Index 
Debates
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Wednesday, 24 October 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Membership of political groups: see Minutes
 3. Written declarations (tabling): see Minutes
 4. EU-Turkey relations (debate)
 5. EU-Russia Summit (debate)
 6. Statement by the President: see Minutes
 7. Welcome
 8. Voting time
  8.1. Service of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters (vote)
  8.2. Agreement between the EC and Bosnia and Herzegovina on readmission (vote)
  8.3. Agreement between the EC and Bosnia and Herzegovina on short-stay visas (vote)
  8.4. Agreement between the EC and Serbia on readmission (vote)
  8.5. Agreement between the EC and Serbia on short-stay visas (vote)
  8.6. Agreement between the EC and Montenegro on readmission (vote)
  8.7. Agreement between the EC and Montenegro on short-stay visas (vote)
  8.8. Agreement between the EC and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on readmission (vote)
  8.9. Agreement between the EC and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on short-stay visas (vote)
  8.10. Agreement between the EC and Albania on short-stay visas (vote)
  8.11. Immunity and privileges of Gian Paolo Gobbo (vote)
  8.12. Mobilisation of the EU Solidarity Fund (vote)
  8.13. Draft amending budget No 6/2007 (vote)
  8.14. Protocol amending TRIPS (vote)
  8.15. Verbatim Reports (amendment of Rule 173) (vote)
  8.16. European Statistical Governance Advisory Board (vote)
  8.17. European Statistical Advisory Council (vote)
  8.18. Qualifications framework for lifelong learning (vote)
  8.19. Batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators (implementing powers conferred on the Commission) (vote)
  8.20. Communication infrastructure for the Schengen Information System environment (regulation) (vote)
  8.21. Mutual assistance and cooperation between customs administrations (vote)
  8.22. Thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides (vote)
  8.23. Conventional energy sources and energy technology (vote)
  8.24. Community Strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles (vote)
  8.25. Taxation and customs policies and the Lisbon Strategy (vote)
  8.26. Tobacco smoke: policy options at EU level (vote)
  8.27. EU-Turkey relations (vote)
 9. Explanations of vote
 10. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 11. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes
 12. EU-Serbia relations (debate)
 13. EU-Africa relations (debate)
 14. An international treaty prohibiting cluster bombs (debate)
 15. Council Question Time
 16. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes
 17. Production of opium for medical purposes in Afghanistan (debate)
 18. Improving the efficiency of the enforcement of judgments in the EU: attachment of bank accounts (debate)
 19. Recognition and supervision of suspended sentences, alternative sanctions and conditional sentences - Mutual recognition of judgments in criminal matters (debate)
 20. Business registers for statistical purposes (debate)
 21. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes
 22. Closure of sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: MR PÖTTERING
President

 
1. Opening of the sitting
  

(The sitting was opened at 9 a.m.)

 

2. Membership of political groups: see Minutes

3. Written declarations (tabling): see Minutes

4. EU-Turkey relations (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the Council and Commission statements on EU-Turkey relations.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the Presidency would firstly like to thank the European Parliament, and in particular Mrs Oomen-Ruijten, for the motion for a resolution on EU-Turkey relations.

The Presidency acknowledges and welcomes Parliament’s active engagement with the enlargement process as a constructive contribution to the general debate on enlargement and Turkey’s accession process in particular. There is no doubt that every debate offers a useful opportunity for creating awareness of Turkey’s accession process, engaging the citizens of Member States and Turkey in this process and supporting the Turkish Government in its accession path.

I can assure you that we pay particular attention to the views of the European Parliament. In a few days the Commission will present its regular progress report on Turkey’s accession process. The Council will examine and assess this report very carefully.

In the meantime, I would like to briefly mention a few points in this phase of Turkey’s accession negotiations. We are of the opinion that the recent elections in Turkey demonstrated the wish of the Turkish people for democracy, stability – both political and economic – and progress.

We also welcome how the elections were conducted, the high voter turnout and the improved representativeness of the new Turkish Parliament. The Presidency shares the views and concerns of this House regarding Turkey’s reform process. We believe that the new Government enjoys increased legitimacy and a clear mandate that should enable decisive steps to be made in advancing and broadening the reform process in Turkey.

It is imperative that the new Government gives fresh impetus to the reforms – and their implementation – by focusing on key areas. In this regard, the implementation of the Accession Partnership – in particular as regards its short-term priorities – is of great importance. I would remind you that the Accession Partnership must be reviewed in the coming months. In this context, I would also like to stress the need for broad consultation and national consensus on Turkey’s new Constitution.

We share your views on the importance of reforms in the crucial area of fundamental freedoms and human rights. Further tangible progress is essential, in particular as regards freedom of expression, religious freedom, cultural rights and women’s rights, and also further strengthening of the fight against torture and ill-treatment. Most of these issues are covered in the Accession Partnership as short-term priorities that Turkey needs to meet.

In particular, in the area of freedom of expression, we regret the lack of progress despite wide public debate on the issue and we are concerned about the increasing nationalism leading to self-censorship. We continue to firmly believe that Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, as well as other vaguely formulated articles, need to be abolished or substantially amended in order to guarantee freedom of expression. Progress in this area is of paramount importance for the general advancement of the accession negotiations.

As for religious freedom, tangible progress is urgently needed, in particular following the tragic incidents earlier this year. The adoption of legislation which will comprehensively address all problems faced by non-Muslim communities – such as legal status, property registration and training of the clergy – in order to guarantee religious pluralism in line with European standards is long awaited.

The Law on Foundations could be a positive first step in this regard and will be carefully assessed once adopted and implemented. The recent Supreme Court ruling on the Ecumenical Patriarchate is also an issue of concern.

We share your views on civil-military relations. Recent developments – in particular before and during the election campaign – demonstrate the need for further steps in this area so that the Armed Forces cannot exercise political influence.

Civilian democratic control over the military in line with practice in EU Member States is still to be ensured.

Regarding the south-east, we strongly condemned the recent terrorist attack in the province of Sirnak. We have also condemned other acts of terror perpetrated in Turkey and will continue to do so. Terrorist activities can never be justified. We recall our solidarity with the people of Turkey in this regard. On the other hand, terrorism should not make us forget about the urgent need to promptly develop and implement a comprehensive strategy that will guarantee the economic, social and cultural development of the south-east. This is a complex area that we are closely monitoring as part of the ongoing reform process.

Apart from compliance with the Copenhagen political criteria, Turkey’s progress in preparing for accession will be measured against the requirements clearly set out in the Negotiating Framework. In this respect, as agreed by the Council in December last year, progress made on the issues covered by the Declaration of 21 September 2005, in particular full and non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement, will be monitored and reviewed. Regrettably, no progress has yet been made on this issue.

I would also underline that recognition by all Member States is a necessary component of the accession process and that it is therefore vital that the European Union normalises relations between Turkey and all the Member States as soon as possible.

The work required to ensure compliance with the Union’s standards and membership obligations is difficult and demands continuous efforts and determination. We attach particular importance to Turkey’s accession process and I can assure you that the Portuguese Presidency will also do its utmost in order to allow these negotiations to advance.

Commitments made need to be met. Sustaining the reform process and meeting existing obligations will move Turkey’s accession process forward to the benefit, first and foremost, of all Turkish citizens. Nevertheless, progress in the accession process depends fundamentally and primarily on Turkey’s performance.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, let me first congratulate Ms Oomen-Ruijten on her solid report and for proposing a draft that is both rigorous and fair.

Turkey went through an extremely difficult period earlier this year with a severe constitutional crisis and high political tensions. Despite such challenges, it conducted parliamentary and presidential elections in full respect of democratic principles and with a very high level of citizen participation.

The result was that democracy had the last word. The new Turkish Parliament is largely representative of Turkish political diversity and, as Mr Lobo Antunes said, the new Government can now work with the support of a stable majority and a broad popular mandate. Thus the way ahead has been cleared in this regard. Now the time has come to regenerate a new momentum in the reform process.

Therefore the Commission shares the basic approach followed by the draft resolution, which is to identify challenges and to encourage Turkey to meet these policy challenges. This means to support the commitment of the new Turkish Government to strengthen the reform efforts and to encourage it to translate this commitment rapidly into action. This concerns both the reform process and the Ankara Protocol.

The Commission welcomes the fact that the Government has put the constitutional reforms at the top of its agenda, with a view to reinforcing democracy and expanding fundamental freedoms. However, this should not result in any postponement of reforms that are urgently needed today, such as the revision of the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code and other articles related to freedom of expression or the adoption of the Law on Foundations to ensure freedom of religion.

Further efforts are also needed to ensure democratic supremacy of civil-military relations, to protect the rights of women, children and trade unions, to improve the judiciary system and to enhance the fight against corruption.

Let me say some words on the recent events and the current situation, on which we coordinate very closely with the Presidency and Mr Solana and we have taken due note of Parliament’s views. Turkey faces continual cross-border terrorist attacks from the PKK, which is on the EU list of terrorist organisations. The European Union condemns all terrorist attacks and understands Turkey’s need to protect its citizens.

The EU and Turkey are both committed to the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq. We continue to urge Turkey and Iraq to tackle this problem through cooperation between the relevant authorities and by respecting international law. The recent bilateral agreement between Turkey and Iraq on the fight against terrorism provides a basis for this.

The Turkish authorities are understandably trying to engage the United States as well as the Iraqi and Iraqi-Kurdish authorities in their efforts, with some signs of progress recently. The resolution passed in Parliament last week should be seen as part of that overall political strategy.

The European perspective for Turkey has proved to be a key incentive for reforms in the country. In line with our core principle of conditionality in enlargement policy, the implementation of the reforms on the ground determines progress in the accession negotiations.

However, if we are to use this principle effectively to have serious political leverage to encourage reforms, the European Union itself must stick to its own commitments. We have to keep our word – pacta sunt servanda.

All Member States continue to support accession negotiations with Turkey, and it is vital for the Union’s credibility that the process continues in accordance with the Negotiating Framework of 3 October 2005 and the Council decision of 11 December 2006. These were unanimous decisions of all 27 Member States.

We should therefore open further chapters once they are technically ready. At least two chapters – consumer and health protection and trans-European networks – could be opened in the coming weeks. We also encourage Turkey to work to meet the opening benchmarks already defined for 13 chapters.

Last but not least, please rest assured that your contribution will be duly taken into account in our forthcoming progress report concerning Turkey, which the Commission will adopt on 6 November.

 
  
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  Ria Oomen-Ruijten, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (NL) Mr President, thank you, both to the Council and to the Commission, for the kind words that have been expressed. The debate today and the resolution that we are about to adopt are indeed directed in the first instance at the Commission, because we intend to have some input into the progress report.

However, they are also directed at the Council, which will meet again in December in response to the progress report. What are we doing in the resolution? What are we doing in the text? We describe the progress made and the agreements we have reached. We also describe what has come of the commitment that Turkey entered into.

The resolution is, therefore, a compilation of what has been achieved, but it also contains all manner of things that have not been achieved. Mr President, what it also includes is what we expect from the Turkish Government, because there is an opportunity now to give a new impetus to the reform process.

The third point I wish to make: we have tried to deepen and broaden the debate with Turkey. That means, therefore, that I am asking for attention to be given to social cohesion, logistics, transport and energy.

Freedom of speech and religious freedom are rightly given a prominent place in our text. The constitution, the new constitution should not be any excuse to not pull out all the stops immediately to ensure that all necessary reforms, especially those connected with Article 301, are realised.

Another point that I would like to make is about the relationship with neighbouring countries. Good relations with neighbours are an absolute necessity. When I look at Turkey and Armenia, that means that the borders must be opened. There must be an end to all economic blockades. Moreover – my final point – if a people does not acknowledge its past, it has no future. I am therefore also asking the Commission to support Turkey and Armenia on this issue.

Mr President, I cannot say anything more about the PKK because the procedures in this House do not allow me enough time.

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, first of all, I would like to congratulate Mrs Oomen-Ruijten on this very good report and thank her very much for the excellent cooperation.

There are a number of messages contained in this report, and when I visited Turkey with Martin Schulz, these were the messages I was able to convey to the Turkish authorities. Firstly, the reforms must not only be continued but stepped up. The Commissioner has already mentioned Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code and other reforms to guarantee full and genuine freedom of expression and plurality of opinion in Turkey. The same naturally applies to freedom of religion and many other issues which will be covered by other colleagues later in the debate. The reform process has to be moved up a gear.

Secondly, the Kurdish issue: I would like to make my position here very clear. For many years now, indeed for decades, I have been trying to play my part to help resolve the Kurdish issue, but now the time has come when it is possible to have a political and parliamentary solution to the Kurdish issue and abandon violence. That is why I cannot understand why the PKK is continuing with terrorism. I can understand it because the PKK does not want a peaceful solution, and there may well be some people in the military who do not want a peaceful solution either.

Nonetheless, we should send out a clear signal that we do want a peaceful solution, and so does Iraq. We had a meeting with President Talabani’s representative in Ankara and he also made it very clear that what they want is not continued PKK terrorism but a political solution. I would hope that representatives of the Kurdish regional government will heed the message that the continuation of PKK terrorism damages not only Turkey but also Iraq.

That is why I myself, and the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, can only endorse this appeal: Turkey and Iraq must come together to work on the basis of peaceful cooperation, which must include the Kurdish regional government, to put an end to terrorism. At the same time, Turkey must make offers to the Kurdish population of Turkey so that they feel comfortable there and can consider Turkey as their home as well.

 
  
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  Alexander Lambsdorff, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would also like to start by thanking the rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruijten, but also Jos Lagendijk and Hannes Swoboda, for the very good cooperation during the drafting of this resolution. I believe we have produced a good text with a surprisingly high level of consensus, and I think that is a very good thing.

For my Group, I would like to highlight and underline the key points once again. First of all, this resolution is a positive and constructive signal to Turkey. We welcome the fact that the summer’s constitutional crisis has been overcome, and we welcome the fact that the new Government has a strong and clear mandate for further reforms. However, we urge the Government unequivocally to use this mandate to genuinely drive forward the reforms.

What is important in this context – as the resolution says – is that these reforms are extremely important for Turkey itself, for the Turkish people, for Turkish society and for the Turkish economy. Turkey must continue to improve steadily and of its own accord and I am glad to see that there is increasing consensus in Turkey on this issue, as expressed in the April programme. It is good that this is still the case.

What is important for us is that the Copenhagen criteria will continue to be the key benchmark for the negotiations, just as the European Union’s own absorption capacity continues to be an important and indispensable criterion.

Reforms are urgently needed in the following areas in particular, some of which have already been mentioned. The Penal Code: Article 301 has already been mentioned, that is quite clear. To my mind, we should be starting to include Article 252 in the debate as well. This concerns insulting the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and is problematical because this is also a restriction of freedom of speech.

A second important point is improving the situation of women. The number of honour killings continues to be a matter of grave concern. The constitutional reform must continue. Fundamental human rights and personal freedoms must be protected. Let me add that, from our perspective, electoral law is also a problem. A 10% hurdle is unheard of elsewhere in the OSCE.

Let me conclude by saying that we have to show some understanding for the difficult situation in Turkey, particularly in view of the dramatic events in the south-east on Turkey’s border with Iraq. We unequivocally condemn the terrorist activities of the PKK in recent weeks and I would like to pass on my Group’s condolences to the families of the soldiers who have been killed.

We urge the Turkish Government to react cautiously to this situation. There has been no sign, to date, that this has not been the case. Nonetheless, the measures adopted to mitigate the threat to Turkish territory must comply with the following conditions. They must be appropriate, proportionate and limited over time. The European Union understands the difficult situation in Turkey. It is important for Turkey to retain this understanding. A peaceful solution is, of course, our highest objective.

Today’s resolution is a genuinely constructive signal for positive dialogue with Turkey. Turkey will continue to be a very important partner for the European Union and must now press ahead resolutely with reform in its own interests.

 
  
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  Sebastiano (Nello) Musumeci, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, one year on from the last resolution adopted by this House on EU-Turkey relations, it is sad to see that certain fundamental issues remain tragically topical. Turkey does not recognise Cyprus, to all intents and purposes a Member State of the European Union; freedom of the press is still curtailed, since Article 301 of the Penal Code has not yet been amended and Turkey persists in not acknowledging the genocide of the Armenian population in 1915.

The recent appalling terrorist attack by the PKK, the ensuing robust response from the Turkish army and the threat to intervene in the northern part of Iraq unless the PKK ends its terrorist activities once and for all: these factors compound the dangerous and delicate geopolitical position in which Turkey finds itself.

Some progress has of course been made. I am thinking in particular of the increased representation of women in the newly elected Turkish Parliament, in economic circles and in the academic world, but we need to ask ourselves now more than ever whether the Europe of tomorrow wishes to be a large political entity or to have a strong cultural identity, because these uncertainties play into the hands of Turkey which does not wish to stop being itself.

 
  
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  Joost Lagendijk, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this debate is unfortunately overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in Turkey. I would much rather have spoken about the desirability of picking up the thread of the reforms again; unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that, despite many fine words, in practice up to now far too little has come of this. However, I think that the main question now is: what do we think Turkey should do?

Let us drop the hypocrisy from this debate, ladies and gentlemen. Every one of us knows, or should know, that there are no easy answers to this devilish dilemma. On the one hand we realise, we know, that any country where fifty people have been killed in the last month has to do something in response, while at the same time many of us realise – including, I think, many in the Turkish Government – that large-scale military operations are no solution. They do not root out the PKK, they cause immense diplomatic and political damage and – most importantly – they make a solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey much more difficult.

Let us therefore hope that all the attempts now being made to find a diplomatic and political solution will be successful. The problem, ultimately, does not lie in the Iraqi mountains, the problem lies in Turkey, but the solution to the problem – the Kurdish problem – is not Turks against Kurds. In my view, the issue is one of those in Turkey, Turks and Kurds who know that the only solution to the problem is a political one – the AKP and the DTP – versus the radicals, on the Turkish side and on the Kurdish side, who are not interested in a political solution at all and who think that military violence can help: on the Turkish side the army and a section of the opposition and on the Kurdish side the PKK.

Let us be very clear: the present attacks by the PKK are, of course, directed at the Turkish state, but they are also an attack on the Kurdish DTP party in the Turkish Parliament, which is seeking a political solution to the problem. That is why it is so important that this Parliament does indeed strongly condemn the PKK and its terrorist attacks, while at the same time expressing support for all those on the Kurdish side and on the Turkish side who are trying to find a peaceful political solution to this problem.

 
  
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  Kyriakos Triantaphyllides, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (EL) Mr President, with the prospect of Turkey’s accession to the EU firmly in mind, the Commission, and hence the Union as a whole, is called upon to complete, in the next few days, the assessment of Turkey’s progress, or lack of it, in the various sectors it is required to harmonise with the European acquis.

We have declared that, provided it complies with all the Copenhagen criteria and the obligations it has accepted according to the Negotiating Framework and additional protocol, Turkey should be able to join the EU. We do not think that any compromise solutions will bring the results that either Turkey or the Union is hoping for. We should like to point out that Turkey has made some progress, but we repeat that if its accession is to proceed smoothly, it must do as previous accession countries have done: comply with its Convention obligations to the EU as a whole. Turkey must therefore fulfil its obligations towards Cyprus; it must open its sea and air ports to ships and aircraft from the Republic of Cyprus and lift the veto on participation by Cyprus in international organisations and multilateral treaties.

As a Left-wing group, and especially as AKEL (the Progressive Party of the Working People of Cyprus), we are confident that the prospect of Turkey’s accession to the EU will ensure compliance with its obligations, especially as regards ending the occupation of Cyprus by Turkish troops.

We also believe that by encouraging Turkey on its course towards Europe, assuming that Turkey simultaneously fulfils its obligations to the EU, we can exert pressure on it. Thus Turkey must fulfil the following obligations: to defend and respect the human rights of all who live there, including Kurds and other minorities; to recognise the genocide of the Armenians, and to open its border with Armenia, with all the socio-economic consequences that this will entail.

If Turkey hopes to continue and complete its accession course, then it is patently obvious that the measures and policies it adopts will have to lead to full compliance with the European acquis and absolute respect for international law, which ultimately governs the workings of the EU.

 
  
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  Georgios Georgiou, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (EL) Mr President, what we have heard is astonishing, and it comes from none other than the competent Commissioner, who was all too ready to brand as terrorists those claiming to be fighting for freedom. I wonder if we are not over-willing to describe Turkey as being attacked on all sides. This is a country that keeps troops in an EU Member State, and is not the first and only country to adjust to EU requirements.

I shall end by turning to a much more technical matter. Shortly before the adventure on its eastern borders, the price of oil in Turkey was USD 76 a barrel in Europe; now, owing to its arms, to which it always has recourse when solving its own problems, oil has risen to more than USD 90 a barrel.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Philip Claeys, on behalf of the ITS Group. – (NL) Mr President, during the discussion of this resolution in committee, it seemed as if Parliament as a whole was half asleep. Vague criticisms are formulated as a pure formality but, apart from that, it seems as if we have to accept the accession of Turkey as a fait accompli.

Yet Turkey has made hardly any progress since the beginning of the negotiations. I refer, for example, to a recent report by Amnesty International about the human rights situation and the treatment of minorities. Turkey’s position on Cyprus is hardly mentioned any more. What is more, there is a serious risk that Turkey is about to launch a large-scale military attack on Iraq. Then we would be faced with a situation where a candidate country is not only occupying part of the territory of an existing Member State with its military, but on top of that is going to wage a kind of local war in another neighbouring country, Iraq on this occasion.

Mr President, the majority of the population in Europe is against the possible accession of Turkey. This is because Turkey is not a European country and so it does not belong in the European Union. Instead of compromising the credibility of Europe even more, we would do better to pursue a favoured partnership with Turkey, in all openness and unequivocally, instead of full EU membership.

 
  
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  Jim Allister (NI). – Mr President, I detect, particularly from the Commission, a tendency to present non-European Turkey in the best possible light. Not surprising, maybe, considering the millions of pre-accession aid which we are pouring in, but there are uncomfortable realities to be faced. Honour crimes, gross human rights abuses, lack of protection for non-Muslim minorities, absence of religious freedom and anti-Christian attacks and propaganda are my biggest concern.

This year, fatal attacks on Christians have continued, such as the slaying of three men in Malatya in April. Genuine freedom of religion is often the touchstone of a country’s abiding commitment to human rights. In Turkey’s case, it has much to do, including the legal status of religious groups and property rights, but fundamentally the right to worship freely and the right to convert must be respected.

 
  
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  Werner Langen (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, first of all, I would like to thank Mrs Oomen-Ruijten for drawing up this report which will be submitted to the Commission and should be taken into account as Parliament’s contribution to the forthcoming progress report.

Turkey has overcome domestic problems, the Government has a clear mandate, the referendum on Sunday on constitutional amendments concerning the election of the President produced the right outcome, and there is now no reason to delay the reforms any longer. I would therefore like to begin with an appeal to the Turkish Government: if it is serious about joining the EU, then it has to increase the intensity of the reforms. Relatively little happened here last year, as we all know.

Secondly, the reforms are intended to benefit the Turkish people first and foremost. They are not an end in themselves or any sleight of hand on Europe’s part; they are intended to address the deficits which should not be present in a democracy, notably in relation to freedom of opinion, freedom of religion, women’s rights, minority rights, electoral law, etc. Turkey must tackle these issues and dismantle these deficits of its own accord.

I would like to mention another subject as well, namely the Armenian question. As a German, I think that we can expect a clear acknowledgement of its historical responsibility from Turkey. Its refusal to speak out on this issue and remove the blockades of Armenia is a topic which must continue to be addressed in the discussions. At present – as Mr Swoboda has just said – there is a concern that military conflict in the Kurdish region will spill over into Iraq. Here, we clearly prefer a diplomatic solution, a negotiated solution, instead of a military solution. I fully endorse the position of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament on this issue.

Ultimately, Turkey itself must determine whether and how it wishes to continue down the road to Europe. From our perspective, full accession to the EU is not the only option; the negotiations have purposely remained open-ended and it is ultimately up to Turkey whether it wishes to pursue this route proactively. It is not only about whether Europe itself has the capacity to grant accession to Turkey.

 
  
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  Jan Marinus Wiersma (PSE).(NL) Mr President, I would also like to express my compliments to the rapporteur, Mrs Oomen-Ruijten. My immediate response to Mr Langen’s remark is that in my Group we are definitely talking about negotiations with a view to membership of the European Union!

The resolution we are debating today is an encouragement to the Turkish Government to keep going down that route whatever it does. Prime Minister Erdoğan was given a strong mandate to do that by the Turkish electorate. That does indeed put him in a position to spur on the reforms. We expect rapid results now and we therefore expect that the Commission will soon come up with a progress report to that effect.

Urgent issues should not be overlooked, of course. I think that it would be a hugely important symbolic step, which would have a huge ripple effect, if the Turkish Government were to do something about Article 301, if they were to repeal it or reformulate it. That would create the necessary openness in Turkey for debate, including debate on issues from the past, and that brings me to the Armenian question. We believe that it is very important that there be an internal debate on this in Turkey, but it is mainly up to Turkey itself to organise that and not so much for Parliament or the US House of Representatives to try to force the issue. It is mainly an internal matter; we can help, but there is not really much point in us continually pushing for this from outside.

The new constitution has been announced. That also creates opportunities, we believe, to finally seek a political solution to the Kurdish question. I share the view of those who say that we should do everything we can to prevent a military escalation in northern Iraq, but we can only do that if we first distance ourselves from the terrorist attacks of the PKK and demand the PKK to stop.

Secondly, we must also support Turkey in its dialogue with Iraq and the Iraqi authorities, and also in its dialogue with the regional authorities in Kurdish Iraq to cooperate in practice to stop these attacks. We welcome new diplomatic initiatives, but we believe that it is mainly practical cooperation in the region itself that will drive down and end the violence.

 
  
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  Marco Cappato (ALDE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Council presidency said ‘it depends on Turkey’ and many colleagues have repeated this idea, including Mr Langen who said ‘it is up to them to decide’. Well, I do not believe that is so. In my opinion Europe must assume its own responsibilities.

This is not just a problem about Turkey and its compliance with the formal accession criteria. The truth is that in recent months Europe, Europe’s governments – beginning with, but not only, the French Presidency – have been sending out a message that Turkey will not join the European Union. The Oomen-Ruijten report starts from this assumption and the text is probably the best that could be drafted in this House, but we need to have the courage to alter the overall context: the current political and military crisis on the border between Turkey and Iraq is partly the responsibility of the European Union, given that politically we have slammed the door in Turkey’s face even though the relevant negotiations are continuing.

What is needed is a major leap forward, whereby the European Union, the governments, explicitly call for a political report on the individual right of citizens living on Turkish soil to democracy and the rule of law, with a view to joining Europe. This may help Turkey move towards Europe and not towards the Middle East.

 
  
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  Feleknas Uca (GUE/NGL).(DE) Mr President, unfortunately, today’s vote on Parliament’s resolution on Turkey is overshadowed by very distressing and worrying events.

Last Wednesday, Turkey’s Grand National Assembly voted by an overwhelming majority in favour of a Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq. Since then, we have heard the distressing news of deaths and casualties on the Turkey-Iraq border, of bloody battles and combat, and we have heard that the Turkish military is firing on villages in northern Iraq. We have heard about attacks on Kurdish institutions and DTP offices, and about enraged nationalists attempting to lynch their Kurdish fellow citizens. Yet the signals that were sent out by Turkey after the end of the constitutional crisis in late August were so promising. There was talk of a new civilian constitution, further reforms, and more intensive reform efforts to address still unresolved issues. Mrs Oomen-Ruijten and many of my fellow Members wanted to take account of these positive signals and developments in Turkey after the reform efforts in Turkey came to a standstill last year.

The motion for a resolution is balanced and fair in its assessment and evaluation. However, in view of Turkey’s recent decision and the blatant threat of a military incursion which violates the territorial integrity of Iraq, I do wonder which aims Turkey is actually pursuing. Is it really about the PKK? The fact is that the Turkish military has carried out 24 cross-border operations in recent years and not one of them has actually had any lasting effect. Why should it be different this time? Or could it have to do with the oil reserves in the region around Kirkuk and Turkey’s intention of removing the autonomous status of the Kurds in northern Iraq?

What is clear, at any rate, is that the Kurdish issue cannot be resolved with an incursion into northern Iraq. From my perspective, however, it is also clear that Turkey cannot be seen to breach international law and violate Iraq’s sovereignty before the eyes of the European Union and the international community. Europe must now take responsibility and participate actively in developing a strategy for the resolution of the Kurdish issue, for this is the key to achieving genuine peace and democracy in Turkey.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM).(NL) Mr President, in a recent interview in the Dutch press, Commissioner Rehn stated unequivocally which reforms in Turkey are the most urgent for the EU, and I quote: ‘they are in the area of freedom of speech and religion, core principles of democracy’.

I am grateful to the Commissioner for this clear statement of position. It also led me to bring to his attention a document from the Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey. The document is dated 1 September 2007 and describes the serious distress and concerns of Turkish Protestants about the absence of freedom of religion. Commissioner, I trust that you will speak firmly to your Turkish interlocutors about the vulnerable position in Turkish society of the Turkish Protestants, or all Turkish Christians.

Treating the symptoms, Mr President, is really not enough. The media and politicians are creating a very intolerant, dangerous climate for non-Muslim minorities in Turkey. Here too the situation calls for swift action from Brussels toward Ankara. I will hand a second document on this to the Commissioner and eagerly await a swift response from him in writing.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (ITS).(DE) Mr President, a few days ago I was in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus and I gained a first-hand impression of the systematic destruction of around 500 Greek Orthodox churches and the destruction of European cultural heritage which can never be made good. In my view, this conflicts with the spirit of Europe just as clearly as the continuing lack of tolerance towards Christians and other minorities, or indeed the offence of ‘insulting Turkish identity’ which is used to suppress freedom of opinion and freedom of the press, to say nothing of the continuing human rights violations, the failure to address the issue of the genocide against the Armenians, and ongoing Islamicisation.

It is quite unacceptable that an accession candidate should still be occupying parts of an EU Member State, namely Northern Cyprus, to say nothing of planning a military attack on another country, as is currently the case against Iraq.

Brussels never tires of emphasising that compliance with fundamental rights, especially freedom of religion and freedom of expression, has the highest priority for accession to the EU. In the case of Turkey’s membership aspirations, these are clearly nothing but empty words.

 
  
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  Ioannis Kasoulides (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, let me begin by congratulating Mrs Oomen-Ruijten on her report.

And now, a timely issue: what will happen, Mr President, if Turkey, a candidate country, ignores the admonishments of the EU and invades northern Iraq? What are Turkey’s intentions? Are they, perhaps, to bring about another Cyprus situation, or to occupy territory in Kurdish-speaking Iraq, further complicating the efforts of many, including European countries, to stabilise Iraq? How can Member States or candidate countries be allowed to act as destabilising factors in an area in which European soldiers are losing their lives in an attempt to achieve stability?

May I remind you that Turkish troops are occupying 40% of Cyprus. This has not prevented the country from starting accession talks. May I remind you that Turkey is still not complying with the EU’s request to extend the Ankara Protocol. I wonder what the European Commission’s report, which is expected on 6 November, will have to say about this. If the message is one of tolerance, then why not be tolerant on so many other issues of principle and values that are at the heart of the EU?

In the final analysis, the key question is: are we talking about spreading EU values or diminishing their sphere of influence?

 
  
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  Béatrice Patrie (PSE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would firstly like to thank Mrs Oomen-Ruijten for the constructive message we are preparing to send to the Council and the Commission, but also to the Turkish Government and Parliament.

I regret, however, that our Parliament did not express itself more clearly on an issue that is undoubtedly sensitive but no less important: I am talking about the Armenian genocide. Since 1987 this Parliament has applied the word ‘genocide’ to the massacre between 1915 and 1917 of 1.2 million Armenians, i.e. two-thirds of the Armenian population living at that time under the Ottoman Empire. The US Senate and House of Representatives have just said the same and it is unfortunate that this Parliament is lagging behind the Americans on this issue.

As highlighted recently in a press release by the International Federation for Human Rights, many Turkish citizens are charged with insulting Turkish identity on the basis of Article 301 of the Penal Code. In order to tackle this period in history publically, I believe that this article has to be abolished as soon as possible. We are not benefiting our Turkish friends in any way by making them forget their history. This duty to remember is also a duty to the descendants of the people who survived the genocide and to the international community itself. I thus call on Parliament to support the amendments that call for recognition of the Armenian genocide and those that underline the need for complete respect for religious freedoms and minority rights.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Mr President, Turkey is an important country for political, economic, military and cultural reasons, and it is therefore important to the EU. Realising this, the EU has decided to commence accession negotiations. The path towards accession has not been very smooth, but it has helped initiate a much-needed democratic reform programme in Turkey.

Such reforms are welcomed both by the EU and by the citizens of Turkey. Those reforms must continue, and for that reason, at least, our support for Turkish accession must be firm. Nobody is ignoring the fact that problems exist. My country, Cyprus, is at the centre of one such problem, but I, like most people in this Chamber, realise that problems are not solved by conflict, but by peaceful negotiation.

A more European Turkey is much better for discussing and solving problems with, and hence I fully support Turkey’s accession to the EU. Consequently, I endorse the compromise reached through the wise handling afforded by Ms Oomen-Ruijten, with the honest and fruitful cooperation of all those interested colleagues, who may have differing opinions on certain specific issues, but who all agree on the principle that the EU can achieve more by cooperating constructively with the Turkish people than by destructively antagonising them.

Turkey is undergoing a difficult period right now, and the use by the EU of more carrot and less stick is presently the appropriate way to proceed. Let our overwhelming support for this report be proof to the Turkish people that we do want them in the EU, and let it be a help for greater and faster reforms in Turkey and for enhanced facilitation of solving the far too longstanding Cyprus problem.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio (UEN).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, many of us have invoked geopolitical reasons for opposing Turkey’s accession to Europe. Now the facts on the ground are proving us right, given that Ankara has burst in like an elephant on the delicate balance of Iraq, where our troops are risking their lives every day and fighting for the population’s freedom.

I believe we need to think about this because, fellow Members, your dear democratic Turkey, that human rights paradise on earth, is knocking at Europe’s door at the very moment when a dreadful, unpredictable, tragic scenario of war is opening up on the Iraqi front.

When you return to Brussels, do what I intend to do: go and visit the Armenian restaurant. Do not your non-EU friends include the Armenians? Yet their premises have been wrecked by hooligans, by Turkish criminals, who have burned down a restaurant in the capital of Europe just because it is Armenian. Such is the democratic nature of Turkish nationalists! Therefore, why should we welcome them, when they still do not acknowledge the Armenian genocide? I invite you to vote in favour of my amendment.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Mr President, the resolution emphasises that Turkey must fully comply with the Copenhagen criteria as a basis for accession to the EU. The report also urges the Turkish Government to bring its approach to freedom of religion in line with those principles as defined by the European Court of Justice.

Since Kemal Atatürk, Turkey has maintained a secular state against the growing power of fundamentalist and literalist Islam. I wonder whether the Turks realise that entering the EU will fundamentally undermine their ability to resist militant Islam. If Turkey joins the EU, their Islamists will use the human rights legislation as a shield from behind which to advance their jihad in Turkey and Europe.

The British people are coming to realise that if Turkey joins the EU, another 70 million people will have the right to come to Britain. Turkish accession will be a disaster for the Turks and a disaster for Britain.

 
  
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  Koenraad Dillen (ITS).(NL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in the debate on the Florenz motion for a resolution, it was rightly observed yesterday that a large majority of the population support strict measures to ban smoking at the workplace and in bars and restaurants.

I had hoped that this resolution would also take account of the view of an overwhelming majority of the population, that is that Turkey cannot join the European Union. However, I am obviously cherishing too many illusions. When it comes to crucial matters, such as the Constitution or the accession of Turkey to the European Union, the opinion of the people suddenly does not count any more.

Turkey, a friendly nation, is not a European country. Full stop, amen, finished. That should be the end of the discussion. However, not only does Parliament not accept its responsibility, more than once it has been blind to specific recent developments that clearly demonstrate that Turkey does not belong in the European Union, and that the decision to start accession negotiations was a mistake.

Why does this resolution not mention the resistance of the AKP to a constitutional provision that would make conversion to another religion no longer punishable under the law? Why are people so vague about the Armenian question and about Cyprus? This is another example of European Realpolitik, which you can count us out of.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Mr President, according to The Times newspaper of London, the recent US Congressional resolution on the Armenian genocide was appallingly timed. So, when is it a suitable time to talk about genocide?

The Armenian lobby is so vociferous in this Parliament precisely because of the apparent conspiracy of silence that has surrounded the genocide question for almost a century. The murder of the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink should have provided a period of national reflection but, sadly, this did not happen.

Nevertheless, reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, including the reopening of the closed border, is an important element of Turkey’s efforts to join the EU. But, in my view, no true democracy can be in denial of its past, even its deepest and darkest secrets.

Just as important is a lasting settlement of the conflict in Cyprus, which remains at an impasse caused by the presence of occupying troops in an EU Member State as well as non-implementation of the Ankara Protocol.

Minority religious rights, in particular Christian, also give cause for concern. For instance, the Greek Orthodox seminary of Halki remains closed since 1971; the Assyrian Christians who fled to Germany and Sweden during the war with the PKK have been stripped of their Turkish citizenship, preventing them from claiming back their homes lost in the conflict. And Turkey sees the Alevis as no different from the majority Sunni Muslims and therefore does not recognise their separate religious needs.

Article 301 of the Penal Code on insulting Turkishness has resulted in many convictions and, in March – rather bizarrely in my view – a court in Istanbul issued an order denying access to the video-sharing website YouTube when allegations were made on the sexuality of the founding father of modern Turkey, Kemal Atatürk.

Speaking entirely personally and not on behalf of my party or my Group: a lot clearly still needs to be done.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MARTÍNEZ MARTÍNEZ
Vice-President

 
  
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  Maria Eleni Koppa (PSE).(EL) Mr President, today’s discussion gives us an opportunity to express our satisfaction with the election results in Turkey, and to welcome the Turkish people’s express wish to continue the reforms.

Turkey’s prospective accession to the EU, which remains the objective, has opened the way to attempts at reform. Unfortunately, these efforts have reached a plateau and have slowed down. The new government, with its fresh, strong mandate, needs to move very fast to fully implement all the provisions of the Association Agreement and its Additional Protocol.

The reform process is above all about democratisation, fundamental human rights and religious freedoms. In line with this, it is essential to repeal Article 301 of the Criminal Code and respond firmly to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s requests. Unfortunately, the Turkish Government’s attitude towards this issue so far has allowed for extremist acts. We must also mention the Turkish authorities’ inexplicable insistence on keeping the Theological School in Halki shut.

Another issue that concerns us is the tense situation in south-east Turkey. I believe that the culture of settling disputes violently should not be allowed to prevail, because it will mean instability in the wider area. It is the present government’s responsibility to take action in order to reach a peaceful settlement on the Kurdish issue, and this presupposes dialogue between the two sides. The international community must play a peacekeeping role in this potential crisis.

To conclude, Mr President, I should like to say that we expect Turkey to honour all its obligations so that it can progress steadily towards prospective European integration.

 
  
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  Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, let me first congratulate Mrs Oomen-Ruijten on her excellent work.

Mr President, the popular mandate given to the Erdoğan Government and to Mr Erdoğan in particular allows for the continuation of a course of reform that has been under way since Turkey’s claim for a place in Europe became a firmer prospect. At the same time, the mandate inspires a new desire for a fair and lasting solution to the Cyprus issue, with the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus as the first requirement.

There is a new desire for genuine neighbourly relations, both in general, and with Greece in particular.

Thanks to the mandate, human rights are respected under new laws such as the law on ecclesiastical foundations, and the laws protecting rights and freedoms. This is a historic coming to terms with the past, and the genocides of the Armenians, Pontic Greeks and Assyrians are being recognised.

Thanks to the mandate, the Kurdish issue is being seen in a new light. The potential invasion of northern Iraq is an issue that should be of serious concern to the EU. Such a move must not be permitted, because the need, on which we are all agreed, to combat terrorism should never be used as a pretext for creating a fait accompli of occupied territory in northern Iraq, as happened in Cyprus.

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (PSE). – Mr President, I am not sure what this morning’s debate is adding to the Turkish accession issue rather than giving an opportunity to a small number of vehement opponents of Turkish accession to repeat their arguments in this Chamber. Of course we should urge Turkey to show restraint and to act proportionately in response to the terrorist threat from northern Iraq but I note the criticisms this morning are being made by the very same people who in other debates have been against the European Union’s contribution to reconstruction in Iraq.

I welcome the strategic partnership between the UK and Turkey announced by Prime Ministers Brown and Erdogan in London yesterday, including positive cooperation in combating organised crime and terrorism. I call on other Member States to do the same.

I welcome the youngest female Turkish MP elected, Ayla Akat, who was in Brussels last week as one of a number of Kurdish MPs returned to the Turkish Parliament for the first time in 14 years, who give us hope that the problem of Kurdish cultural and political rights could be solved through democracy and not through violence.

 
  
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  Josef Zieleniec (PPE-DE).(CS) Mrs Ria Oomen-Ruijten carried out an outstanding piece of work when she found a compromise wording on a subject which divides this House.

I am convinced, however, that in the future adopting such resolutions and reports, which strive to find compromises at the expense of not expressing Parliament’s views on contentious key issues, should be abandoned. Our efforts to achieve unanimity send Turkey a message which does not sufficiently reflect the different opinions on Turkish membership held both within this Parliament and among the European public.

I will not conceal the fact that I consider the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey to be in itself a fundamental mistake. At the same time I am aware of and I respect the fact that not everyone in this House shares this view.

The European public is itself strongly divided when it comes to this issue of key importance for the future of European integration. It is our duty to reflect this polarity. I would therefore hope that our future resolutions and reports clearly bear witness to this division within Parliament regarding the possible Turkish membership of the EU. While compromise is welcomed in many other areas discussed in Parliament, Turkish membership and EU-Turkey relations are not among them.

Let us change the approach. Let us not continue producing reports and resolutions which attempt to give the impression of agreement and unanimity. Instead, let us show, through our agreement or disagreement with clearly formulated positions, that there is a division among us in the matter of Turkish membership.

It is a question of our responsibility towards both the EU citizens and Turkey who do not deserve half-truths. I am certain that the Turkish people will welcome much more a communication on disunity rather than a concealment of the real situation, which both Parliament and Europe as a whole have been doing for a long time.

 
  
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  Vural Öger (PSE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, with Mrs Oomen-Ruijten’s resolution on Turkey, the European Parliament is sending out a positive signal and has thus entered a new phase of constructive dialogue in its relations with Turkey. Turkey is currently involved in an intense debate about internal reforms.

Turkey now has a government in power which has a clear popular mandate and can set to work. This is a chance to give fresh impetus to the accession process in several key areas. Calling for additional requirements to be met which are not part of the accession negotiations is counterproductive. In Turkey, the development of a new constitution is now the highest priority. The outline of this constitution is already discernible.

The call for the revision of Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code is being considered by the Turkish side. Turkey now needs further positive signals from the EU. We must encourage Turkey to continue this reform process with great zeal.

The Commission’s progress report is expected on 7 November, and I think it is very important that the current positive developments in Turkey are reflected in that report.

 
  
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  Yiannakis Matsis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, Turkey is a candidate for accession to a united Europe. It has rights and obligations. The rapporteur has given a balanced interim report. This offers Turkey another chance to proceed with the reforms and fulfil its obligations, which relate mainly to economic changes, respect for the Copenhagen criteria, and human, religious and minority rights.

We want Turkey to change because Turkey itself is asking for change and also because the times demand it. Change in Turkey means meeting its obligations towards Cyprus by recognising the Republic of Cyprus and ending the occupation of Cyprus. The report correctly states that the withdrawal of the Turkish army will help to reach a solution, and that the Turkish army can be replaced with a small European force under the command of the Security Council. Turkey must fulfil the following obligations: end colonisation and change the demographic character of Cyprus; repatriate the settlers, who form the great majority in the occupied territories and are the time-bomb waiting to undermine any solution; end the appropriation of Greek Cypriot properties in occupied Cyprus; and stop the destruction of our cultural heritage. As a first step, Turkey must respect the decisions of the UN and return the city of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants.

Ankara regards Turkish Cypriots as isolated, owing to the presence of 45 000 Turkish soldiers, who are keeping Greek Cypriots away from their homes and properties. Turkey holds the key both to its accession to Europe and to solving the Cyprus issue. The Turkish policy of dividing Cyprus into two states is not a solution. We live in an age of unification, not partition. We say yes to a European Turkey and yes to a European solution, which have little in common with partition lines and zones; they should be based, as the rapporteur rightly stresses, on the principles of a united Europe. This will create a viable model state for the whole of Europe, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and Christians and Muslims, can live peaceful and productive lives based on mutual respect for the principles and values of a united Europe.

 
  
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  Carlos Carnero González (PSE).(ES) Mr President, as you know, the enlargement of the European Union to include another country is always a dialectical process in which the candidate’s efforts must be determined but in which the Union’s efforts must also be clear.

In my view, when the European Union has a new Reform Treaty to enable it to be more democratic and more effective, it will also be in a better position to continue its enlargement.

That is the case following the Lisbon agreement. Turkey is making significant progress. We are all behind the Ankara Government, behind the Turkish people in the fight against terrorism. Nevertheless, in order to continue the progress I mentioned, we must call for restraint, moderation and compliance with international law. A large-scale military operation in northern Iraq would only add fuel to the fire there and could also cause serious problems in Turkey.

Finally, I want to congratulate Mrs Oomen-Ruijten on her resolution, although there is one topic missing: why do we often forget that Turkey is not just a candidate country but also a vital Euro-Mediterranean partner in the Barcelona Process? This point is indeed missing from the report. Turkey is vital in that Process just as we are vital for Turkey in the Euro-Mediterranean Process too.

