Verbatim report of proceedings
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Wednesday, 16 January 2008 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Presentation of the programme of the Slovenian Presidency (debate)
 3. Agenda
 4. Voting time
  4.1. (A6-0508/2007, Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf) Commission measures in 2008-2013 to make use of CAP remote-sensing applications (vote)
  4.2. (A6-0504/2007, Kurt Lechner) Consumer credit (vote)
  4.3. (A6-0520/2007, Roberta Angelilli) Towards an EU strategy on the rights of the child (vote)
  4.4. (A6-0502/2007, Doris Pack) Adult learning: It is never too late to learn (vote)
 5. Explanations of vote
 6. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 7. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes
 8. Situation in Kenya (debate)
 9. EUROPOL (debate)
 10. Situation in Pakistan following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (debate)
 11. Question Time (Council)
 12. Verification of credentials: see Minutes
 13. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes
 14. A European strategy on the Roma (debate)
 15. A more effective EU policy for the South Caucasus - A Black Sea Regional Policy Approach (debate)
 16. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes
 17. Closure of the sitting



1. Opening of the sitting

(The sitting was opened at 9.05 a.m.)


2. Presentation of the programme of the Slovenian Presidency (debate)

  President. − Ladies and gentlemen, today is a very special day. It is a special day because for the first time in the history of the European Union the representative, the Prime Minister of this country, namely Slovenia, has the Presidency of the European Union. Slovenia is a country that joined the European Union on 1 May 2004 along with nine other countries. And it is the first time that one of the former communist countries now living according to the basic principles of freedom, democracy and parliamentarianism, namely Slovenia, has the Presidency of the European Union. I therefore warmly welcome the President-in-Office of the Council, the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša. Welcome to the European Parliament!


Today is also special for another reason, however, and I therefore extend a particularly warm welcome to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso, because it is exactly 50 years ago that the first President of the European Commission, Walter Hallstein, convened his first Commission. The 50th anniversary of the European Commission is another event for us to celebrate. And so I also send the Commission, as an exception in this rather solemn context, all good wishes for this special birthday.


Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to listen to the report of the President-in-Office of the Council.


  Janez Janša, President of the Council. – (SL) It is my honour and pleasure to be with you here today, and indeed also a matter of pride. I feel pride as a Slovene whose country is the first of the new EU Member States to be entrusted with the presidency of the European Council and also as a European whose Union is entering 2008 with a signed Lisbon Treaty and an enlarged Eurozone and Schengen area.

I assure you that in the months leading up summer I will be delighted, if you invite me, to come here more often, and certainly after each meeting of the European Council. I look forward to close and constructive cooperation with the European Parliament throughout the six-month period.

Today is a historic day in many respects. Slovenia is presenting its priorities for the presidency in the European Parliament as the first new Member State, as the first Member State from behind the former Iron Curtain, and also as the first Slavic country to lead the Council of the European Union.

This would not have been possible without the profound changes that have occurred on the European continent in the past quarter of a century. They have enabled Europe to become united to a large degree, that is to say united in a union of peace, freedom, solidarity and progress. All this was unimaginable to millions of Europeans only 20 years ago.

In May this year exactly 20 years will have passed since a very particular and personal experience of mine. Allow me to share it with you since it is very symbolic of the changes I have just referred to.

In 1988, two other journalists and I, along with a non-commissioned officer, were arrested, imprisoned, tried and convicted before a military court because we had criticised the then totalitarian Communist regime in Yugoslavia, and in particular, the militaristic aspirations of the then Yugoslav army. There were no fundamental rights of defence, no right to a lawyer, and no public presence. We were tried in the middle of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, at that time still a republic of Yugoslavia, and tried in what was for us a foreign language.

Despite the trial being held in secret and the threats of intervention by the Yugoslav army, tens of thousands of people took to the streets and squares in peaceful protest. They demanded respect for human rights and democracy. They brought about the beginning of the changes.

Almost exactly 20 years later I stand before you today in this esteemed chamber, in the European Parliament, in the middle of Strasbourg, which I am able to reach without stopping at borders. As the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia and the President of the European Union, I can address you in my mother tongue.

If anyone had told me this was possible 20 years ago in my cell of the military prison I would obviously not have believed a word of it. But it did happen and after only 20 years in the life of the same generation.

In that time Slovenia has established a democratic parliamentary system and a market economy and become an independent, internationally recognised country and is now a member of the European Union and Nato and part of the Eurozone and the Schengen area. In 1988, 20 years ago, we had an income of around EUR 4 000 per capita in purchasing power, whilst in 2007 the figure was EUR 22 000. We have reached 91% of the European Union average, last year our economic growth exceeded 6%, and we have the lowest unemployment rate in history and one of the lowest in the European Union. The level of poverty is the second lowest in the Eurozone, we are the third least indebted member of the Eurozone, and we rank among the first six Member States on the European Union reform barometer.

Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the democratic changes similar great progress has also been made by the other former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe which are now members of the European Union.

Following the removal of the Schengen border between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Slovenia in December last year tens of thousands of people in Slovenia and on the other side of the former border spontaneously celebrated this symbolic act. Those of you who were with us at that time – the President of the European Commission was there and there was great rejoicing in other places too despite the cold weather – were able to see that people's reactions were very emotional. The situation was the same everywhere on the former borders of the one-time Iron Curtain from the Baltic to the Adriatic.

On that occasion I met an elderly Slovene couple among the happy crowd at the former border crossing. Both had tears in their eyes. They told me about the hardships they had endured for decades living on the hard border and later the humiliation they had suffered almost every time they had crossed the border. The lady said she hardly dared to believe that all this was happening and that the border would practically no longer exist and that something was emerging which she had not even dared dream of 20 or even 15 years ago.

I wish that the members of the European Parliament who supported enlargement of the European Union and the Schengen area could have been there that December evening. They would have found it very gratifying. However, as it was not possible for all of you to be there, may I take this opportunity here to say 'thank you'.

Thank you on behalf of that elderly couple on the vanishing border at the former border crossing, on behalf of thousands, tens of thousands and millions, on behalf of the over 100 million Europeans of Central and Eastern Europe who 20 years ago where still on the other side of the Iron Curtain, some in prison with no political and many human rights who are now together in a united Europe, with genuine opportunities for a better life and opportunities the likes of which were never available to our predecessors. (Applause)

You may not even be aware how immense the consequences have been of your decision to support our aspiration for freedom and show solidarity with us. The decision is probably unprecedented in the entire history of human kind, a decision which would bring so much good to so many people. I thank you on behalf of those of us who are here because you stood with us. You were in no way forced to take such an unselfish decision – freedom and solidarity triumphed because you cared.

Those of us who belong to generations that were not born in the European Union probably have a more emotional view of everything that has occurred in recent years and decades. For us, the European Union is not something to be taken for granted. We know that another, far worse, alternative exists and that is another reason why we are prepared to do everything to ensure that the European Union is preserved, developed and strengthened.

Our principle objective is for Europe to make progress in as many areas as possible in the next six months. We defined these key areas some time ago when we drew up the 18-month presidency programme together with Germany and Portugal. It was a unique experience and working as a trio was excellent, as was the contribution of the European institutions. This Parliament has been informed of the programme and the significant progress which our partners in the trio achieved last year in implementing the joint programme.

Slovenia will make every effort to complete everything that remains to be done. Therefore, our starting point remains the abovementioned programme since we wish to maintain the continuity of European Union policies. At the same time we will also devote ourselves to any new challenges. As the final country in the trio we will ensure a smooth transition to the next trio.

The main achievement in implementing the programme thus far was the agreement on a new EU Treaty which was signed in Lisbon in December last year. Let me express my appreciation of the personal commitment of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister José Sócrates which has led to this result. Let us remember the uncertain and difficult circumstances in which the German Presidency took on this project a year ago. The Berlin Declaration and the agreement in principle, contained in it, that the European Union should be given a new treaty basis, was the first breakthrough on the road to Lisbon. Following successful agreement on the mandate for an intergovernmental conference at the European Council in June, the work of the German Presidency was successfully continued by our Portuguese colleagues. Under their leadership the intergovernmental conference was successfully concluded and we gained the new Lisbon Treaty.

On this occasion I would like to highlight the important role and contribution of the European Parliament, in particular your representatives at the intergovernmental conference, in drawing up the new treaty. I would also like to highlight the important role of the European Commission in reaching agreement on the new treaty. I have followed this work closely. I am familiar with it and can therefore speak from first-hand experience. The President of the Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, and the President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso, demonstrated great personal commitment in offering strategic assistance to both presiding countries last year. The synergy of the efforts made by all three key institutions of the European Union made possible the success and the signing of the Lisbon Treaty.

This Treaty will ensure greater effectiveness and democracy in the functioning of an enlarged European Union. It will facilitate decision-making in many new areas and strengthen the role of the European and national parliaments.

However, our task was not ended by the signing of the Treaty. We have entered the ratification period which – as we know from the 2005 experience – is the most sensitive stage in enacting a new treaty. I should stress that ratification is an exclusive area of competence and responsibility of each Member State. In that respect I would like to offer particular congratulations to Hungary which has already completed this process. We hope that by the end of our presidency most Member States will have followed this example. The Slovene Parliament will take a decision on ratification by the end of this month.

The objective is to enact the Treaty on 1 January 2009. That means, amongst other things, that we will have a great deal to do as regards all the necessary preparations. We are working closely with the next presiding country, France, to ensure that everything is ready in time to enact the Treaty. In that connection we will also work closely with the European Parliament.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the progress of the European Union in the fields of economic reform in the Member States and the construction of the internal market has been encouraging in recent years. During that period the EU economy has strengthened and productivity and employment have increased substantially.

During the next three-year cycle of implementation of the Lisbon strategy for growth and employment we must, above all, continue along the same lines as before and focus on investment in people, modernisation of labour markets, increasing entrepreneurial potential, providing reliable and affordable sources of energy, and protection of the environment. In order to launch the new three-year cycle effectively at the European Council in spring, it is necessary to adopt, in good time, integrated guidelines for which the EU institutions are responsible. Distinguished Members of the European Parliament, at this juncture I would like to reiterate the importance of constructive inter-institutional cooperation.

Implementation of well-planned reforms in the Member States with support from the institutions at European Union level, where the implementation of common policies means added value, is key to sustaining economic growth. There are many problems which could challenge such growth and thus there is a need for constant reform and adaptation. At present we are faced with a number of difficult challenges, key amongst them being the increase in oil and food prices and the prevailing turmoil on the financial markets caused by events on the mortgage market in the United States. The Slovenian Presidency will devote all the necessary attention to alleviate the consequences of it. To that end, a comprehensive programme of EU activities to strengthen the stability of financial markets will be laid down during the first half of the year. There is a need for greater market transparency, strengthened supervisory mechanisms, and closer cooperation at international level.

Investment in people, knowledge, research and new technologies remains one of the bases of the Lisbon strategy. A society based on creativity and knowledge is increasingly becoming a necessity for modern Europe. However, investment in knowledge alone is not enough. This year we have an opportunity for an in-depth debate on the kind of EU single market we want to see. We must ensure that there will be no obstacles to the flow of ideas and knowledge. At the European Council in spring we therefore wish to add a fifth freedom – the free flow of knowledge – to the four freedoms of the European Union where exceptional progress has been made thus far. Greater mobility of students, researchers and lecturers will contribute to this. The advantages of the EU internal market must become more accessible to consumers and small and medium-sized businesses. Further rapid progress in actually establishing an internal market in services and innovation is key to implementing the European Union's reform strategy. We intend to do our utmost to make progress in liberalising the internal energy market. At the end of our presidency I would gladly report to you that agreement has been successfully reached on this matter. We hope that we will succeed in taking the necessary steps towards a better, cheaper and reliable supply of energy for our citizens and businesses.

Distinguished Members of the European Parliament, as regards the future of the EU we must refer to the enlargement process which is not yet completed. Enlargement is one of the most successful policies of the European Union. In 2006 the European Commission demonstrated conclusively in its communication 'Enlargement – Two Years After' that the greatest enlargement to date, namely that in 2004, benefited both the old and the new Member States of the European Union.

A glance at the map of Europe confirms our impression that enlargement is an unfinished story. It is vital that this process should continue in accordance with the undertakings entered into and on the basis of fundamental principles, primarily the principle that the membership criteria must be met. The Slovenian Presidency will endeavour to continue the accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey on these bases.

The countries of the Western Balkans are a case in themselves. When the EU presidency was last held by a country bordering on that region, namely Greece, the foundations for the integration of the countries of the Western Balkans were laid down in the Thessaloniki Agenda. We consider that now, five years later, is the right time to confirm and consolidate the prospects of these countries joining the EU. The presidency intends to promote their progress in this direction. I should stress that we are not advocating lowering the criteria or providing a short cut. Not at all. We want the European Union to intervene more actively in this area and to step up its involvement in assisting these countries in their reform processes.

We should not forget that a firm and tangible prospect of EU membership is an essential lever for bringing about the necessary changes and reforms in these countries. We therefore wish to strengthen that prospect, also by means of specific steps in a range of areas.

At the very core of the Western Balkans lies Kosovo. In the 1970s Kosovo gained autonomy and became part of the federal system of the former Yugoslavia. The status of Kosovo was virtually the same as that of the federal republics. Fifteen years later Milošević unilaterally removed that status and then attempted to carry out ethnic cleansing which was only stopped by the international community. Following that intervention peace was restored but the question of Kosovo's permanent status has remained unresolved.

