Index 
Debates
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Monday, 9 July 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Resumption of the session
 2. Statements by the President
 3. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes
 4. Membership of Parliament: see Minutes
 5. Membership of committees: see Minutes
 6. Signature of acts adopted under codecision: see Minutes
 7. Documents received: see Minutes
 8. Oral questions and written statements (tabling): see Minutes
 9. Texts of agreements forwarded by the Council: see Minutes
 10. Written statements (Rule 116): see Minutes
 11. Petitions: see Minutes
 12. Calendar of part-sessions for 2008
 13. Order of business
 14. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
 15. Common authorisation procedure for food additives – Food additives – Food enzymes – Flavourings and food ingredients with flavouring properties for use in and on foods (debate)
 16. Community action programme in the field of health – Action to tackle cardiovascular disease (debate)
 17. MON 863 - Risk Management (debate)
 18. PNR Agreement with the United States (debate)
 19. Internal gas and electricity market (debate)
 20. Measuring devices containing mercury (debate)
 21. European Critical Infrastructure (debate)
 22. Law applicable to non-contractual obligations ('Rome II') (debate)
 23. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes
 24. Closure of sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: MR POETTERING
President

(The sitting was opened at 5 p.m.)

 
1. Resumption of the session
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  President. – I declare resumed the session suspended on Wednesday, 27 June 2007.

 

2. Statements by the President
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  President. Ladies and gentlemen, the chairmen of the political groups have asked me to make a statement on terrorism.

A few days ago, on 29 and 30 June, there were renewed terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow; they came something over three years after the 11 March 2004 bombings in Madrid that cost 192 people their lives and two years after the 7 July 2005 bombings in London in which 56 people were killed and more than 700 injured.

A few days later, on 2 July, a suicide bombing claimed further victims in Yemen: seven Spanish tourists and two Yemenis were killed and eight other persons injured. There are many indications that the al-Qaeda terrorist network is connected with these attacks. This is a threat to us all.

Terrorism is a direct assault on freedom, human rights and democracy. Terrorism is an attempt to destroy our values by blind force, values which unite us in the European Union and in our Member States.

Wherever it takes place and whoever is responsible, terrorism is a crime to which we must respond with determination and solidarity.

The European Union must join with the international community of nations to fight against every form of terrorism.

Today, the European Parliament will be discussing Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert’s report on the draft directive which the Commission presented last year that will require the Member States to identify important infrastructures in such areas as energy, health, communications and transport and protect them against terrorist attacks.

This will enable long-term security measures to be taken for the event of a terrorist attack. This proposed European strategy is a tangible contribution to the fight against terrorism.

We must take all the measures necessary to counter terrorism. In so doing, we must be guided by our principles of the rule of law. The fight against terrorism can only be waged in a manner consistent with the values we are seeking to defend!

The European Parliament expresses its solidarity and support for the victims of terrorism and their families – for those who have lost their lives, but also for those who are still suffering the psychological and physical consequences.

May I conclude by quoting the words of the United Kingdom’s new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown: ‘We will not yield, we will not be intimidated’.

We will now keep silence in memory of the victims.

(The House rose for a minute’s silence.)

 

3. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes

4. Membership of Parliament: see Minutes

5. Membership of committees: see Minutes

6. Signature of acts adopted under codecision: see Minutes

7. Documents received: see Minutes

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

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

10. Written statements (Rule 116): see Minutes

11. Petitions: see Minutes

12. Calendar of part-sessions for 2008

13. Order of business
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  President. The final version of the draft agenda for this session, as drawn up by the Conference of Presidents at its meeting of Thursday 5 July 2007 pursuant to Rules 130 and 131 of the Rules of Procedure, has been distributed. The following amendments have been proposed:

Monday and Tuesday:

No amendments

Wednesday:

The Socialist Group, the Liberal Group and the Group of the European United Left propose that Mr Markov’s report on road infrastructure safety management be referred back to the committee responsible in accordance with Rule 168.

 
  
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  Brian Simpson (PSE). – Mr President, I would like to speak in favour of referring this report back to the committee. There was a lot of concern in committee when the vote was taken to reject this proposal and no doubt the groups involved had reasons for doing that, but one of the consequences was that many road safety issues were then rejected also. Rather than go through the whole procedure in this plenary, my group and I feel that it would be far better if we refer the whole Markov report back to committee as of today, take it off the agenda and basically start again with our discussions between all the groups in the hope that we can come to a proper solution.

 
  
  

(Parliament adopted the motion)

Thursday:

No amendments

(The order of business was adopted)

 
  
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  Martin Schulz (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, I crave your forbearance because I do not know which Rule of the Rules of Procedure I am speaking under. But I am sure that in your infinite wisdom you will find the right one.

We have a number of debates in this House about Parliament’s calendar of meetings. There is a very great need for coordination between the political groups. The deadline for the tabling of amendments is 10 a.m. tomorrow. On behalf of our group, but also with the agreement of other group chairmen and colleagues, I propose that the deadline be extended to 6 p.m. tomorrow. That might give us time to resolve one or two serious problems, including organisational ones.

 
  
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  President. Thank you. A large number of group chairmen and representatives are nodding their heads in agreement with this proposal. I can therefore assume that there are no objections and the deadline will be set at 6 p.m. tomorrow.

 

14. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
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  President. In accordance with Rule 144 of the Rules of Procedure, the next item is one-minute speeches on matters of political importance.

 
  
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  Ovidiu Victor Ganţ (PPE-DE). – Preşedinţia germană a Uniunii Europene a început sub auspicii excelente pentru România, ţara noastră devenind membru la 1 ianuarie 2007. Acest moment istoric a fost validat în unanimitate în Parlamentul României odată cu Tratatul constituţional european.

Din păcate, acesta nu a fost adoptat, noi negocieri fiind iniţiate. În aceste condiţii politice apreciez în mod deosebit eforturile Germaniei şi ale doamnei cancelar Merkel în realizarea unui consens. Germania şi Franţa au pus împreună bazele Uniunii Europene, trecând peste resentimente seculare. De aici hotărârea şi perseverenţa cu care preşedinţia germană a căutat consensul.

 
  
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  President. Thank you. Pacta sunt servanda does not need to be translated because everyone knows what it means.

 
  
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  Árpád Duka-Zólyomi (PPE-DE). – (SK) Before EU accession, Slovakia had been able to meet the Copenhagen criteria fairly well, including the criteria on ethnic minority rights.

Since the Fico government took office, however, the situation has become much less certain. There are increasing signs that this government is gradually challenging and curtailing hard-won minority rights. One of the first promises of the government was to preserve the status quo with regard to minority rights. An example of this would be the recent verbal attack by the Ministry of Culture, which accused a Hungarian-language daily published in Slovakia of breaking the law by using Hungarian place names.

These accusations and the arguments used to substantiate them do not hold water, since the right to designate places in the mother tongue is guaranteed under international agreements and required by the grammar of each language, including Hungarian. The main problem is that the current language legislation contravenes international agreements that have been ratified by the Slovak Republic. There is also a reluctance to ensure compliance with Slovakia’s obligations under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. It is disconcerting that the Fico government has again chosen to whip up Slovak-Hungarian tensions over an issue which has been relatively calm in recent years.

 
  
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  President. May I remind the House that these one-minute speeches last one minute?

 
  
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  Lasse Lehtinen (PSE). – (FI) Mr President, the Commission has promised to issue a White Paper on sport on 10 July. Sports and physical fitness organisations around Europe would like to determine sport’s special status so precisely that the Union’s rules on competition and the internal market do not threaten its social importance.

The popular movement in sport should not have to suffer just because top sportsmen in many sports are professional and managed like a business. There is a long tradition of voluntary work, especially in the Nordic countries. The European model, where charitable organisations and the Church often keep sports activities going, works just as well and emphasises the same values.

The Commission and the European Parliament need to enact laws which guarantee that sport can decide for itself in a lot of matters.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Alexandru-Ioan Morţun (ALDE). – România a luat notă de adoptarea de către Adunarea Parlamentară a Consiliului Europei a raportului Dick Marty referitor la presupuse centre de detenţie. Regretăm că raportorul, în pofida invitaţiilor repetate de a se documenta la faţa locului, a preferat discuţiilor directe cu autorităţile române realizarea raportului în baza unor surse nenominalizate, a căror veridicitate nu a fost până acum probată.

Deoarece tema va fi reluată în curând în Comisia LIBE a Parlamentului European, România, într-un spirit de totală deschidere şi cooperare, doreşte să-i fie aduse la cunoştinţă probele care au stat la baza formulării unor acuzaţii atât de grave.

Solicităm acest lucru şi pentru a vedea dacă nu au existat şi alte informaţii rămase eventual neinvestigate la nivel naţional.

În plus, revenim asupra necesităţii ca domnul Dick Marty să dea curs invitaţiei de a se deplasa în România pentru avea discuţii directe cu autorităţile, pentru a fi confruntat nemijlocit cu rezultatele anchetei naţionale efectuate.

 
  
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  Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, the leader of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament has attacked Poland and its Government on several occasions during recent months. Despite his statements on combating xenophobia in Europe, he has behaved arrogantly and hurled allegations against my country. These attacks were not part of a sensible discussion. They simply demonstrated hatred and prejudice against Poland and its leaders.

I call upon you, Mr President, to act to prevent Mr Schulz from taking advantage of the European Union's institutions to fuel enmity between Member States. Mr Schulz's intolerance of nations seeking to promote their interests violates the code of ethics an MEP should adhere to.

 
  
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  President. You have addressed me as President. I do not believe there is any basis for what you say. It was a political dispute and there were reasons for it, as the group chairman has explained. I do not therefore see any reason why I should take the action you are asking me to.

 
  
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  Milan Horáček (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, in its new progress report, the Commission has given Romania and Bulgaria the ‘unsatisfactory’ mark for the fight against corruption. At the same time, it has decided not to apply the safeguard clauses. What is more, the Commissioners have greatly watered down the originally crushing reports on deficits in justice and criminal prosecution and deleted a number of passages criticising the clear shortcomings compared with EU standards.

At the same time, the results in the fight against crime are very poor. Contract killings as a whole are a great cause for concern, especially the murders of local politicians that have taken place since January. No one has been charged or sentenced for them to date.

This kid glove treatment is damaging not only to Parliament, which made the safeguard clauses a condition of both countries’ accession, but also to the integrity of the European Union as a whole, and is unacceptable.

 
  
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  Willy Meyer Pleite (GUE/NGL). – (ES) Mr President, I want my words to serve as a wake-up call to the European Parliament and the European institutions with regard to accidents in the workplace in the Union.

Spain is currently at the top of the league in terms of work accidents, with 20% of all of the accidents occurring in the European Union. The situation is very serious: in my country alone there are 7 600 accidents per 100 000 employees. This figure demonstrates the need for a change of direction in our economic growth, an out-of-control growth that does not take account of the quality of employment.

In Spain, on average, three workers die in their workplaces every week. Last week, two people died dismantling the stage at a Rolling Stones concert in the Vicente Calderón stadium in Madrid. Another four workers died in Carboneras, in Almería. These figures demonstrate the need for a radical change with a view to achieving quality in employment and putting an end to accidents in the workplace and casual work.

 
  
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  Thomas Wise (IND/DEM). – Mr President, the Belgian Government recently passed a law requiring supermarkets to charge customers for plastic bags. I commend it on this action. It is a step on the way to a better environment. A similar law was passed in Ireland some years ago and it was also very successful, reducing carrier bag usage by up to 90%. This shows how Member States, when left to handle their own affairs and without EU interference, can solve their problems quite well by themselves. But I note that the supermarket in Parliament’s basement in Brussels is not charging for carrier bags. I have written to the manager of the supermarket asking why this law should not be applied in his shop. But perhaps this is another example of one law for ordinary folk and another law that is ignored for a privileged few.

 
  
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  President. If I may say so, Mr Wise, you have just made a contribution to the Europeanisation of the solution to this problem. Thank you!

 
  
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  Десислав Чуколов (ITS). – Уважаеми г-н председател, уважаеми колеги, вземам думата сега, за да фокусирам вниманието ви върху огромния скандал, случващ се в България през последните няколко седмици.

Уволнен служител на Националната служба за охрана изнася факти, че български политици са следени от тази служба, като тази служба се води на пряко подчинение на президента на Република България Георги Първанов.

Преди време, г-н Pöttering, Вие приехте Първанов, въпреки изричното предупреждение на колегата ми Димитър Стоянов, че се срещате с агент на бившата Държавна сигурност. Сега се оказва, че този агент на Държавна сигурност и неговият приятел, вътрешният министър на Република България, Румен Петков, следят и подслушват български политици.

Аз като представител на най-силно изразената опозиционна партия у нас, „Атака“, изказвам възмущението си по този повод - следенето и подслушването на председателя на „Атака“ - г-н Волен Сидеров. Това не са голи твърдения. Това са факти, изнесени от подполковник Николай Марков - бивш служител на НСО. Ние от „Атака“ настояваме за изясняване на всеки детайл от този грозен случай и затова изискахме изслушването на всички страни в българския парламент. Управляващите у нас отново отказаха това, което идва да потвърди отново тяхната замесеност в този случай.

Накрая г-н президент, искам да Ви призова като ръководител на тази уважавана институция, каквато е Европейският парламент, да използвате влиянието и авторитета си пред властите в България, за да се сложи край на тези незаконни и недемократични действия.

 
  
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  President. Parliament’s services will look into what you say and I am sure they will then advise me.

 
  
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  Sergej Kozlík (NI). – (SK) A year ago Lithuania’s bid to join the Euro zone was rejected. This happened despite the fact that Lithuania had complied with the Maastricht criteria in advance and to a far greater extent than most Euro zone members. The only criticism was that the inflation benchmark had been exceeded by one tenth of a percent. This sufficed to deny Lithuania access to the Euro zone, and provoked a major crisis in Lithuanian domestic politics.

Next year Slovakia’s bid to join the Euro zone will be assessed. At present Slovakia is on course to meet the convergence criteria, but voices are already being heard from the European Central Bank and Commission, talking about the need to ensure that compliance remains sustainable. It would be perfectly OK if this ‘flexible rule’ were applied equally to the Member States of the Euro zone. Such an approach quite justifiably leads us to question whether the desire to extend the Euro zone to the countries of Eastern Europe is genuine or fake.

 
  
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  Georgios Papastamkos (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, the German Presidency was quite right to take the initiative in registering the negotiating mandate for the reform treaty on climate change.

I believe that the environment should have a horizontal dimension, that we should safeguard the horizontal logic of environmental policy in the reform treaty, because environmental policy is simply an aggregate of individual policies; it is not just one policy, it is an aggregate of several policies.

I also believe that we need to make the environmental diplomacy of the European Union more cohesive to the outside world and to link environmental diplomacy with the common foreign and security policy, with international trade and with European development policy, if we want to have results on a global mega-scale, because the environment has no borders, it is a public commodity and, as such, we must protect it overall through international associations.

 
  
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  Maria Matsouka (PSE).(EL) Mr President, I believe it is my duty to inform you about the drama surrounding the redundancies at the company Dipasmata Drapetsonas.

The first 380 workers were made redundant in 1999. In 2003, the Committee on Petitions decided unanimously to ask for them to be reinstated. In 2006, the Supreme Court of Appeal in Greece decided, again unanimously, that the redundancies were invalid and abusive.

Despite the battle and their vindication by the court, the remaining 200 workers made redundant continue to experience the feeling of social injustice and financial isolation. The Greek Government is refusing to apply even this ruling by the highest court in the country.

In the face of this unprecedented political stonewalling, two of the members of the fighting committee, Francheskos Karakatsanis and Apostolos Panayiotidis, started a hunger strike in the middle of a heat-wave, which lasted 12 days and left them in hospital.

These people are claiming the obvious right to a dignified life for themselves and their families. I call on you to take initiatives for the credibility of the most favoured nation and social Europe.

 
  
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  Diana Wallis (ALDE). – Mr President, I find it very odd, as an MEP from a very developed and wealthy country, to be standing here to draw attention to a natural disaster of huge proportions in the region I represent.

Last week, just a few miles from my own home, I was taken to see homes where there are piles of furniture in each garden; homes that have been abandoned completely as their owners dare not come back yet; homes inside which floodwater had risen up to a metre or more – risen through the floor with extensive rainfall: two months’ rain falling in just 12 hours. Thousands of homes were destroyed, schools closed indefinitely, businesses and farms wiped out – often in communities that were previously in receipt of European structural funding.

Yesterday, there were buses bringing humanitarian aid – buses that normally service communities in Africa. The whole thing is incongruous, unreal – but very real and very devastating to the individuals whose homes and community infrastructure have been destroyed.

We hope our Government will make an application to the EU Solidarity Fund. I hope this House will support it. It would be appreciated if the House could show its support to these communities in the region of Yorkshire.

 
  
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  President. Thank you, Mrs Wallis. As it is your constituency, we must show our solidarity.

 
  
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  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, I am given courage to speak on the subject I had decided on previously by your comment that the phrase pacta sunt servanda does not need to be translated, because everyone understands it.

How many young people in Europe learn Latin and Ancient Greek, the languages which have been used to express not only European thinking from the beginning, but also European spirituality have been expressed?

Within the framework, therefore, of multilingualism, which the European Union supports, we should remember these languages, Ancient Greek and Latin, which constituted the bases for the expression of the European spirit and we must support them with measures and programmes, so that all the young people of Europe have the possibility of learning where the words they use in their own, modern European language derive from.

When I listen to my honourable friends here, even though I do not speak their languages, I understand the words that derive from Ancient Greek and Latin. Why should young Europeans not also have this opportunity?

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE). – Ca urmare a schimbărilor climatice, agricultorii europeni se confruntă tot mai des cu fenomene de secetă şi inundaţii.

Agricultorii din România se confruntă în acest an cu o secetă excesivă, ce a afectat toate culturile însămânţate în toamna anului 2006 şi primăvara anului 2007. În acest an, peste milion de agricultori din sudul, vestul şi estul României nu vor putea recolta nici măcar un kilogram de produs agricol de pe hectarul de teren arabil cultivat, ceea ce va aduce la o creştere explozivă a preţurilor pe piaţa românească la toate produsele agroalimentare şi la falimentul agricultorilor.

Uniunea Europeană trebuie să sprijine mai mult prin Fondul European de Solidaritate statele membre aflate în astfel de situaţii.

 
  
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  Marco Cappato (ALDE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have just included the vote on Parliament’s opinion on the Intergovernmental Conference in Wednesday’s order of business.

In view of this evening’s meeting of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, I would just like to draw Members’ attention to the fact that, in the past, the European Parliament’s obligation to give an opinion – even though the opinion itself was not binding – was in fact used by such people as Altiero Spinelli in order to be able to influence decisions on treaty reform.

The fact, however, that the timeframes and procedures have been set, if I may say so, at an almost military pace, so that the committee has its debate and votes straight away this evening and then Parliament makes its judgment on Wednesday, means that we are giving up that power to influence that we in this House should have been able to exercise and, indeed, should still be able to exercise, for example in relation to those who even want to remove our European symbols from the treaties.

I hope that one of the Members here present will put forward this possibility in the Committee on Constitutional Affairs this evening.

 
  
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  President. Mr Cappato, I can tell you that we will only adopt the statement if, when the President of the European Council addresses Parliament on Wednesday, he also gives us assurances that Parliament will be involved at all levels of the proceedings. That is our condition. You will speak about it in the Committee on Constitutional Affairs this evening.

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, at the last sitting of the European Parliament, Commissioner Almunia surprised many Members when he stated on behalf of the European Commission that the consequences of not joining the eurozone would be different for the new Member States, four of which he named, than for the old ones, that is to say, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Denmark. This very honest but alarming statement testifies to a particular type of discrimination against the new Member States.

By recognising that the new Member States are to be treated differently from the old ones, the Commissioner is admitting that Europe has actually been partitioned into a first and second class Europe, albeit unofficially. This unacceptable situation has arisen three years after the accession of the 10 new Member States to the Union and six months after the accession of the latest two new Members. It would be helpful if the European Commission's representatives eventually grasped the fact that the Union is a single unit and that there is no such entity as an old and therefore better Union as opposed to a new and worse one.

 
  
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  Monica Maria Iacob-Ridzi (PPE-DE). – Procedura bugetară pentru anul 2008 deschide perspectiva unei posibile diminuări a fondurilor structurale şi de coeziune pe baza unei rate de absorbţie scăzute în 2007.

În primul an de implementare a unei noi programări financiare, toate statele Uniunii au o rată de absorbţie redusă pentru că trebuie să aştepte aprobarea de către Comisie a programelor operaţionale. Deşi România a fost printre primele ţări care au depus aceste documente, până în prezent ele nu au fost aprobate, în ciuda termenului de 4 luni adoptat de legislaţia europeană.

Întârzierea aprobării programelor operaţionale sectoriale reduce cu aproape un an perioada în care se pot depune proiecte pentru finanţare. Astfel, numeroase proiecte planificate pentru 2007 vor fi întârziate, ceea ce va antrena costuri economice considerabile.

În plus, se creează o discontinuitate în accesarea finanţărilor europene. Fondurile de pre-aderare au fost foarte bine absorbite -Phare în proporţie de 97%- şi sunt convinsă că la fel se va întâmpla şi cu cele structurale şi de coeziune.

Limitarea fondurilor structurale ar afecta într-o proporţie mai mare ultimele state care au aderat la Uniunea Europeană, România şi Bulgaria, care au deja alocate sume mai mici. Cele două ţări beneficiază împreună de un fond egal cu cel al Ungariei. Pentru toate aceste motive consider că reducerea sumelor destinate politicii de coeziune nu trebuie să se facă pe baza absorbţiei din anul curent.

Parlamentul European, ca instituţie care are ultimul cuvânt în privinţa fondurilor structurale, nu trebuie să permită acest lucru şi trebuie să solicite Comisiei Europene să urgenteze aprobarea programelor operaţionale.

 
  
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  Magda Kósáné Kovács (PSE) . – (HU) Since the change of regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, the rights to free opinion and free assembly need protection not primarily from the state but from the ever more powerful forces of extremist, neo-fascist ideologies. Generally, these constitute extra-parliamentary, but extremely violent political groupings. In some states, exclusion and intolerance are not alien even to government policies.

Various national, ethnic and sexual minorities are being intimidated. The exercise of their rights is being restricted and hampered, their human dignity humiliated. In the past few weeks in several Member States, gays celebrated their equality of rights. In some places the festivities of millions went off without disturbance. Elsewhere, extreme right-wing forces provoked conflicts in the streets.

In the spirit of French president Jacques Chirac’s farewell speech, I ask all European conservative forces, at both European and national levels, to lend a helping hand to all endangered people and to their supporters. Let us defend together the dignity of European citizens, and let us stand up against homophobia and against all exclusionary behaviour. If today we do not protect the right to difference, it may be that tomorrow we will not be able to protect our own.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL).(PT) I would like to applaud the demonstration by Portuguese workers organised by their union confederation, the CGTP-IN, which was held on 5 July in Guimarães. I fully support their courageous and generous struggle against the new measures to facilitate unfair dismissals, deregulation and arbitrariness in fixing working conditions, the weakening of collective bargaining and the attack on the organisation of workers, particularly trade unions.

These unacceptable proposals form part of the unprecedented offensive against labour known as ‘flexicurity’, which has been enshrined in Community Green Papers or communications and national White Papers, the aim of which is to generalise job insecurity, exacerbate exploitation and reduce workers’ rights in order to increase the profits of the large economic and financial groups. Following on from the great general strike of 30 May, this ongoing, selfless struggle will lead thousands of public administration workers to demonstrate next Thursday and many thousands of other workers to take part in the demonstration planned for 18 October in Lisbon.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, the practice whereby different Member States assume leadership of the European Union every six months results in a particular style of activity and an effort to achieve the objectives set at all costs in a very short space of time. This system generates many tensions because certain decision-making processes are accelerated unduly.

The Constitutional Treaty is a case in point. The so-called period of reflection was too long. The matter remained in suspense throughout and no serious thought was given to it, contrary to what had been anticipated.

It was hard to make up for lost opportunities during the six-month German Presidency, and there was insufficient time for an in-depth discussion of the best possible solutions. Allocating too little time to the Intergovernmental Conference, especially as the holiday season intervenes, may well result in a similar situation. We run the risk that important decisions will once again be taken hurriedly and without proper preparation.

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella (PSE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as an exception I shall speak in Italian to criticise the encryption and blacking-out of certain programmes broadcast by the RAI to other countries: they include football matches and Formula 1 Grand Prix races, and also films, TV serials and cartoons.

I am thinking of all those who had to leave their country many years ago and their children, who want to maintain a link with Italian culture. Seeing that other European TV channels broadcast openly makes it all even more difficult to understand. It is an injustice and, as a spokesman in this Chamber for the Italian community abroad, I fully endorse the petition at

, which I wish every success.

 
  
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  Cristian Silviu Buşoi (ALDE). – Doresc să salut decizia Conferinţei ministeriale a Tratatului Comunităţii Energetice din sud-estul Europei din Muntenegru, din 29 iunie, de a deschide negocierile privind aderarea Moldovei şi Ucrainei la Comunitatea Energetică din sud-estul Europei.

Aderarea Moldovei la acest tratat înseamnă adoptarea legislaţiei comunitare în domeniul energiei şi al mediului; înseamnă integrarea în piaţa europeană de energie electrică şi gaze naturale; înseamnă o perspectivă europeană pentru această ţară; înseamnă în fapt un mare pas înainte către Uniunea Europeană.

Apreciez (că) termenul de 31 decembrie 2007 asumat pentru finalizarea negocierilor privind aderarea Moldovei ca fiind unul realist. Având în vedere că aceste negocieri se vor purta cu Comisia Europeană, solicit Comisiei Europene să nu facă nici un fel de asociere între aderarea-tratat a Moldovei şi cea a Ucrainei.

Negocierile trebuie purtate separat, iar aderarea trebuie să se facă în funcţie de meritele proprii ale fiecărei ţări. Datorită modului în care Ucraina abordează problematica mediului înconjurător, inclusiv în problema în canalului Bâstroe şi a situaţiei cu standardele de securitate nucleară, este posibil ca aderare Ucrainei să întârzie. Ar fi incorect ca într-o astfel de situaţie aderarea Moldovei să fie întârziată datorită problemelor Ucrainei.

 
  
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  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE). (HU) While the Live Earth concert was under way on all seven continents last weekend, in order to put a stop to climate change and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, meanwhile in Slovakia an astonishing announcement was made. Scarcely 20 kilometres from the historic Tokaj wine region, an investment group wishes to build Slovakia’s largest coal-fired power plant.

Once the establishment is operational, it will emit 4 million tonnes of harmful substances annually. Because of the prevailing wind direction, this enormous quantity of pollution will descend almost entirely upon Hungary. And it will do so precisely where we find the world-famous Tokaj foothills, a World Heritage Site. The area is also the location of the Bükk National Park, which is a significant Natura 2000 area. This is where the pollution would be released, in the form of acid rain and soot.

These days, when one of the greatest challenges is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, when we are desperately struggling to preserve biodiversity, not a single EU Member State can be permitted so blatantly to ignore our common values and commitments, be that with its immediate neighbour or with any other Member State. I would ask my fellow Members, with particular consideration for my Slovak colleagues, to raise their voices in opposition to this project. It is not enough to applaud at the concert, we must also take action.

 
  
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  Proinsias De Rossa (PSE). – Mr President, I am concerned about the situation concerning non-national lettori, or lecturers, in Italian universities. They have fought for equality for over 20 years, they have won four European Court of Justice cases, but the Italian universities persist in discriminating against them. More recently, the European Court of Justice inexplicably found in favour of Italy, contrary to the advice of the Advocate-General. The Commission has now closed its case against Italy rather than seeking a revision of the new European Court of Justice ruling. This decision was made despite documentary evidence that discrimination continues.

I urge the President to make contact with the Commission – with Commissioner Špidla in particular – and insist that European citizens’ rights to equal treatment in the workplace, wherever they may work, are respected and defended by the Commission. I will send you the background information on this so that you may raise this matter.

 
  
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  Richard James Ashworth (PPE-DE). – Mr President, you will be aware that a million European citizens have signed a petition calling for this Parliament to have one seat. This was a major expression of the will of the people, not only because this Parliament could save the taxpayers about EUR 200 million a year, but also because we as responsible parliamentarians could be seen to be taking action to cut our carbon emissions. As Members of this Parliament, I believe we have a duty to listen to and respond to the wishes of the people.

However, this is an issue that can be addressed only by the Intergovernmental Conference. I therefore urge the presidency and the Bureau of this Parliament to take action on this matter and to raise the subject in advance of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference. Surely the time has come for this Parliament to listen to and respond to the concerns and the demands of one million European citizens and to debate this issue properly.

 
  
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  Brian Simpson (PSE). – Mr President, this weekend Germany played Serbia in Heidelberg for the first time at the great game of rugby league, or rugby à treize. However, the HTV rugby union club in Heidelberg, aided by the German Rugby Union, tried to disrupt the event with disgraceful behaviour. They went around tearing down posters advertising the game; they threatened German players that if they played rugby league for their country they would be banned from playing rugby union. The national trainer of the German rugby union team, prior to the playing of the national anthems, threatened a player and banned him from playing, against his wishes, for his country. HTV played on the designated pitch the day before even though the local authority had forbidden them from doing so, thus ruining the playing surface for the international match the following day. The Germany vs Serbia rugby league match was recognised as an international by the Rugby League International Board European Federation.

The actions of HTV Rugby Union Club and German Rugby Union are something we expect from a banana republic, not a nation in the EU, and show how bigoted the German Rugby Union and the HTV club have become. Their behaviour was disgraceful and shocked the spectators. This blatant discrimination and intimidation cannot be tolerated and will, I would hope, be condemned by this House and by the Commission. I would ask the German authorities to withdraw all support from the HTV rugby union club and the German Rugby Union until their attitudes change.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Mr President, last week the international community witnessed with much satisfaction and relief the release of the BBC’s Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston. As is well known, he had been abducted by an extremist Islamist group four months earlier and his rescue in practical terms on the ground was made possible mainly through the efforts of Hamas. Admittedly Hamas is not the holiest of organisations, but its recent seizure of control in Gaza has had a number of beneficial effects apart from Alan’s release. It has brought stability, peace and a vast decrease in the corruption previously exhibited in Gaza. Hamas representatives were democratically elected in the last elections and enjoy much popular support amongst the Palestinian people. All these factors must surely make the West think again about Hamas, its role in the Middle East problem, and the possibility perhaps of taking Hamas off the terrorist register.