 
  
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  Emine Bozkurt (PSE). (NL) Mr President, I would like to thank Mrs Oomen-Ruijten for her balanced resolution. I was in Turkey ten days ago and while I was there I spoke to members of the new Turkish Government and the new Parliament. I stressed the need to carry on with the reforms, with special emphasis on freedom of speech.

The Minister of Justice and other members of the Cabinet assured me that Article 301 will be amended. The new Government also promised reforms on the path toward EU membership. The resolution also refers to that membership as the ultimate goal. The resolution will therefore make a direct contribution to the reforms in Turkey, including reforms in the areas of women’s rights, trade union rights and social legislation.

However, calm is needed for reforms to take place, and at the moment fear and anger are rife in Turkey. Fear of attacks by the PKK, anger that could lead to escalation. To prevent that, Turkey and the EU must join forces in order to use diplomatic and political means to prevent and punish terrorism.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this lively debate was very useful to the Presidency. It has clearly demonstrated, if there were any doubt, how much the opinions and views of the many Members differ with regard to the negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the European Union. However, regardless of the many opinions that may exist on this issue, I feel that this debate has clearly shown that Turkey is already a vital strategic partner of the European Union in political, economic and also security terms.

I also feel it is clear from this debate that the prospect of Turkey joining the European Union has been the driving force behind fundamental political and social reforms in Turkey. Clearly, some people regret that these reforms have not been as rapid or as extensive as might have been hoped, but the fact is that Turkey’s people and Government are making gradual progress along the road set out by us, towards an increasingly democratic and pluralistic society which more fully respects the rule of law.

The Copenhagen criteria, as the guide or reference framework for this whole negotiation process, are extremely clear for both Turkey and any other candidate countries: only those countries which clearly respect our economic principles and, in particular and perhaps even more importantly, our political principles can be members of the European Union. If Turkey fully complies with these criteria, then obviously it can become a member of the European Union. This is absolutely clear and therefore cannot, or at least should not, give rise to any doubts.

As regards the PKK’s terrorist attacks on the border between Turkey and Iraq, I would draw your attention to the Presidency’s statement of 22 October on this issue. In that statement, the Presidency totally condemned the terrorist violence perpetrated by the PKK and expressed our active solidarity with the victims’ families. We also noted that it is vital for the international community to support Turkey’s efforts to fight terrorism, while respecting the rule of law, preserving international peace and stability and regional stability, and naturally calling on Turkey to refrain from taking any disproportionate military action. We also call on both the Turkish Government and the Iraqi Government to effectively cooperate to address this problem and in particular to prevent Iraqi territory from being used for terrorist actions against Turkey.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, honourable Members, I want to thank you for this very substantive and timely debate shortly before we issue our progress report on Turkey on 6 November – that is, in two weeks. In the Commission we aim at presenting as objective and fair a report as the one presented by Ms Oomen-Ruijten.

With today’s debate and your subsequent resolution, this House sends some very clear messages to Turkey. First of all, I think we all agree that now is the time to step up the reform efforts in the country for the sake of the Turkish citizens, yes, but also for making serious progress in the EU accession negotiations. Especially, there is very strong emphasis on reforms without unnecessary delay as regards the freedom of expression, the infamous Article 301 and other equivalent articles, as well as religious freedoms. Likewise, we need to see progress on women’s rights, trade union rights, as well as cultural and religious rights and international obligations over Turkey.

Moreover, we condemn terrorist attacks and we understand the Turkish need to protect its citizens, but we also urge Turkey to seek a political solution in cooperation with Iraqi regional authorities and the international community and to show a sense of proportionality in its response to PKK terrorism.

Concerning the Armenian issue, the Commission supports Parliament’s call, as expressed in your draft resolution, for a process of reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia. This is the best and most effective way that in time would lead to genuine results over reconciliation and justice.

We also consider that all the issues in Turkey, including the Armenian issue, should be debated openly and peacefully within Turkish society in the name of freedom of expression. Therefore, the reform of Article 301 is also essential for a serious and effective debate on the Armenian issue that could lead to genuine reconciliation.

The current restraints over freedom of expression have a chilling effect and even contribute to creating an atmosphere of intolerance and hatred, as was unfortunately and sadly shown in the case of the assassination of Hrant Dink earlier this year.

Finally, we have to recall one thing. I do, and you have also, set very strong demands for Turkey as regards the reform process and rightly so. At the same time, we need to recall that the equation works only if both sides do what they have got to do. That means, when we are firm we also must be fair. We have to keep our word and stick to the accession perspective of Turkey as outlined in the negotiation mandate.

(Applause)

Otherwise, we can shout as loud as we wish, but it would be like shouting for the forest. There would be no response, only a long silence.

 
  
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  President. − Two motions for a resolution(1) to wind up the debate have been tabled.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Richard Corbett (PSE), in writing. Turkey still has a long way to go before it meets the conditions for EU membership. Despite considerable progress in recent years, there are still outstanding issues about freedom of expression (particularly Article 301 of the Penal Code), human rights and Armenia.

However, I reject the arguments of those who say that Turkey should never be allowed to join on the grounds that it is not a European country. We have accepted Turkey as a full member of the Council of Europe for more than half a century. We have started accession negotiations, thereby recognising its eligibility to join the EU in principle. Those claiming that Turkey is not European really mean it is not Christian. But why should that be a criterion? The motto of the European Union is ‘unity with diversity’ –we are not trying to standardise cultures, but to find ways of working together while keeping our different languages, religions and so on. Accepting a secular state whose population is largely Islamic would enhance that principle.

 
  

(1)See Minutes.


5. EU-Russia Summit (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the EU-Russia Summit.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, as you know, the 20th EU-Russia Summit will take place on Friday of this week in the Portuguese town of Mafra. This represents, in our opinion, an excellent opportunity for the leaders of both Russia and the European Union to take stock of our relations.

We believe that relations between the European Union and Russia are generally good and certainly much better than the international press would sometimes have us believe. Russia is a key partner for the EU and we take our relationship very seriously. The summit will tackle the situation in the EU and in Russia. We will report on developments in the European Union, in particular on progress made in drafting the new Reform Treaty which has just been adopted in Lisbon and on the energy liberalisation package proposed by the Commission and adopted on 9 September.

As for the common spaces, we will review the progress made in implementing the road maps. This process continues to be wholly positive, although some areas need to be driven forward. In certain important sectors, the Permanent Partnership Council (PPC) has helped to achieve this objective. The PPC on Culture, which will be held the day before the summit, will help to intensify our cultural cooperation.

In terms of priorities for the summit, we intend to reach agreement on the launch of the early warning system in the energy sector, on which agreement in principle was reached at the last summit held in Samara. Given the interdependence of the European Union and Russia in terms of energy, confidence must be increased and mutual cooperation reinforced. We will therefore highlight the objectives and principles that the EU must respect in relation to our energy partnership, in particular reciprocity, transparency, openness and creation of an effective legal and regulatory framework. In our opinion, the principles of the Energy Charter Treaty and the text on worldwide energy security adopted by the G8 in Saint Petersburg must be included in the new EU-Russia Agreement which will be legally binding and will replace the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).

In the area of investment, we welcome the formal dialogue planned in the road map for the common economic space. It is vitally important that transparent, non-discriminatory and predictable conditions are created for EU undertakings investing in Russia, bearing in mind the law on strategic investments which is being considered by the Duma. We will also urge Russia to avoid the selective use of flanking policies, such as the environment or taxation, to hinder existing investments or create hidden obstacles for new investment. We believe that Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is a priority which is why we also intend to broach this issue at the summit. The Commission may have something more to say on this.

I must point out that the summit will also be used to apply pressure, in order to ensure progress, if a satisfactory solution has not been found to the main outstanding issues, such as wood export duties or discriminatory rail tariffs.

We are aware that this summit comes at a time when both the presidential and Duma elections in Russia are imminent. In the election process, freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, will be vitally important and a real test of the democratic legitimacy of Russia. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) must be given free access to observe the Duma elections. As a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe, Russia has a particular responsibility to protect our common values. It is regrettable that certain issues have overshadowed relations between the European Union and Russia, given that our interdependence is increasing, not reducing.

Russia and the EU need to work together to overcome their differences as there is really no alternative to our cooperation. Unfortunately, the start of negotiations on a new agreement between the EU and Russia is still deadlocked. Russia’s bans on imports of Polish meat and vegetables continue to form a major obstacle to the start of negotiations. The Commission has indicated its readiness to continue contacts in order to find a mutually acceptable solution. Unfortunately, the situation has been further complicated by the decision taken by the Russian veterinary authorities at the end of last month to ban the import of meat produced by 36 EU undertakings.

The interruption to oil supplies destined for Lithuania through the Druzhba pipeline also represents a sticking point preventing negotiations on a new agreement between the EU and Russia from getting underway. More than a year has passed without Russia having given any official information on the leak from the pipeline or on the prospects of resuming supplies. It is therefore vital to find a satisfactory solution that will create the necessary confidence to continue developing the partnership between the EU and Russia in the area of energy.

Despite the current deadlock in the negotiations, the situation should not be overdramatized. We actually agreed with Russia in 2006 that the PCA would remain in force, thus avoiding any legal vacuum in our relations with Russia.

Finally, we will certainly be raising the most important issues currently on the international agenda, in particular Kosovo and Iraq. We will also stress how vital positive cooperation with Russia is in our common neighbourhood, so that we can tackle common issues of interest and concern, particularly the ‘frozen’ disputes.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, Russia is not only a close neighbour, for us it is a strategic partner. If we look to trade and investment we see they are booming, and we also see, as our President has said, that interdependence is growing. But we also know that Russia is a key partner in tackling regional conflicts and global challenges – also mentioned here – and that much remains to be done to develop the full potential of our relationship.

The upcoming summit on Friday is the next occasion to assess the state of our relationship. While several of the outstanding issues will not be solved, we will make progress on some others and thus will also prepare the ground for future work at this moment of transition.

We know it is a critical period for Russia, a few months ahead of the crucial parliamentary and presidential elections, and we also know that the European Union has repeatedly expressed its concerns on the implementation of democratic principles and human rights commitments in Russia. We, the European Union, are watching developments very closely – the forthcoming elections will be an important test in that regard – and we expect Russia will make a sensible choice and invite the OSCE observers to monitor the elections.

We shall also take the opportunity to raise our concerns on human rights issues, such as the limitations on press freedom, the attacks on journalists, the pressure on NGOs and also the situation in the northern Caucasus.

I had the occasion to discuss the forthcoming summit with the President’s key advisor, the special envoy Mr Yastrzhembsky, when I was in Kaliningrad on 11 and 12 October. Let me start with a few good examples, but then say where we will not make progress.

I believe that Russia is about to announce a major financial contribution to several EU-led cross-border cooperation programmes. This will be very welcome since cooperation across our developing borders is an important feature following the 2004 enlargement. And Kaliningrad is, of course, a very special case, due to its unique geographic location.

This requires, as we have always found, special arrangements to facilitate cross-border cooperation and local border traffic. Russia’s financial contribution, however, would also be very timely, considering the very serious traffic congestion on borders between the Member States and Russia in Kaliningrad and at border crossing points with several Member States elsewhere.

Lines of trucks of up to 50 km on the EU side of the border are clearly not acceptable. We need to implement the measures and therefore we have agreed with Russia to reduce the bottlenecks. We are just launching a pilot project in the Commission, exchanging customs information and financing modernisation of border infrastructure. For its part, Russia must streamline its procedures at the borders. In principle it is ready to do so but it takes a certain amount of time.

Our President has already mentioned energy. I would just like to add that we should be able to announce an agreement on the early warning mechanism to deal with problems in supply before they come to crisis point. Our President has spoken about energy culture and also investments so I need not add anything here. I just would like to complement it by saying that investment and business relations will also be discussed at an industrialists’ round table in Lisbon, with the participation of Günter Verheugen and Andris Piebalgs, starting tomorrow, Thursday. This round table will then report its conclusions to the summit on Friday. I think this is a good contribution to what is really a growing business relationship.

Russia is a key economic actor and, on WTO, I would like to add that we will help Russia’s efforts. You know we have always been committed to Russia’s WTO accession. We also think it is very important to have a level playing field, and that is why we will place so much emphasis on the completion of Russia’s accession to the WTO. The summit will give a new impetus to this complex process, which is at a critical stage.

We shall be signing a new agreement on steel on the margins of the summit, thus increasing the quantities which Russia may export to the European Union. Another sign of positive elements in EU-Russia cooperation is the fact that the memorandum of understanding between the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction and the Russia Federal Drug Control Service is going to be signed on the margins of the summit.

On a less positive note, I would like to inform you that, although there was a clear Russian commitment in Samara in May to finally sign our agreement on the Siberian overflights, in time for the next summit in Mafra, prospects for this happening seem to be very slim. We want to turn the page on this long-standing dispute. A positive move by Russia would then allow us also to go ahead with the aviation summit, planned to take place in Moscow in November, to identify the enormous potential for cooperation in this sector.

As regards international issues, Kosovo will certainly be one of the most important and we need to consider jointly with Russia how to bring this question to a solution, based on the ongoing efforts of the Troika. We must avoid a renewed conflict in the Balkans.

We will also discuss other important international issues such as the Middle East prior to the Annapolis Conference; Iran, following President Putin’s recent visit to Tehran and Afghanistan; Burma/Myanmar; and the situation with regard to the frozen conflicts particularly in Georgia and Moldova.

We would like to work with Russia in a constructive spirit in the search for solutions for these vexed issues. Therefore, what we have to do is continue our ongoing work and never lose sight of our long-term projects.

 
  
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  José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (ES) Mr President, we hope that, as the press pointed out, the Portuguese autumn will be warmer than the Russian spring as far as the Samara Summit is concerned.

As the Commissioner said, I believe that we need to continue working to build the strategic association with Russia, but the climate will depend more on Russia’s temperature than that of the European Union: to some extent in the light of what the Commissioner was saying, above all in the light of the new role that Russia wants to play on the international stage, and, in particular, as far as the security of energy supply is concerned.

However, Mr President, this relationship has to be built on a series of pillars. The first is that any decision or any act against a Member State must be seen as a decision or act against the European Union as a whole.

Secondly, Mr President, the European Union is irrevocably and unquestionably committed to human rights and it has to be very firm when defending those positions. In this respect, I feel that we should welcome the Russian Government’s decision to authorise and finally grant visas to the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance to allow it to have a meeting in Moscow.

One aspect that gives cause for concern is the statement made, in relation to the recent summit of countries bordering the Caspian Sea, about forming a type of broad front to combat to some extent the regional and international threats and some positions in the United Nations.

I am just finishing up, Mr President. Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office, defend with pragmatism the European Union’s interests, build this association, but do not forget that the figures have to match up to the ideals. I remember something I read in a recent – naturally excellent – article in The Economist: apparently at the Wiesbaden Summit Mr Putin told the Federal Chancellor, Mrs Merkel, that that was where Dostoyevsky had lost at roulette.

I hope that the European Union is luckier in Portugal than the Russian writer was in Wiesbaden.

 
  
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  Jan Marinus Wiersma, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (NL) Mr President, in the run-up to the coming summit, the key assumption for my Group remains that Russia and the European Union have a number of important interests in common and, despite our many differences of opinion, the European Union should continue to operate on the basis of that assumption during the coming summit. Russia and Europe need each other to tackle problems in Europe, but they especially need each other for tackling major international issues. Sustainable security in Europe is only possible in cooperation with Russia.

For these reasons we, my Group and I, have always supported the strategic partnership with Russia. There is a very full agenda for this summit and the Commissioner and the representative of the Presidency have already spoken about this. All the same we hope that at some point there will be some movement on the question of the negotiating mandate for the new partnership and cooperation agreement. We hope that a new Polish Government will be able to cooperate with Moscow better and as a result perhaps create some room for progress.

The energy relationship is extremely important and we also think that the starting point has to be reciprocity, but we do have to realise that we are dealing with a form of mutual independence here that we should try to manage better together. We also want more cooperation in the Black Sea area, and we hope that issues such as Transnistria and Georgia will also be discussed at this summit.

Previous speakers have already mentioned the state of democracy in Russia and, of course, that is not something that can be left out of the discussion. We are also concerned about the run-up to the Duma elections. We also want the campaigns to be free and fair, and that all parties have an equal chance to have their say. That is why it is so important that we press the issue of observers in Moscow: not only observers on the actual election day, but also observers during the campaign in the run-up to the elections. We all know how important it is to be able to form a proper judgement of the elections; a country that has ambitions to hold the presidency of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe really should also be able and willing to work with the OSCE when it comes to observing the elections.

Finally, and I reiterate what I said at the beginning, we should continue to be critical towards Russia; critical when it comes to human rights and democracy, but we should not polarise things unnecessarily. Our starting point should still be to be a good neighbour, to cooperate, and to try to tackle issues in Europe together and not to constantly make an issue of things.

 
  
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  Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, May’s summit in Samara exposed the cracks in our strategic partnership with Russia – on energy, on Kosovo and on human rights. Those fissures have become fault lines that are now so deep and so wide that we are hard pressed to say how meaningful ‘partnership’ based on common values can be pursued.

By Mr Putin’s own admission, ‘Russia will not soon become, if it ever becomes, a country where liberal values have deep historical roots’.

How long can we go on ignoring the growing evidence? Not that Russians refuse the cultural trappings of the West, because President Putin has spoken time and again of his country’s place at the cultural heart of Europe. No, this vehemence, this denial, is directed primarily against what President Barroso calls Europe’s ‘sacred values’ – values like freedom, democracy and the rule of law, which are conspicuously absent in Russia today.

Mr Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra was right. From the Council and the Commission we have heard too much Realpolitik and not enough Moralpolitik. Our relationship with Russia is strategic, certainly, but it cannot be described as a partnership.

We need a pragmatic approach, cooperating where we can on issues of mutual concern, like border crossings, energy supply, and joining the WTO – although yesterday’s announcement on price controls on foodstuffs suggests a return to the economic policies of the past.

Some progress can be made with Russia, but without the fanfare, followed by frustration, which marks too many EU-Russia summits.

A bit more honesty is needed, too, as Russia comes up to two major elections. If human cloning were better developed, President Putin would probably run for both President and Prime Minister following the Kaczyńskis’ example in Poland! For a country which overturned oligarchy back in 1917, it is quite incredible that a new autocracy is gaining ground, and we should not cut down our criticisms for fear of endangering a partnership which exists but on paper.

Only when an independent judiciary, freedom of expression and democracy exist as more than sound bites and when journalists, opposition parties, and NGOs can operate without fear of retribution, can Europe stand in solidarity with Russia.

It is for that reason that my Group sought a resolution to close this debate, and over 300 MEPs backed our calls. We must be prepared to put on paper what we say in public and refute those who say this House is nothing but a glorified talking shop.

The Reform Treaty promises Parliament a real say on external action for the first time. So let us raise our game to meet the challenge and deliver at the summit a message that President Putin cannot ignore.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) The decision taken yesterday by the leaders of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats not to adopt a resolution prior to the EU-Russia Summit demonstrates that we still have a problem with Russia. The decision amounts to a serious error. This is not the kind of Franco-German engine we expect in our part of Europe.

Our resolution of 2 May in advance of the Samara Summit was very helpful. I trust our silence today is not indicative of an attempt to depart from a clearly defined and demanding policy towards Russia. If the approach adopted at Samara is undermined, Russia will become ever more convinced that integration and especially the 2004 enlargement are developments that may be disregarded or played down. The politicians who are currently attempting to turn a blind eye to Russia’s move towards dictatorship in the name of pseudo-realism are acquiescing to a repeat of the Finnish case. They are consenting to discrimination against Central Europe and therefore to weakening the European Union’s position as a global partner.

 
  
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  Bart Staes, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, Minister, ladies and gentlemen. Minister, you said in your introduction that relations with Russia are good, or anyway better than is reported in the international press. Minister, are you living on Mars? Are you living on Venus? Do you dare to tell the Russians what matters, or is the European Union for you ultimately just about money and naked commerce? Is that more important to you than democracy and human rights?

Let us not mince words: Russia is sliding down the slippery slope to becoming a full-blown dictatorship with a strong leader: a strong leader who will not tolerate any protest and who deploys his secret FSB police whenever he thinks it necessary; a leader who will not give up power under any condition and who will use all kind of trickery to keep his hands on the reins of power after the parliamentary elections in December and the presidential elections in March. Russia, Minister, is evolving into a closed society where the ruling regime would prefer not to allow anyone to look over its shoulders.

I do not want to confine myself to theoretical considerations. The reality is that human rights in Russia are constantly under pressure and the state of democracy there is lamentable. The reality is that freedom of speech and press freedom are succumbing to a strict self-censorship. The recently passed law on extremism can easily be used to gag independent journalists and political opponents.

The reality is that the Russian regime sees a strong and independent civil society as undesirable and that the position of NGOs is coming under severe pressure due to very restrictive legislation. The reality is, Minister, that free elections are utopia there. Only those who are tolerated by the regime can take part. The ‘Other Russia’ coalition united around Gary Kasparov, for instance, has been stopped from taking part in the imminent parliamentary elections.

To conclude, Minister, the situation in Chechnya may not be a topical issue in politics any more but the reality there is still extremely worrying. People are still being murdered, people are being picked up and detained illegally, people are being blackmailed; kidnappings are still a daily occurrence and torture is standard practice. That is the reality in Russia, Minister, and I hope that you will remember this when you speak to Mr Putin at the end of this week.

 
  
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  Helmuth Markov, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Mr President, stability and development in Europe and the world are impossible without sensible cooperation between the European Union and Russia. What would I like to see, in contrast to Samara? What I would like is for you to come back and tell us that you have a common strategy with Russia for the resolution of the Kosovo problem and a common strategy for the peace process in the Middle East, and that you have a common position on the nuclear problem in Iran and a common strategy to solve the Transnistria problem.

It is not just about energy supplies. Let us forget about Galileo. Industry does not want it, and the taxpayers are supposed to foot the bill. Let us work with Russia on a sensible energy policy using new technologies. Let us solve the problem of visa-free travel with Russia. Why have we still not made much progress here, only for these specific groups? In my view, there is a great deal that could be done.

What will be the European Union’s position on the missile shield? Will we stand with Russia and say that we do not want a US defence shield? I think it would be wonderful if we could achieve that. Of course, we also have to be critical of Russia and tell Russia that if I speak out against the anti-terrorism plans being forged by Mr Schäuble and Mr Jung in Germany, then I must also say to Russia that I do not want this anti-discrimination law. That is quite clear.

If our view is that the situation in Chechnya is completely at odds with human rights, we need to make that very clear to the Russians, but we also need to follow up on it afterwards. I think that if we have a sensible partnership agreement, this is something that good partners can and must say to each other. We need Russia and Russia needs us, and we will go forward together if we put all the issues on the table and, above all, outline ways of resolving them.

 
  
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  Jana Bobošíková (NI).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, if we want to stand our ground in global terms, it is necessary that the EU as a strong grouping and Russia as a superpower integrate their economies.

Only in this way will they be capable of facing up to unavoidable political pressures, which might otherwise divide this rational partnership. As it stands, Russian exports to the EU, excluding energy-related trade, correspond approximately to those to Morocco or Argentina. This is why I support the appeal by the Trade Commissioner, Mr Mandelson, who asked the EU and Russia to stop acting as two cities connected only by a narrow road and a gas pipeline.

I am convinced that both partners should focus on building long-term, mutually advantageous economic and trade relations and not allow short-term political tactics to take over. I believe that it is in the interests of EU citizens that the EU acts with consistency towards Russia, which is not the case at present. We should push for the establishment of a more stable political and entrepreneurial climate in Russia, which would encompass fewer obstacles to imports and create a better platform for investors from the EU.

 
  
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  Reino Paasilinna (PSE). – (FI) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, there are two ways of examining the EU’s relations with Russia. We can see them either as problems or as opportunities. As we know, at present both are in plentiful supply.

Last week in Lisbon, Union leaders took a step towards a more coherent foreign policy. Could not policy on Russia be the first port of call for both sides, which is to say for Russia too? The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement needs revamping, and we know it. In the area of the Northern Dimension something has been achieved in matters relating to the Baltic Sea, but we must move on to new areas. The road maps exist, but there are not many travellers on the road.

We have endorsed Russian membership of the WTO. We need to finalise the agreement. Then the duty on timber and illegal charges imposed at borders which Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner mentioned would be kept in check. We are completely dependent on one another in the matter of energy, but that dependence needs to work both ways. Exports represent dependence just as much as imports.

We therefore need to end the dumb act with Russia. Unfortunately, the situation has been going on for a long time, but I salute Poland’s new leader, who wanted to improve relations with Russia, and Germany too. Russia is obviously more of a problem.

Talks must also achieve results in the area of citizens’ rights, and not just when it is a matter of goods. I would ask the Council if the timber duties will be mentioned at the summit. Furthermore, what about the new law in Russia regarding the practice whereby a suspect is not handed over for questioning in the country in which the crime has occurred? That is a strange procedure. In other words, a criminal who commits an offence in a Member State can seek asylum in Russia. Will the Council be addressing this issue at the summit?

 
  
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  Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck (ALDE). (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, from listening to this whole debate and the statements from the Council and the Commission, it has become abundantly clear how difficult it is, with respect to Russia, to combine the requisite respect for that large and important country and that large and important people with the propagation of our fundamental principles on the rule of law, a functioning democracy, free media and respect for human rights. It is difficult to find the right balance, all the more so since President Putin, like no other, understands the art of exploiting every difference of opinion or different nuance of opinion between the Member States.

We have heard that there are soon to be elections in Russia and we know this will be in a few weeks’ time. In this context I want to stress that the conditions being imposed on parties which are not represented in the Duma are completely unworthy of a democracy. Whether we are talking about the amount of the deposit, the number of signatures required, the checks on this – look at what happened in St Petersburg a few months ago – on not one of these points do they meet the criteria that we and the rest of the world would consider constitute free and fair elections. In other words, things do not bode well at all.

We have also heard some very worrying reports about attempts to keep a close check on students’ contacts and people on visitors’ programmes. In other words – and I am coming to the end now Mr President – the Member States need to remain more united and vigilant than ever to allow cooperation to continue.

 
  
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  Inese Vaidere (UEN). – (LV) Ladies and gentlemen, Russia is an important partner, but its policies are a cause for concern. No statues of Mr Putin have been erected in the streets of Russia as yet, but there are signs of a personality cult. The candidacy of the State President in parliamentary elections is an unknown precedent in the history of a democratic state, just like the nomination of the head of the radical movement ‘Nashi’ for the post of minister for youth affairs and the refusal to receive a delegation from the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights. Russia’s manipulations of foreign nations are dangerous. Investigations in Latvia show that Russia’s support for peoples is radically opposed to the integration of society. I also fear that the history of the political activities of those persons who recently organised the Russian forum at the European Parliament gives cause to believe there may be destructive plans in other European states. Our duty is to combat these manipulations, since Russia is pushing the limits of our patience. In relation to the dialogue on energy, it is necessary for the principles and ratification of the Energy Charter to form an integral component of the new agreement, in spite of Moscow’s dissatisfaction with the reciprocity clause. Thank you.

 
  
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  Hélène Flautre (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, let us be clear! The decision we took yesterday will be interpreted – and already has been in fact – by the Russian authorities as a great success: no resolution, no message. That is a real bonus following the rejection of an official human rights delegation from the European Parliament. Russian society is, more than ever, hostage to a propagandist press and is retreating into dangerous nationalism.

Today in Russia violence based on fear prevails while racism and xenophobia are taking hold. The word ‘independent’ can no longer be used. ‘Independent’ human rights activists, journalists or political opponents are automatically labelled ‘enemies of the regime’. A law adopted in 2007 is officially devoted to them. Under the guise of combating extremism, it actually gives the authorities complete freedom in this unfair fight. As Marie Mendras told us yesterday, this climate of permanent violation of human rights is not spurring the people there into action. Mr Putin’s gamble has thus paid off: he has managed to convince his fellow citizens that Russia has its own special rules when it comes to democracy and human rights.

With such a belief, it is no surprise whatsoever that Russia is still the last member of the Council of Europe not to have ratified Protocol 14. This is for Putin a godsend, a blessing. It means that he does not have to comply with the rulings and can prevent the cases from going anywhere, particularly those of tortured Chechens. In light of this situation, it would be naive to think that free and transparent elections will take place in Russia on 2 December. Given the circumstances, are they not really just a plebiscite for or against Vladimir Putin? Without any amendment to the Constitution, he will continue to have power over all political, economic, financial, administrative, judicial and security matters.

On the eve of the EU-Russia Summit, I am calling on the Council and the Commission to include human rights at the highest political level. It is vital that they play a key role, whether discussing the future agreement, Kosovo or energy. That is what Russian democrats ask of us. They simply say: ‘Continue to talk about them, continue to tell the truth’. At least we are not risking our lives when doing so.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS ROTHE
Vice-President

 
  
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  Vladimír Remek (GUE/NGL).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, debate on the EU-Russia relationship is one of the most frequent themes in this House.

The same clichés are regularly heard, whether intentional or motivated by misunderstanding or ignorance of the issues. In spite of this, whether or not we want to, we must deal with Russia as a partner. If we cannot find a shared language and do not strive to gradually improve relationships, the EU will suffer from it more than Russia. This does not imply closing our eyes to difficulties, but rather looking reality in the face and judging everyone by the same measure.

It is a fact that today’s Russia is stronger economically and is as a consequence more self-confident. It also protects its own interests just as the US does or for that matter the EU. We need a sober approach. This is why I am happy that by postponing the resolution we gave a freer hand to our representatives at the summit in Portugal.

Today’s Russia is not the former Soviet Union. I am saying this not only from my own long experience of work in this country, but also on the basis of words borrowed from the head of American diplomacy.

 
  
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  Ria Oomen-Ruijten (PPE-DE). (NL) Madam President, I would like to thank the Presidency-in-Office and the President of the Commission. I do not plan to measure the success of the summit by the length of the final joint declaration. What is important to me – and I hope this will be discussed – is that we flesh out the details on those topics where we know that we have to find solutions together.

Relations between the EU and Russia are incredibly complex. That is not going to change at this election time. However, we really must acknowledge that for Russia and the EU there is no economic and political alternative to partnership. Madam President, we have an excellent agreement for that partnership. It has been in place now for ten years. How are we going to handle that creatively in the future? The summit is also an important occasion to ask for clarification about the concept of democracy and I thank the Commission for what it plans to do on this point.

What always strikes me is that in Russia stability and democracy are seen as opposites; that is not and never can be our view, of course. It is very important for all of us that Russia enters the WTO.

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (PSE).(DE) Madam President, there is not much point in playing Realpolitik and Moralpolitik off against each other, as Mr Watson has said. The fact is that we need both: in our dealings with Russia, we need to be realistic and we need to be clear and firm about our ethical and moral standpoint.

Many of us thought that, after the collapse of communism, Russia would simply vanish from the world stage, and that is what many people wanted. However, that did not happen. It did not happen mainly because, due to rising energy prices, Russia has been able to increase its revenues and thus regain power in the international arena. We have to recognise that; if we do not, we fail to recognise reality.

There is something that we do not want to accept, however, and that of course is the negative developments, and both the Council Presidency and the Commissioner have made that clear. We are not prepared simply to accept that more and more steps are being taken to dismantle democracy in Russia. These are steps which we cannot accept and which have nothing to do with democracy-building and everything to do with its erosion. We do not want to accept that Russia, unfortunately, is unwilling to offer its neighbours – our common neighbours – an open partnership. That would be in our interests, and we should make it very clear that we want to work with Russia to foster this partnership, but with a Russia which recognises the independence and sovereignty of all its neighbours.

What we cannot accept is a situation in which Russia rightly seeks to influence other countries through its membership of the Council of Europe or the OSCE, for example, yet on the other hand does not wish to take on responsibility and therefore objects to election observation, for instance. We should not distrust the elections on principle, but a country such as Russia which thinks that it has fully developed its democracy must also allow some measure of scrutiny. If Russia wishes to play a major role in the Council of Europe and the OSCE, then we must call on Russia to demonstrate this by admitting election observers to ascertain whether its own elections are transparent and fair. That is the clear message that the European Union should be sending to Russia.

 
  
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  Bronisław Geremek (ALDE).(PL) Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, I believe that as we debate relations between Russia and the European Union we should ask ourselves what Russia wants from the European Union and what the European Union expects from Russia. A certain Russian politician has stated that Russia should now opt for a so-called policy of containment. If Russia does indeed do so, this will in a sense imply a return to the Cold War era. We should consider what exactly Russia would be attempting to contain. Perhaps the winds of freedom, originating in the European Union? This is a major problem. At the same time, the European Union claims to be seeking a strategic partnership with Russia.

The challenge is certainly a difficult one, and we would do well to bear in mind that the principles of the rule of law are an essential prerequisite to developing a sound partnership with Russia. The rule of law involves the independence of the courts. It involves freedom for the media, freedom of expression and economic freedom. It also involves not jailing entrepreneurs. Furthermore, it involves applying the principles of the rule of law in the area of international relations, which implies unfreezing the conflicts in the Caucasus and in Moldova and urging the international community to take up the issue of Kosovo.

 
  
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  Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka (UEN).(PL) Madam President, the EU-Russia Summit coincides with a crucial time in the history of Russia, namely the end of Mr Putin’s era. Will this era really come to an end, though?

The presidential elections in the Russian Federation will not result in change. Power will remain in the hands of the same individual who will this time bear the title of Prime Minister. Andrei Lugovoi, the alleged murderer of Alexander Litvinenko, is set to become a Member of Parliament, thus acquiring immunity. The Russian authorities are therefore openly protecting an individual who appears to have committed a serious crime on the territory of the European Union. In so doing, they are sending out a clear message that the Kremlin’s interests take precedence over all laws and over respect for European Union Member States.

Nothing will change after the elections. The people of Chechnya will continue to be exterminated, the press will continue to be silenced, and the Kremlin’s abundant reserves of natural resources will allow it to continue implementing a brutal foreign policy. I very much hope that the European Union’s representatives will bear this in mind during their talks with the Russian delegation. Our representatives should also remember that the talks themselves are not significant. They will only become so if they lead to genuine changes within the Russian Federation.

 
  
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  Christopher Beazley (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I would ask the President-in-Office of the Council and the Commissioner to provide this House with assurances, as was requested yesterday, that the views expressed by it will be put directly to President Putin and to his advisers at Mafra on Friday.

We have heard about the three guiding principles, which President Barroso describes as sacred principles, of solidarity, reciprocity and the rule of law. Being Portuguese, the President-in-Office will know that my own country, England, has one of the oldest of alliances with his country. We therefore understand what solidarity and mutual support means. If we forget, our mutual patron saint, São Jorge, is there to remind us.

An attack on one Member State or on one Member State’s diplomats, or cyber attacks on one Member State, are an attack on the whole of the EU. It is surely appropriate that President Putin be reminded that this solidarity and reciprocity are essential to us. We cannot accept the concept of sovereign democracy if it means, on the one hand, that Russia accedes to international organisations – Commissioner, you have referred to the WTO – promising to abide by undertakings, and then fails to meet those undertakings. That has to be underlined.

Tomorrow, Mikhail Khodorkovsky comes to the end of his four-year prison sentence in Siberia. According to Russian law, that sentence should have been served in Moscow. It might be appropriate to remind President Putin that the rule of law is a two-way thing, as far as our relationship is concerned. Mr Khodorkovsky will not be freed, as new charges have been raised.

You might ask what relevance this has to the EU. The answer is that many EU shareholders are concerned that commercial and legal commitments are not being followed through.

Finally, President-in-Office, we are not condemned to cooperation, and cannot have a partnership without mutual respect and mutual understanding. We are trying very hard from our side to ensure that. We need assurances from President Putin that he understands our guiding principles.

 
  
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  Libor Rouček (PSE).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, I fully agree with the words of Minister Antunes when he says that the EU-Russia relationship is stronger and more solid than it might at first glance appear.

The EU and Russia share an interest in a strategic partnership. After all we inhabit the same continent. There is a mutual economic dependency. Without a mutual collaboration we cannot solve any serious international issue, be it global warming, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, conflict in the Middle East or in Kosovo, and so on. In other words, strong, versatile and balanced neighbourly relations between the EU and Russia have a fundamental bearing on the stability, security and prosperity of the whole of Europe.

While cultivating and strengthening this relationship we should not forget, however, the fundamental values underlying the EU, such as human rights and civil liberties, democracy and the rule of law. I am convinced that we should keep reminding our Russian colleagues of these values now in relation to the imminent elections in Russia.

At the upcoming summit in Mafra, the EU should also be reminding our Russian partners of the principles of transparency and reciprocity in economic relations. European markets should in fact remain open to Russian firms. Equally, however, Russian markets should be fully open to European firms, including the energy markets and associated firms.

 
  
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  Georgios Papastamkos (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, the transition to a new Strategic Partnership between the EU and Russia is not an easy undertaking. It is hampered by successive divergences, which are sometimes a source of considerable tension. Over-dramatisation of these divergences allows the constraining patterns of the past to re-emerge, makes the present uncertain and hinders constructive progress.

Some reasonable questions may be asked about the EU-Russia partnership. Has Russia come to terms with the reality of the enlarged Union? Has the Union got over its teething troubles with expansion in the east? Do the new Member States feel they are participating in an effective European security system? How is the Union responding to Russia’s attempt to redefine and strengthen its new role in the international balance of powers? Will the two sides continue in a climate of distrust and ‘quiet diplomacy’, or will they seek to achieve common action plans?

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that sector-based approaches alone are not the best option. The declared aim of creating four common spaces must remain politically binding, and likewise the aim of Russia’s accession to the WTO. Broad, robust partnership structures are therefore needed for cooperation in the areas of: economic issues; freedom, security and justice; external security; and research, education and culture. Russophobia is inappropriate for an EU based on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms. I understand the sensitivities among some citizens of the new Member States, but over-emphasis on past experiences may cast doubt on the prospects for transparent political cooperation and close institutional interconnection.

President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, it is in the mutual interests of the Union and Russia to set common political and economic targets for the sake of democratic principle, peace, stability and security.

 
  
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  Józef Pinior (PSE).(PL) Madam President, Commissioner, I should like to begin by highlighting the importance of a strategic partnership between the European Union and Russia, and by stating my affection for the people of the Russian Federation, and indeed for all the nations of Russia. I also wish to recognise Russia’s achievements in terms of economic development and dealing with the social crisis. A genuine strategic partnership demands a serious and honest approach to mutual relations, however. The European Union has noted with concern the emergence of a new system of authority centred on President Putin. This system threatens to permanently weaken liberal democracy in Russia itself. It is also fanning the flames of neo-imperialism in Russian foreign policy. In the documents it has prepared in advance of the EU-Russia Summit, Amnesty International draws attention to human rights violations in Russia. The information provided by Amnesty relates to the infringement of human rights by governmental authorities in the northern Caucasus, notably in Chechnya and Ingushetia, to the worsening situation regarding freedom of expression and association, to the murder of journalists and to the increase in racially-motivated violence.

The Portuguese Presidency should raise the issues referred to by Amnesty International at the summit due to take place in Mafra on 26 October 2007. Russian civil society, journalists and human rights activists need to be able to perceive the European Union as a guardian of fundamental rights and as an ally of a Russia that is democratic, liberal and open to the world.

 
  
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  Elmar Brok (PPE-DE) . − (DE) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I hope that the EU-Russia Summit will prompt us to pause for a moment and define our common interests for once, for these common interests undoubtedly exist. They include economic interests and security policy interests, notably on issues such as the Middle East, Iran and combating terrorism and so on, where we must recognise that we cannot achieve our objectives without Russia on board. However, Russia must also understand that if it does not come on board, it will be undermining its own interests.

Looking at Russia’s demographic development and the vast expanses of Siberia, and at the countries with large populations here, if I were on the Russian side, I would not be imagining a threat from Europe. In the long term, I would see the threat as coming from elsewhere. I think that here, there is a high level of consensus on where we need to act.

On the so-called Western side, we – and I include the Americans here – did not really take Russia seriously when things were going badly for that country, with the result that it is now reverting to a more imperialist type of behaviour. This also applies to developments in Russia itself, notably in respect of human rights and press freedom, and its increasingly frequent and unacceptable statements concerning the independence of its neighbours. It is not acceptable that demands are being made of Russia’s ‘near abroad’ to the effect that certain types of conduct must be adopted towards a specific country. Every country has the right to take its decisions on a free and independent basis, and to determine where its path should lead. Russia has to accept that. There can be no reversion to outdated notions and the use of energy as a weapon, which is even less acceptable.

We can only move forward if we embark on a careful analysis of our interests again. I think that, once the elections are over in Russia, this will again be possible, and I also hope that it will stop Russia from proceeding down the wrong economic path. The large amounts of revenue flowing into the country from its oil and gas operations are being used to revitalise the old heavy-industrial combines in the aerospace, shipbuilding and similar sectors. If the situation takes a turn for the worse, they will face the same disastrous scenario as before, for Russia has not built up a sound, broad-based economic structure with small and medium-sized enterprises, and the consequences of that failure are obvious. It is in our interests, too, to ensure that no new vacuums emerge in Russia if oil prices fall.

 
  
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  Ana Maria Gomes (PSE).(PT) The summit may prove useful in resolving the ambiguities that continue to affect relations between the European Union and Moscow. However, Minister Amado has already been careful to lower the bar by explaining that the Presidency does not have an ambitious agenda for the Mafra summit.

In a recent interview with LUSA, his counterpart, Mr Lavrov, complained about the growing disease in the European Union, alluding to the unconstructive attitude of certain members. Yet what is poisoning our relations is the slow death of democracy, human rights, freedom of the press and rule of law in Russia and the impunity with which former members of the security forces are defining the agenda of the Russian Federation. This is worrying European public opinion and is reflected in our relations. The growing disease in the European Union, namely disagreement, is being treated and the Reform Treaty is a potent remedy. Unfortunately, there is no cure in sight for the drift towards autocracy of Putin’s Russia and, if the Council of the European Union continues to shut its eyes to the situation, it will take even longer to find a cure.

 
  
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  Roberta Alma Anastase (PPE-DE). – (RO) The Mafra Summit of 26 October 2007 will take place on the brink of events of major importance for the future of the relations between the European Union and Russia. I would mention only a few of them: the expiry of the partnership and cooperation agreement between the European Union and Russia, the parliamentary elections of December 2007 and the presidential elections of March 2008 in Russia. This context offers the possibility not only to urge Russia toward an open and honest dialogue with the European Union, but also to make a cold review of the last 10 years of cooperation.

Joining the previous speeches of my colleagues, I would like to focus my speech on the important role Russia should play in the common neighbourhood and in the Black Sea region. The review of the last 10 years proves to us that frozen conflicts have persisted in this region and that Russia’s economic and political relations both with the countries in the region and with its neighbours, current European Union Members, are not always based on reciprocity, confidence and the principle of good relations. If we speak about frozen conflicts, a good recent and well-known example in this respect refers to the conditions under which the political prisoners Andrei Ivanţoc and Tudor Popa were released, they being living proof of the fact that there is instability in the area, that there is an area of insecurity that affects the entire region. Consequently, the Mafra Summit should also approach these themes, reminding of the fundamental objective that the European Union has undertaken – namely to create a true area of democracy, stability and prosperity in the Black Sea region and common neighbourhood.

In this context, Russia’s position and constructive involvement in this respect, in compliance with the international standards and obligations, should be a permanent theme in the European Union dialogue with this country. A truly strategic partnership and a strong and advantageous relationship involve increased responsibility and a firm commitment from both parties.

 
  
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  Katrin Saks (PSE). – (ET) Yesterday a Hungarian puppet show opened in Parliament. I was struck by the thought of how we sometimes vote here, by numbly raising our hands. Have we become puppets too?

There are rumours of back-door deals on a proposal by the Presidency to allow the resolution on Russia to slip through, ostensibly so that it would not cloud the atmosphere of the European Union-Russia summit. It is scandalous that we so meekly surrender our own stance on self-expression.

This is the best example of how Europe has failed to understand that the problem in relations with Russia lies not in the details but in how we conduct ourselves. Previously the European Parliament has opposed situations such as these, but today it would appear to me that the fear which continues to paralyse Russian society has begun to affect us.

Why are we repeatedly making exceptions for Russia? Do we continue to believe as before in our own principles or do we allow the thought to force its way into our heads that Russia is so different that not only our pancakes but our relations as a partnership must be after the Russian fashion. Such behaviour is destructive to both sides, to the European Union as well as to Russia itself.

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I think it is high time to face realities. Mr Watson has said that there are cracks in the present cooperation mechanism which are developing towards becoming fissures. The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement declares that we share the same values. However, some years ago, Chris Patten wrote that he does not believe that we really share the same values at this point. The traditional feature of Russian state policies is pretending – building Potemkin villages – and Mr Putin is still pretending to have democracy while having almost completed building up the authoritarian highly nationalist state.

We also pretend that the coming elections will be crucial. I doubt it, because everything has been prepared to manipulate these elections and to obtain results in accordance with Mr Putin’s wishes, including artificial opposition parties and the creation of phoney NGOs. If we now agree to play along with this game of pretending, pretending we believe in this sort of democracy, we are going to take co-responsibility for what is going to happen in Russia and for the fate of ordinary Russians who deserve better than this fake democracy.

I strongly disagree, therefore, with the Council statement that there is no alternative to cooperation. Democracy is based upon creating and having alternatives and we also have to commit ourselves to strongly defending human rights. We have to balance our relations and we have to signal that we are prepared to stop our cooperation if Russia does not answer with reciprocity and openness.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I have paid close attention to all the speeches made here today on the imminent summit between the European Union and Russia and in general on relations between the EU and Russia and also on Russia’s internal situation as you see it. I must say that, as of course is my duty, I have duly noted and will take due account of these opinions.

