing dissent between Member States of the Union and Russia’s use of bilateral contacts to exert pressure on certain Member States is something we cannot tolerate.

To put this another way, Polish meat is also European meat. The unjustified ban on the export of Polish meat to Russia is a problem for the EU as a whole, not a matter for bilateral relations between Poland and Russia. Upon investigation it emerged that the doctored meat certificates, which served as the pretext for placing the embargo on Polish meat, involved meat produced in the USA and exported to Russia via Lithuania. The embargo was therefore a political measure.

I am glad the Finnish Presidency is choosing its words carefully and describing cooperation between Russia and the EU over energy in terms of positive interdependence. The question arises, however, as to what that really means and how the Russians would understand being positive and interdependent. In order to avoid disagreements over interpretation it would be best to include the main elements of the Charter and the Transit Protocol in the new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the EU. This would ensure liberalisation of gas supplies from Central Asia through Russian territory.

 

14. Accession of Bulgaria - Accession of Romania (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the joint debate on the following reports:

- A6-0420/2006 by Geoffrey Van Orden, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union [2006/2114(INI)], and

- A6-0421/2006 by Pierre Moscovici, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the accession of Romania to the European Union [2006/2115(INI)].

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE), rapporteur. Mr President, Bulgaria applied to join the European Union 11 years ago, in 1995, and negotiations were opened five years later. Since those days we have seen remarkable changes: on the economic front GDP has doubled, foreign investment has increased from less than USD 100 million to over USD 1.7 billion, real wages have increased year on year and unemployment has halved.

Since the opening of negotiations, we have seen three changes of government, representing a wide range of the political spectrum: from the UDF Government of Ivan Kostov, to the return of former King Simeon to lead his National Movement Government from 2001 to 2005, to the present socialist-led coalition under Sergei Stanishev. All have played a strong part in the reform process, taking forward Bulgaria’s progress towards EU accession.

This progress has taken place in spite of a very difficult regional situation, with conflict on Bulgaria’s borders. The NATO-led operations against Serbia began in March 1999 with air strikes that destroyed the Danube bridges and severed navigation between the upper and lower Danube for two years. In addition to this economic disruption, devastating floods hit parts of Bulgaria in 2005, with many deaths and thousands left homeless.

The fact that we saw NATO accession in March 2004 and have now reached the point of EU accession is a tribute to the determination and hard work of so many at all levels and from all shades of government, and no less a tribute to the Bulgarian people. They have seen their country turned over, examined and criticised at an accelerating pace. They have put up with dramatic change, as well as generalised and unjustified insults, but they have shown the forbearance and resolve to press on regardless, mindful perhaps of that old Bulgarian saying: ‘a gentle word opens an iron gate’.

I have always said that modernisation should be seen as beneficial in its own right and not merely as a prerequisite to EU accession, a sentiment that is reflected in my report today. At the same time, we all recognise that this process will continue for many years after accession.

Many of you know that I am critical of so many aspects of the European Union, but I believe that the enlargement process is a great achievement, extending the area of democracy, stability, security and prosperity ever more widely, with generous financial support. Provided that funds are well targeted, properly managed and well used, this is ultimately to the benefit of all citizens, not least the people of Bulgaria.

Let me focus on two particular issues. Police and judicial reform has been a major concern throughout the accession process. There has been much progress, but there is still a long way to go. Old habits die hard and there are so many competing demands for public expenditure. However, there is nothing more important for the day-to-day confidence of citizens in their government and administration than a professional, competent and fair justice system. I call for even more tangible and visible action by the Bulgarian authorities in dealing with serious crime.

Let me also touch on the subject of Kozloduy, which has attracted much attention. Bulgaria is one of many countries in Europe facing an energy gap in the years ahead, with increasing reliance on energy imports from Russia and areas of instability. I am a great believer in safe, sustainable energy resources that minimise carbon emissions, as well as diversity and security of supply. The mood has changed and there is wide recognition that nuclear energy must play a stronger role. This is particularly true of Bulgaria, which has generated electricity from nuclear sources, both for its own requirements and for other countries in the region.

The current undertaking is for the two reactors, Units 3 and 4, to be closed this year and subsequently decommissioned. We have reiterated the call for a little flexibility rather than unnecessary dogmatism. This will give time for more attention to be given to redressing the economic consequences of premature closure and for progress to be made in creating additional sources of energy supply.

Let me briefly turn to another burning issue. We have still to secure the release of the Bulgarian nurses from Libyan custody. They have been wrongly incarcerated now for seven years. What a gesture it would be if they could be home for Christmas! I hope that the message to the Libyan authorities will be even more powerful with Bulgaria’s imminent accession to the EU. I should like to call on you, Mr President, the Council and the Commission to make a further appeal to President Gaddafi.

Let me also take this opportunity to pay tribute to many charities that have worked hard in Bulgaria over the years, including Save the Children, ARK and Harvest for the Hungry, which is based in my own constituency in Chelmsford.

I wish to thank the Bulgarian Observers for their cooperation and assistance. I look forward to working closely with Bulgarian MEPs next year, following elections in the spring, and I also want to thank Parliament for the privilege of being its rapporteur these past six years. In particular, I thank successive Bulgarian governments and the people of Bulgaria for their stoicism and friendship. We very much welcome them to the club.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pierre Moscovici (PSE), rapporteur. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, on 26 September of this year, the European Commission presented its report on Romania’s progress towards accession. It is now for Parliament to give its opinion. This is an important moment, as we are coming to the end of a process that will see the conclusion of the latest wave of enlargement. It is not the beginning of the next wave but, in reality, the end of the fifth wave. It is a time of great historic significance since it signals the reunification of the European continent.

I should like, in particular, to take this opportunity to thank the Commission and, firstly, Commissioner Rehn who, throughout this process, has done some very painstaking and very rigorous work and with whom we have enjoyed smooth and excellent cooperation during the last two years. Moreover, my report does not neglect to congratulate him. I would also thank most sincerely all those fellow Members who have significantly helped improve and supplement my previous reports. I would thank, in particular, my colleagues not only in the Committee on Foreign Affairs but also in other bodies of this Parliament for their often pertinent comments and suggestions.

This report is in the spirit of the previous reports since it is couched in terms that are meant to be positive, encouraging and open while remaining, I hope, tough, yet balanced. It also follows closely the conclusions of the Commission in its report of September 2006. As I see it, matters are clear. Romania was not ready in 2004. Since then, it has made considerable efforts, putting in place an impressive series of modernising reforms. It was important to emphasise this, and I wish to follow Mr Van Orden’s lead by, in turn, warmly welcoming Romania, as he, for his part, welcomed Bulgaria.

In essence, this is a short report that focuses on two points in particular: the accession date and the support and verification measures envisaged by the Commission. The report is structured around six main issues. First of all, the report pays tribute to the Romanian authorities for the considerable progress they have made since the beginning of the process. Everyone agrees that the efforts at reform engaged in by the Romanian Government and authorities have been extremely significant. It was therefore necessary to underline this in our resolution.

In September of this year, the Commission went on to recommend that Romania join the European Union on 1 January 2007. My report supports this conclusion, for which I had, moreover, been hoping and praying for some time. The wording also emphasises that, in the areas identified as problematic by the Commission’s May report, substantial progress has been made. It also notes that three areas were identified by the Commission in September as ones in which additional progress needed to be made. These were reform of the justice system, the fight against corruption and – to a lesser extent, I think – the absorption of Union aid in the agricultural sector and from the Structural Funds and the application of the acquis communautaire in certain areas of food safety.

Fifthly, my report supports the Commission’s proposal to introduce mechanisms to verify and support progress in these areas on the basis of a list of identified objectives. Such measures were applied during the previous enlargement, and this for the benefit of all the parties. It is not, therefore, a question of stigmatising or isolating Romania but, rather, of supporting it in its efforts to consolidate the reforms under way.

Sixthly and lastly, my report urges the Romanian Government to take all the measures necessary and to make full use of the time remaining before accession so that recourse to the safeguard clauses might be avoided.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the general structure of the report. Only five amendments have been tabled for plenary, reflecting, I believe, the broad consensus that has emerged in relation to this document – a consensus we sought within the various committees.

I now turn to some of the positions adopted by my group. My group will not be advising Members to vote in favour of Amendments 1 and 2 by Mrs Gibault and Mr Cavada. These amendments do, however, reflect a statement signed by more than 400 Members, including myself. On a personal basis, I shall, therefore, vote in favour of them, but my group’s position will be expressed through a free vote. My group will support Amendment 5 by the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left on the efforts made by Romania towards accession and will vote against the same group’s Amendment 4, which is already covered by the report. Where Amendment 3 is concerned, my group will abstain.

Here, then, are the fruits of work that I have been doing for only two years – a period shorter than that of Mr Van Orden’s involvement – and that had, moreover, been begun by others, notably by Mrs Nicholson, who preceded me as rapporteur. I am submitting the results of this work to you with some satisfaction because, in essence, I have always championed the same position over the last few years. We have a common destiny. Romania’s and Bulgaria’s place is in the European Union. We have to move forward. We needed, therefore, to be sympathetic, but firm.

I believe that Parliament’s position, which closely resembles that of the Commission, was the right one to adopt because it has allowed the necessary reforms to be carried out and because, at the same time, it enables our common objective to be realised, namely the accession of Romania and Bulgaria on the date specified. I think that we must welcome this event as one more staging post on the way to the reunification of Europe. I hope that the consensus for which we have all worked will be reflected in an unambiguous vote by Parliament. I should like the message received by Romania tomorrow to be a positive one, delivered loudly and clearly and, if possible, by a substantial number of people, whereupon Romania should receive a warm and sincere welcome.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paula Lehtomäki, President-in-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, on 12 October the Council welcomed the Commission’s monitoring report on the state of preparedness of Bulgaria and Romania for EU membership. According to the Commission, Bulgaria and Romania have shown through the progress they have made that they will be ready to accept the rights and obligations of membership on 1 January 2007. The Council examined the monitoring report thoroughly and reached the same conclusion as the Commission. We also acknowledged the reforms which both countries had carried out, and urged them to bring to a conclusion the remaining preparations for membership.

The Council has expressed its support for the cooperation and verification mechanism relating to the reform of the judiciary and action to combat organised crime and corruption. This mechanism also makes it possible for safeguard measures to be adopted if necessary. The Council also supports the other measures mentioned by the Commission to ensure that EU policies are carried out properly and that the work of the institutions progresses flawlessly after Bulgaria and Romania have joined the Union. The Council stresses that both countries need to continue their political commitment in order to resolve outstanding issues.

Bulgaria and Romania have to report back regularly on progress made in meeting the benchmarks. The first report should reach the Commission by the end of March next year. The Commission will then report back to the European Parliament and the Council on the progress made with regard to the benchmarks by June of next year. The Council will re-examine the situation in June 2007 when it has received the Commission’s report.

The European Parliament’s views have been taken into account throughout the entire accession process for Bulgaria and Romania. Representing the Presidency as I do, I want to thank the members of the Delegation to the EU-Bulgaria Joint Parliamentary Committee and those of the Delegation to the EU-Romania Joint Parliamentary Committee, as well as all the Members of the European Parliament, for their important contribution to Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession to the European Union. We will also obviously take due account of the reports being discussed here today.

The Accession Treaty ratification process in the Member States has almost drawn to a close. We expect to be able to welcome Bulgaria and Romania as members of the Union on 1 January 2007. Their accession to the European Union will conclude this historic fifth enlargement of the EU, which so far has proven to be such a success.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I would like to thank the rapporteurs, Mr Van Orden and Mr Moscovici, for their well-balanced, substantive reports, which, like the Commission reports, give credit to progress, but also highlight the areas where outstanding issues still exist for both countries. Both our institutions support the accession date of 1 January 2007.

This is a historic achievement by Bulgaria and Romania, and I should like to congratulate them warmly. The key to their success was a combination of their own efforts with the strong encouragement and support of all institutions of the Union, not least of this House. Their accession will mark the completion of the fifth round of enlargement.

I am happy to inform you that the ratification procedures in all 27 Parliaments have now been successfully finalised – I should add the European Parliament to that list. The Commission looks forward to welcoming Bulgaria and Romania as fully-fledged members of the European Union on 1 January.

Bulgaria and Romania have continued to make progress after the publication of the September report. Bulgaria reported that border control and border management now benefit from increased cooperation between different offices, resulting in more arrests related to the smuggling of goods and human beings. Cooperation between the prosecutor’s office and the police has improved, resulting in indictments and the dismantling of criminal groups.

Romania has made further progress in modernising its detention facilities and has launched a new awareness-raising campaign against corruption. Official charges have been brought to parties involved in privatisations in the energy sector. So far, signs in other areas which were critical in September, such as aviation safety in Bulgaria and motor vehicle insurance systems in both countries, are rather positive. Final decisions on these issues will be made in December 2006 – very soon.

In some other areas, specific measures have recently been taken to guarantee food safety on the internal market. Products from pigs and live pigs are not allowed to be exported from Bulgaria and Romania to the internal market, due to the existence of classical swine fever. The lists of agri-food establishments which are allowed to produce only for the national market, for a maximum of three years, have been updated.

The Commission is setting up a mechanism for cooperation and verification of progress in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organised crime. This mechanism will enable the Commission to keep a close eye on developments in these very important areas. The Commission has identified benchmarks for both countries, which they need to fulfil in these critical areas. Preparations for the Commission decision establishing the details of this mechanism are now advancing. It will be adopted before the end of 2006. It will allow the Commission to be thoroughly informed about the further reforms and actions in these important areas.

There is one issue that I know to be of particular importance to the European Parliament: that of the application of safeguard measures. I can assure you that the Commission will apply the appropriate safeguard measures if one of the countries fails to fulfil the benchmarks adequately. The Commission can decide to apply the justice and home affairs safeguard measures at any time, if necessary.

Bulgaria and Romania will certainly enrich the Union without compromising the proper functioning of our common policies and institutions.

I should like to thank you for your support – in particular the rapporteurs, Mr Van Orden and Mr Moscovici, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Parliament as a whole – and for your constructive, substantive approach over the past years for this important step for our common European project, which will now continue with two important new Member States.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kinga Gál (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. – (HU) Mr President, the Romanian Government deserves our congratulations for the efforts it has made in the process of integration in Romania. The population of Romania deserves to see its accession become a reality at last. In the opinion accepted unanimously by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, of which I have been the draftsman, I have, in addition to the questions raised by the Commission, emphasised the rights of children and of national minorities, and most of these issues have made their way, in the form of a compromise solution, into our report as well, thanks to the good will of the rapporteur, Mr Moscovici. Why is this so important? Because while it may appear that everything is fine, in reality the expectations of minority communities – such as autonomy – are treated as taboo subjects.

Meanwhile, regions with Hungarian inhabitants do not have equal opportunity to access EU funds. Multiculturalism in higher education today means in reality, in the Romanian context, that at the trilingual university of Cluj/Kolozsvár, faculty members who put up a ‘No Smoking’ sign in Hungarian are dismissed from the university.

It is my hope that 1 January will bring a change to the entire population of the country, including the Hungarian community, and that this inevitable change will bring about a change in mentality. I hope that the significant questions, including minority questions, will not become the tools of mere political show.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. (EL) Mr President, as draftsman of the opinion on the accession of Romania on behalf of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, I should like to express our satisfaction, because Romania is developing – metamorphosing we might say – and progress is manifest everywhere, not only in the economic sector and job creation, but also in sectors which are crucial to democracy and the quality of life in the European Union.

The authorities and society have understood the importance of education, transparency, justice, the protection of minorities and healthy conditions of development for children and progress has been made in this direction, as the report informs us.

The Committee on Women's Rights expresses its satisfaction about the integration of a significant portion of the acquis communautaire concerning gender equality and encourages the government to continue in this direction and to cooperate both with the administration and civil society in applying this acquis.

We also consider the creation of institutions such as the parliamentary committee on equality and the national equality body important and would highlight the need to secure funding and the staff needed in order for them to function.

We were particularly concerned about the phenomenon of violence against women, both in the family environment and in the consequences it has on sexual exploitation. We even included statistics that illustrate that the phenomenon is worrying. Allow me to give a clarification here: our report, on the relevant paragraph of which you set an internal vote, concerns 800 000 women a year. I should like to clarify that these are data given to us by organisations in Romania for 2002 to 2003, for one year. It does not mean that there is this number of victims every year. In all events, the phenomenon is worrying and I believe that both the government and society will work in this direction.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.(PL) Mr President, the fifth enlargement of the European Union will take place in January 2007 when Bulgaria and Romania join. We are all eagerly awaiting this event, and appreciate the tremendous effort made by these two countries in preparation for membership.

Nonetheless, Bulgaria and Romania must continue with their reforms, particularly as regards combating corruption, organised crime, the drugs trade and people trafficking. It is also essential for these two countries to improve the transparency of the activities and procedures of their public administrations, and their capacity to absorb resources, so as to be able to properly manage structural and agricultural aid from the Union. There is concern about the poor living conditions still prevailing in children’s homes and institutions for the disabled in both countries. The unfortunate lack of legal provisions protecting the rights of ethnic minorities and facilitating their integration through access to education and training in both countries has also been noted.

It is important, however, to recognise the magnitude of the work already completed and its obvious effects, and to welcome almost 31 million new citizens of the European Union on 1 January 2007. We must ensure that from the beginning, these people feel that they are much-wanted members of our common European family.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Francisco José Millán Mon, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (ES) Mr President, on 1 January Romania will join the European Union. This is a historic event for Romania and for the whole of the Union. It completes the fifth enlargement, which the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats has always supported.

This is a time for congratulations, a time to congratulate the Romanian people, their authorities and also the European Commission, which has played a crucial role in monitoring and stimulating the process. It has certainly not been an easy journey. There have been many reforms. When I began to follow the process on behalf of my group two and a half years ago, I remember that there were still doubts over whether Romania’s accession could take place in 2007. The reports approved on a regular basis by this Parliament demonstrate the progress that Romania has made over recent years.

Nevertheless, certain tasks still need to be completed in order for Romania to be able to profit fully from integration, as the Moscovici report that we will approve tomorrow points out.

Today we have paid tribute to well-known protagonists of this reform: The Minister for Justice, Mrs Macovei, the Minister for Internal Affairs, Mr Blaga, and Mrs Boagiu, Minister for European Affairs, as well as other noted political leaders.

Mr President, I was in Romania just a few days ago. I know that the Romanian people are taking a very great interest in the accession that is so close. In Craiova, Ploiesti and Filiasi I witnessed for myself the interest that the Romanians have in accession and the impact that integration will have on their daily lives.

I am sure that the impact will be beneficial, as it was for my country, Spain.

Enlargement processes are also beneficial to the European Union, in terms of their political and economic consequences, because they promote and consolidate freedom and spread prosperity to our immediate neighbours through what has been called the transforming power of the Union. Furthermore, enlargements increase Europe’s role in the world.

As the report that we will approve tomorrow states, Romania’s accession will enhance the Union’s political and cultural dimension. It is the country of Brancusi, of Ionesco, of Tristan Tzara, of Enescu, of intellectuals and artists who were leaders of European vanguards.

My country, Spain, has many ancient links with Romania; this is demonstrated by the large numbers of Romanians living and working in Spain. Consequently, also as a Spaniard, I welcome Romania’s historic accession.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Marinus Wiersma, on behalf of the PSE Group. Mr President, this is a very important, historic debate in this House. I should like to thank the rapporteurs for all the work they have done, and Commissioner Rehn for the clever and efficient way in which he has prepared the process that will now lead to the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU on 1 January 2007. This is also an opportunity to say a final word of welcome to both countries as members of the European Union.

It has been a long and arduous process, but it is all very rewarding in the end, especially for the two countries, which were not able to join in 2004. They can now join the other central and eastern European Member States as full participants in the Union.

We asked a lot of these countries, and we can see the results of their efforts, especially over the past year. I should like to congratulate both countries for this result. Throughout the process, our group has been very supportive of the accession of both countries on the earliest possible date.

I would also like to welcome our Bulgarian and Romanian colleagues, who have been Observers so far, but they will be full Members of this House as of 1 January. I am convinced that they will continue their constructive work after that date.

I personally am also happy for another reason: I have been participating in so many debates on Romania and Bulgaria, and I am happy that this burden will now shift to other committees in this Parliament! This is the final debate prepared by the Committee on Foreign Affairs on Romania and Bulgaria. That is also a good thing.

Nevertheless, Parliament will remain involved on the basis of our reports, and on the basis of the progress report that the Commission will have to present in future on the homework still to be done by the two countries. I am quite convinced, however, that both governments and parliaments are well aware of what has to be done.

Finally, as my last remark on Romania and Bulgaria, I should like to welcome all of you, and I am quite sure that both countries will play a constructive role in the future development of our European Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nicholson of Winterbourne, on behalf of the ALDE Group. It gives me the greatest pleasure, on behalf of the ALDE Group, to welcome both countries into the European Union.

Mr Lambsdorff has allowed me the opportunity of thanking Mr Van Orden for his dedicated and serious work, which has helped Bulgaria immensely to accede to the Union on this date.

Bulgaria’s accession process has not always been a smooth one. Mr Lambsdorff has empowered me to suggest that this is not entirely Bulgaria’s fault. Perhaps the Council and the Commission might care to introduce some reforms for future accessions. He recommends that the reform of the justice system should be observed more vigorously from the beginning of the accession process. The same recommendation applies to the fight against corruption. These are the only mechanisms we can use to guarantee effectiveness and transparency in such difficult areas before future candidates join the Union.

Of course, it is now important for Bulgaria to concentrate on the period after accession. Bulgaria must prove that she is able to implement the requirements the Commission has issued in its progress report in order to avoid any activation of safeguard clauses. It is clear, however, that Bulgaria is a pro-European country, as the recent elections proved, and it is now up to Bulgaria’s decision-makers to continue their efforts and to follow their words with concrete and credible actions.

I now turn to Romania, a country whose people have long been close to my mind and to my heart. What a pleasure it has been to be of small assistance to Romania in her move towards this wonderful accession moment. I congratulate most warmly my fellow rapporteur, and now the rapporteur, on his final report and on his previous work. It has also been a pleasure to work with him. This is a time of real celebration for all Romanians. Entry into the Union should trigger inward investment, which Romania badly needs. It will enhance workers’ rights and, over time, bring prosperity within the grasp of all Romania’s people: a true time of celebration.

It is a pleasure to have in the visitors’ gallery today Theodora Bertzi, the Minister for Adoptions, Alina Mandroiu, from the High-Level Group for Romanian Children, and Minister Bogdan Panait, who is in charge of child protection. I urge colleagues concerned about child protection and adoptions in Romania to go straight upstairs and speak to these experts. They have all the files, all the information, and you will be agreeably surprised. You will find that child health and welfare has progressed dramatically since the early 1990s. Indeed, as the Prime Minister said in his letter, Romania has vigorously addressed this issue.

As the noted children’s author J.K. Rowling said recently, ‘When you look at how far Romania has come, it is hard not to concede that a minor miracle has been achieved’. Romania is a model for other countries hoping to reform. Romania was the state that acknowledged that there was a problem and set out to do something about it.

Colleagues, vote for all of Mr Moscovici’s report, but reject the amendments. In the Foreign Affairs Committee we rejected not only those amendments but the offending clauses in the opinions of the Women’s Rights and Civil Liberties Committees as well. Romania has changed. These amendments reflect the old days and not the reality.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Milan Horáček, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, we are not entirely happy with these reports. All I will say at the moment is that our group has tabled two amendments to the Van Orden report, one on compliance with the Copenhagen criteria in respect of the protection of minorities and another on the nuclear power station at Kosloduj. It is not a matter of doubt that what is called flexibility on the closure of the nuclear power station goes against Article 30 of the accession treaty; even Commissioner Piebalgs, who is responsible for energy matters, is against the provisions of the treaty being nullified in this way.

It is at this point that the nuclear lobby creeps surreptitiously through the back door. Is the delay in the decommissioning of both blocks to be a test case for other agreements on nuclear plants’ active life and the watering down of them? Kosloduj is one of the most unsafe and most dangerous plants in Europe. The decommissioning of Blocks 3 and 4 by the end of this year was and is a condition for accession; the Bulgarian Government must, in this regard, adhere to the treaties and Europe must not give the impression that Parliament is expressing opposition to treaties currently in force.

That would put Parliament in a difficult – indeed embarrassing – position vis-à-vis the Council and the Commission, and the impression that Member States would not be required, following their accession, to abide by agreements already made would be fatal to future accessions.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Tadeusz Masiel, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to the Union on 1 January 2007 represents a success for all of us and hope for the future of our common Europe founded on Christian values. These values will facilitate integration and allow us to rejoice in coming together again.

In the same way as other former Communist countries were welcomed earlier, we will welcome these two countries among us despite the fact that their economies still lag behind the average for the rest of the Union. It should be remembered that as its name indicates, the European Union stands for something more than the former European Economic Community. The values at stake now are more than purely economic values. It is unfortunate, though, that these countries are not being accepted on the basis of equal rules for all. There is free movement of capital but no free movement of labour, and I fear the immediate aftermath of this imbalance after accession will be an unnecessary growth of Euroscepticism in those countries. On behalf of the Europe for the Nations Group, I warmly welcome Bulgaria and Romania to the Union.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR OUZKÝ
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nigel Farage, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, there is a certain inevitability about the debate today and the vote tomorrow; after all, the European Union wants to become a global power, so the argument goes that the bigger it is, the better, and that there is a nice, cosy consensus here in the Chamber.

Well, not us! In 2004, UKIP was the only British party to vote against the enlargement of the European Union, arguing that the free movement of goods and services is one thing, but to have the free movement of peoples between countries with vastly differing GDPs is nothing less than wholly irresponsible. We predicted a massive migration: condemned though we were at the time, we have been proved right; there are well over half a million in Britain that are registered for work, but nobody doubts that the true figure is much nearer one million.

And there is one hell of a cost to it. Already, we have 55 000 people claiming some form of State benefit. Unemployment in the UK has increased by over a quarter of a million in the last year. We have a huge over-supply in our unskilled labour market. Even the OECD said yesterday that EU enlargement had been at a very high cost to Britain.

And what is our solution to all of this? To admit two countries that are even poorer than those that joined two years ago, with the inevitability, in percentage terms, of an even bigger migration! I know everyone is in denial: we have had the Bulgarian Prime Minister here, the Romanian Prime Minister here; and they are all telling us that it will not happen, that there will not be a huge movement of peoples, but of course there will.

