Index 
Debates
Wednesday, 28 March 2007 - Brussels OJ edition
1. Resumption of the session
 2. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes
 3. Statement by the President (Zimbabwe)
 4. Assignment conferred on a Member
 5. Welcome
 6. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes
 7. Documents received: see Minutes
 8. Written statements (Rule 116): see Minutes
 9. Oral questions and written statements (tabling): see Minutes
 10. Action taken on Parliament’s resolutions: see Minutes
 11. Agenda: see Minutes
 12. Follow-up to the Berlin declaration (debate)
 13. Further convergence in supervisory practices at EU level (debate)
 14. The future of Kosovo and the role of the EU (debate)
 15. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
 16. Organic production and labelling of organic products (debate)
 17. The future of the European Union's own resources (debate)
 18. 2008 budget guidelines (Sections I, II, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII(A) and VIII(B))
 19. Future of Professional Football in Europe - Security at Football Matches (debate)
 20. Compliance with the obligations of Flag States - Civil liability and financial guarantees of shipowners (debate)
 21. The integration of new Member States in the CAP (debate)
 22. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes
 23. Closure of sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: MR POETTERING
President

(The sitting was opened at 5.05 p.m.)

 
1. Resumption of the session
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  President. I declare resumed the session of the European Parliament suspended on Thursday 15 March 2007.

 

2. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes

3. Statement by the President (Zimbabwe)
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  President. Ladies and gentlemen, I make this statement on Zimbabwe at the unanimous request of the chairmen of the groups. This is a very serious matter. Over recent weeks, there has been a further escalation in the political situation in that country, with violent acts committed by the forces under government control. On 11 March, a meeting in a suburb of the capital, Harare, was broken up by armed police and, in the course of this, Gift Tandare, a member of the opposition, was shot dead, while numerous demonstrators were injured. Forty leading opposition politicians, among them Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara – the leaders of the principal opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – were arrested and mistreated while in police custody. On 18 March, an opposition member of the country’s parliament, Nelson Chamisa, was beaten up, and ended up in hospital with serious injuries. He had been on his way to meetings of the committees of the ACP–EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. This assault earned condemnation from the Bureau of the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, and in this they were supported by the Assembly’s African members. The Bureau called on the Zimbabwean Government to put a stop to the violence in the country and to respect human rights and the rule of law.

Ladies and gentlemen, we firmly condemn each and every act of violence and oppression committed by President Mugabe’s Government. The Council and the Commission should work together with all the international, regional and national forces concerned to put in place a solution, in the shape of a transition from the present regime to a real democracy.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Glenys Kinnock (PSE). – Mr President, I wanted to tell the House that one hour ago Morgan Tsvangirai was again arrested by the police and security forces in Harare. He and his staff were about to have a news conference to discuss the events which you described in your speech.

I would therefore like this House to condemn that re-arrest of Morgan Tsvangirai and to say that the brutality against the opposition has to stop. The Southern African Development Community has to react at its meeting in Tanzania this week.

(Applause)

 

4. Assignment conferred on a Member
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  President. Before we move on to the agenda, there is another announcement that I have to make to you. The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic has informed me of his decision to appoint Mr Jan Zahradil as his representative to the deliberations on the Berlin Declaration, and, more generally, in matters relating to the revival of the constitutional process during the German Presidency. The matter was referred to the Committee on Legal Affairs, pursuant to Rule 4(5) of the Rules of Procedure, which, at its meeting on 19-20 March 2007, came to the conclusion that this office is compatible with the spirit and letter of the Act concerning the election of the representatives of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage, that there is therefore no conflict of interest, and that Mr Jan Zahradil can continue to exercise his mandate as a Member of this House.

 

5. Welcome
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  President. I would also like to say a word of welcome to a delegation from Iraq. It is a cause of great joy to me to be able to welcome as guests of this Parliament, this afternoon, a delegation of five members of the Parliament of Iraq, led by Mr Hamid Mousa.

(Applause)

The situation in Iraq is a matter of constant concern to us, and a visit by our counterparts there, which gives us the opportunity to learn at first hand about how things are developing there, is both very necessary and welcome. I have already had the opportunity to meet them – I did so yesterday – and I am very well aware of the extremely difficult conditions under which their parliament’s members have to work. I am sure that their talks with the Committee on Foreign Affairs and with other Members of this House were useful and will prove beneficial to both sides. I trust that the ongoing process of constitutional reform will offer all groups in Iran the opportunity to reach broad consensus on the essential issues and to prepare a way for their country to move forward into the future.

I wish you, our honoured guests, and your country, all the best, and hope that your visit will help to forge solid parliamentary relations between our two Houses – your parliament in Iraq and this, the European Parliament. My best wishes go with you as you return to your suffering country.

 

6. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes

7. Documents received: see Minutes

8. Written statements (Rule 116): see Minutes

9. Oral questions and written statements (tabling): see Minutes

10. Action taken on Parliament’s resolutions: see Minutes

11. Agenda: see Minutes

12. Follow-up to the Berlin declaration (debate)
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  President. The next item is the follow-up to the Berlin Declaration.

Perhaps I might be permitted to say something – briefly – about it. On 17 January, the President of the European Council – whom I warmly welcome in our midst today – came to this House and presented her programme.

On 13 February, Madam Federal Chancellor, you were present to hear me set out my programme; today, you are reporting on the Berlin Declaration of 25 March, and so I can say what a joy is to me that you – at a time when your presidency is not even yet halfway through – have come to this House for the third time already. For that, then, let me, on behalf of all this House’s Members, express to you my warmest and sincerest gratitude.

(Applause)

The chairmen of the groups will now proceed to give their considered opinions of the Berlin Declaration, and, while I, of course, have no desire to pre-empt them, there is, however, one thing I would like to say, and it is that, when the Berlin Declaration was in preparation, you, Madam Federal Chancellor, and your staff, were constantly available to the President of this House and those authorised to represent him, in order to give as much consideration to our ideas as you could, with 27 governments to preside over, be expected to give.

I, myself, have complied strictly with the resolution of the Conference of Presidents – of which I have tended to end up giving detailed interpretations – and have constantly informed, and been in constant consultation with, the responsible members of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, as well as the Bureau and the Conference of Presidents.

We will now proceed with the debate, and I extend a very warm welcome not only to the President of the European Council, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, but also to Mr José Manuel Barroso, the President of the Commission.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Angela Merkel, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, Mr President of the Commission, honourable Members of the European Parliament, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to be able to pay your House a return visit, on this occasion in Brussels. We have reached something like the halfway point in the German Presidency, and, after last weekend, I believe we can claim to have taken a substantial step towards mastering two major tasks facing us all during these six months.

The first is that of energy and climate policy, on which Germany's Foreign Minister, Mr Steinmeier, has already reported to your House, and all I want to do at this point is to stress once more that in the key sphere of energy and climate policy the Council has succeeded in formulating important conclusions based on the Commission's proposals, and has thus demonstrated the European Union's capability to act in this field. The reason why that is so important is that we do, of course, know that Europe can lead the way in this area only if it can set itself ambitious targets. We do know, of course, that actually achieving those targets will require more work, but, after all, that is quite normal in day-to-day politics: one takes one step and, if that is successful then further steps follow, but the spirit in which we have managed to agree on a 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020 as well as binding targets on increasing the share of renewable energies in total consumption to 20% should enable us both to present a united front in the international negotiations ahead and to successfully break down these figures into individual targets for the Member States, and that is our next task. So, then, I will take this opportunity to ask for your House’s support. We have already had a lot of backing on this front, and, with your encouragement, I am certain the Council will be able to formulate the necessary conclusions.

(Applause and heckling)

Let us take a look at the second key step we took last weekend. While the Berlin Declaration was on the one hand, an expression of the success story that the European Union has been, it also, on the other, highlighted the major tasks we still face together.

I would like, before all else, to say a very warm ‘thank you’ to the President of your House, Mr Poettering, and also to all your group chairmen, for getting this Berlin Declaration endorsed by Parliament, the Commission and the members of the Council counts as a triumph. I believe the sense of this Berlin Declaration as a joint achievement is of value in itself because it demonstrates the commitment of everyone involved in Europe to work together for its future. Looking at the Berlin Declaration, we see that the definition of our common values forms an important part of it. It also states, in very ambitious terms, that we share an ideal of European society and that we will work together to make it a reality. This ideal of European society is founded upon values that are close to our hearts – the values of freedom, solidarity and justice. Day in and day out, we are asked again and again just how we propose to put flesh upon them, and that is why I was so very moved by the way in which today's sitting of this House began with a strongly worded statement by it and its Members on what is happening in Zimbabwe. I stressed in my speech in Berlin on Sunday that we must not allow ourselves to become indifferent to the plight of the people in Darfur.

(Applause)

We cannot simply shrug it off; we have to do something about it, and while the Presidency of the Council will do everything it can to get tougher resolutions accepted by the UN Security Council as a means of making progress on this front at long last, we must – if this proves impossible at Security Council level – give thought to the possibility of sanctions being imposed by the European Union, for we must act; we must do something about this.

(Applause)

I also made it clear on Sunday that we are aware that 25 March is Independence Day in Belarus and that we – I believe we all – wanted to tell our friends in Belarus that they too have a right to see the European ideals become reality for them, and that we will give them our deliberate support as they go down this road.

(Applause)

I would take this opportunity presented to me in your House this afternoon to say that we, in the European Union will make it abundantly clear to Iran that its arrest and detention of 15 British seamen is totally unacceptable. Here too, we stand in unconditional solidarity with our British friends.

(Applause)

This also demonstrates that we are strong when we present a united front. There are many things that we can only achieve together. Contrariwise, that means that, if Member States of the European Union are to feel responsible for one another in difficult times, then we have to work together in the greatest possible number of spheres. Integration, support in difficult situations and solidarity can only be expected if each country is prepared, to some extent, to look after the interests of the others. It is by this principle that we should be guided in all the tough political decisions that await us.

In the Berlin Declaration we turned our faces towards the future and said that there were two things we wanted to do. The first is that we want to put the European Union on a ‘renewed common basis’ by 2009, and, although I know that the vast majority in your House are in favour of this – and I would like to thank you for your support – I do want to emphasise once more that an election to the European Parliament in 2009 in which we were unable to tell people that we were in a position to enlarge the European Union, to tell them how many members the next Commission would have, to assure them that responsibility for energy policy was in European hands, and that, in matters of internal security and legal policy, we were working together on the basis of majority decisions, in the manner in which circumstances made necessary …

(Applause)

… such an election would be one that would do no more than put greater distance between the institutions and Europe's citizens. That is why it is crucial that we all demonstrate our ability to find common solutions. The Germans have been given a mandate to present a roadmap for this. I want to emphasise right now that we will not find a solution to the problem, but this roadmap must set out the direction we are to take. While we will strain every sinew in working on this, I would also ask this House to continue supporting us as we go forward, for I can tell you that we need all the help we can get.

(Applause)

Now that we have set forth the European Union's future tasks in the Berlin Declaration, there are several things that have to be done between now and the June Council. I would now like to briefly say something about what those things are, but not, however, before saying how pleased I am that, thanks to the considerable readiness on the part of all Member States to compromise, there are already some successes to report. It is good – and, in particular, it is in the interests of the public – that your House can now debate roaming tariffs, that money transfers between European countries are simpler, that it has been possible, with your help, to release funds for agriculture, and that we have made some progress in what is known as the Open Skies Agreement, that is to say on improving air traffic between Europe and America. It is by such practical points as these that people judge us, and that is why I am very glad that we have been able to make progress on these fronts, and I hope that we will make further concrete progress before the end of our Presidency.

We now have three important summits to look forward to. The first is the EU/USA summit on 30 April at which we want to deepen the transatlantic economic partnership. The progress made in the sphere of air traffic augurs well for this, but we do know that we could create a lot more synergy between Europe and the United States of America. I would like to express my very warm thanks to the Commission, and also to those Members of your House who support this. The issue of trans-Atlantic economic partnership has had new life breathed into it, and we are very confident that we will be able to look back on the summit at the end of April as one at which really tangible things were achieved.

Now for my second point, which is that it goes without saying that the issue of energy and climate change will be on the agenda at this summit. We know that the European Union has some very ambitious ideas on this subject, and we will try to canvass support for them and try to make them globally accepted. I am quite certain that emerging economies and developing countries will join us only if the industrialised countries set ambitious targets together, and that is why we will canvass support for this. I deliberately say ‘canvass’ because you all know that this is a mammoth task. We cannot promise too much at this stage.

We will also – although this is not a connected issue – take the EU/USA summit as an opportunity to do some preparatory work on the G8 summit in June in Heiligendamm in Germany, and we – that is to say, the German Presidency of G8 – have arranged things so that there will, at the beginning of May, be a meeting of the sherpas, in other words not just the Member States, but also the five so-called ‘outreach states’, namely China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, at which the technological aspects of climate change will be discussed, particularly with a view to exchanging new technologies and innovations, and then, with a view to the G8 summit, even more specific preparatory work on climate change and energy.

In May, too, there will also be a summit between the European Union and Russia. Not only the transatlantic partnership, but also the strategic partnership with Russia is absolutely crucial to us. I hope that we will be able to surmount the obstacles that still hold the Commission back from negotiations with Russia – I am grateful to the Commission for putting such incredible hard work and dedication into this – for the negotiations on a new partnership agreement are, of course, of the essence, particularly as regards issues of energy security and energy partnership, which are the reason why the EU/Russia summit – to be held at Samara in Russia – is of the utmost importance.

Then there will be another summit – this one involving the European Union and Japan, which is intended to address itself above all else to the issue of how to improve our economic cooperation, for people in Europe will largely judge all of us who represent Europe by whether we can safeguard for the coming decades that which has made Europe strong – a community of values, a community of people whose individual dignity is protected, which has brought people prosperity and social cohesion.

In my Berlin speech I said that we have a responsibility to bring Europe, and our ideals, to the world and to win others over to what we believe. We cannot do this by waiting to see how things develop, by isolating ourselves or by becoming absorbed in our own problems, but we can succeed only if we actively seek to gain support for our own values and ideas. Europe can achieve this only if it is capable of taking action, if it is not preoccupied with itself all day and if it does not stand in its own way. That is why it is so important that we, as soon as possible, restore the European Union's capability to act, so that Europe can ensure that the people of this European Union can look forward to a secure and free future, for that is what they have every right to expect. It is that purpose that unites us. Thank you for your attention.

(Sustained applause)

 
  
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  President. Many thanks for your report, Madam Federal Chancellor, President of the European Council. The applause has shown that the European Parliament greatly appreciates your strong European commitment.

 
  
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  José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. Mr President, firstly, I should like to welcome and strongly support the President of the European Parliament’s initial declarations on Zimbabwe and Darfur. The human rights violations there are unacceptable. On behalf of the Commission, I strongly condemn those violations and appeal to the authorities of the countries involved to respect the human rights of their citizens.

(Applause)

Last weekend, the Europe of the past and the Europe of the future met in Berlin. As the declaration states, we celebrated 50 years of achievement in Europe: peace, freedom and solidarity, and prosperity beyond the dreams of even the most optimistic founding father of Europe. By one of those fortunate historical coincidences, we celebrated our unity in Berlin, the city that was the symbol of a divided Europe and is now a symbol of this new, enlarged, united Europe, with 27 Member States and almost 500 million citizens. The celebrations in Berlin were a very inspiring moment for Europe. I speak for many who were there when I say that we felt the European spirit among us.

The Berlin Declaration proved worthy of the occasion, recommitting European institutions and Member States to European values and European goals for the 21st century. I was delighted that the declaration, a proposal made by the Commission in May 2006, became such a fitting centrepiece for the celebrations.

I wish to congratulate Chancellor Merkel and the German Presidency on the crucial role they played in this great European success. Chancellor Merkel, I believe that your personal commitment to it, your personal history and your understanding of the importance of freedom for your country and for Europe was decisive in creating that spirit among all the leaders in Berlin.

(Applause)

I was also very proud to see the three European institutions sign the declaration. The presence of the European Parliament is a sign of the democratic maturity of our Union, which deserves to be emphasised. I must also praise the very useful role played by President Poettering on behalf of Parliament in the run-up to the Berlin Declaration.

Today, before this House, I should like to make two points. Let me start by emphasising the success of the twin-track strategy. Taken together, the two European Councils in March represented the twin-track strategy in action. The spring European Council demonstrated the commitment to delivering results in the area of energy and the fight against climate change. The Berlin Declaration showed the commitment to agreeing on an institutional settlement before the 2009 European elections. This shows that it is wrong to see conflict between a pragmatic approach and a political vision. On the contrary, this commitment to a twin-track strategy is the right one. On the one hand it will deliver results and recreate the political momentum to settle the institutional problem. On the other hand, in order to deliver still better results, we really need more efficient, more democratic and more coherent institutions. A Europe of results is a political vision based on constructive pragmatism, designed to address the concerns of our citizens and to provide European solutions for European problems.

We also need a treaty settlement because of the great global challenges that Europe faces in the coming years. Only together, in a more effective way, can the European Union tackle the challenges of the globalised world. It is obvious that even the biggest Member States cannot tackle climate change, energy security or mass migration alone. They cannot respond alone to the increased competitiveness of this global economy. We need to do it together in a true spirit of solidarity. I believe this is the message from Berlin and that this message has now been translated into an equal commitment to find a solution to the institutional question before the 2009 elections.

(Applause)

There is another reason why the Commission strongly supports a rapid but ambitious institutional settlement. There is no doubt that the failure of the ratification process of the Constitutional Treaty leaves a permanent shadow of doubt hanging over the European Union. Even when there are significant results, such as those achieved at the spring European Council, there is always this doubt, this negativism, this pessimism, this scepticism. We are always confronted with a question that deserves to be answered: ‘How can you convince us’, the most sceptical ask, ‘that you are serious about addressing those global issues when you are not even able to settle matters relating to your own rules and to the institutions in which you are working?’ What credibility do the European Union institutions and European leaders have when they fail to come to a consensus on those issues?

I therefore believe that we need progress in this regard. Failure to agree on an institutional settlement will cause divisions which could threaten our common values. European history should remind us that we can never take the great achievements of peace, democracy, freedom and solidarity for granted. Nobody should take those achievements for granted. We need permanently to nurture our progress in terms of politics and values. If we are to preserve and protect those common values – those we have named in our declaration, the inviolable dignity of the individual, freedom, justice and solidarity: all those values that make us not just a market but a political community and a union – we need to reform the institutions of our community of law.

The preservation of our common values is a permanent work in progress, which I call the ‘unfinished European adventure’. To have a better Europe, we need better institutions to deliver better results. I think the political will is there and we must now produce results in that area too.

During the informal summit after our celebration, I asked Member States to keep up the momentum during the coming months. I asked for the active cooperation of national governments. All Member States signed the Treaty, which was impossible to ratify as a result of two negative popular votes. However, the commitment undertaken obliges all Member States to work in a constructive manner for a joint solution. As President of the European Commission, it is my responsibility to call on national governments to make a special effort in the coming months and to support the German Presidency in its very important efforts to reach a solution.

(Applause)

Let me repeat the message that I sent to the European Heads of State and Government and in Berlin. It is important for the future of the European Union to understand that when we speak about Europe, it is not just about the European institutions: the European Commission or the European Parliament in Brussels or Strasbourg. I said during that ceremony, at which some of you were present, that the European Union is not a foreign power invading our countries, it is our common project. Europe is not ‘them’, it is ‘us’. I said to the Heads of State and Government that it is tempting but dishonest for national politicians to take all the credit and give Brussels all the blame. Let us resist that temptation.

(Applause)

This is the ethic of European responsibility which we all must share.

After Berlin, there is a political commitment to settling the institutional impasse. The Commission will fully support the German Presidency, working with the other Member States, in efforts to reach a clear and precise roadmap and, if possible, a precise mandate by June. Let us not forget, as I said during last weekend’s celebration, that this is the kind of historic test that a generation of political leaders faces just once in its lifetime.

I shall conclude with the same appeal I made in Berlin. With pride in our past, let us look at the future with confidence. Let us work together – the European Commission, the European Parliament, Member States and European citizens – to take the great legacy received from our founding fathers, to take those great values into the 21st century.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. Many thanks for your speech, Mr President of the Commission. I should also like to thank you for your constructive cooperation on the Berlin Declaration – after all, it was your idea for the three institutions to issue a joint declaration. Once again, many thanks, Commission President Barroso.

 
  
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  Joseph Daul, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group.(FR) Mr President, Madam President-in-Office of the Council, Mr President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, we have just commemorated fifty years of the Treaty of Rome, and fifty years amount to two generations – hardly very much at all in terms of history, but a considerable age in the eyes of the young.

It has often been said over the last few days that the most frequently cited benefits of European integration – peace, stability, relative prosperity, the social model – have little to say to the younger generations, for they live with them day by day. To that, I have two answers to make. The first is that young people need to be aware of their good fortune that such things should have become self-evident realities; the second is that this vision of things must be set against the fact that the instability of the modern world – as witness the tragedies, among others, of 11 September in New York, 11 March in Madrid and, indeed, 7 June in London – makes it clear to all of us, of whatever age, that life in peace, in security, and with certain resources is not the day-to-day reality for everyone on this earth, not even in our own countries. I am also much moved to think of our fifteen British soldiers who have been taken prisoner.

Peace and security have to be worked at day in and day out, as will be illustrated once more by the debate that we will be having tomorrow morning with Mr Solana.

If I may, a few days short of my sixtieth birthday, try to put myself in the shoes of a young European, the advantages I might see in the European adventure might well be, among others, the greater ease with which I might learn foreign languages and the possibility of participating in school exchanges, internships, sporting tournaments and cultural events – all this while crossing virtual frontiers and using a single currency. That is not something to be sneezed at. Living in a village or a town twinned with another, enjoying programmes under the patronage of the European Union and benefiting directly or indirectly from the economic growth generated by the union of our countries are no small things. Being a national of states that present a more united front to our partners and competitors throughout the world, which are the leading donors of humanitarian aid, which monitor the democratic conduct of elections around the world and which send peacekeeping forces to many conflict zones – all that is not something about which to be indifferent.

As an example of such undertakings, I would cite the civil crisis management mission that the European Union will be undertaking in Kosovo after the future status of this independence-minded province of Serbia is settled. This will be an unprecedented operation for our countries.

All those things are positive and satisfying and do us credit in the eyes of the young and, I would say, of everyone. Admittedly, Europe is not a panacea and does not resolve all our problems – far from it – but nobody has ever claimed that it would. What the EU can do, though – and do better than our Member States separately – is to help resolve problems, to face up to new challenges and to rearrange our priorities.

Whether or not we wanted it that way, globalisation is the reality from which we cannot escape. We may well very often deplore – whether rightly or wrongly – its negative features, but globalisation does also have undeniable advantages, such as easier communication, simplification of information and openness to other cultures, to name but a few of them.

In this process of globalisation, Europe has a role to play, values to defend and a model of society to promote. Europe is not doomed to silence, not constrained to accept everything without speaking out and not condemned to be steam-rollered by events. If we so wish, we can influence the course of history, in the same way as we have done over the past fifty years.

I cannot let this occasion pass me by without congratulating you, Madam President of the Council, and, above all, thanking you, first of all because your appearance in this European Parliament three times in the course of three months testifies to the respect you have for the work we MEPs do. In so doing, you are setting an example that I am sure your successors will want to follow. Secondly, I want to thank you because, by organising – successfully, as we know – a great European festival in Berlin on 25 March to celebrate fifty years of the Treaty, you have shown that Europe is not just about the making of speeches and laws, but can also be about emotion, joy and conviviality. Last of all, I want to thank you because the Berlin declaration, which the European institutions have adopted, is a readable and powerful document that puts Europe back in the saddle and gives us a new perspective by proposing that an institutional settlement be found between now and the next elections, which will be in 2009.

Madam President, your determined public action, combined with your personal modesty and your human warmth, does honour to Europe and advances its cause. Under your Presidency, two European Councils have been held, both of which are universally acknowledged as having been successful. On the crucial issue of energy and climate, Europe has shown the way by deciding to equip itself with institutional tools to face these great challenges and make its voice heard. That is how Europe must function and act; that is how our fellow citizens, and particularly the young, will make this project, which is more contemporary than ever, their own.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, although the word ‘historic’ is being devalued by over-frequent use, that should not deter us from calling situations historic when that is what they actually are. The situation in which we find ourselves today is one such, and, of all those who criticise the Berlin Declaration, I would ask just what they think would happen if it had not been made.

So, then, Madam President-in-Office of the Council, my compliments to you on the outstanding job of work you have done. For a long time, you kept your cards close to your chest – tactically speaking, that was smart of you – and, by the Berlin Declaration, you have achieved what was meant to be achieved by this point. You played the right move, and Europe was the winner, but the historic stage begins now, for now the question has to be asked as to what is to happen next.

It is perfectly plain – and I, personally, find it regrettable – that the constitutional treaty is not going to enter into force in its present form. That is something we will have to live with. This Constitution is not going to happen. That must not be taken to mean that there is no Constitution, even if the treaty does not bear the name of ‘constitution’; we Germans have been living for sixty years with a constitution that is called the ‘Basic Law’, and it makes a great constitution.

We are at the stage where the question has to be answered as to what is to become of this continent in the future, and that question is a crucial one. There are those who want another Europe, who reject the revision of the treaties in the belief that Nice was a treaty too far in any case, and that we are, despite it, enlarging anyway – whatever happens and whatever the cost. To these people – on behalf of my group and I believe also on behalf of the overwhelming majority in this House – I say this: ‘On the contrary, the process of European integration is not over; it must continue, and we want it to go on.’

(Applause)

The reason why we want it to continue is that we need it, and, to all those who want the European Union to be enlarged, we have to say that there will be no enlargements unless the Union is reformed and unless the Treaties are renewed. To Mr Kaczyński and Mr Klaus, I say that these gentlemen will do great harm to Croatia if they obstruct reform of the European Union.

(Applause)

I urge them not to let others pay the price for their policies.

Why is what we are doing now historic? I would like to see the advocates of the integration process displaying the same enthusiasm as you do, Madam President-in-Office of the Council. I would like to hear the advocates of an integrated Europe making as much noise as we hear its opponents doing. What is called for now is a bit more readiness for the fight, for, while Europe thinks of itself as big, it is in fact small.

The twenty-seven Member States are home to 500 million people, who make up 8% of the world’s population, and that percentage is tending to decrease. As for China and India, now they are big countries. The United States possesses economic and military might that make it a superpower. If the integration of Europe fails and we end up with a multi-speed Europe, if Europe – which is small enough already – weakens itself by breaking up into its constituent parts, then it will fail. It is for that reason that we need all twenty-seven Member States and integration in Europe, for that is where our future lies.

(Applause)

If Europe were to fail, we would see the death not only of a constitutional treaty but also of an ideal, and what ideal is that? Let us not mince words about what lies in our past, what 50 years of integration have enabled us to overcome: hatred and intolerance, pretensions to Great Power status and the marginalisation of minorities, religious intolerance and the persecution of those who think differently about political matters.

Territorial integration has enabled us to put a stop to the ambitions of those who would be Great Powers; a combination of economic progress and social security has made social exclusion a thing of the past, and the concept of integration has defeated ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance, yet the things I have described are still there, for hatred, exclusion, oppression and even the striving to dominate others have now returned to our Union, not only in Eastern Europe, but throughout it.

These things would return to our Union with undiminished force if we were to wreck the process of integration, and that is why the cry to arms goes up to those who – under our President of Council, Mrs Merkel – are fighting for the continuation of the process of integration and for a deeper Union, to those who dedicate themselves to Europe’s values, the values that have made us strong and an example to others, for we cannot allow a situation in which the Commission, when negotiating with other states, says to them: ‘You, if you want to join the EU, must put yourselves through a process of transformation, a process that nullifies everything by which you were governed up to now, but we ourselves – the ones who are demanding this of you – are not able to reform ourselves’. How are we supposed to be credible if that is the case?

(Lively applause)

The situation in which we find ourselves today is a historic one, and you, Madam President-in-Office of the Council – although I have to admit that I, as a German Social Democrat, do not find it easy to say this – will, at home, as you go down this road, find us Socialists alongside you.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. Many thanks, Mr Schulz. The President was not entirely correct. I would ask that, in future, you refrain from always taking the duration of a speech as an example – the quality, by all means. The President’s objectivity does not permit him to go any further.

 
  
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  Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Chancellor, I congratulate you on your achievements – text and consensus.

Your celebration of the Union’s success was both timely and appropriate. It is largely to the European Union that we owe the security, prosperity and opportunity our citizens enjoy.

As we sat in Berlin’s Historisches Museum on Sunday morning, two things struck me. The first was your inspired move to engage the European Youth Orchestra for the occasion; it is first class and it deserves better financial support. The second was that of the 31 people on the platform – Heads of State and government, presidents of the institutions et al – you were the only woman. It brought to mind a verse by the poet Robert Burns:

‘While Europe’s eye is fixed on mighty things,

The fate of empires and the fall of kings;

While quacks of State must each produce his plan,

And even children lisp the Rights of Man;

Amidst this mighty fuss just let me mention,

The Rights of Woman merit some attention.’

Chancellor, you set us an example: we need more women at the highest levels in politics.

(Applause)

Indeed, in current circumstances, perhaps only a woman could have secured agreement.

However, I cannot congratulate you on the procedure you chose: a text drafted in the catacombs of the Bundeskanzleramt and signed by the Presidents of the three main institutions should not have the temerity to open with the words ‘We, the citizens of the European Union’. For it is the citizens of the European Union who need to be re-engaged in the task of building Europe. President Barroso was right when he said that the institutions must respect diversity, but the Member States must promote unity. The impressive festivities in Berlin were replicated in too few other European capitals. Until all your colleagues in the European Council actively argue the case for Europe, day in and day out, no solid foundation will exist.

Nor does it help, Chancellor, for the European People’s Party, your party, to claim all the credit for building this Union. The drafters of this vainglorious EPP declaration rightly praise Monnet, De Gasperi and Kohl, but their memory is selective at best. Thatcher, Chirac, Berlusconi: they were all EPP leaders too, but you seem to have overlooked their contributions. The Union is not the project of one political party. It belongs to us all.

(Applause)

We hope, Chancellor, that the Berlin Declaration will herald a new departure. We look to the intergovernmental conference you have secured to put in place the institutional building blocks of the Union’s future. The new Europe, the Europe Berlin envisages, should be one where the Union helps its citizens to grasp the opportunities of globalisation and shows them solidarity in facing new global challenges; one where democracy has the upper hand, and our values have the final word.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Cristiana Muscardini, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (IT) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, the Berlin summit was a time of great excitement, particularly for those who, like myself, have held a seat in this Parliament since 1989, the year that signalled the new birth of Europe. The declaration recognises that Europe is a Union of States and not a new Super-State, and recognising the identities of the peoples of the Union and their differences within an association based on shared aims is the strength that enables us to press on towards achieving that political union we have yet to attain.

We regret that it was not possible to recognise our roots in full: precisely because we believe strongly in the secularism of the institutions, we are equally convinced that, if we fail to recognise all of our roots, politics is impoverished. In our complex, multicultural and multi-ethnic society, with different ideas on the concept of democracy for achieving peace, which goes hand in hand with the universal recognition of respect for human dignity, there is a need for dialogue between cultures, and in order to recognise others one must first recognise oneself, from the everyday life of individuals to that of States.

We remain resolute in reaffirming the danger of theocracy of any kind, and equally of extreme secularism, which slowly destroys the core values of society in individuals and in politics. We are concerned by the confusion made by too many between the essential concept of the secularism of the institutions and the acceptance of a cultural and political relativism that leads to extreme secularism.

We are opposed to a Europe consisting only of the market, and to those pseudo-cultures that lead citizens to search for a virtual life to replace real life, for reasons of powerlessness or fear. We want a political Europe able to inspire the desire for democracy in places in the world where millions of women and men still suffer a lack of freedom and the rule of law.

Europe urgently needs flexible and clearly defined institutions, because it is today that terrorism is at our door and it is today that we need the ability to identify and swiftly carry out our missions – as we affirmed in the European Convention – both within and outside of Europe: from energy resources to water supply, from climate change to reaffirming human dignity.

We fear that 2009 is too far off, but ad impossibilia nemo tenetur – nobody is obliged to do the impossible – even though we are so convinced of the strong and sincere commitment of the German Presidency, and Chancellor Merkel’s great ability to both mediate and persuade, that we hold some hope that it may be possible to shorten this timeframe.

 
  
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  Monica Frassoni, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say straight away to Mr Watson and Mr Daul, and to others, that there is a perfectly simple way to have more women: co-presidency. We have been successful in this in the Verts/ALE Group – it works very well – and I highly recommend it to you.

We are greatly encouraged, Chancellor, by the Berlin Declaration. There are times when solemnity, rhetoric and formality are fitting, and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the European Community is surely one of those occasions, particularly because so many lives were lost in reaching that point, and it was a very hard battle that took quite some time.

We also recognise your role and are grateful to you for it – although I believe that in some way it all forms part of your duties – and we are pleased to note that in this case, unlike others – I must mention energy, cars, etc. – the German Presidency has demonstrated a European sentiment that is surely equal to the situation.

I believe that the message has got through and that public opinion has understood that this 50th anniversary is a positive goalpost and that we must continue our efforts. Of course, the European people have not paid all that much attention to the wording of the declaration or to how much work went into putting together these two short pages, in which there is not in fact anything particularly extraordinary or original. Rather, in my opinion, it is that which has been omitted from the declaration in question that demonstrates the existence of a deep division among governments – I must emphasise, among governments – as regards the future of Europe, a division that does not bode well for the work ahead of you, Chancellor, in the next few months.

We know full well that the dream of a European Union has not yet been realised; that in Darfur we cannot yet intervene as the European Union because we are divided; that energy policy – alas – for many governments essentially means bowing down before President Putin; that we are not able to define an original policy on relations with the United States, and that for all these reasons we need a strong European Union, complete with a constitution.

Chancellor, if the aim for the remainder of the Presidency is to find our way out of this impasse, we simply cannot afford to delude ourselves: the purely intergovernmental method will not work, nor will the Berlin Declaration method, since we will not succeed, in a repeat of the night of the Nice intergovernmental conference, in reaching an agreement capable, as you have said, of saving the substance of the constitution.

For this reason we call on you to have the courage to try democracy, to have the courage to authorise the opening-up of the intergovernmental conference, allowing the European Parliament to participate in it via a codecision procedure and a ‘shuttle’ system, publicity and debate; European citizens want more Europe, not less Europe, but their governments are not always able to demonstrate it. Therefore abandon the idea that only an intergovernmental conference can enable us to achieve results, because it will not work and we will not save the substance of the constitution; we will simply be left empty-handed.

 
  
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  Gabriele Zimmer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Mr President, Madam Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen, when we talk of the European dream nowadays, we are usually quoting the American Jeremy Rifkin. In any case, the EU Heads of State or Government and their sherpas have not been dreaming – and certainly not together.

The Berlin Declaration neither describes a dream nor reflects reality; on the contrary, it represents a further denial of reality, which is preventing any clear identification by the Heads of State or Government of the crisis in which the EU finds itself. This also means, of course, that there is no initiative offering a way out. Consequently, the danger of disintegration and renationalisation continues to grow. There is no rejection of a socially and environmentally destructive neoliberal free trade area, or of further militarisation of the EU.

The Declaration does not say a word about the situation of millions of people within the EU affected by poverty, long-term unemployment, precariousness and social exclusion. They do not figure in it. The message of the Declaration goes out only to the governments themselves, not to the people of the Member States; and thus it cannot be said to contribute to the creation of a European identity. Commentators have spoken of this being a test case for the constitutional process, as others have already mentioned today in principle. This translates as meaning that the future Constitution or Basic Treaty will come about by secret diplomacy without any involvement of civil society. Then everything will be just a matter of pressuring the Heads of State or Government – and some of my German fellow MEPs are threatening to leave Parliament if these leaders do not toe the line. In my opinion, this is indeed an extremely democratic argument – I really mean that.

If the governments in the EU were really serious about their promises to give the Union a new, viable common basis by the 2009 elections, the following would need to be done. All passages pushing for economic liberalisation, privatisation and militarisation would have to be deleted from the entire draft European Constitution. A debate on the European Union that most of its residents want would have to be opened. The third part of the present draft Constitution would have to be deleted in its entirety. The detailed policy objectives and requirements would have to be replaced by clear rules on powers and responsibilities and procedures that left scope for different policies. Article I(41)(3) would have to be replaced by a clear ban on wars of aggression and a commitment to international law, and the European Defence Agency, which is already up and running in anticipation of the EU Constitutional Treaty, would have to be closed.

 
  
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  Jens-Peter Bonde, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (DA) Mr President, Chancellor Merkel, the public festivities in the streets of Berlin were wonderful, but their keynote was perfunctory, pompous euronationalism. Mrs Merkel made a good speech. Our own President, Mr Poettering, signed a document on behalf of myself and my fellow MEPs, even though we had still not been shown the wording and had had no opportunity to influence it. No such thing must ever happen again. The European Parliament should not take part in preparing documents that MEPs are not allowed to see until the documents are adopted.

The most important clause is the last one, with its commitment to adopt a new Constitution that can enter into force before the EU elections in June 2009. Germany wants to see the Constitution doctored. There is a desire to change its name and perhaps to remove textual references to the flag and anthem, although not the flag and anthem themselves. Part II would be removed, and this with a view to adopting the common fundamental rights in a two-line reference to these. A handful of amendments would be made to Part III so that the Constitution might be presented as an innocent little amending treaty, but the main content would be the same as that rejected by French and Dutch voters.

All democratic forces should now, therefore, unite in demanding referendums on the next treaty in all the countries, and why not on the same day? In that way, our leaders would be forced to devise a document that could be approved by the voters, and the next treaty would give more influence to the voters instead of taking influence away from them, as the Constitution does. The heart of the matter is, of course, that, in 59 areas, there is a shift from unanimity to qualified majority voting, that is to say from unanimity, in which each country’s voters have the last word, to qualified majority voting among officials, ministers and lobbyists behind closed doors in Brussels. That is the order of the day: too much Machiavelli and not enough Montesquieu. Thank you, Mr President, even though in this case there is nothing to say thank you for.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch, on behalf of the ITS Group.(FR) Mr President, fifty years ago, the Treaty of Rome was concluded between countries in which the level of social protection was comparable and which, though rich in diverse cultures, also shared in a common civilisation. The principle underlying this treaty was that of Community preference, guaranteeing our producers, and small farmers in particular, prices higher than those on world markets.

This treaty has gone completely off the rails; Community preference has given way to an invasion of non-European products; deindustrialisation is costing Europe hundreds of millions of jobs, and agriculture and services have the axe hanging over them. By thoughtlessly opening up its borders, Europe has created unemployment, job insecurity and poverty, difficulties to which no reference is made in the Berlin declaration, which is a monument to cynical self-satisfaction, totally detached from reality and from the peoples, offering this Europe of ours no content, whether worldly or spiritual. As Pope Benedict XVI himself has commented, it even manages to gloss over the Christian roots of Europe; was that what the agreement of a Christian Democrat President of this House and a Christian Democrat President of the Council was needed for?

This Union is no longer democratic; the international institution is becoming a superstate, a state rejected by public opinion. Public opinion chased it out through the door, yet you now seek to bring it back in through a window. None of this has anything to do with the real spirit of Europe, and we will not endorse these wayward developments.

 
  
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  Jim Allister (NI). – Mr President, when you peel away all the self-congratulatory verbiage, in reality, this Berlin Declaration in many areas amounts to very little in terms of substance. In pursuit of the central tenet of the Treaty of Rome of securing ever-closer union, which the declaration is supposed to celebrate, many Euro-enthusiasts had seen it as a key landmark to relaunching the rejected constitution. When it came, however, after all the secrecy, the declaration was not even able to mention the constitution. Instead, it peddled much of the old nonsense about the EU being the peace machine of Europe. In my view, NATO, not the EU, can take most credit for the defence, return and promotion of freedom and democracy in Europe.

The idea of European cooperation is not in question. It is the means and ultimate purpose which divides. Euro-sceptics believe in the benefits of voluntary, mutual cooperation between sovereign nation states. What we reject is the orchestration of such by a grasping, centralising EU for the purpose of forcing an unwanted political integration upon the citizens of those nation states. This declaration clings to that goal and therefore it is flawed.

 
  
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  President. Mr Allister, we congratulate you, as a representative of your home country, on the Government of Northern Ireland.

 
  
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  Hartmut Nassauer (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Madam President-in-Office of the Council, what your presidency is doing for us Europeans is to give us courage, in that, for the first time in a long time, we are being given the impression that Europe might actually emerge from the cul-de-sac into which the failed ratification of the Treaty has led us. We will not be required to work towards a new constitution, but the way in which the European Union is constituted must be adapted to new circumstances. That much is not a matter of doubt. That will call for courage and leadership of the kind you have already demonstrated, and you will have our continued support along the way.

It is not, however, only the Heads of State or Government whom you will have to win over to this enterprise, difficult enough though that will be. You must also rekindle the European peoples’ enthusiasm for the European Union, for the EU risks forfeiting the confidence of its peoples, and it may well be that it has already done so. The question arises as to whether the integration to which Mr Schulz paid tribute is the right formula; although I have to say that I do agree with this basic approach and believe that integration is at the heart of the European way, more integration will not win us the support of ordinary Europeans, and so I urge you, Madam Federal Chancellor, to make yourself the spokesman for those who, although convinced Europeans and in favour of the integrationist approach, are less than satisfied with the way this European Union is perceived.