In my view, there is one common thread running through all the comments and analyses made here today which is that Russia is a strategic partner for the European Union. The EU needs Russia in the same way that Russia needs the EU. It is based on this absolutely undeniable finding that we must build a relationship which is course mutually beneficial but which is also solid and firm, based on common values and principles.

Mention has been made of solidarity, human rights and reciprocity. Now more than ever the European Union must stand firm before Russia in terms of its internal solidarity. A problem for one Member State – and I have always said this – is a problem for all Member States. This solidarity cannot under any circumstances be called into question.

On the issue of human rights, we all know that at the root of our Union lies respect for rule of law, democracy and human rights. These are our inalienable values and principles which must guide our relations with third countries in all cases.

For our part, we must of course ensure reciprocity. However, in so doing, we are also entitled to expect reciprocity from others. If, at this moment in time, there are fracture lines as the Member has stated, I consider that the European Union and Russia can only stand to gain by doing everything possible within the reference framework that I mentioned, in other words a framework of solidarity, reciprocity and respect for human rights.

It is certainly essential for the European Union that these fractures are healed and so this is what we are going to work towards. In our work we will naturally be aware of the difficulties and different goals, but we will also be determined as we are also aware that the current situation does not serve the best interests of the Union. It is of course our duty to work in the interests of the European Union and we will do this openly and transparently, by talking face to face as we must always do with partners who we regard as strategic.

It will certainly be an intense and important dialogue. We will talk about economics, trade, human rights and of course the international political situation and the regional political situation. We hope – and this is what we will work towards – that, despite the difficulties, problems and differences of opinion, despite everything, we will be able, at the end of this summit on Friday, to say that some progress has been made in our relations and that, despite the difficulties, we have managed to achieve our objectives.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to pick up on some of the points made. The debate has made one thing very clear: the very wide relationship of tension here today.

I am still of the opinion that Russia is a strategic partner. However, I also said that it is of course a neighbour country and that is why it is especially important to take issues such as those raised by Graham Watson, Christopher Beazley and others very seriously. We do indeed take them seriously.

Let us just cast a glance back to the previous summit in Samara. On that occasion, Angela Merkel, as the President of the Council, put her cards on the table, not only in the meeting but also to the media. Please do not think, therefore, that these values are not important to us. We know that there are some very worrying developments as regards media freedom, the independence of the judiciary, and the issue of fairness, also in relation to the elections.

All the issues which have been raised today are of course the right ones. However, let me also say that Elmar Brok’s comments describe a little of my own view, namely that we need to define our interests clearly. On the one hand, there are very substantial security issues at stake here, of course, while on the other, there are human rights and democratic interests.

It is also important, of course, to mention the three major principles which Mr Beazley has referred to: solidarity, reciprocity and the rule of law. Naturally, they appear in various forms and we cannot argue with that. You are absolutely right, Mr Beazley, but I can assure you that they will be on the table as well.

I know that President Barroso will address these issues very clearly, especially in the context of energy, for example. As you are aware, the Commission has just adopted a package of measures which point in this direction. We want clear rules here which are upheld by everyone in the interests of true reciprocity.

Having said that, I would just like to remind you of one point: the more we are prepared genuinely to speak with one voice in the European Union, the stronger we will be. As we all know, we do not always manage to do that. However, the stronger Russia becomes, the more we should speak with one voice. We have this energy dependence, but we can only defend our interests effectively if we send out a strong and clear message.

Perhaps we have not paid enough attention to that in the past, and when Russia was in a weaker economic position, so to speak, we probably did not give it enough support. Today, however, we must pursue a position which is based on reciprocity and seek a genuine partnership approach, but this means that Russia must recognise what is important to us as well.

 
  
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  President. − Six motions for a resolution(1) to wind up the debate have been tabled pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

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

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  András Gyürk (PPE-DE), in writing. (HU) In connection with the EU-Russia summit, I would like to draw attention to a few factors concerning energy policy. It is no exaggeration to say that the rules of the market economy are not applied at present in the Russian energy industry. Russia does not identify with the principles of protecting foreign investment and non-discriminatory trade. It seeks admission to the European energy sector, but meanwhile does not open its own market to foreign businesses. In matters relating to energy in recent years, we have also seen Moscow use its energy exports to exert political pressure on numerous occasions. This has gone hand in hand with efforts aimed at sowing discord among European Union Member States.

When devising a common European energy policy, we need to take into consideration the fact that Russia is already unable to meet its natural gas consumption and export requirements from its own gas resources. A not insignificant percentage of its gas requirement is therefore imported from Central Asia. A decline in supplies could mean Moscow using politics to an even greater extent as the basis for fulfilling its energy orders in future.

We believe it is important to apply the principle of free competition in the European Union’s foreign relations too. We must make it clear that we consider it unacceptable to try to create a monopoly over energy resources. Ensuring a stable energy supply is a fundamental concern of the European Union. We are convinced that the mounting pressure being exerted on Member States can be combated successfully only by a united European Union acting on the principle of Community solidarity.

At present it is impossible to conceive of Europe’s energy supply without Russia. At the same time, however, this special relationship must be based on reciprocity.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE-DE), in writing.(DE) Now and in the past, the EU and Russia have been linked by their common history, strong economic and political contacts and shared traditions. Their close cooperation has deepened further through the ongoing process of globalisation and the European countries’ growing demand for fossil fuels. In order to safeguard energy supplies in future too, the EU Member States have relied on more intensive cooperation in this sector since the 1990s.

The Energy Charter is a key instrument in this context. This treaty serves to promote the development of the Eastern European countries’ energy potential while guaranteeing the EU Member States’ continued energy supply. As the line between foreign policy/external trade issues and energy supply issues is becoming increasingly blurred, Russia’s failure to ratify the Energy Charter is worrying. In this respect, the rights enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights must never be put at risk, also in the EU’s external relations.

In light of the strong economic interdependence between the EU and Russia, threatening economic gestures can never be a useful means by which to achieve foreign policy objectives and must therefore be rejected. I urge the Commission and the Council to withstand Russian attempts to secure unilateral advantages in the European energy markets. Full reciprocity in market liberalisation and protection of investments must be safeguarded.

 
  
  

(The sitting was suspended at 11.40 a.m. for the award of the LUX Prize and resumed at 12.00 noon)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I have a request to make to the President of Parliament, not to you as President in the Chair, but to the President of the House.

I have a request to make on behalf of my Group. However, I am sure I speak for all democratic groups in the House. I take the view, as do my colleagues, that the matter which I wish to raise is so serious that I must ask President Pöttering to take action against the individuals I am about to name.

Major protests have occurred in Budapest over the last two days. There is nothing unusual about that: demonstrations are a normal occurrence in Europe’s capitals, and they sometimes spiral into violence. One might certainly object to that, but they cannot be prevented. However, there is a new dimension to the events that have occurred in Budapest in recent days, and I would like to tell you why.

You can think what you like about Prime Minister Gyurcsány. You may be for him, or you may be against him. What is not acceptable, ladies and gentlemen …

(Uproar in the Chamber)

You may be for Prime Minister Gyurcsány or you may be against him. What is not acceptable, ladies and gentlemen – and I suggest that you look very carefully to see who is already trying to shout me down – what is not acceptable is that a Prime Minister in the European Union is branded a ‘dirty Jew’ during demonstrations. That adds a new dimension, and it is a dimension of the Fascists, on this side of the House.

(Sustained applause)

I would be grateful, Mr President, if you would ask Mr Pöttering to express the House’s overwhelming support for the issuing of a reprimand to these people.

(The House rose and accorded the speaker a standing ovation)

 
  
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  President. – Thank you very much.

I think that the message has been fully understood but I will of course pass it on.

 
  
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  Graham Watson (ALDE). – Mr President, I rise on a completely different matter. I should just like to express, on behalf of many in my Group and I am sure of many others, our thanks to you for organising this presentation of the LUX Prize. It is the kind of thing we have not done as a Parliament before. It is the kind of thing we should do, and, as a former Swedish Prime Minister once said, ‘politicians would do well to go the cinema more often’.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. – Thank you, I am grateful to you for your comments.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have the pleasure of reminding you that today we are celebrating the 62nd anniversary of the United Nations. You should have received in the last few days a copy of the message from the UN Secretary-General to mark the occasion.

I also wish to inform you of the official launch today in the European Parliament in Strasbourg of the annual report on cooperation between the European Union and the UN on crisis management, development and the promotion of democracy and fundamental rights. This act is testament to the importance of the relationship between our institutions, our common commitment to multilateralism and the importance of us working together for the peace and welfare of our fellow citizens.

 
  

(1)See Minutes.


6. Statement by the President: see Minutes

7. Welcome
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  President. – I have the pleasure of telling you that, in the framework of interparliamentary meetings, a Mauritanian delegation, led by Mr Ould Tolba, is currently visiting the European Parliament. I would like to wish our guests a warm welcome and emphasise the importance we place on such a visit, the first in Europe for almost 10 years.

Through its election observation missions the European Union has been paying close attention to the recent political transition in Mauritania, which could set an example for the region. We congratulate you on the democratic election of your Head of State and Parliament and, on behalf of this Parliament, I hope that your meetings here are fruitful and that your visit to Strasbourg can actively contribute to bringing our two institutions closer together. Thank you once again for your visit.

 

8. Voting time
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  President. – The next item is the vote.

(For the results and other details on the vote: see Minutes)

 

8.1. Service of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters (vote)
  

- Recommendation for second reading: Gauzès (A6-0366/2007)

 

8.2. Agreement between the EC and Bosnia and Herzegovina on readmission (vote)
  

- Report: Fava (A6-0385/2007)

 

8.3. Agreement between the EC and Bosnia and Herzegovina on short-stay visas (vote)
  

- Report: Fava (A6-0384/2007)

 

8.4. Agreement between the EC and Serbia on readmission (vote)
  

- Report: Fava (A6-0386/2007)

 

8.5. Agreement between the EC and Serbia on short-stay visas (vote)
  

- Report: Fava (A6-0387/2007)

 

8.6. Agreement between the EC and Montenegro on readmission (vote)
  

- Report: Vălean (A6-0380/2007)

 

8.7. Agreement between the EC and Montenegro on short-stay visas (vote)
  

- Report: Vălean (A6-0379/2007)

 

8.8. Agreement between the EC and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on readmission (vote)
  

- Report: Vălean (A6-0381/2007)

 

8.9. Agreement between the EC and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on short-stay visas (vote)
  

- Report: Vălean (A6-0383/2007)

 

8.10. Agreement between the EC and Albania on short-stay visas (vote)
  

- Report: Vălean (A6-0382/2007)

 

8.11. Immunity and privileges of Gian Paolo Gobbo (vote)
  

- Report: Wallis (A6-0367/2007)

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch, on behalf of the ITS Group.(FR) Mr President, I believe that the next report is the report by Mrs Wallis. On behalf of my Group, the Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty Group, I would like to invoke Rule 168 and table a motion for this report to be referred back to committee.

Mr President, this motion is based on Rule 168 of our Rules of Procedure. Upon reading Mrs Wallis’s report it is very clear that the rapporteur and perhaps the committee are confused over Article 9 and Article 10 of the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities.

The report states that Mr Gobbo’s behaviour did not comply with Article 9 but Article 9 refers to the words and acts of the Member in the exercise of his functions, notably in this Chamber. Consequently, it was not Article 9 of the Protocol that should have been examined, but Article 10, which refers to other acts by a Member. What needed to be examined was whether or not Mr Gobbo’s acts – which, I must add, I do not support on a political level – fell into the political sphere.

These acts obviously do fall within the political sphere. Mr Gobbo committed a number of acts in the name of what he calls ‘Padania’. These are naturally political acts and there is no doubt that, given the traditional case-law on immunity, a Member of any other political bent would have had his immunity confirmed, as was the case in the Italian Parliament for the national members of parliament who carried out the same actions as Mr Gobbo.

As a result, if Mrs Wallis’s report is adopted as it stands, we risk introducing a distinction, a form of discrimination between national immunity and European immunity, contrary to the Protocol, which refers precisely to national immunity. That is why I believe that this report should be referred back to committee.

 
  
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  Francesco Enrico Speroni (UEN). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I too am in favour of referring the matter back to committee, although my reasons might be a little different.

In actual fact, judging by Rules 5, 6 and 7 of the Rules of Procedure and Articles 9 and 10 of the Protocol, Parliament clearly is not competent to express a view on the facts alleged against Mr Gobbo, simply because at the time of those facts Gian Paolo Gobbo was not a Member of the European Parliament.

Article 9 of the Protocol, which safeguards MEPs’ freedom of expression, refers to people who were Members of this House when they used certain terms or committed acts identifiable with them. Since Mr Gobbo was not an MEP at the time of the facts, I believe that the most proper solution should be for Parliament to refrain from taking a stance because he was not a colleague of ours.

 
  
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  Diana Wallis (ALDE), rapporteur. – Mr President, as the author of this report on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs, I can confirm to the House that there was a full debate in committee before the report was presented in plenary. The committee also heard from Mr Gobbo, and there was a clear majority in favour of the report.

It is a shame that Mr Gollnisch did not raise the issues he mentioned before, but I am perfectly comfortable and perfectly confident that the committee adopted its position in full knowledge of all the facts and all the regulations. I see no reason why the report should now be referred back to that committee.

 
  
  

(Parliament rejected the request to refer the matter back to committee)

 

8.12. Mobilisation of the EU Solidarity Fund (vote)
  

- Report: Böge (A6-0393/2007)

 

8.13. Draft amending budget No 6/2007 (vote)
  

- Report: Elles (A6-0401/2007)

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I would like to make a statement on behalf of the Commission. In its preliminary draft amending budget 6/2007, the Commission proposed the creation of a new budget item – ‘Damage requests resulting from legal procedures against the Commission’s decisions in the field of competition’ and the classification of the related expenditure under Heading 1a of the multiannual financial framework as it refers to an operational activity in the competition policy area.

The Commission would charge against this budget item possible budgetary implications stemming from rulings of the Court of Justice or the Court of First Instance in the field of competition. The need for this budget item derives from recent judgments of the Court of First Instance and from the structure of the budget. While fines in the field of competition policy are entered as general budget revenue, the amounts to be paid require the creation of a budget item in the expenditure side of the budget, which does not exist at the moment.

The Commission takes note that the budgetary authority does not intend to support the creation of this budget item for the year 2007. Despite this decision, if necessary the Commission may have to proceed to payments in order to meet legal obligations that might result from the Court’s decisions in 2007 within the limits of the current budget and in application of the relevant rules.

It does not prejudge the final decision on the creation of the dedicated budget line and on the classification of the related expenditure within the multiannual financial framework.

 

8.14. Protocol amending TRIPS (vote)
  

- Recommendation: Susta (A6-0403/2007)

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, the basis for agreement with the Council on this report was a statement made by the Commission which was supposed to be read out yesterday during the debate. However, that statement was not read out. If the Council would agree to attach it to the Minutes or give it some kind of legal status and transparency, then that would help further the process on this issue.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − Mr President, access to affordable pharmaceutical products in poor developing countries and LDCs is essential to attain the proposed EU development goals and would contribute to poverty reduction, increase human security and promote human rights and sustainable development. I think we both agree on the importance of ensuring the coherence of EU policies and that consistency in the EU’s external actions, namely trade and development policies, should go hand in hand.

We recognise that the mechanism created by the WTO decision and the protocol to the TRIPS Agreement represent just a part of the solution to the problem of access to medicines and public health, and that other measures to improve health care and infrastructure are equally indispensable. Even if the TRIPS amendment is not the complete solution, we believe that the positive acceptance of the protocol represents an important step.

To this effect, it is worth recalling that the Member States of the European Union remain free under WTO rules to use the different exceptions provided under the TRIPS Agreement in their domestic patent laws, including those provided for under Article 30 of the TRIPS Agreement.

Furthermore, in order to facilitate access to medicines in countries with insufficient or no manufacturing capacities in the pharmaceutical sector, the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission all worked hard to adopt Regulation (EC) No 816/2006 on compulsory licensing of patents relating to the manufacture of pharmaceutical products for export to countries with public health problems.

Let me add that we support the use of the ‘flexibilities’ built into the TRIPS Agreement and recognised by paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 of the Doha Declaration as well as the additional flexibilities for less-developed countries made available pursuant to paragraph 7 of the Doha Declaration, in order to be able to provide essential medicines at affordable prices under their domestic public health programmes.

In view of the Doha Declaration in the framework of the EPA negotiations with the ACP countries and other future bilateral and regional agreements with poor developing countries and LDCs, the European Union is not asking, and does not foresee asking, to negotiate pharmaceutical-related provisions, sometimes referred to as TRIPS+ provisions, affecting public health and access to medicines.

Finally, we look favourably upon initiatives encouraging the transfer of technology, research, capacity strengthening, regional supply systems and help with registration in order to facilitate and increase the production of pharmaceutical products by the developing countries themselves and we will work with Member States towards that end.

Concerning the corresponding measures and the budgetary procedures, we are sure that the commitment of the European Parliament which has raised the visibility of the issue of access to medicines will help to increase their efficiency.

 

8.15. Verbatim Reports (amendment of Rule 173) (vote)
  

- Report: Corbett (A6-0354/2007)

- After the vote:

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE-DE).(FR) Excuse me, Mr President, but I have something very important to say. The vote on the Corbett report will now allow us to return to normality. All the debates in plenary will be translated into all the languages. Now we need to have effective implementation, and as we are voting on the budget tomorrow, I am suggesting that we prepare amendments to the budget so that ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  President. – New provisions will enter into force on the first day of the next part-session, i.e. 12 November.

 

8.16. European Statistical Governance Advisory Board (vote)
  

- Report: Bowles (A6-0327/2007)

 

8.17. European Statistical Advisory Council (vote)
  

- Report: van den Burg (A6-0328/2007)

 

8.18. Qualifications framework for lifelong learning (vote)
  

- Report: Mantovani (A6-0245/2007)

- After the vote on the Commission proposal:

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Mr President, on a point of order, you are again conducting business at a speed at which it is impossible to vote. Yesterday, the President of Parliament told us that it was acceptable to make a number of mistakes, getting the vote wrong, because statistically that would happen anyway. That does not apply in your case because we are voting so fast it is impossible to see how people are voting anyway. Can you please slow down?

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, let me just show you how much work we still have to get through today. As you can imagine, if we slow down, we will never finish.

(Applause)

 

8.19. Batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators (implementing powers conferred on the Commission) (vote)
  

- Report: Blokland (A6-0232/2007)

 

8.20. Communication infrastructure for the Schengen Information System environment (regulation) (vote)
  

- Report: Coelho (A6-0358/2007)

 

8.21. Mutual assistance and cooperation between customs administrations (vote)
  

- Report: Toma (A6-0352/2007)

 

8.22. Thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides (vote)
  

- Report: Belohorská (A6-0291/2007)

 

8.23. Conventional energy sources and energy technology (vote)
  

- Report: Reul (A6-0348/2007)

 

8.24. Community Strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles (vote)
  

- Report: Davies (A6-0343/2007)

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  Martin Schulz (PSE).(DE) Mr President, I have a request. I request that the order of voting on the amendments be amended under Rule 155(2). It is clear from the voting list that Amendment 51 is more far-reaching than Amendments 42 and 52, so I would ask that we vote on Amendment 51 first and then on Amendments 42 and 52.

 
  
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  President. – The Sittings Service is not in agreement, but I will ask Mr Davies to explain briefly.

 
  
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  Chris Davies (ALDE), rapporteur. – Mr President, very simply I agree with the voting list as presented to the House.

 
  
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  President. – That being the case, according to tradition we must following the advice of our rapporteur.

 

8.25. Taxation and customs policies and the Lisbon Strategy (vote)
  

- Report: Wagenknecht (A6-0391/2007)

- Before the vote on paragraph 37:

 
  
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  Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE-DE). – Mr President, the change we would propose is that Parliament, at this stage, ‘notes’ rather than ‘welcomes’ that the Commission has forwarded a communication on loss relief, as work on the report on that topic is in progress in the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs.

 
  
  

(Parliament agreed to accept the oral amendment)

- Before the final vote:

 
  
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  Sahra Wagenknecht, rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I think it is most regrettable that the House has not had the courage to voice genuine and serious criticism of a tax policy trend in the European Union which is moving in completely the wrong direction, which benefits multinational corporations and the wealthy to an unbelievable extent, while consumers, workers and especially the low-paid face an ever heavier tax burden.

In my view, the report is unacceptable as it stands. I wish to withdraw my name from this report and appeal to everyone in this House who genuinely wants a tax policy for the European Union which not only serves the interests of the top ten thousand but genuinely benefits the majority of Europe’s citizens: please, vote against this report.

 
  
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  President. – We take note of your statement, Mrs Wagenknecht.

 

8.26. Tobacco smoke: policy options at EU level (vote)
  

- Report: Florenz (A6-0336/2007)

- Before the vote on paragraph 23:

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Mr President, I would just like the word ‘urgently’ to appear after ‘Commission’, for obvious reasons.

 
  
  

(Parliament agreed to accept the oral amendment)

 

8.27. EU-Turkey relations (vote)
  

- Motions for a resolution (B6-0376/2007, B6-0398/2007)

- Before the vote on paragraph 19:

 
  
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  Ria Oomen-Ruijten (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I have an oral amendment but it is in the text. My oral amendment is: ‘and to promote the application of EU environmental standards to large-scale mining and water barrage projects’.

 
  
  

(Parliament agreed to accept the oral amendment)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: DIANA WALLIS
Vice-President

 

9. Explanations of vote
  

- Report: Gauzès (A6-0366/2007)

 
  
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  Daniel Strož (GUE/NGL), (in writing). − (CS) It can be reasonably assumed that the regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the service of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters, as recommended for second reading (Council common position), will contribute towards reinforcing legal security of both natural persons and legal entities within the Member States. It is well-known that the service of the above documents is a serious issue, with a significant impact on both the process of justice and civil and commercial relations. I believe that the recommendation of the European Parliament is in line with the effort to produce high-quality legislation at Community level.

 
  
  

- Report: Vălean (A6-0381/2007)

 
  
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  Daniel Strož (GUE/NGL), in writing. (CS) In relation to the agreements between the EC and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on readmission and the facilitation of issuance of short-stay visas which are to be approved by the European Parliament, I believe that insofar as these agreements – and similar agreements with the Western Balkan countries – have a significance in terms of generally strengthening the rule of law and fighting against crime, issues related to illegal migration should be resolved first of all by economic and political means. In addition, I would like to underline another important factor mentioned in the relevant reports which is that the conclusion of these agreements will imply a considerable financial burden for Macedonia and other Western Balkan countries. Taking into account the economic situation in these states it is essential that the Community provide appropriate and effective assistance, in particular financial.

 
  
  

- Report: Vălean (A6-0383/2007)

 
  
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  Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (NL) I remember in the early ‘60s there were reciprocal visa requirements for inhabitants of the countries of the then European Community and those of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Shortly after that those visa requirements were abolished.

This meant that the populations of the seven countries that together still made up Yugoslavia at that time were free to travel throughout much of Europe. Only for EU Member State Slovenia and candidate country Croatia has that not changed. The inhabitants of all the other territories, including candidate country Macedonia, have been cut off from the EU Member States since 1992. The young generation that has grown up since then has hardly been able to go outside their own borders. At the embassies of the EU countries in the Macedonian capital Skopje, for instance, you find large signs listing a large number of strict obligations. Only criminals can easily meet them, but students, researchers and journalists cannot.

I support the improved access for those groups from 2008 and the lowering of the visa fee to EUR 35. Unlike some other members of my Group, I do not see the introduction of biometric registration as a reason to reject this improvement. I regret the conditional sale with the readmission policy, which does not adequately guarantee the safety of the refugees concerned.

 
  
  

- Report: Böge (A6-0393/2007)

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) The mobilisation of the Solidarity Fund to help the populations of Germany and France (La Réunion) who were the victims of natural disasters in January and February respectively proves, despite the delay, the relevance and importance of this Fund in assisting Member States.

Bearing in mind the deadlock in the Council on a decision on the Commission proposal to improve this Fund, we would reiterate that the continued eligibility of regional disasters must be defended. The European Parliament has previously confirmed that ‘the EUSF should continue to enable action to be taken in the case of disasters which, although significant, do not achieve the minimum level required and that assistance may also be provided in special circumstances in cases where most of the population in a specific region has been affected by a disaster which will have serious, long-term effects on their living conditions’.

It is also essential to recognise the particular characteristics of Mediterranean natural disasters, such as droughts and fires – particularly in terms of time limits and eligible actions – and the possibility of higher levels of financial assistance for ‘cohesion’ countries and ‘convergence’ regions in the event of a disaster. The creation of an EU agricultural disaster fund must also be assessed.

 
  
  

- Report: Susta (A6-0403/2007)

 
  
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  Françoise Castex (PSE), in writing. – (FR) Mrs Castex voted for the Susta report on the Protocol amending the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement).

For French Members of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, the agreement hereby obtained, which will allow countries to produce generic drugs and export them to poor developing nations with no capability of producing these medicines themselves, constitutes an important step forwards.

For French Members of the Socialist Group, this report makes a positive contribution to resolving a public health problem that is clearly a matter of serious concern.

 
  
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  Proinsias De Rossa (PSE), in writing. − I voted in favour of the protocol amending the agreement on TRIPS and Access to Medicines because I strongly believe the EU should be a key actor in the promotion of public health and access to medicines to all in the third world. This protocol is a step in the right direction.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) The costs associated with introducing ‘intellectual property’ protection standards in the pharmaceutical sector in ‘developing countries’ have been known about for a long time.

The dramatic and unacceptable situation caused in these countries by the application of ‘intellectual property rights’ in the area of health, particularly in the fight against diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, has been highlighted and warned about for a long time.

We therefore feel that this report represents an opportunity lost by the majority of this House, within the scope of its powers, to assume a humanist position and to clearly fight for a policy which could bring an end to intellectual property rights in the pharmaceutical sector.

Hiding behind the idea that a negotiation of the Protocol seems very difficult, the majority of this House have signed a blank cheque to the Council because such vague recommendations can only cause the current situation to continue, creating financial and legal obstacles which will prevent those countries with fewer resources from being able to access the advances made in science and technology in this field.

We abhor the fact that it is particularly the pharmaceutical multinationals that will gain through this inhumane policy, by maintaining their fabulous profits at the cost of many lives.

 
  
  

- Report: Corbett (A6-0354/2007)

 
  
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  Richard Corbett (PSE). – Madam President, following the vote, Parliament has decided to have both a written verbatim record of its sessions and an audiovisual record of its sessions. This obviously has budgetary implications and I would urge the Bureau to examine the situation, enact the necessary changes to the budget or come up with a new proposal if it wishes the committee to re-examine this matter.

I rather suspect, given the very large majority of the House on this issue, that the will of Parliament is rather clear, so I think it is rather the first course of action that will have to be taken.

 
  
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  Graham Booth (IND/DEM), in writing. − Keeping a record of all debates and making them available to the public could help Euro-scepticism. However this will also allow the EU to boast of greater transparency when in fact it will in reality do little to enhance democracy, because the European Parliament cannot initiate legislation and can be ignored by the European Commission. In the EU the unelected Commission initiate EU legislation and they offer no transparency at all.

The opportunity for a week to make corrections to speeches (amendment 4) was well intended and would protect MEPs from errors, but up to date news on the EU could potentially be buried by a week’s delay, hindering the free press in informing the public. Therefore I voted against the report

 
  
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  Derek Roland Clark (IND/DEM), in writing. − Keeping a record of all debates and making them available to the public could help Euro-scepticism. However this will also allow the EU to boast of greater transparency when in fact it will in reality do little to enhance democracy because the European Parliament cannot initiate legislation and can be ignored by the European Commission. In the EU the unelected Commission initiate EU legislation and they offer no transparency at all.

I do not support the opportunity to make corrections to speeches (amendment 4) the verbatim report should be as spoken. I make mistakes as much as anyone. Up to date news on the EU could potentially be buried by a week’s delay, hindering the free press in informing the public. A separate note by way of explanation might be acceptable. Therefore I voted against the report.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (ITS), in writing. – (FR) The Corbett report recommends that, in order to save about EUR 10 million a year, we should no longer have the verbatim reports of proceedings in this Parliament translated into all the official languages. Access to the debates in each language would then only be guaranteed by way of the audiovisual recordings available on the internet, though individual Members of Parliament would be able to request the translation of certain extracts.

However, not everyone in Europe has broadband internet access and, moreover, it has been suggested that requests by Members for translations should be restricted to some thirty pages a year. What Mr Corbett is proposing is therefore to limit the access of European citizens to the work of those whom they have elected to represent them and to defend their interests within the European Union. This is unacceptable. It is all the more unacceptable because at the same time the same institution is spending EUR 100 million a year on its own propaganda. To say nothing of the Commission, which spends more than EUR 200 million on vital activities such as the large-scale broadcasting of pornographic internet videos that are supposed to be promoting European cinema.

Fortunately, good sense – or rather the mortal fear of the electorate – has prevailed among most of our colleagues and multilingualism has been preserved.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) We firmly reject the report’s proposal that oral contributions should appear only in their original language in the verbatim report.

The European Parliament is trying to make a big thing of the fact that speakers are speaking to the whole of Europe as spokespersons for their European groups, but at the same time we are going to refuse subsequent access to their statements and restrict availability by cutting back on translations into different languages.

If we are to have a democratically functioning EU, we must be prepared to pay for it. An organisation that pours out more than SEK 360 billion on a protectionist agricultural policy must be able to pay SEK 90 million to show respect for the EU’s citizens.

However, if the translation costs are deemed to be insupportable in future, the minimum must be that the verbatim report contains the speaker’s original language and an English translation.

 
  
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  Patrick Louis (IND/DEM), in writing. – (FR) The French Members of the Independence and Democracy Group voted against the Corbett report on the amendment of Rule 173 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament which seeks to abolish the full and systematic translation of parliamentary debates.

The idea behind publishing the debates, which applies to judicial proceedings and political deliberations alike, is one of the fundamental principles of democracy.

Publication helps to reduce ideological bias, arbitrariness, cronyism and dirty tricks. This of course is based on the assumption that all have access in their own language to the full published proceedings by ensuring that the same words do indeed express the same notions for everyone.

Who among the peoples of Europe would be capable of recounting and understanding a debate when faced with a hotchpotch version of it in twenty languages?

It would probably be the same as someone trying to understand the so-called ‘simplified’ treaty and attempting to replace the 400 new clauses contained in the existing treaties, since here too, apparently, no consolidation version has been made available during the ratification process.

Faced with increasing reticence from the inhabitants of its Member States, the European Union seems to be capable of displaying nothing but obfuscation, falsification and concealment.

 
  
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  Jules Maaten (ALDE), in writing. – (NL) The decision of the Secretariat of Parliament to no longer report the debates in plenary in every language went unnoticed in 2006. Parliament has now reversed this decision. I agree that too much time and money is spent on translating debates and documents into the 23 official languages of our Union. It is a pity that no compromise solution was put to us, in which the debates could be translated into English and French, so that the proceedings would still be available in written form in addition to the audiovisual data.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) Multilingualism is much more than an expression of the cultural diversity of the European Union. In an organisation of sovereign and independent states which have joined together as a means of ensuring, through cooperation, the best advantages for their citizens without having at any stage waived their status as free and sovereign states, multilingualism is the recognition of the relationship of equality between all the members.

This reason alone would suffice for us to defend the continuation of this multilingualism in the functioning of the Community institutions. However, other arguments may be added to this. Giving up multilingual internal communication potentially means reducing the possibility for political action by Members of the European Parliament who are fully entitled to express themselves in their mother tongue. Furthermore, if we minimise multilingualism in our external communications, we may end up distancing an institution which expends a great deal of energy trying to bring the EU closer to its citizens.

Finally, there is a counter economic argument to the economic argument made: the linguistic diversity of the European people and the mastery of numerous languages has to be a competitive advantage, not a cost.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for the Corbett report on the amendment of Rule 173 relating to the verbatim report of proceedings, even though I regret the adoption of a whole series of amendments recommending the verbatim translation of the reports into all the official languages.

To those hard-line advocates of multilingualism I would say, somewhat euphemistically, that it is a fiction to claim that, without this extension to the translation process, the European Parliament would be the only parliamentary assembly in the world not to have all its proceedings and debates translated in hardcopy into all the relevant languages. This is a fiction to the extent that it has been agreed that not only will the multilingual version be retained but the simultaneous translation into all the official languages should also be made available, on request, to all the Members of the House as well as to the public at large. This is the really essential part, it seems to me.

Finally, I regret that Parliament has been unwilling to adopt a more contemporary approach as far as access to the documents is concerned: I say yes, a thousand times yes to multilingualism. However, I shall continue to oppose the so-called defence of linguistic diversity when this is used as an excuse by those who support the status quo and openly oppose change.

 
  
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  Marianne Thyssen (PPE-DE), in writing. – (NL) I voted against the proposal in the Corbett report and I did so for the same reasons that I have previously opposed the scrapping of the budget for translating the verbatim report of our sessions in this House.

In a parliament, the spoken word is sacrosanct. What we say is not just an item on the day’s news if we are lucky, it is part of the democratic legislative process. Making this accessible in the official European languages is not a luxury. Translation is politically necessary for a proper archiving system which after all serves to allow open access to information.

We have to bear the consequences of our fundamental decision to choose multilingualism and not let it surreptitiously crumble away. A parliament that has self-respect does not ditch its traditional archiving system. If we need to economise, we would do better to choose different areas of the budget. Anyway, I stick to my view that our insistence on multilingualism is a necessary form of respect for the diverse cultures and languages in the EU and a blessing for democracy.

 
  
  

- Report: Bowles (A6-0327/2007)

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I voted for this report, which advocates the establishment of a European Statistical Governance Advisory Board in response to a Commission proposal to improve the production of EU-wide statistics.

 
  
  

- Report: van den Burg (A6-0328/2007)

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I voted for this uncontroversial report, proposing the establishment of a European Advisory Committee on Community Statistical Information Policy. The amendments Parliament also adopted will ensure the Committee’s efficiency, and affect its name and composition.

 
  
  

- Report: Mantovani (A6-0245/2007)

 
  
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  Roberta Alma Anastase (PPE-DE). – (RO) Today’s vote on Mr. Mantovani’s report is important due to the stimulus it gives to the European policy in the field of lifelong education.

Examining the current situation in this field and its correlation with the labour market, the Mantovani report proves to us, one more time, the existence of a reality we have lived for many years, but which has not been followed by a firm and coherent policy that could cope with its challenges. Therefore, I believe it is important to implement the new proposals as soon as possible. In fact, I would like to point out the importance of recognizing and promoting education for tolerance on the entire European Union territory. This is the only way in which mobility on the labour market will not generate socially excluded groups, whose behaviour becomes deviant sooner or later.

 
  
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  Françoise Castex (PSE), in writing. – (FR) Mrs Castex voted for the Mantovani report on the establishment of a European Qualifications Framework.

This French Member of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament welcomes the future introduction of the European Qualifications Framework, which will facilitate transnational mobility for workers and learners, while at the same time meeting the requirements of the labour market by way of a common reference point for the transposition of qualification levels.

According to the proposal all qualifications, from the end of compulsory education to the highest levels of university teaching and professional training (the Commission’s initial document only concerned general educational qualifications), should be classified according to one of eight reference levels based on knowledge, ability and acquired skills.

Mrs Castex believes that the EQF, as a tool for comparing, translating and converting the qualifications of one Member State to those of another, will respect the diversity of the certification systems and the richness of the qualifications that exist in the European Union. It is a tool that will also facilitate greater mobility for the citizens of Europe.

It is now up to the Member States to set about the massive task of classifying the reference levels required for the EQF, otherwise the European Qualifications Framework will be destined to remain an empty shell.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) This report contains several contradictions and we are critical of the compromise accepted by the majority of the European Parliament on the establishment of a European Qualifications Framework. However, there are positive aspects to the recognition of qualifications among the various Member States which should be supported.

However, the final text adopted accentuates the federalist nature of the European Parliament’s proposal by setting specific dates for the adaptation and correlation of the various education and training systems used in the Member States, despite specifying its non-binding nature for the next few years.

We would stress that education policy is the sole responsibility of Member States which is why we feel that the ‘adaptation’ proposed infringes this principle.

We regard as negative the link with the Bologna Process and the trend towards the commercialisation of education, with emphasis being placed on ‘employability’ and on the prospects of the labour market being linked to the Lisbon Agenda.

 
  
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  Carl Lang (ITS), in writing.(FR) This report deals with the certification at Community level of lifelong learning qualifications. This is a completely desirable measure and one that should be encouraged. However, I reject the internationalist justification used in the document, especially as I recall the total defeat suffered by the Lisbon Strategy.

There is an element of Europeanist ideology in this text. It is written that the sacrosanct objective of globalisation constitutes our one and only hope of salvation and that globalisation is beneficial both economically and socially. In my opinion ultra-liberal globalisation is a machine for destroying the economic, social and cultural fabric of nations.

Moreover, the report only refers to potential progress, something for the future. Should we not be looking at the present as we attempt to analyse the failures and damage that has already been done to our society by globalisation?

In the face of such blindness, irresponsibility and inadequacy I intend to vote against the report.

 
  
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  Bogusław Liberadzki (PSE), in writing. (PL) Madam President, I voted in favour of adopting the report on the recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning.

The future development of European society will be increasingly dependent on education, scientific research, innovation and technology. That is why it is so important to provide support for the promotion of mobility across the European labour market. I am convinced that setting up the European Qualifications Framework will facilitate access to the European labour market.

The rapporteur, Mr Mantovani, has rightly pointed out in his report that as of 2012 all qualifications certificates, diplomas and Europass documents should relate to the relevant EQF level. The European Qualifications Framework should be used to facilitate comparison of levels of qualification. It is very important for the Member States to garner support for the implementation of the European Qualifications Framework, notably by the exchange of best practice. The European Qualifications Framework Advisory Group mentioned in the report is in a position to ensure the cohesion of the cooperation process and monitor the latter.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I voted in favour of this report, which seeks the establishment of a European Qualifications Framework to help with the EU-wide recognition of the qualifications that people receive. It should lead to an improvement in mobility for people who wish to work in other Member States by providing a neutral and credible reference point for the comparison of various qualifications.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (ITS), in writing. (DE) In theory, it should be possible for a professional’s qualifications to be recognised in any other Member State and for the same conditions to apply as for the domestic workforce. In practice, there are still some problems which need to be addressed. For example, if an experienced teacher from Austria were required to complete a two-year period of practical training in order to do the same job in Germany, there would obviously be something wrong. In some Member States, work placements are not only being misused as a way of employing well-qualified staff with academic degrees as cheaply as possible, they are also being used to create barriers to certain professions.

Precarious working conditions, which initially only affected the low-wage sector, have long since spilled over to skilled workers as well. The EU must not give further impetus to this trend with the ‘Blue Card’ scheme. We have enough qualified workers, if only we were prepared to pay them properly.

 
  
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  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The adoption of the European Qualifications Framework reinforces EU intervention in the Member States’ education systems, homogenisation, and adaptation to predetermined quality and performance indicators. It is yet another way of replacing education with flexible ‘learning’, outside the socially instituted process of education. Knowledge is replaced with ephemeral, superficial ongoing training that will equip workers with whatever skills are needed by capital at the time.

These qualifications will be recognised on the basis not of certificates awarded by the formal education system of each country, but of certification examinations set by organisations that are controlled by employers. This further promotes the separation between degree certificates and the possibility of pursuing a career.

Linking different levels of education and forms of learning, which aims to put learning by experience on a par with systematic education, is an attempt at levelling down workers’ rights and driving down the wages of all workers to the lowest possible level.

Through a system of lifelong learning and certification of professional qualifications, the EU’s wider aim is to subordinate all education to the priorities of the market and strengthen the profitability of capital. This is at complete variance with the educational needs of workers and young people.

For these reasons, we are voting against the report and the Commission’s proposal.

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE), in writing. − (SK) Transnational labour mobility in the EU has become inevitable: it is an everyday reality within the EU-27 after enlargement. These changes are accompanied by demands for more innovative and flexible education that will prepare Europeans for their integration into the modern labour market where education is the basic precondition for all age groups and all strata of society.

I voted in favour of the report by Mr Mario Mantovani on the proposal for a recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning because I am convinced that this is the only way to fulfil the goals of the Lisbon Strategy.

The structure of the European Qualifications Framework is based on eight vertical levels, termed ‘reference levels’, defined in terms of three horizontal criteria – knowledge, skills and competence – thus enabling individuals to better integrate in the labour market on completion of a learning process.

In order for the European Qualifications Framework to be successful, it is absolutely essential for the Member States and social partners to base their cooperation, during the implementation phase, on mutual trust.

The labour market structure in Europe is changing and we see an emerging need for a flexible approach to education. The Member States should therefore make use of the European Qualifications Framework to improve the lifelong learning programmes. There is also the need for both employers and European citizens to understand the practical importance of qualifications. This will lead to greater, and most importantly barrier-free, labour mobility across the EU.

 
  
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  José Albino Silva Peneda (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) The globalisation of the economy is a question for which Europe has not yet found a clear and convincing answer.

A more globalised economy implies a readiness for change which means greater mobility.

The creation of a common reference framework for the recognition, comparability and transfer of qualifications originating from different systems is fundamental to the development of a decisive component of the European project, in other words the mobility of workers facilitated in this case by the portability of their qualifications.

Better training of our workers combined with a harmonised system for the recognition of their knowledge, skills and abilities will enhance their mobility and the development of the internal market.

More and better skills among European workers could help to ensure better organisation, more innovation and improved competitiveness among our undertakings.

 
  
  

- Report: Coelho (A6-0358/2007)

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE-DE). (LT) It is a shame that the launch of SIS II keeps being postponed. Today we have adopted a resolution on this important issue. We are so far behind schedule that it is essential to find a way out of the situation that would enable us to use the SIS 1+ network after 13 November 2008.

It is now clear that the human and financial resources allocated for the implementation of SIS II will have to be shared between three projects being developed simultaneously: SIS II, SISone4all and the installation, operation and management of a communication infrastructure.

This is why, in my opinion, the correct distribution of EU and Member States’ resources will be of great significance. However, in view of the project’s importance as regards the security of the EU, it is obvious that SIS II is the greatest priority. We must allocate funds for EU security and the development of communications infrastructure.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) To ‘fill a gap’ during the extension of the Schengen Information System (SIS), which includes the Visa Information System (VIS), the current proposal aims to provide a temporary solution to prevent any hiatuses and potential interruptions caused by the delay in installing the ‘infrastructures’ of the ‘new’ system. The costs will be distributed between the Community budget and Member States.

We would point out that this involves expanding the features of the SIS by developing them, extending access to new authorities and interlinking them, with the addition of new categories of data (such as the data capture mandate and biometric data).

This extension of the previous system significantly threatens the rights, freedoms and guarantees of citizens by adding new elements to a database which is, in addition, shared by numerous bodies. The confidentiality of this data cannot be fully guaranteed as records may be kept ‘for a longer period’ and be shared with third countries.

At the root is an attempt to bring the SIS into line with the dangerous and unacceptable objectives of the current security offensive and with the expansion and growing communitarisation of internal affairs in the EU, which we clearly reject.

 
  
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  Bairbre de Brún, Jens Holm, Mary Lou McDonald and Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL), in writing. − We do not oppose the suggested temporary solution in order to guarantee the existence of a network for SIS 1+ for the period from 13 November to 17 December 2008. However, we cannot support the use of the passerelle in Article 67(2), indent 2, of the EC Treaty as suggested by Mr Coelho. That is why we have chosen to vote against the report.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (ITS), in writing. (DE) We already have a major problem with organised criminal gangs and illegal immigrants who tend to congregate in border areas where they are also easier to apprehend than in cities. Both groups are already on the starting blocks and are intent on crossing into other countries as soon as the borders open, where they will vanish without trace. We must respond to this situation with increased cross-border cooperation and intensive checks in border regions. The expansion of Schengen is, after all, a major responsibility for all the countries involved.

Accession to Schengen should therefore not be made solely dependent on the functionality of the Schengen Information System, which is something Poland, for example, does not yet appear to have achieved. Instead, we must ensure that future members of Schengen are able to assert effective control of the EU’s external borders, that there is no softening of the transition periods for the protection of labour markets, and that begging does not increase any further. Until this is guaranteed, over-hasty and ill-considered expansion must not be allowed to occur.

According to the FRONTEX Annual Report for 2006, the apprehension figures at Schengen’s current external borders (mainly Austria and Germany) are still far higher than those at the EU’s external borders, so it is highly doubtful whether the expansion should be approved. Indeed, the question is whether Schengen should not be abolished in part, especially since the Austrian Interior Ministry’s report on human trafficking indicates that almost 50% of illegals in Austria have entered the country across the Schengen border with Italy.

 
  
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  Søren Bo Søndergaard (GUE/NGL), in writing. − I do not oppose the suggested temporary solution to guarantee the existence of a network for SIS 1+ for the period from 13 November to 17 December 2008. However, I cannot support the use of the passerelle in Article 67(2), indent 2, of the EC Treaty as suggested by Mr Coelho. That is why I have chosen to vote against the report.

 
  
  

- Report: Belohorská (A6-0291/2007)

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE).(SK) I am in favour of a reasonable compromise that would achieve a balance between health and environmental protection on the one hand and agricultural production on the other hand. This is why I voted for the report prepared by my Slovak colleague, Mrs Irena Belohorská, who is a recognised expert in the field of prevention and treatment of cancer diseases. I congratulate her on the report which is based on her vast experience as a medical practitioner and which introduces a balanced strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides. I believe that this report will contribute to the adoption of more effective measures for better information of the general public and lead to the setting up of correct application methods and a gradual reduction in the use of pesticides in agriculture.

A possible solution is to support farmers in ways that would encourage them to reduce the use of artificial fertilisers in their fight against diseases, pests and weeds on their farms, and in doing so help achieve a gradual changeover to bioproducts. The report can inspire consumers not to choose, at a market or in a supermarket, only the best-looking produce but to give priority, for the sake of their health, to less visually appealing but healthier bioproducts.