There is a much better way of doing this. We should have a proper, on-demand work permit scheme, especially for skilled workers. We have got nothing against the peoples of eastern Europe wanting to get on, but we simply cannot have an open-door immigration policy. The truth is, we cannot take the numbers. It does not make sense, and if we carry on down this road, I am afraid there is going to be bad blood and bad feeling in many towns and cities across the UK.

Then we have the extraordinary role that is being played here by the rapporteur for Bulgaria, one Geoffrey Van Orden. In Chelmsford he is a fierce Eurosceptic, our brave brigadier battling for Britain, the spirit of 1940, we can all sleep well in our beds! But it is not quite the same here in Brussels, is it Geoffrey? In Brussels, you are the Commission’s man. You have done the Commission’s bidding, you have done everything you can to get Bulgaria into the European Union, and it will lead to a mass migration. In fact, you resemble Alec Guinness in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, doing completely the wrong thing for what you think is the right reason.

I just hope that everybody that voted Conservative in eastern England – especially those that are about to lose their jobs – knows what you and your party have done in this place.

(Applause from the IND/DEM Group)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hans-Peter Martin (NI).(DE) Mr President, it is a recurrent excitement to experience in person the different ways in which one can argue and thereby come to different conclusions.

I, too, albeit for quite different reasons, count myself among the opponents of this enlargement, being firmly convinced that you, Commissioner, as well as the decision-makers who in fact set all this in motion many years ago without the necessary transparency and democratic legitimacy, are opting for the wrong strategy. The fact is that these over-hasty enlargement rounds will get us no nearer to a sustainable European Union or enable us to achieve the result about which we in this House talk ceaselessly and to which I – as a pro-European – continue to be committed.

Although we are told that the country from which I come is to be among the principal beneficiaries of the enlargements currently in progress, it has to be borne in mind that, over the last ten years, it has been only the top per cent of earners who have actually seen their incomes increase in real terms, while the top ten per cent have more or less been able to keep up and the whole of the middle class have been put to flight. That has a great deal to do with the fact that – in parallel with the process to which Mr Farage referred – the other thing going on is outsourcing, which prevents the creation, in our various countries, of the social foundations on which a proper social model for a strong Europe might actually be built.

I believe, Commissioner, that history will judge you – you and those with you who will make the wrong decision tomorrow.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Elmar Brok (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Madam President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, I would now, just a few weeks before Romania and Bulgaria join us, like to congratulate those two countries. They are welcome! This has to do with overcoming the division of Europe; it is a victory of democracy and the rule of law over dictatorship, the victory of the democratic Europe over the past century’s men of violence, over Hitler and Stalin, over Zhivkov and Ceausescu. While it is in that context that we have to see it, the job must nevertheless be done in a properly craftsmanlike manner if it is to work.

That is why it is important to remember that there are such things as transitional rules on such things as, inter alia, the free movement of labour, involving the same process as was used in the other enlargement treaties. Transitional rules of this kind do not constitute discrimination against the countries in question; they are always to the benefit of both parties. That is the most normal thing in the world, and the safeguard clauses are an addition to them.

I am very grateful to the Commissioner for informing this House that these safeguard clauses will actually be applied in the areas stated, just as they already, in fact, are being applied in certain areas, such as milk and meat, and, should it become necessary in such areas as law and internal affairs or in the use to which funds are put, the safeguard clauses can – as the Commissioner said, be applied immediately. We will take him at his word. This, again, does not indicate mistrust of the two countries in question; on the contrary, it is a perfectly normal way of going about things.

It is for this reason that this House will implement the monitoring process that remains an option until three years after accession, and so I do not doubt that we will get it all together and form a strong European Union.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind the House that, following the accession of these two countries, the debate on the European Union’s capacity for further enlargement will be of crucial importance. It is a debate that we need to take seriously if we are to be able to complete the political project of enabling the EU to take effective action.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alexandra Dobolyi (PSE). – Mr President, today we are discussing the last reports by this House on Bulgaria and Romania. Just three months before the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, we are welcoming another two members into the family. We know that there are still some reforms to be completed, but I am convinced that both governments are determined to continue their efforts to satisfy the requirements described in these reports.

I would like to praise Mr Moscovici and Mr Van Orden for their outstanding work and thank them for the excellent cooperation we have had in respect of both reports over the last two and a half years. I would like to add that I am very happy with the choice of Meglena Kuneva as Bulgarian Commissioner, and with her portfolio, which covers a very important policy area.

Allow me to make a specific point on the minority law issue in Romania. It is very well known that this minority law today, almost two years on, is still pending between committees in the Romanian Parliament. I expect the Romanian Government to keep its promise and hope that the law will be adopted very soon.

In conclusion, I should like to welcome the people of Bulgaria and Romania to a place in which they have always belonged. Their accession marks the end of the artificial absence of our family and opens new horizons for the future.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jean Marie Cavada (ALDE), author. (FR) Mr President, I do not wish to adopt the view of those who are going to see the Romanian state from inside official cars with tinted windows. I am therefore going to read you a letter chosen at random from among those we have received from children in Romanian orphanages who have not been able to find Romanian adoptive parents and who will therefore remain in these orphanages because of a lack of resources. ‘Why’, write Marianne, aged nine and a half, and Catalin, aged six and a half, ‘do our father and mother not come to look for us? We prefer to die than to go on waiting. What is more, we no longer want to eat, since there is no point.’ I have half a dozen letters like that, which I shall not force you to listen to.

Why have I read this letter? I have done so because there are two points of view. I am among those – and, in this, I support Mr Moscovici’s report – who say that a large majority is crucial if Romania and Bulgaria are to join the EU. Their membership is something needed as part of Europe’s destiny, and to argue otherwise makes no sense. That being the case, let us wind down the tinted windows of our cars. In view of the restrictions that crop up regularly in this report and that, moreover, the rapporteur himself has set out, together with compromise amendments, I would call for this report to be supported, including Article 16, which suggests that the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs monitor developments in the situation concerning international adoption. I also call on my fellow Members to support Amendments 1 and 2, which remind Romania – and, to some extent, the EU too, Commissioner – of its obligations under the United Nations Charter and the Hague Convention.

In spite of the restrictions to which I referred and which are there because of the vigilance we are exercising and the aid we are offering – in a family, one helps brothers and sisters in difficulty – I am delighted to see these countries finally come back within the EU fold after 70 years of isolation, 70 years in which we have looked on and been sympathetic but in which we have done nothing. It is the Romanian people who have today won their freedom and their right to join us.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bernat Joan i Marí (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, first I should like to say that my group and I are in favour of the accession of Romania and Bulgaria. However, I should like to focus on the specific problem of the situation of minorities, especially the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.

At this moment there is a political party, OMO Ilinden Pirin, that has not been legalised by the Bulgarian state because several difficulties have hampered the process of legalisation. We think that the opportunity to be represented and to organise political parties and associations is one of the main aspects of fulfilling democracy. Respect for minorities is one of the main issues as regards fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria. We have to put it forward, and we have to pay attention to this, not because we are against Bulgaria, but that is our point of view all around Europe in all the Member States and all the states with accession to Europe and all around the countries, because the rights of minorities have to be upheld according to these criteria.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, Bulgaria still has a great deal of difficult work to do. These areas include tackling corruption, organised crime and people trafficking, strengthening the role of the Ombudsman, improving conditions in children’s homes and institutions for the disabled, recognising the rights of national minorities and creating a better climate for foreign investment.

It is important to recognise, however, the enormous effort that has been put in to meet the European Union’s requirements concerning the economy, legislation and social standards. None of these positive changes would ever have come about without the powerful incentive provided by the prospect of EU membership. This allowed the implementation of difficult and often unpopular reforms that were nonetheless in the interest of Bulgarian society and of the Europe as a whole.

I am convinced that Bulgaria will not rest on its laurels after 1 January and that it will redouble its efforts to pursue its internal transformation, taking full advantage of the historic opportunity presented by its membership of the European Union.

I would like to bid our Bulgarian brothers and sisters a warm welcome to the European Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gábor Harangozó (PSE).(HU) Mr President, I myself am a committed believer in and supporter of Romania’s accession. Many people have different views, however, partly because Romanian undertakings were not always in harmony with their fulfilment.

Allow me to give two examples. Despite its undertakings, Romania continues to have no minority law. It is also cause for concern that at the hearings of Leonard Orban, the future Commissioner-designate for Multiculturalism spoke specifically of Romania’s multilingualism, while at the same time, two faculty members were dismissed from the University of Cluj/Kolozsvár, because they wished to honour the university’s own commitments, that is, they put up Hungarian language signs in the buildings.

I do not wish that those who do not trust that the undertakings will be fulfilled should turn out to be right. In addition to undertakings at the European level, we also need enforcement at the European level. In order to become an EU Member State in the full sense, Romania must show respect, respect for the rights of the 1.5 million Hungarian minority and for their cultural and administrative autonomy, since problems have to be resolved at their origins.

Autonomy is needed in the life of the University of Cluj/Kolozsvár and in that of the Hungarian community as well, as the examples of South Tirol and Catalonia also demonstrate. Moreover, I believe that Romania will honour the trust placed in it by our vote, and that its accession will open a new chapter in the history of both the European Union and Romania.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Panagiotis Beglitis (PSE).(EL) Mr President, I too should like to take my turn in welcoming the huge efforts made by Bulgaria and Romania to be ready to accede to the European Union on 1 January 2007. We welcome these two countries into the European Union.

I wish, however, to highlight a particularly important institutional and political problem for the European Parliament: in paragraph 20 of the report on Bulgaria, the Council is called upon to view with flexibility and to make provision for a delay of about eight months to Bulgaria's obligation to close units 3 and 4 at the Kozloduy nuclear power station. I wish to remind the House that in Article 30 of the Accession Act, which was ratified by the Member States and their national parliaments, express reference is made to Bulgaria's obligation to close the units by 31.12.2006.

I wish to welcome in particular the statement by the Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which he truly undertakes to honour this obligation. The problem is in the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not respecting the democratic constitutional order of the Member States and decisions by the national parliaments. That is why I and my honourable friend Daniel Cohn-Bendit together tabled an amendment changing paragraph 20 of the report on Bulgaria.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Herbert Bösch (PSE).(DE) Mr President, I had the opportunity, as Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Budgetary Control, to lead a delegation to Romania, the object of which was to find out more about the use to which European funds are put. Like the rest of the delegation, I got the impression that Romania is trying very hard to use the money it gets from the EU to the benefit of all of us. Work is being done on dealing with corruption, they are cooperating in matters relating to the justice system and with OLAF too. It is particularly heartening to see how European funds are being used to really reduce the suffering of many children, and that is splendid evidence of how well European funds can be used.

Problems arise only when – as sometimes happens – a country such as this one is deluged with too much money. That is, of course, a problem for the Commission, and this is where we need to remind ourselves that we should be willing – as Mr Brok mentioned earlier – to actually make use of the safeguard clauses that we introduced for the sake of a well-ordered accession process. I believe that Romania in particular, but Bulgaria as well, are – so far as we can judge – on the right track, and we should do our best to accompany them along it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paula Lehtomäki, President-in-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this multi-faceted debate on Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession to the European Union. It has been a long and demanding process for these countries, but, as has been said in many speeches here, and Commissioner Rehn also recognised Parliament’s contribution in this matter, it is very important and significant that the institutions of the European Union have given these countries massive support during the accession process.

The reform process and the fulfilment of obligations resulting from EU membership are to continue in Romania and Bulgaria. It has become evident that, because this will be a long and demanding task, there is always the danger that the reform process will flag from time to time. That is why it is important that the support given by the institutions of the European Union, including Parliament, to these countries and the support for their programme of reforms continues. At the same time, we have to ensure that the Council is also committed to the notion that if there is a need to invoke the safeguard clauses, we will not hesitate to do so.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Parliament for adopting a selection procedure for Members of the Commission from the new Member States which makes it possible for them to be in their jobs from 1 January, as they ought to be under the Accession Treaty. The Council thinks that it is important that the Commission, as a college, is fully competent and functional from the first morning of enlargement.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I should like to thank Members for this very constructive and substantive debate. It is a very honourable way to welcome Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union in the spirit of evolving European democracy.

I want to use this last opportunity, at least this year, to discuss one or two issues, in particular concerning the Hungarian minority in Romania. We attach great importance to the protection of minorities, multiculturalism and multilingualism, which are core principles of the European Union. Over the years, the situation of the Hungarian minority in Romania has improved. There is always room for further improvement as regards the treatment of minorities and this applies to the current and future Member States. For instance, in Romania, we would welcome further progress concerning inter-ethnic relations within the police, among other things.

Some speakers raised the issue of the future of our enlargement policy. We will debate this at the December part-session. I just wish to point out to you that in its report of 8 November 2006, the Commission called for a new consensus on the EU’s enlargement policy that would combine both the historic mission of extending the area of peace, freedom and democracy on our continent and, at the same time, ensuring our capacity to gradually integrate new members.

In my view, it is necessary that we start to intensify our work for institutional reform. That is necessary for the functioning capacity of the current European Union and, at the same time, it will also prepare the enlarged Union in time for further steps in enlargement.

The Commission’s view is that a new institutional settlement should be reached before the next candidate country joins the European Union. That means we trust that, as the European Council outlined in June, the four Presidencies over the next two years – the German, Portuguese and Slovenian Presidencies, and the French Presidency in the second half of 2008 – along with our Member States, with the support of Parliament and the Commission, will be able to achieve a new interinstitutional settlement. It is a simple fact of timing that the year 2008 comes before the end of the decade when the 28th Member State, which is likely to be Croatia, could be ready to join our Union, if it is able to reform its judiciary, economy and meet all the other conditions with full determination and concrete results.

I very warmly welcome the debate that is to take place in December on our enlargement strategy and integration capacity.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. The joint debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 11.00 a.m.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Antonio De Blasio (PPE-DE). (HU) If we had to sum up in one sentence the Phare report by the European Court of Auditors, it would go something like this: the 806 million euro allocated to Romania from the available funding was largely a waste of money.

The results of the inspection by the Court of Auditors show that the projects were carried out, but the majority of them operate in a way that differs from the intended purposes, and in the majority of the projects audited, sustainability is simply not possible.

The ‘technical errors’ and ‘shortcomings’ listed in the report are unfortunately the source of no small irritation on the part of European investors. The contracts are systematically misinterpreted by the Romanian parties, and therefore they make it impossible for EU investments to be completed on time and the expenses accounted for. Delays in implementing the projects give rise to overtime and overtime costs, which the Romanian party is not prepared to pay for. Meanwhile, the authorities are continually changing their decisions and the regulatory background, as well as the way these are interpreted.

I wonder who bears responsibility for the Romanian state having spent the money, but not in the way and for the purposes for which it was received?

In recent days, Hungarian language signs put up on the walls of the trilingual Babes-Bolyai University were taken down by the administration, and roughly broken up in front of the students.

I would like to know why, only days before Romania joins the European Union, one may not put up a ‘No Smoking’ sign in Hungarian?

It is my hope that one of the first acts of the Romanian Commissioner will be to call upon his country's authorities to restore linguistic freedom as soon as possible, as an indication to his commitment to the EU.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Katalin Lévai (PSE).(HU) Mr President, colleagues, Romania’s accession to the European Union can be considered a historically significant step forward, which brings fundamental changes that will have a beneficial effect on the country’s population as well as on the development of the European Union. In recent years Romania underwent very rapid development in both the economic and judicial spheres.

I believe, however, that the struggle against corruption and organised crime still exhibits serious delays: therefore tangible results are needed in the matter of human trafficking and in particular the trafficking of women.

The European Union today is not only an economic but also a social, political and cultural community, where the protection of fundamental human rights must receive explicit emphasis, as must the struggle against every form of intolerance, racism and discrimination. Romania should devote attention more decisively to protecting the Roma and the Hungarian communities.

It is important to improve living conditions for the Roma minority, and to enable them to have access to jobs and appropriate resources. I believe that only a policy of zero tolerance can be followed with regard to racism against the Roma, while greater efforts are needed in the area of equal access to high quality education and health care.

Protection of the Hungarian minority can be ensured only through measures harmonised with the principles of subsidiarity and self-government. It would be important for Hungarian students in higher education to receive full financial support.

I welcome Romania’s imminent accession to the European Union, and thereby the improvement of the situation of Hungarians living in that country. We cannot allow that in the course of accession, economic interests should win out over human rights.

 

15. Economic and social consequences of restructuring in the automobile sector in Europe (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. The next item is the Commission statement on the economic and social consequences of restructuring in the automobile sector in Europe.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the restructuring plan announced in November by Volkswagen to the board of the company’s Belgian division and to the press will have a major social and economic impact within and beyond the company. Allow me to express, first of all, my very great concern about the consequences that this plan is likely to have for several thousand workers and their families, as well as for the company’s economic and social environment.

Restructuring is sometimes necessary in order to ensure companies’ competitiveness and survival and, in the last analysis, in order to preserve jobs. I am aware of the need for Volkswagen, in common with many other European companies in the sector, to engage in restructuring. It is important, however, to ensure that this process is well planned and well administered in order to minimise its economic and social costs. That is why, in March 2005, the Commission adopted a communication entitled ‘Restructuring and Employment’, which set out the main features of a proactive strategy to which you have entirely subscribed, namely anticipation, partnership and the coordination of policies and instruments.

As soon as Volkswagen’s management announced the restructuring, the Commission made every effort to mobilise the instruments at its disposal. I met the members of the Belgian Government in order to convey to them our solidarity and to emphasise the importance of complying with the applicable rules under Community law, particularly the directives on informing and consulting the workers’ representatives. My colleague, Mrs Hübner, and myself also made it known that the services of the Commission were available to make flexible use of the instruments of financial support, in particular the Structural Funds, in order to help workers affected by the restructuring. The European Social Fund has shown in the past to what degree prompt and targeted action may help reintegrate into the labour market workers laid off following company restructuring.

The services of the Commission have been invited to participate in the crisis unit set up by the Belgian authorities. This will examine, among other aspects, the practical possibilities of using credits: either those remaining from the current programme expiring at the end of 2006 or those, constituting larger available funds, that will be available under the new programmes entering into force as from 2007. In any case, I can convey to you the Commission’s desire to be proactive and as flexible as possible regarding the use made of the European budget.

On 24 November, the Commission convened its ‘restructuring’ task force, founded in March 2005 when the ‘Restructuring and Employment’ communication was issued. The purpose of the meeting was to mobilise all the instruments at its disposal in order to reduce the impact of the restructuring measures taken in conjunction with the Belgian authorities and to make developments in the automobile sector part of a future strategy in Europe. The automobile sector is vital to Europe, accounting for 3% of European GDP and employing 12 million people. It makes a crucial contribution to research and development efforts and, each year, creates a trade surplus with the rest of the world of approximately EUR 25 billion. In common with all other sectors of the economy, the automobile sector has to confront some profound changes. It has nonetheless been able to adapt to the major developments with which it is faced. The figures I have mentioned bear this out.

Irrespective of the specific case that concerns us today, restructuring in the automobile sector is, in general, part of a necessary effort at adaptation. However, the Commission neither wants, nor is able, to assume the company’s own obligations and responsibilities in the process of restructuring that has been undertaken. I personally have written to the president of the Volkswagen group to inform him of our concerns and to ask him to do everything possible in order to minimise the economic and social costs of the restructuring that has been announced. I reminded him of the need to ensure that the Community directives on informing and consulting workers are complied with throughout the Member States. These Community documents specify the need to inform and consult appropriately placed workers’ representatives in advance about any transfer of production and the redundancies involved. It is crucial to ensure the quality of any information provision or useful consultation at the appropriate level, whether it be about economic decisions or the consequences of these in terms of employment.

I would also point out that, in 2003, in response to a Commission consultation on this subject, the European social partners jointly prepared guidelines for administering change and its social consequences. These guidelines state that a positive attitude to change and the existence of high-quality social dialogue in a climate of confidence are important factors for preventing or limiting the harmful social consequences of restructuring. The implementation of these guidelines is essential if we are to achieve Community objectives of anticipation and of support during periods of change. That is why, in March 2005, the Commission again contacted the European social partners and asked them to devise efficient methods of developing these guidelines everywhere in Europe and of ensuring their application. I intend shortly to meet the representatives of the social partners in order to consider with them the means of making faster and more effective progress along these lines.

To return to the case that has given rise to this debate, it is now important to make room for negotiation within the group that is being restructured. There have recently been signs that the partners concerned – management and worker representatives – are committed to a serious debate on the industrial future of the various sites in Europe, as well as on the social measures to be put in place. While maintaining its offer of support, the Commission intends to respect the autonomy of the social dialogue beginning within the group. Within the limits of its competence, the Commission is taking initiatives and making available the resources available to it. In the current circumstances, I hope for nothing other than the firm commitment of all the parties to move in this same direction.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ivo Belet, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, I should first of all like to extend a warm welcome to the workers of Volkswagen Vorst, the suppliers and their representatives, who are present here in the gallery, and I should also like to express our genuine solidarity with them in these difficult times.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the past few days, rather flippant statements have been made to the effect that, in cases like these, politics is powerless, but I see that as rather prejudging the situation.

Politics can very much hold a grip on a number of important factors. First of all, the national government is very much able, by means of reliable and good governance, to create scope for keeping the burden on labour, the premiums in this case, to an absolute minimum and thus protecting our industry's competitiveness.

Europe, too, should shoulder its share of responsibility. Thousands of workers are losing their jobs, and we should at the very least learn from this. This presents Europe, Commissioner, with a unique opportunity to show off its social side. The common European market, while economic in nature, also requires a social dimension. That much is clear. So we must now do what we can to reinforce this social dimension in the short term.

First of all, by ensuring that the workers affected can rely on support from the new European Fund for globalisation without delay. We, the Christian Democrats in this House, are 100% behind this objective of the Fund, and we are counting, Commissioner, on the Commission’s loyal support in this. What matters most is that every effort is made to ensure that the Fund can start on time.

Secondly, we must also bring about real worker participation, which will in any case involve the evaluation of the 1994 European Directive in which this is enshrined. Commissioner, you have already made reference to the Commission communication of March last year. Well, let us seize the social tragedy at VW Vorst to make the necessary changes to the directive.

I firmly believe in the future of the European automotive industry, but we must do everything we can – and this is how I would like to finish off – in order to produce energy-efficient and 100% environmentally friendly cars. I hope that the Audi A1 will be such a car and that it will be produced at the Vorst plant, thereby guaranteeing its future, despite the dark clouds that are gathering above it now.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Stephen Hughes, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Mr President, I have three brief points. I am pleased to see that the Commission is looking to use the structural funds to help deal with the social implications of this dreadful development. However, questions have been raised over whether the Globalisation Adjustment Fund can be used or not. Well, I hope this week’s news that Volkswagen is to build plants in both India and Russia will show that there are global considerations and that the fund will be used to intervene.

Second, I welcome news that production of the Audi A1 might move to the Forest plant to save some jobs, but the workforce has already been warned that such a move must involve a drop in labour costs. I hope this does not turn out to be a cynical move by VW, taking away with one hand and giving back with another, but in the meantime dramatically driving down wages and terms and conditions. VW should be aware that we will be watching developments very closely in the months ahead.

Finally, a question to the Commissioner. If the directive creating a general framework on information and consultation and the European works council directives are in force and are being observed in Belgium, how can this news have come as a shock last week? Unless the Commission assiduously ensures the application and enforcement of social laws, social Europe will fall into total disrepute, and citizens will quite rightly turn their backs on the EU.

I am glad to hear, Commissioner, that you are now taking action, but quite frankly it is a little late for the workers at Forest.

Finally, I hope that the PPE-DE Group is solidly behind the Globalisation Adjustment Fund. That is not what I have been hearing. I hope we see full support in the vote two weeks from now.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jean Marie Beaupuy, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, in the debate that we are having at present, it is important not to get everything mixed up and not to confuse all the various responsibilities. Acting, as we are, at European Union level, we must demonstrate the resources available to us at this level in order to contribute to the best possible solution to problems of this kind, whether in the metalworking industry or in other branches of activity.

As you said, Commissioner, just now when you began to speak, there are two aspects. On the one hand, there are the companies and, if we want employment at EU level to be maintained over time, we need successful companies. On the other hand, there are the employees, who are in need of help. Through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and very soon, I hope, the European Monetary Fund (EMF), the European Union has the resources to help every worker individually with re-training, returning to work or starting his or her own business. This customised help provided by the European Union needs to be publicised by the media when you issue your communications so that our fellow Europeans might be fully aware of the action taken by the EU.

What is more, it is crucial, as you have said, to be able to respond promptly. If a number of sectors of the automobile industry – at present, it is Volkswagen – need our funds, the important thing is to help the employees extremely swiftly so that the aid we offer is genuinely useful and enables them to find other jobs quickly.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pierre Jonckheer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, the Volkswagen trade unionists in Parliament this afternoon told us that, although their first priority was to obtain an industrial plan from the motor manufacturer’s management, they were also waiting for Europe to put an end to the social and fiscal competition between Member States that drags everyone down. Almost ten years ago, the workers of Renault Vilvorde were telling us the same thing. What has changed?

Mr Špidla, I find what you are saying quite inadequate. You talk about the autonomy of the social dialogue, but you are well aware that the employers are reluctant to engage in such a dialogue. We have instruments available to us. We need to strengthen the European Works Council Directive. Parliament asked you to do this as long ago as March 2006. It is also necessary to create a European legal framework that will enable European collective negotiations to take place at sectoral and group levels. The Commission needs to exercise more control over state aid and Community funds so that they are not used for the purposes of relocation within the European Union – an eventuality already referred to in the Cottigny and Hutchinson report.

Finally, a number of taxation matters need to be harmonised - and I choose that word carefully – at European level. It is not enough to discuss a common tax base for European companies. What is needed is a minimum European rate for company taxation. Under these conditions, we might perhaps today – and, I hope, tomorrow – speak to the relevant workers in terms different from those we employed when we had to deal with the Renault case.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Francis Wurtz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (FR) Mr President, to begin with, I should like to take this opportunity to greet a sizeable delegation in the visitors' gallery of workers from Volkswagen's Forest plant, officials from all the trade unions in the plant and representatives of subcontracting companies.

(Applause)

A large contingent from my group visited the occupied plant yesterday and engaged in lengthy talks with the workforce and union representatives. What emerged from these talks?

The first and foremost requirement, Commissioner, is to save the jobs at that location. The European Union is in a quandary for want of an industrial policy. As Mr Jonckheer has reminded us, the crisis in the European car industry is nothing new. Vilvorde happened ten years ago, and since then other plants have been closed or threatened with closure.