The source of the disquiet, of the distance to which you yourself referred, is the excessively regulatory approach to legislation, with decisions taken here being perceived, by people at ground level, as harassment on the part of Brussels, and if you, Mr President of the Commission, want an example of this from your own area of responsibility, I recommend the study, shortly before going to bed one night, of the directive on the protection of soil; I can promise you that it will give you nightmares. While we are right to celebrate the European Union’s historic triumphs, what the dissatisfaction with it makes clear is that what Europe now needs, in general terms, is not more integration, but boundaries – both within it and between it and the outside world. Integration is indeed a good thing, but it has become unbalanced, in that we sometimes have too much of it at home, while outside – which is where the public want more of a common foreign and security policy – there is not enough of it, and, if you doubt that, you need only ask yourself whether it is not indeed the case that an appeal for the release of the brave British soldiers is much more effective when it is backed by the whole of the European Union rather than coming from only one Member State.

The European Union needs to be liberated from the encrustation with which the integrationist approach has overlaid it, and that is where your thinking about discontinuity hits the nail right on the head, with the idea that a draft act that has not been passed into law by the end of a legislative period should be required to lapse. That will make for clarity, make it clearer who is responsible for what, and will build confidence, and so, Madam Federal Chancellor, my wish for you is that you succeed in winning back the trust of the peoples of Europe, which you have the opportunity to do.

 
  
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  President. Mr Nassauer, we all have to make a massive joint effort, and that is what we are going to do.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (PSE).(PT) Madam President-in-Office of the Council, speaking as a socialist and a woman, I too should like to congratulate Mrs Merkel on her Presidency. I feel that she has already made a difference and that more women are needed in decision-making positions.

Over the fifty years of its existence, the European Community has fulfilled Jean Monnet’s dream; it has consolidated the project of peace, freedom and progress and has extended its borders. There are now 27 Member States, whereas 50 years ago – and indeed more recently in the case of my country, Portugal – some of those countries were living under the yoke of dictatorships. More peace, more democracy, more wealth, the free movement of workers and goods and a single currency now adopted by 13 countries; this is a priceless legacy.

Europe has changed over the course of these 50 years, but then the world too has changed enormously, and with it the needs of Europeans. Globalisation, climate change, energy problems, the ageing population, migration and terrorism are challenges to which fresh answers must be found. We have a responsibility to find solutions to the problems of the present and to meet the citizens’ expectations. This will be the best way of promoting social stability and of contributing towards the balance of the world.

Internal peace and stability will count for little if solutions are not found to the Iraq war, the Middle East crisis and the serious problems facing our neighbours in North Africa.

The Berlin Declaration rightly relaunches the debate on the Constitutional Treaty and commits the 27 Member States to placing the EU on a renewed, common basis before European elections in 2009. A consensus must quickly be found. It cannot be denied that there are obstacles, but this is a good opportunity for the Member States to show the world and the citizens that what unites us is more significant than what divides us. This is the only way we will gain the citizens’ trust.

 
  
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  Silvana Koch-Mehrin (ALDE).(DE) Madam President-in-Office of the Council, what I want to do most of all is to congratulate you on two sentences in the Berlin Declaration, the first of which is the one that says that ‘we have united for the better.’ That is a wonderful thing to say, and I see it as running directly counter to those who carp and doubt, who only ever grumble that the EU is something in which their participation is compulsory. What this is all – precisely – about is ‘uniting for the better.’ I also think this beguilingly simple form of words strikes a note to which every citizen can relate.

I would also like to congratulate you on having managed to include in the Berlin Declaration a binding commitment to making 2009 the date by when the European Union is to be put on a new footing. That is so definite that none of your fellow Heads of Government can go back on it without suffering a really serious loss of face.

Good though it is that this joint declaration should have been made, I have to say that I find its content rather vague, for it has nothing to tell us about what Europe’s future is supposed to be like or – and this is the most important – about how the man and woman in the street are supposed to be involved in it, and so, as we look forward to the second half of your presidency, we look forward to proposals as to how that is to be accomplished. From the depths of our hearts, we wish you much success. If ever you need support in getting the citizens involved, you can certainly rely on us.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (UEN), (PL) Chancellor, Mr President, the two greatest achievements of integration have been the Common Market and enlargement. The Common Market brought Europeans prosperity, whilst enlargement has given the European Union a sound footing in terms of international relations. However, the Berlin declaration, instead of expounding these achievements, appears to be concealing them behind vague formulations about openness and cooperation. Underplaying the role of the Member States to such an extent is a grave error. The declaration has been written solely in the name of the citizens. If we want integration to develop, we must attribute greater importance to the Member States, which support integration and are not its enemies.

Please, Mr Schulz, when you speak of enlargement, do not hide behind the Constitutional Treaty, President Kaczyński or President Klaus. Putting a halt to enlargement is purely and solely an expression of our, and of your, fear of the future.

This document is also offensive in that it fails to mention Christianity. This is an example of prejudice which makes a Europe of common values impossible.

 
  
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  Johannes Voggenhuber (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, Madam President of the Council, today finds me feeling rather unsure of myself, for, despite having sat in this House for twelve years, I have no experience of singing the praises of Council Presidencies, yet your work obliges me to do so. The last great Europeans to speak in this House – Mitterrand and the post-Presidency Juncker – tended, in their Europeanism, to occupy the terrain between melancholia and despair. I have a great deal of respect for the way you have taken on the challenge of Europe, and have done so even though the incredible expectations people had of your presidency might well have weighed down on you from the outset. What the Berlin Declaration lacks is 26 signatures, the signatures of 26 Heads of State or Government attached to a birthday declaration, a declaration full of the patently obvious – but yours is there. You are the first to emerge from the mechanism in which Council members obstruct one another, menace one another, trip each other up and lay traps for one another and make that commitment, and you deserve all respect for that.

I would have liked to have heard – along with the references to the EU’s successes – more said about the disappointment of people’s expectations and the crisis of confidence in the Union. I congratulate you, and want to express my respect for you, on having got the constitutional project out of the pack ice; that showed leadership, that was a freestyle performance on thin ice.

There are just two more things I would ask you to consider. Firstly, although the goal you have set is the only one that Europe can now strive for, the question arises as to whether the method is the right one, whether it might rather be the case that the constitutional crisis might be overcome by something extra, by a stronger and more persuasive Europe, with perhaps this or that additional function, or more convincingly democratic. Is your goal achievable using a method that harks back to the days of mounted couriers riding from one state chancellery to another, always bringing you the same message – the age-old claims and desires of the national governments.

Secondly, there is the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and this is where I entreat you, Madam President-in-Office of the Council, for, if the Charter of Fundamental Rights is detached from this constitutional treaty, you will split the great movement in favour of the Constitution, and that will bring a result that many of us who have fought for the Constitution will regard as unacceptable, for fundamental rights are central to this European project.

 
  
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  President. Thank you, Mr Voggenhuber, not least for the way in which your cooperation with the President in Parliament helped things to work out so successfully.

 
  
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  Roberto Musacchio (GUE/NGL).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Mrs Merkel is sincerely committed to revitalising Europe; however, I do not agree with the method and material with which she seeks to do so. An attempt is being made to lay aside the social, political and democratic crisis and the significance of the French referendum, and to do so by focusing solely on the intergovernmental method, which has even prevented parliaments – including myself, for example – from being privy to the Berlin Declaration, and on continuing with the old liberalist treaty, perhaps eager to create a minimalist version of it.

Problems are not solved by continuing down the same path that created them. On the contrary, we must change text and context and focus on democracy and rights, listening once more to the people and to parliaments, beginning with the European Parliament, in order to rewrite a constitution founded on the right to citizenship, peace, work and the environment and then putting it to a European referendum in which the last word lies with the people.

 
  
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  Vladimír Železný (IND/DEM).(CS) Mr President, we were told not long ago that neither the Czech Government nor the Czech President have been informed of the content of the Berlin Declaration.

The objective of this concealment was perhaps to smuggle in at the end of the Declaration a sentence obliging the Member States to adopt a mini Constitution, which will not be called a Constitution so as to avoid giving citizens the opportunity to decide on it in a referendum. The sentence was to be submitted at the last moment, over the heads of the Member States. This undignified attitude does not befit the democratic Presidency of the EU but has more in common with the sort of political manipulation which we remember all too well from the Eastern part of what is today Germany, in other words from the former German Democratic Republic. In the end, what has remained is a sentence that says nothing, recommending that the EU be placed on a new footing, a sentence that will take us two years of argument to interpret.

In the Czech Republic we have a clear interpretation: ‘Let us return the Union to its original core values, which have yet to be fulfilled. Let us remove the democratic deficit and ensure the free movement of workers and services. Let us reform agricultural policy, which discriminates against the new Member States. Let us, lastly, abandon attempts to produce endless reams of regulations and let matters take their natural course.’ Thank you Mr President.

 
  
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  Timothy Kirkhope (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Madam Federal Chancellor, Mr Barroso, I thank the Federal Chancellor and the President for what they have said.

I shall begin by acknowledging the historical importance of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.

Whatever our view of the kind of Europe we want to see, I think we must all welcome some of the important achievements of Europe in the past five decades. We have contributed to the development of friendly relations between those Member States who until recently in historical terms were enemies. Europe has provided a forum where democratically elected governments can take decisions based on dialogue. We have seen the development of a single market in Europe, which has offered new economic opportunities for our peoples, and the enlargement of 2004 healed remaining divisions. I believe that these and other achievements are something all of us can welcome.

However, it is the future we must now look to. The European Union today is viewed by many, not least in my own country, as a distant bureaucracy. They see us still as an over-regulated body that is encroaching on too many matters that should be the preserve still of nation states. People want to see cooperation in Europe, but they do not understand why politicians in this Parliament spend so much time on constitutional and institutional issues. People ask what we are going to do to combat global climate change, to fight the scourge of global poverty and to make our continent more competitive in the face of globalisation. They want us to deliver on the substance and not dwell too much on processes.

There may well be a requirement for improving the institutional workings of the EU through treaty changes, but this does not necessarily mean a complex new Constitution.

In the 21st century we need more flexibility and more decentralisation to enable our economies to win in international markets. We do not need more regulation: we need less. We do not necessarily need more majority voting to fight climate change or global poverty; we need more effective intergovernmental cooperation.

Constitutions and institutions do not themselves generate prosperity, they do not make our economies more competitive, they do not reduce CO2 emissions and they do not feed hungry people in the developing world. I urge all governments and the Presidency now to get on with the job – they have started well – of delivering on policy substance.

 
  
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  President. Thank you, and best wishes for your German course.

 
  
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  Bernard Poignant (PSE).(FR) Mr President, Madam President-in-Office of the Council, the declaration made me think back to certain Europeans – to Robert Schuman, since you have used his method of a declaration drafted under conditions of the strictest secrecy, which can be a very fruitful approach. Another reason why I thought of him was that, although his father was French, being born during the war meant that he was born German; his mother was a Luxembourger, and French was only his third language, yet he ended up as President-in-Office of the Council. I also cast my mind back to Alcide De Gasperi, who was born Austrian and served as an Austrian parliamentarian in the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, before becoming an Italian one.

These two men were frontiersmen, and it is frontiersmen such as they who are the makers of Europe, for frontiers are the scabs that form over the wounds of history, and we are here in order that those wounds may never be reopened.

Then I found my thoughts turning to you three. They turned to you, Mr President, the scribe of peace, for you are of my generation, a son of a Europe at peace rather than in the flames by which it had previously been consumed, a man with your own personal wound. As for you, Madam Chancellor, you are, for a Frenchman like me, the Chancellor who came from over the wall, over what is now a tourist trail and was once a barrier, while you, Mr Barroso, are the President of recovered liberty, who has changed since the age of 18, when, politically speaking, you were a bit red around the edges.

Looking at the three of you – I do love that declaration, and this is an anniversary, after all – I said to myself: ‘Even so, they do have something wrong with them; they are not socialists.’ Then, though, I remembered what Guy Mollet, who was a Socialist and President of the Council in 1956, said: ‘If you are going to make Europe, don’t wait for it to become Socialist first’.

And, yes, it is indeed a damn well-made piece of work!

 
  
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  President. – Thank you very much, Mr Poignant, particularly for your personal comments.

 
  
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  Andrew Duff (ALDE). – Mr President, Madam Chancellor, would you please confirm that the Presidency is now firmly in favour of improving rather than impoverishing the Constitutional Treaty to ensure its speedy ratification? Will you firmly choose a ‘Constitution plus’ rather than a mini, tiny or even teeny treaty? Will you not tolerate an IGC with the sole purpose of extricating Member States from pledges to promote referendums?

Remember the unfulfilled challenges of Laeken. The IGC should not be allowed to pull apart the comprehensive package agreed between the institutions and the Member States. Its focus instead should be on reforming the common policies so that they become more responsive to contemporary concerns and future challenges.

And, as regards all those who are asking you to open up the first and second parts, please tell them to be patient. Let us first bring the treaty into force and try things out in practice before returning to tampering afresh with the agreed balance of power. Sometime, the historic first amendment will surely come, but it should not be attempted now.

 
  
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  President. Mr Duff, I would like to thank you for the contribution you made during our consultation and information process in Parliament.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio (UEN).(IT) Mr President, Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen, at Berlin the European leaders somewhat lacked the courage to point out the choices imposed on us by globalisation, immigration and the risk of losing our identity. There was not one word on Europe’s geo-political borders, which, thanks to enlargement to include Turkey, risk meeting Iran, Iraq and even Syria.

Only Pope Benedict XVI, who stands out in this situation as a spiritual head of a Europe otherwise without ideas or ideals, has shown us the way to go: how can anyone fail to understand that it is impossible to build a common Europe while ignoring the cultural and moral identity of the European people? The European leaders remained deaf and dumb to these warnings. Clearly, it is not the Europe of bankers and lobbies that can save us from these dangers, from the crisis of the European social model and from the threat of Islamic invasion.

For those of us in favour of regional autonomy it is difficult to accept a draft constitution that endorses a bureaucratic and centralist Europe, characterised, among other things, as we have seen today, by serious scandals and poor transparency, far from the dream of the great thinkers worthy of a Europe of the regions and the peoples.

Nevertheless, Chancellor, I would like to thank you and acknowledge the sensitivity you have demonstrated, as a leader driven by Christian pietas, in the attention you have given, on my recommendation, to the as yet unresolved issue of the recognition of the rights of imprisoned Italian soldiers. I thank you on their behalf and on behalf of the 50 000 families who await recognition of their sacrifice and their memory.

 
  
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  Rebecca Harms (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, Madam President of the Council, many thanks to you; Mr Voggenhuber has already presented you with a bouquet on behalf of my group, in which I believe there is nobody who doubts that you deserve it, although we are already wondering what is supposed to happen next, and that, speaking as I do towards the end of the debate, is what I would like to reiterate. We do not in fact believe that the spirit of this Berlin Declaration is compatible with the idea that what is left of the Constitution should ultimately serve only to enable the work of the technocrats and bureaucrats in Brussels to be done a bit more smoothly.

We do indeed see this constitutional project as a cause and a project that is meant to make Europe as a whole more democratic, and that is why we believe the catalogue of fundamental rights, to which reference has been made, simply must be part of it. Far from believing that the question of how that objective is to be achieved, and of how the citizens are to be involved in achieving it is a banal one, we believe that we have learned something from the referendums in France and the Netherlands and that it is important that all citizens, as equals in Europe, should be consulted. Consulting one citizen and not another will result in two speeds; that must not be allowed to happen, and believing as we do that clarification of that would be helpful, that is what we would like to see.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL).(PT) The German Presidency is seeking to push through its agenda for the EU, which it is moulding on the basis of its increasing ambitions.

With all pomp and circumstance, the Berlin Declaration is simply a further step in this strategy, one of the objectives of which is that the core content of the – already rejected – European Constitution will be revived. The truth of the matter is that, despite the efforts of the powers-that-be to lend the event some grandeur, the overriding feeling was of its artificiality and of total indifference on the part of the people to the announcement of 50 years of the Treaty of Rome.

This is a sign of the times, which illustrates how much the EU is at variance with the interests and aspirations of the peoples of Europe and the world. The dominant forces of European capitalist integration are fully aware of this increasing contradiction. The content of the Berlin Declaration is therefore, in our view, no more than an exercise in exploiting the justified concerns of the peoples of Europe. The Declaration has nothing to do with the real objectives and specific policies of the EU and the harsh reality arising from them.

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani (PPE-DE).(IT) Mr President, Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen, the Berlin summit has certainly taken a step forward for Europe, representing the beginning of a new phase following a period marked by difficulties and a degree of failure.

The celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Treaties have signalled the revival of a European initiative, coordinated between the Council, Commission and Parliament, to build Europe’s future. If we are to talk of the future, however, we have to aim to achieve, before 2009, a fundamental law regulating the competences and role of a Union that is not only a market but also has the potential to be a player in international politics, intervening with practical responses not least to citizens’ demands.

For this reason, Chancellor, I welcome the initiative to open a major debate on three fundamental subjects: climate change, energy security and the issue of Africa and its tragedies too often ignored by the West. The Europe that we believe in, however, and that our founding fathers believed in is not made up solely of politics and economics. I am concerned to read that hundreds of churches are disappearing in Germany, as I am concerned to note that few children are being born in Italy; I am appalled by the sentences delivered by judges acquitting men who savagely beat their wives in the name of their religion; I am alarmed by the spread of drugs among young people in Europe. This is not the Europe with which we identify and to which we are committed.

It would therefore be a mistake to undervalue or, worse still, to forget the values emphasised in the Berlin Declaration: democracy, peace, freedom, justice and, above all, the importance of the individual and human dignity. How can we fail, therefore, to echo the words of Jacques Delors, who reminds us not to forget our Christian roots. In an interview today he tells us that memory is our future.

 
  
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  Stephen Hughes (PSE). – Mr President, in looking to the future development of Europe, the Berlin Declaration quite rightly underlines the importance of solidarity and social cohesion in a European model combining economic success and social responsibility. It reminded me of another declaration entitled ‘Enhancing Social Europe’, adopted by nine EU governments shortly before the Spring Summit this year. That declaration is aimed at rebalancing the policy mix in favour of action in the employment and social fields.

In response, the Spring Summit conclusions included a clear reference to decent work, workers’ rights and participation, equal opportunities, safety and health protection at work and the need for a family-friendly organisation of work. The importance of social cohesion was also underlined and stress placed on the need to fight poverty, particularly child poverty. The importance of the social dimension was therefore highlighted in the clearest terms.

The conclusions also recalled the Treaty’s social provisions, in particular its attachment to the improvement of employment and of living and working conditions. That is part of Article 136 of the Treaty, which was celebrated on Sunday and serves as a preamble to the very clear legal bases available to the Commission to make proposals to improve employment and living and working conditions.

I think it is a timely reminder from Berlin and from the Spring Summit that the Commission needs to relaunch a social agenda with content because, looking at the Commission’s work programme at the moment, it seems to have forgotten that it has any legal bases to allow it to act at all.

We want the Commission to respond as a matter of urgency. It could make a start by giving substance to the current game of smoke and mirrors around the subject of flexicurity. Let us have fresh legislative proposals to tackle exploitative forms of atypical work. Let us see flexicurity being given positive meaning for the millions of workers who currently see it as a cloak for exploitation.

Finally, I hope the German Presidency will keep social Europe centre stage in the approach to, and beyond, the June Summit. In that way, the Berlin Declaration will retain credibility.

 
  
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  Bronisław Geremek (ALDE). – (PL) Chancellor, first and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude for the fact that you have succeeded in leading Europe out of its state of melancholy, its sense of doom and gloom. On 25 March, Europeans not only sang the Ode to Joy, but really felt that joy.

What the Berlin Declaration depends on is how it will be implemented. Its place in the history of the European Union depends on what happens next. But it does confirm one important thing, which is that Europe has indeed united, and gives the parties responsible for this unification due credit.

However, we should perhaps also add that Europe, as far as East and West are concerned, is only just unifying now. Two different pasts and two different sensibilities must unite. We also need Europe to be strong and integrated.

The unification of Europe is our challenge. And the striking view expressed in the Berlin Declaration – that Europe needs to re-discover its foundations – is another challenge. If Europe has to re-define its foundations, then without a treaty giving it a political dimension and allowing it to make effective decisions, Europe will be unable to move ahead. It also seems to me that the assertion that we are united should mean: we are united so that Europe can move ahead.

 
  
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  Angela Merkel, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, honourable Members, I would like, very briefly, to sum up this debate, which is one for which I am very grateful.

What has become clear here today – and I am sure that this reflects opinion in all of your groups – is that the common mind and will of the overwhelming majority in your House is that this Europe of ours be moved forward, and, moreover with a dose of optimism thrown in, of the kind referred to by the chairman of the Socialist Group, Mr Schulz, whom I, too – on the assumption that I, in my capacity as President-in-Office of the Council, am allowed to do so – want to praise today, for that the situation is historic, and a very serious one, is a point on which I agree entirely with all those who have made it today.

There are still those sceptics who hesitate and doubt whether we really need a timetable, and whether we really need to present the citizens with a renewed basis in 2009, as we, in the Berlin Declaration, said that we would. To these sceptics, we should say that we, as the German Presidency, like Parliament and the Commission, are already aware that what is at stake here is what we once called the ‘Europe of projects’, in other words, that very definite steps forward need to be taken, of the kind that are actually visible to people.

This is not just about our now laying down this or that voting procedure and settling institutional issues, but also, at the same time, about showing people that we are accomplishing something, something that is of great significance in terms of the life of every individual. The more we manage to get done in these six months, in which we do of course have other important matters to address, the easier it will then be to make progress with these other issues. In any case, our efforts over the coming three months will be equally devoted to both these things, and I would like to say a very warm thank-you to your House for giving its attention to many of these practical matters. Yesterday, for example, you managed to unlock resources for the protection of the environment, thus making it possible for projects to get started. We have also had things to say about agriculture. It is in areas such as these that people ask just what Europe is now achieving, and so succeeding in this now is a positive thing.

The question has also been asked in your House as to how the Berlin Declaration came into being. I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, on the subject of the Treaties of Rome, that ‘Never has something as important as the Treaties of Rome come to pass in back rooms such as these without anyone noticing anything’. We stand no chance of repeating that sort of performance in an age such as our own in which the media are everywhere, but I do believe that we must, not least over the coming months, find the right mix between participation and the whole business of getting things done, and the public square is not always the best place for doing that. It was not, then, the case that the President had been obliged to have secret consultations with me on the Berlin Declaration, but the groups in your House were of course involved in one way or another, and that is how we tried to reflect on your proposals, in exactly the same way as we did with the Commission and the 27 Member States.

Everyone knows, though, that one of the things about democracy is that not everyone finds their views reflected in what comes out of the end; there are times when these things can be done only in parallel, and these things cannot all be reported on at the same time, but I do nevertheless believe that the public should be let in on what is now at stake, and that is why I have a request to make of your House. Mr President, I would very much like to make a suggestion to your House, for the Council is not, as an institution, suited to making a particularly good job of celebrating public participation. Since Parliament has committees, it might perhaps be possible to arrange – perhaps in May – a hearing of civil society, to which the Council would also send a representative, at which we might consider what is being said within civil society about people’s expectations of this process of producing a renewed common basis, so that we could then, by means of a debate before the next Council, involve, to some degree, the European public in our deliberations.

(Applause)

I believe, then, that we, over the coming three months too, will be seeing a lot of each other. The first three months were fun; why, then, should the second half not be enjoyable too? Thank you very much.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. Thank you, Chancellor Merkel; the most important thing is that it has become apparent that we again believe in Europe and trust one another, and this trust between this House and yourself as the representative of the European Council has grown to an incredible degree over recent weeks. I can speak for many in this House, and, in particular, for myself when I say that working together with you was a cause of great joy, and that we look forward to further cooperation with you and with the Commission. We wish you much continued success, and are right behind you.

 
  
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  Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski (UEN). (PL) The long-awaited Berlin declaration has come as something of a surprise to the peoples of Europe. Not so much due to what it contains, which the press has dubbed a ‘masterpiece of ambiguity’, but due to the lack of public debate. It speaks volumes that the declaration was signed by only three people, representing the European institutions, rather than by representatives of all twenty-seven Member States.

In fact, the declaration does not commit anyone to anything, or smooth out the differences in opinion as regards the role and functioning of the Union. There is no agreement on a common foreign policy, and no outline of a European defence policy.

The decisive opposition in some countries to a reference to Europe’s Christian roots places a question mark against any definition of common European values. In the future, and in spite of all these unresolved issues, we should not stray from the path of dialogue and consultation towards blackmailing countries who voice various reservations.

 
  
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  József Szájer (PPE-DE). (HU) The European Union has reached a mature age, and it seems that it has also gained the appropriate wisdom, since it has succeeded in adopting a concise document that concentrates on values, principles and the tasks that lie ahead, and that is at the same time comprehensible for the average person. The Union has thus demonstrated that it is able to speak with one voice and is ready to take action based on values.

This declaration celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, but I would like to recall another 50th anniversary as well, namely that of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which is equally present at the roots, origins and traditions of today’s European Union. Without the example of 1956 and of the Hungarian revolutionaries, the European Union would not have been able to develop in the way in which it has done, in what we can now refer to as our common Europe.

I am convinced that we need a European Union that is strong, self-confident about its values and identity, refusing to yield from its principles and incapable of any subterfuge. We would like to see a Union that deepens the cooperation of its Member States, fosters internal collaboration and moves toward greater solidarity and political integration.

Why is a strong European Union in our interest? Because with it, each individual state can also grow considerably stronger. In order to be strong, it is also important, of course, that we be capable of clearly recognising our past and our identity.

I celebrated the 50th anniversary in Rome at a conference organised by a civil society organisation, and I would like to pass on to you one of the messages of this conference, namely, that we must indeed recognise our identity, and recognise and affirm the roots of Europe, its Christian roots. Everyone who looks at Europe from the outside sees in us what it is that is common to us all. Why do we fail to see this ourselves, and why are we afraid to acknowledge it?

 
  
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  President. Thank you very much, Mr Szájer, not least for your cooperation in the internal coordination, in which you had a hand.

 
  
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  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE). (PL) The Berlin Declaration was signed at a very important moment for the European Union. The signing of the Treaties of Rome 50 years ago was the first step in the implementation of an ambitious idea. The presence of twenty-seven states in Berlin reflected the impact of this idea. When the Union was founded in the ruins of post-war Europe, the founding declaration was signed by just six states.

Now, half a century on, it is a joy that Europe is living in peace. It has almost half a billion inhabitants. It covers a large part of the continent and is a greater force in the world than ever. The results of integration are impressive: a unified market, a common currency in thirteen states and the free movement of people, goods and capital. The European Union has taken on commitments to protect the environment and to work towards sustainable development. It is an active and high-profile player in the international arena, bringing stability and prosperity to neighbouring countries.

The Berlin Declaration is an important symbol for Europe. However, something is still lacking, despite the clear sense of achievement. We might have wished for the European Union to have a Constitution on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Rome Treaties. We still face a number of challenges: global economic competition, new challenges in the fields of social policy, environmental protection, energy and security. Europe’s citizens want a more effective and stronger Union, operating on the basis of transparent rules. We should remove the barriers facing citizens, particularly in the new Member States, in relation to the free movement of people and services. We have to finish enlarging the Schengen and the euro zones. We need to implement a common energy policy. Europe needs economic growth, new jobs and better social security.

In this context, the point in the Declaration which states that the institutional foundations of Europe have to be agreed by 2009 is of great importance. It should motivate all Member States to carry out the necessary institutional reforms. Chancellor Angela Merkel deserves praise for her significant contribution to our common success. Today the European Union has a female face. The Union is a woman.

 
  
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  Íñigo Méndez de Vigo (PPE-DE). – (ES) There has been talk here, Mr President, of the importance of a European climate change policy. Is that possible with the current Treaties? No.

There has also been talk of the social integration of immigrants. Is that possible with the current Treaties? No.

And what about a single energy market? It has no legal basis in the current Treaties. I say this because to contrast what some have called ‘the real polices of concern to the citizens’ with instruments and techniques, as if the latter were not important, simply shows ignorance of how the European Union works.

Without procedures, without legal bases, the European Union cannot act, and without more democracy, it will be acting without legitimacy. That is why it is so important that we reach an agreement on the Constitutional Treaty.

I believe that, following the German Presidency’s success at the Berlin event, that is what we must now be working towards.

I hope that the European Council in June will provide for that. It does not need to be done unanimously, and I believe that it is very important to set the mandate. And on setting the mandate for the Intergovernmental Conference ─ and a university teacher is speaking here ─ we must take account of those who have passed the exam, in some cases with distinction, and we must help those who have failed it and those who have not taken it, but we must not just take account of those who have failed or not taken it.

Those of us who have ratified it, therefore, have fulfilled our commitment and we must be taken into account when that mandate is established.

It has been said here, and quite rightly, that this Parliament, via yourself, Mr President, has made a decisive contribution to the Berlin Declaration. I believe that we want to do the same in the Intergovernmental Conference: we all want to help the European Council, because the Commission is part of the Intergovernmental Conference, because the national parliaments are going to ratify the result of that Conference. But we want to make a decisive contribution to ensuring that the Intergovernmental Conference is as great a success as the Berlin Declaration, at least.

 
  
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  President. Thank you very much, Mr Méndez de Vigo. I would also like to express my gratitude to you for your good cooperation in the preparatory work, in which you were the coordinator for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats.

 
  
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  Ioannis Varvitsiotis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, the Berlin ceremony is over and it was phantasmagorical on the very important achievements of the past 50 years. However, the lights of the ceremony have now been switched off and we find ourselves face to face with the fact that the European citizens are dominated by feelings of indifference, bitterness and, more importantly, anxiety. European citizens are convinced that Europe cannot easily move forward as things stand.

It is comforting that Chancellor Mergel understood that the first priority is to create the preconditions for rendering the mechanisms of the institutions of the European Union operational, given that it is obvious that the European Union of the 27 cannot move forwards with the same structures and the same organisation as it had when there were only 15 members. The endeavour is extremely difficult. It is telling that the Berlin declaration signed by the 27 leaders makes no reference to the European Constitution, which is the main issue of concern to us. The creation of a position of President of the Union and of Minister of Foreign Affairs, the reduction in the number of commissioners, the new weighting of votes, the increase in Parliament's responsibilities, the abolition of the three pillars, the strengthening of the institution of reinforced cooperation between the Member States and the acquisition of a legal personality for the European Union are some of the arrangements achieved in the European Constitution which was not voted through. I think that we should integrate them into a new 'Nice II' Treaty and put them into practice before the elections in 2009.

Let us forget about grandiose plans. Let us come down to reality. I think that this Europe can move forward with this realistic solution.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS MORGANTINI
Vice-President

 
  
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  Margie Sudre (PPE-DE). (FR) Madam President, Madam President-in-Office of the Council, Mr President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, the Berlin Declaration is addressed to the peoples of the EU, bidding them take stock of the extraordinary success with which our shared endeavour has met; recalling our European values, it must be the starting point for a new leap of imagination over and above the solidarities that have enabled certain shared policies to coalesce over the past half-century.

We have to be realistic, without concealing the current difficulties, and persuade Europeans that the building of a strong and united Europe in the world is not merely indispensable, but represents an opportunity for each of our twenty-seven countries and every one of the Union’s 500 million citizens. If they are to be won over, we must not only offer them concrete results and tangible evidence of the EU’s added value, but must also adopt a more optimistic attitude, and that is what Chancellor Merkel has done.

Europeans are divided among themselves on the main directions of European policy; some believe that Europe is taking too liberal a course and is failing to protect its own people against globalisation, while others believe it is not protectionist enough. As always, the truth is somewhere between the two extremes.

Our continent is one of the few fixed points of stability in an increasingly unpredictable world. Our histories are full of lessons to learn, and our cultures are rich in diversity, the guiding lights for many peoples. Our economy is generally sound and open to the world. We strive unceasingly for greater solidarity with the least well-endowed and least stable regions of the world.

Let me take this opportunity to salute the President-in-Office of the Council, and not only her achievements but also her efforts, which demonstrate her concern that Europe should make progress and that a way should be found out of the stalemate that we have been experiencing for some months now, and for that I should like to thank her most sincerely.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Madam President, President of the Commission, we, the citizens of Europe who have come from behind the ‘iron curtain’, set the greatest value in freedom, including the free market, and what was once our national product or, if you like, our regional speciality, namely solidarity. We also know the price of defending these values. For decades we dreamed of returning to the European homeland of free nations. We grew up listening to banned radio programmes, broadcast from Munich, with the proud name of ‘Radio Free Europe’.

Now we are still true to that Europe, free and united. As members of the European Union we have the full right to contribute to moulding its future. It is no longer enough to have the words ‘Europe, Europe’ on our lips, but we also have to ask ‘Europe yes, but what kind of Europe?’ Europe should be a project enjoying the full confidence of all of its members. There cannot be any taboo subjects in the European debate.

The Constitutional Treaty, which the French and the Dutch rejected, is open to analysis by each country, which has the right to question those aspects it regards as controversial.

However, we should not be in a situation where Mr Schulz, the leader of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, takes every opportunity to marginalise those Member States that dare to differ from his view of the future institutional shape of the European Union, or which differs from the political correctness that the Left is trying to impose. The debate on the treaty proposed by the German presidency should be dominated by openness and a willingness to compromise, even on such difficult issues as looking for a new and fair way of voting in the Council.

I also noticed that the Berlin Declaration lacked any reference to our Christian roots.

Finally, I would like to quote the Belgian politician Paul-Henri Spaak, in whose building we are today, and who in 1957 said:

(FR) As I once said in Strasbourg, when the present times have passed, when we will all have been gone for many years and when men seek to recount the human adventure that we lived, they will – irrespective of our religious or philosophical convictions – be unable to say more than that the people of those times, of that century, lived together the immense adventure of Christian civilisation.

 
  
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  Elmar Brok (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Mr President of the Commission, Madam Federal Chancellor, I feel very honoured to be able to speak under your Presidency. There are a few comments I should like to make. The first is that – as the Berlin Declaration made clear – Europe has, by means of integration, been able to achieve a degree of peace, freedom and prosperity such as it has never done in all its history heretofore, the like of which is probably unique in the history of the human race.

Secondly, it has also become plain that we face challenges that, in many areas, such as terrorism, globalisation, foreign and security policy and energy security, the nation states are no longer able to master on their own, and that list makes evident that the European Union has been a success wherever and whenever we have availed ourselves of the Community method, worked with a common body of law and applied the Monnet method. It is for this reason – or so I believe – that the constitutional process should be conducted on this same basis, for we are weakened wherever the governments work together.

That also means – if we are now to embark upon the next, the post-Berlin declaration stage, and if the constitutional process is to be resumed – that it is important that these principles of the Community method be adhered to. The constitutional treaty already contains much that we need if we are to meet the challenges that await us.

While the Constitution does not, in itself, solve any problems, it does provide us with the framework of legitimacy and decision-making competence that enable us to do so for ourselves, and I hope that it is, for this reason, clear to all twenty-seven Member States – and I am following the Commission in saying this – that they have to have very good reasons for not going along with that process, and so we have to ensure the European Union, as a community of twenty-seven, faces up to this challenge rather than disintegrating into the little blocks that would result if it could not, as a whole, succeed in doing so.

 
  
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  President. In giving the floor to President Barroso, I would like to apologise for the absence in this Chamber not of MEPs, since they are notorious for it, but, above all on a subject such as that which we are debating, of many of those who participated in the debate I am sure, however, that they will read your speech and will perhaps follow it on screen.

 
  
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  José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. (PT) Madam President, honourable Members, I feel that this has been an interesting debate. I had prepared one or two answers to specific questions, but given that the honourable Members who asked them are not here, I might leave those answers for another time.

I should like, however, to make a general comment on the fundamental issue at stake here, namely the substance and the process. We need both. We need to resolve the major problems facing us in Europe and the problems of globalisation, yet we also need to have the best processes and institutions. I do not agree with those who seek to focus the debate on one of these aspects. If we want to resolve problems and if we want to be able to address the major challenges, we need more efficient, more democratic and more coherent institutions

We also need to resolve the constitutional issue. Whether or not we refer to the Treaty as ‘constitutional’, we need to resolve the question and this is my appeal to you today, honourable Members, even those who do not have the same enthusiasm as others for the constitutional concept. I know that you share the desire to resolve problems pragmatically. I trust you will make your contribution and help all EU governments to find a solution as regards both processes and the institutions, because if we want results, we need these institutions.

As regards how to involve civil society and the general public in the debate on the institutional issue, I should also like to say that we in the Commission have been active. Prior to adoption of the Berlin Declaration, I personally had meetings with Commission Vice-President Mrs Wallström and leaders of Parliament, as well as representatives of civil society. I welcome the proposal that Chancellor Merkel put forward today for Parliament to arrange a hearing of civil society in May. The Commission would like to support this initiative if Parliament carries out the proposal.

We are ready, in conjunction with Parliament, to launch the debate on these issues, whilst ensuring that there is room for negotiation between governments, and for this reason I wish to support Chancellor Merkel’s proposal.

(FR) By way of conclusion, I shall now speak in French, as I respond to Mr Poignant’s very important observation. I would like to thank him for having, with some humour, raised a very important point and for showing that people can hold different positions where policy and ideology are concerned, while sharing in the same European spirit. Therein lies a lesson for all of us. I believe that that exactly sums up our European project which, to a large degree, transcends our political and ideological differences. One may tend towards the Left, or be more inclined towards the Right or Centre, but what we need is a coalition of the European spirit. That is a lesson for all of us, and I want to thank you, Mr Poignant, for it, just as I also thank those who, as members of different political families, share this spirit – to be sure, with nuances – for it is only by that spirit, which I perceived in Berlin, that we can answer the great expectations that Europe has of us.

Turning to the subject of solidarity, I would like to say – in particular to certain Members of your House belonging to political groups with a rather more sceptical view of integration – that it must not be forgotten that solidarity is a two-way street and that you should not forget that the day will probably come when your own country will be in need of solidarity from others, expressed in practical terms. We must all, then, manifest the spirit of solidarity and understand that it is only in that spirit that we can achieve an institutional settlement and, above all, respond to the great challenges that Europe has to face.

 
  
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  President. Thank you, Commissioner.

The debate is closed.

Written statement (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. (FR) In my capacity as a French representative of the citizens of the EU in the European Parliament, I shall start by expressing my great respect and admiration for the President of the French Republic, my friend Jacques Chirac, who, in being present at Berlin on 25 March 2007, was attending his last European summit in his capacity as a Head of State and whose actions in defence of a strong and independent France within a strong and united European Union have always been characterised by lucidity, competence and humanism.

Although disappointed that Members of the European Parliament, who represent Europe’s citizens and peoples, were not involved in the Berlin Declaration, I do nevertheless welcome its confirmation of the desire to make progress with European integration, its proclamation of our values and the fact that it establishes the 2009 European elections as the political deadline for settling the institutional issues. I congratulate Mrs Merkel, the current President of the European Union and Chancellor of Germany, my friend Mr Poettering, the President of the European Parliament, and Mr José-Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission, on the work they have accomplished.

 

13. Further convergence in supervisory practices at EU level (debate)
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  President. The next item is the debate on:

- the oral question by Pervenche Berès, on behalf of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, to the Council, on further convergence in supervisory practices at EU level (O-0125/2006 - B6-0010/2007), and

- the oral question by Pervenche Berès, on behalf of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, to the Commission, on further convergence in supervisory practices at EU level (O-0126/2006 B6-0449/2006).

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès (PSE), author. – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs thought it necessary that there should be a debate on supervision among the European institutions, and we wanted to be able to have one in the presence of the Council and of the Commission. We, members of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, are very pleased about the relaunch of discussions and work, within the Council and the Commission alike, on the management of the crisis on the financial markets. More effective and better supervision and cooperation among supervisors is a matter of necessity, but, nevertheless, if we want the ultimate result to be success, we do think that, at this stage of the development and profound transformation of financial markets, the opening of an interinstitutional debate on this subject is, without doubt, the best way of making headway.

The Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs has done a great deal of work on the analysis of the European financial system and the implications of consolidation in financial services, not least in Mr Muscat’s report, in which we express our support for the establishment of a Committee of Wise Men mandated not only to examine the implications of the consolidation of markets and of financial institutions, together with the implications of financial supervision, financial stability and crisis management, but also to come up with definite ideas about the existing structures and incorporate them in a report to this House.

The object of today’s interinstitutional debate is to give a clear signal as to the need for the opening – or re-opening – of the great debate on the future of Europe’s supervisory systems, which is essential in the interests not only of the competitiveness of the financial market itself, but also of the stability of the European Union’s financial system.

Perhaps I might, at this juncture, be permitted to make certain observations. First, let me say that there have been profound changes in the financial system in Europe and around the world. Day in and day out, we are witnesses to incessant changes in the markets and to the innovations produced in those markets - developments that result, inter alia, in the gain of greater power by ‘hedge funds’ or ‘private equities’. The ongoing consolidation of financial markets has made it possible for key actors to establish themselves and to act on completely transnational bases. Mergers and takeovers motivated by the quest for competitiveness and efficiency have grown, whether at the national or European level or globally. They have come to generate their own impetus, and hence the structure of the markets, as well as the way in which the actors operate on them, have undergone radical changes, a transformation producing new challenges, with new things at stake.

Secondly, I would observe that the consolidation of financial supervision structures must go hand in hand with the consolidation of the markets themselves, for one sometimes gets the impression that they follow different rhythms. This being so, one can find oneself wondering whether the present system of supervision in the European Union – in which supervisors have specific, and very different, structures for which they are responsible, have highly divergent competences, powers and responsibilities and act on the basis of a national mandate – is capable of ensuring the proper supervision of large multinational financial groups. One wonders whether the system is sustainable and whether it might perhaps jeopardise the financial stability of the European system itself.

Thirdly, I would highlight the peculiarities of the European Union’s financial system, which is characterised by diversity and by the wealth of operators, be they local – local banks, for example – or actors operating across frontiers, on both sides of the Atlantic and on the global stage. That calls for a solid, efficient and well-adapted supervisory framework capable of responding to the challenges of regional integration, of globalisation, of innovation and of centralised management, while at the same time providing a high standard of supervision and ensuring that the system is sound and stable.