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE).(CS) All of us wish to breathe clean air and halt the melting of the glaciers. At the same time, in spite of energy saving programmes, our need for energy is growing exponentially. At stake is also Europe’s dependency on gas and oil imports.

We must therefore invest in the development of renewable sources and tackle issues of nuclear power plants safety, in particular the question of final disposal of radioactive waste. In this way we could obtain up to 14% of our energy from clean sources. We cannot ignore, however, the fact that 32% of our energy comes from fossil fuels, employing 300 000 people and substantially polluting the environment. This is why I welcome and have supported the report by Mr Reul on conventional sources. I agree with the rapporteur that we should review investments and also develop those technologies capable of increasing the efficiency of fossil fuel energy production and reducing emissions. We have much to work on.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE-DE).(LT) Today we have reached an important decision on the strategy on the use of pesticides. I voted in favour of the resolution. We are well aware of the fact that the air we breath is polluted and therefore poses health risks and that the food we consume has been processed using chemicals that are dangerous to human health. Our children, the future generation, are growing up in these conditions.

I am absolutely certain that the hazards that pesticides pose to human health must be reduced. Therefore, we should take decisive measures and do our best to find the necessary funds. I welcome the plans to require the Member States to draw up action plans highlighting the areas in which pesticides would be entirely banned and making substantial reductions in the use of pesticides within the next 10 years.

 
  
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  Irena Belohorská (NI), in writing. − (PT) It is well-known that, in July 2006, the Commission presented a Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides, together with a proposal for a directive establishing a framework for Community Action to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides and a proposal for a regulation concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, with the aim of reducing the general risks and negative impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment.

The risks associated with pesticide use have already been reduced, but, in some areas, particularly in countries which have for a long time used intensive agriculture, these can still be found in the soil and water in undesirable quantities. This also means that countries such as Portugal, with more traditional agriculture, should receive more support in order to maintain less intensive agricultural production.

However, we do not feel that the solution lies in substituting GMOs for pesticides. While the undesirable effects of chemical pesticides on human health are well-known, the precautionary principle should be applied with regard to the effects of GMOs on human health as these have not yet been studied.

This Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides only relates to plant protection products, in other words to one area of pesticides.

 
  
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  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE), in writing. (PL) I welcome the fact that the European Parliament has adopted a new directive on the production and use of pesticides. The directive tightens up the conditions under which trade in the chemical substances used in the manufacture of plant protection products may be permitted. The outcome will be beneficial to the citizens of the European Union, especially as regards their life and health. In addition, the directive details the cases in which spraying from the air may take place. It also recommends lowering the amount of pesticides used and prioritising non-chemical alternatives.

The report by Mrs Belohorská is worthy of support, if only because of the very wide but also up-to-date scope of the provisions. There can be no doubt that European Union citizens no longer wish to have daily contact with toxins, and do not wish to consume contaminated products. Our citizens do not wish either to be affected by carcinogenic or toxic substances, or by substances with endocrine-disrupting properties. In response to these clear expectations expressed by European society, it was appropriate also to support a ban on the use of pesticides in rural and urban public areas. The use of pesticides in areas surrounding hospices, sanatoria, rehabilitation centres, clinics and hospitals should be banned. Such a ban should also extend to parks, public gardens, sports and leisure areas, school grounds, children’s playgrounds and similar locations.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele (PSE), in writing. (DE) The Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides is an important addition to the proposal for a regulation and a directive which has been voted on at first reading today.

The Thematic Strategy is needed because the use of pesticides in the European Union has not decreased, despite the successful measures adopted voluntarily by some Member States between 1992 and 2003, and remains at a high level. The Belohorská report underlines, once again, the need to apply the precautionary principle in the use of pesticides.

 
  
  

- Report: Reul (A6-0348/2007)

 
  
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  Danutė Budreikaitė (ALDE).(LT) I consider the report on conventional energy sources and energy technology to be of the utmost importance. The realities of life are forcing the EU Member States to change their attitude towards energy within both the EU and the world markets – resources, the energy mix and security of supply.

I would like to emphasise the importance of nuclear energy, as it is a secure, reliable and environmentally friendly resource. The fact that Germany, which has 17 nuclear power plants, produces six times more CO2 pollution than France, with its 59 nuclear power stations, is very persuasive.

Nuclear energy is particularly important for countries that are not rich in renewable energy resources such as wind, solar energy, water and biomass, the use of the latter being particularly expensive. Electricity is of the utmost importance and should be accessible to everyone.

I voted in favour of the report and would like to stress the importance of EU assistance for the construction of nuclear or other environmentally friendly power plants.

 
  
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  Romano Maria La Russa (UEN).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I just feel a need to clarify a few points about the new generation of nuclear technology. It is worth remembering that Italy’s nuclear power stations were shut down following a rescinding referendum in 1987, perhaps rightly so, although that has gradually placed us in a situation of dependence on foreign sources of energy.

However, the new generation of nuclear technology, which is clean and safe and environmentally friendly, is undoubtedly necessary to confront the problem of energy supply and climate change. The energy mix must hence be updated and, along with renewables, clean coal and gas, nuclear will enable Europe to limit its dependence in future.

For this reason I voted in favour of the building of fourth-generation nuclear power stations, which will enable energy to be generated in a safer and more environmentally friendly manner. I do, however, still have doubts, serious doubts and concerns, about the storage of nuclear waste. The report may consider the problem of waste storage solved, but quite frankly I disagree: the waste problem is crucial and, if it is to be solved in the near future, requires a huge amount of investment in research.

To conclude, I believe that the choice of energy mix – just three more seconds please – to ensure security of energy supply for the Union in coming years must be altered as research progresses and in particular as new technologies develop.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele (PSE).(DE) Madam President, my colleagues from my delegation and I myself voted against the Reul report because we do not believe that nuclear energy is either safe or clean, and nor do we believe in the new generation of nuclear power plants and the new generation of nuclear energy.

If it really is the case – and there are reports and statistics about this – that nuclear energy is to have a massive impact in terms of reducing our CO2 emissions, then we will have to have a substantial increase in the number of our nuclear power stations. That is neither realistic nor practicable. For that reason – and I will speak more on this subject when the next report comes round – effective measures to improve energy efficiency and also to cut CO2 emissions from cars would be a better way of making Europe a healthier place and convincing other countries and continents to follow suit.

 
  
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  Jan Andersson, Göran Färm and Inger Segelström (PSE), in writing. (SV) We have chosen to vote against the report as we do not consider it to be balanced and, among other things, it fails to address important problems in relation to nuclear energy.

Nor do we believe that the Union’s energy research funds should be used to develop new generations of reactors for nuclear fission.

We question the value to the environment of synthetic fuels produced from fossil sources, or hydrogen gas extracted with energy from the same origin, or nuclear energy, as none of these energy sources is sustainable in the long term from an environmental or supply point of view.

We also believe that fossil fuels must be actively phased out in the long term, which is not mentioned in the report.

We think that CO2 capture can be an important part of reducing CO2 emissions, but other energy-saving, efficiency-boosting measures and the development of renewable energy are more sustainable in the long term and should be the final goal.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) This report contains various positive aspects, including the recognition of the role of conventional energy sources and the need to use these in order to produce energy, opening up prospects for the relaunch of nuclear fission energy and calling for the lifting of restrictions on new coal-fired power stations.

It also opens up prospects for the relaunch and mining of coal and calls for international cooperation, including with countries outside the EU, such as China and India. In addition, it emphasises the value of endogenous resources and places the contribution of renewable energies on a more realistic plane. It contains certain criticisms of the production and use of liquid biofuels and points to the need for countries to encourage more R&D in the area of energy, particularly as a way of overcoming environmental and nuclear safety problems.

However, it also contains various negative aspects, including the association of the growing problems in the oil market solely with contextual and episodic issues, while disregarding the strategic issue of depletion of resources and continuing to ignore the enormous potential of biomethane produced from waste, an approach which is already being implemented in various European countries.

This is the reason for our abstention.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I voted in favour of this own-initiative report on energy issues which canvasses many areas of energy efficiency, supply and conservation. I did not support amendments endorsing nuclear power: my view is that sustainable, renewable energy resources should be developed and that research & development efforts should focus on these areas first.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (ITS), in writing. − (DE) In principle, we all agree that we need better energy efficiency and more rational energy transmission and that the expansion of renewables is important. Nonetheless, the promotion of renewables must not be used as a pretext to curtail even more of the Member States’ sovereign rights by the back door as part of the EU’s Constitution. As this point is not made sufficiently clear in the present report, the report must be rejected.

Despite the ongoing expansion of renewable energy sources, we will remain dependent on conventional energy generation for many decades to come, and we must therefore ensure that it becomes more environmentally friendly. In the EU, however, there still appears to be a fixation with nuclear power, which is not only reflected in its glowing description as an ‘environmentally friendly source of energy’, which itself is a mockery, but also in the generous funding of the nuclear research budget. I see in this a failure to rethink our approach in any discernible way, which is another reason why I reject the report which is the subject of the vote.

 
  
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  Tobias Pflüger (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (DE) The Reul report is an apology for the nuclear industry. Flying in the face of common sense, nuclear energy is depicted as the technology of the future, with even more EU research funding and budgetary resources to flow into the development of this high-risk dinosaur technology.

Indeed, despite the recent ‘incidents’ at Vattenfall’s nuclear plants, the focus is on expanding nuclear energy in Europe. In light of these incidents, it is extremely cynical to claim that nuclear energy generation is becoming ‘ever-safer’. Instead of continuing to invest in this troublesome energy form, with a deliberate failure to address the issue of final storage, a social and ecological revolution should finally be the aim.

This means breaking apart the private monopolies which exist in the nuclear industry, providing a massive injection of funding for renewables and localising energy production. Given that it is the nuclear companies, in particular, which have initiated a new round of massive price increases, there is an urgent need for action. The report merely serves the profit interests of Europe’s nuclear industry. The call for new nuclear power plants in Europe is unacceptable.

The legal basis for funding for an indefinite period is to be enshrined in the Reform Treaty. This is yet another reason to reject the Treaty. Every additional cent for EU nuclear funding is one too many. Promoting energy production from renewable resources, solar, wind and hydro power, is the only sustainable energy policy.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) When it launched the Energy Package at the beginning of this year, the European Commission highlighted the need for a technological action plan for fossil fuels and underlined the fundamental requirement for a pragmatic approach towards nuclear energy.

The reality is stark: there are no alternatives to fossil fuels which are as cheap and as efficient. This means that these fuels will remain the central and essential component of the EU’s energy policy beyond 2020.

This is why we must find new solutions to the energy supply issue in the EU, bearing in mind the need for competitiveness, sustainability and security of supply. As a result, all investments in the development of new energy technologies, firstly to reduce environmental impact and enhance the safety of existing installations and secondly to develop new energy sources and ensure more efficient and cleaner use of fossil fuels, are of particular importance.

As it is essential that Member States and the EU concentrate their efforts on energy research, from more efficient use of energy sources to new technologies and the cleaner use of existing energy sources, I voted in favour of this report.

 
  
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  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE), in writing. (PL) I voted in favour of the report by Mr Reul on conventional energy sources and energy technology.

The report raises a very important current issue that calls for broad debate within the European Union, namely that we need a unified strategy and should develop a common energy policy. Ensuring Europe’s energy security is a priority issue, and the Commission’s proposal to submit a European Strategic Energy Technology Plan to the 2008 Spring European Council is therefore very welcome.

As a world leader, the European Union must also take the lead in the development of modern energy technologies whilst maintaining all the relevant economic and environmental standards.

 
  
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  Lars Wohlin (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) I have chosen to support the report because the EU has conducted an unusually balanced discussion of the need to include nuclear energy in Europe’s future energy mix. Among other things, the report states that ‘nuclear energy is indispensable if basic energy needs are to be met in Europe in the medium term’, and that ‘nuclear energy is currently the largest low-carbon energy source in Europe and [it] stresses its potential role in combating climate change’. At present nuclear energy is responsible for one third of the EU’s electricity supply and will always be one of the most important energy sources in many EU Member States.

When the issue of CO2 emissions is raised, it is unfortunate in my view that greater attention is not given to nuclear energy. If we are to meet future energy demand without greater dependence on fossil fuels and rising CO2 emissions, the development of safe, new nuclear energy will become increasingly important. Unfortunately, nuclear energy is not included among the measures that are considered to be realistic with a view to achieving the target of between 20% and 30% by 2020.

 
  
  

- Report: Davies (A6-0343/2007)

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE).(CS) Today we gave the car industry the task of developing engines which will reduce CO2 emissions to less than 120 g/km. Currently the figure stands at 157 g. I want to warn, however, those who applauded this proposal that reducing emissions is greatly hindered by the increasing number of drivers in general as well as the high number of drivers driving old vehicles.

Double regulation of advertising will not solve the issue. It is well-known that the majority of people give priority to cost-efficiency when buying a car, rather than the vehicle’s environmental impact. Costs, but also emissions are growing also because of the imposition of increased vehicle safety.

Ladies and gentlemen, until vehicles with a lower environmental impact and running costs become more affordable, road transport’s share of emissions will not show any considerable decrease. This is why I was not among those applauding today’s report. Neither the committee’s report nor the Commission’s strategy are sufficiently comprehensive. This is why I supported other proposals, related to fines for exceeding emission limits and especially fiscal measures and car fleet renewal support.

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE).(SK) The report just adopted on the future CO2 strategy for cars contributes without any doubt to one of the most polarised debates taking place in the European Parliament at present. At stake are not only the environment, and therefore the health of EU citizens, but also the competitiveness of an important industry. I voted for the amendment since it represents a compromise between both aspects. It pays attention to environmental protection and at the same time provides suitable and realistic terms for the European car industry.

Car advertising represents up to 20% of total advertising turnover for publishers of printed media. Laying down mandatory advertising requirements as stipulated in the original report by Mr Chris Davies would breach the fundamental principle of freedom of expression. This is why I voted in favour of the amendments that leave out the controversial paragraphs 36 to 41 of the report. I supported the PPE-DE motion inviting car manufacturers to sign up to a voluntary code of practice on car advertising. After most amendments were adopted, in the final vote I voted for the report by Mr Chris Davies. The outcome of the vote is a clear political signal in favour of preparing European legislation dealing with the issue of cutting CO2 emissions.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele (PSE).(DE) Madam President, we do still have the legislation by means of which Parliament can demonstrate that we take climate protection seriously in Europe, and we need to summon all our efforts so that we can genuinely achieve, through that legislation, everything that we have not voted on today.

I think it is regrettable that we have not committed to a 120 g/km ceiling from 2012. More than ten years have passed since our industry promised to achieve this with its proposed self-regulation on the grounds that this approach would be better and more efficient, and I would have liked the House to send out a clear climate policy message today. We have not done so.

That is why I have also voted against the report, and I hope that in the legislation, we will show more grit and determination and make it clear that we really take climate issues seriously in Europe.

 
  
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  Jan Březina (PPE-DE).(CS) I voted against the proposal of the report on the Community Strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars, although for reasons different from those mentioned here earlier.

I voted against the proposal because with it we are moving away from an integrated approach, contained in the earlier strategy documents, and placing the whole burden of CO2 emissions reduction on the European car industry instead. I also disagree with the call for an obligatory allocation of 20% of advertising space. It bears a dangerous resemblance to the information campaign on the harmful effects of smoking.

Such an approach overall turns CO2 emissions reduction into a dogma which, when translated into future binding legislation, will result in a reduction in our competitiveness.

 
  
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  Christoph Konrad (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, I voted against the Davies report because, in my view, we have taken what is, in essence, an unacceptable and unrealistic decision by envisaging uniform CO2 efficiency categories for cars.

There should have been a sliding scale based on size and weight, primarily to level the playing field for manufacturers in the European Union. Let me give you an example: it makes a difference whether I heat a house or just one room. That is why it also makes a difference whether I drive a large car or a small car. That is why there needs to be segmentation and a sliding scale based on weight. We have missed that opportunity, which I think is regrettable, and with this decision – which I did not support – we have also missed the opportunity to establish a measure of balance between the interests of the environment and those of industry.

 
  
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  Kurt Joachim Lauk (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, I voted against the Davies report because, as a result of the amendments adopted, we are still a long way from the optimum situation, which is to protect the environment, on the one hand, but also promote employment in Europe and not burden the consumer unduly with excessively high prices. In essence, the decisions that we have taken are at the expense of employment and the consumer.

In technical terms, we have moved away from the integrated approach which would have been essential to create a situation in which everyone contributes to cutting CO2 emissions, not only the car manufacturers but also the manufacturers of other vehicle components. We have abandoned that route. What is more, we have not included weight and we have not completed weight segmentation, which is important for European competitiveness, because it is the higher-weight vehicles that are at the forefront of innovation, the innovation that Europe needs.

We have set timeframes which are difficult or expensive to achieve and we have taken the absurd step of not heeding the call for CO2-based taxes in the Member States, which means that the old vehicles which pump out CO2 are still on the market and on the road. That is why I have voted against the report.

 
  
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  Linda McAvan (PSE). – Madam President, I have two points to make, the first on the procedure, the second on the voting list.

On the voting list: firstly, there was no mention of paragraph 3; secondly, I think we should look again at what happened about Amendments 52 and 51. If you look at it, 51 is clearly the nearest to the original text and should have been voted first. 52 is furthest away and should have been voted second.

I would ask that the Presidency look at this because that is clearly what should have happened. So, on those procedural points, I would like some answers.

Secondly, on the politics of it, this was the first real vote on climate change. It was not a piece of legislation – that will come – but, by failing to support the 2012 date backed by the European Commission, I think that the ALDE Group and the PPE-DE Group in this House failed the first test on climate change and the people out there will be looking at what happened here today and wondering whether we really are serious about the commitments we made back in March to reduce CO2.

We talk about Europe being a Europe of the environment. We have to do it in legislation if it is ever going to happen.

 
  
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  Françoise Castex (PSE), in writing. – (FR) Mrs Castex voted for the Davies report on the reduction of CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles.

While France continues to be monopolised by the Grenelle Environment Forum, the European Union has in turn added another valuable building block to the quality of our environment by adopting a strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from private vehicles.

Mrs Castex is very pleased that Parliament has called on the European automotive industry to ensure that new vehicles do not emit more than 120 g/km of CO2 by 2012.

This French Member of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament welcomes the Carbon Allowance Reductions System (CARS), as this mechanism will impose financial penalties on manufacturers who fail to meet their quotas, while at the same time issuing credits to those who have taken the initiative by achieving emissions that are below the limit value curve.

 
  
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  Charlotte Cederschiöld and Christofer Fjellner (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) We have essentially voted in favour of Mr Davies’ report on a strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from cars (A6-0343/07).

In order to reduce CO2 emissions, it must be a priority to reduce the proportion that comes from car traffic. It is important to find more environmentally friendly alternatives to using cars. However, in our view car manufacturers should be given the opportunity to choose themselves how they wish to meet the environmental targets set by us politicians. Legislation should not regulate in detail how this should happen.

We also oppose the rapporteur’s rules on advertising, which are unjustified and restrict freedom of expression.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for the report.

Some 19% of all CO2 emissions produced in the Community now come from passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles. The European Union must commit itself to an ambitious and realistic target for reducing average emissions from all vehicles placed on the EU market.

The impact of road transport on air quality must be reduced as the vehicle fleet is gradually renewed.

I welcome the adoption of the deadlines that have been set by Parliament. If verifiable and measurable actions are to be taken by the automotive industry after 2011, setting 2015 as the date for achieving a threshold of 125 g/km seems perfectly reasonable to me. Indeed this corresponds to the entry into force of the Euro VI emission standards.

For legislation to be effective it must above all be realistic and the industry has for a long time been putting environmental issues at the heart of its policies. When it comes to climate change the priority must be to reduce CO2 emissions in absolute terms.

 
  
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  Jules Maaten (ALDE), in writing. – (NL) The Davies report deserves support because of the political signal it sends. All sectors will have to do their bit to remedy the climate change problem, including the European car industry. That is why I warmly support the compromise to achieve a maximum of 125g CO2/km by 2015.

For the Netherlands, the Davies report has another extra dimension that is undeniable. Because of the problem of particulate matter in the air in the Netherlands, it is necessary that measures be taken at European level to tackle this at source. If this does not happen, then for transport-intensive areas like the port of Rotterdam and Schiphol airport, it will be impossible for us to meet the present and/or stricter norms for particulate matter.

I am in favour of better information to consumers about the environmental friendliness of particular cars, like what we have now for fridges and washing machines for instance, but I voted against the proposal for cigarette-type warnings to be made compulsory in all advertising and marketing statements from the car industry. In the area of advertising and marketing, I have more faith in self-regulation than all kinds of European legal obligations.

 
  
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  Erika Mann (PSE), in writing. − (DE) I voted against Mr Davies’ report on the Community Strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles. Having initially voted in favour of the report in the direct voting in plenary, I then withdrew my vote in writing, as noted in the parliamentary records of 25 October 2007.

In my view, the report is extremely arbitrary and fails to take appropriate account of the needs of Germany’s automobile industry or environmental concerns.

For example, the report does not differentiate between the various weight classes of vehicles and therefore makes unrealistic demands of car manufacturers.

As regards advertising, an increasing comparison is made between labelling needs for tobacco products and vehicles.

The rapporteur (Mr Davies, an English Green Liberal) was only prepared to compromise on one point at the very end of the process during the deliberations on his report. This was much too late to formulate a sensible recommendation from Parliament which could have secured the support of all the groups.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I voted for the original version of this report, which proposed tough limits on emissions of 120g carbon dioxide/kilometre by 2012. Unfortunately, the proposal was weakened by Tory and Liberal MEPs to allow for a higher emissions limit and a longer phase-in period. The overall strategy is good, but it is a pity it has been weakened unnecessarily.

 
  
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  Tokia Saïfi (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) The European Parliament has approved the Community Strategy for reducing CO2 emissions from passenger cars and I welcome this very much.

This initiative will enable us to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and at the same time contribute towards achieving the EU’s more general environmental targets and energy security objectives. Nevertheless, I believe that the message that this vote has sent to the Commission and to the international community at large could have been a more ambitious one.

The 120 g/km threshold for CO2 was first put forward in 1995 as a feasible target for the automotive industry. Now 12 years later its implementation is still being resisted, even though technological advances have meant that CO2 emissions can now be reduced more than was possible a dozen years ago.

In being satisfied with a maximum mandatory limit of 125 g/km of CO2 Parliament does not go far enough. For this reason I voted against Amendments 42 and 52 because their objectives, under the pretence of being prudent and realistic, are in fact simply too moderate.

At a time when the consumer is becoming increasingly sensitive to pollution from motor vehicles, any measure aimed at reducing CO2 emissions from this source will benefit the car industry, the consumer and, of course, the planet itself.

 
  
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  Renate Sommer (PPE-DE), in writing. − (DE) I voted in favour of the proposals to introduce a binding average emissions ceiling, albeit with some concern. In my view, a sliding scale based on the size and weight of the vehicle would have been preferable.

Although I otherwise tend to be in favour of voluntary commitments from industry, I believe that binding legal requirements are essential for the automobile industry: experience has shown that voluntary commitments here would be bound to fail.

As we know, a reduction of around 5% in greenhouse gas emissions from the EU-25 was achieved between 1990 and 2004. Not for road traffic, however: in stark contrast, this sector saw a rise of 26%. There is clearly an urgent need for action here, and the car industry must make its contribution to cutting emissions.

The year 2012 for the introduction of the ceiling has been criticised on the grounds that it does not allow a long enough phase-in period. However, this date has been in discussion for years, and the industry has known what to expect for a very long time.

The issue which we must always consider, however, is balancing environmental interests and the interests of the car industry, as this is also in the interests of jobs and competitiveness in the European Union. This is a buoyant industry and it is important for the EU. Without robust industries, we would have no money for environmental programmes!

 
  
  

- Report: Wagenknecht (A6-0391/2007)

 
  
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  Danutė Budreikaitė (ALDE).(LT) So far the Member States have only succeeded in reaching an agreement on the consolidation of indirect taxation – excise duty and VAT, determination of the minimum rate, the application of numerous VAT exemptions. I doubt that a minimum excise duty rate – for fuel, for example – would increase economic competitiveness. It is more likely to result in increased prices and reduced consumption, particularly in view of the global increase in prices. The proposed coordination of excise duties would constitute an unbearable burden to new Member States.

The proposed consolidation of tax bases at EU level would have been more appropriate for the economies of the 15 old Member States, as they have similar development levels. This proposal is a step towards the consolidation of tax on profits. The greatest burden would fall on the weaker economies of the new Member States. This would lead to a loss of opportunity for them to benefit from tax competition as well as accelerate their economic growth. It would deprive them of the chance to raise their standard of living to match that of the old Member States.

I voted against the report, as it was ill-timed, in spite of the amendments.

 
  
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  Jan Andersson, Göran Färm and Inger Segelström (PSE), in writing. – (SV) We Swedish Social Democrats believe first and foremost that taxation policy should be a national matter.

The report also stresses the fiscal sovereignty of the Member States.

We chose to vote in favour of the report as in many ways it stresses the role of taxation policy in the Member States as regards employment, welfare and the environment, as well as a well-functioning internal market.

 
  
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  Gérard Deprez (ALDE), in writing. – (FR) I supported Amendment 20, as tabled by the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, which seeks to delete paragraph 17 of the Wagenknecht report concerning the contribution of taxation to the Lisbon strategy.

In order to ensure the smooth functioning of the internal market I am in fact in favour of any measure that contributes towards fiscal harmonisation within the EU.

While taxation is still essentially a matter of national sovereignty, it has very quickly become apparent that we need to ensure a minimum degree of fiscal coordination between the Member States. This is why, in matters relating to indirect taxation, the Commission has gradually established a minimum rate for excise duty, in order to reduce distortion of competition.

Yet in the report that is being voted on today, paragraph 17 now seeks to re-examine this very system and proposes to replace it with a code of conduct.

I do not believe that it is sufficient merely to ‘encourage’ Member States when it comes to coordinating indirect taxation. What is more, I believe even less in the effectiveness of a code of conduct on excise duty matters: this is likely to provide even greater temptation to unpick the EU’s rules and practices, which would in turn create the sorry situation of unfair competition in this area.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) We voted against the final text because, among other issues, it assumed a position of defence of economic and financial groups, as highlighted by the rapporteur who removed her name from the report before the final vote and called for it to be rejected. The resolution aims to ease the rules and procedures so that large undertakings can easily enter the various markets and reap the largest profits with the least number of obstacles in any Member State.

Furthermore, we consider that the fiscal sovereignty of Member States in terms of defining their own fiscal policy must be respected in all discussions on this issue. This is not what has happened here. A supposedly common European fiscal policy which promotes ‘tax competition’ would only serve the interests of major European and international capital.

Available data show that, in the last 10 years, there has been a significant drop in the average rate of taxation of corporate profits, whilst income tax has remained virtually unchanged.

We regret that the proposals made by the rapporteur, which highlighted the redistribution potential of taxation and pointed out the transfer of the tax burden from high incomes to lower incomes, have not been included in this final text.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) The June List is firmly opposed to this report, which seeks to move towards a common taxation and customs policy for the EU.

It is amazing that today the European Parliament is taking decisions on matters for which there is no common policy. It is not for the EU to decide on taxation matters and promptly to call on the Member States to harmonise their national taxes. In addition, it is entirely unreasonable to try to move towards the imposition of a Community tax.

In the report it is also possible to see how the Lisbon Strategy opens the door for the EU to tackle new policy areas, with supranationalism, new projects and increased costs in their wake.

The June List is voting against this report, as taxation must be decided nationally and sovereignly by the Member States.

 
  
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  Astrid Lulling (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) The report on the contribution of taxation and customs policies to the Lisbon Strategy, as voted on by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, constitutes an acceptable compromise between the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, on the one hand, and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, on the other, and I support it. I am also glad to see that we have succeeded in maintaining this balance during the vote in plenary.

For me the key point in the report is paragraph 4, which underlines the benefits of healthy tax competition in the European Union. If indeed we wish to achieve the objectives of economic growth and employment, as set out in the Lisbon Strategy, we must ensure that we do not impose too great a tax burden on undertakings, for it is they who create the jobs. What is more, we should never overtax employees and consumers, either directly or indirectly, for they make a considerable contribution to growth.

Tax competition forces Member States within the Union to moderate their fiscal demands and to be more efficient in the management of public spending, and this can only be of benefit to the taxpayer.

The common consolidated corporate tax base, which is another controversial theme in the report, would in my view bring an element of coordination to fiscal policy that will render European corporate taxation less bureaucratic and more efficient.

 
  
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  Diamanto Manolakou (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) Tax policy is used to redistribute income for the benefit of capital. It is used by all centre-right and centre-left governments, and governs capital in the EU.

There is no common tax policy because of intra-imperialist conflicts. Even if such a policy existed, however, capital would be furthering its own profitability at the expense of ordinary people’s income and needs.

Amid unrelenting competition, capital now moves easily and rapidly from high-tax countries to countries with lower taxation. Indeed, in all the Member States, the corporate income tax rate is decreasing at the expense of personal income.

However, this is not true of tax on labour income, which remains constant, while indirect taxes and VAT have risen, increasing inequality and the gap between rich and poor. This is also reflected in OECD figures, which show that indirect tax in the form of VAT rose to 6.9% of GDP in 2006. Thus capital is systematically being exempted from tax and the levy on workers is being increased through indirect taxation.

This is happening in Greece as well: corporation tax has been reduced by 10% and VAT has increased by 1%, with a further increase of 2% on the way.

This is the barbarity of capitalism, which creates inequality and poverty for the majority of people, and we must reverse this.

 
  
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  Mary Lou McDonald (GUE/NGL), in writing. − While the report contains a number of positive elements concerning greater fairness in the distribution of the tax burden, I cannot support any increased role for the European Union in relation to taxation, which would further undermine the economic sovereignty of Member States.

 
  
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  Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE), in writing. − The Fine Gael delegation in the European Parliament decided to oppose the Report on the final vote because of the proliferation of references to the CCCTB and related matters.

We support the Lisbon Agenda and are in favour of the Report, such as recognising the positive aspects of lower taxation and the benefits of tax competition, but do not accept the right of EU Institutions to interfere with the rights of Member States, such as Ireland, who are also in the Eurozone. Interest rates are set by the ECB and the Growth and Stability Pact sets borrowing and inflation requirements. Tax policy is therefore one of the instruments left to those Member States under the Treaty and should be safeguarded.

 
  
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  Peter Skinner (PSE), in writing. − There are many ways in which fiscal attitudes across the EU could be helpful in generating a series of better conclusions for the Lisbon Strategy. Simply put, the incentivisation of growth of small businesses and job creation, as well as environmental issues, is seen as a positive. This is for Member States to undertake and follow through – such is their competence.

Consolidating tax bases at an EU level would not make the difference suggested by the rapporteur. The EPLP maintains that many good things towards the Lisbon Strategy can be reached by Member State action rather than EU action.

 
  
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  Sahra Wagenknecht (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (DE) In its vote today, the European Parliament has shown that a majority of its Members support a taxation policy which serves the interests of the top ten thousand and is to the detriment of the large majority of people living in the European Union. Although some of my proposals were accepted – after all, no one is keen to openly champion the cause of increased rates of VAT, higher taxes on earned income or better opportunities for EU-wide tax dumping – the proposals we made on increasing taxes on wealth and financial transactions and limiting tax dumping through the introduction of a uniform consolidated corporate tax base were rejected by the majority of Members.

As the final report after the individual votes was almost unrecognisable as my original draft, with certain aspects of its content deteriorating further in the version of the report agreed in the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, I felt compelled to remove my name from the report and call for Members to vote against it in the final vote. I welcome the fact that relevant sections of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament also felt unable to endorse the final version of the report, as the outcome of the voting shows.

Today, the House has passed up the opportunity to heed calls for a more equitable and socially compatible taxation policy and adopt this as the clear position of the European Parliament. Instead, the EU’s misdirected policies have yet again been confirmed unquestioningly by the majority in the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Lars Wohlin (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) Today I chose to support the report on the contribution of taxation policy to the Lisbon process. I advocate healthy tax competition and a common consolidated corporate tax base for international companies, without harmonisation of tax levels and with an option for each Member State to remain outside it, if it so wishes. It is also important to lay down the Member States’ sovereignty in the field of taxation. I also take exception to any attempt to move towards an EU tax.

 
  
  

- Report: Florenz (A6-0336/2007)

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE).(SK) I admire and respect the determination with which some countries have introduced a smoking ban not only in offices and in all workplaces but also in restaurants, pubs, bars and clubs. We have economic impact studies that have not confirmed worries of restaurant owners about an income loss. We also know that the treatment of respiratory cancer diseases and other illnesses costs us up to EUR 50 million.

In Scotland, the number of people admitted to hospital with myocarditis has decreased by almost 20% since the introduction of the smoking ban. Children born to women smokers as well as to women exposed to passive smoking during pregnancy are born prematurely and have lower than normal birth weight. I appeal to the Member States of the European Union, including my own Member State, to introduce without delay effective laws that would result in a smoking ban in workplaces and restaurants, and in effective measures for reducing the overall use of tobacco.

 
  
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  Roberta Alma Anastase (PPE-DE). – (RO) At the same time with voting on this report, I would like to emphasize its importance for the future of the European citizens and of the entire European Union. I welcome the strategic approach of the smoking issue, including passive smoking, as well as the proposal of concrete and exigent actions to fight against it and its negative consequences at a European level. Also, I am convinced that a strategic approach of this issue should include the smoking prevention policy, as an essential element, by developing a true system of education in this respect. Today’s reality is obvious; there is a clear and increasing need for awareness as regards the consequences of smoking among the entire European society. It is not less important to focus these efforts of prevention on educating children and youth, as well as their parents, in advance, in order to ensure a smoke-free Europe for future generations.

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki (UEN).(PL) Madam President, I should like to explain my vote on the report by Mr Florenz on combating the worrying phenomenon of nicotine addiction. I wish to emphasise that I voted in favour of this report, despite being an advocate of freedom for smokers and despite obviously being a defender of pluralism. Nonetheless, the problem of the harmful effects of so-called passive smoking, that is to say the effect on non-smokers of being surrounded by smokers, is very alarming indeed. Suffice it to remind the House that the deaths of 650 000 people a year are smoking related. This figure includes 80 000 passive smokers, some of whom are children. That is the reason why we should impose limitations on the freedom of certain individuals in order to prevent deaths.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). – (FI) Madam President, firstly I wish to express my satisfaction with this report. It is excellent that we are adopting a clear position against passive smoking.

I voted for this report because it is high time we acted at European Union level to prevent people from actually being exposed to the dangers of tobacco smoke. As we heard earlier, 650 000 people die each year from the effects of smoking. It is time to take action.

Despite my support for the proposal, I know that it will be difficult to put into practice and implement everywhere. Article 11 incorporates the notion that smoking should be banned in private cars everywhere in the EU if underage children are present. This is a good aim, but we have to consider how it might be monitored. A smoke-free environment is a goal we should strive for, but in future we will need to pay more attention to ensuring that the action we take is reasonable and that compliance with the law can be monitored.

 
  
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  Christoph Konrad (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, of course we all know that smoking is bad for our health. Nevertheless, I voted against the report on a smoke-free Europe as a matter of principle, for it is true to say that nowhere else has the state asserted itself quite so successfully as in the fight against smoking in public. Countries in the EU – and that includes us – are intervening on an unprecedented scale, with their smoking bans, in citizens’ private habits.

We are experiencing a state-sponsored prohibition policy across the board, designed to train people to change their behaviour. The report itself makes this clear. Unanimity – or, as we have it today – virtual unanimity is no guarantee of freedom. The opposite is true. In essence – and this is something we should recognise – freedom thrives on the opportunity to deviate from the norm. Concerned citizens are on the march, we have the nanny state, and all those who have anything to do with this and support it think that it has nothing to do with liberty. They are quite wrong!

 
  
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  Renate Sommer (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, yes, I also voted against the report on a smoke-free Europe, although by doing so, I am subjecting myself to what is tantamount to a witch-hunt, even in the House by the way. That is the reason why so many of our fellow Members simply did not have the courage to vote against the report, even though they do not want this nannying policy either.

Of course I am in favour of protecting non-smokers, children and young people, but a matter of principle is at stake. Firstly, we have no health policy competence. That lies with the Member States. Anything else is a violation of subsidiarity and is a constructed competence at EU level. Secondly, and more particularly, we have had enough! We have had enough, ladies and gentlemen! For years, the EU has waged war on smokers, alcohol and the obese in Europe, apparently on the assumption that our citizens are stupid and need nannying through legislation. That is precisely what I am opposed to.

The citizens who I represent are not stupid. A prohibition policy is always counterproductive and my job is to represent people, not nanny them.

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (PPE-DE). – Madam President, if ever there was an issue that cried out for subsidiarity, it is surely that of smoking. Pass over the hypocrisy of subsidising the growing of tobacco in the European Union while penalising its consumption. Disregard the double standard of discouraging smoking within the EU but encouraging it outside. Focus instead on the more basic question of what any of this has to do with Brussels.

Surely the legal and fiscal status of tobacco is a national prerogative, and the question of where and when we may consume it should be decided more locally still: in a privately-owned space by the proprietor of that space, and in a public space by the municipal authorities. It ought to have nothing to do with national governments and certainly nothing to do with the European Union. Subsidiarity, colleagues – remember that?

 
  
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  Marcin Libicki (UEN).(PL) Madam President, during this sitting we have debated the report by Mr Florenz on limiting the right to smoke cigarettes. I voted against this report because I believe that restrictions should only be imposed in cases where smoking will harm other people. We cannot, however, ban people who wish to harm themselves from doing so. That amounts to an intrusion into the rights of the individual that goes beyond the rights of any employer. The issue of treatment-related costs is of course relevant, but that is simply a matter for those responsible for insuring others. If it were deemed appropriate, the rates for smokers could be increased to cover treatment costs. There is another issue worthy of mention too, namely subsidiarity. Previous speakers have already referred to it and of course I entirely agree that this issue, which is in any case essentially flawed, must come under the competence of national authorities, not that of the European Union.

 
  
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  Daniel Caspary (PPE-DE), in writing. − (DE) I welcome all measures in the Member States to inform citizens about the risks of smoking. In my view, all these measures fall within the purview of the Member States, not the European Union.

I have therefore rejected the Florenz report in the final vote.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (PSE), in writing. − (PT) I voted in favour of Mr Florenz’s report on the ‘Green Paper: Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke: policy options at EU level’ as I consider it essential that appropriate steps are taken to reduce the number of deaths and serious illnesses caused by tobacco smoke.

In that regard, I support the call for the Commission to amend Directive 2001/37/EC on tobacco products in order, in light of new scientific advances, to revise the rules on the use of additives and other substances in these products, particularly in relation to carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic additives.

 
  
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  Robert Goebbels (PSE), in writing. – (FR) Strasbourg is not Qom and the European Parliament is not the ‘supreme leader’ who has been sent down to dispense propriety and righteousness across the Union. Everybody now knows that smoking is bad for your health. But life itself is dangerous, for it always ends in death. I personally have never smoked in my life.

While it does not shock me that some adults are prepared to take the risk, I never cease to be amazed at the proselytising of the ayatollahs on the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety who, by issuing own-initiative report after report, are attempting to ‘save the planet’ to the detriment of human beings and their weaknesses. I say ‘no’ to these zealots.

 
  
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  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE), in writing. (PL) As a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and also as a non-smoker aware of the many negative consequences of cigarette smoking in one’s immediate surroundings, I welcome the report by Mr Florenz entitled: ‘Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke’.

I believe it is entirely appropriate for the European Parliament itself to send out a firm and unequivocal message to all EU citizens and Member States making it clear that we do not wish to see people smoking in public places, notably in restaurants, in bars and on public transport. We particularly do not wish to see people smoking in the workplace.

We are also calling for stricter measures against the sale of cigarettes to minors. In addition, I think the introduction of restrictions should be accompanied by a wide-ranging information campaign that should cover more than the harmful effects of smoking. The latter are generally well-known, but it also needs to be made clear that non-smokers’ rights to live in a smoke-free environment cannot be dependent on or restricted by smokers wishing to exercise their right to smoke at the expense of non-smokers.

If our appeal for a Europe free from tobacco smoke is to bear fruit, we Members of the European Parliament should set an example and give up smoking at our workplace. That means no more smoking in any Parliament premises.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for this report which seeks not only to support Member States in the strict measures they have adopted to combat tobacco addiction, but also to promote better public health.

Not only is tobacco smoke a major source of air pollution, the chemicals contained in cigarettes expose smokers and non-smokers alike to serious risk. This is particularly true in enclosed spaces, such as workplaces, bars and restaurants. It therefore seems essential to me that we should clearly and unilaterally ban smoking in such places.

Imposing strict legislation designed to provide maximum protection for the health of our citizens cannot effectively be achieved without a real effort at alerting and informing the public as to the risks associated with tobacco use. I also welcome the willingness that has been expressed to direct information campaigns at certain target groups, especially the young, pregnant women and parents.

Finally, I regret that an amendment has been adopted calling on the Commission to investigate the health risks associated with chewing tobacco and the impact this has on cigarette consumption. I believe that this request does not belong in a report such as this, for the health risks presented by chewing tobacco, namely cancer of the tongue and so on, are generally recognised.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I voted for this report, which sets out the options for reducing the harm caused by tobacco smoke across the European Union. It does not call for EU legislation, but calls on Member States to institute comprehensive smoking bans within two years. The UK already has such a ban, but given the harm tobacco causes I support this sensible approach being extended across the EU.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (ITS), in writing. − (DE) Smoking bans are, of course, in the interests of public health and, for public buildings, are therefore to be welcomed. It is also sensible to protect children and young people. However, with these particular groups, it would be more helpful if people set a good example and maintained existing anti-smoking campaigns. It is hypocritical, however, for the European Union to attempt to prescribe smoking bans wholesale for all Member States when it has shown itself to be incapable of even reaching an agreement on facilities here in the House.

Our democratic system and modern attitudes to life are based on freedom of choice and, logically, this should apply to smoking as well. If a majority of the population is in favour of a smoking ban in restaurants, then this will come into effect over the short or the long term. There is already a trend for people to become non-smokers and, in line with the principle of sovereignty, it should remain a matter for each country to decide whether smoking bans should be introduced in restaurants, for example, and what form these bans should take.

 
  
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  Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) I have supported the Florenz report on the Green Paper ‘Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke’. I believe it will contribute to public health protection and help substantially in reducing the harmful effects of smoking, both in young people and in chronic smokers. It will achieve this by pushing for the immediate prohibition of all additives that strengthen addiction and by promoting preventive measures at European and Member State level.

 
  
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  Catherine Stihler (PSE), in writing. − I strongly support smoking bans in public places to protect public health and to avert the dangers of passive smoking.

A Scottish ban on smoking in public places has now been in place for 19 months, and figures show that since the smoking ban was introduced there has been a 20% reduction in heart attack admissions to hospital.

The smoking ban has therefore saved lives and has been effective in promoting better health for Scots. I look forward to seeing this approach applied across the rest of Europe.

 
  
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  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE), in writing. − (PL) I voted in favour of the report by Mr Florenz entitled: ‘Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke’.

Tobacco smoke is a very harmful substance. It contains thousands of chemical substances, including over 250 carcinogenic and toxic components. Even the slightest exposure to these substances can contribute to the development of tumours. Tobacco smoke particles are deposited permanently in enclosed areas causing air pollution that even the best ventilation systems cannot deal with effectively.

Thousands of people die each year in the European Union as a result of passive smoking. These deaths could be prevented. It has to be possible for every European Union citizen to live and work in surroundings that are free from tobacco smoke. This must be emphasised particularly in connection with public institutions and premises. Seventy per cent of the population of the European Union is non-smoking. We must bear this in mind and ensure that these people are able to live in a clean and safe environment.

 
  
  

- Motion for resolution RC-B6-0376/2007

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE).(SK) I voted against the report because it does not clearly reflect the European Union position on Turkey. It is necessary to freeze accession talks with Turkey completely. There are numerous reasons for doing so. At present Turkey is an untrustworthy partner. By refusing Turkey’s EU entry, in other words by telling the Turks the truth about their future EU membership, we would help the country democratise their society at last.

Turkey continues to occupy a Member State of the European Union: 40% of Cypriot territory is under Turkish military occupation. There is no freedom of religion in Turkey. Non-Muslims, Christians, members of the Orthodox Catholic Church and Protestants all suffer from persecution because they are not allowed to build churches. Five hundred Orthodox churches have been destroyed while everywhere in the European Union Muslims are building mosques. There is no freedom of speech in Turkey. Turkey denies the massacre of one-third of the Armenian population in the past. It is getting ready for another military intervention in Iraq. It is not solving the issues of the Kurdish minority on its territory. Turkey is not in Europe and does not belong in the EU. A privileged partnership with Turkey, instead of full membership, will be quite enough.

 
  
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  Christoph Konrad (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, I did not vote for the resolution on Turkey because I am greatly concerned that the Turkish Parliament has agreed a military strike against Iraq. This could not be taken into account in the report, but is a very topical issue.

Taking measures against a terrorist group is rather different from voting to invade a neighbouring country. It is not in the EU’s interests to see any destabilisation of Iraq. We should be reminding Turkey that, as a candidate country, it should be considering EU interests within the framework of common interests. This shows that full membership for Turkey – which I do not support, incidentally – with its shared borders with Iran and Iraq would mean a complete redrawing of the political map within the EU. In my view, we should spare ourselves the associated risks.

 
  
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  Philip Claeys (ITS).(NL) Madam President, I voted against the Oomen-Ruijten resolution because I think that Parliament should play a more active and a more ambitious role in monitoring the negotiation process with Turkey.

