Verbatim report of proceedings
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Monday, 21 May 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Resumption of the session
 2. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes
 3. Membership of Parliament: see Minutes
 4. Signature of acts adopted under codecision: see Minutes
 5. Establishing a green hydrogen economy and a third industrial revolution in Europe (written statement): see Minutes
 6. Documents received: see Minutes
 7. Texts of agreements forwarded by the Council: see Minutes
 8. Oral questions and written statements (tabling): see Minutes
 9. Written statements (Rule 116): see Minutes
 10. Petitions: see Minutes
 11. Transfers of appropriations: see Minutes
 12. Declaration of financial interests: see Minutes
 13. Order of business
 14. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
 15. The exclusion of health services from the Services Directive (debate)
 16. Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 (debate)
 17. Financial Instrument for the Environment (LIFE+) (debate)
 18. Environmental quality standards in the field of water policy (debate)
 19. Combating violence (Daphne III programme) (debate)
 20. Structural policies and EU cohesion (debate)
 21. Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EC and Denmark and Greenland (debate)
 22. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes
 23. Closure of sitting



(The sitting was opened at 5.00 p.m.)

1. Resumption of the session

  President. I declare resumed the session suspended on Thursday 10 May 2007.


2. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes

3. Membership of Parliament: see Minutes

4. Signature of acts adopted under codecision: see Minutes

5. Establishing a green hydrogen economy and a third industrial revolution in Europe (written statement): see Minutes

6. Documents received: see Minutes

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

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

9. Written statements (Rule 116): see Minutes

10. Petitions: see Minutes

11. Transfers of appropriations: see Minutes

12. Declaration of financial interests: see Minutes

13. Order of business

  President. The final draft of the agenda for this sitting, as agreed by the Conference of Presidents meeting on Wednesday, 16 May 2007, in accordance with Rules 130 and 131 of the Rules of Procedure, has been circulated. It has been requested that the draft be amended as follows:


The Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance has moved that the final vote on Mrs Aubert’s report (A6-0061/2007) on organic production and labelling of organic products be deferred to the June part-session in Strasbourg.


  Monica Frassoni, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would just like to clarify our request to postpone the vote until the June part-session. Our request is made for reasons of ‘legislative technique’, a somewhat mysterious term meaning that, in our opinion, postponing the vote for a few weeks could help our institution to negotiate an outcome that is positive, or at least more positive than the situation that would arise if we were to vote on this draft tomorrow. As you are aware, this issue holds great importance for the citizens. For this reason we have called for the legal basis supported by Parliament as a whole to be changed. I call on my fellow MEPs to support our request for postponement of the vote, rather than referring the draft back to committee.


  President. I take it that this justification was also an argument in favour of the motion, so now we need someone to put the case against it.


  Struan Stevenson, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. Mr President, much as I hate to disagree with Mrs Frassoni, we deferred the Aubert report at the last part-session and sent it back to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. There seems to be little chance of achieving a legal base and for that reason all of the coordinators, bar the Verts/ALE Group, agreed that this matter should go to the final vote during this part-session – that vote is due to take place tomorrow. I have to ask my colleagues and all the other Groups who agreed through their coordinators in committee that we reject this proposal from the Verts/ALE Group and that we have the final vote tomorrow.


(Parliament rejected the motion.)


  President. The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats and the Socialist Group in the European Parliament have requested that the debate on the statements by the Council and the Commission on the situation in Palestine should not be concluded by the submission of motions for a resolution.


  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, last time round, our group was very clear in expressing its position on the Palestine issue, particularly as regards the recognition of the Palestinian Government.

I do believe, though, that, in difficult times such as these, we in this House have to start by finding a line on which we can all agree, and for that there have not yet been enough talks, while, moreover, events in Palestine are threatening to overtake us, so that we are in a situation in which a half-baked resolution without any really broad basis would certainly not help, particularly when there is a visit by you in the offing, and so I propose that the resolution be withdrawn for these reasons – not out of any change of opinion on our part, but rather because we want to find sufficient time for talks with the other groups.


  Francis Wurtz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(FR) Mr President, I am not entirely opposed to the request.

Admittedly, I regret that we cannot have a resolution and that we cannot adopt the very constructive resolution on which the Conference of Presidents reached an agreement on Wednesday. I do, however, understand Mr Swoboda’s argument.

If I express a few regrets, it is simply because this is exactly the message that we need, so that we can address it to this people and give it back a bit of hope and breathe a bit of life back into what remains of its very fragile institutions.

I am therefore in favour of Mr Swoboda’s proposal, but I propose that the Conference of Presidents examine calmly, on Thursday, how we might mark the 40th anniversary of Resolution 242, since the mini-session will coincide exactly with this 40th anniversary. I suggest that the consensus that we have managed to build together on this major issue at the Conference of Presidents should also be formalised on the occasion of this 40th anniversary.


(Parliament adopted the motion.)

(The agenda was therefore adopted.)


14. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance

  President. We now come to the one-minute speeches on important political issues.


  Edit Bauer (PPE-DE). – Mr President, at the end of August 2006 a Hungarian student in Slovakia was beaten. On her blouse the offenders wrote two slogans, well known from the period after the Second World War, when Hungarians were expelled from Slovakia on the basis of collective guilt: ‘Hungarians go back over the Danube’, and ‘Slovakia without parasites’. At the time, the Slovak Prime Minister said that such a thing could have happened anywhere in the world.

After a very strange two-week investigation, the Minister of the Interior announced to the media that nothing had happened and the whole story had been made up by the student herself. They indicated that she might be accused of giving false testimony. Last week that happened. It is a real shock for Hungarians living in Slovakia.

The victim and the students and teacher who witnessed her situation after the offence are now standing up to the police, which accused her, and to the Government, which humiliated her.

The first two elements making up the area of freedom, security and justice failed. The case will certainly be a test of justice. Of course, it is doubtful: will the court rule against the Police Corps and the Government?


  Gary Titley (PSE). – Mr President, 18 days ago a 3-year-old girl, Madeleine McCann, of British parents, was abducted from her hotel in Portugal. So far, despite extensive police searches, she has not been found. There has been extensive coverage of this in the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain, but I am not sure that there has been coverage in other Member States. The suspicion is that she has been abducted and transported out of Portugal.

Firstly, I hope I speak on behalf of this House in expressing our sympathy to the family, but I would also ask that all national authorities give publicity to this case. As we know, there is a serious danger of there being trafficking in minors and we would hope this is not the case in Madeleine’s case, but we would urge all national authorities to be on the alert to see if we can possibly find this girl before anything serious happens to her.


  Toomas Savi (ALDE). – Mr President, I would like to draw attention to the recent Estonia-Russia issue. Even after the support that Estonia has received from the European Parliament and EU Member States, the Russian Federation has not taken any steps to end its systematic cyber-attacks blocking official communication lines and Estonian administration websites.

These attacks are still going on. They have been organised mostly from outside Estonia and are coming from Russian administration IP addresses. Also, intensive propaganda attacks have continued via Internet and mobile telephone messages calling for armed resistance and further violence. These messages are broadcast even on television and through other media channels.

The Estonian Government has tried to solve the issue and has been very active in communication, but we have received no cooperation and no willingness for dialogue from the Russian side.


  Leopold Józef Rutowicz (UEN). – (PL) Ladies and gentlemen, in two days’ time we shall be voting on the directive concerning roaming. I should like to emphasise that this is the type of directive that affects every citizen of the European Union, as most citizens in the Union own a mobile telephone.

The adoption of the directive will undoubtedly be hailed a great success. Nonetheless, it seems to be just one small step in the right direction. A start has been made, however, and we are trying to become more citizen-friendly.

I would like to suggest that roaming should be the subject of some kind of broader consultation. In Germany, for example, roaming affects around 100 million people, whereas in small countries like Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, roaming only affects, let us say, a couple of million people. This is unfair, and I therefore believe that despite the step forward that adoption of the directive in question would represent, we should consider the longer term and how to lift roaming barriers between countries.


  Milan Horáček (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, by, so to speak, disinviting His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Belgium has, for the second time, given way to Chinese pressure in an unacceptable manner. Taking as its pretext a visit by a trade delegation in June led by the Crown Prince, the government has demonstrated its willingness to engage in economic opportunism at the cost of European values. Neither the EU nor its Member States should allow themselves to be deterred from welcoming certain public figures by authorities – such as those in China – that abuse human rights so flagrantly. The people of Tibet are being suppressed, with thousands of them fleeing every year at the greatest risk to themselves. The interference by the Chinese authorities in the affairs of an EU Member State is an outrage and one that is deserving of the utmost condemnation. We should make it clear that we dissociate ourselves from the Belgian action and put on record our support for the initiative by Walloon parliamentarians who are trying to have an invitation extended once more to His Holiness to visit Belgium. We bid the Dalai Lama welcome to Europe!


  President. I would inform you, Mr Horáček, that I wrote a letter to the Belgian Prime Minister asking him to elucidate this matter, and I should like, quite officially, to inform this House that, when the President of the European Parliament invites someone for talks, as I did the Dalai Lama – since I wanted to meet him and talk with him – and this is made impossible through the refusal of a visa, this touches upon our rights as Europe’s legislature, and it is something that we must not be willing to accept. While I am awaiting, in the first instance, a reply from the Belgian Prime Minister, I do take the view that we must, in this matter, stand up for our own rights and hence for the rights of others.



  Thomas Mann (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Mr Horáček has just given voice to forthright and justified criticism of the Belgian Government’s weak-kneed attitude towards the Chinese when the Dalai Lama was compelled to cancel his attendance at the International Conference on Tibet on 11 May, one consequence of which was that the audience planned with MEPs belonging to the Tibet Intergroup had to be cancelled.

On the following day – 12 May – I had the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama in Leipzig at the presentation of a prize for peace optimism and civic spirit, when I told him how outraged I was at the way in which the Belgian Government had behaved.

I should like expressly to thank you, Mr President, for your intervention. This House of ours is recognised around the world as the voice of human rights, and at no time will we allow ourselves to be deterred from speaking up for them, not even by economic pressure.


  Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, I would like to talk about the latest illegal immigration crisis in the Canary Islands: some 750 illegal immigrants have reached our coasts. This has come at a time when FRONTEX border control operations have been interrupted.

The Spanish Government has responded urgently by returning all of these immigrants to their countries of origin, but we must insist on Mr Frattini’s promise that FRONTEX and HERA operations would be of a permanent nature. We cannot leave everything in the hands of one government, since the issue of illegal immigration affects the whole of the European Union.


  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE). (HU) It is now the sixth year that Austria has been contaminating Hungary’s only wild river, the Rába. When the residents, civil organisations, local mayors, ministers, Members of European Parliament, and even the president of Hungary protested, the Austrian authorities had the audacity to claim that they are following the EU rules to the letter, thereby putting the problem of the foaming river squarely onto Brussels and onto us, the European Parliament.

I personally am well acquainted with the European Union’s legislation on environmental protection, but I am not aware that we ever passed any regulation allowing chemicals to be poured into a river. I do not recall any wish on the part of Europe to see wildlife die out in freshwater bodies, or that there should be foam floating on top of them that causes skin diseases in our children. Anyone who claims that these are EU regulations is lying.

The Austrian ministries should not point their fingers at Brussels, or write memos against the Czech nuclear energy plant at Temelin, but instead should stop their own environmental pollution.


  Glyn Ford (PSE). – Mr President, on Wednesday the British Government will publish its energy Green Paper, which was leaked over the weekend in Britain’s press – in particular The Independent on Sunday.

If those reports are accurate, the nuclear industry will be raised from the dead in the name of environmental protection, but, more importantly for Europe, there will be a commitment to the first big sustainable non-CO2-emitting energy scheme in Europe, namely the Severn tidal barrage. This, at a cost of EUR 15 to 20 billion, will produce up to 8% of Britain’s energy needs, control the consequences of climate change in the estuary, provide much needed employment in the south-west and Wales, bring new roads and railway crossing points and will be an enormous boost to the local economy’s water-based leisure activities. I hope we can welcome this on behalf of Europe.


  Eduard Raul Hellvig (ALDE). – Intervenţia mea are în vedere deschiderea fluvială a canalului Bâstroe şi a problemelor pe care le creează această deschidere.

La 14 mai 2007, Ucraina a deschis această cale navigabilă, care practic străbate una dintre cele mai mari rezervaţii ale biosferei din Europa, Rezervaţia Naturală Delta Dunării. Este un spaţiu care adăposteşte mii de specii de păsări, plante şi animale, dintre care unele sunt rare sau pe cale de dispariţie. Aşa cum rezultă din studiile de impact făcute de diverse organizaţii interguvernamentale şi de mediu internaţionale, consecinţele construirii canalului nu sunt doar individuale sau bilaterale (mă refer aici la pagube ecologice, economice şi culturale produse ţării noastre). Totuşi, efectele sunt şi europene, şi globale, şi aceasta fiindcă vorbim de consecinţe ecologice negative, care aduc atingere principiilor care definesc conceptul de dezvoltare durabilă. Dacă dorim ca până în anul 2010 să asistăm la o diminuare a gradului de distrugere a biodiversităţii în Europa, este imperativă armonizarea intereselor economice cu protecţia biodiversităţii. Până nu este prea târziu, chestiunea canalului Bâstroe trebuie abordată ţinând seama de responsabilitatea ce ne revine faţă de generaţiile viitoare. În interacţiunea dintre om şi mediu, natura nu trebuie sacrificată, fiindcă anumite pierderi sunt ireversibile.


  Ryszard Czarnecki (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the international selection process to choose the host town for the EXPO 2012 international exhibition has entered a crucial stage. The decision will be announced in Paris in November of this year. Three countries have reached the final stage of the competition, namely South Korea in Asia, Morocco in Africa and Poland in Europe. My home town, Wrocław, represents Europe.

As I address this Chamber, I should like to appeal for European solidarity and call on all the 27 Member States entitled to vote to support Wrocław’s bid. Wrocław is the only European candidate city.

This would be a good example of the European solidarity that is so often referred to in the European Parliament. Should my country and my home town of Wrocław be successful, it would also be much easier for many Europeans to visit this fascinating exhibition. Our citizens would have a far shorter journey to Poland than they would to Korea. I therefore urge the House to actively support Wrocław’s bid to host EXPO 2012.


  Monica Frassoni (Verts/ALE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, my fellow MEPs have clearly spoken of serious and complicated matters. I would like to draw attention to and pose a question on a subject that seems to me to be particularly relevant today, given that the entire afternoon will be given over to discussing environmental issues: that is the question of bicycles used by this Parliament; at 2.20 p.m. there were none left! I would like to invite you, Mr President, to ask the Bureau to increase the number of bicycles available to us all, MEPs and staff alike; it would be a very simple way to be consistent with our targets on cutting emissions!


  President. If those who have asked for bicycles to be acquired actually ride around on them, we will be able to give more consideration to the idea. We will be discussing it.


  Georgios Karatzaferis (IND/DEM).(EL) Mr President, if someone appeared in your constituency and took your name and stood as a candidate against you with your name, would it not bother you? I think it would bother anyone.

That is what is happening today with Vardaska, which has taken the name Macedonia, an historic name which this country, Greece, has had for the last three thousand years. Then yesterday, the US president came along and said off his own bat, ‘I decide and order to give the name…’, without asking Europe.

We Greeks are bothered by this. We Greeks have always been a nation, a country which has given everything to Europe: we have given it the Olympic Games, philosophy, ancient theatre, whatever we were asked for; we gave it civilisation.

Europe cannot therefore insult us, put us down and humiliate us today. Everyone needs to understand that this is a delicate issue.

I have maps I can send you from the last century, which call the area Vardaska. Ask any philately company and they will show you stamps with the name Vardaska. They must not take our history, our heroes, Alexander the Great and Philippos.

Greece will not allow it and you will push us to extremes that Europe does not need to see now.


  Димитър Стоянов (ITS). – Г-н председател, през април 1876 г. българският народ въстана, за да отхвърли турското робство. Скоро град Батак се присъедини към това всенародно въстание. В началото на май турските милиции, наречени "башибозук", избиха 8000 от деветхилядното население на града, като на 17 май 1876 г. избиха 3000 жени, деца и старци, събрани и укрили се в черквата на града.

Международна европейска анкетна комисия установи тези зверства, които бяха извършени в Батак и другите въстанали градове като Перущица, Копривщица, Котел, Клисура и други. Тази комисия беше председателствана от американския журналист-кореспондент на британски вестници Макгахан, който описа тези зверства в своята книга "Турските зверства в България".

Днес, обаче, има опити този геноцид да бъде отречен, да бъде заличен. Затова мен политическата коректност ме кара да стана и да кажа тук пред всички, че ще внеса писмена декларация, в която искам Парламентът да признае този геноцид над българите и да заклейми всеки един опит той да бъде отречен.


  László Surján (PPE-DE). (HU) (The MEP did not turn on his microphone at the beginning of his speech, and therefore the beginning of the Minutes is incomplete.)

... the average wage is less than EUR 500 per month, and the minimum wage is under EUR 280. The low wage level is a legacy of the socialist planned economy, and represents a distinctive form of state debt. In the past, instead of wages the state provided a great many things free or very cheaply, and health care, for instance, was even the subject of a constitutional guarantee.

Since 1990, the profit from unpaid wages no longer goes to the community, but to the employers. They are not obliged to use the extra profit for the common good. Services have a market price, but the wage levels have not changed. The beneficiaries of the situation are the state, the employers and the countries which welcome workers fleeing the low wages. The problem affects us as well, since there cannot be any other solution than for the new Member States to catch up quickly – for our cohesion policy to succeed – something that needs to be sped up further.




  Georgios Papastamkos (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, the Commission recently announced improvements to the restructuring regime in the sugar sector, recognising that attractive incentives had not been given to non-competitive producers to abandon this sector.

There is a new proposal, therefore, and its purpose is to reduce sugar production in the European Union to acceptable levels, as the Commission maintains. I would remind you that the European Parliament asked for 50% of aid for restructuring per tonne of quota dismantled to be given to producers.

At the same time, the Commission should prepare a specific programme to increase the rate of use of biofuels by providing alternative ways out of the sugar sector and effectively supporting energy crops in the European Union.

One last thought: as the recent decision by the Court of Justice confirms for the cotton regime, the Commission needs to evaluate extensively the repercussions of the proposed reforms. It has been confirmed that it did not do so in the case of the restructuring of the sugar regime.


  Marc Tarabella (PSE) .(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to deplore the fact that Commissioner Michel has requested, and been granted, permission to take leave so that he can stand as a candidate for the Senate in Belgium. In doing so, he is entering into the national political campaign fight, while his appointment as a European Commissioner should have placed him beyond any political divisions. I therefore strongly condemn the lack of consideration that he is showing towards his very important role as European Commissioner. Furthermore, this negative attitude unfortunately reflects on the way in which the Commission operates.

Moreover, France’s new immigration minister, Brice Hortefeux, stated during an interview with the French journalist, Jean-Pierre Elkabach, broadcast on Europe 1 at 8.15 a.m. on 21 May, that he would not conduct his immigration policy – I quote – ‘unless it was in harmony with European policy’ and that he would meet with Commissioner Michel on this subject next week. Clearly, the situation that the Commission – and especially Commissioner Michel – find themselves in is ambiguous to say the least.

I believe that the Commission should authorise Commissioners to stand as candidates in the European elections only, or in elections that coincide with the end of their mandate, and this, in an effort to rule out such ambiguities. I shall, moreover, be putting a written question to the Commission along these lines.


  Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE).(FR) Madam President, I am taking the floor on the subject of Africa in order to draw to your attention to the fact that it was too late to table an urgent resolution.

I should therefore like to draw the MEPs’ attention to the situation in the north of Mali and the north of Niger, which is developing to the detriment of the Tuareg populations. Indeed, we can still prevent a major conflict and a war in this region where, today, the situation is deteriorating terribly, in spite of the Algiers agreements and the forum that took place in March in Kidal. The Tuaregs laid down their weapons on 9 March and, today, the Malian army is occupying the water points and certain villages while fresh troops are arriving from the south.

Madam President, I believe that we need to intervene before a war breaks out in this part of Africa, at a time when the Algerian mediator is absent. Therefore, I would ask that you put an urgent request to the Commission and to the Presidency of the Council with the aim of having a troika speak to the Malian authorities so that they agree to return to the negotiating table with the Tuareg parties for the purposes of discussing the implementation of the Algiers agreements again.

As far as Niger is concerned, the situation of the Tuaregs is no better because they are being exploited by companies engaged in uranium extraction, an activity from which the Tuaregs derive no benefit whatsoever.


  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Madam President, the recent freak nationalist demonstrations, largely organised and supported by the Turkish army, are regrettably beginning to be exported from Turkey to the Turkish-army occupied northern part of Cyprus. Such a demonstration took place last Saturday in the Turkish-army occupied Cypriot town of Morfou. Extreme nationalist organisations such as the so-called ‘Grey Wolves’ held banners saying ‘We are not Cypriots; we are Turkish’, ‘Cyprus is Turkish and so it will remain for ever’ and ‘Oh, what a great blessing it is to be Turkish!’.

It is noted that this demonstration happened while the Turkish army and navy were illegally holding military exercises in the northern part of Cyprus. It is evident that the Turkish army generals are now attempting once again to frighten and intimidate the Cypriot population – both of Turkish and of Greek origin – in order to promote their political aims in Turkey. The recent warning message sent by the President of Parliament to the army chiefs in Ankara was timely and proper. In view of the aforementioned developments, I call upon the President to send a second message emphasising the need for the Turkish army generals to stop their policy of promoting intimidation and nationalistic hatred on the island of Cyprus.


  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE). – (PL) The European Union gave a display of unity at the Samara Summit. This is to be welcomed and bodes well for the future, but the question arises as to how long-lasting such a policy will prove to be over the years to come.

Russia possesses abundant energy resources. Might this not create the conditions that would allow the European Union to be divided into so-called better and worse partners according to Russian criteria?

Is our memory so short that we have already forgotten about the gas pipeline to be laid along the bed of the Baltic Sea? It is a pity the European Union was not united on that issue, but individual Member States’ interests were too great and too contradictory for unity to be achieved.

All too often we talk of unity or compromise as it suits us. This does not augur well for the future of a European Constitutional Treaty.

Nonetheless, we should rejoice in what we have achieved.


  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL).(PT) Madam President, I should like to take this opportunity to salute the struggle of the Portuguese workers and their union confederation, the CGTP-IN, which will be holding a general strike in Portugal on 30 May. Portuguese workers are fighting against rising unemployment, against increasingly unstable and flexible work and so-called flexicurity, against the devaluation of salaries and against the dramatic increase in inequality and poverty; and they are fighting for jobs with rights, for collective contracts, for salary increases and for fair distribution of wealth.

Portuguese workers are fighting to defend public services, health, education, justice, social security and the public administration of these services. Portuguese workers are fighting against policies aimed at dismantling manufacturing infrastructure, at stopping public investment and at prioritising the increasing profits of the large economic and financial groups ahead of the country’s economic needs.


  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, I too should like to add my weak voice to that of all the European citizens who, seeing that the dream of a pan-European Treaty, a Treaty of the European Union, is reviving, would like to see a reference in it to the historical truth of the origin of Europe.

They would like it stated that the roots of our civilisation are in the ancient Greco-Roman civilisation and in the Christian values which have become universal values under other names.

This record of historical truth does not conflict with religious tolerance or with liberal ideas which, as Europeans, we all have.


  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (PSE). (HU) The events of the past few weeks, the EU-Russia summit, the Russian attacks on Estonia, and the divergent interpretations of the victory day observed on 9 May have brought to light that there are not only economic and social differences between the new and the old Member States, but that these countries also experienced the events following the Second World War in different ways.