Fourthly, I would point out that improvement of the supervisory systems is in the interests of all the players – primarily, of course, in the interests of the system itself, but, secondly, also in the interests of the participants in the market, who are asking us to improve the supervision system in order to facilitate their operations on all markets. I am persuaded that the end user will also have an interest in the improvement of the system.

Fifthly and finally, the issue of European excellence in regulatory matters does have a transatlantic dimension, and it is with that in mind that it appears to me that the time has come for us to move forward.

I will sum up by saying that, in view of these observations, we, as Europe’s lawmakers, face a major challenge: that of endowing Europe with solid and efficient prudential structures capable of ensuring the proper supervision of all financial actors, be they large multinational groups or high-street banks, and capable also of making supervision contribute to the competitiveness of the European model on the world stage.

The question therefore arises as to how to go about doing this: are we to set up a committee of wise men, or are we to consider that it is on an interinstitutional basis that we might perhaps be better placed to put the collective European intelligence to work? That, in any case, is the message that this House wants to convey in this debate today, and I am very grateful to the Council and the Commission for allowing the debate to be held in Parliament.

 
  
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  Günter Gloser, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, Mrs Berès has just raised a number of important issues in her speech, including with regard to financial services. I can assure her that the Council considers this aspect to be of key importance.

I should like to underline once again that the European financial system is also regarded as making an important contribution to the Lisbon Strategy and plays a pivotal role in strengthening the financial-stability framework in the EU. What is equally important, however, is that the efficiency of financial supervision be enhanced without encumbering the financial sector with an excessive supervisory burden or restricting competition. Allow me to draw attention to three key points in the Council conclusions mentioned.

Firstly, the Council stressed the importance of fair and non-discriminatory national supervisory practices to achieve a level playing field within the EU. It also attached importance to striking the appropriate balance of home/host country responsibilities, and emphasised once more the importance of an adequate and independent financial supervision to ensure financial stability.

Secondly, the Council invited the three level 3 committees to take into account the obstacles identified in the course of their work and in their reports, and also the report by the Financial Services Committee (FSC) on supervisory convergence, in their endeavours towards convergence of rules and practices. It is particularly important in this regard that they work on common formats for financial institutions reporting to supervisors, in order to avoid duplication of costs.

Thirdly, the Council declared its support for the Commission’s intention to use its powers to also ensure compliance with the rules on competition and state aid. The Council considers it a priority to support the work of the three level 3 committees, for which they need suitable supervisory tools. The Council conclusions of May 2006 also contain a comprehensive short- and medium-term action plan for this field, based on a report by the Financial Services Committee. The thoroughly revised supervisory rules for insurance and securities firms and banks constitute a milestone, providing a new basis for cooperation between supervisors to the benefit of the financial stability and competitiveness of our financial industry.

The FSC report indicated three challenges revealing the need for further action. I believe that these challenges will be particularly significant in the immediate future. Firstly, supervisory convergence and cooperation must be further strengthened. Secondly, the efficiency of the supervisory regime must be increased and, thirdly, international supervision must be improved in view of the growing number of cross-border financial groups.

In the light of these challenges, the action plan approved by the Council in May of last year comprises a combination of several tools. These are aimed at fostering the creation of a European supervisory culture, a mediation and delegation mechanism, and also electronic data-sharing arrangements and common formats for reporting. I note that this last aspect has been emphasised also at European Parliament level, in the Muscat report. I welcome the convergence of views on this, too.

The Financial Services Committee has been asked to monitor the progress achieved by the three level 3 committees in implementing the various tools, in particular.

The FSC has also been instructed to monitor the convergence of supervisory powers at an adequate level. I know that the Commission is also devoting considerable attention to these aspects, and am confident that Parliament, too, will support this process within the framework of its dialogue with the level 3 committees. Further insights are expected as a result of the work of the Interinstitutional Monitoring Group.

I should now like to move on to the long-term prospects and the matter of tackling regulatory issues. Besides the existing challenges that have already been mentioned, the FSC must take into account issues arising from market developments when establishing long-term, strategic priorities. In this regard, the FSC recently set up a new sub-group, which is due to present a report on long-term supervisory issues by autumn 2007. This new strand of work will be based on the following bottom-up approach: further fundamental changes in supervisory tasks should be made only where there is proof of problems.

I should also like to emphasise that the overall issue of supervisory convergence must be seen in the context of the consolidation of markets and financial institutions. For this reason, I am particularly pleased that Parliament and the Council managed to agree, in the first instance, on the text of the Directive on the supervisory assessment of acquisitions in the financial sector as early as March. This is a clear indication of our common determination to improve the EU framework for the day-to-day work of our supervisory authorities.

Finally, I should like to emphasise that we must take account of all the challenges of this kind facing the EU bodies in the fields specified. These include strengthening financial stability by means of supervisory arrangements and procedures, and also fostering European competitiveness – both of which benefit from facilitating the consolidation of our financial industry. The process of doing so must also be conducive to the protection of consumer interests. The Council is working together with the Commission on all the aspects specified, and we also welcome the strong interest of the European Parliament, which is also demonstrated by this debate. I should like to express my particular thanks for Parliament’s commitment to promote further progress.

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. Mr President, honourable Members, the European financial sector has changed dramatically over the last few years. Capital markets have expanded and are increasingly integrated. New investment techniques have emerged. The consolidation of the banking sector has accelerated. Pan-European conglomerates now play a major role on all national markets.

These changes are positive for the efficiency of our financial industry and should be welcomed. But they also present new challenges to policymakers. We must ensure that our arrangements for financial supervision are adapted to the needs of a more integrated EU financial sector. This is vital for financial stability and for the competitiveness of our industry.

Greater cooperation and convergence between European supervisors is of utmost importance in this context. It has been one of my priorities since I joined the Commission and will remain so until the end of my mandate.

Let me briefly recall what the Commission has already done to foster a more effective and efficient supervisory system in Europe.

Under the Lamfalussy process it has created European committees of supervisors in the areas of securities, banking and insurance. These committees have already led to greater supervisory cooperation and more convergence in supervisory practices. I expect them to continue and accelerate work in this regard. It is crucial for achieving coordination in crisis situations.

The Commission has pushed for more streamlined supervision of large financial institutions, in particular through the establishment of the consolidating supervisor concept in the capital requirements directives. The consolidating supervisor is responsible for ensuring proper information exchange between supervisors, central banks and finance ministries in the event of a crisis. His role is key and I therefore intend to propose further and more ambitious steps towards consolidating supervision in the area of insurance in the framework of the Solvency II project.

In investment services, we have the principle of more central control, with some limited exceptions for branches.

In order to deal more specifically with financial stability issues, my departments have set work in motion on five interconnected areas on which clarity is required if we want to improve our ability to respond to financial crisis. These are liquidity arrangements, crisis management, lender-of-last-resort issues, deposit guarantee schemes and the winding-up of financial institutions. There will be a Commission conference on these matters on 26 June, in which Mrs Berès, as Chairwoman of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, will also take part.

The Commission’s efforts have to be seen in conjunction with the work undertaken in the Ecofin Council. A crisis-simulation exercise took place in 2006. As a follow-up to that exercise, the Council will reflect in 2007 on how better to address cross-border crisis situations and clarify burden-sharing arrangements. In addition, the Financial Services Committee has initiated work on issues related to improvement of supervisory efficiency.

The Interinstitutional Monitoring Committee on the Lamfalussy process will also complete its final report in 2007. I hope it will contain useful recommendations as to how the committees of supervisors can improve their work and deepen their cooperation. This would place them in an even better position to address possible financial stability issues in the future.

Towards the end of this year, the Commission will also produce its own assessment of the way in which the Lamfalussy process works. Clearly, the functioning of the committees of supervisors will be a crucial aspect of this overall assessment. I look forward to hearing Parliament’s views.

I am convinced that through close cooperation between Parliament, the Council and the Commission we can move this debate forward. Conclusions will need to be drawn from the various ongoing activities. I am open to suggestions on how to go about this. I think, however, that it would be too early to create a committee of wise persons at this stage. I would rather await the completion of the different initiatives later this year before envisaging the next move.

Let me conclude. EU financial markets are strong. We do not have a broken supervisory system in need of repair. Major progress has been made over the last few years in terms of modernising EU supervisory arrangements, but further improvements are also necessary. They are the consequence of integration. On this we are all agreed. We should continue our efforts to make the Lamfalussy structure the regulatory vehicle for delivering the effective, efficient and converged supervision required by a single market in financial services. Work has been set in motion in order to determine how the Lamfalussy structure and our financial stability arrangements can be further improved to meet the demands that arise from closer European integration.

I look forward to discussing with Parliament in due course what precise initiatives may be required to respond to the problems that have been identified, so as to equip our European financial sector with the best possible supervisory system. This is critical, because top-class supervisory and regulatory structures are crucial for long-term EU capital market competitors in the global economy.

 
  
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  Karsten Friedrich Hoppenstedt, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Madam President, it is good that Mrs Berès’ question on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs is being discussed and answered here today. This follows on seamlessly from the Muscat report, and also from yesterday’s debate in committee – in which the Commissioner also participated.

The crisis simulation with a view to reviewing financial stability in the EU that was presented at the Ecofin meeting in Helsinki last September has indeed revealed shortcomings. This scenario – that is, constantly evolving financial instruments such as hedge funds and derivative financial instruments – illustrates the need for further debate that takes sufficient account of consumer security. Thus, we need a system of functional, interlinked supervisory rules and practices in the EU.

Consumer protection, an effective financial industry and stable financial markets constitute the supreme objective of financial supervision, which must also help the industry fully utilise its potential and creativity. Therefore, good supervision must be guided by the existing risks and must take a principle-based approach instead of devoting itself to detailed individual analysis. It must not impose any additional burdens on enterprises, the rules must be developed in close contact with the financial industry, and cross-border financial markets must be dealt with at pan-European and global level in equal measure.

Supervision should be limited to what is really necessary and useful. Existing measures should be used in a more cautious, more market-friendly way, avoiding imposing unnecessary burdens. At the present time, I strongly oppose a centralised European supervisory authority additional and parallel to the national supervisory authorities, as this would cancel out the EU principle of subsidiarity and lack any democratic legitimacy. Not only would a body such as this meet with a lack of understanding on the part of many, particularly as it would create additional non-transparent bureaucracy, but it would also be accompanied by a serious loss of sovereignty for the Member States, as it would disregard national budgets in the case of crises.

Let us first wait and see how the supervisory bodies of the newly formed 27 come together and do their work. We do not need a uniform, centralised supervisory structure, but we do need a common supervisory culture characterised by the same values and objectives.

 
  
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  Joseph Muscat, on behalf of the PSE Group. (MT) There has been constant reference to a report drawn up by myself, dealing with this area in detail and approved by this Parliament.

This report, which has now been adopted as the position of this Parliament, contains an analysis of a situation that is becoming ever more acute. One of the most important points is the fact that different practices and levels of supervision exist at national level. From a European perspective, this signifies a reduction in market efficiency, as well as further operating costs for institutions that operate in different countries. The report questions whether the present system ensures the effective supervision of large groups that operate in various countries and sectors. We even requested a more detailed examination of the European Social Model at the level of prudential stability and crisis management structures. We agreed on the need for an effective crisis management system at European level. The current market development trend means that a crisis, even if initially originating in one country, can quickly spread to other countries.

The reaction to a crisis such as this one is becoming increasingly complex because of the large number of institutions involved and the lack of clarity about what their role consists of. European consumers and investors are ultimately those who suffer the most from lack of action in this sector. Within this framework, Parliament agreed on the need for a committee of experts to study these implications and report back with their recommendations.

I am well aware that there are different opinions on this initiative and on the form it ought to take. However, I believe that the time has come for a full debate on the matter, with all the institutions participating. What we do not need is for everyone to try to leave each other out of the debate when it comes to deciding what shape the supervision of European financial markets will take. I believe we must focus our efforts more on the urgent need to debate this point, and stress that we have no time to lose.

 
  
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  Margarita Starkevičiūtė, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (LT) I would like to say that perhaps most countries have a saying about starting preparations for winter during the summer. As we discuss this issue, we would like to remind the European Commission and Council of that old truism. Because up to now we were always told that working groups would be formed and this question would be discussed. Without a doubt, consolidation has its positive aspects; however, with it comes an increased systematic risk in the market. Financial groups operate in all European Union countries and quite often dependence on their activity and the influence of their activity is quite high. When we talk about reforming supervisory processes, we must first ask ourselves something that I usually ask the heads of European supervisory bodies: if a subsidiary firm is operating in a certain country, and because of its unsatisfactory operation, that country's economy is starting to suffer, who will pay? Who will be responsible? Which country's legislation will apply? Another question. If a crisis situation develops in the subsidiary firm, how will it be managed? At the national level or the financial group's level? Unfortunately, as yet we have no answer to these simple questions. I am quite pleased with the information that Council and Commission representatives supplied for us in relation to what is being done; however, once again I would like to stress that as new risky products find their way onto the market, we must speed up all processes and get together to resolve the basic issues, and not to get lost in details, because talking about various types of coordination and suchlike is all very well, until a crisis develops. The reference point for our decisions about reforming supervisory processes has to be what we would do in a crisis situation.

 
  
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  Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I would like to thank the Chairwoman of our committee, Mrs Berès, for her timely contribution. We started discussing the van den Burg report in committee this week, and one of the key topics also in the post-FSAP agenda is how to develop a good supervisory system for Europe. It is very important for us to hear what the Council and Commission think about the future in this joint agenda.

The Financial Services Action Plan is now more or less complete, so the focus is now on implementation and supervisory convergence. We think that even though national regulators have already been able to develop quite good practices, the work must go on, and beyond the Lamfalussy committees. It is for example very positive that we now have colleges of supervisors handling big, multi-jurisdiction, pan-European cases, but sometimes these colleges lack authority; they do not have enough resources; they do not take enough majority decisions, for example, so it would be very good if we could consider more qualified majority voting in Level 3 committees as well as in the colleges of supervisors.

I would also like to point out that in Mrs van den Burg’s draft report we have promoted a new idea that, for top pan-European players, we should have a well-equipped European supervisory authority inside the system. We would like to create a European supervisory authority, but it should not be outside the scope of the Commission’s current sphere of responsibility. It should be inside the system. I think this idea could also be considered by the Commission.

Finally, it is also important to develop cooperation at global level. We know that the financial risks and prudential challenges are not only European, but also very much involve the big market players in America, and so on, so it is very good that the Commission has taken this financial services dialogue with transatlantic partners seriously, but there needs to be continual further development.

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I would like to thank all the Members for their very valuable contributions.

As I said earlier, the development of financial supervision is of critical importance. A stable financial environment is a prerequisite for the economic growth that the EU needs, and the protection of consumers. So the prevention of financial crises is important. Supervision needs to be as efficient and effective as possible. We need to make practices of national supervisory authorities converge in order to minimise the burdens on cross-border firms. We need a common supervisory culture: more supervisors doing more things the same way.

These are important issues that I look forward to working on with you.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

 

14. The future of Kosovo and the role of the EU (debate)
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  President. The next item is the report (A6-0067/2007) by Joost Lagendijk, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the future of Kosovo and the role of the EU (2006/2267(INI)).

 
  
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  Joost Lagendijk (Verts/ALE), rapporteur. (NL) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, looking back on the position which this House has adopted with regard to Kosovo since 1999, there is only one conclusion possible to my mind. The present report is the logical culmination of a long process of deliberation in this House, with us having reached two main conclusions over the past two years.

The first conclusion is that maintaining the present status quo in Kosovo is not an option, as this would be undesirable, very much so. Secondly, and whether we like it or not, it is inevitable that Kosovo will come to enjoy a certain form of independence, although the precise definition of it is open to debate.

In my report, I have tried to summarise the effect this general position, this general conclusion will have in practice. In other words, what, according to this House, is the most desirable outcome of the deliberations in the Security Council about Kosovo’s status?

Allow me to highlight a few key points. Kosovo must gain access to institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF in order to at last be able to tackle its economic problems and get its economy out of the doldrums.

Secondly, Kosovo’s multi-ethnic character must be retained. This is, for the time being, best served by an international presence, both military and civil, the European Union, in other words. This leads me to conclude that the European Union has a key role to play once this status has been established. It is the European Union – we therefore – who have to ensure that the Kosovar authorities lead their country further towards a democratic multi-ethnic state that can eventually join the European Union, and, provided we are informed sufficiently and in good time, we in Parliament are prepared to make the necessary budget available for this role, for this task.

Finally, Kosovo is a unique case on account of the NATO intervention in 1990, but particularly on account of the fact that that part of Serbia has been under UN administration for nearly eight years. This also means that solutions for the current situation, which are now being sought, are unique and cannot be used to solve conflicts elsewhere in the world.

So far, probably the majority of this House are in agreement with me. What has happened in the past week, is that the discussion on this report has not focused on the content I have just outlined for you, but on the question of what label this desired situation should bear, in other words, of what word we want to use in order to describe this optimal situation following independence. Is it supervised independence, supervised sovereignty, or should we perhaps steer clear from using a label altogether?

To those who wish to keep their own counsel for the time being about how this situation should be described, I should like to say that, as I see it, it is of the utmost importance that the European Union should speak with one voice and present a united front, not only here in Brussels, but also in the Security Council in New York and not least in this House. If we are agreed on the end goal, why not say so? This will impact favourably on the difficult deliberations in Brussels and New York and it makes it more difficult for Russia – the great challenger of eventual independence – to play the European Union’s Member States off against each other.

Another argument against providing clarity right now is the question as to why it is we in this House who have to lead the way, as to why we should be the first European institution to be so clear about the final outcome, and on that subject, I should like to say that, since last Monday, someone else has been taking over the lead, namely Martti Ahtisaari, the Secretary-General’s special envoy, who said in his recommendation to the Security Council that ‘the status of Kosovo should be independence supervised by the international community’.

The UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, has wholeheartedly endorsed this conclusion. In other words, others are leading, and I think it only right that this House should spell out our wishes. This means that we need to support Ahtisaari’s recommendation by clearly stating that, in our view, the best outcome of the process would be supervised sovereignty.

We, in this House, are parliamentarians, politicians. Diplomats we are not. I would be delighted if I could count on your support for my report in this plenary tomorrow. I will not rest until Parliament clearly states what in our view the end goal should be. This is, as I see it, sovereignty supervised by the EU. This is clarity to which the Kosovars are entitled, to which the Serbs are entitled and also to which the European public is entitled.

 
  
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  Günter Gloser, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Lagendijk, the process of determining the future status of Kosovo – the most urgent political problem in the Western Balkans at the present time – is entering its final, decisive stage. On 26 March, the United Nations Secretary-General forwarded the Comprehensive Proposal for a Kosovo Status Settlement of his Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, to the UN Security Council in New York. The Special Envoy is due to explain his proposal in person to the members of the Security Council on 3 April.

The EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs examined the proposed solution in detail at the Council of 12 February. Expressing their full support to Mr Ahtisaari, they noted that the proposed status settlement was designed to promote in Kosovo a multi-ethnic and democratic society based on the rule of law. They also expressed their conviction that the Special Envoy’s proposals create the basis for sustainable economic and political development in Kosovo and will contribute to strengthening the stability of the region.

Belgrade and Priština held further rounds of talks on the proposals in February and March, first at expert level and then, on 10 March, at the highest political level.

As a result of the talks, Mr Ahtisaari further extended some of the already far-reaching provisions for the protection of the Kosovo Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church.

On the whole, however, the talks revealed the differences between the two sides to be irreconcilable. Priština approved the status package in the end, whilst Belgrade rejected it. Subsequently, on 10 March, Mr Ahtisaari declared the talks at an end and announced his intention to forward his proposed status settlement immediately to the UN Security Council – quite rightly, in the opinion of the Presidency. After all, even if the negotiations were to continue for weeks or months to come, Belgrade and Priština are not moving any closer to a compromise solution that both sides can support, as one year’s direct negotiations have shown. On the contrary, in the last round of negotiations, the positions of the two parties had become even more entrenched.

The forwarding of the proposed status settlement to the UN Security Council last Monday took the Kosovo status process into its final, decisive stage.

As Mr Lagendijk has just pointed out, it is essential that the EU introduce this stage by presenting a united front externally and speaking with one voice. The more visible the EU’s unity, the smaller the risk of a permanent blockade in the Security Council. The Presidency of the European Union trusts that the Security Council will discharge its responsibility, and hopes for its timely endorsement of the proposal.

I should like to say a few words about the future role of the EU in Kosovo.

The EU is prepared to take on an important role in the implementation of the status settlement. Work by the EU to prepare our contribution to an international presence in Kosovo following the resolution of the status issue is making good progress.

The EU’s preparatory work focuses on the following three fields. Firstly, on support for the proposed international civilian presence. The relevant EU preparatory team is working locally, including in close cooperation with KFOR, UNMIK and Kosovo’s leaders, on targeted preparations for the establishment and inauguration of the International Civilian Office (ICO).

Secondly, our work focuses on preparations for the ESDP rule of law mission. We have already made great progress on these. We anticipate that the EU will be granted a mandate that includes monitoring and providing guidance and advice to the local authorities in the broader area of the rule of law. We also expect the mandate to cover executive powers in some fields relating to the police – including the maintenance of law and order in the case of disorder and gatherings of people – and to the judiciary and customs. Our planning is flexible and will be adapted to developments in the situation if necessary.

Thirdly, the preparatory work focuses on defining the prospect of Kosovo’s EU membership and on support for its economic and social development.

In this context, we welcome Parliament’s interest in Kosovo, which is also reflected in this draft report. Mr Lagendijk’s report on the future of Kosovo and the role of the EU represents a valuable contribution to international efforts to promote a lasting solution to the Kosovo issue.

I should like to conclude by reiterating that the process of resolving the status of Kosovo is entering a decisive stage. This means the EU faces a twofold challenge. Firstly, maintaining unity in its search, together with its international partners, for a lasting solution for Kosovo, Serbia and the region as a whole; and, secondly, intensifying its preparations to support international efforts to implement Kosovo’s status.

The Kosovo status settlement represents the end point in the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. It is a unique case and, as such, cannot set any precedents for other ‘frozen conflicts’. The status settlement is a fundamental precondition for stabilising Kosovo, Serbia and the region as a whole. As the conflicts of the 1990s have proved, sustainable stability in the Western Balkans is an issue central, not to say vital, to European security. As in other fields, our unity is key in achieving a lasting solution.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. Mr President, Honourable Members, first of all let me thank and congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Lagendijk, and the Members for their substantive and intensive work on this report.

As I said here before, the report and proposal of the Special Envoy, Mr Ahtisaari, were handed to the Security Council on Monday. I join the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and the EU Presidency in supporting the report and the proposal put forward by Mr Ahtisaari.

I believe that we can all agree that in an ideal world, the two parties would have found an acceptable compromise between themselves. Over the past 14 months of negotiations, common ground was found on several practical aspects of the settlement. Unfortunately, Belgrade and Priština remained diametrically opposed on the core question of the status itself.

Mr Ahtisaari’s proposal is designed to foster the building of a democratic, multi-ethnic society in Kosovo based on the rule of law. It contains wide-ranging provisions intended to secure the future of all communities in Kosovo, as well as protection of religious sites and cultural heritage.

As Mr Lagendijk rightly underlined, the essence of a decision on Kosovo is European unity, here and in New York. We need to support Mr Ahtisaari and his proposal with consistent determination in the UN Security Council. There is no gain in delaying the decision. The UN has been running Kosovo for eight years and, clearly, the status quo is not sustainable. Therefore I expect the Security Council to live up to its responsibilities in the spirit of responsible multilateralism and bring the process to an early and successful conclusion.

Once the status issue is settled, the implementation phase will start, which will of course bring its own genesis. Here too, the EU must work as one. The EU will have to play a leading role both in the running of international civilian missions and in support of Kosovo’s European prospects. This will require deployment of all our instruments and considerable resources. We have no exit strategy, only an entry strategy, in the Western Balkans and in Kosovo.

Let me underline that local ownership and partnership with the international community is the key to success for status implementation. The EU and its international partners cannot substitute Kosovo’s own efforts, neither in terms of political will nor in terms of resources. But we can assist, and the status settlement will not come for free.

Kosovo’s financial needs after the granting of status cannot yet be fully known, but early estimates suggest that international assistance of around EUR 1.3 to 1.5 billion may be required for the first three years after the status settlement.

There will be four main areas to cover: Kosovo’s share of the Yugoslav debt, the cost of status implementation, economic development needs and the cost of the international presence, including the planned ESDP mission, which is expected to be the largest civilian crisis management mission the European Union has ever undertaken. The EU’s overall presence in Kosovo is likely to be in the order of 1500 to 2000 international staff.

We all know that the EU currently faces important foreign policy challenges in other theatres, including the Middle East, Afghanistan and Darfur. Kosovo is not the only funding priority. But Europe has a special responsibility in Kosovo, which is on our borders and is our future home territory. At the EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Bremen on Friday, the Gymnich meeting, I will stress that resources cannot come from the EU budget alone. EU Member States and our partners in the international community must share responsibility. The Commission will put together a funding package that reflects the scale of our responsibility. I count on your support for this, because strong support from the budgetary authority is needed to put together a credible funding package.

A final word on Serbia: let me assure you that the EU remains fully committed to Serbia’s EU prospects. We are ready to work with a new government towards this goal. It is now up to the new Government of Serbia to meet the conditions for resuming the negotiations on a stabilisation and association agreement with the European Union.

Strong engagement with Serbia is essential to bringing the status process to a successful conclusion. A Serbia that has confidence in its European future will be helped to overcome the legacy of the past.

 
  
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  Erika Mann (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on International Trade. – (DE) Madam President, I shall examine just a few of the points discussed in the Committee on International Trade. Having visited both parts of Kosovo several times myself – both Priština and Mitrovica – I am in a relatively good position to assess the situation. Our particular concern is that there be a very detailed analysis of the economic and commercial situation, as we believe that economic stability is the only way to achieve long-term security in the region as a whole.

The situation is extremely problematic. The infrastructures are very weak; key industries are in need of complete modernisation and renovation. There are SMEs that are very innovative but require a great deal more financial support, and there is a very young population that must be integrated and needs jobs. All of this is possible only within the framework of integration into the EU – not integration in the sense that we are appealing immediately for Kosovo’s membership of the EU, but in the sense that we fully develop the concept of free trade areas, in particular, into one that really works. After all, agreements have already been signed with many of the Balkan countries; but these must really be functional.

We also strongly advocate that the excellent work the EU has done to date in the field of the fourth pillar, in particular, be carried over to the new structures, so that the systems do not require complete renewal.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Madam President, in 1912, Kosovo, a region with a 90% Albanian population, was annexed to Serbia without a referendum. It had a chequered fate, until, at the end of the 1980s, the war criminal Slobodan Milošević revoked Kosovo’s autonomy in the Yugoslav Constitution. A brutal apartheid regime was installed: the Albanians were forbidden to attend kindergartens, schools and universities and to practise a profession. They were even forbidden to visit public swimming baths. The system was inconceivably cruel, something I saw at first hand.

There then followed the mass expulsion of 1998, which was only stopped following intervention by NATO, by which time the majority of the population had already been driven out of the country. The United Nations established an administration, and now we are on the brink of a new beginning. What could the future look like? If we do our duty, if we resolve the status issue quickly, consensually and in unison, and if the EU takes responsibility for an international presence in Kosovo, the country could become a multi-ethnic democracy with the most extensive minority rights in the world within a short space of time. After all, the Ahtisaari report contains the most extensive minority arrangement in the world, presenting economic prospects, certainly, and also the prospect of EU membership.

I agree with Mrs Mann that the country has seen decades of neglect. Investment is needed for the benefit of a young, unemployed population, and this will only be provided once the status issue has been resolved, once legal certainty exists – which is why we have to concentrate on justice and home affairs – and once the country is at peace and has good neighbourly relations with Serbia.

I can only make a plea to Serbian politicians: General de Gaulle once spoke of the paix des braves – the peace of the brave. The Serbians and the Albanians would then enjoy a good, common, European future as neighbouring European peoples ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi, on behalf of the PSE Group. (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Lagendijk, on his report, which is an excellent one. Solving the problem of stable, sustainable and viable governance of Kosovo is of vital importance to the stability of the Western Balkans as a whole. Such a form of government would be unprecedented since the Second World War, indeed since the Paris peace treaty, in terms of the possible changes to frontiers.

The European Union has, and will continue to have, a crucial and specific responsibility for being an international presence on the ground in Kosovo, replacing the United Nations. This is the greatest test of the European Union’s common foreign policy, which is currently being rolled out.

The solution implemented needs to be fair and well balanced. The international community cannot give preference to one of the parties – the Kosovar Albanians – while punishing the other, namely the Serbs. A just solution must be found. As and when the Security Council determines the final status of Kosovo, consideration will have to be given to the problems posed by the influence of Kosovo’s status on the region as a whole, on the stability of the whole of Central Europe, on conditions within Serbia, and on the installation of a new Serbian government.

Mr Lagendijk’s report enjoys Socialist support, and we endorse the Ahtisaari Plan, which is an excellent basis, but it is not the European Union that will decide on Kosovo’s final status; that is a matter for which the Security Council is responsible. We Socialists believe that, once the Security Council has taken its decision, the final status will have to be incorporated into European Parliament documents. Ladies and gentlemen, we Socialists congratulate Mr Lagendijk and ask the House to endorse our proposal that the definition of the final status be postponed.

 
  
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  Lapo Pistelli, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, although the European Union does not have the foreign policy powers that many of us would like it to have, our debate today on Kosovo has greater political significance than it would in other circumstances, mainly because the discussion and the adoption of the Lagendijk report is taking place at a moment in politics when matters are still fluid, when events are evolving week by week and when individual participants can still influence events. I believe, therefore, that it would be very useful for the European Parliament to make a clear statement tomorrow – and the European Union the day after tomorrow, so to speak. If possible, it should do so with a large majority tomorrow in Parliament and, possibly, unanimously in Council a few weeks from now.

I find it interesting that the assessments we have heard so far from Mr Lagendijk, the Council and the Commission are largely along similar lines. I think that is a very important prerequisite. I would like to briefly refer to five points. Firstly: the future of the Balkans and of Kosovo is a future in Europe. The first clear step that we can take to bring a bit of peace to those areas is to ensure a positive target for all – for Serbia and for Kosovo – namely, membership of the European Union. This is an objective that suits them but that also suits us very well, particularly with a view to transforming an area that will otherwise be unstable into an area of permanent peace, economic growth and multi-ethnic democracy.

Secondly: we need to escape the institutional limbo that arose after 1999, and that is why we should support the report by Martti Ahtisaari and the position – which we hope will be unanimous – to be adopted by the Europeans within the United Nations Security Council.

Thirdly: independence is the final result which the entire population of Kosovo would like to see and to which the Lagendijk report also refers, partly as a result of the amendments which we have tabled. Perhaps historians will tell us that it was an error not to provide for alternative options. Today, however, this is a reality, and one that the leaders of Serbia are also well aware of. They need to be politically reassured and not humiliated. It is necessary to realise that, on the symbolic level, Serbia has never given up Kosovo but at the same time, on the factual level, Kosovo has for years been outside the orbit of Serbian influence.

Finally, the European Parliament must endorse – and I say again, unanimously – the Ahtisaari plan, in the hope that the same will occur in the next few weeks within the Council.

Madam President, a final remark: the debate on the European Parliament’s budget, which we will have in a few weeks, must provide consistency between what we say on the political level and the financial instruments we adopt to help Kosovo towards the final result.

 
  
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  Brian Crowley, on behalf of the UEN Group. – Madam President, I would like to join my colleagues in thanking the rapporteur for the work carried out on this report. When we speak about Kosovo, we often tend to think about it in the abstract, whereas it is the last linchpin of the very fracturous European region of the Western Balkans. I think it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that we deliver the strongest possible message that the democratic will expressed by the people of Kosovo is respected, that it is brought to a conclusion and that the European Union has a unified voice on how things should progress in the future.

The roadmap has already been laid out for us through the Ahtisaari Plan. It is a very clear and concise plan with regard to the kind of protection and mechanisms that can be put in place to guarantee that the Kosovars’ rights are represented and maintained. Most importantly, however, they will ensure that the minorities within Kosovo are also protected and represented and that they do not become part of a singular state in which they have no influence or role to play.

Most importantly of all, if history has taught us anything – through the example of the establishment of the European Union or conflict resolution in other areas of the European continent – it is that only by having better and closer relations with our neighbours can we achieve what can truly be called a just and lasting peace. That is why Serbia must not be ignored. Even though many of us have criticised Serbia for its actions in the past, and maybe for some intransigence at the present time, it has legitimate concerns which must be responded to. Likewise, the Serb minority in Kosovo has concerns that must be addressed.

We must act as the guarantor of those rights. We must show the way forward to be the best possible way of achieving the peace and stability we all crave for in that region of Europe. At present, there are 213 Irish troops among the KFOR force stationed in Kosovo. They are playing an invaluable role in creating peace and stability. As the previous speaker said, when we vote on the European Union budget in the future we should remember the common foreign and security aspect, because that is one area in which we are successful.

 
  
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  Gisela Kallenbach, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, there is no simple solution for the future of the remainder of the former Yugoslavia, including Kosovo. It does not make the solution any easier, however, if we just put off dealing with the problems; the reverse is the case. For this reason, I am glad that, after eight years of international administration, there is a tangible proposal on the table at the UN Security Council. I would appeal to the House to vote in favour of this proposal, as it largely corresponds to Mr Lagendijk’s report. There must be an end to the state of uncertainty in which the Kosovars of all ethnic origins and the Serbs find themselves. Only then will the urgently needed economic development, as a step towards integration into the EU, be possible. Any delay in taking the current decision and in Kosovo’s subsequent integration into the EU will cost the region, and the EU, dear.

 
  
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  Tobias Pflüger, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Madam President, the great majority of our group will be voting against this report. This is mainly because of the report’s negligence with regard to international law – which is shared by the Ahtisaari report itself. Mr Ahtisaari has proposed that the EU develop a kind of successor to UNMIK, which means that UNMIK would be continued by other means, among them the so-called Kosovo Trust Agency, which has mainly carried out privatisation in Kosovo, causing problems locally.

We should like to spell out that Parliament’s position on this is one-sided and apt to escalate conflict. We wish to draw attention once more to paragraph 3 of the report adopted by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and I quote: ‘Considers that any settlement regarding the future status of Kosovo must be in accordance with international law’. I hope that this clause remains in the report. I have heard that there are already initial amendments seeking to remove it. We all know that one of the causes of the present state of affairs in Kosovo is NATO’s war of aggression against Yugoslavia back then, and I keep asking – I have already asked the Commissioner – what the EU intends to do if Serbia and Russia, in particular, continue to say ‘no’? I have yet to receive an answer to this, which means that the intention is really to act contrary to the will of these two countries. The great majority of my group wants no part in this, and hence we shall be voting against this report.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (NL) Madam President, Mr Lagendijk has produced an even-handed report on the complex situation in Kosovo, and one essential aspect he has touched on is citizenship on the basis of Kosovo’s multi-lingual and multi-ethnic character. Strikingly, the present report does not breathe a word about Kosovo’s explicit status, although Amendment 13, which we will be backing, does.

Neither, in fact, has the UN mediator Mr Ahtisaari, who, the day before yesterday, passed his final report on to the Security Council with a plain recommendation: independence under international supervision for Kosovo. Prime Minister Kostunica, however, reported last week that independence for Kosovo will never be an option for Serbia. He even hopes for a Russian veto in the Security Council. This wish is diametrically opposed to the Albanian movement’s demand for self-determination. Their leader, Kurti, will not settle for anything but unconditional independence. Whatever happens, the risk of ethnic disintegration and regional instability is real.

The big challenge for the international community is therefore obvious: how to combine regional stability with a multi-ethnic citizenship in a sovereign Kosovo. Last week, Commissioner Rehn spoke of this as being an important litmus test for the EU. I would, in this respect, wish the Commission and Council much wisdom, support and every success.

 
  
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  Alojz Peterle (PPE-DE). – (SL) I would like to commend my fellow Member, rapporteur Lagendijk, for his highly responsible efforts in securing the broadest possible political unanimity in the report with which the European Parliament assumes its share of responsibility for deciding on the final status of Kosovo, which has been under UN trusteeship since 1999. The regrettable fact that the negotiations could not produce a solution makes the responsibility of the European Union even greater.

Kosovo, Serbia, Southeast Europe and the whole of Europe need peace and stability. People in this region have the right to peace and stability regardless of their ethnic origin. Considering the problems and tensions that have built up in Kosovo, the process towards the final status should be conducted so as to prevent chaotic development which might, once again, wound the dignity of any of the ethnic identities, or lead to destabilisation, or create additional barriers to the European prospects for the countries of this region.

The rapporteur and all of us are bound by our common values and principles, in particular the Thessaloniki Agreement for the countries of South-east Europe which arose from the desire to permanently root out the sources of conflict in this part of Europe. We are working together for a solution that should enable coexistence for several ethnic communities in Kosovo and create in the shortest possible time circumstances in which Kosovo, which is facing very challenging economic and social difficulties, can begin to move towards reconciliation, progress and prosperity.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS ROTHE
Vice-President

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (PSE).(DE) Madam President, tomorrow, this House will be voting in favour of the Lagendijk report – I assume by a very substantial majority – but this will primarily reflect support for the work of Mr Ahtisaari and his staff. I believe that the position proposed by Mr Ahtisaari is, in essence, the path we should take.

The question asked time and again is: independence – yes or no? This decision will be taken by the United Nations, and I hope their decision, following all the necessary deliberations, will be the right one. This decision will have our full support. What is really important, however, is what will happen after the resolution of the status issue. The status issue will not be an easy one to resolve as far as Serbia is concerned – no one likes losing a significant part of their territory – let us just imagine that from the point of view of our own country.

Nor will the resolution of the status issue solve the problems that Kosovo itself faces, as the difficulty of constructing its own, independent economic and social system is only just beginning. The people of Kosovo will then ask: what about my job, how am I supposed to earn money, afford a house, and so on – and this will also be difficult in their own country.

Europe’s task – and this is also supported and highlighted by the report on which we shall be voting tomorrow – is to help both parties cooperate on supporting this difficult process sensibly and in a way that shows decency and mutual respect. This is the most important thing as far as we are concerned, including with regard to tomorrow’s decision. We declare our support for a clear-cut decision on the status issue, but we also affirm that Europe – and particularly this House – must support both parties, so that both Kosovo and Serbia can look forward to a bright future.

 
  
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  Jelko Kacin (ALDE). – (SL) This weekend we marked solemnly in Rome and Berlin the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and celebrated a long period of peace. In the Western Balkans, however, this period was not only punctuated by peace, but also by extremely cruel and destructive wars.

The genocide in Srebrenica has taught us all that we cannot and must not allow or risk a repeat of such a human catastrophe in Kosovo. This is why, eight years ago, we took timely preventive action by intervening with military force. At that time, too, there was the threat of a veto in the United Nations, but, nevertheless, we managed to act. Today, Kosovo is still only half the way there, without status, without access to international funding and without an effectively functioning state ruled by law. Only a state can and must secure the basis and framework for economic recovery, for foreign and domestic investment and for badly needed jobs. Only a state can become a member of the European Union.

Delays in these process leading to the determination of status could threaten the fragile situation and slow down the constructive processes that are stabilising the region, promoting economic and political cooperation between neighbours and uniting them in their objective to develop cooperation with other countries of the European Union and model their own environment on ours. However, the dynamic provided by the efforts of Martti Ahtisaari in determining the status of Kosovo is helping us to inject more hope as well as the spirit and methods of the European Union into the lives of all the inhabitants of this region.

We are dealing with their future, coexistence and well-being. For this reason, I believe that politicians in neighbouring Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia, as well as those in Croatia and Bosnia, will find additional motivation to come closer to the European Union.

 
  
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  Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka (UEN). (PL) Thank you, Madam President. In the report we have discussed, the European Parliament has made its pronouncement on the thorny issue of the future of Kosovo. The province lies in the heart of Europe, and for this reason Europe must also play an active role in determining its future. However, we cannot simply go ahead and do this, as the report emphasises, without the approval of the UN Security Council. And it will not be possible to gain such approval without Russia’s agreement.

In their contacts with the West, the Russians see Kosovo as a useful bargaining chip they can use in the negotiations concerning Iran’s nuclear programme.

We should also remember that granting Kosovo independence will constitute a precedent which Russia may wish to invoke during negotiations concerning other regions such as Abkhazia, Transdnistria or North Ossetia. We must therefore emphatically underline that Kosovo is a unique case and an exception, and that Russia cannot use it as a tool to re-establish its position as a super-power.

 
  
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  Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL). – (NL) Madam President, Kosovo was the divisive element in former Yugoslavia. Even before Slovenia and Croatia gained independence, the residents of Kosovo had mentally detached themselves from Serbia. Even then, they set up their own administration and education and boycotted all state institutions. They demanded international recognition of their independence, but had to settle for war and renewed occupation instead.

Since 1999, the Serbian military and officials have been replaced by other colonialists. The residents of Kosovo only want one thing: self-determination – Vetevendosje – as is evident from the graffiti on every wall. Prolonging the present twilight situation will promote stagnation and crime. The forced return to Serbia will inevitably culminate in either a civil war or two million refugees. This prospect is worse than another violation of international law which, without agreement, does not sanction separation.

For Serbia’s future too, it would be better if it were finally unshackled from the nationalistic battle of prestige for Kosovo. Everyone knows that there is no ultimate solution other than an independent Kosovo, but nobody dares to be the first to take responsibility for this. Unfortunately, this will seriously delay the implementation of Ahtisaari’s weakened proposal.