Now it seems that we have to make sure that we do not hurt the sensitive feelings of Mr Erdoğan and Mr Gül. It is becoming increasingly clear that Turkey is a candidate country unlike any other. Turkey evidently does not need to adhere to the Copenhagen criteria so strictly, despite all the promises from the Council, the Commission and Parliament that it would have to.

The way things are going we should not be at all surprised that more and more citizens in the European Union are turning their backs on the Union.

 
  
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  Frank Vanhecke (ITS).(NL) Madam President, this new vote on Turkish accession is a clear illustration of the fact that not only for most of our citizens is Europe far away and of no great concern to them, but that the European institutions themselves are increasingly alienating themselves from the citizens of Europe.

To the Eurocrats, Europe is not really Europe any more, as we blithely proceed to prepare for the accession of a country that is not European at all, not European in historical, cultural or religious terms, not in the euro, and not even European in geographical terms. What is more, this whole business has been pushed down our throats in a fundamentally undemocratic way, because the vast majority of European citizens really are against the accession of Turkey, but they are not allowed to have their say.

The citizens are not allowed to have their say on Turkey, just as they are not allowed to have their say on the new Constitution that we are not allowed to call a constitution. Are the Eurocrats actually afraid of democracy, afraid of consulting the people? This Europe is operating in an increasingly undemocratic and antidemocratic way, and it will all end very badly.

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE). – (FI) Madam President, two weeks ago Hrant Dink’s son Arat Dink and the publisher Serkis Seropyan were sentenced to prison for a year under Article 301, that is to say for insulting Turkishness. What was their crime? Over a year ago, thus prior to the murder of Hrant Dink, their newspaper Argos published a story stating that Hrant Dink, in an interview with Reuters, had said he thought the killings which took place in 1915 were genocide. The newspaper was therefore only reporting this, and that is all.

I therefore think it is vitally important to vote in favour of our resolution calling on Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. I say this as a friend of Turkey. It would be good if Turkey understood that this is not meant as an anti-Turkish stance. It is more about the custom the EU has of trying to create a better society in which the horrors of history can be avoided. A mindset where national identity protects itself with a penal code in which Article 301 is a continual frame of reference, and in which the mistakes of a nation are denied, is in serious conflict with this custom.

One of the bases of the European identity is that history is looked straight in the eye and held to account. The Armenian genocide is a historical truth. Parliament will be demanding that Turkey acknowledge it in the resolution on the start of negotiations.

 
  
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  Gérard Deprez (ALDE), in writing. – (FR) I wish to support the amendments made to the text that has been submitted for today’s vote on relations between the European Union and Turkey and in doing so would recall the conclusions reached at the European Council held in Brussels in December 2006. These set out the principle whereby, as far as enlargement was concerned, the European Union would require each candidate country to comply fully with all the Copenhagen criteria, but that any enlargement would still be subject to the Union’s capacity for further integration.

Quite a few of you will have been aware for some time of the doubts, or rather the concerns, that I have had about the European Union’s ability to continue to function properly if Turkey were to become one of its Member States.

Of course Turkey is a ‘friendly’ country and in geo-strategic terms is a very important partner for the European Union. I am therefore completely in favour of the EU maintaining a privileged partnership with Turkey. However, I am fiercely opposed to that particular country becoming part the Community.

Moreover, I believe that the problems of integrating Turkey as a potential Member State will become increasingly clear as the accession negotiations progress.

 
  
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  Patrick Gaubert (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I congratulate the rapporteur on having tabled the resolution on relations between the European Union and Turkey. The motion for a resolution by Mrs Oomen-Ruijten is a consensual and balanced document and in it she has sought to cover all the issues relating to this particular problem.

On the one hand the resolution congratulates Turkey on having recently held free and fair elections, calls on the Turkish Government to accelerate the process of reform and welcomes its intention to adopt a new civilian constitution. The motion for a resolution further calls for a new political initiative to be launched for a lasting settlement to the Kurdish issue. It also refers to attempts at reaching a settlement to the Cyprus question within the UN framework.

On the other hand, and this is in accordance with the position being supported by France, I welcome the fact that the resolution recalls that Turkey’s accession continues to depend on full compliance with the Copenhagen criteria and on the EU’s capacity for further integration.

For all these reasons I have decided to support the adoption of this resolution at the final vote in plenary. I can only once again express my deep regret that Parliament has not formally called on Turkey to officially recognise the Armenian genocide of 1915.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) As we highlighted earlier, many questions are raised by the negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the EU. This process is being encouraged by the major powers which, despite the contradictions, are aiming to integrate this great country into the EU’s ‘single market’, thereby gaining control of its economy and using its geo-strategic position for their own plans in the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The resolution is therefore illuminating in this respect as it underlines ‘the importance of Turkey as a transit hub for the diversification of gas supplies to the EU’ and ‘energy projects involving Turkey in the South Caucasus’, and also ‘the geo-strategic position of Turkey in the region’ whose ‘role in transportation and logistics will become more important in the coming years’.

The following are some of the other important aspects that should be underlined:

- Turkey has not made any steps towards recognising Cyprus – an EU Member State – and still militarily occupies the north of this island and disregards UN resolutions on this issue;

- the Turkish authorities are still engaged in repression against the Kurdish people and are still denying their legitimate cultural, political, economic and social rights.

 
  
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  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The report on the progress of Turkey’s course of accession to the EU includes utterly spurious congratulations to the Turkish Government and the new president. The report is a hypocritical and ineffectual expression of wishful thinking about human rights in vague and general terms, condemning terrorism and mentioning the joint struggle waged against it by the EU and Turkey.

On the other hand, there is no reference whatsoever to the continuing occupation of Northern Cyprus by Turkish military forces. There is not even a token condemnation of Turkey’s continuing refusal to recognise the Republic of Cyprus, and no pressure brought to bear on this issue. There is no condemnation of the Turkish regime’s policy of contesting Greek sovereign rights or of its threat to use force against neighbouring countries. There is no serious condemnation of the barbarous persecution and crimes committed by the Turkish authorities against the Kurdish population. There is not the slightest allusion to the political persecution, at the hands of the Turkish middle class in all its guises, both pro-burka and secular, of communists and other progressive-minded people. Despite all this, Turkey is urged not to use disproportionate force in the impending attack on northern Iraq!

In the context of the EU, the report reflects the objectives of powerful imperialist countries in line with their geopolitical interests in the wider area.

It is in the interests of the Turkish people and other peoples in the area to oppose Turkey’s integration into the EU and its imperialist plans.

 
  
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  Pierre Pribetich (PSE), in writing. – (FR) This resolution loses its impact because important amendments relating to the recognition of the Armenian genocide have been rejected by the majority of Members.

I am and will remain in favour of Turkey’s accession to the European Union. However, this accession process has to recognise some historical facts.

Moreover, I am totally opposed to the contradiction that Parliament has now introduced. In paragraph 5 of the resolution of 28 September 2005 it in fact called on Turkey to recognise the Armenian genocide and regarded this admission as a precondition for accession to the European Union. The decision to omit the Armenian genocide from the new resolution is a step backwards and one that I cannot support.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) Regardless of the end result, the current negotiations with Turkey must bring about the reforms which the country so desperately needs and which, in themselves, are the most important aspect of a country’s potential accession to the EU.

In this context, we must regard the AKP’s victory more as a commitment to economic reform than as a vote for Islam.

Given recent developments, the Kurdish issue must be tackled in conjunction with the United States, bearing in mind the issue of Iraq where the Kurdish north is peaceful. On the other hand, we cannot refrain from criticising the Kurdish terrorist attacks on Turkey or the lack of integration and acceptance of Kurds within Turkey itself.

Finally, we can never highlight enough the geo-strategic importance of Turkey in relation to the security of Europe’s borders, energy supply, particularly as an alternative to dependency on Russian gas, as a partner in dialogue with Islamic countries and on the Iraq issue.

For all these reasons, the EU’s strategy must be to negotiate seriously and firmly.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for the resolution that urges Turkey to accelerate the pace of its reforms.

We have to call on Turkey to do more: to ensure civilian control over the military; to have zero tolerance of torture; to provide protection for women and minority groups, and to recognise the Armenian genocide.

The handling of the Kurdish issue also has to be used as a criterion for assessing the reform process. The report that we have voted on urges the Turkish Government to launch a political initiative aimed at finding a lasting settlement to the Kurdish problem. It also deplores the violation of Iraq’s territory, while at the same time, of course, condemning the violence perpetrated by the PKK.

This is not about targeting Turkey as such, it is about recalling that we cannot have double standards, that we cannot sell off cheaply the values that we hold dear.

It would also be disastrous to continue to ignore public opinion, which was again expressed in a poll carried out by Notre Europe before the Lisbon Summit. The people of Europe are concerned about ill-prepared decisions on any future enlargement and about the EU’s capacity to absorb any more countries after the huge wave of new accessions that took place between 2004 and 2007.

 
  
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  Renate Sommer (PPE-DE), in writing. − (DE) I support the resolution on Turkey. The Turkish Government must be vigorous in implementing reforms at last.

As for the Armenian genocide, although Turkey’s admission of this genocide is not part of the Copenhagen criteria, a country which aspires to join the EU must surely face up to the dark side of its history.

Overall, Turkey has a very long way to go before it meets the Copenhagen criteria. Substantial deficits in relation to human and minority rights, civil and political rights and the general weakness of Turkey’s democracy vis-à-vis the military still exist.

There is still no progress on the Cyprus issue. For that reason, we must continue to push, this year, for the ratification of the Ankara Protocol. Without this, and also without the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island, there can be no solution. Turkey apparently refuses to understand that there are 27 Member States of the European Union and that one of these is the Republic of Cyprus!

As regards the conflict in the south-east of Turkey, the plan to launch an incursion into northern Iraq has existed at least since spring 2006. At present, it is to be feared that the invasion will indeed take place. However, a country which – despite international support for the securing of its borders – claims the right to violate international law as it sees fit disqualifies itself from accession to the European Union once and for all.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (UEN), in writing. − (PL) I abstained in the final vote on the report concerning EU-Turkey relations. This was because, despite negotiations lasting several months, the resolution makes no reference to the issue of Turkish responsibility for the massacre of Armenians in 1915.

Turkey is attempting to impose censorship on the international community regarding this matter. The most recent proof of this was the pressure brought to bear on the US Congress. The latter nevertheless stood firm and adopted an appropriate stance. It is a mistake to give in to unjustified pressure from Turkey on this matter.

I should like to add, however, that I very much appreciate the inclusion in the aforementioned resolution of statements concerning the rights of Christian minorities in Turkey, such as the right to train clergy and Church institutions’ right to legal personality.

 
  
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  Dominique Vlasto (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I decided to abstain on the resolution on EU-Turkey relations in order to signal my opposition to the accession negotiations currently under way. Two recent events should make us aware of the risks associated with this hypothetical accession. First there is the political crisis that the country went through before the new President of the Republic was sworn in: this illustrated the tensions that exist within Turkish society and also the fragility of that country’s institutions. I am also thinking of the tensions that have built up at the Iraqi border and the risk that this could destabilise one of the few areas in that country where violence has been contained. The Turkish Parliament’s decision to authorise the army to make military incursions into Iraq is unacceptable. Turkey is playing a dangerous role in the region and the EU should not lend any support to these populist and aggressive actions.

All this only reinforces my conviction: if we enlarge the Union to the borders of Iraq, I do not see what we will have left that is European. I believe that Turkey is still unfit to join the EU. It is up to us to put forward an alternative option: here the ‘Mediterranean Union’ proposed by Nicolas Sarkozy certainly offers an opportunity that should be seized by the EU and by Turkey.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE-DE), in writing. − (SK) I did not vote for the European Parliament resolution on EU-Turkey relations because enlargement of the European Union and Turkey’s entry into the Community are rather serious matters requiring more detailed knowledge and more intensive debate. In my opinion, in the accession process the same rules should apply to all countries.

The proposed amendments calling for an admission of the Armenian genocide and for an apology to Armenia and the Armenian people were not adopted by the plenary. Only such an admission and apology can give impetus to the process of reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia. Furthermore, Turkey continues to hinder progress in the search for a solution to the Cyprus problem. The cross-border military operation against Kurds who live along the border with Iraq, approved in a declaration issued by the Turkish Parliament, will not lead to a constructive solution to the terrorism problem in the country. It will simply lead to the destabilisation of the entire region.

There is also no visible progress in the matter of freedom of religion within the territory of the Republic of Turkey. The safety of Christians living in Turkey and respect for their rights are not guaranteed. In recent times we have witnessed violent attacks on Christian priests, missionaries, publishers or converts. Turkey has also not re-opened the Orthodox Church’s seminary without which the very existence of this ancient church is threatened.

 

10. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
  

(The sitting was suspended at 14.00 and resumed at 15.00)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: LUIGI COCILOVO
Vice-President

 

11. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes

12. EU-Serbia relations (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the report (A6-0325/2007) by Mr Kacin, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on EU-Serbia relations, with a proposal for a European Parliament recommendation to the Council on relations between the European Union and Serbia [2007/2126(INI)].

 
  
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  Jelko Kacin (ALDE), Rapporteur. – (SL) Today I am speaking as a rapporteur, but at the same time as a Liberal Democrat, as a Slovene, as a former Yugoslav and as a European. Just 15 years ago the country in which I was born disintegrated in a number of bloody wars which lasted for almost an entire decade.

Today many countries of that region, including Serbia, are still faced with the destructive effects of the conflict. To these fragile and young democracies membership of the European Union is a powerful incentive for further democratisation. The European Union, which these countries wish to join as soon as possible, is based on common values and standards, one of the most important of which is the rule of law.

However, in the case of the Balkan countries the issue is not only reform of the judicial system but also full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague.

Serbia has so far failed to honour its domestic and international duty to arrest four remaining fugitive war crime indictees, including Mladić and Karadžić, who stand accused of orchestrating the slaughter of nearly 8 000 civilians in Srebrenica. Anybody who kills a single human being commits a crime, but those who commit genocide represent an international and political challenge.

I visited Srebrenica before preparing this report. I believe in Serbian self-respect. That is why I insist that the Serbian state has to prove it is cooperating with the ICTY. In May, a new pro-European government took office, with ICTY cooperation as one of its key objectives. That is a development which I warmly welcome. I also welcome the fact that the Government moved against, arrested and delivered two of the six most wanted fugitives, Tolimir and Djordjevic.

Those arrests demonstrate that Serbia is able to locate and arrest the remaining war fugitives. As Chief Prosecutor Del Ponte has stated, the principal obstacle is not ability, but rather translating ability into tangible results. This is why the EU cannot afford to waive its conditionality at this crucial juncture.

As the tensions surrounding Kosovo’s future status mount, it would be wrong to think that caving in on EU conditionality and bending over backwards to make concessions to Belgrade will serve either the EU or Serbia in the long run. Turning a blind eye to war criminals may suit modern day Realpolitik, but it will not contribute to long-term peace or regional stability.

It is often repeated that Serbia is the key to stability in the region, but politicians in Belgrade are wrong to assume that this will mean preferential treatment for Serbia. Serbia would do well to use its abundant talents and potential to act as an example to its neighbours in the region, rather than leaving them to languish because of Serbian recalcitrance.

It is true that the EU will not be complete until the Balkans form part of the Union, but this cannot be at any price, and certainly not at the price of undermining international law and ignoring fundamental European values.

The citizens of Serbia are entitled to know the truth about the recent policies of war committed in their name. It is also for this reason that I support the recent initiative by the Special Prosecutor to uncover the political motives behind the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjić. It is for that reason too that I regret the leniency of the sentences delivered by the Serbian war crimes court to four members of the Scorpions for the execution of six Muslims from Srebrenica.

There is tremendous economic and cultural potential in Serbia, and a vast area of talented individuals in all spheres of life. The new Government has proved itself to have a number of dynamic and ambitious ministers. There is no doubt that Serbia possesses the administrative and institutional capacity to deal professionally with further EU membership negotiations.

Progress has been made in a number of areas in recent months, for instance in the conclusion of the technical talks on the SAA negotiations, ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, CEFTA and the election of an Ombudsman, a Governor of the Bank of Serbia, a Commissioner for Public Information and the members of the Council of the State Audit Institution.

Disappointingly, however, there has been little tangible progress on the nomination of judges to the Constitutional Court. In addition, the public denigration of civil society actors who criticise the Government or try to draw attention to sensitive issues, such as war crimes, continues. In this regard, I condemn the recent events in Novi Sad, where a neo-Nazi organisation attacked a peaceful gathering of individuals who had gathered for an anti-fascist demonstration. It is imperative that the relevant authorities find the perpetrators and thoroughly investigate the crime.

At the same time, I recognise that the EU’s strict visa regime, which prevents ordinary Serbs from meeting with their counterparts in the European Union, acts as a brake on Serbia’s democratic progress, and contributes to xenophobia and nationalism.

I welcome the agreements which have been negotiated. While these mark an important first step, the ultimate goal must be to liberalise travel for all citizens of the region. Do you know that only one tenth of Serbs possess a passport? We have to give something concrete to the rest of the population. I urge the Council to ensure that the agreements enter into force at the beginning of next year, as well as calling on the Council also to establish a concrete roadmap for visa liberalisation.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my assistants, fellow Members, the Committee on Foreign Affairs secretariat, the political groups, the Commission, the Serbian Mission to the EU and the Serbian Office for European Integration.

In concluding my intervention, I would like to add a short personal note. As one of the very few MEPs born in the Western Balkans, I am very proud to have worked as rapporteur. My country, Slovenia, became an EU member not because it was easy, but because it was difficult. We managed, just like Serbian politicians, intellectuals and business people will also manage, when they decide to do so. I call on Serbia and the Serbian people to wake up now, to start helping themselves, to help their neighbours, to help the entire region and to join us. Do it. You are strong enough. Together we will manage.

 
  
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  President. − I thank the House for its forbearance as regards the usual time allocation. I apologise to the House on the rapporteur’s behalf. Thank you.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, Serbia naturally lies within the European space and we all recognise that, in recent years, it has been faced with major challenges; in fact more than this, with extremely difficult challenges due to its importance to the stability and development of the Western Balkan region. The European Union has tried to help Serbia overcome these challenges by reinforcing and making more tangible and visible the benefits of the European perspective.

We have therefore tried to prove to the Serbian people and authorities our commitment to bringing Serbia closer to the European Union. We have tried to show that there is an alternative, by helping the pro-European political and social forces which are favourable to pursuing the necessary reforms to consolidate the country’s democracy and development.

The stabilisation and association agreements represent a fundamental step in bringing the Western Balkan countries closer to the Union. They also form an essential instrument for clarifying the European perspective. In that regard, we feel that it is very positive that the Commission has completed the negotiations with Serbia on the conclusion of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. We sincerely hope that the conditions for the Commission to sign the agreement will shortly be met.

There is firm political support in the Council for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement to be signed as soon as the necessary conditions are met. However, before the Council can implement the agreement, Serbia must fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court.

The ability for people in Serbia to travel more easily to the European Union would also reinforce the ties between us and undoubtedly contribute to the democratisation process and to the pro-European Union sentiment in Serbian society.

The visa facilitation and readmission agreements which were signed in September and which will enter into force in January 2008 are, in our opinion, vitally important.

The Commission has agreed with Serbia to begin dialogue on the liberalisation of visas after the entry into force of these agreements. The EU has also made it clear to Serbia that its integration process is not linked to the issue of determining the future status of Kosovo. In fact, every country moves towards becoming a member of the European Union on its own merits and in accordance with the conditions of the stabilisation and association process and the Copenhagen criteria.

To conclude, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I must once again reiterate the significance that the Presidency of the European Union attributes to the opportunity of discussing with the European Parliament the importance, for both Serbia itself and the region, of securing a European future for Serbia. There can be no doubt that the Western Balkans remain one of the European Union’s priorities and that our ultimate goal is to create a situation of peace, stability, democracy and prosperity in the region.

This is why we have a vision of the integration of these countries within the Union, with the stabilisation and association process remaining the framework for preparing for this potential accession. Serbia is a country of high geo-strategic importance to the stability of the whole region, which is why progress in this process is essential to achieve the EU’s ultimate goal with regard to the Western Balkans: to see this become a region of stability, peace and progress.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I would like to congratulate Mr Kacin for his solid report, which captures the essential aspects of the current state of EU-Serbia relations. I have asked my services to follow up on the recommendations of the report, which has already been useful in the preparation of the Commission’s annual progress report, due to be adopted on 6 November.

Your report highlights a number of areas where both the European Union and Serbia need to intensify efforts, which I fully support. I particularly agree with the importance granted to visa facilitation and with the call for progress now to be made on visa liberalisation.

Precisely for that reason, the Commission has indicated its intention to start a dialogue early next year, with each of the countries of the Western Balkans, on a roadmap for visa liberalisation, by defining its requirements and conditions. This issue is of immense importance, not least in terms of giving concrete evidence to the young generation of the region of what Europe really means.

We are at a very critical juncture in our relations with Serbia. Over the past fortnight I have had intense discussions with the Council Presidency, with Member States and with the Serbian authorities on the state of affairs. It will come as no surprise that the Kosovo status process and the stabilisation and association agreement, including ICTY conditionality, were the main items.

The deadline of 10 December for Kosovo talks is fast approaching, and the work of the international troika is entering a crucial phase. We fully support the work of the EU’s representative, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, and we will leave no stone unturned in seeking a negotiated solution.

It is now essential that the two parties – Belgrade and Priština – assume their responsibilities and engage seriously in constructive and creative proposals that can lead to a negotiated, sustainable solution. I have also had intensive discussions with Member States and with the Serbian authorities on the stabilisation and association agreement. That agreement will constitute a political milestone in our relations with Serbia. It will be the gateway towards candidate status for membership of the European Union.

The Commission has first negotiated and then finalised the technical work on the draft text of this agreement, which is currently being assessed by Member States in the Council working group.

It is working intensively with the Presidency and Member States to complete a legal-linguistic review of the text so that we, as the European Union, are technically ready to sign the agreement soon, provided that the political conditions are in place – namely full cooperation with the ICTY – which should lead to the arrest of the remaining indictees. This is, to my understanding, in line with the recommendation in your report, addressed to the Council.

Concerning the ICTY, as I have said before, for the moment I see Serbia’s part of the glass as being half full rather than half empty. I have made it clear to the Serbian Government that signature of the SAA is within reach. It is now a question of political will and translating ability into results. We are ready, once Serbia is ready by meeting the conditions. The ball is now clearly in Serbia’s court.

At the same time we should also appreciate the efforts Serbia has made up to now. Too often, these tend to be forgotten in our debates. Since 2004, Serbia has cooperated in locating and handing over 20 of the 24 ICTY indictees. That shows that our policy of conditionality works.

However, ICTY cooperation cannot be a stop-start process, and more needs to be done to achieve full cooperation, especially concerning intensified search operations and access to archives and documents.

The Chief Prosecutor will return to Belgrade tomorrow for two days, and the Commission will take her findings strongly into account when making our assessment on the initialling of the SAA agreement.

Signature will then depend on full cooperation with the ICTY, and we will assess that together with the Council. This requires Serbia to do everything in its powers to locate and arrest the fugitives and to provide the ICTY with all the necessary information leading to their arrest and transfer to tribunal in The Hague.

To conclude, Serbia indeed has tremendous economic, cultural and intellectual potential that is just waiting to be released in the pursuit of the country’s European future.

The Commission is fully committed to Serbia’s European perspective. I am convinced that the country can make relatively rapid progress on its European road once it meets the essential conditions.

That is crucial, not just for Serbia’s European aspirations, but for the stability and progress of the whole Western Balkans. It is, therefore, high time for Serbia to turn the page on its painful past, and to fully approach its European future.

 
  
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  György Schöpflin, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Mr President, all in this House would agree that Serbia has a European future and that this European future is highly desirable, both for Serbia and for Europe. The question then is how to get there from here.

The heart of the problem is that, whilst Serbia certainly has some of the characteristics of a democracy, it is still some way from having a stable, democratic infrastructure. The legacy of communism and of the wars following the disintegration of Yugoslavia has left deep marks on Serbian society, hence the operation of trustworthy, neutral institutions is that much more difficult to sustain. The weakness of the rule of law, the corruption and nepotism, and the worryingly high level of casual violence are all indicators of a society that has to undergo a significant shift before democracy can be regarded as complying with the Copenhagen criteria.

Perhaps the most toxic part of the legacy is the way in which nationalism retains its attractiveness for a politically important part of society, a part of the elite included. For the protagonists of Serbian ethnic nationalism, Serbian citizenship is understood as coextensive with the Serbian nation. This bears very hard on the non-Serb part of Serbian society. In this area, the country’s political elite has a great deal of work to do. Only Serbia – the country’s political elites and Serbian society – can make the necessary shift towards democracy, human rights and citizenship.

The conclusions of this thoughtful report, on the other hand, offer cogent indications as to how that transformation can be made and how Serbia can once again take its place in Europe.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Mr President, with winter just around the corner, the political atmosphere in Serbia is heating up. That is why, by participating in the preparation of this report, the PSE Group is trying especially to grasp the situation of a nation that lost a privileged position in the former Yugoslav Federation, a nation where nationalist outbreaks have damaged the entire region, wrecked many lives, claimed a number of victims and received bombs and rockets in reply.

In spite of everything, the majority of the country’s population wants nothing else than to follow the European path and, by doing so, to heal its own and its neighbours’ wounds. This report tries to help, in a friendly and yet demanding fashion, to draw the road signs for this important path. I would especially like to thank our colleague, Mr Kacin, who put into this report not only a lot of work but also sense and heart.

I would like to emphasise the successful work of the pro-European Serbian Government in this not-so-easy situation. Its activities have allowed the European Parliament to suggest signing of the stabilisation and association agreement, perhaps even by the end of this year. Yet whether the country will be able to turn a page in its relations with the EU depends largely on the Serbs themselves. We, for our part, will keep strongly to our opinion that the agreement will be signed only when Serbia shows results in capturing the remaining war criminals.

The PSE Group has proposed a few amendments to the report which seek to soften the formulation of sensitive issues for Serbs. These suggest, inter alia, changing the formulation of Recital M to underline that inter-ethnic reconciliation is paramount for securing stability in the region.

We are of the position that Kosovo is a separate problem, which is why it remains almost untouched in this report. The solution to that problem should not divert Serbia from the European path along which, after time, it is forecast to meet with Kosovo and former Yugoslav republics, and indeed with the rest of Europe.

 
  
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  István Szent-Iványi, on behalf of the ALDE group. – (HU) Mr President, Minister, Commissioner, first of all I would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Kacin, on his constructive and balanced report. In 2003 the European Union committed itself to the integration of Serbia into the EU because of its conviction that Serbia is an important factor in regional stability, and that Serbia’s future lies in Europe. From this point onwards, the pace of integration depends entirely on Serbia.

Full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague is an important prerequisite. Progress has been made; two out of the six most wanted war criminals have been handed over, but the most serious war criminals, Mladić and Karadžić, are still at large. Further efforts are needed. The biggest test of strength for both Serbia and Europe is the issue of settling the status of Kosovo. The current situation is the most serious obstacle both to regional stability and to Serbia’s EU integration. We expect Serbia to act in a constructive manner in order to resolve this situation as quickly and as satisfactorily as possible.

Progress has been made in the field of minority rights; the number of violent assaults has fallen, and minorities have been granted new rights under the constitution. The progress made, however, is far from adequate: regulations relating to National Councils are not yet in place and legislation guaranteeing self-determination for minorities is lacking. There are also European tasks that Serbia needs to undertake, given that in practice the Constitutional Court is non-functional, the justice system is slow and subject to political influence, and corruption and organised crime permeate all areas of economic and social life. If Serbia genuinely desires integration, it is vitally important that it steps up its efforts in these areas. Europe will give Serbia all possible assistance in order for it to carry out these tasks successfully, but it is Serbia that must undertake the tasks. We must emphasise that the responsibility and the obligation to do everything in their power to ensure the successful integration of Serbia into the EU lie with our Serb friends themselves. Thank you, Mr President.

 
  
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  Brian Crowley, on behalf of the UEN Group.(GA) Mr President, the Commission will soon be taking a decision on the stabilisation and association agreement to be concluded between the EU and Serbia. I support this agreement. It will send out a clear message at international level that Serbian membership of the EU is on the current political agenda. This is the country’s first significant step towards EU membership.

Although many colleagues have spoken about the difficulties which Serbia has faced in the past and the ongoing problems that there are concerning Serbian accession and the stabilisation agreement, we must also give recognition to the tremendous road which has been travelled despite the difficulties which have occurred.

As with all relationships between countries that are in close proximity to each other, there will still be difficulties in the future with regard to how Serbia will deal with the issue of Kosovo, their ongoing cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal, and in particular with regard to their relationships with other neighbouring countries that were formally part of Yugoslavia.

However, the clear message being given by the authorities in Serbia is that there is an ongoing desire on their part to see progress being made. They are willing to hear the best practice models that we can encourage for them. And look at what the European Union has delivered in the past – over EUR 165 million in the reconstruction effort. The issue that we must all remember is that the Balkans War continues to be a huge psychological scar on the development, not just of Serbia, but of other countries. And indeed, if you look into the recent past of any of our own countries, there are similar psychological fractures which took us a while to overcome.

We should give some leeway to allow for Serbia to make that transition and that progress. Our role and our duty is to ensure that we act as a good neighbour, as a faithful teacher of how best things can happen, but also to reward the good things that have happened.

 
  
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  Gisela Kallenbach, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, first of all, I would like to extend my warm thanks to the rapporteur for his sound and comprehensive work. We very much welcome the fact that the European Parliament makes clear and regular contributions to the political debate about the situation in South-East Europe. Serbia plays, and has played, a prominent role in this region.

That is why it is essential to underline, time and again, that Serbia’s future lies within the EU and that we are good and reliable partners. However, it takes at least two to build a partnership, and so I appeal to Serbia to continue along the path towards EU integration and to play a constructive role in the resolution of the Kosovo issue.

We expect unlimited cooperation with the Hague Tribunal at last – that point has been made several times – and compliance with the criteria of European standards. I very much hope that the better opportunities for travel will also make a contribution here and bring about improvements in the future.

What I cannot endorse, however, are the proposals that have occasionally been made to apply different standards to EU accession. I am pleased that the rapporteur, the Commissioner and the representative of the Council take the same view, especially as we paid dearly for this not long ago.

I have great understanding for the difficult and painful position in which Serbia finds itself, but I repeat, it takes at least two to build a partnership.

 
  
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  Erik Meijer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (NL) Mr President, as in any country that has lost a recent war resulting in the loss of territory and influence, nationalistic feelings of superiority also enjoy strong support in Serbia. Rather than isolating and punishing Serbia because the war criminal Ratko Mladić cannot be found, it should be offered a future in which guarantees are also established for the ethnic minorities in Vojvodina, Sandžak and Preševo.

My Group supports the efforts of the Kacin report towards overtures with a view to Serbian membership of the European Union. Unfortunately, paragraph 8 added by the Committee on Foreign Affairs pre-empts the decision on Kosovo. After 10 December, Kosovo will probably be unilaterally recognised as a state by America and a number of Member States of the European Union, and Serbia will unilaterally take back the northern part of Kosovo. This is why we do not share at all the confidence that the future status of Kosovo can only contribute to stability and integration.

While this groundless optimism in paragraph 8 is maintained, my Group is withdrawing its support for this report.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, this report’s opening sentence is: ‘... the future of Serbia lies in the European Union’. It goes on to say: ‘... the future of all countries in the region lies in the EU’. The countries of the region are of course Croatia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania. Some of them have historic enmities that have erupted in tragic wars in recent times.

The EU, of course, believes that if they joined everything would resolve itself in sweetness and light. But follow through one consequence of what would actually happen if they did join. These states have a combined population of over 24 million people. Many of these people would take up their right to move to other parts of the EU. On past experience, many of them would come to Britain. Britain is already swamped with immigrants and asylum seekers from the EU and beyond. The British Home Office has an unofficial policy of moving different ethnic and religious groups of asylum-seekers to different parts of the UK for fear of the violence and conflicts that might erupt between them. If Serbia and other Balkan States were eventually to join the EU, Britain would import yet more of their historic hatreds and blood feuds onto British soil.

The way forward for Serbia and for her neighbours is as democratic, independent nation states, resolving their problems peacefully – not to join the European Union.

 
  
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  Carl Lang, on behalf of the ITS Group. – (FR) Mr President, the European authorities, and in particular the Kacin report, generally seem to treat Serbia not as a sovereign state but as a naughty schoolboy, a ne’er-do-well, someone the European Union has the right to give good marks and bad marks to.

Serbia gets good marks when it acquires a government that is described as being pro-European. This pro-European reference of course means being liable for and subject to the dogma that pertains in Brussels. It gets bad marks when the Serbs prove less than enthusiastic about collaborating with the International Criminal Tribunal. Here it is useful to recall that this Tribunal has scorned two principles that in fact go to the heart of our justice system: the legal sovereignty of states and freedom of expression. As a result, Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party that represents 28% of the electorate, has been imprisoned in The Hague since February 2003 and is still awaiting a verdict, even though he turned himself in voluntarily. This Tribunal is therefore blatantly violating the very principles that have been declared by the European Union, namely respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights. To tell the truth, Mr Seselj’s only crime is to be a Serbian patriot.

The rulers of the European Union, who wish to break up the nations of Europe, cannot in fact forgive the Serbs for having resisted the destruction of their state, and in particular the secession of Kosovo, the historic heart of Serbia. The treatment inflicted on the Serbs in Kosovo is a warning to all the peoples of Europe. If today the Albanians are calling for the establishment of a Kosovar state, it is because immigration from Albania and the falling birth-rate among Serbs have given them a majority in a province where, some fifty years ago, they were in the minority. The Kosovan example should compel us more than ever to reaffirm the right of the peoples of Europe to be themselves and to make their own decisions, in other words to preserve their identity and sovereignty, and in an enlarged European Europe of nations and homelands there should also clearly be a legitimate place for the people of Serbia.

 
  
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  Doris Pack (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Kacin has presented a report which has attracted very broad support in the House. A number of us contributed to that effort. I therefore do not intend to discuss the finer points of detail, but would simply like to make various comments in a personal capacity.

Serbia’s democratic forces were too late in making the radical break with the Milošević era, much too late. As a result, cooperation with the Hague Tribunal was not addressed seriously and credibly, which was why cooperation within the Stabilisation and Association Agreement was also delayed, then suspended, then resumed, and now we are waiting again. In other words, Serbia’s path to the EU is already mapped out and Serbia has the capacity, but it does need to make efforts of its own.

The unresolved Kosovo issue hangs like a dark cloud over Serbian politics and is having a paralysing effect. Who is suffering as a result? That is easy to answer: the young generation. After the embargo and the NATO bombing – and the Serbs have Mr Milošević to thank for both of them, not the democratic forces which are in government today – young people now face another intractable problem, namely Kosovo. This is impeding efficient political work as well, which plays straight into the hands of the radicals and their cronies at the top.

Thankfully, visa facilitation will finally create some breathing space, and this is something which we in Parliament have long been campaigning for. We want to see young Serbs participating very soon in our education and youth programmes which we opened up with effect from 2007. I would also like to pay tribute to the very positive work being undertaken by the Vojvodina regional parliament in relation to tolerance and youth cooperation, which is having a major impact. A great many young people have come together in the Danube region this year, and this is a marvellous example of a commitment to tolerance and peaceful social relations.

There is a great longing for normality in Serbia. Politicians should be doing more for the present and the future and should leave the past behind. They should also be doing much more to improve the daily lives of ordinary people, to ensure that they do not lose popular support.

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (PSE).(DE) Mr President, in the speech made by our esteemed colleague Mr Kacin, there were two things missing, in my view. The first was the expression of thanks to the generous President, and the second, more importantly, was the balance which is certainly expressed in his report.

We worked well together and I would like to thank him very much for that. I think that this has developed into a very good draft report. In saying that, I echo what Commissioner Rehn said. Some substantial progress has been made, but when assessing a country, both the positives and the negatives should be mentioned. Substantial progress has also been made in terms of cooperation with the ICTY. However – and here we are in accord – this progress is not enough. I hope that an agreement will be reached with Carla del Ponte in the next few days, and I made it clear on behalf of my Group when I spoke to Minister Ljajić that all the issues have to be resolved. We cannot stop halfway and we cannot stop three-quarters of the way either. Full cooperation has to be established. That is the common position of Parliament and the European Union as a whole.

As I see it, the crucial issue in this country is that unfortunately – and here I would echo what Doris Pack has said – the nationalists often still seem to be setting the agenda. You cannot overtake extremist right-wing nationalists even further to the right, which is what some people are trying to do. This simply leads to chaos. The fact that Mr Nikolić held office as the Speaker of Parliament, even if it was only for four days, is scandalous. Given the difficulties and sensitivities of the situation, how can anyone think of having the leader of the extreme right as the Speaker of Parliament? It is scandalous. This is not the way to conduct politics and take Serbia forward. That is something which repeatedly confirms that Serbia is actually pursuing a nationalist course. I hope that all the forces of the centre will reflect for a moment and realise that there has to be a clear dividing line between the nationalists on the one hand and the rest, whether they are now Conservative or Socialist, on the other. The centre is the only force which can take the country forward, provided that they are not tempted to dally with the nationalists.

Yes, we need to do more about visa-free travel. A step towards visa facilitation has been taken, and now we should be moving towards visa-free travel so that young people can come to Europe and see what it is all about. That is what young Serbs need, and that is what Serbia needs as well.

 
  
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  Samuli Pohjamo (ALDE). – (FI) Mr President, Commissioner, first I wish to thank the rapporteur, Mr Kacin, for an excellent, thorough report. The report mentions the difficult problems which thwart relations between the EU and Serbia, but it also highlights many positive factors which have emerged in Serbia’s development.

I would like to stress the importance of natural relations in the development of EU-Serbian cooperation. It is important that young Serbian nationals should have more opportunities to travel abroad on student exchange and cultural programmes. There has been positive experience of this with many countries in the context, for example, of the Erasmus Mundus and Leonardo da Vinci programmes.

Natural relations with Serbia will also be given a boost with the visa agreement that has been concluded. We must ensure that the agreement takes effect before the end of the year, at the same time as we speed up visa processing and develop support action to increase travel opportunities for young people and professionals in particular.

Finally, I want to say that the European Agency for Reconstruction has also fulfilled its role in Serbia. Its work is now coming to a close and the Agency’s tasks can be transferred to the Commission units, with the emphasis on support for administrative and judicial development. In this way, we can encourage Serbia and other countries in the region to enjoy closer relations with the European Union.

 
  
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  Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka (UEN).(PL) The report refers to recent changes in Serbia. Much still remains to be done, however, notably in the area of cooperation between the Government and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Despite promises made, Radko Mladić has not been arrested and handed over to the Tribunal in The Hague. The lack of progress in this area of cooperation is cause for concern and impacts negatively on perception of the action taken by the Serb authorities to strengthen the rule of law.

The new constitution and the provisions relating to the protection of human rights and the rights of national minorities, the security services, the judiciary and the army, and also the efforts to eliminate corruption, do represent movement in the right direction. There are certain shortcomings to the reforms, however, such as the failure to appoint a Constitutional Court which would act as the guardian of democracy. It is essential for the measures adopted and the commitments entered into by Serbia to be monitored. Despite the progress made, much still remains to be accomplished in Serbia.

 
  
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  Joost Lagendijk (Verts/ALE). (NL) Mr President, Parliament, ladies and gentlemen, we are attempting today to underline the positive developments in Serbia, and let there be no misunderstanding about it, there is nothing wrong with that. It is important for the European Union that Serbia develops towards democracy and it is important that we, the European Union, acknowledge that process and, where possible, support it. It is the same endeavour being undertaken at present in other EU institutions, in particular in the Council.

We must not overdo it, however, ladies and gentlemen. Even if Serbia does everything it is asked to do in this report, but at the same time it plays a negative and destructive role in the negotiations on the future of Kosovo, then that will of course have negative consequences for the pace of Serbia’s overtures toward the European Union. Ladies and gentlemen, that is how it should be. That is why I find it incomprehensible and not good that up to now the link – which I believe is a real link, everyone knows that – between the Serbian position in the negotiations on Kosovo and Serbia’s route in the direction of Europe is not made.

I am therefore appealing to fellow Members to support the amendment in which this link is made. There is a connection between the Serbian position on Kosovo and the pace and content of the negotiations between Serbia and the European Union. The refusal to make that link up to now is explained by the argument that we – the European Union – do not want to make things even more difficult for the democrats in Serbia, for President Tadić, and so we have to keep quiet on the difficult issues.

Ladies and gentlemen, I disagree fundamentally with that assessment of the situation. I agree with the predecessor of the present Commissioner, Chris Patten, who recently wrote that it is a misapprehension if we believe that we are helping the democrats by being soft, by not being candid and honest to Serbia. By not being open and honest, we are strengthening Kostunica who can then say: if we take a hard line we can force the European Union to make concessions. That is not the way forward. Once again I beg you, be positive, but be honest and make things plain too. The citizens of the EU and Serbia are entitled to that.

 
  
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  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, the EU shares responsibility for the unjust and dirty war waged by NATO against Yugoslavia. It is jointly responsible for the murder of thousands of Yugoslavs; for the enormous destruction inflicted on the infrastructure, factories and the country as a whole, and for the use of enriched uranium. Those who should be arrested, tried and sentenced for war crimes are Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Javier Solana (the former NATO Secretary General) and the other leaders of the countries that attacked Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, nothing of the kind has happened. Yugoslavia has been dismantled; you are creating protectorates and you are now trying to annex Serbia. You are asking for a declaration of repentance from a people who did what is self-explanatory: they defended the independence of their country. You may receive such a declaration from the government, but the young people will not forget and will not forgive the crimes of ΝΑΤΟ and the EU.

You are now continuing the same policy with the independence of Kosovo and the creation of a new protectorate. Among other things, the measures proposed in the report are an attempt to redeem slaughter and destruction by using money from the workers of Europe. The measures aim to present the murderers of the Yugoslav peoples as saviours in a bid to create favourable conditions for linking Serbia to the imperialist chariot, and for European capital to take over the country.

The Communist Party of Greece condemns this report and believes that the interests of the Balkan peoples will be served if we do not forget, but struggle against the EU and the barbarity you are nurturing.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM). (NL) Mr President, Mr Kacin’s solid wide-ranging report gives a balanced view of the socio-economic development of Serbia. The dark and bright sides are both presented: excellent growth figures against high unemployment, for instance; in concrete terms, 7.2% against over 20% for the past three years.

Direct foreign investment is essential for Serbian development and that is exactly what is lacking at the moment. The causes are obvious. They can mainly be traced back to Belgrade’s image problem. What frightens off foreign investors, more than anything, is protracted political insecurity – byword Kosovo – and also the marked slowing down in the pace of market reforms on the part of Belgrade.

That brings me to a crucial question. Is Serbia standing in its own way? The Kacin report opens with the proposition that the future of Serbia lies in the European Union; the European conditions en route to that are perfectly well-known to Belgrade, as is European commitment to cooperate on that route. In the end the Serbian authorities should themselves answer the pressing question: is Serbia standing in its own way?

 
  
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  Zsolt László Becsey (PPE-DE). – (HU) Thank you, Mr President. Mr Kacin’s report is excellent, a professional piece of work. One can tell that he was born in the region and knows it well. My comments are as follows:

1. The principle of values. It is vital that no one should be allowed to enter the European Union with the kind of legacy where not only is there a failure to investigate collective crimes and mass murders, but where it is not even permitted to remember them, to remember the dead. This has been a minimum human right, the right to human dignity, since Antigone. In a place where this point has not yet been reached and is not even being called for, we should not be surprised if radical groups are prowling the streets and gaining strength, or neo-fascists are on the march in Vojvodina. This must be resolved, because if we fail to do so, it is not only Serbia that we should be worried about, but also Europe.

2. I think we should at least undertake what we ourselves have set out as regards this report. In other words, let us not weaken it with amendments, let us not censor the resolutions we have made or the points made in them, but cite them exactly as they are. The same goes for territorial arrangements, which Mr Kacin has quite rightly brought into his report from the Commission, because no one will understand what we want if we pointlessly water it down.

3. We must help Serbia, and not just talk about doing so. After relaxing visa requirements, we need to abolish them altogether so that ordinary Serbs are able to enter Europe whenever they wish. Until then, there is no point in harping on about Serbia’s European Union prospects, as we cannot take the third step before we take the first. The same goes for Serbia’s membership of CEFTA, for implementation of the Association process, and its future within the WTO.

My last remark is that we need a bottom-up society, and one that demands proportionality, both for representation of ethnic minorities in the public administration, which is vital, and for ensuring appropriate forms of autonomy. Lack of proportionality signifies a lack of trust, and if there is no trust we will not really be able to move forward towards new, long-desired cooperation in the Balkans. Thank you.

 
  
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  Véronique De Keyser (PSE).(FR) Mr President, the Kacin report deals with Serbia, not Kosovo, and not with what will happen after December. It is also true to say that it does not link Serbia’s reaction to the Kosovo issue to the promise of accession to the European Union. Mr Lagendijk is upset about this, while my Group welcomes it and takes the view that here Parliament can deny any political bargaining or double diplomacy.

It is true that there is one question that is constantly raised, namely the International Criminal Tribunal and Serbia’s cooperation with it. Now Mrs Del Ponte has just sounded the alarm bells, or at least something very like it, in referring to the intransigence being displayed and is using the European Union as a link with everything that affects human rights, in other words conditionality, and I believe she is not wrong.

I do not believe, as Mr Lang does, that this is simply a matter of handing out good marks and bad marks. I take the view that the issue of nationalism, this culture of impunity, with four wanted criminals – and not small fry either – still running around free in Serbia, is intolerable. Furthermore, I would say that we know from experience that a country has everything to gain by recognising its past and acknowledging its crimes. We called on Croatia to make huge efforts and we asked Bosnia to do the same; and these are the very same efforts that enabled us to rebuild Europe after the Second World War.