For most of Western Europe, the victory of the anti-fascist Allies, among them the victory of the Soviet Union, unambiguously represented liberation, while in Central Europe and in the Baltic states, liberation from Nazism brought with it a lasting Soviet occupation, dictatorship, and in certain cases meant the beginning of mass reprisals.

Relations between the EU and Russia cannot be held hostage to historical grievances, but to this end, Russia must change its foreign policy, and cannot behave aggressively with Estonia and other EU Member States. The new Member States, for their part, must move beyond their historical grievances.


  Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, the principle of multilingualism is one of the pillars of the European Union. What this means is that each of the 23 official languages has the same standing, that is to say, it enjoys equal status with respect to the remaining languages. It also means that citizens have the right to information on the European Union in their mother tongue.

To date, the way the European Commission has allocated funding to information policy contradicts the aforementioned principle. One example of this is the Euronews television channel, which is supported from the European Union’s budget. All Member States contribute to the budget, but broadcasts are only made in six official languages.

In my view, the stance on multilingualism should be firm and consistent, and no language should be discriminated against. It is our duty to nurture Europe’s national languages as they embody our identity, richness and beauty in diversity.


  Monica Maria Iacob-Ridzi (PPE-DE). – Electoratul român i-a acordat sâmbătă Preşedintelui României, domnul Traian Băsescu, o încredere covârşitoare, aproape 75% din opţiuni, cu 1 milion de voturi mai mult decât la alegerea sa din 2004. Alianţa politică nefirească, care a plănuit şi a dus la capăt suspendarea în Parlament a preşedintelui, se vede redusă la o susţinere populară de 25%, o cifră infimă pentru un bloc format din cinci partide. Politica acestei alianţe pro-demitere a fost una profund imorală şi antieuropeană, vechii comunişti au mers umăr la umăr cu noii liberali, stânga şi-a organizat mitingurile antiprezidenţiale împreună cu partidul de extremă dreapta România Mare, lucru de neconceput la nivelul familiilor politice europene din care acestea fac parte, şi anume Socialiştii Europeni şi Identitate, Tradiţie şi Suveranitate. Această confruntare a consumat multe energii, iar guvernul actual a sacrificat alegerile pentru Parlamentul European pentru a face loc acestui referendum. Rezultatul referendumului din România transmite însă un semnal foarte bun pentru Parlamentul European. Se ştie că Preşedintele Băsescu susţine planurile actualei preşedinţii germane a Uniunii Europene de revigorare a dezbaterii asupra viitorului Europei, afirmând-o în repetate rânduri, inclusiv în Parlamentul European. Am mare încredere că domnul Traian Băsescu, preşedintele Nicolas Sarkozy, cancelarul Angela Merkel şi ceilalţi şef de state, împreună cu Parlamentul European, vor găsi, în perioada imediat următoare, o formulă pentru un tratat de bază european, care să primească sprijinul cetăţenilor europeni.


  Willy Meyer Pleite (GUE/NGL). – (ES) Madam President, I would call on the European institutions — the Commission, the Council and Parliament — to back the latest United Nations Security Council Resolution on the conflict in Western Sahara.

In its paragraph 2, the Security Council calls for a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that leads to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.

Though the Resolution is clear, what is not clear is the permanent position of the Kingdom of Morocco, which systematically violates this Resolution and denies the right of the people of Sahara to self-determination.

Over the last week, three human rights activists have been arrested in El Aaiún, and the Kingdom of Morocco is systematically making a mockery of this fundamental right.

I do not believe that the European institutions can ignore this situation. We are talking about a country, Morocco, that systematically violates international law and the human rights of the occupied territories, and I therefore hope that we will all back this resolution, particularly its paragraph 2.


  Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE). – Madam President, the Russian authorities are seeking to deprive an eminent Russian lawyer, Karina Moskalenko, of her profession, in other words, to disbar her.

Mrs Moskalenko is widely respected as a dedicated advocate of human rights who has brought dozens of appeal cases to the European Court of Human Rights here in Strasbourg. More then 20 of them have resulted in rulings in favour of Russian citizens standing up for their rights and against the Russian Government. Disbarring this brave woman is a truly bizarre way for the Russian Government to pay tribute to her. I appeal to all colleagues to stand up for the rights of this Russian lawyer.


  Petr Duchoň (PPE-DE).(CS) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the issue of the free movement of people in the EU has been mentioned of late with increasing frequency. This certainly applies to the border crossings between the Czech Republic and Austria. It has become traditional for Austrian activists to organise blockades of border crossings and this happens with at least the tacit support of some of the Austrian authorities. These actions are intended as a protest against the Temelín nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic.

Blocking traffic with this kind of demonstration is, in my view, in breach of European law and will certainly not help foster good neighbourly relations between the two Member States concerned. I respect the fact that some Austrian citizens are opposed to nuclear energy, but they have no right to promote their opinions in a way that restricts other people’s freedom. Some Austrian politicians are aware that the blockade of the border crossings are unacceptable and have distanced themselves from these actions. That is not enough, though. What is needed is to guarantee the right to freedom of movement. The EU should, to my mind, support the development of nuclear energy.


  Vladimír Maňka (PSE). – (SK) My fellow Member, Mrs Bauer, has mentioned the case of an alleged attack on a female student in Slovakia last year.

During the investigation, specialist examinations were carried out in different areas of forensic biology, chemistry, genetics and handwriting analysis, as well as health tests. The investigation demonstrated that the student’s testimony was untrue. The student had thus committed the offence of making a false statement and perjury. Under the circumstances, investigators in any democracy would level charges of false statement and perjury.

The Chairman of the Hungarian Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs said at a press conference that Slovakia was basing criminal proceedings on drummed-up charges and that it was scandalous. Colleagues, such statements constitute a blatant interference by foreign political authorities in the work of independent law enforcement agencies, with the aim of fomenting tension. They deserve our condemnation. The investigation and criminal proceedings are being conducted in compliance with the law, and the case will be decided by an independent court.


  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Madam President, two completely new and unnecessary laws will soon have an impact on the British people. One is the requirement for a home information pack at a cost of at least GBP 600, without which homeowners will not be able to sell their properties. The other is the reduction of household refuse collections from once a week to once every two weeks. Both these pieces of legislation are a direct result of EU directives. The directives are those on the energy performance of buildings and landfill waste. Weekly household refuse collections were established by law in 1875 to stamp out diseases such as cholera and other epidemics which killed thousands of people. Only the EU could take Britain back to where it was prior to 1875, while requiring the British people to pay through the nose for the privilege. Two more good reasons – if they were needed – why Britain should leave the European Union.


  President. – That brings us to the end of the one-minute speeches.


15. The exclusion of health services from the Services Directive (debate)

  President. – The next item is the report (A6-0173/2007) by Bernadette Vergnaud, on behalf of the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, on the impact and consequences of the exclusion of health services from the Directive on services in the internal market (2006/2275(INI)).


  Bernadette Vergnaud (PSE), rapporteur. – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, health services constitute one of the pillars of the European social model. That is why they have been excluded from the Services Directive and must be dealt with in their own right, as part of a more wide-ranging assessment of the health sector in Europe.

The Commission consultation cannot be reduced to patient mobility alone, but should be an opportunity to define what the role and the added value of the European Union might be when it comes to guaranteeing every citizen not only equal access to health care, but also a high level of health protection, in accordance with the powers of the Member States and with the principle of subsidiarity.

European health policy cannot be limited to the mobility of patients and health professionals and cannot aim solely at the implementation of an internal market in health services, as this would lead to a two-speed system, from which only the most well-off patients would benefit and where health care institutions would seek to attract the wealthiest patients. Furthermore, due to the disparity in professionals' income, medical demography problems will undermine access to health care in the Member States in which service providers do not earn as much, with these people being tempted to settle abroad. Patients must have the right to receive health care in another Member State, in accordance with freedom of movement, but there is no question of promoting medical tourism.

Although health services are subject to the rules of the Treaty, they cannot be considered as ordinary commercial services because they are invested with a mission of general interest. There needs to be a balance between freedom of movement and predominant national objectives connected with the management of hospital capacity, the monitoring of health care expenditure and the financial balance of social security systems. Furthermore, the Member States remain responsible for organising, planning and funding their health care systems.

All European citizens, whatever their income and place of residence, must have equal and affordable access to health care, in accordance with the principles of universality, quality, safety, continuity and solidarity. That is how we will contribute to the social and territorial cohesion of the Union while ensuring the financial sustainability of national health care systems. Patient mobility must not in fact serve as an excuse for the Member States to neglect their own systems.

The Court judgments have, according to how matters have turned out, introduced a number of concepts that are worthy of clarification. This is the case for the distinction between hospital care and non-hospital care, as well as the notion of reasonable waiting time. I regret that the Commission has made only fleeting reference to the mobility of health professionals, when this subject requires in-depth examination. The shortage of staff in European health services will only get worse over time. What is more, we are faced with an ageing population. Is it sensible, then, not to tackle this issue starting today? I do not think so.

The Union must commit itself to providing comprehensive information to patients, so that they can make choices with full knowledge of the facts: who can care for them and according to which procedures? It is from that moment on, when all of these procedure- and criteria-related issues have been resolved, that we will truly have on our territory ‘European patients without borders’. In terms of cooperation, the Union could encourage the implementation of a European network of reference centres, or exchanges of knowledge between the various countries regarding the best treatment methods.

It is regrettable that the consultation should have described social services in a restrictive fashion, because, when it comes to integration, there is a dimension to these services that goes beyond mere assistance and action to help the poorest people. Furthermore, the artificial distinction between health services and social services of general interest ignores the reality of the services that are provided. In many cases, social services and health services are provided in the same way. This is particularly the case where health services with social support are concerned. What about the provision of medical care for old people’s homes and specialised institutes for disabled people?

Contrary to what the Commission consultation was implying, the judgments of the European Court of Justice no more stipulate that Parliament must limit itself merely to codifying the case-law than they prevent it from exercising in full its role as legislator. The decisions of the Court, taken as they are with reference to specific cases, are not enough to define a health policy. Decisions must be taken as part of the democratic decision-making process.

In view of the countless number of infringement proceedings brought by the Directorate-General for the Internal Market in the field of health care and of the unsatisfactory legal situation in which the user-citizens find themselves, we need, for consistency's sake, to lay down a directive on health services that spells out the common values and the principles applicable to health care systems in the Union, and this, so that the citizens regain confidence in Europe in one area of their everyday lives – health care – for their health is their most precious asset. The added value of the Union can be crucial in this sense and can also give impetus to the Lisbon Strategy.


  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to discuss this issue again with you. We have discussed it on numerous occasions, including in committee.

We are dealing with a real situation today. On the one hand, there are a series of judgments by the European Court of Justice and the jurisprudence created in this field and, on the other, the decision of the European Parliament, which the Commission has accepted and agreed to, not to include health services in the Services Directive.

As promised, at the time when the debate was taking place and upon the exclusion of health services from the Services Directive, we initiated action in a specific area of healthcare at European level; hence our initiative to begin with a consultation document, to start public consultation and then to continue with a more specific proposal.

The public consultation is finished and we already have the results. We have already had two ministerial discussions on this issue and, with your debate today, we will have a more complete picture of the position not only of the institutions but also of the European citizens and we will then be ready for the next phase, which will be the drafting of the proposal. I can assure you that today’s discussion and of course the report will make a significant contribution as to how we will proceed in this respect. Therefore I should like to thank the rapporteur and congratulate her on a very thorough and comprehensive report and I should also like to thank the other committees for contributing to it.

We are in the middle of this process, which allows us to bring the setting of policies back to the policymakers – those who have the mandate to decide and propose policies will do so in this important area.

As I have said, we have finished the consultation process. We had more than 300 contributions from Member States, regional authorities, organisations representing patients and professionals as well as healthcare providers – even hospitals and individual citizens. Even though there were different views depending on the background of each contribution, there was nevertheless one common approach: there is added value if European action is taken in this respect. The debate goes beyond patient mobility and covers many other areas, such as information for patients, patients’ rights, the movement of professionals, cooperation of healthcare assistants, centres of excellence, exchange of best practice in all areas that could contribute to effective cross-border healthcare for the benefit of patients, the citizens – our foremost concern – without creating any unnecessary burden on the healthcare systems in the Member States.

All these contributions and your report today will be a very important reference point for our next step, which will be a specific proposal.

We recognise that health services have a specificity – they are distinct from other services in the European Union – and therefore the challenge is how to make a choice between the internal market and social values and put in place a framework that can bring both the benefits of freedom of movement on the one hand and respect for health objectives and social values on the other, especially as this was recently confirmed by the health ministers at the informal Council meeting in Aachen.

I believe that Parliament’s report broadly reflects the issues that were identified by many stakeholders and the ministers. This underlines the need to take action at European level.

Concerning the instrument we can use, as I said at the beginning, last year health services were excluded from the scope of the Services Directive at the request of the European Parliament, and the Commission was invited to come up with specific proposals on health services. The Commission agreed to this approach and therefore it does not intend to reopen the discussion regarding possible reinclusion in the Services Directive. On the contrary, we are now in the final stages of preparing a specific proposal directed at those specific issues. It will be a package with various measures, but the first one will comprise, as called for in the report, specific legislative proposals in this area. We will follow this up with various other steps.

However, as I have said, the main objective for all of us is the benefit of European citizens, of European patients, with the principle of subsidiarity always being taken into account.


  Harald Ettl (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, all members of the European public attach great importance to high-quality health services, and health becomes even more important in view of the ageing population right across Europe. Health services pursue the same objectives as do other social services of general interest and are founded upon the solidarity principle, fundamental values and equality of access, while universality, equal treatment and solidarity must continue to be ensured.

The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs has once again confirmed that the exclusion of health services from the scope of the services directive was motivated by the desire to identify health services as a higher good for the European Union, and that the adjustment of the voting result from the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection in the plenary is necessary if a false signal is not to be sent in respect of the ongoing process. These services must be recognised by means of further legislation at European level and must not be made subject to free competition.

What is needed is a legal framework, a proposal, which might, for example, take the form of a sectoral directive for health care services on which the social partners and decision-makers would be consulted, and with a requirement for clear rules on liability for injury sustained by patients during treatment.

Reimbursement of costs must be transparent and comprehensible, and uniform social, labour and quality standards must be complied with when service providers establish themselves; health services are not just services of any sort or kind, and we must handle them carefully, because, in the final analysis, it is your health, too, that they are all about.




  Jules Maaten (ALDE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. (NL) Mr President, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, I, in turn, should like to add my comments to this debate. It is obvious that health services form an integral part of European social infrastructure; if anything specifically typifies Europe and sets it apart out from elsewhere, it is the way in which we make a high level of health care available to all citizens, irrespective of their personal backgrounds.

Our guiding principle in this entire discussion is therefore that, in the final analysis, high-level care must be available to patients and ideally as close to their homes as possible, since that is what most patients appear to need. There are, of course, situations where this is impossible, however; it may not be possible by reason of waiting lists or in the case of rare diseases that can only be dealt with in a European context.

Although health care is first and foremost the responsibility of the Member States, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety is glad that the Commission has taken the initiative in getting the consultation procedure started, in order to see what the best plan of action is for the European Union.


  Charlotte Cederschiöld, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (SV) We are not concerned in this case with the Services Directive, even though anyone listening to the debate might think we were. What we are really concerned with is how we are to solve the problems to do with the fact that health care services are not covered by the Services Directive. In particular, we are concerned with how, in spite of that fact, patients and service providers are to be able to retain their cross-border rights. Current rights have their bases in the Treaties and various legal cases and must not be impaired through secondary legislation, at least not without people being informed of what is happening. It is not so much a question of introducing new services or new rights but of standing up for the rule of law and existing rights.

According to the European Court of Justice, advance notification is a normal method of limitation. We in the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats do not wish to increase the use of advance notification. We believe that the few cases approved by the Court as legitimate obstacles to the main rule of freedom of movement for people and services are sufficient.

Advanced health care often requires planning, with fixed structures and funding in place. In this area, the Member States probably still need to have some freedom of movement of their own.

As many speakers have already pointed out, there are big differences between the Member States. The Commission should choose suitable instruments for handling the various parts of this large package and focus on solutions that promote movement, freedom and security for the individual European. We must protect people, not national bureaucracy. We have nothing against specialisation within the EU leading to patients obtaining higher-quality care. As citizens of the EU, we have to embrace cross-border solutions. We are entitled to them, both as patients and as service providers. These solutions exist and must be employed, even if health care is not part of the Services Directive. The Commission is responsible for proposing solutions. I would call on the Commission to codify the legal cases, to highlight the Member States’ responsibility for the content of care and not to accept citizens having fewer rights than they do at present. Parliament and the Commission must support each other.


  Evelyne Gebhardt, on behalf of the PSE Group.(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, we in this House acted with deliberation when excluding health services from the services directive, for these are particular services that needed a particular quality, a high standard of health provision, one, moreover, organised in such a way that everyone, irrespective of where they live or of how much is in their wallets, can actually have access to these health services.

That is at the heart of what we have to do, and that is why, as we have said, these are not commercial services, and the services directive must therefore not apply to them. We were, then, all the more astonished when the Liberals and Conservatives in the committee joined in taking the decisions that health services should once more be included within it. That is absolutely false and I must ask you to think this through again and withdraw this decision, because, as Commissioner Kyprianou has rightly said, we now need to come up with a proper answer to the issues around health care services, and do so taking into consideration the whole range of them that needs to be regulated. Such is the task before us, so let us look forward rather than back, with a view to making possible the provision of health care services to a really high standard.

I call on the Conservatives and the Liberals to ensure that paragraph 71 is once more deleted from this resolution, which is in all other respects a very good one.

I would like to congratulate Mrs Vergnaud on her report, for the broad outlines incorporated in it make of it a positive and forward-looking work showing one way in which we can address these issues, and I am very glad that the Commission, in the person of Commissioner Kyprianou, as well as the Ministers on the Council of Ministers have expressed their wholehearted willingness to go down that road, so let us go forward and address these issues in a specifically sectoral directive, thereby completing a good work for the public.


  Toine Manders, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (NL) Mr President, I should like to thank the Commissioner for his introduction and Mrs Vergnaud for her good cooperation.

Since I have heard it said on several occasions that health services are not to fall within the scope of the Services Directive, I wonder what all this is about. The proposal that comprises the current article is the product of compromises that have been concluded, and due account has therefore been given to the condition on which the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe all insist, that being that health services should be included in the Services Directive as a lex specialis.

Since, from what I gather, this has caused quite a commotion, I have tabled a replacement amendment which provides for what the Commissioner mentioned a moment ago. After all, the right balance should be struck between the free movement of services, respect for patients’ rights, the freedom of practising a medical profession in Europe and the freedom of establishment.

This is where the new amendment comes in, and I hope that the PSE Group and the PPE-DE Group can accept this, that we can adopt the amendment jointly, and that we will eventually end up with a fresh proposal which provides for equal treatment and solidarity for all Europeans, and I mean all Europeans, and all European patients.

We must avoid a scenario where medical services are simply considered services of general interest, which means that they would be placed outside the scope of the European Treaty, with the effect that each Member State would again set up its own system, that borders would be closed, that there would be no freedom, that patients would not be recognised as having rights and that the rich would jet out to Peking to get the best treatment money can buy instead of seeking treatment in Europe.

If that is what Europe sets out to do, then I think we are at risk of reverting back to the seventeenth century, which may have been a golden age, but does not, I think, represent what Europe is striving to be.

I therefore hope that the amendment that has been tabled by the Liberal Group by way of replacement of Article 71 will meet with wide support, so that a separate directive for health services can be drawn up, and that all compromise amendments can be endorsed, which, in any event, they are by us, as the package is excellent. I hope that we will succeed in what we are setting out to achieve.


  Pierre Jonckheer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance has given its support to the work of Mrs Vergnaud, whom I should like, moreover, to thank for her receptiveness.

That being said, I must indeed confess that I preferred her first report, which consisted of fewer than 30 paragraphs. I invite the Commissioner and our fellow Members to read the explanatory statement, which has not been amended and which I feel is much clearer than the 72 paragraphs that we have now.

My group has re-tabled a number of amendments, confirming for some the exclusion of health services from the Services Directive and clearly endorsing, for others, the need for specific legislation, while highlighting the fact that a number of regulations already exist, not least Regulation (EC) No 883/2004, on the basis of which mobility and the reimbursement of a number of health services take place.

I believe that, in this debate, we can clearly see that the difficulty in this matter, as in others, is the advantage to be gained not only by the national governments, but also by those operating in the health care systems in each of the countries, on the one hand, in keeping control of the organisation and funding of health care generally, and, on the other hand, in not allowing the Court of Justice judgments alone to provide unwanted guidelines. I am thinking in particular of what is referred to as ‘promoting medical tourism in the European Union'. I believe, and many operators believe, that this is an undesirable development.

On the other hand – and, on this point, too, I would draw your attention not only to our own amendments, but also to the amendments tabled by the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left – I believe that we must reaffirm very, very clearly the responsibility that each of the Member States has to guarantee access to high-quality health care to its citizens and to all those residing on its territory. I do not think that it is a good thing to have to travel 300 km, 500 km or 2 000 km in order to go, for example, and receive proper dental care, as is the case at present. I do not believe that that is really the best solution.

It is in this spirit that we will therefore reserve our final vote, in view of the votes that will be cast on the various amendments.


  Søren Bo Søndergaard, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (DA) Mr President, when it comes to health, our position is clear. We think that it is a fundamental right for everyone that they be able to enjoy equal opportunities for high-quality local health care. We therefore also wish to state that every single government in every single one of the 27 EU Member States is responsible for ensuring that its citizens receive proper health care. It is also our clear view that those governments that do not wish, or are unable, to guarantee their citizens proper health care do not deserve the latter’s support.

We are therefore also opposed to the report that we are debating in this House today, which would transfer responsibility from the individual governments to market forces. It is certainly no coincidence that the report concludes by calling on the Commission to reintroduce health services into the Services Directive.

We are not opposed to cross-border cooperation in the area of health. We are in favour of close cooperation being established in border regions, partly with a view to ensuring easy access to hospitals in local areas. We are also in favour of cooperation at European level on health care in relation to rare diseases. However, we are opposed to a development whereby patients would be transported all around the EU to wherever would be financially more advantageous for those who pay the costs. We have accepted this method for too long when it comes to pigs. We must not introduce it where human patients are concerned. On behalf of our group, I must therefore call on my fellow Members to vote against the proposal in its present form.


  Jens-Peter Bonde, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (DA) Mr President, health is a human right recognised by the United Nations. The right to a high level of health is guaranteed by the Treaty in connection with all EU policies. Instead of removing subsidies for unhealthy products, adherents of the internal market now want to see health turned into a commodity that can be sold freely under market conditions. This would provide a wider range of health services to those who could afford them but a narrower range to those who could not afford to pay the market price. It would provide low-cost services to rich people travelling to poor countries for health check-ups. It would make it correspondingly more difficult for most people in the poor countries and for many poor people in the rich countries to pay for health services. The Services Directive would provide for competition over salaries in the health sector. Foreign companies would be free to establish themselves and offer health services of any type. Danish taxpayers would be forced to pay the same subsidies to all suppliers, irrespective of quality and of the salaries paid. We might as well send our Danish agreement model with its democratically adopted agreements to the museum of labour. People might go to the polls, but we could no longer vote in favour of health care for all. Instead, we should allow the Member States themselves to determine the balance they want to see in the health system between private and public provision and we should respect the Danish model with its tax-funded social and health-care rights for all, as well as our agreement model in the labour market.