What has been done in the fields of research and investment policy and in the pursuit of balanced regional development? What efforts have been made to ensure that workers are trained and jobs safeguarded, to develop the clean, reliable and affordable cars that are in demand today and to diversify the economic fabric and increase the number of secure, skilled and properly paid jobs? The large manufacturing groups have been given their head in the name of sacrosanct free-market economics and unbridled competition. The immediate duty of everyone, including the European Union, is therefore to act to save these jobs at the Forest plant, not only for the workforce of the Volkswagen group but also for the 8 000 employees of subcontracting businesses. Mr Henin will pick up that point in a moment.

Secondly, if this mass mobilisation should fail, raising the issue of compensation, the Volkswagen group must be formally bound to meet its responsibilities to the full. The trade-union leaders reminded us in detail of the long list of public aid in the form of diverse exemptions that have been granted in respect of this plant to a group which, incidentally, has seen its profits rise sharply over the past two years, at least sharply enough to enable it to announce yesterday that it planned to invest hundreds of millions in Asia. In addition, it goes without saying that the European Union should contribute to the compensation.

At the heart of this affair, however, we see the need for structural changes in the economic strategy being pursued in the name of what the Commission calls a competitive Europe in a globalised economy, which, in plain words, means cutting wage costs, introducing flexible working conditions, creating 'shareholder value', in other words windfalls for shareholders, pitting workers against each other and using the threat of relocation to blackmail public authorities.

This takes us to the very core of the celebrated liberal Europe, from which more and more Europeans feel totally alienated, and with good reason. Only a break with this line of approach can open the door to a socially responsible Europe and enable us to win back the trust of our fellow citizens. Mr Barroso often makes the case for a Europe that gets results. Europe in its present state delivers results such as this one at Volkswagen Forest. We could do with more Europe, a trade unionist told us, but it is a different Europe that we need. This demand will surely be expressed forcefully in the streets of Brussels on Saturday.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Frank Vanhecke (NI). – (NL) Mr President, with 4 000 workers laid off at Volkswagen in Vorst and at least another 2 000 jobs lost among the suppliers, these are truly dark times in my country for the affected workers and their families.

The initial response of the Belgian Government under Prime Minister Verhofstadt has been to do what it always does, for, when there are economic successes, they are quite happy to consider them as yet another feather in their political cap, but when there are problems or setbacks, then someone else is always to blame.

In a rather xenophobic reaction, Prime Minister Verhofstadt even blamed the Germans for pursuing a kind of ‘own people first’ policy, which is, in my politically correct country, about the worst accusation anyone can make – ignoring the fact that in Germany, 20 000 jobs are being lost and that we, with the social tragedy at Vorst, are actually experiencing the worst so far of an enormous crisis that is enveloping the European automobile industry.

Let us be honest; nobody has a miracle cure for the tragedy that is unfolding in Europe at the moment. Before blaming others, though, our governments, and the Belgian Government in particular, should ask itself whether it has done everything in its power to rescue as many jobs as possible, today in Vorst, but previously at Renault in Vilvoorde, at DHL, Sabena and elsewhere.

Nearly eight years after my country gained a government that promised it would make this problem a priority, Belgium is still facing a wage handicap of some 10% compared to its neighbouring countries. This wage imbalance is the result of the huge tax burden.

This is not the only cause, but it is one of the reasons why the Belgian Government is to blame. I do mean the Belgian Government, for Flanders has for some time now shown the political will to use a cocktail of economic measures to make our country attractive again for investors and thus to create employment.

We, too, are in favour of the efficient use of European funds in this area, but this is not a miracle cure, and the proposals that are being made for more European bureaucracy are, in my view, counterproductive.

It is high time we all realised that our material wealth and our employment will not persist for ever of their own accord, that international competition will only intensify and that we, by being more flexible, reducing costs and creating an employer-friendly climate, really have to fight for each and every job. We must, above all, think about ways of improving the competitiveness of our businesses, also in respect of businesses from countries that enjoy hardly any, or no, social protection.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Albino Silva Peneda (PPE-DE).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, relocations normally involve moving to countries where production costs are lower and employment laws are more flexible. In this case the opposite has happened: production is relocating to a country where production costs are higher and employment law is stricter. Everything suggests that this decision was not based on market rules, but most probably on power relations between the company and the trade unions.

We seem to be facing a new kind of factor that may influence future relocations, which I would term the relocation of trade union power. This kind of relocation is always directed towards the centre, in the sense that it favours the strongest. If this practice spreads, we shall be moving in a direction that clearly runs counter to the essential values of the European project, because the rules of the market are flouted, productivity is not stimulated, and the fundamental principles of solidarity and of regional and social cohesion are violated.

In view of such a practice, I fear for the future of the Volkswagen plant in Portugal. If something similar happens there, it will force us to think seriously about how to prevent a mere interest group from imposing itself on the normal operation of market rules. That is our responsibility.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mia De Vits (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I do not think the political world can look on helplessly in the face of such tragedy. It goes without saying that the social effects must be cushioned, and if the globalisation fund is not intended for this purpose, then I have lost the plot.

Needless to say, Commissioner Špidla, the social dialogue must work, but it has not. There is more to it for Socialists such as ourselves.

When companies merge, the Commission checks whether competition is not distorted, but it does not examine whether restructuring operations are done on the basis of objective and economic criteria. It strikes me as more intelligent and more useful to have a Commissioner who guides restructuring operations in the right channels than to have one for multilingualism.

I would ask the House to back this idea. I am delighted that the Belgian Government will be taking these ideas to the December Council. Multinationals cannot get off scot-free. They should be called to account.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jacky Henin (GUE/NGL). – (FR) Mr President, every passing day sees the automotive industry shed hundreds of jobs. The multinationals are putting enormous pressure on their workers. They presume to use the workforce as scapegoats, challenging their acquired rights and almost implying that they are wallowing in affluence. The fact is that workers have never been more productive or less secure in their jobs at any time in the last fifty years. Not for thirty years has their purchasing power been so low. It is not the competitiveness of labour that is putting the car industry in trouble but movements of capital in search of maximum yields in the shortest possible time. Car-manufacturing groups engage in blackmail to milk the areas where their plants are located, and once they have sucked local budgets dry they start to look for pastures new where the grass is greener.

It is high time this Parliament stopped confining itself to hollow rhetoric and took tough initiatives to defend Europe's industrial potential, to hit profiteers where their heart lies, namely in their wallets, and to guarantee employees the right to genuine job security and training. These are some of the aims underlying the charter that my group is advocating as the key to the defence and development of our automotive industry.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alain Hutchinson (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, what we are experiencing today in spectacular fashion, in this savage decision by Volkswagen with its tragic consequences, is ultimately no more than the submerged part of the iceberg that floats on the ocean of free enterprise and free competition, which have become the watchwords of this European Union. Every day, in fact, hundreds of jobs disappear in the wake of relocations and of numerous restructuring measures, although these jobs, of course, are axed more discreetly. And no parallel moves, or desperately few, are made to bolster the industrial and social policies that are trampled under foot on these occasions.

This Parliament, Commissioner, has recently adopted resolutions on both relocations and corporate restructuring. When will the Commission and the Council have the decency at least to respond to these resolutions, to express at least a modicum of interest in them, which they have not yet done? It is certainly important today to provide active, effective and pragmatic support to the victims of this new closure, but it is equally important to ensure that we move on tomorrow from words to action in this European Union, which will have to come to grips with this problem in a more resolute manner. The Union has fallen victim to a policy it wished on itself.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Véronique De Keyser (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, is it ludicrous to hold a debate without a resolution on Volkswagen today with one minute per speaker? No, it is shameful. What sort of tragedy has to occur before the Commission proceeds with the revision of the Works Council Directive, which it is still blocking? Did you pay heed to the Hutchinson report on relocations? Will you allow Volkswagen to benefit from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund? No, the reason why the Volkswagen plant is threatened with closure is not that liberalism has been malfunctioning; it is because there is still no social regulation of the market in Europe today.

To the Right, which opposes any legislation in this domain, let me say that there will be a social Europe; it will be created in spite of everything; it will be forged in blood and tears, but it will be created. I call today not only for a Commissioner for corporate restructuring measures but also for a Volkswagen Directive, for the sake of the entire Forest workforce and for all those who, in my region and in yours, ladies and gentlemen, are losing faith in Europe and in politics.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jean Louis Cottigny (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, the European social model, the Lisbon Strategy, a Social Europe: what meaning is left in these words, which are nothing but empty promises in the reddened eyes of Volkswagen employees and their families? Precarious existences have become the norm, and pitting employees against each other has become a managerial strategy, like redundancies and unemployment. An ever-growing number of workers accept life on the brink of the abyss because they have no alternative.

Europe was built on foundations of peace, but social strife is being fomented, with tragic consequences in terms of human distress, growing distrust of the European Union and an upsurge in support for extremist parties in every election. Are we to allow 4 000 jobs to be axed with impunity on the doorstep of our institutions, and more than 10 000 people to be put out of work, by a group that has simultaneously been announcing plans to set up a plant in India?

European funds will have to be mobilised, including the new Globalisation Adjustment Fund. We shall see to that, perhaps by tabling a Volkswagen amendment – why not? It is high time workers were respected in Europe, in the European Parliament and on our doorstep.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission. (CS) Honourable Members, the case of the Volkswagen Forest is, of course, the kind of case that has accompanied market economics throughout its history. I feel that if we want to guarantee employment, the Lisbon Strategy is the right way forward, because its core objectives are knowledge-based competitiveness and the creation of high-quality jobs. I feel that this is the right strategy and we must implement it.

The question of how to respond effectively to the Volkswagen situation is a different matter. It is clear that there are different responsibilities at company, local authority, national state and EU levels. All of these capacities should be mobilised responsibly. I am pleased that the EU institutions have responded rapidly, and, to my mind, effectively; they have provided their resources in such a way that their response has been both responsible and effective. It is also clear that social dialogue has a major role to play. I understand that social dialogue negotiations are ongoing, and that they have reached an important stage. If Europe is to sustain an effective social dimension it is, obviously, vital that the legislation in force in this area be adhered to. The Commission has therefore launched an inquiry into whether the directives concerned are being rigorously complied with. I believe that this will genuinely help to resolve this matter.

Honourable Members, we have heard a broad range of ideas and suggestions developed from a number of different perspectives in this debate. It is clear that we have obligations arising from our responsibilities, from the Treaty and from effective European construction. I am sure that each case will open up a debate that may help to enhance the legal framework, and to change our processes and the way in which we respond, all of which is indicative of a functioning and thriving Europe.

I should like, if I may, to return to the beginning. At this time we must mobilise the resources at our disposal, and at EU level, this is already under way.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. The debate is closed.

Written statement (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL).(PT) The threat hanging over the 4 000 Volkswagen workers in Belgium shows that multinationals continue to act utterly irresponsibly, motivated solely by the desire to make ever-greater profits. They are completely indifferent to the social hardship and regional development problems they cause through regarding their workers as mere numbers and as cogs in a machine that are only of interest for the profits they can generate. This situation is an integral part of the process of international trade, liberalisation and labour market deregulation that the European Union supports and encourages.

The situation is the same as that affecting thousands of workers in Portugal, particularly at Opel/GM in Azambuja, Johnson Controls, Lear and so many other companies.

It is time to adopt measures to put an end to this situation once and for all and to guarantee firmer action to protect workers’ rights. These measures must also ensure that European works councils are fully involved in decision-making processes, including the right to stop dismissals and relocations, and that there is effective control over Community funds allocated to such multinationals, thus forcing them to comply with all their workers’ rights.

 

16. Financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. The next item is the report by Mrs Flautre and Mr McMillan-Scott, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide (European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights) (KOM(2006)0354 C6-0206/2006 2006/0116(COD)) (A6-0376/2006).

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paula Lehtomäki, President-in-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, decision-making on the part of the Finnish Presidency with regard to the European Union’s future financing instruments will soon be at an end. In an excellent show of solidarity, we have dealt with the matter successfully and adopted the majority of the Regulations on the new financing instruments. Although there have been a number of challenges, there has also been immense political will on the part of the European Parliament, the Member States and the Commission to reach agreement on the relevant issues.

One challenge still lies ahead, and that is the adoption of the Regulation establishing a European Instrument for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). This is an important matter both for Parliament and the Member States, because it concerns the promotion of basic values as enshrined in the Treaty on European Union. Parliament and its Members have specialist knowledge of democracy and human rights issues, which has been a help in endeavours to attain a good outcome.

The Regulation on a new human rights instrument to apply worldwide has been drafted to a very tight schedule. As well as Parliament, the Member States too have had numerous proposals for its content. It is a very positive sign that agreement has already been reached on almost all the issues in these negotiations. The Council, for its part, has unanimously approved the compromise text to serve as a mandate for the Presidency to conduct talks with Parliament with a view to finding a solution.

It is the Presidency’s aim to adopt the instrument at first reading. The reason for this will be clear to everyone. The current EIDHR expires in a few weeks’ time, at the end of the year. We do not want any major disruption in the European Union’s support for democracy and human rights. We are duty-bound to take a swift decision, not only because of the importance to us Europeans of human rights and democracy as values, but also because of the hopes and expectations made known to us by defenders of human rights and democracy in other countries.

The instruments have been drafted in such a way that they form a whole that is as viable as possible. Democracy and human rights are also implemented by means of other instruments, and the EIDHR will act as an addition to this whole in special areas. It is for this reason too that the adoption of the instrument is very much in order before the new financing period starts.

The Presidency of the Council strongly requests Parliament to reach a decision before the end of the year. The package adopted by the Council contains a very large number of amendments to the text of the Regulation tabled by Parliament with regard both to priority areas for support and to Parliament’s own position regarding the implementation of the Regulation. A significant feature of the new Regulation is the recognition of the importance of work for democracy and, as part of that, the stronger emphasis on the work of parliaments and parliamentarians. The essential basis of our work in third countries is our reliance on international human rights conventions and the rights and obligations written into them.

With the proposal for the Regulation, the conditions for players to be eligible for aid from the Union are being widened. It is good that we are able to acknowledge the diversity of human rights and democracy and to make flexible use of various resources in different situations. It would also seem that the instrument’s financial resources will also be up slightly on the financing period now ending, so the inclusion of new players will not necessarily detract from the positions of the other players.

The main idea behind establishing the instrument has been that it will make possible support for the work of civil society players in particular, and permit support in situations where that takes place without the specific consent of the government of the country concerned. It is important that this approach remains throughout, and that not too many forms of support for other players are added within the framework of the Regulation.

The conditions for eligibility for aid in the Council’s compromise proposal have been widened in accordance with the European Parliament’s suggestions to include parliamentary and political foundations. Moreover, the draft Regulation will also allow for the eligibility of other players in special circumstances. In my view, that is a well considered, workable solution which takes account of the hopes and objections of various EU players.

Parliament has been keen to highlight the special feature that aid which is granted within the framework of the instrument, mainly meant for civil society players as it is, can be given without the consent of the government of a third country. There has been general consensus on this principle between the Council and Parliament right from the start. I believe that we have also now succeeded in finding a way of citing this principle in a more precise and clear manner, given our obligations under the Treaty on European Union and international agreements and conventions. The Presidency is prepared to propose the inclusion of the principle in the first introductory wording, if there is agreement on the content of the Regulation as a whole at first reading.

Parliament has also drawn attention to the importance of mentioning the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in a given country in the text of the Regulation. The text will be based on international human rights conventions. One might therefore consider incorporating this proposed area already. The Presidency is nevertheless prepared to consider this addition too, if the Regulation can be adopted in its entirety at first reading.

The Council, for its own part, therefore, is ready to demonstrate even greater flexibility in order to find a solution before the year is out. Flexibility on the part of all sides is a requirement for this.

In the European Parliament’s committee report, it is proposed that political groups should be added to the list of those receiving support. This probably means, inter alia, political parties; that is to say, there would be financial support for the work of parties also operating in third countries. Democratic parties undeniably have an important role in the strengthening of democracy and human rights all over the world. It is very important that the criteria for support given within the framework of this human rights instrument are clear and that they are grounded in human rights principles agreed internationally. There will be nowhere near enough resources available under this instrument for general party support for all based on the same criteria, such as there is in many countries in Europe. Selecting individual parties as beneficiaries would be a very hard task from the point of view of establishing clear criteria. The choice would have to be made in such a way that no one would have the impression that party political views were taking the place of the democracy and human rights criteria when allocating aid. It is also clear that an increase in the number of beneficiaries in this area might mean less support for others. We have mainly tried to steer support in the direction of NGOs working on behalf of democracy and human rights in particular.

The Presidency’s compromise proposal takes account of Parliament’s suggestions to add independent party foundations and national, regional and international parliaments to the group of beneficiaries. Article 9(2) of the Regulation also makes it possible to provide support in special cases to other groups not mentioned under this Article. The wording is very close to what Parliament wants to see, and it is flexible, because it allows problems to be solved during the financing period. For all these reasons, adding political groups to the text of the Regulation does not have the Council’s approval.

This issue may jeopardise the chances of having the entire Regulation adopted at first reading, and that again would give rise to a situation where there would not be any legal basis for EU action on democracy and human rights for the time being. Freezing all EU human rights and democracy aid to resolve this case would be a very harsh weapon. The Council has gone a long way in order to comply with Parliament’s wishes. In order to achieve a solution, it is very important to incorporate and maintain the support of the Member States in this Regulation package.

I hope that Parliament will show flexibility, so that together we can achieve our main goal. Our main goal is for the European Union to be able to continue next year to aid action on democracy and human rights by means of the new instrument. To ensure that this support can continue, it is vital to get a decision on the proposal for a regulation, and the sooner the better.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I wanted to keep it brief so as to allow this debate to come to an end. This financing instrument truly is a massive keystone in this comprehensive reform of the Community’s system of overseas aid, and it gives me great satisfaction to see that you have succeeded in coming up, within a relatively short period, with a common draft regulation on human rights and democracy. I see this instrument as expressing, in an exemplary way, the European Union's unconditional commitment to democracy and human rights as fundamental factors in external relations.

It is because we in the Commission regard your House as the most important of partners that we unreservedly stand by our statement on democratic scrutiny and coherence of external actions and will maintain regular dialogue with your House. In situations in which human rights and democracy are particularly at risk, and which call for rapid action on the part of the Community, I propose that talks should be called at short notice with a small group of MEPs representing the relevant committees of your House.

Following the Council Presidency’s explanation just now of how it has conducted lengthy negotiations in this field, I would like to say that we regard the compromise proposal it has put together in the course of these as overall doing justice to the expectations made of this new financing instrument, and I would also like to emphasise that it certainly reflects many proposals from your House that the Commission unreservedly endorses, dealing as it does not only with the process of democratic reform, but also with the overall protection of human rights, and putting a greater emphasis on support and protection for human rights advocates, without, however, neglecting the victims of torture and abuse. Moreover, it creates a specific basis for successful monitoring of elections – and for that I am very grateful – without making disproportionate demands on the funds available for this purpose.

I can do no other than welcome this instrument and the greater flexibility, newly rapid orientation and speedy responses that it makes possible. We will, in this regard, give particular attention to making it possible for it to be drawn on not only by private individuals but also by incorporated and unincorporated associations, and will, in the cause of flexibility, use all means available on the basis of the Budget Regulation and the implementing regulations enacted by reference to it.

I can agree to your House's proposals for a more detailed discussion in the recitals of the support’s particular character as independent of the consent of state offices, and also for the inclusion of a reference indicating that the instrument is to be regarded as covering the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and persons forcibly removed from one part of a state to another.

Unfortunately, though, I am unable, like the Council, to see any scope for the inclusion of political parties and political movements as the immediate beneficiaries of the financing granted. As I see it, the Council Presidency and Parliament – supported by us in the Commission – have, following quite lengthy debate, come to a very good compromise in agreeing that national parliaments should be permitted to be recipients of foreign aid. I regard that as objectively justified by the inclusion, among the objectives of the instrument, of the creation, promotion and reinforcement of participatory, representative and parliamentary democracy and the associated processes of democratisation. I could well imagine the funding of foundations being one way of overcoming our difficulties as well.

So far, we have seen the most important thing as being that we, the Commission, should be able to be neutral and non-partisan where Community aid is concerned; that has put us at a great advantage, and one that we must maintain in future, for it is this that has secured the widespread acceptance and potential of our aid in third states, so that is something else from which we should not deviate.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hélène Flautre (Verts/ALE), co-rapporteur. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, since the month of September my co-rapporteur and I have been negotiating with the Council and the Commission with a view to gaining acceptance for Parliament's position on the European financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide. These negotiations have now been concluded, and, as has just been said, the Council adopted a common position last week based on a compromise text. This draft, much of which we had previously introduced in the form of amendments, satisfies most of Parliament's requirements. It stipulates that the use of the instrument does not depend on the consent of host governments. It permits the funding of non-registered organisations. It includes a flexible mechanism for the provision of direct support to human-rights activists who face imminent danger. This new mechanism should greatly enhance the effectiveness of our measures for the protection of those who campaign for fundamental freedoms.

The compromise also contains an entire section devoted to the promotion of democratic principles, electoral processes and parliamentary democracy. Political foundations, as well as national parliaments – an element introduced by our Parliament – are explicitly enumerated among the bodies that are eligible for support. The section dealing with the protection of human rights also satisfies almost all of Parliament's wishes, the only exceptions being the desire for explicit reference to combating impunity and to conflict prevention. On the other hand, the rights of people with disabilities, corporate social responsibility, combating violence against women and many other objectives have been included.

Parliament has also secured the establishment of an enhanced structured dialogue that will involve it in the formulation of strategic priorities. We should have wanted it to feature in the body of the text, but the compromise arrangement is that parliamentary involvement is to be ensured through an exchange of letters.

As far as explicit reference to democratic political groups is concerned, the Council, as we have just heard, regards that as a no-go area. It therefore proved impossible to include a reference to support for these groups. Nevertheless, an element of flexibility was introduced to allow the funding of other players in duly substantiated cases. In this way, political groups, though not explicitly mentioned, will be able to receive support in certain circumstances.

In conclusion, Mr President, let me emphasise the uniqueness of this instrument. It is the only one that funds the projects of non-governmental players without the need for prior authorisation from their government. It is also the only instrument that finances electoral observer missions. This is why it would be neither useful nor responsible to delay its adoption, and hence the funding of these projects, in the vain hope of introducing an explicit reference to political groups. Indeed, an obstinate attachment to that aim has already cost us dear at this stage, since it scuppered the deal struck with the Council on inclusion of the rights of immigrants and asylum-seekers.

For these reasons, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to support the compromise as negotiated with the Council.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Edward McMillan-Scott (PPE-DE), co-rapporteur. Mr President, first of all I should like to thank Mrs Flautre for her very hard work and that of her staff in recent months in trying to bring this instrument to the point where we can adopt it by the end of this year. I would also like to thank the Commission and its staff, and the Council, for their work.

Both the Council and the Commission have worked very hard to try and achieve some sort of compromise on this instrument. I must say that, in general terms, the ambitions of the Chairman of the Human Rights Subcommittee, my co-rapporteur, have largely been met. I think on the question of human rights promotion, which represents universal values accepted worldwide, we now have an instrument which has the capacity and the flexibility to work effectively, primarily through civil society, and to achieve the goals of the European Union in its Treaty obligations towards human rights worldwide.

There is, however, a deficiency. As colleagues know, I was the original promoter and founding rapporteur of the European initiative back in 1992. It was aimed at the transformation of the ex-Soviet bloc and it looked primarily at the democratic process. In the world today we now face different challenges. I have spent some time this year going to countries which are ‘complex environments’, to use the terminology of the United Nations: China, Cuba and Russia. These are the challenges of today.

My question to Council and Commission – and since the Council has chosen to negotiate in public – is, why cannot we as a European Union avail ourselves of the same instruments that our Member State governments have given to the United Nations? I regard this as a great puzzle. During my recent visit to New York I spent some talk talking to the UNDP, which, in its handbook on dealing with political parties, says, ‘yet we have seen that the absence of strong, accountable and competent political parties that can represent positions and negotiate change, weakens the democratic process’. This is a parliament of political parties. Democracy cannot exist without competing political forces. So I just wonder whether the Council has lost its nerve. Faced with the challenges that we see to our east and to our south, is it really satisfactory that the European Union should not have the same capacity to involve itself in the political process, to reform countries where there is no democracy, that we have given to the United Nations?

I believe that the European Union should put its democracy money where its mouth is and include in the instrument a reference to supporting democratic political groups. That, in some countries, is the only way to effect change.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alessandro Battilocchio (NI), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Development. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the two rapporteurs for their cooperation, which meant that the document presented to the Committee on Foreign Affairs already encompassed the Committee on Development’s requests. These requests are also found in the document drawn up by the Council, which I would like to thank for its work and for the flexibility demonstrated during the months of negotiation. In particular, I welcome the instrument’s local dimension, so that it can respond to the specific needs of areas in difficulty; the feature of the instrument whereby action can also be taken independently of the consent of governments and public authorities; the transparency of the procedures and their consistency with other European external policies; its scope, in other words prioritising civil society; the access even for non-registered actors; the protection of women and children, migrants and minorities; the access to information; and the actions supporting democratic processes, even if the final draft of the document is not entirely satisfactory.

I would like to comment briefly on the most controversial points: regarding the ceiling for electoral observation missions, I would have hoped for a stronger commitment from the Commission and the Council than an attached statement, but I hope that, after the comments made in this Chamber, this ceiling will be strictly respected. On structured dialogue, I note that the Council and the Commission have shown little willingness to improve the procedures in this respect. It is significant, however, that the Commission’s letter is at least addressed not only to the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, but also to the Chairman of the Committee on Development, in accordance with the legal basis for the instrument (Article 179(1) of the Treaty) and with the Rules of Procedure of Parliament (Annex VI).

In relation to political actors, I appreciate Mr McMillan-Scott’s concerns and, although my committee has not given an explicit opinion on the subject, I have no problem in supporting his request, where openings exist. If this is not the case, I will consider with my colleagues, in the light of recent developments, whether it is appropriate to block the process after successful compromises have been reached, with great effort, on the key points, in order to succeed in concluding an agreement at first reading and to allow the instrument to be launched in January 2007.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Albert Jan Maat (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. (NL) Mr President, I should like to extend warm thanks to both rapporteurs, Mr McMillan-Scott and Mrs Flautre, for the way in which they have adopted the recommendations of the Committee on Budgets.

There are two things that the Committee on Budgets regards as important: accountability and the financial framework 2007-2013. EUR 1.103 million has been set aside for this instrument, and it is our committee's wish that this House should be able to monitor the way it is spent.