 
  
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  Bogusław Rogalski (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, I should like to refer you to a text that reads as follows 'Fathers tend to neglect their daughters' clitoris and vagina. They rarely caress those parts of their bodies, yet that is the only way in which little girls can develop pride in their sexuality. Children touch all parts of their fathers’ bodies and sometimes arouse them. Fathers should do likewise.'

These hair-raising, perverted and shocking statements are taken from an official leaflet entitled 'Love, the body and playing doctors' published by the German Federal Centre for Health Education. The leaflet is aimed at parents of children aged between one and three. It is compulsory reading in nine German Länder. It is used as part of nursery and kindergarten staff training.

Mr President, an institution under the aegis of the Ministry of the Family is actually officially encouraging incest and paedophilia in this brochure. This is unacceptable. I appeal for the relevant European Parliament committee to deal with official government publications of this type. No official leaflets can be permitted to encourage paedophilia and incest in any Member State.

 
  
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  Ioannis Gklavakis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, in Greece this year we had a serious lack of rainfall in the winter, which caused significant damage to agricultural and livestock production. Unfortunately, since the first days of summer we have had unusually high temperatures throughout south-eastern Europe, lasting for more than ten days and accompanied by catastrophic fires.

In my country, large areas were destroyed in Pilion and Parnitha, which is an important mountain massif in Attica and has been a national forest since 1961. It had a unique pine forest with 1 100 species of plants, some of which are endemic, only growing in this area, and was home to 23 rare species of endangered animals, including the strongest population of red deer in the country.

Unfortunately, environmental damage over recent years has taken on nightmare proportions.

My call is this: I urge you in all earnestness to start a global information campaign at the initiative of the European Union about the major problems facing the planet which, in addition to the destruction of forests throughout the world, include pollution and overfishing of the seas, soil contamination and pollution of the atmosphere.

All these factors are bringing about an ecological imbalance in nature and a reduction in biodiversity. Before it is too late, we must take initiatives and action designed to save our planet, because soon the situation will be irreversible. We owe it to future generations; we owe it to our children.

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, I would like to direct your esteemed attention today to the Roma and Sinti living in Europe. With 12 million people, this marginalised group is Europe’s largest minority. The situation of the Roma and Sinti is deeply shocking. The daily confrontation with racism and discrimination and a general lack of prospects are preventing this ethnic group from becoming an integral part of our democratic and pluralist society.

I was particularly upset to hear that a would-be Austrian politician, who is a disgrace to our profession, recently said that when these people are found begging they should be washed from the streets with steam jets. I am therefore particularly glad that there is another movement in Austria, the Graz Initiative, that is concerning itself with this group’s problems and has taken it upon itself to help the Roma and Sinti out of their difficult situation and promote their integration. Last week, important members of this initiative attended various meetings in Brussels to seek solutions to these people’s problems together with Members of the European Parliament and the Commission.

I would like to expressly congratulate this initiative on taking this step. It is the right approach to finding solutions to these problems in Europe.

 
  
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  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE). – Mr President, at a time of spiralling disaster in Zimbabwe, many of us are alarmed at reports that the EU Presidency intends to invite Robert Mugabe to the proposed EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon.

Mugabe, of course, bears personal responsibility for the Zimbabwean tragedy and tops the list of Zimbabweans banned from travel to EU countries under the EU’s targeted sanctions.

Parliament understands the importance of the Summit, but has made its view clear, most recently in its resolution of 26 April when it called on the Council ‘to ensure that no banned persons are invited to or attend the planned EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon in December’. If the EU is to have any credibility, it must at least stand by its own sanctions policies.

It is disappointing there is no representative of the Council here, Mr President, but can I ask you strongly to reaffirm Parliament’s declared policy to the Council.

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE). – Mr President, over the decades, European states have learned to show a minimum of respect for the culture and religion of millions of immigrants. Alarmingly, the opposite is true for most of the home countries of the same people.

It has become common in the Middle East, Asia and Africa for people who profess Christian beliefs to face social, political and economic discrimination. In practically all Muslim countries people who decide to join a Christian church risk their lives. The traditional Christian population in all those countries shows a dramatic decrease. Even in an officially secular country like Turkey, Christians face intimidation, harassment and even murder. One can but agree with the proposal by a well-known commentator that Turkey will only be ready to join the EU when it is just as easy to build a Christian church in Turkey as it is to erect a Turkish mosque in Germany today.

I call on the Commission and the Council to pay urgent attention to this aspect in dealing with governments that do not allow even a minimum of respect and protection for their indigenous Christian minorities.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR SIWIEC
Vice-President

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

 

15. Common authorisation procedure for food additives – Food additives – Food enzymes – Flavourings and food ingredients with flavouring properties for use in and on foods (debate)
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  President. The next item is the joint debate on the following reports:

- (A6-0153/2007) by Mrs Westlund, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a common authorisation procedure for food additives, food enzymes and food flavourings (COM(2006)0423 C6-0258/2006 2006/0143(COD))

- (A6-0154/2007) by Mrs Westlund, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on food additives (COM(2006)0428 C6-0260/2006 2006/0145(COD))

- (A6-0177/2007), by Mrs Doyle, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on food enzymes and amending Council Directive 83/417/EC, Council Regulation (EC) No 1493/1999, Directive 2000/13/EC and Council Directive 2001/112/EC (COM(2006)0425 C6-0257/2006 2006/0144(COD)) and

- (A6-0185/2007), by Mrs Drčar Murko, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on flavourings and certain food ingredients with flavouring properties for use in and on foods and amending Council Regulation (EEC) No 1576/89, Council Regulation (EEC) No 1601/91, Regulation (EEC) No 2232/96 and Directive 2000/13/EC (COM(2006)0427 C6-0259/2006 2006/0147(COD))

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I have to say that I am happy that we are having this discussion today, but I know for many who do not know the details of these proposals that it may not sound very exciting. As a topic it may appear to be very technical, but it is not for me, because these proposals combine most of the European priorities. They involve food safety and consumer protection, which is one of the main priorities. They also touch upon innovation and the competitiveness of the European food industry, which is one of Europe’s main industries. They also seek to achieve simplification and better regulation. Although we still do not see eye to eye on the issues relating to these proposals, I am confident that we agree on the principles, the purpose and the targets of these proposals and that we will agree on a solution soon.

I would like to thank all the rapporteurs, Mrs Westlund for the work she has done, Mrs Doyle and Mrs Drčar Murko for their considerable efforts in preparing these reports and, of course, the overall support for the proposal. In addition to simplification, this package also provides for harmonisation and promotes consistency between the three areas. The common authorisation procedure will establish a system for assessing and authorising additives, enzymes and flavourings in a consistent manner and will simplify administrative procedures for national authorities and business operators.

Comitology is a sensitive issue. The proposal introduces comitology in order to update Community lists of additives, enzymes and flavourings to ensure that these can be adapted in a timely manner. I should remind you that these are purely technical and scientific issues, but we need to be able to resolve them in a timely manner. This is of major importance for consumer safety and the competitiveness of the food industry. I am aware of the concerns about the proposal to use comitology as expressed by Members of Parliament, but the alternative would be impractical and burdensome for all, especially for the European Parliament, and would be unworkable in practice. I know there are several amendments already tabled which would introduce codecision for updating the Community list of the additives, enzymes and flavourings. Experience as regards various food additives has shown that authorisation of substances under codecision is long and complex. This has a negative impact on innovation and these delays increase risks for the consumers as well. On the other hand, comitology allows for fast authorisation and the introduction of restrictions or removal of substances, if necessary, in order to protect the consumers.

We believe that the proposed use of comitology is a step towards the simplification of the legal framework and is essential for the three proposals. For this reason we would oppose the amendments that would introduce codecision for authorisation of these substances. However, I fully support the necessary adaptations the proposal contains with a view to establishing a regulatory procedure with parliamentary scrutiny. I would like to clarify this, because when the Commission proposal was adopted we were still in the process of adopting the new system, so it still refers to the normal regulatory procedure. It will, therefore, have to be adapted, and we will do so in the amended proposal, to take into account the new regulatory procedure with scrutiny which will enhance the rights of Parliament to scrutinise and have full input into the authorisation of additives, enzymes and flavourings. And I believe through this new procedure we will achieve the intention of the European Parliament while still maintaining the advantages of a simpler procedure.

And now we will look very briefly at food additives and the other proposals. Food additives have been used since ancient times to improve presentation and maintain nutritional quality. The regulation of these substances is important to ensure food safety and also to ensure that consumers are not misled. That is why it is appropriate to update the current legislation, encouraging innovation and development as long as they are safe. These are assessed by EFSA and comply with other criteria laid down in the legislation. The current directive on flavourings also needs to be substantially amended in order to take into account technological and scientific developments in the areas of flavourings and the developments of food legislation in the European Community. In the interest of clarity, efficiency and simplification, I should add that the best approach is to replace the directive with a new regulation on flavourings alongside a separate regulation on common authorisation procedures. The proposal on flavourings offers a high level of protection for the consumers while allowing the industry to continue to develop new flavourings and new applications in order to respond to increasing consumer demand for more convenient products.

And finally we have the proposal on food enzymes. These have been used traditionally in the production of food such as bread, cheese, beer and wine. They can improve the texture, appearance and nutritional value of food and can be used as alternatives to chemical-based technology. At this stage the use of food enzymes is not fully harmonised within the European Union and the national regulatory contexts differ significantly among Member States. This lack of harmonisation has created barriers to trade and hindered growth in this field. As well as that, there is currently no safety evaluation of food enzymes at European level except for those few that are considered to be additives. In the meantime technology has advanced and production methods of enzymes have become progressively more complex and their use more sophisticated and widespread. Safety evaluation of all food enzymes is therefore essential.

The purpose of the Commission proposal is to bridge the current regulatory gap by creating harmonised rules for the authorisation and use of food enzymes in the Community. The establishment of the Community list of approved enzymes and efficient updates of the list by comitology will foster the competitiveness of this European-led sector and ensure a high level of consumer protection.

As I am running out of time, I will not tire you with a specific response to every amendment, but a full listing of the Commission’s position on each of the amendments will be made available to Parliament. I trust that this will be included in the report of proceedings for this sitting. Our response will explain our position on each amendment.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Parliament for the considerable effort it has devoted to this whole legislative package. It should remain our shared interest – and I am confident that this will be the case – to keep these proposals together and apply a consistent approach.

Commission's position on amendments by Parliament

Report: Westlund (A6-0153/2007)

Overall the Commission can accept 28 amendments, either completely, subject to redrafting, in part or in principle. It rejects 11 out of a total of 39.

17 amendments are acceptable: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 15, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 30, 32

One amendment is acceptable partially and subject to redrafting: 37

10 amendments are acceptable in principle and subject to redrafting: 3, 8, 11, 12, 19, 25, 34, 35, 36, 38

11 amendments cannot be accepted: 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 26, 29, 31, 33, 39

Report: Westlund (A6-0154/2007)

Overall the Commission can accept 46 amendments, either completely, subject to redrafting, in part or in principle. It rejects 35 out of a total of 81.

21 amendments are acceptable: 8, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 36, 39, 42, 46, 48, 51, 56, 57, 59, 60, 3, 61, 62.

One amendment is acceptable partially: 33 (part)

6 amendments are acceptable in principle: 9, 26, 28, 35, 43, 44.

18 amendments are acceptable in principle and subject to redrafting: 7, 15, 23, 37, 55, 58, 1, 4, 63, 65 (64rev), 66 (65rev), 68 (67rev), 69 (68rev), 70rev, 71, 77, 79, 80

35 amendments cannot be accepted: 10, 11, 12, 17, 20, 24, 25, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34, 38, 40, 41, 45, 47, 49, 50, 52, 53, 54, 2, 5, 6, 67 (66rev), 70 (69rev), 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 78, 81

Report: Doyle (A6-0177/2007)

Overall the Commission can accept 32 amendments, either completely, subject to redrafting, in part or in principle. It rejects 8 out of a total of 40.

13 amendments are acceptable: 2, 3, 8, 10, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 35, 40.

3 amendments are acceptable partially: 1, 4, 19.

3 amendments are acceptable partially and subject to redrafting: 12, 14, 21.

13 amendments are acceptable in principle and subject to redrafting: 5, 7, 11, 15, 17, 18, 20, 24, 26, 29, 33, 34, 36.

8 amendments cannot be accepted: 6, 9, 13, 16, 32, 37, 38, 39.

Report: Drčar Murko (A6-0185/2007)

Overall the Commission can accept 29 amendments, either completely, subject to redrafting, in part or in principle. It rejects 24 out of a total of 53.

15 Amendments are acceptable: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 15, 28, 29, 30, 35, 36, 48.

10 amendments are acceptable in principle and subject to redrafting: 10, 14, 18, 25, 27, 31 (first part), 39, 41, 42, 45.

3 amendments are acceptable partially: 24, 33, 34

One amendment is acceptable partially and subject to redrafting: 1

25 amendments cannot be accepted: 2, 11, 13, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 31 (second part), 32, 37, 38, 40, 43, 44, 46, 47, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53.

 
  
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  Åsa Westlund (PSE), rapporteur. (SV) Mr President, I wish to thank the Commission and Commissioner Kyprianou for their constructive cooperation. I also wish to thank the German and Portuguese Presidencies and the Council of Ministers for their willingness to arrive at agreements concerning what are such important matters for many players and consumers. Furthermore, I should like to say a big thank you to the rapporteurs, Mrs Doyle and Mrs Drčar Murko, for the other reports in this package and to the shadow rapporteurs for my two reports. We have had many valuable meetings, and there has been a very constructive climate of cooperation. I therefore have high hopes that the continued discussions on these matters will take place in the same untroubled and constructive spirit.

I wish to begin by talking about the proposal for a regulation on food additives. On many occasions, additives really do have to be used in order, for example, to improve the shelf life or consistency of food. It is far from clear, however, how all these additives affect our health and the environment, and additives are sometimes used in order to mislead us, the consumers. I therefore wish to see EU legislation on food additives made more stringent, above all by tightening up the requirement that consumers should not be misled and by requiring that, when an additive is authorised, account be taken of how the environment and people with allergies will be affected.

Current legislation already contains requirements that consumers should not be misled in connection with the use of additives. All too often, however, consumers do find themselves misled. An example is the colouring agent used to deceive consumers into believing that a cheap yoghurt contains more fruit or berries than it actually does contain. The requirement that additives should not be used in a way that misleads consumers must therefore be made more stringent. The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety thought so as well, and I hope that Parliament too will support this position tomorrow.

What we eat does not stay in our own bodies but is dispersed into the environment. A start needs therefore to be made on factoring the environmental effects of additives in to the decision on whether or not they should be used. A clean environment should also be one of the objectives of the regulation. In order to clarify this further, the legal basis for food legislation should be changed so that it is clearly designed to improve public health and the environment and not only to promote freedom of movement for goods in the EU’s internal market.

The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has supported a series of proposals about giving more consideration to the environment, and I hope that Parliament might do the same tomorrow.

Let me return now to the position of those with allergies. At present, all food containing allergy-inducing substances must be labelled as such. That is good, but it is not enough. Those with allergies and those who have an intolerance of certain substances must be able to eat the food sold in ordinary food shops and served in ordinary restaurants and not have to be directed towards specialist fare. The range of food available to those with allergies should not, therefore, be limited due to the approval, without very good reasons, of additives that cause them problems. The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has partly supported my demands in this connection, and I hope that Parliament will take the opportunity tomorrow to do more to make matters easier for those with allergies by supporting my and others’ amendments calling for increased account to be taken specifically of those with allergies.

I should now like to say a few words about a group of colouring agents known as azo dyes. These were previously banned in Sweden because they can cause problems for people with allergies. A while ago the British newspaper The Guardian also drew attention to a still unpublished British study that again revives the quite frightening discussion about a possible connection between azo dyes and hyperactivity in children. I therefore support the demand that food containing azo dyes be specially labelled.

In conclusion, we must ask ourselves the following question: who is to take decisions about the content of our food in the future, and what decision-making process is to be adopted? I wish to call on all Members to vote against the amendments aimed at limiting consumers’ scrutiny of the approval process and instead to vote in favour of the amendments about increasing scrutiny and openness. The secretiveness surrounding our food is in danger of seriously damaging public confidence in both the EU and the food industry. When decisions are taken by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament together, the decision-making process is also more democratic and more transparent. With a committee procedure, the democratic ability to hold the relevant decision-makers to account is jeopardised, and serious limits are placed on scrutiny and the ability to influence decisions. What is more, cases have unfortunately occurred in which, in the course of decision-making within the framework of the committee procedure, powers have been exceeded and the framework arrived at jointly by Parliament and the Council has thus not been complied with. An example concerning the use of resources by way of aid was, in actual fact, drawn to the attention of the European Parliament this very week. My advice, therefore, is that Parliament should have the right of codecision on these issues, even if the new regulatory procedure involving supervision also has its advantages.

 
  
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  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – Mr President, as rapporteur, I welcome the Commission's proposal on food enzymes, along with the other proposals in this package, as do industry and consumer groups generally. This proposal is actually the first piece of specific legislation aimed at food enzymes.

Enzymes are added to food to perform a wide range of technological functions in the manufacture, processing, preparation, treatment, packaging, transport or storage of foods. They are most commonly used in baking, brewing and cheese production and in the production of alcohol and other beverages.

While enzymes have been used for centuries in food production, in the latter half of the 20th century the use of enzymes in food production increased significantly and, since the 1980s, companies which produce enzymes have been using genetic engineering techniques to improve production efficiency and quality and to develop new products.

At present, there are no harmonised rules at Community level controlling the use of enzymes, creating not only barriers to trade and lack of legal certainty but also differing standards of health and consumer protection across the 27 Member States with only three Member States having their own risk assessment procedures at present, namely the United Kingdom, France and Denmark.

A regulation on food enzymes will therefore improve the operation of the single market in this area and thus promote European innovation and competitiveness, while ensuring a high level of consumer and environmental protection.

The proposed common authorisation procedure, for which Mrs Westlund is rapporteur, will also improve the efficiency of the single market with all risk assessments and all authorisations for food improvement agents being undertaken by the European Food Safety Authority.

There are just a few points I would like to highlight. Commissioner, I am also in favour of the ‘comitology with the right to parliamentary scrutiny’ procedure for this legislation. And I would like to see this harmonised across all four reports in the package, as these are technical reports which are best handled by the experts at EFSA and the Commission. Furthermore, as we are in the early stages of this new scrutiny system, we need to give it time to work before calling it into question.

I am concerned about the potential for double authorisation that this new enzyme regulation could create for food enzymes derived from genetically modified organisms which fall under the scope of Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed. Under the present Commission proposal, the wording implies that such food enzymes would have to be authorised in accordance with that regulation before they may be assessed under this regulation for inclusion in the Community list.

While we have assurances that best administrative practice will apply in these cases at EFSA, I have proposed plenary amendments to my report to make it clear that EFSA could carry out concurrent or simultaneous assessments in accordance with the two pieces of relevant legislation. I support similar amendments to the reports on food additives and flavourings. We need coordinated wording across this package of legislation and there is agreement on this in large part between the Council, the Commission and industry on how to proceed.

Food enzymes are not and cannot be GMOs. However, an increasing amount of them are derived from genetically modified micro-organisms, and it is important to stress this distinction in order to avoid misunderstandings.

In my enzymes report I strongly recommend a single legal base for this regulation as it favours legal certainty which is in the line of most ECJ judgments on these matters. Dual legal bases generally mean sloppy drafting and leave the measure open to challenge, with respect. This regulation is purely a market harmonisation measure so I would prefer a single legal base in Article 95, the internal market legal base, alone.

A key issue of concern in the report on food additives is the proposed change in the definition of processing aids contained in several amendments that would require them to be authorised and labelled as additives if they are present in the final product, even when they are not active. This change was not put forward by the Commission in its original proposal and would signal a major departure from the current approach in EU food legislation with potentially major consequences for the European food industry.

Such a change would be out of synch with the Codex definition on processing aids and so could adversely affect European competitiveness and international trade. I am also dubious as to whether such excessive label clutter would actually improve consumer information.

To conclude, I would like to thank my colleagues for their support and collaboration, particularly Mrs Westlund and Mrs Drčar Murko. We need to coordinate and harmonise the four pieces of legislation in this package as much as possible in order to achieve coherent and practical regulations that can be easily interpreted and applied in all Member States and I look forward to further fine-tuning these reports at second reading.

 
  
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  Mojca Drčar Murko (ALDE), rapporteur. – (SL) I support the position of the regulation on flavourings: The outdated European legislation needs to be modernised and simplified in order to improve the operation of the internal market and to promote technological advances, although not at the cost of reducing consumer protection. On the contrary, protection must be increased.

The aim of standardised rules for approving new food additives is to increase the trust of consumers. The rules must be such that they preclude the possibility of consumers being misled, and apart from anything else this requires accurate and clear labelling of products.

Alongside the toxicological aspect of food safety, I believe we also need to take into account the expediency of adding flavourings to food. Indeed it is possible for manufacturers to use strong flavourings in order to cover up bad ingredients in their ready-made food. The issue of the technological expediency of flavourings is, then, linked to the principles of protecting people’s health.

The contentious part of the regulation in my view is the part about food ingredients with aromatic properties, especially herbs and spices. These were included in the text of the regulation after the publication of reports on the genotoxicity and carcinogenic effects of certain pure biologically active principles in herbs. The maximum permitted amounts, relating to around 60 herbs and spices, are contained in Appendix III to the regulation.

We do not underestimate the scientific evidence that biologically active principles can in themselves be harmful. I agree that we need to preclude the possibility of toxic substances accidentally getting into ready-made food. For the moment, there is no scientific evidence that such principles are harmful, even when they appear, in minute quantities, in mixtures of herbs and spices and we ingest them in ready-made food.

One possible consequence of determining the highest permitted values based on biologically active principles might be that certain traditional products, which have already been in the European market for decades, would disappear from it, with food producers leaving out herbs and using flavourings in their place.

I speak on behalf of almost all members of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety when I say that the issue of biologically active principles needs to be addressed in a complex and integrated way. I propose that the solution adopted by a large majority in the committee be supported by Members in the plenary session. In that case Appendix III, part B would remain in the regulation, but would be empty until based on scientifically supported reasons and the Commission, within its competence, orders a relevant study, which would use the average daily consumption of such food to calculate the actual risk to human health.

In the regulation on additives we support the view that a condition for inclusion on the list of permitted substances is a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), but this should not be the only criterion. Toxicological acceptability does not say everything about how sensible it is to add additives in the light of European Union efforts to educate people towards healthy eating habits. Reasonable technological interest is a concept which, in light of this, we support as a tool for the political interpretation of borderline problems. It makes sense, for instance, to prevent consumers from being misled with regard to the value of food additives, if in truth they have no value.

Our group also supports a unified and centralised procedure for approving new additives, flavourings and enzymes, on condition that it becomes more efficient, faster and more transparent. We had some reservations, which we expressed in the debate in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, but having counted up the good and less good sides to the new proposal, we are of the opinion that comitology with the right of scrutiny will give Parliament the option of fleshing out the technical aspects of approving food additives with certain political criteria that seem important from the point of view of long-term consumer protection.

Finally, I wish to offer a heartfelt thanks to the two rapporteurs of the other regulations which go to make up the new legislative package for their excellent cooperation and very productive exchange of opinions.

 
  
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  Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs. (ES) Mr President, the Committee on Legal Affairs was required by the chairman of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety to issue its opinion on the appropriate legal basis for the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a common authorisation procedure for food additives, food enzymes and food flavourings.

The Committee on Legal Affairs has studied the issue and, firstly, we have found that it is perfectly possible to have two different legal bases. For example, we have the judgment of the Court of Justice of 1988 in the case of the Commission versus the Council, which establishes this possibility of a twin legal basis in the event that the objectives of the protection of persons and of the functioning of the internal market coincide.

We believe that they coincide in the case of this Directive. It is not simply a directive aimed at maintaining the internal market, but also a directive that is intended to provide the maximum degree of legal protection.

There is no difficulty from a procedural point of view, because the procedure is the same: the codecision procedure. Nevertheless, we believe that the legal basis of Article 95 – based exclusively on the internal market – is not sufficient, and that it must therefore be reinforced by means of Article 175(1), which relates to the protection of people’s health.

 
  
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  Horst Schnellhardt, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen!

In your introduction, Commissioner, you described the advantages of these new arrangements: greater legal certainty, better information for consumers and – very importantly – less bureaucracy. I can only support you! Please continue. Transform this patchwork of directives into regulations. Then we will have an important and correct basis for European legislation.

Since regulations of course apply in all Member States as they stand, the conditions of the internal market demand a degree of flexibility and messages that are relevant. That is why the scrutiny of a product in the codecision procedure, as proposed in committee, is unnecessary. I am a strong supporter of the codecision procedure, but in this case I am nevertheless arguing that the extended comitology procedure be used. I am sure you will find that acceptable.

The effect of products and food additives on health or – as Mrs Westlund says – on the natural environment should not come into these regulations either. We should be concentrating on what we want to achieve. Otherwise we will end up with a broad fabric of rules and will fall short of our target. There are plenty of other rules for that.

I also think the proposal that food additives should be permitted only if the effect cannot be achieved with spices is altogether excessive. There is no scientific basis for this. We cannot agree to it.

I am actually very happy with the authorisation procedures. But show a bit of confidence in your colleagues, ladies and gentlemen of the Commission! Why six months for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and nine months for the Commission? You should change that, Commissioner. Follow the proposal of allowing both institutions six months. It should then be possible to develop something positive.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I would like to thank the three rapporteurs, especially Mrs Doyle, who produced the report for which I am shadow rapporteur for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. I would like to try and identify the common points, but also the differences between our positions. Like the previous speakers from my group, I support the approach of having two legal bases for the regulations because for me the enhanced consumer safety this Commission proposal contains really is the most important argument.

As Mrs Doyle has already mentioned, only three Member States have so far introduced a safety assessment for enzymes into their national laws. That is why we need a safety assessment at European level – precisely on grounds of consumer safety.

I hope that tomorrow’s plenary will follow the committee’s example and accept a further criterion, in addition to those provided in the Commission’s text, for a food enzyme to be included in the Community list: namely that its use should benefit the consumer.

Enzymes derived from genetically modified organisms are an important subject for me, as also for many other Members of this House. I well remember how, when we debated the regulation on genetically modified food and feed in this house a few years ago, many of us tried to get acceptance for the European public’s wish that GMO-derived enzymes should be labelled as such. At the time, our attention was drawn to this general revision of the enzyme legislation. That is where we are today and that is why I believe that the time has now come to get the wishes of a broad majority of the European public accepted.

If I may now turn from my own terms of reference directly to Åsa Westlund’s report, I will of course support the codecision approach, because on a subject such as enzymes we should ensure the broadest possible transparency. It is of course interesting that the Commission is advocating the extended comitology procedure here, while we are up against a brick wall with another dossier on genetically modified organisms. I find it very interesting that in this case the regulatory procedure with scrutiny is said to be possible for individual authorisations of enzymes, even though that is evidently still not the case with other topics such as genetically modified organisms.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I wish to congratulate Mrs Doyle on her excellent report on food enzymes and to thank her for the very good cooperation she afforded to all the shadow rapporteurs.

The use of enzymes in food processing is well known through the ages. However, in recent years such use has multiplied in number, quantity and complexity. It is therefore imperative to have new EU legislation on this aspect of food production.

Some of the areas on which the rapporteur has focused her attention include providing clear definitions of food enzymes and food enzyme preparations, the proper labelling of products and, perhaps most controversially, food enzymes derived from genetically modified micro-organisms.

In general, I fully support the line followed by the rapporteur in this report. However, concerning GMO-derived enzymes, I have decided to follow a more strictly ‘green’ approach than Mrs Doyle, although I must admit that the rapporteur has made significant compromise changes which greatly improve the approach to the matter of GMOs.

Nevertheless, I would like to tackle the issue, appearing perhaps a bit over- rather than under-cautious, as the subject matter has a number of as yet unresolved scientific question marks and unknown quantities. In addition, I feel that, as far as our citizens’ health is concerned, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Besides, the European public’s psyche and perceived understanding of anything to do with GMOs is presently somewhat suspicious, to say the least. It is only right and fair that the public should be given full information with crystal clarity and honest precision on foodstuffs that contain certain substances derived from GMOs. Only in this way will our citizens feel absolutely safe that they can enjoy food produced with the use of enzymes, knowing exactly how the enzymes were produced. The vast majority of consumers might not make full use of such a practice, but it will be available for those few who wish to be fully informed as a matter of right.

 
  
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  Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, chemical substances are now being added to an increasing amount of food in Europe and the world over. The food industry is serving up increasing amounts of food substitutes to society and especially to children. It very often seems as if we are consuming chemical additives and food in equal quantities.

The young are particularly exposed to the dangers of unwholesome food. They are the group most easily seduced by advertising, and they consume the most colourings in drinks and sweets, especially pre-packaged ones. The report is a step in the right direction, but the absence of a ban on the use of GMOs in food products and the emphasis on their possible use are cause for concern.

I suggest you reflect on the following, ladies and gentlemen. If we do away with food additives and replace them with GMOs in certain cases, we might well be exposing society to new risks in the future, by creating the conditions for currently unknown diseases and their detrimental effects on the human body.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (SV) I wish to thank the rapporteurs for their constructive cooperation. One of the consequences of this is that my amendments limiting the use of flavour enhancers, warning against azo dyes and calling for the labelling and risk assessment of genetically modified additives and pesticides used as preservatives have been incorporated into the report. I hope that these amendments will be retained by plenary.

In proposing a double legal basis I am supporting the rapporteur. When additives are authorised, account must be taken of their environmental impact. This may be necessary in order to obtain proper purification in sewage treatment works.