 
  
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  Doris Pack (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, congratulations to Mr Lagendijk! There is actually no need for me to speak at all, as I could simply endorse what you said, as Mr Swoboda and Mrs Kallenbach have done. Nevertheless I will make a few comments.

I should like to give advance warning that after a debate of this kind we may very quickly be suspected by the outside world, and above all by the region itself, of being anti-Serbian or pro-Albanian. I should like to protest against this. We have been trying really for years to help the people in Serbia and Kosovo to have a peaceful and prosperous future. Creating the prerequisites for this is difficult and the proposed solution put forward by Mr Ahtisaari makes it possible for the people finally to put Milošević’s poisoned past behind them. Whether that can be just, my dear Mr Tabajdi, I do not know. Just solutions are very difficult to achieve. However, I know of no other possibility than the one that has now been proposed.

Proper negotiations have of course never been held between Serbs and Albanians. The extreme views were so far apart that they were never brought to the negotiating table. Heaven forbid that we should therefore lengthen the procedure any more. I also understand that no Serbian Government will ever sanction the loss of Kosovo. However, if the Serbian politicians are honest – and of course some of them are when you talk to them – then they also know that with Kosovo in their national territory a peaceful future will not be possible, and it is this peaceful future that the people in Serbia and Kosovo, in particular the young people, deserve. The politicians ought to ask themselves who in Serbia actually wants to bear the consequences of Kosovo’s remaining in Serbia, both the financial and all of the political consequences. The Albanians must enable those Serbs who wish to live in their homeland in Kosovo to do so, and to return if they so wish.

The Ahtisaari plan is in my view the only basis for a peaceful coexistence. Unfortunately, discussions often disregard the years of the apartheid regime from 1989 to 1998, as has happened again today. I noticed this in Mr Pflüger’s comments, for example. I do not think that the NATO attack marked the beginning, but that it all started with the revocation of Kosovo’s autonomous status. The Security Council would really be well advised finally to cut the Gordian knot quickly, so that we can continue working and help both Serbia and Albania on their peaceful path into the European Union.

 
  
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  Jan Marinus Wiersma (PSE). – (NL) Madam President, needless to say, I should also like to congratulate my friend and fellow Member, Mr Lagendijk, on his report, even though we do not see eye to eye on every detail.

We as a group do, of course, welcome the proposals which the negotiator, Mr Ahtisaari, presented in New York last Monday. This is also something which is clearly reflected in the report on which we will be voting tomorrow. In that respect, our group backs the report as it now stands. These proposals, as set out on this platform, also enjoy the support of the Council and the Commission.

What we believe matters most of all now, though, is that the Security Council should take a decision on the status of Kosovo. This should be done without unnecessary delays, so that the uncertainty in Kosovo can be lifted before long and that both Kosovars and Serbs can focus on their future in Europe.

It is not up to the European Union, however, to take a stand in this respect at the moment. In this light, it is not, as we see it, up to the EU to pre-empt the final outcome of the status in the Security Council. Kosovo’s interim status is based on a Security Council resolution, and so should its final status be. This is of the utmost importance for the international legitimacy of this decision, and it is for this reason that we have rejected Mr Posselt’s amendments.

It is also essential for the internal legitimacy of the decision on the status. Indeed, the EU will not get down to the real work until after the decision in New York. To a great extent, the EU will be responsible for guiding the implementation of this status. This is something for which the Union will need to be fully prepared, but will, above all, need to avoid being piggy in the middle from the word go; this is also why my group will be voting against the amendment which qualifies the status without there having been a debate on this in New York.

In this respect, we follow the line as expressed by the presidency, but also by the Commission, neither of whom mentioned qualification this afternoon.

 
  
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  Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, the debate on Kosovo has raised an issue which is of the utmost importance in terms of international relations. For the first time in many years the international community is breaching the territorial sovereignty of a European country. While it is true that there are no proposals to grant independence to this new political entity, this new quasi-state is supposed to have its own national anthem, flag and mini army. It will also remain subject to international control for an undefined period of time.

This novel approach to international intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state will set a precedent which may, in the future, lead to attempts by the international community to manipulate the internal affairs of other countries experiencing far more minor problems.

The only sensible solution is to formally leave Kosovo within the Republic of Serbia, and to grant it a greater degree of autonomy, while also taking fast-track measures to incorporate the region into the European Union. For an independent Kosovo will still have a significant Serbian minority which will destabilise the country.

 
  
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  Adamos Adamou (GUE/NGL).(EL) Madam President, the situation in Kosovo, following on from and as a result of interventionist policies, is another problem that needs to be resolved within the framework of the United Nations. However, the Ahtisaari proposal, which is basically adopted in the report we are examining, goes against basic principles of international law, the UN Charter itself, and makes provision for the borders to be redrawn and the area's history to be distorted, at the expense of the Serbian community.

Overall the Ahtisaari proposal promotes the creation of an independent state, to the degree that it can be independent with such a NATO military presence and the application of the European security policy. I fear that it will operate as a protectorate, rather than as an independent state.

We are and shall continue to be in favour of the self-determination of nations, but not when it is used indiscriminately on the basis of double standards. We only need remember that, after the procedure of decolonialisation and before the break-up of Yugoslavia, the only recognition of secession by the international community – and it was for very specific reasons – was that of Bangladesh by Pakistan, and to warn that making Kosovo independent will open a Pandora's Box and will result in the strengthening of all forms of secessionist action.

 
  
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  Francisco José Millán Mon (PPE-DE). – (ES) Madam President, the Kosovo issue is a complex one and has many implications on different levels; it affects the fundamental principles that regulate the functioning of the international community. On this issue, therefore, it is necessary to act cautiously, seeking the broadest possible consensus and taking account of international law.

Kosovo is also an exceptional case. This has been acknowledged by the United Nations’ special envoy and the great majority of the international community. In view of its exceptional nature, the solution does not set a precedent for other possible cases in Europe: that is stated in the text of the resolution that we will vote on tomorrow.

As the contact group stated in its conclusions of January 2006, the specific nature of the Kosovo problem results, amongst other things, from the break-up of Yugoslavia and the resulting conflicts, the ethnic cleansing and the events of 1999, of which I would stress NATO’s military intervention of that year. Another factor that makes the Kosovo case exceptional is the long period under international administration in accordance with Resolution 1244.

Madam President, I would have liked Mr Ahtisaari to have found a solution that had the approval of the two parties in question: Serbia and Kosovo. In relation to such sensitive issues that involve fundamental principles and in a region that has suffered a long period of conflict and instability, a mutually acceptable negotiated solution would have been the best thing. Unfortunately, however, the negotiations during 2006 and at the beginning of 2007 have failed to bring the differing positions together.

It now falls to the Security Council to debate Mr Ahtisaari’s proposal and, on that basis, to adopt the appropriate decisions. Clearly neither the European Parliament nor any other institutions are competent to decide on the final status of the territory; it should be established by the Security Council that adopted Resolution 1244. I would like it still to be possible for the Security Council, within a reasonable timescale, to try to achieve an agreement between the parties.

In any event, I hope that the members of the Council, particularly its permanent members, will play a constructive role at such a decisive moment as this, as we request in the text that we will vote on tomorrow.

 
  
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  Adrian Severin (PSE). – Madam President, whenever we find a just, feasible and sustainable solution to overcome a crisis, we want it to become a precedent. The mere fact that we do not want our solution for Kosovo to become a precedent this time is the recognition that this solution is unfortunate, or at least imprudent. And it is wishful thinking to believe that nobody will use it as a precedent. Therefore we must find ways to mitigate the subsequent risks.

In this respect, four suggestions could be considered. One: to accept and state that the solution for Kosovo is based on and should be consistent with the principle of regional security. Two: to agree that Kosovo might become independent only within the European Union after meeting the membership criteria. Three: to offer immediately to Serbia a clear European Union accession action plan, free from any prerequisite conditions. And four: to convene an international conference on the Western Balkans in order to integrate the solution for Kosovo into a region package deal.

Without an approach which looks beyond the borders of Kosovo and beyond the present time, the effects of this plan might blow up in our faces.

 
  
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  Ioannis Kasoulides (PPE-DE). – Madam President, the rapporteur Mr Lagendijk and our shadow rapportuer Mr Posselt have certainly done an excellent job. However, I will not vote in favour of this report for reasons of general principle. I believe that such a dispute must be resolved by mutually negotiated agreed settlements by the parties concerned, and not through unilateral actions or impositions from the outside. A durable settlement necessitates the will of those who will implement it.

I do not accept the notion of an independent state with limited sovereignty. An independent country is fully sovereign, or there is something wrong with it becoming independent.

I am aware that the only realistic outcome for Kosovo cannot be a return to Serbian sovereignty, nor partition, nor union with any other country. The negotiating process may have lasted for a very long time, but the Ahtisaari report was only published a few weeks ago. Why do we conclude so soon that the positions of the parties are unbreachable? We should encourage them to understand that there is no other way but to negotiate within a reasonable time on the basis of that report.

The Commissioner said that commitment towards Serbia can serve as a diplomatic tool in encouraging Belgrade to mainstream its position towards the Ahtisaari proposals. I think that the virtue of patience is a factor for international diplomacy.

 
  
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  Józef Pinior (PSE). (PL) Madam President, resolving Kosovo’s status is a good test of the European Union’s nascent foreign policy.

Firstly, we should express our appreciation for the efforts of Martti Ahtisaari, the UN General Secretary’s Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo, and for his plan.

Secondly, the European Parliament stresses that any settlement concerning the future status of Kosovo must conform with the democratically expressed wishes of the inhabitants of Kosovo, whilst respecting human rights and international law.

Thirdly, the problem of Kosovo must be regarded within the broader context of the situation in the Balkans.

At a time when we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, I would like to place particular emphasis on the political responsibility of the European Union for drawing up the terms, and opening the way, for future membership of the Union to Serbia. The European Union must play a historical role by helping to foster democracy and prosperity for all the peoples of the Western Balkans.

 
  
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  Peter Šťastný (PPE-DE). – Madam President, Commissioner, honourable Members, despite my belief that not all stones were left unturned in our joint efforts to bring the Serbian side to support the final deal, I welcome the Lagendijk report because it emphasises the need to obtain the consent of both parties involved.

I know that the people of Kosovo cannot live in limbo for much longer. They pay a very heavy price each day that negotiations are prolonged. However, we need to keep in mind the lessons of history: what happens when third parties decide the final outcome of a conflict between two countries without the clear consent of the primary parties involved. This is exactly the direction of Mr Ahtisaari’s report, from which Serbian support is sorely missing.

At present, it seems that all decisions have been made and that Kosovo will soon have its own status. But if we truly desire lasting peace and prosperity in the Western Balkans, we need to continue to encourage Belgrade to sign on the dotted line. We have the EU resources and the global institutions to achieve such a goal. I continue to hope for the best and in doing so I will vote for the Lagendijk report, while acknowledging the fact that when the final status of Kosovo is announced, the work of all interested parties must not end. The sooner we bring Serbia to accept the deal, the better it will be for the Balkans and for the whole of Europe.

 
  
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  Monika Beňová (PSE). – (SK) Like my colleagues, I, too, would like to praise the work done by the rapporteur and the efforts of our shadow rapporteur, Mr Tabajdi. I believe that we have dealt at length with this topic in the Committee on Foreign Affairs and have met the representatives of both Priština and Belgrade. The UN Security Council is now set to rule on the status and especially the future of the people now living in Kosovo. This ruling will impact Serbians and Kosovo’s Albanians equally. It will also impact Christians and Muslims equally. It will affect developments in the quality of life.

As a Member of the European Parliament, I very much regret that we have driven Serbia into a situation where it has to rely on Russia and is looking to play Russia as an ace in defending Serbia’s interests in the UN Security Council. I must say that I do not believe that tomorrow, if asked to vote on the report, the Members would support amendments that dramatically erode the legitimacy of either party. I believe that this honourable House would only back proposals that treat the two parties concerned in an equal and just manner.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. Madam President, honourable Members, I want to thank you for this very substantive and responsible debate. I believe that your report, and I trust your vote tomorrow, will further reinforce European unity in order to bring the Kosovo status process to a successful conclusion.

With the submission of President Ahtisaari’s proposal to the UN Security Council, the process now enters its decisive phase. I trust that the Security Council will live up to its responsibility, and I hope that it will endorse the proposal in a timely manner.

Then follows the hardest phase for us, that of the implementation of the status, which, as has been said today in this House, is a real litmus test for the EU’s common foreign and security policy. Therefore, I highly appreciate the support for this joint challenge of ours provided by Parliament and by the rapporteur on Kosovo, Mr Lagendijk.

In conclusion, I am glad that all three institutions share the view that European unity and EU leadership continue to be needed to achieve a sustainable settlement that produces a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo and assures continued regional stability. At the same time, we are providing Serbia with a tangible EU perspective, which should help Serbia to leave the nationalist past behind and turn towards a European future.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 11 a.m.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Marianne Mikko (PSE) , in writing. (ET) Over a period of eight years, the international community has become convinced that independence for Kosovo is the best means of ensuring stability in the region. UN Special Representative Ahtisaari has presented a report that recommends Kosovo be afforded all of the elements of independence, without using the word independence per se.

The report prepared by colleague Joost Lagendijk repeats all of the well-known facts and supports Ahtisaari’s recommendation as the basis for regulating the status of Kosovo. I would, however, like to ask whether systematisation and paraphrasing is the only added value that Parliament is able to offer.

The proposal for amendment, one of the authors of which is Lagendijk himself, recommended adding to the report the concept of supervised sovereignty, which is indeed the core of the report. This is the kind of clarity that is expected of us.

The most common argument against the proposal for amendment is fear of Russian displeasure. For months Moscow has been issuing warnings that independence for Kosovo will create a precedent on which Trans-Dnistria, Abkhazia and Ossetia could also seek independence.

The Kremlin is, however, very well aware that no legal precedent can arise. Kosovo is the only territory where the UN has a sufficient mandate to recommend independence. As a member of the UN Security Council, on 10 June 1999 Russia granted its approval of independence for Kosovo.

Russia simply wishes to avoid the shrinking of its sphere of influence in Europe. I doubt whether Russia will be willing to take responsibility for any new outbreak of bloodshed in Kosovo that may arise if independence is not granted.

Our ultimate objective is to prevent suffering, and to ensure democracy and economic development. This sometimes requires courage.

 
  
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  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL).(EL) In accepting the Ahtisaari report on the creation of an 'independent' protectorate of Kosovo under Euro-NATO occupation, the European Union and the European Parliament are creating a clear state of secession in the eyes of the world and a new state. This undermines and violates all the agreements and principles created by the United Nations and international law since the Second World War. The report voted for by the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, the liberals and the social democrats promotes the redrawing of the borders in the Balkans, perpetuates the presence of the Euro-NATO military occupation forces and blatantly blackmails Serbia, while at the same time incriminating and condemning the Serbian community in Kosovo and Serbia itself with insulting impudence. It opens a Pandora's Box of escalating nationalistic opposition and clashes throughout the Balkans, the incitement of secessionist movements and the imposition and legalisation of the presence of Euro-NATO occupying forces in the area.

Now we see the real objectives of the criminal war by ΝΑΤΟ against Yugoslavia, participated in by the EU and the governments of its Member States, both centre left and centre right, including the PASOK government in power in Greece at the time, a policy continued today with the same consistency by the New Democracy government, confirming the adherence of both parties in the two-party state to participation in and support for the criminal imperialist plans of the EU and ΝΑΤΟ and the USA in the area and in the world as a whole.

 

15. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
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  President. The next item is the one-minute speeches in accordance with Rule 144 of the Rules of Procedure.

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) In the history of almost any nation there have been lean years caused by events of a natural or social nature. However, the famine that gripped Ukraine in 1932 to 1933 was exceptional. Millions of Ukrainian peasants died as a result of deliberate policies aimed at terrorising the population by starvation. This barbaric crime perpetrated against millions of innocent Ukrainians by the totalitarian regime of the former Soviet Union was one of the cruellest of the 20th century.

I appreciate the shared commitment of all Ukrainian leaders to try to reinstall historic justice and shed light on a past that has for so many years been kept secret. In the past, any attempt to condemn the totalitarian practices of the sacrosanct Stalin would at the very least have resulted in a life-long prison sentence – as in the case of my father who endured nine years of hell in the gulag – or in immediate death.

Ladies and gentlemen, the devastating images currently on view in the famine exhibition, inaugurated at the European Parliament in the presence of Viktor Yanukovich, must encourage us to condemn resolutely the terrible crimes of Stalinism in the former Soviet Union. By recognising the famine as genocide, the European Parliament will be expressing its solidarity with the Ukrainian people and will do so in a written declaration, Declaration 4/2007, which I believe most of the Members will sign before 15 April.

 
  
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  Martin Schulz (PSE).(DE) Madam President, I also had the impression that Mr Evans and Mrs Gil could barely contain their enthusiasm for their group presidents.

I should like to alert you and the Members of this House to a spate of extremely disturbing events that are of great concern to us. For several months we have been seeing an increasing number of attacks on journalists in the European Union. To be very specific this is a development in Bulgaria, which is just one example of a series of developments that are causing us concern. In Bulgaria, journalists who have expressed critical views of a far-right party, which is also represented in this House, have been subjected to physical, psychological and material threats by representatives of this party. As I said, this is a party that is also represented in this House and we would be well advised – indeed we are called upon – to draw attention to the fact that the increasing level of aggression towards journalists whose views are distasteful to certain political forces is to be found not only outside but also inside the European Union. I would ask you to be vigilant and ensure that journalists are protected, retain their independence and are not hurt!

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Madam President, yesterday was the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. This brutal practice was related to the worldwide colonisation carried out mainly by European countries and, although slavery was terminated, colonisation persists. Two EU Member States, Britain and France, still have colonies today. Britain has 14 colonies and France many more. Britain’s colonies, excluding British Antarctica, total 50 000 km2 and are inhabited by 250 000 people. The French colonies total 123 000 km2 and are inhabited by 2.5 million people. While the political and human rights of the citizens of these colonies are being profoundly violated, the EU institutions are turning a blind eye.

The European Parliament is no exception. In none of the annual human rights reports adopted by Parliament over the years is there the slightest mention of colonisation, and any attempts to introduce the subject by individual MEPs are met with complete refusal. How strange, or should I say, how hypocritical. We condemn human rights violations by every country in the world, except when it concerns our own Member States. Is this what the EU is about? Shame!

 
  
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  Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka (UEN). (PL) Madam President, it is difficult to count on one hand the number of times the European Parliament, other Community institutions or the Council of Europe have called upon Belarus to refrain from practices that violate the fundamental rights of citizens.

The fact that the Lukashenko regime reacts to all appeals from Europe was evident last Sunday, when a day to celebrate freedom served as an occasion to remind Belarusians that they are in bondage. Tear gas, police batons and water cannons are the response of tyrants to the people’s desire for bread and freedom. We cannot allow one man to mock the whole of Europe and to run his authoritarian regime right under our very noses with impunity.

As representatives of a united Europe, we must continue to take action on behalf of a free Belarus. We should also ask ourselves whether the means we have used so far are sufficient, whether we should not be more robust in following up our demands to the country’s authorities, and whether we should not provide more effective and open support for the democratic opposition of the country.

 
  
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  Věra Flasarová (GUE/NGL)(CS) An important component of EU strategy is equal opportunities for men and women. The public is not regularly informed in all Member States about the importance of gender equality.

The planned partnership created as part of the EQUAL programme has taken the initiative concerning the Gender Equality Day, which is already celebrated in some Member States on 19 July. The aim is to establish respect for gender equality, to portray a positive image of the partnership between women and men and to raise awareness among the public of the importance of the issue.

Gender Equality Day is aimed at men too, because men can also suffer discrimination and be undermined. This international day is a mark of appreciation for the long term efforts of women’s rights activists, and strengthens women’s political, economic and social standing. It also promotes equal opportunities for both sexes.

19 July is close to Fathers’ day in the calendar, providing an opportunity to emphasise our common interest regarding the role of fathers in looking after children and the family. I therefore feel that this year of Equal Opportunities for All is a most opportune moment for establishing Gender Equality Day in the EU.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MOSCOVICI
Vice-President

 
  
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  Jim Allister (NI). – Mr President, following on from the President's comments earlier about developments in Belfast, I would like to say that, from this distance, euphoria about political developments in Belfast is understandable.

However, I must tell the House that I, and many in Northern Ireland, see nothing to celebrate in the premature admission to government of those who personally sanctioned, practiced and unreservedly supported a campaign of vicious terrorism that left thousands of my fellow citizens as innocent dead. I say ‘premature’ because even now Sinn Féin is still cherry-picking in its support for the police, with prominent members condemning legitimate police arrests for serious crimes and refusing full cooperation with the police in bringing to justice those responsible for such outrages as the Omagh bombing, which killed 29 innocent shoppers.

Where else in the world would you expect to find in government ministers inextricably linked to, and maybe even still members of, an illegal army council of their own illegal private army? Yet that is what many in this House will applaud in Northern Ireland.

Of evil no good can come.

 
  
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  Атанас Папаризов (PSE). – Г-н Председател, българските граждани и редица правозащитни и професионални организации, с масови публични изяви и демонстрации, отбелязаха седемте години от задържането на петте български медицински сестри и палестинския лекар, осъдени на смърт от либийския съд. Резолюцията на Европейския парламент от 18 януари и заключенията на Съвета по общи въпроси от 22 януари и 22 февруари са израз на загрижеността на европейските институции и на страните-членки за положението на българските медици. Солидарността на страните-членки и постоянната загриженост на европейските институции са основа въпросът на българските медицински сестри да се реши. Единната европейска позиция, която, надяваме се, Европейският съюз и страните-членки ще изработят до края на този месец, може да стане основа за разговори с либийската страна за приключване на случая.

Уважаеми г-н Председател, уверен съм, че Европейският парламент, Съветът на министрите и Европейската комисия ще продължат съгласувано да действат в полза на решаването на въпроса на българските медицински сестри в Либия.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, the Berlin Declaration expresses the values that all Europeans have in common, including human rights and democracy. There is no doubt that this is a virtuous declaration, which succinctly puts forward the common values of the Member States and citizens of the European Union. It also points out the principles of equality and solidarity on which European integration is based, and the values which the European Union has always held in high regard: diversity and sovereignty.

For the citizens of Europe, the Declaration shows that the Union is the only effective response to the challenges of globalisation and competition.

However, the document says nothing substantial on the future enlargement of Europe, or anything more specific about a future common foreign and security policy.

In my opinion, the declaration provides a good start to future work on the new framework of the European Union. It is, however, more of a formal statement than an inspiring opening ceremony. If the Berlin Declaration is to mark a new beginning there has to be good will on the part of the Member States. The future of Europe is in our hands. That is something we should remember.

 
  
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  Marco Cappato (ALDE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the President of this Parliament usually reacts when the leaders of dictatorships (China, Cuba and others) attack the European Parliament concerning its resolutions and decisions.

Well, the representative of an absolutist state, the Vatican City State, in the person of Cardinal Angelo Scola, deplored the fact that ‘in spheres such as those of marriage, family and life’ – I am quoting Cardinal Scola – ‘it is not appropriate for the current European Parliament to make continual pronouncements, actually exerting pressure and imposing conditions on individual countries’.

Cardinal Scola has made similar statements before the President of our Parliament, and I therefore consider that the President of the European Parliament and Parliament itself ought to react, as they usually do when the independence and deliberations of this House are attacked.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio (UEN). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Giornale di Milano – an Italian newspaper – and some news agencies, both Italian and Ukrainian, have reported an event that has had a profound effect on all those who still have memories and even open family wounds connected with the fate of those who fell in the Second World War.

What is at issue is the remains of over 200 Italian soldiers who have the misfortune to be buried in land belonging to a small town in Ukraine, where once already there has been an attempt to build an enormous ten-floor building. Today this attempt is being relaunched with a plan to build a supermarket there.

I believe that, by virtue of the values on which the European Union is based, we ought to express clear condemnation and adopt a strong position. I therefore urge the President of Parliament to speak to the Ukrainian authorities with a view to preventing this disgrace.

 
  
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  Bairbre de Brún (GUE/NGL). – A Uachtaráin, ó thaobh an méid a dúirt Uachtarán na Parlaiminte inniu faoi imeachtaí na seachtaine seo i mBéal Feirste, ba mhaith liom fosta fáilte a chur roimh ráiteas na seachtaine seo ó Ian Paisley agus ó Gerry Adams.

Léiríonn an comhaontú idir Sinn Féin agus agus an DUP – agus an gealltanas soiléir sin ó Ian Paisley faoi athbhunú na n-institiúidí polaitiúla ar an ochtú lá de mhí na Bealtaine – tús ré nua polaitiúla in Éirinn. Bhí sé d’onóir domsa freastal ar an chruinniú stairiúil idir Sinn Féin agus an DUP dhá lá ó shin. Taispeánann na cainteanna agus taispeánann an comhaontú idir ár ndá pháirtí cad is féidir a bhaint amach anois.

Ba mhaith le Sinn Féin caidreamh nua a thógáil inar féidir le gach duine a bheith páirteach i dtodhchaí rathúil, shíochánta agus chóir. Caithfear dul i ngleic ar ndóigh le cuid mhór dúshlán agus cuid mhór deacrachtaí go fóill, ach níor chóir do dhuine ar bith meas faoi luach a thabhairt ar chuntasacht fhorbairtí na seachtaine seo, agus na féidearthachtaí a chruthaíonn siad don dul chun cinn polaitíochta in Éirinn.

 
  
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  Мартин Димитров (PPE-DE). – Уважаеми г-н Председател, уважаеми колеги, оставам с впечатлението, че европейският комисар Ласло Ковач е решил да увеличи всички възможни минимални акцизи, започна с алкохола, продължи с дизела.

На 13 март Европейската комисия прие предложение за промяна на Директива 96, като предвижда увеличаване на минималните нива на акциза върху дизел от 302 евро на 380 евро за хиляда литра. Според Комисията, с увеличението на акциза се опазва околната среда. В анализа си Комисията пропуска да отбележи, че страни като България и Румъния още не са достигнали сегашните минимални нива на акцизите, а се предлага ново увеличение. Ако се приеме това предложение, България ще трябва да увеличи акциза върху дизела с 40%. Това би довело до покачване на цените на основни потребителски стоки абсолютно несъизмеримо с ръста на доходите в България. Едно такова нарастване на цените ще доведе до евроскептицизъм, особено в източната част на Европейския съюз и до проблеми с приемането на еврото. Европейският парламент трябва категорично да се противопостави на едно такова необосновано предложение.

 
  
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  John Attard-Montalto (PSE). – (MT) Post-studies carried out on the building of this Marsascala plant are considered to be a farce by everyone, including officials of the Maltese Environment Authority. This process ignored a number of articles of the terms of reference and ran counter to a number of European Union directives. The study carried out on the technology required remains undisclosed, whilst comparative analysis of alternative sites is viewed as lacking seriousness and as being rigged and even flawed.

Socio-economic research into the area’s residents was not carried out diligently and in compliance with the terms of reference, while the study on the environmental health impact was completely ignored. It has to be borne in mind that this plant is to be built in a residential area, only 250 metres away from inhabited areas.

 
  
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  Danutė Budreikaitė (ALDE). (LT) The Via Baltica project is of great importance for integrating the transport systems of Baltic, North and Central European countries with the rest of the European Union. The European Commission has appealed to the European Court of Justice against Poland's building of the Augustavas bypass on the Via Baltica, which was commenced before Poland joined the EU. The appeal is based on claims that the environment protection requirements of the Rospuda Valley, through which the projected viaduct must pass, will be violated. It is planned that up to 4% of project funds will go toward compensation for damage to the environment, for animal crossings, and for reforestation. The Commission has not proposed any alternative route and has not made any clear proposal for compensation. However, no such environmental protection issues have been raised concerning the Northern Gas Pipeline, which is projected to pass through Natura 2000 territory, and which may cause unpredictable ecological consequences. The European Commission is also not concerned about the residents of Augustavas, and the pollution they put up with. Will we ever see the end of the European Union's application of double standards when it comes to the ‘big boys’ of Europe and their strategic partner Russia?

 
  
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  Milan Gaľa (PPE-DE). – (SK) The European Commission has initiated breach-of-treaty proceedings against Slovakia on the grounds that certain owners of ships sailing under the Slovak flag are using the services of Bulgarian and Turkish classification companies. The Commission has yet to include these in their list of recognised classification companies. The problem affects twenty maritime ships sailing under the Slovak flag. The ships are owned by foreign companies registered in a variety of countries.

At the end of the day, however, it is Slovakia that will have to pay SKK 480 million in penalties. The contracts with the companies concerned were entered into before EU accession and were of a long-term nature. Last November a new Directive came into force, binding Member States to recognise only those companies that have been accepted by the European Union.

Slovakia has asked the European Union to recognise the Bulgarian classification registry. I believe that Slovakia will do its best to remedy the situation as soon as possible. For this reason I would like to ask the Commission not to act precipitously.

 
  
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  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE). (PL) Over the past weeks, much has been written in the European press about the conflict between the Polish police and environmental groups defending the unique Rospuda Valley (Dolina Rospudy), which is a unique area protected by the Natura 2000 programme.

We already know that the European Commission has referred the matter of the planned road across the Rospuda Valley to the European Court of Justice. Whilst appreciating the efforts made by the Commissioner for Environment Stavros Dimas, I must express my deep regret that it has not been possible to resolve the deadlock and come to some arrangement with the Polish Government, instead of unnecessarily antagonising Polish society. A breach of EU law could effectively result in Poland, or more specifically Polish taxpayers, paying a fine running into millions, while at the same time prolonging the present hold-up of work on the road. The fact that there has been no agreed alternative route suggested will not help to resolve the present transport problems of the residents of the area.

It appears that, once again, ordinary citizens will end up paying for the authorities’ stubbornness and ignorance of the law.

 
  
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  Brian Crowley (UEN). – Mr President, following on from the Berlin Declaration last weekend and the roadmap laid out for 2009 as being the year for rejuvenation or renewal of the Treaty in conjunction with the European elections, I would like to make a proposal that we designate 2009 as the year of the child, not only to protect those who are most vulnerable and set down common standards across the European Union as regards how we protect our children, but also as a vote of optimism in future generations for the way they can continue the project of the European Union after 50 years of construction and development. I would therefore like to put forward this proposal and ask colleagues to give it as much support as possible.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE-DE). – Mr President I would like to draw you attention to the agreement on the new EU external assistance instruments, and in particular the European neighbourhood and partnership instrument, which grants Parliament increased scrutiny over the implementation of Community assistance.

Parliament is prepared to play an active role in the implementation of the EU external assistance instruments, though the Commission is not ready for open and timely cooperation with Parliament.

Parliament is only involved in the process of drafting documents – which is to say strategy papers, action plans, and national indicative programmes – just before their adoption, when there is almost no possibility to change or express an opinion concerning the matter. Therefore, Parliament remains only a passive observer to the implementation of the ENPI.

In this respect, I think we should call on the Commission to communicate with Parliament, and to involve Parliament in a full and timely manner in the drafting, implementing and monitoring of the European Neighbourhood Policy, and ENPI in particular.

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE).(DE) Mr President, I am pleased that at last I have been given the floor at my third attempt, but I can certainly see that if even group chairmen are using this opportunity to speak then there are fewer chances for a mere backbencher like myself.

I wish to criticise in the strongest possible terms the intention of the Polish Government to expel sick people – even citizens of the European Union – from their country. I consider this to be a massive attack on the basic freedoms of the European Union, such as the freedom of establishment and the free movement of people. I would call on the European Commission immediately to take the necessary steps so as to put an end to this constant provocation by the two brothers at the head of the government.

I would also be interested to know why the Commission takes immediate action in so many areas, such as for example on the issue of the German students in Austria, and yet does absolutely nothing about huge problems like this one. I consider this to be a scandal.

 
  
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  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – Mr President, Joseph Conrad once said that what all men are really after is some form, or perhaps only some formula, of peace. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this unique European project, which has brought peace and stability to our continent, this week has also been unprecedented, remarkable and extremely positive for peace and progress on the island of Ireland. At last we have not just a form of peace, but a formula for a peaceful future for the citizens of Ireland, north and south.

I would like to warmly welcome devolved government and its return to Northern Ireland. The decision this week by the largest political groups, the DUP and Sinn Féin, to sit down face to face and agree to power-sharing within six weeks represents a profoundly promising milestone and, at last, the end game in the protracted peace process of Northern Ireland following 40 years of violence.

It is important that we in the European Parliament acknowledge the extraordinary happenings at Stormont this week. I would also like to acknowledge in particular the role of the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP, David Trimble and John Hume, the former leaders, their current leaders …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Neena Gill (PSE). – Mr President, I want to bring to your attention recent events in Pakistan surrounding the suspension of the Supreme Court Chief Justice Mohammed Chaudhry, which led to widespread unrest in that country.

Last December, as chair of the SAARC Delegation, I raised the issue of the importance of the freedom of the judiciary and media at the highest levels on a visit to Pakistan. It is disappointing, therefore, that we hear reports of a lack of both. However, I am grateful to the Pakistani Ambassador to the EU for providing me with his Government’s statements of its commitment to press freedom, and I particularly welcome its assurances on upholding the independence of the judiciary.

However, I would strongly urge the President of Parliament, in the interests of transparency, to write to request a copy of the reference sent to the Supreme Judicial Council, as well as a full explanation of the reasons for the Supreme Judicial Council’s decision to suspend Justice Chaudhry.

Finally, could the President also strongly urge the Government of Pakistan, however justified the suspension of the Chief Justice is, to hold open hearings so that the international community can judge the fairness of the trial taking place.

 
  
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  Robert Evans (PSE). – Mr President, staying in the same part of the world I would like to bring to this House’s attention the worsening situation in Sri Lanka, where the ceasefire is all but non-existent. I believe this is a tragedy. Over 200 000 people are now displaced by the renewed fighting. Over 3000 civilians, and of course a number of soldiers on all sides, have been killed.

One thing that this Parliament could do is call for independent human rights observers to monitor any abuses and the many abuses that are being committed by the Sri Lankan security forces, by the LTTE and by the other armed groups that are all over the island. I believe that this European Parliament must act to support the people of this wonderful island, bringing about a peaceful solution and an end to this conflict as soon as possible.

Thank you very much. 47 seconds!

(Laughter)

 
  
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  President. – The seconds that you have saved you have given to Mrs Gill.

 
  
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  Carlo Fatuzzo (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, when leaving Bergamo for Brussels by plane, I met a delegation composed of 27 widows, one for each of the states in the European Union, protesting that the survivor’s pensions paid to widows of pensioners and workers are only half the pensions that their spouses received.

The widows asked me to raise this issue at the European Parliament – as I am doing – and were certain that their request would be heard by all 27 governments making up the European Union. They hope that a European pension will at last be introduced to provide equal, better rights for all European citizens, and this is something I also call for.

 
  
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  President. – I am sorry, but we must move on to the next agenda item. I would inform you, however, that priority will be given at the Strasbourg sitting, in April, to all those who have asked to take the floor today, it being understood that they will have to re-register, for form’s sake. The presidency for that sitting will be told about this, and those MEPs will be put at the top of the list of speakers.

 
  
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  Димитър Стоянов (ITS). – В съвременното демократично общество медиите и тяхната свобода са нещо много важно. Тяхното влияние над обществото е толкова голямо, че ние често се обръщаме към тях като към четвърта власт.

Вземам думата по отношение на изказването на г-н Шулц, което ме засегна лично, относно свободата на медиите. Защото ние знаем, че в съвременната демокрация основната характеристика на всяка власт е, че тя бива контролирана по някакъв начин, за да не се позволяват злоупотреби с нея. И за да ви опиша по-добре какъв е случаят специално, който г-н Шулц имаше предвид в България ...

(г-н Стоянов и прекъснат от председателя)

 
  
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  President. – Mr Stoyanov, I must cut you off there. I should like to know on the basis of which rule of the Rules of Procedure you are requesting to take the floor and on which matter, because, at the moment, your speech is of a somewhat general nature.

 
  
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  Димитър Стоянов (ITS). – Относно чл. 145 от Правилника.

(Г-н Стоянов е прекъснат от председателя)

 
  
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  President. – I would remind you that Rule 145 stipulates, on the subject of a speaker who takes the floor to make a personal statement, that he ‘may not speak on substantive matters but shall confine his observations to rebutting any remarks that have been made about his person in the course of the debate or opinions that have been attributed to him, or to correcting observations that he himself has made’. Therefore, please refrain from speaking on general matters and come to the point that concerns you, since you have taken the floor to make a personal statement.

 
  
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  Димитър Стоянов (ITS). – Не съм съгласен г-н Председател, защото моят отговор изисква изясняване на обстоятелствата, за да мога да отхвърля твърденията ...

(Г-н Стоянов е прекъснат от председателя)

 
  
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  President. – You do not have to agree or disagree; these are the Rules of Procedure.

 
  
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  Димитър Стоянов (ITS). – Значи това е диктатура, г-н Председател.

(Г-н Стоянов е прекъснат от председателя)

Няма свобода на словото в този парламент.

Няма свобода на словото в този парламент.

(Г-н Стоянов е прекъснат от председателя)

Това е свободата на словото в този парламент. Отнема се думата, без да се даде възможност....

(Председателят отнема думата на г-н Стоянов)

 
  
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  President. – This is not a dictatorship; on the contrary, this is a democracy. We have Rules of Procedure, and they must be complied with. No MEP can make general remarks in this House on any subject of their choosing.

Mr Stoyanov, it was my understanding that you wanted to take the floor in order to make a personal statement. That is not the case, and I cannot allow you to continue.

 

16. Organic production and labelling of organic products (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the report (A6-0061/2007) by Marie-Hélène Aubert, on behalf of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, on the proposal for a Council regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products (COM(2005)0671 – C6-0032/2006 – 2005/0278(CNS))

 
  
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  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I welcome this opportunity to discuss our proposal for a new Council regulation for organic production. I want to start by thanking the rapporteur, Mrs Aubert, and the members of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for their efforts. The thorough work that they have been doing is a very valuable contribution to our discussions.

With 160 000 organic farms and more than 6 million hectares of land in the European Union, the turnover of organic products is estimated to have a value of between 13 and 14 billion euros. This tendency is on the increase, so it is indeed a very important sector. There is no doubt in my mind that this expanding sector has an essential role to play. It addresses a range of expectations on the part of the public and of consumers; expectations about food quality, care for the environment, animal welfare and opportunities for developing the countryside.

It is also a sector with plenty of optimism and confidence about what the future has to bring, as I was able to see clearly during my recent visit to the BioFach in Nuremberg. But in order to develop and reach its full potential, the sector needs an appropriate regulatory framework, and this is actually what we are trying to achieve with our new regulation. It is therefore a very important legislative proposal, and I am pleased with the progress that we were able to make through our deliberations last year.

In 2006 very intensive discussions were held on our proposal in the Council and in Parliament. As a result, some elements from the original proposal that proved to be very sensitive ones have now totally disappeared. This includes a prohibition on higher claims, the mutual recognition of private standards by inspection bodies, and the EU organic indication.

Parliament has also proposed a range of amendments in order to improve the wording of the objectives and principles of organic farming, on the indication of the origin of the products, on the explicit right to use national and private logos, on embedding of the control system in the official food and feed controls, and the reinforced guarantees on imports. These are amendments that improve the original proposal and I am therefore happy to take them on board.

We have also managed to improve the emphasis of the regulation on soil fertility, soil life and soil management practices. The question of GMO and organic farming has generated a lot of debate. I have noted Parliament’s wish that operators provide proof that they have taken all the necessary steps to avoid adventitious or technically unavoidable presence of GMOs, and I could not agree more with that. So although these amendments present a reiteration of an existing requirement, I have decided to accept them because of the huge sensitivity of this issue.

But let me also be completely clear: the threshold for adventitious presence of GMOs is not, as some suggest, a de facto threshold for GMO tolerance. GMOs and their derivatives remain strictly banned for use in organic production.

Although the Commission and Parliament agree on the fundamental aspects of the new regulation, there are certain issues where we have not managed to see eye to eye, and I would like to touch briefly on some of these.

Parliament is asking for more details, and it is clear that a lot of the detailed rules as we know them in the current regulation have been removed. But let us not forget that one of the main purposes of this proposal was to set out the basic rules more clearly and more logically. This, however, does not mean that the detailed rules that form the unique fabric of organic standards should disappear altogether. Certainly not. But I believe that they are better placed in the implementing rules, and the content of these detailed rules will, as I confirmed to you earlier on, be very similar to the detailed rules that we have in the current regulation.

On our wish to extend the scope to cover mass caterers, cosmetics, textiles and preserved fish, I would like to point out that we cannot take all steps in one go. We are substantially extending the scope now to wine and to aquaculture. The other sectors are still at a very early stage of the development, and I think that harmonising them could hamper their development. The current text actually provides for the possibility of looking at the issue again in 2011.

Linked to this, I have also noticed that you would like to see a double legal basis for this proposal. It is no secret that there is a wider discussion on the introduction of codecision for agricultural matters. This is an important issue and it is a discussion that I have clearly indicated that I welcome. But it is an issue that should be dealt with in a horizontal manner, at the proper level and in the proper context. I do not believe that it serves anyone to take an approach on a case-by-case basis. Therefore I cannot accept a change to the legal basis for the new regulation on organic farming as you have proposed.

Finally, you propose that Member States may maintain or introduce stricter national rules. That is not acceptable to me. The very purpose of this regulation is to bring about a solid harmonisation at a strict enough level, with a flexibility mechanism for exceptions. By harmonising the rules at a fairly high level, with flexibility, I think we are reaching the same end, but with a reduced risk of unequal treatment of operators in similar conditions. I am convinced that this is a way to foster a thriving internal market for organic production.