Secondly, Parliament’s rights in this area must be protected, both in terms of consultation with it, and the implementation of policy which must, in accordance with the Commission’s statement, be subject to sound democratic control. We are therefore delighted that this proposal was adopted not only by the rapporteurs, but also by the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

It is also very important to the Committee on Budgets that funds be made available from other significant instruments, for development, but also for partnerships with neighbouring countries and pre-accession.

If this happens, if this instrument is used in this way, I am convinced that we, when we discuss this programme in the Committee on Budgetary Control in five years’ time, will be granting discharge in this area.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Teresa Riera Madurell (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality. – (ES) Mr President, we in the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality welcome all of Parliament’s efforts to ensure that this specific instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights could be debated today in this House.

Within the important work of simplifying the instruments and procedures in the field of external action, we believe that it is very important that we have a tool with the main objective of supporting civil society, of supporting those who are working to achieve democracy and a better life for everybody.

Within this context, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to stress the role of women as key players in the defence of fundamental freedoms.

We in our committee have worked to ensure that this instrument supports objectives and measures to promote the rights of women and children, gender equality at international level and the fight against the discrimination suffered by billions of women on a daily basis.

We would see the approval of this Regulation at first reading, so that it can enter into operation in 2007, as good news, particularly in view of the fact that 2007 has officially been designated European Year of Equal Opportunities for All.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Michael Gahler, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, it is good that we should be given this instrument. It is only right and proper that we should defy the wills of autocrats and dictators and defend the cause of human rights and democracy, and hence also that of democratic political groupings in the countries concerned. Just imagine us, as democrats, living in Eastern Europe before the Wall came down, and our clandestinely organised groups being denied aid from the West on the basis of this very argument!

After all, all we are trying to do is to give the Commission the greatest possible flexibility in practice, and those officials who are wary of granting aid to political groups that are not specifically named should be encouraged to do so if the actual circumstances make it necessary. This is not primarily about party funding, so I would ask the Council not to restrict discussion to that.

We cannot, though, be non-partisan in countries such as Belarus, for we would, in fact, by standing aloof from all political parties, end up giving support to Lukashenko and his like.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Elena Valenciano Martínez-Orozco, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (ES) Mr President, for millions of people who put themselves at risk in order to defend freedoms and human rights, what we are debating today is absolutely vital. The European Instrument for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights has above all been an achievement of this Parliament. It has not been an easy achievement.

We have always argued that, if our foreign policy is genuinely going to incorporate the European Union's values, it must work expressly to promote the human rights that we all claim to defend.

Now we have it; we have a valuable tool for defenders of human rights and all actors working to promote democracy, fundamental freedoms and justice to use. We now have our instrument. It contains a sufficiently full definition of the actors that can benefit from it, as Mrs Flautre has explained. So much so that there should be no justification for a battle that delays the implementation of this instrument, frustrating many expectations and hopes.

We Socialists would also have preferred a clear inclusion of the concept of ‘conflict prevention’, because that is a prior condition for peace and democratic development. Nevertheless, for the sake of agreement and because it is necessary for the proposal to be approved, we accept the consensus reached with the Commission and the Council. My group will not therefore present any amendments. I hope that the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats shows the same degree of responsibility. We must not let the main protagonists in this instrument down.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (NL) Mr President, Madam President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioners, this instrument will be the means whereby the European Union will contribute to democracy and human rights worldwide. I find the compromise we have reached satisfactory on the whole, because it has taken essential points into account, and our rapporteurs, as well as the President-in-Office and the President of the Commission, deserve all credit for this.

I am, for example, pleased that help can be given without the approval of third-country governments, and that parliamentary democracy is expressly mentioned, as, for that matter, are political pluralism and democratic political representation. Finally, I am pleased to see reference being made to independent political organisations.

Without, of course, wishing to diminish the importance of human rights per se – quite the reverse, in fact – I would at the same time like to stress the crucial importance of political parties in every democratisation process. In a democracy, elections are indispensable, but not enough. If a democracy is to be sustainable, what is needed is effective, democratic political parties to ensure that a debate can be held not only among the parties, but also with the public.

All too often, parties only function as a vehicle in order that a certain person, clan or group can be put into power, or indeed be kept there. This is, in fact, one of the main reasons why they are generally distrusted.

NGOs and civil society are not sufficient, however, to guarantee a political debate and control over governance.

This is why I should like to ask the Council and Commission to continue to make an effort so that support to democratic political groupings – in exceptional circumstances, of course – can be possible in future.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Richard Howitt (PSE). – Mr President, let me begin by saying that it was this Parliament that insisted there should be a separate legal instrument for human rights and democracy. It took a while to convince our friends and colleagues of that, but tonight’s debate shows that it is a victory for Parliament, and the right decision was made.

On the key issues within the debate, I very much welcome what our Finnish Presidency colleague has said about this being a programme that delivers help without the consent of host governments.

To the Commissioner, I say I am very proud of the work that we do on electoral observation. I think it is one of the most effective things we are involved with. Our attempt to limit it is simply to say that it should not take money away from grassroots human rights projects. Both are important.

My own amendments tabled included support for parliamentary democracy where it is being suppressed, making sure that spending under this instrument is additional and not at the expense of human rights work within the mainstream programmes, and to give specific reference in the scope to core labour standards and corporate social responsibility, to the human rights of people with disabilities, and to access to justice. I should like to thank the co-rapporteurs for their support for these amendments, and the Council and the Commission for the flexibility they have shown as regards Parliament’s amendments as a whole.

Tonight we have been debating the detail of legal texts. In this House we understand how important that is to ensure the European Union is effective. However, the main political message we should give is that just as this Parliament has established its own subcommittee on human rights, this Union is establishing an independent human rights and democracy instrument, because at the same time as the United Nations is elevating the status and role of human rights, so are we in the European Union, to help the victims of oppression, injustice and persecution, and those who defend them right around this world.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kader Arif (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, it must make us proud to be part of the European Union when we see the action it has taken to promote democracy and human rights. These common values make the Union one of the foremost players on the world stage in this domain. In the context of this unending struggle, it was imperative to reform the old instrument in order to enhance its effectiveness. Thanks to the pugnacity of the rapporteurs, Mrs Flautre and Mr McMillan-Scott, both of whom I congratulate, we have a draft here that truly moves things forward.

It befits the importance of this instrument that it should be ambitious, and there is no shortage of ambition in its references to immigrants' rights and in the scope it offers to bypass the need for host-government approval of measures in support of democracy and human rights. I do regret, however, that the negotiations did not result in the extension of the instrument to cover conflict prevention. Moreover, in spite of greater parliamentary involvement in the monitoring process, the Council's refusal to formalise relations between our two institutions in this field is a deficiency.

In conclusion, the effectiveness of this instrument will depend on its being regularly evaluated and on its revision, a process in which Parliament must play its full part, because I believe that Europe, armed with its values, is fighting here for a world free from fear.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paula Lehtomäki, President-in-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the comments that have been made in this debate. It has become very clear that it is in our mutual interest to reach decisions on this instrument so that the European Union’s aid for democracy and human rights development can continue and grow as from next year.

Let me stress one last time that the compromise proposal in this discussion is an enabling one. It will enable aid to be granted even to the political groups which Parliament considers so very important.

One last time, let me say seriously that I hope we reach a decision, and preferably quite soon. As has been mentioned in the debate, this instrument is very much the result of the European Parliament’s massive influence. Its powerful role is in evidence in the text of this Regulation. Ultimately, however, we also need to be prepared to make compromises on matters where the Member States and Parliament share the decision process. Otherwise, no decisions will be reached.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by expressing my gratitude not only for the debate but also for the many sessions of negotiation in which we have eventually arrived at a good compromise. We have come a long way, and there was from the very outset a high degree of unanimity concerning both objectives and scope. The scope was then, at your House’s suggestion, considerably extended, and even more detailed stipulations made, particularly as regards consultation with national parliaments and new measures for human rights advocates, but what are termed ad hoc measures are still possible.

Turning to the political parties, I would like to say that it is quite explicitly envisaged in the scope of the regulation that support shall be given to political pluralism, to democratic political representation and to democratic reform processes at local, regional and national level, and, as has already been emphasised, explicit provision has also been made for the involvement of independent political foundations and parliamentary bodies as partners in the implementation of measures supporting the development of democracy. It follows that it will be possible to implement the instrument for promoting democracy in a primarily political way, which, I think, is what we all want it to do.

That being so, let me say that this draft of a new regulation, which has been the subject of really intensive negotiations, deserves – or so I believe – your House’s support.

By way of conclusion, let me once more point out that this is the last of the financial instruments with which we will have to deal today, and, as I think we have all managed to come up with good and sustainable solutions to the others, we should take care to ensure that the democracy and human rights instrument can be put into effect beginning on the due date of 1 January 2007, for we have tried to be as flexible as circumstances require.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. Thank you, Commissioner. That concludes the debate.

The vote will be in December.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marianne Mikko (PSE). – (ET) The development of civil society and democratic mechanisms throughout the world, and especially in the vicinity of the European Union, is of vital importance to the stability of Europe itself. We must help to solve problems on the spot, instead of being overcome by the flood of political and economic refugees. The opponents of civil society have taken advantage of the inflexibility of our bureaucracy, and have criticised the adherence to programme documents as if they were scripture.

Recently, the Russian authorities have robbed several international organisations of their legal basis. In accordance with the present rules, we can no longer fund these organisations. We face the same problem in separatist Trans-Dnistria, which is governed by a puppet regime which is a keen student of the Kremlin’s methods.

The report draws the only possible conclusion – we must become more flexible. We must be able to react quickly and appropriately and finance unforeseen measures and organisations which lack the approval of governments, if necessary even covering our tracks.

Such flexibility also presupposes good monitoring. It is for that reason that I strongly support Parliament’s greater involvement in monitoring.

 
  
  

(The sitting was suspended at 8.20 p.m. and resumed at 9 p.m.)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 

17. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is one-minute speeches on matters of political importance.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE-DE). – (SL) Allow me, first of all, to extend a warm welcome to Romania and Bulgaria on their entry to the European Union. I would, however, like to mention one of the conditions for the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union, namely the closure of the Kozloduj nuclear power plant. Despite the modernised safety system and the positive safety assessment by the relevant European institutions, Bulgaria must close reactors 3 and 4 by the end of 2006.

Bulgaria exports electricity to all its neighbouring countries, and numerous Members of this House have repeatedly drawn attention to the enormous social, economic and environmental damage that would be caused, and to the problems that would ensue, in the form of an increased dependence on imports and of problems in obtaining a reliable energy supply, should both reactors be closed. Given the nature of the problem, I hope that the Council will react flexibly and make arrangements with the Bulgarian Government to defer the closure of both reactors. At a time when we have been placing so much emphasis on the importance of competitiveness, safety and a sustainable energy supply, calls for the closure of Kozloduj are downright ridiculous.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Yannick Vaugrenard (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, some members of the World Trade Organization do not comply with fundamental social standards and use the violation of social rights to compete unfairly and to distort the rules of competition. Besides the European Communication on promoting decent work for all, how is the Union using its influence in the WTO to ensure respect for the fundamental rights of workers in member countries?

There are 200 million children in paid employment in the world, 12 million people perform forced labour, more than two million employees die every year from the consequences of accidents at work or of occupational diseases, and 145 trade unionists were assassinated last year. In the light of these facts, it is not surprising that globalisation frightens our fellow citizens.

Declaring good intentions is laudable, but it is not enough. The time has come to penalise all countries that benefit from the opening of markets but refuse to comply with the International Labour Conventions. Europe must organise itself and use its collective influence in the WTO to ensure that the requirements of the International Labour Organization are respected.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Margarita Starkevičiūtė (ALDE). – (LT) The European Parliament often discusses issues that are topical to all countries as well as issues that are only of interest to representatives of certain countries. However, the European Parliament Press Service does not reflect this distinction, and the national press services attached to the European Parliament (like Lithuania’s for example) state that they cannot designate issues in their summaries as priority issues if they have not been designated as such for the European Parliament Press Service. Therefore, matters of importance to Lithuania, such as the Baltic Sea Strategy or relations with Russia, are not reflected in the Lithuanian press reports. They are relegated to secondary importance. I strongly request that the European Parliament Bureau looks into the activities of the European Parliament Press Service to ensure that attention is given not only to issues of general European interest, but also to issues of interest to individual countries, whose concerns are also discussed in Parliament.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL). – (NL) Mr President, tomorrow, this House will be voting on a proposal to liberalise the European fireworks market, something desired by nobody in Europe except the fireworks industry, which obviously has a hand in both the Commission document and the report.

There are major discrepancies in fireworks legislation in European countries. In my own country, the Netherlands, we have exercised extreme caution ever since a terrible disaster in a fireworks factory in Enschede. We are not waiting for Europe to hand down to us a harmonisation proposal preventing us from imposing our own stricter fireworks requirements.

Since I take the view that public safety should always prevail over the profits made by the fireworks industry, I shall be advising everyone to vote against this report tomorrow.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski (IND/DEM). – (PL) Mr President, the draft report on alleged CIA detention centres on European territory was presented yesterday by Mr Fava. In this report Poland is singled out as the only European Union Member State where such secret CIA detention centres could have been located. No evidence is provided in support of this statement. It is mere supposition.

This attempt to compromise a new Member State by accusing it of cooperating in torturing terrorists is nothing short of scandalous. One might well wonder if this is not a punishment meted out to Poland by certain Member States of the Union because of Poland’s close military cooperation with the United States. It could be interpreted as an attempt to bring Poland back into line. I should like to emphasise that we are paying undue attention to these allegations instead of putting more efforts into countering the terrorist threat in Europe.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  György Schöpflin (PPE-DE). – Mr President, colleagues will recall last week’s exhibition in Parliament showing the multilingual attainment of the Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj, Romania.

A wholly regrettable incident cast serious doubts over the commitment of the university to genuine multilingualism. In 2005, the university’s senate passed a resolution that notices in the university should be displayed in all its three languages: Romanian, Hungarian and German. Yet attempts to introduce Hungarian language notices in the university building last week were prevented by force, and those involved were sacked by the university on Monday.

There is a far-reaching contradiction here. Either the university is indeed multilingual, meaning that it must accept the full equality of the Hungarian language, or it is not, in which case it should stop pretending that it is.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Mr President, in Ireland we are in the middle of a 16-day campaign to highlight the issue of domestic violence. It is essential that domestic violence is confronted and the proper services put in place, because domestic violence destroys millions of lives – those of women, children and sometimes men – right across Europe.

Awareness-raising is the first step. Yesterday I had the opportunity to launch an exhibition of artwork and poetry, run by the Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service, with contributions from three local schools: St Columba’s, the Vocational School and Loreto Convent in Letterkenny in north-west Ireland.

A related issue, and an important one for Ireland, is human trafficking. I call on our Taoiseach, who was here in Parliament today, to ratify immediately both the Council of Europe Convention on Trafficking in Human Beings and the United Nations Protocol on Trafficking in Persons. It has been assessed that Ireland is a transit and destination country for trafficking in women and children, and evidence suggests that organised criminal gangs are helping international traffickers establish trafficking routes in Ireland.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Mr President, I should like to pay tribute to my constituent, Mr Alexander Litvinenko. Alexander was fearless in exposing the political gangsters that now run Russia, and the creatures of the KGB and FSB that still hold political office in Europe. For his bravery, he paid the ultimate price.

In April, I made two speeches in this Parliament repeating allegations made to me by Alexander that Romano Prodi had been an agent of some kind of the KGB. Alexander told me that the key figure to understanding Mr Prodi’s alleged relationship with the KGB in the 1970s was a man named Sokolov, also known as Konopkine, who worked for TASS in Italy.

Since Alexander can no longer testify to this effect, as he was ready, willing and able to do, I am pleased to provide this service for him posthumously.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Witold Tomczak (IND/DEM). – (PL) Mr President, Poland would like any decision on replacing our national currency with the euro to be taken on the basis of a referendum, as was the case in Sweden.

Pursuant to the 1994 Treaty on Accession laying down the conditions for the accession of Sweden, the Swedish authorities were required to replace the Swedish krona with the euro. Nonetheless, a referendum on the issue was held in Sweden in 2003. The result was a victory for those in favour of retaining the krona, so no action was taken to introduce the euro.

The people of Poland are also entitled to a say on an issue of such vital importance for them. At present, as many as 36% of my fellow citizens consider that bringing in the euro would lead to price rises and lower living standards. They feel that introduction of the euro would amount to a political experiment with dubious benefits. We do not wish to hand Polish monetary policy over to the European Central Bank at Frankfurt.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Oldřich Vlasák (PPE-DE).(CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the discussion on raising consumer taxes on beer in yesterday’s EU finance ministers' Council meeting does not only affect the Czech Republic. Beer and alcohol taxation should be viewed in context. We Czechs treat beer as an integral part of our national cuisine; beer has the same significance for us as fine wine does for the French. Just as many of my French-speaking colleagues would not think of having lunch without a glass of red wine, our traditional Czech lunch without a half-litre of high-quality Czech beer would, for me, be unthinkable. Yesterday’s Czech veto on increasing consumer tax on beer should therefore be interpreted not only as a call for a comprehensive solution to the problem of taxation on alcoholic drinks but also as a call for all of Europe’s problems to be addressed on the basis of equality.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we want to fight against the negative effects of alcohol, we should establish the same taxation arrangements for all alcoholic drinks. If we want to revive European agriculture, we should reform the common agricultural policy and support all farmers equally. If we want to fight against terrorism, we must make sure that all Member States participate equally in that fight.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, a year ago Russia imposed an embargo on certain Polish products of plant and animal origin. This was one of the reasons why Poland blocked negotiations between the European Union and Russia on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which was the subject of today’s debate.

Poland used its veto to defend its interests. The veto was a test of European unity against Russia and an expression of a strong spirit of EU solidarity. The European Union came through that test with flying colours. It showed that it cared about the interests of individual Member States. It was unfortunate, however, that it was only after the embargo had been in place for a year that Mr Barroso, the President of the European Commission called on Russia to lift it, insisting that the ban on imports was unjustified.

The effect of the Polish veto was to put on hold discussion on a new agreement with Russia, a matter of great importance to the whole European Union. The existing agreement dates back 10 years and is no longer relevant to current problems. A new agreement is essential to developing a common trade and energy policy with Russia, which is vital for the whole European Union. We can but hope that in future, the European Commission will help in resolving such unilateral bans imposed on Member States of the European Union by third countries as a matter of urgency, and that it will not be necessary to hold up key negotiations such as these, which involve common European Union policy towards Russia.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marco Cappato (ALDE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it seems to me, on the very day when we are facing the decision to slow down the negotiations for Turkey’s accession to the European Union that we are greatly mistaken in telling our public that the reason for this slowing down is the Cyprus question – the details of which are probably known to one European citizen in 1 000, or one in 10 000.

The truth is that this Europe of ours is frightened and is riding the wave of fear of those who put illegal immigration, fundamentalism and terrorism on the same plane and try to exorcise these enemies as if they were outside our frontiers. They thus use Turkey as a scapegoat. These are fears that should not be indulged. Instead they should be vanquished by a European political leadership that is capable of offering us a grand dream: a noble vision of a Europe that is secular, tolerant, modern and courageous, and thus capable of opening up so as to conquer the external enemies and above all the enemies within that cause ever-increasing worry.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, Poland’s refusal to sanction the Union’s negotiating mandate on talks with Russia should not be understood as action against Russia, and certainly not as opposition to negotiating a sound partnership agreement with that country.

We were forced to take that position, and we were aware that it is best to prevent matters from reaching such a stage. We would wish to avoid similar situations arising in the future. But I would appeal to the EU side, and in particular to the Council and to the Commission, and ask them to examine their consciences and review their response to this issue.

I personally approached at least three Commissioners, those responsible for trade, agriculture and food safety. I raised the matter during plenary sittings, and also at the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. I can confirm that there was a lack of cooperation between the relevant Directorates-General and Commissioners on the matter. Should similar situations arise in the future, support and joint action by all Member States will be of vital importance, in combination with the stance adopted by European Union institutions.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Mr President, hard drug abuse is a worldwide disease for which there is no significant cure. People suffering from this serious illness must get their daily drug dose irrespective of cost or danger to themselves. They will steal, prostitute themselves or kill if necessary in order to obtain their required drug. In satisfying their dependency, they are providing life support for the flourishing drug-trafficking criminals. Many will die from the consequences of their addiction; others will suffer severe complications.

Our society has been trying to deal with this problem using expensive police methods, partly due to ignorance and partly due to desperation. These methods have failed conclusively because drug addicts need the help of a doctor, not a policeman. Recently, some courageous senior police officers, including a deputy chief constable in the UK, have called for a change in tactics. They are right! Let us consider taking the brave step of beginning to treat drug abuse victims by providing them with their required drug in a controlled medical environment, free of charge, free of complications, free of police and the law and free of crime. Let us at last start treating them like patients, not criminals.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Daniel Caspary (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, I would like to say something about the transmission of our sittings. I think it is intolerable, when this House meets together in plenary session, as it is doing now, when we have various things to discuss, such as – as we are about to do – the Seventh Research Framework Programme, that, for those who run this place, everything is more important than having this meeting transmitted via a proper system of cameras to the Internet and then to the media by way of the relevant interfaces. I would be much obliged to you if you were to give your attention to this matter, which affects the work done in this House.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vytautas Landsbergis (PPE-DE). – (LT) Events in the past few months in the area of European Union-Russian relations have shown that Europe is starting to recognise the reality. The strategic partner with so-called 'common values' has already been downgraded to a pragmatic partner, and it will not be long before Iran, with all of its energy resources, is also recognised as Europe’s pragmatic partner. Support for terrorists will be no obstacle. We have already accepted that Russia’s 'sovereign' statutes allow its agents to go around killing enemies of the regime anywhere in the world. We accept it when the Kremlin openly tells Europe that the values we cherish are artificial and warns against spreading the colonialism of European democracy. We keep silent and hope for that price to gain an Energy Charter, even though Russia has repeatedly said that it will rewrite the document in its own way and force Europeans to back down. Recently Poland tried to defend the principle of European solidarity, and the EU was displeased with that. We pushed aside the energy problem raised by the Poles and talked only about meat. Therefore, talk about a Constitutional consensus is futile while we have no consensus of solidarity in our minds and hearts, and while Russia can buy not only a gas pipeline, but also European politicians.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – That concludes the one-minute speeches on matters of political importance.

 

18. Implementation of the Seventh Framework Programme of the EC and the EAEC (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the joint debate on the recommendation for second reading (A6-0392/2006), on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the common position established by the Council [12032/2/2006 – C6-0318/2006 – 2005/0043(COD)] with a view to the adoption of a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities (Rapporteur: Mr Jerzy Buzek);

the report (A6-0304/2006) by Mr Philippe Busquin, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down the rules for the participation of undertakings, research centres and universities in actions under the Seventh Framework Programme and for the dissemination of research results (2007-2013) [COM(2005)0705 – C6-0005/2006 – 2005/0277(COD)];

the report (A6-0305/2006) by Mrs Anne Laperrouze, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a Council regulation (Euratom) laying down rules for the participation of undertakings, research centres and universities in actions under the Seventh Framework Programme and for the dissemination of research results (2007-2011) [COM(2006)0042 - C6-0080/2006 - 2006/0014(CNS)];

the report (A6-0360/2006) by Mr Umberto Pirilli, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the specific programme entitled People, implementing the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities [COM(2005)0442 – C6-0383/2005 – 2005/0187(CNS)];

the report (A6-0369/2006) by Mrs Angelika Niebler, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the specific programme entitled Ideas, implementing the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities [COM(2005)0441 – C6-0382/2005 – 2005/0186(CNS)];

the report (A6-0371/2006) by Mr Vittorio Prodi, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the specific programme entitled Capacities, implementing the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities [COM(2005)0443 – C6-0384/2005 – 2005/0188(CNS)];

the report (A6-0379/2006) by Mrs Teresa Riera Madurell, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the specific programme entitled Cooperation, implementing the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities [COM(2005)0440 – C6-0381/2005 – 2005/0185(CNS)];

the report (A6-0335/2006) by Mr David Hammerstein Mintz, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the specific programme to be carried out by means of direct actions by the Joint Research Centre under the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities (2007-2013) [COM(2005)0439 – C6-0380/2005 – 2005/0184(CNS)];

the report (A6-0357/2006) by Mr Daniel Caspary, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the specific programme to be carried out by means of direct actions by the Joint Research Centre implementing the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2011) of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for nuclear research and training activities [COM(2005)0444 – C6-0385/2005 – 2005/0189(CNS)];and

the report (A6-0333/2006) by Mr Umberto Guidoni, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the specific programme implementing the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2011) of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for nuclear research and training activities [COM(2005)0445 – C6-0386/2005 – 2005/0190(CNS)].

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. Mr President, Honourable Members, Minister Lehtomäki, this evening and tomorrow at midday are important hours for Europe and European science. With your vote tomorrow, you, the Members of this Parliament, will demonstrate that the Europe of research is alive and kicking.

We have worked hard together over the past year so that Europe’s researchers can start working and making the best of the opportunities the new Framework Programme will offer them.

Together, we have succeeded in delivering a Framework Programme that meets the objectives we set at the very beginning: ambition and excellence, a good balance between continuity and novelty and a strong basis for simplified rules and procedures.

And, on top of this, we are delivering Framework Programme 7 on time.

We succeeded in doing this despite some difficult circumstances, such as a late agreement on the Financial Perspectives and a rich debate on delicate ethical issues.

We succeeded because we all share the strong conviction that cooperation in research lies at the heart of the successful knowledge society that we want Europe to be: a Europe that delivers growth and jobs and a good standard of living.

The timely adoption of the ambitious FP7 will send a strong message to the scientific community, to industry and to the public at large.

The message is: let us not lose time. Let us work together and realise Europe’s potential for excellence.

I would like to pay tribute to the Members who have made all this possible: the rapporteur for Framework Programme 7, Mr Buzek, the rapporteur for the Rules of Participation, Mr Busquin, and, for the part concerning Euratom, Ms Laperrouze; the rapporteurs for the seven Specific Programmes, Ms Riera Madurell for Cooperation, Ms Niebler and Mr Ehler for Ideas, Mr Pirilli for People, Mr Prodi for Capacities, Mr Guidoni for Euratom, Mr Hammerstein Mintz on the EC direct actions of the Joint Research Centre, Mr Caspary on the Euratom direct actions of the Joint Research Centre, and the long list of shadow rapporteurs and other Members who have been deeply involved.

Our cooperation has been greatly facilitated by the skilful chairmanship of Mr Chichester. I learned a lot from him and would like to thank him.