The main idea contained in the Commission’s proposal is to introduce committee procedures for additives. The risks we should then run would be those of too many additives being approved and of only provably dangerous substances being banned. The experience of the European Food Safety Authority shows that the precautionary principle does not count for much. Moreover, one of the basic requirements of the regulation is that consumers should not be misled. How these matters are to be interpreted as a political issue and thus an issue for Parliament.

We are entitled to good, natural and safe food. Often, additives that are not fresh or natural are used in food. Consumers have everything to gain from the competitive advantages of natural and fresh food not being reduced through sloppy legislation on additives that favours food produced on a centralised and large-scale basis and involving something that, too, is scarcely very good for the environment, namely transport over long distances.

It is therefore absurd for the Commission to state that the need to put colour in otherwise colourless food is a particularly important reason for using colouring agents. That, if any, procedure is likely to mislead the consumer. The proposal that sweeteners might be used for the specific purpose of extending a product’s shelf life is misleading and should be deleted.

I hope that, with a view to protecting children, I shall obtain support for limiting colorants in food designed for children. Nor should nanoparticles be approved under this regulation, because the latter is not designed for dealing with the properties of nanoparticles. We should also take special account of those with allergies by not allowing additives to limit their choice of food.

Those manufacturers that do not provide adequate information about their additives must not, of course, have them approved. Manufacturers must not find it worthwhile to withhold information. We in the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance have tabled amendments to reflect all these considerations. If they are approved, we shall obtain legislation that protects consumers.

The Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance has applied the same logic to other regulations. Naturally seasoned food must not be placed at a disadvantage, as it would be through the Commission’s proposal. I call on everyone to support natural seasoning and not to allow themselves to be deceived by the synthetic additives industry.

 
  
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  Pilar Ayuso (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, my speech will concern the Regulation on flavourings. I would like to thank the rapporteur on that subject, Mrs Murko, for the way we have worked together and the good agreements we have reached.

Firstly, I welcome the Commission’s proposal, because it brings the legislation up to date, while at the same time simplifying the approval procedures, centralising the assessment of the risks of marketing flavourings and the drawing up of a positive list within the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Also important is Parliament's contribution to this report, which has been so well coordinated by Mrs Murko, as I have said.

We believe the commitology procedure to be appropriate and we agree with it, provided that it does not deprive Parliament of the opportunity to examine it when it sees fit. The application of the Regulation must be extended to frozen herbs and spices, since that is what technology requires.

Natural flavourings must be labelled as such, because the consumer has the right to that information. Foods and food ingredients produced from genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) that conform to the requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003, on genetically-modified food and feed, and those of the present Regulation, must be subject to a single assessment by the EFSA that is valid for both authorisation procedures. They must not be subject to two different procedures for the same purpose.

Natural herbs and spices have very specific characteristics and I believe that the solution reached is a good one, consisting of removing them from the annex.

The transition period, something not provided for in the Regulation, is also needed while the current legislation is in force. That is the intention of the amendments from the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (PSE).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, how many amateur or professional cooks within Europe or beyond would have thought that the excessive use of flavourings might be harmful to health? Very few, I am sure. How many of us who like the flavour of oregano or cloves could imagine that flavouring food could be dangerous in certain extreme cases? Probably none of us. Yet specialists tell us that food poisoning and allergies really can be caused if flavourings are not used in accordance with consumer standards.

Consumers know, and if they do not they ought to know, that consuming chemical ingredients is not the same thing as swallowing natural products, and we also know from experience that synthetic, chemical and industrial products are, as a rule, more affordable than natural ones. Consumers therefore need to be informed of the characteristics of flavourings and the sector needs to be regulated.

The regulations proposed by the Commission and these reports are a step in the right direction. Actually, I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Commission and the rapporteurs – Mrs Westland, Mrs Doyle and Mrs Drčar Murko – on the work they have done and on their cooperation with the shadow rapporteurs, particularly Mrs Drčar Murko, with whom I worked as the shadow rapporteur for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.

Protecting public health and informing and protecting consumers are objectives that should guide all European policies. Thus the draft regulation is welcome, since it aims at updating the rules on the use of flavourings so as to keep up with technological and scientific developments in this field. The new legislation lays down much clearer rules in line with the maximum levels of toxic substances, taking account of recent scientific opinions issued by the European Food Safety Agency. It establishes more precise definitions for flavourings and introduces more restrictive conditions for the use of the term ‘natural’ in descriptions of flavourings.

We believe that the European Parliament’s contribution addresses the need for greater clarification and harmonisation of the legislation on flavourings. Do the new rules leave consumers better informed and protected, without harming industry? They are therefore entirely beneficial. Creating a clear framework encourages innovation and facilitates new technological developments, and Europe’s industry will be able to maintain its leading position in the field of flavourings. Thus we expect there will be positive effects on public health.

 
  
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  Alexandru-Ioan Morţun (ALDE). – Mâine, Parlamentul European urmează să adopte patru regulamente urmare cărora Comisia şi Comitetul permanent pentru lanţul alimentar şi sănătatea animală vor trebui să revizuiască toate autorizaţiile existente din punct de vedere al criteriilor, altele decât siguranţa, ca de exemplu: dozele, necesităţile tehnologice şi chiar eventuala inducere în eroare a consumatorului.

După intrarea în vigoare a regulamentelor menţionate, Comisia Europeană va trebui să monitorizeze aplicarea lor şi să ia măsuri cu precădere împotriva producătorilor de produse alimentare pentru sugari şi copii, care nu menţionează încă pe etichete cantitatea şi denumirea tuturor aditivilor, mai ales a celor care sunt utilizaţi în cantităţi foarte mici şi care nu pot fi depistaţi cu uşurinţă prin metodele clasice de analiză.

În prezent, în multe ţări ale Uniunii Europene, medicii au semnalat multe cazuri de alergii din cauza unor produse alimentare ce conţin diverşi aditivi. În absenţa menţionării tuturor acestora pe etichetele produselor alimentare, medicii - şi vă vorbesc ca medic - nu reuşesc să găsească remediile necesare la aceste alergii, mai ales dacă este cazul unui tratament de urgenţă.

Din aceste motive cred că Parlamentul European ar trebui să susţină aceste idei mâine, să susţină amendamentele care se referă la acestea.

 
  
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  Wiesław Stefan Kuc (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, growing competition between food producers and their battle to attract consumers have meant that the former strive to make their products appear as attractive as possible. They resort to artificial means to give the products a more pleasing appearance, a better taste or a longer shelf life. These actions are not always beneficial to consumers' health, however.

The reports by Mrs Westlund, Mrs Doyle and Mrs Drčar Murko represent an effort to protect both our health and the environment. I refer to Amendment No 17 to Article 3. I cannot, therefore, understand why there are such large-scale exclusions from the definition of food additives. Why are sugars excluded? I use the term sugars to include multisugars such as starch, ammonium chloride, pectins and amino acids. Could this be due to pressure from major producers? If that is so, the report will not achieve its objective.

 
  
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  Kathalijne Maria Buitenweg (Verts/ALE). – (NL) Mr President, flavourings with harmful effects on human health simply do not belong in our foods. As has been said before, consumers are entitled to safe food, and the environmental effects should also be outlined.

As the rapporteur has said, it is a good thing that checks are being made to find out if certain foods have carcinogenic effects. Flavourings, however, that are not directly harmful can have a negative effect indirectly. Indeed, our body is being misled by artificial flavourings. Flavourings can be up to 90% responsible for the taste of a food, and we determine whether we want to eat a product or not by tasting, smelling and looking at it. How fresh or how healthy it is is a different matter altogether and, without flavourings, you would really never contemplate eating fast food.

There are also artificial flavourings with an addictive effect, such as monosodium glutamate, of which people only want to eat more, such as crisps, for example. I am pleased that Parliament is tabling proposals for labels with sound, objective information. This alone is not enough, though, because people do not realise that they have to read the small print. This is why it is so vitally important that a campaign be launched, for example in the framework of the campaign against obesity which the European Commission has started, to explain what healthy food is and that the small print can make all the difference in terms of weight gain or loss.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, we have a package of regulations before us today that are particularly important for consumers. They are important, as Commissioner Kyprianou rightly said, because we are concerned here with food safety, with meeting consumers' expectations in terms of flavours and, lastly, with the competitiveness of our food processing companies.

On the issue of authorising food improvement agents made from GMOs, I believe that it was in fact necessary to comply with the regulation on GMOs. That being said, I should like above all to speak about flavourings and, more precisely, about natural flavourings. I think it important to examine more closely the issue of labels marked 'natural flavouring' because, as the legislation currently stands, manufacturers may affix the label 'natural flavouring' to their products once the flavouring is 100% natural, no matter what the formula.

Tomorrow, if the proposed regulation is adopted in its current state, manufacturers will no longer be able to use this ‘natural flavouring’ description, but will have to resort to the expression – which I feel is far clumsier – ‘natural flavouring of’, for example, ‘apples’, if it is a product made from apples. I would have liked us to have stopped there, with the percentage that we have had up to now; that is to say that, of the total number of flavouring agents, 90% at least must come from a named source, it being understood that the 10% that do not come from the named source are just as natural because they come from another natural source. The fact is, we know full well that, in order to develop certain flavours, it is necessary to use other natural flavourings, to add 10%, for example, of another natural flavouring that enables a flavour to be enhanced.

Therefore, moving in the direction of a 95% and 5%, even 100%, ratio would result in flavourings being standardised at European level, which I feel goes against the creativity of the industry – against the innovation of the food industry – and I find that particularly regrettable.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, I should like to draw attention to four issues in this debate. Firstly, food additives must not represent a danger to the life and health of consumers. Secondly, additives may only be resorted to when their use is essential for technological reasons and on condition that consumers will benefit as a result. Additives may also be used when the intended effect cannot be achieved through the use of natural products.

Thirdly, the labels affixed to food products must provide reliable information on the food additives contained in those products. Fourthly, as a general rule, additives created on the basis of GMOs or produced by GMOs should not be used in food.

Should such additives be used in food, however, the labels should contain not only reliable information but also a warning alerting the consumer that GMOs have been used in the additives.

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I would like to thank the Members for a very interesting debate. As I anticipated, on some issues we do not completely agree, but I am sure that with discussions and some goodwill on both sides we will be able to find solutions.

To begin with, the priority for all of us, the main consideration, is the protection of the consumer, there is no question about that, and I am sure you do not doubt my willingness to promote the interest of the consumer in this respect, but at the same time we have to remain proportional, we have to be practical and we have to be able to achieve this target with the smallest possible administrative burden.

I would like to refer to some of the issues, though I do not want to take up too much time. Firstly, on the issue of codecision and comitology, maybe I should remind you that the reason we, the two institutions, agreed on the new principle of comitology with scrutiny was precisely to find a procedure through which we could have a practical, simple, speedy way of taking decisions on technical and scientific issues by giving a stronger say to the European Parliament and having more transparency for the European Parliament to be able to express its views. By the way, this has not been used yet, we have just started with that. My legislation on health claims was the first to adopt this, so referring to the old comitology procedure is not relevant to what we are discussing now because now we are discussing the new one, which achieves the targets of transparency and of involvement of the European Parliament but at the same time allows a speedy and practical way of deciding on technical and scientific questions. Imagine having to go through the whole legislative proposal every time you have to decide on an enzyme, on an additive, on a calorie, when at the end of the day it will all be based on the views of the European Food Safety Authority that we have jointly, with legislation from Parliament, created exactly for this purpose.

I would ask Parliament, or the sides of Parliament which are keen on introducing codecision in this respect, to reconsider, because in the end we will not achieve any of the intended targets we have set and it will eventually, due to the lengthy procedures, work against the interests of consumers as well.

On the issue of the legal basis, I agree with Mrs Doyle. You know our position and I believe that we should have a single legal base. I believe that this can cover all the other considerations, because the other considerations are reflected in the legislation itself.

On the issue of allergenicity, I agree that this should be one of the legitimate factors to consider when authorising food additives, so it will be a factor to be taken into account. Labelling, too, is a very important aspect and will help the consumers get information, but we could not accept a total restriction on those additives which may be allergenic as the consumers affected by those can be protected through the labelling legislation.

On the double authorisation procedures with the GMOs I agree that we have to have a practical and good administrative practice. Therefore, we could accept the proposed clarification but with some rewording to make the text compatible with Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003.

On the issue of herbs and spices, I agree they are natural, but, at the same time, it does not mean that they do not contain certain substances naturally which can still pose health problems. That is why it is useful and important to also include those on the list and have the maximum levels. We had a situation recently in at least one Member State where we had to consider the possibility of reintroducing maximum levels. Therefore, just because something is natural does not necessarily, and by definition, mean that it does not also contain some substances that when consumed in excessive amounts can be harmful.

On the question of nine months for the Commission, six months for EFSA, nine months is the maximum time proposed, but that does not mean that it will take nine months. However, at the same time, based on the opinion of EFSA, there is a procedure for the Commission to consult with the stakeholders and the Member States to see how they can deal with the technological needs, the benefits to consumers and to ensure that consumers are not misled. There are many other relevant factors. As you know, consultation processes in the European Union need some time. We have to be able to exhaust those processes. That is why we would like to have adequate time, but that does not necessarily mean that this time will be exhausted.

On the issue of the benefits to the consumer, we could accept that these be included in a recital – this would reinforce an important principle – but not in a restrictive way in the legislation. I will not go into details. When we get our position we will be able to see the reason why we can accept part of it.

On the issue of how the legislation on pesticides complements this legislation and vice versa, we believe that one complements the other. Therefore, when a product is not covered under plant protection legislation it will be covered by this one. It is important for clarity to maintain a clear line between these two areas of legislation. I was specifically interested to see whether there was a possibility of creating a gap, and that is not possible. It is clear that one or the other pieces of legislation will assess the safety of the product, depending at what stage it is being used, and taking into account some technical aspects of it.

On the issue of ‘natural’ and the question of 90% or 95%, it is important that when we refer to the source we have the highest percentage possible of that source. At the same time, the rest has to come from a natural source. On the other hand, if something is to be called ‘natural’ and not by reference to a specific source, then it has to be 100% natural.

The main target for all this is to ensure that consumers are not being misled. At the end of the day, the most important aspect of the proposals is to assess safety, make sure that there is no risk to the health of consumers and provide information so that consumers can make an informed choice. It will be up to them to decide whether they want to buy a processed product or something natural and fresh. It is our basic policy to promote the consumption of fresh foods, but we cannot exclude the other products from the market. Therefore we have to give consumers a choice and then they can exercise it according to their needs.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday 10 July 2007.

Written statements (Article 142)

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE), in writing. – For many years food enzymes have been very often used in alimentary production process in order to provide the highest and the finest quality of products. As our technologies are improving and genetically modified micro-organisms are used in this process as well, there is strong need of regulation in order to ensure the safety and health of consumers at the European level. Currently food enzymes used as processing aids are not covered by EU legislation. Member States legislation on food enzymes differs significantly, which can lead to problems for the internal market and an unclear situation for the European consumer. That is why I support the efforts of the rapporteur and the Commission to accept the package, which is designed to create a simplified common approval procedure for food enzymes.

 
  
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  Gyula Hegyi (PSE) , in writing.(HU) Many people have reservations about food additives. This is caused partly by a lack of information, partly by the many scandals and abuses. We can only welcome, therefore, the Commission’s intention to tighten and simplify the pertinent regulations. A good initiative is, in my opinion, the setting up of a new list of beneficial, safe additive substances. Of course customers’ views also have to be taken into consideration, and these may vary from country to country, indeed among smaller regions and according to age groups as well. We need also to strive to encourage young people to consume a greater quantity of natural and healthy food items.

It is very important in my opinion to protect certain groups of people, such as those suffering from food allergies. In my capacity as rapporteur for the GMO report, I also support the proposal to indicate unequivocally whether the product contains any GMO additives. Trust in a product can only be improved by reliable, precise information. The approval procedure has to be made transparent and the use of safer substances encouraged.

 

16. Community action programme in the field of health – Action to tackle cardiovascular disease (debate)
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  President. The next item is:

- the recommendation for second reading (A6-0184/2007), on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the Council common position for adopting a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a second programme of Community action in the field of health (2007-2013) (16369/2/2006 C6-0100/2007 2005/0042(COD)) Rapporteur: Mr Trakatellis, and

- the debate on the oral question to the Commission (O-0033/2007 B6-0134/2007) by Mr Ouzký, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on action to tackle cardiovascular disease.

 
  
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  Antonios Trakatellis (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, I call on you to give due attention to the question of promoting health, which must be seen not only as a valuable commodity and indicator of social prosperity, but also as an investment-generating parameter.

This approach is particular evident in the field of prevention, on which the programme under debate mainly focuses, because prevention means restricting morbidity and hence reducing the costs of treatment and hospital care. There is no need to analyse the beneficial results of such a development for health insurance and, by extension, public finances.

Improving the health of the population undoubtedly drives progress, strengthens citizens, by guaranteeing them a longer, better and more productive life, and constitutes the precondition to economic prosperity. By limiting the number of man-hours lost, prevention also helps to increase the productivity and employability of workers, two indicators which are in keeping with the Lisbon process.

Prevention, therefore, is the key issue for a revised, efficiency-orientated health policy and a preferential field of action for a Union programme. That is why the European Union needs its second public health programme: because we must jointly defend ourselves against the health risks which have appeared so dramatically, with the possibility of a 'flu pandemic and with the bird 'flu epidemic, and that is one of the aims of the programme.

We must jointly promote a healthy lifestyle for our children, with a proper diet in a society free from smoke and stress and with proper socio-economic conditions in general that have a serious effect on health, and that is one of the aims of the programme.

We must jointly fight to reduce the morbidity and mortality rates of serious illnesses which destroy the body and the mind, and that is one of the aims of the programme.

We must recommend that better medical practices, which are not only the most efficient way of combating disease but which limit further loss of health, be within reach of everyone, both of those working in the health professions and of simple citizens, and that is one of the aims of the programme.

Particular importance is attached to collating data on the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, which is currently the scourge of hospitals in Europe. Particular importance is also attached to the effect of environmental factors on health. It is also extremely important that we collate data and develop strategies on patient mobility.

I could continue by describing one by one all the aims of the programme. I think that it is not necessary, because we are all convinced that we must act jointly and at European level, while at the same time giving the Member States the possibility of increasing their efficiency on health matters. This is the second programme, which will apply in the years 2008-2013. It is better, more comprehensive and more ambitious and is marked by an integrated perception both of health and of the means, mechanisms and practices for combating health problems.

It will assist convergence and the integration of the European Union, which we must look on not only in economic terms or foreign policy terms, but also in terms of convergence in the fields of education and health, because that is when the fabric of stability and prosperity of European society is really woven.

This sort of ambitious plan which, at the same time, is of exceptional benefit not only for the health, but also for the economy of the European Union, needs financial investments that will yield exponential results, because it will considerably reduce the onerous costs of health services in the Member States.

Unfortunately, the Council made huge cuts to the European Union budget in December, which for certain programmes, such as the programme under debate, were exceptionally painful. One wonders how we can progress along the difficult path of European integration when the programmes which fundamentally build and create a European society of the future are subject to significant cuts.

The good news is that the need for adequate funding for the health programme has been understood by the Council and by the Commission and by Parliament and I believe that the arrangement brokered through unofficial consultations allows for adequate financing within a framework of the rules of the Community budget.

I call on my honourable friends to vote in favour of the agreed amendments brokered through unofficial consultations.

 
  
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  Miroslav Ouzký (PPE-DE), author. – (CS) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to express my support for the words of my dear colleague Dr Trakatellis on the particular issue of cardiovascular diseases. In my question to the Commission, I focused on a widely known issue, namely the seriousness of cardiovascular diseases, which in the EU alone kill almost two million people per year. This is an established and universally acknowledged fact. As long ago as 2004, the Council recognised the importance of providing decisive solutions to the problem of cardiovascular diseases. There has been extraordinary medical progress in this field in the last 10 to 15 years. The problem, however, is the dramatic increase in costs. For the purposes of illustration, I always tell Czech citizens in debates – and I emphasise the point here in this Chamber – that treating a coronary thrombosis 15 years ago, using the methods of the time, cost around EUR 20 per day, and after streptokinase was introduced the cost rose to EUR 1,000 per treatment. Nowadays, with the advent of stents and acute catheterisation, the cost has risen to EUR 10 000 for a single treatment. In other words, there has been a huge increase in the financial cost. On the other hand, there has been enormous growth in the range of opportunities for treating a significant number of patients who would previously have had to suffer and die. Today, patients with acute coronary thrombosis, provided they are treated quickly and properly, can return home on the very same day and go back to work few days later. The money we spend, therefore, can be recouped later.

A further problem is the differences that exist not only between the various Member States but also within individual countries. According to one study in my country, the death rate from cardiovascular diseases rises according to how far from the clinic the patient lives. In this regard, the EU varies enormously and what we are proposing is a path towards a more systemic solution. Although I do not wish to go against the subsidiarity principle and tread on the toes of the various national governments, I should like to ask the Commission how it intends to bring about an exchange of information and experience, because we certainly have the resources for that, and it is one of the ways in which we can make substantial improvements this area. What steps does the Commission intend to take to reduce the economic burden and the impact of cardiovascular diseases on the economies of the Member States? What funding possibilities does the Commission have which can be recommended? In one of the amendments to which I put my name today, I called for a study into the option of mass public provision of defibrillators. We know that this has proved to be extremely effective in Japan, and I have also learned of defibrillators being made available in public places in a number of other countries, including the United States. I am aware that this is a very expensive option, and that opponents of such an indiscriminate approach would argue that a certain amount of prudence is called for. Yet this approach will in many cases save lives before the ambulance arrives. This is why I should be interested in the Commission’s response to this additional question.

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Μember of the Commission. (EL) Mr President, I should like to start by extending my warmest thanks to all the honourable Members for the interest they have shown in the Commission proposal for the adoption of a second programme of Community action in the field of health.

I should like in particular to thank the rapporteur, Mr Trakatellis, and the shadow rapporteurs for their efforts, which will allow us – and I am sure of this – to reach an agreement at second reading.

We have before us today an overall compromise which is the outcome of a number of very positive unofficial contacts between the three institutions. The compromise amendments strengthen the text in numerous sectors which are of particular importance to Parliament, such as the follow-up to Community initiatives on cancer and the more accurate wording on action for the environment and health.

As far as the budget is concerned, which we have also had the opportunity to debate in the past, unfortunately the room for manoeuvre was very limited and the Commission is strictly bound by the agreed financial framework.

Nonetheless, according to the text of the tripartite statement, the special requirements of the programme will be taken into account during the annual budget procedure. In addition, the present text will provide the legal basis, which will safeguard the more effective disposal of resources for achieving the aims of the programme.

I do not think that anyone can doubt that Parliament, the Council and the Commission made a great deal of effort to reach an acceptable compromise. I honestly hope that the vote to follow will express this positive and constructive stand, so that we can start to finance plans relating to important new public health sectors from 1 January 2008.

I should like now to turn, on the basis of Mr Ouzký's question, to a more specific aspect of public health and one of the most serious problems; I refer to cardiovascular diseases, which are certainly one of the main causes of early death and disability of the citizens of the European Union.

The causes and the risk factors are well known; they include smoking, a poor diet and obesity, lack of physical exercise and excessive consumption of alcohol.

I know that Parliament has an acute interest in this sector and that a motion for a resolution on cardiovascular diseases is being submitted to plenary by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

As you know, the Commission puts particular emphasis on prevention. Within the limited resources at our disposal and within the balance of competences set out in the Treaty, we put particular emphasis and expend a great deal of effort on prevention. We also do this on the question of smoking and you are all well acquainted with the 'Help' strategy, which has also been received in Parliament, the various laws and the Green Paper we have adopted on banning smoking in public places, and I really do impatiently await the view and opinion of the European Parliament.

As far as diet is concerned, we published very recently – in May – a White Paper on diet and obesity and, as you know, we have already started applying and implementing the strategy on alcohol, starting with the Alcohol and Health Forum, in cooperation with non-governmental organisations and private-sector undertakings in the aim of combating this new problem.

Through public health programmes, the Commission supports activities and networks relating to cardiovascular diseases, including an extensive catalogue of data on cardiovascular diseases in the Member States and the development of indicators for monitoring cardiovascular diseases.

The creation of centres of reference, the exchange of best practices, the combating of the inequalities which unfortunately exist in the European Union – not only from one state to another, but also within the Member States themselves – are the objectives addressed by the new programme.

However, I must emphasise for the sake of accuracy that we simply provide possibilities; they must be used by the Member States, which are responsible for providing health services.

As far as research is concerned (because the question also refers to research), the European Union has made over EUR 100 million available for research into cardiovascular diseases through the Sixth Framework Programme on research and development. These diseases are still one of the priorities of health research within the framework of the Seventh Framework Programme on research and development which started this year. Consequently, there is the facility to continue research in this sector under the Seventh Framework Programme.

I shall not comment in detail on the European Heart Health Charter, because an event and debate were held on the subject here in Parliament and we all remember the presentation event in Brussels last month. However, this cohesive document is important, because it unifies all the bodies which can help to combat this problem and, of course, it is safeguarded by the public health programme.

More action to combat the decisive factors which cause cardiovascular diseases and inequalities in health will be included in the new health strategy of the European Union which I hope – and I am sure – will be adopted later, before the end of this year.

As far as the financial part is concerned – because this too is important – there is the European Development Fund for developing countries, where the Commission is responding to the priorities set by the countries themselves through dialogue and, of course, the health sector is one of the priorities.

The same applies to the Structural Funds which exist in the European Union for the Member States and which can be used for health even more extensively in this period than in the previous period, but there is still a need for health to be a priority issue in the take-up of Funds by the Member States themselves.

We provide possibilities, by which I mean that I do not fail to raise the issue with the ministers of health whenever we meet but, at the end of the day, the decision will be taken collectively by the governments of the Member States. I advise and urge the Member States to make use of the Structural Funds in the health sector, but I must say that there is still a great deal of room for improvement.

However, it is also our priority to strengthen the national health systems which allow for the management of public health priorities, which cover not only communicable diseases, which of course are the first and obvious threat, but also non-communicable and I hope here that I shall have the support and cooperation of Parliament.

 
  
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  John Bowis, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Mr President, there is no wealth without health. That is the theme of this debate and the sub-plot is that we have both to care and cure, but also to prevent ill-health and promote wellbeing. The Commissioner recognises this and has come forward with an ambitious programme, as our rapporteur has said, but the budget was savaged by two-thirds. So it is clear we must do better on budgets in the future; it is clear we must use our limited resources now wisely; it is clear we must target the non-communicable diseases that cause 86% of deaths in Europe and devastate lives and families – cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes, respiratory and musculoskeletal conditions. That of course links into the resolution that you have before you: 42% of deaths in the EU come from CVD problems.

Our emphasis must be on lifestyle. Some 80% of heart attacks, stroke and diabetes, and some 40% of cancers could be avoided by changing lifestyle and cutting out the risks that come from a bad lifestyle. We will sometimes need education or legislation on smoking, drugs, alcohol, salt, saturated and trans fats, lack of exercise, as well as things like stress management and all the causes of hypertension. We need partnerships between people, governments, health services and employers. And we need ideas such as the one on the defibrillator that my colleague referred to.

I could end by saying the road to hell is often said to be paved with good intentions, but the health promotion case studies show that, as in North Karelia, if good intentions are translated into action, then the road can lead not to hell but to health.

 
  
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  Linda McAvan, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Mr President, my first thanks go to Mr Trakatellis for his excellent work on getting agreement today on a package of amendments on the public health programme.

It has not been easy: we have had lots of meetings over the course of the last few months, but we finally have a package that the Socialist Group welcomes. We welcome the very clear commitment to tackling health inequalities which is contained in the package. We welcome, as Mr Bowis said, the action on major diseases which are the biggest killers in Europe.

We want to see better use made of the centres of reference across Europe and we are also pleased that NGOs and patients’ organisations will have better access to funding thanks to this programme that will see emphasis placed on the wider environmental determinants of heath. We all know that health suffers because of environmental issues and we want to see that tackled.

Like the other speakers, I think it is regrettable that we have a lower budget than we had thought in the first place but, as the Commission has said on many occasions, there are other framework programmes where health can be investigated so this is not the only money made available for health research in the EU.

I want to draw your attention to Amendment 19, which the Socialist Group has tabled separately from the package. In recital 14 we talk about increasing healthy life years, and we want to delete the words ‘also called disability-free life expectancy indicator’. We have had many approaches from disability organisations, which make the point that you can have a disability and be healthy and that, therefore, this terminology seems to suggest that if you are a disabled person you are automatically somebody who is unhealthy. Therefore, we would like the Commission and the Council to look at that when they look at the final wording for the document.

Finally, I want to put on record my thanks as well to the German Presidency negotiating team who helped us to reach agreement today and took on board so many of our parliamentary amendments from first reading. I look forward to getting the programme up and running on time next year. That is what everybody wants at this stage and that is why we have been prepared to compromise on the budget, but we are very pleased with the content.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I should like to express my congratulations to the rapporteur for his excellent report. Professor Trakatellis has spent many years dealing with health issues, both as a clinician and as a politician; therefore, he knows the subject matter of this report very well and it is thus not surprising that he has tackled the issue with efficiency and wisdom. Most of us share the rapporteur’s views on the main issues brought up in this report. One of the most important of these is the problem of health inequalities. Such inequalities occur not just from one Member State to another but also within Member States. They can be very substantial indeed and, in many cases, such differences exist right across the whole range of healthcare, from prevention and diagnosis to treatment. It is well known, not just amongst medical professionals but also amongst ordinary citizens, that such discrepancies more often than not make the difference between life or death.

The right to life should be accompanied by the right to health – equal health, not one health for the rich and another for the poor. In a fair and humanistic society such as the one we aspire to achieve in the EU Member States, all citizens should be equal in terms of healthcare. I agree entirely with the rapporteur that this issue should become a very major aim of the health programme and I am sure that the Commissioner also agrees with this.