All this goes to the very heart of what we value most. It is not a matter of handing out points, it is the very core of our values and it is the key to reconciliation in the Balkans. Finally I would add, even though we are not discussing Kosovo, that the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic, who visited the European Parliament several weeks ago, reaffirmed to us that whatever happened about Kosovo his country had no intention of resorting to arms. I remember these words and, without linking this to the Kacin report, I hope that this appeal has reached the ears of his own people.

 
  
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  Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski (UEN).(PL) Mr President, I have noted the negative attitude adopted by certain European countries towards Serbia over the years. Serbia is perceived as the country that is implementing Russia’s policy for the Balkans. Another aspect has been largely overlooked, however. Serbia lies on one of the main routes for the expansion of Islam into Europe. Personally, I am in favour of maintaining the best possible relations with Turkey and other Muslim states, but it is not in Europe’s interest to allow constant humiliation of a Christian country whilst favouring Muslim ones. This may have far-reaching consequences for our continent in the future. What the region concerned needs is stabilisation, not incitement to racial and religious tension. The ongoing democratisation of political life in Serbia must surely be welcomed by all.

Our relations with Serbia should respect that nation’s pride and national tradition. Only then will Serbia turn to the Union in preference to other powers, and stabilise the region at the same time.

 
  
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  Michael Gahler (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, the future of the former Yugoslav republic of Serbia lies in Europe. That applies to all the republics of the former Yugoslavia. As is the case for every potential candidate, there are conditions that apply to accession to this community of values, and I would therefore like to thank the rapporteur not just for his report but also for making it clear in his speech what these conditions are. Unlimited cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is indeed a precondition for the signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. I find it hard to stomach that war criminals such as Mladić and Karadžić still have so many sympathisers, not only among the general public but also among the police, the military and many public office-holders in Serbia: in other words, the very people with whom we will soon be negotiating Serbia’s closer relations with the EU.

Dealing with the past is not a formal condition for closer relations with the EU, but it would help the Serbs, their immediate neighbours and the EU as a whole.

The Kosovo issue, too, must be viewed separately in formal terms, but I find this nationalist stonewalling very unhelpful. I also think it is wrong to purchase a Russian veto in the Security Council with generous sell-offs of key companies to Russian firms. At the end of the process – according to Belgrade’s calculations – the EU is expected to provide compensation, in the form of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, for concessions which have not actually been made in the Kosovo issue. That will become apparent after 10 December.

I therefore fully support Mr Lagendijk’s position. The level of cooperation on the issue of Kosovo will thus be one of the factors which is either more helpful or more of a hindrance to Serbia’s closer relations with the EU, and Belgrade should take note of that fact.

 
  
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  Libor Rouček (PSE).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, last year Serbia went through some significant changes which I am convinced were also successfully negotiated.

The difficult and painful process of dissolution of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro was successfully completed. Democratic parliamentary elections were held fairly and freely and a new pro-European government was established. Substantial and much needed economic growth followed.

After a 13-month break, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) negotiations between the Serbian Government and the EU resumed. There is a realistic prospect that in the near future the signature of the SAA may take place. This would be a significant step on the path to Serbia’s EU membership. As has already been mentioned today several times, the condition for this is Serbia’s cooperation with the ICTY. I trust that tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, during Carla del Ponte’s visit to Belgrade, at least some of the obstacles will be overcome, such as, for example, full access to archive documents in ministerial departments.

In my short contribution today I will not make any comments on Kosovo as we are discussing the report on Serbia. What I would like to do, however, is to commend Serbia for its responsible and proactive approach and its collaboration in the context of regional initiatives such as the Stability Pact and CEFTA (Central European Free Trade Agreement). This collaboration is evidence of Serbia’s clear interest in developing and sustaining good relationships with its regional neighbours.

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki (UEN).(PL) Mr President, Serbia is a European country that has made considerable progress towards integration into the European Union over the last few years. One could of course mention a number of problems that may not actually be greater in Serbia than they are in Albania or in Bosnia-Herzegovina, although it seems we are prepared to turn a blind eye in the case of the latter two countries.

I believe we should create a system of incentives for Serbia to encourage it to try even harder to meet European standards. Nevertheless, the goal, namely the European Union, should be clearly visible. There is certainly a point in what Mr Gahler said about relations between Russia and Serbia. It should be made very clear to Serbia, however, that its place is within the European Union and that it will be easier for us to work with Serbia if it is inside the Union rather than if it remains outside. That much seems obvious to me.

 
  
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  Marcello Vernola (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that the Serbian authorities must show greater commitment to cooperating with the Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, so as to ensure that the war criminals are caught. We all agree that this is a precondition for the safety of the entire Balkan area and for the entire European Union, as well as a legal and moral obligation.

We must also see to it that the Serbian Government renews its commitment to a climate of peaceful coexistence among all the ethnic groups living in the land. The Ministry of the Interior has already been undertaking initiatives to prevent and control inter-ethnic incidents in Vojvodina since 2004, but the participation of minorities in social life and their proper institutional representation must be promoted.

We are all in favour of an immediate settlement on the status of Kosovo this December. Nevertheless, many problems will remain unresolved, beginning with the need to clamp down on Albanian organised crime which is destabilising the whole geographical area, including the areas bordering on Macedonia and Albania, thus greatly endangering the overall safety of the Balkans as a whole.

Kosovo must not be abandoned to its own devices. We must demand that the safety of the entire Balkan area be secured by means of a continued European Union presence. From this point of view, accelerated entry into the EU by Serbia would stabilise the area, not least with respect to illegal trafficking in every field possible and imaginable: trafficking is rife throughout the Balkans, beginning with the environmental sector.

We must call on Serbia to act quickly to introduce a proper environmental policy in respect of energy, as well as water treatment and an integrated waste cycle, so as to prevent organised crime from getting its hands on this sector too.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (PSE). – (HU) Mr President, the report by Mr Kacin marks a turning point in the attitude of the European Parliament. For a very long time, the European Parliament one-sidedly rewarded the Albanians and punished the Serbs in every statement it made on Kosovo. Here at last we have a credible, objective picture of Serbia, and the reason why this is crucial is because we must ensure that Serbia is no longer given the role of punchbag or scapegoat. This does not mean, however, that the Serbs will not some day have to come to terms with the crimes of the Milošević era, just as the Kosovo Albanians, and every people, must come to terms with their historical crimes.

It is good and proper that we are drawing Serbia closer to the European Union, and I agree that visa facilitation is not enough; we should establish a visa-free regime for Serbia’s citizens, and it is at least as important to speed up the process of granting Serbia candidate status. Here we have Kosovo, which presents a huge risk; according to Council of Europe intelligence estimates, around 100 000 refugees, Serb refugees, are expected to leave Kosovo, and it will be largely Vojvodina that has to deal with this situation.

Thanks are due for the fact that Mr Kacin’s proposed amendments give an objective picture of the inter-ethnic processes in Vojvodina, of the atrocities that still persist, and of the need to legislate on the legal status of the National Councils, the need for proportional representation of minorities in the police force and the judicial system, and the need to maintain minority radio broadcasting and funding for it. All in all, I congratulate Mr Kacin: drawing Serbia closer to the European Union is an important step. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS KRATSA-TSAGAROPOULOU
Vice-President

 
  
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  Kinga Gál (PPE-DE). – (HU) Thank you for the opportunity to speak, Madam President. Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome this report, and believe that the version adopted by the Commission is a particularly good and balanced one. Serbia’s prospects for European Union membership are especially important for Hungary. We have a fundamental interest in seeing our neighbour admitted into this Community as soon as possible. This represents the only alternative for reconciliation as opposed to inter-ethnic strife, war, and discrimination against people or humiliating them because their mother tongue or customs happen to be different.

Obviously, we are not indifferent to the fate of Serbia’s Hungarian ethnic minority, and indeed we have made an effort to keep the issue of Vojvodina on the European agenda. Something that is very important, and I am glad to see that it is in the report, is to draw attention to the need to maintain the multi-ethnic character of Vojvodina that has evolved over many centuries. The basis for this multi-ethnicity is the coexistence of different ethnic groups, the kind of coexistence that is based not on silence and humiliation, but on genuine equality before the law and equal opportunities. At present, unfortunately, this is not part of day-to-day reality there.

I believe it is particularly important to maintain the region’s ethnic balance and its special characteristics, and, in my opinion, resettling Serb refugees in this region would jeopardise chances of maintaining this precarious balance and could exacerbate inter-ethnic conflict. We have already seen a good many ugly examples of such conflict in the recent past. In this connection I would draw your attention, for example, to a case that remains unresolved to this day: the fate of the ethnic Hungarian youths who were given a disproportionately severe sentence in a clear-cut example of ethnic discrimination in Temerin. All in all, therefore, the Balkans need the European Union, because the spirit, principles and institutional system of the European Union, and the fact that it is consistent – and I lay particular emphasis on the latter – will be able to bring about a life that is liveable. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I have naturally followed this debate with great interest and I have of course taken note of the suggestions and concerns that many Members have voiced.

As it happens, the result of this debate seems clear to me: it points to the fact that only by giving Serbia a truly European perspective can peace, stability and progress be achieved in that country, and also stability in the whole Western Balkans region. This is absolutely accepted as the Council has repeatedly asserted that the future of Serbia naturally lies in its future membership of the European Union.

We all know that this plan cannot be without conditions. There must of course be conditions which will and must relate to the internal political process within Serbia itself, to respect for democratic values and to respect for those values specific to the rule of law. However, these conditions also of course relate to Serbia’s essential cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal. Much has been done by Serbia in this respect to cooperate with the Tribunal. We all know that other actions and steps will have to be taken. However, please allow me to express a note of confidence and encouragement that the Serbian authorities will be able, by the end of this process, to take the necessary steps so that this cooperation becomes full cooperation.

We in the European Union must help Serbia. We believe it would be a strategic error to leave Serbia and its people in a kind of limbo without any direction, perspective or plan. This is a strategic error that we must not commit and, to this end, we must do everything we can to prevent it.

I must also of course welcome the progress made in relation to the possibility of the free movement of Serbian nationals within the European space. We must continue along this road. Something has been done and this and the other initiatives that we are taking must be duly applauded.

We must also offer future prospects to the youth of Serbia as it is naturally through and with them that a democratic Serbia can be built which fully shares our values and principles and which aspires to be an integral part of the European Union.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Commissioner. − (FI) Madam Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to thank everyone for an objective and responsible debate, as well as the rapporteur for a very factual report. Judging from the discussion, there is broad consensus in Parliament and the Union as a whole that Serbia’s future is in the European Union and that the European Union’s door will be open to Serbia when the country meets the conditions, and that its government has the means to take Serbia into Europe. The majority of Serbian citizens support and endorse this development.

The Serbian government is now playing the role very much of a guard: it has the keys in its hands. I hope that the Serbian government will now use its keys and implement the will of the Serbian people – the will of the Serbs to turn towards the European Union. You may be sure that we shall take note of the views expressed in the report, and that we will also include them in our own progress report.

 
  
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  President. – (EL) The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, Thursday 25 October 2007.

 

13. EU-Africa relations (debate)
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  President.(EL) The next item is the report [2007/2002(ΙΝΙ)] (Α6-0375/2007) by Mrs Martens, on behalf of the Committee on Development, on the state of play of EU-Africa relations.

 
  
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  Maria Martens, rapporteur. (NL) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we are discussing the report on the state of play of relations between the European Union and Africa. This sets out a shared vision on the part of Africa and Europe on future cooperation with a view to promoting development in Africa and combating poverty. The strategy must amount to more than just defending present policy. It is about a vision, based on shared values and principles, on mutual respect, that is geared to the well-being of people.

Africa and Europe have a long shared history, but relations between them really have changed: it can no longer be one-way traffic. Now it is about an equal partnership to tackle together problems that are affecting both continents, such as security, trade, migration and climate change.

The European Union produced a European strategy for Africa in 2005. I was also the rapporteur on that occasion. In our view that strategy had two important shortcomings. It was a strategy that was too much for Africa, but without involving Africa, and Parliament and civil society were not sufficiently involved in the development of this strategy. I am pleased that we are now talking about a Joint EU-Africa Strategy and that Parliament and civil society will be more involved this time. This cooperation augurs very well for the future.

Madam President, this strategy should provide us with the structure and direction for joint action in the future. The fight against poverty and the Millennium Development Goals must continue to occupy centre stage. Although the most recent MDG figures permit a degree of optimism, in sub-Saharan Africa 41.1% of people still live on 1 dollar a day. This situation cannot be improved with development aid alone. It is also necessary to foster economic growth.

The economic partnership agreements being negotiated at the moment could be a good instrument for this, provided – and I stress this point – they have sustainable development at their core and provided they are more than just European trade agreements. I would very much like to hear from the Commissioner about the situation regarding the possible postponement of the deadline of 1 January 2008.

Madam President, African governments are, of course, primarily responsible for development in their own countries. They have become more independent, both politically and economically. African development is in full swing, not least through the emergence on the scene of new institutions, such as NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) and the African Peer Review Mechanism. It is a long time since Europe was the sole and exclusive partner for financial and political support. Other countries are beginning to exert their own influence in and on Africa in a very emphatic way: look at China, for example. We can no longer take our relationship with Africa for granted.

Madam President, the report highlights three priority policy areas: peace and security, good governance, and economic growth and investment in people. As far as European policy areas are concerned, the report draws attention to the importance of greater coherence between development activities on the one hand and other policy areas on the other hand, such as trade, agriculture and migration. Only if Europe can make more coherent, better coordinated use of its support and improve its financial accounting can the development policy of the European Union become more effective and more efficient.

Peace and security are a grave problem in Africa. The report emphasises the importance of an integrated approach to tackling conflict situations. The top priority in this area should be our responsibility to protect people and to make a contribution to preventing and resolving conflicts, as well as reconstruction. Obviously good governance, a functioning rule of law and stable democracy are conditions for stability and development. Capacity building in these areas is vitally important. We support the Commission’s ambitions in this area.

Madam President, the second EU-Africa Summit is to take place in Lisbon in December after a gap of seven years. The Joint EU-Africa Strategy and the Action Plan will be decided on there. There is a great deal at stake and it is in all our interests that this summit is a success. Moreover, although the situation in Zimbabwe is a cause for very grave concern, we should remember that this is an EU-Africa summit and not an EU-Zimbabwe summit, that it is about a people-centred approach and not a president-centred partnership.

It is good that the European Parliament and the Pan-African Parliament will get the opportunity at the summit to articulate the parliamentary view on the joint strategy. The delegations from the Pan-African Parliament and our Parliament met last week to prepare a joint declaration. I hope that our Presidents will be able to present this to the heads of government at the summit.

Madam President, of course there is a great deal more to say on this but my time is up, I see, and so I will leave it at that, but not without first thanking my colleagues and the Commission for a very fruitful cooperation.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, rapporteur, Europe, Africa and the world have changed a great deal in the last decade. Europe is now a block of 27 Member States bringing together at times extremely diverse foreign policy priorities and approaches. Although it is not fair to say that the African continent has been neglected, given the volume of public development aid that Europe makes available to this continent, we can, however, talk about a strategic vacuum in the relationship between Europe and Africa. In recent years the negative consequences of this vacuum have become more apparent. The European Union and Member States now recognise the need to bring relations with Africa onto a new level, with the second EU-Africa Summit being the right moment to clearly vocalise this desire.

There are various reasons justifying this new recognition of the importance of relations between the European Union and Africa: the widespread realisation that all the global challenges such as peace and security or international trade require concerted action on the part of the international community, thus justifying the emergence of new forms of cooperation; the search for answers to problems affecting both Europe and Africa, particularly the effects of climate change; the management of energy resources or migration flows; the desire of Africa to collectively tackle common problems, and the need to adapt to specific geopolitical changes in the international context.

This new relationship between the EU and Africa is set out in the documents that we hope will be adopted during the December summit: the Joint EU-Africa Strategy, its First Action Plan and, we hope, the Lisbon Declaration. These documents reflect the specific nature of the relationship between Europe and Africa. They set out an approach which, on the one hand, favours multilateral channels and, on the other, aims to deal with the various aspects of our relationship in a more integrated manner. This approach constitutes the difference that the EU can point to, particularly in comparison with other international actors. Africa’s recognition as a strategic world partner is also reflected in the method used to prepare for both the summit and the documents to be adopted. While the EU-Africa strategy adopted in 2005 is an EU document which is only binding on the Union, the new strategy – for the first time a joint strategy – and the action plan are the result of joint work with our African partners.

From the beginning the summit documents have been prepared by a joint group of experts and we hope that they will be endorsed at the EU-Africa Ministerial Troika Meeting to be held on 31 October, in a process that has also involved non-governmental actors and civil societies, both African and European. The joint strategy and the first action plan are therefore the result of joint work. As a result, their current wording reflects and responds to many of the concerns and suggestions contained in the report of Mrs Martens, a report which is clearly very complete and comprehensive.

The partnerships between the European Union and Africa identified both in the joint strategy and in the draft action plan must cover subjects of common interest. Their fundamental criteria must be to add value to the cooperation and political dialogue that currently exist and, in our view, to ensure a positive impact on the everyday lives of European and African citizens. The partnerships that we want to build will also seek to ensure a balance between the commitments made by both parties, which will alter the unilateral and assistance-based logic of the relationship between the EU and the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries.

Experience has also shown that political commitments require implementation and monitoring mechanisms so that they translate into something more than just good intentions. Between summits, in parallel with the regular meetings between the two Commissions and the Ministerial Troika, the possibility now exists of complementary sectoral ministerial meetings whenever appropriate. However, a true change in the relationship between the EU and Africa can only come about if the process is also effectively taken on board by various other actors.

In this respect, we want to establish informal joint groups of experts for the implementation of each of the partnerships. These will be open to participation by a large number of stakeholders: European and African parliaments, local authorities, European and African civil society, African sub-regional organisations, research institutes, specialised international organisations and institutes, and the private sector. At the same time, cooperation and dialogue between the Pan-African Parliament and this House will be extended and these institutions will also act as channels for the implementation of the joint strategy and action plan.

Although such profound changes cannot occur instantly, we are at a crossroads for change in the relations between the two continents. The challenge facing us is to take full advantage of this opportunity, by starting to implement this new strategic vision for EU-African dialogue. It is with this goal in mind that we plan to hold, with confidence and an awareness that what we are doing must be done, the next EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon in December.

 
  
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  Louis Michel, Member of the Commission. – (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I would first like to congratulate and thank Mrs Martens for her most excellent report, which raises various issues and offers a number of useful leads, and which certainly provides us with a source of inspiration as Parliament’s contribution to what is in fact an extremely important subject, and one that calls for a new approach in the area of EU-Africa relations.

As you all know, 2007 will be a special year for the future of relations between Europe and Africa. Five years after the report on the Lisbon Summit of 2003, and no less than seven years after the first Africa-Europe Summit that was held in Cairo in 2000, it seems to me that we urgently need to redefine this relationship on a new basis. Africa has changed profoundly in recent years and has acquired a continental institutional architecture that resembles our own in many respects. The new institution that is the African Union now needs to be strengthened and consolidated. This institution has developed ambitious continental policies in key areas such as socio-economic development, peace and security, and indeed good governance too, and all these elements clearly deserve our support and recognition.

Africa has now undeniably taken on an international dimension. Here I am thinking of the diverse nature of its relations with the international community, as mentioned by Mrs Martens, and I am thinking about the new role that China is playing, for example, and its influence on investment projects in that continent. I am also thinking, of course, of the global challenges that Africa, like all the other world players, has to face, namely climate change, energy supply, reform of multilateral institutions, the risk of pandemics, emigration and so on, and it is evident that Africa must make itself heard, must bring its influence to bear and, above all, must assert its rights. For after all, these global challenges that I have just listed are ours too. All these challenges and issues are common to us both and, what is more, they serve to highlight the interdependence that exists between Europe and Africa. For we share the same destiny.

A joint strategy of a more political nature may make a difference to Africa and indeed to Europe too, and it has to be said to the rest of the world. The two continents therefore urgently need to establish a new framework and acquire a new set of instruments in order to place the EU-AU dialogue on a much higher level. The Joint EU-Africa Strategy that we have developed in recent months with our African partners should provide this framework. However, this does not mean that we turn our backs on the traditional relationship of solidarity. Instead we need to take a qualitative leap that will usher EU-Africa relations into a new era, one that brings together two partners with equal rights and equal responsibilities.

These are the concerns that have been very well documented in the report and I can only support the significant new ideas that Parliament has put forward for monitoring and supporting the implementation of this strategy and the action plans that will follow from it. In this regard I view the setting up of a joint EP/PAP (Pan-African Parliament) delegation as crucial for completing the institutional architecture that will have to be put in place. To this I would add the regular meetings that will have to be held between the Presidents of these two institutions, together with the joint organisation of hearings and the preparation, also on a joint basis, of political reports detailing the progress that has been achieved. All this will be essential to maintain the momentum of the process and to give it the political vigour that it will need to succeed.

We are aware that this approach also calls for solid and stable institutions to be set up by the African Union, bodies that will be capable of acting and interacting with our own. It is clearly with this in mind that we shall continue to support the African Union as it transforms and strengthens its institutions. As an early confirmation of this commitment I am pleased to be able to announce that the first action plan put forward by the Pan-African Parliament will be funded to the tune of EUR 275 000 from the institutional support programme, which is currently financed by the ninth European Development Fund. This was one of the particular concerns that was expressed to me by Chairman Borrell.

I hope that this initial funding will allow the Pan-African Parliament to participate fully in the initiative you have taken towards organising a joint parliamentary event in advance of the Lisbon Summit in December, as the results of your work can then be presented to the heads of state at the summit.

Finally, as I have said on a number of occasions, the involvement and commitment of the civilian populations of our two continents and of the elected assemblies that represent them constitute an essential factor in the success of an effective process of dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Africa. Perhaps we sometimes tend to forget, but we are speaking here about the common destiny of 1.5 billion human beings and it is they who are the most important actors in the partnership that we are now setting up.

Mrs Martens, I am completely in agreement with the need for coordination; this is why we proposed the code of conduct, which should provide for a better division of labour between the different donors, which means greater harmony. I believe that we have been consistent in this regard because, as you know, in the tenth European Development Fund we have provided a special financial envelope for governance, which is one of the aspects, and clearly a very important one at that, of the political dialogue that we intend to establish with our African partners. As far as the EPAs (Economic Partnership Agreements) are concerned, I have no doubt that I will have to respond to questions on this subject after your interventions. I shall therefore save my reply for the interventions, so as not to say too much at the moment and therefore take up too much time.

My last reference is to something that the President-in-Office of the Council also highlighted: there is no denying the importance of the EU-Africa Summit. It is now time to hold such an event because the momentum is there, and it is for a change in objectives. In some respects it is for a change in the nature of the relations between our two continents. We need to leave behind the traditional – we might even say banal – relationship, this fairly archaic partnership of beneficiary and donor, or donor and beneficiary, and move on to a much more political association involving two partners with equal rights and responsibilities. In my view this is clearly much more important. So that is it for now, and I am sure that I will be returning to some of these points when you have had the opportunity to put questions of a more specific nature to me.

 
  
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  Michel Rocard, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. – (FR) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, which I represent as draftsman, is in favour of all these efforts. It is concerned about Africa and it supports everything that has been said. It only wants to know whether we are really bold enough for the task.

What we cannot write, although our report suggests it and indeed I am able to say it, is that when it comes to Africa there is a lot of politically correct and asphyxiating hypocrisy that has to be got rid of before we can really achieve our objectives. As regards enabling Africa to develop by allowing its products access to our markets, it must be remembered that some forty African countries have nothing whatsoever to export. This slogan is quite simply dishonest. Not a single African country is self-sufficient in foodstuffs. They have to import to eat, while exports from here and from Brazil are killing off the local subsistence agriculture. We have to help Africa to protect itself. This is the message that we have repeated in the report.

Of course corruption acts as a destructive blight on Africa. Yet this problem is endemic in extremely poor countries. We therefore need to start with the big fish and focus on them. This means the usual well-known suspects, even if they are ministers, and those on our own side who engage in bribery. Small-scale corruption will only disappear with economic development. Let us not start accusing them of the very same things we were doing a few centuries ago, for our expansion and development too were based on corruption.

Finally, a dictatorship cannot become a democracy even with the help of trade and foreign aid. However, it can become an enlightened despotism. Putting an end to torture and abduction, allowing freedom of expression and establishing the independence of the courts and their control over the police all have to take priority over the pluralist elections that are organised simply to please the West, while all the time they are abducting people and murdering journalists and election candidates. The conditions that we impose should take account of these factors. There is still much to be said on this subject.

 
  
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  Filip Kaczmarek, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (PL) Madam President, Commissioner, Mrs Martens has prepared an excellent report that was unanimously adopted by the Committee on Development. For the first time ever Africa and Europe are slowly beginning to work in partnership and establish a common approach to the development of democracy, support for development and strengthening peace and security across the African continent. I share the hope expressed by the representatives of the Council and the Commission that this report will prove a good source of inspiration in the run-up to the Lisbon EU-Africa Summit. Many of the provisions in the report, and more especially their implementation, will be of crucial importance to the development of relations between Europe and Africa. It will be difficult to make progress in our mutual relations without improving the consistency of various Union policies, such as the trade, development, environmental protection, agriculture and migration policies.

It is also important to honour the decisions and commitments made in the past. In 2005 the Council of the European Union determined that at least 50% more resources for development aid would be allocated to African countries. In my own country, Poland, development aid has increased significantly in recent years. The difficulty is that last year barely 1.4% of all Polish bilateral aid was allocated to sub-Saharan Africa. The fact that certain Member States have been slow to ratify the revised Cotonou Agreement and the internal agreement regarding the 10th European Development Fund is also cause for concern. As things stand at present, only half the Member States of the Union have ratified the Partnership Agreement with the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries due to enter into force on 1 January 2008.

If full ratification does not take place, it will be very difficult to carry forward the African programmes and the plans for supporting Africa will remain on the drawing board. I therefore urge Members of this House to put pressure on their national parliaments and governments to ensure the revised Cotonou Agreement is ratified.

 
  
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  Alain Hutchinson, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (FR) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office, Commissioner, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament has always strongly supported the principle that those people directly affected should have control over development strategies, as this means that their priorities are really taken into account.

In this report we have therefore naturally emphasised that national parliaments and civil society need to be involved in the new EU-Africa strategy. This involvement has to a large extent been missing from the preparations that are currently being made for this new strategy, which seeks to open up a new form of strategic partnership. We urgently need to put this right. In this context we very much welcome the initiative by the Portuguese Presidency to invite delegations from the European and Pan-African Parliaments to attend the December summit in Lisbon. Let us hope that this is not just a symbolic gesture.

We have also insisted – and Mrs Martens mentioned this just now – that there must be real coherence between the different European policies. This means that the measures adopted as part of our policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and immigration, for example, have to take special account of any repercussions there may be for development in the countries of the South and in Africa in particular.

We have also recalled that the European Union promised to do everything possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to take all necessary steps to eradicate poverty. With this in mind we are insisting that the new EU-Africa strategy should clearly state its commitments and specify the concrete measures needed to ensure that they are honoured as far as Africa is concerned.

As regards the Economic Partnership Agreements our position is quite clear: we are in no way opposed, either ideologically or on any other basis, to the signing of agreements sanctioning the terms of a partnership that would be beneficial to Europeans and to the peoples of the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries alike. However, we will resolutely oppose any agreement that, once signed, puts the peoples of Africa, in particular, in a position that is less favourable than the one they know today. This is the aim of the amendment that we have tabled.

Finally, I would like to point out that, as things stand at present, we still do not know the wording that is to be put forward at the next Lisbon Summit. You informed us that the document in question was being drafted. We shall therefore pay very close attention to the manner in which the recommendations we have made in our report are taken into account in the drafting of this document and shall naturally reserve the right to react accordingly as soon as the text is made known to us.

 
  
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  Johan Van Hecke, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (NL) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, Maria Martens’s report contains a number of interesting recommendations, though I have to admit that my Group has a bit of a problem with the rather negative undertone and the lack of a clear, coherent vision for the future in the report.

Seven years after the first summit in Cairo, the Portuguese Presidency together with the Commission is trying to draw up a new EU-Africa strategy in an – I really do think – honest attempt to divest themselves of the old model of donors and beneficiaries. The fact that this summit is taking place is extremely important, and not only for negative reasons, not only out of an anxious reaction to the growing influence of China.

On the contrary, the growing realisation on both sides that Europe and Africa are no longer each other’s exclusive preferential partners creates a unique opportunity to develop a totally new, more balanced relationship. At first sight the water between Europe and Africa does not look all that deep. It is essential for Africa that each new partnership should get away from the traditional aid dependency and the culture of charity and conditionality. Calls for more industrialisation, more development of the private sector and more investment in the knowledge economy are getting louder and louder.

Awareness is also growing in Africa, fortunately, that people have to be responsible for solving their own problems in the first instance. Europe should now make clear how it will support these promising developments, without falling into the trap of paternalism and interference. Any future partnership between the EU and Africa will inevitably have to be based on the principle of mutual accountability. In that sense, an unconditional abolition of agricultural subsidies could, more than any other gesture, strengthen the credibility of the EU among its African friends.

 
  
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  Brian Crowley, on behalf of the UEN Group. – Madam President, I would like to thank the President-in-Office and the Commissioner for their intervention but also in particular our rapporteur, Ms Martens, for her work on this issue, because the reality is that we are dealing with a new partnership, a new arrangement between the European Union and Africa. I congratulate the Council for coming forward with the EU-Africa Summit in December and I would hope that the summit will not rest on whether or not one single person attends that summit.

There is too much at stake with regard to the relationship between Europe and Africa to be determined by whether or not Robert Mugabe will be there. We all know and criticise the actions of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. We all defend the rights of democratic institutions and democratic movements within Zimbabwe and we all call for the protection of those democratic rights, but that should not hinder the proper development and the proper work that must go on between the European Union and Africa as a whole.

The issues with regard to governance, the issues with regard to development aid and, in particular, the issues with regard to free trade are vitally important for future developments of Africa. When we speak about development, the European Union is the largest donor of aid in the world. Ireland, my own country, per capita is the sixth largest donor of aid in the world. But that should not be about giving aid to get something back. That should be about giving people the freedom to free themselves, to trade out of difficulties, to create education, health and infrastructure to ensure they will no longer rely on or be dependent on aid in the future.

There are issues with regard to China’s involvement because China does not give the same credence to governance, lack of corruption, openness and transparency that Europe does. We should take cognisance of the influence that China has in that developing world. Thank you very much, Madam President, for your licence.

 
  
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  Marie-Hélène Aubert, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Madam President, in spite of stated intentions we cannot really say that any new elements have been introduced to the debates that have been taking place in recent months on the partnership between the European Union and Africa. Of course peace and the rule of law must be absolute priorities; the EU is now playing an increasing role in this respect and this is only to be welcomed. We also have to ensure that the support provided for the organisation of elections, for example, is subjected to real care and scrutiny so that the communities concerned see the practical benefits that democracy can bring to their everyday lives.

As far as the other measures are concerned I would say that all in all the European Union’s proposals are fairly typical, lying somewhere between promoting good governance and free trade, with the accent on economic development and the provision of health care. However, while there are burning issues to be dealt with, these EU-Africa strategies, in our opinion, fail to deal with two key problems. Firstly there is food security, which has to be seen in the context of rising prices for basic foodstuffs, especially cereals, and the upsurge in biofuels, along with the need to protect and develop agriculture, although the next European Development Fund – like most of the governments in Africa – has only allocated a small percentage of its budget to this objective. Even the World Bank recently stressed that a rethink was needed in this area, and that is saying something. The question of food provision has now become absolutely crucial, as has the future of small farmers who are all too often neglected by development aid policies.

The second key aspect is that Africa, as you know, is an immense reservoir of natural resources that the African people, unfortunately, are unable to profit from, even though the price of these commodities has risen enormously. All the major economic powers, along with emerging nations like China, are rushing to get their hands on these resources which are becoming increasingly rare. This latter-day gold rush, this hunger for materials, is now having extremely brutal social and environmental repercussions and is continuing to fuel wars and corruption.

In the light of all this the European Union is talking in theoretical, even angelic tones, while all the time it too is engaged in exploiting Africa’s natural resources. How then do we rationalise, manage and share access to these reserves in such a way that the communities concerned really derive benefit from them without seeing their environment vandalised? This is a major question and one that the EU-Africa strategy needs to take more seriously, for it will be imposed on us in any case, given the speed of events in this sector.

 
  
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  Luisa Morgantini, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful to Mrs Martens, especially for the way in which we were able to work together in committee, for her attentiveness and also for the divergences that emerged, the differences between us; but I think the outcome, apart from a few points, is a very significant one.

EU-Africa relations have come a long way since the Cairo Declaration of 2000. Much has changed in Africa, a continent that is full of diversity and wracked by war. Progress has been made with the formation of the African Union, the policy of unity in diversity.

The Pan-African Parliament has adopted the motto ‘one Africa, one voice’. Social movements in Africa are vibrant and calling for what Mr Öger was referring to just now. They are vibrant and forming themselves into networks, and they had a very high profile at the Nairobi Social Forum. There has also been real progress in the formulation not of a European policy on Africa but a joint African and European policy of partnership.

The meetings between the Pan-African Parliament and the European Parliament, and their presence at the Lisbon Summit, are putting into practice what we said in the document was lacking, namely the role of this House. We are not only demanding a role but also to perform it in practice, and I think the assistance from Louis Michel has been extremely important, obviously in addition to that of the Portuguese Presidency. Nonetheless, our differences of opinion are clear.

The various aspects of the strategy are important, but we must carry them forward with coherent policies, and I am referring here to arms sales and trade. We must therefore proceed along this road, in the knowledge that the road is strewn with obstacles.

 
  
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  Kathy Sinnott, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Madam President, education is the bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is the bulwark against poverty and the building block of development. Thus Kofi Annan described the strategy in the Millennium Goals, which are similar to those in the EU development strategy for Africa. It places education alongside trade as key to the development of the continent.

Despite this, the EU is set to join wealthy nations like the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand in systematically exporting the skilled and educated from Africa and Asia.

Commissioner Frattini announced last month that, to ensure Europe will get ‘the migrants its economy needs’, over the next 20 years the EU would import 20 million skilled workers from these continents through the blue card system, similar to the American Green Card. Though having a steady supply of skilled workers to fill in the gaps left by our ageing workforce will have benefits for us, this kind of braindraining will be devastating for the poor and underdeveloped countries of Africa.

Europe is also engaged in asset-stripping among Africa’s poor. Children are our countries’ future, yet EU development funds are routinely tied to population control programmes aiming at eliminating future Africans.

The EU Green Paper on demography clearly states that, without population growth, there will be no economic growth. Africa is now the only continent in the world with a birth rate above replacement. If we keep our Millennium Goals and if we keep our promises, Africa will emerge in this century as a world leader.

 
  
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  Koenraad Dillen, on behalf of the ITS Group. – (NL) Madam President, no one can deny that this report describes in great detail the many problems of the African continent, and the various challenges for the partnership between the European Union and Africa. However, although I have the utmost confidence in the rapporteur’s expertise in the field of development policy, I still think that this report fails to put sufficient emphasis on the fundamental cause of Africa’s problems and does not come up with answers to some very basic challenges.

It may not be politically correct to say so but that is the way it is. Contrary to what this report claims, Africa and the European Union do not currently share the same way of thinking about more democracy, good governance and human rights. The main cause of the poverty, the hunger, the lack of security and the socio-economic problems plaguing the continent – and which are rightly listed in this report – is in fact the very bad and corrupt regimes which make no effort at all to observe good governance, democracy and human rights.

No one, for instance, disputes any more that Robert Mugabe is a criminal who has brought his country to its knees and who terrorises his own population. What though do the developing countries of southern Africa have to say? That the elections were conducted properly and that western countries should mind their own business. I really do have my doubts about the promises made by these same leaders on good governance.

This report rightly looks at peace and security. In Africa, with its innumerable undemocratic regimes, spending on weapons always far outstrips the massive amount of development aid that goes to those countries, according to Oxfam. All of these problems come back, therefore, to the same cause.

Finally, I have to say that I do not agree with the section on immigration, because anyone who thinks that the concept of circular migration can put a stop to the brain drain from Africa and the pressure of immigration on Europe is, I fear, seriously deluding themselves as far as this is concerned.

 
  
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  Michael Gahler (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, I would like to thank our rapporteur for her sound and comprehensive report. There is a broad consensus on the general principles here in the House. The EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon in December cannot come too soon. I welcome the fact that we will be agreeing a joint strategy.

The European Parliament’s position on the special case of Mr Mugabe has been known for years. However, this gentleman must not become a stumbling block to a new chapter in European-African relations. I believe there are enough European heads of government who have a clear and unequivocal message for that gentleman. That is why he needs to be present and endure the message that will be delivered.

As Chairman of the delegation for relations with the Pan-African Parliament, may I express some specific parliamentary wishes for the future cooperation which we agreed last week in Midrand. Africa’s parliaments have tended to be neglected institutions. They have an important constitutional role on paper but their own governments and, indeed, donors tend not to take them very seriously. Yet with proper resources and after successful and comprehensive capacity-building for Members and staff in the parliamentary administrations, committees and groups, these parliaments have the potential to perform their true role of exercising proper political scrutiny of the executive. The irresistible appeal of this scenario is also that we would thus have scrutinising bodies at local level with democratic legitimacy, and when problems arise, their criticisms would be more likely to be accepted than those of foreign donors.

I therefore urge the Commission to incorporate parliamentary capacity-building on a targeted basis into its country programmes, so that in a few years time, we can genuinely see that African politics have become much more responsive, in practice, to the public’s needs, also thanks to the involvement of the national parliaments.

 
  
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  Alessandro Battilocchio (PSE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to compliment Mrs Martens on her work and acknowledge the political will of the EU and the African Union to build a joint strategy comprising numerous subjects of interest to both communities: from security to the environment, from migration to development and the promotion of human rights and democracy.

In order for this strategy to be truly effective, the EU must build this partnership as of now, properly involving civil society and local parliaments. The EU must promote tangible, incisive action to safeguard human rights, freedom of expression and association and the principle of democracy, so that economic and social development on the African continent can be truly sustainable and involve all strata of African society.

Furthermore, I would echo other colleagues in calling for the strongest possible commitment from the EU to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, combating AIDS – which is decimating the working population – and elaborating European policies that are genuinely consistent with the spirit of development cooperation, above all in the context of international trade.

 
  
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  Danutė Budreikaitė (ALDE).(LT) I would like to congratulate Mrs Martens on her report on the state of play of EU-Africa relations and for the proposed measures for improving these relations.

It is a shame that Africa is still the poorest continent of the world. Despite the international aid granted by the EU and other countries, the poverty level has not been reduced; in fact it has increased. The Millennium Goals still need to be achieved.

This is happening in Africa, the continent of the world richest in natural resources. The main reason for this is because raw materials are exported at the lowest prices, while high prices are paid for finished products. The situation could be transformed through the development of the processing industry, small- and medium-sized enterprises, the introduction of new work places and the encouragement of regional cooperation.

There is no doubt, as pointed out in the report and highlighted continuously by the European Parliament, that education remains one of the key factors in the development of Africa’s independent economy.

On the subject of the future of Africa, I would like to mention the military conflicts that continue to plague certain areas, such as Sudan, for years on end. On the one hand, this situation spells insecurity for both local and foreign investors. On the other hand, some countries exploit the conflicts for the purpose of increasing the production of raw materials under advantageous conditions.

The EU and the international community should put more effort into resolving the military conflicts in Africa. This would boost the efficiency of the implementation of the Development Cooperation Programme.

 
  
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  Helmuth Markov (GUE/NGL).(DE) Madam President, a very important factor in African development policy is trade, and trade, if it is used properly, can of course help to reduce poverty and it can also help to improve health care in Africa. It can help improve education and it can help eliminate illiteracy. However, it cannot do so in the way the Commission sees it.

I am very pleased that – either because common sense has prevailed, or because pressure from the African countries has become so intense – since last Monday, the Commission is taking a different approach to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). As a result, there are no more nonsensical demands for reciprocity in market liberalisation and no more insistence on the inclusion of the Singapore issues. There is now an agreement that individual topics will be taken out so that now the talks will only focus on goods, with other issues being discussed at a later date.

If we were to pursue the same approach with the Doha Development Round, then perhaps we might achieve some success there as well, for this is why it has repeatedly failed until now. That is why the WTO has failed and the Doha Development Round has failed, because the Commission always insists on sending out the same message. It says, ‘you need to understand that we only want the best for you, and if you do not grasp that, then we will not get an agreement’.

Fortunately, if we look at the report by this Parliament – which in this case was much cleverer than the Commission – that was drafted by my colleague Mr Sturdy back in 2006, it is clear that Commissioner Mandelson could have conceded much earlier on to the demands that he now has to bow to, and perhaps we would not have let things go this far.

You yourself appeared before us in committee and we asked you quite specifically about it. What was your response? You said that Commissioner Mandelson is doing a wonderful job! Frankly, the Council also has a responsibility here, given that it will have to endorse the Partnership Agreement at the end of the process. It could get involved in the negotiations once in a while, rather than simply saying, ‘we’ll let the Commissioner get on with it until he finally comes up with something’. No, you have a responsibility and in my view, when it comes to the EPAs, you have not fulfilled this responsibility, at least judging by your statements to our committee.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: LUISA MORGANTINI
Vice-President

 
  
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  Robert Sturdy (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I am rather surprised to find myself agreeing with a colleague from the other side of the House so wholeheartedly.

I congratulate Ms Martens on her report. There have been a lot of excellent words said in this Chamber this afternoon, but we have failed Africa. We have failed Africa in the past and, as the rapporteur on EPAs, I hope that this European Union will not fail Africa again.

Yesterday the Commission published a communication on EPAs, which at long last acknowledged the impossibility of completing negotiations by the end of 2007, as was previously planned and reported in my report. But the Commission continues to insist that Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries must commit to signing up fully to EPAs in 2008 and that some countries in the region should sign up to EPAs while others do not. Is that not unbelievably farcical!

Too much is unclear and uncertain in these talks, with so little time left. The communication is deliberately vague and, while I understand what it is, it worries me: I never sign up to a deal about something that I do not understand, and yet we are asking Africa to do precisely that.

Furthermore, these new proposals to create subregional agreements within regions with African countries which are willing to sign up would create a spaghetti-like mess of different agreements in neighbouring countries.

The idea that other countries and ACP regions should join later would mean them signing up to a deal they had not negotiated. How is that a good idea? Were EPAs not meant to be about regional integration?

So who is focusing on implementation, monitoring mechanisms and impact assessments while negotiating parties struggle to find an agreement on these smaller packages? ACP countries should not have to choose between trade agreements which may damage their local/regional markets or barriers which cripple their export markets. There is still a choice to be made, and last-minute policy shifts from the Commission do nothing to restore the confidence of the disconnected.

 
  
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  Josep Borrell Fontelles (PSE). – (ES) Madam President, Commissioners, Minister, this debate should move us further along the road to Lisbon and the summit, and we must thank the Portuguese Presidency for having focused its attentions on the relations between Europe and Africa. We hope that it will help Europeans to understand, finally, that their destiny is inextricably linked to that of Africa, that we can understand that Africa’s development is a condition for our prosperity and that we will not be able to control the migratory flows or have a secure energy supply without a strong partnership with Africa.

We must be clear that it is not to help the poor people, but in our own interest. We must also be clear that the Africans sometimes listen to our declarations with little confidence and see them as rhetorical because we have not yet got beyond the colonial past to establish this solid partnership between equals that we all desire, that we announce, but that is still far from the reality.

The job of modernising Africa is a huge one. The Africans have a great responsibility in this respect, but so do we. Without us – without our help, without our cooperation – they will not get out of the situation described in the Martens report, because they need not just trade but also aid and equal relationships to enable them to move beyond their past, for which, clearly, we are partly responsible.

 
  
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  Olle Schmidt (ALDE). – (SV) Thank you Madam President. In December, the first summit for several years will take place between the African Union and the EU. It is an important meeting for the EU, which has a great responsibility for supporting economic and democratic development in Africa. The Portuguese Presidency deserves credit for this initiative. The EU must become more active on the African continent.

What concerns me, unlike Brian Crowley, is that Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe will probably be attending the summit. It is not worthy of the European Union to sit at the same negotiating table as Mugabe. Mugabe’s misrule and corruption are paralysing the entire country. The political opposition are harassed and thrown into prison, free speech does not exist, there are food shortages in a country which was once Africa’s granary, and hundreds of thousands of people have no homes. The economy is falling to pieces, inflation is more than 7 000%, the average age is the lowest in the world, and 25% of the population are infected with HIV. Madam President, Commissioner, Manuel Lobo Antunes, one way to show our disgust at Mugabe’s dictatorial ways is for the EU not to accept his presence at the summit. Mugabe’s terrible rule must be ended. Dictatorships need plain speaking, my friends. Thank you.

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE). – (FI) Madam President, Commissioner, I wish to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Martens, for this important report. On the one hand, it is a clear indication to the Commission that the parliamentary dimension must this time have a role in the drafting of the Joint EU-Africa Strategy. The fact that the Commission ignored not just its opposite number, but also Parliament, when it was preparing the EU Strategy for Africa in 2005, has, unfortunately, been a common approach for the Commission. On the other hand, the report, to its credit, raises a number of important questions of content which need an answer, and the matter of the strategy to adopt.

Firstly, history clearly shows that universal human rights require universal protection if they are to be realised. For this reason it is vital that the priorities for peace and security in the EU’s Africa strategy incorporate a view which recognises the concept of the responsibility to protect, and promotes it. We have a responsibility to protect, and that must also be the subject of a debate within the EU.