I would also like to acknowledge the hard work and good company of all the presidencies involved in the adoption of the programmes. I would especially like to thank the Finnish Presidency for its constructive role in the final phase of the process.

Our negotiations have produced a solid and broad consensus among the three institutions on the main aspects of the Framework Programme 7 package. We have moved forward considering every single act as part of the same package, ensuring full political coherence within the overall package.

You are more than familiar with the Framework Programme 7 and its content. I will therefore limit my remarks to some key issues.

First, Mr Buzek’s report on the Framework Programme 7, second reading. A lot of work has gone into reaching a balanced agreement the three institutions can agree on. I would like to express a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the rapporteur for his openness and constant collaboration.

The Commission accepts all elements of the agreement reached following the tripartite meetings. In particular, I would like to mention some of the most important issues on which we finally reached a proper balance.

Firstly, the mid-term review and future decisions on the European Research Council, the appointment of its members and its administrative costs. The Commission has also issued a declaration on this.

Secondly, the strengthened focus on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, to which more than half the energy priority budget will be devoted. I am particularly satisfied with the level of attention to be paid to energy efficiency in all thematic priorities. The Commission has also made a declaration on this.

Thirdly, the redistribution of the budget in favour of the Cooperation, Ideas and People programmes and, within the Cooperation budget, in favour of Health, Energy, Socio-Economic Sciences and Humanities, and Security.

Fourthly, the approach for the release in two steps of the budget destined for the Risk Sharing Finance Facility.

On the issue of European Union funding for human embryonic stem cell research, I believe we have agreed a very responsible ethical framework for a research programme covering so many different countries. It continues the ethical framework of Framework Programme 6, which has proved successful in practice.

The Commission has made an extensive declaration on this ethical framework, which will be published in the Official Journal as part of the Framework Programme 7 package. The Commission will fully respect and strictly implement this declaration, which I consider to be an integral part of the agreement on Framework Programme 7.

Accordingly, the Commission will not fund projects that include research activities which destroy human embryos, including for the procurement of stem cells. The exclusion of funding of this step of research will not prevent Community funding of subsequent steps involving human embryonic stem cells. Even if Article 6(3) of the Decision on Framework Programme 7 refers to derivation, the Commission will not fund derivation that involves destroying a human embryo.

The agreement on ethics reflects a careful and responsible balance. The Commission calls on the European Parliament not to jeopardise this balance by any further amendment.

I now come to the seven Specific Programmes, which set out the details of the two framework programmes for research.

To a large extent, the modifications of the Commission’s proposals were concerned with transposing the provisions of the agreed Framework Programme into the Specific Programme texts. Following these changes, the final draft Presidency texts on the Specific Programmes include a welcome mixture of Parliament’s requests and the Council’s own reflections, making these texts perfectly compatible with the Commission’s position.

For the Specific Programme on Cooperation, Parliament’s amendments being put to the vote are, generally speaking, coherent with the Framework Programme text and largely acceptable. This is also thanks to the excellent work of the rapporteur, Ms Riera Madurell. It was not an easy task to deal with such a broad range of fields with important research challenges. Let me just mention as an example of our strong cooperation the agreement reached on renewables and energy efficiency.

For the Ideas programme, the European Parliament’s main concerns, as reflected in the amendments and discussed intensively during the tripartite meetings, have been taken into account. Due consideration has been given, in particular, to: the ceiling on the administrative costs of the total budget; questions related to the management staff of the European Research Council; a clearly defined approach to the process of selection, term of office and renewal of the members of the Scientific Council; the reference to the review of ERC structures and mechanisms and the possibility of the Scientific Council appointing a Secretary-General. Once more, thanks to the rapporteur Ms Niebler and to Mr Ehler for their constructive work.

For the People programme, the current Presidency text has taken on board a number of Parliament’s amendments, which are fully acceptable to the Commission. I would highlight in particular those that refer to the importance of encouraging youngsters to enter the research profession, of helping them with a more stable career path, and making full use of women’s potential. I offer all my thanks for the support given by the rapporteur, Mr Pirilli.

On the Capacities Specific Programme, let me highlight some of those amendments that really improved the Commission’s original proposal. I am referring, in particular, to those clarifying the role of RTD performers for activities under Research for the benefit of SMEs and the introduction of mechanisms for cooperation with national and regional R&D support programmes. Concerning research potential activities, the addition of the reference to the associated countries clarifies and emphasises the eligibility of entities from these countries to participate in the actions supported under this specific programme. The constant and useful support received from the rapporteur, Mr Prodi, has been really appreciated.

On the EC Joint Research Centre Specific Programme, I am glad to see that Parliament supports the priorities of the JRC as indicated in the Specific Programme. I agree with the majority of the amendments tabled, which are aimed at better defining the JRC mission in relation to its different activities. In particular, I agree to the request regarding the role that the JRC could play in providing a sustainable energy reference system and information on the reliability of the energy supply for Europe, as well as on the availability of renewable energy resources. Thank you for your excellent work, Mr Hammerstein Mintz.

Regarding the Euratom Specific Programme, the text is broadly acceptable with some minor exceptions. Thank you to the rapporteur, Mr Guidoni, for his strong support for the Commission’s proposal.

Let me open a parenthesis here just to say that the ITER project has been of paramount importance. I must say that I feel fortunate to have been directly involved. Last week, I had the honour of taking part in the ceremony in Paris and, as I said there, I am confident that ‘hard winds grow strong trees’. I also thought of you, Mr Busquin, at that moment.

On the Euratom Joint Research Centre Specific Programme, I am pleased to see that the European Parliament and the Council support the Commission’s approach and that the proposed amendments improve the Commission Proposal. And I share the request expressed by the Parliament that "in view of the threat of a loss of knowledge and a lack of new scientists and engineers in the area of nuclear technology,[...] the JRC will implement a programme aimed at retaining knowledge, ensuring that this knowledge is readily available, properly organised and well documented." Once more, thanks for the support received from the rapporteur, Mr Caspary.

Let me now turn to the reports by Mr Busquin and Ms Laperrouze on the EC and Euratom rules for participation respectively. The Commission is very grateful to the European Parliament and, in particular, to the rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and other Members of the ITRE Committee for their constructive attitude and strong commitment to reaching a good compromise with the Council, allowing the adoption of the EC Framework Programme 7 rules for participation at first reading. This follows the welcome precedent established under Framework Programme 6 and I am confident that this cooperation will continue in the future.

The Euratom Rules will follow the same principles as those agreed for the EC Rules, taking into account the necessary adjustments due to the specificities of the Framework Programme 7 Euratom Framework Programme.

Concerning the Busquin and Laperrouze reports, the Commission can accept all elements of the agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council. There is no doubt that the final text provides for significant improvements to the original Commission proposal.

I would like to highlight the following elements of the agreement on the rules for participation.

Firstly, the coverage and calculation of indirect costs, in particular the flat rate introduced for non-profit public bodies, universities, research organisations and SMEs. This flat rate is now fixed at 60% for the first three years (2007-2009) and thereafter the Commission shall establish a new flat rate reflecting an approximation of the real indirect costs of participants, but not lower than 40%. You have been very persuasive in convincing both the Council and the Commission in this respect.

Secondly, the Participants’ Guarantee Fund, which replaces collective financial responsibility, as it was known under FP6. This fund will be established by the Commission and will serve as a basis for exempting from verification participants – with the exception of project coordinators – requesting less than EUR 500 000 for a project. Moreover, no additional guarantee or security may be requested from participants or imposed on them, which will particularly help SMEs and other small users.

Thirdly, the evaluation criteria will be clearly established in the Framework Programme 7 rules.

Fourthly, there is the clarification regarding the financial statements, where the compromise agreed reflects Parliament and the Council’s common goal of simplifying and limiting the number of certificates.

Fifthly, the 75% upper funding limit for security-related research in the case of the development of highly reliable capabilities has an impact on the security of European citizens and is aimed at a limited number of public users. Parliament’s wish has been fully satisfied in this respect.

Finally, there are the access rights for European affiliates established in a Member State or associated country, which they will enjoy if they are required to use their own foreground under the same conditions as the participant to which they are affiliated.

I reiterate my warmest thanks for your excellent work, Mr Busquin and Mrs Laperrouze.

Before concluding, I would like to come to a topic that concerns at least some of you, as indicated by the amendments tabled.

This concerns the participation of entities established in territories that are not internationally recognised. I understand that the aim is to exclude legal entities operating in the territories occupied by Israel.

Since August 1996, Israel has been fully associated to the Framework Programme for Research and Development. Israel’s research bodies are today valued and active partners in the implementation of the Framework Programme. The Commission has therefore recommended that the Council should renew the association agreement for the lifetime of Framework Programme 7.

The association agreements in combination with the rules for participation give legal entities established in Israel the same rights and obligations concerning participation and funding as a legal entity established in a Member State. Only legal entities which are established within the internationally recognised territory of Israel can be considered as such legal entities under the text of the rules for participation before you. Legal entities established in the occupied territories cannot be considered as Israeli legal entities as defined by the FP6 rules for participation and the Association Agreement. The Commission will be very vigilant in this regard.

Let me conclude by saying that I have really appreciated these 19 months of intense work and friendly collaboration.

Many amendments have a special meaning for me, as they remind me of each of you, from Mr Liese’s interest in children’s disease to Ms Riera Madurell’s and Ms Gutiérrez-Cortines’s strong support for cultural heritage; from Mr Prodi’s strong defence of the European Technology Platforms to Mr Hammerstein Mintz’s and Mr Turmes’s attention to renewable energy sources, and Mr Busquin’s strong support for the Guarantee Fund, to mention just a few.

I believe our cooperation bodes well for the implementation of the Seventh Framework Programme and for the continued development of ambitious research and innovation policies that Europe needs and deserves.

The debate today and the vote tomorrow herald the start of a new journey, one that I hope will see Europe cross frontiers and reach new horizons. Researchers will know that the European institutions are there to support them on this journey.

Yes, this evening and tomorrow at midday are truly important hours for Europe and European science. We can truly be proud of what we have achieved and of the direction of the scientific journey on which we have embarked together for a better life for all Europeans and for the whole of humanity.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – Commissioner, I believe the sustained applause from this House at such a late hour reflects the depth of its satisfaction with the work of the Commission.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paula Lehtomäki, President-in-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first I wish to mention that Mauri Pekkarinen, Minister for Trade and Industry, to whose field this Framework Programme belongs, will unfortunately not be here this evening owing to illness. For that reason, it is my pleasure and honour to represent the Council in this debate myself. On account of this illness, the Presidency will not have representation at ministerial level at tomorrow’s press conference, but I am sure that it will go well.

The European Community’s Seventh Research Framework Programme is one of the most important of the Community’s measures to implement the Lisbon Strategy and improve European competitiveness. The Community’s measures for research and development are crucial if this goal is to be achieved. The budget for the Framework Programme over seven years is more than EUR 50 billion. That makes it the biggest Framework Programme ever in terms of budget and the longest-lasting one to boot.

The interinstitutional agreement on the Community’s financial framework was approved last May. As a result, we managed to bring to a successful conclusion the negotiations conducted by Parliament and the Council, even though the timetable was a tight one. I do hope that we will keep to our ambitious timetable and conclude the legislative work for the Framework Programme by the end of the year.

In this connection, I wish to thank the European Parliament for this compromise, and especially the rapporteurs Jerzy Buzek and Philippe Busquin, Chairman of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy Giles Chichester, the shadow rapporteurs and numerous other Members who have been active in finding a common solution. In particular, I also want to thank Commissioner Potočnik for his constructive input in taking the negotiations forward. Finland, in its capacity as President of the Council, has been able to rely in its work on the results achieved by former presidencies, especially that of Austria.

The Commission’s draft proposal on the Framework Programme contained numerous new ambitious initiatives, such as the European Research Council, joint technology initiatives and the Risk-sharing Finance Facility. At times the negotiations were very difficult; for example, with regard to the initiatives mentioned. The outcome of the talks had meant a lot of work, considerable flexibility, and a genuine desire for compromise on the part of Parliament, the Commission and the Council.

With this in mind, I would like to mention that the Council in its common position adopted Parliament’s amendment to the principles that steer financing for stem cell research under the Framework Programme. The Commission made a determined effort to find agreement, for which I want to thank the Commissioner.

To my mind, the result is an ambitious, though balanced Programme. It provides an excellent basis for Community measures in the area of research and development for the next seven years. One important aim of the Commission’s proposal for the participation rules was to simplify participation. In this connection, Parliament’s dynamic role has made it a lot easier for all researchers to participate fully in the Framework Programme.

The Finnish Presidency is happy to see that there are packages of amendments to vote on, amendments that are based on the outcome of the trilogue negotiations. I can confirm that these amendments have the approval of the Council. I hope, however, that the outcome of negotiations will remain unchanged in view of the other amendments tabled.

I hope that Parliament will adopt the decisions on the Seventh Research Framework Programme and the participation rules relating to implementation in tomorrow’s sitting. That way, the objective shared by all the institutions, the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council, to have the Framework Programme start right at the beginning of next year can become a reality. This is also what Europe’s scientific community is expecting of us.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE), rapporteur. (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, the vote on the Seventh Framework Programme will take place tomorrow. Over the last 18 months, four Presidencies have worked on the programme, along with Parliament and the Commission. Each Presidency’s input was valuable but particular thanks are due to the Finnish Presidency. As a result of excellent cooperation with the Council and of Commissioner Potočnik’s remarkable personal commitment, for which I thank him, and also thanks to the technical support provided by the European Commission, a compromise acceptable to all was reached in October. Commissioner, we would like to thank you very much for the statement on stem cell research. This was very important to Parliament.

The compromise amendments were passed by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy without encountering any opposition. I should like to praise the shadow rapporteurs for the tremendous sense of responsibility and spirit of cooperation they demonstrated throughout. Thank you all. In terms of both work and cooperation this has been a very busy time for me. Thanks are due also to the coordinators and political advisers who oversaw the work, and to the eight parliamentary committees involved for their opinions.

Along with the Seventh Framework Programme we shall today be debating specific programmes and the principles of participation. The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy coordinated the work on these documents in the European Parliament, and I must thank the committee very much for its work too.

Turning to the Seventh Framework Programme itself, I should like to highlight that Parliament has always approached it in a positive spirit. We did, however, introduce a number of improvements including new partial solutions. These are important to the Programme and were deemed beneficial by the Council and the European Commission, as evidenced by the compromise amendments. The structure and main provisions of the Programme represent an excellent response by the Union to the recommendations made in the Kok and Marimon reports and to the European Parliament’s proposals contained in the Locatelli report.

The Seventh Framework Programme will allow the goals of the Lisbon Strategy to be achieved in many ways. Everything will be based on the criterion of excellence in research. There are also new and interesting proposals, joint technological initiatives, drawing on the financial resources of European industry. This is a decisive move towards an innovative Europe, and is in line with the activities of European Technology Platforms.

In addition, the European Parliament decided that research capacity in all the regions of Europe must be released if a genuine European research area is to be created.

As regards the chapter entitled ‘Ideas’, it contains a definition of the European Research Council. This is a new undertaking designed to promote basic and high-level frontier research. The European Parliament has laid great stress on the need for this to be a fully autonomous Council, for its activities to be clear and transparent and for its administrative costs to be kept low.

The next chapter is entitled ‘People’ and centres on scientists. If Europe exploits its human potential to the full, and in particular if it supports young scientists starting their professional lives, Europe will be in a position to spread its wings and prevent a brain drain.

The development of European research infrastructure is a key issue. It features in the chapter entitled ‘Capacities’. SMEs are another priority. In keeping with the Sixth Framework Programme, they are guaranteed a 15% share in research projects. Additional fast-track procedures and special programmes have been set up too, aimed at small projects. New technologies and innovation underpinned our amendments to this part of the Seventh Framework Programme as well.

Work on the legislation is almost complete, and we must now turn to implementation of the programme. Simpler and more flexible procedures are a key issue, as is coordinating European programmes with national ones. Fragmentation of European research must be avoided at all costs.

I am quietly confident that the Seventh Framework Programme will enable us to reawaken enthusiasm for the Lisbon Programme, and to overcome the well-known European paradox.

In conclusion, I would like to turn to my fellow Members of the European Parliament and assure them that following adoption of the compromise amendments negotiated with the Council, the text of the Seventh Framework Programme fully reflects the priorities of the first reading. I therefore appeal for your support for these amendments, so that Parliament can speak in one voice about research, development, innovation and the future of Europe.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Philippe Busquin (PSE), rapporteur. (FR) Mr President, Minister, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the debate in Parliament this evening on the Seventh Framework Programme and the prospect of its implementation is undoubtedly a moment for us to rejoice. It is an auspicious moment for the scientific community in particular, because this is, after all, the third most important programme of the European Union and one that enables the scientific community to take on a European dimension and motivates it to strive for excellence. Accordingly, one of our key aims is to avoid any lack of continuity from one programme to the next.

Thanks to the joint efforts of the Finnish Presidency, whose perseverance and high-quality work I commend, of the Commissioner and the relevant departments of the Commission and of Parliament, working together in an excellent spirit of cooperation and fully focused on the defined goals, we have reached the stage at which we can launch the Seventh Framework Programme within the desired time frame. That is a crucial point.

The second point is somewhat less gratifying, for the funding earmarked for the programme is lower than we had hoped. We cannot do anything about that. As the Commissioner emphasised, the Financial Perspective initially delayed the discussion of the programme and then fell short of what Europe needs to satisfy its ambitions. I shall repeat incessantly that tomorrow's Europe will be built on research and innovation. It is talked about, it is discussed, but the Member States are still unwilling to align their policies with these aims. It is certainly detrimental that the Framework Programme as proposed by the Commission has been cut by at least 25 to 30%, but, as we say in Belgium, 'Il faut faire avec' – one has to play along – which means trying to make the Framework Programme as effective as possible. In this respect, I believe, as Mr Buzek said, that the Commission's proposal has been broadly accepted and that the improvements and amendments that have been made all point in the right direction.

For my part, I would still like to raise two matters. The first is the European Research Council, which is clearly an essential innovation in the field of European policy. It is indeed imperative that the scientific community should establish itself on a European scale and that the European scientific community itself should recognise the goal of excellence. This will give Europe a far higher profile. That is why we, along with Mrs Niebler and others, have devoted a great deal of attention to the way in which this European Research Council would operate.

Another point that seems to be crucial relates to joint technological initiatives. This process, which is an extension of the technological platforms, is one of the keys to the competitiveness of European industry. It will therefore be very important for the Council, the Commission and Parliament to be able to carry out joint technological initiatives quickly in certain fields. Needless to say, it will not be possible for this to happen in every domain, but I believe the instrument is indispensable.

Commissioner, you are a greater diplomat than I, so let me congratulate you explicitly on having secured an agreement with the Council on the continuation of stem-cell research, particularly as regards supernumerary embryonic stem cells. This is a balanced agreement. It follows on from what was achieved under the Sixth Framework Programme but is also well underpinned by ethical safeguards. The statement you have just made reassures the House that embryos will not be destroyed but that all the potential offered by stem cells, particularly spare embryonic stem cells, for the creation of tomorrow's scientific and medical knowledge will be preserved. I therefore congratulate you on securing this agreement.

I should also like to point out to the House that we shall be voting on the specific programmes tomorrow too and that there are amendments on the table. I know that the procedure is different in the case of the specific programmes, for which we only deliver an opinion. Be that as it may, our votes on the specific programmes ought not to be inconsistent with the provisions adopted for the Framework Programme. Mr Buzek rightly said that Parliament supports the compromise proposals. Legitimate amendments have also been tabled by Members. The strength of support in the Chamber varies between the specific programmes and the Framework Programme. For the sake of the general coherence of the system, there must not be a divide between the specific programmes and the Framework Programme.

Let me move on to the rules of participation. I shall be very brief, because you, Commissioner, have already highlighted the points that are new in relation to the proposal. There is, however, one precept on which I believe we are in agreement. The aim is simplification, and we have tried to develop things in that direction. Nevertheless, I am afraid we must remain humble and modest, for although the need to simplify is restated every time, those who have most experience of framework programmes sadly observe each time that they are not yet perfect. I am not sure that what we have done will be perfect. That will depend in part on your vigilance but also on us. We are here to help you to eliminate the constraints from other sources that complicate the process.

For example, we sought to guarantee the participation of small and medium-sized businesses. This has not simply involved granting them up to 75% of total eligible costs; in the context of the guarantee fund, for example, they will not be required to submit to three-monthly audits to check whether they are eligible to participate. These, then, are the practical consequences, but they depend on implementation, because there are sometimes overzealous people involved. That is quite normal, but it can result in excesses. You will therefore have to ensure proper implementation.

I am also thinking of the lowering of indirect costs to 60%. It may well be argued that this figure is somewhat arbitrary and that indirect costs should be calculated as accurately as possible. This, incidentally, is why a distinction is made between the first three years and the other years, but such a figure was essential in order to involve universities and SMEs from all countries, because accounting systems differ widely.

Let me conclude by saying thank you very much for the work you have done, and thank you especially for making this Framework Programme possible, along with the rules of participation for the scientific community, through your capacity to engage in dialogue and through that of the Finnish Presidency, which has been excellent throughout this process. Thank you again, and I believe that we shall be here in good numbers tomorrow to carry your proposals and our amended proposals without any problem.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Anne Laperrouze (ALDE), rapporteur.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, Minister, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to pay tribute to the excellent work performed by my fellow rapporteurs and, more generally, by the three institutions to pave the way for the rapid adoption of this research package.

The Seventh Framework Programme is the key instrument for the creation of a European research area in which the aim is to devote 3% of GDP to research. It must serve to make national research policies cross-pollinate and complement each other and to promote consistency between the priorities of the Member States and the main aims to be defined by the European Research Council. In spite of a budget that is less substantial than the Commission and Parliament had hoped, this Framework Programme should be appreciated for its leverage. In view of the need to overcome difficulties in accessing finance, particularly for SMEs, the introduction of a funding mechanism and of risk-sharing is a step in the right direction. This mechanism must serve to increase the number of loans granted by the European Investment Bank and the financial institutions, to commit greater sums of money and to support riskier projects.

As far as the Euratom rules of participation for the Seventh Framework Programme are concerned, my strategy was to work in close collaboration with Mr Busquin, rapporteur on the rules governing the conventional Framework Research and Development Programme, in order to preserve the similarity between these two drafts and thereby benefit from the codecision procedure. This is why the compromise amendments proposed to you are the fruit of discussions between the Commission, the Council and Parliament on Mr Busquin's report, adapted for the realm of nuclear energy. Two amendments, however, diverge from the Council's position.

In fact, we wanted to specify, by means of Amendment 58, the selection and award criteria, such as scientific excellence, the ability to carry out the action successfully, relevance to the objectives of the specific programme, the critical mass of resources mobilised and the quality of the plan for the utilisation and dissemination of acquired knowledge.

May I also draw your attention to Amendment 88 of this report, for which some Members have requested a separate vote. This amendment is not incompatible with the choice of Barcelona as the seat of the joint undertaking. Indeed the location of the seat is firmly enshrined in Council Decision 2006/458, and we approve of the choice. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the other activities envisaged within the thematic area of fusion energy are implemented and managed separately from the joint undertaking so that the researchers can develop their creative potential. This separation would thus serve to maintain the integrated approach and the close involvement of the fusion associations, particularly through the European Fusion Development Agreement. This point was raised during the trialogues with the Commission and the Council on the rules of participation with a view to clearly defining the roles of each.

The aims of this report on the rules of participation are to provide European support for research activities in the field of atomic energy in the hope of undoing the technological locks in the nuclear domain and particularly of fulfilling the promise of fusion for future energy production.

I wish to express my very sincere thanks to Mr Busquin, who put his skills and experience at my disposal and who involved me in all the meetings at which the compromise amendments were negotiated with the Council and the Commission.

Let me now conclude my remarks with a few words on the specific programmes that I have monitored more closely on behalf of my group.

As far as the direct actions conducted by the Joint Research Centre are concerned, it is worth noting that the Centre's expertise has been extended into areas of considerable political and public interest, such as the development of alternatives to animal testing, social welfare, sustainable agriculture and protection of the environment. In the realm of nuclear energy, we would like the Joint Research Centre to play a greater role in fostering public awareness and providing training. It is also our wish that the Joint Research Centre should lend its expertise to the effort to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The specific programme on cooperation must help to address social, economic and environmental challenges by focusing on areas such as health, energy or the environment and climate change.

The lengthy catalogue of amendments tabled by the European Parliament is akin, in some people's eyes, to a shopping list, and its very length indicates above all that a great deal of research is expected.

Let us bear in mind the place and role of the European Union in the world but more especially in the lives of its people. A successful Framework Programme would be proof that the European Union is moving forward.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Umberto Pirilli (UEN), rapporteur. – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, Minister, ladies and gentlemen, the People programme has found its way to this House after a year of dialogue, in-depth analysis and comparisons. My professional and political experience has brought ideas that are largely shared. They have been instilled into the programme and also incorporated in part into the body of the main legal instrument of Framework Programme 7. I accordingly express my profound thanks to Mr Buzek.

The modern world moves at a very fast pace. The twentieth century was turbulent and exciting: it spanned three epochs, from peasant society to the industrial and post-industrial era, and went even further in its final decade. It was then that EU Heads of State or Government drew up their far-sighted recipe for the future. Lisbon 2000 was a ten-year programme, this being the time envisaged for the construction in Europe of a society of knowledge based on research and innovation. Today we must however take note that progress has been slow, although Framework Programme 6 has signalled a significant positive shift in European policy in this particular strategic sector.

It is a modest effort when compared with the colossal achievements of the emerging economies: in the past fifteen years investments in the research and development sector in China have risen from USD 12.4 to USD 84.6 billion, an increase of 580%. Today China accounts for 12.5% of world trade and is the second largest world producer of advanced technological goods. Then we have India and the countries of the Indo-Pacific basin, the third axis of the technical and scientific world; this axis accounts for 36% of the high-tech products of the whole world, which is exactly double what the whole of Europe produces.

Some analysts have reached a catastrophic conclusion, if this state of affairs is to continue: within twenty years, 90% of the world’s scientists will live in an East Asian country. Thus Europe is lagging behind, when compared to the huge amount – in some cases more than 10% of GDP – that is invested in research and development by those countries. Europe is the prisoner of the selfishness of Member States, some of which even today invest less than 1%, while the average for Europe is less than 2% of GDP. This, very briefly, is the overall picture while we are getting ready to launch Framework Programme 7 – for which the European Commission has rightly asked Member States to provide a more substantial financial input.