A second area referred to by the rapporteur on which I would like to offer some brief comments is that of cancer. Cancer is the second commonest cause of death in Europe and the world in general, yet it is absolutely unthinkable why in this day and age no proper Community system for cooperation between centres of reference is fully functioning unhindered. And it is shameful that shortcomings exist in the establishment of a Europe-wide register for those cancers which are covered by the Council recommendation on cancer screening. The rapporteur addresses both of these issues and many others adequately and proposes appropriate amendments which we fully support.

 
  
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  Adamos Adamou, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (EL) Commissioner, we must indeed congratulate the rapporteur, Professor Trakatellis, on achieving today's compromise. I, however, shall comment on the financial problem because, as we all know, the biggest bone of contention between Parliament and the Council from the outset was the budget to support this policy.

The compromise between the Member States in December 2005 on the new financial framework for the period 2007-2013 left funding for numerous policy areas at much lower levels than initially proposed by the Commission. One of the policy areas which suffered the biggest cuts was public health and the biggest victim was the health programme.

The consequences of the negotiations between the Commission and the Council were very unfortunate in terms of financial support for the action programme. The budget was reduced to EUR 365.6 million, a very small sum for such an ambitious programme.

Nonetheless, the rapporteur, with the support of the shadow rapporteurs, explored every way of improving the situation. However, given the rigid stance of the Council, he accepted that the room for manoeuvre as far as the budget was concerned was very limited and accepted the compromise between the Council and the Commission.

Although the limited budget for the programme is not of course to our liking, we welcome the rapporteur's efforts in managing to keep a plethora of Parliament's recommendations and amendments intact and to avoid the conciliation procedure.

We are most relieved to see that the rapporteur's compromise includes the need to reduce inequalities in health and a reference to alternative medicine. Nor does it omit the strengthening of cross-border care and patient mobility or better access for citizens to information, which will make them better able to take decisions which are in their interests.

It is worth noting that a large part of the budget will go to non-governmental organisations, which are non-profit-making and independent of industry, trade and the undertakings which specialise in the promotion of health and the aims of the programme.

Let us hope that it will be possible to meet the ambitious actions and expectations we all have of this programme, which will finally enter into force in 2008, despite the reduced budget.

Commissioner, I should like to emphasise at this point, as my honourable friends and previous speakers have indicated, the importance of prevention and of prompt diagnosis. We must invest in this sector. You cannot imagine not only the lives we shall save, but also the money that the Member States will save by applying programmes which address this specific sector, especially heart disease and cancer. You mentioned cancer as the second cause of death. I tell you with mathematical accuracy that, in a few years' time, cancer will be the first cause of death as a result of the progress being made with cardiovascular diseases.

Commissioner, we are with you and we shall support you in applying the programme.

 
  
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  Urszula Krupa, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (PL) Mr President, the 2007-2013 Community action programme in the field of health aimed to set a course for European health services. From the outset, however, the programme has generated controversy. This was due not only to the lack of clarity in the provisions on funding but also to other reasons.

The funds allocated relate only to international NGOs, and other programmes have been cut out. Pursuant to the document, substantial sums amounting to 60% Community input and to as much as 80% in exceptional circumstances are to be allocated to non-governmental organisations at international level. The programmes of many such organisations include pro-abortion policies. In some cases the organisations are offshoots of pharmaceutical concerns.

Funding laboratories without establishing the type of research they are engaged in is also cause for concern. Unfortunately the programme only deals in a cursory manner with access to health services and the care of the elderly. It makes no provision for supporting the family, combating the diseases of contemporary society or for access to highly specialised advice.

The programme does, however, deal with healthy food and a healthy lifestyle. The issue of cross-border health care arises again, along with its negative impact on certain health care systems. It would seem that in view of the limited funding available, this programme cannot deal with the whole range of problems affecting European health care services.

 
  
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  Irena Belohorská (NI). (SK) With regard to this report, I subscribe to all of the observations made by the rapporteur.

Out of an original budget of EUR 969 million, the Commission has cut healthcare allocations to EUR 365 million. It did so despite the fact that Parliament had not regarded EUR 969 million as sufficient and had topped it up to EUR 1.5 billion. I view this cut of nearly 60% as highly irresponsible. It is all the more shocking in the current climate, with healthcare systems across Eastern Europe weakened by the exodus of large numbers of physicians and nurses, who are leaving to seek work in the EU-15. In a situation where other programmes have been cut to the tune of a mere 2 to 5% and when every third citizen in Europe develops cancer, I believe that in assuming this stance the Commission is ridiculing and disparaging the patients and citizens of the European Union. It is therefore necessary to support the rapporteur in his efforts to have this small budget increased by at least 10%, that is, to EUR 402 million, while keeping the variation ceiling at no more than 5%.

At the same time, the programme should explicitly stipulate that structural funds, as you mentioned, Commissioner, can be used to finance healthcare projects, provided that Member States designate health care as a priority in their national programmes. Until now, these funds have been primarily used to finance environmental projects or build up infrastructure, and only a few citizens know that the funds could also be employed to finance the modernisation of hospitals, purchase equipment and train healthcare professionals.

I very much welcome the establishment of European-wide registries for major diseases, notably cancer, which will be instrumental in collecting data and highlighting even more the fact that there are discrepancies of up to 30% between Member States in the survival rates of patients suffering from certain types of cancer. On the basis of statistics such as these, I believe that the Commission will review its healthcare priorities and endorse the appropriate allocations.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the action programme on health and the prevention of cardiovascular disease are very closely related subjects. I would like first of all to offer Mr Trakatellis my sincere congratulations on his tireless fight for this programme. Prevention is better than cure. Prevention means longer life, better life, better quality of life, less medical care, less sickness, lower sickness costs.

I am sure we would have liked more resources than 20 cents per head of population per year. We are however modest and conduct many action programmes for little money. We can only set priorities of course, and I must make it absolutely clear that we are talking here about prevention, about educating people, and not about treatment, which after all is a subsidiary matter and the responsibility of the nation states. Prevention means stopping diseases from occurring in the first place, especially in the area of cardiovascular diseases, involving heart attacks and strokes, of tumour diseases and their causes, as with lung cancer and smoking, of unhealthy lifestyles such as the wrong kind of food or even doping in sport, of accidents and accident prevention, and of research and statistics, where the aim is to detect and understand diseases better in order to develop better guidelines for treatment.

I will now reply to the oral question from Mr Ouzký, to whom I also express my thanks here. Much can be done to prevent cardiovascular disease by changing one’s lifestyle: exercise, health, sport, balanced nutrition and ultimately also avoiding trans fatty acids. We also need a catchy slogan for cardiovascular prevention, so that people know what is at stake. We could say, for example, ‘Save your heart, save your life’ or in German ‘Herzlos kannst du nicht leben’.

EUR 325 million for prevention over five years is not much. I visited a German heart hospital this morning. There, 200 million were invested in just one year!

 
  
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  Glenis Willmott (PSE). – Mr President, as my group’s shadow on the motion for a resolution on action to tackle cardiovascular disease, I would like wholeheartedly to endorse this worthy initiative and thank Mr Ouzký, Mr Andrejevs and Mr Bowis for all their hard work. I feel I can but reiterate the content of the resolution and add my voice to the call for action and other points raised in the oral question.

I find it shocking that nearly half of all deaths in Europe are caused by cardiovascular disease and that it is the main cause of death for women in all European countries. I welcome the specific mention of cardiovascular disease in the 2008-2013 health programme, but I am somewhat disappointed at the vastly reduced budget allocation given the fact that cardiovascular disease costs the European Union’s countries EUR 169 billion each year.

The EU has so much to offer in terms of added value which would surely repay many times any money spent on combating it. Nevertheless, I fully support the compromise reached and recognise that it is necessary to have this funding in place as soon as possible. Any further delay in adopting the programme would not be desirable.

There is much action at EU level where value can be added and it is for this reason that we need a tangible European strategy on cardiovascular disease which can help Member States to improve and coordinate their prevention strategies, identify those who are at high risk, raise awareness, inform the public and promote exchange of best practice. A set of clear political guidelines should form part of this strategy.

I would like to conclude by reiterating my support for the motion for a resolution and I urge the Commission to bring forward without delay a comprehensive and coherent EU-wide strategy on cardiovascular disease incorporating the European Parliament’s suggestions.

 
  
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  Jiří Maštálka (GUE/NGL).(CS) I too should like to congratulate Mr Trakatellis and thank him for his report and his proposals. I would also like to make one or two comments. I do not want to go into financial details, because this has already been done. I should merely like to point out, speaking as a doctor, that if financial resources are cut, the common programme that we are debating will simply be less effective. I firmly believe that healthcare cannot, in budgetary terms, be a peripheral issue.

I should like to support Amendment 1, which contains proposals for Council recommendations as regards the necessary delivery mechanisms. I feel that this is much needed, because we have often called for documents relating to healthcare or the fight against civilisational diseases, and we of course did not have the effective instruments needed to combat such diseases. The second amendment that I should like to mention and support concerns patient awareness. We need patients to be well informed. This is not, however, solely a matter of improving access to information, it is also, in my view about access to better quality information. Such information can help our citizens not only to become more interested in their own health, and in looking after themselves, but also to be less susceptible to advertising. On the subject of advertising, I believe that we shall have a unique opportunity to show our fairness and honesty with regard to issues such as alcoholism when we debate the proposed measures in the Foglietta report on combating alcoholism. On this issue, we will certainly table amendments regarding the advertising of alcoholic products.

I should like, if I may, to express my support for the initiative of Mr Ouzký, which applies to his question regarding cardiovascular diseases. As a former cardiologist, I feel I have a fair amount of knowledge on the subject. I should like to say that cardiologists today know much more about the causes and have put the conditions in place for patients to receive very effective treatment and to return to a normal working life. The problem is the extent of the desire to invest in such programmes, in particular when it comes to prevention. At the same time, there is a failure to understand that these resources can certainly be recouped. In this respect, the Czech Republic is a very good example. I believe that as MEPs we have a duty to call for a level playing field in the healthcare sector as well as the economic sector. This is a matter of financial solidarity between the EU Member States.

 
  
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  Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM). – Mr President, yesterday’s media revealed the shocking results of a study of children in a large area of England. One in every 58 children has a form of autism. How could a seriously debilitating condition have increased from 1 in 2000 to 1 in 58 children in 17 years?

Mr Trakatellis’s work on the programme of Community action in the field of health 2007-2013 comes at a time when the need for some joined-up, collaborative thinking about Europe’s major health threats is urgently needed. One of the most important contributions Europe can make to health is statistical research and investigation, establishing the true situation of disease threats – contagious or not, chronic or acute – because, in comparing disease treatment in the Member States, we get the overall picture that helps us develop a standard of best practice and clues to both treatments and even cures.

The Commission, I am glad to say, has made a start by funding the European Autism Information System project to establish an effective method to be used by Member State health authorities to gather the essential information on the autism epidemic in Europe. However, we are very late in this. The USA has been tracking this epidemic for a decade now. On foot of the figures, the US Congress has passed 16 pieces of legislation channelling billions of dollars, but Europe has done nothing yet.

I urge the Commission to find a way to foster the highest quality healthcare in the Member States, a system that will never again allow an epidemic like autism to go unchecked as it ravishes children, robbing them of their normal development.

 
  
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  Christofer Fjellner (PPE-DE). – (SV) The role and responsibility of the EU within the health sphere is, and must remain, limited. Perhaps the most important contribution to be made by the EU, however, is to enable people to seek health care in other EU countries. For many who are ill, health care in another EU country may be a matter of life or death. It is therefore incomprehensible that so many Member States do everything they can to limit that very option. European health care consumers should have access to the whole range of European health care, but that means having knowledge and information, and, where these are concerned, the health programme could play an invaluable role in disseminating information about health and health care to all patients throughout Europe.

I and many like me therefore think how unfortunate it is that, in many respects, precisely this area appears to have been curtailed when, for budgetary reasons, the Commission revised its proposal for a new health programme. I understand, however, that there has been a very great deal of opposition to this happening. Why, in actual fact, is increasing the transparency between different health care systems in the Member States such a delicate issue, however? Why not focus on measuring the likely results in terms of health care and of how many people would actually be helped to get better, rather than focus on available resources such as beds and days spent in hospital? The only explanation I can see is that there is a desire to keep patients uninformed and powerless.

It is equally incomprehensible that the EU Member States’ compromise with our rapporteur, Mr Trakatellis, should have called, for example, for the removal of the wordings I included precisely in order to give patients more power. Why, for example, is there no desire to confirm that patients have rights also in their capacity as health care consumers? They have deleted the sentence whose meaning was precisely to that effect. I find that embarrassing.

In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, health decisions must be made at the lowest possible level. For me, that means at patient level, irrespective of what is said by politicians and bureaucrats in the Member States. We must therefore use European cooperation to strengthen the position of patients and give them more knowledge and more power. In a nutshell, patients should be allowed to take control of their own illnesses.

 
  
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  Dorette Corbey (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, I should first of all like to congratulate Mr Trakatellis and our shadow rapporteur, Mrs McAvan. Health is a great good, as well as an important political topic. In the first instance, health falls within the national remit but, for Europe, it constitutes clear and important added value.

At present, the access European citizens have to adequate treatment is very unequal. Cancer patients stand a considerably better chance of survival in some countries than in others. Treatment methods differ and access to the health care is imbalanced. Patients’ knowledge about their illnesses differs from one country to the next, and prevention does not in all countries have the attention it deserves.

This is why action is needed. We must pool knowledge. Member States, hospitals, patients’ associations and general practitioners can learn from one other. We should combine our knowledge about the prevention and treatment of the most important diseases, including cancer, rheumatism, diabetes, lung disorders and obviously cardiovascular diseases, and we should learn from other countries where improvements can be made. Knowledge centres and networks, which should be dedicated to the most important diseases, can be a vital source of information for doctors and patients alike.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE). – (SK) It is a proven fact that money invested in human health makes the best investment. It offers the best return on investment. I am therefore gratified that the Commission’s original proposal for a joint healthcare and consumer protection programme to be established for the period up to 2013 has been defeated.

Parliament did well to increase healthcare allocations to EUR 1.5 billion from the initial level of EUR 969 million, thus sending a clear signal and message to both the Council and the Commission. In the meantime, the budgets for new multiyear programmes in all policy areas have been the subject of negotiations concerning the new financial framework for 2007–2013; in this context, ladies and gentlemen, I must express great dissatisfaction with the fact that many programmes, including the health programme, have been allocated far less than the Commission originally proposed.

Even though the European Parliament later managed to remedy the situation somewhat, in the spring of 2006, the outcome is wholly inadequate from the perspective of some of the programmes, including healthcare. I am referring to public health, where the topped up budget was cut to the scarcely credible figure of EUR 365.5 million. It is a good thing that the political agreement in November 2006 for the area of health accepted the Commission’s revised proposal, including the budget.

I believe that the specific programmes designed for people and for patients, such as the screening programmes for cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many other disorders, will not be jeopardised. Nor will we put in jeopardy the necessary cooperation across the Community between specialised centres, or the establishment of Europe-wide registers of such diseases.

I fully support the approach taken by the rapporteur, Mr Trakatellis, and I believe that Parliament will again take a wise decision.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (PSE). – (LT) I congratulate the rapporteur, who faced the challenging task of adapting the significantly reduced seven-year health budget to the growing expectations of EU citizens. A coordinated Community approach in this field would significantly increase the effective utilisation of funds. Now the programme has to be approved as soon as possible in order that at least the funds for 2008 are reclaimed in time.

In the expanded European Union, differences in medical care in various countries have become evident. The programme under discussion ought to help reduce these differences. Every EU citizen in any EU country has the right to receive quality medical services. It is particularly important that the new EU countries participate in the European projects.

I would also like to underline the need for attention to preventive projects, which reduce the influence of risk factors and improve the health of the Community. Preventing illnesses is always cheaper than treating them, especially at times like this, when resources are decreasing but needs are growing.

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE).(CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this Community action programme establishes priorities for projects, funded at European and national level, to address the biggest causes of death in Europe, including cardiovascular diseases, neuropsychiatric disorders, cancer, digestive diseases and respiratory diseases. We all have to die of something, especially when we reach a certain age. The high quality of European medicine, along with improvements in living conditions, and in particular people’s economic wealth, have led to longer life expectancy among Europeans. There are fresh challenges that lie ahead of us. One is how the health and social systems in Europe are to be funded in future from the public purse and the second is how to improve treatment for polymorbidity, which becomes more common as people live longer. Such treatment is crucial to older people’s quality of life. Both of these concerns are common to all Member States, and yet neither has been included in any detail among the main goals of the Union’s action plan in the area of health. Perhaps next time.

Resolving the first of these economic concerns will entail, among other things, an assessment of priorities within the Community, both in terms of government programmes and in terms of people’s private lives. My professional experience has taught me that the main priority is to make people much more responsible for their own health and disease prevention. Patients are not stupid and are capable of making up their own minds. They do need adequate information for this, however, and it must be formulated in an appropriate way. I therefore strongly support the proposals in the second reading, including Amendment 2, for example, which calls for the programme to provide citizens with better access to information, and Amendment 9, which concerns policies aimed at leading a healthier lifestyle. As regards the second problem, I would like to believe that the Member States will actively support the coordination of scientific activities aimed at achieving the complex treatment of associated diseases, despite the large and regrettable reduction in the European budget for the action plan in support of health.

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I should like to thank the Members once again for a very interesting debate and for the support expressed.

I do not want to repeat what has already been said and what I said in my introductory remarks, but I shall make some clarifications. On the issue of cancer, I should like to clarify that cancer remains one of the Commission's top priorities and is part of the health programme. I referred specifically to cardiovascular diseases because that was in a question tabled by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, but through research and other programmes we support many initiatives regarding cancer. We had an opportunity to discuss this issue in this House quite recently.

I should like to correct one mistake. Mrs Belohorská is not here and I think that she did not follow the debate closely on how the financial perspectives were adopted and how it was decided who took the decision. It was not the Commission who reduced the budget – we are not that suicidal. As you know, it was the Council who decided unanimously that there should be a reduction, and the areas that suffered most, unfortunately, were health and education and culture. I have to say that it is regrettable and I have had the opportunity to express this on many occasions in discussions here and I understand the frustration of Mr Trakatellis when he had to deal with this issue.

However, at the end of the day we want to take action, we want to help our citizens and we want to move forward, and therefore we have to make do with what we have and make the best possible use of our limited funds and resources. That is why I agree with many of you, and it is our priority, that prevention is one of the main targets because it has added value and a multiplying effect so that we can make better use of the funds by concentrating on prevention. That is one of my main arguments. I have been trying repeatedly to convince Member States that spending on health is not a cost but an investment. It has to be viewed as such. We will benefit in the long run, and that is a disincentive for taking measures when benefits will appear sometime in the future.

Nevertheless, I think that the time has come when we cannot expect to solve the problems only through reforms of the health systems or through patient mobility or through increasing the insurance costs but we have to invest in prevention and on health and this is one of the main priorities. I am looking forward to working with you all in the next period.

Perhaps I could refer to just one specific amendment, that raised by Mrs McAvan. We have no objection to agreeing to the deletion of that sentence. You realise that for us it is a big achievement to have the healthy life years included as an indicator and this was the purpose. It was just a way of expressing it differently, but we see the point so we do not object to removing it, especially because it is the wording that is the problem and not actually the validity of the indicator.

Regarding the point raised by Mr Fjellner on the issue of patients’ rights, we had the opportunity to discuss this issue in this House and we are looking into it through the healthcare initiative which should be adopted towards the end of the year. There are different systems in different Member States so we do not always agree on a common approach, but at least the first step will be taken and many issues like information for patients and other aspects of patients’ rights will be tackled through the healthcare initiative.

I should like to conclude by thanking you all, in particular the Environment Committee, as well as Mr Trakatellis for being patient and persistent. I am looking forward to working with all of you in the implementation of the programme.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR BIELAN
Vice-President

 
  
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  President. I have received one motion for resolution(1) pursuant to Article 108(5) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday 10 July 2007.

 
  

(1)See Minutes.


17. MON 863 - Risk Management (debate)
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  President. The next item is the Commission statement on MON 863 risk management.

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, the Commission has on many occasions declared – and, through its actions, proved – its commitment to ensuring that the legislative framework on genetically modified food and feed, which was approved by the European Parliament and the Council, is fully respected. We have the obligation – and I believe we are delivering on this obligation – to make sure that the legislation is properly and fully respected. Under the legislation, GM food and feed can be legally put on the market only if it is safe and appropriately labelled.

I would remind the House of how the legislation provides for the division of work between risk assessment and risk management. The Commission has no discretion on the safety assessment of a GM product. The legislation clearly distinguishes between risk assessment, which is carried out by EFSA, and risk management, which is carried out by the Commission. This approach is defined not only by general food law but also by the Regulation on GM food and feed.

Whenever new scientific questions emerge, the Commission adheres to the separation of competences and asks EFSA to evaluate the information and its impact on the risk assessment of a product. The Commission’s role is to take relevant risk management decisions, provided that, and only when, such a risk is identified by EFSA as the European Union’s body responsible for risk assessment. In other words, we manage a risk once it has been identified and assessed by the body responsible. It was a very specific decision, when the legislation was adopted, to give the risk assessment to a separate independent body. However, if there is no risk identified by the Authority, then there will be no sound scientific basis for the Commission to take a risk management decision.

On this specific issue, MON 863 had already been evaluated twice in 2004 before the authorisation was adopted. In both cases, EFSA concluded that MON 863 maize would not have an adverse effect, and this opinion was reached with the involvement of the national authorities of the Member States and was further reviewed and confirmed by the Authority in 2006 following a specific request to the Commission by the honourable Member Ms Breyer. There were intensive repeated analyses, which were carried out as part of the authorisation procedure, and then there was the publication by Professor Séralini in March this year – that is the sequence of events.

The work presented by Professor Séralini was not a new study but only a statistical review of the existing rat-feeding study, which supported the authorisation of this product in the European Union. Despite the fact that it was not a new study but only a statistical review, as soon as the Commission became aware of Professor Séralini’s paper, it immediately asked EFSA to analyse it to verify whether the newly proposed statistical interpretation was well founded and, more importantly, whether the statistical differences were relevant for food and feed safety.

In order to take into account all new elements and thus to eliminate any possible sources of uncertainty, EFSA conducted a new review asking Member States to provide any relevant analysis or comments, set up a specific task force of internal and external statistical experts and held a meeting with the author of the statistical review. In the Commission’s view, the procedures set up by EFSA to evaluate the review of Professor Séralini’s report represent a sufficient guarantee of independence and expertise. EFSA first responded to the Commission request in March by discussing the issue at the plenary meeting of the GMO Panel, before issuing a statistical report and a scientific statement by the Panel on 20 June.

In particular, the Authority underlines that the statistical analysis made by the authors of the paper did not take into account certain important statistical considerations and that the assumptions underlying the statistical methodology employed by the authors led to misleading results. The conclusion of the Authority is that the paper does not present a sound scientific justification to question the safety of MON 863 maize and, therefore, it sees no reason to revise its previous opinions that MON 863 maize would not have an adverse effect in the context of the proposed use. Parliament will be informed in more detail of the background I have outlined in the replies to the written questions on this subject by Ms Breyer, which are currently being finalised following the recent EFSA statement.

Against this background, two conclusions emerge. First, and most importantly, there is at this stage no scientific basis to question either the safety of MON 863 or its status as a legally commercialised product. Second, the conclusions of the EU official body for risk assessment, made up of some of the best specialists in Europe, have been drawn after consultation of the national competent authorities as well as external experts. By trusting the outcome of this work, which confirms the previous evaluations, the Commission has, I believe, acted as a responsible risk manger, especially within the context of the legislation and the apportionment of responsibilities as I explained them during my introduction. The Commission will continue to work along these lines on the basis of a precautious and science-based approach.

The Commission, I would emphasise, has full determination to make a case-by-case risk management decision taking into account any scientific questions emerging during the evaluation procedure or even after the authorisation. We will always be vigilant; we will always be ready to examine every new piece of scientific information that emerges. But, of course, our final decision will have to be based on the risk assessment, which will be done by the body in charge of this responsibility based on European legislation.

We believe that our legislation and the Commission’s approach offer the best way to provide our citizens with the high level of safety they expect and demand. I hope that I can count on the trust and support of the European Parliament as we continue our rigorous and impartial approach.

 
  
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  Renate Sommer, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, was it not us, was it not the European Parliament that wanted to have an independent European Food Safety Authority? Was it not also the Council of Ministers that wanted to have an independent EFSA, an authority on whose findings you can rely, an authority where there is no risk of getting bogus studies? Did the European Parliament not at that time charge EFSA with making risks assessments of GMOs, and did the Council of Ministers not back that very thing in codecision?

In April 2004, EFSA assessed MON 863 maize to be just as safe as conventional maize. A second EFSA safety assessment in October 2004 came to the same conclusion. That is not of course what the green souls among us want to hear, and because what the Greens do not want simply cannot be, they commission their own study. Then this eventually finds, surprise, surprise, that genetically modified maize is lethal, and woe betide anyone who finds that suspect!

The EFSA experts then asked for a repeat of the trial on rats. Again there was no sign of acute toxicological effects. Incidentally, the Greens’ study would have given the same result if the statistics had been evaluated correctly, but the statistical evaluation was not scientifically correct, as the Commissioner said.

Once again, the Green study’s supposedly scientific findings were therefore deliberate scare-mongering, deliberately sowing anxiety in the minds of the public and pulling the wool over their eyes. It is the typical ideologically motivated policy of obstructiveness that they so much like to use in election campaigns as well. They are wasting taxpayers’ money by always calling for multiple repeats of the EFSA risk assessments. But will they also question the EFSA nutrient profiles under the Health Claims Regulation, for example? Of course not, because they fit in with their ideology.

The Council of Ministers is also at fault, however. The national ministers responsible lack the courage to agree to authorise GMOs that have been examined and found to be safe. It is the small man’s fear of not being re-elected, neither more nor less!

We are wasting such great opportunities for the EU: GMOs can give us better food and feed with nutrition-physiological added value and efficient renewable raw materials that are carbon-neutral and therefore have no effect on the climate. MON 863 is safe and must be approved just like the other useful plants that have been tested and found to be safe.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, in response to the previous speaker I would like to quote an Austrian proverb: ‘blessed are those who believe, but you will still get to heaven if you do not’. Perhaps now I can challenge Renate Sommer’s world view a little. It was not only Green Members, but the majority in this House who wanted a consumer– and environmentally friendly solution for the authorisation and labelling of genetically modified food and feed. Even a government close to you has questioned EFSA’s handling of the studies referred to today.

My question to the Commission is now: what concrete steps has the Commission taken to bring about a reform of the European Food Safety Authority? This is not the first time we in this House have expressed doubts about its independence. And yes, Mrs Sommer, we wanted and we want an independent Food Safety Authority. But democratically elected Members naturally also have the right to take a critical look at its independence and work to see that it is genuinely independent. That is very much our responsibility, because we of course also know the mood and attitude of the public towards it in all the Member States.

We agree, Mr Kyprianou, that EFSA should continue to be responsible for risk assessment and the Commission for risk management. I am however convinced that both EFSA and the Commission need to take their responsibilities seriously.

As you know, next week we in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety will be dealing with the question of how the individual authorisation of genetically modified organisms should be handled in the context of comitology and the regulatory procedure with scrutiny. Such cases do not help that discussion very much. I hope that in future concrete steps will be taken to demonstrate that the Food Safety Authority really is independent.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, I was instrumental in organising a conference that took place on 12 June at the European Parliament in Brussels. The conference dealt with dangers related to the spread of GMOs, and was attended by distinguished scientists from many countries.

Their presentations clearly indicated that there is increasing evidence of the harmful nature of GMOs. Alleging technological progress, large biotechnology enterprises are disseminating serious threats to civilisation the world over. With all due respect to Mrs Sommer, I am more inclined to believe scientists than Mrs Sommer's assurances on the safety of MON 863.

At present, only a little animal husbandry and agriculture in the EU involves the use of GMOs. We still have one last chance to protect Europe against this danger. I have some questions to pose to the Commissioner. Does the European Commission intend to do anything about this? Above all, does it intend to heed the wishes of citizens of entire regions of Europe, where the majority of the population wishes to protect itself against GMOs, or does the Commission intend instead to be seduced by the misleading publicity alleging technological progress?

 
  
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  Hiltrud Breyer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Kyprianou, I am most disappointed, because, like Mrs Scheele, I was expecting answers this evening about when we will finally have higher standards for risk assessment.

I have been asking the Commission specific questions about these safety issues for months and getting no answers; then officials tell me in private that they are not in a position to give those answers. The French scientists’ independent study is not the only one to come to the alarming conclusion that Monsanto 863 is unsafe and is an alarming threat to health and that it is irresponsible to leave it on the market any longer.

A study has also been made in Austria. There are alarming concerns in the Member States. We cannot just deny that and stick our heads in the sand. I would have liked to receive answers from you today about the fact that the European Medicines Agency also sees a risk with the two antibiotic resistance genes, not only in MON 863, but also in the Amflora potato, authorisation of which has now been applied for. Even your own EU institution is contradicting EFSA. We really must have answers from you on this, Mr Kyprianou! You cannot simply say that you are not going to answer. Even the Council has called on you to comment.

I find it curious that EFSA needed three months to evaluate the Séralini study. Incidentally, Mr Séralini will be here in Parliament on Wednesday and will then tell us clearly whether EFSA’s all-clear, its whitewashing, is really justified. We do know that the EFSA studies make repeated references to Monsanto. They contain statistical errors. That has been pointed out not only by the French research team but by many Member States as well.

We are looking to you for answers as to how these mistakes can be remedied in future, how we are to deal with them, what value, if any, should be put on the precautionary principle. We need a reassessment. I would like you to tell me, Mr Kyprianou, in no uncertain terms: will MON 863 be reassessed? All EFSA has done is to look at the old data again. It has not carried out a reassessment at all. That is a very crucial question, to which we need an answer!