Today this is one the most demanding questions facing the European Union. It would, of course, be desirable for the issue of Kosovo's status to be resolved in a manner which was entirely acceptable to the two parties directly involved. Regrettably, the lengthy negotiation process shows that the possibilities for such an outcome have been exhausted. Furthermore, it appears unlikely that it will be possible to reach agreement on the issue in the UN Security Council in the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, we all know that further delay in resolving the issue could drastically destabilise a large part of the Western Balkan region. That would be the worst possible outcome. Kosovo is above all a European issue. The Slovenian Presidency will build on the decisions of the European Council in December. We have the foundations on which to build consensus, we have the European Union's political agreement in principle to deploy a civilian mission to Kosovo, and we agree that maintaining the status quo is unsustainable and that the issue of Kosovo is a particular problem which cannot be applied to any other situation in the world. Within this framework the presidency will coordinate solutions which enjoy the broadest possible support within the European Union and at the same time ensure long-term stability in the region.

However, Kosovo is not, of course, an island in this region. All the countries of the Western Balkans are important to Europe, to the European Union. It is more important to Slovenia than to many other Member States of the European Union as it lies in our direct vicinity and the present situation in the Balkans is an unfinished story in the geopolitical transformation following the end of the Cold War. We would like it to have a happy ending. We as the European Union bear responsibility for it and owe it to the nations and cultures of this region. The stability of the region is extremely important to the European Union as a whole and attainable only within a European perspective.

Serbia has traditionally played an important role in the Western Balkans. It is vital that we encourage Serbia on the road to Europe through an appropriate approach and in spite of the short-term turbulence and wavering.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was granted candidate status back in 2005 but has still not been given a date for the start of negotiations. It has implemented many successful reforms but still has to implement others and we must help it in that respect. It must not become hostage to the wider situation in the region. The earliest possible resolution of Kosovo's status is also very important to its internal stability.

We should also mention the role of Albania which had a distinct history after the Second World War but we now value for its contribution to stability in the region and its constructive approach to resolving the issue of Kosovo's future status. We can also place in the same category Montenegro, which has also seriously embraced reform with a view to inclusion in the Thessaloniki Agenda.

The post-Dayton structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina with an international presence and internal political instability has shown us in recent months that this country requires special attention. Much has already been done and support for its EU membership is strengthening, but further assistance is required. We should not forget the refugees who have still not returned to their homes and the serious crimes that have as yet gone unpunished. Punishment of these crimes against humanity, peace and reconciliation are of fundamental importance to the European future of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

There are numerous reasons for further strengthening our cooperation with neighbours, strategic partners and others. I have today already mentioned the external border of the European Union. Beyond that border we have important and valuable partners whom we must involve more in our various activities.

The European Neighbourhood Policy is a welcome tool for strengthening the area of stability and prosperity beyond our borders. The eastern and Mediterranean dimension are equally important. We should we forget Ukraine, Moldova, the Southern Caucasus and North Africa. We need intensive dialogue and new circumstances repeatedly call for new forms of specific cooperation. They are very welcome.

We would like to see strengthening of institutions and processes such as the Barcelona process and Euro-Med. What we do not need is duplication or institutions competing with EU institutions which cover part of the European Union and part of the neighbouring area at the same time. The EU is a whole and only as a whole can it be sufficiently effective in establishing peace, stability and progress in the neighbouring area and beyond.

We will also strengthen cooperation with our strategic partners in the world. During our presidency we will organise four summit meetings: with the United States, the Russian Federation, Japan and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. We will establish cooperation with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean with the aim of achieving sustainable development and combating climate change and poverty. During the Slovenian Presidency we would like to consolidate and, if possible, formalise our partnership and cooperation with the Russian Federation.

During the Slovenian Presidency the European Union will provide reliable support for the Middle East peace process. The EU will cooperate in fulfilling the obligations entered into in Annapolis and Paris. We want both Israelis and Palestinians to live secure, free and successful lives and will commit ourselves to the coexistence of two peaceful countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the time is coming for the European Union to have a new, strengthened role in the world. Europe is entering 2008 with a signed Lisbon Treaty, an enlarged Eurozone and Schengen area, solid economic growth, a stable Euro and over three and a half million more jobs than at the beginning of the previous year. Therefore, we have many reasons to conduct the European Council with ambition, with optimism and – I hope my French friends will not take this amiss – with vision. Such vision is always necessary. Because if you don't know how to adjust the rudder, every wind is the wrong wind. There is a great deal of wind, in particular the wind of change. The last two decades of change have not only affected Europe, the whole world has changed. Moreover, in recent years it has done so faster than before.

Some changes have already occurred but have not been fully assessed. We have much to say about the economic rise of India and China. In 2005, at the beginning of the UK Presidency, I listed to a speech by British Prime Minister Tony Blair given in this esteemed chamber. He pointed to these changes and to the growing strength of two new economic superpowers, India and China. Incidentally, this week those two countries signed a number of bilateral economic and trade agreements. These new players are rapidly investing in knowledge, research and development and enhancing their competitiveness. It has correctly been concluded that the European Union is compelled to reconsider and take steps to ensure that its competitive situation does not deteriorate. In recent years we have listed all our deficiencies and spoken about measures to remedy them. Many of those measures have been carried out, some, unfortunately, have not. However, I do not wish to speak again about the objectives and obligations stemming from the Lisbon Strategy.

Finally, I wish to say that it is not sufficient to address the changes facing the European Union in a global world solely in terms of competitiveness and the fight against terrorism. Both responses are correct, but not sufficient.

At a global level the European Union faces the following key challenges to which, sooner or later, it will have to provide answers in addition to those we have heard so far.

The first challenge is the issue of UN reform and the establishment of a new world order. The European Union can play a key role in this reform.

The second challenge is combating poverty. This is one of the absolute priorities. The international development aid provided by the European Union is substantial but not always used effectively. If it is to be more effective, we primarily need to do two things: one, focus on education, that is to say raising educational levels in poor societies, and, two, purchasing food and other goods to be donated as development aid in the countries and regions at which the aid is targeted. That is the only way we can effectively help strengthen their agriculture and economies and root out the causes of poverty in the long term. As regards international development aid, the word 'competitiveness' must be replaced with the word 'cooperation'. We should be heartened by the fact that the less developed countries are becoming more developed and the poor are becoming richer. The more countries are developed, the more they will be able to help combat poverty.

The third challenge is combating climate change. With the conclusions of last year's European Council the European Union became a global leader with increased credibility and much stronger influence. We must retain this role. We will achieve this also by ensuring, when negotiating with our global partners, that the same criteria we apply internally are also applied externally as regards sharing the burden in the fight against climate change.

The fourth challenge is, of course, intercultural dialogue. It is needed more than ever before. In the long run the conditions for world peace and a response to the greatest security threat to the modern world cannot be created without it. Therefore, we are pleased that 2008 is also a year in which the European Union is devoting great attention to intercultural dialogue. We are also pleased that the President of the European Parliament was able to attend the opening ceremony in Ljubljana at the beginning of the month and that the European Parliament is to organise a large number of important events in that connection. You are making a very significant contribution, firstly, to reinforcing awareness of the need for such dialogue and, secondly, to us taking genuine steps forward.

From time to time we hear that the above issues are not really true priorities of the European Union and that we should deal with domestic problems, but I am convinced that that is too narrow a view because the establishment of peace and security for our citizens, stable and secure EU energy supplies and the management of migration pressures on the European Union largely depend on how we resolve these four key issues in future and how the European Union exercises its increased role and influence in a global world.

The more the European Union is capable of acting as a global player on these bases, the greater guarantees it citizens will have of peaceful and secure lives and stable economic and social development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to conclude by assuring you that Slovenia will take on, or has taken on, this task before it with complete responsibility and after three years of intensive preparations. Our presidency may not be on such a large scale as the French and as high-profile as the German, and perhaps our civil servants do not have such long-standing and excellent traditions as the British. We may make mistakes, say something too directly or quite naively. However, we promise to work responsibly and apply ourselves to the substantive issues. We will not compete for the spotlight. That is not important to us. We know where we started from 20 years ago when Slovenia was underestimated by many. We are aware of what we have had to do to be successful and to be here today.

It is our greatest wish that our contribution will, each month, create more satisfied Europeans so that one day any person walking down the street in any town in Europe will answer immediately, when asked whether he is concerned about the future of the European Union, 'I care about the future of Europe because I know Europe cares about me.'

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are perhaps not there yet, but we are not far off and clearly on the right track. Thank you. (Applause)


  President. − Many thanks to the President-in-Office of the Council, Prime Minister Janša. It is wonderful that Slovenia has the Presidency. The Group Chairmen will soon be expressing their affirmations, but I can say now, on behalf of the entire Parliament, that the European Parliament stands alongside Slovenia in creating a successful European Union and we are therefore sure that the Slovenian Presidency will be a great success.

Now I would like to ask the President of the Commission to speak to us.


  José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. − Mr President, Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, my first word goes to the Slovenian Presidency. Indeed, it is the first time a Member State of the last enlargement has assumed this very important responsibility. Slovenia is a great example of the success of the enlargement. It was the first country to adopt the euro.

The example of Slovenia demonstrates that the Member States which joined the European Union in 2004 and 2007 are now at the core of European integration. It also shows the very important European credentials of Slovenia. I wish to express to Prime Minister Janša my full support for the next six months for the very important task of being President of the European Council. You, Prime Minister, dear friend, and your country, are symbols of the struggle for freedom, a fundamental value for Europe. And thank you for reminding us of these great celebrations of Schengen. I was very moved to be with you and with others on that border between Slovenia and Italy, and I will not forget the words you used at that moment, reminding us that, about 20 years ago, people were killed there by the Yugoslav Army when they were trying to reach freedom, to reach Italy, to reach the European Union.

It was indeed a very impressive journey that I undertook with Prime Minister Socrates and the President of the European Council, and at the end of December we visited Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic; we were also on the border between Estonia and Finland, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria, and we saw the emotion expressed in the eyes of so many people.

I think it is important to remind ourselves about this, from where we are now. Listening to you today, Prime Minister Janša, could only reinforce my firm belief that this enlargement of 2004-2007, which united Europe in peace and democracy, is indeed one of the greatest achievements of European history, and we should be proud of it.

The Commission will work very closely with the Slovenian Presidency on central issues of its programme, such as the stability of the Western Balkans, Kosovo, and Bosnia in particular, but also enlargement, the European neighbourhood policy, asylum and immigration, cooperation with strategic partners and intercultural dialogue.

Let me concentrate on three issues that are very much linked with our responsibility. I would like to focus on three priorities: the Treaty of Lisbon, the package on energy and climate change, and the renewed Lisbon Strategy.

The year 2007 leaves the European Union in good shape. Progress towards the conclusion of a new Treaty met our expectations. The Union followed the roadmap that was presented by the Commission in May 2006: first the Berlin Declaration, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and outlined a vision for the future of the Union; then the June European Council, where we agreed – under the German Presidency – on a precise mandate for the IGC; and finally, the signature of the Treaty of Lisbon in December.

The process of reaching agreement showed a remarkable degree of consensus between Member States and European institutions on the way forward.

We have a credible and balanced Treaty, and I believe that it provides strong foundations for the future. We have avoided much of the disunity and disagreements of previous institutional debates. This leaves the Union in good shape to ensure we deliver our political priority for this year. The political priority for this year is the successful ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. I call on all Member States to proceed swiftly and decisively to ensure ratification of this European Treaty.

Next week, the Commission will adopt the climate change and renewable energy package. Our proposals meet the ambition set by all Heads of State and Government in last year’s Spring European Council, who called for precise and legally binding targets.

The Commission is now acting on that mandate. I see with great satisfaction that this is also a priority, both for the Slovenian Presidency of the Council and for Parliament. We will have to work hard to have the package adopted by the end of 2008. Our package will complement the proposals presented last year on the energy internal market. A European energy market will give more options and better prices to European citizens, and it is essential to meet the three central challenges which the European Union faces in energy: competitiveness, sustainability and security of supply.

We knew from the very beginning that transforming Europe into a low-carbon economy is not an easy task. But this is the moment to be serious, responsible and coherent with our commitment. The Commission will follow a balanced approach to efforts asked of the Member States. They start from different places; they have different circumstances; some are more able than others to finance investment. We also need to minimise the costs of adaptation for European industry and to address the challenges faced by energy intensive industries. The Commission is well aware of these realities, as our proposals will show.

But do not expect us to compromise on the European interest, which is to lead global efforts to fight climate change, to ensure energy security and to provide a competitive advantage to our economies. Both our international credibility and the credibility before European citizens depend on the fulfilment of the targets established in March 2007.

Bali was a great success in setting out a roadmap to agreement, but our package next week is a clear demonstration of our willingness to put our money where our mouth is.

The energy and climate change package should be seen as an opportunity for Europe in economic terms. It will encourage innovation and it will increase competitiveness. It is a mistake to set the fight against climate change against the competitiveness of European industries. The Union should lead global efforts to tackle climate change, and European industries should continue to be world leaders. At the same time, we will also create new markets and new jobs and will have the ‘first mover’ advantage in many of those sectors.

It is true that our package aims at a more environment-friendly Europe, but it will also contribute to a more industry-friendly, a more job-friendly and a more consumer-friendly Europe. It will be a win-win initiative.

Three years after the relaunch in 2005, the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs is working. It has contributed to a better performance of the European economy, in particular to the creation of 6.5 million new jobs over the last two years.

We expect the creation of five million jobs up to 2009. Structural reforms are also helping economic growth and improving the prospects for European long-term prosperity. These are very encouraging achievements.

As we launch the next Lisbon cycle, we need to take ambitious decisions in the Spring Council on areas such as research, innovation, the business environment, professional skills and the qualification of labour.

The Commission is making proposals to turn the fifth freedom – the free movement of knowledge – into a European reality in order to speed up innovation and make it available to a higher number of European citizens.

We also need a Small Business Act for Europe to foster the growth of the small and medium-sized enterprises. Those small and medium-sized enterprises create nine out of ten new jobs. This is a priority for the Commission in 2008.