Secondly, as the report laudably stresses, climate change must be a top priority in the strategy. Water, its quality and sufficiency, will, with energy, become a serious political problem, and then Africa will be its very first victim. I would nevertheless like to remind everyone that Africa’s most serious environmental problems are for the present erosion and overgrazing. Climate change obviously makes things worse. Adaptation and support measures are needed. Besides, for the EU Africa is a natural partner in international contexts in the fight against climate change.

Thirdly, I would like to stress the importance of small businesses and local entrepreneurship as a condition of sustainable and real economic development in Africa. We should ensure that the action we take supports it. Only the local population itself can get Africa on its feet.

 
  
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  Ana Maria Gomes (PSE).(PT) I must congratulate Mrs Martens on this important report at a time when the EU is redefining its relationship with Africa, largely due to the emergence of China as a player in that continent. However, the EU-Africa relationship can only move forward if the dual-aspect approach of development and security is coherent, particularly with regard to human rights, democracy and good governance.

Given the importance of the joint strategy and its associated action plan to be adopted at the EU-Africa Summit, I want to ask the Portuguese Presidency to duly inform the European Parliament about the progress made in the negotiation of these documents and their contents. This will be useful for ensuring that the measures set out in the joint strategy and action plan subsequently become reality, with the support of the European Parliament and under the control of the various applicable financial instruments.

Here in this House we hope that the joint strategy and action plan will reflect the commitments made by the European Union, with due priority being given to the fight against poverty and to the Millennium Development Goals, particularly access to basic health care and education. We want joint measures to be included on controlling trafficking in small arms and light weapons, which are the true weapons of mass destruction in Africa, and also measures for the empowerment of women and civil societies in whom lies the force for change, peace and development which Africa so desperately needs.

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE).(CS) Europe used to have a bad conscience over Africa due to its past colonial policies. Today we are trying to help the developing countries enter the globalised world. That is why the spotlight, in relation to these countries, has shifted to global challenges. Besides disease, starvation and drinking water shortages, these issues also include security, trade, migration, brain-drain and climate change.

Besides charity, our task is to oversee responsible decision-making based on democratic principles on the part of the African institutions. In this light I regard Commissioner Mandelson’s development strategy as hazardous as it focuses exclusively on trade relationships in the Pacific.

Ladies and gentlemen, we must insist that the Commission step up the capacity-building in the area of the human rights agenda. Without it democracy in Africa or for that matter in any other place in the world does not stand a chance. What troubles me is how deeply rooted the former communist block ideology is in Africa. What is also worrying is the growing influence of the totalitarian Chinese market model, which mines African raw materials and takes work away from the African people.

I want to congratulate the rapporteur, Mrs Martens, on the comprehensive and balanced definition of the new strategy as set out in her excellent report. We have to, however, also look to its financial framework and learn to read the outcomes from the appropriate indicators.

It also appears to me that the Commission does not sufficiently divulge to European citizens the importance of EU collaboration with its most immediate neighbour of Africa. I hope that the December summit in Lisbon will adopt, based also on this report, a new vision of relations rooted in the human rights agenda.

I would like to conclude by saying that the summit will be fundamental for a shift in EU-African relations, therefore I do not approve of the fact that the Czech Republic and the UK intend to block this pan-African summit because of the participation of the dictator from Zimbabwe. That said his presence ought to be categorically challenged and condemned.

 
  
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  Thijs Berman (PSE). (NL) Madam President, relations between the European Union and the African countries have become unacceptably strained due to the negotiations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries about the Economic Partnership Agreements. If these negotiations fail, then Cotonou will end in a black hole for a number of countries from 1 January because our trade relations will then become the far less favourable Generalised System of Preferences.

It would, however, be a disgrace if poor countries were to be penalised in this way, because they feel that the EU and the ACP countries are not equal partners at this moment. We must give poor countries the right to protect their markets in sectors that are weak and which would keel over in the buffeting of free trade. These negotiations stand in sharp contrast to the good principles and aims in Maria Martens’s report and I share those aims.

We, as Socialists, wanted to add that the trade and agriculture policy of the EU should not be allowed to stand in the way of development policy. We need coherence, and it goes without saying that the policy should still be aimed at emancipation and women’s rights. It is up to the Commission to develop this into a concrete policy. After that the Commission will monitor development cooperation closely.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Zaleski (PPE-DE).(PL) Despite the several billion euros allocated to Africa, poverty is getting worse in that continent, as the sound report prepared by Mrs Martens indicates. I have not consulted with Mr Antunes, the representative of the Portuguese Presidency, or with Mr Van Hecke, but I wish to emphasise that cooperation with local African entities is a sine qua non for financial aid to be effective.

The economy needs assistance regarding the introduction of technology, awakening the spirit of entrepreneurship, encouraging citizens’ commitment and supporting individual initiative. Missionaries, for example, are engaged in such activities even though they do not have any funds, whereas the Union is not involved despite being able to count on substantial financial resources. One of the main challenges is education, that is to say, investment in human capital, which brings great benefits. Africa has also entered into certain commitments too, however. These include halting the import of arms and introducing certain legal provisions, notably regarding the right of property, which is essential for the development of the economy. I should like to conclude by saying that the role of governments must be understood as serving the people, and not benefiting from our aid as symbolised by the luxury cars used by representatives of African authorities.

 
  
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  Marie-Arlette Carlotti (PSE) . – (FR) Madam President, the Africa of today has two faces: first there is the one of extreme poverty and human tragedy, as in the case of Darfur and Somalia, and then there is the other face, which is all too often ignored, of a continent that in spite of everything is innovating, that is becoming more democratic, although too slowly, and that little by little is returning to the path of growth.

The new EU-Africa strategy therefore needs to take this dual reality into account and support this still fragile process by means of a genuine political partnership: one that is based on unity, for it is Africa in its entirety, through the voice of the African Union, that has to be our main point of contact; on equity with an agenda that has been drawn up together and not imposed by the North, and on humility, for Europe is not the one and only partner Africa has. The EU must also support the process by using the Millennium Development Goals as a roadmap, by keeping to its promises and meeting the financial commitments made by the EU and by the Member States and, finally, by recognising the role played by the African parliaments. The Martens report is in fact the message that we are sending today to the Commission and the Council, and we shall be in Lisbon in December to see if this message has actually got through.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE).(PT) Madam President, as stated in Mrs Martens’s report with which I agree to a large extent, the fact that the current EU strategy for Africa was not established in partnership with the people of Africa is one obvious limitation on its potential. This was a mistake that must and will be corrected in the next EU strategy which must reinforce the role of the African Union and be based on concepts of partnership and equality. The issues causing concern that must be covered include peace, the problem of displaced persons and the fight against serious diseases such as AIDS and malaria.

Development must be our goal and trade one of its weapons. To this end, we need to support small and medium-sized enterprises and promote equitable international trade. However, we will only be successful in this strategy if we can help to reinforce democracy and human rights across the continent.

In reformulating and renewing the EU strategy for Africa, the new local and global circumstances must be taken into account. The fact that we are talking today with an African Union is in itself significant. On the other hand, the generalised increase in consumption of both oil and food implies a need to increase global production capacity and, in that regard, Africa is a continent rich in oil and gas, but also with enormous agricultural potential to be exploited.

Finally there is the issue of the summit. There is no need to hold a summit in order to determine a strategy for Africa. However, as the Portuguese Presidency has gone down this route, it would be wrong not to continue to the end, otherwise we will lose an opportunity to positively impact on the life of Africans. The talks cannot only be about debt cancellation as greater wealth in the world can and must be, Madam President, an opportunity for greater wealth in Africa. This wealth must benefit its people and not just its elite.

International cooperation cannot continue to be a problem for Africa, as someone else has said. That is why we must improve this so that education, promotion of health, democratisation and development can be ensured.

 
  
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  Luis Yañez-Barnuevo García (PSE).(ES) Madam President, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur and say that I agree with Mr Michel about the creation of a new type of partnership and relations between Europe and Africa. I would also like to congratulate Mr Lobo Antunes on the Portuguese Presidency’s organisation of a Europe-Africa summit.

However, while that new type of relationship is being built, official development assistance continues to be, and will remain for some years, a very useful instrument in Europe’s relations with Africa, and not just Europe as a whole but the Member States too.

We should promote healthy competition between the Member States in terms of improving the quantity and quality of development aid. My country, Spain, has tripled its aid in this parliamentary term and compared with the previous government has increased its contributions from EUR 200 million in 2004 to an expected EUR 850 million in 2008. Spain is now the second largest donor of development aid in the world and it is also the country on the Development Assistance Committee whose contribution has increased most in that time.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, firstly I must thank you for your comments, suggestions and even criticisms of what the Presidency is proposing in its plans for EU-Africa relations. I have of course taken due note of all these suggestions, observations and criticisms.

I should like to make it very clear that what we are proposing in terms of a new relationship with Africa has two aspects that I would say are innovative, or at least we hope they are innovative or may prove to be so. Firstly, we plan to establish an effective partnership with our African partners; this partnership must also prove to be effective in terms of ownership.

As I have already mentioned, the strategy that we are developing for Africa is not a unilateral strategy. It is a joint strategy, in other words a strategy that is being drafted, analysed and debated together so that what results and what is proposed is actually what our African friends are hoping for and expecting from us and what we would also of course like to receive, in a positive sense, from our African partners.

On the other hand, we also want to increase the number of actors involved in this strategy so that it does not just involve governments as usual. In addition to governments, we want other public institutions, parliaments, as I have already mentioned, and also broad sections of civil society, their representatives and actors to be involved. The second aspect which in my view is extremely important is that we want to modernise the agenda between the European Union and Africa. We want this to respond to the new global challenges, to take account of the profound changes that are occurring in the world and, in particular, to genuinely offer Africa the opportunity to become fully integrated within the new world order.

That is why we are going to discuss and debate with Africa such new and modern issues as the energy issue, the climate change issue, and issues linked to migration, mobility and employment, but obviously without forgetting those issues which continue to be fundamental in our traditional partnership, such as peace, security, democratic governance and human rights, and also issues linked to science and the information society.

I believe this agenda is comprehensive, ambitious and, as I have said, thoroughly modern. We must modernise our agenda with Africa as this must be able to effectively respond to current needs. I would also say that the Portuguese Presidency and Portugal have never hesitated to name dictators in Africa or in any other part of the world and consequently to denounce them and we will continue to do so whenever necessary.

Finally, I must also say a word of thanks for the work carried out jointly with the Commission in preparing everything for the second EU-Africa Summit. We have received from the Commission and from the Commissioners with specific responsibility in these areas, namely trade, external action and humanitarian aid, very committed and high-quality support and we are sure that we are all working towards a common goal of making the difference in Africa and for Africa.

 
  
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  Louis Michel, Member of the Commission. – (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by thanking the Council for having responded so fully to the interventions, and would add that I endorse the points that have been raised.

I too share many of the concerns that have been expressed. The Commission is endeavouring to apply greater coherence to its overseas activities and, as a matter of fact, the nature of the dialogue between Europe and Africa should gradually allow us to eliminate some of the contradictions, including those highlighted by Mr Rocard. It goes without saying that we sometimes pursue contradictory policies: you only have to think of the subsidies paid to agriculture. This is a contradiction. Unfortunately, a choice has to be made here between divergent interests and this sometimes just has to be accepted. I see that Europe is probably the only international actor that continuously self-corrects itself and manifestly tries, at any rate, to go in the right direction.

A second point that has been raised is that of Zimbabwe. I do not wish to go back over this question. Mrs Martens has responded better than I ever could. What we are dealing with is an EU-Africa summit, not an EU-Zimbabwe summit. This is element number one. Element number two is that I am well aware of calls for Mr Mugabe to be denounced. I could do that too, but it would change nothing. The decision to invite Mr Mugabe does not depend on us. I am sorry but we cannot stand in for our African partners. Speaking as the Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, with special responsibility for the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and for political relations and dialogue with Africa, I have to tell you – and I am sorry to have to say this – that we do not have the right of coercion that enables us to say to our African partners: ‘You can invite anyone apart from him.’ At the risk of being too forward I will also say this: if we are to judge things by the yardstick of dictators, or rather those whom we consider as being fit for this role, we would have problems with more than just Mr Mugabe. And let me just say something else on the subject: this is the reality.

What is important is that the summit takes place and what is also important is that during this summit we are able to discuss matters and raise the issue of human rights in Zimbabwe. This is what appears to be useful and important to me, and I do not mind saying so. The summit therefore has to take place. We have waited long enough. There has already been an Africa-China summit. What is more, an Africa-Japan summit is in preparation and we will be there when it happens, though I do not know exactly when.

I would also like to say that we have enlisted the help of South Africa. If there is one African country that has made considerable efforts to try to resolve this question in everyone’s best interests it is South Africa. Moreover, that country is now most likely engaged in generating, inspiring and working on a major agreement between the majority and the opposition in Zimbabwe, and this should result in honest and fair elections in March 2008. These talks are still ongoing, but in any case the last conversation that I had with President Mbeki seemed to offer real hopes of success. So let us not criticise South Africa, for it is doing what it can and it is not doing a bad job.

As regards the proportion of funding allocated to agriculture, I would simply point out that, between the ninth and tenth European Development Funds, the figure set aside for this sector increased from EUR 663 million to EUR 1.1 billion. It is true that, despite the increase in funds between the ninth and tenth EDFs, there was a reduction in absolute percentage terms, but as far as hard cash is concerned the actual increase was not insubstantial. In addition I should mention that I was delighted to hear the President of the World Bank announce several days ago in Washington, at a meeting that I attended, that there would be a much greater focus on agricultural development, and so I fully share the concerns that were raised just now.

As regards the role of civil society and the parliaments, and the Pan-African Parliament too, I can do no more than wholeheartedly approve of the approach taken in the report.

In a word, and to be brief because the allotted time is very short, I would again like to touch on the question of Economic Partnership Agreements or EPAs, which I promised to do. You will be aware of my position as regards these agreements. They are an essential condition for the integration of Africa into the world community. As experience from Asia has shown, it is not aid that is the most decisive factor for progress but rather economic development and integration into the global marketplace. I personally believe that EPAs represent an opportunity whereby the ACP countries can integrate gradually into the international trading community by first building up their regional markets. All the same, I would point out that 1 January 2008 will not herald the start of sudden and dramatic market liberalisation. So what will it mean? In fact it will mean the gradual opening up of markets subject to varying transitional periods depending on the products in question, with the assistance of regional funds that will provide financial support and will also help alleviate the problem of net fiscal loss as a result of liberalisation. Of course there is no shortage of interesting proposals that could be applied in this area.

What is more, we will also be able to mobilise quite substantial resources in a whole series of areas that could create optimum conditions whereby this process of liberalisation could in fact be made progressive, and this gradual opening up of the markets rendered useful, positive and productive. I understand only too well the apprehensions that some have expressed. However, as regards the call to extend the date for concluding these Economic Partnership Agreements I must say to you that I do not see any advantage in this. The WTO will not grant us an exception for the ACP countries – and it is all very well pretending that they might – because our current system is harming other developing countries that are asking to be treated in the same manner as the former colonies.

The only alternative is therefore to use the Generalised System of Preferences. The least developed countries (LDCs) will have access to everything apart from arms, but for the non-LDCs – and I would just like to point out that there are 36 of them – this would represent a reduction in their current level of access. The EPAs will allow us to continue to guarantee this preferential access to our traditional partners, but more importantly they will help support the process of regional economic integration. I believe that this is where the real potential lies for trade to be able to contribute towards economic development.

We are of course aware of the problems that this will pose for our partners, we recognise their reluctance and, it has to be admitted, we understand their legitimate fears. It is precisely for this reason that we have initially proposed concluding staged agreements that in the first place will resolve the trade problem by including market opening on a reciprocal basis that is compatible with WTO rules. As I have always said, market access offers from our ACP partners will of course be based on the principles of asymmetry. Remember that we for our part are opening up our markets completely, we intend to be as flexible as possible and shall make use of all the leeway available to us to incorporate the concerns about development, particularly the need to protect the main body of agricultural production and fledgling industries.

We are at the moment continuing to work on this question. The real challenge is to prevent non-LDCs from slipping into a disastrous trading situation on 1 January. These countries clearly have huge commercial interests at stake. If by 1 January we have still not solved the question of market access it is obvious that they will be back with the Generalised System of Preferences, which means they will be on the sidelines and then they will be in a truly disastrous position. We therefore have to get a move on if we are even to have temporary agreements in place. This essentially is it as far as the EPAs are concerned.

Finally I would like to say that I am in complete agreement with the views that Mr Borrell expressed so clearly. The forthcoming summit and the EU-Africa strategy will be all about bringing a fundamental change to the nature of relations between Europe and Africa. Let us therefore try – and here I borrow his expression – to create a strong partnership between two sides that respect each other and have rights and responsibilities towards each other, and let us leave behind what we have at present – I would not call it banal, it is more serious than that – this outmoded, archaic and counterproductive relationship, this often humiliating association, of donor and beneficiary.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing.(PT) The EU-Africa Summit should mark a change in the EU’s policies on respect for the sovereignty and right to development of the African countries and peoples, by promoting a fairer, more peaceful and more human world with a greater level of solidarity.

This requires, for example:

- immediate solidarity measures to meet the most basic needs of millions of human beings;

- respect for national sovereignty and independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of each country and a peaceful solution to international conflicts;

- demilitarisation of international relations and a gradual reduction in armaments and military expenditure;

- equitable and fair international economic relations, rejecting the impositions of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization and the ‘Economic Partnership Agreements’ on liberalisation of trade;

- cancellation of foreign debt, which has already been more than paid;

- proper policies of cooperation and active and mutual support for development;

- guarantee of immigrants’ rights.

This relationship must no longer be based on neo-colonialist ambitions or paternalistic views aimed at recovering the ground lost when the African peoples gained their national independence – after being conquered in the second half of the 20th century – and promoting interference, the military presence of the EU’s major powers, and the control and exploitation of natural resources by transnationals.

 
  
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  Tokia Saïfi (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) If we are to highlight the importance of Parliament’s report on relations between the European Union and Africa, given the forthcoming EU-Africa Summit in December, then we must above all welcome its realistic approach.

The report calls for a true partnership between the EU and Africa, a democratic and realistic partnership that is based on effective and coordinated aid, but also on trade.

I would particularly like to express my support for the negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) for, as the report stresses, international trade has to be conceived as an instrument working for development. Poverty can only be reduced on a permanent basis by means of economic growth that is fair, sustainable and properly supervised, growth that is the result of commercial activity stimulated by market access.

Free trade is not an end in itself, it has to serve the needs of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries; this is why the ACP group of nations has to be involved gradually and asymmetrically, so as to take account of local characteristics.

We cannot be satisfied simply by providing aid selectively, otherwise we will not be solving the problems, we will merely be forever postponing them.

Africa is not just a theatre for humanitarian aid, it needs to be an actor in its own development, with the European Union as a partner.

 

14. An international treaty prohibiting cluster bombs (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the debate on:

- the oral question to the Council on an international treaty to ban cluster munitions; follow-up to the Oslo Declaration, by Josep Borrell Fontelles, on behalf of the Committee on Development (O-0048/2007 - B6-0319/2007);

- the oral question to the Commission on an international treaty to ban cluster munitions – follow-up to the Oslo Declaration, by Josep Borrell Fontelles, on behalf of the Committee on Development (O-0052/2007 - B6-0320/2007).

 
  
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  Josep Borrell Fontelles, author. – (ES) Madam President, Commissioner, Minister, the calls for a ban on cluster bombs are getting louder and louder. Use of these bombs in summer 2006 in the Lebanon war showed the extent to which they can cause a human disaster.

They are weapons that are a danger to both civilians and military personnel, but in practice 90% of their victims are civilians. In addition, 10% of these deadly bombs do not explode: they remain in the ground and have the same effect as landmines.

Therefore, clearing the land contaminated with these munitions is dangerous, both for the populations and for the international peacekeeping forces. These bombs are not only used for war; they act as a long-term obstacle to transport and agriculture, and they create trade barriers and obstacles to humanitarian aid.

They are thus one of the main problems affecting the development of poor countries: it is the poorest countries that are most affected by them, and in those countries the main victims are the poorest and least-educated sections of the population.

We can no longer say that bombing one’s opponents from a height of 10 000 metres and showering them with bombs that remain in the ground is an efficient way of maintaining peace or taking military action.

The deployment of peacekeeping forces and humanitarian aid are today essential to stabilise and rebuild the areas affected by conflict and these bombs now lack any justification, including from a military perspective.

Today we are going to talk to the Commission and to the Council precisely about the initiatives that have come about as a result of the widespread change of attitude among the international community towards cluster bombs.

The European Parliament has repeatedly adopted a very clear position: we want to see international regulation of a global nature prohibiting the use, production, transfer, financing and stockpiling of cluster bombs. Pending this, the EU Member States should implement unilateral actions to prohibit the use and transfer of these bombs, as many states have already done and others are preparing to do.

Commissioner, Minister, the European Parliament wants to thank the Presidency of the Council, the Commission and the Member States for their efforts to negotiate a new protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons, which deals with all the humanitarian problems associated with the use of cluster bombs. Unfortunately, however, we must recognise that very little progress has been made to date.

We therefore need a solid Oslo Process on the basis of which the states, the NGOs, the Red Cross and the international organisations can draw up and fulfil an ambitious agenda. For the moment, Oslo has been backed by 80 countries, including many developing countries, but it is far from clear yet whether this process will eventually result in a complete ban on cluster bombs.

What is clear is that we need an integrated, comprehensive approach that has a humanitarian slant and that focuses not just on disarmament, but above all on the protection of civilians, helping them to cope with the consequences of war while ensuring that the existing stockpiles of these bombs are destroyed and that the contaminated areas are cleared.

With a number of important events coming up, such as the Vienna meeting in December and the Brussels meeting the following week, as well as 5 November, the Global Day of Action to Ban Cluster Bombs, when there will be many events around the world, what are we going to do?

In this context I would like to ask the Commission and Council representatives what we are going to do, what our position will be? What is the European Union’s position on the state of the discussions in the framework of the Convention on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons?

Are we going to have a common position of the Council in this matter? What initiatives are we developing to encourage the Member States to adopt national measures aimed at prohibiting cluster bombs? What are we doing to support third countries in terms of clearing the areas affected by these munitions, providing education on the risks and destroying the stockpiles of munitions already prohibited?

Finally, is the Commission going to consider organising an international conference on the European Union’s role in tackling the socio-economic, humanitarian and development consequences following conflicts in which these weapons have been used?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Borrell, I should firstly like to thank you for your three questions on this specific issue of the ban on cluster bombs. I will try to briefly and as objectively as possible answer each of the three questions put to the Council.

As regards your first question, I must say that, within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons – to keep my speech short I will simply refer to this as the ‘Convention’ – the Presidency of the Council of the European Union has, as you know, voiced its concern, on behalf of the European Union, about the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions. In particular, at the Third Review Conference of States Parties to the Convention which was held in Geneva from 7 to 17 November last year, the European Union expressed the view that cluster munitions represent a particularly important element of the future work of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

The EU presented a proposal supporting the establishment of an open-ended Group of Governmental Experts with the purpose of drafting recommendations for further action in the context of the Convention. This proposal was not adopted by the Conference of States Parties. However, it was agreed to convene, as a matter of urgency, an intersessional meeting of the Group of Governmental Experts on Explosive Remnants of War, with particular focus on cluster munitions.

This meeting was held in Geneva from 19 to 22 June 2007 when the EU submitted a draft negotiating mandate for a legally binding instrument to address all aspects of the humanitarian concerns raised by cluster munitions. This instrument should be adopted by the end of 2008.

The EU Troika carried out extensive consultations with third countries to promote the EU approach. The Group of Governmental Experts decided, however, to postpone any decision on a legally binding instrument until the 2007 meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention which will be held next month.

In parallel with these efforts to address the concerns relating to cluster munitions, as you know, a number of EU Member States have subscribed to the Oslo Declaration and participated in a series of meetings organised within the so-called ‘Oslo Process’, aimed at a total ban on cluster munitions.

EU Member States have participated in their national capacity. So far no agreement has been reached on an EU position concerning the Oslo Process. The majority of Member States perceive these two processes as complementary and consider them to be parallel efforts leading to a common goal, namely an international legally binding instrument on cluster munitions.

As regards your second question, I must say that, in relation to the forthcoming meetings in Brussels and Vienna, as already mentioned, EU Member States, including the Presidency, will participate in a national capacity if they so decide. No EU common position is planned.

Finally, as regards your third question, I can say that the recent decisions taken by Austria and Belgium on the prohibition of cluster munitions, as referred to by Mr Borrell in his question, have been taken, as you know, on a purely national basis. The Council has not taken any specific action on this issue.

 
  
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  President. − Let us hope that it will express its view soon.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I should like to thank Mr Borrell Fontelles for putting this oral question to us. I am glad because I think this is an opportunity for us to comprehensively answer this question on something which has particularly appalling consequences. It has a highly negative impact on human beings, particularly on civilians. The question is, therefore, very dear to me because things that affect human security are always very close to my heart. I fully agree with the position expressed by our Council President, but I would like to mention a few other things also.

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to discuss it in several formal and informal fora, including in meetings organised – the first in Paris and then a later one in Alexandria – by the Institute for Peace Studies and chaired by Ms Mubarak. She took on this issue very strongly and I think she has tried to bring things forward. As in the case for antipersonnel landmines, explosive remnants of war pose great threats to the lives and safety of civilian populations and I would like to comprehensively answer the questions that Mr Borrell Fontelles has asked here.

Their effects can be both immediate and long-lasting. By scattering explosives over wide areas they can kill and injure, as we all know, large numbers of civilians, very often children. In addition, many of the bomblets or submunitions fail to implode and to explode on impact, and their lethal effects remain after conflict so furthermore cluster munitions seriously hinder international humanitarian assistance. We have seen it in the war in Lebanon.

As regards crisis management and post-conflict reconstruction programmes during and in the aftermath of conflicts over the past several years, we in the Commission have been very active in countering the problems created by landmines and also by other explosive remnants of war, including cluster ammunition.

Through the two European Commission mine action strategies covering the period 2002-2007, over EUR 300 million have been committed worldwide in projects covering activities such as demining, stockpile destruction, mine risk education, mine victim assistance, rehabilitation and social economic reintegration. Projects covering cluster munitions have also been carried out in countries which are highly affected by these weapons, such as Afghanistan, Laos and Cambodia to name a few of them.

As for the future, we will maintain our engagement through mainstreaming actions against antipersonnel landmines and explosive remnants of war in our Community external assistance strategies and programmes – so this will be everywhere.

The Commission also makes use of the humanitarian aid instrument managed by ECHO to fund humanitarian demining efforts. The most recent case of humanitarian demining support has been in Lebanon, which received significant humanitarian aid following the conflict in December 2006, which I mentioned before.

Concerning the Commission’s role in the negotiation of disarmament treaties or conventions, I would like to recall that such negotiations are sometimes not in our competence. If the Community is not a party to the disarmament treaties or conventions, it can then legally only encourage partner countries to engage fully in multilateralism, in particular via participation in treaties and conventions. I think our President has said a lot on this already.

We took part in the EU troika démarches carried out in key countries such as the United States of America, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Canada, Pakistan and Ukraine, to promote the multilateral initiatives on cluster munitions in the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and in particular a negotiation on a legally binding instrument addressing humanitarian concerns about cluster munitions. The objective is to conclude negotiations by the end of next year.

At the same time, the Commission closely follows the Oslo Process and intends to participate as an observer at the meetings planned in that context in Brussels and in Vienna.

In conclusion, I would like to assure you, Mr Borrell Fontelles, and also the European Parliament, that the Commission will continue to make its best efforts to support all the multilateral initiatives that are aimed at a comprehensive and effective ban on cluster mines.

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Madam President, I should like to say to the Commissioner that I am encouraged by the fact that we share the same worries and goals and I thank her for her presentation and description of the developments. I am also glad about the good cooperation between the Members of Parliament in preparing a relevant motion for a resolution.

First of all, it is a matter of urgency. It has a human and political urgency because, in spite of warning signals from all around the world, cluster bombs are still being actively used. So there are two problems we need to address.

Firstly, the use of cluster bombs has an especially inhuman aspect. Those who launch these bombs are usually not able to target them very specifically. The failure rates happen to be much higher than might be expected. The tragic result is extremely high numbers of casualties among civilians, more than 90%, as has been said.

Another problem is the multitude of unexploded cluster bombs that lie in the former conflict areas. This is a major handicap to states that have resolved to start to rebuild their economies after conflicts. Against this background I think the EU should take the lead in trying to ban any kind of production, use and sale of cluster munitions.

The first step should be to introduce an immediate moratorium on the use of these weapons. Further, our resolution insists that EU troops should under no circumstances make use of any kind of cluster ammunition until the relevant international agreements have been achieved. We ask Parliament and the Commission to urgently increase financial assistance to communities and individuals who have been affected by both exploded and unexploded cluster munitions, using to this end all available instruments.

 
  
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  Ana Maria Gomes, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (PT) Mr President, I am speaking on behalf of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. These questions exemplify the leading role played by this House in relation to conventional disarmament, controls on the transfer of munitions and the strengthening of international humanitarian law.

We fought for the extension of the Ottawa Convention to all types of mines. Well before the European Council, we argued for a global treaty on the arms trade. The vital need to convert the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports into a legally binding instrument has also been a constant demand of this Parliament.

These questions on cluster bombs look to the future and to what Europe must do to eliminate these weapons which make no distinction between civilians and military personnel and which destroy so many human lives. We are calling for an immediate moratorium on using, producing, stockpiling and exporting these weapons. The moratorium must in due time be converted into a legal instrument which has the effect of banning these barbaric munitions, in the long term, from arsenals and battlefields in the same way as anti-personnel mines have already started to disappear.

In addition to calling on the European Union to begin a diplomatic offensive in favour of this new instrument, we want the Member States to lead by example and eliminate the use of these weapons by their Armed Forces. Not only that, they must also permanently stop their export, production and stockpiling. Every day in the Lebanon, Chechnya, Afghanistan and dozens of other countries where the wars have already ended, people are paying the ultimate price for the criminal and immoral irresponsibility of Armed Forces which have lost any sense of the ethical and legal limits that should guide the actions of civilised people.

It is up to Europe to lead a global alliance to re-establish, reaffirm and reinforce these limits. We urgently need a common position in order to eradicate cluster bombs and other cluster munitions.

 
  
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  Elizabeth Lynne, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Madam President, civilians – many of them children – are indiscriminately killed or injured by cluster bombs. Dreams are shattered and lives are destroyed. Take the case of the Iraqi boy, Ahmed Kamel. Attracted by a shiny object, Ahmed picked up a bomblet and it exploded. He lost both of his hands and his sight. How is a 12-year-old supposed to make sense of this?

And yet the shocking fact is that cluster munitions are stockpiled in over 15 EU Member States. Horrifyingly, at least 10 EU Member States are producing these weapons: France, Spain, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and Bulgaria. It is my view that these countries, as well as those that have used them, including the UK, have blood on their hands.

Whilst I welcome moves by countries such as Belgium to establish national legislation to ban cluster munitions, all other EU Member States must follow suit. I urge the Council and the Commission to endorse the Oslo Process, as we have already called on them to do.

Diplomatic manoeuvres by the UK Government and others to suggest there are ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ cluster munitions must be given short shrift – they all kill and maim. The word ‘smart’ could not be more misleading or more inappropriate.

We need an immediate moratorium on the use, investment, stockpiling, production, transfer or export of all cluster munitions by all EU Member States. All states which have used them must accept responsibility for their clearance, and the Commission must urgently increase financial assistance to the communities affected by unexploded bomblets. I urge you all to support this resolution.

 
  
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  Frithjof Schmidt, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the Oslo Process offers an historic opportunity to achieve an international agreement – not just a declaration, but an international agreement – banning cluster bombs. For two decades, there have been campaigns and international initiatives, but they have been repeatedly bogged down in the diplomatic mire of military and economic interests. Now we have an opportunity to reach an agreement in 2008.

This requires support not only from Parliament, which has a clear position here across all parliamentary groups. I was very pleased and interested to hear, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, that the Commission also supports this position, which is most welcome. The Council now needs to follow the clear stance that has been adopted by Parliament and the Commission; that is very important. It is not just about banning the use and stockpiling of cluster bombs and the trade in these weapons; it is also about production. We should have a ban on the production of these bombs, and the European Union is still one of the main producers of these weapons. They are still being manufactured in Germany, in the United Kingdom, in France, in Spain and Belgium. Legislation has now been adopted in Belgium and Austria to ban production but I know that production has still not stopped entirely in Belgium. There are loopholes in this legislation as well.

We must press ahead with a ban on these weapons. The Member States must move forward towards a ban, and the Council must defend the clear position that has been set out here. That is the only way to ensure that, in 2008, we actually get an agreement.

 
  
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  Tobias Pflüger, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Madam President, the first time I dealt personally with this issue was during NATO’s war of aggression against Yugoslavia, one of the wars which I opposed and which like many other wars was waged by Western countries.

Some 98% of the victims of cluster bombs are civilians. Between 5 and 40% of the submunitions of cluster bombs do not explode. Let me be blunt: it is mainly the major Western industrialised countries which produce and equip their armies with fragmentation bombs and deploy cluster bombs in wars. There are 34 countries which produce cluster bombs, including 13 EU Member States. Cluster bombs are a factor in wars being waged by EU countries, for example in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, so please, let us not shed any crocodile tears here!

The EU must bite the bullet. In specific terms, this means that we need the European Union to adopt a common position condemning these murderous weapons. That means an end to the production of cluster bombs, and of course no use of fragmentation bombs as occurred in the Gulf War, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. It cannot be allowed to continue.

 
  
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  Alain Hutchinson (PSE).(FR) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office, Commissioner, much has already been said on this subject and we of course deplore – the word is hardly strong enough – the use of cluster munitions, which have caused so much serious damage in a number of countries, and I wish to thank Mr Borrell for having in fact raised this disturbing issue.

However, if this ban is to be effective, and if the resolve expressed in the resolution is to succeed, we of course need to go much further than banning the use of such weapons. We also need to deal with their manufacture and sale, because we cannot have a humanitarian debate on the one hand – and it is true that these bombs that do not explode but that lie hidden in the ground in all kinds of places, thereby preventing communities and refugees from returning to their homeland, also prevent the distribution of humanitarian aid – we cannot have such a debate that seeks to highlight the humanitarian side of the problem without at the same time taking effective measures against those industries here at home that, regrettably, are still producing and selling these weapons.

I would like to conclude by saying that this resolution perhaps gives us an opportunity to appeal to the Member States too. In this respect my own country, Belgium, has passed the necessary legislation, indeed I think that it was the first to do so, and I believe that we could be inspired by the law that has been adopted in Belgium to appeal to the other 26 Member States to follow suit.

 
  
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  Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck (ALDE).(NL) Madam President, Commissioner, Minister, President-in-Office of the Council, I would like to use my turn to speak to support both the question and the way it has been worded by Mr Borrell, as well as our joint motion for a resolution on this issue.

I am all too well aware that all the efforts being made on arms control are always very difficult and are sometimes more like a procession of Echternach, where you take two steps forward and then one step back. I think that we must intensify these efforts, because it seems to me in the last few years as if people who are working for disarmament, for arms control, to control weapons, are old-fashioned specimens from a bygone age, because now rearmament is the order of the day. I find that extremely alarming.

When you think that a head of state of the only remaining superpower in the world recently threatened a possible third world war, that strikes fear right to my heart. In this context, which is far less conducive to joint efforts, I think that it is more important than ever that both the Council and the Commission continuously underline that the Member States must act together on this, which unfortunately has not been the case up to now.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – (SV) Thank you Madam President. I am also speaking on behalf of my colleague Raül Romeva. He comes from Spain, I come from Sweden, and both countries produce these dreadful weapons and both countries have promised to ban them. But what is my own country doing? At the talks in Oslo, Sweden argued that we should have restricted use rather than a ban. That is a disgraceful position. No civilised country can defend these cruel weapons, and I am delighted to see the great unity that exists between the Council, the Commission and Parliament today in support of a total ban.

When these weapons strike, they constitute a weapon against innocent children. It is an effective weapon against human rights and economic development. We must therefore be highly effective in our fight to ban them. This is the beginning – let us complete the process as soon as possible, as another child is dying every minute. Thank you.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR DOS SANTOS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Luis Yañez-Barnuevo García (PSE).(ES) Mr President, I would like to echo those who have already talked about banning the production, export and stockpiling of these weapons – cluster bombs – which are so harmful to civilians, and to express my support for the Oslo Process, despite the fact that, as the previous speaker said, my country manufactures, stockpiles and exports these types of weapons.

I must make one point, however: on 21 September – i.e. just a month ago – the government, in the shape of the party that supports it, the Socialist Party, tabled in parliament an amendment to the Law on control of external trade in defence and dual-use material aimed partly at restricting – and, where appropriate, prohibiting – cluster bombs that are particularly dangerous for civilians.

In other words, the trend is changing in my country: the manufacture, stockpiling and export of these weapons were approved by previous governments. This government is fully committed to the Oslo Process and wants to see the gradual elimination and, eventually, complete prohibition of their manufacture, stockpiling and export. This was the important point that I wanted to make.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to raise two vital points, but I will be very brief as I know we are overrunning. The first is that this debate has given me a very clear idea and conviction that this issue will be followed very closely by the European Parliament and is something that concerns many Members. I will therefore of course duly take this into account.

Secondly, I would point out that the European Union is also playing a leading role in this issue, possibly not with the energy that many Members would like, and certainly with some difficulty, but, despite everything, with a certain optimism.

We have already voiced in the appropriate place, in other words in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the European Union’s concern about the humanitarian consequences of this type of weapon. We have also already proposed the negotiation of a legally binding instrument to be adopted by the end of 2008 at the latest, although possibly not with the ambition that many of you desire. However, the fact is that we are here to take decisive steps. This is a process that I hope will amass ever more political will, enthusiasm and effort so that we can ultimately achieve the proposed goals.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I would just like to add one thing to what I said before. I can, of course, only speak on areas within the Commission’s competence, and you know that this area is a particular competence of the Member States. However, I can speak on the financial assistance to those affected.

I can reconfirm what I said before, which is that we have already done our best to alleviate the problems caused by explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions, in particular through our mine action strategies and the related horizontal budget line, which accounted for about one third of the funds spent in this domain.

I can assure you that actions against mines and explosive remnants of war will continue to be carried out through the new geographical instruments, and are even being mainstreamed now – and this is new – into our external assistance strategies and programmes.

Some actions can also be funded under the new instrument for stability, so we now have more instruments on hand to address this major challenge, and will take clearly into account the strong position expressed by Parliament in using these as effectively as possible, where necessary, because I totally share the objective that you have expressed.

 
  
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  President. − I have received a motion for a resolution tabled in accordance with Rule 108(5) of the Rules of Procedure.(1)

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow.

(The sitting was suspended for a few moments before Question Time)

 
  

(1) See Minutes.


15. Council Question Time
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  President. − Ladies and gentlemen, the next item is questions to the Council. As happened yesterday during questions to the Commission, we are going to experiment with some new rules which are proposed as part of the reform of Parliament. These are being studied by a special group and basically cover two areas. Firstly, I would invite Members to move to the front benches so that the sitting feels more inclusive and, secondly, supplementary questions will be answered in one go by the President-in-Office of the Council after they have been asked. As a result, as we usually have two supplementary questions, instead of each being answered immediately, the Council will respond to both questions together at the end.

The next item is questions to the Council (B6-0318/2007).

The following questions to the Council have been tabled.

Question No 1 by Manuel Medina Ortega (H-0678/07)

Subject: Solidarity Fund for major disasters

Given the gravity of this summer’s forest fires in certain countries of the Union such as Greece and Spain, and in the light of the Union’s failure to respond quickly and effectively, will the Council be reviewing the Solidarity Fund rules so that in the future we may be armed with appropriate mechanisms to face up to these disasters and mitigate the damage caused?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in answer to this question I would say that, as you know, the current European Union Solidarity Fund was established to respond to disasters of major and extraordinary proportions, following the floods which affected Central Europe in the summer of 2002.

In 2002, on a proposal from the European Commission, the Council adopted a Regulation establishing the European Union Solidarity Fund. Article 14 of that Regulation on the Solidarity Fund provides that the Council shall review this Regulation on the basis of a proposal from the Commission by 31 December 2006 at the latest.

In 2005 the Commission proposed that Regulation (EC) No 2012/2002 be replaced by a new Regulation on the Solidarity Fund. This proposal particularly aimed to extend the scope of the instrument in order to cover industrial and technological disasters, public health emergencies and acts of terror and to reduce the thresholds used to classify a disaster as major.

The proposal was that the regional exceptional criteria should be removed from the Regulation in force, but that, in exceptional circumstances, the Commission could recognise that a major disaster had occurred.

The European Parliament issued an opinion in that regard in May 2006 and, still in 2006, the Council discussed the Commission’s proposal and Parliament’s opinion at the appropriate levels, although no agreement was reached.

As a result, Regulation (EC) No 2012/2002 continues to apply, with the Commission having proposed its mobilisation during 2007. As I had the opportunity of telling you last month in answer to a similar question, as far as the Council is aware, in cases of disasters provided for by the Regulation, its application has been effective. The European Commission periodically prepares reports which describe in detail the use of the Solidarity Fund.

 
  
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  Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE).(ES) The Council’s proposal was perfectly clear. This new regulation is hugely delayed. The complementary and concrete question I want to put to the Council is the following: this summer the cradle of Western civilisation, Ancient Greece, along with the Olympic stadiums were almost burnt down. Is the Council waiting until the Vatican is burnt down, until the Prado is burnt down, until Belém Palace is burnt down, or can we hope that before next summer we will have a regulation that can cope with these types of disasters?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mr President, Mr Medina Ortega, we are obviously not waiting for Rome, Lisbon, London or Paris to suffer natural disasters before we look at this issue in more detail. We truly hope that Belém Palace and Belém Tower will remain standing for many centuries, as they have done to date.

As regards specific deadlines for amending the current rules, I cannot of course, on behalf of the Council, commit to any specific date.

 
  
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  Elizabeth Lynne (ALDE). – Thank you for your reply, but I would concur with the follow-up question. We do need to know when this is going to be changed.

I am speaking particularly about flooding in the UK. Obviously this refers to fires, but the solidarity fund covers flooding. My region in the West Midlands was very badly hit. My particular village in Worcestershire was hit, along with the rest of Worcestershire and the surrounding areas in Hereford and Shropshire.

Obviously the UK Government has put in a bid for solidarity fund money. I am hoping the Commission is going to look favourably on that and the Council will actually try and make changes to the way the solidarity fund operates so that in future we can get this funding at a faster rate.

Also, can the Council representative tell us what he feels about the rapid reaction force and whether this is going to be brought forward so that emergency flood defences could be brought into affected areas?

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE).(DE) Mr President, first of all, let me say that I think it is very good that we can now sit together down here. I think that is a very good idea.

As to the question itself, I would like to say a few words about the fires, Minister, which in some cases are due to natural causes but in others are started deliberately. This fire-starting is encouraged by the legal position in some countries because it offers certain advantages to certain people.

Has any thought been given to the possibility of bringing pressure to bear on these countries to change the legal position so that this incentive no longer exists in future?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Very well. I believe that I have already answered at least some of the questions that have just been asked. I have also already said that our assessment of how this Solidarity Fund has functioned in the past was positive, in the sense that it functioned properly.

The issue of the rapid reaction force is being considered. No decision has yet been made as this is still being assessed and debated by the Council. No decision has been made either on the prevention of fires, although a great deal has been done. Much remains to be done and I suppose that this is an area in which the exchange of experiences known as ‘best practices’ and cooperation between Member States at EU level may prove useful.

Efforts still need to be made in this area. I must say that my own country is somewhere that is systematically, year after year, badly affected by fires, arson and all the issues relating to fires, particularly forest fires. Nationally, we have adopted a series of measures and initiatives that have proven to be very successful in terms of preventing fires and arson and of course we are very happy to share our experiences with all the Member States.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 2 by Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (H-0680/07)

Subject: Integrated European policy for persons with special needs

Is the Council envisaging the adoption of a joint decision with a view to establishing an integrated European policy to support and provide vocational training for citizens with special needs and ensure their integration in society?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Thank you for your question, Mrs Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou. As you know, the Council can only act in its legislative capacity on the basis of a proposal made at some stage by the Commission.

As things stand, the Council has not yet received any legislative proposal for a Council decision with a view to establishing an integrated European policy to support and provide vocational training for citizens with special needs and ensure their integration in society.

As you will know, in 2000 the Council adopted Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation. This prohibits discrimination on a number of grounds, including disability. In addition, this year (2007) was designated the ‘European Year of Equal Opportunities for All’ through a decision which the Council and Parliament took jointly under the codecision procedure.

 
  
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  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, I would like to thank the President-in-Office of the Council. The elimination of discrimination in employment is not an effective way to address the problem of disability. Only yesterday the health programme involving new technologies was announced. Could this proposal not be used to enable a large proportion of European citizens, who could be active and useful to society as whole at a time of demographic decline, to reach their potential and live in social cohesion?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mr President, Mrs Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou, I feel that speech was more a general comment than a direct question. However, I believe that, despite everything, we have seen a gradual increase in awareness among the Member States and also at EU level of the need to work together in order to adequately respond to the issues involved in this area.

I must also say that, during the Portuguese Presidency and as part of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All, the Presidency will be hosting, in Lisbon on 19 and 20 November, a major conference on this issue during which we will of course try to review the situation as regards the relevant issues. We will also of course try to obtain political commitments on this issue for the future.

 
  
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  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE).(DE) What measures is the Council planning with a view to making public transport more accessible to the disabled? Do you see any opportunity for the use of best practice and benchmarking in order, quite simply, to help improve the situation here?