  Irena Belohorská (NI). – (SK) In her report the rapporteur deals with several very serious issues currently facing the European Union, including medical services reimbursement policy, the mobility of patients or health professionals and liability for errors.

I would like to emphasise that a patient must not in any way be considered a tourist or healthcare shopper. Patients seek healthcare abroad because certain services are not provided in their home countries or because the waiting period is exceedingly long. The risk of medical service provision becoming the object healthcare tourism is slim. Patients would rather be treated in a familiar environment close to their relatives and where they understand the language. According to statistics, patient mobility accounts for approximately 1% of healthcare services. Given the safeguards of the free movement of persons, however, this percentage will definitely go up in the future. There can be no free movement of persons without access to healthcare services. Therefore, it is our job to ensure such access without complicated negotiations with insurance companies. This solution would also be consistent with the equal rights of citizens across the entire area of the European Union.

I have not found any reference in the report to disparities between Member States concerning an individual’s chances of survival. Why do Slovak women suffering from breast cancer have a 30% smaller chance of recovery than Swedish women? Why do Polish patients suffering from rectal cancer have a 30% worse outlook for survival than French patients?

For many people, patient mobility (even though a mere 1%) seems to be a key problem. However, no one is interested in the fact that a great number of physicians and nurses have left the twelve new Member States. Why are we so preoccupied with the problem of patient mobility and yet disregard the mobility of physicians?

I urge the Commission to come up with a new draft strategy proposing a solution for this issue in the future by promoting eHealth, the levelling off of disparities between the Member States and the use of structural funds for healthcare purposes.


  Marianne Thyssen (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the title of the own-initiative report that we are debating mentions the good reason for its being drafted: the exclusion of health services from the scope of the Services Directive. I should like to remind you of the fact that this exclusion has been brought about as a result of the decision taken by a broad majority in this House, a decision in which both the Commission and the Council gave us their unanimous backing.

It was, as I see it, a fair decision, firstly because health services cannot be treated in the same way as traditional commercial services, secondly because a patient is not a consumer and thirdly, because the Member States have key authority and responsibility when it comes to organising and funding health care within their territory. I am therefore relying on us being able to lay down a resolution on Wednesday that is consistent in this area.

Meanwhile, health services remain, of course, services within the meaning of the Treaty and as such, the rights and freedoms of the Treaty apply. We refuse, as we did in the case of the Services Directive at the time, to leave everything to the Court of Justice, and once again, we are forced to reconcile various objectives with each other. The internal market should work as efficiently as possible while room should also be left for health policy that is justified in every way. What we need to heed in this is a sense of balance and legal certainty.

A codification of existing case law on the rights and duties of both mobile patients and mobile service providers is certainly called for, but it is not enough. What remains a challenge is the creation of added value for people and in the area of the quality of care and of guaranteeing leeway for the Member States, thus enabling them, as before, to be responsible in making the choices that they have to make.

We have not yet reached consensus on what exactly should be covered in European legislation using what instruments, but I am persuaded that this report, the inquiry which the Commissioner has organised and also the earlier resolution on patient mobility are valid contributions to further develop policy in this area, and we are looking forward to the Commissioner’s initiatives in this respect.


  Robert Goebbels (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the initial report by my esteemed colleague, Mrs Vergnaud, should, in theory, gain the support of all the Members.

The objective of enabling everyone – everyone in Europe – to receive adequate health care when they move around Europe, for professional and private reasons, simply falls within the realm of freedom of movement.

However, patients’ right to mobility can be guaranteed only if the EU Member States retain the power to regulate these health services, so that they can control the funding of them, because, while health has no price, it has a cost, and a growing cost at that. This cost is becoming more and more substantial, and there is the risk that it will become impossible to manage the funding of social protection and health services for all in all of our Member States.

Certain political forces within this Parliament have a simplistic response to this concern, which is shared by virtually all of the ministers for health: leave the market alone and entrust the funding of social security to private insurance companies.

I suspect also that Commissioner Kyprianou shares these somewhat ultraliberal views. He said to the Figaro that competition between European health services is inevitable and, to the Financial Times, that people can shop around.

The Socialist Group in the European Parliament does not share that view. It is in favour of the right to health care for all throughout Europe, but is against a market that will enable the wealthiest people to have the best possible treatment, while the poorest and least mobile people will have the right only to a minimum level of treatment.

Those who believe that the market, and the market alone, could guarantee high-quality health care for all should reflect on the situation in the United States. In that great country, the cost of health care is the highest in the world, that is, some 15% of GDP, or practically double the European average. However, that very expensive system is excluding a growing number of US citizens: in 2006, 46.6 million Americans had no medical insurance. That is certainly not an example that Europe should follow.


  Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE). – Mr President, I too would like to thank Mrs Vergnaud for the wonderful cooperation we enjoyed in the preparation of this report. This Parliament recently adopted a resolution on cross-border healthcare and today we are discussing another one. Why? Because, as access to healthcare and health services becomes an issue for Europe, the exclusion of health services from the Services Directive set us an urgent task to ensure that in future legislation people will have access to healthcare regardless of state borders.

The Court of Justice decision clearly recognised the application of internal market principles and freedoms when patients seek treatment abroad. We should secure common levels of safety and quality of health services and implementation in practice of patients’ and citizens’ rights across the EU. Patients’ rights should be part of future Community health legislation. We should recognise the two dimensions of cross-border mobility and ensure that unjustified delays for patients and healthcare professionals will be removed. Patients should have access to innovative treatments and technologies for their health. We should govern the process and create an empowering environment for it.

Legal certainty is needed in medical practice, as is right of establishment to guarantee high-level safety and quality standards. Current EU legislation does not cover the regulatory gap. The Commission should introduce an initiative that observes the above-mentioned principles.


  Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL). – (NL) Mr President, two years ago, when we were discussing the Services Directive and I was this House’s rapporteur for health care, I recommended that health services be excluded from the Services Directive, which advice the House proceeded to follow. It saddens me deeply that, now that there is a proposal to undo this, Parliament, if it approves this reversal, will lose every ounce of credibility over it.

I am not just referring to Mr Manders's repugnant amendment to bring health services back within the scope of the Services Directive – he seems, however, to be eating his words to some extent, but the essence of what he said remains the same – but also the whole idea of an EU directive for health services strikes me as excessive interference.

Needless to say, a proposal must be drafted to guarantee the right of patients to get care across the border in a decent manner, but this should not lead to Member States neglecting their responsibilities for providing good quality care and the right amount of it. Patients prefer to be cared for well, close to home, and in their families. Legal tug-of-war should certainly not be used as an excuse to liberalise EU health services.

Health services occupy a specific place in society. Accessibility and quality, rather than making a profit, should always remain the foremost priorities. Care is not a market, and Europe should not try to turn it into one. Article 152 of the Treaty stipulates that health care is a matter for the Member States and this is how, as I see it, in the interests of the patient and employees in health care, it should certainly stay.


  Jeffrey Titford (IND/DEM). – Mr President, this report is seriously advocating that cross-border healthcare should become a reality under the Services Directive. It states that ‘Member States should treat residents of another Member State on an equal basis with regard to access to health services, regardless of whether they are private or public patients’. It also states that there should be ‘a codification of existing case law on the reimbursement of cross-border healthcare’.

Let us be clear exactly what these two statements mean as far as Britain is concerned. The first is saying that a visitor or migrant from another EU country, who has not paid a bean towards the cost of the National Health Service, should be entitled to the same access to healthcare as a British resident who has been paying tax and national insurance all his or her working life, and means a delay in their treatment. The second statement opens the door for the EU to override national governments and lay down the law on how cross-border healthcare is reimbursed, leading inevitably to how healthcare as a whole is funded and managed. A single healthcare system run by the EU is a nightmare too horrible to contemplate; it should never be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.


  Malcolm Harbour (PPE-DE). – Mr President, health services will remain the province of Member States and healthcare organisations will be the responsibility of Member State governments. But that does not stop our citizens from travelling, from falling ill while they are travelling, from moving permanently to other countries and wanting access to healthcare – perhaps something that Mr Titford might care to reflect on in a quieter moment.

I want to thank Mrs Vergnaud for this report. It is an extremely comprehensive one. It has many valuable contributions to the work that you, Commissioner, set out and it is extremely timely. It is quite clear that health services are not going to be reintroduced into the Services Directive. We will certainly support the compromise proposal that Mr Manders will table tomorrow making that clear.

That should not distract us from looking at some of the really important issues that are picked up in this proposal, because more and more people are going to be challenging the boundaries of the system. One of the landmark Court of Justice judgments was because of a British patient who travelled to another country to have a hip replacement operation on the grounds that her own health service – sadly in my own country – could not provide that treatment within anything like an acceptable time. The Court found in her favour and that is something that the Commissioner will reflect on. I do not object to the basis of that judgment because it seems to me that this is a right that people should have across the European Union.

But there are going to be very difficult issues that we are just starting to face. The innovatory treatments that one of the previous speakers mentioned, particularly in the areas of cancer, are already presenting really difficult issues to public health services. Expensive, life-prolonging tailored treatments: what happens if they are available in another country but not your own and you travel to that country and ask for that sort of treatment to prolong your life?

This is an important report. It is an issue that we are going to be increasingly confronted with. I commend it to you and I hope the Commissioner will come up with an imaginative response.


  Harlem Désir (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, I should like to begin by thanking our rapporteur, Mrs Vergnaud, who unfortunately had her work cut out with the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection because, as Commissioner Kyprianou pointed out to us, we have, on the one hand, case-law, that is to say, in fact, the Treaties as interpreted by the Court of Justice, and, on the other hand, the position adopted by the European Parliament during the vote on the Services Directive, a position that clearly stated that a choice needed to be made between what falls under the internal market and what, for the sake of defending the social values of the Union, must fall under other mechanisms.

I believe, in fact, that the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection – not just Mr Manders, unfortunately, since, in order to have a majority, the members of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats and of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe had to support it – has done something very regrettable in seeking to re-introduce health services into the framework of the directive on services in the internal market: in none of our countries, in fact, are commercial services and construction, on the one hand, and hospital services and patient services, on the other, included in the same legislation. There are, in fact, different rationales.

It is true, firstly, that we need to act in accordance with subsidiarity, with the mechanisms for funding our social systems and with the authorisation mechanisms of health care institutions, but we must also take account of the European area and of movement in that area, and thus promote access for all to health services. This must, however, fall within the realm of specific mechanisms. That is why, just as we need them for social services of general interest and, moreover, just as we need them for all the other services of general economic interest, I believe that we need specific directives, alongside the directive governing commercial services in the internal market.

I hope not only that the compromise will make it possible to clarify the fact that health services are not in the directive on services in the internal market, but also that we will actually demand a specific directive on health services.


  Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL). – (SV) It is not long since the two large political groups reached a compromise on the Services Directive, and some people described it as a great success that health care and medical services had been exempted. There is now nonetheless an attempt to introduce this deregulation through the back door, in which case medical and health care would cease to be human rights and become commodities in a market.

According to the Treaties, medical and health care are the exclusive responsibility of the Member States, and legislation at EU level is neither required nor desirable. Cooperation is good, but legislation is not, in this instance.

I hope that those who thought that the removal of medical and health care services from the Services Directive was to be applauded will make sure that they consolidate that success by supporting the amendments by the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left when we vote.


  Othmar Karas (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I hope that all those who, in the committee, voted in favour of paragraph 71, now at least realise what a disservice they have done to the debate, for we are now talking less about the substantive issue than about the methodology involved.

Our removal of health and social care services from the scope of the services directive was quite deliberate. Why did we do it? For the fact is that this is not about the free market versus the national interest, but about our understanding of the vulnerability of the health sector and social services, and about our willingness to regulate these sectors in very specific ways rather than evaluating them solely in terms of the workings of the market.

What we have to do is to define just which health services we are actually talking about, to decide just which services are covered by the subsidiarity principle, for such services cannot, indeed, by reason of their character, be seen as ordinary services subject to the operation of the market, and the public need to be protected.

I shall be very frank in saying that I am very sad that the vote in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection on the Liberals’ amendment made things less than certain; the overwhelming majority in this House rejects paragraph 71, and that includes us, for it amounts to a backward step, and we want to make an active contribution to the process of consultation on the regulation which the services directive set in motion.

Let us not constantly confuse the mobility of patients with the way we handle the freedom to provide services. Patient mobility is not a matter of dispute. The issue of how to regulate the freedom of entrepreneurs to provide services demands a nuanced regulation and careful handling, and the Member States must not be discharged from their responsibilities in that respect, for it is they – and not those who make Europe’s laws – who have to ensure the highest quality standards.


  Edit Herczog (PSE). (HU) I welcome the fact that when numerous European Union Member States are working on reforming their health care systems, the European Parliament should also examine the question in a separate report, and I congratulate my fellow Member, Mrs Vergnaud, on her work.

Health care is an area in which tension between social and economic opportunities and obligations increasingly prevails. The technological and digital revolution of the contemporary world tantalises us with ever more promising solutions in the field of prevention, treatment and cure, but the high costs of progress are beyond the reach of many. We can say that the task of a social Europe, a Europe of solidarity, is to ensure that every citizen of the European Union can access advanced medical services, regardless of his or her nationality, income or national boundaries.

Certainly public health is not an economic, industrial or commercial service. Yet the services that support and gravitate around health care are almost exclusively profit-oriented sectors, and indeed they need their profits to sustain further research and development and innovation.

Europe, and we European politicians, must therefore also find a solution to ensuring that the markets in prevention, nutrition, leisure, diagnostic tools or medicines and medical instruments do not rely solely on the already scarce public health resources in order to be able to grow.

Although we are only now looking for solutions to the above challenges, what is certain is that a precondition of every solution is that the burden be borne jointly, as something that is the responsibility of all 485 million inhabitants. It is unacceptable, for instance, that in Hungary there are 1 million people, and not the poorest among them, who make use of universal health care without paying a single penny into common funds. Social and economic solidarity demands that employees and employers contribute to the realisation of legal security and equality before the law.


  Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, the provision of health care is a public service and cannot be left to the unaccountability of the free market. The appropriate framework for addressing the mobility of patients exists in Regulations (EC) Nos 1408 and 883/2004. All problems can be regulated within this framework, not by overturning it.

Addressing health services à la Bolkenstein will result in a lower standard of health services, in a reduction in public services for the benefit of private services and, of course, in less health protection for the socially weaker.

The effort to integrate health services into the Bolkenstein Directive ‘through the back door’ with the famous Manders Directive and/or with the amended directive waiting in the wings must be rejected categorically.

For the European Parliament, which voted differently on this issue a few months ago, this stand is a serious question of credibility and consistency. I trust that we will not change our tune again this time.


  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, the Member States must respect European Court of Justice rulings and the Commission must integrate them into social security regulations. I am talking about the right to the reimbursement of healthcare costs abroad. When patients receive first aid they do not have to seek approval first from their insurance company. The Commission and the Member States must reach agreement on what is considered non-urgent care for which the patient has to request this prior consent. Last year Parliament succumbed to false arguments and, under pressure from the left, the unions and some governments, removed healthcare from the services directive. Consequently, this right has yet to be implemented in law, since Regulation 1408 from 1971 has not been updated.

The idea that mobility would lead to a deterioration in care is nonsense. I therefore call for greater trust in foreign healthcare, and for the associated right of patients to information on the quality of healthcare facilities. We call on the Commission and the Member States to coordinate healthcare quality control systems, without the Union impinging on the powers of the state. The key programmes are Patient Safety and national or international accreditation for hospitals and ambulance services. If patients are informed about which foreign hospitals are voluntarily abiding by international or national standards, they will feel more confident of being well looked after even if they perhaps do not speak the language. This is the most important factor when it comes to trust in European healthcare and to rebutting expedient arguments against patient mobility.

I know that my proposal to remove obstacles to the provision of non-State – that is to say, private – services abroad has become a political issue. It is my fervent wish that doctors and nurses may overcome the obstacles put in their way by politicians, who play down the public’s right to a wider selection of health services and are frightened of free choice.


  Barbara Weiler (PSE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would just like to start by giving the Commission credit for consulting this House and all the stakeholders at this early stage concerning the new directive, something of which I am sure one could not always be certain. This makes me confident that the new directive is being planned carefully and will incorporate not only the relevant assessments of impact on society, lawmaking, and subsidiarity, but also European citizens’ rights.

Rules on health care across borders have become necessary, and many members of the public expect them to be in place – I am referring to workers in our border regions, to migratory workers, to pensioners in south-eastern Europe and Greece, and, indeed, to Europe’s long-distance drivers, about whom I have just been reminded – and not only to all these, but also to all the other workers who were formerly unable to benefit from these things, which were – as has been said a couple of times – reserved to private patients. It is for that reason that I find it all the more absurd that the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left in this House want to further entrench the privileges of those with private health insurance.

If the opening up of the national systems is done with caution and care, it will be something from which we can all benefit. Constructive competition among service providers, competition between the best methods, the most useful research and the most successful strategies in the health sector – all these things can be useful, subject, of course, to the criteria to which I have already referred and which do not apply in the internal market, namely quality, safety, solidarity and sustainability.

I am sure that this House will not fail under any circumstances in allowing those criteria to prevail.


  Milan Gaľa (PPE-DE). – (SK) I would like to thank Mrs Vergnaud and the shadow rapporteurs for their work.

First of all, I would like to speak about the different types of mobility possible in healthcare. For example, the cross-border provision of medical services, meaning that a service is provided from one country to another without patients and health professionals leaving their home territory. Such services include telemedicine, remote diagnosis, remote drug prescription and others. Secondly, there is patient mobility in the conventional sense, which we are mostly talking about. More specifically, it is the use of services abroad, when a patient goes to where the provider is established in order to be treated. Thirdly, qualified persons may be temporarily present in another Member State, which is known as the mobility of health professionals with the aim of providing services. The fourth possibility is to provide such services permanently, by establishing healthcare facilities in another Member State, as my colleague, Mr Karas, indicated before me.

For all of these types of mobility to be gradually legislated and subsequently implemented, we must first formulate and answer several basic questions. These are as follows: Are there common values and principles for healthcare which all EU citizens can rely on? How can we ensure a reasonable financial compensation mechanism? How can patients and experts identify and compare healthcare providers? To what extent are Member States flexible in eliminating unjustified obstacles to free movement? How can we ensure long-term care and social services? There are many more such questions.

The Commission, as well as the Council and Parliament, must jointly find answers to these questions through legislation dealing with the effects and consequences of healthcare services being excluded from the directive on services in the internal market.


  Maria Matsouka (PSE).(EL) Mr President, health is not and cannot be approached as a commodity which, even worse, must be subject to market conditions and competition.

Health has a public utility mission and that is why it must meet a series of criteria such as quality, accessibility, universality and solidarity.

We must put an immediate stop to efforts to extend the market philosophy to the health service sector on the pretext of modernising it, which the Court of Justice has facilitated in its own way and which the spokesmen of economic liberalism are now bringing back on stage.

Unfortunately, this has already happened with some social services. Let us not allow it to be repeated here.

There is no point in bringing health services back within the scope of the Services Directive. This approach was rejected by the European Parliament last November.

The European Commission must have the courage, it must use its right to take legislative initiatives and propose a sectoral directive on health services. It must also have the courage to propose a framework directive regulating social services of general interest.

You, my honourable friends of the right-wing majority, have contributed once again to the lack of credibility of the Union, by unexpectedly reintroducing the question of bringing health services under the Services Directive, known as the Bolkenstein Directive.

Act in accordance with your responsibilities and do not play with the lives of European citizens. Prove with your vote that health is not a commodity.



  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, I shall begin in French for the purposes of saying something to Mr Goebbels. I have been described in many different ways during my political life, but this is the first time that I have been called an ultra-liberal.

That is why I should like to explain myself, because I believe that the statement that I made to the Figaro and also to the Financial Times has not been understood correctly. So that I can ensure that I am understood correctly, I shall continue in English.

What I was saying to the newspapers was that the existing situation was not my policy. What I was describing – and I would like to come back to this – was the reality after the European Court of Justice judgments, which stated that internal market rules apply to healthcare even if it is publicly funded.

Probably it is not Parliament’s policy, but it is a reality with which we have to work. It is inevitable that, if people can travel to seek treatment abroad, there may be some competition; people should have the choice. So the challenge for us is how we can make this right, recognised by the European Court of Justice, work primarily for the benefit of European citizens but not so as to undermine and destroy Member States’ healthcare systems.

A lot has been said about the subsidiarity in Article 152 and I would like to remind you of what the Court said on that. The Court said that, even though Member States have the right to organise and deliver health services and medical care, this does not exclude the possibility that Member States may be required under other Treaty provisions to make adjustments to their national health systems. Hence the application of internal market rules.

So this is the first legal reality we have to work with, but of course we also have a factual reality. Unfortunately there are inequalities in European healthcare systems: Member States cannot offer the same level of healthcare to their citizens. People who seek treatment travel abroad and, if they are refused this right, they go to the Court of Justice. I think you will agree with me that we cannot have every citizen going to Luxembourg and seeking a judgment from the European Court of Justice to decide whether he or she can have an operation.

That is why we are faced with the challenge of how can we make these principles established by the Court work both for citizens and Member States. I must emphasise that our main target is to deal with the inequalities that exist in the European Union. We have policies and strategies, which we will be able to discuss later this year, on how to achieve this.

It is also very important that we recognise what has been said already, i.e. that citizens would rather have treatment at home, near where they live, and this is the main priority for all of us. But, until we deal with inequalities, people will need to seek treatment abroad. Also, as we have already said, it makes more sense in border regions to cross the border than to take a long journey to your country’s capital. There are also scientific reasons: sometimes specialised treatments may be better provided in another Member State.

The existing legislation does not cover these issues because it is not just a question of patient mobility. We are also working on safety, quality, patients’ rights and the patient’s right to information. All these require legislation that is more thorough than the existing legislation. Furthermore, the principles in the existing legislation are different from those described by the Court, so we also have to deal with this.

The challenge is how to make all this work. I believe that we are now dealing with one of the most important initiatives in this area. Patient mobility should complement, not replace, the provision of healthcare at home. This is the main objective, but all citizens should have the same opportunities, irrespective of their income or education or language skills. They have to be able to take advantage of this right in a way that will be decided by the policymakers, but it must be decided on the basis of equality for all European citizens.

Medical tourism is a totally different issue. We are not dealing with that, we are not touching on that, we are not encouraging that. This is something that is dealt with by the private sector, private citizens, and private funds. It is not something that we will be working on. Again, it is a reality: people travel because they want to combine holidays with medical treatment, but that is not something we are working on at this time.

It is important to deal with the issue of overall cross-border healthcare as soon as possible – now, proactively – before it becomes too big to handle. It is not just the issue of paying for health assistance, but also the availability of health assistance which may be overburdened by incoming patients. That is another issue we will take into account.

We will combine all the interests of the patients. In view of the realities that we face and in spite of different approaches and different ideologies on the details, it is therefore very important that we work together to achieve what is best for the European citizens. I intend to do that and I hope the European Parliament will work with us to this end.


  Robert Goebbels (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, I should like to acknowledge formally to Commissioner Kyprianou that he is not an ultra-liberal and I have listened very carefully to him explain his general outlines.

That being said, Commissioner, what really shocked me in the Commission communication was the following sentence, which I shall quote: ‘Any Community action must respect the principles already laid down by the Court of Justice in this area'. True, we must comply with the case-law, but, in all of our countries, the legislators are there to, if necessary, change the legal texts if the courts venture into dangerous territory. I believe that the judgments of the Court of Justice are often too liberal. It is up to us, as colegislators, and to the Commission, to get things back on an even keel, if necessary.