Last but not least, Europe needs active labour policies: policies that give people the skills to realise their potential, and policies that allow our citizens to secure their employability. Investing in people is the surest way to guarantee our citizens that they will remain employed in spite of moving from job to job. We need to offer prosperity, not just for some, not even only for the majority, but for all. This is why investing in people and modernising labour markets remains one of the four priority areas for the new Lisbon cycle.

We must promote the entrepreneur spirit of Europeans: the creation of jobs, innovation and competition are keys to European success. Economic forecasts for 2008 and 2009 are already slightly less optimistic, and we should take these signals seriously. We know that the cause of this is some financial instability coming from the other side of the Atlantic.

Yet we should fight negative discourses. Our economic fundamentals are sound and solid. We also know that economic downturn could blunt the readiness to pursue economic and social reforms. It may be a natural reaction, but it would be the wrong lesson to draw from past experience.

Global competition and the prosperity of our citizens require that Europe continue its reform process to be a more competitive economy. This is the only way to keep our model, our European model of social cohesion.

One of the keys to success in 2007 was the Commission’s ability to work well with Parliament and the Council. We would never have had agreement on the Lisbon Treaty or solutions for difficult dossiers like the European Institute of Technology and Galileo without this partnership approach.

The triangular institutional partnership between Parliament, the Slovenian Presidency of the Council and the Commission will be crucial to our success in 2008. With a ratified Treaty, an agreed energy and climate change package, and a delivering Lisbon Strategy of growth and jobs, we will certainly have in 2009 a more confident and a better prepared Europe to face the future.

Finally, let me thank President Pöttering for his congratulations on the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of the European Commission. Indeed, it has been a long journey since 1958 for this institution. The European Commission has been at the centre of the European integration process as a source of dynamism and ambition, as a reference for all those who believe in the European project. Today I am proud to be leading this institution at the beginning of the 21st century as we face new challenges and require new solutions.

The European Commission will remain loyal to Walter Hallstein and all the founding fathers who, 50 years ago, launched this great institution as a central player in our common project. In close cooperation with Parliament and with the Council, we will continue to promote our common goals: a strong Europe, an open Europe, a Europe of freedom, prosperity and solidarity. And we are quite sure that, working hand-in-hand with the Slovenian Presidency and with Prime Minister Janša, we will achieve concrete results for our citizens.


  President. − Many thanks, Commission President. Walter Hallstein said on 16 January 1958 – I quote, because it is a short sentence addressed to the Members of the Commission: ‘Your work will bear fruit, however, only when there is close cooperation with the other bodies, particularly the Council of Ministers and Parliament’s Assembly.’ End of quote.

Today we are the European Parliament and what applied then in 1958 also applies today in 2008, and I have no doubt at all that, when the European institutions work together, they will also be successful.


  Joseph Daul, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (FR) Mr President, President-in-Office of the European Council, President of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, it is fortunate that the desire of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats for Europe in 2008 to be effective and able to respond to the concerns of its citizens coincides with the Slovenian Presidency of the European Union.

Slovenia, your beloved country, Prime Minister Janša, is indeed a country that works. The macroeconomic indicators and nature of the political debate prove this. Slovenians are in the vanguard of making people feel they belong to Europe.

Slovenians are among the most effective at achieving the Lisbon objectives. During her journey to EU accession and since 2004, Slovenia has achieved many successes.

What we have done, or not quite done, in 50 years, Slovenia has managed to do in 10, while making the difficult transition from socialism to a market economy, without disrupting society.

A strong privatised economy, stable inflation, rising salaries, a relatively low unemployment rate and above all a strong currency that enabled you to join the euro in 2007. You have also joined the Schengen area and you are now the first of the new Member States to take the reins of the EU.

The Slovenian Presidency undeniably marks the integration of the new Member States within the European Union. By taking responsibility for following through the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty, by directing the efforts being made by the 27 Member States to meet the challenges Europe has to face in terms of energy and climate change, growth and employment, by continuing the integration process of the Western Balkans, by contributing through your initiatives to the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, which will provide the chance to reaffirm the values of openness, tolerance and dialogue that are at the heart of the European project, the Slovenian Presidency is showing that the countries that have joined the EU since 2004 are now familiar not only with the EU’s institutional affairs, but also with its internal functioning and the way Europe asserts its interests at international level.

President of the Council, the PPE-DE Group will be alongside you, supporting the achievement of your priority objectives. The future of Europe will be played out with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. Effectiveness is therefore vital if ratification is to be achieved so that new instruments are available by the time of the European Parliament elections in 2009. Our group will also support your efforts to launch the new cycle of the Lisbon Strategy effectively and to guarantee a prosperous, equitable and environmentally-friendly future for Europe and ensure our economy is in a good position to benefit from the opportunities offered by globalisation.

Therefore, to create favourable conditions for social growth, to make knowledge and innovation drivers for growth and to find answers for demographic challenges, energy supply and climate change, Europe must play a dominant role in negotiations with its global partners on a post-Kyoto system.

President-in-Office of the Council, concerning the Balkans and the prospects for the Western Balkans joining Europe, we will support your efforts to foster stability and cooperation in the region, because the security and prosperity of the whole EU depend on this.

The EU and your Presidency must play their part in resolving the issue of Kosovo’s status. The bridging role between East and West that Slovenia has often played in Europe historically and geographically is an asset for the EU and its Member States. At the crossroads of all the influences that have marked the history of our continent, Slovenia is a constant thoroughfare for people, goods and cultural currents of all kinds. Slovenia will be the ideal promoter of dialogue between the different cultures, creeds and religious and spiritual traditions in the context of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

Mr President, President-in-Office, ladies and gentlemen, this I say on behalf of the PPE-DE Group, I look forward to an effective Europe in 2008, a successful Europe. The EU Presidency is undoubtedly a considerable challenge for a country like Slovenia, particularly in view of its human resources and the size of its government administration, as you have said. However, President-in-Office, other EU Member States – Luxembourg, Austria – have proved many times over that European conviction, tradition and performance are not measured by the size of countries.

All the best to the Slovenian Presidency!



  Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to emphasise once again on behalf of my Group what I said to you, Prime Minister, on two occasions in Ljubljana: as the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, we are prepared to support your Presidency in any way we can. It is – as you have rightly said – a historic Presidency. The Presidency of a state that has emerged from a communist dictatorship – and this should not be belittled – with a Prime Minister who was himself a victim of this dictatorship, is in fact a Presidency that not only deserves the full support of all democrats, but also has a great opportunity to recapture the hearts of the people again because it gives us here in Parliament as well as in Europe the opportunity once again to show that change is possible and in the long run freedom always prevails and democracy will always triumph!

Your country is also proof of this: no dictatorship in the world will survive in the long run. It may do so for 10, 30 or 100 years, but in the end democracy always triumphs, and this is a positive sign.

Your introductions, refreshing in their objectiveness, should set the tone for the whole of 2008. I do not know what awaits us in the second half of the year, but we have at least discussed policy today and that is something we very much appreciate.

The fact that today we have been discussing policy rather than personal matters is perhaps the first difference to the second half of this year. It is striking, however, that we have already established a few differences. One difference I would like to expand on is that yes, the enlargement of the European Union is not over. Yes, the enlargement of the European Union is currently under negotiation. Yes, it is under negotiation with Macedonia, yes it is under negotiation with Croatia and yes, it is under negotiation with Turkey.

You have revealed that you are seeking negotiations with Turkey with the aim of membership. The Council Presidency for the second half of 2008 does not want this. What we want, however, is clarity from the Council. Are negotiations currently taking place with Turkey with the aim of membership or not? This is one of the crucial points you will need to clarify first as best you can in the framework of the Troika during your Presidency of the Council.

The second difference – and we have listened very attentively to this – is that you consider the European institutions strong enough to organise the neighbourhood policy themselves by their own efforts. Well said! This is a clear rebuff to the separate institutions of the Mediterranean Union proposed by your heir presumptive to the office of Council President. Very good - we support you in this, too!


We can therefore see a few rifts lurking in the Council, but you can rely on the fact that the Socialist Group at least is on your side, Mr Janša.

The President-in-Office of the Council has talked about the opening up of the Schengen borders. This, too, is an important point and I thank you for this commitment to the great opportunity that the associated freedom of movement offers our citizens. I thank you, too, for the clear declaration – from a state like Slovenia, a state with your country’s history – that you see it as an opportunity for the freedom of your people, because by it you are also sending out a signal against the far right in Europe, which abuses every one of these freedoms with its rhetoric of fear against Europe and makes people afraid of any imponderable developments instead of reassuring them of the opportunities that freedom brings.


I have a request for you, Commission President. In Germany the relocation of Nokia is currently the subject of great debate. You have just said that the strength of Europe’s economy lies in its small and medium-sized enterprises. This is correct, but we also still have an enormous share in industrial jobs. In my country the Minister for Economic Affairs of North Rhine-Westphalia is now asserting that this relocation of Nokia from Bochum in Germany to Romania would be financed by EU funds. I don’t believe it, but please could you check it and clarify that this is not the case, because rhetoric such as this, as bitter and painful as it is, if not true, is also simply grist to the mill of those who are against the construction of a united Europe. Clarification is therefore very important here.


One final comment to the President of the European Parliament and the President of the Commission. Yes, Walter Hallstein was a great man. As one of the founding fathers of the European Union and one of the Presidents of the Commission, he made a huge contribution, but the extent to which those who would imitate Hallstein have already removed themselves from his founding work can be seen in you, Mr President, 50 years on. Mr Hallstein was a fervent advocate of Turkey’s membership of the European Union. You are indeed somewhat sceptical of this, as are all your colleagues. In this respect yes, Walter Hallstein was a great European!



  President. − Many thanks to my colleague, Martin Schulz. Conventions in the House make it impossible – or at least not customary – for a proper answer to be given to the President on tongue-in-cheek contributions from Group Chairmen. If I had been in another role, it would have been a pleasure to give you an answer, but I am grateful for Walter Hallstein’s friendly comments.


  Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I should like to address some remarks to Prime Minister Janša. President-in-Office, my group comes to you with one simple message: ‘Europe expects’. It expects 2008 to be a year of progress. We expect that progress to start now. And we expect your Presidency to rise to the challenge.

I have no doubts you will. Was it not a feisty Slovene who, raising his fist against a mighty empire, first declared: ‘All roads do not lead to Rome!’? Well, neither do they lead to Paris, and this is not the start of the French Presidency. It is an historic first for the countries which entered our Union in 2004.

President-in-Office, your country may be small in size but we know that it is mighty in spirit, and we know too that Europe’s Davids often make better presidencies than its Goliaths. True to form, your Presidency’s programme combines quiet ambition and a consensual style, which have the potential to unite our continent. Such unity will be vital to the early ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and to mustering support for an interinstitutional agreement on how to govern Europe under that new Treaty.

On interinstitutional cooperation, we would welcome much dialogue with you and a greater presence of your Government in this Chamber. We regret that your seat was empty yesterday when we heard from the first guest in our Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

Your programme speaks of the importance of internal dynamism – and that, Mr Schulz, is the way to create jobs and to maintain jobs in this continent: internal dynamism. We rely on you, President-in-Office, to push forward the single market in energy, in telecoms, in health-care services. The European Union has a hard enough time convincing its citizens that it adds value to their daily lives, so, in a clear-cut case for faster medical care, for lower bills, for greater consumer choice, we would be mad to push proposals for patients’ rights off the table just because they are controversial.

In other areas, you will have to flex your muscles a great deal more – particularly with your presidential counterparts who have a vested interest in promoting nuclear energy as the panacea of climate change. Solidarity and burden-sharing are the key to success in cutting emissions and meeting renewable energy targets. In 2008, our Union must show, as President Barroso said, that it can turn fine words about combating climate change into action.

Progress in the Western Balkans is rightly one of your priorities and your experience and understanding of the area will be a bonus to our Union. Nonetheless, I suspect that maintaining, as you do, that the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is worse than that in Kosovo does not reflect majority opinion in the Union. Nor am I sure it is a good way to motivate the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina. If it is designed to appease Serbia, it will not work. Sweetening the pill of Kosovo’s independence with a Stabilisation and Association Agreement may be a way forward. But, while Mr Đelić readies his pen to come to Brussels, my group reiterates – in the strongest possible terms – that there can be no Stabilisation and Association Agreement without Serbia’s full cooperation with the ICTY.


Serge Brammertz, the new Chief Prosecutor, has yet to see fresh evidence of cooperation. None of us, President-in-Office, wish to see Serbia remain on Europe’s sidelines, and your Presidency’s courteous and constructive attitude may well bring it in from the cold and deliver Ratko Mladić.

But in the mean time, as you say in Slovenia, ‘pray for a good harvest, but keep on hoeing’.



  Brian Crowley, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (GA) Mr President, the Slovenian Government is taking over the responsibility of the EU presidency at a time of many challenges. The European countries have to tackle ratification of the Treaty; the spotlight is being trained on the Balkan region; an agreement has to be reached at EU level on the energy package; and new impetus has to be found in order to resolve the conflict between Palestine and Israel.

As has rightly been commented on by colleagues already, the list of what Europe needs to be doing is endless. The range of topics and decisions and the areas of interest and of conflict that have to be dealt with are enormous.

Rather than give lectures to you on what you fail to do or on what others may fail to do in the future, I shall focus briefly on three areas.

Firstly, the Reform Treaty, the Lisbon Treaty: its ratification is essential for the onward development of the European Union.

Secondly, with regard to future enlargements: we must ensure that candidate countries feel they have an opportunity and a chance to become members of the European Union in the near future.

Thirdly and, in my opinion, most importantly, Kosovo and what is happening there, and a peaceful transition from its present status to whatever future status may emerge. We have already seen tremendous success in Kosovo where joint police forces from both ethnic groups are patrolling jointly in each other’s areas, where there is no longer that idea of a single police force for a single people, but a joint police force for all the people of Kosovo.