I am sorry to have spoken at such length, but it is a very important issue that I wanted to address in detail.

 
  
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  President. – Commissioner, the Commission is free to speak for as long as it likes and to say as much as is necessary.

 
  
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  Marie-Hélène Aubert (Verts/ALE), rapporteur. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as you know, the circumstances of organic farming are somewhat paradoxical today. On the one hand, there is growing demand for it because it is a method of farming that creates jobs, protects the environment, biodiversity and, ultimately, everyone’s health. On the other hand, organic farming still accounts for only slightly more than 1% of European agricultural production and slightly more than 3% of usable agricultural area – in other words, little. I believe that it is our responsibility to help develop organic farming within the European Union.

This is perhaps only a small issue in terms of quantity, but a huge issue in political and symbolic terms because organic farming is also a kind of breakthrough, in that it refocuses the common agricultural policy on a far more sustainable form of farming, which is what is required.

Throughout 2006, we worked on the basis of a Commission proposal that has caused a great deal of concern and given rise to many protests, and a certain hastiness, too, since we were initially asked to give our verdict in two months on a proposal that had not really been developed thoroughly. However, I readily admit that the work has been constructive and that the discussions have taken place regularly, with both the Commission and the Council, to improve the initial proposal. Through all these exchanges, all these discussions and comings and goings, what did this Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development ultimately hope to do? You have pointed out the key elements.

Firstly, it hoped to extend the scope of this regulation to non-food products such as textiles and cosmetics, but also, and above all, to mass catering, because mass catering is an extraordinary lever for developing organic farming in our countries. We would be quite wrong not to use it. That is also why we want a dual legal basis – Articles 37 and 95 – which relate to both the internal market and consumption. It would seem that you have nothing but praise for our work, for our contribution and, thus, for the fact that the European Parliament has become far more involved – not to mention codecision, in general, for farming, because that is another debate that we have yet to hold.

It therefore seems to me that, if we want to pursue this work, if we want MEPs really to have the right to inspect these famous decrees that are going to play a vital role in the application of this regulation, you should accept this dual legal basis, and we will pursue this debate.

Secondly, as you pointed out, we have requested – from what was a vague text – far more precise definitions of what is meant by inspection, certification, products authorised or unauthorised in organic farming practices, the link to the soil, animal conditions, and so on. Next, you raised the very sensitive point of the lack of genetically modified organisms in organic farming. There must be a total absence of these organisms, just as there must be a total absence of pesticides and synthetic chemicals.

On the subject of genetically modified organisms, we are absolutely set on confirming to consumers that organic farming does not contain any GMOs, from seed to distribution. The current threshold of 0.9%, which is a labelling exemption threshold, causes confusion. Therefore, in our opinion, we need to return to this issue so that we opt for the detection threshold for both conventional crops and organic farming and also so that, no matter what happens, we take all the measures necessary to prevent any contamination, even adventitious, of biological crops by GMOs.

You say that it is not possible to accept the stricter measures that the Member States might take. Well, in our opinion, the specifications of both private and public authorities, which already exist and with which consumers are well acquainted, should be able to stay. In any case, this is what we want, and, if there is any flexibility, harmonisation must be upwards, not downwards, the latter being something that we fear.

You have given us a number of answers. I believe that this debate will continue, no doubt beyond tomorrow’s vote.

Finally, I should like to conclude by saying that this regulation is not the be-all and end-all, either, and that it is not going to settle all of the issues concerning organic farming. Within the context of the common agricultural policy, we also need far greater support for organic farming than we have at present.

 
  
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  Roberto Musacchio (GUE/NGL), draftsman for the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the work done within my committee, for which I was the draftsman, was very careful, and the result was adopted unanimously in committee.

The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety is obviously deeply concerned with protecting the environment but in this specific case we have focused on how the environment can also be protected through the laws of the market. I say this because the key point of the opinion I have presented is precisely this: for those producing, selling or buying organic food it must be clear with the utmost certainty and without any room for error that this food is in fact organic and not, for instance, contaminated by GMOs. I think that it is vital for us to have this ‘zero threshold’ of contamination immediately; it cannot be postponed to later measures. Anyone selling a product – for example, a luxury automobile – cannot tolerate the product containing a single bolt not belonging to that automobile.

That is, therefore, the key point of the recommendation made by my committee, which we would like to see included clearly in the final text.

 
  
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  Agnes Schierhuber, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank Mrs Beer very much for her very committed report. Organic farming is of great interest to the public; its manifestations are very diverse and its significance varies greatly across the Member States. Consequently this is a controversial and emotive issue to debate. In this context, genetically modified organisms always constitute a major problem in organic farming. That is why I support the limit value of 0.0% for organic farming, because what we identify as GM-free must also be GM-free. Coexistence and liability are fundamental issues here, issues that also still need to be resolved, Commissioner, and I know that you are on our side in this respect.

The future of organic farming lies above all in the hands of consumers. They decide whether they are prepared to pay more for food that is natural and GM-free. The increase in sales of organic products in recent years clearly confirms that the public values this quality. But it is precisely in this respect that it is important for the purchaser to know where the food comes from. We have to ensure that the European organic labels are only used for products from the Member States that meet these criteria. The future use of logos, the intention to label products more precisely and the related possibility of tracing are measures that I very much welcome, because they will also enable more effective checks to be carried out. We need to ensure that equal account is taken of the interests of producers and consumers. Joint, coordinated measures will bring additional gains both for European farming and for consumers, while still safeguarding subsidiarity. The 197 amendments that have been tabled prove, however, that we are actually not yet able to vote on the report at the present time. I therefore support the rapporteur on Amendments 37 and 39.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  María Isabel Salinas García, on behalf of the PSE Group. (ES) The organic production sector is asking us for – or rather demanding of us – clear and simple legislation that responds to the needs of a market that is clearly growing.

Europeans are consuming increasing quantities of organic products and we must establish an appropriate framework as soon as possible in order to meet those needs, protecting the interests not just of consumers but also, at the same time, the interests of the sector and environmental interests in general.

With a view to achieving that objective, the report that we are currently debating and which has been facing difficulties since its negotiation, is a good starting document. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the rapporteur, Mrs Aubert, on the great work she has been doing. I say that I believe this to be a good report because, for example, it takes account of the specific characteristics of the different European regions, it better stipulates the competences of each of the authorities and bodies involved in the control of organic products and it establishes a single obligatory logo, which is also something that I have insisted on during the negotiation in committee.

In this same vein, I also believe that it stipulates that, in order to be marketed as organic in the European Union, products from third countries must conform to rules equivalent to the European legislation.

In conclusion, I believe that the report is intended to promote organic production and consumption, seeking to consolidate this growing sector as the élite sector of our agriculture, since organic agriculture is destined to be characterised by its higher quality products.

Having said that, I believe that another debate is now opening up which until recently we had not taken into account: the possibility is being proposed of the European Parliament acquiring more of a say in decision making, taking a step further by means of the codecision procedure, calling for a twin legal basis for this Regulation.

I would like to make it clear that, as passionate Europeans, we are always in favour of greater decision-making powers for this Parliament, which is the European Union’s highest democratic expression. We will therefore vote accordingly tomorrow.

Nevertheless, I would also like to stress that this Regulation is a social demand both from the sector and from consumers, and therefore the subsequent steps that we must decide upon after tomorrow must not be delayed much longer, but rather, for the sake of the legal certainty of producers and the confidence of consumers, we must continue to work quickly in order that we may have a Regulation that the European sector has been calling for for a long time and which distinguishes this clearly organic agriculture, for the sake of consumer safety.

 
  
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  Kyösti Virrankoski, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FI) Mr President, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Marie-Hélène Aubert, for an excellent report. Organic production is one sector of agricultural production. Its importance in the future will probably be marked, because consumers are paying more attention to the quality of food rather than to its price. Organic production is a way to improve the quality, taste and preservability of produce, thus creating added value on farms and boosting their profitability. Organic production, however, is a difficult agricultural sector, which calls for earnest devotion to farm management. Even tiny mistakes are hard to put right, as there are no opportunities for conventional production.

The EU’s agricultural policy is generally characterised by the complexity of rules and bureaucracy. With organic production there may be fears of an even greater burden. The farmer has to be extremely familiar with both EU and national legislation. The proposal for a regulation before us will mean more laws. In itself, the aim is sound, as it is consumer confidence that one is trying to safeguard, but if there are too many laws it may well lead to a slow down in the increase in organic farming and many farmers will simply give up. This would result in harm being done to the sector as a whole.

Mt President, agriculture and the food industry together form a huge sector of European production. There is room within it for different methods and trends. Organic production may offer very tempting opportunities, especially in the regions with the harshest natural conditions. Hopefully, this regulation will strengthen our continent’s food economy and boost its success in global competition.

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli, on behalf of the UEN Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as an Italian, I would like to mention that worldwide Italy is the fourth-ranked producer of organic products, while in the European Union it is in first place. We therefore endorse the changes made by this report to the regulation: the changes regarding its scope, flexibility for the Member States, checks and the free movement of organic products within the European Union.

With regard to labelling, on the other hand, we believe that there must be an absolute guarantee that products are organic and that therefore there must be no accidental contamination by GMOs at any stage of the production process. The regulations in force allow a threshold of accidental contamination by GMOs of 0.9% for organic products, which unfortunately is equal to that laid down for conventional agricultural products.

To conclude, in order to avoid a collapse in consumption as a result of a crisis in trust concerning foods chosen and purchased precisely because of their characteristics and their natural methods of production, it is necessary to lay down a threshold of accidental contamination by GMOs for organic products.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, the rapporteur has tabled a good report and Parliament must insist that the Commission and the Council do actually use this good report. In other words we need codecision, particularly as all of the new substance of this regulation is related to the internal market. The agricultural issues were of course already legislated on previously and could essentially be imported into the new regulation. That is one reason for the dual legal base; the other, as you rightly established, is that many of the details should be resolved in the implementing provisions. Parliament, just like the Council, must reserve the right to be consulted on these implementing provisions. As you are aware, we now have a ruling. If we had the constitution this issue would be resolved anyway. In the coming months we will have to fight this out.

On the issue of GMOs, I am pleased that you have established that 0.9% is not a contamination threshold. It is a labelling threshold; there is no right to contaminate. Our group is concerned, however, that the technical means that we have at our disposal to prevent contamination are not being fully utilised and that as a result the 0.9%-threshold is being set too high. We would like it to be lowered, because we say that for organic products any contamination must be completely ruled out. I hope that you understand this and will take the necessary measures.

 
  
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  Vincenzo Aita, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that the provision under examination can be significantly improved by Parliament during tomorrow’s vote in the Chamber. In fact, a provision such as this one, which lays down a threshold of contamination of 0.9% for organic products, namely a threshold equal to that for conventional products, is of no help either to organic producers or, particularly, to consumers.

Even the figures provided to us by the Commissioner show that this is a provision that could cause significant damage to the organic sector. In fact, laying down the same threshold for conventional products and for organic products would create confusion for consumers, who might no longer choose organic products, and this would also be detrimental for the agricultural production system, which in recent years has grown considerably in this sector.

I therefore believe that Parliament should return to the zero tolerance threshold in order to make these products even more attractive, ensuring that they are consumed in increasing quantities and providing ever more protection for consumers. An organic product where a 0.9% threshold is allowed makes no sense and, equally, consumers would see no point in buying and spending more money on a product which no longer gives them the necessary guarantees and is not free of pollutants.

 
  
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  Luca Romagnoli, on behalf of the ITS Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I reject the attempt to remove a clear indication of the country of origin from product labelling, in favour of an EU label that would solely serve to hamper traceability. The Commission is trying, in its usual manner, to standardise rather than to harmonise. Organic products enjoy advantageous market positions in terms of advertising, thanks to the ‘organic’ label, and respectable turnover as compared with other products, despite the greater retail costs.

Until now the labels used have given satisfactory results in terms of differentiation of supply and demand. This would be compromised if a common EU label were to undermine consumer awareness. The regulation ought to offer a guarantee of independence to certification bodies, particularly with regard to relations with operators from non-EU countries.

We need an accreditation system based on strict, transparent rules, but this is what the Commission does not want. To conclude, the idea of imposing an EU organic logo on products from non-EU countries, without the indispensable indication of the products’ regional and national origin, should most definitely be rejected.

 
  
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  Ioannis Gklavakis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, Community legislation on organic products has been applied in the European Union for over 15 years with a fair degree of success, one might say, to judge from the results. Of course, they could be even better because, if in the Europe of the 25 1.4% of all agricultural holdings are organic and account for 3.6% of farmland, this means that there is a considerable margin for further development.

How can we persuade consumers to opt for organic products and spend more on food, so that the resultant increase in demand encourages more farmers to work in this sector? Obviously through constant and strict quality control, by ensuring they are free from genetically modified organisms and, most importantly, through proper labelling, which will strengthen consumer confidence. We should highlight here the very important issue which usually shakes consumer confidence, by which I mean imports of allegedly organic products from third countries. We must be strict on imported organic products. Only if they have been produced using production methods similar to Community methods should they be entitled to be labelled as 'organic', because we all know that the cost of producing organic products in third countries is usually lower. If organic production rules are circumvented, then these imported products would not be organic – meaning that we would be deceiving consumers – and would be competing with European farmers who comply with all the terms and conditions.

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella (PSE) .(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by expressing my satisfaction. This report on organic production and labelling of organic products has finally arrived for debate in plenary at an important time, since the vote in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, on 27 February, coincided with a demonstration by agrobiologists, who were rightly complaining about the new specifications for organic farming, which aimed and still aim at allowing 0.9% of contamination, which is the level allowed in conventional farming.

This report, which is the result of the unrelenting efforts of Mrs Aubert, to whom I pay tribute, is therefore terribly important for the entire sector and provides Parliament with a unique opportunity to distance itself from the Council and the Commission. It is truly vital, particularly now, to send out a strong signal with the aim of protecting organic farming.

To this end, I, on behalf of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, have tabled Amendment 170, worded as follows: ‘the Member States shall provide themselves with an appropriate legislative framework, based on the precautionary principle and on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, in order to exclude any risk of organic products being contaminated by GMOs. It shall be incumbent on operators to take every precautionary measure necessary to exclude any risk of adventitious or technically unavoidable contamination by GMOs. The presence of GMOs in organic products shall be limited exclusively to unforeseen and technically unavoidable volumes up to a maximum value of 0.1%.

In short, just as it is crucial not to change the very essence of organic production by allowing overly high levels of adventitious contamination, it is important to keep a minimum rate that is acceptable and accepted by the sector, so as not to penalise adventitiously contaminated organic farmers, who would see their production totally devalued if a zero tolerance policy were applied.

Furthermore, we support the use of natural nitrogen mineral fertiliser, as well as any other natural mineral fertiliser, and therefore propose, via Amendments 168 and 169, to delete the passage in Article 8(1)(d) that aims at prohibiting the use of nitrogen mineral fertiliser.

Finally, I fully support Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs’ decision to apply the dual legal basis – Articles 37 and 95 of the Treaty – because there are two advantages to referring to the competence of the internal market, too. Firstly, this report, voted for in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs, would be extended to the entire mass catering sector – caterers, institutional catering, canteens, restaurants – and to some products such as food supplements. Secondly, as a result of the competence of the internal market, we would shift from a consultation procedure to a codecision procedure, which would give us the crucial right to inspect the drafting of this regulation, which will directly affect the quality of Europeans’ diet.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Despite the widespread interest in organic farming, both among consumers and among producers and the media, the sector’s development continues to be slow. What are the reasons, and what can be done to increase the consumption, and therefore also the production, of organic food?

In my opinion, the most important thing is to ensure stable conditions for development, and the support that goes with it. This includes appropriate certification, labelling and monitoring, including the monitoring of imports from third countries. In other words, we need good legislation.

The small scale of the organic sector makes the distribution of organic products excessively expensive, which therefore makes it not as attractive to major retailers. It would therefore be a positive step if external subsidies were to be given to this part of the organic food production chain, and if farmers involved in producing this kind of food were to be organised.

It would also be good for the importance of organic farming to be stressed more within the field of education and for the sector to be better promoted.

 
  
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  Bernadette Bourzai (PSE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by congratulating Mrs Aubert on the excellent work she has done since the start of the mandate, firstly on the European action plan for organic food and farming and then on this proposal for a regulation. The task was not easy because the proposal undermined the strong and credible identity of organic farming.

We can be satisfied with the progress made within the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on several points: a stricter definition of the use of phytopharmaceutical products, veterinary treatments and national derogations; increased monitoring at the certification stage, including monitoring of imported products; and an extension of the scope of the regulation and the consolidation of regulatory committees. I also support the dual legal basis, which will move us on to codecision.

However, I remain very worried about the issue of GMOs being present, even adventitiously, in organic products. Indeed, the regulation states that a product cannot be labelled ‘organic farming product’ if it contains GMOs, but it does nonetheless accept an adventitious contamination threshold of 0.9% of GMOs, which is inadmissible.

That is why I would ask you to endorse Amendments 170 and 171, tabled by the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, which request that the presence of GMOs in organic products be limited exclusively and that the term not be used.

 
  
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  Gábor Harangozó (PSE). – (HU) We must ensure that environmentally-aware consumers who are concerned about and anxious to protect their health are able to use products that are free of chemicals or of contamination by genetically modified organisms. We must, therefore, clearly indicate if a product has its origin in organic production. We must guarantee that products bearing the European Union’s organic indicator have been prepared 100% in accordance with the basic principles of organic production.

In this area we cannot make any concession, just as we cannot with regard to consumer information. We must also ensure that it is possible, when using public information services, for people to decide whether to choose organic foods. This is not only a question of consumer protection but has great significance from the perspective of agrarian strategy and market protection as well.

A well formulated, universally recognised European standard and corresponding certification, along with harmonised European labelling, will strengthen consumer confidence, increase demand and guarantee the producers’ livelihood. Because of the different circumstances and traditions among the various Member States, however, we need to make sure that it is possible for them to regulate the matter even more strictly.

 
  
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  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. Mr President, first of all I have enjoyed the dedicated discussion we have had on this very important topic. I also appreciate your support for the main thrust of these ideas. On some of the more difficult points, I hope that I have been able to explain that we can, to a certain extent, accommodate many of your ideas.

I would like to make some comments on three different issues. Firstly, on labelling. It is important to realise that when the European Union’s logo is used, an indication of the place where the raw materials were farmed is compulsory. This is also the case for imported products and it must be crystal clear that they have to comply with the same rules as domestic production.

The issue of co-existence was raised. It is very important that Member States make their own decision nationally to legislate on the rules for co-existence and the rules for liability. Once these GM products are in a Member State, then there must be rules on distances and cleaning machinery when going from one field to another. The decision has to be taken in the individual Member States, owing to the differences between production in northern and southern Europe. I can only encourage Member States to put in place this legislation.

On the threshold mentioned seemingly by all of you, it is necessary to underline that the Commission proposal does not change the current rules regarding the unavoidable presence of GMOs. However, it does clarify the organic operator’s responsibility for avoiding the presence of GMOs.

Again, the important thing is that the use of GMOs and their derivatives is and was strictly banned in organic production, so they must be kept completely out of all organic production. We are also making the rules on the tests on each and every batch of organic products sold less restrictive than at present.

On mass catering, also an issue raised by many of you, it is today possible, and will be in future, for mass catering companies to produce goods, under national legislation, which they can label as organic. This is crucial. We could not accept an EU ruling or legislation on this issue.

I can accept amendments 20, 31, 35, 56, 71, 75, 99, 101 and 120. Furthermore, as I mentioned previously, 68 of the amendments are acceptable partially or in principle. I cannot accept the other amendments in the light of the discussions that we have had and I refer specifically here to the amendment proposing a double legal basis. However, the fact that 77 of your amendments are either totally or partially accepted clearly indicates that we have more common ground on this issue than you might think at first glance.

Thank you for a passionate debate.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS WALLIS
Vice-President

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

The vote will be tomorrow at 11.00.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM) , in writing. – Some things are black and white. Organic and genetic modification are opposites.

A food cannot be called organic if it is genetically modified.

To pretend GM food contaminant can be labelled organic is so ludicrous that we have to ask why this possibility is allowed for in this directive.

Is it because the Commission knows that co-existence will not work? If we carry on with the Commission’s GM coexistence policy, organic farms will inevitably be contaminated. Is it because the Commission realises that if GM agriculture goes ahead it will destroy organic farming unless we redefine ‘organic’? This would be a gross injustice and deception of organic farmers, sellers and consumers.

Therefore I would like to ask colleagues to support amendments 166/167, 170/171, 175 and 194, and to oppose the inclusion of any genetic contamination threshold, which means to oppose the AGRI Committee’s amendment 41 and any others with this effect.

 

17. The future of the European Union's own resources (debate)
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  President. The next item is the report by Alain Lamassoure, on behalf of the Committee on Budgets, on the future of the European Union’s own resources (2006/2205(INI)) (A6-0066/2007).

Unfortunately, I am told that the rapporteur cannot be with us tonight owing to family reasons. Mr Böge will be replacing him.

 
  
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  Reimer Böge (PPE-DE), deputising for the rapporteur. – (DE) Madam President, before I start, I should like on behalf of the Committee on Budgets – and please do not include this in my speaking time – to express our displeasure at the fact that we are so far behind our published timetable. As a result, Mr Lamassoure can no longer be present for the reasons stated. I would therefore ask you to bear with me, because I have only just been informed that I will have to read out his speech in the original version, that is in French. The booths each have a copy. That is why five minutes will be rather tight, because French is unfortunately only my third foreign language.

(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the report on the future of own resources is very important. Your Committee on Budgets has adopted an original political approach. The report submitted to Parliament is an initial progress report.

Firstly, the subject is a major one: behind the political crisis, the Union is going through an equally serious budgetary crisis. The agreement on the financial perspective could only be reached at the price of the Community budget’s stagnating. The budget provides funding for the CAP and aid for the new Member States, but does not, for instance, allow funding for the transport networks or Galileo and allows virtually nothing at all for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. We rejoiced over the successes of the Union, an ever closer Union that was launched by the Treaty. Let us have the courage to recognise that, in budgetary matters, for the last 50 years the Union has become less and less ‘close’: budgetary solidarity has not increased; it has actually decreased overall. Ten years ago, the European budget represented 1.17% of GDP, whereas today, the 2007 budget accounts for scarcely 0.99%.

The first Treaties laid down the principle of funding Community expenditure with Community resources, that is to say, with fiscal resources directly allocated to the Union: either national resources such as customs duties, or even a genuine European tax, for example a tax on the turnover of steel and coal undertakings in the context of the ECSC.

Certain of my fellow Members who are very concerned about national sovereignty seem to have completely forgotten that the Treaties to which they adhered, sometimes after a referendum, precisely included a European tax. However, this tax no longer exists; it has not been revived, and customs duties now yield only 10% of the Union’s resources. These days, the bulk of these resources comes from contributions from the national budgets, and that is the reason for the Community funding crisis. The only way to resolve it is to return to the spirit and the letter of the Treaty of Rome, and to do so by relieving the national budgets and by funding Community expenditure with new fiscal resources directly allocated to the cover of this expenditure.

Conscious as they are of the problem, the European leaders have arranged to meet in 2008-2009 in order to re-open the entire dossier on the European budget, the resources heading and the expenditure heading being merged together. This commitment is specifically stated in the agreement on the financial perspective.

Next comes the political approach, which is original. In view of the extremely sensitive nature of the issue, the Committee on Budgets proposed to involve the national parliaments’ finance committees, and to do so from the start of our work. In two years, we held four joint meetings, and the rapporteur travelled to the capital cities of half of the Member States. The aim is not for an agreement to be reached between all of the parliaments. This would be neither legally nor politically possible. Furthermore, no procedure exists to allow the national parliaments to give an opinion, but we can prepare the ground for the Commission and the Council, clear up any misunderstandings, take note of any points of agreement and common political approaches, and come to an agreement on initiatives to be excluded or to be looked into further.

Today’s report is therefore a progress report, which aims at taking stock of the subjects on which there is a fairly broad consensus with the interlocutors appointed as delegates to us by the national parliaments. This consensus takes three forms: consensus on the diagnosis of the weaknesses of the current system, consensus on the political direction of a reform and consensus on the content of a first phase, which could begin fairly quickly and which would consist, first and foremost, in simplifying the current system. Thus, instead of obeying rules that have become infinitely complex over the years, contributions from national budgets would be calculated simply on the basis of GDP.

However, there is still no consensus on the urgency and content of a second phase. As far as we are concerned, this second phase is crucial. It would consist in selecting, among the existing fiscal resources, those that could gradually take the place of national contributions without increasing the burden on taxpayers. At this stage, the progress report merely lists taxes that could be used for this allocation, without making any recommendation. That will be the aim of a second report, which I shall submit at the end of the year, following a final interparliamentary conference devoted to this issue that the Portuguese Presidency has announced for 4 and 5 November.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. Thank you very much Mr Böge. I think our colleagues’ applause says it all.

 
  
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  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Commission I would like to thank the Committee on Budgets and its standing rapporteur, Alain Lamassoure, for the impressive work carried out with this report on a particularly sensitive topic. I can join in the applause for Mr Böge on his excellent presentation.

I would also like to stress that, in line with the interinstitutional position of 17 May 2006, and as part of the consultation and reflection process leading up to the establishment of the review, the Commission undertakes to draw on the in-depth exchange of views that it will conduct with Parliament when analysing this situation. Therefore, I welcome today’s debate.

 
  
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  Elisa Ferreira (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. – (PT) The current system is unfair and incomprehensible to the citizens. This was the conclusion reached, too, by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. A review is needed and I therefore welcome this own-initiative report and commend the rapporteur on his outstanding report.

Europe must be given adequate resources to implement its strategic objectives and in particular the Lisbon Strategy and social and territorial cohesion. The time has come to abandon the juste retour [fair return] strategy, which destroys the essence of the common budget and disregards the gains of the internal market by not acknowledging them in the budget.

It is also clear that the debate on revenue requires a reappraisal of expenditure priorities. It is too early to debate specific new sources of revenue and timeframes. Guarantees must be given, however, that they will be progressive and transparent, and will not increase the tax burden on the citizens.

Parliament has demonstrated today that it wants to – and is able to – play a key role in this process. This must be continued for the benefit of Europe and its citizens.

 
  
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  Gerardo Galeote (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. (ES) I would like firstly to congratulate Mr Böge on his excellent French, of which I am very envious, and also, of course, the rapporteur, Mr Lamassoure, on his efforts to stimulate a crucial debate. We will see later whether the other Community institutions have the courage to tackle it.

I believe that almost all of us share the report’s fundamental objectives: a European system that is comprehensible to the citizens and which does not increase fiscal pressure, of course. Nevertheless, I would like to focus on one of the Committee on Regional Development's priority demands, which is that solidarity should remain the fundamental pillar of European integration, particularly following the latest enlargements.

Economic, social and territorial cohesion requires a fair and balanced system of funding which takes account, on the one hand, of relative prosperity, and, on the other, of the Member States’ contribution capacity. That requires that we eliminate the regressive elements of the current system, that the rebates received from the Community budget by the most prosperous countries be removed, and that, as the report proposes, the future of own resources be based on the criteria of equity and progressiveness.

The benefits of European policies, Madam President, cannot be measured in terms of calculations of net balances that do not take account, for example, of inter-Community trade balances. Finally, I believe that the central element of future European funding must be contributions according to the gross national product of the Member States.

 
  
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  Carlos Carnero González (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs. (ES) We all agree that our objective should be a more efficient and democratic European Union, and to that end we need two instruments: the Constitution, which is in the process of being ratified, and the material resources to achieve our objectives.

Our resources are neither sufficient nor transparent, and the current situation is not therefore sustainable. It is true that the European Constitution establishes a new balance in which the European Parliament has more powers as a budgetary authority, but it still does not acquire those powers with regard to own resources. Although that balance may seem acceptable today, in the future this House must be able to legislate on those own resources, on the basis of two factors: firstly, a direct relationship between the citizens and resources; secondly, putting an end to exceptions, rebates and cheques.

If the Lamassoure report moves in that direction, as I believe it does, we in the Committee on Constitutional Affairs will be working, on this occasion and on the future text, in the same direction.

 
  
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  Salvador Garriga Polledo, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (ES) It is a shame that our rapporteur, Mr Lamassoure, cannot be here for the debate on this important own-initiative report, and it is a real shame that our parliamentary work should begin an hour and a half late, because that means that we all suffer.

In any event, the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats will support Mr Lamassoure’s report, for one reason in particular: the last agreement on the financial perspective showed that the system is insufficient. This is in spite of the fact that Mr Lamassoure himself tells us in paragraph 10 that if the Council had conformed to the Edinburgh Declaration of 1992, applying 1.24% of the European Union's gross domestic product to the Community budget, we would have had EUR 240 billion more, which would have been sufficient to fund much more ambitious Community policies over these years, which would have been much more effective for each of the Member States.

The Edinburgh Decision of 1992 therefore contained the solutions that the Member States were then unable to adopt, and Mr Lamassoure himself says that.

We must therefore seek the greatest possible Community budget and not just establish new own resources – which the Lamassoure report will deal with in the second phase and the need for which we entirely accept – but we must also, as the rapporteur states very clearly, establish a direct link between own resources and the policies to be funded, that is to say, spending, but on the basis of one fundamental idea, Madam President: solidarity. This means that the beneficiaries of the Structural Funds and the beneficiaries of agricultural subsidies should not pay for the insufficiencies that the Member States impose on us.

 
  
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  Catherine Guy-Quint, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the own-initiative report that we are debating today relates to an area that is crucially important for the future of the Union – that of its resources. When we talk about the Union’s resources, we are talking about its means of subsistence, but above all, we are talking about its means of undertaking tasks and of producing public policies. We are talking about the continuation of the European idea and of the innovative policies that Europe alone makes it possible for us to carry out.

The aim of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament is to achieve these two ambitious objectives: the continuation of the European project and political and economic innovation. The crucial thing, for Parliament, is to show the Member States that the Europe of projects, the Europe of sharing and of solidarity, is possible. This means that we cannot insist on our national advantages. It means adopting a responsible parliamentary proposal in the hope that the Council will move in the direction of a transparent, fair and effective system. The fact is, the Union’s resources, at present, really need to be simplified. This complex system has become incomprehensible to the citizens and the European decision-makers. It is an unfair and inappropriate system.

Our work, done in cooperation with the national parliaments, has convinced us that the introduction of a new budget for resources will take a long time and that it will have to take place in two stages. Currently, Community budgetary negotiations are just about a clash of national egos. An erroneous principle is being established here: the principle of fair return, which dismantles European solidarity and goes against our project. It is the poison of the European Community. The very notion of net balance should be destroyed.

Thanks to the rapporteur and to the amendments tabled by the Committee on Budgets, the text stresses the importance of abolishing, once and for all, all forms of compensation and of rebate mechanism. It is therefore logical to temporarily abolish the VAT resource, because, in its current form, it legitimises all cases in which a rebate is paid. We also confirm the options in the Böge report on the financial perspective. It is vital to link this reform of revenue to the reform of expenditure. In this context, cofinancing of the CAP may be considered, but without renationalisation.

We must first denounce the unfair system so that we can subsequently provide Europe with resources that are built on sound and fair foundations. Only then, when that is done, is Mr Lamassoure proposing to create a tax that could take various forms while preserving the Member States’ fiscal sovereignty. We support the idea of a consolidated tax, for example, corporation tax or environmental tax, as Jacques Delors was proposing as far back as 1991, or a tax on financial transactions, a tax on currency transactions.

In this report, we are not limiting the boundaries of what is possible. We are preparing for the second phase of our work. We are therefore acknowledging a nonsense system so that we can have done with it. With the exception of customs duties and certain agricultural taxes, the other receipts are not own resources.

To conclude, providing the Union with real resources means increasing Europe’s resource autonomy so that it is no longer subject to the blocking power of a given Member State. It also means making the budget consistent again. Whoever decides on expenditure must be responsible for revenue before the public. Finally, it means getting away from the idea of accounting returns which, for years, has been undermining all of our European projects and destroying the very idea of solidarity, on which Europe – the 50th anniversary of which we are celebrating – is based.

 
  
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  Jan Mulder, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (NL) Madam President, my compliments to the absent Mr Lamassoure and Mr Böge, his deputy, for their presentation. We all know what happened during the recent summit of 2005 and the events leading up to it. The bickering is not, to my mind, a dignified sight for Europe. We must find another way of resolving the issue of own resources, and the Lamassoure report certainly sets the right tone for this.

The large majority of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe share the key conclusions of the Lamassoure report. We see Gross National Income as probably the best way of measuring national wealth and of calculating contributions based thereon. This, though, should not prevent us from examining other means at a later date and, as many have said before me, this should not lead to an increase in taxation, but we will need to use the existing taxes to provide Europe with some of the income.

We do not share the view that it is unfortunate that we did not use the 1.24% that was established in Edinburgh in 1992. So far, the Commission has had to overcome enough difficulty as it is to carry out the existing budget. Every year, so many billions are returned to the Member States that it is difficult to justify the logic that even more should be budgeted for and that even more should be spent.

Budgets must be calculated based on real needs, and so far, we have not reached this 1.24% ceiling. As chance would have it, the Commissioner responsible for agriculture is here this evening, and I can inform her that the ALDE Group takes the view that compulsory cofinancing of certain areas in agricultural spending is hugely beneficial to Europe and something we should definitely promote in future; who knows, she might even pick up an idea for her health check next year.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Madam President, Commissioner, I would like to add a few points to the debate on the future of the European Union’s own resources.

Firstly, the present system of the Union’s own resources is not transparent and, more importantly, it is unfair. It was further complicated by the ‘Christmas presents’ handed out at the European Council’s session in Brussels in December 2005.

Secondly, this system shows that individual Member States are distinctly unwilling to fund policies from which they themselves gain little. The most telling example of this is the British rebate.

Thirdly, the proposed solution for creating a new own resources system, and the proposed new European tax in particular, is unacceptable on at least two grounds. Firstly, it would increase the tax burden for citizens and, secondly, it would also deprive Member States of some of their fiscal authority.

Fourthly, the claims contained in the report, which state that expenditure on the common agricultural policy is ineffective, are a cause of grave concern. The problem of food safety in the European Union is one of the cornerstones of its existence, and on these grounds alone spending on agriculture should not be questioned. The proposal for the re-nationalisation of the common agricultural policy is similarly unacceptable.

 
  
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  Gérard Onesta, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Madam President, there were many people present in this Chamber earlier on: we were talking about the Berlin Declaration. However, it is this evening, in a far emptier Chamber, that we are perhaps going to give substance to this declaration, for if we think that we can build Europe without providing ourselves with the resources to do so, then we are not going to get very far. The fact is that, until now, budgetary resources relied on structures that worked with six countries but, with twenty-seven countries, have totally worn out. The great virtue of Mr Lamassoure’s report is that it denounces this in no uncertain terms. Funding, when it is nationalised to this extent, where every time we hand over a euro, we wrap it in a national flag and try to get back more than we have given, does not work. That being said, this denunciation is the aspect of the report that appeals to the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance.

There are, on the other hand, things that are far less appealing to us. We do not understand why we are restricting ourselves when this is an own-initiative report. It is true that we would have liked to have found the term ‘European tax’. I am sure that we are in the majority, in this House, when we say that we must dare to use this term to replace this covert European tax: a pinch of VAT here, a small contribution there. We should have dared to include the term in this report. Moreover, why talk about a transitional period when we know very well what we should be aiming for? By going all out to cajole some people and to reassure others, we are taking all the strength out of this report, when the starting points were excellent.

I should like to make a final point, which is very important for our group: why handicap ourselves before the start of the race by setting the bar at 1.24%? Why this sacred cow before which Parliament, which has always denounced it, is meant to grovel? We know – and we are going to debate this next year, in 2008 – that this bar prevents European policies from being supported with genuine resources. Let us compare what our neighbours are doing: in the United States, they pool 20% of their GNP.

It is therefore clear that the Lamassoure report has unfortunately had to make pledges here and there, to the point of restricting itself. Our question is: how can we encourage Mr Lamassoure to move forward without having him fail? The best response that we have given, is to abstain.

 
  
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  Esko Seppänen, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (FI) Madam President, the rapporteur, Mr Lamassoure, has made a correct evaluation: this is not the time for Member States to give up their sovereignty in fiscal matters. There are many flaws in the current system of own resources. There is no justification for the United Kingdom’s rebate. Nor are the special benefits obtained under its shadow by some other Member States at the 2005 summit justified. Attention is drawn quite rightly to the ‘Rotterdam effect’, the overcompensating 25% premium for collecting customs revenues. The system cannot be reformed without at the same time taking into account the allocation of Union expenditure and in particular Member State refunds in the form of agricultural subsidies. The cofinancing of agriculture is swept under the carpet in the report, and that is where it is sure to be found in the interim examination of the financial frameworks for 2007-2013. Then attention will need to be paid to these problems and they should not be resolved by giving the EU the power to levy taxes or by legislating a common European tax.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (SV) Madam President, the issue of introducing an EU tax has been raised because there are clearly those who believe that the EU has far too little money. There is a desire to solve this state of affairs by allowing the EU to take a tax directly from people’s pockets. Paragraph 6 of the report criticises the requirement that all Member States must be agreed where such issues are concerned. It must clearly be made possible to ride rough shod over countries that show reluctance. This is a regrettable position to adopt, especially from a democratic point of view.

The June List strongly objects to the EU taking a share of national taxes. The report has been written with a view to taking a further step towards the creation of an EU state with the right of taxation, a common foreign minister, common armed forces and a common currency. This is an awful thought. We have tabled an amendment in which we emphasise the Member States’ inviolable right of self-determination within the tax sphere. We believe that all the Member States would need to be in agreement before any form of EU taxation were introduced. This is in line with the views of the people in numerous Member States.

We Members of the European Parliament should follow the wishes of our electorate – that is to say respond to the views of our citizens – and act in accordance with these. I thus hope, ladies and gentlemen, that we shall clearly and unambiguously reject this reprehensible report in tomorrow’s vote.

 
  
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  Petre Popeangă, în numele grupului ITS. – Raportul Lamassoure, excelent prezentat de domnul Böge, este o continuare logică a demersurilor anterioare în acest deosebit de seducător domeniu al reformării sistemului resurselor financiare proprii Uniunii Europene.

Demersul este, cel puţin în plan teoretic, deosebit de interesant, motivat de faptul că, pornind de la realitatea insuficienţelor actualului sistem de finanţare a bugetului Uniunii Europene, prezintă o foarte curajoasă propunere de reformare a acestuia. Am limitat aprecierea la planul teoriei, deoarece consider că în stadiul actual de dezvoltare economică diferită a statelor membre, adoptarea unui sistem de finanţare bazat în întregime pe surse de natură fiscală, nu mi se pare total realistă.

Fără a nega necesitatea reformei, mult mai pragmatică mi s-ar părea o abordare progresivă a acestei acţiuni, bazată pe menţinerea resursei tradiţionale, descrescătoare în timp, dublată de resurse de natură fiscală în pondere crescătoare. Menţionez, de asemenea, că propunerea privind extinderea principiului adiţionalităţii asupra unor politici a căror implementare antrenează resurse consistente de la bugetul comunitar, este puternic defavorabilă statelor membre mai puţin dezvoltate, precum România, deoarece antrenează în mod automat cofinanţări de la bugetul naţional în detrimentul finanţării propriilor programe.

În sfârşit, dintre mai multe observaţii pe care le am în legătură cu modificarea sistemului resurselor proprii, propusă de autori pentru etapa a doua a reformei, o să mă opresc doar la două: cea privind posibila alegere a TVA ca sursă proprie a bugetului Uniunii, acţiune pe care o apreciez ca fiind complicată, chiar în condiţiile înscrierii în documente a cotei-părţi destinate bugetului comunitar şi, de asemenea, cea privind impozitul pe profit, datorită faptului că în această materie nu există armonizare legislativă necesară, fiecare stat membru având în prezent reglementări proprii, fapt ce face ca această resursă să fie, cel puţin deocamdată, de neluat în considerare.

 
  
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  Hans-Peter Martin (NI).(DE) Madam President, I am looking into the eyes of a man, Mr Böge, whom I and many others consider to be highly intelligent, and there are also a few others here in the room whom we certainly know can add one and one together. Then I look at this report and think: what happened to you? How incredibly unrealistic is that? As an academic discourse it may have its value, but for that alone we would not need this Chamber here.

Who on earth buys a product if they are not convinced that it is worth the money? Surely we first need to correct and summarise what the EU is doing – and above all what it is not doing – and then quickly set about ensuring that these activities are funded at the right level: agriculture, the Cohesion Fund, the continuation of so many funds and programmes that actually ought to be able to take care of themselves by now. Surely that is where we need to start.

I consider the proposal – which also comes from your country, I think even from your group, Mr Böge – namely to see whether in some areas we really do simply have only net payments, to be sensible, because it makes control possible. If there is still not enough and we need own resources then there is much that can be discussed, but not on such false premises as is currently the case.

Incidentally, I believe that we urgently need less bureaucracy and more democracy, in this case in particular.

 
  
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  Richard James Ashworth (PPE-DE). – Madam President, in principle the objective of making the own-resource system simpler, more transparent and easier for citizens to understand has to be welcomed. I compliment Alain Lamassoure on the work that he has done to stimulate this debate and to highlight the need for change.

I agree with him that the current VAT-based element is too complex and is in need of change. However, in respect of the other traditional own resources, we see no justification for change. We think that a funding system based on a GNI is both logical and fair, and we are happy to support that system. We do not accept, however, that this resource should become a genuine own resource. Quite the contrary. We see merit in a healthy debate between the Member States as paymasters and the Commission as servant. This sends a very clear message to the public that the EU is not a self-sustaining institution but that it is there to help the Member States achieve their mutual goals.