  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I shall be very brief because I do not disagree, but it all depends on the context. I shall not go into the legal argument now, but we will take everything into account. I have said from the beginning, and I do not hesitate to say this publicly, that I believe policy decisions should be taken by the policymakers, not by the courts. We will have the opportunity to discuss a specific proposal, but always bear in mind the parts of the Court’s judgments that interpret the Treaty. When it is the Treaty, which is the ultimate legal instrument in the European Union, legislation has to comply with that. When it is not the Treaty, we have flexibility. However, as I have said, we have legal services to advise us on that. Let us agree on the policies first and then we will find a legal way of doing it.


  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Wednesday, 23 May.


16. Halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 (debate)

  President. –The next item is the report (A6-0089/2007) by Adamos Adamou, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 (2006/2233(INI)).


  Adamos Adamou (GUE/NGL), rapporteur. (EL) Madam President, the report on which we are to vote is about halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010. This is a subject, the topical nature and importance of which is something on which the majority of us agree. That is also the reason why such a small number of amendments was tabled by my honourable friends, together with the fact that the report was passed unanimously by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

I should like to congratulate the Commission on its communication, on its conceptual approach, its priority objectives for 2007-2008 and its key supporting measures. Nonetheless, I must at this point express my profound concern at the continuing loss of biodiversity and the related decline of ecosystem services.

I believe that we all recognise the urgent need for an effort to meet commitments to halt the loss of biodiversity in the European Union by 2010.

The action plan is a vital tool and is our last opportunity to bring together actors at Community and Member State levels on key actions to meet the 2010 commitments. I recognise, however, that the action plan will be insufficient to conserve biodiversity and sustain ecosystem services in the longer term.

To continue, I must stress that it is exceptionally important for the Natura 2000 network to be completed on land and at sea and for effective management and adequate financing of the network. I must also stress the importance of timely and effective implementation of the Water Framework Directive to attain good ecological status of freshwaters.

I urge the Member States to ensure that projects funded by Cohesion and Structural Funds do not harm biodiversity and ecosystem services but optimise benefits to biodiversity.

Passing on to another issue, we must recognise and address the fact that invasive alien species are a key threat to biodiversity and that the spread of invasive alien species is exacerbated by the increasing movement of peoples and goods.

As far as trade is concerned, no one can ignore the ecological footprint arising from EU trade on biodiversity. I call on the Commission and the Member States to take immediate action to adopt measures to prevent or minimise negative impacts from such trade on tropical forests. The Commission must come forward as soon as possible with an analysis of options for further legislation to curb imports of illegally harvested timber.

Climate change is a very important chapter and a separate policy area in the Commission communication. It is of vital importance to develop an ecosystem approach for adaptation to climate change, in particular in relation to policies which affect land, water and marine use.

As far as funding is concerned, I cannot hide my disappointment and strong concern at financial constraints for support to biodiversity actions resulting from Financial Framework decisions. It is the responsibility of Member States to take up all available opportunities under the CAP, CFP, Cohesion and Structural Funds, LIFE+ and the Seventh Framework Programme and to allocate national resources.

Greater consideration must be given to financial needs in the 2008-2009 budget review, during which there should be an assessment of the sufficiency and availability of EU financing for biodiversity, especially for Natura 2000.

I wish to thank my two honourable friends, Mrs Avril Doyle and Mrs Marie Anne Isler Béguin for their amendments, especially Mrs Béguin for adding hydroelectric energy to paragraph 67, which I had omitted to do.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to draw your attention to the conclusions of the survey requested on biodiversity on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety: it would appear that initiatives to halt the loss of biodiversity are unsuccessful due to the impossibility of implementing them and the lack of political will. The European Union action plan up to 2010 is very ambitious but, unfortunately, it does not propose simple solutions to the problem of implementation and the lack of funding and political will on the part of the Member States.

It is up to us to send a strong message and to exert pressure on our governments so that the ambitious objectives of the action plan are achieved.


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Madam President, first of all I would like to apologise on behalf of Commissioner Dimas, who regrettably could not be here today.

It was precisely one year ago that the Commission adopted its communication on halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010 and beyond. Given that tomorrow is International Biodiversity Day, it is a fitting time for Parliament to debate its report.

I am pleased that Parliament is using this opportunity to send a clear message to the world on the importance of protecting the planet’s biodiversity. The theme of this year’s International Biodiversity Day is ‘biodiversity and climate change’. I have said before, and wish to underline today, that biodiversity loss is as great a threat to the planet as climate change. Like climate change, biodiversity loss is an economic problem, a social problem and a growing threat to global security. Both issues are closely linked. Climate change is a major force behind species loss while at the same time the loss of ecosystems contributes to climate change.

Fighting climate change is now at the heart of the European project and is at the top of national political agendas. Unfortunately, the same is not yet true for biodiversity loss. Perhaps the threat is less apparent, but when we stop to look at the facts the situation is every bit as worrying.

Human activities mean that extinction rates are already between 100 and 1000 times the natural background rate – around 30 000 species a year, or three species every hour. If this process remains unchecked, we will have erased millions of years of evolution within the next few decades. This dramatic species loss matters because it weakens ecosystems of which species are the building blocks.

The UN’s 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has two key messages. The first is that we are all ultimately dependent on ecosystem services, such as raw materials, medicines and clean water, for our prosperity and wellbeing. The second is that ecosystems are being fragmented, degraded and destroyed to the extent that some two thirds of the services that we receive from ecosystems are in decline. Combined with environmental threats such as climate change, increasing population levels and increasing per capita consumption, this means the pressures on species and ecosystems are intensifying.

Without urgent action we will soon reach a point of dangerous and irreversible change in global ecosystems, just as without action we will soon reach a point of dangerous climate change. As with climate change, the window of opportunity to prevent dangerous ecosystem change is rapidly closing.

Last year’s biodiversity communication represents a first attempt by the European Union to set out a coherent response to the problem of biodiversity loss. It should be seen as one of the most important policy documents issued by the Barroso Commission, and there are two innovations which are of particular significance. The first is that the communication introduces the concept of ecosystem services into the EU-level debate. It highlights the extent to which these services are essential to our prosperity and wellbeing and makes the vital link between biodiversity loss and the decline of those services.

The second innovation is that the communication sets out a very specific action plan for the period 2007-2013. The action plan is an important step forward since it spells out what needs to be done both at Community level and at Member State level. It is only through complementary actions at these two levels that we will be able to make the necessary progress. The action plan also makes it clear what needs to be done to meet the European Union’s commitments to halt the loss of biodiversity in the EU, and to reduce significantly the rate of loss worldwide, by 2010. With the inclusion of a process for regular evaluations against a clear set of targets, both the Commission and the Member States can be held to account on its delivery.

I am very pleased to know that Parliament’s report welcomes the communication and its action plan. I wish to thank the rapporteur Mr Adamou for his efforts, and Mr Berman and Mr Gklavakis from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and the Committee on Fisheries respectively for their contributions. The report echoes the equally warm reactions of the Council, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, as well as that of environmental NGOs. It seems we have a broad consensus on what needs to be done. The challenge now is changing this political support into real actions on the ground.

There can scarcely be a more important question for any parliament to debate than the survival of life on earth. I urge you to use this opportunity to send a clear message on the gravity of biodiversity loss and the need for full and vigorous implementation at all levels of the biodiversity communication and its action plan.


  Thijs Berman (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. (NL) Madam President, with this important report by Mr Adamou, Parliament is sounding the alarm bell. The pattern is all too familiar.

The Commission and Parliament show their ambition as regards the environment; the Heads of Government and Ministers follow suit by making solemn pledges and even go so far as concluding agreements, only then, however, to fail to put their money where their mouth is. The Member States put up barriers where Europe’s general interest calls for action. Despite consensus in Brussels concerning them, ambitions come to nothing due to short-term interests in the Member States. Protecting biodiversity should be a priority in all areas of policy.

From the vantage point of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, the assessment of the agricultural policy in 2008 will represent an important new opportunity to halt the loss in biodiversity, although this requires a bigger budget for rural development and more emphasis on protecting nature and the landscape.

This also calls for a critical assessment of measures in the framework of cross compliance. It is, after all, wonderful and logical that farmers should be paid for their services in the environment, provided this initiative proves its effectiveness in terms of biodiversity and a sustainable Europe.


  Ioannis Gklavakis (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Fisheries. – (EL) Madam President, first of all, I should extend my warmest thanks to Mr Adamou for the very fine work he has done. I do not, however, wish to congratulate the national governments which undertook in 2001 to take certain measures which, alas, they have failed to take, and has resulted in the continued decline of biodiversity and loss of organisms. As Mr Borg said, three species become extinct on our planet every hour.

I see from UN statistics that there is a danger of 54% of freshwater organisms becoming extinct in the European Union. There are numerous reasons for this decline, of which two are the most important: the contamination of waters and overfishing. We are responsible, as are fishermen.

Our objectives must be to reduce the contamination of waters, regardless of whether it is contamination that comes from the land, from industry, or contamination that comes from the sea, because we must not forget that, over the last 15 years, 55 000 tonnes of oil were spilled into the Mediterranean from shipping accidents alone.

The second objective must be to increase fish stocks. We must understand one thing: we should only fish the quantities of fish that the sea can replenish. If we fish more than that, we are committing a crime against the environment.

We must also use best fishing practices. We need to launch a global effort here so that third countries also adopt these best fishing practices, because we who live in the Mediterranean want to save the Mediterranean, but the Mediterranean washes the shores of 27 countries, 7 of which belong to the European Union, and third countries often do much greater damage.

Overfishing must be reduced and best fishing practices must be used. Otherwise we are committing a crime against our children’s future.


  John Bowis, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. Madam President, on behalf of my colleague, Mrs Doyle, the shadow rapporteur, let me thank our colleague, Mr Adamou, for his report. It is a positive report and it pushes all the right buttons: it talks about the Natura 2000 and the Birds and Habitats Directives; it talks about the effective implementation of REACH and water and pesticides legislation; it expresses the concern we all share over the financial constraints on Natura 2000 and other biodiversity actions.

I also welcome what Commissioner Borg has said along these lines, and I particularly echo what has been said about the inaction of Member State governments in the European Union. Our target was 2010 – not ‘2010 and beyond’ – but we are nowhere near reaching our target of halting biodiversity loss by that year, which is not so far away.

On the way here, I read an article in The Times, which again referred to the loss of habitat, the use of pesticides and the introduction of alien species that we have heard so much about. This article was about birds – thousands of bird species under threat. Overall, 2 033 species are in danger; 86 % of the most threatened species are threatened because of the loss or deterioration of habitat due to factors such as dams, fishing, cattle numbers, etc.

Alongside this is the issue of alien species, and Mrs Doyle, if she were here, would refer to the grey squirrel and the damage it has done to the red squirrels native to our continent, particularly in Britain but now in Italy and spreading north through France and Spain. We see the damage of the harlequin ladybird. We see the Chinese mitten crabs. They are there, they are damaging and they are dangerous not only to human health but also to the health of our environment and our natural native species.


  Anne Ferreira, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like first of all to thank Mr Adamou for his report and to welcome the measures and actions that he presents in it.

Those measures are many and varied, but it seems to me that, today, things would be clearer and more effective if we organised our priorities into a hierarchy and if we targeted the most urgent matters, even if it is not easy to do so. Indeed, as we fall further and further behind in applying our decisions, the measures to be implemented are, for their part, becoming ever more numerous and necessary. We also know that, when it comes to the environment, everything is interwoven.

It was almost two decades ago that we realised that we had reached the limits of the biosphere and that we were at a standstill. And yet, we are not taking in practice the strong decisions that we advocate in our texts, in spite of the increasingly alarming prospects before us.

Protection of biodiversity, as has been said, must take place at all levels of public policy: transport, agriculture, territorial planning, tourism, fisheries, and so on. We know this too, and yet Cardiff is well and truly buried in the drawers of the Commission. Let us hope that, as part of the work to be carried out within the temporary committee on climate change, the cause and effect link that exists between this phenomenon and the loss of biodiversity will make progress possible.

Finally, I should like to highlight a specific point in Mr Adamou’s report regarding GMOs. I strongly support the request put to the Commission to evaluate the impact of GMOs on ecosystems and the potential risks that they carry where biodiversity is concerned.

Let us not forget that human beings are part of biodiversity. So, as you just said, Mr Borg, and, since we are playing from the same score in this House this evening, let us act, let us implement our action plan and let the European Union finally set an example!


  Chris Davies, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Madam President, I would like to start by saying a few words in praise of the progress we have made in the European Union. We have banned some products, pesticides and practices; we have cleaned up our rivers and have protected some significant areas from development and the results are there to be seen. In Britain, for example, red kites and raptors are in greater numbers in our skies, otters are returning to our rivers, but as is so often the case it is one step forward and then one or two or three steps backwards, with habitat destruction continuing, with invasive alien species causing havoc, and all too often our own direct activities killing.

Sometimes we are wholly at fault, the classic example of the way in which we are denuding our seas out of sight all too often out of mind, and our policies there, as Commissioner Borg knows better than anyone, are simply unsustainable and ludicrous. Sometimes the damage is inadvertent. Changing farming practices, for example, are not intended to wipe out bird species, but that is one of the effects in some instances and we wait with interest to see whether the results in the changes to the common agricultural policy produce positive results.

Sometimes we do not know who or what is at fault, but as politicians we still avoid adopting the precautionary principle. How else do you explain the mad decision of those Member States who voted to reject the Commission’s plans for the recovery of eel stocks, numbers of which have fallen catastrophically? Short-term considerations like these mean that species are now heading too often towards extinction.

Setting a target for halting the loss of biodiversity is easy – especially when it is nine years off – it is the most easy thing in the world to find a target a long, long time off. But now that deadline is fast approaching and some hard decisions have to be taken if the target is to be reached. More than half way through their term, I think some Commissioners can start to see the end of their own positions starting to loom. I hope they will use the remaining time well. Decisions based on short-term political expediency will be quickly forgotten, but firm steps to reverse negative trends and protect species will earn them the respect of history.


  Marie Anne Isler Béguin, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Madam President, I too should like to begin by congratulating our rapporteur on his excellent work. Of course, the title is very ambitious: how can we halt the diversity and disappearance of vegetable and animal species by 2010 and beyond? How we would so very much like to think this possible!

However, we know how difficult it is, in the short term, to set to music the various European and multilateral instruments for which we are writing the score every day in this House. At a time when the citizens' and the media's attention is focused on climate change, we need to highlight the importance of biodiversity, because there is no better strategy for combating climate change than to promote the dynamic development of ecosystems: Commissioner Borg made this point very effectively a few moments ago.

As you will have gathered, biodiversity requires a dynamic approach, and when we reason about in situ biodiversity in Europe, we are talking about the preservation of vegetable and animal species from territories that are managed and planned as close to the local populations as possible. Accordingly, the political will and governmental capacity to open a dialogue are imperative when it comes to developing and supporting special environmental networks, such as Natura 2000.

On the other hand, ex situ management of biodiversity refers more to the practice of conserving animal and vegetable species. Above and beyond the collections – the dusty collections, I would say – in our museums, ex situ conservation, as we conceive of it today, means, of course, avoiding the worst by conserving genetic material in agricultural centres: it is being put in a safe place, allegedly. For my part, however, I wonder about the funding of the advisory groups for international agricultural research and about the way in which they operate, as they must integrate local and indigenous communities.

To conclude, I should like to stress, of course, how important it is for our populations and our territories that European regulations are implemented properly, because we know that everything is connected and, for example, the water framework directive must be applied. As far as biodiversity is concerned, water is a medium that makes ecosystems dynamic right from the start. Thus, instead of referring to a vague notion of ‘good ecological status’, it is crucial that we ensure that freshwaters do not deteriorate.


  Justas Vincas Paleckis (PSE). – (LT) Madam President, together with the rapporteur I join in loudly ringing the warning bells. In the three decades leading up to 2000 the diversity of animal and plant species in the world has diminished by 40%. At that time the European Union resolved to stop the reduction of biological diversity by 2010. Time is running out. If we do not manage to stop the extinction of animal and plant species in the world, we shall have to raise a white flag and admit that human activity is destructive of nature and that our limitless lust for profit and pleasure may destroy the human family itself.

In many of the new EU Member States there is a lack of information about the disappearance of animal and plant species, and about the importance of this problem. Amid the implementation of projects funded by the Cohesion Funds and the Structural Funds, there is still seldom any thought or discussion about avoiding doing harm to biological diversity. The European Commission should expand the network of ’Natura 2000’ territory involving the 12 new Member States. In those countries biological diversity is generally greater than in the old EU Member States; therefore, it is essential to protect it, using it for ‘green’ tourism.

EU citizens need to understand the benefits to be derived from biological diversity and ecosystems. Considering that the reduction of diversity has an effect on the production of food, fuel, materials and medicines, on the regulation of water, air and climate, on the maintenance of agricultural soil fertility, and the circulation of foodstuffs. Unfortunately, at the moment we are living on credit and depriving our children and grandchildren, who may find themselves in a more and more barren world in which they can only see formerly living creatures in museums, photographs and films.

The Commission is correct in proposing the integration of biological diversity and the care of ecosystems into the policies and programmes of all important fields, likewise the protection of the biological diversity of the oceans and the reduction of pollution in farming and industry. Much financial support and attention is needed for this. The means employed to control climate change must not be detrimental to biological diversity. The EU must set an even clearer example to the world of how economic growth can be coordinated with protection of the natural environment and preservation of animal and plant species.


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Madam President, let me first start with my appreciation for the quality of this evening’s debate. I am also greatly encouraged by the report and would like to comment in particular on three of the issues.

First of all, you welcomed the conceptual approach of the communication, which places an emphasis on the link between biodiversity loss and the decline of ecosystem services. You recognise the vital importance of healthy ecosystems for prosperity and wellbeing. You suggest that the main tenets of ecosystem services should become a fundamental goal of all EU horizontal and sectoral policies and you call on the Commission to study and make proposals for practical measures to internalise the cost of biodiversity loss.

We are already working on these matters and I would like to highlight a new initiative of the Commission and the German Presidency to prepare an economic review of the costs of biodiversity loss similar to the Stern review on the Economics of Climate Change. I believe that such a review could prove a turning point. By raising awareness of the costs of inaction, we will have an opportunity to focus political opinion on the need for unprecedented action to halt the loss of biodiversity.

Second, I would highlight your opinions on the theme of biodiversity and climate change. You stress the importance of an ecosystem approach to climate change adaptation.

Third, you recognise that the action plan is a vital tool to bring together those involved at Community and Member State levels to meet the 2010 commitments. What matters now is the extent to which this action plan is actually implemented.

On the point raised by the rapporteur with regard to alien species, let me say that work is ongoing, and if gaps are identified that warrant new legislation at Community level, then we will consider the need for proposals in due course. Indeed, in my area of responsibility, a proposal for a Council regulation on the use of alien species in aquaculture is ready for adoption.

On the issue of financing, I would like to state that in 2004 the Commission proposed that future Community co-financing for Natura 2000 should be integrated into the major financial instruments. Also, provision has been made for nature biodiversity funding in LIFE+, Community international development cooperation funds and in the Seventh Framework Programme for Research. However, let me underline that the communication points out that the financial decision of the European Council in December 2005 influences the funding available under these instruments. It makes clear that Member States will need to ensure adequate funding also through own-resources.

Regarding the target of halting biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010, although time is fast approaching, achieving this target is possible, but will require accelerated implementation at both Community and Member State levels.

Regarding the points on fisheries, which is my own area of responsibility, I cannot agree more with Mr Gklavakis that we need sustainable fisheries and we need to work in this direction both in Community waters and in international oceans and seas. I would like to say in this regard that the targets and actions for biodiversity in the field of fisheries policy, as laid down in the communication, are fully consistent with the common fisheries policy and most of them are already in our work programme for the coming years. I can quote a number of examples of the common fisheries policy’s contribution to the protection of biodiversity, for example the recovery plans for several stocks of fish, the catch and fishing effort limitations, legislation to protect cetaceans against by-catch and protecting habitats, such as deep-sea coral reefs, and the Mediterranean Regulation, which was adopted last year, contains important provisions to reduce the impact of fishing on the seabed.

More measures are in the pipeline. I could mention the March 2007 communication with regard to gradually reducing unwanted catches and eliminating discards in European fisheries. It involves the adoption of a progressive fishery-by-fishery discard ban and the setting of standards for maximum acceptable by-catch.

Work is also progressing on the extension of the Natura 2000 network to marine areas in coordination with DG Environment and on the fight against IUU fisheries.

On eel stocks, I intend to go back to the Council in June, and I agree that this time round the regulation needs to be adopted without any further watering down.


  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday 22 May.

Written statements (Rule 142)


  Gyula Hegyi (PSE), in writing. (HU) No one is entirely sure how many life forms exist on Earth, but the number of species is estimated at approximately 20-30 million, of which we are familiar with barely 1.8 million. Unfortunately, many species died out due to the ravages of civilisation before we had a chance to discover them. In the past century, the loss of biodiversity has occurred on a larger scale than ever before in human history. Research shows that each year 140 000 species disappear from the Earth. The responsibility for these disappearances lies squarely with human activity: the destruction of forests and water, soil and air pollution. According to a recent report, between 20 and 30 per cent of all plant and animal species could die out if the rise in global temperature exceeds 2.5°C.

Therefore, it is essential that the European Commission propose a long-term strategy that will truly put a stop to the loss of biodiversity. In the interests of this effort, it is important that direct financing from EU sources be given to the Natura 2000 programmes as soon as possible, since these were set up in order to protect biodiversity. In Hungary, too, it is very important that landowners to whose territory protection under Natura 2000 has been extended should not be disappointed by the European Union.


  Véronique Mathieu (PPE-DE), in writing. (FR) Biodiversity is more than a priority, it is a necessity, and we need to act swiftly in order to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010.

The European Union is the first to set itself real objectives in this area; let us hope that it sets an example to the rest of the world. Sustainable development and sustainable hunting are not just terms of the moment; they are indeed the symbol of a change in industrial and production practices and in the world of hunting.

Hunters and hunting organisations have not, incidentally, waited for the European Union, the MEPs and even less this report to set themselves obligations in terms of respect for species and areas; this is thanks mainly to the foundations for the protection of habitats and wild flora, which have been taking effective action for several years now.

That is why I should like hunting not to be condemned but, rather, supported in its efforts to promote good environmental management.

In view of this, I can only regret the wording of Article 20, which makes hunting partly responsible for the deterioration of biodiversity, thus failing to take into account the existence of sustainable hunting.


17. Financial Instrument for the Environment (LIFE+) (debate)

  President. – The next item is the report (A6-0180/2007) by Mrs Marie Anne Isler Béguin, on behalf of the European Parliament delegation to the Conciliation Committee, concerning the Financial Instrument for the Environment (LIFE +) (PE-CONS 3611/2007 – C6 0105/2007 – 2004/0218(COD)).


  Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE), rapporteur. (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we have come to the end of a particularly long journey, and, in order to conclude this conciliation on the financial instrument for the environment (Life+), I should like first of all to thank my fellow shadow rapporteurs: Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines, Mrs Ries and Mrs Lienemann. I believe that, without them, the conciliation could not have been brought to a successful conclusion because, I must point out, if we have obtained entirely positive results, it is because we defended a strong position within the European Parliament and because, together, we stood up, I would say, to the Commission and to the Council on several points.