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Kathy Sinnott, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, scientists in France recently discovered extensive organ damage in the liver and kidney in animals raised on Monsanto 863. Three years before this, German studies were brought to the attention of EFSA by the German authorities that showed kidney damage in rats fed Monsanto 863. Yet, despite this, EFSA has reaffirmed their risk assessment on this and said that it is safe for European farm animals. Where are EFSA’s studies? Why are they just looking at the industry’s tests and just going back over them? How difficult can it be for them to try to redo the French and German studies?

The biotech industry in Europe alleges that GM farming is inevitable. My fear is that this will just be a self-fulfilling prophesy. Europe is capable of supplying its farmers with GM-free grain, but if we accept the inevitability, if we accept safety studies that are not really studies at all, then farmers will be forced into feeding their animals GM because otherwise there will be no other grain.

I would remind EFSA that many products, after years of so-called ‘safety’, have been taken off the market. To give you one example, the polio vaccine we use today is the fourth polio vaccine, because the other three, after having been given to people for many years, were finally withdrawn because of mounting evidence of damage.

We are supposed to respect the precautionary principle in Europe, especially when we are talking about putting genetically-modified organisms into the environment, considering that, with GM, any resulting adverse effects may be irreversible.

 
  
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  Markos Kyprianou, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I know that the GMO authorisations are a sensitive issue but, first of all, we have to remind ourselves that, based on European legislation adopted by Parliament and the Council, GMO products are allowed in the European Union, provided they go through the authorisation procedure I have just described.

That authorisation procedure provides for the risk assessment to be done by EFSA. So, whether some of us agree or disagree with the concept of GMO products, we are all bound by the European legislation. This is the rule of law so we have to follow it.

First of all, on EFSA’s work, as you know, Parliament was informed and I came along myself as well. We have taken decisions on improving the work of EFSA to make it more thorough and to take more account of the views of the Member States and all scientific developments that may take place during the authorisation procedure. The Commission adopted an action plan which has been put in place already and is being implemented and which will also be included in the legislative framework sometime in 2008. It is part of the Annual Policy Strategy for 2008. There we take into account how we can improve the situation and make proposals based on the views of the Member States and on long-term effects and many other aspects.

I also have to insist that in the European Union we have the highest standards and the strictest legislation when it comes to GMO products. That is why you know we have continuously been taken to the WTO and are not doing so well there.

But nevertheless our legislation has been accepted by the WTO because it is science-based and the decisions are based on risk assessment so, in this way, we can fulfil our international obligations by taking into account primarily and foremost the safety of European consumers and European citizens. So it is not a question of personal preferences but an issue of applying the existing legislation.

I know Mrs Breyer referred to those questions. There is a procedure. We have to get information. You will be provided with all the details on these questions. But again the questions arising are linked to the risk and the risk is not being assessed by us. It is assessed by EFSA. Therefore, we have to wait for the decision of EFSA on this issue before we actually provide the replies.

On this specific product there were many evaluations and many studies. They all caused EFSA to re-evaluate and reassess its position and it came to the same conclusions. So it was not something taken lightly. It was not something that was ignored. Whenever there was new science and new evidence, this was taken into account and we asked EFSA, which again is the risk assessor of the European Union, to take them into account. It is true that EFSA’s latest opinion was based on the existing study but also Professor Séralini’s paper was on the same study. It was a question of how you analyse, how you do statistical analysis of the existing data and that is why we had a special task force on statistical analysis, internally and externally, and it came to the conclusion that there were flaws in the analysis and the conclusions of Professor Séralini. That does not always mean that he who is negative is always right. Sometimes people who are positive as well may be accurate and correct.

Finally, as to the issue of which studies the authorisation would be based on, the decision was that we would continue with the legislation that was originally adopted; that the applicant has the responsibility of providing the data and the studies information. In this way, they have the burden of proof which is assessed by the authorities. The authorities can ask for any further additional studies they would like and in this way they have the responsibility of proving their case. I will not go into the issue of the cost of eventually changing the system. The cost will eventually be a burden on the taxpayers of the European Union and not the industry. But the main reason is they should have the burden of proof and therefore the authority can analyse this data based on a critical analysis.

I would like to remind you that a similar situation is used in the EMEA, the medicine authority of the European Union, where again the industry provides all the clinical trials and clinical studies and the decision is taken.

So I can assure you that we take into account and we will make sure that the EFSA takes into account and assesses and evaluates any new scientific evidence that may arise and the moment a risk is identified we will not hesitate to take the appropriate measures. As you know, we have done that and I personally have done that in the past on many occasions with unauthorised products.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

 

18. PNR Agreement with the United States (debate)
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  President. The next item is the Commission statement on the PNR Agreement with the United States.

 
  
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  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, as you already know, the United States and the European Union concluded talks on a long-term PNR agreement. I want to use this occasion to thank the German Presidency and in particular Minister Schäuble for his personal involvement in making this happen. The unanimous mandate given by the Council of Ministers has been fulfilled. The new agreement provides for a high level of data protection and important commitments on the handling of future European PNR data.

Several important interests had to be addressed. Firstly, the fight against terrorism and serious international crime, and in parallel the right to privacy and protection of fundamental civil rights, the need for air carriers to be able to comply with diverse legal requirements at an acceptable economic cost, the wider transatlantic relationship and the true international scope of these issues. The United States has agreed on a binding international agreement and by doing so they have understood the need for legal certainty.

The agreement is divided into three parts. First, an agreement signed by both parties. Second, a letter which the United States sent to the EU in which it set out assurances on the way in which it will handle European PNR data in the future. And third, a letter from the EU to the United States acknowledging the receipt of assurances and confirming that on that basis it considers the level of protection afforded by the US Department of Homeland Security to be adequate for European PNR data.

In the past, the exchange of undertakings was not binding in character. It was in my personal view, but also in the view of the Council, a major achievement of the new agreement. This agreement will be valid for 7 years, thus providing for a considerable period of legal certainty. There is not an extension of the time during which passenger data are kept from 3.5 to 15 years. There is an increase from 3.5 to 7 years of the time during which data are kept in an active file. The further period of 8 years that was already provided for in the previous agreements and that undertaking is not newly introduced in this new agreement.

The purpose for which data will be used remains the same. The number of PNR data has been reduced from 34 to 19 as a result of rationalisation and merging. Sensitive data will be filtered and made accessible only in exceptional circumstances which have been justified and will be deleted after 30 days. Those air carriers not already pushing the data will go from a ‘pull’ to a ‘push’ system as soon it becomes technically feasible. It is now up to air carriers to introduce new technologies as soon as possible, but both the United States and the EU agree that this system should be a ‘push’ system and no longer a ‘pull’ system.

The Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security and the United States Secretary of Homeland Security will be responsible for the review system. Finally, the United States has accepted a review system which was likely to be agreed at the beginning of our negotiations.

Protection given under the United States Privacy Act will be extended through administrative procedures to non-US citizens, in particular with regard to redress and correction, and, therefore, EU citizens will be entitled to protection under that Act. That was not the case under the previous agreement.

Common efforts are needed in order to protect our societies, including our human rights, from attempts by terrorists to undermine them. The recent events in London and Glasgow have shown that terrorism will stay with us for some time. That is why, as I have already announced, I will present a package in the autumn, which will include new measures – both legislative and operational – aimed at improving and increasing our capacity to cooperate at an international level against terrorism. I shall also propose that the EU Member States establish a European PNR system at national level in as many Member States as possible.

 
  
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  Carlos Coelho, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (PT) Mr Frattini, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by congratulating Mr Frattini and the German Presidency on the effort they have put into concluding this PNR Agreement. It was essential to avoid a legal vacuum that would have left European airlines in a difficult position and jeopardised the protection of our citizens.

We have always supported having an international agreement at EU level instead of 27 bilateral agreements, because the Union can put forward a stronger position not only on preventing and fighting terrorism, but also on protecting fundamental rights. That is why the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats was in favour of granting the Commission a mandate to reopen negotiations. We are well aware that the negotiations were difficult and also that the European side wanted to find a mutually acceptable solution more strongly than the US side did.

I find it regrettable, however, that this agreement is composed of three parts: an agreement and two letters, the binding nature of which is not all the same. There are several points that have changed for the better, and Mr Frattini has mentioned a number of them, but there are others that have fallen well short of our expectations. The points I would highlight are these: first, I welcome the reduction in the number of PNR data, and I welcome the switch from a pull to a push system, as mentioned just now. We know that 13 airlines have implemented the system already, but many others have not yet done so. I would like to know what kind of initiatives the Commission is preparing to help and encourage airlines to switch over.

I still cannot accept what I consider to be an excessively long data storage period. I am pleased at the inclusion of the requirement to give passengers adequate information and I welcome the appeal procedures for passengers, whereby they can review and correct data held by the US authorities, although there is still no sound legal mechanism allowing European citizens to appeal if their personal data are misused.

I am afraid that the additional measures for protecting sensitive data are inadequate, and I regret that the use of data by other US agencies has not been fully guaranteed.

A lot has been done, Commissioner, but there is still a lot left to do, and I hope that the control mechanism that you have agreed upon will allow some of the negative points that remain to be corrected.

 
  
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  Stavros Lambrinidis, on behalf of the PSE Group.(EL) Mr Vice-President, I honestly wish I could congratulate you today on achieving an agreement with the USA; my political group knows how hard you have worked, especially in the face of the USA's threat that, in the absence of agreement, they would unilaterally impose even worse terms on the airline companies.

Unfortunately, what we have in our hands, first of all, is not an agreement with the USA. It is in fact an agreement with the USA and with any other countries to which the USA unilaterally decides to transfer personal data on European passengers.

Secondly, it is an agreement that contains commitments only for Europe and not for the USA.

Thirdly, even where the agreement sets certain limits, these limits are so unclear and so full of legal loopholes that in practice it will allow the USA to do pretty much as it likes.

Let me be more specific: firstly, the agreement and the attached letter from the USA state that America will be able to transfer the information we send it to any third country it likes, with hardly any obligation to even notify us. In other words, in practice, Europe is signing the PNR agreement not only with the USA but with any other countries on earth which the USA decides, countries which cannot today receive data on European citizens directly from Europe, because we have not signed an agreement with them. Did your negotiating mandate from the Council really include the authority to allow the uncontrolled transfer of European data by the USA where Europe cannot do so?

Secondly, while Europe has expressly declared that it is bound by the agreement, the USA has expressly declared that they are not bound by the agreement. They are only bound by the unilateral assurances in their letter and by American laws which, if they change, will automatically bring about changes to the agreement.

Thirdly, as far as passenger information on the use of their data is concerned, there is no provision for an obligation by the governments to ensure they are informed; the airline companies are merely urged to do so. But information for citizens is an express dictat of European laws. Why did you not mention this?

Fourthly, if the USA infringes the agreement, the only solution open to the European Union is to abolish it completely. How will this be done, Commissioner, when even if 26 of the 27 Member States consider that it has been infringed and one considers that it has not, the agreement cannot be abolished at European level?

Fifthly, the legal intended uses of the data cited are uncontrolled. While at the beginning of the letter they are limited to combating terrorism and serious crime, immediately afterwards any use is allowed in any criminal proceedings or however otherwise required under US law, that is, for almost anything.

This is not an international agreement; at least not as the citizens understand the term. I do hope it will be changed on these crucial points before it is signed.

 
  
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  Sophia in ‘t Veld, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, first of all I note that the Council Presidency is absent during this important debate, which is remarkable as it was responsible for the negotiations. I am therefore thankful for the presence of Mr Frattini.

However, I would like to start by objecting to the implicit link that Mr Frattini makes with the failed terrorist attacks in the UK last week. I find that distasteful: it has nothing to do with PNR.

That brings me to an important point that this House has emphasised many times and that is the need for an evaluation. We need evidence that the use of PNR data leads to greater security and that they are not used only to catch people who commit document fraud, drug smuggling or whatever. We need evidence and not just anecdotes.

Mr Frattini says that this is a good agreement. Well, it serves two purposes: firstly, to legalise the transfer of data by carriers and, secondly, to provide, as he has said, a high level of data protection. Well, it fails miserably on the second objective; it is not legally binding, it explicitly states that it does not confer any rights on any person or any party. Well, how much clearer can it get? Then, it looks good superficially, but it is full of loopholes, open definitions and exceptions, when it comes to purpose limitation, for example, or the retention periods, which are going up to 15 years and maybe even more, and they will be applied retroactively. I am not a lawyer, but that strikes me as distinctly funny.

The reduction from 34 to 19 data is an insult to our intelligence. If you look at the data, it is not a reduction: the 34 are merged into 19 data fields. I am not stupid. We may not have any powers here but we are not stupid.

Then with pull to push: we got that promise back in 2004. We still do not have it! It is technically feasible, so why do we not have it?

Democratic oversight is completely lacking. This House may not have competences any more, but the national parliaments are completely excluded. Some of the national parliaments will get to approve the agreement, but they can only say ‘yes’ or ‘yes’, because they do not have time, they do not get all the necessary information – only very summary information – and it has just been pointed out that if one national parliament says ‘no’ then there is no agreement and no parliament will want to take that responsibility, so they have their backs against the wall.

With regard to the Privacy Act, it is good that it now covers European citizens. We asked for that many times. However, we all know that the Bush Administration uses all sorts of exceptions and exemptions to the Privacy Act, which, incidentally, affects American citizens as it does European citizens.

To conclude, concerning Mr Frattini’s proposal on a European PNR scheme – which is not a real proposal because he floated it at a press conference rather than putting a real proposal before this House, I think the timing – last week – was wrong and I would like to know what the justification is for such a scheme. We do not even know what purpose the PNR agreement with the United States serves. We do not know how many terrorists were caught, how many attacks were prevented and how many false positives there have been. We have insisted on an evaluation before signing a new agreement.

Finally, I would like to recommend that the PPE-DE Group support the joint motion for a resolution that we will negotiate tomorrow, read the agreement very carefully and read between the lines, because it is not as good as it looks.

 
  
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  Kathalijne Maria Buitenweg, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (NL) Mr President, this is the third agreement we are discussing in this Parliament on the transfer of passenger data to the United States, and things are not getting any better. Commissioner Frattini, you claim that the data is only used for the fight against terrorism or against serious international crime. As you know the agreement well, you will also be aware that Annex II stipulates, as Mr Lambrinidis said, or otherwise required by law, by US-law that is, which opens up its scope considerably, of course.

In general, I think that this is not the place either where you should make things out to be better than they really are. This also applies to the data, as Mrs in 't Veld said a moment ago. I have the two annexes here in front of me: an old annex to the old agreement and a new annex to the new agreement, one of which contains 19 data fields while the other contains 34. I would very much like to hear from you presently what data, according to you, will no longer be transferred to the United States. I want to know this very specifically because, as I see it, there is not one data field that will no longer be transferred to the United States, let alone 15.

Turning to the other item of push and pull, here too, I am tired of people acting as if major progress is being made. On two occasions, the Americans have moved this proposal, and you have had to negotiate once again with a view to them simply delivering on their own promises. Surely this is unacceptable in transatlantic relations.

Finally, I checked the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] website today for redress inquiries. It states that if you think you are under suspicion and that you are on a watch list of people who are denied airline boarding, they cannot let you know what the data is that they have on you, but you will have to inform them of the reason why you think you are under suspicion. Surely this is not the way to let people seek travel redress! So I would have to say to you, yes, I might be a vegetarian, but this will really not tell you anything. It is too absurd for words that people do not have access to the data on which they appear to be judged.

 
  
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  Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (ALDE). – (NL) Mr President, following endless debates, pulling and pushing, I had hoped for an adequate explanation where effectiveness is concerned, or the supposed effectiveness of an agreement such as this one. However, this hope soon evaporated when I read the agreement, one that was announced with so much pomp and circumstance by Mr Schäuble and others, including yourself.

Not a word was breathed about this supposed effectiveness. How many terrorists have been stopped in their tracks on the basis of the existing interim agreement? Of course, like the Commission, I too understand the importance of having an agreement, not least on account of the position of the European aviation industry. Legal certainty is important to everyone, but rules and regulations should not be there for rules and regulations’ sake.

What struck me, above all, having read this agreement, is that a great deal is coming out of our own pocket. It remains completely beyond me why we as a Union allow ourselves to be pushed into such an underdog position. Both the Council and Commission could learn from the perseverance displayed by our champion Mrs in 't Veld. All credit therefore to her and her unstinting efforts.

Finally, whilst the fight against terrorism is, of course, an important one, I cannot shake off the impression that we are at risk of losing sight of reality in this matter. This agreement is not enough, not by a long shot.

 
  
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  Sarah Ludford (ALDE). – Mr President, I am afraid that I am going to continue in a slightly sceptical line, but first of all a question to the Commissioner. Could he please tell us what is the legal basis of this agreement from the EU side? The only reference I can find to any legal instruments in it are to US Statutes. I do not find any reference to legal bases from the Treaties. I remember talk of Articles 24 and 38 earlier on. If Article 38 is one of them, then why is the European Parliament not formally consulted?

Secondly, we hear a lot about needing this to fight terrorism. If terrorism is such an important priority of the EU, why have we gone four months without a counter-terrorism coordinator?

Thirdly, this agreement is about collecting a huge amount of data on everyone, as a basis for profiling, data mining etc., but we have very poor implementation of targeted measures against terrorism.

The Director of Interpol has just launched what has been called in the press an ‘unprecedented attack on the UK’ for failing to check visitors against the Interpol database of stolen passports. When the Commission produced a report last year on the common position of January 2005, it was distinctly unimpressed by Member States’ achievements. Only a small number of Member States had established infrastructures for authorities to search the Interpol databases – 8 of the 25 Member States did not respond to the Commission’s inquiries – and very few Member States had made sure that their law enforcement authorities searched the database. Member States are completely ignoring their obligations.

Finally, we have the EU APIS Directive of 2004, which should have been implemented last year. Could the Commissioner tell us whether the Member States have implemented this Directive, why it is concerned only with illegal immigration and why it does not provide for visitors to be checked against terrorist watch lists? There are plenty of measures out there which are being completely unimplemented by Member States. Let us do that first before we have mass surveillance of the whole population.

 
  
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  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank all those who have spoken, even though I do not agree with most of their speeches, but you know that I always speak my mind with absolute frankness.

Ladies and gentlemen, agreements are made between two parties. The United States has the power to accept or reject an agreement. We had a duty, first of all, to ask the Council of Ministers for a mandate, which we were given and within which we have operated. The agreement has been approved by the Member States – after all, they granted us the power to negotiate – so they clearly thought that having this agreement was immensely better than the possibility of not having any agreement at all after 31 July this year, which is actually in a few days’ time.

Quite frankly, I should like to have heard those who criticised this agreement so harshly make at least one comment on the consequences of not having any agreement at all. Can any of you imagine that the airlines would have negotiated bilaterally with the United States and achieved a better level of personal data protection? I do not think anyone can even imagine that that might have happened. The protection of European citizens’ personal data would have been in serious jeopardy without the certainty of legally binding rules.

As you know, for the first time we have a binding agreement, unlike the previous one, which involved no binding commitments but just unilateral ones. In this agreement, we have recognised the ‘push’ principle as a fundamental criterion, as this Parliament has demanded on several occasions. The fact that some airlines have said that they are not yet in a position to switch over from pull to push does not depend on either the United States or Europe, but rather on the fact that some of them have so far been unable to change system on technical grounds. Since others have been able to do so, it must depend on their technical ability and willingness, and we shall help them to make the move.

We have set the ‘push’ system as a criterion; if, however, an airline says it is technically unable to implement it, other proposals need to be examined. Can we deny that airline landing rights? I am ready to examine any proposals, but we have also set a deadline, which is the end of this year. That seems technically feasible, since IATA (the International Air Transport Association) has told us that it is reasonable to expect all airlines to be technically capable of introducing the new system within six months. It is purely down to technical reasons.

We have established that sensitive data will be destroyed within 30 days, a measure that had not been agreed previously, and we have established that the US Privacy Act will apply to European citizens, something that had been mentioned in many debates here in Parliament as an essential condition: European citizens will be able to complain under the same law as US citizens if the US Department of Homeland Security misuses their data. That is something that did not exist before, and I am giving you actual facts.

Mr Lambrinidis has rightly mentioned third countries. It is true that the data in question can be passed on to third countries but, as you know, it is laid down that there will be the same power of control over the correct use of such data. The fact that they are passed on to a third country does not affect the power of control: the third country will use the data in accordance with the very same rules laid down in this agreement and we shall retain the same power to check whether the data have been used properly or not.

Someone asked about the possibility of terminating the agreement. The possibility does of course exist, in the event of a substantial breach, and you are perfectly well aware of the legal basis adopted. Article 24 of the Treaty is an intergovernmental basis and not, unfortunately, a Community basis, because the European Union Court of Justice has so ruled. An agreement had previously been negotiated on a basis that allowed for your full participation as the European Parliament. Unfortunately, the Court of Justice ruling established that the legal basis was incorrect and, as you know, everything stems from that ruling.

It is a fact, Mr Lambsdorff, that many Member States are not complying with European measures, which instead ought to be fully implemented. You know perfectly well not only that I published the state of the art country by country just a few days ago, but also that I have initiated infringement procedures, and I do not think I need to wait for the outcome of those to adopt useful proposals to combat terrorism.

I do not share the opinion of those who say, ‘We should do other things first and then worry about terrorism.’ Terrorism is a serious and present threat. I think this agreement could have been better if we had been negotiating it alone but, since agreements are made between two sides, it is a compromise and, in the spirit of compromise, the Council of Ministers approved it unanimously. In my view it was right to do so, and the German Presidency was given due recognition for all the hard work it put into this agreement.

It is a binding agreement which will certainly help to fight terrorism or, better still, to prevent it. No member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs should forget that the US Secretary of Homeland Security came to Parliament and gave you some information and, in some cases, specific facts about terror suspects who were stopped thanks to PNR data. There were just a few cases, but they concern people who were stopped thanks to PNR data and were later involved in bomb attacks elsewhere in the world.

Despite all the impact assessments that we have conducted and may yet conduct, I believe that the agreement in question, which provides legal certainty, is infinitely better than the absence of an agreement. I am sorry that we do not agree on this point, but I have a duty to be sincere.

 
  
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  Kathalijne Maria Buitenweg (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, we are lacking an important piece of information. The PPE-DE Group is basing its positive opinion partly on the fact that the amount of data now being sent to the US is reduced from 34 to 19. I have challenged the Commission to say which of the 15 pieces of information are no longer being transferred to the US, because as far as I see it – and the rapporteur Sophia in 't Veld also mentioned this – most of the fields are merged so that the change is mainly cosmetic. I would like to be convinced that the opposite is true. I would like the Commission to list the 15 information fields which are now no longer being transferred to the US.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday 12 July 2007.

 

19. Internal gas and electricity market (debate)
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  President. The next item is the report (A6-0249/2007), by Mr Vidal-Quadras, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on prospects for the internal gas and electricity market (2007/2089(INI).

 
  
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  Alejo Vidal-Quadras (PPE-DE), rapporteur. (ES) Mr President, on 10 January, the Commission presented what is known as the energy package, in which it made an overall analysis of the European Union’s energy situation, including the contribution of renewable energy sources, the sustainable use of conventional energy sources and the creation of a competitive and open internal market in electricity and gas.

The report that this Parliament will approve tomorrow responds to the main issues raised by the Commission with regard to the latter question, the internal market. The text approved in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, agreed amongst all of the political groups, reflects the fact that there is a clear consensus on the majority of issues and we hope that Commissioner Piebalgs will find our contributions useful when it comes to adopting the third liberalisation package in September.

Moving on to the content of the report, Parliament believes that we need more coordination at European level with regard to the regulatory framework. The current system – 27 Member States, 27 different regulations – is a serious obstacle to the internal market, particularly in terms of cross-border trade and the promotion of interconnections. Hence the proposal to create a European-scale body to deal with these aspects.

We are also pleased with the Council's firm commitment to achieve 10% interconnections between Member States, which is of particular significance to the outermost States.

At national level it is advocated that national regulators should be entirely independent of the governments and industry and that their competences should be enhanced so they can ensure that the law is obeyed. Regulators must ensure that the markets are transparent and open to everybody and that there are no abuses on the part of the existing companies.

We also agree that regulated tariffs need to be gradually eliminated. These kinds of tariffs exist in several Member States, where they are used to prevent new companies from entering the market. In some cases they are so low that they do not reflect the true costs, and that sends a false message to consumers.

We are in a period in which a radical change in consumer habits is needed, and in order to optimise energy resources, citizens need to be fully aware of their true value.

Furthermore, the report introduces – if you will allow me to use the term – a social chapter, pointing out to the Member States that completing a competitive energy market must not under any circumstances mean the weakening of consumers' rights and that our obligations towards society’s vulnerable sectors must remain in force.

Finally, the most burning issue in the report: the ownership unbundling of the production and distribution of electricity. The majority of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy believe that this ownership unbundling provides us with an appropriate measure for achieving greater transparency, for guaranteeing investments and for ensuring access to the market for new companies.

Those are the fundamental points of the report, Mr President, and it only remains for me to thank the Directorates-General for Translation and Publications and the Presidency of this Parliament for their invaluable help. Without it, it would not have been possible to complete this report in just four months, in time to ensure our effective presence within the legislative process. I would also like to stress the excellent cooperation of the shadow rapporteurs and the political groups. It has been a real pleasure to negotiate this report with them and let us hope that tomorrow’s vote will provide a happy conclusion to all of this work.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS KRATSA-TSAGAROPOULOU
Vice-President

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I think I should begin where Vice-President Vidal-Quadras ended, by first of all thanking him for all his work and his dedication. I should also like to thank the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy for the active debate and those who made it possible for this report to be adopted within such a short time limit. This is really an achievement and one that is very much appreciated.

The report, if adopted – and I hope it will be adopted tomorrow – will pave the way for a Commission legislative proposal which we are aiming to have ready by September. It is really necessary to have the report and that we spend the remaining months of July and August preparing a good legislative proposal that will really reflect on all the points raised by the Parliament.

I would like to begin by saying why we need this proposal. I think it is very important never to lose sight of the reason why the Commission really believes in this proposal. From a formal point of view, there is the argument that two reports by the Commission and the final Report on the Sector Inquiry on Energy clearly indicated that there is a need for new legal measures at European level to achieve the basic goals of security of supply and competitiveness.

However, these are not the only reasons. There has been a substantial change in the energy world which justifies this proposal. Firstly, we have historically high energy prices. The price of oil today at USD 70 per barrel is definitely very high. We are hearing less from those who usually argue that oil prices will come down. If oil prices are high, it means that gas prices are also high and it has an influence on the price of coal – basically, all energy costs are higher. We can predict that high prices will prevail due to greater consumption and with increased global demand due to the growing population.

The second challenge, that of climate change, is much more clearly pronounced. We know that the energy sector is a major contributor of greenhouse gases, so we need to strengthen the instruments to fight against climate change. Last but not least, there is also the challenge of EU enlargement. With new Member States joining the European Union, we have a much greater need for stronger solidarity mechanisms to be in place in the energy sector in the European Union. Many of these countries depend on just one supplier and are extremely vulnerable if supplies are disrupted.

The energy policy objectives – security of supply, sustainability and competitiveness – very much depend on the situation on the EU common market. On 1 July 2007, there was a major change in perception because now each consumer legally has a chance to choose his supplier. This should bring a real message for investment and should bring better quality. But the message was downplayed because, in many Member States, steps have been taken only half-heartedly and not consistently enough.

It has been said that world commodity prices are rising because of liberalisation, but the reason has never been liberalisation. The reason is that liberalisation has never happened, which means that, whatever steps are taken, we must provide guarantees that each citizen and each company in the European Union has the opportunity and the right to choose a supplier. If the price or the service is not satisfactory, then it must be changed without fearing this process. I believe that it is absolutely necessary to take stronger measures that bring more competition and more Europe, because Europe’s strength is in its scale and scope.

The main measures were well reflected by the rapporteur. I would just like to reflect on a couple of them. Unbundling is definitely the key. We are very glad of the wording on the unbundling of electricity.

With respect to gas, some additional arguments should be put forward because, basically, the gas situation is no different. As regards gas as well, if unbundling is not done properly, supplies will not reach consumers and, as a result, the market will starve from the lack of gas.

Transparency is important. With regard to regulation, we should look at two levels. Firstly, we should look at the level of cross-border market energy flows and, secondly, see that national regulators should have powers, but also obligations that new investments are made. They are not responsible merely for overseeing the market. They should actually be responsible for those investments being made. Cooperation between transmission system operators should be strengthened, as should interconnection policies.

I would emphasise also that there have been a couple of other good, important points on energy efficiency, smart grids, biogas and balance with long-term contracts. I would defend one point that perhaps was avoided in the report, or said very cautiously. On regional cooperation, developments of the pentalateral market definitely demonstrate that are many opportunities also working on the regional market. At the same time, I agree with Parliament that we should always be cautious not to split the internal market but actually to use this initiative to promote the whole market.

In conclusion, I would again like to thank all involved. Each of the points made in the report will be taken into due account in the Commission proposal. We should not forget that energy is a particular commodity, like earth, water and air. At the same time, I could say that it is a scarcer commodity at this stage, until we have learnt how to get more energy from the sun, the wind or from biomass.

 
  
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  Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. (NL) Madam President, first of all, I should like to congratulate the rapporteur. The report approved by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs in fact corresponds entirely to your viewpoint, and this is also, by and large, the viewpoint of the Commission and the one I had outlined as rapporteur.

It is clear that, in the 21st century, we need a real, fully fledged, internal energy market. This was once again made clear at the summit two weeks ago, and this means that we are looking to create actual competition. Protectionism is therefore fundamentally wrong. I very much welcome the fact that Mr Vidal-Quadras’s report states that there should be reciprocity – because, all too often, we see countries that want to protect their own national champions but still go shopping in other countries, which is, of course, unacceptable.

Needless to say, the interests of the citizens must be protected, because you are right in saying that energy is a specific good, but this should be done by public service obligations and the government facing up to its responsibility, rather than by protectionism. Protection? I say ‘yes’ to that. Market protection? No.

Finally, I am delighted with the fact that a long-standing wish of the Liberals has now been included explicitly in the report, namely that by creating an actual level playing field and by incorporating external environmental costs in the price, renewable sources of energy will now finally have a competitive edge over other energy sources, which is bound to benefit our environment.