We also welcome the opportunity to review the common agricultural policy. Inevitably, this is a complex exercise because a reformed CAP must be able to help the new Member States to develop their agricultural base, while allowing the EU-15 to transfer funding to those environmental elements with popular support and reducing the overall cost to the Community.

I agree, therefore, with the principle of compulsory co-financing. It is the most logical approach to reforming the expenditure side and, as the report points out, it offers the potential to eliminate the need for abatements.

However, I stress again that this will be a complex negotiation and surely better suited to the budgetary review already scheduled for 2008-9. For these reasons, I shall vote against the report.

 
  
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  Jutta Haug (PSE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, today we are once again debating the future of the own resources. At present we are actually only doing so for the record. The Commissioner responsible is not here, the Council benches are completely empty and the only people that I can see here are the Members with whom I have already spent many hours in the Committee on Budgets discussing Mr Lamassoure’s interim report. We have once again rehearsed all of the arguments that we put forward in 1990, 1994, 2001 and 2005 as the essential points to be considered in a reform of the own resources system. We want a simpler system than the one that we have at present. We want more justice, more equality amongst the Member States, including on the revenue side – no more exceptions please – and we want greater transparency on the revenue side of the budget: transparency for all of Parliament’s Members, for the Members of the Council and above all for all of our citizens. Surely it cannot be so difficult for the Council to endorse these demands itself. We cannot keep getting up on our infamous soapboxes but not move a step closer to our citizens. In addition, of course, this does not make it any easier for the public to understand the European Union’s budget. This is also about being more democratic.

The European Parliament, which represents the peoples of Europe, can only help to determine the European Union’s expenditure, but not its revenue. This leads to the rather abstruse situation of the Council denying us our share of responsibility, but at the same time defaming Parliament as a spendthrift parliament, saying that it can only be in favour of increasing expenditure because it is not responsible for revenue and therefore does not have to justify it either. That is not true, some of you will say, but it is! I have experienced it firsthand. Within the space of half an hour both statements came out of one and the same mouth of one and the same finance minister.

Parliament is always willing to negotiate on this. We have never been bent on getting our own way regardless. Mr Lamassoure has proved this once again now in his charming way with his very moderate proposal for a two-stage reform of the own resources system. We support him in almost every respect, including in his desire not to encroach on national fiscal sovereignty at present by calling for a European tax. He also – I am happy to admit – has my own personal support, I who have repeatedly said ever since I have been in Parliament: no representation without taxation. As you can see, the European Parliament has already given ground, even before negotiations with the Council have begun. We now expect to see some movement from the Council in the run-up to the jointly agreed revision. The Council should at long last show some cooperation.

 
  
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  Gérard Deprez (ALDE).(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to signal my consent, overall, to the excellent report by our fellow Member, Mr Lamassoure, who is being represented outstandingly well by our fellow Member, Mr Böge.

Firstly, I support the method used. Our rapporteur has correctly understood that the reform of the Union’s funding cannot take place without the agreement of the Member States – in other words, without the consent of the national parliaments. We must keep in contact with them because we must convince them.

Secondly, I support – and this is key – the structure of the report, which proposes a global reform, but one that is structured in two phases. A first, most urgent, phase aimed at purging the current system of all the pathologies that it has accumulated over the years. There would be an end to these little gifts between friends, an end to the rebates, the rebates on rebates, the exemptions, the ceilings and the pitiful bargaining. Purging, that is the priority. As for the second phase, we will have a chance to talk about that again later.

I should like to say one last thing, Madam President. The priority for us is the Constitutional Treaty. If this budgetary debate were to make this more difficult, we need to have the courage to postpone it.

 
  
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  Pierre Jonckheer (Verts/ALE).(FR) Madam President, Mr Böge, I believe that the exercise carried out by Mr Lamassoure and the Committee on Budgets is useful. We share his criticisms and we share – and have done so for a long time, I might add – the central idea of the need for a new system of own resources.

I, for my part, should like to express my bitter disappointment regarding, among others, paragraphs 28 et seq which, as I see it, are aimed at reassuring the population, but on the basis of false realism. False realism in terms of the claim that the Member States’ fiscal sovereignty should be retained when, in reality, this fiscal sovereignty does not exist because of the tax competition within the Union. False realism regarding tax neutrality, because this is going to create an additional constraint on the EU budget, when the Member States’ fiscal policies can be different and can develop over time. Finally, false realism regarding the order of magnitude of the budget.

On this subject, I am totally opposed to the argument put forward by Mr Mulder; no, we do not have enough money. No, we do not have enough money for Life+. No, we do not have enough money for foreign policy. No, we do not have enough money for education and research policy. And no, we do not have enough money for the trans-European networks. This was one of Parliament’s positions, and I do not understand how, in an own-initiative report, we are taking a step backwards.

 
  
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  Jeffrey Titford (IND/DEM). – Madam President, a good subtitle for this report would be ‘the thin end of the wedge’. I am always suspicious of EU reports which state that they respect principles, in this case full respect for the fiscal sovereignty of the Member States. This is usually a prelude to exactly the opposite happening. This report, despite stating the aforementioned key principle, promptly goes on to equivocate by stating that Member States might nevertheless authorise the Union, for a limited period, revocable at any time, to benefit directly from a share of a tax.

In other words, the European Commission is attempting to establish the principle of the EU taking taxation directly from taxpayers in the Member States. This is an enormously dangerous precedent to set and is made all the more worse by yesterday’s revelations about the Commission being raided by the police, with simultaneous raids in various countries.

I have been taken to task before for using the word ‘fraud’ in this Chamber. However, it is clear that the police think the word is justified.

This report also calls for the gradual abolition of the British rebate, something which I am completely opposed to and will fight to the end to prevent. GBP 40 million a day is enough. Britain cannot be expected to pay any more into the EU’s leaking financial system.

 
  
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  Sergej Kozlík (NI). – (SK) There is no such thing as the ‘own’ and ‘non-own’ resources of the European Union. There is the money of Europe’s taxpayers and the more or less sophisticated schemes of allocating that money to the European Union’s budget, something in which EU citizens take no interest at all.

What citizens are keen about is the way in which such resources are used. Doubts about how efficiently this is done are expressed not only by them but also by us, sitting on these benches. Unless we can first resolve the problem of how to use the budgetary resources of the European Union efficiently and credibly, there is no form of providing resources to cover expenses that will be sufficiently transparent in the eyes of Europe’s taxpayers.

The conventional accounting formula of ‘accounts payable – amounts paid’ will then be replaced by ‘accounts payable – amounts reluctantly paid’, something we are witnessing now. The debate about the future of our ‘own’ resources is undoubtedly to be welcomed; however, the problem is closely linked to the reform of EU expenditures.

 
  
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  Valdis Dombrovskis (PPE-DE). – (LV) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the EU budget’s own-resources system has changed considerably since it was introduced in 1970. The role of traditional own resources and VAT own resources within EU budget revenue has gradually reduced, while the role of GNI own resources has significantly increased. This resource, which could almost be described as an extra own resource, now forms about 75% of the European Union’s budget revenue. Although the predominance of GNI own resources ensures that the Member States’ liability to pay corresponds to their relative levels of prosperity, nonetheless it makes the funding of the EU budget considerably more difficult. Instead, in order to focus on the priority issues that can be resolved in the European Union, the Member States spend most of their time haggling about their contribution levels.

To a large extent, the results of this haggling determine the level of funding of the EU budget, frequently ignoring the undertakings previously made by the Member States themselves. As a result, the EU budget is growing significantly more slowly than the Member States’ budgets, and many important priorities for the European Union as a whole are suffering from insufficient funding. In implementing a reform of the EU own-resources system, it is important to ensure a sufficient annual increase in EU budget revenue. This increase ought to be proportional to the growth in the EU economy, and ought to automatically derive from the structure of the own resources system, instead of being the result of haggling between the Member States. Such a structure, of course, does not call into question the existing own-resources ceiling of 1.24% of the European Union’s gross national income appropriations. This is an important principle, which ought to be stressed alongside the other principles of equality and solidarity between Member States, and a simple system that can be understood by EU residents. On the subject of specific solutions that would increase EU budget revenue, a greater proportion could accrue, for example, to VAT own resources, if a specified part of VAT revenue were channelled into the EU budget. It is important for the burden of payments to be distributed fairly, that is, in proportion to the Member States’ levels of prosperity. Consumption of energy resources or natural resources is not directly proportional to prosperity levels, and so environmental and energy resources taxes are not suitable for the EU own-resources system. Cars in poorer EU Member States do not consume less fuel than in richer countries. Actually, it is highly probable that they consume more fuel, being older cars. As a result, the burden of payment on less developed Member States would be disproportionately high. Thank you.

 
  
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  Neena Gill (PSE). – Madam President, I thank the rapporteur for his cooperation. He has made a comprehensive and fair assessment of the current situation and opened the door for discussions on possible future solutions.

However, I feel we are presenting Parliament’s views too soon. They are just an initial contribution to the debate, because 2008 is an opportunity for us to fully revise the budget. We need to find a system that is transparent and understandable and based on equality and fairness between Member States. It should reflect the priorities and ambitions of our progressive and successful EU of tomorrow.

I very much welcome the report’s crucial emphasis on the link between expenditure and income and the need to address both matters simultaneously if real progress is to be made in revising the EU budget. It is also important to recognise that the own resources issue is not just about the UK rebate. That is an overly simplistic and erroneous view that is unhelpful in taking discussions forward in a meaningful and constructive direction.

Finally, I welcome the fact that the rapporteur recognises that the idea of any new EU tax would not be practical or popular. This demonstrates that Parliament has taken on board the views of national parliamentarians as expressed during our extensive consultations.

 
  
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  Kyösti Virrankoski (ALDE). – (FI) Madam President, the rapporteur, Mr Lamassoure, has drafted a very creditable report on the EU’s own resources, for which I thank him sincerely. The report calls for a clear, transparent and equitable system of own resources. There are good reasons for this. The present system is complex and hard to comprehend. There would be a clear ceiling set for own resources: 1.24% of GNI. This is the most effective guarantee that resources will not spiral out of control. Thus no source of revenue earmarked for the EU could go beyond the ceiling which budgetary agreements in general reduce even further.

The biggest flaw in the current system is the British rebate. The Member State I represent, for example, one which is poorer in natural resources and generates less income nationally, has to pay some EUR 130 million a year to cover this refund. That sum is the equivalent of the operational costs of one medium-sized university. In my opinion, each Member State should bear its responsibility, because EU benefits cannot just be measured in terms of revenue from the budget but in terms of the multiple and overall effects of the single market and the political Community.

 
  
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  José Albino Silva Peneda (PPE-DE).(PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I feel that the current system of funding the EU has run its course. It is my firm belief that, should we continue with the current system, it will be very difficult to define another financial framework to be in force after 2013, and the citizens will feel increasingly distant from the European institutions. This is because the system is based on rules – some of which are the result of a particular set of political circumstances and as such were originally temporary but became permanent – that are so opaque it is difficult for the average citizen to understand. If we retain the current system, I feel we will be heading towards the destruction of the essential values that have characterised the EU’s success in recent decades.

In an exercise verging on humiliation, we discuss who is and is not a net contributor on a case-by-case basis. I therefore warmly welcome the Lamassoure report, which lucidly, prudently and with foresight, puts forward principles, recommendations and methodologies that I consider appropriate. I should like, however, to draw special attention to the fact that this reform is not exclusive to the financial field. The reform in question is far-reaching and essentially political, and the debate must not therefore be confined exclusively to Parliament and to the Council, and less still to ECOFIN.

One of the essential prerequisites for the success of this reform concerns the participation of all the institutions – both European and national – throughout the process. I should therefore like to offer a final word of praise for the proposed methodology, which places the emphasis on, and encourages, the participation of the national parliaments.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR DOS SANTOS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Göran Färm (PSE). – (SV) Mr President, the funding of the EU budget has been chaotic. It is only a handful of experts who understand how the system works. One thing we do know, however, is that it is short-sighted and unfair. There are therefore strong reasons for reforming it in the direction of fairness, transparency and far-sightedness.

Mr Lamassoure has produced an important report, with which we Swedish Social Democrats substantially agree. In particular, we wish, just like Mr Lamassoure, to find a simple, straightforward and fairer form of funding, such as a GNI-based system without rebates. We do not, however, wish to give the EU the right of taxation or now to compromise the sovereignty of the Member States on tax matters. For me, what specifically characterises the EU is its being able to combine fundamental national sovereignty with the ability to be able in certain areas to combine forces in order to solve cross-border social problems.

To create a genuine EU tax would be to anticipate events. If we are ever to go down that route, conviction as to the advantage of doing so must come from below, that is to say from the citizens and the Member States. We are not at present in that position. I am pleased that we in the Socialist Group in the European Parliament have made good progress towards a more common view closely approximating to Mr Lamassoure’s approach. We are thus in broad agreement in Parliament, and that may be very important in terms of the future.

 
  
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  László Surján (PPE-DE). (HU) The Hungarian Christian Democrats support this report. Allow me to respond to what has been said in the debate. The report before us does not make a decision regarding the size of the budget, nor does it wish to introduce a European tax, but simply thinks through its possibility and potential consequences.

We are in no way debating this question too early, but rather too late! The reform is long in coming because breaking down the delicate balance of exceptions offends the interests of all those who by means of one or another momentary bargain were able to assert their own specific needs. We need to move beyond this.

Mr Lamassoure’s excellent proposal seeks to establish order and a fairer distribution of the burden instead of the present chaos. By adopting it, we would show that we would like a stronger, more effective European Union and one that is more transparent to its citizens.

 
  
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  Herbert Bösch (PSE).(DE) Mr President, earlier on someone mentioned the link between the new constitution and the debate that we are currently having. Whoever pays the piper calls the tune, so the saying goes. In the past we have seen that a Union that still only receives between 85% and 90% of its funding from national contributions is stumped. We know that and that is why we need more European own resources. Anyone who says that we could carry on as we have been doing with this system, improving things, increasing integration, taking on more policies, is deceiving the electorate. That is why I believe that in future we will have to draft rather more emphatic reports.

I think that Mr Lamassoure has done a good job. Who, though, is going to have the bottle to say things that may not be to every tabloid’s liking? We need more own resources: that also means that we need to have the courage to have European taxes. Ideas may diverge here; various different starting points may be advocated. The Commission has already made a few reasonable proposals. My support for this report is only half-hearted, because we need more European own resources to ensure that the work of European integration does indeed have a future.

 
  
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  Monica Maria Iacob-Ridzi (PPE-DE). – Domnule Preşedinte, doamnelor şi domnilor, doresc să îl felicit şi eu pe domnul Lamassoure pentru munca sa, chiar dacă nu este prezent, şi mai ales pentru dialogul său permanent cu parlamentele naţionale. Mă bucură mult faptul că acest raport a inclus ideile lor, precum şi cele exprimate în Comisia pentru bugete, de către parlamentarii europeni din noile state membre.

În primul rând, trebuie să recunoaştem deficienţele sistemului actual de resurse bugetare, ce s-a vrut iniţial a fi unul de tranziţie. Este un sistem opac, complex, dificil de explicat cetăţenilor Uniunii, unde fiecare stat are propriul său rabat britanic şi propria sa excepţie. Poate cel mai mare inconvenient este faptul că numai 15% din resursele bugetare sunt veritabil europene. Este o situaţie inacceptabilă. O perioadă de tranziţie este necesară; eliminarea, în primă fază, a resursei calculate din TVA şi înlocuirea ei cu contribuţii naţionale este un pas înainte. Acest lucru reduce complexitatea actuală şi face mai uşoară trecerea la a doua fază, a resurselor europene veritabile.

În etapa a doua, din punctul de vedere al României, este preferabilă alegerea unui impozit simplu, care să nu crească presiunea fiscală asupra cetăţenilor europeni, sau să permită unor state membre să beneficieze de compensări injuste.

 
  
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  Szabolcs Fazakas (PSE). (HU) As we may note from Mr Lamassoure’s report as well as from the responses to it, the European Parliament stands before a historic opportunity, since thanks to the interinstitutional agreement, it can play a decisive role in the budget reform process not only in determining expenditures but at last in creating its own resources.

The often petty, undignified arguments over the elaboration of the 2007-2013 financial period have confirmed that we need income sources that are transparent and that can be calculated for the long-term, so that we might be able to bring balanced decisions.

The European Parliament has used this opportunity in an exemplary fashion. We did not rely only on our own strengths, but involved the national parliaments in the task, and organised many joint meetings and consultations. At first, based on their domestic political problems, the national parliaments were interested mainly in shorter term solutions, but they have now come to recognise that long-term thinking is required, and that we need to cooperate in order to find a solution that points to the future and serves the future of all of Europe.

 
  
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  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. Mr President, the Commission shares Parliament’s view that the current own-resources system is not optimal. The Commission has repeatedly indicated its willingness to explore different options which could improve and simplify the current financing system. The Commission takes note of the fact that the current report is a first basis on which Parliament will pursue the examination of possible options in future, in close cooperation with the national parliaments, before adopting its final position.

The Commission will consider the outcome of any interparliamentary conference as a contribution in the context of the consultation process.

The Commission recalls that, as explicitly indicated in the declaration annexed to the interinstitutional agreement on budgetary discipline and sound financial management from May 2006 – as I mentioned previously – its proposal will be put forward under its own responsibility.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

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

Written Statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Richard Corbett (PSE) , in writing. – Whilst I welcome the efforts that have gone into some early blue-sky thinking on the future sources of revenue of the European Union, and whilst I appreciate the explicit link made to the need to reform in parallel the expenditure side, I have my doubts about some aspects of this report. There is still too much focus on the one issue of the British rebate without recognising that this is not itself an anomaly but is the correction to an anomaly.

There is also a strong implication in the report that the GNI-based resource is not really an ‘own resource’ of the Union, as it is not a tax on individuals but on Member States and is therefore less visible to citizens. Yet it is, legally, a resource due to the Union. Although it is less visible, it is, on the other hand, more equitable than many of the other suggested sources of revenue as it is tied to the level of prosperity in Member States. It is also a more stable source of revenue than some of the others that have been suggested. It should be kept!

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), in writing.(FR) This report, which explores all of the possible opportunities for a two-phase reform, is a precious overview of the working hypotheses on the reform of the Union’s own resources. We need to take a close look at the revenue and expenditure headings, by emphasising economic, social, research and innovation policies, and to do so without denying the development opportunities that have been made possible over the last 50 years by the CAP. I hope that the agreements, founded as they are on fairness and solidarity among the Member States, will break with the rule of unanimity in fiscal matters.

Faced with the obvious disproportions between the Member States’ contributions to the EU budget effort, it is vital that we get straight down to implementing a reform of the own resources system that guarantees a contribution from each Member State totalling at least 1.24% of GNI. It is time to put a stop to the compensation system that has endured over time, creating unjustified advantages and indulgent gifts.

Europe, which we are continuing to integrate 50 years after the Treaty of Rome was signed, must draw its inspiration from the spirit of its founding fathers so that the funding of the Union regains a fairer, more transparent image in the eyes of our fellow citizens and embodies our efforts to promote solidarity in the interest of the common destiny to which we belong.

 
  
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  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE) , in writing. – (FI) First of all I wish to congratulate Alain Lamassoure for an excellent report. His is an excellent presentation of the flaws in the current system.

Put briefly, the present financing system is undemocratic. For a start, the citizens of the EU do not understand by how much and in what way the Union is funded.

Secondly, national parliaments are mere rubber stamps in negotiations on the budget. When governments have finished discussing the financial framework, not one national parliament throws it out.

Thirdly, the status of the European Parliament, a body which is elected in direct national elections, is at the very least peculiar in budget negotiations. The European Parliament is the world’s only parliament which decides on expenditure but not income.

As we know, the EU’s resources accumulate from levies on agriculture and sugar production, customs duties levied at external frontiers, VAT and Member State contributions based on GNP.

Attention is being paid to contributions. A sense of proportion is lost in these wretched budget talks. Each Member State calculates how much the Union costs it and how much it gets. The Union’s entire budget, however, is about just 1% of the whole region’s GNI.

The EU is thus turning into little more than a bookkeeping exercise. We forget that the EU is a project for peace. Viewed this way the EU is a cheap project. We need a financing system which supports the EU’s purpose.

That is why we should support Mr Lamassoure’s report.

 

18. 2008 budget guidelines (Sections I, II, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII(A) and VIII(B))
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  President. The next item is the report by Mr Itälä on behalf of the Committee on Budgets on the guidelines for the 2008 budget procedure - Sections II, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII and IX

- and on the European Parliament's preliminary draft estimates (Section I) for the 2008 budget procedure.

Section I – European Parliament,

Section II – Council,

Section IV – Court of Justice,

Section V – Court of Auditors,

Section VI – Economic and Social Committee,

Section VII – Committee of the Regions,

Section VIII(A) – European Ombudsman,

Section IX – European Data Protection Supervisor

[2007/2013(BUD)] (A6-0069/2007)

 
  
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  Ville Itälä (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (FI) Mr President, the main idea behind the budget for 2008 is that we can ensure that 2008 is the year of the taxpayers, which in practice means keeping expenditure more or less at 2007 levels. The level of inflation needs to be raised to 2007 levels. It nevertheless needs to be pointed out that this cannot apply to buildings. Buildings policy has to be kept separate because we now have so many commitments regarding buildings that expenditure in this area is bound to increase beyond this level, but then that is how the matters has been presented out in this proposal and report. It is also, however, important for Parliament’s reputation that we look after the taxpayers’ money and do not necessarily implement all the wonderful projects which have been proposed. The people cannot have confidence in Parliament if each year we spend money in accordance with the 20% rule, although now in 2008, when there will be no further enlargement or any new languages, we have a real chance of adhering to 2007 levels and showing the taxpayers that we are genuinely concerned about how much money is being spent here.

There need to be a few more projects. With respect to information policy we have to send a clear message to the people about what happens here, and this may be best realised through visitors’ groups, which has been a priority for many years. That is surely the best sort of information policy, although another issue is the small-scale local media, which does not have the resources to pay for trips to Parliament. The local media should be able to visit Parliament more often and we need to find some solution where we MEPs could invite more representatives of the local media here, because this is just the sort of media which people read and listen to, and if it reports positively on us, Parliament’s reputation and that of the EU as a whole is bound to improve.

We also need to pay more attention to the way we draft legislation, and this means that we must have good and sufficient technical facilities. In this connection there is a proposal that, for example, we Members should be able to connect to computers via our mobile phones. That facility exists in almost all the national parliaments, but not in the EU’s Parliament, and these things need to be put right by the year 2008.

Translation services are a subject we talk about daily, and this of course is largely about how equally all Members are treated regardless of which language area they come from, and this is something that is certainly in need of major, and above all, structural change. These services, however, always need to be kept functional.

I would furthermore emphasise that we could keep at this current level, and with regard to buildings, although some claim that 2008 is the last year in which money can be used for them, the list is very long indeed. We have talked about external offices in London, Stockholm, and Paris. We are embarking on the KAD construction project in Luxembourg at the same time as another institution, the European Court of Auditors, starts on a major construction project there. Here in Brussels we have completion work to do on new buildings, we have the purchase of premises close to here in the ‘banana’ building, there is the completion of the Sports Centre ... The list could go on, but this only goes to show that not all of them can be embarked on or realised in 2008: instead, a priority list should be drawn up for buildings and we need then to proceed with reference to it.

I believe that the preparatory work has been done in the right spirit and that we all wish to tell the taxpayer that the year 2008 has been specifically proclaimed the year of the taxpayers.

 
  
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  Valdis Dombrovskis, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (LV) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, I would like to express my support for the rapporteur’s approach, that the European Parliament’s level of expenditure should be based on requirements that are justified following careful evaluation. In this speech, however, I would like to draw attention to my proposal to reduce consumption of paper and energy resources at the European Parliament. The EU institutions ought to set an example of environmentally friendly policies and reduce consumption of energy resources. Unfortunately, in various spheres the European Parliament uses resources inappropriately, for example by consuming paper extravagantly and using unnecessary, intensive air-conditioning in the summer. Reducing paper consumption and using air-conditioning more rationally would produce both gains from the environmental viewpoint and also significant savings in the European Parliament’s budget. In practice, all European Parliament documents are accessible in electronic form. My proposal envisages reducing the circulation of paper versions of documents by stipulating that paper versions of many documents would be available on request, instead of being automatically distributed to all Members and officials. Every working day the Members and Parliament officials receive an enormous quantity of paper documents. The majority of these are subsequently thrown away, since should it be necessary electronic versions of the document are available. It would be much more rational to allow the Members and Parliament officials to stipulate which documents they wish to receive in future in paper form and which they will read electronically. The potential saving is considerable, in view of the fact that the European Parliament’s current consumption of paper is nearly 850 tonnes a year, or 3.4 million sheets a week. With regard to air-conditioning, the proposal envisages raising the air temperature of the European Parliament by a few degrees in summer. Up until now it has been kept unnecessarily and even uncomfortably low. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  Vladimír Maňka, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (SK) The fathers of the idea of a united Europe did not know what would happen 50 years on, but there is one thing they knew for certain: if we are to build Europe, we must build it together. We have transposed these words of Robert Schuman in a striking way into the EU slogan and logo, which reads ‘Together’.

In the 2008 budget we emphasise the political importance of the instruments we would like to use to better inform European citizens. One of our aims is to eliminate the shortcomings that undermine the European Union’s image, especially with a view to the 2009 elections. Ladies and gentlemen, on Saturday many of you, along with millions of TV viewers, were watching the major concert held in Brussels to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome. However, the overall impression was not so much a commemoration but rather an embarrassment. The entire event would have achieved a far greater symbolism if artists from all of the Member States had been invited.

If we want to deal with problems successfully, we need to take a comprehensive view. It will not suffice for us, as the European Parliament, to make progress in communication and information policies. We need to work with the Commission and the European Houses in the Member States to elaborate effective communication measures and then to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the process. Our emphasis on a comprehensive approach and strengthened cooperation between institutions will result in greater transparency and a more efficient use of resources.

Ladies and gentlemen, Parliament recently decided to adopt a meaningful statute on the assistants employed by MEPs. I would therefore ask you to adopt an amendment calling on the Council to take a definitive decision in the matter. As we all know, this statute will ultimately contribute to improving the quality of our work.

 
  
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  Anne E. Jensen, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (DA) Mr President, I would thank Mr Itälä for his constructive work on the report on Parliament’s 2008 budget. He proposes that next year’s expenditure remain in principle at the 2007 level, and that is something that we in the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe can happily endorse in principle. Following enlargement, 2008 is, of course, a year of consolidation, and very good cases will have to be made out for meeting additional needs if meeting them would have budgetary consequences. At the same time, we would concur with the observation that 2008 will probably be the last year in which we can use the surplus of up to 20% in the EU’s administrative expenditure for the purchase of buildings. Last but not least, I want to emphasise what Mr Maňka also said, namely that now we are obtaining a Members’ Statute, this needs to be backed up by a Statute of Members’ assistants here in Parliament. On this point, we do not have the Council’s support, and, without that support, we cannot put matters in order. Let us get something done about that.

 
  
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  Esko Seppänen, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FI) Mr President, the European Parliament’s expenditure has grown very rapidly. This growth can be explained by the enlargement of the Union, and the ensuing need for interpretation and translation services as well as space. It has been estimated that 60% of costs are due to the demand for multilingualism and a policy of having several places of business.

So far all the expenditure has been financed out of the 20% of the Union’s administrative costs whose use was agreed on unofficially with the other budgetary authority, the Council. Within the context of Parliament’s expenditure 2008 is a sort of gap year. Funding for new premises is in order, and there is no new round of enlargement in sight. Consequently, the rapporteur’s view that Parliament should not invent new, artificial expenditure for itself and should not necessarily aim at the 20% level is right. If we do that, there is a danger that Parliament’s big groups will fund their own political objectives out of common administrative expenditure, and that will be a financial burden for Parliament after 2008.

 
  
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  Louis Grech (PSE). – Mr President, I agree with the rapporteur that the institutions should base their estimates on well-defined needs. This should result in better efficiency of resources, thus avoiding duplication of functions. In this respect, we expect the final proposal for an interinstitutional agreement for the two committees, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, to be reached in 2007, ensuring equitable governance of the joint departments.

Prima facie, it seems reasonable to request that Parliament should retain the same budgeting level as in 2007. However, we should ensure that Parliament’s financial independence is not compromised in any way, especially as the Members’ Statute, amounting to over EUR 100 million, comes into force in 2009.

The benchmark of 20% of heading five should be retained as the budget’s upper limit. This threshold should provide us with the necessary stability and discipline when formulating the 2008 budget.

Finally, I wish to express my appreciation to Mr Itälä for his report.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this report is essential, not only because it highlights the financial resources used to run the European institutions, but also because it underlines Parliament’s role as controller and because it gives concrete expression to the functioning of our Europe. As the report highlights, we need to stabilise our finances, and our budgetary strategy for 2008 must be prudent. To achieve this, priority must be given to, among other things, improving the performance of our services and the redeployment of staff.

I shall make three remarks quickly. Firstly, while paying tribute to the very high quality of the translation services, I should like to highlight the ever more frequent delays in distributing language versions, something that has a negative impact on our upstream work.

Secondly, I should like to reiterate my request to have equivalent technical and information technology resources in the different places of work, Strasbourg and Brussels. In this period of commemorating the Treaty of Rome, I should also like to emphasise the possibility for Parliament to have an ambitious communication plan concerning the media. I would also emphasise the need to improve the information given to the citizens, for example by doing more to accommodate them during the part-sessions. Visits by our fellow citizens are often an effective way for them to discover Europe. I would therefore like the capacity for receiving visitors to be improved, especially in Strasbourg, at the seat of the European Parliament.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

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

Written Statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Gyula Hegyi (PSE) , in writing. – Last week the Commission held an important and interesting conference on the ecological taxation – eco-taxes. Sustainable development and a proper climate policy need political and administrative rules – strict regulations, directives, laws and by-laws. But, living in a market economy, we have to understand the importance of the financial tools as well. An adequate tax system can decrease the use of the natural resources, pollution and environmental damages, and can encourage the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. As Commissioner László Kovács said, during the second half of his term he intends to concentrate on taxation promoting the EU’s energy targets and to fight climate change. The European Parliament should call for a solid and environmentally aware European-level taxation, which can contribute to sustainable development and saving energy.

 

19. Future of Professional Football in Europe - Security at Football Matches (debate)
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  President. The next item is the joint debate on the reports:

- by Mr Belet on behalf of the Committee on Culture and Education on the future of professional football in Europe [2006/2130(INI)] (A6-0036/2007), and

- By Mr Catania on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on the initiative by the Republic of Austria with a view to adopting a Council decision amending Decision 2002/348/JHA concerning security in connection with football matches with an international dimension [10543/2006 C6-0240/2006 2006/0806(CNS)] (A6-0052/2007).

 
  
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  Ján Figeľ, Member of the Commission. Mr President, honourable Members, dear friends of football and sport, I am very pleased to represent the Commission here tonight for the debate on football. I think this constitutes further proof that Parliament is committed to sport. The support you give to our initiatives for sport is of course both welcome and needed.

I would like to start by congratulating both rapporteurs, Mr Belet and Mr Catania, on the quality of their work. The two reports treat football from different angles, but they both illustrate the nature of sport, its values, its potential for education, for society and for the economy.

Before speaking on the more detailed aspects of the reports, let me say a few words on the White Paper. This is going to be an essential piece of work for the future of European sport. The White Paper on Sport is due to be adopted in July this year. This will be the culmination of a long process and should be seen in the light of wider political considerations.

Plans for a White Paper are driven by the expectations of sport stakeholders. They wish to see their concerns addressed by EU policymakers, including the need to better promote sport and to achieve more legal certainty. The White Paper will cover all sports, and there will be no football-specific approach. The ultimate goal of this initiative is first to mainstream sport into other active policies of the Union in order to improve its use as a tool for EU policy. Secondly, we are aiming to set conditions for improved governance in European sport. The main topics of the White Paper will be the social and economic role of sport, the organisation of sport and governance issues.

We will pay great attention to Parliament’s reports when preparing the White Paper. The Commission has been following the committee’s work very closely and this has already given us very useful input.

On Mr Belet’s report, the Commission welcomes Parliament’s initiative on the future of professional football. We share many of the concerns expressed in the report. The White Paper will address many of the issues which Mr Belet raises, such as social cohesion, protection of young workers, social dialogue and the free movement of workers. As your draft report acknowledges, it is extremely difficult to establish a comprehensive European legal framework recognising the specificity of sport, but EU case law does recognise the specificity of sport and the social and educational role played by football in Europe.

Concerning the free movement of workers, for example, the Court held that sport is only subject to Community law when it constitutes an economic activity. This covers both professional and amateur athletes, and the Court made an exception to the general rule of non-discrimination for matches which are of purely sporting rather than economic interest, for example, games between national teams.

On the issue of home-grown players, the Commission is very sensitive to the measures proposed by UEFA. We could share the idea of promoting the training of young people, as well as sending a signal to the clubs that they should invest in the training of young people and not only in transfers of players. However, we are still considering the question of quotas of locally-trained players, including from the angle of proportionality.

The Commission welcomes Parliament’s call for intensified social dialogue in the football sector. This is a good mechanism for addressing issues such as mobility, work contracts and working conditions. We have supported the social partners’ efforts to develop a more structured dialogue where football has taken the lead at European level.

The Commission will continue to support employers’ and employees’ organisations in the whole sport sector and it will continue its open dialogue with all sport organisations on this issue.

In conclusion, the Commission will give due and realistic consideration to your recommendations in line with current EU areas of responsibility. The request for the Commission to draw up an action plan to define the issues to be tackled deserves careful consideration.

On Mr Catania’s report, I want to underline first that sport can be a positive force for education, culture and social integration. But in recent years we have seen unfortunate and growing signs of violence and hooliganism during sporting events. Two weeks ago sport ministers discussed the issue in Stuttgart. They underlined the need for improved prevention measures, in particular encouraging cooperation between all those involved, including the supporters.

The Commission has concentrated on promoting exchanges of experience and good practice among Member States so as to develop better police and judicial cooperation. We have established good working contacts with UEFA and other sporting authorities. In terms of public order and police control, I think everyone was pleased with the excellent results of football matches during the World Cup in Germany last year. It shows that good preparation and coordination with other Member States are very effective in preventing crime and especially hooliganism. The first statistics show that the crime rate did not increase at all during that period.

Council Decision 2002/348/EC obliges Member States to establish national football information points. This is a positive step in improving cooperation between police forces and other bodies that combat football-related violence. The Austrian initiative that Mr Catania’s report addresses aims at replacing the existing network of information points with a specific network of national football information points. These would have access to the personal data of hooligans or ‘risk supporters’ identified by the different Member States. The Commission welcomes the report’s support for this initiative and takes due note of the concerns expressed on human rights and data protection, to which, as you know, the Commission attaches great importance.

In conclusion, it is a positive result that sport is now truly on the agenda at European level. The 50th anniversary of the Rome Treaties is colouring many of our objectives this year, and what a good way it was to celebrate the anniversary with a football match in Manchester two weeks ago. There could be no stronger signal that sport and sporting values are truly appreciated at the highest political level.

 
  
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  Ivo Belet (PPE-DE), rapporteur. (NL) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the very idea that Europe, the European Union, should have any say in matters relating to sport makes some people’s hair stand on end. Their predictable response will always be that the EU has no say in the matter and should, as such, not attempt to do anything in that area either.

As we all realise, and as those involved know only too well, this position is wrong. As the Commissioner already mentioned, sport, and certainly professional sport, not least the economic aspects of professional football –which is what this report is about – is affected by European legislation in all kinds of ways. There is interference from the Commission and from the European Court of Justice, and we have, in recent years, had adequate proof of that fact.

Needless to say, professional football is big business. This is beyond dispute. It is, however, so much more. It meets important social and educational needs, and this is why we underline in this report the specificity that we simply cannot get round. Specificity of sport is enshrined in the declaration to the Treaty of Nice and in the protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam. There is no two ways about it. It is therefore our duty to take this into account when applying EU rules and regulations.

Nobody is asking for exemption measures or so-called group exemptions. What we do ask for, though, is Commission guidelines – not directives, but guidelines, particularly to lift the legal uncertainty that is around at the moment. We want the autonomy of the professional sport to be fully respected. Self-regulation is the central concept in this report, but that does not deny us the right to nudge the trend in a certain direction.

The reputation of professional football has in recent months taken a battering in very many EU countries due to all kinds of scandals, something to which there is only one answer: good governance. This is why we demand determination from the administrative bodies of the UEFA, of the football leagues, and of the clubs, in their selection in favour of transparent management.

A huge number of Members of this House also want more solidarity and a redistribution of resources in football. I do not think it is up to us to redistribute the resources in professional football. It is in the interest of the professional clubs, of the leagues and the federations to take measures to this effect.

Football requires competitive even-handedness, for this is something that is now more than ever in the balance. The gap between the big, ever richer clubs and the smaller clubs is widening all the time. This is blindingly obvious. This trend is threatening the future of the sport that is so close to our hearts and I have to say, it also threatens the social and integrating role that sport has.

This is why we, as the Commissioner already referred to, and I should like to underline this point once again, remain fully committed to the home-grown rule which the UEFA introduced for locally trained players. Not we, but football bodies themselves should make it compulsory for professional clubs to invest in the training of their own young people as an essential element of the social component. This is why it deserves our unqualified support.

The sale of TV rights is a delicate issue, as it involves the key source of income for the professional clubs, but also because it is a national matter, of course. The only thing we ask in this report is for the competent authorities and competent bodies in football to sit round the table to look for a solution that guarantees more solidarity between the large and small clubs. This strikes me as a reasonable and justified request.

Commissioner, Madam President, we are counting on the Commission, when outlining its White Paper on sport, to very much take into consideration what is in this report and what will hopefully meet with approval tomorrow. We have taken maximum account of the EU’s competences in this area, as there is little point in pulling the wool over our own eyes, certainly not when a complex sector such as professional football is involved, in which millions of young people take a direct interest.

We are looking forward to an ambitious document from the Commission and I think – indeed, I assume, and you can rest assured – that you, in turn, can count on our loyal support.

 
  
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  Giusto Catania (GUE/NGL), rapporteur. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the Commissioner for his support for our reports, and would also like to stress the importance of this joint debate, since I believe that the future of football is fundamentally linked to stadium security. For this reason, placing the future of professional football together with security in stadiums is a practical way of developing a debate on the future of sport and football.

The Commissioner is right to say that in recent years we have seen constantly recurring displays of violence in the stands, and these have transformed the very nature of the sport: the huge number of incidents of violence, displays of intolerance, and acts of xenophobia and racism are signs of a fundamental change in a sport that is one of the best loved and most supported by Europe’s people. Unfortunately, these are not isolated cases but the result of an overall transformation of football, which has now become big business, with clubs quoted on the stock exchange and an astronomical capital turnover. I believe that this factor has significantly contributed to the gradual transformation of sporting events.

Football today is very popular and is at the same time a major event, leading telecommunications companies to invest in the acquisition of television rights. I endorse the proposal made by Mr Belet concerning the collective selling of TV rights, which seems to me to be a practical way of preventing the major teams ‘filling up’ on money at the expense of the small companies.

There is another factor which is fundamental to football, represented not only by sporting prowess but above all by the presence of the public. It would be unthinkable to have football games without spectators: in some cases extreme measures have been taken which, in my view, have damaged the spectator nature of the sport. Since the presence of spectators in the stadiums is vital, we must insist that football games are always played in front of a crowd, and this means that appropriate measures need to be taken to ensure that the games are played in perfect calm, without displays of violence or racism.

The recent tragic events at the Italian football championship premier league match between Catania and Palermo, which resulted in the death of a policeman, are in my opinion the most serious example of what can happen inside stadiums and of how a fringe group of violent fans often clashes not only with opposing fans but also with the forces of law and order. In recent times we have also witnessed deplorable events involving not only fans but also footballers: often the fights between the players themselves have been the very worst form of education and culture to be seen in European stadiums. Preventive action must therefore be taken to avoid the repetition of similar acts of violence in stadiums. Priority should be given to preventive action when football games are being played, as against repression and the militarisation of stadiums.

The Council adopted this decision in 2002, establishing a national information point on football, which functions as a point of contact for the exchange of police information in relation to international football games. The results of this measure have been very positive, as can also be seen from experience in the stadiums and relations between police forces.

In recent years the number of supporters going abroad to see games has constantly been on the increase and therefore the Council believes it is necessary for the bodies responsible to step up their cooperation. I think this is an important point: the agencies responsible for monitoring the presence of supporters in the stadiums and obtaining data on the nature of organised supporters groups are undoubtedly a useful tool but they must operate exclusively in accordance with national laws and in compliance with European directives and international agreements on the protection of personal data.

We must make sure that the large amount of data collected is not used for investigations by the legal system or for other investigations not connected with football, and certainly not as a method of criminalising all fans. Care must thus be taken when the data is being obtained: I think that otherwise the national agencies might change from being tools for preventing acts of violence in stadiums into tools for social control, liable to act in an indiscriminate manner. I therefore endorse the proposal made by the Council to amend the decision we are discussing.

We are anxious to ensure that this decision is implemented in full compliance with the law, to ensure that stadiums are not considered to be a territory outside the law, a sort of free zone. National and international laws must apply in stadiums too, precisely in order to ensure that acts of indiscriminate violence and displays of racism and xenophobia are not repeated.

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Bennahmias (Verts/ALE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.(FR) Mr President, we are nonetheless in a rather surprising situation. We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the European Union, and, if we explained to our fellow citizens that the European Union is no longer concerned for one second with sport, they would be surprised. It was therefore time for the European Union to take up this issue, and to do so as we have done, I believe, in the European Parliament. I should like to thank the main rapporteur, Mr Belet, for the way in which he has worked for six months on this report, a joint piece of work between various committees and between various democratic political groups of this Parliament.