The People programme constitutes both the mind and the body of the entire legislative corpus: mens sana in corpore sano. Hence the idea of motivating researchers so as to motivate research. Framework Programme 7 will create the free, independent and motivated European researcher. This is the direction in which we should be moving: from recognising the research profession to giving it legal status; from a code of practice to the creation of a data-bank for selecting and employing researchers; from aligning remuneration with the best international standards; from equal opportunities for men and women, through measures to protect female researchers, to reconciling the needs of the workplace with family life; from initiatives to support family mobility to the necessary social security and insurance provisions, harmonisation of tax regimes, recognition of professional titles across EU states, freedom of movement and independence. These are the prerequisites for creating a European area of research and professional integration, given that after years of investment in training young researchers it is in our own interest to make the most of them. To abandon them would be to give a gift to the United States or China.

The positive experience of Marie Curie Actions has appropriately been revisited and will continue, breathing life into a project that aims for excellence in the form of added value: it will have an impact on the organisation of the European research area. We also envisage collaboration and equal opportunities between the public and private sectors. Last but not least, intellectual property, towards which the Council has behaved a little like Pilate with Jesus of Nazareth: it has taken up the idea and turned it into a general rule.

No, that is not how things should be done. If we truly wish to motivate researchers, we must give them a cast-iron guarantee that their rights over the intellectual property that they have created will be protected. This is possible – I shall insist on it when I make the request to the Commission and the Council – through contractual clauses under civil law that would protect the results obtained by research and by the individual researcher.

To achieve excellence it is necessary to motivate people; and to attract researchers from all parts of the world it is necessary to offer attractive conditions. To combine quantity and quality and produce excellence in basic and technological research, as the People programme and the Framework Programme 7 intend to do, it is necessary to join up all the links and address all outstanding problems, to protect industry and private investments by stimulating them without extinguishing that driving force: the human being that is and remains the heart and mind of research.

I thank you all for your kind attention, ladies and gentlemen and shadow rapporteurs – particularly Mr Chichester and my colleagues on the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, who, by voting unanimously for my report, were sending out a strong signal to the Commission and the Council rather than acknowledging my modest contribution.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Angelika Niebler (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, Mrs Lehtomäki, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, at the end of over a year and a half’s intensive parliamentary debate, we are about to adopt the Seventh Framework Programme and the specific programmes associated with it, and I am, today, grateful first of all, of course to our rapporteur Mr Buzek for his dedicated work, but also to all the other Members of this House who have made their own contributions to the framework programme and to the specific programmes.

As rapporteur on the specific programme ‘Ideas’, I am, of course, particularly pleased and honoured that the Seventh Framework Programme, or, specifically, the ‘Ideas’ programme, sees the long-awaited inauguration of the European Research Council.

Why do we need a European Research Council? The intention is that it should reinforce basic research in Europe, thus closing a substantial gap in European research funding, which has, up to now, concentrated mainly on applied research, even though almost all the innovative and groundbreaking developments have come about as a result of basic research; one needs think only of such everyday things as digital cameras or CD players, which would have been impossible without scientists such as Max Planck or Albert Einstein to lay the theoretical foundations.

The European Research Council, the ERC, needs to be a success if it is to attract leading researchers to Europe or to keep our own top European researchers here. If it is to do that, it must be able to do its work independently; this is something that we in this House have repeatedly emphasised, and the Commissioner has also endorsed the idea in his outline. What that means is that, in this European Research Council, it must be the researchers whose views count, the researchers who decide which basic research projects should get funding. It really is a new thing for politicians to say that they are going to keep out of the decisions as to what is worthy of support, and instead leave the decision-making to the research community, that is to say, to the researchers whom we vote onto the Council. I am also particularly proud that we have decided – or rather will, I hope, decide tomorrow – that the sole criterion for the spending of money by the European Research Council should be that of scientific excellence.

This House has insisted from the very outset that the European Research Council should not be a pocket version of the DG Research. I trust that the Commissioner will understand when I say that I have nothing against the Commission, but, if the Research Council really is to be something new, the people who decide what it does must not be politicians, or, indeed the highly-qualified officials in DG Research, but researchers – and, yes, I know I am repeating myself, but I do think this is important.

We in this House have had a hand in pointing the Council in the right direction, but, following an initial stage in which the Council is to be administered by the Commission, consideration is to be given to whether it is actually capable of operating on its own. Once that evaluation has been carried out, we will be able to come to a decision on the Council’s final structure. I am very grateful that we were assured, in the trilogue, that this House would have the power of codecision as to what the Council’s final structure should actually be like.

We also saw it as important that the Research Council, when it starts work on 1 January 2007, should not become a closed shop, in other words, that it should be open and transparent and work in an open and transparent way. Our House has brought in a number of amendments to that effect, including stipulations that members of its scientific board should be elected in accordance with a rotation system, and we have, of course, by capping the Research Council’s administrative budget, ensured that, at the end of the day, the money goes where it should go, that is, to the researchers, rather than being spent on admin. The Budget allocated to the European Research Council – amounting in any case to EUR 7.5 billion over seven years – ought, then, to be a good basis on which it can begin its work.

The Research Council has what is needed in order for it to become the model of European success that we need, a beacon for European research. We also need something that has nothing to do with the Research Council. Tomorrow we have to send out an appeal to the effect that Europe’s research community has to be one of the things whereby it identifies itself. Europe is a peaceful community; it is perceived as a community of values, a community founded upon the rule of law, with the European internal market as well as the economic and monetary union. There is only one thing that we lack, and Mr Busquin, with his European Research Area, really has opened up the right path. We must also become a European knowledge community, a European community of researchers. If the Research Council, the programmes, and that on which we are to vote tomorrow help to bring us closer to that, then we in this House will all have done a good piece of work.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vittorio Prodi (ALDE), rapporteur. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I naturally wish to thank the Finnish Presidency, Mr Buzek and all my other colleagues. I must of course give special thanks to Mr Potočnik, above all for all the work we carried out together on the basis of his suggestions for Framework Programme 7.

I should like in particular to take note of his solemn promise to exclude any proposal involving infrastructure and firms that operate contrary to international law; and also of his solemn commitment to an integral element of Framework Programme 7 concerning the rules governing human embryonic stem cell research. We have done some important work together and have tried to do what is best for Europe.

Framework Programme 7 offers us an excellent opportunity to set out the far-reaching effort to be made to regain our competitiveness at the level of the whole European Union, by fully implementing the Lisbon scenario. It is therefore appropriate to emphasise that this Framework Programme 7 demonstrates the pressing need to confront the question of research and development at EU level and should therefore be seen as the core of a socio-economic development policy for the EU.

At present, competition involves actors operating at a continental – or at any rate regional-continental – level, and clearly goes beyond the single Member State. We must therefore pursue excellence on a European scale: that is the goal set by Framework Programme 7. All this is what we have been trying to do at European level.

My insistence on this theme has been very kindly emphasised by the Commissioner: our collaboration has had some very personal and extremely important effects, which give one the feeling that for research purposes there must be widespread involvement by all business concerns, especially at European level, otherwise we shall not manage to reach our objective. Framework Programme 7 stands for our awareness that without a genuine common effort, we shall have to give up the idea of having manufacturing and development in Europe. This is the substance of what we are discussing today and this has been how we have all been personally involved in the enterprise. Clearly, certain things have had to be given up, but in the end some important work has been produced.

I should like to clarify certain points concerning the Capacities programme. In my view the interconnections of Framework Programme 7 at regional level, in other words the ability to put together in synergy the resources of Framework Programme 7 and the Structural Funds, with the possibility of involving the regions in investment, could be truly productive in the future, both in research infrastructure and in the regions of knowledge and the regional districts of production. We therefore have, in my opinion, a range of instruments that together will help us to identify the approach that best fits all the issues on our agenda.

I should also like to recall in particular the need to acquaint our citizens more closely with science at a regional level, as well as something that for me has become an idée fixe during my first few years in Parliament: teaching people to evaluate risk as an instrument of political choice, by involving citizens in a sense of overall awareness. That is what we have done, as effectively as we possibly could, and it is something to be satisfied about.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Teresa Riera Madurell (PSE), rapporteur. – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, Minister, I would first of all like to congratulate Mr Buzek, Mr Busquin, the Council and the Commission for the important work they have done, and also my fellow rapporteurs for the other specific programmes, because, ladies and gentlemen, in this plenary sitting we will finally approve the Seventh Framework Programme, which defines the European Union’s scientific policy for the next seven years.

This is a fundamental issue within the framework of the Lisbon Strategy, since, if our objective is to be a dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy, research, technological development and innovation are undoubtedly the main tools for promoting growth, employment and competitiveness.

Our main objective has been to respond to the great challenges faced by our science, technology and innovation in order to reduce the gap separating us from our competitors. Our work has not been without difficulties, particularly following the agreement on the financial perspective which reduced our initial economic horizon. I believe that, on the whole, we can feel satisfied today, however.

As rapporteur for the Specific Programme ‘Cooperation’, I would like to thank the shadow rapporteurs and all of our fellow Members for their contributions, which have been crucial to the drafting of this report.

The Specific Programme ‘Cooperation’, with a budget of EUR 32 500 million for the next seven years, represents 65% of the total budget of the seventh Framework Programme, which is a significant increase on the previous Framework Programme.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the world’s largest international cooperation programme for R+D. This programme is intended to make the European Union a leader in strategic scientific and technological fields, by supporting cooperation amongst universities, research centres, companies and institutions, both within the European Union and with third countries.

To this end, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy’s proposal takes up ten major priority areas which offer a significant degree of continuity from the sixth Framework Programme, though improvements in approaches are proposed that we are convinced will provide research groups with easier access to programmes.

The final text adopted by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy which we are presenting to this plenum for its final approval essentially endorses the approach proposed by the European Commission. It includes powerful tools for stimulating private investment in research, though it calls for greater parliamentary control throughout the execution of the Programme. It also extends and stresses certain fields of research that were absent or not sufficiently represented in the initial proposal, and emphasises a series of horizontal structural aspects of the Programme that we believe to be essential.

In this regard, I would like to stress that our proposal offers considerable progress in terms of the organisation of mechanisms to guarantee the participation of SMEs in all of the Programme’s actions. A minimum objective of participation of 15% of the total budget has been set for them and the maximum contribution of all of the Community institutions, including the European Investment Bank, has been sought for the funding of projects in which SMEs participate.

Our proposal makes the principle of scientific and technological cohesion one of the Programme’s objectives and it points to the need to seek the maximum degree of complementarity and synergy with other national and regional funds. We are calling for mechanisms for establishing joint approaches to scientific and technological issues of interest to more than one field and also mechanisms for dealing with the complex problems of the thematic priorities for which a merely uni-disciplinary approach is not sufficient to produce significant scientific advances.

Many aspects relating to joint technological initiatives have been improved as a result of the passage through this Parliament of the Specific Programme ‘Cooperation’. These new instruments of technical and financial management and of participation in the Specific Programme ‘Cooperation’ required mechanisms for ensuring compliance with the criteria set for their constitution and transparency in the selection of priorities; they also required sound and efficient management. This report contains proposals for making progress on all of these aspects.

I shall not go into the details of each of the thematic priorities – a lot of work has been done – but I would like to end by saying that I am one of those in favour of continuing with the funding of research with supernumerary human embryos in their early stages of development, since they are important to progress on infertility treatments and knowledge of the causes of congenital and degenerative diseases, and also to finding alternatives to animal testing.

Ladies and gentlemen, through the work we have done over many months, we have tried to contribute to resolving some of the main problems faced by our science and technology. I believe that the result, the fruit of the greatest possible consensus, can be described as satisfactory. I would therefore like once again to thank all of my fellow Members for their contributions, as well as the European Commission, in particular Commissioner Potočnik, who is here today, for his constant help and cooperation.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  David Hammerstein Mintz (Verts/ALE), rapporteur. (ES) Thank you, Mr President. Thank you, Mr Potočnik, for your open and cooperative attitude; thank you, Mr Buzek and all of the other shadow rapporteurs. We are all members of the seventh Framework Programme family, and in our family there has been a long and difficult birth, with little in the way of healthcare resources, but the baby has been born healthy, though a little under-weight.

When will we grasp that European research is even more important than agricultural subsidies and building motorways? That is not a rhetorical question; we must ask ourselves the stark question of what the priority is for the future of Europe, this Europe that wants to act, but cannot.

We have set certain challenges in this Framework Programme and to a large extent we have covered them. We have made some progress in terms of opening up science, in terms of achieving the maximum transfer of scientific knowledge and technical information and supporting all incentives that promote the transfer of technologies, so that companies, civil society and universities can develop bridges between research and the necessary economic and technological renewal in our current European societies, thanks to this communication and thanks to the rules on the obligatory publication of results, the promotion of free software or the obligation, for example, to promote interoperability; we have made some progress, but we must continue to make more.

We must also ask ourselves whether science is going to be by and for the people, because the opinions of researchers must be in line with those people who are not necessarily experts. In this regard, we should welcome the support and the important work of the science sector and society in this programme, the financial strengthening of this field and the fact that the programme is being opened up to civil society organisations.

I also wonder whether small is beautiful in European science, because we all talk about SMEs, but is that empty rhetoric or a firm commitment? SMEs create the majority of stable employment and are a source of economic stability. The support for initiatives such as that of creating clusters of small enterprises within the technological platforms is very much to be welcomed; it is very important that we have established a framework of 15% for small enterprises within all of the programmes. This is a challenge that we must fulfil; let us see whether we can turn our rhetoric into results.

Will there be less bureaucracy and more transparency in this Programme? Will there be clear and intelligible public access to information, which must be guaranteed for all processes of evaluation and funding of European Union projects? The time has come for the European Commission to reduce the expensive administrative procedures, since they lead to the marginalisation of small research groups and small companies and NGOs, which are unable to afford them because of their size. We are demanding that they be simplified as soon as possible. We want no more excuses. The time has come to act.

This Framework Programme has also meant a return to basics and therefore, with the establishment of the European Research Council, this Framework Programme will provide strong public support for basic research with medium- and long-term social and environmental objectives, led by renowned researchers who will defend their autonomy. We must ensure that this autonomy is respected by everybody, by both Parliament and the Commission.

We Greens wonder whether, in view of the energy crisis, we will have the science for a good climate, which is what we need. It is very positive that there should be financial support for renewable energies and energy efficiency and that it has been increased by 250%, but at the same time we regret that it is still only a third of the sum received by nuclear research as a whole.

We are also pleased that, with regard to social sciences, which are also sciences, this Programme offers firm support for socioeconomic research and multidisciplinary research.

In general terms, we believe this Programme to be positive; cooperation amongst everybody is going to lead the European Union in the direction we need to take if we are to have longer and happier lives and if Europe is to play a more important role in the world.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Daniel Caspary (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have done it at last; the Seventh Framework Programme on Research is on the way, and, over the next seven years, the European Union will be investing a total of EUR 54 billion in research. Once we have adopted the specific programmes tomorrow, we – in this House, in the Commission, and the Council – will be able to look back, with our consciences clear, on almost two years worth of hard work.

I would like particularly to thank all those Members with whom I have had the privilege of working, and in whom I had complete trust, as rapporteur on the Joint Research Centre’s nuclear research activities over the past few months, and Commissioner Potočnik as well.

We have not, unfortunately, achieved all the things we set ourselves – we have not, for example, managed to double expenditure on research – but the marked increase – of 50% – in the budget in comparison with the Sixth Framework Programme is a step in the right direction. This increase took some tough negotiating with the Council, and sends a positive message to our research institutes and will – it is to be hoped – foster a mood of optimism, but we missed by a mile the twofold increase for which we had hoped, and other economic areas in the world show considerably higher rates of increase in research spending.

We will then fall still further behind in comparison with the USA and Japan. China and other states are continuing to catch us up. The consequences of that will hit us hard and also leave their mark on prosperity, the labour market and social peace.

Europe’s research programme is not, to be sure, the most extensive in the world, but it is one of the smartest, and the same can be said, in the nuclear research field, of the Joint Research Centre, on which I am reporting. As Commissioner Potočnik rightly pointed out in his introductory remarks, the Joint Research Centre is set to take over a crucial moderating role in many key areas of nuclear activity.

One of these, firstly, is nuclear safety. Member States have different views on the use to which nuclear energy should be put; some of them are building new nuclear power stations, while others are not. Some are researching into new fourth-generation reactors, whilst others are not. These are things on which they are perfectly entitled to decide for themselves, but safety is not bounded by national borders, and that is why the Joint Research Centre must ensure that the necessary know-how is available at European level.

Secondly, there is also the monitoring of security. Recent developments at international level have made issues of non-proliferation of nuclear technology and weaponry even more acutely important. These are pressing questions, and Europe must come up with an answer to them, so I am delighted to see that the Seventh Research Programme is to give a shot in the arm to the Institute for Transuranium Elements, which leads the world in this field.

The same can be said, thirdly, of the maintenance and transfer of knowledge in the field of nuclear technology, which is of particular interest to me. We have to ensure that young and outstanding scientists across Europe can apply new ideas to addressing existing problems, but we also must not lose the knowledge already acquired, and so we have to ensure that existing and newly-gained knowledge is exchanged within the European Union to an even greater degree than it already is. The Joint Research Centre can certainly make a major contribution to this – and not just in the nuclear field.

Although this House’s work will be done once we have voted tomorrow, much remains to be done – by the Member States, by the Commission, and, above all, by the research community. I call on the Member States to invest even more money than before in research activities; for example, to avail themselves of the opportunity to invest money from the Structural Funds in developing research and development capabilities in their countries. The creation of new research structures is not a function of the Seventh Research Programme, but rather a task for the Member States and the Structural Funds.

It is fortunate that the Seventh Research Framework Programme can concentrate properly on excellence in research. I call on the Commission to implement the Programme without delay; I also call on them to establish clear, transparent, well thought-out, effective and fair tendering procedures, to assess them – or cause them to be assessed – in an objective manner, and to implement them in practical and unbureaucratic ways. I am sure that the approach that we in this House have come up with is far from being the worst.

Finally, though, let me call on the European research community – the people who do the research, the people who work on the details, the people who find things out – to make use of what this research programme offers; Parliament has done its work, and now it is up to you to make progress with your research and do something vital in giving Europe a peaceful, free and prosperous future.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Umberto Guidoni (GUE/NGL), rapporteur. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank Mr Potočnik and the Finnish Presidency, which has now been handed the baton in a piece of work that has taken several years to do. Before I speak about the specific programme for which I am the rapporteur, that is to say Euratom, I should like to express some thoughts about Framework Programme 7 and its specific programmes.

I must obviously congratulate Mr Buzek and all the other rapporteurs for their excellent team work, which has enabled us to launch Framework Programme 7, if only at the last possible minute. At the same time I feel rather sad that we have not made that leap of quality, namely that doubling on which we pinned so many hopes. That would have sent out a strong signal of Europe's importance and above all of our conviction that we shall reach the Lisbon objective. The doubling has not happened, but we are nevertheless trying to produce a result.

I shall start with the last comment made by Mr Potočnik on cooperation, in connection with the concern that I have expressed on behalf of myself and my group about the risk inherent in financing organisations or entities, under the aegis of Framework Programme 7, that have been set up or that are functioning in violation of international law. The matter was discussed recently by Parliament with particular reference to the entity that has been set up in the occupied territories – the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem – but it applies more generally.

I must emphasise that this concern relates also to situations that have emerged, for example, in scientific bodies, who can be asked to tender under Framework Programme 7 even if they are founded on national legislation that is in breach of international law, by for example preventing people from certain ethnic and religious groups from engaging in research. I believe that this is the problem on which the Commission must express a view. I was not satisfied with the response given in relation to this, since it seems to me to be limited to a very specific sector, whereas I think that it should apply more generally.

As far as the specific programmes are concerned, I am generally satisfied with most of the results achieved and I should in particular like to emphasise the attention given to researchers. Indeed I consider that a great deal of what is done in our complex present-day society depends more and more on the human factor. It is clearly impossible to think of European research without thinking of the researchers and their need for mobility, training and status, which are set out in the European Charter for Researchers. Framework Programme 7 will have to implement the provisions that guarantee the best working conditions for European scientists, not least in order to limit and, if possible, reverse the trend of the brain drain to other parts of the world.

I greatly welcome the effort made to invest in basic research through the creation of an entity that would be independent of the Commission, charged with giving its judgment on the merits of a scientific proposal to be financed under the aegis of Framework Programme 7. The efficacy of this new body will be measured in terms of whether it can be authoritative in selecting proposals and in earning the respect of the scientific community. Only thus will it be able to attract innovative proposals and be in a position to finance ambitious projects that will enhance the quality of European research. Operational transparency, ensured partly through Parliament’s involvement in appraising its actions, will be essential for this body’s success.

I should now like to devote the remaining minutes to the Euratom specific programme. I agree with the Commission’s position, which was also expressed by Mr Buzek concerning the Euratom framework programme, and I think that Europe must invest in developing fusion so that it becomes an indispensable energy source in the long term: unlimited in quantity, ecologically acceptable, financially competitive and capable of making a substantial contribution to a sustainable and safe form of energy supply.

ITER is a fundamental stage in the route towards the use of fusion energy. After lengthy negotiations on the choice of the site for the reactor, the project’s partners have at last signed the international agreement on ITER. The positive conclusion of the negotiations, namely the decision to build ITER on the European site of Caradache in France, requires the adoption of decisive and consistent measures on the part of the EU under the umbrella of the present and subsequent framework programmes.

We therefore need to set up a European agency for ITER, in the form of a common enterprise under the aegis of the Euratom treaty, to supply the means for fulfilling our international obligations arising from the ITER agreement. This means setting up the machinery and projects for collaboration with Japan. This agency, with its headquarters in Barcelona, should have the setting up of ITER as its primary objective. However, I think that the agency’s remit should be limited to this, and I do not share the Commission’s position of entrusting the whole field of research on fusion to a single agency. I do not wish to weaken the role of the agency, which I regard as important, but I think it is essential to help it to meet its objective – which is complicated enough in itself.

Furthermore, I think that European research needs to be more independent, an opinion that in some ways applies also to the European Research Centre. That apart, the associated bodies of the European Fusion Development Agreement have proved over the years to play an essential role. If Europe has the leadership of this programme, that is because it has demonstrated in the field the high quality of the research that it carries out.

Setting up ITER is only the first step, given that we must use it – and use it to best advantage – through a new generation of researchers and high-value research in Europe. This can be guaranteed by keeping research separate from execution. Research should be carried out with existing mechanisms alongside the setting-up of ITER. This is why I believe that it is important for my proposed amendment to be approved by this House, just as was the case with the Buzek report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Neena Gill (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. Mr President, I wish to begin by congratulating the rapporteurs and my colleague in Committee on Budgets, Mrs Xenogiannakopoulou, for her thorough and insightful opinion.

I wish to express my unreserved support for the collaborative research and development programmes in Europe. I see this as a very important policy area that has direct impact on the way the EU develops as a global economy and the way we are regarded by the rest of the world.

The Seventh Framework Programme, as we have heard, is the biggest EU research programme to date and it pulls all the research-related EU initiatives under the roof of its EUR 53 billion programme. The Commission’s initial request was for EUR 70 billion, which was a huge increase on previous years. However, we should not forget that this is a seven-year programme, not a five-year one like its immediate predecessor, and that its resources will be stretched across 27 Member States rather than the 15 and then 25 of the previous programmes. We should also understand that doubling the FP7 reflects the clear importance of science and research to the development of the EU as a global player and as an economic power.

If we want to be competitive, we must walk our talk by investing in the areas that we know are key to our growth. Unfortunately, I do not think the Council actually believes this and it is a pity that it did not support the Commission’s request for EUR 70 billion. Despite all the hype we have heard from the Council and all the noises it has made about the need to achieve the Lisbon goals and the importance of pushing our research and development spending up to 3% of GDP – which is still a long way behind Japan and the US – is it not incredible that the final figure agreed by the Council takes the spending up to only 1.5%? What is more astonishing is that the Luxembourg Presidency’s original proposal was to cut research and development even more significantly. Thankfully, this option was rejected by many states, including my own, which saw the clear link between research and development and the growth and competitiveness of the EU. This policy area was revisited by the UK Presidency, which put forward proposals for increasing spending. I very much welcome the increase, but I lament, as I said earlier, that it is nowhere near the amount requested by the Commission and Parliament.

The launch of this programme presents us with a real opportunity to learn from and correct past mistakes. One area upon which we need to focus our efforts is that of reducing the duration of funding procedures. The present procedure is ridiculously long. It is not just organisations in my region in the West Midlands which have witnessed this: the European Court of Auditors reported delays of between eight and nine months. This is unacceptably long and it has to be drastically reduced. The lengthy procedure causes many problems. Not least of these is the necessity for a long pre-financing by participants. It is an issue we need to address urgently.

Moving on, late payments are particularly detrimental to SMEs. In this House we are constantly talking about SMEs that we want to support, and they are the fundamental driver of growth in the EU. However, their budgets are hard pushed to cope with such delays. Yet the Commission tells us that SMEs, as I said, must be targeted and actively encouraged to get involved. Perhaps before we try to encourage them, we should ensure that we do not actually discourage them. Therefore, please make the payments promptly.

The late payments also call into question the principle of annuality. Since the Commission has acknowledged these problems, I would strongly urge it to prioritise resolving them. The Commission must ensure that it evaluates, selects and awards funding in an efficient and effective way.

Moreover, in order to plan properly, participants need to know in advance the date on which the decision will be taken. This can be achieved only if future methods and procedures are simplified to speed up selection. This would lead to a much more coherent approach, it would avoid unnecessary bureaucracy for participants and speed up the negotiation of selected proposals. It would also lead to increased transparency by facilitating access to the programme to the very many organisations that I have mentioned before.

One barrier to this is the double verification system. The Commission should set up a single verification and certification system and adopt and publish specific rules that can be seen to be clear and fair to all the interested parties.

In view of this badly needed simplification of access to funding, I support the proposals of the Committee on Budgets to create a database for the submission of applications and encourage the Commission to apply the principle of proportionality as regards the documents it requires. However, I would also urge the Commission to pay attention to the way the programme is controlled. Control mechanisms need to be coordinated and, as I have said, we must avoid unnecessary duplication and ensure that the overall cost of control is proportional to the benefit that it brings.