Your experience, Mr Prime Minister, as a rebel in one sense, as an intellectual but, most importantly of all, as a democrat and as the voice of reason that could lead your country from the dark ages of Communism into the bright lights – sometimes dimmed because of energy crises – and future of the European Union, that kind of image and that kind of imagery is what is most important to the people of Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo and, indeed, Turkey.

I look forward to working with you and with your Government. Despite the fact that you may be small as a country, not only are you big in spirit but there is also great quality there. As has already been proven by your own starting of this process, you are not afraid to stand up to the ‘big boys’ when they try to bully you around the place. But, most importantly of all, what you bring is the moral certainty of where you have come from.

What the European Union needs today is new heroes – heroes who know what it is like not to have freedom; heroes who know what it is like not to have the freedom of speech, liberty and democracy. That is the best light that we can shine in the dark corners of the European continent today.


  Monica Frassoni, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (IT) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, we are quite sentimental about Europe and what it has achieved as a model of peace and democracy and what it might achieve in terms of boosting people’s freedom and well-being and representing a centre of innovation and consistency in tackling global environmental challenges.

We are therefore delighted to welcome you here today, but we are a little sad that this experience might in some ways be a unique one, because, as you know, one of the reforms of the Lisbon Treaty is the election of the President of the European Council. This is something that is of concern to us, partly because none of the candidates who have been put forward would in my opinion be able to advance the cause of Europe very far.

Having said that, however, I would like to mention some specific points that are especially relevant for the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance. As the President of the Commission mentioned, during your Presidency the ‘energy package’ is to be presented: this is the result of the work done by all last year and we know that there is a widespread commotion about it and manoeuvring and pressures are already in progress to diminish its value and impact. We believe that a fundamental aspect of your Presidency will be to resist these pressures from both major and minor players to restrict and weaken the impact of these regulations.

We will also continue our battle on principle, on which I believe that we will be in disagreement. In our view, a low carbon economy – here I am also addressing the President of the Commission – cannot be a nuclear economy; funding and wasting time on a new nuclear future which does not exist yet or on expensive technologies of uncertain application such as carbon sequestration and storage are actually in direct competition with the true renewable energies which we should encourage and fund: sun and wind energy, and energy saving, this latter being the most promising prospect for innovation and employment.

Another important issue during your Presidency will be coordinating territorial and urban development, which will be highly important in view of the Spring Summit and which make reference to the follow-up to the Leipzig Charter: safeguarding the quality of our cities and the enhancement of territorial cohesion are perhaps less in fashion than other issues, but we believe them to be absolutely crucial in the battle against climate change.

Waste legislation will also probably be completed during your Presidency. We are extremely concerned, not only by what is happening in my country, in Naples, but also because it seems to us that the lip service paid to the hierarchy of waste strategies, placing a priority on prevention and re-use, is actually contradicted by the text of this legislation, which once again gives priority to incinerators, which, in our view, are definitely not the only way of solving the waste problem.

There are two important issues relating to trade and data protection on which we would really like to see whether your Presidency will truly be a friend to this institution or not. You will have to battle hard with some of your colleagues on the issue of Parliament’s assent to the economic partnership agreements with the ACP countries, which, following the strong disagreements with the African countries that emerged in Lisbon, we view as more vital than ever. Then there is freedom of access to negotiating documents on the partnership and cooperation agreements with countries such as China. Just think – the European Parliament has not yet been told anything at all about how these negotiations are going. Everything is being done in total secrecy! We believe that there ought to be an open debate on this issue and that this Parliament should at least be informed about what is going on.

Finally, President-in-Office, I would like to mention the data protection issue. We know that the Council is planning to take a decision on this during your Presidency, but we would ask you to be courageous and request that implementation of this framework decision be postponed until after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, because this would enable Parliament to play a direct part in the reform; my fellow Member will speak to you about this again later on, I ask you, President-in-Office, to hold the first national conference on the Roma people during your Presidency. This would make a significant contribution to intercultural dialogue.


  Francis Wurtz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FR) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, President of the Commission, for this first Presidency of a new Member State, Slovenia is inheriting a number of rather thankless tasks from its predecessors. Thus, as regards the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon, you are required to ensure that no Member State apart from Ireland sets the bad example of organising a referendum, including countries that have made firm commitments to do so. This is to some extent like moving backwards at a time when the EU's citizens and institutions are supposed to be moving closer together. Frankly, you deserve to have been given a nobler ambition.

At the social level, the Presidency will first have the difficult task of getting things moving again on two emblematic draft directives, one on working time and the sadly famous opt-out, and the other on temporary work and equal treatment of employees. Nor will it escape a substantive discussion on the action to be taken in the wake of the recent judgments by the European Court of Justice in the Laval/Vaxholm and Viking Line cases, which lend legitimacy to social dumping. My group, moreover, has requested a debate on this matter to be put on the agenda of a forthcoming parliamentary session. This brings up again the whole problem of the Bolkestein Directive and the provisions of the treaty on which it is based. In the midst of the ratification of a new text that includes all these provisions, this makes for a real muddle.

Finally, again on the social level, Europe is facing increasing demands for higher pay. Indeed its share of added value has been diminishing for some decades. It has never been so low, as even the financial press are pointing out. Yet, the European Central Bank has just threatened to raise interest rates if this demand, however legitimate, is met, despite the fact that profits have never been so high, as the experts acknowledge. If we do not put this issue on the agenda, it will soon make its own way there. I recall that the joint document of the German, Portuguese and Slovenian Presidencies underlines in point 68 that, I quote ‘The overarching aims of the three Presidencies will be to strengthen the European Social Model as an integral part of the Lisbon Strategy’. As the adage goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating!

A word also about another sensitive subject: that of illegal migrants. In its current state, the draft directive on their return deserves the ‘outrageous directive’ label given to it by organisations that defend human rights. Adoption in its current state would cast an unkind light on the good intentions expressed by the EU in the context of intercultural dialogue.

To conclude, I would like to mention the problem of Kosovo. Before any decision is made, surely it would be justified to have clarification on a three-pronged question? Firstly, how to explain the fact that two billion euros of aid from the international community have, in the space of seven years, resulted in non-existent economic development, endemic poverty, 50% unemployment, and the proliferation of corruption and mafia networks? Secondly, how to explain the fact that 17 000 NATO soldiers have proved unable to prevent the destruction of dozens of orthodox buildings, the kidnapping or murder of hundreds of Kosovar citizens from minority communities and the forced exile of thousands of others? Finally, how will the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo and the replacement of UNMIK with the European Union solve these vitally important problems while guaranteeing the stability of the Balkans? I would be curious to hear your response.


  Jens-Peter Bonde, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, I should like to thank the President-in-Office for the nice visit we had to Slovenia before Christmas. President-in-Office, I hope you will lead the European Council better than you led the meeting group leaders had with you: you took most of the speaking time yourself and you said nothing we did not know in advance; you did not allow your ministers, whom I would expect to know their subjects, to answer most of our questions; and you did not send the answers in writing afterwards. A parliament also contains an opposition with certain rights.

Yesterday I received a petition from 571 Slovenian journalists criticising you for not respecting their press freedom. Will you allow an independent investigation?

Last week you were reported to have asked Portugal to cancel the possible referendum supported by most Portuguese voters. May I remind you of the existing Nice Treaty, which requires you to take all decisions as close to citizens as possible? To cancel a referendum is a violation of this article. Member States can be criticised but not punished, because ratification is still a national competence. The behaviour of a presidency and the European Commission is a Community affair. You have to respect the national ratification procedures. If you say something, you should remind Member States of the joint legal obligation to legislate as close to the citizens as possible.

You violate the Treaty, and so does the European Commission when it does not behave as guardian of this Treaty article. You are part of a political agreement among prime ministers to avoid a referendum. This agreement is a violation of the Treaty. The Commission should have protested it instead of supporting the attempt to avoid the peoples of Europe. Read Article 1 of the Treaty on European Union once more: ‘Decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen’. What a wonderful sentence that would be, if it were implemented!

The Lisbon Treaty was decided in as closed a way as possible and as far away as possible from the voters. Now it seems that only Ireland can save our European democracy. But the Council could at least publish a consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty, so that you would be able to read what you have signed. On 17 December 2007, Hungary signed a text it had not even received! This is not a way to decide close to the citizens or the Members of Parliament.


  President. − Mr Bonde, we look to you as Chairman of your Group to ensure that you and your colleagues acquit yourselves in the House as parliamentarians. Face up to the challenges in your own right rather than merely targeting others!



  Andreas Mölzer (NI). – (DE) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, President of the Commission, as a Member from Carinthia, an immediate neighbour of Slovenia, it is awe-inspiring and a pleasure for me that a nation that only 20 years ago was groaning under the yoke of communism is now in charge of the European Union for six months. This is proof for me that the path of European integration away from the catastrophes of the 20th century is the right one in itself to freedom and unity.

When I hear that Slovenia’s aim during this Council Presidency is primarily to introduce all the states of the former Yugoslavia to the European Union, then I believe that it is right and it is important, in order to round off this process of European integration territorially, as it were. I believe that this is considerably more important than, for example, the accession negotiations with a country like Turkey, whose primary territory is in Anatolia, in Asia.

I believe that this process of introducing states of the former Yugoslavia to the EU would need to take place primarily in such a way that it enables Europeans to act without the influence of powers outside Europe, for instance the United States of America and Russia. I hope that Slovenia is able to bear in mind first and foremost Croatia’s desire for EU membership and that conflicts like those surrounding fishing zones between Croatia and Slovenia, for instance, will not present any obstacle to this, because of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia, along with Slovenia, is undoubtedly the country that is most ready for Europe and a democratically mature, central European country.

On the issue of Kosovo, which will undoubtedly tax Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council the most, the situation is such that on the one hand, we have to take account of the right of each people group to self-determination, the right of the majority of the Albanian Kosovars, but on the other hand, we also have to consider the historic rights of the Serbs. Something like a US satellite state should not be allowed to emerge with Kosovo, nor should Serbia be driven into the arms of Moscow, into the arms of the Kremlin. Kosovo’s autonomy should not become a precedent for Turkish Northern Cyprus. The aim should be stability in the Balkans and the rounding off of European integration in territorial terms.

Let me get down to discussing in a nutshell a bilateral problem between Slovenia and Austria: the issue of topographic signs in Carinthia. I hope that the Austrian Federal Government will soon find a fair solution that satisfies the eminently well protected Slovenian minority in Austria. By the same token, I hope that Slovenia also finds a sensible solution regarding the German-speaking Austrian residual minority in Slovenia and recognises these people as an indigenous minority, and that the cultural convention between Austria and Slovenia can be full of substance in this regard.


  Mihael Brejc (PPE-DE). – (SL) Ladies and Gentlemen, the programme of the Slovenian Presidency contains all the important topics of our time and is a good working basis for these six months. With just two minutes, I will limit myself to only one area, i.e. citizens’ freedom, administration of justice and internal affairs. I expect the Slovenian Presidency to devote appropriate attention to following the effects of the “SIS 1 for all” information system and accelerate the implementation of “SIS 2”.

The common asylum and migration policy must be based on close cooperation with the countries of transit and origin. At the moment there are 27 different regimes and approaches to solving this problem and, of course, we have no illusions that such a complicated question can be resolved in such a short time. However, we have to tackle this difficult task.

The third area is cooperation with Frontex, where the Slovenian Presidency, based on analysis of the Commission report, will prepare the guidelines for the future activities of that agency. The fourth area concerns urgent harmonisation of the European visa policy and shaping of the legal groundwork for starting the operation of the European visa information system.

A red thread running through all the Presidencies so far has been the fight against organised crime and terrorism. I support the proposed measures and suggest that we should at last start tackling the causes of terrorism as well.

Slovenia is one of the most successful members of the European Union in the area of e-administration and the elimination of administrative obstacles. I therefore expect Slovenia, during its Presidency, to offer its good practice in every area to the other Member States. I also hope for good cooperation between the Slovenian Presidency and the Parliament and Commission, and I am convinced that, after the Slovenian Presidency, it will be possible to say that the European Union has made a further step forward.


  Borut Pahor (PSE). – (SL) I am proud that the Prime Minister of Slovenia is addressing the European Parliament today in the capacity of President of the European Council. As the Prime Minister said, this is also a testimony not only to the dramatic changes witnessed in Slovenia in the last twenty years, but also to the almost unimaginable changes we have witnessed within Europe itself in this very short period of history.

The Vice-President of the European Commission said in Ljubljana that the start of the Slovenian Presidency of the European Council was the end of the division between the old and new members of the European Union.

I would like to build on that beautiful thought by saying that until recently we could only listen to what the candidates and thereafter new members of the European Union expected from it. Today Europe has the right to ask the Prime Minister of Slovenia, and Slovenia as the presiding country, what Europe can expect from Slovenia. I think we are faced with an exceptional historic event which has its symbolic and real consequences.

It is my personal conviction that it can expect the most Slovenia can give. In my opinion, Slovenia is well prepared for and totally focused on its international role and the presiding role of the European Council.

I would like to thank my colleague Mr Schulz for the support our group gave the Slovenian Presidency and, as President of the largest opposition party in Slovenia - the Social Democrats - I would also like to assure this esteemed House that, in the light of the parliamentary elections which will follow the end of the Slovenian Presidency of the European Union, I will not use the European politics of the Slovenian Presidency of the European Union to make it a target or a victim of our common endeavours for Slovenian success in this important international task. The success of the Prime Minister will be the success of the Slovenian Prime Minister, that of the whole of Slovenia and also my own success.