We have therefore taken up this issue with the aim, which I believe is shared by this Parliament, to respect both the European ‘exception’ regarding sport, not least in comparison to the way in which professional sport is managed in the United States, and the various bodies and organisations in charge of professional football: federations, professional leagues, players’ associations, agents’ groups and so on. I believe that, at this level, this report is useful if we succeed in gaining support for these positions among the various organisations and in thereby enabling them to make this report, on which we are going to vote tomorrow, their own. I believe that our exchanges back and forth with these organisations, which paid an enormous amount of attention to the matter, have been very interesting, and have enabled us to come up with a number of proposals.

We therefore welcome, and I think everyone else will do the same, the various recommendations and proposals concerning the training of players, the training of young players and UEFA’s efforts in this regard to prevent young players from being sold straightaway and to enable them to play at the clubs under which they have trained. We welcome the recommendation concerning what might be referred to as ‘trafficking in young players’, whereby hundreds of young African players are used, with there being no plans in place for them afterwards. We welcome the fact that this report points out that immigration laws are made to be complied with, even in the world of professional sport, even in the world of football. We also welcome, as the Commissioner said, the repeated demand for crucial social dialogue. As Mr Belet pointed out, the financial sums at stake, today, in professional football, are exponential – huge – and there is a need, in this regard, for social dialogue, and clearly for regulation and redistribution.

There is one criticism, however, which was voiced today, and I am surprised by it. Everyone, including all of the committees, is talking about financial transparency. Today, I heard some of my fellow Members voice the idea that the simple act of saying it was enough. No, the proposal to create an independent organisation – under the auspices of UEFA, perhaps, but independent – would enable us genuinely to move in the direction of financial control and financial transparency. That is the only solution. Repeating it is not enough. It is like saying, on the subject of doping, that we need to combat doping, but without creating any national, European or international body to do so. We must not be hypocritical: we need such a body.

I see that I have come to the end of my speaking time. I still had many things left to say. I also welcome, of course, the fight against discrimination and the fight against racism, these being subjects that are regularly taken up by the European Parliament and the Commission, as well as by the football world as a whole.

 
  
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  Toine Manders (ALDE), draftsman of the opinion for the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection. (NL) Madam President, on behalf of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, I am shadow rapporteur of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, but I should like to point out that we started this dossier in the Internal Market Committee to prevent football from disintegrating – which was a real risk at the time – with a possible second Bosman case, namely the Charleroi case.

I should like to thank the working party, particularly Mr Belet, for their good cooperation, which has now put before us what I see as an even-handed proposal, one that covers all aspects of the professional sport and in which we send a clear warning to all interested parties to do something about the situation that has come about over the years, in which it does seem as if professional sport is above the law until such time as a case is brought before the European Court, and then we speak about an economic entity with social and cultural values. The European rules must, however, be complied with.

I would therefore ask the Commission whether it shares my view that we leave amateur sports out of the equation, but that professional sport is an entertainment industry which should probably even fall within the Services Directive, and that an internal market should probably eventually be created for these services, for this entertainment industry.

After all, we are not discussing what is happening on the pitch, but outside of it, particularly the financial players around it. Competition at European level reveals very many discrepancies, because there are differences in interpretation. What is this attributable to? Why has an internal market not been established yet and why is every club required to operate within the domestic market in order to be able to compete with each other at European level? As I see it, if the bodies involved refuse to regulate themselves, then politicians should step in.

We are now sending a warning without wanting any fresh legislation – certainly not an exception – but a sign that the parties involved should solve their own problems and, if not, then I hope that the Commission will step in and say what should be done.

 
  
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  Gary Titley (PSE), Draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs. Mr President, the Committee on Legal Affairs would like to remind colleagues that one thing that underpins the European Union is the rule of law. It is the rule of law which has delivered the single market, with all its advantages and some disadvantages, having regard, of course, for the principle of subsidiarity.

We recognise that there are items of purely sporting interest, nothing to do with economic interest, which belong to the sporting bodies. We also recognise that there is a difficult dividing line, which is why we welcome the British Presidency’s initiative in setting up the independent review.

But we would remind colleagues that there are a wide variety of instruments in the EU Treaties that could be use to protect young players, to deal with players’ agents, to provide for group exemptions to competition law, and to interpret whether sporting organisations provide services of general economic interest under Article 86 of the EU Treaty. So there is plenty provision for us to take action.

Clearly, what we all want is for football to be successful, for teams to thrive – we support success – and we also want to ensure that clubs like Accrington Stanley are well-catered for and their supporters are able to support them. So I would hope that out of this independent review we can develop a sensible, coherent response.

 
  
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  Thomas Mann, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, my colleague from the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, Mr Belet, has done an excellent job. His report strikes a balance between the social and economic dimensions of football. I spoke to club managers, players and fans and tabled amendments in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, which received widespread support.

Young players need to be nurtured from early on by attending high performance centres and by being given plenty of playing practice. That is why I support the UEFA proposal always to have a minimum number of home-grown players in the team. Surely it ought also to be possible, Commissioner Figel’, to enshrine this principle in law. I am in favour of professional clubs releasing their players for the national teams and being entitled to compensation if they are injured or absent for weeks at a time. It is time that FIFA and UEFA had a new, joint insurance system. Being named for the national side is extremely stimulating for the players and good for the clubs. Just a moment ago Karlheinz Rumenigge was here in the European Parliament.

I am a member of a German league club and also of the Friends of Football Group here in the European Parliament. The issue here is fair play in competition between the teams. At present, many clubs have huge debts and yet still receive a licence. Other clubs manage their finances responsibly, but cannot reach optimal strength because of limited funds. Something has to change here. Let us continue to fight together against racism. Last year our resolution received the greatest number of signatures in the history of the European Parliament. Offences must be dealt with consistently, with games played in front of empty stands, points deducted and clubs banned if they are not prepared to take action. When it comes to preventing and eliminating doping there should not be any lazy compromises either.

We do not need a European supervisory body to monitor the activities of sovereign football clubs. What is effective in the long run is cooperation. That is why we must safeguard the independence of our clubs and subsidiarity. I have faith in the legality of the decisions made by sports tribunals and in the power of self-regulation in UEFA, FIFA and our national associations.

 
  
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  Guy Bono, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, allow me first of all to thank the rapporteur, Mr Belet, for having sought to reach a compromise among the various committees and political groups of our Parliament.

However, I should like straightaway to say how hugely disappointed I am. We have reached a compromise between the groups, not least between the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats. This compromise was voted on in committee, and here we find, today, that crucial points have been amended, namely the independent regulating body and the legal status of sports companies. This report will not mark the start of a new era for football in Europe, and I deeply regret it. Nevertheless, I hope that it can establish a form of cooperation between UEFA and the European Union with the aim of cleaning up as much as possible the world of football, for, as the UEFA President, Michel Plattini, pointed out, football is a game before a product, a sport before a market and a form of entertainment before a business.

Ladies and gentlemen, the deregulation that resulted from the Bosman ruling must be counterbalanced today by clear rules, in an effort to restore true values to the EU’s top sport. The European football authorities do not have all the guarantees necessary to be able to regulate in a truly satisfactory fashion. Aside from their limited legal rights, they are both the judge and the ones being judged. They act as both commercial operator and regulator, functions that are difficult to reconcile.

On this point, as I indicated at the start of my speech, it is regrettable that the PPE-DE and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe should not have endorsed my twin proposal, namely the creation of a European legal statute for sports companies and the implementation of an independent body in charge of monitoring the top clubs, the main task of which would be to ensure that the financial, economic and sporting balance of football in Europe is preserved. I hope, however, that the European Commission will take due note of these proposals, which are meant not only as a defence against the current excesses, but also as an instrument for promoting a fair and united European sporting model.

At a time when we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, Europe must show its citizens that it remains for them not just a vehicle for peace and democracy, but above all a vehicle for protecting them against the excesses of all-out liberalism. It is on this condition alone that Europeans are proud to participate in this great project that is European integration.

 
  
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  Karin Resetarits, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Belet, I will start straight away with the thing that has done the most to change professional sport in recent years: money. A professional club’s greatest source of revenue is the sale of television rights. The bigger the national television market, the greater the clubs’ revenue, budget and buying power. It is no accident that nearly all of the teams playing in the group phase of the Champions League are from large Member States. As in other sectors of the unbridled market economy, this imbalance leads to a rapidly widening gulf between rich and poor. On the one hand there are enterprises worth billions, like Real Madrid: on the other bankrupt clubs like Sturm Graz. That is unsporting and unfair.

What can small Member States do to counter this imbalance? We need new leagues; we need to stop thinking so narrowly in terms of national countries. We need to be more European, including in football. Moreover, I believe that we should not buy and trade home-grown talent, but rather, as is usual in the United States, allocate talented players to clubs by lot. Weaker teams would have more lots and therefore more of a chance of being top clubs. If money alone determines football, then Europe’s most popular cultural asset will lose its defining characteristic: its sporting spirit.

 
  
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  Dariusz Maciej Grabowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, soccer has moved from being a sport and providing entertainment to being a money-making machine and a way of gaining power. It has practically become a new religion. If soccer is not to become a tool of lawlessness and violence, we must change the environment in which it operates – in terms of business and the media – radically and rapidly. I would like to express my gratitude to the author of the report, Mr Ivo Beleta, for raising this important issue, and for pointing out most of the problems and indicating ways of solving them. In my opinion, radical decisions are required to counteract the monopolisation of football by wealthy corporations.

In the first place, full transparency is needed as regards the income and expenditure of all clubs, and high penalties should be paid for any breaches.

Secondly, there need to be limits or caps placed on the increase in spending by the wealthiest clubs over the next few years.

Thirdly, financial and other support is needed for countries, organisations and clubs investing in young people and sports facilities.

Fourthly, there has to be an agreement with FIFA to tackle corruption and crime in football.

Poland wants to host the European championships in 2012, at which the principle of fair play and healthy competition will triumph.

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. Mr President, Mr Belet made reference to believing in the autonomy of sport. I agree. The report draws attention to areas where more cooperation or even regulation might be appropriate, but I believe the structure and organisation of the game of football is not one of them. Local, national and international leagues and competitions are best left to the football authorities to organise.

Around here, when we refer to the term ‘national’ we tend to mean ‘of the Member State. The Member State is, of course, the building block of the European Union, but in football that is not the case. I and my Welsh colleague, Jill Evans, have tabled amendments 28 and 29, which I hope will be adopted tomorrow. A football game which is being played this very evening illustrates why these amendments are important. My footballing nation, Scotland, is playing Italy, the world champions. Our amendments simply make it clear that ‘national’ in football does not necessarily mean ‘Member State’, and nothing in this report or in the terminology of this report ought to in any way bring into doubt or undermine the status of the historic footballing nations of Scotland, Wales and England.

 
  
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  Věra Flasarová, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, football is far and away the most popular sport in Europe, and the environment and atmosphere surrounding football have a major influence on young people. This influence is all the stronger as it is spontaneous and not imposed from above.

It is therefore important that football is not viewed solely as a environment awash with large amounts of money, an environment conducive to lawbreaking and acts of violence and an environment whose top levels are completely cut off from the amateur leagues that form the foundation of the game. At the same time, the amateur leagues are, I would venture to say, more socially beneficial than the exclusive environment of professional sport, in which business has to a large extent detracted from the original pleasures of the game.

Along with rapporteur Mr Belet, I wish to call on the EU to ensure that the customs and habits of professional sport do not influence student and youth football, and that children are not traded on the basis of their talent and performance, as though they were young gladiators. This practice affects the right of children to develop their personalities in an open atmosphere with a broad range of knowledge, and introduces the unforgiving adult world into their upbringing. At the same time, football clubs become less interested in devoting the time and effort to developing their own young players. This in turn has the effect of restricting the large-scale involvement of children in popular sports, and of strengthening selection, which turns a small minority of talent into merchandise while the majority are left on the margins.

Top-level football influences not only its own players and spectators; it also constitutes a world in which children and young people in particular find their role models. We should therefore try to ensure that football stadiums stop being venues for aggressive behaviour, that xenophobia and racism disappear from football and that the business surrounding football is not – rightly or wrongly – linked to corruption.

 
  
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  Jeffrey Titford, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. Mr President, the EU has no competence over sport and nor should it. The Champions League and the G14 clubs across the UK, Spain and Italy, oppose the EU intervention in football broadcasting rights. Bayern Munich is for it; English clubs are against it, yet a UK Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, is here to lobby for the Germans. So much for British interests!

Amendment 25, until it was sensibly withdrawn, ordered the flying of the EU flag at Champions League and European Championship matches. Had they thought about Switzerland, who will co-host the European finals in 2008? The fact that the Champions League includes Russia, Turkey and Norway? None are in the EU and there is no EU team. The same amendment also demanded that the EU anthem be played at these matches. But ‘Ode to Joy’ is a complete misnomer to 41% of the population, and 58% of the British population. You know, Schiller wrote ‘Ode to Joy’ in 1785, and his words ‘Oh friends, no more these sounds’, may have been controversial then, given that Beethoven was unfortunately already disabled by deafness when he wrote the Ninth Symphony, but they are appropriate today. And, as for ‘Do you fall in worship, you millions?’, well I can tell you, over 200 million people say ‘no’.

 
  
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  Patrick Gaubert (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as shadow rapporteur for my political group in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, I should like first of all to thank the rapporteur, Mr Catania, with whom we have worked effectively and fruitfully throughout this procedure. Sporting fixtures are there to attract a large, family-oriented public, which legitimately aspires to watch matches in complete peace and security. The fact is, for years and even very recently, certain individuals have been using football grounds for the purposes of staging violent or racist demonstrations. Such abuses are totally unacceptable.

Football is the most popular sport in the world. In order to prevent these kinds of incidents, the Member States have had an organised and effective system in place since 2002 to exchange information on the risks represented by certain matches, and especially by certain dangerous supporters. A single, direct point of contact has been designated in each of our Member States. These national ‘football’ information points meticulously prepare for international matches by improving police cooperation among the services. They therefore need to improve their information exchanges even more and use, for example, standardised forms. These points of contact will thus be able to work in a more structured and more professional fashion.

I should also like to congratulate Mr Belet on having included in his comprehensive report several paragraphs on the fight against racism. That seems particularly crucial to me, in view of the rise in all forms of intolerance within our society. Football can in fact only continue to play a social and educational role if matches take place without violence.

Ladies and gentlemen, in a few hours’ time, Mr Belet, Mr Bennahmias, Mrs Hazan, Mr Bono and myself will submit a written statement on the fight against all forms of trafficking in, and exploitation of, children in football. I call on you to support us in this undertaking and to sign this text as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Pier Antonio Panzeri (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank Mr Catania for his report and Mr Belet for the work he has accomplished, which I find balanced even though I too share the view that more could have been done.

Football has now taken on a significant major role, and in view of the new challenges that are arising we can no longer imagine that it can be controlled solely through the football bodies. Thus there is a need, which has been accepted by the European Parliament, to take action to ensure more balanced growth in the football sector, seeking to respond to the changes taking place with an up-to-date approach.

Moreover, as has been said, the ever-growing importance of European football involves, as we can see, consequences of considerable significance in all sectors. We need only think of sponsorship and the value of television rights, marketing and the increasing number of international competitions, which in turn have effects on various sectors, and the new social and cultural problems generated by them. Thus, I would say that this new, ever-growing social dimension of modern football encompasses public behaviour, morality, drug-taking, violence and racism, and even the exploitation of young players.

There has been talk of the big teams but very often we miss the real scale of the problem by dwelling too much on the large clubs and not going beyond them, when in fact it is above all in the lower divisions that we need to take greater care than we have done up until now.

It is therefore right to recommend that greater regulation be imposed on European football and that this should be connected with European law and the dynamics of the internal market. It is right to implement a more modern form of governance and to try to elevate the social and cultural influence of football in a positive way. The objective that we ought to set ourselves is not so much to invade UEFA’s sphere of responsibility and to replace it but to implement policies that contribute to better management of this sphere of activity. We need to be clear, though: the demands for independence emanating from the football bodies must not turn into the idea that each of them can do what it pleases, outside the scope of EU law.

If we want, as is our duty, to combat the mistakes and the decline within the world of football, it is important to accomplish this task through collaboration between the political and parliamentary bodies and sporting bodies. Everyone needs to give of their best to achieve this objective.

 
  
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  Luciana Sbarbati (ALDE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I too welcome the two reports.

It has been said that today football in Europe is all about big business, but it is also true that it ought to be something else too. However, fees in the millions, a lack of transparency, violence arising as a result or a response and racism are a spectacle to which, to a certain degree, we are often becoming inured. This jeopardises the educational role of sport – in this case, football. What we really ought to be doing is reflecting deeply on this role, starting with amateur football and sport as played in schools, where the positive values of competition always go hand in hand with respect for the rules.

Although the EU does not have specific competence in this field, as has already been said, the relationship between football and violence, which is exploding in all its absurdity and often involves the players themselves, means that we all need to get involved. It is our duty to lay down, as we have tried to do, common measures to prevent and repress hooliganism, in cooperation with the football associations, UEFA and police forces, for the safety of all citizens.

I would say, however, that we must also look at the deeper causes, or subsidiary causes, for which these bodies have up until now not been responsible and which need to be identified and addressed.

 
  
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  Christopher Heaton-Harris (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I would like to thank Mr Belet for the way he has gone about writing this report. I do fundamentally disagree with him in some areas, and indeed the massive power-grab that this report is asking for in its recitals, but I welcome the professional way he has conducted himself in writing the report.

Yes, there are problems in football, but none that we European politicians cannot make a lot worse. Yes, there are small elements of people who use football matches as an excuse to be violent, and they should be arrested and stopped from attending. But, as many Rangers fans from Glasgow in Scotland will tell you, policing at international fixtures needs to be friendly and sensible, rather than hostile and over the top. Giving EU competence in this matter to us will not stop this violence, and we do not need it to actually swap best practice.

This report is a good example of why we should stand back and be sensible. Sport is best governed by those who participate in it. Many of this report’s recommendations are quite sensible, but we are politicians and we simply cannot resist tinkering where we have no right. Just look at the now withdrawn amendment 25; listen to many of the contributions in this debate and you will see why.

My theory is that by demanding these new powers we will try and correct problems that do not really exist, and try and change and harmonise the very different sporting models in football that exist across the continent at the moment.

As someone who has refereed at the lowest level of the game for 25 years, and having heard much of the debate on this subject over my time in this Parliament, I think we are in great danger here of forgetting that professional football clubs – the ones we are speaking about tonight – are uniquely connected to the millions of amateurs who run out on pitches across Europe every weekend, and we could easily damage the solidarity people here wish to promote and protect by our quite ignorant plea for interference.

 
  
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  Christa Prets (PSE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, I should also like to thank Mr Belet for his initiative and cooperation. I hope that we can keep the compromises that we have worked out and that we are not going to change a great deal at the last minute and then have to go to certain people on bended knee after all.

In this report we have considered and properly addressed the problems facing football today. What we do not want is more regulation at EU level. Instead we want legal clarification of the existing rules to prevent sensible football regulations being annulled. The idea that henceforth it will only be possible to settle any problems before the European Court of Justice, for example, is absurd. We did not want to do battle with the big clubs either, or attack the traditional clubs, but rather fight for a fair balance between small and big clubs. The award of licences might be an example here. In addition, considerably more attention needs to be paid to young players than has been the case thus far.

 
  
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  Sharon Bowles (ALDE). – Mr President, Mr Belet’s report is not about the EU taking over football, and the ALDE Group has been at the forefront of tabling amendments to make that clearer. However, there is nothing wrong with it assisting in the sharing of best practice.

There are aspects, such as the business of football covered by European legislation, which are taken care of within the corresponding business or other legislation and do not need special rules.

Football also has a social or cultural dimension. However, the closest links are those forged within the local communities. That is where fans go week in, week out to see games and it is where many clubs, such as Reading Football Club in my own region, invest in football in community projects. It is those local links which are why national associations, leagues and clubs are best placed to make the right decisions within a self-regulatory framework and I believe, with the appropriate amendments, that is what this report says.

 
  
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  Luis Herrero-Tejedor (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, as is customary, though this time it is well-deserved, I would like to begin by thanking the rapporteur, Mr Belet, for his ability to hold dialogue with all of the groups and all of the Members.

He himself reminded us at the beginning of this debate that we must not lose sight of the fact that this is a report on professional football, thereby adding a component that I believe to be crucial; I would also like to stress that we are dealing with an own-initiative report. That is to say that this is the first time that the European Parliament has focussed on football, sending out the message that it takes an interest in the phenomenon of football. That means that we must make our principal causes for concern very clear.

When it comes to professional football, we must essentially discuss professional football clubs and spectators. Without those two elements, the problem that we wish to tackle would not exist. I therefore entirely agree with Mr Heaton-Harris’s final comment: there is no place for any speculation that does not take account of the crucial role of the actual football clubs.

If we send spectators the message, ‘Look, the European Parliament wants to meddle in the world of football in order to make the spectacle of football less spectacular’; if we are going to say to the big clubs, the ones that have real customers, real social demand, ‘Look, for the sake of the principle of solidarity, your income is going to be restricted, you are not going to be able to sign up the big players and you are not going to be able to have those structures. We are going to make football less spectacular’, I can assure you, ladies and gentleman, that football fans – and there are many of us sitting here – will be astounded.

They would say to us, ‘so you are concerned about football and you are sending out the message that you are going to make the spectacle less attractive by working against the big football clubs’. That is absurd. I would therefore ask, ladies and gentlemen, that we take that very much into account when it comes to dealing properly with the audiovisual rights of football clubs.

 
  
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  Emine Bozkurt (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, whilst Europe should not, where paid football is concerned, be the referee, it should be more than a mere spectator. While we should not claim any competences where we do not have them, matters such as internal market rules, the fight against racism and cross-border fraud do indeed fall within the EU’s remit. I am therefore in favour of paragraph 8, but against an independent supervisory body. Europe is no referee and should not stick its nose in matters which the football world is very capable of handling itself.

I am indebted to Mr Belet for the enormous support in his report for the fight against racism in football. Last year, I took the initiative for a written declaration on this subject matter, something to which the report makes explicit reference. With record support, this became an official resolution, the proposed measures of which were adopted as stricter sanctions by the UEFA and FIFA. This excellent way of cooperating should be extended beyond the area of football.

 
  
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  Manolis Mavrommatis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to start by congratulating Mr Ivo Belet and Mr Giusto Catania on the important outcome of their report on the future of professional football in the European Union. More importantly, however, I should like to congratulate Ivo Belet on the overall effort to focus the interest of five committees and a large number of agencies and public figures in sports and the economy. It is illustrative of the importance and dynamism which football exerts, magnetising millions of sports-loving politicians – and not only politicians – throughout the world.

When the Bosman case hit the headlines in 1995, no one expected that the European Union would make the first major inroad into sports for the benefit of the workers and, above all, of footballers. Now, 12 years later, we have an own initiative report which lays new foundations with prospects commensurate with the values of the European Union and of more popular sport, or rather football.

The amendments voted by all the committees and the proposals to the Committee on Culture, Education, Media, Sports and Multilingualism and the Council pave the way for a fast proposal to create a legal framework for sports, regardless of if or when the Constitutional Treaty is passed, which makes such provision.

These are the reasons why the European Parliament should support the report on football, because it is universally accepted that this would mean a change of positions and status quo predicated on protecting sport from hooliganism, racism and xenophobia, drug use and equal treatment for small and big clubs in the management of Community rights and in highlighting talent without engaging in the trade of importing minors from third countries.

 
  
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  Joseph Muscat (PSE). – Mr President, I first wish to join my colleagues in thanking Mr Belet for the wonderful job he has done. Obviously, we all have our minor or major reservations on the text submitted, but he has made a good job of coordinating the work of all the committees.

I should also like to stress another point: in this area we are lucky to have a trusted partner in UEFA. The way that organisation has worked in the past has shown that we can trust it to deliver on the goods it talks about regularly. Therefore we have a partner we can rely on.

I will focus on only one sector, which is that of television rights. The digital era should be about more choice for consumers. Unfortunately, television viewers in many of our Member States are faced with less choice and have to pay for things they used to get for free before. With our report we are sending a clear signal to the authorities that we need to strike a balance between pay TV and free-to-air TV.

 
  
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  Giuseppe Castiglione (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to congratulate and thank Mr Catania and Mr Belet for the report which they have presented to this Parliament.

Sport, and football in particular, is an inalienable part of European cultural identity, plays an undoubted social function and can be a useful tool in combating discrimination, racism, intolerance and violence. However, this positive function and role is today being increasingly compromised by those who want to make games in stadiums into yet another setting for violence and terror. Safety in the stadiums should therefore be our priority and the key word should be prevention.

For this reason I fully agree with the call made in the Belet report for all the Member States to introduce cooperation mechanisms between clubs, supporters’ clubs and police forces, to combat the violence, hooliganism and delinquency which we see more and more, including during the games. I also agree on the need to step up sanctions against any display of racism or xenophobia in stadiums and for UEFA and other bodies to apply appropriate disciplinary measures to anyone responsible for any such behaviour.

A preventative measure that is equally fundamental, however, is to reinforce and professionalise cooperation and the exchange of information between national bodies when international matches take place. It is also crucial to monitor the presence in the stadiums of fans who may represent a threat to public order and to obtain data on the nature of supporters’ clubs, which is a crucial element for the host country to be able to successfully assess the risk connected with the sporting event and, in this way, prevent disturbances in the public eye.

It is certainly necessary to avoid abuse in monitoring all citizens and to respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data, but we must not protect some people’s privacy at the expense of the safety of everyone. Nor must this become a pretext for allowing the uncontrolled entry of genuine delinquents, on the grounds of decriminalising real offences solely because they were committed in the context of a sporting event.

We must create a fair balance, weighing opposing requirements against each other. This balance can only be found, however, while respecting individual freedom and protecting the rights of every person, and most of all the right to safety, including the right to go to a stadium and watch sport in peace.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MARTÍNEZ MARTÍNEZ
Vice-President.

 
  
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  Richard Corbett (PSE). – Mr President, I wish to congratulate the rapporteurs and especially Mr Belet, with whom I served on the Independent Review of European Football established by the Council last year.

Football has a number of problems. One of these is the linkage of wealth and sporting success and the concentration of both in the hands of an increasingly small number of clubs in almost every league across the whole of Europe. However, measures to counter this trend taken by the football authorities – such as the home-grown players scheme or the obligation to sell TV rights collectively with redistribution to all clubs – could risk being found to be incompatible with European law. I was alarmed to hear Commissioner Figeľ say that the Commission was still thinking about this and had not yet reached a decision. That is why we need the White Paper to recognise if not derogations then at least sympathetic interpretations of EU law that recognise the specificity of sport. That is why the contributions of Mr Titford and Mr Heaton-Harris are so misplaced: they are aimed at alarming the British tabloids. It is nonsense to say that this is a power grab by the European Union: it is a loosening of existing EU legal requirements that were initially drawn up for other purposes. That is what is needed. To portray it in the complete opposite way of what is intended is completely disingenuous.

 
  
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  Jacek Protasiewicz, (PPE-DE) . – (PL) Mr President, I would like to begin by congratulating both rapporteurs, but Ivo Beleta in particular, on the results of the work they have undertaken. The report that Mr Beleta prepared covers all the key elements of European soccer, ranging from its legal context, management, competition, the internal market and social issues, to combating criminal behaviour such as racism or doping, as well as combating corruption at football events.

On the face of it it appears to be an easy job, because football is a sport that arouses great passions. The fact that this House is not immune to these strong emotions can be seen in the number of amendments the rapporteur had to take in his stride. One of these proved particularly important, as it concerned the sale of the broadcasting rights to football matches. In earlier discussions I supported a collective system, which would guarantee the equitable distribution of the proceeds of broadcasting, and provide a better competitive balance and the rivalry that sport needs. Now, I declare my support for the oral amendment that has been proposed by the rapporteur.

As a member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, I would also like to express my gratitude for the fact that the report included employment issues concerning the contracts signed by professional players with clubs, the legal regulation of football agents and the transactions they make and education and training for young footballers with guarantees that the best will find places in club teams.

I am convinced that football can provide the basis for development and self-fulfilment, which is why I am pleased by the points included in this report which talk about the need to support clubs that provide young people with the right conditions both for training and for learning.

Finally, I would like to point out that the field of sport, including soccer, has become an area where the free movement of workers is truly taking place across the whole European Union and I hope that this will also soon be the case in other sections of the European Union's labour market.

 
  
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  Maria Badia i Cutchet (PSE). – (ES) I too would like to thank the rapporteur, above all, for the spirit of cooperation he has shown in the drawing up of this report, a report on the future of professional football, which is not just important for football, since it deals with problems that have recently been increasing throughout the world of sport: violence at sports grounds, racist acts, doping, lack of financial transparency, etc.

I would like to focus on two issues: firstly, the increasing economic importance of football, which has led to an increase in the value of television rights. In my view, it is important that the report has taken up the concern about the system of income resulting from sales of those rights, which can cause a competitive imbalance amongst the different clubs, although I regret – and this is something that I believe is missing from the report – that account has not been taken of the fact that this income also depends on the club’s impact on the worldwide audience, not just the national broadcasting market, nor that there is some redistribution of resources resulting from the sale of the broadcasting rights of national leagues amongst clubs.

Furthermore, I am pleased that the report takes account of the European Union’s different national football associations, regardless of whether they are part of government sports structures or federations recognised by the Member States.

Finally, I hope that the Commission will take account of these suggestions from the European Parliament when drawing up its White Paper on sport.

 
  
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  Vasco Graça Moura (PPE-DE).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, mirroring the right of every citizen to access to justice, pursuant to any of the constitutions of the Member States, Article 47 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrines that right for people whose rights and freedoms guaranteed under Union law have been violated.

The significance of these precepts is obvious: there is neither the jurisdiction nor any legal pact that can deprive anyone of their fundamental right to access to justice, although the exercise of those precepts can, in certain situations, be applied to what, in forensic terms, is known as a ‘plea of lack of incompetence’. Nevertheless, such exceptions must be recognised by an independent and impartial court, previously established by law, as stated in the aforementioned Article 47, this being a vital prerequisite to the exercise of its own competence. For this reason, access to justice for a natural or legal person must never involve any form of disciplinary infringement.

The exercise of a right recognised by all constitutions and the European Charter must not result in an offence of any kind under the law. That being the case, the Belet report enshrines the correct principle that access to justice, even when not justified in sporting terms, must not be penalised by disciplinary measures. In this regard, I condemn FIFA’s arbitrary decisions.

The vote on this principle will not only contribute towards making sport more transparent but will also strengthen the major principles on which the rule of law is based.

 
  
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  Mario Mantovani (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Belet, for his contribution to the report on the future of professional football in Europe.

In my view, Europe is going through a period of particular uncertainty and is experiencing a stage of reflection. This can also be seen in a human dimension that is very important for European citizens, which is sport in general and football in particular, because of their educational function and the role they play in social and cultural integration and also in combating discrimination.

This integration process was caused in part by the positive effects produced by the Bosman ruling, which in 1995 set out to create freedom of movement for football players. In this context it should, however, be pointed out that professional football constitutes an economic activity recognised by Article 2 of the Treaty establishing the European Community.

On the financial level the integration referred to has not been fully implemented, partly because of distortions in competition on the football market, caused by differing tax systems in the various countries of the Union. Thus, in some countries taxation is advantageous, allowing their clubs to pay footballers quite a lot more than the payments that other clubs’ budgets can withstand.

Finally, we should not neglect to highlight, again with regard to football, that the proposal for Community harmonisation in the allocation of television rights is not a real priority. This is because of the historical, cultural and above all market differences between the various European Union countries, as well as the conflict with the principle of subsidiarity as a basic principle that ought to be respected.

Mr President, five years ago in this Chamber I put forward the need for a European sports agency. I believe that today it is more necessary than ever.

 
  
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  Ján Figeľ, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I thank both rapporteurs and all Members who took the floor, because many interesting points were raised. Tomorrow you will have to decide on the precise content of the report, but much of what you said can be used as input not only for further discussions but also for work in favour of football and sport and Europe as a Community.

One of the important points is, as Mr Belet said, to ask the relevant authorities to sit around the table and seek solutions. One of the messages is to work together. We have had close and regular dialogue for many years with bodies like UEFA and FIFA. The European Sport Review was discussed, as it continues to be now.

I mentioned at the end of my introductory remarks the very interesting event that took place recently in Manchester. I have heard the divided opinions of British colleagues. Football is synonymous with the UK. We can convey many messages about the importance of cooperation for the sake and good health of football.

In football, Europe is a superpower. I do not want to speak about geopolitics, but I have attended international debates where it has often been said, mainly by African countries, that this dominance damages international relations and the sport. The Africans have been very critical of the Europeans. We should respond with clarity and credibility.

There is a professional but also an amateur element. This is a very important pyramid for football and sport, where both elements and the pyramid as a whole are important. Money is not the most important thing, because, if it were, then the whole pyramid would be turned upside down and that would be detrimental.

For example, last year we agreed with FIFA to support African engagement, via children’s football, to promote sport and integration. This is part of the preparations for the Football World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

Two weeks ago, we met with sports ministers in Stuttgart. There were two negative topics in the debate: violence and doping. These issues were also mentioned in your report. The ministers agreed to continue work on the establishment of a European network of anti-doping agencies, which is one of the contributions to ensuring the transparency and credibility of our actions. Violence was also discussed. We will organise a conference on sport and hooliganism in November with the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.

We also spoke about the economy and sport and social inclusion via sport. For example, we agreed to produce more specific and more reliable data on the economics of sport to see how it contributes to the job market and growth in our countries. This is very important.

The remaining points for the Commission and in the coming White Paper on sport are the following key words, which are a kind of mosaic for our relations in sport: specificity, subsidiarity, autonomy and, of course, diversity – which is so visible and important in not only culture but also sport, transparency, rules-based activities and relations. However, all that must be implemented within the EU legal framework, not outside, which you firmly support.

In conclusion, we are now in the process of consultation on the White Paper. As I have said, once these reports are adopted tomorrow, they will help in this preparatory work. We have now received 670 contributions and more than 200 of these are collective, i.e. on behalf of associations and federations. Therefore, we need work together to get it right for the sake and credibility of Europe, which also has broader international responsibility in sport.

Europe is a cradle of many disciplines, including football and the Olympic ideal and ideas, and we have to promote the values of these traditions and activities in a larger area of European cooperation and internationally.

I should like to thank all Members of the European Parliament.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

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

Written statements (Rule 142 of the Rules of Procedure)

 
  
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  Alessandro Battilocchio (NI), in writing. (IT) Football is deeply rooted in European identity and culture. Particularly, but not exclusively, for young people, it constitutes a vital instrument of social cohesion, informal education and economic and regional development. Recently, however, legal scandals, rigged championships, violence, racism, multi-million transfer fees and the way financial interests have prevailed over sportsmanship have only served to divert football from its original spirit and to alienate people from football.

It is therefore important for the EU to act to clean up a sector in which we are world leaders. As well as being a form of cultural expression, this sector can also continue to be a source of economic growth, jobs and social cohesion. I therefore hope that football, and sport in general, will in future receive the assistance needed to regulate the many interests at play. Above all, I hope that by supporting activities, meetings and events at local and European levels (and particularly by promoting access for young people, including disadvantaged youth), it will be possible to develop and protect the smaller sports and clubs that, throughout Europe, are an important tool for the civic education of our citizens.

 
  
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  Iles Braghetto (PPE-DE) , in writing. (IT) I would like to express my appreciation for and agreement with the work accomplished by the rapporteur. The issue of football, and sport in general, is an expression of a team spirit and a playing culture typical of western civilisation. I therefore believe that the right approach lies not in laying down new laws but in pushing the world of football towards forms of self-regulation that can encompass all those directly concerned – all participants, including football supporters.

Legal certainty should be sought by means of guidelines guaranteeing cooperation and solidarity among all stakeholders in sporting events. I would particularly like to emphasise the need to encourage education of young people, the application of severe disciplinary measures to combat violence in stadiums and racism, the involvement of supporters in the management of football, the identification of a transparent system for the control of costs, fair competition between the clubs, and insurance protection for players.

For all these reasons, the adoption by the European Commission of the White Paper on the role of sport in Europe is eagerly awaited, and the drafting of an action plan for European sport in general and football in particular would be extremely welcome.

 
  
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  Gábor Harangozó (PSE) , in writing. – Due to the increased occurrence of relatively important incidents within the framework of football matches, one can only welcome the Austrian initiative to amend the regulation concerning security in connection with football matches. The assessment of the international police cooperation following the European Championships in 2004 highlighted clearly that it is necessary to increase the international information sharing on risk supporters. However, it is important that, as stressed by our rapporteur Giusto Catania, the exchange of personal data should made in accordance with the domestic and international laws applicable and should not be used for other purposes. Due to the constantly growing number of supporters travelling to matches abroad, strengthened cooperation between the national football information points and a genuine international dimension is required. By preventing and controlling violence and disturbances in connection with football matches, through international exchange of information allowing every Member State to make efficient risk assessments, the aim should be to help reaffirm the moral and educational values of football and even sport in general.

 
  
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  Lívia Járóka (PPE-DE), in writing. – (HU) Ivo Belet’s report on the future of professional football in Europe is a very important position statement. It is clear to all of us that football plays a variety of roles in Europe, and that it has a considerable social and cultural function; this popular game makes it possible for people to meet and get to know each other’s views, and it also promotes social participation.

Racism and xenophobia are social problems that are being expressed ever more strongly not only in our daily lives but in the world of football as well. From week to week, we have been able to witness firsthand serious racist incidents at football matches, and, in Central and Eastern Europe, intensifying anti-Roma sentiments. This sport, which enjoys exceptional popularity, is today closely associated with hooliganism and racist-motivated hate speech.

Racism and xenophobia are widely present in football stadiums. In Central and Eastern Europe, the pitches resound with anti-Roma outbursts, regardless of whether a team with Roma supporters and patrons is playing

The popularity of the game must make for opportunities for the struggle against racism, for raising awareness and setting an example. The European Commission and the governments of the Member States must take part, along with the football clubs, in the struggle against the racial hatred manifested on sports pitches. More serious sanctions than what we have seen hitherto must be imposed for any racist-motivated incident in football; furthermore, it is indispensable that both UEFA and the national leagues apply the disciplinary rules in a strict and systematic manner.

 

20. Compliance with the obligations of Flag States - Civil liability and financial guarantees of shipowners (debate)
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  President. The next item is the joint debate on

- the report by Marta Vincenzi, on behalf of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on compliance with flag State requirements (COM(2005)0586 C6-0062/2006 2005/0236(COD)) (A6-0058/2007), and

- the report by Gilles Savary, on behalf of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the civil liability and financial guarantees of shipowners (COM(2005)0593 C6-0039/2006 2005/0242(COD)) (A6-0055/2007).

 
  
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  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, honourable Members of Parliament, there now exists a sound body of Community legislation on maritime safety, but much still remains to be done. The Commission wished to supplement the structure of this legislation with a new package of measures designed to further prevent accidents and to better take into account their consequences. Furthermore, by submitting seven proposals, the Commission has taken the utmost account of the resolutions on the strengthening of maritime safety that were adopted by Parliament in the wake of the ‘Prestige’ accident. We are addressing them.

Thus, the European maritime administrations will be able to set an example. No ship will be able to escape an inspection in European ports. The inspection of inspectors, or classification societies, will be much more rigorous. A clear chain of decision-making will make it possible to provide refuge for ships in distress. Operators will better fulfil their responsibilities to their passengers or third parties. Finally, it will become possible to provide systematic feedback on accidents.

I am delighted that the European Parliament supports the ambitious approach proposed by the Commission. Your rapporteurs have produced an outstanding piece of work. The Commission remains committed to simultaneously examining the seven proposals and to preserving the ‘package’ approach, with the aim of ensuring that the proposed measures are effective and consistent. For technical reasons, you wished to examine two of these seven proposals in advance.

By putting forward a proposal on the responsibility of flag States, the Commission intends to fill a void in the European safety system. It is incumbent on the authorities of the Member States to ensure that ships sailing under their flags apply the safety rules. Clearly, the situation in Europe must be improved. It is not normal for member countries to appear on the grey – and even black – list, established by the Paris Memorandum. It is not normal for there to be so many differences in the rate of detention of vessels flying the European flag, from 0.9% to 24.14% of extreme cases for the period 2003-2005, according to figures taken from the Paris Memorandum.

Let us be clear. It is not a question of imposing a new layer of bureaucratic requirements for operators or national authorities or of adopting new safety rules, but of ensuring that the rules already in force are actually applied. The Commission proposal is simply aimed at enshrining in Community law the rules of the International Maritime Organisation, which stipulate that flag States must implement international conventions, and at enforcing a measure that is purely voluntary – the IMO audit system. Our aim is therefore to provide our maritime administrations with impeccable quality and, in this way, to work on the quality of our vessels. In doing so, we will have helped to prevent unfair competition from possibly developing among European maritime transport companies.

I now come to the second proposal. This proposal is about giving greater responsibility to shipowners by strengthening the liability scheme. The Commission proposes to implement minimum rules that are applicable to all the Member States in this area – civil liability and financial guarantees – and to lay down rules that genuinely make it possible both to prevent accidents and to compensate for the damage caused. Some will object that international conventions exist on this very subject. To which I would reply that these conventions are imperfect, and reflect two points of view. Firstly, not all of them have entered into force; they are even taking a long time to do so. Secondly, even when these conventions become genuinely operational throughout Europe in the future, there will always be scenarios that they do not cover.