In conclusion, let me remind the Commission and the Council that this programme is supposed to be for the benefit of the citizens and to promote scientific excellence across the European Union. I do not think that, in view of this, we should try and make all the applicants jump through hoops to participate. On the contrary, we should rapidly award funding to those in Europe who show real innovation and initiative and help them to discover new funding opportunities to increase our competitive advantage vis-à-vis the other areas of the world. As I and all my colleagues have said, everyone recognises the vital role that research and development play in helping the European Union face the challenges presented by the rapidly developing economies of China and India. For this reason, I would strongly urge the Commission to put every euro this programme has been granted to the most effective use possible and ensure that there is a one hundred per cent implementation rate.

Finally, I would also call on our leaders in the Council to look beyond the EU borders and compare ourselves with other areas in the rest of the world and try and revisit this policy to increase resources sooner rather than later.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jamila Madeira (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, innovation and knowledge are now enshrined as a pillar of development for the European Union. For such a provision to bear fruit, however, investment in human resources in the field of science and technology, and particularly in young scientists, needs to be seen as crucial and of the highest relevance if we are to achieve the Lisbon goals that we have set for ourselves in the next financial package for 2007-2013.

The reality is that European brains have been abandoning the EU and taking refuge mostly in the United States, where, more often than not, they are guaranteed better working conditions – one might say better laboratory conditions – as well as better pay. Thus we are starting out late and at a disadvantage, and we must therefore make every effort to change this scenario. The aim is to succeed in getting not only new researchers to stay, but also many of those we have already exported to return, and to establish themselves in our old continent, which is trying to put on a new face. We also have to succeed in attracting researchers from third countries by means of new incentives and the mutual recognition of qualifications.

I should like to end by voicing an appeal: researchers, who are the heart and soul of the Seventh Framework Programme, should not be limited to a mere minute in this Programme, which is all that the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs has been given in this debate.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Markus Pieper (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. – (DE) Mr President, Madam Minister, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, for the first time, agricultural research is getting a chapter to itself within the context of support for research. Between 2007 and 2013, some EUR 1.9 billion will be available for innovation in food, agriculture and biotechnology. The Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development welcomes the explicit reference to agricultural research, which, along with energy research and research into the environment, now has additional options available to it when it comes to getting support from Europe. In so doing, we are not only making a contribution to sustainable agricultural research and development, but are also helping farmers to implement the 2003 agriculture reform and change over to production systems that are competitive in international terms. Innovative agricultural and food production pilot schemes, agricultural institutions, ministries, artisanal associations and guilds should now all prepare themselves to benefit from the innovative options Europe affords them.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Giovanni Berlinguer (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, my speech will take under four minutes. I should simply like to emphasise one point, namely the great importance attached in this Framework Programme to the relationship between science and society: we need only think of the steps proposed to promote equal opportunities for women in scientific research up to the most senior levels, the ‘Youth’ action programme, the relationship between citizens and science as well as between the education and training schemes inspired by humanist culture and the demands of scientific progress.

I want to emphasise that science – this is a truism – has intrinsic worth: it is not simply worthy in the utilitarian, productive and competitive sense, though these aspects are also important. Science must be regarded as a common good and its achievements must be accessible to everyone.

I believe that the EU, precisely at the moment when expanding its scientific activity means addressing new issues and aiming at quality, must also keep an eye on the rest of the world and not withdraw into itself: this is an essential part of its role. In fact the achievements of science must be accessible to everyone: the world situation is highly unsatisfactory and a large part of research and knowledge relates to the wellbeing of 10% of the population, while the remaining 90% derive no benefit from it.

There are clearly important measures to be adopted, including the limitation of patents when these affect the wellbeing of the community, especially in the context of diseases. I will conclude by saying that as far as the ethical problem is concerned, I fully concur with what Mr Busquin said: there must be consistency between decisions taken in this House and those adopted in all other forums.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Giles Chichester, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. Mr President, I feel rather humble in the presence of this galaxy of rapporteurs and draftsmen. I understand some kind words were uttered earlier this evening and I should like to reciprocate by thanking the Commissioner, the Presidency and my colleagues, the rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs, for their very constructive engagement in this project. We have worked very hard and I like to think that we have pressed the Council and the Commission to concede a little more than they would like and perhaps not as much as we would like: that is good business.

I share some colleagues’ regrets that we were not able to persuade the Council to dig deeper into our taxpayers’ pockets to increase expenditure on research. It is a pity that it did not match earlier rhetoric.

I strongly hope the compromise package will be adopted tomorrow. It will give a powerful signal to the research community that we can carry out our business and have the legislation in place on time.

The particular aspects of the framework that I find both new and exciting are the European Research Council and the concept of excellence, because we need both to enable ourselves to compete in the wider world. I welcome the encouragement for SMEs, early-stage researchers and for women in science, as well as the joint technology initiatives, especially for Mr Prodi.

In conclusion, I should also like to thank another European Union institution, namely the Court of Auditors, for its contribution to the work on the rules for participation in responding to our invitation to give an opinion. Hopefully, as a result, we will have made participation in the Framework Research Programme simpler, clearer and more accountable.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Reino Paasilinna, on behalf of the PSE Group. (FI) Mr President, I would like to thank the rapporteurs, and especially Mr Busquin, who is sitting here near me. Hopefully, the Research Framework Programme will help us take a few steps closer to the Lisbon objectives. Parliament has given its support to this excellent package, and my group does too.

The billion euros in the venture capital fund will support small and medium-sized companies, and these very SMEs must be able to challenge the big companies and give employment to people. There is every reason to increase investment in research. Despite that, only one country has invested more than 1% of its budget in research and development, and that country is Finland.

EU investment in research is more sporadic than that of the United States of America, even ignoring money used there for research into defence. With the new Research Framework Programme, there will be new areas for research and new initiatives.

The technology initiatives will improve opportunities for the world of business to participate in the Framework Programme. The European Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC) will be responsible for managing the clearest basic research. The Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme, for its part, will focus on support for enterprise. The European Institute of Technology may bring into the equation a top university to compete with other universities. Even the Joint Research Centre, which now has more than 2 000 researchers, is active in these fields.

I fear that all this work will fragment and there will be unnecessary overlap. Applicants are confused and wonder where they are actually applying: the moon, perhaps.

I would therefore ask the Commission to tell Parliament how it will attempt to organise the European architecture in Research and Development, so that confusion does not slow down development. The ERA-NET scheme is an important part of this work, but do we already have too many Community initiatives? Does the Commissioner on the right know what the Commissioner on the left is doing?

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Patrizia Toia, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (IT) Research is an important pillar of Europe’s drive for the growth of not only the economy but society as a whole, because it attaches value to human capital and the results of research are targeted towards improving social life, health and knowledge. These positive aspects cannot conceal or make us forget that there is a lack of an ethical perspective in connection with stem cell research, in the way that Article 6 is worded. We do not wish to impose limits or obscurantist filters: we simply wish to say that science and research must also have rules and guiding criteria.

The guiding criterion is the pre-eminence of mankind, if we are not to reverse ends and means. The ethical aspect cannot be left out of consideration when research reaches into our genetic inheritance and science comes close to the origin of life itself and thus the beginning of a human life. The belief that research disciplines itself and finds guidance only in itself and in its development is illusory and short-sighted. We do not agree with the wording of Article 6, because we cannot accept that European funds should go towards research that could destroy an embryo.

For this reason it was important, Commissioner, to stipulate a cut-off date, a definite time limit on the use of cell lines that have already been extracted. There has been no such time limit. But it would have been real proof that there was no desire to use embryos ad hoc for research in future. That has not been done; this is why I am expressing a critical judgment.

However, there is a point in the annex to the statement that expresses the decision not to finance research involving the destruction of embryos. We ask the Commission to remain true to these words, so that they are not merely an empty statement, and we also request that the Commission’s statement and its annex, which otherwise risk being mislaid and separated from the regulation, should be permanently attached to the regulation at the express wish of the Commission and the Council. They should form an integral part of the regulation, as it seems to me that the Commissioner stated in his speech. In addition we should like this wish to be given formal legal force, so that it is not entrusted merely to a political desire that goes no further than the nocturnal records of this House.

Tomorrow will be an important day for research, although in my opinion we must stress that those of us who have sometimes found ourselves facing an insurmountable obstacle in this matter are still unhappy. We shall continue to oppose any solution adopted for stem cell research that lacks clarity or respect for human values.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Claude Turmes, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, society makes progress not because of institutions but because of courageous and intelligent women and men taking initiatives and then sticking to them.

Commissioner, you are one of these men. You have understood climate change and the depletion of energy resources. These are the challenges of the 21st century. Colleagues, we are in a race against time. We may have only 10, 15 or a maximum of 20 years to get out of a trap which will definitely cause bloodshed, wars, weather anomalies and diseases. It will be a disaster for this planet. The only way out will be to invest massively and rapidly in energy-intelligent use and in renewable energy sources and materials.

We have brokered a deal to get at least 50% of the money for non-nuclear research to renewables and end-use energy efficiency. We have a deal on three issues. Firstly, energy efficiency has to be a horizontal priority all over our research – it is about material research and ICT, which has to involve the energy and resource dimension. Commissioner, you must set up a coordination body to make this happen not only on paper but also in reality.

Secondly, on renewables, we in Europe are the leader as regards technology in that area because we put money into FP4, FP5 and FP6 to invest in wind, photovoltaics and biomass. I want FP7 money to make Europe the world leader in offshore wind, solar thermal electricity and marine technology. We have to move towards that. The third part of our deal is that these issues need to be monitored.

Finally, ITER is the bad decision. Why? Because somebody told me that the less chance there is of a technology breakthrough, the bigger the chance to have an international agreement.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Miloslav Ransdorf, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, when I look around me, I get a sense that one of Murphy’s laws is in operation; that is, the more important the issue, the less attention gets paid to it. This is despite the outstanding work of Commissioner Potočnik, and Mr Buzek and his colleagues, who have been among the first ever to look at the needs of the new Member States, where science and research are appallingly under-funded. One of the tasks ahead of us is to concentrate more resources on areas where they will achieve a multiplier effect, as in the case of nanosciences and nanotechnologies, where the resources are somewhat less than had originally been planned. Where we must work hardest, however, is in the new media policy, in order to boost the prestige of science and scientists in the Community, to promote what is referred to in America as the pioneering spirit and to ensure that the Seventh Framework Programme becomes the flagship of the Lisbon Strategy.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Leopold Józef Rutowicz, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, the Seventh Framework Programme is a sine qua non if Europe is to become a leader on the modern economic scene, for the benefit of the welfare and health of its citizens and of environmental protection. The economic and political situation and environmental protection do, however, call for definition of the priorities to benefit from particular financial and organisational support. One of these priorities is reducing reliance on gas and oil. Supply problems and increased prices for these fuels have a negative impact on the economy and on living standards.

In the USA, biofuels research and development has enabled these fuels to be developed and engines running on biofuels to be introduced. It also allowed fuel imports to be cut and created a huge demand for agricultural products, thus increasing the profitability of that sector. The construction of new nuclear power plants in response to the needs of the European energy system, and also of plants generating electricity from wind, water and solar power will secure economic stability. They will also reduce the greenhouse effect and limit damage to the environment. Coal gasification and coal liquefaction have similar benefits.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nils Lundgren, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (SV) Mr President, no respect is ever shown in this House for the principle of subsidiarity, and no proposal is ever put forward to return political power from the EU to the Member States. Where research is concerned, however, there are valid economic arguments in favour of more work being done by the EU. A pure market economy results in too little research because the benefits of research are enjoyed by everyone while its costs have to be borne by individual companies. It is therefore worth taxpayers’ while funding basic research. If several countries join forces, it is still more worthwhile in socio-economic terms because a larger portion of the benefits then comes back to the taxpayers. It is an excellent idea to set up the European Research Council and to facilitate the movement of researchers within the EU. We must, however, reject state intervention and increased bureaucracy. What are required are more research resources, together with transparency and freedom of movement. The issue at hand here is research management, yet politicians, bureaucrats and new EU institutions are nonetheless seeing the scope of their activities extended.

Allow me finally to draw attention to the grotesque way in which resources are distributed. The money available under the Seventh Framework Programme amounts to one seventh of the costs of the EU’s agricultural policy. Research appropriations are vitally important to the future of Europe. In contrast, the agricultural policy squanders resources, exploits European consumers and exacerbates world poverty. A doubling of research appropriations, a 50% cut in agricultural subsidies and a 40% reduction in the fee payable to the EU would be blessings to offer a silent prayer for.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I do not want to spoil the party here tonight. I think we can be proud of what we have achieved – the European Research Council, the search for excellence in different programmes – but I think it is necessary to state tonight that this is not enough. It is not enough if we compare it with what we should be able to do at European level, and it is important for the representatives of the Council as well as for you, Commissioner, to remember that and to underline that we cannot wait for another seven years to step up the efforts we need in order to keep up with other parts of the world if we are to be the world’s leading knowledge economy.

As a shadow rapporteur I am proud of what we have achieved from our side. We wanted to make it easier for SMEs to have access to research programmes, and we have achieved that. We wanted to have better funding for SMEs, and we have achieved that. We wanted to ensure that universities were able to get into the projects without losing money through indirect costs, and we have achieved that. We also wanted less bureaucracy, and we have achieved that. We wanted to free up opportunities to use intellectual property rights, and we have achieved that.

We are happy about what we have achieved, but that demonstrates that we need to take further steps.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Catherine Trautmann (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, in the nick of time, Parliament has pulled the fat out of the fire by adopting the Seventh Framework Programme and avoiding a blank year for European research. It also enables us to respond to that most exciting of challenges, network intelligence.

Let me highlight some welcome advances: the adoption of priorities associated with people's everyday lives, such as health, energy, the environment, support for information and communication technology, the impact of which cuts across all the policies of the Union, the increased consideration given to small and medium-sized enterprises, the engine of competitiveness, through the risk-sharing fund, and, lastly, a prospect of future resources that inspires confidence, with the enhancement of the Marie Curie scholarships and the creation of the European Research Council. As the shadow rapporteur for the Ideas programme, I am delighted that the European Research Council, which is to function through and for researchers, will represent a new form of scientific governance and will fall within the realm of codecision.

The European Parliament has demonstrated unity and responsibility. At the same time, I regret that the budget is not sufficient to make up the leeway on our American and Japanese competitors, who are investing more than twice as much on research as we are. The Council must hear our message in support of yours, Commissioner. The merit of this Framework Programme is that it gives globalisation a human face, and that is surely worth an additional financial effort. Let us fix a date for the revision of the Financial Perspective!

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Carlo Casini (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Europe that we dream of is first and foremost the Europe of human rights, then the Europe of the market; first the Europe of solidarity with smaller nations, then the competitive Europe. I thank you therefore for the clarifications you have given us this evening, but you know that some explanations remain incomplete, just as the wording of the common position is ambiguous. You also know that European funds will provide an incentive for destroying human embryos.

I recall with pleasure the moment in 1989 when the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats voted together for an undertaking that there would never be experiments on human embryos except for the purpose of saving the embryo itself. Today we are reversing this position: it is said that the money is needed so urgently that there is no margin for further deliberation, and yet all that is needed is for the Council to accept the genuine interpretation set out in the two amendments that many of us have tabled. I hope that these amendments will be accepted, at the very least in the specific programmes.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Britta Thomsen (PSE). – (DA) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank my fellow Members and draw attention to some of the positive features of the Specific Programme, ‘Capacities’. Firstly, investment in infrastructure is an essential precondition of innovation and the development of new knowledge. With a European perspective on research infrastructure, researchers will increasingly be able to obtain mutual benefit across Europe’s borders from new investment. New and specialised forms of research infrastructure are expensive, and it should therefore be possible for as large a number of researchers as possible to make use of them. With common resources, we shall be able to secure better access to the most recent tools for all European researchers.

Secondly, I think it important that the programme appropriate resources to better integrate the dissemination aspect into research. If society is to reap as many of the benefits of European research as possible, we must ensure that the results of research make a difference to individuals, authorities and industry. High-quality research dissemination also helps to legitimise society’s investment in research and to awaken young people’s interest in becoming researchers. In this connection, it is also important to point out that the programme focuses on women in research and on increasing women’s opportunities to enter the research world. The under-representation of women in that world is well documented, especially by the Commission’s own units for women and research. At both Community and national levels, we must therefore work to bring about a situation in which a research career becomes an attractive option for both men and women.

Thirdly, I think it important not only that research staff and directors of research institutes should be exchanged between partner organisations in the Member States but also that the principle should be extended to include partners in associated countries and third countries. The EU’s framework programmes are open to a number of partner countries and, in the Seventh Framework Programme, the Commission wants to involve these countries to a greater degree than hitherto. The partner countries’ participation in the exchange of research staff will definitely add value to European knowledge-sharing.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, European research has gradually dedicated more room to issues relating to the environment, to people and to culture, thereby attaching more importance to their situations and to their conservation and survival. The attention paid to historical and cultural heritage is an example of this. I would like to thank those people in the Commission who have supported it.

The same should be said of the inclusion of the entertainment and multimedia industry, information technologies and social sciences in the programme, as well as the innovation of introducing research relating to intelligence and the fight against terrorism.

I am pleased with the agreements reached on stem cell research: we have set clear limits respecting all sensitivities, the funding of human cloning, the cloning or creation of embryos for research and their destruction has been banned, at all times under the control of regional, national and international bodies.

When I speak to patients and their families, I am moved by their capacity to embrace hope. They know that it may not be they who benefit from the solutions, but they feel obliged to defend that ray of hope for new patients; I certainly will not be taking that hope away from them.

Research has always been a feature of European culture; the great European researcher, Steiner, said that. Creativity and research are aspects of our identity.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Eluned Morgan (PSE). – Mr President, I just wanted to say how delighted I am that we are reaching a conclusion on this. Science is crucial to the competitiveness of the European Union. When you see the economic giants rising up in China and India and how many computer scientists are being produced in that part of the world, you know the challenge is on.

The Commission acknowledged this in its initial presentation of the financing it sought for this programme. It must be said that the Council’s response was very disappointing, not the first time under the Luxembourg Presidency. Thank goodness the Brits were there to save the day and to increase the amount of money allocated to the science budget. It is crucial to acknowledge Mr Blair’s role in that.

However, we must also recognise that it is still not enough: EUR 50 billion is not enough for a seven-year programme for 27 countries. It is not a serious proposal. At the very least, Member States need to work together much more constructively in terms of building that capacity, because it is crucial. I refer to what Mr Turmes said earlier. Taking energy as an example, it is crucial to look at things like the technology platforms and the zero emissions platform. That is the kind of thing that will make a real difference to climate change. Unless we allocate that kind of money and emphasise that link between science, the state and private sector, we will have no hope of addressing these issues. Ideally, we would develop these things in the European Union in order to roll them out to areas like China and really make a big difference.

Finally, on capacities, it is crucial that regions in the poorer areas of the Community catch up, meaning it is essential to develop the capacities aspect of this programme further.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, research cannot be conducted without people, and that is why the research professions are becoming more and more important and why we support the creation of a genuine European research area. This should be accompanied by due recognition of researchers as a separate professional category, for we need researchers, we need to train good researchers, we need to keep our researchers and bring back those who have left Europe, and we even need to invite those from other countries who wish to join us.

To this end, we must simplify the procedures for access to Marie Curie grants. We must encourage an approach to research that is more firmly based on the Lisbon objectives, especially by promoting links between universities and businesses. We must also examine the effectiveness of aid and the use of public funds and promote equality between men and women. Lastly, we must frame the protection of intellectual property rights, not only in respect of research findings but also as regards the intellectual property of each individual researcher.

In conclusion, we expect the European Commission to convey to us the fullest possible information on the monitoring of this programme.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Dorette Corbey (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, since the research programme is a key component of the Lisbon Strategy, it is to be welcomed that more funds are being made available. It is just unfortunate that they are not enough, not by a long shot. It is important that a great deal of money is being set aside for health and energy research, since there is a huge need for innovative research in those areas. Two billion has been kept back for energy, at least half of which is earmarked for sustainable energy and energy efficiency. There are promising ideas that merit further research in the pipeline, and it is important for the Member States to work together much more in this area.

In the area of health, it is important to turn our attention to the neglected diseases and antibiotics resistance. Since we are marking World AIDS Day this week, now may be as good a time as any to opt for more funds for health research. It is also to be welcomed that 15% of the research funds are held in reserve for small and medium-sized enterprises. For this to happen, though, it is of course necessary for the red-tape to be cut drastically in the scheduling of the research programmes. To date, the involvement of SMEs has been limited because it was impossible for them to wade through all the paperwork. It is to be hoped that this can now change.

Commissioner, I should like to finish off by drawing your attention to the following: research in fisheries is of huge importance in order to protect fish stocks and prevent overfishing. Unfortunately, the subject of fisheries has not been dealt with separately in the Seventh Framework Programme. What guarantees can you give that sufficient time and funds will be invested in this important research work?

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, Minister, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, this Seventh Framework Programme is indeed a milestone if we consider the budget and policy as a whole.

As the shadow rapporteur of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, I have noticed that, in terms of Capacities, we have succeeded in receiving additional budgets and additional scope for deploying the Structural Funds for research infrastructure at regional level. Thanks to Mr Buzek, Mr Prodi, Commissioner Hübner and the Committee on Regional Development, the budget has in this way been increased by many billions. This need not be done at European level, and together with the EIB’s risk-sharing finance facility, considerable investments can be made.

The roadmap for research and research infrastructure that was published recently is setting out the course for this. I can see evidence of these common investments, high-tech campuses and open innovation all over Europe. We must, in the face of cut-throat global competition, look for more focus, more substance and more connection between research and infrastructure. I am winding down. In that way, we can achieve the centres of excellence for nanotechnology, micro-electronics, health care, etc. It is not a ‘brain drain’ we advocate, but a ‘brain gain’.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Březina (PPE-DE).(CS) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank Mr Buzek for his report and on the proposed amendments to the Seventh Framework Programme, along with other MEPs for their work on the specific programmes, in particular the specific programme for direct actions conducted by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), where I am a shadow rapporteur.

At a time when around 25% of all EU law relates to technical or scientific issues, the JRC has a vital role to play. As a part of the Commission, this institution is responsible for preparing the scientific background for legislative proposals. Consequently, it is vital to ensure that research is of a high quality and adequately funded. I also feel that the amendment to the rules for participation in the Seventh Framework Programme has proved successful in managing to simplify the rules in force, especially for university research. I hope that this process of breaking down administrative barriers will lead to the better exploitation of our potential for science and research in Europe.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE-DE). – (SL) I would like to mention the EURATOM programme. The European Union will also provide financial support for research in the fields of nuclear fission and radiation protection in the years to come. Its main innovation, however, is the considerably higher level of funding which it has made available for research activities in the field of nuclear fusion. The construction of the largest test nuclear fusion reactor in the world, which is not just a European project but also a global one, is expected to begin shortly. This programme is an ambitious one which meets the short, medium and long-term objectives of the European Union in the field of energy.

I hope that Parliament will support the proposal put forward by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and reject the new draft amendments made at the plenary session. To summarise, we have come to an agreement that the efficiency of the financial administration should be improved and that regular reports on the implementation of the programme should be submitted to the European institutions. We have categorised nuclear energy as one of the vital resources for the reliability and sustainability of energy in Europe. We have emphasised the importance of ensuring adequate human resources and providing people with sufficient, accurate information about the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. I am satisfied with the contents, but not with the level of financial resources.

At this point, I would like to thank everyone for their participation in the setting up of this programme.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ján Hudacký (PPE-DE). – (SK) I would like to express my appreciation of the fact that from the very beginning the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy has tried to adopt clear rules for participating in the 7th Framework Programme with as much transparency as possible. We have taken a similarly responsible approach in devising the simplest administrative procedures possible, with a view particularly to the small organisations that are participating in FP7. Most of the principles underpinning the rules of participation in Euratom are identical to the general rules applicable to the 7th Framework Programme. Given the time constraints, I am not going to dwell on the agreements already achieved. However, the Euratom implementation rules under the 7th Framework Programme have their own specific features, notably as regards research into controlled thermonuclear fusion. I appreciate the fact that in this Programme, too, we have been able to reach agreement, adopting several specific amendments that will be instrumental in implementing the ITER project more efficiently, as well as in funding a number of other initiatives that the European Fusion Development Agreement regards as priorities.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Christian Ehler (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, if I might say something brief in Mrs Morgan’s direction, we would of course be delighted if Tony Blair were not only to fight but also to pay the bill. I believe, Commissioner, that this House has thrown a rock into your garden, and we now hope you will be able to do something with it. Quite apart from the Research Programme itself, we will also have to deal with the problem of having to weld it together with the CIP and with the financing instruments. We in this House have done something for which the Council had promised us additional financial aid; we have done it with money from the programme, and that was not an easy thing for us to do. We did it, though, because we think it right as part of an overall strategy.

We have to say, bluntly, that we are now using money from the research programme to pay for the funding of innovation, and so we feel ourselves under an obligation. Parliament is still obliged to keep an eye on the risk sharing facility, in other words, we are not backing out; we will continue to support you, but – and I have to spell this out, since this was such a big thing for us to do – we will have to continue to maintain a watching brief on this matter. It is, then, a great success, but it is you who have the really big task of putting it all together.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Etelka Barsi-Pataky (PPE-DE). (HU) Mr President, one can only welcome the fact that the European Research Framework Programme has met its objectives and that the agreements have been concluded on schedule. I see significant guarantees that we will be able to retain and motivate our researchers. Several of our proposals were aimed at making participation easier and more transparent. Applying strict assessment procedures and ensuring that information is made widely accessible may broaden the circle of those who are able to take part in these European projects. I regret, however, that the Council and the Commission were rigid in refusing to guarantee that the non-refundable VAT would be accountable as a funded expense, although the Court of Auditors had supported our proposal and its rationale. However, the mechanism for optional flat-rate financing, which promises to be successful, will open up further opportunities to our universities and research institutes and will guarantee their broad, longer-term sustainable participation. The rules of participation have thus undergone positive change, and this means great satisfaction and good opportunities for the researchers of the new Member States.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by congratulating the Commissioner and the Commission, for increasing the budget by 63% over against what it was for the sixth programme is a momentous achievement, and shows that the Lisbon agenda, through which we focused, is right. It got the full support of this House and of the Council. We have now spent many years working to make improvements to it; the compromises we have arrived at are quite crucial in encouraging job creation and growth. Today, I am already thinking about the eighth programme. Having managed a 63% increase this time round, I hope we will achieve a comparable one in the eighth programme.

What is much more important, though, is that the technical work has only just been completed, and now the real work is beginning. In 2009, we have elections to the European Parliament again, and there will be a new Commission; we still have time before then to sell our successes. I would ask you to get together with Commissioner Wallström and the President of the Commission to put together a design for how we can best get the message across to the interested parties for which we drafted this programme – in the universities, in factories, in every branch and sector – that what we have done with this programme we have done for the sake of Europe’s future, and that new products and services will enable us to hold our own in global competition.