I am convinced that at the end of the Slovenian Presidency we will be able to establish that, as someone said, there are no minor or major members of the European Union, and that there are only those which are a little bit more or a little bit less successful in their Presidency of the European Union. My wish is that, with a modicum of luck, the Prime Minister and the Slovenian government will succeed in being counted among the more successful.


  Jelko Kacin (ALDE). – (SL) Prime Minister, your arrival and address today represent the start of the last phase of the full integration of Slovenia into the European Union. Slovenia is the first country among the eleven new countries to have been able to take over the Presidency. It is a great privilege for Slovenia and for Europe and I wish you great success in the Presidency.

However, the task of the Presidency is an arduous one, which is why I would like to ask you also about the injustices taking place in the European Union. This question is addressed not only to you but also to the President of the Parliament and the President of the European Commission. In 2004 ten countries joined the European Union. It was actually only nine and a half as only part of Cyprus joined. Two years later we announced the entry of Romania and Bulgaria and again we forgot about the northern part of Cyprus. And even after Romania and Bulgaria had joined, we again said nothing about Cyprus.

Prime Minister, today you spoke of western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova, Caucasus and northern Africa without devoting a single word to the question of northern Cyprus. It is as though they have been overlooked, wiped out, which is not good. It is right that in Ljubljana you started a dialogue between cultures and religions. And the area where we could really achieve great success is precisely Cyprus. Cyprus needs to have a dialogue between cultures and religions so that those 200,000 innocent people can have an opportunity to become members of the European Union. Also, Cyprus has just accepted the Euro as its new currency. In the north they are still using the lira.

And finally, Prime Minister, when you spoke about your culpability, that you were tried in a foreign language, I would rather you had said Serbo-Croat, or Serbian. Some people in this hall might think that you were perhaps tried in Russian. Once again, I wish you complete success in your Presidency.


  Adam Bielan (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, I would like to begin by congratulating Prime Minister Janša on taking up the Presidency of the Union. This is a historic moment in the history of European integration, it being the first time that a new Member State has taken up the Presidency.

Slovenia is a country which has been affected on many occasions by the border changes that have taken place on our continent. It is therefore a good example of European unification, not only from an economic, but also from a geopolitical aspect.

For this reason I believe that the next six months will be fruitful in stabilising the situation in the Western Balkan region. I would like to express the hope that the Union’s neighbourhood and enlargement policy will be given priority during this period. I am counting on the aspirations of our eastern neighbour, Ukraine, also being received with more understanding.

I am glad that energy policy will also be one of Slovenia’s priorities. We are only too well aware that a secure Europe cannot exist without us ensuring our energy security. There must be no future blackmailing of the European Union on energy by anyone, and I am convinced that Slovenia, a country that bore the burden of communism for more than 40 years, has an excellent appreciation of this.


  Elly de Groen-Kouwenhoven (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, my congratulations to Slovenia, and welcome to Prime Minister Janša: only four years a member of the EU and already the European Presidency. It means work and responsibility, but it is also a proof of confidence in your young state, President-in-Office.

What worries and disappoints me – us, I should say – is that an impressive number of MEPs from very different countries and groups have still not received a clear answer to their repeated request as to whether Slovenia is going to host the first annual Roma conference. A big thing, but also a huge challenge – and you are not alone. The European Commission has offered financial support. Moral support comes from the European Council which, in the Conclusions under point 50, underlines that the EU should appear with concrete steps on Roma issues.

Logistical support comes from the European Roma community, who expressed willingness to cooperate closely wherever they can. Political support comes from many MEPs from different groups in this House who are aware of Europe’s forgotten nation, the Roma, many of them still victims of the latest Balkan wars, living as refugees spread all over Europe.

Slovenia had a narrow escape, but it deeply experienced lack of freedom and safety itself. I hope that Slovenia will take it as an honour to host the first annual Roma conference. It knows it has many supporters – and maybe, I should say, fans.


  Mary Lou McDonald (GUE/NGL). – Mr President, I too would like to wish the Slovenian Presidency well. Today is indeed a historic day. I do not doubt for a moment Slovenia’s capacity as a small Member State to preside over a successful presidency.

I hope, President-in-Office, that you are really serious when you say that you wish to see a Europe that really cares and a Europe that puts the citizen at the centre. I have to say to you that, if we were serious about making that more than rhetoric – making that reality – it would in fact require a radical step change in our approach and in the content of our policy in this institution and across the institutions of the European Union.

I share the concerns of a previous speaker at the fact that referendums will not be held in Member States on the issue of the Lisbon Treaty. I come from a jurisdiction in which there will be a referendum and the people will have an opportunity to assess, in a real-life way, how they reckon this project is advancing and developing.

President-in-Office, in Ireland you caused something of a stir: you were reported in the media as saying that it is important not to launch some discussions that might cause problems in our country. This indicates to us that you propose postponing controversial or difficult issues. We would like to know what those issues are.

If we are serious about democracy in the Union, if we are serious about a Union that cares, we certainly have to ensure that full information on policy initiatives and direction are given to the people.


  Bernard Wojciechowski (IND/DEM). – (PL) Prime Minister, not long ago you said that the European Union was united not only by a common economy and policy, but also by the values of a common memory, culture and creativity. I agree.

Greetings to you, Prime Minister, from Poland, the land of Adam Mickiewicz. That prophet, as the French call him, once asked: Slavs, what can you offer that is new? What do you bring with you to the world stage? His message was that the Christian spirit has particularly penetrated certain European peoples, and all Christian progress also contains within it the progress of nations. Europe – the mother of nations – is united by a Christian culture in both the west and the east. Here in this Parliament the French President Valéry Giscard D’Estaing told me recently that he was always in favour of including a reference to the Christian God in the European constitution.

Prime Minister, you are right in saying that the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue is an opportunity for Europe to strengthen itself through culture. Jean Monnet, now at rest in the secular Panthéon in Paris, used to say that if he were to start over again, he would start with culture. Christian culture and religion, as Professor Tadeusz Zieliński, buried in Schöndorf near Munich, used to say, is expressed in human longing. So let Slovenia, that small EU country, express this longing through its actions for the benefit of Christian culture in Europe. This is where the greatness of your country in the EU lies; this is where the greatness of our Slavic EU countries lies.

(The President cut off the speaker)


  Jana Bobošíková (NI).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased that the Slovenian Presidency wants to deal with the subject of the threat of climate change and with the policy of safe and sustainable energy. I think that it is about time we take off the green populist spectacles and free ourselves from the unjustified scare of nuclear reactors. We have an opportunity to stop taking money out of the citizens’ pockets by immoral trade in emission permits, which are nothing but indulgences for the greatest polluters. We have the opportunity to discard ludicrous taxes on fuel particles as well as technical pseudo-solutions, expenditure on which far exceeds their benefit.

Ladies and gentlemen, according to documented scientific conclusions nuclear energy is the form of energy that does not produce CO2 and minimises the aggravation of climate change. It is also the cheapest low-carbon energy, it is reliable and it is safe. In addition, nuclear energy reduces a country’s dependency on the supply of fuel from unstable territories. I am convinced that if we wish to act in the interest of the citizens of the Union and deal with climatic change, we should invest in research, development and education in the field of nuclear energy.


  Werner Langen (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, I would like to congratulate the Slovenian Presidency of the Council on its comprehensive programme, the final phase of the programme of the three Council Presidencies, and also on the successful development of your own country.

You are part of Schengen, you are part of the euro area, and it really is a historic Council Presidency, of which I make the request that you do not do as all the others before you have done and present a programme that even a large country would not be able to accomplish in six months. As a smaller country, you have the solidarity of the larger countries as well as of the European Parliament. My request, however, is that you do not overdo things. UN reform will certainly not be possible within six months under a Slovenian Presidency of the Council.

There are some very pressing problems pending, a few of which you have listed. The most difficult will be the Kosovo issue. Here, too, you are in a particularly difficult situation. Another is the continuing development of the internal energy market, the agreement with Russia – these are the priorities you will in reality be able to address. And if you succeed in moving ratification of the Lisbon Treaty forward, then you will be able to say at the end of this six-month Presidency: yes, as the first country from the former communist block, we have managed to shape this Council Presidency as a positive role model for prosperity, freedom and peace.

Finally, a minor observation for our colleague, Mr Schulz, who is no longer here. He talked about the Socialist Group here – in Germany he keeps quiet about this – but we do know he has done so. At the end he warned against right-wing radicalism, as though communism might have been a right-wing extremist system! If I quote him correctly, he has also assigned you the task of bringing Turkey’s membership forward. The Commission has already confirmed that it is dealing with Croatia and Turkey even-handedly. Do not get involved! Leave this to the larger states, which have not been able to resolve it to date. If you concentrate on the Western Balkans, you’ll be doing Europe a great deal of good and you will potentially have a lot more success in this than in trying to resolve Turkey’s problems!


  Hannes Swoboda (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, Prime Minister, do not be reduced to your role in the Balkans. Continue to be a European Presidency! I shall begin, however, with small matters, and I hope that my country, Austria, will also make an effective contribution to your Presidency by solving the outstanding problems concerning the Slovenian minority in Austria and that the Slovenian minority will now finally come into its own.

As rapporteur for Croatia, I do hope that Croatia will be able to make great progress during your Presidency. You must contribute something to this, as must Croatia. From you I expect that during your Presidency, you will implement the Treaty that you concluded with Prime Minister Sanader and that a solution will then be found to the disputed borders through appraisal by a third party. I expect greater efforts from Croatia and, as regards the ecological fishing zone, I expect the promise to be kept not to extend and apply this zone to Croatia and Italy.

The greatest problem is certainly that of Kosovo and I am of the opinion that you are going down the right path. You are acting with caution, calmly, but purposefully. This is the solution to which we aspire in Kosovo because, let’s be honest, it is not possible and not reasonable – either for Kosovo or for Serbia – for Kosovo to have a shared existence within Serbia. This does not mean, however, that we do not share Serbia’s concern and cannot understand why Serbia has great problems here. However, one thing should also be stated very clearly for Serbia’s ears, specifically to Prime Minister Koštunica: we believe that the future of Serbia, of a democratic Serbia, a Serbia that also cooperates with the ICTY, lies in Europe! If Mr Koštunica believes that Serbia’s future lies in Russia, that’s his problem, but I do not believe that the population of Serbia would agree with him.

A clear signal should therefore be sent to Serbia under your Presidency: you must choose between Russia and the European Union on this issue. We are making a straightforward offer to the entire region, and specifically to Serbia, to continue on the path towards the European Union in a reasonable period of time. This is a massive task to perform and I’m sure you will perform it well!



  Lena Ek (ALDE). – Mr President, I want to combine two of the topics for the Spring Summit. Firstly, climate change and the climate and energy package. Of course, it is very difficult when you have to go from targets to tools. This creates a burden on all our Member States. Still, this is something we have to do. I want to point out two areas where we have to be very cautious when we enter negotiations on this green package.

The first one is the social issues. In this Chamber we have had a lot of debate when it comes to the Lisbon Strategy and to adding economic development to sustainable social development and environmental issues. It is very important that sustainable economic development is reflected in the green package when it is delivered next week.

The second thing is technology neutrality. Slovenia is a forestry country, as is my own country, Sweden, and I think it is very important that you have all the different alternative fuels on the table so that you can pick and choose and let innovation get the full potential of the whole thing. Do not forget methanol and cellulose!

Finally, the Lisbon Strategy has to be a combination of climate and economic development. Look at the transport sector, which is a perfect example of how trains and cars can achieve not only economic development and a better internal market, but also the goals of the energy package. It is only by starting that the unachievable can become achievable. I wish you all the best luck in the world, President-in-Office.


  Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, Slovenia is the first of the new Member States to take on the Presidency of the European Union. This Presidency coincides with the year 2008, which has been designated as the Year of Intercultural Dialogue, so this is one of the main foundations of its programme. It should be remembered, though, that such dialogue is possible only when the parties have a strong sense of cultural identity and wish to share this wealth with others.

The cultural foundation of Europe is Christianity, so Christian values should be promoted and strengthened, and not undermined. It is difficult to discern such a positive approach in the most important EU documents that have been passed, such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Reform Treaty. They contain no references to Europe’s Christian roots. There has also been no serious debate on this subject in the forum of the European Parliament.

In this context there must be doubts as to whether the European Union, while neglecting, and thus eroding its own roots, is sufficiently prepared for an intercultural dialogue with strong partners from other regions of the world.


  Roberto Musacchio (GUE/NGL).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as Mr Barroso said, the Slovenian Presidency in itself represents a historic achievement and this allows us to reflect on the relationship between Europe and the Balkans region. This has certainly been subject to criticism, partly because of the aspects of disintegration which it has involved, and Europe should now counter this by promoting peace and rapprochement, encouraged by the very relationship with Europe.

That is why we should avoid unilateral action on Kosovo, on which there should be a common European policy, as the new treaty, in any case, states. We need to tackle the problems of the new external borders which have arisen as a result of some countries’ accession to the European Union. We need an active policy for social, economic and environmental integration which encompasses the entire area, and frankly I do not see nuclear power as a solution to energy problems.

Finally, I would like to remind the Slovenian Presidency of the problem of the ‘erased’, that is, those former Yugoslav citizens who still have citizenship problems in Slovenia, so that it may be definitively resolved.


  Hans-Peter Martin (NI). – (DE) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, we were told very graphically as children how General Tito tore through the streets of Belgrade, people jumping aside it was closed, no traffic regulations were in force. To our youthfully naive way of thinking, this was the epitome of the arbitrariness and ruthlessness of a particular system.

Later we then noticed how proceedings were arbitrarily initiated against dissidents, against critics in the country from which they were able to escape. Now you are here, and your joy is understandable, but be vigilant! The Tito here, in his attitude, for instance, is our Secretary General, Harald Rømer, who tears through this city of Strasbourg and does not fear the consequences even if it is at 100 kilometres an hour and people also have to jump aside. And unfortunately there are arbitrary proceedings against unwelcome critics even in this European Union.