 
  
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  Brigitte Douay (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. – (FR) Madam President, on behalf of the Committee on Regional Development, I should like to stress the fact that the completion of the internal energy market must be part of the objective of the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the European Union. It must therefore be aimed at a high level of public service and must guarantee the security of supply, as well as meet consumers’ needs in full. Indeed, total competition in such a specific market as the gas and electricity market is justifiable only if prices are lower, services more widespread and customer services more efficient.

I should therefore like to lay particular emphasis on the taking into account of the most vulnerable citizens and on the security of supply in underdeveloped regions, regions with natural handicaps and the outermost regions. Special attention must also be paid to border regions, which are the first to be able to benefit from the effects of the internal market.

Completing this market requires total transparency and comprehensive and undistorted information on the origin of energy, particularly when it is a question of renewable energy sources. In this respect, regional and local authorities must be supported by the European Union in their efforts to promote energy efficiency and energy savings, particularly in the transport and housing sectors.

I should like to conclude by thanking Mr Vidal-Quadras for having taken a number of our comments on board in his report.

 
  
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  Herbert Reul, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, it is extremely difficult to find a better structure for the internal energy market. We certainly have plenty of problems, some because energy is in the hands of a state undertaking, some because it is in the hands of an oligopolist, and some because the state interferes and sets prices. That is why we need to give serious thought to how we can get more of a market here.

Some sections of this Parliament have problems with the proposals. With some of these proposals, ownership unbundling really is the only way to ensure there is some liberalisation on the internal market. The data do not necessarily support that. You only have to look at them. States and energy undertakings do not necessarily invest most in networks that are unbundled; the figures available show that states and undertakings are investing very heavily in interconnectors and in networks that are not unbundled.

We must ask ourselves whether we really need to distinguish between Member States where the energy undertakings are in state ownership and those where they are in private ownership. Why does unbundling apply only for systems that are in private ownership and not also for systems that are owned by the state?

How long will it take for this instrument of ownership unbundling to pass through the entire legislative process and be implemented? We want to push through changes as quickly as possible! Experience has taught us, however, that in all probability it will take many years before we have any effect at all, if we set this machinery in motion now.

Last, but not least, there is the question of who will actually buy these networks. Who will own them in future? The state, other undertakings – Gazprom, hedge funds – or how is it actually to work? Is that really what we want? I doubt that we have found the right way with this instrument. That is why I would like to suggest that we also offer the Member States more alternatives, such as ISO or RIO, that is regional cooperation. We must see how we can achieve what we have all set ourselves as our common objective with the most diverse of methods. We should, however, avoid concentrating on one objective as supposedly the only road to happiness.

 
  
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  Edit Herczog, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (HU) I congratulate the rapporteur, who together with the shadow rapporteurs has done a highly successful job in a very short time. I thank and congratulate him. In the draft report we have managed to work out an unusually large number of significant compromises.

On the question of ownership unbundling, we need to accept the decision of the democratic majority, and everyone at the meeting of the parliamentary committee voted in favour of unbundling ownership. At the same time, we are formulating political policy orientations, not establishing regulations. It is therefore expedient to leave open as many options as possible. Unbundling ownership seems the most effective solution, but it is not the only solution. It is precisely for this reason that the Socialist Group in the European Parliament will support the first proposed amendment, which extends the future impact study to the system operators’ ISO model as well.

On behalf of the Socialist Group I would like especially to welcome the new chapter concerning the social consequences of market liberalisation and concerning consumer protection. I ask the Commission fully to heed the proposals in the report, and to draw up as soon as possible, preferably this year, the Energy Consumers’ Charter. For today it is an incontestable fact that everyone needs energy, and precisely for this reason we place the consumer at the centre of our future energy policy. In practice, consumers are often unaware of when, under what circumstances and how they can assert their right to energy. In this regard they need information, assistance and in certain cases protection as well.

I would draw attention to the fact that Parliament is preparing to adopt a very decisive, forward-looking position with regard to opening up and regulating the market. As codecisionmakers, we will continue in future to insist on the independence, the responsibilities and the collaboration of regulators, on making the market more transparent, and on realising the developments in question.

Finally, I wish to remind everyone: the goals of energy policy are Europe’s energy security, competitiveness and carbon dioxide reduction. Competition is simply a means to this end. Let us therefore not confuse the two things: we must only favour competition when and inasmuch as it truly serves energy security and competitiveness – for instance, with regard to long-term price agreements.

 
  
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  Anne Laperrouze, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by congratulating Mr Vidal-Quadras on his work: on a thorny issue and in return for a large number of amendments, he has managed to ensure that the text to be adopted by Parliament lists the options that will enable us to steer the direction of the debates to come this autumn.

Through this report, the crucial role of the national regulators has been reaffirmed. Independence, convergence and increased harmonisation of their powers are crucial not only in terms of transparency, communication and responsibility, but also in terms of relations with the transport network managers. We must overcome the technical and regulatory disparities that are hindering cross-border trade and the interconnection thereof. In my view, the regulators should approve the necessary investments on the proposal of the network managers and ensure that such investment takes place. The desire of the European Commission to have national regulators cooperate more with each other is therefore along the right lines.

The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe welcomes the fact that this House has highlighted the need for different approaches for the electricity sector and the gas sector. The gas sector needs specific solutions taking account of the differences between upstream and downstream markets. Thus, gas producers are for the most part located outside the European Union and do not abide by the same rules as those of the internal market. Ownership unbundling of the networks could make European gas companies more fragile.

With regard to regulated tariffs, we think it necessary for the Member States gradually to do away with their application, but to keep the option of last resort tariffs so as to protect the most vulnerable consumers.

I shall conclude with the point that has provoked debate: the issue of ownership unbundling. As far as the ALDE Group is concerned, the objective of having all operators treated in a transparent and non-discriminatory way by network managers is a crucial element of the proper functioning of the internal market. On this issue, my point of view differs from that of some of my colleagues, because I do not believe that this ownership unbundling is the key element that will enable the internal market to be completed. After it has been imposed – if this option proves to be the wrong one – the damage could harm European companies and, ultimately, the security of supply.

I feel that it is more important to establish a code of good conduct for network managers, to make the necessary investments and to increase the power of the regulators. We need both great European energy champions and competition for the market to work. What we need to do is to regulate price transparency and to prevent excessive pricing, because, as needs go, energy is a vital one for Europeans and for the European economy.

 
  
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  Eugenijus Maldeikis, on behalf of UEN Group. – (LT) First of all I would like to thank the rapporteur for his constructive and realistic position in preparing this report, and for truly having a thorough understanding of such a complex phenomenon as the liberalisation processes of the electricity and gas market in the European Union. I would like to mention and draw attention to something I consider very important: the liberalisation of the gas and electricity market cannot proceed in isolation from the formulation of foreign policy, because the dependence of the gas and electricity market on third countries and their businesses is continually increasing. We know very well the possible consequences, and therefore it is essential that there be a strong coordination of the stages and means of liberalisation with the creation of a foreign energy policy. I would also like to emphasise that this is not an unambiguous process – it is very complex. It is very important for us to clearly highlight the fact that 20 countries out of 27 have still not incorporated existing bills of law into national legislation, whereas the new steps we have yet to take in liberalising the market will have to be backed up by further supplementary means in order to implement what has previously been enacted.

 
  
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  Claude Turmes, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, we have created a European internal electricity and gas market that is suffering primarily from one thing: the E.ON, RWE and EDF oligopolies that are present on this market. In Germany and France we have the union of corporations and political elites that have failed to play fair from the outset, instead sealing off their markets and buying the other firms out: monopole in France, monopoly outside of France.

What can we do to get out of this situation and pass on to consumers the fundamentally positive effects of an internal market? We must strengthen the regulators, we must separate the transmission grids and gas networks from the electricity generators and gas undertakings, and we also need programmes like the Gas and Electricity Release Programmes, which allow the regulatory or competition authorities to sell electricity and gas to other competitors where the markets are too strongly dominated.

That is the line agreed by the great majority of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. I hope that my colleagues will not give way at the last moment to the many mails from Mr Reul, which come directly from RWE headquarters. Only the introduction of a national regulator against the wishes of the German energy corporations brought falling prices in the German electricity grids. That was billions that had not previously found their way into consumers’ pockets!

 
  
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  Esko Seppänen, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (FI) Madam President, Commissioner, ownership unbundling is a patented drug in the EU to cure market diseases caused by market viruses and bacteria. Our group has no great faith in market self-correcting mechanisms to cure these illnesses. We also need strong national and EU level regulators.

The biggest drawback as far as consumers are concerned is the pricing mechanism for electricity. In the stock markets all producers get the same price for electricity: it is determined in accordance with the highest production costs of all. The pricing mechanism is an automatic profit spinner for producers of cheap electricity.

If the Commission tries to harmonise the electricity markets, it will also be harmonising the price of electricity. Then the price of electricity will rise in countries where it is cheap. So some consumers will have to pay the electricity bills of others. That is quite wrong.

 
  
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  Jana Bobošíková (NI).(CS) (The beginning of speech was inaudible) cooperation between the transit system operators, that there needs to be greater investment in infrastructure. There are doubts, however, over the proposal on unbundling. The Commission sees this as a vital step that will prevent discrimination against network users. It will also, of course, enable the connection of new providers, and will lead to independent decision-making on investment as well as improved coordination between network operators. This liberal approach would be entirely valid if we were speaking about goods for general consumption. When it comes to strategic, location-specific, natural resources upon which we are completely dependent, however, the situation is completely different. Do we know how to prevent the domination of deregulated markets by companies connected to the main producing countries? Do we know how to prevent markets from being dominated by the Russian state-owned company Gazprom?

Ladies and gentlemen, over 40% of gas supplies in the Union currently come from Russia. The individual Member States that have signed bilateral agreements are exacerbating this dependence, and we have to acknowledge that the situation is getting worse by the day. Relations between Brussels and Russia are not exactly perfect at the moment. Nobody knows what would happen if Russia chose to exploit the Union’s dependency on its gas for political purposes. I believe it is vital to find the answer to that question before we start making fundamental changes to the way that the energy market is currently organised.

 
  
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  Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I wish to begin by congratulating the rapporteur on a report which has a strong message for a vital internal market for electricity and gas.

There are two main points that should be underlined. First, the importance of an efficient gas and electricity market is greater than ever if we are to fight climate change, if we are to secure the opportunities for renewable energies and if we are to take care of European competitiveness. This also applies to consumers. Second, we need an energy policy that can face the challenge of the risk of dependency on either big domestic producers or on foreign stakeholders that try to combine economic power with political pressures by controlling production as well as distribution. Those are two elements that we need to deal with if we are to have a strong common energy policy.

Those are the reasons why the European Union needs an energy market with fair and undistorted competition, with open markets, without economic patriotism, but rather characterised by liberté, égalité et fraternité. We need unbundling in order to ensure there is competition and new energy sources, and we need a common electric grid and gas networks across the whole of Europe in order to ensure that there is an efficient market and solidarity.

In these ways we can combine solidarity with efficiency, competition with cooperation and the efforts of fighting climate change with economic growth. That is why it is important to support the rapporteur and his report.

 
  
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  Reino Paasilinna (PSE). – (FI) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for this clever report. There is no viable energy market in Europe, because most of the Member States flout the agreements. The victims of this are industry, competitiveness and the general public.

A sound internal market would facilitate access to markets for smaller companies, such as importers of renewable energy sources. A viable market would also ensure that there was sufficient investment. There would be greater reliability of service with regard to power plants and transfer networks. A viable internal market for the general public will mean fair prices, and it will be important for fuel poverty. It will also create security.

How is it possible that, while in one Member State of the Union they are struggling with consumption peak, in another there is unused capacity? Surely that is not a Union. The must be unbundling of energy production with regard to its distribution.

Many old players which dominate the network set discriminatory terms and conditions, for example, regarding new players connecting to power station networks and the use of network capacity. This will not change without European-wide regulation.

Transparency is crucial, especially if the markets are to be viable. At present transparency does not work in a lot of countries either. The big companies are playing each other’s game. We cannot survive in a situation in which some countries think they can take over new markets but at the same time jealously protect their own. Moreover, a good directive is not the answer either. We call for one voice in our dealings with Russia, but we do not even speak to one another with one voice in matters of energy. To achieve this, the Commission needs to monitor and penalise Member States who get round agreements unfairly.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, our relations with Russia regarding energy are governed by the principle of reciprocity. There is one major difficulty relating to the latter, namely that the Russians interpret this principle as involving the politics of force, and take no account of European market expectations.

Russia has recently forced several European energy concerns to leave its territory. At the same time, however, Gazprom is benefiting from the opening up of the European energy market. It has growing investments in as many as 16 of the Union’s 27 Member States. Gazprom even has access to private consumers in Germany, France and Italy, and we all know that those countries represent the lion’s share of the energy market.

There is a significant conclusion to be drawn from all this. Although liberalisation of the energy market is beneficial from the consumer’s point of view, it must be undertaken in such a way as to prevent Europe from becoming even more dependent on the Russian economic and political machine.

In my view, this represents a challenge for the Commission, competition protection policy and for employers. They must lay the foundations described in the Commission’s document and in Mr Vidal-Quadras’ excellent report, and also translate them into legal language.

 
  
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  Ján Hudacký (PPE-DE). – (SK) First of all, allow me to thank the rapporteur for a comprehensive and high-quality report.

I would like to highlight some aspects which might contribute to the speedy establishment of an effective single energy market in the European Union. I view positively the Commission’s efforts to achieve this goal through submitting, in a non-discriminatory and transparent manner, ever more rounded proposals for boosting investment in infrastructure and ensuring equitable access to networks for multiple market participants.

After numerous discussions with stakeholders both in Parliament and outside it, and in the light of experience from some Member States, I have come to believe that the ‘ownership emboldening’ of independent national operators is not the surest way of managing the attainment of these goals.

Admittedly, ownership unbundling in vertically integrated companies will ensure the formal independence of economic entities and will enable new players to access the energy networks. A question remains, however, as to whether new investors will be genuinely interested in a geographically limited nationally regulated market, especially in underdeveloped regions. One can therefore hardly assume with certainty that such a step will genuinely strengthen competition and bring sufficient pressure to bear on energy prices. By the same token, there will probably still be a need for national energy markets to be interconnected, since national interests are likely to prevail first.

For this reason I would like to recommend that the Commission take on board other proposals which are capable of addressing the situation in a more comprehensive way and which may prove more effective in accomplishing energy market liberalisation.

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (PSE). – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr Vidal-Quadras, I congratulate you on your attempt to produce a more or less balanced report, in which you have largely succeeded.

Paragraph 2 on the subject of unbundling is a central topic in the public debate. I can accept it as it is formulated here because it is probably the best solution, in theory at least. We should not think that it will solve every problem, however. There are many reasons why grids are not being expanded that have nothing to do with unbundling, but with difficult procedures, with civil rights movements and other things. Point 6 is also important in this connection, saying as it does that we must take care that non-EU state-controlled undertakings do not buy up energy infrastructures; we would be particularly unhappy about that if there were no reciprocity or interdependence.

I think the points about the regulator are particularly important. We need stronger national regulators cooperating at European level; we need a harmonised framework so that we can operate a common energy policy in Europe in this sector.

For all the emphasis on the need for market liberalisation, this must not be at the expense of the socially weak. Security of supply must continue to be guaranteed, especially for the socially weak who simply cannot keep pace with rising energy prices any more, much as they want to. That is the deciding factor: anyone who is unable to pay any more despite social assistance and support must nevertheless still be supplied with energy.

 
  
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  Silvia Ciornei (ALDE). – Ţin să încep prin a-mi exprima aprecierile pentru modul obiectiv în care domnul Vidal-Quadras a întocmit acest raport.

Aş dori să subliniez câteva lucruri: în primul rând consider că pentru a avea o piaţă internă a energiei competitivă, avem nevoie de introducerea unei separări depline a proprietăţii între distribuţia de energie şi producţia de energie. O astfel de măsură ar conduce, aşa cum s-a mai spus astăzi, la mai multă transparenţă, la stimularea investiţiilor în domeniul infrastructurii de distribuţie şi, cred eu, ar ajuta în final la generarea unui preţ accesibil al energiei pentru consumatori.

În sectorul gazelor naturale cred că prin măsurile ce le vom lua trebuie să încurajăm construirea de noi proiecte care să diversifice sursele de aprovizionare ale Uniunii Europene, cum ar fi de exemplu proiectul Nabucco. Sub nici o formă măsurile de liberalizare nu trebuie să descurajeze realizarea unor astfel de proiecte, pentru că diversificarea surselor de aprovizionare cu gaze naturale a Uniunii Europene reprezintă un element cheie pentru crearea unei pieţe interne de gaz.

Nu în ultimul rând aş dori să subliniez necesitatea păstrării suportului cetăţenilor pentru măsurile de liberalizare a pieţei şi, în acest sens, consider că Parlamentul European, Comisia Europeană şi chiar autorităţile publice din statele membre, trebuie să-şi intensifice împreună eforturile pentru a face cunoscute oportunităţile ce rezultă din liberalizarea completă a pieţei europene de electricitate şi gaz, şi în acelaşi timp, pentru a ne asigura că drepturile consumatorilor de energie, persoane fizice sau companii, sunt protejate.

Nu putem considera finalizat proiectul de liberalizare a pieţei de energie atâta timp cât nu reuşim să creăm o piaţă pe deplin transparentă şi eficientă, în care consumatorii să poată să-şi aleagă liberi şi în cunoştinţă de cauză cea mai avantajoasă ofertă de furnizare de energie.

 
  
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  András Gyürk (PPE-DE). (HU) Recognising Europe’s energy dependency, more and more people believe that there cannot be a strong Europe without a common energy policy. When we reflect on the basic pillars of a possible common energy policy for the future, it is worth appreciating the pillar that already exists today.

Mr Vidal-Quadras’s report is about this existing pillar, namely, the internal energy market. I agree with the statement in the report that extending the EU’s internal energy market, and creating effective solidarity mechanisms among the Member States, will serve at once to secure our supply and to increase economic efficiency. Instead of applying these principles, however, the internal market today is still much more characterised by the Hungarian saying ‘there are as many customs as there are houses’. That is to say, sadly there are numerous Member States who have not yet fully implemented the directives regarding the liberalisation of the energy market.

The opening up of the energy market in Hungary, for instance, will foreseeably take place with a six-month delay, and inasmuch it finally does take place, a new obstacle is erected to open competition: excessive market concentration. The long-term energy purchase agreements signed between the MVM Company Ltd. (Magyar Villamosművek) and the electrical energy producers cover some 80% of the Hungarian market. The European Commission presumes that there is illegal state aid behind these agreements, and is thus rightfully concerned about true competition.

If the liberalisation of the market is to be carried out under these terms, we can be sure that consumers will gain no benefit from it. Prices will not come down, nor will the level of service improve. If we do not wish liberalisation to fail, we must guarantee the fulfilment of its principles as well. For this reason, I hope that we will see the birth, as soon as possible, of the guarantees of a common energy policy in the interest of creating a strong Europe.

 
  
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  Eluned Morgan (PSE). – Madam President, I hope the Commission will heed the vote of the committee when preparing the revision of the directive and not kow-tow to Member States which protect companies which overcharge their consumers. They have a vested interest in maintaining a system where there is an inbuilt conflict of interests which stops competitors from having access to the same market. These are often the same companies which care more about giving profits to their shareholders than providing serious investments to ensure that the lights are kept on.

I urge you not even to offer the ISO model, which would require a magnificently complicated regulatory system which would have to be policed by an army of officials, but understand also that ownership unbundling needs rules. We need to ensure that we protect energy networks from hedge funds or private equity, which will not give the long-term investment commitment that is necessary, and let us stop third-country companies from buying either generation or energy networks if there is no reciprocal agreement with that country.

I urge you also to put right the false impression on ownership unbundling spun by the German Presidency following the last Energy Council meeting. The majority of Member States are in favour of full ownership unbundling, especially in electricity. Do not be bullied by the big boys and let democracy and the consumers speak.

 
  
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  Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (ALDE). – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr Vidal-Quadras, we are all agreed on the objective: we want to create a single European internal energy market. We want that in the interests of both consumers and undertakings. Where this did not work, where the market failed, we needed to show the yellow card, and in some cases even the red one. You have done that with your proposals, Commissioner, and the rapporteur has taken them up.

The aim is therefore clear. It cannot lie in the break-up of the undertakings in the internal market, however. That is why we must work towards greater market integration, more investment in interconnectors, non-discriminatory market access for competition. And that is where we have now had a reaction. I am glad, we are all unanimously glad about the proposal for the creation of regional markets that is now on the table. There are to be seven of them. These regional markets will be responsible for network access, system safety, provision of capacity, control energy, network expansion and congestion management. This will require EU legislation. We hope that you will approach these tasks with the same courage as you showed with the existing proposal.

 
  
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  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE-DE). – (SL) In the debate on the internal market for gas and electricity, the question of unbundling the transmission network from production is a key issue.

Of the proposed unbundling models, ownership unbundling has thus far proven to be the most effective. Yet this does not mean that we should not take a critical approach to it, in fact quite the contrary. I believe that there is a need to point out numerous factors to which we must be attentive in this process. May I highlight just some of them.

Firstly, I would emphasise that we must clearly define the competence of the supervisory authorities. Here we must be aware that ownership unbundling signifies integration of the EU internal market. However this integration requires the reinforcement of the existing supervisory authorities. These authorities must be developed and built up, whether we are talking about national regulators or new models such as ISO+. The competence and powers of national supervisory authorities in the EU must be more uniform, while at the same time we must make adequate provision for the supervision of cross-border activities.

I would also like to highlight the fact that in creating the internal market for gas and electricity and in the process of ownership unbundling we must take into account our high import dependence. If we are seeking to derive positive results from the internal market, we must face third countries with one voice. The process therefore requires the simultaneous formulation of a common European foreign policy, or at least a common European energy foreign policy. We must also observe the principle of reciprocity.

Finally, may I also highlight solidarity as one of the fundamental values of the European Union. We must shape the internal market in such a way that enables us, at the same time, to protect its most vulnerable users. This can be done in a neutral way, which will not threaten European competitiveness. I support wording to this effect in the report, and at the same time I congratulate the rapporteur for his excellent work.

 
  
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  Joan Calabuig Rull (PSE). – (ES) Madam President, we agree on the need for a genuine internal energy market that is transparent and open and that contributes to reducing the costs for citizens and companies.

The internal market must stimulate efficiency and investment, contribute to security of supply and allow access to the energy market, including for small companies.

Since 1990, priority has been given to the creation of the market, but that is not a sufficient response, as the reality in many States demonstrates. Almost all of the Member States have problems in this regard. What we need to do is to continue along the path that we have begun, that is to say, the creation of a common energy policy that offers everybody confidence and a clear framework for achieving the Commission’s proposed objectives in 2009.

Finally, in view of the importance of the social dimension of the energy policy, we must be pleased at the inclusion of measures to combat energy poverty. It should also be stressed that the Commission must be urged to present its proposed charter on consumer rights by the end of 2007.

I congratulate the rapporteur.

 
  
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  Šarūnas Birutis (ALDE). – (LT) I would like to thank Mr Vidal-Quadras for a truly good report. Nevertheless, I would like to draw attention to at least a couple of things. Firstly, I suggest we give more emphasis to the importance of priority energy links in the creation of an internal EU energy market. Until Lithuania and the other Baltic countries as well as Poland have an energy link with the rest of Western Europe, there can be no talk of a domestic market! Furthermore, the financing of four priority energy links has not been fully clarified yet. Therefore, I propose that it should be demanded that sufficient funds be guaranteed for the smooth implementation of this plan and that all additional possible avenues of financing be analysed, if that is required. Secondly, honourable colleagues, I propose that we emphasise that in creating a common European energy market we are obliged to be guided by economic logic and the principle of solidarity. The alternative links offered by Russia are based on political motives! Russia's plan to lay a gas pipeline to Germany across the floor of the Baltic Sea bypassing the Baltic countries and Poland is 30% more expensive than the ‘Amber Gas Pipeline’ project proposed by the Baltic countries and Poland, and significantly more dangerous. Implementation of the Russian plan would isolate the Baltic countries even more, and therefore I suggest that the 'Nord Stream' project be stricken from the list of projects of interest to Europe!

 
  
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  Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Madam President, I should like to congratulate Commissioner Piebalgs on yet another good proposal. This particular one aims to support the European common market in energy. Congratulations are also due to the rapporteur on his excellent report.

The issue of ownership unbundling has proved the most controversial, but I would like to make three observations concerning rather different problems. I do of course support unbundling very strongly indeed. My comments concern other matters, however.

Firstly, the single European market calls for strong physical links between national markets and even between regional ones. Distribution network operators must be encouraged to invest in cross-border connections. The European Union and the countries concerned must provide stronger support for such connections as they are a sine qua non for the common market and genuine competition.

Secondly, European integration should involve not only energy and CO2 emission rights, but also the market in green, red and white certificates. The development of these markets should aim at making them more European. Turning to the most important and fundamental issue of all, I must emphasise that the Union’s underlying problem at present concerns undertaking a strategic investment programme to redevelop old facilities and build new highly efficient ones.

The issue that arises is whether we wish to base this investment only on the simple principle of a gradual price increase across the board. That may prove unduly expensive for European SMEs and energy-intensive industries. Efficient investment regulation mechanisms should be sought, to create new opportunities. Investment certificates are one possibility.

Congratulations once again.

 
  
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  Teresa Riera Madurell (PSE). – (ES) Madam President, Commissioner, I too am convinced that, in order to progress towards the establishment of a competitive internal market in gas and electricity, Mr Vidal-Quadras’ report takes the right approach: to propose complete ownership unbundling, to protect consumers, to increase transparency, to strengthen bilateral cooperation and the independence of regulators and increase the level of interconnection between Member States.

In this regard, it is very important to speed up the assignment of coordinators for projects with execution difficulties. A better climate for investment in interconnection capacity requires a European distribution network for gas and electricity with medium- and long-term European planning, supervised by a possible council of regulators.

There is no question that we must make progress in this direction, but there is also no question that it is going to take time to achieve our final objective. I believe, however, that the greater our capacity not to use the difficulties that the different Member States come across for party political ends, the less time it will take.

We must all move together in the direction that we believe to be correct. That is our responsibility as Members of the European Parliament and it may also represent our success.

 
  
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  Jan Březina (PPE-DE). – Madam President, as the shadow rapporteur for the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, I would like to thank my colleague, Mr Vidal-Quadras, for his great work, as well as for this excellent opportunity to discuss some of the very important issues, such as ownership unbundling or the role of national regulation authorities.

I very much appreciate this initiative of the European Parliament, as it could also help the European Commission in further efforts to liberalise the internal gas and electricity market and as it assesses the measures already taken. Ownership unbundling, the most controversial issue, proved to be the milestone of this report. I would like to support this activity of the European Commission. However, as it is a somewhat controversial issue that needs to be further clarified and strengthened, I would like to call on the Commission to carry out further impact assessment studies to analyse means other than unbundling of increasing transparency and ensuring conditions for proper investment in infrastructure.

If the Commission decides in favour of unbundling, the implementation process must be prepared carefully in order to be as sensitive as possible to ownership rights. With regard to ownership unbundling, I would like to support amendments and proposals that soften the assertion that unbundling is the only and most efficient way to liberalise the internal energy market and which, therefore, consider other means as well.

With regard to the section entitled ‘Regulators’, I would like to emphasise the role of the national regulation authorities, which should be independent of governments and bear part of the responsibility in the process of the liberalisation of the energy market.

As a Member from a new Member State, I would also criticise some opinions of my colleagues tending to accuse only central and eastern European countries of interventionism in decisions taken by the national regulators.

 
  
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  Dorette Corbey (PSE). – (NL) Madam President, I am grateful to Mr Vidal-Quadras for his excellent report. Tomorrow, we will be voting on, inter alia, ownership unbundling of electricity grids and electricity production. It so happens that the Upper Chamber of the Dutch Parliament will be voting on this very subject tomorrow. The Dutch have decided to separate energy supply from network management. If this happens in the rest of Europe, this will be good news for the Dutch energy companies, who will no longer have to feel like little miss goody two-shoes.

This is also good news for the development of sustainable energy, because only by splitting ownership completely can we open up the energy market to new suppliers, something that is desperately needed. At the moment, there is too little network capacity to allow new suppliers to join the networks. The energy giants are reluctant to invest in expanding the capacity for the benefit of such new parties. Access to networks is often difficult due to a lack of transparency, which leads to enormous delays, for example in the wind energy sector. Splitting them up is the way forward.

 
  
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  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). – Madam President, the energy package the Commissioner has put forward deals with three issues: security of supply, competition and environmental sustainability. I will focus on only one part: competition. If I have one thesis today, it is that, even in the energy market, we need free and undistorted competition. For those who need a translation: concurrence libre et non forcée.

I have three points. On implementation and transposition, I hope that the Commission can be even tougher. There is a lot of unfair price competition out there and extremely unfair take-overs have been referred to many times in this House, in other words, some kind of a state monopoly taking over from free and private competition of a smaller prey. There are many barriers to entry, so keep up those infringement procedures. I am not going to mention any particular companies, but there is one, the first letter of which is ‘e’ and the last is ‘f’, that you could have a close look at.

Secondly, on unbundling, two options were outlined: one is ownership unbundling and the other is an independent system operator. Much like other speakers, I fully favour ownership unbundling: it is the only way we can go forward, because the current level is insufficient.

I shall finish by giving you one example, which is my third point. I live in Genval, just outside Brussels. A few months ago, I received a letter from the local community stating: ‘Wow, fantastic, now finally you can choose your energy supplier and this will lead to greater competition’ – as if they had done something about it! What they had basically done for decades was to try to protect the market and keep prices high. I am really glad that Mr Vidal-Quadras has put forward an ambitious report and the Commission is keeping a tough line on energy competition. Good luck!

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE). – (FI) Madam President, as my esteemed colleague, Mr Vidal-Quadras, properly states in his report, there is no alternative to the liberalisation of the energy markets. A genuine internal energy market is an essential factor to achieve the three objectives of the European energy sector: competition, sustainable development, and security of supply.