I should like also to thank Parliament's services and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. I am grateful also to the Commission and to Commissioner Dimas, in particular. I wish him a speedy recovery. I know that he cannot be with us this evening, but I thank him, as well as his services, for having helped us to carry this conciliation through to a successful conclusion. I should like, finally, to thank the Council, even though it is not present this evening. I believe that we can thank Mr Gabriel and the Council representatives who helped make a success of the conciliation because I recall that, on the evening of the conciliation, we had the impression at times that facing us were ministers for the budget rather than ministers for the environment. Indeed, as MEPs, we were defending a solid budget for the ministers of the environment, while they were giving the impression that they did not really want it. To conclude the list of thanks, I should like to thank Mrs Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, who chaired Parliament's delegation at the conciliation, together with the chairman of our Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Mr Ouzký.

With your permission, I shall remind you of one or two things. We are at the stage of third reading and, therefore, of conciliation. I would remind you that the work on this Life+ report began at the same time as the examination of the financial perspective, since we felt that a Life+ budget – which comes under the financial package for the environment for the next seven years – could not be established outside the financial perspective. That is why we forced the committee responsible for the financial perspective and Mr Böge in particular, since we felt that the environment budget for the next seven years was nothing but a meagre budget and that it needed to be increased. We wanted to increase it to the figure mooted by the Commission. Thus, by integrating, for example, the management of Natura 2000, we should have increased the Life+ budget by EUR 21 billion. We knew full well that that was an absolutely enormous sum and that the resources did not allow it, but we had banked on that strategy in order to show that, in actual fact, there was no budgetary heading specifically devoted to Natura 2000 in the EU budget. That was our strategy at first reading, and it won us virtually unanimous support.

Yet, of course, at the stage of the common position, we were not really heard. The rapporteur for the budget, Mr Böge, did us a good turn by agreeing to grant EUR 100 million. One hundred million euros for Life+ is a derisory sum given the needs that we have, given the needs that we make so much of when faced with our fellow citizens: the fight against climate change, the fight against the loss of biodiversity, the decontamination of our soil, the purification of our rivers, the fight to save our groundwater, and so on. I shall stop there.

The fact remains that those EUR 100 million were of course welcome, because we take everything that there is to take, but to our great surprise – and this is what made us angry – of the EUR 100 million that had been allocated to us, EUR 50 million had disappeared, had been allocated to the general budget. That made us very angry, but what made us angrier still was the fact that the sharing out of budget-related management activities was totally unacceptable to us, as the European Parliament.

We believed, and still believe, that environmental protection must be managed at European level: this is a policy that is a positive point for the European Parliament, a positive policy, with which our fellow citizens identify. This policy therefore needed to remain at European level, and the strategy implemented by the Council and the Commission at second reading allocated 80% of the management of the budget to the Member States. We were unable to accept this kind of re-nationalisation of European policies.

That is why our aim was to ensure that the Council agreed to keep the management of the environment budget in the hands of the Commission. I believe that we have been truly successful since, during conciliation, the Council did in fact agree to several things: that the management of the EU budget be centralised, that is to say, that it be managed at European level; that the Commission double its resources for the management of the environment, that is to say, that there be an increase from 1% to 2%; that 50% of the budget be allocated to biodiversity and to environmental protection; and, finally, that it be possible for the 2007 budget to be applied this year and for NGOs to obtain financial resources starting this year.

I therefore believe that we have done some very good work, Madam President, and, once again, I am grateful to everyone, to the Council and to the Commission, for having been able to conclude this conciliation, and for having done so, I might add, along the lines proposed by Parliament, for the good of our fellow citizens, because we are here to represent our fellow citizens.


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Madam President, first of all, on behalf of Commissioner Dimas I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Parliament’s delegation which took part in the conciliation meeting with the Council on 27 March. In particular I would like to thank Mrs Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, who led Parliament’s delegation, and the rapporteur, Mrs Isler Béguin. I would specifically like to commend the rapporteur for her excellent contribution throughout the negotiations, not least for the decisive compromise proposal she made in the evening of the conciliation meeting, which helped us reach a quick deal on LIFE+. I am delighted that we have been able to resolve the outstanding difficulties and to arrive at a satisfactory outcome.

As now proposed, LIFE+ will co-finance projects which will contribute to improving Europe’s environment. It will strengthen networking, communication and environmental governance and help share good practice throughout the European Union. Many stakeholders are waiting for the first call for proposals under the new programme which the Commission intends to publish shortly after the entry into force of the regulation in the early autumn. The Commission fully supports the conciliation text and I would encourage Parliament to endorse the good result obtained by its negotiating team.

I would also like to thank the rapporteur for her remarks. I have taken good note of them.


  Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (ES) Madam President, the LIFE programme procedure, particularly during the final stage of the conciliation procedure, demonstrates the extent to which we are seeing a series of contradictions in Europe and how necessary Parliament still is as direct representative of the citizens.

The LIFE project has always been a reference project: many NGOs, many professionals, many municipalities, have learnt what European policy is and have learnt to compete and wish to be involved in environmental policy thanks to the LIFE programme.

Any people, however small it may be, is proud to obtain a LIFE project, and the same is true of the consultancies, of the officials who work on these projects and of society itself.

Nevertheless, with the contradiction we are seeing now, when, on the one hand, we are ‘intergovernmental’ and, on the other, we want a European Constitution, at the end of the first reading it had been decided that the funds would be managed by governments with national agencies.

Parliament was opposed because it believed that, if something is working perfectly — as in the case of LIFE — there is no need to change it. If we already have European added value, and if an image of excellence and quality has been created, why not keep it?

Following a long battle, therefore, we have achieved a situation in which the money is partly allocated to the countries, but we have maintained the situation — and we have managed to persuade the Commission and subsequently the Council to agree to this proposal — in which all projects have a right to be heard and assessed by the Commission, although firstly there will be a filter of countries. I want this message to be recorded clearly in the Minutes: they all have the right to be assessed by the Commission.

Finally, ‘transnational projects’ mean that, for the first time, the rivers, the water that passes from one country to another, the birds and the air itself, have been provided with an arena for work at international level.


  Marie-Noëlle Lienemann, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (FR) Madam President, I should like to begin by congratulating Mrs Isler Béguin, who has used a great deal of her energy, skill and talent to secure this very positive decision today. I should also like to thank my fellow shadow rapporteurs, because I believe that it is the united front of all the groups in this House and the understanding of the Commission that have enabled us to succeed.

The political signal sent out by our Parliament is clear: we want to defend environmental policies with budgets, because, while it is important for Europe to enact rules and to set objectives, it is just as important for it to release financial resources so as to pave the way for action at local level and also for innovation, exchanges of experiences and new practices.

The second message is that we are defending a Community principle, a European principle, and not simply an intergovernmental principle. Environmental policies are the policies that are regarded as being the most legitimate by all of the EU Member States – they are policies that are regarded as having a Community dimension. It would have been stupid for LIFE to have been re-nationalised when our fellow citizens expect more in the way of integration, and I shall not reiterate here the arguments put forward by my fellow Members, who have pointed out that the Member States were obviously making proposals, but that the final arbitration fell to the Commission, and that it was then crucial to provide the Commission with back-up resources, as much for the purposes of studying the dossiers as for those of taking stock of the innovations, via communication, exchanges and activity weeks – well done! Well done on doubling the amount of appropriations that will thus be devoted to the Commission! Well done also on the transnational projects.

It is truly important for practices to unite different countries that have common aims, countries that, at times, do not see the link that unites them with regard, for example, to biodiversity, and that, thanks to LIFE, may have the opportunity to demonstrate their similarities when it comes to their actions and exchanges of experiences.

Finally, I should like to conclude, Commissioner, with a wish, and that is that the Commission honours the commitment that it made to our rapporteur and properly takes stock of all the appropriations that have been harnessed for Natura 2000, so crucial is it for this major fight for biodiversity to be supported locally because, in many cases, on the ground, people are still doubtful or are not always aware of what is at stake. In any case, well done on this conciliation – on this final agreement – and long live LIFE!


  Frédérique Ries, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(FR) Madam President, my first words of thanks today go, of course, to our rapporteur, Mrs Isler Béguin, and also to my fellow shadow rapporteurs, Mrs Liennemann and Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines, for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, with whom for two years – as they have said – we have constantly tried to convince the Commission, and above all the Member States, I would say, of the relevance of this Brussels-initiated and controlled environmental policy.

In this regard, let us not deny ourselves a good thing today: the outcome of the conciliation, which you publicised brilliantly on 27 March, Madam President, is a tremendous learning experience. In politics, we are fond of saying that fights are often won in adversity: the European Parliament’s delegation for Life+ will have provided the proof that fights can also be won in unity, beyond political divisions and in the general interest of the citizens, of Europeans.

My second remark is that I note that the European Commission has nothing to gain from limiting itself to a common role, I would say, when the Treaties grant it clear responsibilities, such as those in the field of environmental policy.

Mrs Isler Béguin has already done a brilliant job of summing up all the progress made by this conciliation. I shall not go back over it. For my part, I should like to emphasise what I feel is our most symbolic shared success: I mean, of course, the gaining of a Nature and biodiversity section, which should cover at least 50% of the budgetary revenue, of the operational budgetary resources. It was crucial to increase this funding for Natura 2000. Firstly, I would say, because Natura 2000 is going well. Mrs Gutiérrez-Cortines mentioned the pride of those who were due to receive this funding. In the Brussels-Capital region, which I know well, there are no fewer than 2 333 hectares, or 14% of the regional territory, with the famous Sonian Forest and the Woluwe Valley, among others, that are part of these protected sites. At EU level, the figures also very much speak for themselves: Natura 2000 consists of more than 25 000 sites; it is a network that is present in 16 capitals and that covers nearly 20% of the terrestrial area of the EU-27.

Next, as Mr Adamou and other Members pointed out in the preceding debate, the European Union committed itself, in 2001 in Gothenburg, to halting the loss of this biodiversity by 2010: three years from that deadline, we are far from having fulfilled that commitment, and that is an understatement.

True, the budget for Life+ may seem obscene, is obscene: 1.51% of the EU annual budget, or EUR 1 894 billion over seven years, but I remain hopeful that the European Union, the Member States, and the regions and towns will come into line with the aim of guaranteeing the ongoing funding of Natura 2000. I also hope that we will not be told that, with EUR 308 billion, or the combined budget of the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund, the budgetary resources are not enough to protect the environment. This is nothing more and nothing less than a question of priority and of credibility with regard to the citizens of Europe.


  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Madam President, as I take the floor on behalf of the Union for the Europe of the Nations Group in the debate on the LIFE+ instrument, I should like to highlight the following issues. Firstly, the LIFE+ Financial Instrument for the Environment (2007-2013) amounts to a continuation of most of the programmes already undertaken by the Environment Directorate-General, for example the LIFE 3 Programme which supports the sustainable development of cities, and the non-governmental organisations’ programme.

Secondly, we should welcome the fact that through the conciliation procedure Parliament was able to convince the Council that the European Commission should be responsible for central management of the programme as it has been so far.

Thirdly, it is right to point out also that Parliament’s stance was taken into account and funding for implementation of the instrument was increased by EUR 40 million.

Fourthly, the Council also took account of Parliament’s stance in so far as at least 50% of the LIFE+ budgetary resources shall be allocated to projects concerning environmental protection and biodiversity.

Fifthly, it was also decided jointly that at least 15% of the LIFE+ budget shall be allocated to transnational projects.

As most of the key European Parliament amendments were accepted during the conciliation procedure, the UEN Group will be voting in favour of this report. As I conclude, I should like to congratulate the rapporteur and all those who contributed so effectively to the conciliation procedure.


  Edite Estrela (PSE).(PT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by congratulating all those who took part in the conciliation process on LIFE + and reached an agreement that we consider very positive, insofar as Parliament has managed to secure a significant increase of EUR 40 million in relation to the Council common position. This is a win-win situation, in particular for the European environment.

Among the measures eligible for LIFE + I should like to highlight the monitoring of the forests, actions aimed at information and communication and, in particular, awareness raising campaigns and training for agents involved in forest fire prevention initiatives. These measures meet our concerns, as expressed in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety’s own-initiative report on natural disasters, for which I was the rapporteur.

Another very important point is the guarantee that at least 50% of budgetary resources for LIFE + is to be used to fund projects supporting the conservation of nature and biodiversity. The Council, in its common position, had proposed to provide only 40%, which is clearly inadequate in view of the requirements for funding the Nature 2000 network and the implementation of the Habitats Directive.


  Leopold Józef Rutowicz (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, I should like to thank Mrs Isler Béguin for the report on the Financial Instrument for the Environment (LIFE+).

The conciliation committee agreed the text of the regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council. This regulation is a sound financial instrument and will promote the interests of the environment in European Union Member States. The fund will be used mainly to limit the changes resulting from the greenhouse effect such as droughts and floods, and which are detrimental to forests, nature and biodiversity.

The directive rightly points out that these funds may not be used on administrative expenditure that is not directly related to implementation of LIFE+ actions. Monitoring of expenditure from the LIFE+ fund by the European Parliament will ensure that the money is used correctly in the most appropriate areas. Continuous monitoring is essential due to the wide range of actions involved and the limited resources available. Implementation of all the projects will bring added value to the European Community. Resources for this programme must also be increased as favourable circumstances arise.

If the regulation is implemented correctly, I believe LIFE+ resources will make it possible to implement the actions planned. I should also like to thank everyone who worked so effectively in the conciliation committee.




  Karin Scheele (PSE).(DE) Madam President, tomorrow, in its third and last reading, we will be adopting the Regulation on the ‘LIFE+’ financial instrument for the environment, and I should like to congratulate Mrs Isler Béguin on the outcome of conciliation as part of the overall lawmaking process and thank her for her dedication, which was made more than necessary by the very different positions taken up right through the lawmaking process.

LIFE+ has as its general objectives the implementation, updating and further development of the Community’s environmental policies and environmental law. For these things, money is needed, and precisely that was the sticking-point; the subject of the most heated debates was that of how much money we needed, and, above all, of how such money should be managed. We have not achieved everything that we thought we would through the conciliation procedure, but we have managed to get an increase of EUR 40 million, and have also managed to secure the retention of a system of central administration, for the Member States wanted to administer 80 % of the funds themselves, but we have ensured that the policy for this will continue, in future, to be Community-based.

Under the LIFE+ Regulation, the only projects funded will be those highlighting exemplary practice or conducting demonstrations relating to the management of Natura 2000 areas; that is why it is necessary that appropriate funding be guaranteed for the management of the Natura 2000 networks, and it is the Commission and the Member States that will have to do this.


  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday 22 May.


18. Environmental quality standards in the field of water policy (debate)

  President. The next item is the debate on the report (A6-0125/2007) by Anne Laperrouze, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on environmental quality standards in the field of water policy and amending Directive 2000/60/EC (COM(2006)0397 C6-0243/2006 2006/0129(COD)).


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I am pleased to open this debate on the proposal on environmental quality standards in the field of water policy, which complements the Water Framework Directive, which is the centrepiece of water protection for the European Union. I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Laperrouze, and the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety for its considerable efforts. I would also like to thank the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and the Committee on Fisheries, and in particular the draftsman and draftswomen, Mr Rübig, Mrs Bourzai and Mrs Corbey respectively, for their very constructive and supportive input on this important file.

Protecting rivers, lakes, the coastal and marine environment from pollution caused by hazardous substances is a key priority for the Commission. Since the 1970s when the Community took its first decisive action we have made significant progress. However, as we solved some pollution problems, others emerged. The chemical cocktail in our waters has become more complex and the sources of pollution are no longer concentrated at one point but are widespread and diffuse. There has never been a time for complacency.

To tackle the pollution problems caused by these dangerous substances the Commission has proposed or adopted more than 30 Community acts since the Water Framework Directive was agreed. I cannot list them all, but let me highlight some as an example.

First, the Commission has banned or restricted the marketing and use of 16 of the priority substances of the Water Framework Directive. Further decisions on some pesticides, biocides and other existing chemicals are in the pipeline. Second, the milestone agreement on REACH, the new EU chemicals policy, will require authorisation of the most hazardous substances and reduction of risks for all other chemicals regulated under the Water Framework Directive.

In summary, I underline again that also in the future the Commission is committed to providing the necessary instruments for emissions control where they can result in the most efficient and proportionate action to resolve pollution caused by priority substances. At the same time I am committed to the principles of better regulation and to coming forward with additional proposals only where it can be demonstrated that the Community is the most appropriate level at which to act.

I shall now turn to the Commission proposal for a directive on environmental quality standards for priority substances. The objective of the proposed directive is to set harmonised and transparent criteria for assessing good chemical status of surface waters, which must be achieved by 2015. Thus the most important part of the proposal is Annex I: the quality standards which must be respected in all rivers, lakes and coastal and territorial waters.

As you know, for marine waters the proposed Marine Strategy Directive will ensure the same level of protection regarding hazardous substances pollution in areas where the Water Framework Directive does not apply. I underline that the proposed values for quality standards already reflect the risk to the marine ecosystem that these substances may pose. In addition, the proposal identifies two additional priority hazardous substances and repeals several directives which were adopted between 1982 and 1990.

However, the proposal does not include additional measures for emissions controls for the reasons that I outlined earlier. The Commission believes that emissions controls are adequately covered through other existing Community legislation such as the directive on integrated pollution prevention and control.

As a closing remark, I would like to emphasise that we share the objective of a high level of protection of the water environment. The Commission published its first implementation report for the Water Framework Directive on 22 March 2007, World Water Day. It highlighted that, despite the progress, there is much work to be done, in particular by the Member States, if we want to achieve sustainable water management by making the implementation of the directive a success.

The current proposal is another step in this direction and I am committed to working with the European Parliament and the Member States to achieve the goals that we jointly set for ourselves in the year 2000. However, there are many more steps to take and I call for your support in this process.


  Anne Laperrouze (ALDE), rapporteur.(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, you pointed out just now, Commissioner, that the chemical pollution of surface waters was a threat to the aquatic environment, the ecosystem and, hence, human safety. You said, in fact, that the aim of this daughter directive of the water framework directive was to combat the spread of toxic substances in surface waters. To this end, an inventory of emissions, discharges and losses is to be implemented with the aim of verifying whether the objectives of reducing or phasing out emissions and losses of pollutants have been met, in accordance with Article 13(7) of the framework directive, the deadline for the phase-out objective being 2025. In fact, this directive will result in the abrogation of the existing daughter directives that are cited in Annex IX to the framework directive.

This directive therefore sets limits in terms of the concentration in surface waters of certain types of pesticides, heavy metals and other chemical substances that endanger aquatic flora and fauna and human safety. The impact studies that have been carried out by the Commission have resulted in the definition of environmental quality standard levels, expressed as an annual average offering a level of protection against long-term exposure and as a maximum allowable concentration, for protection against short-term exposure. However, some of the EQS values are still subject to debate, not least those relating to benzene and cadmium, hexachlorobenzene and hexachlorobutadiene, mercury, nickel, lead and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons too, because some impact studies have not been finished, a state of affairs that has, in spite of everything, hampered us in our debates.

The amendments tabled by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety highlight the desire to establish common methodologies aimed at guaranteeing an appropriate level of protection and at preventing distortions of competition among the Member States. We also wondered about the possibility of authorising transitional areas of exceedance. Indeed, if we deleted this paragraph, would we be any further forward? What matters, in fact, is the area of analysis. If we did not define any transitional areas, there might be a perverse effect, whereby we avoided controls in those areas and, therefore, were unaware of what was going on there.

We have therefore proposed to allow the Member States the option of establishing transitional areas, but with the obligation of reducing these areas in order to reach the environmental quality standards in the long term. We also mentioned the special case of port areas where, due to the mixing of bodies of water caused by the dredging of rivers and estuaries, the quality standards and analysis methods appear unsuitable. We discussed at length the advisability of adding highly toxic substances to the list of substances initially proposed by the Commission. A compromise was finally reached on this matter. We call for the Commission to carry out an analysis of these new listed substances and for it to give its opinion on their final classification, as priority substances or as priority hazardous substances, and to do so at the latest 12 months after the entry into force of this directive.

Our compromise relates to new emission control measures. We would emphasise emissions control. While the Commission is in fact relying on the existence of other legislative provisions on chemical pollutants, such as REACH, IPPC or indeed the Pesticides Directives, we call for the Commission to carry out a thorough assessment of the consistency and effectiveness of all the legislative acts that exist and that are liable to have an impact on water quality and, if necessary, to adapt or propose new acts.

To conclude, I should like to thank the Commission representatives and the various people who helped me to draft this report and, of course, my fellow draftsmen of the opinion, for their constructive cooperation on a very technical matter. I must say that it was a pleasure to work with them.

I now call on you, ladies and gentlemen, to endorse this report so that we obtain a text that makes it possible to monitor the effectiveness of EU environmental legislation, that is to say, a text that makes it possible to know whether, by 2025, we will have succeeded in eliminating the emissions from these substances that are highly toxic for human beings and for the environment.


  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by thanking Mrs Laperrouze for her outstanding cooperation on what is a technical and difficult dossier, albeit one that is of great importance in terms of the 27-Member Europe, since the efforts at harmonisation serve also to prevent distortions of competition within Europe.

As is the way of things with technical dossiers, though, there are also approval procedures and administrative burdens, which need to be constantly reviewed in the light of the need for better regulation, with its present target of a 25% cutback in administrative regulations in Europe. I believe that considerations of better governance make it necessary to set the right priorities, because, for small and medium-sized firms in particular, technical regulations and reviews involve not always or only costs, but are also associated with burdensome administrative chores.

It is for this reason that I am asking the Commission to keep on reviewing the technical practicability of these rules, to keep them up to date and, of course, to scrutinise their costs as to their proportionality. That will be a fundamental requirement as time passes and bearing in mind the various stages that are planned.

That brings me to the absolute ban on deterioration, which, in practice, can bring in its train numerous problems in industry and agriculture. We all know that, when we are dealing with water, we can have floods one day and areas of drought the next. If this absolute ban on deterioration were brought in in this area, these rules would make for enormous problems in agriculture and industry within a short period of time.


  Robert Sturdy, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. Madam President, may I also express my congratulations to Mrs Laperrouze. We started off on a very good footing and we worked well together throughout. We started off by putting the safety of the public and the environment first. I think that was particularly important.

The proposed directive sets limits on concentration in surface water of a number of substances including some pesticides, heavy metals and other dangerous chemicals and substances already mentioned by the rapporteur. These chemicals pose particular risks to both human health and animal and plant life – particularly aquatic life – and therefore this dovetails well as the final piece of the jigsaw in the Water Framework Directive.

It is important that pollution is controlled and that there is a coherence with the Water Framework Directive. The Commission must establish common methodologies for guaranteeing an adequate level of protection while avoiding distortion of competition. The amendments proposed for plenary for the EQS vote are designed to make the text less confusing, more feasible and easier to implement. The suggestion of two new recitals aims to ensure coherence with the Water Framework Directive requirements on priority substances. There is currently no consensus on how to take measures, again mentioned by Mrs Laperrouze on the sediment and biota, and until we get the scientific data set on these levels, we need to look very closely at it. Instead of setting levels now for Member States, we should monitor the concentrations of substances in the sediment and biota with a view to reaching a framework standard.

The purpose of this proposal is to protect the environment and human health. This is a very important aim but it is important that all elements of the Water Framework Directive are workable and realistic. Part of this is keeping the cost to a reasonable level and to bear in mind that the targets cannot be met without necessary technical ability.

I thank the rapporteur once again.


  Marie-Noëlle Lienemann, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we have here an extremely important daughter directive of the water framework directive.