  President. − I resolutely reject these attacks against the Secretary General of the European Parliament.


  Giles Chichester (PPE-DE). – Mr President, may I warmly welcome the Prime Minister to Parliament and wish him well in his period as President-in-Office of the Council. I feel sure that Slovenia will carry out the task ahead with great competence.

I welcome the emphasis given to the next stage in the Lisbon Strategy. There remains much to be done to persuade Member States to reform their economies and I hope that the Presidency will advocate greater liberalisation, reforms to labour markets and ensure European business benefits from globalisation. Europe needs to be more competitive, more focused on creating new jobs and less concerned with protecting a social model that hampers employment growth.

I want to see action on completing the internal market and, in particular, the telecoms sector. I welcomed the announcement by the Commissioner last year on further liberalising the telecoms market. We now have the opportunity to reassess the existing framework to get rid of bottlenecks and to map out a more competitive future for this crucial industry.

I look forward to hearing in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, where I am also the PPE-DE Group spokesman, how the Presidency intends to take matters forward. I also welcome the commitment to pursue vigorously the energy and climate change agenda. The EU has established tough carbon emissions targets and it is now incumbent upon Member States to follow through with real action, and not just words, to ensure burden sharing does not just end up as load shedding.

I read with concern in the press this week that some Member States are trying to undermine the EU agreement of last year on climate change, and we will pay particular attention to see that the British Government lives up to the commitments it has entered into.


  Jan Marinus Wiersma (PSE).(NL) Mr President, I would like to return to the situation with regard to Serbia. I think that it is a good idea to set up a task force analogous with that for Croatia, as proposed by the Slovenian Presidency, to help Serbia cooperate fully and effectively with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. That could also clear the way – as far as I am concerned – for the signing of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. I would also appeal to the government of my own country, the Netherlands, to cooperate and to support the Slovenian Presidency’s proposal, and also to take a look at how well this has worked in the past with Croatia.

I would like to make a second comment about our neighbourhood policy. Ukraine now has a new government, and negotiations are to start on the successor to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with that country. We would like to know about the Slovenian Government’s proposals and ideas, the form the negotiations should take and the intended result. We are not in favour of offering membership to Ukraine at this time – that is definitely not on the table – but it is important to offer the country something more tangible in terms of its links with the European Union.

I would now like to say a few words about the situation with regard to Georgia, another country covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy. Personally, I found the European Union’s reaction to the election results and to the elections themselves rather too hasty and rather too positive. There were large demonstrations afterwards. A discussion is still under way about the irregularities that occurred in the course of the elections. What I consider important now is that both the European Union and the Presidency take initiatives to at least foster links between the opposition in that country and President Saakashvili.

Finally, I would like to comment on the situation with regard to Russia. Presidential elections are to be held shortly. It appears that the way is clear for the opening of negotiations on a new partnership agreement with the country. In our opinion, the whole issue of energy transparency is of particularly great importance in the preparatory negotiations for the new agreement.

We also want to engage in dialogue with Russia about the quality of democracy in that country, however, and in particular the problems we have experienced recently with election observation and the way we see this versus the way Russia sees it. I hope that this subject, too, will be on the Slovenian Presidency’s agenda.


  Bronisław Geremek (ALDE). – (PL) Mr President, I think we are anticipating that in 2008 the Slovenian Presidency will enable the European Union to settle the matter of the Constitutional Treaty and make preparations for its ratification, and that it will also enable a solution to be found to one of the awkward problems that Europe faces – the problem of Kosovo. I think it is important to say, however, that besides these priorities there are certain tasks that favour them. I would request that intercultural dialogue be seen as one such task. I think that it lies among the values that create European unity, and that it also underlies a certain geopolitical value that EU policy may have.

It seems to me that in this particular context Europe may play the role of a bringer of peace in a situation in which the world appears to be in a state of international disarray. I would further add that where Kosovo is concerned, it is exceptionally important for the problem of intercultural dialogue to be its context. This will be the problem of the future for Kosovo.

Prime Minister, I wish the Slovenian Presidency success.


  Jan Tadeusz Masiel (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, I congratulate Slovenia on its Presidency of the Union and I wish Slovenia success, especially in ratifying the new treaty.

Little Slovenia has got in ahead of great big Poland, and that should be food for thought for us Poles. Perhaps through Slovenia’s example we will see a reduction in our fear of the Union and an increase in our faith that it makes sense. After all, you, sir, are the second Slav, after John Paul II, to come to lead the culture of the whole of Europe, including its western part. After its expansion in 2004, the Union looked forward to an influx of fresh blood, new brains and a new outlook, and through your proposal of a fifth freedom for the Union – the free movement of knowledge – you are meeting that expectation.

Your country, once a part of the former Yugoslavia, with its awareness of the problems of the worlds of Christianity and Islam, will certainly provide the impetus for a fair outcome for Kosovo, with respect for the rights of Serbs.


  Alojz Peterle (PPE-DE). – (SL) It is with joy and pride that I am sharing with you festive feelings accompanied, of course, by a strong feeling of responsibility and great opportunities. I am convinced that Slovenia will also show through the Presidency that its inauguration, years ago, was not just a geo-political decision, but also an acknowledgement that we were willing to cooperate responsibly in the creation of a free, democratic and successfully united Europe.

I strongly support the ambition to implement the Lisbon strategy, which is crucial for our future. In this sense I expect that Slovenia will do everything for advancement of the common policy in telecommunications and information technology. That is essential for implementation of the Lisbon strategy, not only because of the contribution to the essential increase in competitiveness, but also to get closer to the citizens. The citizens of Europe like to feel the common policy in their pockets and we were successful with the directive on roaming, which enables us to phone cheaper within Europe; the common policy in this area will certainly make it possible for us to feel the benefit of such policies more often.

My second emphasis is in the area of health. I am very pleased, and I am not the only one in this Parliament, that the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency also include the fight against cancer. It should become a permanent item on the agenda of the European Council.

Cancer is not only a matter for Health Ministers. Every third citizen of Europe can expect to contract this disease and the trends are not promising. It is a wide social and political question that is also connected with implementation of the Lisbon strategy. If increasing numbers of people become ill, we will not be able to achieve higher productivity and better competitiveness. Health is a vision, a dimension, and not just an activity sector. I will be pleased if we achieve two things during the Slovenian Presidency. Firstly, more attention should be paid to prevention in the fight against cancer, and secondly, interinstitutional working groups for the fight against cancer should be established. This fight requires good, united coordination between the European parliament, the Council and the European Commission.

President of the Council, I wish you a successful Presidency.


  Magda Kósáné Kovács (PSE). – (HU) Thank you, Mr President. Prime Minister, with your Presidency the new Member States have taken a new step on the road towards coming of age. It is likely that your Presidency will contribute to melting the reservations that have never existed in the European institutions but which have been present in the everyday life of the European Union.

You have the first Presidency in the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. Our region knows that, next to the big red blob on our globe, Eastern Central Europe became a blob that was painted pink, but this region has never been all the same colour. This region has always preserved its historical multicolour and diversity. This is particularly well known in the Western Balkans, since Yugoslavia papered over the dividing lines, but could not bridge them.

It is therefore no accident that we struggle the most with rethinking and reinforcing our national, linguistic and cultural identity, and we expect you to help us with this, since your Presidency can help in rebuilding an identity that is now inseparable from the consciousness of European citizens.

The opportunity and duty for the Slovenian Presidency is taking further steps to take the region’s European mission and enlargement into a new phase. Slovenia is the gateway to the Western Balkans, and Europe’s path leads through this gateway. The Member States’ enlargement fatigue cannot become reform fatigue in this region, since it would endanger the stability of our region.

Finally, concerning the Reform Treaty, I am proud that Hungary was the first to ratify the Reform Treaty. Although there are only very few matters in which political agreement can be reached in Hungary today, Europe has been one of them. Our region needs a Europe that works more and works better, and we are sure of the cooperation and help of the Slovenian Presidency.

I wish you great success in your Presidency.


  Alexander Lambsdorff (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, the Alps are important this year for Europe. Slovenia has the Presidency of the European Council, Switzerland and Austria are hosting the European football championships and all eyes are on the mountains. I congratulate the Presidency on taking over the official functions.

It is an important Presidency. The Lisbon ratification process is quite rightly your first priority. The ESDP is being put to the test in Kosovo. In Parliament we are looking to you to make clear to us – if we don’t manage to achieve a Security Council resolution – that Resolution 1244 is a watertight legal basis for all ESDP measures. My Group Chairman has said: we are against an accelerated stabilisation and association agreement for Serbia without cooperation with the ICTY.

We celebrate the fact that Slovenia is the first Member State from the accession countries to take over the Presidency. We Liberals have always fought strongly for this enlargement. We have also advocated it whenever we encountered antagonism at home.

We do not feel very much like celebrating at the moment, however. I am from North Rhine-Westphalia and learnt from 2 300 people in Bochum yesterday that Nokia are closing their production facilities and will be relocating to Romania. The impression was then created that it was happening with EU money. I want to make it crystal clear for the FDP that the relocation of jobs within the European Union must not be facilitated with EU funds! We shall be doing everything we can to ensure that no EU subsidies are flowing in this case. I see that the President of the Commission is nodding. I hope that we get a clear response to this from the Commission. This is a very important subject, which scares people and makes them afraid of Europe. This should not be! We shall also ensure that eligibility for assistance is checked if national subsidies are directed into Romania. This is a problem and we hope that the skilled and motivated people in Bochum will soon find work again.


  Ryszard Czarnecki (UEN). – (PL) Prime Minister, you have my sympathy and commiserations. Following your entry into the euro area, inflation in your country is 100% higher than it was a year ago. Despite this, as Commissioner Almunia said two months ago, Commission President, you have conceded that this rise in inflation is one of the consequences of accession to Euroland.

One of your stated priorities is the matter of Kosovo. Please bear in mind that its independence would be the first unilateral alteration of boundaries in Europe since the Second World War. This is exactly what Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia are looking for, but Moscow is also interested in destabilising the situation in the South Caucasus. This may actually threaten war in that region, and the greatest military conflict in Europe since the Balkans flare-up of the early 1990s. Clearly we must respect the right of the Kosovars to self-determination.


  Francisco José Millán Mon (PPE-DE).(ES) Mr President, I wish the Slovenian Presidency well. It is an excellent symbol of the transformation of the European Union. Some very important matters will be dealt with over the next six months, and I will mention a few.

Firstly, there is the Spring European Council, which will focus on the Lisbon Strategy. The truth is that we are in a difficult economic situation: growth forecasts are declining as a result of the financial crisis, rising inflation, the strength of the euro and a very weak dollar, and the extremely high price of oil. Food prices are also rising.

The public expect effective decisions that will help restore confidence in a time of uncertainty.

Externally there is the issue of Kosovo, which affects such important principles as the stability of borders throughout Europe. Do not be hasty. I think that the December European Council acted rather hastily. It took decisions such as sending a civilian mission, but apparently with no agreement on the legal basis. It is paradoxical that this is happening in the EU, a community based on the rule of law.

The issue of Kosovo is a delicate one, requiring caution. Try hard to achieve a fresh Security Council resolution.

In May, as you mentioned, there will be the important Lima Summit with the Latin American countries, which are so close to Europe in terms of principles and values. Lima should also be used as a lever to break the deadlock in the negotiations with Mercosur and to drive forward the negotiations with the Andean countries and Central America on their respective association agreements.

In March the expansion of the Schengen area will be a reality at airports. This is a decisive time for the EU’s external borders, which brings me to the fight against illegal immigration. A meeting is planned between the ministers responsible for border control, which I think is very timely. There is a need for increased cooperation between those ministers, and the officials looking after external borders need to be fully aware that they are doing not only a national job, but also a European one, and that they share responsibility for what happens throughout the Schengen area.

Finally, I would also ask you to work on the fight against terrorism. The public expect the European Union to produce results in this area that is so significant and important for their lives.


  Kristian Vigenin (PSE). – (BG) Mr. President, Mr. Barroso, Mr. Janša, I cannot fail to note that the Slovenian Presidency is a very important sign to European citizens and in particular for the citizens in Central and Eastern Europe.

Slovenia has the opportunity to bring them all the self-confidence of being truly equal stakeholders in the European process. We know Slovenia as a country which addressed, without much ado, persistently and consistently, the big issues of its transition and today has every reason to be referred to as ‘Eastern Europe’s best performer’. This was made possible through the political consensus in that country. This is exactly what we expect from the Slovenian Presidency: to push on, without any flourish of trumpets or big promises, in dealing with issues that are key to the European Union’s future as highlighted in the programmed presented. You have every chance of achieving this because today’s discussion showed both political and institutional consensus in your support.

I believe that the Slovenian Presidency comes at the right time, especially in view of the challenges related to the Western Balkans. Slovenia’s historical and political experience will enable the European Union to be more effective in its policy towards these countries. They need a new impetus to continue reforms and speed up their progress towards the European Union. A goal entirely within reach as Slovenia, a former constituent republic of Yugoslavia, has shown in practice.

I believe that through Slovenia, the European Union will speak in a voice more understandable for many of the Western Balkan nations. In both the direct sense of the word, and figuratively. I feel I must mention that for the first time the Council will be speaking a Slavic language. It seems to me that no one else could deal more successfully with the ‘Kosovo issue’ than Slovenia. The risks faced by the entire region are huge, and that is why our expectations of you, Mr. Janša, are also high. We expect you to succeed in preserving the unity of the European Union, both in regard to the resolution on the status of the province and in regard to the commitment of the Union in the difficult period thereafter.