Healthy competition in the market will cut costs to the public and business and encourage energy efficiency and investment. As Mr Paasilinna said just now, we need compliance with the rules and transparency. At the same time, it will also benefit other industries, and competitiveness throughout the entire economy will improve.

We need to realise in particular that the emissions trading scheme will only work properly in a competitive market. Energy policy also has to bear in mind climate goals and the striving for a world which has as few emissions as possible.

Long-term self-sufficiency in energy and security of supply must also be priorities, and these will also have a major role to play in a viable internal market. At the same time, however, we have to avoid a paradox, which can unfortunately be found in some situations.

On the one hand, an open market makes it possible for smaller companies, such as those which invest in renewable energy sources, to gain access to markets. On the other hand, we have to be careful that these are not given the sort of support which would impair and obscure the formation of genuine markets.

When electricity moves from one country to another, substantial and significantly different forms of aid cause distortions of the market. For example, feed-in tariffs as a support instrument cause something of a problem in this respect in places. A clear and predictable electricity market will depend on how certain we are of developing our competitiveness and we therefore have to avoid overlapping and contradictory policy instruments.

 
  
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  Monica Maria Iacob-Ridzi (PPE-DE). – Apreciez conţinutul raportului pe care îl dezbatem astăzi şi doresc să mulţumesc în mod deosebit raportorului pentru munca depusă.

Piaţa de energie este elementul cheie al politicii energetice europene. Aş dori în continuare să subliniez punctual câteva aspecte: în ceea ce priveşte piaţa de electricitate, consider că separarea proprietăţii sistemului de transport de activitatea de distribuţie şi cea de producţie este o măsură care va duce la creşterea competiţiei pe piaţă, la sporirea investiţiilor şi la un preţ mai bun pentru consumator. În România, sistemul de transport funcţionează deja independent şi rezultatele s-au dovedit a fi benefice. În plus, s-a efectuat listarea la bursă a companiei de transport de electricitate, fapt de natură să crească substanţial în funcţionarea acesteia.

În privinţa gazelor naturale consider că toate propunerile viitoare trebuie să încurajeze construcţia de proiecte care să diversifice sursele de aprovizionare şi rutele de transport, de exemplu proiectul Nabucco, care ar permite accesul Uniunii la resursele din zona Marii Caspice.

Din acest motiv, doresc să încurajez Comisia să iniţieze în septembrie două propuneri legislative, - una pentru electricitate şi una pentru gaz - două propuneri care să ţină cont de principiile comune de liberalizare, dar şi de specificitatea celor două domenii. Este clar că cea mai importantă consecinţă a liberalizării pieţelor gazului şi electricităţii este opţiunea consumatorului european de a alege între mai mulţi furnizori şi de a plăti un preţ corect şi competitiv care se va forma în urma concurenţei pe o piaţă liberă.

Deşi directiva liberalizării pieţelor celor două resurse a intrat în vigoare la 1 iulie, trebuie să promovăm şi o campanie adecvată de informare pentru ca cetăţenii să cunoască toate drepturile şi oportunităţile oferite de liberalizare. În acest sens doresc să salut adoptarea, vineri, de către Comisia Europeană a unor principii pentru o viitoare cartă a consumatorului de energie. Este un pas important pentru reechilibrarea raportului de forţe dintre consumatorii şi furnizorii de energie. Este esenţial însă ca aceste principii să devină obligatorii pentru statele membre. Nu trebuie să uităm niciun moment că liberalizarea pieţei se face pentru cetăţeni şi ei sunt cei care trebuie să beneficieze în primul rând de pe urma acestei liberalizări.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Piebalgs, Mr Vidal-Quadras, I would like to congratulate you on this report. The most important thing about this report is what consumers, that is the public, will gain from these new arrangements. Most of all, the public will want to know what a kilowatt-hour of hydroelectric power costs between 12 noon and 1 p.m. When is it supplied and at what price? We must have regard not only to the quantity of electricity but also to its quality. We have the right to decide how we want the energy we buy in future to be produced. Time will also have an important part to play, of course. Transparency of price formation should be the first commandment with this new form of regulation.

The second essential aspect is the distinction between the question of ownership and liberalisation. In theory, the form of ownership has nothing to do with liberalisation. They are two completely different things, and we must therefore concentrate on keeping them separate in future, too.

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I really regret that this fascinating debate is over, as I would be happy to discuss this issue more. However, it is very important not to forget the reason why the package was proposed. As I have said, it is for the benefit of the consumer. And we should not go into the unbundling issue too much without seeing why we would actually be proposing unbundling. The reason for this is that market liberalisation has never had a chance in the electricity and gas market. Fear of the unknown, inertia and a lack of national egoism in Europe are among the reasons for the late implementation of the necessary measures, postponing things until the next government or, hopefully, for the next generation. So what we are really talking about is liberalising the market.

I am one of the people that has lived in different systems. I also lived in the situation in which market forces were not known. I remember standing with my children in long queues for soap and sugar because the market economy was not there and a planned economy could never deliver on time.

In terms of electricity I never asked this question because I took it for granted that we would be cut off. Instead I would wait until the supply was re-established. What I mean is that I believe the market is the only thing which responds to external conditions and which makes investments at the least possible cost.

Unbundling is the instrument that guarantees that investments are being met and consumers are protected. I think this is a point of departure for the issues that have been debated most of the time today. Unbundling is the necessary precondition for achieving a competitive market but not the goal per se.

Otherwise I would just mention two additional items mentioned in the debate. Parliament is now considering the candidates for the Coordinators for Trans-European Energy Networks. I hope that they will approve the Commission’s choice. At this stage the Commission still needs to deliberate on it.

An Energy Consumer Charter has been launched for public consultation and at the end of September, when the public consultation ends, we could go for the final adoption of the Energy Consumer Charter.

Thank you very much for the debate. I would once again like to thank Mr Vidal-Quadras for an excellent, very balanced report, which rightly focuses on all the appropriate areas that we will be taking into account when we come forward with the legal package.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, 11 July 2007.

Written Statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE-DE), in writing. (DE) Mr President, we should all assume responsibility for global challenges such as climate change, our dependency on imports and rising energy consumption and strive for an integrated European energy policy. The creation of a single European internal energy market is without doubt one of the top priorities for the immediate future. The Commission’s efforts to make European energy policy more coherent with the third energy liberalisation package and a new energy strategy for Europe are therefore most welcome.

This does not, however, mean that ownership unbundling is absolutely essential for transmission systems. I believe ownership unbundling constitutes massive interference in existing ownership rights. I am convinced that it is no solution to the problems we face. We should call on the Commission to develop other alternatives, besides the ownership unbundling option, such as the Independent System Operators (ISO) model, for example, or its regional variant, the Regional Independent Operators (RIO) model.

The important thing, however, is that we choose the best way to a competitive, integrated European internal energy market.

 

20. Measuring devices containing mercury (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the recommendation for second reading by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on the Council common position for adopting a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Directive 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing of certain measuring devices containing mercury (05665/1/2007 – C6-0114/2007 – 2006/0018(COD)) (Rapporteur: María Sornosa Martínez) (A6-0218/2007).

 
  
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  María Sornosa Martínez (PSE), rapporteur. (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we in this House all agree that it is necessary to reduce the demand for mercury in the manufacture of products and to speed up its substitution.

It would be appropriate to introduce Community level marketing restrictions on mercury-containing measuring and control equipment for consumer use, with some exemptions in the healthcare sector.

We want to prevent significant amounts of mercury entering the waste stream. In that way, we shall contribute to guaranteeing a high level of protection of the environment and human health, whilst preserving the internal market, as required by Article 95 of the Treaty.

Mercury and its components are highly toxic to humans, ecosystems and wildlife. Initially seen as a diffuse local problem, mercury pollution is now understood to be global, chronic and serious.

As regards a potential blanket ban on the use of mercury in all devices, which is the aim of this proposal, it should be emphasised that the experts the Commission consulted have come to the conclusion that hospitals need devices with a high level of accuracy to treat life-threatening conditions such as hypertension, arrhythmia and pre-eclampsia.

Mercury sphygmomanometers provide the appropriate level of accuracy and reliability to ensure patient safety. We are therefore currently proposing that these instruments be exempted from the ban until there are complete guarantees with regard to the functioning of possible alternative instruments.

I would also once again call upon the Commission to adopt short-term measures to ensure that all products containing mercury currently circulating in society are collected separately and safely processed. Otherwise, this Directive will be less effective in practice.

With regard to the production of new traditional barometers containing mercury, which has been the most controversial aspect in this Parliament, we proposed an agreement that there would be a transitional period of two years for manufacturers to enable them to adapt to the new rules. Unfortunately, not all of the political groups have agreed to this, though I believe that we will have a sufficient majority in this House to adopt it.

With regard to the manufacturers of these barometers, I would like to say that they will have this transitional period of two years in order to stop using mercury in their industrial processes. They will not suffer any competitive disadvantage or economic harm, since we know that they have been manufacturing this kind of barometer without using mercury for some time.

We must remind our citizens that this equipment may pose a risk to health and the environment, since it can break easily and end up being dumped, or, worse still, if it is burnt, the mercury is dispersed into the atmosphere, polluting the air, the soil and water. Mercury thereby enters the food chain, mainly into fish, and then us human beings.

As this House is well aware, at second reading, a majority in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has rejected the amendments intended to make it possible to continue manufacturing new mercury barometers.

I believe that it would be irresponsible for us to accept that request and I therefore call upon all the honourable Members to vote against it, as the Council and the European Commission also propose, and I thank them for all of their efforts to avoid a possible conciliation procedure.

Finally, I would once again call upon the Commission to increase awareness within the population through the organisation of information campaigns on the health risks resulting from exposure to mercury and the environmental problems it may cause, since I fear that the citizens are not yet sufficiently well-informed about its toxicity, unfortunately.

I would like to end by thanking the Commission for its work and for the possibility of reaching an agreement at second reading. Thanks, too, to the Council and to the political groups that have supported this proposal.

 
  
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  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. (DE) Mr President, honourable Members, I would like to begin by offering my sincere thanks to Mrs Sornoza Martínez, the rapporteur, on her work on this proposal. We are discussing a very important directive this evening. It is an important part of our strategy for banishing mercury from our environment for ever – a strategy that has long been backed by the European Parliament.

Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to human health and the environment. The directive will therefore bring a major step forward, it will restrict the marketing of certain new measuring devices containing mercury and in that way prevent some 30 tonnes of mercury entering the environment through waste every year.

The proposed directive aims to cut the use of this hazardous material in measuring instruments to a minimum and to allow exceptions only where the risks are negligible or there are no substitutes. Thus, the marketing of mercury-containing fever thermometers will be banned completely, for example, and the sale of all other mercury-containing measuring instruments to the general public will be prevented. I believe it is right that there will be an exception for blood pressure meters in the health sector and for antique measuring instruments. The proposals were drawn up on the basis of a risk assessment and detailed impact assessment that were developed for the mercury strategy.

This directive does not only safeguard human health and the environment, it will also serve to maintain the internal market, since it will introduce harmonised rules for the marketing of mercury-containing measuring devices everywhere in the Community.

The rapporteur recommends approval of the Council common position without further amendment. The Commission agrees with this entirely, since the common position has adopted some of the amendments tabled by Parliament at first reading and represents a balanced compromise between the effort to ban the use of mercury to the greatest possible extent in order to safeguard human health and the environment on the one hand while ensuring the safety of patients in the health sector on the other. I must confirm what the rapporteur has already said: the majority of experts still consider mercury-containing blood pressure meters, sphygmomanometers, essential in the treatment of certain life-threatening diseases. We shall have to look into this matter, however. If there are safe alternatives available for these instruments, too, then mercury should be banned here as well. The Commission will therefore be reviewing the derogation in two years’ time.

A further derogation means that antique measuring instruments, that is those that are at least 50 years old, will still be able to be sold. The Commission is able to agree with this because antique instruments are predominantly collector’s items which, because of their value, are handled very carefully and come onto the market in only very small numbers. In the Commission’s view, however, there is no justification for an unlimited derogation for the further sale of new mercury barometers to consumers. Since there are alternatives to mercury barometers that are just as decorative and reliable, there is absolutely no need for this hazardous substance to be used in the manufacture of barometers.

An unlimited derogation for such instruments would be in stark contradiction to the stance taken by the European Parliament in relation to highly dangerous substances when adopting the new REACH legislation on chemicals. A transitional period of two years, as now provided in the directive, is perfectly adequate to allow the few remaining manufacturers of mercury barometers to convert to alternatives. In any case, many of those manufacturers, if not all of them, already offer alternative products. Under no circumstances, therefore, will the Commission agree to the amendments that have been tabled seeking permanent derogations for barometers.

I urgently request your assistance in backing the common position so that the directive can now be adopted at second reading.

 
  
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  Martin Callanan, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Mr President, we have been through these arguments on a number of occasions so I shall keep my argument as brief as possible. The only remaining issue to be resolved, as the Commissioner and Mrs Sornosa Martínez pointed out, is that of barometers. I have to say that I remain deeply convinced that both the Commission and the Council, and some Members of this Parliament, have got the argument completely wrong. There is no justification whatsoever for a ban on barometers. They are only being singled out because there is only a relatively small number of companies which still produce them in Europe and they are an easy target as far as the Commission is concerned, to make it look as though they are actually doing something about mercury, whereas the big sources of release of mercury – from power stations, crematoria, etc. – are not being tackled because, of course, to tackle them would be very expensive for Member State governments and local authorities.

This Parliament passed an amendment to exempt barometer-makers at first reading in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and in this Parliament. The Council then rejected it, albeit with a two-year phase-out period. The Environment Committee did not support the amendment this time round, I am sorry to say, but I have retabled the amendments in order to give Parliament a further opportunity to make a decision on this and, as Members are no doubt aware, a very vigorous campaign is being fought by a number of independent operators and distributors throughout Europe.

It is a completely illogical position to say that antique instruments will be exempted but new instruments will be banned. There are probably more antique instruments being circulated and placed on the market in Europe than there are new instruments being created. It is a very small minority specialist market and Europe brings itself into disrepute by delegitimising, by banning, by forcing out of business, a small number of very entrepreneurial and gifted craftsmen. They can be controlled by a proper licensing and control regime which they have said that they are willing to pay for. That would be by far the most sensible solution rather than an outright ban and to force a number of small companies out of business, thereby losing the skills and traditions that have existed in Europe for several hundred years.

 
  
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  Dorette Corbey, on behalf of the PSE Group. (NL) Mr President, I am indebted to Mrs Sornosa Martínez, who has our warm and unqualified support. Mercury, and particularly mercury compounds and mercury vapours, is toxic. Mercury can accumulate in brain tissue and the nervous system, where it can wreak great havoc. This, in turn, can lead to reduced intelligence. An intelligent policy, therefore, prohibits the use of mercury in unnecessary applications. Given that alternatives are available, it is to be welcomed that the mercury thermometer is consigned to the past.

Barometers are the subject of much debate. In the Netherlands, the use of mercury has been banned since 2003, but barometers were exempt until 2005 and then, pending fresh European rules, until 1 January 2006. We are willing to extend the exemption period by another two years for traditional barometers, which are, it has to be said, delightful things. As this brings the total delay to 1 January 2010, there is enough time to develop alternatives, which, as the Commissioner confirmed, are already available to a large extent.

Whilst I can, of course, imagine that this is hard for producers of barometers to take, if we want to banish mercury altogether, we must in any event ban consumer products that contain it. Barometers may break or leak, so that mercury ends up in the environment anyway.

I therefore agree with the producers of barometers that the use of mercury in low-energy light bulbs is, of course, also very harmful. It is a good idea to change over to LED lights as soon as possible, but this Directive is about mercury in measuring devices and not about low-energy light bulbs. I would therefore once again like to express my warm support to Mrs Sornosa Martínez, who I believe has chosen a very good line of attack.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I wish to congratulate Mrs Sornosa Martínez on her excellent report.

This legislative report follows the mercury strategy report adopted by this House last year. It aims at restricting the placing on the market of new measuring devices containing mercury. Mrs Sornosa Martínez rightly agrees in the main with the proposal before us and reserves only some derogations in cases where there are no appropriate substitutes yet available.

My group strongly supports this proposal and considers the rapporteur's amendments useful and appropriate. Overall, the proposal meets with widespread agreement across Parliament, apart from the single, well-known issue of the barometer controversy. The difference, as you know, is that the Council has agreed to the compromise proposal to grant a two-year derogation after the entry into force of the directive to a small number of producers of traditional-looking, present-day manufactured barometers. This, we feel, is a reasonable solution and gives those manufacturers time to implement mercury-free substitutes into their products.

This view is not shared by some colleagues who hold the opinion expressed in Amendments 1 and 2 that there should be a permanent derogation for traditional-looking barometers. The matter is not of huge importance in substance, as the amount of mercury used in these instruments is tiny and safety measures are adequately implemented by the manufacturers. At the same time, as a question of principle, no long-term derogation is necessary as the manufacturers have ample time to adapt in the case of safe alternative chemicals without the need to introduce a risky precedent in safety directives.

The issue has, unfortunately, been blown out of all proportion by a section of the national press that want to portray the matter as one of heartless and bureaucratic big-brother-style EU interfering with poor, honest-to-goodness traditional instrument manufacturers and trying to destroy them. This, as you will appreciate, is not true.

The position of my group is to follow scientific logic and not to accept permanent derogations for barometers but, realising the strength of feeling amongst some MEPs, we will not be unduly strict with those in our group who choose not to follow the group line, although there is always the risk of the barometer amendment going through and jeopardising the whole proposal. Let us hope that this will not happen.

 
  
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  Leopold Józef Rutowicz, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, the directive of the European Parliament and of the Council relating to restrictions on the marketing of certain measuring devices containing mercury is an important document as it limits the amount of mercury released into the environment. Mercury enters the food chain in the form of methylmercury in an aquatic environment, affecting fish, fruit, vegetables and eventually human beings. It accumulates in our bodies and poisons us.

Every year, 33 tonnes of mercury enter into circulation in new equipment and 27 tonnes in used equipment. Technical advances have reduced the use of mercury in industry and manufactured products. In dealing with mercury it is essential to recover it from used equipment and to drastically reduce imports of such equipment from countries outside the Union. All European Union Member States should impose a ban of this kind following early amendment of Council Directive 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing of certain dangerous substances and preparations.

I would like to thank Mrs Sornosa Martínez for her work.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (SV) I used to play with mercury as a little boy. Hopefully, this directive will mean that future generations of children will not do so. There is now a compromise with the Council, and it is high time that we accepted it. We know that mercury is harmful both to people and to the environment and that it can almost always be replaced by less dangerous substances. The compromise in the Council of Ministers is a balanced one and comes 14 years after Sweden introduced its national ban on mercury thermometers. There is no more time to lose.

Those who are now considering voting through a technically unjustified proposal from the barometer lobby should know that the whole ban will be in danger of being delayed and made more difficult to implement if the proposal is approved. It would be irresponsible to vote through such a proposal. Dentists, laboratories and hospitals have phased out mercury. There is no difficulty at all in measuring air pressure without mercury. Anyone nostalgic for an old barometer will be able to buy one. Even with this ban – which does not apply to antiques - it is still legal to do so in the internal market.

 
  
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  Urszula Krupa, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (PL) Mr President, it has long been known that mercury compounds are harmful to human beings and to the environment. Mercury enters the food chain easily. The groups most at risk are children, including unborn children, and people in direct contact with mercury. Mercury damages the human body by impairing the nervous system, coordination, and also sight, with negative consequences for health and the environment. It is therefore right and proper to introduce provisions restricting the use of mercury in certain measuring devices.

Medical devices containing mercury should, however, be withdrawn from the market gradually, especially in new Member States that have only limited resources available for their health services. By way of example it is estimated that the additional public expenditure required pursuant to a ban on the use of mercury thermometers will amount to around PLN 3 million a year. Sudden withdrawal of measuring devices containing mercury will not only be very costly, but may also dissuade people from measuring temperature and blood pressure. This is particularly serious as cheap electronic devices are not very accurate.

We proposed extending the transitional period, which would reduce the costs significantly. We also believe that the ban should exclude thermometers for premature babies because of the specific range of measurements, their reliability and precision, and also ovulation thermometers used to diagnose irregularities and for reproduction as part of the basic natural family planning method. In addition, veterinary thermometers are required for use in the diagnosis of animal diseases.

Finally, I should like to say that such hurried changes to legislation tend to arouse suspicions that vested interests are involved. In this case, withdrawal of equipment containing mercury might not be due exclusively to a desire to protect health and the environment.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, this measuring devices directive is intended to remove around 30 tonnes of mercury from circulation, not very much but nevertheless an appreciable quantity. The dangers of mercury are well known, its neurotoxicity undisputed. Where human health is at risk, I believe the strict principle of substitution applies. Where mercury is absolutely necessary and there are no alternatives, it can be retained under strict conditions.

Exceptions are therefore permitted only where there are no significant risks or where no alternatives are yet available. The exceptions include sphygmomanometers for special applications and old measuring instruments, and it goes without saying that the number of old measuring instruments will continue to fall of its own accord. I believe the transitional period of two years for barometers is quite sufficient. The decisive thing for me is the harmonisation of the internal market, which is taken a step further here. I approve the common position.

 
  
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  Åsa Westlund (PSE). – (SV) It is, in actual fact, astonishing that we are forced to have this debate. Mercury is one of the most dangerous poisons in our midst. Of course it should not be used unless absolutely necessary. I am amazed that anyone at all can believe that it is more important to go on manufacturing old-style barometers and thermometers than to protect public health.

As a pregnant woman, I am all too aware of all the risks that mercury entails. I know that no one who is to give birth should eat the fish that I myself and others like me ate throughout the period when we were growing up. Is that how things should be? Should it not be possible for young women to eat ordinary food? Should pregnant woman have to worry that their unborn children have been damaged by mercury from, for example, products that quite unnecessarily contain that substance?

In the run-up to this debate we received letters to the effect that we must safeguard the manufacture of traditional barometers. That is genuinely embarrassing. How can anyone believe that I attach more importance to whatever pleasure there may be in owning a barometer than to the risk posed to future generations by the use of mercury? I hope that, by voting tomorrow against all the amendments aimed at retaining the use of mercury, all my fellow Members will show how embarrassing those letters are and demonstrate that we are taking our responsibility for the environment and public health seriously.

 
  
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  Holger Krahmer (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I agree: mercury is highly toxic. It is harmful to the environment, to animals and, through the food chain and by other routes, to human beings.

It is right that this element should be replaced where it is possible and sensible to do so, but not always and at any price and not because of the properties of the substance itself, but whenever its use really does present a hazard to the environment. We cannot remove mercury from circulation completely in any case, because then we would also have to say goodbye to another product that is much valued by many Members of this House. The energy-saving light bulb, which many would prefer to impose by law in order to protect the climate, also contains mercury. If energy-saving light bulbs were universally used, we would have at least as much of it in our households as at present with traditional barometers.

I do not think much of banning mercury and a whole group of craft businesses from the EU market tomorrow while at the same time wanting to screw mercury lamps into our light fittings. I would be interested to hear what the Commissioner has to say about these conflicting aims.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE). – (SK) Mercury is used in many measuring devices, thermometers and barometers. Mercury has also been used successfully, and without major health implications, in dentistry in the form of amalgam fillings.

On the other hand, however, under certain circumstances mercury is known to be harmful and can accumulate in living organisms, including the human body. We are all aware that the Council’s joint position includes most of the amendments already adopted by the European Parliament on 14 November 2006. This was reflected in the text, where the rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs see almost eye to eye, so that we were close to finalising the legislative process during the first reading.

There is a major point of difference between the Council and Parliament, however, concerning the production of devices which use mercury, notably barometers. As we know, Parliament voted in favour of a complete exemption, whereas the Council is proposing an exemption limited to two years, which appears to be appropriate. A ban would apply to new mercury barometers, but it seems sensible to regard second-hand barometers as acceptable, as this would make possible their continued sale, repair and maintenance.

As a citizen and consumer, I support the type of compromise backed by the rapporteur, which will not jeopardise the overall health of the general public and will enable conventional barometer manufacturers to adapt more quickly to the new situation.

 
  
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  Linda McAvan (PSE). – Mr President, I think we should remind ourselves that this is part of a wider strategy to phase out mercury. No sector has been singled out – not thermometers, nor barometers – because there is going to be a set of actions over a number of years. I think Mr Ulmer got it right: we have agreed under the REACH Directive that if there is a safe alternative to dangerous chemicals, we should move towards that alternative. We have all agreed on that in this House; all the major political groups signed up to REACH. So to say ‘let us make an exemption for barometers’ at this stage is totally inconsistent with the REACH Directive. What is more, the REACH Directive would cover barometers.

There is an amendment about licensing barometers. Well, that does not address the issue of spillages, accidental damage or waste disposal, landfill and incineration. In the United States in May, somebody found a broken barometer in a storage cupboard in a school. The school was closed for a week. The whole school had to be evacuated and there was a clean-up bill amounting to thousands of dollars. Sixteen US States are moving towards mercury prohibitions on barometers and other equipment. In fact, they are going much further than the European Commission is proposing to go here today. So anybody who is talking about nanny-state Europe is totally misplaced when they are looking at the barometer issue.

The PSE Group pushed for the two-year phase-out for the barometer industry. We know these are small companies, we know it will pose some difficulties for them, but I think they were aware of the REACH Directive coming their way anyway, and I think this is a sensible compromise.

Finally, Mr Schlyter talked about how he used to play with mercury when he was a child. Many people have said this to me during the course of this debate. We used to play with it in the past. I always point out that we used to drive in cars without seatbelts; we used to breathe in leaded petrol; and at Christmas time I used to get sweet cigarettes in my Christmas stocking. There are things to change and I think now is the time to change them.

 
  
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  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I will be glad to once again clarify the Commission’s policy with regard to the handling of demonstrably highly toxic substances in our environment. We cannot rule out risks in our society, but whenever the conditions for substitution are present, substitution must take priority. I fail to understand how anyone could see it differently. If it is not necessary to work with highly toxic substances in our environment, then we simply must not do it.

That also applies with regard to the energy-saving light bulbs that Mr Krahmer mentioned, which do indeed contain very small quantities of mercury. There are as yet no substitutes for that. But work must be done on it, and as soon as there are substitutes, manufacture without the use of mercury must of course be preferred here too.

May I conclude by talking about barometers again. No one is a greater friend of beautiful old instruments than I am. I am a great friend of traditional production methods, a great friend of traditional firms, especially small firms. And no one wants to drive even one small traditional firm off the European market. I have here a catalogue from one of these manufacturers. There is no doubt at all. Even today they offer beautiful barometers that show not the slightest external difference from the barometers that were manufactured in the past, but they no longer contain mercury. Even the famous Prince of Wales barometer, a copy of John Russel’s royal barometer, nevertheless costing GBP 795, is already available without the slightest trace of mercury.

The argument that even one firm could be forced out of business is simply not correct. I can therefore tell you quite clearly that we are not acting in these small firms’ interests if we prevent them from doing what is necessary to give their products a future. And these traditional barometers will only have a future if they are made without mercury.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, 11 July 2007.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, I wonder if you could check that the interpretation came out correctly. I said I played with mercury as a child and I hope future generations will not be exposed to that risk. Just to be absolutely clear.

 
  
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  President. – That is how I understood it, Mr Schlyter: I can assure you, I did the same thing and I hope to live to an old age.

 

21. European Critical Infrastructure (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the report (A6-0270/2007) by Mrs Hennis-Plasschaert, on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, on the proposal for a Council directive on the identification and designation of European Critical Infrastructure and the assessment of the need to improve their protection (COM(2006)0787 – C6-0053/2007 – 2006/0276(CNS)

 
  
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  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank the rapporteur for this important report, which follows the presentation of an initiative by the Commission.

The protection of critical infrastructure is, of course, a priority for the European Commission as well as for the Member States, not least because the need to protect critical infrastructure from the eventuality of a terrorist attack, for instance, derives from the very nature of such infrastructures and the interconnection and interdependence between them. Indeed, if a physical or technological infrastructure is attacked in one Member State, the effect will inevitably be felt in other Member States. That is why we need a common European prevention and protection framework.

Our view was that the best way forward was to involve the private sector first of all, which means drawing on currently available technologies and stimulating more technological research. We would then call on companies and research laboratories to collaborate by placing the outcome of such research at the disposal of the common European framework. The idea is to have proper security schemes devoted to the various infrastructure sectors and a real network of liaison officers to ensure that this common European framework functions.

Our idea is to take into consideration only those infrastructures that are truly cross-border in nature and not of course those confined to the territory of just one Member State, unless that particular critical infrastructure has an influence that goes beyond the borders of that Member State.

As you know, we adopted a communication last December to set up a European programme for critical infrastructure protection, together with a proposal for a directive to identify which infrastructure needs protecting. I am therefore grateful to Parliament for having examined all the proposals on such an important subject. The communication, of course, identifies principles and processes to be carried out as well as the instruments for carrying out the processes, while the directive lays down rules for identifying those infrastructures which, according to a common European approach, require protection. It is our intention to develop this action plan through a broad web of public-private collaboration.

We think that the Member States should be assisted in developing the various initiatives included in the action plan; we are also convinced that the international dimension must be taken into account and that financial measures must be put in place. Of course, we already have a financial programme for the prevention, preparation and management of the consequences of the terrorist threat, which may be able to provide appropriate funds for critical infrastructure protection measures.

I can say straight away that I can accept certain important amendments that Parliament is preparing to examine. The first concerns the need to emphasise in the text of the directive that it is the responsibility of each Member State to identify the most appropriate forms and methods of implementing it: in other words, we must stress the principle of flexibility in the implementation of the directive, on the basis of which the measures, whether mandatory or not, should be put into practice without an excessively rigid approach.

The second point that I think is acceptable concerns the need to clarify the procedures for exempting certain sectors from some of the obligations laid down in the directive. The Commission has foreseen the possibility of exempting certain sectors, and Parliament’s draft amendments substantially seek to specify more clearly when a particular exemption applies to a given sector. I believe I can agree on the need to introduce some specification, thus making things clearer.