Then, above all in terms of substance, these conventions have a flaw. They sanction a principle that urgently needs to be modernised: limitation of liability. More precisely, these conventions define the threshold beyond which shipowners lose their right to limit their liability. The problem stems from the fact that this threshold is fixed at a practically insurmountable level – inexcusable conduct. An insurmountable threshold amounts to favourable treatment for shipowners, to the detriment of victims when the damage suffered is greater than the limit of indemnity provided for by these very conventions. It is also favourable treatment for bad shipowners, to the detriment of the good ones. Shipowners who have been grossly negligent – on the scale of faults, one degree below inexcusable conduct – and are responsible for major pollution, should no longer be able to benefit from this privilege of having their liability limited.

Our proposal falls within this context. It is therefore both an immediate response designed to overcome the difficulties in implementing the international conventions and a first step towards modernising all of these texts.

Mr President, it is a bit late this evening for me to continue any longer. I might perhaps be able to respond to Mrs Vincenzi and Mr Savary, whom I should like straight away to sincerely thank for their excellent work.

 
  
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  Marta Vincenzi (PSE), rapporteur. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, full compliance with international rules by the Member States could resolve problems that as we know are of an economic and social nature and concern environmental protection. Within the Commission and within the Committee on Transport and Tourism we have tried, in the directive under consideration, to emphasise three fundamental issues.

The first is the possibility of Member States fulfilling EU obligations with the contractual instruments already used to apply international rules. The second is that it is not the Member States that need to demonstrate that they have applied the standards but the Commission that must demonstrate that provisions have been contravened and that some margin of administrative discretion, already present in the provisions of the IMO, is in fact necessary to adjust the application of the obligations of the flag State to national situations. This work, which is the product of direct consultations with social and institutional representatives, has been evaluated and supported by the Transport Committee.

I would like to thank all participants, starting with the Members who tabled amendments: in the vote at the end of February, the amended proposal and the legislative resolution were adopted unanimously. The amendments accepted, tabled and agreed clarified a position shared by all the political groups, namely that reinforcing maritime safety without burdening public administration is possible and should be achieved. Moves in this direction are the changes to the system of inspections, which have become compulsory instead of optional, the system for communications to the Commission, whose contents have been slimmed down, and the guarantees of personnel training with mandatory practical experience at sea.

In order to promote maximum agreement, I did not wish to table my further amendments, since the objective is, here in the Chamber too, to obtain consensus and the balanced position already achieved in committee. If, Mr Barrot, the European Parliament were to approve by a large majority of votes most of the contents of this proposal for a directive and that of my colleague, Mr Savary, as amended and discussed, with the political groups all lining up in favour of strengthening the Erika package, I think that we could rely on public opinion being fully with us. Today the public is aware of the serious problems linked with maritime safety, and I think we can succeed in overcoming the hesitations of the Community institutions and any U-turns by the European Union. We hope there will not be any today, especially just a few days after the extremely important Berlin Declaration.

 
  
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  Gilles Savary (PSE) , rapporteur.(FR) Mr President, just the once will not hurt, and are we not much better off for it? We are going to be able to legislate on a maritime safety package without any accidents having taken place. On previous occasions, we had to mourn the sinking of the ‘Erika’, a catastrophic sinking with pollution at sea and the very difficult task of salvaging the wreckage, and the sinking of the ‘Prestige’, about which you know more than anyone, as a Spanish national, and which had a huge impact on our coastlines.

Therefore, I believe that the Commissioner should be congratulated for having proposed to us this package of seven texts, which must remain a broad-based proposal from the Commission and the European Parliament to the Council, even though two of them are slightly ahead of their time. We have worked hard on this matter, and I should like, in this regard, to thank all of my colleagues, in particular the other political groups, for the excellent work that we have been able to produce and for the outstanding vote that we have obtained, which testifies to a very strong desire from Parliament to genuinely signal its consent, today, to this ‘maritime safety’ package.

It naturally falls to me to present you with a report – and probably a rather complicated one at that – on the civil liability of shipowners and of financial guarantees responsible for basically covering damages to third parties. We are not talking here about damages between two vessels that might collide, or between parties involved in the transport chain, that is to say, between charterers and shipowners, but about damage caused to third parties, in particular environmental damage.

What the Commission is proposing – and I believe that this is really the minimum that should be asked of the Member States – is to ratify the major International Maritime Organisation conventions on liability and compensation of third parties. From this perspective, there is a general convention that covers all kinds of damages, the LLMC, which has not been ratified by a number of Member States, particularly in its 1996 version. The HNS Convention, which concerns chemical risks, has not been ratified. We are completely exposed today to chemical risks, much more so than to oil risks, and we know that what is transported on Europe’s seas is often very dangerous. Then there are two other conventions: one on the protection of people abandoned at sea – you will have heard about these crazy situations in which sailors cannot leave their vessel after the shipowner has gone bankrupt and who remain berthed for months on end – and one on liability for damage produced by bunker oil, otherwise known as degassing.

What the Commission is therefore proposing is to have these conventions ratified. Parliament voted for this proposal and wanted all these conventions – particularly the chemical convention – to be ratified. This was not proposed directly by the Commission, but we would stress our desire to ratify. Secondly, we believe that a regime for withdrawing the benefit of limitation of liability should be implemented for ships that belong to States that have refused to ratify the conventions, whether they be non-EU States or EU Member States that balk at doing so. I believe that Mr Jarzembowski is very keen on this increased clampdown on ships belonging to States that have not ratified, the aim being to encourage them to do so. In such cases, it is not inexcusable conduct that is reprehensible, but gross negligence, and gross negligence means that, in actual fact, the liability and compensation regime is infinitely more severe.

Finally, we have endorsed the Commission proposal to create a financial guarantee certificate and to monitor it by creating, within the Maritime Safety Agency or elsewhere, an office providing information on the validity of the certificates, particularly for ships that pass through territorial waters and that do not dock at ports, the aim being to guarantee a maximum level of safety.

I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that this is a text that does credit to the European Parliament and that drives the Member States into a corner. I am one of those who greatly suffered, when the ‘Erika’ went down, on hearing a number of Heads of State or Government, including my own, undermine Europe by saying: ‘ ‘Erika’ is Europe’s fault; there is no legislation’. Well, today, there is legislation. It is extremely strict, and we dare the Council and the Member States to implement it.

 
  
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  Luis de Grandes Pascual (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs. – (ES) The truth is that I am speaking not just on my own behalf but also on behalf of Antonio López-Istúriz, who was the draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs on the Savary report.

As the honourable Members know, the two reports that we are debating today, drawn up by Mrs Vincenzi and Mr Savary, form part of what has come to be known as the third maritime safety package. The fundamental objective of the seven proposals making up the package is to increase the safety of our seas. Since we are debating two reports jointly, it would be impolite of me not to mention the report by Mrs Vincenzi, a report which we wholeheartedly support.

If you will allow me, however, I would like to talk more specifically about the Savary report. The report is courageous and decisive and deserves my praise and my support. It is not an easy task – none of the seven proposals in the package are – and it is not easy for everybody to accept, since we are talking about financial guarantees and responsibilities of shipowners and it is quite legitimate for that sector to try to water down that responsibility or postpone decisions with which compliance is obligatory. Do not imagine that I am being critical of the shipowners in any way. They are within their rights and their positions are legitimate.

I too originally intended not to go against the grain and I argued that competence should fall to the IMO in such a globalised field as the sea. My view clashed with the general view of Parliament and in the end I was persuaded.

That is better, and it happened in the case of the double hull requirement provided for by our dear departed Loyola de Palacio. The European Union took the decision first, and then the IMO. If it had been the other way round, the accident that recently took place in Gibraltar would surely have caused a further disaster on a huge scale.

I shall begin by thanking you for accepting the amendments in which we call for the obligatory ratification of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage for ship fuels. Secondly, I shall focus on an issue that I believe to be important and which I would ask you to support: I am referring to the creation of a solidarity fund to cover damages caused by a ship that has no financial guarantee.

We need to fill a vacuum in order to make this possible in the event of an accident caused by one of the ships that, in spite of the obligations laid down in this Directive, sail our Community seas without financial guarantee certificates. In no event should the compensation for damages caused by a ship without financial guarantees be paid by the Member State, which, at the end of the day, is the victim of the accident, but rather, in our view, it must be met by a consortium which, like others that exist in comparative law, takes responsibility in such situations.

 
  
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  Georg Jarzembowski, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Mr Vice-President of the Commission, the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats essentially supports the excellent reports submitted by Mrs Vincenzi and Mr Savary on flag State requirements and the liability of shipowners respectively. At the same time we would like to thank the rapporteurs for drafting these reports so skilfully.

Contrary to the fears of some sections of the shipping industry, neither of the two directives really impose any new substantial requirements on shipping or the Member States, and they therefore do not adversely affect the competitiveness of the European fleet compared with its competitors from third countries either. Rather the two proposals actually only serve to make some long-standing international conventions in maritime law finally binding on all Member States. If we look at the individual proposals for the flag States, then it is high time that all 27 Member States in the European Union complied with their obligations under the international convention in terms of inspecting their own vessels. To do so it is not enough simply to sign and ratify conventions. It also requires the Member States finally to make available the necessary equipment and personnel so as to carry out effective inspections of their own vessels. When it comes to liability for accidents at sea, all that is actually happening here is that all Member States are being obliged by Community law finally to apply the 1996 LLMC Convention. We are also calling for the 1996 HNS Convention and the 2001 Bunker Oil Convention to be applied at long last, which is surely not really an unreasonable demand of either the shipping industry or the Member States.

We can therefore justify our position perfectly. In the interests of the environment and the public, we are demanding something that goes completely without saying, and I hope that the Council will finally understand this and be prepared to deal with these two dossiers accordingly.

 
  
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  Willi Piecyk, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, if I told my mother that we debated maritime safety at 11 p.m. after football, she would probably say: you Brussels people are crazy. At this stage I would not disagree with her.

Nevertheless, it is good that the Commission has tabled this proposal because it is necessary. In the Committee on Improving Safety at Sea (MARE), we have called for the European Union to become active in the fields of flag State requirements and liability and compensation. At this point I should like to express particular thanks to the two rapporteurs, my colleagues, Mrs Vincenzi and Mr Savary, because both reports are tricky in terms of content and politically very controversial. In addition, so far we have not heard any cheering, euphoria or shouts of ‘bravo’ from the Council. That is why at this stage we should say once more to the Council – because there have clearly been misunderstandings – that the fact that we are debating these two reports today does not mean that we are giving up on the Erika III package with its seven dossiers, but rather that we are underlining the particular political importance of these two reports. The Council, which is trying at Mr Savary’s request to interpret the concept of ‘gross negligence’, would therefore be very grossly negligent itself if it were labouring under this misconception.

I agree with Mr Jarzembowski: the Council’s attitude towards the Vincenzi report is very difficult to understand. What is actually the problem with incorporating valid IMO rules into European law? Similarly, in the Savary report what is the problem with including chemical pollution in a civil liability regime alongside oil pollution? That cannot actually be the problem. In any case common sense would support these proposals. The message of these two reports is: the Member States should bear more responsibility for ships flying their flag and both the Member States and shipowners should bear more responsibility if something happens. These matters are overdue: think of the Erika and the Prestige. Thank you, Commission, for the proposals. Thank you to the rapporteurs. Now the Council is asked to conduct itself properly and not be grossly negligent.

 
  
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  Paolo Costa, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (IT) Mr President, Mr Barrot, ladies and gentlemen, I am here only to confirm what has already been said by my fellow Members.

Maritime safety is an issue that is too serious to be the object of tactical manoeuvres: too serious for the experiences we have already had, for the accidents that we have already suffered, and too serious for us not to predict that increasing maritime traffic will lead to greater risks in the future. The Commission has therefore acted wisely in exploring every possible avenue to guard against any difficulties and to prepare for any eventualities.

That is the reason, which is certainly neither tactical nor trivial, why we believe that all seven of the proposals – designed to harmonise the forms of classification, to compel the States to monitor the vessels that fly their flags, to ensure that inspections of vessels are carried out in the ports, to ensure that movements of vessels are monitored, to lay down procedures for action in the event of an accident, to verify or manage liability, both with regard to third parties and with regard to passengers – must go forward together.

The fact that the two reports under consideration were both adopted by considerable majorities, and one literally unanimously, highlights the way in which the feelings of European citizens, whom we are called upon to represent, have been acknowledged. It also confirms that this is the right path to take.

The adoption of these first two reports this evening is a message addressed to all the European institutions: to the Commission, which has put them before us on the table, urging it to maintain its position, and to the Council, urging it to show itself ready to make true progress on the maritime safety chapter, so that we do not find ourselves some time from now – God forbid – lamenting not having taken action in time when we could have done to avoid potential disasters.

 
  
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  Mary Lou McDonald, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – Mr President, I would like to begin by thanking Mrs Vincenzi and Mr Savary for their valuable work. There is no doubt that the maritime sector is just one of the areas crying out for tighter regulation. The flagging of ships is a crucial issue, an issue prioritised by the International Transport Workers’ Federation in its flags of convenience campaign. I think it is essential, especially in relation to the Vincenzi report, that the report be adopted in order to ensure that Member States meet their international commitments in this respect.

We have seen disputes such as the Irish Ferries dispute and others in the sector, where reflagging has been used as a mechanism to sack workers so as to pay low wages for uncertain working hours and working conditions and to avoid labour regulation in the country of ownership. Workers within the shipping industry need action now across the range of international instruments which will improve regulation within their sector and their quality of working life.

I am sure that Parliament will adopt these reports. It is incumbent on the Council and indeed on individual Member States to respond accordingly and to meet their responsibilities.

 
  
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  Bogusław Liberadzki (PSE). (PL) Mr President, I would like to express my appreciation and thanks to Mrs Marta Vincenzi and Mr Gilles Savary for their reports. These are two regulations from the package proposed by the Commission, which I would like to thank for their comprehensive response to this House’s expectations.

I would like to concentrate on the issue of civil liability. Firstly, I will gladly approve the introduction of ceilings on civil liability, which I believe keeps it at levels high enough to ensure that in most cases the injured party will be adequately compensated. I do not agree with the criticism that these ceilings are too high, because the ideal situation is one where we would not have to pay compensation at all.

I also welcome the compulsory civil liability guarantee whereby shipowners will have to apply to the authorities of the Member States for certificates confirming the existence of guarantees in relation to all damages caused to third parties. It is fortunate that such a certificate will be issued by the Member States, as this will make it simpler to check the reliability and standing of companies.

It is also with satisfaction that I endorse the obligation to notify the presence of such a certificate. In my view, it is good that we have a broader concept of wilful misconduct which will make it possible to hold someone liable for breaches that have been committed. It is therefore suggested that the interpretation of wilful misconduct be broadened to take into account the concept of professional conduct.

 
  
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  Josu Ortuondo Larrea (ALDE).(ES) Mr President, Commissioner, we are living in the era of globalisation, which undoubtedly has its good points and its bad points, but which is fortunately enabling us to become aware of the great effects of human activity and development on the planet. Amongst other things, the marine environment, which provides us with so much in terms of food, leisure and transport, is constantly being polluted, by dumping from both land and sea.

Of this pollution, some of it – the smallest proportion of it – results from unavoidable accidents, while the majority of it is caused by shipowners and operators who are still acting irresponsibly, ignoring international rules and safety practices.

The specific cases of the Prestige and the Erika stood out, but we must not forget the pollution that is caused on a daily basis by the uncontrolled dumping of bilge and cleaning out of tanks. We are therefore obliged to employ all of the controls and resources available to us in order to put a stop to this criminal behaviour, and we must demand that all flag States fulfil their responsibilities, that they have properly qualified and experienced inspectors, and that their port authorities inspect the condition of ships’ hulls and ensure compliance with the rules on the dumping of waste.

Finally, with regard to that last aspect, I would like to insist that the Commission propose legislation to oblige all ships to carry automatic devices for recording levels of liquid in bilge and tanks every hour, in the manner of black boxes like those carried by aircraft, to make it possible to detect crimes against the marine environment. This is the only way to achieve our objective.

I would like to end by congratulating the rapporteurs on their wonderful work.

 
  
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  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, honourable Members, allow me first of all to thank you and to congratulate you. I believe that, although this text comes at a very late hour – which I regret somewhat – it illustrates the extent to which Parliament is now largely the guarantor of the European general interest. I should like to thank all of the MEPs who have worked so very hard on these texts. I believe, in actual fact, that we have here a package that should not be broken up. These seven proposals form a whole. They enable us to make the entire maritime transport chain safer, and for that reason, I believe that the packages should be preserved.

I should like first to address Mrs Vincenzi’s report. I should like to begin by pointing out that this specifically European approach does not seem incompatible with the overall approach within the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). However, it is true that, thanks to the Community, we can promote within the IMO an approach aimed at having the international standards applied more effectively by all of the flag States. This approach is not incompatible with that which consists, at Community level, in already ensuring that each Member State has a flag of quality. In the future, it is the very quality of the flags that will make them more attractive and that will also enable us to better defend their high-level Community use within the maritime sector. Shipping companies will also benefit from such an improvement, since these flags of quality will lead to a reduction in checks at ports. Therefore, I am grateful once again to Mrs Vincenzi.

Furthermore, I would add, Mr President, echoing, for the most part, the committee’s work, that I do not share the Council’s reluctance and I am therefore going to go back over some amendments.

With Amendments 25 and 26, you amend the presentation of the criteria determining the additional surveys to be carried out by the flag administration. I can accept this, but with one reservation: ships that have not been inspected in the last 12 months under the controls of the port State must not be exempted from these investigations. Thus, Amendments 25 and 26 could be reworked, and even improved.

As regards Amendments 43, 44 and 52, I would say that they weaken the proposal, by reducing the demands in relation to the level of recruitment of flag State surveyors. Do you not think that a high-level qualification should be maintained? Thus, Amendments 43, 44 and 52 really pose problems for me, and I cannot accept them.

Although many other amendments clarify the position, some amendments – Amendment 2, Amendment 6, Amendment 13 and Amendment 17 – are in danger of causing some confusion, because they refer to International Labour Organisation instruments and go beyond the scope covered by the proposal. I am therefore unable to accept them.

Lastly, I should like to mention Amendments 4 and 12, which provide the Member States’ authorities and private operators with the opportunity to refer directly to the Committee on Safe Seas and the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. However, these amendments disregard the right of initiative belonging exclusively to the Commission when exercising implementing powers conferred on it. They are therefore unacceptable to the Commission.

There you have my few remarks, which in no way detract from my support for Mrs Vincenzi’s work, which is quite remarkable. Once again, I am entirely convinced that the Member States should agree to progress along these lines. This is absolutely vital, and, in the long-term, there will be a competitive advantage to having flags of high quality.

Turning now, Mr President, to Mr Savary’s proposal. I am very grateful to him. He has stressed that this evening’s two proposals are somewhat ahead of their time. Yes, precisely, if we want to make progress, we must make a number of attempts to commit the Member States to a policy, to a strategy that is far more courageous and far more determined, in order to prevent any further oil slicks.

Will the directive enable us to increase the protection for victims? Certainly! As Mr Savary did a very good job of pointing out, the introduction of a compulsory financial guarantee system imposed on all vessels that enter European waters is an innovation in the maritime world. The financial guarantees should be reliable and accessible, which is why we are proposing that public authorities check, a priori, that the insurance cover is sound and why we are stipulating that victims should be able directly to address insurers, in order to invoke their rights.

There will also be protection for victims, since a minimum level of compensation is guaranteed. This minimum corresponds to the standards of the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (in its 1996 version), standards that are, I might add, sufficient in most cases. However, it is true that the directive makes provision, in certain cases, for the benefit of the limitation of civil liability to be withdrawn from shipowners, so that victims can obtain compensation that is commensurate with the damage caused.

Therefore, Mr President, honourable Members, one can say that this proposal for a directive definitely moves our maritime law forward. I should like to say once again how grateful I am for the courage that it has taken to face up to a certain form of opposition, and to move towards modernising private shipping law. There is, in fact, no longer any justification for some principles of the maritime law in force. They result in responsibility being taken away from operators. Our aim is to have quality shipping, our own fleet and third-country ships in transit.

I now come to Mr Savary’s proposal. The aim is indeed to have quality shipping, our own fleet and third-country ships in transit, and for victims to receive compensation that is commensurate with the damage caused, which does not allow for the existing principles of law. The key Amendments 10 and 20, on gross negligence and inexcusable conduct, are along these lines. We endorse them.

You have also demonstrated clear thinking, because you have improved and clarified a number of elements in the proposal: Amendments 9, 11, 14 and 19.

You have introduced new provisions that we feel are precious, more specifically Amendments 16 and 17 on the obligation for Member States immediately to ratify the conventions that are pending.

There remain, however, a few amendments that we can accept in principle, but that we cannot adopt in full. They are Amendments 23, 26 and 27, which refer to the creation of a new Community office for managing guarantee certificates. The idea is certainly very appealing, but does a new structure need to be created when we have the European Maritime Safety Agency? What tasks will it fulfil? You will understand that we want the consequences of these amendments to be looked into further, in detail.

Turning now to Amendment 25, which provides for the creation of a solidarity fund. We are not convinced of the need for this new structure. Will it really be useful, once the directive is implemented, given the too few residual cases? Then, aside from the practical difficulties associated with the setting-up of such a fund, how can we prevent the ‘good’ shipowners from paying for the ‘bad’ ones?

There you have the bulk of my comments. A complete list of the amendments and of the Commission position regarding each of them will be passed on to the secretariat of Parliament for the two proposals in question. However, irrespective of the few reservations that I have expressed on certain amendments, Mr President, please allow me to pay tribute to a very remarkable piece of parliamentary work. I should like once again to thank the rapporteurs, to thank Mr Costa and all of the members of his committee, and to thank Parliament in general for this excellent piece of work which, I hope, will enable us to move in the direction of such maritime safety, which we need now more than ever, in view of the development of maritime transport. In view, too, of the fact that, from now on, the reunified Europe will concern not only the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, but also the Black Sea and the Baltic. We therefore have a pressing duty to make progress. I am grateful to Parliament for having understood this and for having supported us as it has done.

 
  
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  President. The joint debate is closed.

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

 

21. The integration of new Member States in the CAP (debate)
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  President. The next item is the report by Csaba Sándor Tabajdi, on behalf of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, on the integration of the new Member States into the CAP (2006/2042(INI)) (A6-0037/2007).

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (PSE), rapporteur.(FR) Mr President, the integration of the ten new Member States is a very complicated matter. I feel that, in my own-initiative report, I have tried to analyse the results, the consequences of integrating the ten new Member States, because we are talking, in general, about the success of integrating ten new Member States, but we need to analyse exactly what consequences this has within the various sectors.

As far as the consequences of the integration for agriculture are concerned, despite all the inconsistencies, I must say that they are very positive. This is a win-win situation. This means that the 15 old Member States have won because they have expanded their markets. They have managed to play a part in the privatisation of this sector in the new Member States. It is the producers, above all, who have won; it is the traders and agricultural manufacturers, above all, but the consequences were positive for them and the new Member States have won as well, despite all the discrimination concerning direct payments; they have won because, for two years, they have increased their agricultural subsidies by 50%. This is a major result, and we have yet to talk about price stability; we need to talk about guarantees and the single market, for example.

With regard to enlargement, there were huge fears that the new Member States would disrupt the single market. That is not the case. There has been no disruption. The safeguard clause has not had to be used. This is very important and very positive and, when it comes to the new Member States, their producers have been able to use the direct payment funds and the rural development funds, and one can say that food safety has increased.

However, at the same time there are some inconsistencies regarding the enlargement. No equal opportunities exist between the producers of the Fifteen and of the ten Member States since, last year, farmers from the new Member States received only a third of the direct payments from the Community budget. It is true that they were entitled to supplement these payments with their national budgets, but there are no equal opportunities, that much is clear. At the very outset, 25% of funding was inconsistent, too; 50% or 60% would have been fairer and more justified.

With regard to the budget, for years there has been no competition between the old and new Member States, but there is competition in the financial perspective, because the ‘cake’ is the same: there are 27 Member States sharing the same cake because of the freeze proposed by Mr Schroeder and Mr Chirac, who have frozen the Community agricultural budget.

Ladies and gentlemen, with regard to the new Member States, I believe that there are some inconsistencies regarding the reforms under way. I have already pointed out, on several occasions, not least to Mrs Fischer Boel, that, with regard to the fruit and vegetable reform and viticulture, even though historical precedents exist in this case, there is a new kind of inconsistency, a new kind of discrimination against the new Member States.

To conclude, in my report, I have tried to learn lessons regarding the future of the common agricultural policy, and I believe that what Mrs Fischer Boel is proposing, namely having national envelopes as part of the viticulture reform, would perhaps set a good example when it comes to carrying out the health check on the entire future reform, because it is clear that, where the 27 very heterogeneous Member States are concerned, we need to play the subsidiarity card – the flexibility card – more.

 
  
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  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. Mr President, before going into the details of the report, I would like to thank Mr Tabajdi and the members of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for this report. It is a good moment to take stock of the situation. You could say that it is a good warming-up for our discussion on the health check of the common agricultural policy.

I fully agree with the author of this report that the integration of the ten new Member States has been a win-win situation. I would like to point out three different issues. Firstly, the positive development of the income of the agricultural sector in the new Member States. I think this has been of major importance because a good income provides not only for a decent life, but also for the long-term survival of the agricultural sector. If we look at the figures for the income in the ten new Member States it has actually increased 60% over the period from 2004 to 2006 compared to the 2003 figures. If you look at the same period for the figures in the old Member States, the EU-15, it has decreased by 2%. I think that this shows clearly how the new Member States have been benefiting from their membership of the common agricultural policy. The distribution of the money hopefully meant that understanding in the rural areas of the importance of membership has become very clear.

As regards trade, an issue which was also raised by the rapporteur, it is clear that everybody has benefited from the increased internal market. Again it is a win-win situation and I hope that the trends that we have seen will also continue in the years to come.

On rural development, which is a very important issue not only in the new Member States but in the European Union as a whole, I think that the difficulties that you have mentioned in your report are related to initial teething problems. The recent figures illustrate it. All rural development payments in 2006 to the new Member States came to just over EUR 2.7 billion, an increase of 21% compared to the 2005 figures. I hope that these monies will be spent in a constructive way in the new Member States and I am optimistic about the new Member States’ ability to fully implement the programme for a new financial period from 2007 to 2013.

This brings me to the health check. Formally speaking, the implementation of the CAP reform by the new Member States is not subject to the revision clause. However, I think that we should take the opportunity in this health check to try to solve as many as possible of the common problems encountered by all 27 Member States in our discussions in 2008.

I am looking forward to very constructive cooperation with the Agriculture Committee on all these issues. It is of great mutual interest to all of us to have a very strong agricultural sector within the European Union.

 
  
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  Albert Deß, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, I should like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Tabajdi, very much for the compromise that we reached together and on which his report is based. Before the accession of the ten new Member States, when I was out and about in Bavaria and the rest of Germany in my capacity as a politician responsible for agriculture, many farmers in Germany expressed fears that enlargement would have a detrimental impact on agriculture in the old EU Member States. Prices of certain agricultural products were expected to collapse. When I toured the candidate countries, the farmers there also had major reservations and fears about accession to the European Union. Today we can say that the fears in both East and West were largely unfounded.

The way in which the new Member States have been integrated into the common agricultural policy is basically positive. The stakeholders in the new Member States – as has already been mentioned – have in the main benefited from more stable markets and prices and from improved trading opportunities. The food processing industry and food wholesalers in the EU of 15 have benefited from the increased exports and huge investment opportunities in the new Member States. In the report it is stressed that so far the process of integrating the new Member States has on the whole been successful. There were severe difficulties on the fruit and vegetables market and with the unjustified import ban imposed on Polish goods by Russia and Ukraine. The Commission and the Council are asked to respond more quickly to the specific problems of the new Member States. It is stressed in the report that biomass and bioenergy production will play an important role in the future of the agricultural sector in the EU. The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats supports the compromise that has been negotiated, despite having certain reservations because of some of the financial implications.

 
  
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  Bogdan Golik, on behalf of the PSE Group. (PL) Mr President, Mr President, in my view the time of this session speaks volumes about the EU’s relations with the new Member States. It is ten to midnight. We are discussing the important issue of the new Member States joining the common agricultural policy, which is the European Union’s only common policy.

Above all, I would like to congratulate Csaba Tabajdi for his initiative in preparing a report on the effects of the inclusion of the new Member States in the CAP, and for his many months of hard work on a subject which is so important to us, the new Member States.

The experience of our first years of membership has revealed many positive aspects of integration, which include more dynamic social change in rural areas, better quality and safer food, improved animal welfare, and increased exports. However, we must bear in mind that, in the years preceding their accession to the EU, the agricultural sector in the new Member States operated on a completely different basis from the farming sector in the old Fifteen, with no direct subsidies or any instruments guaranteeing stable production.

This makes it all the more unfair and unreasonable that the decision has been made to allocate lower rates of direct subsidies to the new Member States than are awarded to the farmers of the old European Union, while the inadequate production quotas have negative consequences for the competitiveness of farmers in the new Member States, but not in the old ones.

For this reason it is important that, when we assess the present form, and discuss the future of the European model of agriculture in 2008-2009, we concentrate in particular on trying to bring them more in line with the realities and the expectations of society in these countries.

 
  
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  Tchetin Kazak, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by thanking Mr Tabajdi for the excellent work he has done as rapporteur.

I read the content of his report with great interest: I found it very instructive for my country, Bulgaria, and indicative, too, of the difficulties that the ten new Member States have had to face upon coming into contact, for the first time, with the CAP.

During the pre-accession period, Bulgaria, like the ten other acceding countries, made significant efforts to transpose the acquis communautaire and to establish the institutional framework needed to apply the CAP. The partnership programmes funded by the European Union were of precious help in the achievement of that objective.

However, it must be said that the farmers and the rural society in Bulgaria are unprepared for the new possibilities and challenges that have emerged. The European Union has granted aid to develop the agricultural sector in my country. However, the complexity of the requirements that had to be met and the delay in decision-making have meant that the start of the SAPARD programme has been considerably delayed and that a substantial amount of the allocations will be used only after accession.

With the help of direct payments, rural development measures and State aid agricultural schemes, Bulgaria, like the ten new Member States, can establish a system that is better suited to the development of its agriculture and rural society. However, certain rules need to be simplified further.

Finally, we, in Bulgaria, as in the ten other countries, regret the gradual way in which the direct payments are being introduced. However, we obviously do not want to undermine them, because this is an irrevocable commitment, laid down in the accession treaty.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I suggest that you adopt this own-initiative report by Mr Tabajdi, for I believe that it is very objective, that it takes a benevolent approach to accounting for the difficulties faced by the ten new Member States and that it issues recommendations that are designed to help reform the CAP more effectively.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, Mr Tabajdi’s report has provided a rosy view of the effects of EU enlargement. Although I agree that enlargement has indeed had some positive effects for the new as well as the old Member States, there is another, less optimistic side to the coin.

The European Union we live in is not the same as the one we joined. We joined a Union which was a kind of farming fan club, whereas now it is a Union that is phasing out farming, step by step. All of the so-called reforms of the sugar, fruit, vegetable, wine or tobacco markets have one purpose only – to encourage farmers to produce less, or preferably nothing at all. Fewer agricultural products result in fewer problems for the bureaucrats.

We joined the European Union hoping that, together with the old Member States, we would develop our agricultural sector. Instead, we find ourselves in a Union where, together with the old Member States, we are starting to wind it down. We are party to a short-sighted policy which is damaging European food security. This policy must be changed, as Europe will become hungry, and a hungry Europe will not be capable of further integration.

 
  
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  Dumitru Gheorghe Mircea Coşea, în numele grupului ITS. – Domnule Preşedinte, doamnă comisar, apreciez raportul domnului Tabajdi, deşi acesta nu cuprinde niciun aspect legat de o ţară mai nouă, ca de exemplu România. Este un raport care reprezintă o lecţie pentru noile state membre şi aş vrea să subliniez un lucru care ne interesează foarte mult, şi anume că politica agricolă comună ar trebui să fie mai flexibilă în ceea ce priveşte specificul şi trăsăturile acestor două noi ţări membre, România şi Bulgaria.

România are o tradiţie în agricultură, dar şi moşteniri comuniste care o fac să aibă un mare decalaj faţă de agricultura europeană. De aceea, cred că dacă această politică agricolă comună europeană s-ar apleca mai mult asupra trăsăturilor specifice României, am putea să eliminăm mai repede aceste decalaje.

Sugerez doamnei comisar, precum şi autorului acestui raport, pe care îl felicit încă o dată, să se aplece asupra a trei propuneri pe care doresc să le fac: în primul rând, să se acorde o mai mare atenţie organizaţiilor de agricultori şi patronale din agricultură, deoarece în aceste noi ţări membre, ele sunt încă la început. În al doilea rând şi foarte important, să se acorde atenţie prevenirii riscurilor în agricultură, riscuri care sunt în ultimul timp majore din punct de vedere climatic, al catastrofelor naturale şi chiar al unor disfuncţionalităţi ale pieţei. Şi, în al treilea rând, un lucru important este sprijinirea proiectelor de dezvoltare rurală, mai ales în zonele frontaliere, pentru că avem de învăţat de la ţările care au o tradiţie mai îndelungată decât noi în cooperare.

 
  
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  Peter Baco (NI). – (SK) I appreciate the initiative and the enormous amount of work carried out by the rapporteur. The report openly highlights the discriminatory effect of the common agricultural policy on agriculture in the new Member States. However, in the interest of ensuring the passage of this report, its wording has been drafted to suggest something bordering on an idyll. The argument that both old and new Member States should be happy, since the new Member States are receiving more funding and the old ones have gained a major share of their food market in return, simply does not hold water. The fact that part of the European Union is consistently declining while the rest is expanding contravenes not only the letter but also the spirit of the common agricultural policy and principles of the European Union. During the accession process the agriculture sectors of the EU-15 were growing, while in the new Member States agricultural output had declined by one-third. It is not true that this was due to the failure of farmers in the new Member States to adapt to the market. It was due to political reasons. The worst thing is that this decimation of agriculture in the new Member States has in fact been imbedded forever in the form of the so-called historical reference points that have been used to set support parameters for the new Member States in a discriminatory fashion.

The conflicting effects of the common agricultural policy on the old and new Member States have also persisted following Slovakia’s EU accession. This can be seen in the effects of the most recently adopted commodity reforms, and is also demonstrated by the dramatic increase in food imports to the new Member States. Last year Slovakia alone saw a 60% increase in food imports compared to the year before. Moreover, the 2020 scenario projects that the new Member States will remain a basis of raw materials for the production of feed for animal husbandry and for biomass in the energy sector. The added value under this scenario will be created in the EU-15.

The message of the report is therefore clear. Commissioner, I wish you would see it in that light, not in the way you demonstrated in your statement. It is necessary to reform internal competition between the old and new Member States within the Union in order to yield genuinely common and uniform procedures for all EU states and an increase in the global competitiveness of the EU agricultural sector. We should primarily focus on lower costs, higher quality and effective marketing.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, three years have already passed since the major enlargement of the European Union involving ten new Member States, all of which have a highly differentiated agriculture, which has had to be restructured at a very high cost.

As far as agriculture is concerned, the European Union did not propose good conditions for the integration of the new Member States. The production quotas are too low, and direct subsidies started at 25% of what the old Fifteen were getting.

Unfavourable changes to the CAP were introduced in June 2003 in Luxembourg, at a meeting of agricultural ministers of the old Fifteen, when we did not yet have the right to vote. All of this has had the effect of slowing down agricultural restructuring in the new countries, even though the positive results, it must be stressed, are visible.

The report presented is excessively optimistic and says too little about problems and difficulties and too much about successes. Further work is necessary within the context of next year’s CAP review.

 
  
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  Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, in adapting to the CAP rules, the new Member States have incurred high social and economic costs. These costs arose as a result of historical conditions, but also of the lower direct subsidies than those received by the old Member States, and the marked unwillingness of the Commission and the Council to give the new members any help. Soft fruits, the Russian and Ukrainian embargo on Polish exports and honey imports from third countries are cases in point.

This experience raises a number of questions. Is there actually such a thing as a common agricultural policy? If so, why do the new Member States not receive the aid owing to them, not only on the external markets, but also on the internal market? Why has the market been opened to GM products, which are driving out healthy, organic products from the new Member States? And what will happen to the family-run farms that form the backbone of the farming system in many regions of the European Union, and which are now on the verge of bankruptcy?

 
  
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  Димитър Стоянов (ITS). – Не съм мислил, че ще го кажа, но съм напълно съгласен с изказването на г-н Казак, с малкото допълнение, че в продължение на шест години Министерството на земеделието в България се държи от министър от неговата партия. Защо не направихте така, г-н Казак, че българските производители да знаят как да си поискат парите, които им се полагат от Европейския съюз. Десет години българите бяха подлъгвани с благините, които ги чакат в Евросъюза, а вместо това накрая получиха жестоки квоти и ужасна бюрокрация, която заплашва напълно да унищожи дребните производители в България. Докато общата земеделска политика не бъде направена така, че да може да достига до всички обикновени хора, без излишни административни пречки, аз в никакъв случай не мога да нарека тази политика обща.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (ITS).(DE) Mr President, allow me finally, at midnight, to make a few brief comments. Today, in my opinion, we have to be more careful than ever before that our agricultural structures remain intact and that we remain self-sufficient. We must also recognise that we are faced with a major new challenge because of the fact that older farmers are continually dying and that whole swathes of our countryside are threatened with depopulation because of migration from the land. Furthermore, we need to ensure that we respect the wishes of that 70% of the EU population that is opposed to genetically modified food. Finally, in connection with the new EU Member States, we need to proceed sensitively and bear in mind that, thanks to EU accession, agricultural products from these countries often prove to be export hits, but this leads to supply bottlenecks in the home country and ruinous price wars in the country of destination.

 
  
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  Mariann Fischer Boel, Member of the Commission. First of all, on the issue of whether the timing of this debate reflects the importance of the inclusion of the new Member States, I can only say that this House is responsible for its own scheduling. I could say clearly that I would have preferred it to have taken place earlier this evening as well, but I have to defer to Parliament’s scheduling.

The phasing-in of direct payment was an issue raised by almost all of you. It is mentioned in several paragraphs in the report as well. I would like to explain that the phasing-in was not introduced solely for budgetary reasons. In the run-up to accession, the Commission made a thorough analysis of all the relevant factors. Based on this, the accession strategy for the common agricultural policy was based on economic, social and ecological factors. It was also necessary to boost the essential restructuring in the new Member States. This was not a decision that was taken in the Council of the 15 Member States. This was a decision that was taken in Copenhagen in 2002 with all the new Member States participating in the discussions on the phasing-in of the direct payments. So everybody was around the table.

So, on the statement that our own reforms are doing away with agriculture, I have to tell you clearly that it is actually to ensure that there will be a future for European agriculture, and I am sure that if we work together in Parliament, the Council and the Commission, we can create a future for European agriculture with all the strength that our sector has for delivering the high-quality products that we will need for the future, and I think that the example of the imports of frozen strawberries from China is an example where, when we join together, we can find decent solutions.

Discrimination in the common agricultural policy was mentioned as well within the wine and food sector. Come on! I think that we have tried to find a solution that can enable the new Member States to go together in the producer organisations in the fruit and vegetable sector by giving a higher co-financing percentage to the new Member States, by encouraging their sectors, their fruit and vegetable producers, to join these producer organisations so that they can be much stronger in their competition with the big retail sectors.

So, instead of quarrelling, let us stick together and find decent solutions for the common agricultural policy within the European Union.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

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

Written statements (Rule 142 of the Rules of Procedure)

 
  
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  Joseph Muscat (PSE), in writing. (MT) In Malta, farmers and villagers are also victims of the deceitful ways of the Nationalist Government.

Prior to Malta’s accession to the European Union, the Maltese Government gave these categories of people the impression that, if a problem arose due to the import of foreign products during the first five years of membership, the government would have the right to bar the entry of those products. This is granted under the so-called Safeguard Clause.

The Labour Party immediately stated that this was not the case. We explained that the Safeguard Clause could only be used in exceptional and extremely limited circumstances.

Above all, the Maltese Government cannot decide, of its own free will, to use this clause. Instead, it would have to refer to the European Commission first, which would then take the decision.

Now, the Maltese Government has changed its tune.

Despite the constant complaints on the part of farmers and villagers, the Maltese Government is claiming that it must apply to the European Commission for permission to use the Safeguard Clause and that there is not a strong enough case for its doing so. The Commission is saying the same thing.

Time has proved the Labour Party right.

 
  
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  Witold Tomczak (IND/DEM) , in writing. – (PL) In 2004, the European Union undertook the biggest and most significant enlargement in its history. It is therefore important to carry out an initial assessment of this fact. The point is whether this assessment will be as truthful as possible, or distorted, as it is important for the future of agriculture in the EU.

Whilst I acknowledge the enormous task faced by the rapporteur, I cannot agree with the wording of all the compromise amendments. You can not argue with figures. And these clearly show that the new Member States have been cheated. Official EU statistics reveal this fact. I would just like to quote the figures for expenditure on agricultural and rural development per hectare of arable land in 2007 and 2013.

2007: EU-10: 147.8 €/ha EU-15: 365.7 €/ha

2013: EU-10: 251.5 €/ha EU-15: 327.6 €/ha

Source: ‘Financial Perspective 2007-2013: EP Working Document No 9 EP of 2.12.2004’ and ‘The CAP Explained’. EC DG for Agriculture, October 2004.

The poorer countries, in order to bring their economic development levels in line with that of the wealthier EU states, have received, are receiving and will receive less financial support from the Community budget! The CAP, in its present form, contradicts its own aims and principles.

In light of the above general assessment, I appeal to you to vote according to your consciences and your sense of responsibility for the future of European agriculture.

 

22. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes

23. Closure of sitting
  

(The sitting was closed at 12.05 a.m.)

 
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