Mr. Janša, for us, Socialists, it is important that the Slovenian Presidency be a success, and we will not just sit aside and observe, we will yield our real support for your efforts as best as we can and as far as our powers go, so that you can implement your programme. I wish you success, so that you can prove that a small country can be big in Europe.


  Marco Pannella (ALDE).(IT) Mr President, Prime Minister Janša, ladies and gentlemen, welcome, Prime Minister, on behalf of that radical party and those comrades who rushed to achieve your release, with the comrades and friends of the Mladina magazine, in late 1988. You were in prison for the sake of democracy and for the sake of Europe. Today you find yourself President of a European Union which is eliminating and abolishing the anthem and the flag, which with the Eurogroup is even distorting – please note this, Prime Minister – the traditional geopolitical borders on our European coins. You are in favour of enlargement, but this is the same Europe that was deaf to the tragedy in Yugoslavia, and today is deaf to Turkey and all the enlargements that we hope for.

We – myself included – were also at Ljubljana when the Serbian air raids took place. At that time we met with Mr Skolk, with the young people of the AZMSS, with President Kučan and even with our friend Mr Kacin. At that time you were fighting for a Europe other than the Europe that was betraying you, which wanted to see a neutral Yugoslavia because it was convenient for it.

Welcome. If, on behalf of your country, Slovenia, you are going to be what you have been, then you will be the one here standing for the Europe of Altiero Spinelli, not we who represent Europe, not we who often represent its disintegration.

(The President cut off the speaker)


  Othmar Karas (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, on the night between 20 and 21 December 2007 we extended the Schengen border. We gained a bit more freedom again and came another step closer to each other. The barbed wire has finally been removed and Slovenia took over the Presidency of the Council of a reunited Europe on 1 January. As a European, but particularly as an Austrian, a friend, a neighbour and an ally, I am very pleased about this.

President-in-Office of the Council, this debate revolves around six items. Firstly, the fact that you hold the Presidency has more than merely symbolic value. It makes us aware of historic developments that for many have either already become self-evident or are unfortunately seen as a threat.

Secondly, the ratification process started in Hungary. You need to structure and galvanise the process and provide sufficient coordinated information to the citizens of Europe.

Thirdly, please use the targets for climate change and greater European energy independence to provide further impetus for growth, employment and social cohesion when implementing the Lisbon Strategy.

Fourthly, your geographical position, experience of history and the timing of your Presidency give you special responsibility in terms of Croatia’s accession, freedom for Kosovo and the agreement with Serbia.

Fifthly, we are embarking with you on the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. Let this Presidency be one of cooperation, of mutual respect, thoughtfulness towards one another and mutual understanding.

The sixth and final item: do not confuse your European responsibility with the bilateral issues to be resolved or Austria’s responsibility towards the Slovenian minority in Austria. Bilateral treaties between two Member States do not fall within the European Union’s remit.


  Bernard Poignant (PSE).(FR) President-in-Office, you have come before us with modesty. You have even mentioned potential errors, and admitted to possible naivety. Within the context of the Troika, I suggest you pass on this sense of humility to the French President, who will succeed you.

I have just one message for you: teach Europe some of the best lessons from your history. You are Celts – me too! You have been dominated by Bavaria, coveted by the Republic of Venice, incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, occupied by Napoleon – my apologies for that one – divided up between Germany, Italy and Hungary and integrated into the Yugoslav Federation, and you have been independent since your referendum in 1990.

What a history! Who is better placed than you to talk about intercultural dialogue? Who has greater credibility than you to do so? So make it a higher priority. You have placed it fourth; I suggest you move it up a rung or two!

Having said that, please do not restrict intercultural dialogue to interreligious dialogue. Also think about the contribution to Europe made by those who believe that religion and politics should not be mixed, because history has shown that when one meddles with the other, it always leads to problems.

To conclude, if you would permit me, in the spirit of what I have just said, I would like to read a short passage from your national anthem to our fellow Members, because it is beautiful! ‘God’s blessing on all nations, Who long and work for that bright day, When o’er earth’s habitation no war, no strife shall hold its sway; Who long to see, that all men free no more shall foes but neighbours be’. That is the spirit of your Presidency, and that is the spirit of Europe. I am French, and I am not going to give up the Marseillaise, but for six months I am very happy to be Slovenian!



  President. − Mr Poignant, listening to you singing the Marseillaise or even the European anthem would certainly be a great pleasure.


  Zbigniew Zaleski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Prime Minister, the aims you have stated for your Presidency include the Treaty, the Strategy, the climate, energy, the Western Balkans, and if we add to this intercultural dialogue, that will be quite a lot for this small country, following the great success on which I congratulate you and all the Slovenian people.

At the last meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Foreign Minister Luís Amado made no mention whatsoever of the Eastern dimension, while you have addressed it only in the most general terms, but I think that it is one of the aims, and particularly as a representative of the Slav countries, you should have a better appreciation of the Eastern dimension of the Slav countries than even the Portuguese have – not that I have any complaints in this regard. The question is whether enlargement, as in the forecast made now by the French, prior to their Presidency, will concern mainly the Western Balkans, or maybe something more. I would like you to clarify your views on this.

A second matter is that your country’s Presidency coincides with the pre-election period for the European Parliament and, as we know, a turnout of just over 20% of European citizens is not very big and the trend is for it to get smaller. Do you have anything to offer in this regard? How will you convince Europeans that this edifice is a good one and that participation in it is worthwhile?

And the last matter I wish to raise, which is linked to the first, is that the Slovenian Ambassador to Ukraine has said that Ukraine should enter or will enter the free trade zone during this Presidency. This would, of course, be good; there are just a few conditions there that would need to be met, such as the approval of the Duma and properly functioning borders. In what way will the Presidency assist Ukraine in this process?

And, Mr President, I wanted to finish by saying that:

You have the power and the responsibility to control speaking time and I’m asking that you do so in the future.


  Véronique De Keyser (PSE).(FR) President-in-Office, during a presidency, there are some subjects you can choose and others that gatecrash the party, like security in the Middle East, or Iran. In this regard, Iran’s nuclear dossier is part of a complex process that touches on security in the Middle East and the Muslim world. To restore trust, we need to talk about Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, extremists, human rights and poverty.

Many of the region’s inhabitants are living on less than two dollars a day. Is this acceptable? I am not speaking from a moral point of view, but from a security one. These people end up becoming extremists because they have nothing to lose and feel humiliated. Nobody is born a suicide bomber, nobody is born a terrorist. We have to create an environment that will enable everyone to live with dignity, in peace and freedom. These are not my words, they are the words of Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. They imply that the beginnings of a relationship of trust should be established with the Arab world, in particular Iran, that it should not exclude any inflammatory subjects – neither that country’s shocking revisionism regarding the Holocaust, nor the security of Israel – and that it should be conducted on the basis of mutual respect and dignity.

Does the Slovenian Presidency want to take up these words? Most of all, does it really think it may one day be possible to denuclearise the region by avoiding any mention of the taboo that is Israel’s nuclear programme?


  Monica Maria Iacob-Ridzi (PPE-DE). – (RO) Prime Minister, I would like to congratulate you on addressing us today as President of the Council.

Slovenia has the admiration of the other European nations for its remarkable development since 1990 and for meeting the standards for accession – be they negotiation chapters, adoption of the single currency, or the Presidency of the Council.

I would also like to congratulate you on defining the priorities of the EU for the next 6 months, in cooperation wth the German and Portuguese governments.

Undoubtedly, it is desirable that the Lisbon Treaty, which puts and end to a prolonged identity crisis in the European Union, be ratified as soon as possible and acknowledged as an authentic democratic act by all European citizens.

At the same time, it is also desirable that the goals of the Lisbon Strategy should be put into practice as soon as possible, because we are facing a wave of pessimism among the citizens concerning this policy. The latest European Commission Eurobarometer of December 2007 indicates a relative drop in citizens’ confidence in both of the Strategy’s components: economic growth and employment.

Unemployment remains a major concern for European citizens, although there has been significant improvement compared with 2006. With the new cycle starting in 2008 for the Lisbon Strategy, the European Parliament will adopt an action plan concerning workforce mobility, in order to strengthen employment at European level.

However, there is still the issue of restricted access to the European labour market, affecting over 100 million European citizens.

I therefore urge you, Prime-Minister, to support the initiatives of the Parliamentt and the European Commission concerning free access to the labour market.

I firmly believe that in this way Europe will secure its economic future by safeguarding the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Treaty.


  Claudio Fava (PSE).(IT) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, as an Italian I would like to welcome particularly warmly the fact that Slovenia holds the Presidency of the Council; that, of the countries who have recently joined the European Union, it falls to Slovenia to be the first to hold the Presidency; and that Slovenia is now in the Schengen area together with other European countries.

As holder of the Presidency, your fundamental task is to give a strong impetus to the process of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty. This is a treaty that will enable this Parliament to have greater co-decision powers, that will make it possible to take decisions by qualified majority on some absolutely strategic issues and all within sectors where the fundamental rights of citizens will be given more attention and more protection: I am thinking of judicial cooperation and legal immigration.

Our suggestion is directed to this end, and we will have to attempt over the coming months to find room for an interinstitutional agreement to regulate the transitional stage on various issues: I am thinking, for instance, of the Europol package to be voted on tomorrow, and tomorrow this Parliament will ask you to make an undertaking for the Council to consult the European Parliament once again within six months of the entry into force of the treaties in the light of the new legal provisions that these treaties will offer us.

Again, on the common immigration policy I would ask for your commitment to a secure framework, as illegal immigration can only be combated while respecting fundamental rights with tenacity, conviction and accuracy, partly in order to avoid a recurrence of what happened a few months ago when hundreds of human beings clung to tuna nets in a vain attempt to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.


  Valdis Dombrovskis (PPE-DE). – (LV) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to congratulate Slovenia on being the first new Member State to hold the EU Presidency. I believe that other new Member States, when preparing for their presidencies, will be able to learn a lot from Slovenia’s experience.

Certainly, one of the most important tasks of the Slovenian Presidency is to promote a successful ratification process for the Lisbon Treaty. For my part, I can announce that Latvia plans to ratify the Lisbon Treaty in May, during the Slovenian Presidency. The Slovenian Presidency’s undertaking to strengthen the EU’s role as a global leader in combating climate change and the use of renewable energy is to be welcomed. For several years climate change and energy problems have been a focus of attention for the public and politicians. It is, however, important that this priority is not only expressed as a fine undertaking, but can also be reflected as a priority in the EU budget. In view of the fact that work should begin on the mid-term review of the Financial Perspective this year, it would be important to hear the Slovenian Presidency’s thoughts about possible EU budget priorities within the context of the mid-term review. I think that climate change and energy issues ought to be among these priorities, including directing a larger portion of the EU Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund towards increasing energy efficiency and fostering the use of renewable energy.

The Slovenian Presidency’s undertaking to pay more attention to the western Balkans, including the Kosovo issue, is understandable. The view expressed by Slovenia’s prime minister, however – that the security situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina might be worse than in Kosovo – has met an equivocal reaction. Therefore, it would be important to have a precise understanding of the Slovenian Presidency’s position concerning the state of affairs in the Balkans and its proposals for stabilising the situation. Thank you for your attention, and I wish the Slovenian Presidency every success in its work.


  Anne Van Lancker (PSE).(NL) The President-in-Office of the Council bears the important responsibility of launching a new cycle of the Lisbon process at the forthcoming Spring Summit. To be frank, my group, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, takes the view that the proposals presented to us by the President of the Commission in December lack ambition.

It is true, of course, that the previous cycle of the Lisbon Strategy created growth and jobs, but it is also true that Europe is now required to function in the context of accelerated globalisation and new world players. The Socialist Group is convinced, therefore, that Europe will only be able to continue to play its role if it puts the maximum focus on sustainable development, on research and innovation, on investment in people; in short, on quality rather than low costs or low standards.

It is also clear to us that this needs to involve everyone in Europe. Lisbon did not prevent a situation in which 78 million people risk descending into poverty and in which a large proportion of the jobs created are precarious and do not offer a decent income. Therefore, Lisbon cannot succeed without genuine reinforcement of the social dimension.

This requires more than comments, Commission President; it must occupy a visible, prominent position in the guidelines and in an ambitious social agenda. President-in-Office of the Council, we are counting on the Slovenian Presidency to make this clear at the Spring Summit.


  Elmar Brok (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, President of the Commission, I, too, am happy that Slovenia is taking over the Presidency of the Council. I was this Parliament’s general rapporteur for the enlargement round of the 12 countries and now seeing a country from this line-up take over the Presidency for the first time personally gives me great pleasure.

Slovenia is also the most successful of the new Member States, as a member of both the Schengen area and the euro area, and has proved that these new countries get on very well in Europe. And it must be said that small countries are often the most successful as regards the Presidency of the Council because they get fully involved in this business. I therefore wish you every success with it.

You have a multifaceted array of tasks ahead of you. You have to see through and deliver ratification of the crucial Lisbon Treaty and you must already be preparing to implement this Treaty, which is at least as important. You have a difficult problem ahead of you with Kosovo, and you have an exceptional opportunity to sort this out for us because you know this region very well. However, this also shows that the European Union is often pushed on foreign policy issues so that we are played off against the Americans and Russians.

When I see that at the same time as we are discussing strategies for Central Asia, and Gazprom is concluding gas contracts with Kazakhstan, then I have to say that we are not really taking strategic action on issues that are crucial for our future and I think that perhaps something needs to be improved here.

Please allow me one final comment. I too, coming as I do from North Rhine-Westphalia, would be grateful to the President of the Commission if he were able to provide clarification on the subject of Nokia. Relocations may, of course, take place. To put it clearly, Germany, more than almost any other country, gains extensive benefits from the European internal market or an enlarged European internal market, but it is very difficult to make this clear to those concerned if the loss of their jobs was facilitated with European funds or if unlawful national subsidies were used for this. We therefore request clarification on this because if these rumours were to be repeated, great harm would be done to the European concept.