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President-in-Office, we have explicitly enshrined the rights of the disabled in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which will be part of the Lisbon Treaty and will thus be fully and legally binding. Do you see any opportunity for the Council Presidency to call on Member States to react very practically to the new opportunities that have been created and take appropriate measures to ensure that the disabled have more and better prospects?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) I should like to make two comments. The Charter of Fundamental Rights is not yet fully in force and has not been published. Neither has the Treaty of Lisbon and we therefore have to wait for the time being. I obviously cannot predict in October what initiatives or decisions the Council may adopt in this area. Furthermore, as you know, the Charter of Fundamental Rights is not in itself a legal basis for legislative initiatives.

With regard to the issue of transport, as the Commission does not propose initiatives to be adopted by the Council in this area, this issue still comes under the competence of the Member States. It will clearly be up to them, at national level, to propose the necessary measures as they see fit and according to specific circumstances.

 
  
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  President. − Ladies and gentlemen, the next three questions by Marian Harkin, Avril Doyle and Esko Seppänen were put down in yesterday’s debate. In accordance with Annex II(A)(2) of the Rules of Procedure, these questions are not admissible so we will move on to the next question.

Questions Nos 3, 4 and 5 are not admissible as the subject in question is already on the agenda for this part-session.

Question No 6 by Sarah Ludford (H-0687/07)

Subject: Sex offenders

Is the Portuguese Presidency satisfied that the EU and its Member States are taking all possible measures to identify, bring to justice and monitor after conviction perpetrators of sex crimes against children, to exchange information on child sex crime and to protect and rescue children who may be missing, abducted or at risk?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, Mrs Ludford, protecting children from sexual exploitation and combating trafficking in human beings are extremely important issues for the European Union.

In this respect, I would refer to the Council Resolution of 27 September 2001 on the contribution of civil society in finding missing or sexually exploited children in which the Council declared that combating the disappearance and sexual exploitation of children is a priority for the European Union.

To this end, the Council has adopted various legal instruments which tackle specific aspects of this issue, including the Joint Action of 24 February 1997 concerning action to combat trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of children, said Council Resolution of 27 September 2001 on the contribution of civil society in finding missing or sexually exploited children and, finally, the Council Framework Decision of 22 December 2003 on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.

The recent proposal for a framework decision on the recognition and enforcement in the European Union of prohibitions arising from convictions for sexual offences committed against children, presented by the Kingdom of Belgium, has been assessed by the Council together with other proposals, such as the proposal for a Council framework decision on taking account of convictions in the Member States of the European Union in the course of new criminal proceedings and the proposal for a Council framework decision on the organisation and content of the exchange of information extracted from criminal records between Member States.

Following the negotiation process, the Council has decided to merge the provisions of the initiative presented by the Kingdom of Belgium with the instrument on the exchange of information extracted from criminal records. As a result, information on a person’s conviction for the sexual assault of children should be made available to the competent authorities of Member States.

The Council Framework Decision of 22 December 2003 on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography contains a definition of offences concerning sexual exploitation of children and child pornography and calls on Member States to take measures to ensure that these offences are punishable by a term of imprisonment of one to three years and, in some cases, the maximum of five to ten years. Said Framework Decision sets 20 January 2006 as the date for implementation by Member States. On the basis of the notifications received by the Council and the Commission on the implementation measures and the report prepared by the Commission, the Council must assess, by 20 January 2008, the extent to which the Member States have complied with the obligations arising from this Framework Decision.

 
  
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  Sarah Ludford (ALDE). – I thank the Presidency very much for that reply.

The case of Madeleine McCann has aroused a lot of interest and, indeed, controversy. I am not going to go into the details of that case, but what concerns me here is what lessons we can learn generally about the adequacy of European action in the case of missing children. I want to ask about three issues.

The first is a missing children’s hotline. Yesterday, Commissioner Frattini told us that he was not at all satisfied by Member States’ action to implement the Council decision from February for a single 116 phone number for missing children, which should have been in place in August. Only four Member States have chosen a service provider, three Member States have failed to respond to a request for information at all. That is not very impressive! Will you chase up the other 23 Member States?

Secondly, a few weeks ago, Justice and Home Affairs Ministers called for an EU database on missing children. I believe that some private attempts have been made in cooperation with YouTube and Madeleine McCann’s parents. Will the EU support having a proper database?

Thirdly, you talked about work on the exchange of information on sex offenders, but when are we going to have a computerised database?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mr President, Mrs Ludford, I should just like to say the following in response to the various questions asked.

Firstly, many of these measures are relatively recent or very recent and their effects therefore need to be assessed. This is happening and we will of course be assessing what has worked and what has failed and whether we are making good progress in this area. This is what we have to do, not go hounding the Member States, trying to lay blame or apportion responsibility.

This is a cooperation process which requires dialogue between the Member States based on experiences which we must exchange. Despite everything, I consider that we have made good progress in this area in response to situations which are truly terrible in humanitarian terms.

Finally, I consider that the Reform Treaty is also good news in this respect as it effectively encourages and enables wider and better cooperation between the Member States in combating this type of offence.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – President-in-Office, you mentioned – and I was glad to hear you use the word – the ‘trafficking’ issue, because I think that, while we have publicity about children, including the McCann case, there are many children and young adults who are trafficked into Member States of the Union. I would like to ask you if you believe that enough is being done on this issue. And I would also ask to assist those when they are found in the Member State: to rehabilitate them and either get them back to their own countries or to make sure that they do not become criminals within the Member State in which they are trafficked. I think this is a really serious problem in the Union.

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE).(DE) Minister, I tried to listen very closely to your response to Mrs Ludford. She asked you a very specific question which you have not answered, namely how you propose to chase up the Member States which have not yet set up the hotline. Perhaps you could be more specific in your answer.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) I am neither an expert in criminal policy nor a Minister for Justice. I am here representing the Council and I can only tell you what, at the moment, seems to be the general feeling of the Council. It is always possible to do more and to do it better, but the truth is that, as I have already said, there is a series of legal instruments which duly correspond to this desire to effectively combat this type of offence. As I have said, many of these measures are recent and they will all need to be properly assessed.

There was one new question: raising the awareness of Member States and their citizens about a phenomenon which, in terms of raising awareness about its extent and gravity, is actually new. As always happens with new phenomena which must be considered and assessed, there is of course a procedure to be followed. We will, where necessary, continue to call on those Member States which have perhaps not yet complied with their obligations in relation to implementing initiatives or legislation to do so as quickly as possible. If a commitment has been made, then this must be fulfilled and implemented in this and all other areas.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 7 by Lambert van Nistelrooij (H-0689/07)

Subject: Merger between Suez and Gaz de France

On 3 September it was announced that the boards of the French energy company Suez and the state enterprise Gaz de France had decided to proceed with the planned merger. This would create the fourth largest energy company, after Gazprom, Electricité de France and EON. The Commission has already ordered the merged company to hive off a number of operations in Belgium and France.

Does the Council believe that these merger plans still accord with the current principles which it espouses with regard to liberalisation of the energy market in the European Union?

To what extent have the new merged company and the French State promised to carry out the divestment of ownership of the main networks which the Commission has called for?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I must firstly say that, as you know, the conclusions of the 2007 Spring European Council comprehensively covered the EU’s energy policy, including the issue of the internal market for gas and electricity.

The Council cannot venture an opinion as to whether the merger plans, as they currently stand, are in accordance with that part of the conclusions. The Council would point out that these European Council conclusions formed a contribution to the European Commission’s Third Energy Package, presented in September 2007, which has the goal of subsequently opening up the internal market for gas and electricity. Only after obtaining agreement on the proposed regulations and directives and after these have entered into force will it be possible to assess whether the merged company GDF Suez complies with the relevant legislative provisions. Secondly, the Council must point out that, under the Treaty provisions on competition, the European Commission is responsible for ascertaining the compatibility of all inter-company agreements with the Community rules.

 
  
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  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE).(NL). I think that it is entirely right that policy and concrete steps are evaluated by the Commission. I do have an additional question relating to the European market, the realisation of the single market.

The explicit aim behind the unbundling of companies is to bring about real investment in the networks, and we can see that in this area, including between countries, we have not kept up with the agreements that have been made. Countries are supposed to be able to exchange 10%, this was called interoperationality, and we are lagging behind on that.

My question is this: what activities is the Council undertaking to actually prime the investments in order to improve the connection between France and Spain, for instance? People can buy in cheaper from their neighbours but if there is no mains connection that is not possible. What are you going to do about that?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mr President, Mr van Nistelrooij, the Council adopted a series of measures on energy issues at the last European Council in March. These must of course now be implemented, based on Commission proposals. Each body and each institution must assume its own responsibilities: the Commission by presenting its proposals, the Council by adopting, rejecting or amending these, and then the Court by ascertaining whether or not the legislation and penalties of Member States comply with the legislation in force. That is all I can say for the time being.

 
  
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  President. − Question No 8 has been withdrawn. As the author is not present, Question No 9 lapses.

Question No 10 by Roberta Alma Anastase (H-0702/07)

Subject: Facilitation of visas for citizens of Moldova and Georgia

Citizens of Moldova and Georgia are confronted with considerable difficulties in obtaining visas for the EU Member States. In addition, the entry into force of the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and the Russian Federation has brought about a paradoxical situation whereby the inhabitants of the separatist regions of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, who mostly hold Russian passports, now benefit from a less restrictive visa and travel regime. What action will the Council take to contribute towards easing the visa regime for Moldovan and Georgian citizens and implementing the respective agreements? It is also necessary, as a matter of urgency, that the Common Visa Centre in Chisinau should be able to count on the cooperation of more EU Member States with a view to transposing the practical process of facilitating visas. How does the Council explain the fact that so far only a small number of Member States have done so, and how it will ensure that the rest cooperate forthwith?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mrs Anastase, in a decision of 19 December 2006, the Council mandated the Commission to negotiate an agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Moldova on the facilitation of visas. This agreement was initialled in Chisinau on 25 April 2007 and signed in Brussels on 10 October 2007, by myself in fact.

Given the rapid conclusion of this agreement, the European Parliament will be consulted on the draft decision on the conclusion of this agreement. On 17 October the Moldovan Government passed two bills ratifying the agreements with the European Union on visa facilitation and readmission.

On behalf of the Council, I can tell you that the Commission does not currently have a mandate to begin negotiations on a similar agreement with Georgia. As regards the Common Visa Centre in Chisinau, cooperation between Member States is a matter to be decided by them alone.

 
  
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  Roberta Alma Anastase (PPE-DE). – (RO) Congratulations on signing the agreements with the Republic of Moldova. As regards this issue, I would like to point out two things: first of all, I consider it necessary to include in the discussion regarding the relations between the Council and the Republic of Moldova a situation that occurred immediately after signing these agreements: on 12 October, at the border of the Republic of Moldova, some official delegations coming from Romania were refused access to the territory of the Republic of Moldova. Since I believe that a visa facilitation for a third country should be followed, eventually, by its reciprocity, I would be interested to know if the Council intends to approach this subject. Secondly, in the agreements you signed, a reference to the Moldovan language is made, a language that is not recognized. I would like us to point this out especially since there is only one language, the Romanian language, recognized in the European Union. As regards Georgia, I believe things should move toward avoiding the situation that the citizens of Georgia deal with as compared to the citizens of South Osetia.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mr President, as I said, I signed this visa facilitation agreement with Moldova and I can tell you that this action, this initiative, this agreement was duly appreciated and recognised by the Moldovan Government.

This is an extremely important instrument in terms of both our relations with Moldova and all our relations with our neighbouring countries. I sincerely hope that this agreement will help, as intended, to strengthen relations between the EU and Moldova and in particular to reinforce the ‘human dimension’ of the European Neighbourhood Policy, in other words to bring people closer so that we can all get to know each other more and better, because undoubtedly this is what reinforces European spirit and understanding.

Any difficulties in applying this agreement will of course have to be assessed. Such difficulties are very recent but I can say that, whenever agreements concluded by the European Union with third countries result in problems or difficulties, when they do not produce the desired results or when they produce the wrong results, the Commission, possibly in cooperation with the Council, must look into what is happening and, if applicable, make the necessary changes.

With regard to Georgia, I have taken note of your comment, Mrs Anastase.

 
  
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  Danutė Budreikaitė (ALDE).(LT) Are there any plans to adopt an agreement on a visa facilitation regime for visas to Belarus? After the expansion of the Schengen area, Lithuania, having extensive borders with Belarus, will have difficulty inviting people from that country to visit and, in addition, Belarusians will not be able to visit relatives living across the border. Are there any plans for this?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mr President, Mrs Budreikatė, as you know, decisions on the conclusion of visa facilitation agreements are taken on a case-by-case basis. They naturally take into account the country in question, the type of relationship that we have with that country, technical security issues and so on. As a result, where applicable, with regard to Belarus or any other country, a decision would have to be duly proposed by the Commission to the Council and the latter would have to decide on this. However, as I have said, a decision cannot be simply made to conclude this type of agreement or to begin negotiations without certain technical and political conditions being met.

However, where it is technically and politically feasible to conclude these, visa facilitation agreements do help, as I have said, with the ‘human dimension’ or ‘humanitarian dimension’ of the Neighbourhood Policy. We cannot be strangers to one other; on the contrary we must and can get to know each other more and better.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 11 by Dimitrios Papadimoulis (H-0703/07)

Subject: Creation of a European civil defence force

On 4 September 2007 the European Parliament adopted a resolution (P6_TA(2007)0362) on natural disasters that makes particular reference to the lethal fires that affected Greece this summer. Like other documents, both the resolution and the report on establishing a Community civil protection mechanism (A6-0286/2006 of 18 September 2006) recognise the importance of the Community civil protection mechanism and call for the creation of a European civil defence force that could react immediately in emergencies, as also proposed in the report by former Commissioner Barnier.

Given that the creation of a civil defence force would be of particular assistance in supporting Member States’ national authorities responsible for civil protection, what are the Council’s views on the creation of a civil defence force?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr Papadimoulis, the Council would point out that, on 15 and 16 June 2006 and also on 14 and 15 December 2006, the European Council endorsed or took note of Presidency reports on reinforcing the Union’s emergency and crisis response capacities in order to improve coordination and delivery of available assets.

The June 2006 European Council also provided further guidelines on improving the Union’s emergency, crisis and disaster response capacities, both inside and outside the European Union. It called for particular attention to be given to further developing the European Union’s rapid response capability, based on means made available by Member States, including civil protection modules, and to work on the Commission’s proposals on reinforcing the Community’s civil protection capabilities.

As regards the report submitted by Michel Barnier in May 2006, the Council would also point out that the European Council of 15 and 16 June 2006 welcomed this document as an important contribution to the debate. Although certain ideas in the Barnier report have been incorporated in Community rules or practices, no proposal has so far been submitted to the Council aimed at creating a European civil defence force.

In its conclusions of 15 and 16 October 2007, the Council, taking into account the recent devastation in some Member States and recognising the need for the European Union to be able to respond effectively and in a timely manner to crises and emergency situations following natural disasters, invited the Commission to continue examining the issue and to submit relevant proposals before the meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 10 December 2007.

 
  
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  Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, I would like to thank the President-in-Office, but in familiar Council terms, he has chronicled 18 months of inertia and delays. The text you have read to us manages to undermine the entire Barnier proposal. I ask you: how many more fire and flood victims must we mourn? How many properties must be lost? For how long can the Member States waste their resources before you finally propose, in Council, the inquiry the European Parliament has long been demanding? I ask you: will you, as President-in-Office, propose on 10 December that the Council examine what the European Parliament recommends, namely that this auxiliary civil protection force should be set up, or will your successor again tell us, 18 months from now, another tale of yet more delays?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mr Papadimoulis, the Council is naturally awaiting with great interest the Commission’s proposal on this issue, in other words on the possible creation of a civil defence force. It is hoped that these suggestions or proposals will be made by the Commission before the meeting of the General Affairs Council on 10 December, in fact in less than two months. We hope to look at and assess the Commission’s proposals and we will then act accordingly.

 
  
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  Justas Vincas Paleckis (PSE).(LT) I too would like to point out the importance of this issue, so I am pleased that the Council has addressed the Commission and is awaiting an answer. Nevertheless, I would like to ask: what are the Commission’s views on the force as regards extraordinary situations, and, bearing in mind all these floods and fires, climate change and the events taking place far from here, in America, what are the Commission’s views on the actual role of such a force in extraordinary situations?

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President-in-Office, you have mentioned the Barnier report several times. This report has prompted fears among the aid organisations because it seems to provide for quasi-military leadership structures or preliminary decision-making at military level. Is the Council aware of these fears about the ‘militarisation’ of this civil protection force, and how can, and will the Council, respond to these concerns?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mr President, as I have already mentioned, the Council’s proposal and conclusions on Mr Barnier’s report were that this could form a working basis for future decisions. This was not a 100% endorsement nor even a partial endorsement that this should form a working basis. It was simply what the Council agreed at the time. As I have just said, I cannot pre-empt the Council’s reaction to proposals, models and methods that do not yet exist, as that would be to pre-empt history.

We must await the Commission’s proposals and assessment. We will then discuss these in the Council and come to conclusions. We will also decide on the direction to be taken in that respect, which brings me to an important point. The Council, by asking the Commission to submit proposals on this issue, has unequivocally indicated its interest in the subject and its desire to move forward in this respect. In my opinion, that is an undeniable and positive sign.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 12 by Bernd Posselt (H-0708/07)

Subject: Fate of Professor Ukshin Hoti

The internationally recognised scientist and peace activist Professor Ukshin Hoti, Foreign Minister of the democratic underground Republic of Kosovo led by President Rugova in the nineties, was arrested by the Milosevic regime and disappeared without a trace many years ago.

Can the Council ascertain from the government in the now democratic Serbia what happened to Professor Hoti and determine if the Belgrade authorities are prepared to conduct an investigation into this matter?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr Posselt, Professor Ukshin Hoti is one of more than 2 000 people included on the list of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) whose families reported their disappearance during the Kosovo conflict.

The ICRC has, since January 1998, been gathering information on people who disappeared in Kosovo. This information has been sent to the authorities in Belgrade and Pristina, together with a request for them to do their utmost to discover the whereabouts of these people.

The ICRC in Kosovo is also working on this issue in strict cooperation with the United Nations Missions in Kosovo. As part of the dialogue on issues of mutual interest between Pristina and Belgrade, the working group on missing persons which has representatives in both governments has met periodically since March 2004 under the auspices of the Red Cross.

Work is being carried out on both sides in order to discover the whereabouts of missing persons, but progress is slow. The right to know the whereabouts of missing loved ones is a fundamental issue of humanitarian law and human rights.

As a result, the Council of the European Union is supporting the work being carried out by the international and local authorities in Serbia and Kosovo to this end and is encouraging them to increase their efforts.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, every victim is of course equally important, and so I welcome this inquiry. However, Professor Hoti really was very well-known. I am in close contact with his family. He was the closest aide of Ibrahim Rugova, our Sakharov Prize Laureate, and he has been formally detained by the Serbs. In that case, they must have some knowledge of his whereabouts! This is an issue which has to be clarified formally with the government in Belgrade, with the involvement of the Council. What does the Serbian Government have to say about the whereabouts of its prisoner, for whom it has assumed responsibility, given that it is holding him in custody?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mr President, as I have already said, the Council is of course supporting all efforts being made by the authorities with direct responsibility in this area to try and determine the whereabouts of Professor Ukshin Hoti. We also understand, as I said, that this is an issue of human rights and protection of human rights. In that regard, it must form part of our political dialogue with the respective governments which are responsible in this respect.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 13 by Robert Evans (H-0710/07)

Subject: Climate change

Does the Council still feel that the European Union’s goal of keeping the global temperature rise to 2°C is likely to be met?

Has the Council discussed what additional measures need to be considered at EU level to meet the concerns expressed in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, as you know, the European leaders decided to send the international community a clear signal of their determination to combat climate change by assuming the following commitments, with a view to encouraging negotiations on a global agreement for the post-2012 period.

Until said agreement is reached, the European Union has made the firm and independent commitment to achieve, by 2020, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to at least 20% of 1990 levels. Secondly, the European Union is ready to commit to a 30% reduction if the other developed countries make similar reductions and if the developing countries which are economically more advanced also make an appropriate contribution.

The European Union believes that it must take the lead in terms of ambitious emissions reductions so that the developed countries can convince the developing countries to contribute to the global effort.

Clearly, an ambitious target will also reinforce the global carbon market which must remain in place in order to limit the costs resulting from emissions reductions. Various measures have already been taken under the European Climate Change Programme and others are planned within the strategic analysis of energy policy in the European Union in order to achieve a significant part of the greenhouse gas reduction target.

The emissions trading scheme will play a central role in achieving the EU’s long-term targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and its analysis will be vital in realising the overall targets set for the European Union.

 
  
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  Robert Evans (PSE). – Thank you, President-in-Office, for that quite encouraging response. You said you want to send a strong signal and that we need a global agreement. I was interested to hear about a 30% target. I agree with you that we need to be ambitious. Of course, this is an area that not only affects most European citizens but also one about which they are very concerned.

I wonder if you could outline a little bit more about your thinking on what positive real steps we could be taking to encourage those countries that ought to be able to do more – like the United States – and to assist those countries – whether it is China, India or Russia – that are perhaps struggling at the moment. What more could we actually be doing to push this process forward, rather than talking? I am not suggesting that is all you were doing, but, rather than just talking about the issue, what are we actually going to do to make it happen?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) The tools available to the European Union are diplomatic tools and also our conviction and, shall we say, political determination. I feel that the best way of persuading others to follow us is to set the pace and lead by example, which is exactly what we are doing.

Clearly, by setting ourselves ambitious targets which correspond to what our citizens expect of us, we are leading by example, not only within the Union but also globally. This inspires public opinion in other countries which in turn forces the respective governments to take measures on a par with our ambitious targets.

As regards the United States, this leadership effect has, in my opinion, been very evident. The example set by the European Union in this respect at world level has led to pressure being applied by US society on the respective authorities in the sense that they must also be more ambitious. My personal view is that Mr Al Gore having received the Nobel Peace Prize for climate change issues has a lot to do with this, with our ambitious policy, with our desire for change, with our desire to make others commit to our targets, all of course in a context of multilateral diplomacy via the United Nations.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – Could I urge Parliament to show leadership by turning off the air conditioning, because I am frozen and it might help our contribution to climate change?

President-in-Office, you have answered one of the questions I wanted to ask, but it will probably take more than Al Gore to get the public engaged in this. I would therefore ask the Council to outline how it intends to translate public concern into public action within the European Union, and also to take into account that we do not want to stop the developing world making progress, because we are actually gaining from the fact that they are developing.

 
  
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  President. − We will try to solve this problem of the temperature in this House.

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mrs McGuinness, thank you for your question. What we must do is engage in a constant campaign of awareness-raising and information. We must also lead by example. This has been done.

Clearly there still remains much to be done, but I feel that the process of raising awareness among people of the climate change issue is increasingly gaining ground because the effects can be seen every day, they are real and people can feel them. I could mention my own personal experience, if it would be of any interest. The climate in Portugal when I was six or seven years old is not the same as it is today when I am fifty. In fact, I have observed, as have others, that things have changed. As a result, people are asking why things have changed and what are the consequences of these changes.

On the other hand, the Member States must adopt the legislation needed to deal with, halt or minimise the causes of climate change. The Member States have made political commitments at EU level and must now make the commitment to adopt the legislation needed and ensure that this legislation is effectively observed. Once again, we must lead by example at world level.

I would not wish to underestimate the campaign of former Vice President Al Gore as I believe that this has had a significant impact on public opinion worldwide.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 14 by Mairead McGuinness (H-0713/07)

Subject: Turmoil in global financial markets

During a recent informal meeting of the EU Finance Ministers (Porto 14-15 September) the crisis that has arisen in Europe because of instability in US financial markets was discussed. Could the Council outline the nature of these discussions? Did the Council consider the particular case of Northern Rock which is currently experiencing financial difficulties as a direct result of instability in the US?

Does the Council consider that this matter has broader implications for Europe’s financial markets?

Finally, is the Council satisfied that existing safeguards in the financial services arena provide adequate protection to consumers, particularly those who have purchased financial products outside their ‘home’ Member State?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, what I have to say on this issue is as follows. At the informal meeting of EU Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors which was held in the Portuguese city of Porto on 14 and 15 September, various issues were discussed, including developments in the economic and financial situation.

As indicated on the Portuguese Presidency’s website, our assessment is in two parts. On the one hand, we believe that we are experiencing a period of volatility and re-appraisal of risk in global financial markets, triggered by difficulties in the subprime mortgage market in the United States which have been passed on to the global financial system through complex financial instruments.

The functioning of the money markets has also been affected and this has required prompt and firm action by the main central banks, including the European Central Bank. On the other hand, although it is undeniable that the financial turbulence has heightened uncertainty about economic prospects, the macro-economic fundamentals in the European Union are strong and world growth remains robust, despite the slowdown in the US.

European financial institutions appear to be strong and their healthy profitability in recent years ensures that they are in a position to weather the current period of increased volatility in the financial markets.

However, I would point out that specific cases in the Member States were not discussed. During this assessment, we also discussed the lessons that may be drawn from recent financial market volatility. It was stressed that, although we have a sound regulatory and supervisory framework in the financial sector which has been reinforced by recent legislation such as the implementation of the Capital Requirements Directive and by the work in hand on the Solvency II Directive, we must remain alert, particularly in light of the rapid and innovative developments in the area of financial products.

Accordingly, the recent episode of financial turbulence has increased the urgency of certain issues which are still on the Council’s agenda and has heightened the need for the European Union to find, alongside its international partners, ways of reinforcing transparency, improving valuation processes, continuing to reinforce risk management and improving market functioning, particularly with regard to complex financial products.

The Ecofin Council on 9 October agreed on a detailed work programme to be carried out until the end of 2008 by relevant bodies at EU level, in strict cooperation with the main international partners.

At the same Ecofin Council meeting in October, conclusions were also adopted on reinforcing financial stability mechanisms in the European Union. These conclusions are available on the Council’s website and are the tangible result of over a year’s preparation. In particular the Council adopted a set of common principles to guide cooperation between national authorities in the area of financial stability.

In addition, it was agreed to extend the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation and Exchange of Information signed in 2005 between EU Banking Supervisory Authorities, Central Banks and Finance Ministries in order to include three new elements: firstly, the common principles formally adopted at the meeting; secondly, a common analytical framework for the assessment of systemic implications of a potential crisis and, thirdly, common practical guidelines on procedures to be followed in potential cross-border crisis situations.

A work programme was therefore defined with a timetable for this and other actions to be carried out in order to reinforce the effectiveness of the financial stability mechanisms in the European Union. Clearly, all this work is intended to protect consumers and investors who depend on the proper functioning of the financial markets.

Please allow me to conclude by highlighting that, as I understand it, the Council, together with the European Parliament and the Commission, subscribes to the goal of achieving effective levels of prudential supervision and regulation in order to ensure financial stability, global competitiveness and consumer protection.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – Thank you, President-in-Office. I shall have to study your very detailed response, which is one that I appreciate because this is a very serious issue.

One would have to agree that the confidence of depositors in Northern Rock has been shattered, and that there is a knock-on effect. Confidence is indeed the key to stability in the banking system and also to cross-border services and business in the financial services sector.

Do you think that the actions you have outlined are enough to restore that confidence?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) The Council can always surprise the Members. As I said, the Ecofin Council asked a working group to analyse the situation in great depth and detail and also any new instruments or measures which might in the future prevent situations such as these from affecting the European financial markets. It is therefore alert to the problems as it has asked the competent bodies to carry out detailed work. It has asked this working group to propose the measures which might need to be adopted in order to prevent situations such as the one we have seen recently. We will have to wait and see whether or not these measures prove effective in practice. However, the Council will be advised of the measures which might have to be taken in order to prevent our economy from being affected in the future by any further financial turmoil.

I must mention that this issue was also covered at the Informal Meeting of Heads of State and Government which was held in Lisbon last week. At this meeting the following message was heavily underlined by our Heads of State and Government: firstly, that the European economy is presenting what the economists call ‘good fundamentals’, in other words our economies remain sound, and, secondly, that it supports the measures which have been taken by Ecofin and which are proposed in this area.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 15 by Johan Van Hecke (H-0717/07)

Subject: Growing number of European agencies

There are currently 23 European agencies, spread over a number of EU countries and cities. There is scarcely any scrutiny of their activities or operation. The latest agency set up is the Agency for Fundamental Rights, which has its seat in Vienna and currently employs 100 people. The purpose of the agency is to monitor the protection of human rights in the European Union, although this task is already perfectly taken care of by the European Court of Human Rights and, in fact, also the Council of Europe, both of which have their seat in Strasbourg. All these agencies spend around 1 billion euros a year of taxpayers’ money. Some observers take the view that hardly a European Council summit goes by without a new agency being set up.

Does the Council intend to set up more new agencies? Is the need to set up an agency carefully considered in each case? Is the Council aware of the financial impact on the European budget? Is the Council prepared to abolish some agencies if their existence is not justified?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, Mr Van Hecke, I would point out that questions on setting up and closing down Community agencies should be put to the Commission which has the exclusive right of initiative in this respect. The legislative bodies, Parliament and the Council, act solely on the basis of proposals presented by the Commission. As regards the Council, the honourable Member may be sure that the need to set up a new agency is carefully considered in each case.

As for the budgetary aspects of agencies, I would refer the honourable Member to the Joint Statement of 18 April 2007 in which the three institutions agreed on a common set of principles for the budgetary management of existing or future Community agencies.

 
  
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  Johan Van Hecke (ALDE). (NL) Mr President, I would like to thank the Minister for his reply. My concern in putting this question was twofold: first, the explosion in the number of agencies opened up after each Council session; 12 new agencies in five years, with an increase in the number of staff working for these agencies from 166 to 3 700. The second part to this question is: does the Council re-evaluate the need to retain these agencies on a regular basis, when the reason for their existence may no longer be evident? My second concern is how does the Council itself organise its internal control over the expenditure of all these agencies, and what role does he see for Parliament in this?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mr Van Hecke, as I have already mentioned, the proposal to set up an agency is presented by the European Commission and then, in dialogue with the Commission, the Council assesses whether or not the Commission’s proposal is justified. Decisions are then taken in accordance with the Treaty rules. I must say that Portugal hosts one agency, the European Maritime Safety Agency which has its seat in Lisbon, which we feel is definitely a very useful European agency.

As regards the specific management of agencies, as you know, these have their own supervision mechanisms which, in my view, are pretty rigorous. In addition, the institutions have also agreed, as I mentioned, a set of common principles which very directly apply to the budgetary management of these Community agencies.

My personal experience tells me that particular care is taken to ensure rigorous management and strict use of the funds made available to these agencies. That is my personal experience, for what it is worth.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 16 by Bill Newton Dunn (H-0719/07)

Subject: Cybercrime 24/7 emergency contact network

It is reported to me – from the USA – that 10 EU Member States are not taking part in the 24/7 emergency contact network for cybercrime. These are Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, and also Portugal, the current Council President.

How great an importance does the Council attach to the fight against international cybercrime?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, Mr Newton Dunn, the Council has not been informed about the participation of Member States in this network which is primarily an initiative of the G8 and Council of Europe Member States. As a result, the Council cannot confirm or refute this. However, the Council does regard the fight against cybercrime as extremely important, as demonstrated by the adoption of Framework Decision 2005/222/JAI of 24 February 2005 on attacks against information systems and the fact that the Council supported the rapid ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime of 23 November 2001.

In addition, the Council’s conclusions on a general policy on the fight against cybercrime will be presented and discussed at the next Justice and Home Affairs Council which is planned for November.

Furthermore, Portugal has a national central reference point which is available 24/7 and which is responsible for fighting this type of crime through Interpol and a global operational network.

 
  
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  Bill Newton Dunn (ALDE). – Thank you, President-in-Office, for that quite open, honest and factual reply. Will you, at the next JHA Council meeting, to which you referred, raise the interesting point that the Council does not appear to know about this, and that 10 of the Member States are not involved, which seems completely extraordinary to me? Would you please raise this issue in the Council?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) I note your question and your concern. Whether or not this issue will be on the agenda and discussed will naturally be decided at a later date, but I will voice your concern on this matter.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 17 by Ilda Figueiredo (H-0723/07)

Subject: Ban on visiting Cuban nationals imprisoned in the United States

Earlier this year I requested authorisation from the US Government to visit the Cuban nationals, René González, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González, who are being unlawfully detained in US prisons. However, I was refused authorisation on the grounds that I did not know them before they were imprisoned.

It appears that in September this year two prisoners’ wives were once again refused permits to visit their husbands, whom they have not been able to visit for nine years because of successive refusals.

What does the Council think of this situation which does not constitute respect for these citizens’ human rights? Is it willing to convey its concerns to the US authorities?

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes, President-in-Office of the Council. − (PT) Mr President, Mrs Figueiredo, as the honourable Member must surely know, a country’s decision as to whether or not to grant entry to its territory is a matter of national competence. In the specific case of the treatment dispensed to Cuban prisoners and their family members, this is a bilateral issue between the United States and Cuba as, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the protection abroad of the rights and interests of a country’s citizens is the responsibility of that country.

The Council is not therefore competent to give an opinion on this issue.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL).(PT) That is true but the Presidency must consider this issue: there are five Cuban citizens who have been detained for nine years in US prisons and who have been denied visits by family members and even, in the case of two of them, by their wives. The latter have previously been to this Parliament and are in fact here today. It is also true that I am a Member of this Parliament and that I asked for permission to visit these citizens, but that this was denied. Now I am a Member of this House; I did not make this request solely as a citizen, but also as a representative of this Parliament. I believe that the European Parliament and its President and of course the Portuguese Presidency should take a stand on this issue, bearing in mind that refusing to allow a visit by one of the Members of this House, in this case myself, is a violation of human rights and also demonstrates a lack of respect for this House. However, there are also other Members of this House involved in this case and I therefore ask you, Mr President, to convey our concern.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Manuel Lobo Antunes. (PT) Mr President, I have of course noted the observations and comments made by Mrs Figueiredo but I have nothing further to add to my previous answer. You must also understand that I cannot give a personal opinion on this issue.

 
  
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  President. − Questions which have not been answered for lack of time will be answered in writing (see Annex).

That concludes Question Time.

(The sitting was suspended at 7.30 p.m. and resumed at 9 p.m.)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR : MRS ROURE
Vice-President

 

16. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes

17. Production of opium for medical purposes in Afghanistan (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the report (A6-0341/2007) by Mr Cappato, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, with a proposal for a European Parliament recommendation to the Council on production of opium for medical purposes in Afghanistan (2007/2125(INI)).

 
  
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  Marco Cappato, rapporteur. – (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, in this report we propose that Parliament should take the initiative and make a proposal to the Council, primarily in the context of the common foreign and security policy, on the issue of opium production in Afghanistan.

Our starting point is the realisation that the results achieved to date are inadequate. There has been a 50% increase in the production of opium used to produce heroin over the past two years. It seems that we are unable to find an effective means of reducing this enormous production mountain, all of which then goes to enrich not the growers, the farmers, of course, but the large international drug mafias, the terrorists and the Taliban.

The report also starts from another premise: that at the same time there is in fact a very severe lack of access to painkillers. Some 80% of the world’s population has no access at all to painkillers. Of course, the two issues could be regarded as completely separate, but I believe it is the job of political institutions to be pragmatic and hence to understand that, faced with this enormous volume of production used for heroin – whilst a product from the same agricultural origin is in very short supply – it ought to be possible, as it were, to combine the two points of departure.

The amendments put forward in the Committee on Foreign Affairs and by Mrs Gomes on behalf of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, as well as those tabled by the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats in plenary, have helped to ensure that the proposal on the table today is not an alternative one, that is, a negative proposal calling for the policy pursued hitherto to be replaced overnight.

What we are asking of you, of the Council and of the Commission, is to conduct an experiment, to run some pilot projects converting part of the crop currently used to produce heroin to produce painkillers instead. On the demand side too, policies could be launched to try and take painkillers to continents such as Africa and Asia which are practically bereft of any such medicines.

That is why the report, as it emerged from the Committee on Foreign Affairs and taking into account the proposed amendments, seems to me fundamentally well-balanced. It proceeds from a very simple assumption, namely that it is probably – I believe definitely – easier to cooperate with farmers if we propose converting part of their output to legal ends, rather than simply coming along with a policy of eradicating, fumigating and destroying plantations. That response in fact creates yet another reason for conflict with local populations and has proved counterproductive and unhelpful, at least until now.

I therefore hope that, beyond the understandable official line taken by Europe’s governments and the Afghan Government, asserting the need to fight opium production, beyond that official line we might send out another message, and the European Parliament is perhaps freer than others to make such a proposal. We have already assumed this responsibility and I hope we will reassert it tomorrow at the vote. We are freer than others to propose that alternative experiments be carried out and assessed pragmatically, not ideologically.

Every one of us here has his or her own ideas about international politics and drugs, and about international policies in Afghanistan. This report is not intended as an ideological proposal, but as a practical attempt to help find a solution for what really is a global tragedy.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, I too would like to say thank you very much to Mr Cappato – tante grazie!

I welcome this very timely debate on the drug problem – and particularly on Afghanistan’s drug problem – which, as we know, is a major complex issue in the political and security context.

We recently had a lot of discussions in New York. There were a number of very important discussions during the UN General Assembly with President Karzai, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and with a host of countries. These focused exactly on this whole complex question.

Tonight’s discussion contributes to the wider debate on Afghanistan’s reconstruction, but also on the role of drugs. Let me also commend you for setting up the EP Delegation for relations with Afghanistan. We are taking a keen interest in your work and consider it very important that you have done this.

Afghanistan’s drug industry does indeed pose an enormous challenge to progress in state building. The latest United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report makes for troubling reading. Both poppy cultivation and processing capacity have, unfortunately, increased significantly. Afghanistan’s southern provinces are most affected, with 70% of all the production. The strong link between the insurgency and the drug economy hardly comes as a surprise. However, we must not overlook the positive developments, especially in the more stable parts of the country, where there have been real improvements in health and education, as well as economic growth.

Thirteen provinces in northern and central Afghanistan are indeed poppy free. That, at least, is very promising, and something on which we can build. The Cappato report gives a complete picture of this situation – and I should thank you for your encouraging remarks on what the Commission is doing – and it also points, quite rightly, to Afghanistan’s responsibility for tackling the opium industry. On that we are in absolute agreement.

Yet I must say that I cannot share – at least not yet – the conclusions reached in the report, which proposes to legalise the opium poppy for medical purposes, albeit on a trial basis. At first sight that may be an appealing proposition, but unfortunately there are no simple answers to Afghanistan’s complex drug problem.

Let me share with you some of my concerns. Countries like Australia, Turkey and India, which are already producing raw opium for medical purposes, usually have effective law enforcement and also an absence of widespread conflict. Even then, implementation is very difficult. Where such conditions are not being met, opium cultivated legally is promptly diverted, as we have seen in Peru and Bolivia. Obviously, in the case of Afghanistan, licit cultivation would, we fear, simply add to illicit cultivation instead of replacing it. Also, the legal production of opium remains unappealing to local farmers as their revenues would only be around 25-30% of what they can now obtain on the black market.

The implementation of such a scheme is complex, and only feasible with subsidies for quality monitoring and the distribution of medical products. Should we support this with taxpayers’ money? The Afghan Government, which is notoriously weak and has weak institutions, unfortunately does not at the moment have – and that is why I said ‘not yet’ – the capacity to oversee such a scheme.

In some parts of the country, there is simply no governance, let alone good governance, at the moment. This applies notably to the unstable southern provinces, where the bulk of opium is produced. Finally, the Afghan Government itself has firmly ruled out – and this is an important argument – any licit production of opium.

Against this backdrop, the political message in this report does not really send the right signal to our Afghan partners. It might even backfire. The hard and undeniable truth is that reconstruction in Afghanistan will need much more time and resources. It will also require stamina, if we want to bring lasting development to this war-torn country.

Progress in state building is only possible with more resolve, including from Afghanistan’s political leadership, notably at the local level. That was, by the way, the message we gave in New York. I agree it is high time to visibly tackle corruption. We have not only said this, but are also trying to help in this by building up a good judicial system and having a police force that really works, in order to convince ordinary Afghans who often remain sceptical.

There is a clear way ahead. It is through Afghanistan’s national drug control strategy, which has been endorsed by the international community and contains all the elements needed. This really deserves our unequivocal support, being a comprehensive strategy that includes interdiction, public information, prosecution of known drug dealers and the promotion of local development.

Where such a careful policy mix has been used, farmers have already abandoned poppy cultivation, sustainably. In that context, the Commission considers that a proposal to legalise the opium poppy might simply undermine the work it is currently doing in other sectors, notably concerning the rule of law and policing.

 
  
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  Carlo Fatuzzo, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I have no doubt whatsoever that Mr Cappato, with whom I have been friendly for a long time, is trying desperately to contribute to the fight against drugs in the world and to help the unfortunate young or older people who are suffering close to death and who can be assisted with drugs. Regrettably, however, I cannot go along with him.

Regrettably, I repeat, I am not of the rapporteur’s opinion. I believe the problem stems from the fact that his proposal concerns Afghanistan, a state where insecurity could not be any greater. Yes, Iraq is perhaps less safe, but Afghanistan is hardly the place to begin trying to convince farmers to abandon what for them is the very lucrative cultivation of poppies and switch to crops that are fairer, more Old Testament-like and more in tune with the civilised farming practices we are all familiar with.

The report itself makes perfectly plain that the largest quantity of drugs in the world, about half, comes from Afghanistan and that opium growing is illegal in Afghanistan. Even though it is illegal, however, that country is the source of half of the raw materials needed to kill our young people or make them fall prey to drug traffickers who, as we know, draw them into the use of drugs, which harms them and society as a whole.

I believe that there is only one effective weapon to combat all drug traffickers, beginning with the Afghan farmers who in my opinion are the first drug traffickers. Our inability to control and monitor them means that the only way to fight drugs is through prevention, and hence by helping to reduce opium-growing as much as possible.

For this reason the PPE-DE Group opposes this part of Mr Cappato’s report, and I think that what I am saying now must be clear to everyone, whatever tomorrow’s outcome may be.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Ana Maria Gomes, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (PT) I must congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Cappato, not only on this very useful report but also on his readiness to accept contributions in order to get as wide-ranging an agreement as possible.

His original intentions were laudable as he was trying to kill two birds with one stone: legalising poppy cultivation and opium production for medical purposes would not only have ended heroin production in Afghanistan but also the lack of painkillers worldwide.

Unfortunately, we came up against several practical problems, such as the fragility of the Afghan institutions and their inability to regulate opium production, the uncertainty as to the economic viability of such a scheme and the danger in allowing the reintroduction of opium in some of the thirteen Afghan provinces which have stopped production.

My Group’s amendments tried to refocus the report on the essential element: the fight against opium production in Afghanistan which is affecting not only Afghanistan but also neighbouring countries. The drugs illegally produced from this opium constitute what some call the true weapons of mass destruction, particularly in Europe.

In the fight against opium production, we must be sensitive to the individual characteristics of the various Afghan regions. Only a combination of measures will be successful. Firstly, the corruption permeating the Afghan central administration, particularly the Interior Ministry and police, must be eradicated as this has paralysed all policies to combat opium production. Secondly, the 30 or so main drug traffickers identified in a 2006 UN and World Bank report must be sought, captured and put on trial so that this murderous trafficking can be stopped. Thirdly, NATO must support the Afghan operations to fight this trafficking, by destroying laboratories and stores and preventing drug transports. Fourthly, the poppy eradication actions must be carefully and selectively applied and concentrated in areas where farmers have real alternatives.

This brings us to the points of agreement with the rapporteur. We all oppose indiscriminate fumigation of poppy plantations, as has been advocated by the US, which will simply swell the ranks of the Taliban without substantially altering the production of heroin.

Finally, in the context of a package of measures to deal with the Afghan drug problem, the rapporteur’s proposal for a pilot project for the legal production of opium-based analgesics should be studied. More than anything, this report tries to encourage the European Council to be creative and daring in the fight against heroin production in Afghanistan. There are no easy solutions to this problem, but we know that the terrorism and violent obscurantism advocated by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda will only be defeated when Afghanistan is freed from the clutches of drugs.

I am about to end, Mr President. This report must be viewed as an urgent appeal to the Member States not to spare any efforts in the economic and political reconstruction of a country which has been so badly affected by bloody conflicts and which is so important for regional and global security.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Madam President, I speak on this matter in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of my Group.

The production of illicit opium in Afghanistan has flourished since US and allied forces have been in that country. This despite the setting-up of various anti-drug-production authorities and anti-narcotic programmes, sometimes using large amounts of EU taxpayers’ money.

So it is obvious, even to the blind, that the Afghan people will go on producing opium come what may. The reason for this is quite simple. The world’s anti-narcotic agencies are growing in size, number and expertise, and they are doing their job more effectively. They are therefore managing to confiscate larger amounts of drugs. However, since the demand from drug-addiction sufferers remains unaltered and since criminal drug traffickers continue to make huge profits from the illegal supply of opium to these sick people, the price of opiates goes up and the profits from dealing in opium increase.

Therefore, the Afghan people are just following basic liberal market principles. They are increasing their production in order to meet illicit trade demand and in order to increase their profits. So it is a pure fallacy to expect that sponsoring more opium control programmes in Afghanistan is going to have any significant effect.

The only way to deal effectively with opium production in Afghanistan, and elsewhere for that matter, is to deal with the drug problem globally. The only common-sense way to do that is to legalise drugs and recognise that drug addicts are not criminals, but sick people who need help.

If those addicts were offered therapeutic drugs in a controlled medical setting, then the chance of avoiding serious side-effects, as well as the chance of achieving detoxification, would be much improved. At the same time, the enormous criminality involved in drug trafficking would vanish, and all anti-drug police agencies would be scrapped, leading to phenomenal budgetary savings.

The logic of this is so basic, but politicians worldwide are having difficulty seeing it.

 
  
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  Salvatore Tatarella,