I also agree with the proposal to amend the list of critical infrastructure protection sectors given in Annex I to the proposal for a directive. I think Parliament’s proposal to amend that annex is acceptable, as is the introduction of certain changes to the sectors where resorting to the comitology procedure is envisaged. There is a specific proposal on that, although we should be aware that by limiting the use of comitology we would be increasing the time it would take to implement the directive. Basically, comitology is perhaps a rather complicated instrument, but it does save time in implementation, However, I am not against accepting the idea behind those amendments.

To conclude, Mr President, I can say that I am happy and pleased with the report before us, and I hope Parliament will adopt it by a large majority. We need to show that we are speaking with one voice on a strategic measure such as this European initiative to protect critical energy, transport and technological infrastructures, which require strong prevention and protection measures, because the terrorist threat is unfortunately directed first and foremost at critical infrastructures. I am therefore grateful to Parliament for the contribution that it has already made and is yet to make to this work of ours.

 
  
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  Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (ALDE), rapporteur. (NL) Mr President, back in June 2004, the Council tabled a request in which the Commission was asked to prepare a general strategy to protect critical infrastructure. In the past three years, the topic has not been off the Commission agenda, quite rightly so. In line with the wishes of the Council and the European Parliament, the Commission finally moved a proposal for a European programme to protect critical infrastructure, which culminated in the Directive we are debating today.

As rapporteur, I support the idea of a common framework in this matter. The effective protection of vulnerable critical infrastructures and services requires communication, coordination and cooperation in which all interested parties are involved, both at national and at European level. The complex processes and interfaces of critical infrastructure with a transnational dimension are, as I see it, also legitimate areas for consideration.

As Commissioner Frattini has already explained on several occasions, damage to, or loss of, a certain infrastructural provision in a Member State can impact badly on various other Member States and even on the European economy as a whole. Thanks to new technologies, for example the Internet, as well as the far-reaching liberalisation of the market, for example where the supply of electricity and gas is concerned, many infrastructural provisions are already part of bigger networks.

Indeed, in these circumstances, the effectiveness of all these protective measures is determined by the weakest link. I do take the view, though, as Mr Frattini already observed, that the Commission has been slightly too proactive or overenthusiastic in some sections of the Directive. It must be clear that the primary and ultimate responsibility lies with the Member States and the owners of this critical infrastructure.

From that point of view, I consider a bottom-up approach to be of critical importance. Common action can, in my view, only be justified if at least three Member States were to experience adverse effects, or at least two Member States other than those in which the critical infrastructure is located. After all, much has already been agreed upon bilaterally, which, to be honest, is also the most flexible solution.

In addition, I take the view that overlaps or inconsistencies with existing legislation and/or provisions should be avoided at all costs. Existing criteria and mechanisms must therefore be taken into consideration. It is equally important to me that the private sector is not faced with an unnecessary administrative burden. I would urge them to make use of the expertise that is already available and would, above all, counsel against re-inventing the wheel. I would therefore argue in favour of this pragmatic, yet structural, approach.

Following the debates in the parliamentary committees, certain groups of Parliament have also agreed to focus on so-called priority sectors. It has, indeed, also been decided to scrap the proposed comitology procedure. In the past, the use of the comitology procedure has too often led to shaky situations. I am therefore very grateful to the Commissioner for his observations on this matter and on the other amendments and for the fact that he has shown his satisfaction. I would like to have a reaction, however, to the definition of two to three Member States, because this is the most important amendment in my view.

I should like to finish off with an observation for the Council, which is once again conspicuous by its absence. The agreement on a common position appears to be a bridge too far for them. This is quite remarkable, given the fact that the Council asked for this common framework itself, and out of character too, because, if anything happens, then the Council is all too keen to be the first to immediately announce all manner of rules without really taking the quality of the proposals into account, their ramifications for the internal market, for example, or the European citizens for that matter.

After all, vision and power are two skills that can be expected from the Council in this matter. At the opening of the plenary sitting earlier today, President Poettering spoke wise words. Nobody is waiting for ad hoc rules and regulations that are dictated by panic. A structural line of attack, on the other hand, taking the principles of rule of law into consideration – and the latter is vitally important – is very welcome. I thank you and I thank the Commissioner.

 
  
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  Harald Ettl (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. – (DE) Mr President, cross-border crises, whether caused by terrorism or natural disasters, call for Union-wide protection of critical infrastructures. Critical infrastructures cannot be kept secret by not mentioning them. It would be completely naïve to think that.

From a psychological point of view, the destruction of critical infrastructures leads to a loss of public confidence in the European Union. Crisis protection is not therefore only a national matter but requires European crisis management, as the Commission proposes.

Moreover, as the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs has clearly pointed out, moving elements of European infrastructures outside the EU increases the risk of terrorist attacks and access to data in particular makes the entire infrastructure more vulnerable. This is also true of banking and insurance. Even if security and controls are constantly being improved in these areas, there is still a need for additional coordinated European action. Nobody will want double regulation. What we need is greater security. The Directorate General for the Market must be guided by that and not by short-sighted wishes expressed by industry.

 
  
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  Renate Sommer (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Transport and Tourism. – (DE) Mr President, the Committee on Transport and Tourism is of the opinion, for its area of responsibility, that with this proposal for a directive the Commission is exceeding its powers, because it is misunderstanding its instructions. It speaks of stabilising the internal market, but the directive is supposed to be principally about protection against acts of terrorism.

Moreover, the Commission proposal contravenes the principle of subsidiarity, because it seeks not only to complement Member States’ existing measures, but to replace some of them. Finally, the proposal does not address the real task, but delegates it to a comitology committee.

The Committee on Transport and Tourism therefore rejected the Commission proposal, although we know that we do of course need European cooperation. The question is simply how. My main concern is to ensure that the Member States are not obliged to notify their critical European infrastructures to the Commission so that it can then make a complete list of sensitive EU infrastructures, attach security plans to it and then store everything in some office in Brussels. That would be against national security interests. Such a list would be an interesting source of information for terrorists.

All that should be done by the Commission is to define and list in general terms the most important sectors at risk. It should be left to the Member States to identify those sectors, because it is they who are primarily responsible for the protection of critical infrastructures and they carry the ultimate responsibility for measures to protect critical infrastructures within their national borders. In the interests of national security, that must continue to be the case. Only a devolved management of sensitive infrastructures can reduce the level of risk.

I believe the narrower definition of critical European infrastructures, according to which at least three Member States, or two others than the one in which the critical infrastructure is located, must be affected, is the right one. We must ensure that the directive covers only European infrastructures and no national ones. I also consider that bilateral cooperation between Member States is more sensible in this area on security grounds.

Finally, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, most sincerely and assure her of my support.

 
  
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  Herbert Reul, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, indisputably, we have raised a very difficult issue with critical European infrastructures. There can be no doubt, however, that we need to get to grips with this question at European level and find and develop solutions jointly with the Member States, because the potential threats which the Commissioner has just described do exist and must therefore be taken seriously.

It is, however, extremely difficult to say where the European competence lies in this matter, what must be organised at European level and where particular devolved tasks must be dealt with. This question occupied us in committee for a very long time. We have tried – and I would like to thank the rapporteur most sincerely for her very fair and open cooperation – to find a way that will ensure the exchange of best practice between the Member States with EU-wide coordination, while at the same time keeping the subsidiarity principle central. Neither, as Mrs Sommer has already said, do we want to notify specific critical infrastructures and collect them somewhere, rather we want to ensure that secrecy is guaranteed.

That is why we agreed that the Member States should notify the Commission of their respective critical sectors but not specific infrastructures. It was important for us not to go for a comitology procedure, and I am grateful to the Commissioner for accommodating Parliament on this. As the rapporteur has already pointed out, the procedure’s inefficiency in the past does not encourage us to go further down that route. We suggest another way.

I also want to say that it was important for us that unnecessary bureaucracy should be avoided, that a contact point in the Member States should do the designating and identifying and that no new bureaucracies should be created, that administrative costs should be reined in and that there should be plenty of flexibility.

 
  
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  Inés Ayala Sender, on behalf of the PSE Group. (ES) Mr President, the President of the European Parliament, Mr Poettering, referred today to this very report by Mrs Hennis-Plasschaert when he condemned the latest terrorist attacks, both on European territory — where airports were the targets — and in third countries, such as Yemen — in the case of the murdered Spanish tourists. In the latter case, the target was not a specific infrastructure, but rather tourists travelling in a vehicle along a road.

This reference once again demonstrates or reinforces the importance of this exercise proposed to us by the Commission and for which I would like to thank the Commissioner most warmly. This is not a single measure but rather part of a long process – which began in 2004 – which is now taking the form of increasingly interesting and effective measures.

Furthermore, in view of the complexity of our European society, based on these complex and open networks of communication, supply and services on which, additionally, the economy is founded, we must defend them and defend ourselves in view of their potential vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

I wish to point out that my group was more in agreement with the Commission’s original proposal relating to the definition of critical European infrastructures, in the sense of infrastructures shared by two or more countries, or cases in which a State is affected by an infrastructure of another Member State.

For example, for us, the Eurotunnel could be a good example for the application of this optimum protection from possible attacks, not to mention airports, etc., where we have already suffered such attacks.

Tomorrow, therefore, we shall maintain this position in favour of the Commission’s original proposal, because we want to remain hopeful that we may find more support in the Council. In any event, we prefer to continue moving towards more integrated and European approaches, and we prefer to avoid savings that appear to reduce costs but that we could end up regretting in the future.

We do support everything that Mrs Hennis-Plasschaert proposes in terms of protection with regard to third countries; we support everything relating to the protection of the individual data involved; naturally, we support everything relating to the necessary confidentiality — we have long experience of dealing with this confidentiality, both at national level and at Commission level, and we do not believe that it is going to be violated in this case — and we also agree that we should avoid any duplication of what has already been done within the Member States and what the Commission is now proposing.

In this way, we hope to overcome the backward-looking position that we had to accept in the Committee on Transport and Tourism and with which my group still does not agree. We hope that, with the proposal that will be put to the vote tomorrow, we will be able to continue moving forward and that with both what Parliament is proposing — and I am grateful for the great work by Mrs Hennis-Plasschaert and all of the honourable Members — and with what the Council is proposing, we will be able to achieve better protection of our critical European infrastructures.

 
  
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  Margarita Starkevičiūtė, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (LT) I would like to thank the Commission member and the honourable rapporteur for their suggestions; however, I would like to stress that these suggestions should be interpreted as only the beginning of the discussion. I do not know whether the Internet can be described as critical infrastructure according to the definition used by the Commission. It is hard for me to know, if a website was blocked in one country, would that mean that it was no longer critical infrastructure? One need only block the website of a large bank that has its headquarters, let us say, in Germany, France or Great Britain, and all the residents of Europe will feel it. We are talking about the consolidation of the financial sector, the consolidation of economic activity, even the consolidation of hotel chains. In other words, we have to acknowledge that critical infrastructure has spilled into cyberspace, and I believe that Estonia is the first country to have experienced elements of cyber-war. I regret that little attention has been paid to this, and now this topic is getting beyond the scope of the concerns of the Commission Member responsible for communications. However, I would like to say that this topic has to be highlighted from a security point of view, because it is hard to imagine what the lives of European citizens would be like without the Internet. Whether the Internet is European or whether it belongs to one country we cannot say – it is a world-wide web, and of course, to define how to protect the web from an attack that could be carried out at any minute is rather complicated and the level of debate has to be quite different. We are presently talking mainly about physical infrastructure and, without a doubt, tragic scenes upset us, but life is becoming ever more virtual and this needs attention.

 
  
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  Eva Lichtenberger, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, no one in this House disputes that close cooperation between the Member States is very important and necessary for countering terrorist risks. Our criticism is of how this is to be done. More bureaucracy will not help us against terrorism! I would like to thank the rapporteur for at least bringing the proposal back down to earth and greatly improving the Commission’s version. She has also made a number of very practical suggestions.

We are all agreed that improved cooperation and information are good things. That can be done bilaterally or multilaterally. But compiling a list of all at-risk infrastructures will bring no gains in terms of security and may even be counterproductive. In the end, however, competence lies with the Member States in any case, and there is no point at all in shifting it to the European level.

I hope that when we come to the vote tomorrow we will all proceed with the same realism as the rapporteur has shown and go on to secure what we now have: a sensible way forward that takes account of reality and fosters no illusions!

 
  
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  Erik Meijer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (NL) Mr President, those who already wanted more government pressure in the areas of the army, police, security services, all kinds of other control system and the prison system in the past have been able to reinforce their position since the turn of the century. They can now refer to the advent of a new kind of terrorism, which, as it came as a shock to everyone, creates scope for ill-thought-out solutions.

At all administrative levels, proposals have been moved to subject democracy, the freedom of association, the freedom of demonstration, the right to strike, the freedom to travel and privacy to the proposed guarantees for security. The trouble with this line of attack is that it does nothing to remove the seedbed from which terrorism springs, including the utter inequality in wealth or power that divides the world.

Instead, we collect more intelligence, monitor more objects, organise more bureaucracy and bring about more displeasure. In the European Union, in the area of critical infrastructure, there are already 32 directives, regulations, treaties and decisions that make a European approach possible. This is why adding a new directive with yet more powers and obligations has raised a few eyebrows.

In January, the committee for the subsidiarity test of the Dutch Parliament drew my attention to this very subject. This committee is calling into question Article 308 of the EC Treaty, which focuses on the interim enhancement of powers, as a legal basis, and considers the protection of critical infrastructure to be first of all a national affair.

As shadow rapporteur on this subject in the Committee on Transport and Tourism, I was delighted to find that this committee decided to invite the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to emphatically reject the proposal. The main reason for this request was that everything that is in the draft Directive can be regulated more effectively on a smaller scale, in other words by the Member States or their regions. In this case, more interference from the European Union means, above all, more unproductive bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, the groups that voted ‘no’ unanimously in the Committee on Transport were divided in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. My group was no different. Most smaller national delegations consider this to be a poor proposal, partly because unnecessary interference obscures the division of tasks between the Member States and the Union, and partly because it may be used inappropriately in order to cut down on civil rights, such as the freedom of demonstration, by referring to the protection of infrastructure, in which case it does not affect international terrorism, but rather domestic democracy.

By contrast, the members of our larger delegations from Germany and Italy also see positive points in the proposal. They expect a reduction in the powers that are already being exercised by the Commission anyway and better parliamentary control of the application of the remaining powers. Those in favour and against in my group applaud the fact that the amendments predominantly weaken the effect of the draft and confine the application to matters that affect at least three Member States.

 
  
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  Christian Ehler (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, unlike the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy or the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, the committee responsible, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, failed to recognise the importance of the European level for the protection of critical infrastructures. The focus is no longer on the protection of individual infrastructures but on the consideration of sectors.

I think the procedure proposed in the report lacks resolve. The added value that comes from including the European level has been almost completely abandoned. It is clear that responsibility for critical infrastructures must rest with the Member States. However, if we leave designation entirely to the nation states we will not identify the weaknesses and structural dependencies, and that is precisely what is needed for the designation of critical European infrastructures.

The idea that a list would be as good as a textbook for terrorist attacks is downright naïve. The Member States have had such lists for a long time. One of the most important structural errors was, for example, not having checked those lists with NATO. In the military sphere, NATO has had such lists of critical infrastructures for 40 years and relevant scenarios have long been provided for in anticipation of military crises.

 
  
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  Inger Segelström (PSE). – (SV) I wish to begin by thanking the rapporteur for a constructive report and an efficient piece of work. It feels as if we in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs are systematically wading through all those areas of society that have bearing on the terrorist threats to our citizens. The President too addressed this issue today.

It is very important that we not look at each individual measure in isolation but review all areas together so that we obtain common security regulations covering everything from visa regulations and security checks in aviation to better ways of protecting ourselves against the threats to airports, public transport and harbours and to the whole of the infrastructure which, because of the huge number of passengers involved, could be hit by a huge disaster if a terrorist attack were to occur.

The issue from the rapporteur’s proposal that I wish to address is that of whether three or more Member States should have to be affected by disruption or destruction, or whether it is enough that two be so affected. The rapporteur’s proposal involves an increase to three Member States from the two referred to in the original proposal’s directive. I consider this increase to be unreasonable because a threat, disaster or instance of devastation may affect a lot of people, despite few countries being involved. Moreover, the incident may make more impact on the place affected than it would have done on more centrally located places in the EU. This proposal makes it still more difficult to take account of smaller EU Member States, in spite of the fact that they are in danger of being hit by equally serious crises on just as large a scale.

I also believe that as we plug the holes and make it more difficult to attack aviation, the terrorists will concentrate on other targets and on central locations within the infrastructure, to which a huge amount of damage can be caused. We should not be naïve. Instead, we must be as well prepared as we possibly can be. That is our responsibility.

 
  
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  Marianne Mikko (PSE). – (ET) The cyber attacks against Estonia that took place in April and May of this year were the first such events that gained global attention. Yet these were not the first attacks against the essential infrastructure of Europe. Until now, cyber attacks had been directed against individual companies, primarily in the financial sector, where the Internet has become an indispensable environment for transactions.

For understandable reasons banks prefer not to make a lot of noise about attacks. Lack of confidence in the reliability of banking systems would have serious consequences for the entire European economy.

Fields of activity in which the Internet has become an essential part of infrastructure include public administration and the media. The inability to repulse a cyber attack could in the worst case scenario throw the European Union back in time to the last century.

Imagine today, in the 21st century, a situation in which communication between ministries is interrupted, and both the government and the media are unable to inform the public. This is precisely what happened in Estonia, as Mrs Starkevičiūtė so correctly stated.

I would like to thank the rapporteur and emphasise her excellent timing. Cybersecurity is the best example of the need for cooperation in the defence of the essential infrastructure of the European Union. During this hitherto unique cyber attack against an independent state, Estonian IT specialists were supported by experts from both the European Union and beyond.

May this cooperation be an example and a lesson in internal security to the responsible parties in all the Member States. Neither wealth nor military force can help repulse a cyber attack. The only defence is cooperation. Once again, many thanks to the rapporteur.

 
  
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  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, while I am grateful to all the speakers, including the rapporteur, I am afraid I have a few concerns about accepting the rather restrictive approach that the Committee on Transport and Tourism has tried to put across.

As certain Members have rightly pointed out – Mrs Segelström was the last, and there were others – restricting the minimum threshold for defining a European infrastructure to just three or more Member States would, in my view, have two drawbacks, the first of which would be to prevent the smaller European Member States from taking part in the critical infrastructure protection programme. We, of course, want to avoid any such eventuality. We want to offer all Member States that are potential targets for terrorist attacks a way of taking part in this European strategy.

I must also raise objections to the restrictive attitude that is hostile to the idea that Europe should concern itself with a common infrastructure protection framework. This is not a matter of subsidiarity, which we are extremely careful to respect. The problem is that infrastructures nowadays are closely interconnected, and the last speech by the Member from Estonia, who recalled the cyberattack on her country, provides the most obvious proof of that: it was an attack that affected an entire countrywide system. Even though only a single countrywide system was involved, can we have any doubt that that attack indirectly affected Estonia’s entire network of relations with the other countries of Europe? If the banking system of just one country is paralysed for a certain number of days, then one of the basic structures of the European Union is inevitably affected. I therefore believe that the Commission’s original proposal, for which I confirm my support, is better in that it provides a wider range of opportunities.

With regard to cyberattacks, I do not rule out the possibility that terrorists may plan an attack on a countrywide system, such as a banking system, a ministry or an administration system: we are examining what happened in Estonia and our information security agency will be producing a report after the summer. I obviously intend to publish its report but, leaving aside the analysis of this particular incident, we cannot rule out the possibility that terrorist organisations may be thinking of knocking out an entire countrywide system by means of a cyberattack. That is why I believe a rather less restrictive interpretation is absolutely essential.

To conclude, I once again thank the rapporteur and all the Members of this Parliament. I believe that adopting a rigorous report on the initiatives undertaken by the Commission would show very clearly that we are concerned about prevention. As someone rightly pointed out, the European Commission and the European Union’s institutions have been acting to strengthen our policies on prevention ever since 2004. It is only by doing so that we can provide a truly effective and coordinated response to the threat of terrorism.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, 11 July 2007.

 

22. Law applicable to non-contractual obligations ('Rome II') (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the report (A6-0257/2007) by Mrs Wallis, on behalf of Parliament’s delegation to the Conciliation Committee, on the joint text approved by the Conciliation Committee for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations (‘ROME II’) (PE-CONS 3619/2007 – C6-0142/2007 – 2003/0168(COD)).

 
  
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  Diana Wallis (ALDE), rapporteur. – Mr President, this is, for us, the final chapter of a very long-running play that started with a Commission proposal in July 2003, but had a longer period of preparation stretching back beyond that. It has very much been a first for the European Parliament, with there being no previous international convention to work on; it was the first time we had codecision in this area and it was the first time that we experienced conciliation in this area.

I, for my part, would like to thank all those in Parliament’s conciliation delegation who participated. We left a clear mark, on behalf of Parliament, on the final text – a text which, thanks to Parliament, goes beyond the mere technical and legal, bringing private international law into the open to serve the practical needs of our citizens, particularly in the area of road traffic accidents.

However, we also dealt with technical issues: clarifying definitions on the environment or supplying a solution on the issue of unfair competition, and then grappling with the relationship between European conflict of law rules and internal market instruments. I am not entirely sure that we got it right. I find I have been congratulated from many quarters, which makes me a little nervous. Then we are still trying to have the same debates around Rome I and the review of the consumer acquis. We have, at some point, to get this relationship correct.

It was heartening to us, as Parliament, to have representatives from no less than three DGs of the Commission present at the conciliation and working together. I hope that in future we will be able to reinforce that and see civil justice as a thread that runs through many of the issues that we deal with in the internal market.

There are many leftovers from Rome II that form the basis of studies that I hope the Commissioner will mention in his declaration – studies on road traffic accidents, on defamation, and on the treatment of foreign law. All these issues are absolutely integral to the relationship between civil justice and the internal market. Indeed, we could say that the internal market will function only if we have a coherent system of civil justice.

Civil justice cannot just be an add-on to the internal market – some sort of limited competence where we tread only reluctantly at the invitation of Member States. I seem to remember a long time ago in 1999 in Tampere that there was a vision of an area of civil justice. Rome II was part of that. We need to refocus, to question whether we have a civil justice system in Europe that functions for all the users of the internal market and for our citizens, and is accessible and understandable. Rome II plays its part as forming the basis – the initial roadmap – but the following studies give us the chance to re-evaluate and make the next steps forward.

 
  
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  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. – (FR) Mr President, I should like to congratulate the rapporteur, in particular, on having helped make a success of the conciliation meeting. She has enabled us to arrive at a balanced text after four years of discussions. I believe that Mrs Wallis should be congratulated on the effectiveness with which she has largely helped to make a success of this matter.

In my view, this text is key to the completion of the European area of justice and to the proper functioning of the internal market. It would seem that its implementation in practice is now keenly awaited by the legal and judicial fields as well as by economic operators at EU level.

On the one hand, ‘Rome II’ will help to increase legal certainty in the area of civil obligations, which is crucial to the proper functioning of the internal market. On the other hand, this regulation will also facilitate the mutual recognition of decisions – a pillar of the European area of justice – and that, in turn, will make it possible to promote mutual confidence among the Member States' judicial systems.

A key issue for Parliament concerns the improved compensation for victims of road accidents. In this regard, I can confirm my commitment and that of the Commission to launch an exhaustive study as soon as possible at EU level and to take the necessary measures, which will enable us to reach the stage of adopting a Green Paper.

I can also confirm the Commission’s commitment to submit another study to the colegislator before the end of 2008 on the situation in terms of the law applicable to invasion of privacy, which takes account of the rules on freedom of the press and on freedom of media expression. As I promised during the conciliation phase, should it prove necessary, appropriate measures will be taken, on the basis of consultations.

Finally, with regard to the complex issue of the application of foreign law by the courts, the Commission – which is aware of the existence of different practices in the Member States – is going to publish, at the very latest four years after the entry into force of ‘Rome II’, a comparative analysis and will be ready to take any appropriate measures that follow on from it.

To conclude, I should like Parliament to confirm this agreement reached in conciliation as the climax to the long-awaited adoption of the ‘Rome II’ regulation and I hope that the text will be endorsed by a large majority of Members.

 
  
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  Rainer Wieland, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, in the debate on second reading we said that we want to keep as much room for manoeuvre open for Parliament as possible. I have no doubt that tomorrow we shall at last find a broad majority, Commissioner.

I was present at the conciliation procedure right to the end and must therefore say that in my opinion we – not only Parliament, but everyone involved – made hardly any use of the room for manoeuvre. We could have wished for something more on one or two points. Mrs Wallis has already mentioned that. I am convinced that a broad majority of the public would be prepared to go a lot further than the statesmen in the classic areas in particular, in road traffic accidents or such areas as punitive damages. When I look at the results of the summit, I can already see something of a gap here. We are trying to fight people’s disaffection with Europe with things they do not at all want, but the statesmen are often unwilling to bring in the things the public really wants.

It is also apparent that our meetings will show greater transparency in future, and I have great hopes of that. It is also apparent that officials often have their own hobbyhorses and are much more reserved and restrained than necessary. Unfortunately, politics is not up to speed here. It would be good to have bold political decisions more often, even in the conciliation committees. A Member State that proved obstructive at the last minute might then in fact often not be so politically obstructive.

As Parliament, we have now set out down this road with one of the first cases where codecision has been used in this area, and we ought in future to be even more self-confident in using the room for manoeuvre and demonstrate that we are also capable of allowing such negotiations to fail. In the long run, all the studies and assessments with which we have been prevaricating for three or four years are not enough when the citizens want a decision here and now!

 
  
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  Manuel Medina Ortega, on behalf of the PSE Group. (ES) Mr President, I would like to congratulate Mrs Wallis on the work that she has done. I believe that we are going to achieve a good agreement, that a majority in Parliament is going to support this proposal and that we will have a new Regulation in the field of non-contractual obligations.

I would like to point out, however, that this Regulation is only going to be the beginning. There is a fundamental difficulty throughout the field of international private law and in the field of conflict of laws, which is simply the judges’ inability to apply a law that is not their own. In the European Union – and in general – we have trained judges to apply their own law. When an issue arises in which they have to apply a foreign law, there are immense difficulties.

It is clear that, if two English people have a road accident in France, they are going to apply France’s traffic laws – they would not be able to see someone driving on the left as being in the right. In the second part, with regard to the civil liability to be determined, if the judge is English I find it very hard to believe that he would accept the application of the restricted liability rules that exist in French law and not apply the English law.

I therefore believe that this work is only just beginning, as I said before. Commissioner Frattini mentioned a subsequent study by the Commission – which is also mentioned in the draft Regulation – which is on the applicability of the law by the jurisdictions. I believe that this is the second part, a crucial second part.

Those of us who have worked in this field have seen that the courts have a general tendency to apply their own law, the ‘lex fori’. This agreement or this Regulation cannot therefore be interpreted without taking account of which jurisdiction is applicable at a particular moment.

The jurisdiction is largely going to determine the law applicable because judges normally resort to any kind of subterfuge. Here, for example, we have eliminated the subterfuge of referral, but there is still the whole issue of public order — the public order clauses — which take up the crucial provisions of national law contained in the draft agreement.

I therefore have the impression that, working on the basis that this Parliament is going to approve the proposal presented to us by Mrs Wallis by a large majority, once it has been approved we are going to have to carry on working in this field. We eagerly await the Commission’s studies on this subject and in particular an important element, which is the work with the people who are going to have to apply this Regulation: the judges themselves. We wonder what the attitude of the judges is and how this Regulation will be applied in practice, since experience with international agreements and with the application of the rules of the States’ international private law demonstrates this tendency on the part of judges to apply their own national law.

 
  
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  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, I should like to begin by thanking the rapporteur and also those who have contributed to the draft before us. Clearly, even partial harmonisation of provisions concerning conflict in the area of non-contractual obligations will have a positive impact on the operation of the Community’s internal market.

Harmonisation and regulation of the principles of procedure in situations arising in a cross-border context will make it possible to refer to a single legal basis common to all Member States. Cases in point include road accidents, unfair competition, environmental damage, the treatment of foreign law and infringement of personal rights.

This would undoubtedly increase certainty regarding the choice of the appropriate law and the expected outcome of conflicts. It will also facilitate recognition of court rulings. It should be emphasised, however, that the regulation is an instrument of international private law. It does not therefore harmonise the substantive law of Member States. The latter retain full autonomy. What the regulation does do is harmonise conflict with internal law. The regulation will ensure that the same national law is applied in similar cases, but will not impact on decisions concerning the cases themselves.

Mr Medina Ortega rightly pointed out that the decisions and practices of the courts will be the most important element in this area.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, 11 July 2007.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Katalin Lévai (PSE), in writing.(HU) This regulation is truly a great step forward in the process of Community harmonisation. In a Europe that is in the process of unification, it is indispensable for the judicial fora always to use the same national law in similar cases, regardless of which national court is hearing the case. This measure does significantly increase the legal security of private individuals and business actors involved in cross-border disputes, and avoids ‘forum shopping’ – that is, the possibility for the plaintiffs to file their lawsuits in whichever Member State they like – while at the same time upholding the autonomy of national law.

I consider it important that we were able to make insurance cover cases of cross-border traffic accidents, and to ensure that the court would take into account the actual circumstances of victims with regard to the payment of damages. Simply to choose the law of the country where the accident took place could have led to unsatisfactory situations on account of the vastly divergent amounts of damages awarded by the various national courts.

The specific rule concerning unfair competition is very important for judges and lawyers. The same rule also limits to a large extent the practice of ‘forum shopping’.

It is regrettable, but in the interests of a comprehensive compromise it is acceptable to leave out regulations concerning the infringement of personal rights – and in particular concerning the rules of libel in the press. It is our hope that as part of the examination of the regulation, we will succeed in resolving this question as well.

It is important to define the notion of ‘environmental damage’, which is in harmony with other European Union legislation, and in particular with the Environmental Liability Directive.

All in all, I find the final text a satisfactory and balanced compromise.

 

23. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes

24. Closure of sitting
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  President. – The sitting was closed at 11.45 p.m.

 
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