I would remind you that this framework directive provides for the restoration of the good ecological status of surface and fresh waters in the European Union by 2015, and I must tell you, Commissioner, that its very slow implementation worries us greatly. The fact remains that it was crucially important to provide a framework for the ban on priority substances and priority hazardous substances, some of which must disappear, and to enact standards relating thereto.

Originally, the framework directive provided for complete consistency with the international conventions on seas, not least the OSPAR Convention. This convention contains a list of substances that are destined gradually to disappear, and my group felt that it was vital systematically to integrate into the list of priority hazardous substances in the directive those that appear in the OSPAR Convention. However, for the sake of compromise, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament accepted the proposal made by our rapporteur, Mrs Laperrouze – to whom I should like to pay tribute for her sterling work and personal commitment – and withdrew its amendment. In any case, the PSE will ensure that, once the work of the experts and the impact studies are complete, the Commission actually sets to work on achieving the highest level of protection because, as you know, what is at stake is not only the quality of our waters, but also the quality of our seas and oceans and consistency with the ‘Marine strategy’ draft directive, which we examined at first reading.

As for the rest, we fully endorse the proposals that have been supported by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, which I shall summarise as follows. Firstly, that there be identical measuring methods throughout the European Union, which, I might add, will be easier for the Member States and clearer for Europeans. Secondly, that there be transitional areas, of course, but with a cut-off date that was set, or in any case proposed, at first reading as 2008, if I remember rightly. Thirdly and finally, the very important point that we gradually ensure that our legislative proposals are fully consistent, so often criticised are we for accumulating different ideas, and the final arbitration must be made clear to Europeans.


  Henrik Lax, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (SV) The environment is one of the EU’s top priorities, and drastic measures are needed if we are to succeed in creating an environmentally sustainable future. The Baltic is one of those seas that is in desperate need of tougher environmental regulations if it is to recover and survive. I therefore wish to draw attention to a number of those aspects of the Commission’s proposal concerning environmental quality standards that we must get to grips with. There is a conflict between the Commission’s proposal and recommendations by international organisations such as the Helsinki Commission, for example on subjects such as DEHP. It is also contradictory that, according to the Water Framework Directive, the Commission is to check that the Member States meet their obligations to reduce emissions by no later than the year 2015 whereas, in the new proposal, this has been changed to 2025. What is more, a new article is proposed that would permit what are called transitional areas in which the permitted levels for environmentally hazardous substances might be exceeded. The Commission provides no satisfactory explanation of why these transitional areas should be introduced. Nor does it propose any mechanism for achieving satisfactory water quality in these areas. This may lead to our environmental legislation being seriously undermined. We need common, strict and clear sets of regulations if we are to get rid of the environmental poisons in our waters. That is something we must not compromise on or put off until some future date.


  Margrete Auken, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (DA) Madam President, in 1995, the countries around the Baltic Sea agreed to put a stop, in the course of the next 25 years, to discharges of a number of the most dangerous substances. The objective was included in the OSPAR Convention and in the revised Barcelona Convention. We in the European Parliament also adopted this principle in the Water Framework Directive, although no deadline was set. The Commission then apparently forgot all about the matter, however. A long time went by – not two years as agreed, but four and a half years – before the Commission came up with its proposal. Furthermore, the list of dangerous substances was far too short. Ambitions in relation to the aquatic environment collapsed. That is bad not only for water but also for the EU’s reputation. The aquatic environment is something of concern to the peoples of Europe, and we in the EU must live up to people’s expectations. We must not renege on the promises that we have made so clearly and so often.

Fortunately, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety thoroughly aligned itself with the Commission’s proposal. We owe a debt of gratitude to Mrs Laperrouze for the work she has done among the group chairmen on bringing about important compromises. The committee has since voted through a number of improvements to the Commission’s proposal, so we do now in fact have a splendid outcome. As usual, we have experienced considerable pressure from the reactionary industries that refuse to modernise their production methods. In the vote tomorrow, however, we, in the European Parliament, are the ones who must ensure that the EU complies with the objectives in the OSPAR Convention and the Water Framework Directive. We must not defer to old-style industry that causes pollution. We owe it to our environment, our health and our descendants to stand firm.


  Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (NL) Madam President, first of all, I should like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Laperrouze, for the work she has done. There are, however, two points I should like to make.

My first comment is about cases in which compliance with environmental quality standards in a Member State is technically unattainable or gives rise to disproportionate costs, both socially and economically. I should like to see a derogation for these of the kind provided for in Article 4 of the framework directive on water.

My second comment is about the inventorisation of losses. Shipping and tidal action, for example, result in polluting substances being released from the sediment. These substances have previously been dumped and should not be designated as losses, since these were dumped at an earlier stage.

In order to make these changes, we in the Independence and Democracy Group have tabled two amendments, Amendments 66 and 67, which I trust you will support.


  Irena Belohorská (NI). – (SK) I would like to offer my congratulations to the rapporteur, Mrs Laperrouze, for her report on water policy. The report under discussion today is closely related to another one, of which I am a rapporteur, namely the one concerning a thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides.

All of the eight substances listed in the group of other pollutants are pesticides, as well as most of the substances from the group of priority pollutants. The pollution of European water by pesticides and other chemicals is very serious. This justifies the need to deal with the problems of surface water and pesticides at the level of the European Union rather than individual Member States. I therefore warmly welcome the introduction of the Environmental Quality Standards, which will become binding on all 27 EU Member States.

In my report I deal inter alia with water environment protection. Recently proposed measures aimed at improving protection include the creation of protective zones at least ten metres wide along watercourses and a ban on aerial pesticide spraying, including a ban on the use of several pesticides in the vicinity of watercourses and quantitative restrictions on their application. I agree with the rapporteur’s proposal to reclassify as priority pollutants the eight substances in the group of other pollutants.

However, water-related issues are not merely a problem of the European Union, and cooperation with third countries is therefore also important. The implementation of these measures in the European Union will be ineffective as long as polluted water continues flowing into EU Member States from third countries. Some regions of East Slovakia, which are among the poorest parts of the country, have inadequate ground water supplies. Drinking water is prepared through the treatment of surface rather than ground water. These regions of Slovakia often face very basic problems, with sewerage systems being inadequate or even absent in some regions. Hence it is understandable that this part of Slovakia is characterised by a high incidence of gastrointestinal diseases. As a result, we are spending large amounts on treatment and vaccination. We must prevent such problems by providing healthy drinking water.

Investing in the quality of surface water is investing in health. Slovakia has been using only about 25% of available structural funds for environmental purposes. This percentage is disconcertingly small. I propose a higher percentage.


  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE). (HU) The directive before us fills a gap and is extraordinarily relevant; nowhere is this more evident than in the fact that for six years now there has been an increasingly vehement debate between two Member States precisely because of the lack of such a regulation.

At the centre of the European Union, the relationship between Austria and Hungary is increasingly strained by the fact that three Austrian leather factories are releasing their industrial waste water into a river on the border between the two countries. This causes the river to foam, but the Austrian authorities continue to defend themselves with a straight face, claiming that current EU regulations permit this to happen. They argue that each of the factories is observing the limit values for effluent, that is, emissions. However, they brazenly keep silent about the emission effects of the several tonnes of industrial waste water that is poured daily into this river, with its low water yield.

This directive finally takes into account the carrying capacity of natural bodies of water and, moreover, would ban 70 dangerous substances, including for instance pesticides, detergents, and solvents as well as heavy metals. These substances endanger the sustainability of the ecosystem as well as human health.

My proposed amendments, which include the naphtalene sulfonate emitted by the aforementioned Austrian leather factories among the dangerous substances, received the support of a large majority of the Committee. For this reason I am confident that Parliament will adopt a strict regulation at the vote tomorrow. I would ask my fellow Members to support my proposed amendments as well as those of the Commission, and let us use our political efforts to protect our natural waters against becoming industrial sewers. And another thing: I consider the timeframe, according to which the directive would come into effect in 2015 and would ban the direct flow of discharge or pollutants into the surface waters by 2025, to be too long.


  Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM). – Madam President, I welcome this report on environmental quality standards in the field of water policy. However, I feel that this policy is not comprehensive enough for Ireland’s water supply system problems.

In Ireland so much of our drinking water is surface water; up to 25% of public water supply in the country is at risk of contamination from the cryptosporidium parasite. In 2005 the water supply of Galway was identified as being at very high risk, and now today households cannot use water in Galway. There are outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness in both the city and the county of Galway.

Another factor contributing to the water problem in Ireland is the waste effluent from factories like Aughinish Alumina, County Limerick, which has been a major source of pollution to the local and surrounding area with its toxic red mud deposits leaking into the water supply. In Ireland we add hydrofluorosylic acid to our drinking water as a so-called medicinal product in order to prevent dental decay. It is illegal to force-medicate populations with this dangerous toxic waste substance, which has caused an increase in bone disorders. Water is a basic human right, a necessity. We hope that this directive will ensure high-quality water for the Irish people.


  Christa Klaß (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I rejoice that we are now at last deliberating on the last foundational piece of legislation needed for a comprehensive European policy on water provision and also for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive. It is better to provide in the first place than to make up for deficiencies afterwards, and that is particularly true in the case of water, which we need for our own survival.

The Water Framework Directive stipulates that the priority list of substances is to be revised regularly and updated in line with current scientific knowledge, and so the list we are drawing up is not static or final, but part of a dynamic process that has to make it possible to include new knowledge and new substances, substances that are developed and then used, as is demonstrated by the many examples adduced by Members today.

We cannot always list and take into account all the effects of a substance; for example, when the contraceptive pill came onto the market in the 1960s, it was at first hailed as a revolutionary triumph, and it was only later that it turned out that the hormonal substances were enriching themselves in our waters, so it follows that ongoing observation is necessary, and that is our understanding of the list of substances in Annex II, in which, by way of a compromise, the rapporteur has compiled the substances that Members regarded as actually or potentially hazardous. It is now for the Commission to examine what is to be done with these substances and then to put proposals to that end before Parliament.

This list is to be seen as no more than a list of substances that have to be examined; it neither categorises them nor pre-assesses them, nor does it claim to be exhaustive. All the substances must be assessed scientifically, and, if it emerges that they are to be categorised as dangerous, they should be classified as such at once. Any good European water policy must, if it is to act to protect people, take account of the latest knowledge and assessments.


  Richard Seeber (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, I, too, would like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Laperrouze, for this outstanding report. It is of the utmost importance that we produce this directive, which is to complete the Water Framework Directive, in good time, and, as the rapporteur has said, no less vital that pollution be combated at its source and point of origin and that various sources of pollution be dealt with using the same methods, while guaranteeing the prevention of distortions of competition and good water quality throughout the EU as a whole.

I would like to say something about a couple of amendments that I see as very important. In particular, the absolute ban on deterioration, to which Mr Rübig has already referred, brings with it a number of problems when it is put into practice; we have to ask ourselves whether it is appropriate for us, in this place, to enact something that will then make economic activity markedly more difficult. To some extent, that question misses the point, for restricting the applicability of transitional zones to lower waters alone also constitutes an extremely serious hindrance to the management of water resources.

We should also examine ways in which the selection and categorisation of the priority substances may be accomplished in a scientifically correct manner, and this will require the submission of a few more studies if we are to have a proper scientific basis for the imposition of the relevant requirements.

I would like, in particular, to express my support for Mr Sturdy’s Amendment 75, which highlights the need for technical feasibility and, in particular, the avoidance of disproportionate costs.

Mr Olajos referred to a bilateral problem between Austria and Hungary; as far as I am aware, a commission has already been appointed to look into it, and we do, of course, take a particular interest in its being resolved by the two countries together.


  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE). – (SK) I would also like to join my colleagues in thanking the rapporteur, Mrs Laperrouze, for her excellent work in drawing up this important document.

The fact that we have been discussing water purity in the European Parliament over the past two years demonstrates that this issue is very much on the public agenda. Today’s topic is related to the Ground Water Directive, both logically and in terms of substance. I am glad that in discussing the two preceding standards the European Parliament and Council have reached a result, even though it is known that their differences had to be overcome through conciliation efforts. I firmly believe that as Members of the European Parliament we must be more ambitious than the Commission’s proposal and that we should put forward some additional entries which are currently missing from the list of particularly harmful substances. I am referring in general to teratogenic and carcinogenic substances, as well as to heavy metals, which find their way into surface and even ground water because of the defective processes employed by industrial companies. Last but not least, it is necessary to punish severely those whose negligence and gross indifference cause seepages of petrol, oil, and oil products into surface water and reservoirs of ground water. As it happens, Slovakia, like the neighbouring Czech Republic, has had the unfortunate experience of a massive pollution of water, including ground water, in connection with the deployment of the Soviet armed forces that occupied the country for 21 long years.

It is also necessary to prevent the seepage into water of particularly harmful pesticides that are used excessively in agriculture and that directly jeopardise the health of the population. However, in setting the number of extremely harmful substances we should take into account scientific information and evidence as to their harmfulness to humans and other living organisms. Therefore, I urge the Commission to draw up draft legislation in order that new binding standards may come into force by 2015 at the latest.


  Bernadette Bourzai (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I speak in my capacity as draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on this proposal for a daughter directive resulting from the water framework directive.

I should like first of all to congratulate Mrs Laperrouze on the excellent work that she has done in relation to this complex and highly technical matter. I am particularly pleased with the vote cast in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, since 12 of the 21 amendments that were tabled by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development have been adopted.

To put it briefly, our committee’s aims were: firstly, to point out the precautionary, preventive action and ‘polluter pays’ principles; secondly, to highlight the need for the rational use of land as part of an ecological form of agriculture; thirdly, to establish national and Community complementary measures for implementation, such as the definition of other pollutants and specific monitoring programmes for sediments and biota; fourthly, to highlight the need for a formal evaluation of the consistency and effectiveness of the various Community acts on water quality; fifthly, to call for the coordination of monitoring programmes and national inventories when a watercourse runs through several Member States; and sixthly – finally – to demonstrate the need for the Member States to accompany their inventories with a timetable for implementing the objectives for reducing, and indeed phasing out, emissions.


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I am pleased to note that the amendments under discussion are supportive of the proposed environmental quality standards as put forward by the Commission. Furthermore, the principles of introducing the new concept of the transitional areas of exceedance and the establishment of the inventory seem also to be acceptable to the European Parliament. I thank you for this support because I believe that these elements are the cornerstones of the proposed daughter directive. In addition, there are many amendments in relation to which I fully share the underlying intentions and objectives.

Let me say, first, that I too am concerned about the potential risk that some of the priority substances pose. I understand that the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety proposes that 11 of these chemicals should become new priority hazard substances in amendments 53-62. I believe that we can already manage these risks and avoid negative impacts on human health and the environment by implementing REACH and other Community legislation.

I would also like to stress that I share the worries that new emerging pollutants are increasingly being detected in the waters we drink or bathe in. I understand that the Environment Committee proposes, in amendments 65, 68 and 78, the addition to the priority list of 30 new chemicals not previously included in the Water Framework Directive. The Commission is working on several initiatives, including the collection of recent monitoring data for these and other substances. The Commission will report to you on the outcome of these initiatives in 2008 as part of the review of the priority list that the Commission will be proposing.

Third, there are many amendments which set out a link with other relevant legislation or which place additional tasks and obligations on the Commission. Although the Commission is not in a position to accept any of these amendments, mainly for reasons of legal clarity, the Commission fully shares their underlying intentions and objectives in many cases. Depending on further negotiations, I am committed to using the available resources in the Commission to address the concerns that the European Parliament expresses through those amendments.

On the point raised concerning the possible conflict between international conventions, like HELCOM, and new legislation, I can reassure Mr Lax that there is and will be consistency between international conventions and EU legislation. This House is currently debating the Marine Protection Directive, which will use existing regional agreements, such as HELCOM, as the key implementation platforms, thus ensuring consistency.

In summary, on the proposed daughter directive, I am pleased to say that the Commission can support 30 amendments fully, in part or in principle. I will give Parliament’s Secretariat a list detailing the Commission’s position on the amendments(1).

Finally, a number of additional points have been raised during this debate. I assure you that I have taken good note of them and will forward your ideas, positions and concerns to Commissioner Dimas, who will certainly give them studied consideration.


  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday 22 May.

Annex – Position of the Commission


Laperrouze report (A6-0125/2007)

There are 30 amendments that the Commission can support fully, in part, or in principle. These are amendments: 1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, 36, 38, 40, 43, 48, 52, 73 and 79.

The amendments which the Commission cannot support are numbers: 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 19, 20, 26, 27, 28, 32, 33, 37, 39, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 49, 50, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 80, 81, 82 and 83.


(1)See Annex.

19. Combating violence (Daphne III programme) (debate)

  President. The next item is the debate on the recommendation for second reading (A6-0147/2007) by Lissy Gröner, on behalf of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, on the Council common position with a view to the adoption of a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing for the period 2007-2013 a specific programme to prevent and combat violence against children, young people and women and to protect victims and groups at risk (Daphne III programme) as part of the General Programme ‘Fundamental Rights and Justice’ (16367/1/2006 C6-0089/2007 2005/0037(COD)).


  Lissy Gröner (PSE), rapporteur. – (DE) Madam President, standing as I do, not in a full Chamber, but in more of a family atmosphere, I rejoice that this is a good day for the millions of women, children and young people who are on the receiving end of violence, for we have adopted, in an accelerated procedure, the Daphne programme for the prevention and combating of violence and for the protection of its victims, for the 2007-2013 period as a part in its own right of the framework programme for fundamental rights and justice. At the very outset, it did not look as if we would manage it, and I want to thank Commissioner Frattini for having taken on board this House’s arguments and rejecting the original plan, according to which Daphne would be run in tandem with the anti-drugs programme.

By means of intensive negotiations with, among others, the Council and the Commission, we have succeeded in putting together a clearly-defined programme, Daphne III, as an important element in managing the rising tide of violence in an enlarged European Union.

Parliament having achieved a policy agreement with the Finnish Presidency of the Council as long ago as November 2006, the Council then, in its Common Position of March 2007, adopted most of the amendments from first reading – not, admittedly, word for word, but the principles contained in them.

I would remind the House that, for many women, their own homes are the most dangerous of places; for many of them, from every Member State, abuse meted out to them by husband, partner, father or brother is a fact of daily life. One out of every three to four women has already experienced some sort of physical or sexual abuse; what they have gone through in their minds cannot be measured in figures. The things we are talking about here know no borders: trafficking in women, with the women getting younger and younger; genital mutilation among immigrant communities; violent crimes committed for the sake of honour; the online trade in child pornography; homophobic violence – the list of areas in which action under the new Daphne III programme is needed is long, and the one I have given is far from complete.

Having, as rapporteur, fought for Daphne for years on end, I rejoice that the increased budget of EUR 116 million makes it possible for us to reach far more NGOs; the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality insisted on more transparency, on the removal of bureaucratic obstacles and on easier access with the smaller organisations in mind.

We have also managed to retain the helpdesk service and to bring together the expertise available in all the Member States and among our partners outside the EU, drawing on it in a multidisciplinary think-tank with the aim of keeping it better in step with our political efforts. My expectation is that the Gender Institute, which is soon to be established, will continue to devote itself to this priority of combating violence.

It has to be said, though, Commissioner, that there are two other aspects that have to be addressed without delay, for you promised us, in the debate on the Daphne programme’s first reading, that you would endeavour to establish a legal basis for the campaign against violence, yet, now, in 2007, we find ourselves in the position – which I, for one, find intolerable – that Daphne III has to be founded on Article 152, which has to do with health. This is where it would be appropriate to take another step forward. Secondly, it was planned – as recorded in the Council’s additional statement on the Daphne programme, and as promised by Mr Barroso, the President of the Commission, on 8 March – that an initiative would be set in motion for a European Year against the violence suffered by children, young people and women, which occurs in very many different ways. Having gained experience from getting Daphne I and II really up and running in every Member State, many of which have benefited by having adopted for themselves the Austrian exclusion law, we will continue to fight for the benefits of shared experience at European level, and for the introduction of national plans of action and legislation in areas that were formerly taboo, by which I mean the private battlefields onto which we hope to shed some light where that was formerly unthinkable.

I therefore recommend that this honourable House extend Daphne III without further amendment, thus enabling us to proceed speedily with its implementation and bring private terror to an end.


  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. Madam President, combating violence in all its forms, and in particular against women, young people and children, is an important priority for the European Commission and for me personally.

The Daphne programme is indeed a key element of the Commission’s effort to combat violence in Europe and give support to victims of violence. Since the first Daphne initiative in 1997, Daphne has funded around 460 projects. This represents a very important European contribution. This year, 2007, marks the 10th anniversary of the Daphne programme. I am very glad that the Daphne III programme is now ready to be adopted. This new programme will allow the Commission to strengthen its actions to combat violence and that is why – and I am very grateful to the rapporteur, Mrs Gröner – I agreed from the very beginning to keep the Daphne project separate from any other European programmes, for example the one dealing with drugs.

Daphne III will run from 2007 to 2013 with a total budget, as the rapporteur has said, of more than EUR 116 million, which is an increase of more than 50 % compared with the Daphne II programme. I would like to thank the rapporteur and the European Parliament for the strong support it has shown throughout this process. I look forward to further collaboration with you in our joint fight against violence. I take note of the very interesting idea of establishing a European Year against violence towards women and children.

I would just like to highlight one point. Combating violence and protecting women and children is of course a question of awareness-raising, but it is also a question of improving operational cooperation on the exchange of information. So the idea of having a proper forum where ideas and contributions can be exchanged is a very good one.

We confirm our commitment – and I personally confirm my commitment – to exploring a better way of addressing the issue of violence against women as far as the legal basis is concerned. Unfortunately, we have thus far been a bit limited on the legal basis, but I can confirm my personal commitment to trying to find a better legal basis to expand the substantial scope for combating violence. I think that proper implementation of Daphne III will give us good suggestions and ideas which can be translated into practice.


  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (EL) Commissioner, there can be no doubt that it is a fundamental right of European citizens and of everyone living in the European Union to enjoy conditions of freedom, security, justice and health protection.

However, daily reality casts doubt on the success of these objectives and the presence of violence is becoming perceptible both in private life and in public places.

The expression of violence is without doubt an instinctive reaction which, however, can be cancelled out if the values and principles imposed by coexistence in a constitutional state and the view of human life and dignity as a supreme value which cannot be compared with any other value prevail in every human conscience.

As shadow rapporteur for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, I congratulate Mrs Gröner and everyone who contributed to the formulation of the common position on the adoption of the new programme and I believe that the broad financing will add value to the results of actions from ten years of successful application of the Daphne programmes and the initiatives of the Member States to highlight values and prevent outbreaks of violence, while at the same time offering support for victims.

I would qualify as successful the new combination in the proposal and the potential for cooperation between the Member States and the European institutions. My comments are confined to their application.

Combined, multilevel actions whose primary objectives are education and the creation of a social conscience which will resist any form of violence and respect human life, from its creation to its natural end.

Transparency and honest evaluation during the selection of action plans, combined actions with other Community programmes and strategies, such as Progress and the future strategy on the rights of the child.

I hope that progress in combating violence within the European Union will be so rapid that, if one of the coming years is declared to be the European Year Against Violence, it will relate mainly to actions to eradicate violence at international level.


  Christa Prets, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, since the issue of funding has been raised a great deal, there is something I should like to clarify. As we now total 27 countries, and the programme is to run for two years longer, it follows that the 50% increase is not quite right if we do – as we do – want to make it much more effective, happy though we are that the programme can now get underway, albeit with a late start. I think it is thanks to the stubbornness of our rapporteur that we have been able to secure certain very important things that we had demanded, namely the removal of the bureaucratic obstacles, increased transparency and the setting up of the helpdesk.