Since we are spending over EUR 50 billion on product policy, I would ask that we should agree on a budget for marketing and public relations, so that the simplification that has been achieved – this mammoth task that we have accomplished for Europe – may also be got across to its people.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. Mr President, at this late hour, I wish to begin by thanking this House, on behalf of all the researchers in Europe, for your words of support during this three-hour debate.

Many of you mentioned funding. Unfortunately, we have lost the bet, because the number seven would be really lucky – seven years, seventh programme, EUR 70 billion. In any case, we can still be proud of what we have achieved, because it is a serious increase.

I have no doubt that the programme will be adopted tomorrow. Then we can continue with our work for the future. Firstly, on the question about fisheries, I would simply add that we now have theme No 2, named ‘food, agriculture, fisheries and biotechnology’. This was the last change that was made at the last debate, so it has been included.

I should like to draw your attention to many important things that are part of our achievement. We will all have to consider in the future how the European Research Council is developing. It is a major thing for Europe. It is a major breakthrough that for the first time we are able to gain sources together at EU level, finding excellence without political interference, including mine. That is a major change in thinking, which I hope will be a source of future decisions connected with the European research area. We have European technology platforms which go far beyond the framework programme and they have much more potential. We talk about public-private partnerships in joint technology initiatives, which will be a delicate but worthwhile exercise in the future. We will also have to monitor these closely. We will have to deal with a risk-sharing finance facility, which you mentioned, and I am fully aware that you are expecting simplified procedures, which will not be easy to achieve. I am committed to doing that, but I sincerely hope that I will have the support of all those who can help.

Unfortunately, I have learned that sometimes it is simply impossible to meet all expectations. If, on the one hand, you have private needs which seek fast solutions and, on the other hand, public money, you cannot come together 100%. We will do our best and we will try, but I just want to say that in some areas it is simply the logic of the work which does not fit 100%.

We have a major success with the framework programme which we are putting on the table. However, the framework programme is only the foundation on which we have to build. We have to go beyond that. That is why I want to launch the debate on the European research area immediately. I have three major reasons for that. Firstly, the area was launched in the same year as the Lisbon Agenda. That may be a coincidence, but I do not think so, because the European research area is the main part of Lisbon thinking.

Secondly, in 2009 we shall be embarking on a new Financial Perspective debate. It will be more than a new Financial Perspective debate, it will be a debate about how the future Europe should look. We should come into this debate with strong potential and only if we truly have a debate about European research area behind us will we be strong enough to show clearly that all the messages I have heard today are the right ones. Also, the others will understand them.

Thirdly, when we talk about constitutional, institutional changes, we must be present at that debate. This debate will come alive soon and in this respect it is also important how the European research area and European research cooperation will be treated in future. Those are enough good reasons when we will be dealing with international cooperation, funding, infrastructure facilities and many questions which concern what we have done up to now and how we can improve in the future.

When we talk about the famous 3% that we all have in mind, let us be clear that we have two major challenges. One challenge is coming from the developed countries. Here we are lagging behind in yearly funding for science and research. When we talk about the developing countries, it is not money that is the problem, but the pace, because they are making rapid progress. Those are the two challenges we have to face. When we talk about 3%, we have to be clear that its composition is twofold: public financing and private financing. In a way, since we can make decisions directly, it is easier to handle public financing. However, it is not always easy to come to the figures like in FP7 we were like to, but still it is in direct political control. But when we talk about private financing, which normally consists of two-thirds in normal circumstances, we do not have direct control. Here we can either go in through direct activities which are clearly linked to that, such as state aid, tax incentives, intellectual property rights, regulations, standardisation, lead market initiatives, public procurement, risk venture capital, and so on. However, if we are honest, then we have to take into account those things that are connected with competitiveness and the internal market.

On higher education, if we do not make progress quickly, then higher education and universities in Europe are really the engine behind everything: the labour and financial markets and, finally, the coherence between macroeconomic policies and structural policies which have to be in place. So when we talk about our issues, these are the issues of all the governments, the whole Commission, the whole Parliament. We cannot settle them alone. That is why we always have to look at the big picture and why the debate on which we have to embark in the future is that one.

We have to build on a positive climate which I think we have in Europe. We are now clearly devoting political attention to knowledge, research and development, but it is not important that we get it there, it is important that we keep it there. Why? Because only if we have constant strategic attention for a period of some years can we truly count on serious changes in Europe.

It is true that it is almost midnight but, if we work together, I am sure it is not too late.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – It is a rare occurrence, Commissioner, that so many Members are still in the chamber at midnight. That is indicative of the importance of this debate we have been holding for the best part of three hours.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 11 a.m.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gábor Harangozó (PSE). – The Seventh Framework Programme is not just another Framework Programme, as it has been designed in its content, organisation, implementation modes and management tools; as a key contribution to the re-launched Lisbon strategy by placing the emphasis on innovation and knowledge for growth and employment.

By bringing and supporting new, innovative ideas through the FP7 via extended transnational cooperation, the aim is to effectively bring science and society closer together. One has to acknowledge that there is indeed genuine European added value in bringing universities, research centres and clusters, industry, SMEs and other legal entities together to cooperate and participate in research projects around defined priorities within a unique management framework on a multiannual basis.

FP7 will of course have to be implemented in synergy with other Community policies such as the cohesion policy and the structural funds that, to a certain extent, also support research and development. With the implementation of FP7, there will be a genuine leverage effect on the objectives of other Community policies such as growth, employment and competitiveness. It will be ensured that knowledge, capacity and innovative technologies will be known, transferred, assimilated and used by businesses around the whole Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  James Nicholson (PPE-DE). – I am a firm believer in the results science can bring us through non-embryonic stem cell research. It needs to be supported. We need to ensure results. Somatic stem cell therapies, which are those that use stem cells extracted from humans after they are born or from the umbilical cord and placenta, are at a tipping point. Advanced trials in human subjects are showing promising results. These advances are found in a wide range of conditions including heart and liver disease, diabetes, blindness caused by cornea damage, brittle bone disease, cystic fibrosis, strokes, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, among others.

Therefore, it is my belief that it is in the best interest of the people we represent to ensure funding priority and stronger incentive be given to researchers capable of finding cures to diseases within the foreseeable future through the use of adult stem cells.

Furthermore, it is my belief that there should be a periodic review of funding to research which may or may not bring about results.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Lydia Schenardi (NI). – (FR) The Seventh Framework Research Programme is supposed to be designed as a tool at the service of an integral research policy that is simplified, is more accessible to SMEs and strengthens the links between research and industry in particular. It almost lives up to that aim.

The fact is that concerns and questions remain, especially with regard to the participation of SMEs, where the access costs for participants and access to the risk-sharing finance facility still pose problems, with regard to coherence and the absence of confusion with other Community policies, with regard to the dissemination of knowledge, where quality and respect for intellectual property are issues, and with regard to the role of Member States in the governance of the programme. The seven-year duration of the programme also seems to be ill-suited to the pursuit of research goals, which are liable to change rapidly in spite of prescribed phases and evaluations.

We also regret that research on embryonic stem cells has not been banned and that Parliament, like the Council and the Commission, has confined itself to mere definitions and restrictions in this domain.

It remains no less true, however, that research, if it is the subject of a policy based on the pursuit of excellence, is one of the few areas in which the European Union can truly deliver better results than national activities could achieve.

 

19. The placing on the market of pyrotechnic articles (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the report (A6-0289/2006) by Mr Joel Hasse Ferreira, on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the placing on the market of pyrotechnic articles [COM(2005)0457 – C6-0312/2005 – 2005/0194(COD)].

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, on behalf of the Commission and my colleague Mr Verheugen, I would like first of all to thank Mr Ferreira as well as the Finnish Presidency. I am very happy to be able to represent my colleague on these issues since to a great extent it does affect consumer protection and safety.

It is clear that this agreement would not have been possible without intensive efforts from both sides. It is very timely, coming as it does just before New Year’s Eve, a time when the most fireworks are used in Member States. The directive will create an internal market and thus uniform and better framework conditions for pyrotechnic articles, which comprise fireworks but also airbags and seatbelt pretensioners.

The directive is urgently awaited in particular by the automobile supply industry and by consumer protection organisations. It does not make sense for 27 Member States to prescribe different technical regulations for pyrotechnic articles, while their citizens within a Europe of open borders can easily shop for fireworks in neighbouring countries. The protection of consumers will therefore be decisively improved because pyrotechnic articles sold to consumers anywhere in the European Union must in future fulfil the essential safety requirements of the directive and will be subject to conformity assessment. Moreover, for campaigns which market the products in several Member States, the uniform standards will contribute to a substantial reduction of the bureaucratic burden.

The Commission is well aware that the use of fireworks is subject to different traditions and customs in the Member States. Therefore we can agree to the amendment proposed by Parliament that certain fireworks do not fall under the directive if they are produced by manufacturers for their own use and if their use by the manufacturer himself has been approved by the respective Member State.

For the same reason, it was also necessary to grant to the Member States the possibility of taking national measures regarding certain categories of pyrotechnic articles. This concerns in particular fireworks in categories 2 and 3, which can pose somewhat higher risks. Therefore, the use of bangers and flash bangers by the general public will remain forbidden in many Member States in future. Consequently, such fireworks will be excluded completely from category 1, for which the Member States cannot lay down further restrictions. This exclusion is specified in essential safety requirements and will be taken up in a mandate which the Commission will give to the European Standardisation Committee after the adoption of the directive. The Commission confirmed this by making a declaration during the negotiations with the Council and Parliament.

I am also pleased that an agreement has been achieved with the Council regarding the labelling of pyrotechnic articles, where a balanced solution between high safety requirements on the one hand, and avoidance of complicated and burdensome requirements on manufacturers on the other, has been found.

In conclusion I would like to point out that, once again, the negotiation process has benefited very much from the close collaboration between Parliament, the Council and the Commission. The Commission can therefore agree to all compromise amendments and I am confident that we can achieve the adoption of this directive at first reading.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Joel Hasse Ferreira (PSE), rapporteur.(PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the pyrotechnic market as a whole is far larger than just the fireworks segment. The major part of the market corresponds to car safety equipment, such as airbags and seatbelts. Fireworks represent 20% of the market, although they have given rise to most of the proposed amendments to the report that I have tabled. Marine equipment not covered by international conventions has also been incorporated within this directive. Furthermore, a category of pyrotechnic articles for theatrical use has been created, and pyrotechnic articles in the aircraft and aerospace industry have been excluded, because of all the control systems already in place. The market value of pyrotechnic articles used in the car industry is some EUR 5.5 billion, whereas that of fireworks is about EUR 1.4 billion.

Ladies and gentlemen, with the approval of this Directive, we shall be making a significant contribution to the free movement of pyrotechnic products within the European Union. We shall also be ensuring greater safety for consumers and professional users. The harmonisation of safety rules among the Member States in the various market segments included here will lead to greater consumer confidence and freer movement of the products. The possibility of having different rules at national level has, in any case, been retained, particularly in relation to minimum ages for handling certain categories of fireworks.

We have also taken into account the specific situations in Malta and certain regions of Italy regarding the use of fireworks by the people who make them at certain religious and cultural events. In view of the volume of pyrotechnic products imported into Europe, especially from China, we have also decided to attribute clear responsibilities to importers and distributors of pyrotechnic articles; this is especially important in the case of fireworks. We have also devoted considerable attention to the labelling issue and to noise aspects. In the vehicle sector, we have been careful to take account of the international dimension of the European vehicle component industry. The deadlines for transposing the Directive have been extended in order to allow more time for suitable, harmonised standards to be created or updated, as appropriate.

Mr President, it is also worth highlighting the agreement reached with the European Council, despite the technical difficulties raised by the original text of the Proposal for a Directive, and despite the significant cultural differences that exist between several Member States, particularly regarding the sale and use of fireworks.

Before I finish, ladies and gentlemen, it is only right that I should thank Mr Oivukkamäki for the part he played in this process on behalf of the Finnish Presidency, and Mr Schmahl, who represented the Commission in this process. In addition, we must not forget the work and the follow-up done by Mrs Weisgerber, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, Mrs Fourtou, on behalf of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Mrs Rühle, on behalf of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, and Mr Brie, on behalf of the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left. As Chairman, Mrs McCarthy played a decisive role throughout the process, especially at the trialogue stage. In addition, we must not forget Mr Ortuondo Larrea, the draftsman for the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, and Mr Muscat, for his interest throughout this process.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in this context I call on you to vote for the set of compromises negotiated with the various parliamentary groups, as well as with the Council and the Commission, so that we can approve this directive at first reading. By doing so, we shall be ensuring better protection for consumers and enhancing competitiveness in the economic sectors covered by this Directive.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Anja Weisgerber, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by expressing my very warm gratitude to the rapporteur for his constructive cooperation. We have achieved a great success; the directive on the placing on the market of pyrotechnic articles can be adopted tomorrow at first reading, and we have indeed already reached agreement with the Council.

This directive draws together the 25 different sets of legislation governing explosives within the European Union. This means that we have done away with another little bit of bureaucracy. Through this directive, we will be a large step closer to realising the internal market for the trade in fireworks, airbags and other pyrotechnic products. There will no longer be a need for special products to be manufactured for each Member State, which will give rise to enormous cost savings. The industry can now focus on meeting uniform requirements across Europe. I have been calling, in particular, for a simplified procedure for those who use fireworks professionally.

The aim of this simplified procedure is for the manufacturers or importers of fireworks for professional use to implement their own quality assurance systems. The manufacturers or importers will, however, continue to be subject to regular monitoring by competent authorities. In this way, we have given more responsibility in this area back to the businesses, thereby avoiding excessive bureaucracy. We were able to introduce specific regulations for the field of automotive engineering, which includes airbags and seatbelt pretensioners. This area, in particular, requires high safety standards without overlaying these with requirements for the labelling of airbags that are built into vehicles anyway.

It is, in particular, the consumers, and I would like to emphasise this point, who will benefit from the new directive, as it affords them improved levels of safety. There have been a handful of very serious accidents with fireworks due to the differing safety requirements of the Member States. A procedure is now being introduced according to which safety requirements will be just as high in every Member State. Tomorrow, through the vote on the fireworks directive, we will realise the internal market in this area, whilst at the same time providing greater safety levels for consumers.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Anne Laperrouze, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (FR) Mr President, I must explain that I am speaking on behalf of Mrs Fourtou, who has been dealing with this matter for our group but has been prevented from attending by other commitments. Mrs Fourtou wishes to express her special thanks to Mr Hasse Ferreira for his work as well as to her honourable colleagues from the other political groups. She found it agreeable to work in an atmosphere where everyone was prepared to listen and to operate in complete transparency. She took part in the various trialogues and fully supports the rapporteur's approach.

She regrets, however, that a Council amendment removes the obligation on Member States to draw up correlation tables. In fact, since the conclusion of the interinstitutional agreement in 2003, the three institutions have been committed to better legislation and have acknowledged the importance of these tables. The Council, apparently, no longer wishes to honour that commitment. Be that as it may, Mrs Fourtou thanks the rapporteur and the Finnish Presidency and notes that both of them tried to defend the correlation tables. Not wishing to block the procedure, she persuaded our group to vote in favour of the compromise amendments and of the report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Malcolm Harbour (PPE-DE). – Mr President, as coordinator for my group on the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, I particularly wanted to come here this evening to pay tribute to the team that has worked on this, Mr Hasse Ferreira, who has led this with distinction, and particularly my colleague, Mrs Weisgerber, who has worked tirelessly together with Mr Hasse Ferreira on this proposal.

From the point of view of the internal market, this is an excellent example of how Parliament can significantly improve a highly technical text. This may seem an abstruse and perhaps rather marginal sector, but as both the rapporteurs have pointed out this evening, we are talking about a total product range here: there is EUR 5.5 billion in automotive pyrotechnics and EUR 1.5 billion in fireworks. That is a very substantial market and their achievement has been extremely important, firstly in creating the internal market; secondly by improving standards for consumers and product-labelling, raising the whole standard of quality in the marketplace; and thirdly in improving the procedures. It is an indication of the fact that if Parliament gets its act together and works in detail on technical improvements, it really can make a significant step forward, both for consumers and for the European economy. I thank all my colleagues concerned for making that possible.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I should just like to thank the rapporteur and the Members once again for their excellent work, and to say that we are looking forward to a first-reading agreement.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today – since it is after midnight – at 11 a.m.

Written statement (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Joseph Muscat (PSE). – (MT) By means of the Pyrotechnics Directive, we are enhancing the health and safety both of consumers and of those who are engaged in this type of work.

By means of this directive, as amended by this report, there will be greater safety, especially with regard to the market for pyrotechnic products sold in retail outlets and used directly by consumers all over Europe.

At the same time, the amendments unanimously agreed on in the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection acknowledge that there is a market for fireworks that are not sold directly to consumers but that are manufactured for use in licensed activities covered by insurance. These activities include the traditional festivals held mostly in the Mediterranean, including Malta.

The amendments agreed on do not involve safety regulations, but simply demand that there should be no excessive bureaucracy in these cases. The original procedures would not have led to any changes in the way work is carried out, but would have brought about an increase in costs. In Malta’s case, these would have been borne by the voluntary bodies that organise these festivals.

These amendments were designed and agreed on with the responsible authorities, including the Maltese Standards Authority.

It should also be made clear that, where the setting off of fireworks is concerned, regulations governing distances and timing are drawn up by each individual country and have never been included in this directive.

 

20. Rights of patients in the EU (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the Commission statement on the rights of patients in the European Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, the issue of high-quality health services is of great importance to all European citizens. Moreover, the right to healthcare is a fundamental right recognised by the EU Charter.

Nevertheless, health services are primarily national in nature. There is, however, broad consensus that there is a clear added value in cooperation on health services at European level. Together with the Member States, the Commission has been conducting a mapping exercise on common principles and elements of healthcare in the European Union. Special attention was paid to patients’ rights.

According to our preliminary results, there are indeed common elements of patients’ rights shared by EU health systems. These include providing timely and appropriate healthcare, sufficient information to patients about different treatment options, respecting confidentiality of health data and compensation for harm from negligence in healthcare. However, the mechanisms in place across the Member States to implement these principles vary widely in practice. They range from patients’ rights laws to non-binding patient charters, legal obligations for health professionals, patient ombudsmen, etc. Moreover, those mechanisms do not sufficiently take into account the situation of patients to or from other Member States. This is a particular area where Community on health services could help to improve the situation.

As Parliament is aware, we have recently launched a public consultation regarding Community action on health services. This public consultation explicitly addresses issues directly linked to patients’ rights. Depending on the outcome of the consultation, issues relating to patients’ rights could be addressed through proposals for Community action in 2007, whilst of course respecting subsidiarity. Whether this would be a legislative proposal or rather take the form of a charter on patients’ rights will depend, as I have said, on the results of the consultation. I look forward to listening to the views of Members in today’s debate.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  John Bowis, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Mr President, the Commissioner will not have long to listen to us, but very briefly, there are three rights: the right to treatment, the right to humane and effective treatment, and the right to be involved in decisions affecting one’s treatment. I look forward to seeing the Commissioner’s proposals being brought forward very soon, in particular where mental health is concerned.

With regard to the right to safe treatment and care, the fact that 10% of hospitalisations result in medical error; the fact that we have hospital bugs such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile; the fact that we have too many needlestick injuries: these are all areas involving patient safety. That is a right that patients should have.

As regards the right to safe patient mobility, the Commissioner has said that he is bringing forward proposals in that area which we look forward to receiving. Among the rights that he will include in that, I am sure, will be the rights to have proper checks on health professionals and on the facilities, hospitals and clinics to which people may be going.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Anne Ferreira, on behalf of the PSE Group. (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the Court of Justice is being asked more and more frequently to rule on matters concerning the rights of patients who receive treatment in Member States other than their own, and the resulting case law could take the place of the democratic decisions that our institutions should be taking on this matter. For this reason, I welcome the Commissioner's initiative. My fear, however, is that the rights established through the proposals you are able to make to us will not become effective in practice for want of adequate frameworks in the Member States.

I am therefore going to ask you a few questions. How do you intend to realise in practice the universal right to health care to which you referred and equality of access within the European Union, given the well-known gulfs between the health levels and between the health-care structures in individual Member States? We recently reviewed the breast-cancer situation and regrettably reached the collective conclusion that the recommendations made by the European Union on prevention had not been acted upon in some Member States, to the detriment of the patients concerned. As far as obesity is concerned, you indicated yourself a few days ago that, if self-regulation did not work, the European Union would take legislative action. There are also proposals from Members of this House on the question of mental health and on the possibility of legislation in that area.

Do you not think that the European Union should take the lead today on health matters? It must show greater ambition and, in particular, raise the general quality of health systems, though not neglecting, of course, the parallel issues, for we are well aware of the adverse effects that poor living conditions can have on people's health.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marios Matsakis, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, we are truly delighted that this important debate is taking place so promptly after a question on patients’ rights was tabled by several ALDE Group members, which was in fact initiated by Dr Parvanova, a Bulgarian Observer colleague. We are also very grateful to Commissioner Kyprianou for the genuine interest and concern he has shown in speedily and efficiently dealing with the question on patients’ rights in the EU.

With regard to the Commission statement which is the subject of this debate, we take the view that it should cover areas like recognition that comparable standards of healthcare and a common set of patients’ rights should be discussed at EU level in order to have the added value of the internal market on healthcare issues, and in order to empower patients to fully recognise and exercise their rights.

Furthermore, we have always believed that in the discussions on patients’ rights in Europe, the Commission should take into account previous work done by civil society organisations in respect of drafting the European Charter of Patients’ Rights.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Irena Belohorská (NI). – (SK) I would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to discuss this issue. In the European Union the very notion of 'patients’ rights' is purely theoretical, as there is considerable legal uncertainty in this area. With regard to transborder healthcare provision, patients’ rights have been shaped exclusively by the rulings of the European Court of Justice, and that only since 1998, when the ECJ ruled in the Kohll vs. Decker case. We cannot expect the public to be familiar with the fact that on 16 May 2006 the Court of Justice ruled in the case of Yvonne Watts, clearly stating that where waiting times are exceedingly long and the patient’s life is at risk, the patient has the right to receive treatment abroad and to have treatment-related costs reimbursed in the home country. The average citizen is often unaware of such rulings. We need legislation which is binding on the Member States, and which will communicate to patients all they need to know about how to find a medical specialist abroad, as well as details of healthcare reimbursement procedures. We can derive some hope from the health services directive referred to in the Commission’s communication, although it is still premature to talk about when this directive might be adopted. I would like to point out that members of the public may submit comments on this communication up until 31 January 2007. At the same time, the quality of healthcare and the availability of up-to-the-minute techniques and theories vary among the Member States. We must offer patients the opportunity to choose where they want to be treated, as unduly long waiting lists may keep people waiting until they die.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, I would like to thank the Commissioner for this debate and to thank Mrs Parvanova, without whose question this debate would not have been possible.

Commissioner, you have instituted a public consultation process on the issues surrounding patient mobility. That is the perfect way to clear up questions such as: what gaps in the legislation are there in an internal market for health services that is, in fact, not a real internal market at all? What shape could common standards on patient rights in Europe take? What access do patients have to information, and not just information in relation to their rights, but also in relation to their medication? At present, information of this nature is restricted in Europe, as we all know, and represents a fundamental obstacle to good health. What arrangements would health tourism bring about when correctly implemented, and what aid opportunities and productivity would it bring the European Union?

We should think of Europe as a single health area. That should be our vision. Perhaps the public consultation process could be the first step in the right direction.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I should like to thank the House for the debate. We have the opportunity to exchange views on different occasions, and this is a very important issue.

I will be able to offer more specific replies after the end of the consultation process which, as I have already mentioned, is taking place now. However, all the issues mentioned by Mr Bowis and other colleagues – the right to treatment, patient safety, patient mobility – are not only part of this consultation process but also in different initiatives as well. As you know, we have these on patient safety for example or to deal with inequalities.

Part of the debate in this consultation process will also deal with the issue of quality and standards and whether we should introduce European Union level standards on healthcare. Those are part of the questions that we will be discussing. This is also linked to the serious problem of inequalities that exist on health, not just between Member States, but even within Member States. To a certain extent, patient mobility can address some of these problems, but this is not always the solution. The target should always be to raise as much as possible the level and the standard in the Member States. Whatever we discuss we should always bear in mind that patients would rather be treated at home where their families and friends are and where they speak the language.

As to the tools, I believe we will be using all possible and available instruments. It is a complex issue that will require a comprehensive approach and there will be a package of measures, some of which will be legislation – when it comes to creating and offering legal certainty we need to resort to legislation.

As I have said, it is a big and complicated issue that will require a step-by-step approach, but I am optimistic enough to hope that we will be able to present the first proposal before the end of next year. That will be just the first step. Others will follow.

Finally, an important aspect of this process will be to create informed and empowered patients – informed as to treatment, medicine, the possibilities of cross-border healthcare and how to choose a physician. All these are important aspects, otherwise, all the other rights, unless we have an informed patient, will not be taken advantage of and will not be of benefit to the patient. This is also an important part of our initiative and effort.

As I have said, we are now in the middle of the consultation process. Today we have had our first ministerial reflection process specifically on this issue. We will continue the consultation process until the end of January and after that we will be able to discuss it in more detail with Parliament as well. I am also looking forward to receiving Parliament’s views on this issue in the consultation process. I consider this to be just the beginning of the debate and I expect to be able to go into more detail next year.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

Written statement (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jules Maaten (ALDE). – (NL) Where patient rights within Europe are concerned, this House must try to retain, and strengthen, its leading role. Much progress remains to be made, though, in the area of information for patients. The European citizen has the right to be better informed; after all, the right to information for the patient is enshrined in the European Charter for hospital patient rights.

Patients should be better informed about possible medicines and other treatments. Why should doctors have a monopoly on this information? What the Liberals want to see is more information provided to the consumers, if I may call them that, and there have been major developments on the medicines front over recent years.

Patients’ attitudes have undergone radical change. More and more of them believe they are entitled to more information, and more and more of them actively look for information about the treatment of their disorder. Patients want to shoulder some of the responsibility for their own treatment. In many cases, they seek contact with other patients suffering from the same illness in order to exchange information. When citizens are fully informed, they probably make other choices, which is something they have every right to do.

 

21. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes

22. Closure of sitting
  

(The sitting was closed at 0.25 a.m.)

 
Legal notice - Privacy policy