The joint statement, with its support for the year against violence, is something for which we have been calling for a very considerable time. I would like to make an urgent appeal for us to actually put what it says into practice in order to be able, for the space of a year, to put violence in all its forms at the centre of political activity and, I hope, see better clear-up rates achieved, particularly as regards the trafficking in human beings – women and children in particular.


  Anneli Jäätteenmäki, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (FI) Madam President, one important component of the Daphne programme is sexual violence and combating it. Unfortunately, international trafficking in women is the world’s third largest grey economy, right after drugs and weapons. It has been estimated that in Europe alone the turnover figure for trafficking in women is around EUR 200 million. That is a lot of money, and this is something that actually affects a lot of people. Trafficking in women is modern-day slavery: a slave trade. If we want to weed out trafficking in women in Europe, something that on a scale that resembles slavery, we need to take vigorous action. According to research, just one in four of illegal migrant prostitutes knows beforehand that she will be working as a prostitute. The others have been lied to or forced into prostitution.

I am glad that the Commission and the European Union have focused attention on this matter, but both the European Union and the Member States still have much to do.

Secondly, I would like to say a few words about violence in the family. I prefer to speak of violence in the family rather than violence against women, as, regrettably, we women can also be violent, and studies show that women are sometimes even more violent than men, and that when they start to become violent there is no limit to what they might do. It is good to talk openly about violence in the family, because it improves the chances that women and men will seek care and report those responsible for violence. Today it is often the case, however, that victims feel so ashamed, especially if the perpetrator of the violence is someone close, that they are reluctant to talk about it. The more it is spoken about, though, the more people will have the courage to say they have been victims of violence.


  Hiltrud Breyer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, our heartfelt thanks go to the rapporteur. We know that Daphne is quite outstanding among the EU’s programmes; it may be small, but it is successful, and has already been able to achieve some crucial advances in the fight against the violence endured by women and children.

Daphne is Europe’s way of showing just how much importance it attaches to combating violence against women, and, as a programme, must be a constant reminder and encouragement to us to put the campaign against that violence – directed not only against women but also against children – centre stage. In the European Union, one in every three women, and one in every four children, becomes a victim of domestic violence, but fighting that sort of violence is, even now, not yet at the top of the political agenda.

Although I am aware, Commissioner Frattini, that you have had many occasions to mention it in this House, and the rapporteur has done likewise, I would have liked to see us find an independent legal basis and give the war on violence a more central and prominent position. I would have liked you, Commissioner, to have presented us today with a timetable and made it clear when we can expect the European Union to have a policy specifically devoted to this, so that political support may find expression in action.

What is clear is that violence against women must be stopped; it is because Daphne is no more than a drop in the ocean that we need, once and for all, an anti-violence directive, and I hope that we will not have too long to wait for it.




  Ilda Figueiredo, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) Mr President, there are three points I should like to make in the context of this debate. Firstly, I welcome the retention of a specific programme aimed at preventing and combating violence against children, young people and women, and protecting victims and groups at risk. This is something that we have advocated from the outset and we welcome this result.

Secondly, I should like to state that, although there has been an increase in funding in relation to previous programmes, I am disappointed that the Commission did not accept in full the proposal we tabled, aimed at securing a bigger increase in order to take proper account of EU enlargement and of the serious, ongoing problems of violence against women, including sexual exploitation and the trafficking of human beings.

Thirdly, I wish to call on the Commission as briefly as possible to present the proposal, on which we agreed, to establish a new European Year against Violence against Women, Children and Young People.


  Urszula Krupa, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (PL) Mr President, people have encountered violence and aggression from the dawn of history down to the present day. This represents a serious health issue, testifying not only to illness, personality and psychological disorders but also to the action of individual evil.

The root cause of violence may be traced back to early childhood. Contributory factors include congenital conditions, illnesses and above all inappropriate upbringing bereft of ethical and moral principles. Such upbringing promotes the development of narcissism and self-centredness.

Clearly, efforts to combat violence must be directed against physical violence. They must also, however, target psychological violence which is even more damaging and widespread. Psychological violence does not occur only in private and daily life. It is also a feature of different types of lobbying, and of pressure brought to bear ever more frequently in the political arena. Financial resources must be devoted to preventing violence by teaching how to behave with empathy, and not simply to alleviating the effects of violence.


  Lydia Schenardi, on behalf of the ITS Group. – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I particularly welcome the many efforts made by my fellow Members, and also by the Commission, to guarantee the implementation and proper functioning of the Daphne programme – which is designed to prevent and combat violence against women, adolescents and children – by providing it, among other things, with a specific budgetary heading and by substantially increasing its budget.

I should like to take this opportunity to emphasise a particularly disgusting development, incidences of which are becoming ever more apparent in our societies: the ill-treatment of newborn babies. Indeed, in France in particular, not a week goes by without our reading in the ‘news in brief' section about a new case of a baby being ill-treated or abandoned. This development, which is linked not only to poverty and social and emotional problems and to the inherent violence generated by our societies, but also to human behaviour tending ever more towards hostility and frustration, to selfishness and to a general lack of respect, could be curbed if more psychological and material support were given to women and to families in difficulty.

There is in fact an urgent need to take preventive measures for these families and these women in distress. However, these measures should also be supplemented by genuine criminal sanctions. Whether we are talking about rape or other forms of physical violence that sadly all too often result in death, the scale of sentences is not repressive enough.

The fight against violence also necessarily hinges on the way in which we treat the promoters of such violence. I am thinking of the Internet, where perverts and psychopaths can give free rein to their obsessions; I am thinking of video games, where sex and violence are legion; I am thinking of drugs and other psychotropic substances that put each consumer into a state of trance; and I am thinking of alcohol which, when consumed in excess, causes enormous damage, not least through its effect of ridding people of their inhibitions.

The fight to be waged against violence begins at the stage of educating our children and of building the future that we want to offer them.


  Edit Bauer (PPE-DE). – (SK) When a few years ago voluntary organisations in my country launched a campaign against violence under the slogan 'Every Fifth Woman', some sections of the political elite as well as the public were outraged. They said that what might be true of Austria was definitely not true of Slovakia. At that time there was no data on violence available in Slovakia.

The most recent surveys indicate that the situation is much worse, with approximately 40% of pupils claiming that they had witnessed or had even been victims of violence. Arguably, my country is no better or worse in that respect than the neighbouring countries. Violence is a particularly grave social problem, as evidenced by the dialogue held with a thousand children and young people in preparing a strategy for children’s rights. One of the first priorities formulated during the exercise referred to violence experienced by children.

In this respect I welcome the report by Mrs Gröner, who has promoted it with extraordinary commitment. I am extremely pleased that this programme has been so successful and that it is now better funded. However, it is imperative to establish a better legislative framework to underpin the struggle against violence. The report on trafficking in human beings underlines the importance of cooperation and, to a certain extent, harmonisation of European and national laws. I think this is indeed essential in this case, too, and I greatly appreciate Mr Frattini’s efforts on this front.

I would like to highlight the positive and irreplaceable role of voluntary organisations in this area. In this respect I would also welcome moves to facilitate access to funding for voluntary organisations.


  Teresa Riera Madurell (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, violence against women is a scourge which no democratic society can tolerate. Eradicating gender violence is therefore crucial if we are to achieve a society in which there is genuine democracy, justice and solidarity. Hence the importance of this report. I would therefore like to begin by congratulating the rapporteur on her excellent work.

The Daphne programme is an essential instrument for supporting women’s organisations that are fighting gender violence, and its separation from the prevention and information programme in the field of drugs has strengthened it and made it more visible.

It has been a genuine success for this Parliament, as have the increase in its budget, the inclusion of people trafficking and forced prostitution as forms of violence and the reference to genital mutilation and honour crimes.

Ladies and gentlemen, my country, Spain, has a pioneering law for tackling gender violence from all perspectives. We believe it to be a necessary tool in order to put an end to these crimes within a reasonable space of time.

For all of these reasons, I believe it to be extremely important to draw up a European legal framework as soon as possible for combating violence against women in an integrated manner in all Member States. I agree with Mrs Gröner that we must make urgent progress in that direction.


  Inger Segelström (PSE). – (SV) I want to thank Mrs Gröner and Commissioner Frattini for their excellent work. In the Committee on Civil liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, I was responsible for sending this report back to the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, where it belongs.

Daphne is an issue dear to the heart of Swedish Social Democrats because it was Swedish Commissioner Mrs Gradin who made such a vigorous commitment to the EU’s role in combating violence against women.

As long as men perpetrate violence against women and children, as long as the sex slave trade involving women and young girls exists, as long as not all women in the EU are entitled to free abortion, as long as women in the EU are affected by honour crimes involving violence and as long as women’s rights in the EU need to be strengthened, we Social Democratic women will continue to fight for Daphne and for proper financial support for the programme. I regret the fact that we did not obtain support for setting up a network of children’s ombudsmen but, on that issue, I shall get back to Commissioner Frattini and others when we take a decision on the strategy for children. What is so fantastic about Daphne is that it is the organisations’ ability to try out new ideas and to take inspiration from examples of good practice that we can make use of in the fight against violence throughout the EU.


  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, the Daphne programme was set up in 1997 and has already helped to fund over 370 projects supporting non-governmental organisations, institutions and associations working to prevent and combat violence against children, young people and women.

A budget amounting to approximately EUR 117 million is planned for Daphne III. We must welcome the fact that the Council decided to accept most of Parliament’s amendments from first reading, notably those aimed at reducing bureaucracy and providing technical aid for proposals. It is partly due to Parliament that the very effective special hotline for victims of violence will be able to continue operating. In addition, a team of experts providing support and advice for victims is to be set up.

The aims of Daphne III are worthy of particular support. They include support for a common policy on public health protection, combating domestic violence, protecting children’s rights and combating human trafficking. In this connection, the European Commission must, as soon as possible, consider the proposal by Parliament and by the Council concerning the possibility of an initiative for a European year to combat violence towards children, young people and women.

In conclusion, I should like to thank Mrs Gröner, the rapporteur.


  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday 22 May.

Written statements (Rule 142 of the Rules of Procedure)


  Zita Gurmai (PSE), in writing. – (HU) Violence against women within the family is a serious social problem, which is related to the structurally disadvantaged position of women and discrimination against them that unfortunately still exists in this male-dominated society. We are talking about a humiliating and unjust phenomenon that – albeit to varying degrees – may be found in all countries and social strata, and that adversely affects women’s living conditions, daily lives and participation in the labour market. I emphasise: violence committed by men against women is unacceptable in a modern, democratic society!

The earlier successes of the Daphne programme make it clear that the programme must be continued. I consider it an outstanding result, as well as a significant opportunity, that the new programme has more than twice as much funding than the previous one, and thus we will expect even more from it. Particular attention needs to be devoted, in implementing the programmes, to increasing transparency, goal-oriented approaches and effectiveness, and to making sure that they reach an ever greater segment of society.

In the struggle against this destructive phenomenon, a major role is played by raising awareness and extending social prevention to all areas. Unfortunately, on the subject of violence against women within the family, there are still no truly reliable and revealing statistical data available that are harmonised on an EU level and thus would be sufficiently comparable. Every possible means must be used to create the conditions for this to be done.


  Katalin Lévai (PSE), in writing.(HU) I welcome the initiative whereby Parliament and the Council in a joint statement invite the Commission to consider an initiative for a European Year to combat violence against children, young people and women.

I consider it a significant achievement that upon adopting a common position, the Council acknowledged the success of the DAPHNE programme, and gave its unanimous support to the continuation of the programme for a third phase, which will run until 2013. I would like to emphasise as a further positive result that the budget has been increased to nearly 117 million euro, which in comparison to the 50 million budget for Daphne II and the 20 million for Daphne I represents a significant step forward.

I think we can regard as a joint success the fact that in the negotiation process, Parliament succeeded in defending a number of its amendments, for instance facilitating access for NGOs. The fact that we have been able to ensure that the helpdesk service will continue to operate, and that a think-tank providing expert advice will be set up, is a significant achievement.

I see my own efforts and initiatives reflected in the fact that an agreement was reached regarding the preparation of a joint statement on the European Year to combat violence against children, young people and women.

Finally, as the Socialist Group in the European Parliament’s spokesperson for Roma affairs, I wish to draw attention to the fact that within the Roma minority, which is itself so often defenceless, the most vulnerable members, namely children and women, face multiple disadvantages. They are the most vulnerable to violence, and therefore I urge special emphasis for their support and protection within the framework of this programme.


20. Structural policies and EU cohesion (debate)

  President. The next item is the report by Francisca Pleguezuelos Aguilar, on behalf of the Committee on Regional Development, on the impact and effects of structural policies on EU cohesion [2006/2181(INI)] (A6-0150/2007).


  Francisca Pleguezuelos Aguilar (PSE), rapporteur. (ES) Mr President, I would like to begin by congratulating the European Commission on the timeliness of this initiative report.

It is timely both in terms of the fourth debate on cohesion and in terms of the forthcoming debate on the review of the European Union budget 2008-2009, since the cohesion policy will probably be the European Union’s biggest budget line, and this policy’s added value will be clear to all of us.

My intention in this impact report has therefore been to deal with that impact in four broad areas: the social, the economic, the territorial and governance, making a series of proposals pursuing various objectives.

Firstly, of course, to optimise the synergy between the European Union and the Member States’ various public policies.

Also to strengthen innovation and the territorial dimension of cohesion.

We also aim to measure more precisely, with new indicators, the convergence between the regions and the impact of the cohesion policy.

Finally, to improve governance and raise the cohesion policy’s visibility, because our aim is to bring that policy closer to the European citizens.

In this regard, I would like to highlight some of the proposals in the report. On the one hand, the need to strengthen administrative capacity in the implementation phase of the new cohesion policy, through the setting up of a network of accredited trainers in order to implement all training measures and, in particular, to implement them at all levels, especially at local level, where I believe most work needs to be done.

With regard to the synergies between the various public policies, this report urges the Commission to explore new ways to combine the Structural Funds with other policies and other Community aid with a view to promoting competitiveness, research and innovation.

To this end, it proposes, in addition, of course, to promoting good practices and measuring the impact of this Fund, that ESPON be endowed with the resources and functions needed to enable it to act as a genuine observatory of good practices.

Furthermore, we aim to strike a territorial balance between rural areas and urban areas, and it is therefore proposed to stimulate the exchange of good practices in networks — in territorial networks — and in particular to support economic areas that are remote from major urban areas.

We must also work on the leitmotiv of the territorial dimension, which is polycentrism, and, of course, the use of new technologies.

With regard to innovation, a factor that is clearly implemented by the cohesion policy, the report proposes, on the one hand, adopting the Aho report, which proposes earmarking at least 20% of the Structural Funds for promoting R+D+i, and that it be used not just for major projects, but also for smaller projects and particularly in the least-favoured regions.

Similarly, given that more than 90% of Europe’s productive fabric is made up of small and medium-sized businesses, we believe that it is vital to provide them with easier access to European aid and programmes, particularly with regard to innovation.

We have therefore proposed technology tsars at regional and local level, who, in association with regional projects and networks, will undoubtedly help to make these SMEs more dynamic.

I am sure, ladies and gentlemen, that these and other measures proposed in the report will make it possible to raise the visibility of the cohesion policy and its practical results for the European citizens.

Furthermore, to a certain extent as a result of the events that have recently been taking place in relation to possible relocations in all production sectors and in all countries, including my own, I would like to mention that I have tabled three amendments to my own report that stress and, above all, reiterate the measures already taken up in resolutions approved by this Parliament on relocations of companies and ways to guarantee that companies that receive Community funding do not relocate their activities. And, above all, that, should they do so, sanctions are imposed on them.

I would call upon you to support these amendments, because I believe that they have already been debated and approved in this House.

I would like to end by thanking all of the shadow rapporteurs and all of the Members whose proposals have enriched this report, which I hope you will support.


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, it is a pleasure for me to come before Parliament to exchange views on the report by Mrs Pleguezuelos Aguilar, launched by the Committee on Regional Development. I am told by my colleague, Commissioner Hübner, who apologises for not being able to be here today, that, as in the case of the previous reports, it shows again how excellent and efficient our collaboration is.

I fully share the view that cohesion policy is essential to reducing internal EU disparities on the one hand and closing the gap between the European regions and the world-leading economies on the other. This is so because cohesion policy is based on a modern paradigm of sustainable development which may be best described as a conditional grant.

In order to benefit from the policy, Member States are required to draw up a medium-term strategy for the use of the resources, to cofinance European aid from national budgets, to work in partnership at national, regional and local level and to respect EU laws and policies. These conditions have resulted in the development of an efficient management system shared between European, national, regional and local levels – a system of multi-level governance.

On top of this, as the report correctly points out, cohesion policy makes a substantial contribution to the increase of commercial flows within the internal market and, as a result, has spill-over effects outside the regions and countries in which the policy is implemented. We all have to admit, however, that the impact of our policy has probably not been sufficiently measured, explained or appreciated.

Clearly, cohesion should be assessed on the basis of multiple dimensions and should not be limited only to GDP since, in the short- and medium-term, this fails to reflect many important aspects of the impact of European cohesion policy. Therefore, the fourth cohesion report will carry out a thorough analysis of economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union with the help of a wide range of indicators.

Certainly, one of the keys to its success lies in the fact that cohesion policy is an integrated, fully-fledged policy. It is not a bundle of sectoral approaches, but a policy that integrates different policies in the overriding context of development strategy. That is why it can deliver specific tailor-made solutions for each European region or territory. At the same time, it is a new policy that critically depends on coordination and synergies with other EU and national policies.

This brings me to the link between the strategy for growth and jobs, and cohesion policy. As early as this year, each Member State will set out how cohesion policy contributes to the implementation of the national reform programme. Equally, the Commission will, in its annual progress report to the Spring European Council, summarise the progress towards achieving the Union’s priorities of promoting competitiveness and creating jobs, including meeting the objectives of the integrated guidelines for growth and jobs for 2005-2008. We have also introduced an earmarking approach which assures that the predominant share of policy resources is invested in key Lisbon drivers.

As you know, the programming phase has not yet been finalised. However, according to the available data, we can already state that the reinforcement of the strategic approach of cohesion policy and its concentration on the growth in jobs agenda has been a success. In fact, around EUR 200 billion will be invested in Lisbon priorities between 2007 and 2013. If we add to this cofinancing and private resources leveraged by cohesion policy intervention, we may well see this figure double, and we need to compare this to EUR 150 billion in 2000 to 2006.

In addition, in the new 2007-2013 period, we have reinforced the coordination mechanisms inside the Commission, both in the context of the programming documents and in day-to-day operation. In a way, the preparation for the 2007-2013 programming period became a meeting point between different EU priorities. Take, for instance, research and development and innovation. At EU level, new synergies have been established between cohesion policy, the seventh Research and Development Framework Programme and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme. The last two programmes will take more account of the specificities of the regions that are lagging behind. Cohesion policy, on the other hand, will significantly increase its contribution to the financing of R&D and innovation activities.

The departments within the Directorate-General for Regional Policy, in cooperation with those of Mr Potočnik, are working on a communication to provide information and advice on how to combine the resources of cohesion and RDT policy in order to increase their respective effectiveness, which is to be adopted in July.


  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. – (FR) Mr President, I should like to thank you for giving me the floor as draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. Indeed, during a unanimous vote, the Committee on Budgets issued an opinion on the impact and consequences of the structural policies on EU cohesion.

It is not necessary, here, to point out at length that these policies are the supreme expression of the solidarity of the European people. However, while, in fact, it is clear that these policies help gradually to align Europeans' living standards by means of economic lever effects, we note that there is a lack of common indicators to measure their real impact. Our Parliament which, I would remind you, is jointly responsible for the budget, must be able to have these EU-wide indicators so that it can make best possible use of the Community budget resources and also improve the way in which the budget implementation is monitored.

That is why I should like once again to stress the need for us to create a new measuring instrument that is shared by all of the Member States and counterbalanced by the various indicators. These indicators would take account – as was highlighted a moment ago by the Commissioner, to whose remarks I fully subscribe – not only of economic growth, of course, unemployment, the level of equipment and the level of research and innovation, but also of points connected with people's quality of life, such as life expectancy, birth rates and the level of earnings of our fellow citizens. We could therefore genuinely improve the lever effect for the well-being of all Europeans.


  Ambroise Guellec, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as shadow rapporteur for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, I should like first of all to pay tribute to the very high quality of the report by our fellow Member, Mrs Pleguezuelos Aguilar. I should also like to say what a pleasure it was for us to work together on drafting this report. I believe that the rapporteur has covered all the main points, as has Mrs Griesbeck, with whose remarks I wholeheartedly agree. I should like, however, simply to draw your attention to four points.

Firstly, we need to evaluate the situation properly and, to that end, indicators, which have just been mentioned, seem crucial. At the moment, we only have GDP, which is really not enough.

Secondly, we also need to integrate properly the new territorial challenges that we are going to, and that we already, face. I am thinking about the ageing of the population, energy, climate change and also agricultural policy, which unquestionably influences cohesion policy.

Thirdly, the EU structural policies will very soon represent the first EU budget. That is why an integrated approach not only with the other EU policies, but also with those practised in each of the Member States, is extremely important.

As for the fourth point, Commissioner, I believe that we need to discuss it seriously: it concerns the structural policy and the Lisbon Strategy. Of course, the structural policy must contribute to the practical expression and success of the Lisbon Strategy, but let us be careful to ensure the balanced development of the territories. It seems entirely obvious to me that, in itself, the Lisbon Strategy does not make for balance: I believe that we must be very mindful of that. Very soon we will have a further opportunity to speak about this matter: when Parliament receives the fourth report on cohesion and when we carry out our work on this subject with the aim of knowing how to develop this policy in the future.


  Constanze Angela Krehl, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by saying how very grateful I am to the rapporteur for her dedicated work on the fine report that she has put before us.

Like a number of others that are currently under discussion in the Committee on Regional Development, this report is one of the building blocks of a future structural and cohesion policy, and by ‘future’ I mean that, while this will be reviewed in the course of the 2009 mid-term review, 2014 will see us having to start redesigning the cohesion policy that we are preparing today.

I am very grateful to Mrs Pleguezuelos Aguilar for having brought three important points back into the debate and given them added emphasis. There is no doubt about it: the competitiveness of the European Union as a whole is one of the challenges of the twenty-first century, and, as the rapporteur rightly points out, the development of research and technology is an essential element in that, one that must, of course, also be, in the areas of cohesion policy, the basis of development, not least of the less developed regions.

Territorial cooperation is something else that needs to be put much more at the heart of our policy-making now that the European Union has 27 Member States, for urban centres, and the issue of how they relate to rural areas, constitute a challenge that we will, over the coming years, have to face with greater determination.

The third problem that Mrs Pleguezuelos Aguilar addressed – and I fully endorse the way she did it – is the requirement that we do much more than we have before for the regions that are affected by depopulation, which young people are abandoning because they see no opportunities for themselves there. The issue of demographic change throughout the European Union, in every one of its Member States, is a completely new challenge for cohesion policy, and the rapporteur is right to treat migration as a problem.

Let me conclude with a personal observation, which I will address to my good friend Paca. Paca, I am so glad to see that you are able to be here again today and to take part in the debate on your report. I speak for all our group when I say that I wish you lots and lots of strength and energy for the coming days and the coming week, so that you may come back here restored to health and vigour, ready to carry on playing your part in the work of this House.


  Mojca Drčar Murko, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (SL) The coordination of efforts in the area of structural policies will be a challenging administrative test for those countries that joined the European Union in 2004 and later. It is in everyone’s interest for this to be carried out as smoothly as possible.

If, at the end of the budget period, we are to speak about the success of the integrated European structural policy, we need to encourage communication among the various parties at both national and regional levels, to foster the exchange of experiences and to encourage people to learn from good examples. The rapporteur proposes indicators which would serve to compare individual practices with each other. Our political group also believes that the amount of funding from structural funds that is allocated to innovation will determine the fulfilment of the development goals for the entire European Union.

An orientation towards renewable energy sources is an area where national development interests are interwoven with the goals of the Community. Moreover the sustainable development of cities demands some coordinated thinking about the use of various structural policy tools, since this touches upon numerous objectives, ranging from housing to employment and waste management, as a special aspect of the attitude towards natural resources.

We agree with the rapporteur that the indicators for measuring progress must be such that they encourage those implementing structural policies to seek synergies in various fields. The promotion of competitiveness, especially in the small enterprise category, is one of these possible synergy effects that should be closely monitored and analysed.

Finally I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Pleguezuelos, for her successful work.


  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, the Committee on Regional Development has recently tabled a couple of important own-initiative reports. Today, we are to debate the document drawn up by Mrs Pleguezuelos Aguilar. I should like to take this opportunity to thank her publicly for her work.

We have already talked a great deal about cohesion within our community. Essentially, cohesion means levelling out the differences between the richest and the poorest regions. Implementation of this policy is always linked to solidarity within the Union. This should not be forgotten, bearing also in mind that under the current Financial Perspective EUR 310 billion is allocated to regional policy. That equates to almost 36% of the Union’s expenditure. It is our taxpayers’ money and must be used as sensibly as possible.

It is therefore worth emphasising the usefulness of creating an integrated structural policy, linking the effects of actions undertaken in the framework of the structural funds and the Cohesion Fund with the other areas of Union policy. In his address to the House, the Commissioner referred to scientific research and to the Seventh Framework Programme. Full cooperation between the Union’s institutions, Member States and regional authorities must be ensured. This involves recognising the particular circumstances of individual regions, and taking account of both economically backward areas and also of areas with difficult geographical or social conditions.

What is at issue is not giving equal shares to all, but promoting equality of opportunity for all, notably as regards access to education, healthcare, and environmental protection. Such equality must also apply to the disabled.

It is worth emphasising the achievement of harmonised development of urban areas, where some 80% of the Union’s inhabitants reside. Appropriate action in rural areas is also required, to ensure that living conditions in the latter are not significantly different from those in the cities.

In addition, the House must keep in mind the need to take account of issues pertaining to the family and family policy in the broader Union action programme.

I am glad we recognise the virtues of inter-regional and cross-border cooperation. A levelling-out policy based on solidarity is called for, together with a sustainable development policy also based on solidarity.

We also have a practical question to pose: what is the best indicator with which to assess cohesion? It is right not to restrict ourselves exclusively to per capita GDP.

I am quite sure that this report will do much more than simply stimulate an interesting debate. It will also make it possible to draw on experience to date and on best practice relating to Europe’s actual economic, social, territorial and cultural cohesion. We deserve as much.


  Pedro Guerreiro, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) In the context of the own-initiative reports that Parliament has presented on the future of the EU’s structural policy ahead of a fourth report on cohesion and the debate on the Community budget set for 2008-2009, we wish to restate our view that the objective of regional development policy should be that it become the main instrument for effectively reducing regional disparities and for promoting genuine convergence between Member States by means of economic and employment growth.

For this to happen, the redistribution element of the Community budget needs to be guaranteed and boosted. Similarly, funds for cohesion must be increased, and cohesion should take precedence over any other objectives such as those enshrined in the Lisbon Strategy.

Accordingly, we are opposed to the attempts at making the award of resources under future cohesion policy conditional on the implementation of what are known as ‘beneficial growth’ policies at national level, such as those forming part of this report. We disagree that the granting of funding under cohesion policy should be conditional on economic performance criteria laid down at Community level, which would be an extra instrument to exert pressure on the Member States over the way in which they define their economic and social policies. As such, the economically least developed countries would be penalised twice over.


  Jan Olbrycht (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by congratulating Mrs Pleguezuelos Aguilar on this report, which deals with the important issue of the effectiveness of structural policies.

The European Union’s cohesion policy draws on structural policies and is a permanent and ongoing element of the European Union’s policies, although its content and methods change over time. It is worth emphasising that the Lisbon Strategy is just such a transitional and temporary policy. Cohesion policy, however, is a permanent and ongoing European Union policy.

Cohesion policy is effective when it attains its aims, thus increasing economic, social and territorial cohesion. Its effectiveness depends on several factors.

Firstly, it is essential to ensure the complementarity of individual European Union policies, both Community policies and national ones, coordinated at Union level.

Secondly, cohesion policy should be adjusted to the European Union’s current development challenges, for instance reducing the discrepancies between regions regarding development of a knowledge-based economy and the rate of innovation.

Thirdly, all types of public authorities must be committed to the implementation of cohesion policy. Mrs Pleguezuelos Aguilar is therefore to be commended on her many references to national, regional and local authorities. Multi-level management is a sine qua non of effective cohesion policy.

The debate on this report coincides with the European Commission’s presentation of the Fourth Progress Report on Cohesion and represents a useful political recommendation for the analysis of data contained in the report and for developing conclusions based on the analyses contained therein.


  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN). – (PL) I should like to highlight the following issues relating to the new cohesion policy.

Firstly, in the programming period currently under way, cohesion policy is particularly important for the new Member States, because most of the resources from the structural funds are allocated to these countries.

Secondly, the new Member States have established ambitious aims within their development strategies. For example, one of the aims Poland has set itself in its national strategic reference frameworks is to increase employment from the current 50% to 60%.

Thirdly, it is important to achieve a territorial dimension of cohesion, and above all to strive to reduce the imbalance regarding the development of rural and urban areas.

Fourthly, new indicators to assess the impact of cohesion policy are needed. Per capita GDP is not sufficient on its own. It very often happens that the GDP level in a particular area is close to the Union’s average, even though many parts of that same area are significantly under-developed. This is the case in Mazovia, the Polish Vovivodship I come from.


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I wish to begin by thanking the House for this debate and Members for their comments.

Let me make two points here. First, it is true that the cohesion policy is working, but we still need more visibility and more knowledge about its impact. We have already reinforced our communication strategy so as to enlarge the visibility of the interventions. The Commission also counts on Members of the European Parliament to help in this communications effort in your national and regional contexts, and the Commission is open to any new ideas coming from your side.

Secondly, globalisation entails new challenges but also opportunities. Consequently, cohesion policy must be able to face the former and to seize the latter. We must ensure that our labour force is adaptable to new challenges so that economic restructuring can take place as a continuous and low-intensity process, with no negative effects accumulated in space and time.

In addition, we must ensure that the approach to the competitiveness of our regions takes proper account of issues like population ageing, migration flows, climate change, energy and increased commercial competition. However, we should not be too pessimistic: there are many regions in the Union which rank among the most competitive and innovative regions in the world and which are benefiting from globalisation. This has been achieved by investing in new skills, building or attracting new reservoirs of talent and encouraging networks and clusters.

It is by building on these successes and development strategies that the Union can mobilise all its potential and place its economy on a high-growth, sustainable path.

On the point concerning the importance of research and development, I would like to stress that the R&D Framework Programme has evolved over time and now incorporates specific measures for the benefit of the regions, in particular those with the weakest R&D capacities. Likewise, the importance of an integrated EU approach to innovation, mobilising a mix of instruments from R&D to cohesion policy, has been acknowledged. Cohesion policy, on the other hand, has substantially increased its investments in R&D and innovation, up to almost EUR 50 billion in 2007-2013, in order to make it possible for all EU regions to have sufficient capacity to access the framework programme on a competitive basis.

Regarding the issue of new indicators, I wish to underline that the cohesion policy framework was fixed from 2007-2013. On 7 June 2007 Commissioner Hübner will present the fourth cohesion report in Parliament’s Regional Development Committee.

Finally, I would like to assure you that I have taken due note of your suggestions, ideas and concerns, which will be forwarded to Commissioner Hübner, who will certainly give them her full attention.


  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday 22 May.

Written statements (Rule 142 of the Rules of Procedure)


  Margie Sudre (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) Cohesion policy, which is going to become the main item in the EU budget, must better combine the Structural Fund measures with the other Community policies, in order to increase the synergies aimed at promoting competitiveness, research and innovation in our regions.

The structural policies conducted in the outermost regions would have an even greater impact if the Union demonstrated greater flexibility in agreeing to rid itself, as and when necessary, of certain ‘Community dogmas’ and in respecting the special conditions of the outermost regions, whose territories are cramped, far from the single market and subject to regular natural disasters.

An analysis of the multiplier effect of the Structural Funds, in terms of how it attracts private investment, must make it possible to increase cooperation between the public and private sectors, for the benefit of sustainable, polycentric and balanced development in the European Union.

Accordingly, the EU structural policy must stimulate the spirit of initiative, with the aim of developing centres of excellence in the outermost regions. It must do so by relying on sectors that make the most of their skills and know-how, such as waste management, renewable energies, student mobility, research into climate change and crisis management.


21. Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EC and Denmark and Greenland (debate)

  President. The next item is the report by Joop Post, on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries, on the proposal for a Council regulation on the conclusion of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Community on the one hand, and the Government of Denmark and the Home Rule Government of Greenland, on the other hand (COM(2006)0804 C6-0506/2006 2006/0262(CNS)) (A6-0161/2007).


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I would first of all like to thank Mr Maat, who started the work on this subject, and the rapporteur, Mr Post, for their excellent work.

As you know, on 2 June 2006, the Commission, on behalf of the Community and Greenland, initialled a new Fisheries Partnership Agreement after three years of long and complex negotiations. The Agreement came into effect as of 1 January 2007 for a period of six years. Currently, a provisional application of the Agreement is in force through a Council decision which was adopted on 21 December 2006.

Before making a short presentation of the new Fisheries Partnership Agreement with Greenland, I would like to outline just a few points relating to the previous agreement, which dated back to 1985 when Greenland had left the Community. Shortly after the Fourth Protocol entered into force on 1 January 2001, the Court of Auditors and Parliament strongly criticised the protocols under the Greenland Fisheries Agreement for including ‘paper fish’, for not including the ship owners’ payment and for not being transparent enough. As a consequence, the Commission emphasised the need for adjustments during the mid-term review of the Fourth Protocol in order to make a clearer distinction between the value for fish and support for the development of Greenland’s fisheries sector. The revision of the Fourth Protocol led to a division of funds, under which 25 % of the financial contribution was earmarked for budgetary support to the fisheries sector. ‘Paper fish’ were removed, real fish quotas and licence fees were introduced and provisions for an annual scientific review of the quotas were incorporated. These important changes were also incorporated into the new agreement. On this basis, during negotiations on the new agreement, the Commission has insisted on obtaining quotas for real fish and eliminating ‘paper fish’, on maintaining and even increasing the shipowners’ payment and on having a clear sectoral policy programme for the fisheries sector to be supported by the Community.

Another outcome of the mid-term review was the Council conclusions of February 2003, in which the Council stated that future cooperation between the Community and Greenland would be based on a two-pillar approach with a broader cooperation arrangement in areas other than fisheries and a fisheries agreement. The broader agreement takes the form of a Council decision including a joint declaration and will provide up to EUR 25 million per year to Greenland on the basis of cooperation in areas other than fisheries. Therefore, one can conclude that the initialling of the Fisheries Partnership Agreement does not merely represent the closure of the negotiations conducted over the past year, but also the closure of what was initialled back in 2003 with the mid-term review of the Fourth Fisheries Protocol and the Council conclusions of February 2003.

Turning now to the new agreement, let me outline the following. The financial contribution of the previous Protocol was EUR 42.8 million per year, making it one of the biggest bilateral fisheries agreements. The value of the new protocol has decreased considerably given the changes to the Community quotas. Some have decreased due to the poor state of the stocks, the needs of Greenland’s fishing industry and the rate of utilisation by the Community, while others have increased due to the sound state of the stocks and based on the needs of Community industry. As a result of these changes to the quotas, the Community’s financial contribution is now EUR 15.85 million per year. This sum includes a specific sum of EUR 3.26 million to be used for a multiannual fisheries policy programme in Greenland. In addition to this contribution, a payment from ship owners of EUR 2 million in the form of licences is also expected.

With regard to the amendments put forward by Parliament, I would like to stress that the Commission fully shares the concern of the Parliament on each amendment proposed. However, with respect to amendments 1-3, we feel that these are already covered in the Protocol itself and we therefore consider them unnecessary. Furthermore, in relation to amendments 4 and 6 on the reporting requirements to Parliament, I would like to stress that the Commission already complies with the transmission of this information in line with the current interinstitutional arrangement. Moreover, concerning amendment 5 on the Member States’ compliance with reporting requirements, it should be stressed that the Commission already examines whether catch reporting is respected. In addition, it is stated in the annex and the appendix to the Protocol that vessels must comply with the reporting requirements of the previous fishing year in order to obtain a licence. On this basis, therefore, the amendment is not necessary.

Finally, on amendment 7, I would like to make it clear that, given the previous criticism put forward by both the Court of Auditors and the European Parliament itself of the Commission’s financial management of the external fisheries agreements, the Commission finds it hard to understand this amendment, which, in essence, is no different to the mechanism found under the modified Fourth Protocol and does not make it possible for the Commission to manage the under-utilised fishing opportunities in the best possible way. Therefore, taking the financial responsibility of the Commission into consideration, the Commission cannot accept this amendment.

In conclusion, let me thank Parliament and, in particular, the members of the Committee on Fisheries and the rapporteur for their constructive engagement on this important fight.


  Joop Post (PPE-DE), (NL) Madam President, it is unlikely I will need all of the five minutes allocated to me. What the Commissioner said in this introductory speech was clear. The main focus of the report, which is largely the work of my predecessor Mr Maat, is the objective of fisheries policy in general – sustainable fishery, in other words – and, although the term ‘sustainable’ is clear, its meaning is also obvious from what Mr Borg said a moment ago and from what is stipulated in the agreement and the protocol.

The main objective of the partnership agreement with Greenland is to strengthen relations between it and the EU. Cooperation based on mutual trust is called for, now more than ever. After all, we have all known for some time that the fishing industry is facing drastic changes in the next few years. Due to the reduction in fish stocks and migrating fish stocks – mainly caused by marine warming, cod being a case in point – but also due to the prescribed reduction of catch quotas, the fishing industry will need to operate differently. This has been made clear to the sector, and the sector, having itself also come to realise this, is increasingly taking appropriate action.

To many fishermen, this represents a drastic change in their business operations. New business operations must, in future, eventually – by which I mean in the longer term – lead to an improvement in the fish yield, in other words, to sustainable fishing, where the catches from the sea are proportionate to the production and where, moreover, the industry’s impact on the marine environment is minimised.

According to the report, fishermen must become managers of the sea, rather than merely hunting fishing grounds and fish stocks. This requires cooperation, not only mutually, and by that I mean among Member States, but also with partners such as Greenland, particularly with a view to improving the production chain in the longer term.

As rapporteur, I note that the Commission is committed to this, as also is the Commissioner in particular, and I note that our Committee on Fisheries has come to the same conclusion.

I am grateful to my fellow MEPs for the constructive input and would warmly recommend the report for which Mr Maat did most of the groundwork some time ago.

That ends my contribution, and I hope that the report will be adopted at the next plenary meeting.


  Helga Trüpel (Verts/ALE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, I, too, am glad to see that there are to be clear rules for the two pillars, the one being the fisheries agreement with Greenland and the other the broader cooperation agreement, and would like to say, speaking on behalf of the Committee on Budgets, that we are, of course, concerned about whether European taxpayers’ money is being spent as properly as we have to want it to be.

On the one hand, that does mean – and this is where I really do want to give you, Commissioner Borg, a lot of encouragement – that there really do have to be very precise checks on what is caught by the individual vessels, and, on the other, that illegal fishing – on which you have declared war – is avoided come what may.

The Committee on Budgets takes the view that no more money should be forthcoming unless and until these two states of affairs are brought about, for we have to be careful that, under fisheries agreements too, European funds are indeed expended in the spirit of those agreements, in other words, that there must be no illegal fishing going on and that fish stocks must be protected, for if they are not, there will be no more work for the fishermen of the future. It is for that reason that combining economy and ecology here is a smart move.


  Carmen Fraga Estévez, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (ES) Mr President, it is a great pleasure finally to be able to debate a fisheries agreement with Greenland that begins to respect the minimum rules of financial transparency and non-discrimination between shipowners and Member States.

We must acknowledge the progress made since previous agreements, including the mid-term modification of 2003, to bring them into line – as the Commissioner has said quite rightly – with the guidelines of the Council of Ministers and the demands of the Court of Auditors and of this Parliament, which focussed essentially on that lack of budgetary transparency, the worst example of which was the institutionalised custom of paying astronomical sums for ‘non-existent fisheries’ or paper quotas.

In any event, this Agreement still has too much small print and its content is still too different from other agreements.

So that we do not have to relive past situations, therefore, I would like to ask the Commissioner whether he can commit himself to guaranteeing that we will never again have to hear about paper quotas or see grotesque situations such as that of the fishing of queen crabs – whose quotas, which had been repeatedly requested by Community shipowners, were returned in the end to Greenland unused and having cost a fortune – and whether fishing opportunities not used by the Member States to which they are allocated will be able to be used by those who request them, as happens in the case of the other agreements.

Having said that, Mr President, it only remains for me to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Post, who has had the difficult job of continuing with a report that was begun by another Member, Mr Maat, and who has done a tremendous job.

Mr President, since I have a few seconds left, I would like once again to protest about the fact that, in this House, fisheries reports are always debated at the end of a night sitting. I would ask you, as a Vice-President and a Spaniard, to try to do something to ensure that this does not happen again in the future.


  President. Mrs Fraga, the advantage of debating at this time is that only women Members speak, because it appears that only women work at this time of night, apart from the rapporteur and the President.


  Rosa Miguélez Ramos, on behalf of the PSE Group. (ES) Mr President, in one minute I would simply like to say that I am absolutely delighted with what Commissioner Borg has said about this Agreement.

Just this afternoon I was looking back over my speeches on Greenland in the plenary of Parliament, in 2003 and also in 2002, and I believe that we are getting closer to what we were saying at that time and to what we have been saying since: that we want the Fisheries Agreement with Greenland to be as similar as possible to any other fisheries agreement signed by the Community.

In this regard, I can only express my pleasure at the fact that there is finally now a balanced distribution of its cost between shipowners and the Community budget. I can only express my delight at the fact that the financial payments have been brought into line with the real fishing opportunities offered by Greenland and, of course, I entirely agree with the Commissioner that Amendment 7 should be rejected, because fleets without quotas must be able to take advantage of fisheries opportunities that are not used.


  Elspeth Attwooll, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, Commissioner, the ALDE Group welcomes the fisheries partnership agreement with Greenland. We take this opportunity to repeat our thanks to the home rule government for the very fruitful discussions on this and other issues that a delegation from the group had with them when it visited Greenland last autumn. We are clear that the agreement is a matter of mutual benefit.

However, we have serious concerns about one aspect of the regulation, namely Article 3(2). This would allow the Commission to reallocate licences between Member States in cases where fishing opportunities have not been fully taken up. We understand the Commission’s wish to ensure full value for sums expended by the Community, but we do not believe that the same procedure can be used in the case of agreements where access to resources is based on vessels and tonnage.

The Greenland agreement is based on the purchase of quota. It also differs from other agreements in allowing for quota exchanges with Norway, Iceland and the Faeroes for which there is no monetary compensation.

In addition, the parent regulation for the setting of quota entitlements allows only for Member States to exchange quota with other parties. Article 3(2) is therefore of dubious legality. It also undermines the principle of relative stability. Amendment 7 offers an alternative mechanism to achieve the optimal use of fishing opportunities and one that does not give rise to such problems.

We hope that the Commission will accept that the grounds for concern are justified and that Parliament will give its support to the amendment.


  Catherine Stihler (PSE). – Mr President, I should like to thank the rapporteur.

In Article 3(2) of the proposal the Commission has suggested that, should quotas be under-utilised, the Commission could reallocate Member States’ licences to other Member States. This appears to be legally questionable, a point underlined by the Council’s Legal Service in a recent working group. As uptake is already high, it is also unnecessary and would undermine the principle of relative stability and remove the opportunity for Member States to swap quota with other Member States rather than seeing the Commission reallocate it.

I want to keep the current mechanism, which brought about much higher rates of utilisation and preserved the respective rights and responsibilities of each party. The concept of relative stability is vital to the Scottish fleet and gives our fishermen the historic rights that they have enjoyed for centuries. Undermining this amendment puts all of this at risk and ignores the basic differences between southern fisheries agreements, where fishing licences are at stake, and northern agreements, where quota is at stake. I urge colleagues to support Amendment 7, which upholds the principle of relative stability and historic fishing rights.


  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, first of all, thank you all for your comments and for your overall support of the Commission’s proposal for a revised agreement with Greenland, which is an important part of the network of fisheries partnership agreements that are currently in place.

As I have already stated, the review was necessary for two primary reasons. First, we needed to ensure value for our money through better and full utilisation of fishing possibilities and second, further to a critical assessment by the Court of Auditors and by this Parliament, the Commission is obliged to inject transparency into the agreement, and we hope to have managed to do so.

I agree that there will be scrupulous checking of the use of the fishing possibilities under this agreement and the use of the funds provided. I would like to stress that, regarding the financial contribution to be paid under the protocol, the Commission cannot guarantee sound financial management without having the legal basis. This means, in other words, that there is a need for a transfer mechanism which habilitates the Commission in case of under-utilisation and with due respect to the principle of relative stability and to Article 25 of the basic regulation to transfer in due time unutilised fishing opportunities to ensure their optimum utilisation.

I would also underline that the new mechanism of the agreement provided in Article 3(2) is specifically to make possible maximum utilisation of fishing possibilities and to eliminate ‘paper fish’. On the question of relative stability, raised by Ms Attwooll and by Ms Stihler, the temporary transfer of fishing possibilities from one Member State to another by the Commission is not contrary to the principle of relative stability, which, in accordance with Article 21 of Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002, governs the allocation of fishing possibilities amongst Member States. Such a transfer will not have any effect on the allocation of fishing possibilities between the Member States in Greenland’s waters in the future. Each year the allocation will be done on the basis of the allocation keys – that is, on the basis of relative stability.

The intention behind Article 3(2) is to ensure the highest possible utilisation without affecting relative stability. This article exists and is implemented in all other third country agreements with financial compensation. The only agreement which does not have this article is the current Greenland agreement. As the new FPA is an agreement with financial compensation and involves a significant amount of public funding, it is crucial that the Commission has the legal means to act.

I would also like to underline that, notwithstanding the improvements that have been achieved under the existing agreement, the rate of utilisation is still not the optimum. Taking into account the transfers to Norway, it ranks at around 80 %. If one eliminates the transfers to Norway, it will go down to about 65 % utilisation, and I think that we owe it to the public to achieve much better results than that. Indeed, this article is subject to discussions in the Council and will be debated in the Council and decided upon, hopefully, on 11 June. Admittedly, the wording could be clearer and improved upon, maintaining the principle of relative stability while ensuring the highest utilisation of possibilities.

So, we will do our utmost to achieve an agreement in the Council whereby we will polish the wording so that, without prejudicing the principle of relative stability, we will ensure the maximum utilisation of the fishing possibilities under this new agreement.


  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday 22 May.


22. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes

23. Closure of sitting

(The sitting was closed at 10.10 p.m.)

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