  Ioannis Varvitsiotis (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, the Slovenian Presidency is very fortunate to be following on from two successful presidencies. Slovenia is also the first of the 12 new Member States to take on the Presidency, and this makes its responsibility all the greater.

The Slovenian Presidency’s programme undoubtedly contains worthy elements. For my part, however, I believe that greater weight ought to have been given to the attempt to achieve greater understanding and acceptance by the public both of the Reform Treaty and of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The Slovenian Presidency supports the plans for the accession of the Western Balkan States. This is also the position of my delegation, but, as experience has taught us, it should be borne in mind that the premature setting of the date for the commencement of accession negotiations can lead to deadlock. We should also very seriously consider that the overwhelming weight of European public opinion appears to be particularly cautious about any further expansion, and this is something that we cannot ignore.

We must all be particularly careful on the subject of Kosovo. We should realise that a power game is being played in the region. On the one hand, US policy seeks to fully control the whole region, while Russia for its part wants to maintain contact with a region with which traditionally and for centuries it has maintained special relations. In this game Kosovo is like a ping-pong ball.

At the recent Summit Meeting the European leaders did not take a decision on whether they would recognise a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo. Let us hope that we shall all weigh up the dangers inherent in unilateral recognition and act with particular care, because unsuccessful manoeuvres might set off chain reactions in the wider region, with unforeseen consequences.


  John Bowis (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I am told that, when Slovenia opened its borders recently, the crowd there compared notes on how much they had smuggled across during the Communist days, even to the extent of having a model confessional box there for anyone who confessed their sins, who was then rewarded with coffee and brandy, so I can understand why President Barroso rushed to be part of these celebrations!

But, Prime Minister, you gave us, initially, a moving account of your country and indeed your own history. You talked with pride of Slovenia and you talked with some emotion of your experience in the prison cell. I hope that those are the emotions you will bring to the Presidency – the belief in human rights and the determination that Europe shall have that pride too.

There are two areas that I want to raise with you as you do that. One is on our environment, because alongside human rights and our Lisbon Agenda goes a clean environment, a healthy environment and, indeed, a healthy people. That environment needs to move on from Bali, which was a great talking shop. We now need the action. We need real action, realistic action, and that must start next week with our climate change package.

On the health field, we need legal certainty on cross-border health. There is a great new opportunity for Europe’s citizens – its patients – if we get this right. We waited and had this delayed. That must wait no longer. We must make sure, please, that it now comes forward. If we do not, it is not an option to do nothing. The alternative is that the lawyers go on making policy for us.

Thirdly, on that, I ask you to pay particular attention to mental health. If there is any criticism of Slovenia I have, it is the slowness with which it has enacted its mental health laws. Now you have an opportunity to lead on mental health following the Green Paper and I hope you will take that up.

You are a small country, a proud country, and the small countries of Europe are usually the best Presidents of the European Union. I wish you success in that. I have confidence that Slovenia, under your leadership, will meet that pride in success and achievement by the time you finish in six months’ time.


  President. − We still have another 10 minutes’ ‘catch the eye’, each with a minute at the most.


  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE-DE). – (SL) The many good wishes addressed to Slovenia as the first of the new Member States to take over the Presidency of the Council indicate that the activities of Slovenia will attract special attention. The expectations are great and so is the responsibility.

People outside the political institutions in the new Member States often think that the Union is led by just a few of the large countries. This is where Slovenia has an exceptional opportunity to prove that the Union consists of 27 States which together are responsible for shaping the common policy. In implementing the priorities and the inherited agenda, I expect Slovenia to pay great attention to cohesion and the reduction of differences in Europe.

In this short minute I would like to mention climate change and the energy policy, because Europe has set extremely ambitious aims for itself to develop into a society with low carbon emissions. And that is what is important: a society with low carbon emissions. I would like Slovenia to put forward some concrete proposals and projects and to achieve results in that area.


  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, Prime Minister, Slovenia’s Presidency is facing many ambitious tasks. At the forefront of these ambitious tasks is ratification of the Treaty. You will be the watchman, you will have the entire procedure in your hands. I therefore have a request, and that is to spare a thought, please, for those countries which have not adopted the Charter of Fundamental Rights, those who have opted out.

It is a fact that Poland and Great Britain have opted out, but I am certain that these two countries will realise that they have made a mistake and will want to adopt the Charter. They will want to offer their citizens the Charter. They must be given help in this, and so I am calling on you to make provision for a simplified return procedure, a procedure that will be easy and quick, that will be an opt-in and will not require further ratifications.

The success of a Presidency, Prime Minister, is generally inversely proportional to the size of the country. I am sure you will apply this principle.


  Mojca Drčar Murko (ALDE). – (SL) Prime Minister, I welcome the points which you devoted to human rights today. As a liberal MP from Slovenia and a former journalist, I am of the opinion that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are the two most important human rights. For that reason I would like to use this solemn occasion to point out the great seriousness of the petition with which a quarter of Slovenian journalists are protesting against the overt and covert pressure they are experiencing.

The public discrediting of the signatories using their statements taken out of context, with the intention of portraying them as untrustworthy people, is an inopportune act. In my opinion, it is a duty of the Presidency of the European Union to ensure that its representatives deal with the content of the statements and evidence in the petition.


  Adamos Adamou (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Mr President, our greatest concern regarding the proposals for a solution for Kosovo relates to the attempt to place a unilateral declaration of independence on a legal footing, and this would have momentous consequences for international law.

The recognition of Kosovan independence outside the framework of the United Nations, by means of a unilateral declaration, would constitute a dangerous development; it would perhaps lead to further bloodshed and a redrawing of the borders. We believe that, as a very clear infringement of international law, it would also be used in other conflict situations as a method of resolving disputes. Perhaps this could also happen in the case of EU Member States such as Cyprus.

The situation in Kosovo is a continuation and a result of interventionist policies and is a problem that can be resolved only within the framework of the UN and existing international law, without external intervention and infringement of the principles of its very charter.

The impact of measures that are taken unilaterally can currently be seen in Iraq. It is only by means of legal, agreed political solutions that peace can be ensured.


  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I join my colleagues in welcoming the Prime Minister here today. President-in-Office, what a journey in 20 years: from languishing in jail to Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, to President-in-Office of the European Council, and now a member, as you tell us, of the EU, NATO, the euro zone and the Schengen area.

It is true that the current Balkan situation represents unfinished business; peace in the region is very important to all of us. Thank you particularly for your sensitive handling of the forthcoming Irish referendum needed for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

Perhaps I could add to our referendum slogan your words in your concluding remarks when you said: ‘I care about Europe because Europe cares about me’. What better slogan for the Irish referendum! We can take nothing for granted – it will be hard to deliver – but, believe you me, the Fine Gael Party, of which I am a member, our leader and all the Members of the European Parliament will leave no stone unturned to ensure a ‘yes’ outcome to the referendum of the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland. Thank you, and we look forward to delivering it to you during your Presidency.


  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). – Mr President, as a Finn I am a big fan of ski-jumping, and – to use an allegory – I would say to the Prime Minister that the task of the Slovenian Presidency is like the Planica hill, the instruments that you have are like Elan skis and I hope you have the willpower of Primož Peterka.

I think that this is going to be a successful Presidency for three reasons: one, you have prepared extremely well; two – and we heard it in your speech today – you are extremely humble; and three, you are very businesslike. That is a recipe for success.

You have three big tasks. If you can pull them off at the end of the Presidency, I think you have done it. One, the Treaty: if you have got a lot of Member States to ratify without problems, you have done a great job; two, the energy package: if you have got some of that done, you have done a great job; and three, if you have succeeded with Kosovo, you have done it.

I think the Slovenian Presidency is going to be one of the best ones that we have seen for a long time. Good luck!


  Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE). – Mr President, Slovenia is the first Member State which, having suffered under totalitarian Communism, can now take the lead in Europe as a whole. Therefore it is your historic challenge and chance, Prime Minster, to take the lead also in promoting integration of different historic experiences, to create a united and balanced perception of our history as a common European history.

I think you, and all of us, need to be confident that the mass murders which happened under Communism will never be repeated again. This can only happen if, in Europe as a whole, we pass the same moral and political verdict on totalitarian Communism as was passed on Nazism.


  President. − Two more speakers have come forward, both from the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, which was the group most strongly opposed to the ‘catch-the-eye’ system. In this respect it is interesting as to who makes the most use of it.


  Anna Ibrisagic (PPE-DE). – (SV) Mr President, first let me offer my heartfelt congratulations to Slovenia and wish you all the best for the Presidency. Janez Janša, a colleague of mine, has already put a question regarding your statement that the security situation in Bosnia is worse than that in Kosovo. I want to be sure that you really answer this question. I therefore ask it again: on what do you base this assertion? For it is quite simply not the case.

By making this statement you showed not only a lack of information but also a lack of diplomacy. If the situation had been so complicated in Bosnia and worse than in Kosovo, your statement would have been positively dangerous. I therefore expect an answer.


  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Prime Minister, we have various projects that are very important for us, including the ‘Research on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises’ project. I would ask that the Council’s conclusions insist that we are able to complete this at first reading because I believe that this is a pressing concern for our small and medium-sized enterprises.

The second point is that energy efficiency in production and consumption should be for us a focus of the debate. A large number of jobs can be created here. The Lisbon Agenda for new jobs and employment is very important for us all.


  Janez Janša, President-in-Office. − (SL) Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for the debate, questions, proposals and suggestions with such lively and interesting content. Much of what has been said will happily be considered in the next six months. I was pleased with your support for our priorities and especially touched when I heard the Slovenian national anthem being quoted, not by one of my Slovenian colleagues but by a colleague from France, and also when Slovenian products were mentioned, such as Elan skis, etc. In short, I enjoyed listening to the debate and I will be happy to answer some questions. Sadly, time will not permit me to answer them all.

Ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon is certainly one of the key political priorities of the European Union in 2008. We were particularly aware of the importance of the Treaty in the period before it was signed. At that time, everybody was talking about a crisis. Now that the Treaty has been signed, it is still just as important, although it has not yet been ratified, and this is where our responsibility lies. More precisely, it is a concrete responsibility of every Member State to bring about the ratification in accordance with procedures laid down by its national constitution or legislation. If possible, this should be done within an agreed deadline. We do not wish to interfere in the internal affairs of any country, either as a Member State or as the State holding the Presidency for these six months. Some countries in particular misconstrued some of the statements. We never asserted otherwise and we always appealed for solidarity in discussing sensitive issues that may affect the process of ratification in those Members States where this topic may sometimes even be controversial.

The progress of the European Union does not begin with the Slovenian Presidency and we are convinced that it will continue in all areas. The stated priorities were not mentioned in any particular order in the sense that we would approach one when we had completed the previous one. We will attempt to accomplish as much as possible in all the areas listed as priorities, as well as in the others.

I am pleased that the President of the European Commission was somewhat more specific on points where I had run out of time. Certainly, the environment and energy package will be one of the key challenges in the next six months and up to the end of this year. We must demonstrate in practice that our aims, set out in March last year, were intended seriously.

I would like to emphasise once more that I have no doubt that healthy economic growth is the only basis of prosperity. Certainly, that must be a priority. The Lisbon strategy is clear about that, and I would like to emphasise that the story does not end there. This is where the story of social justice begins and both stories are important. However, we must recognise that we first have to create before we can share equitably.

As regards the most frequently raised questions relating to the situation in the western Balkans, I would like to answer some very specific questions and firstly those relating to the legal foundations of the solution to this problem. We would not like the European Union to start a long discussion about the legal foundations, which of them are stronger and which weaker, once we have reached the end of a long search for concordant solutions.

There is absolutely no need for Europe to be divided on this issue just because other bodies are divided. The unity of the European Union in solving this problem will be one of our priorities.

I would like to remind you that a similar question and discussions about legal foundations in the mid-90’s of the last century led to more than 100,000 deaths in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one million people being displaced. It is difficult to make up that lost time, but we can learn something from it.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was never said to be a bigger security problem than Kosovo. However, what was said was that in some aspects it was a very serious problem, for instance the return of the refugees. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are still many refugees who have not been able to return to their homes. Many things that need to be done in that country have been planned, but they cannot be implemented until the refugees have returned to their homes. That is one of the challenges awaiting us and I am afraid that some of the things said about it have been misinterpreted.

Therefore, Ladies and Gentlemen, President of the Parliament, President of the Commission, the priorities presented are our common challenge. I am pleased with your support in realising them together. Once more I would like to emphasise the significance of the cooperation and synergy which we can achieve with the joint participation of all three key institutions of the European Union – the European Parliament, the European Commission and, of course, the Council.

We will do everything in our power to maximise that synergy. I am looking forward to being here with you on many occasions during the Slovenian Presidency and to fruitful and, as we have already seen, very lively discussions with you.



  President. − President-in-Office of the Council, my sincere thanks to you for the cogent introduction to your programme for the Slovenian Presidency. All contributions to the debate from the responsible group chairmen and other Members have created the impression that you can count on the enormous and unreserved support of the European Parliament. On behalf of us all I sincerely wish you every success in your work.


  José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. − Mr President, thank you for this very interesting debate, where I think there was a very large consensus supporting the priorities that were presented by the Slovenian Presidency. During my first statement I highlighted some – because I could not go into detail on all aspects – of the priorities for our work during these six months: the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the new cycle of the Lisbon Strategy and also our climate and energy package. Specifically on this point, I was very encouraged by the support that many of you gave to our work on this matter. It is very important that we now deliver on our commitments.

The Heads of State and Government agreed on ambitious targets – a 20% reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases and 20% for renewables. We cannot have the targets and then not deliver on the means of achieving those targets. It is a question of coherence and of credibility, and I was very encouraged by the support given to this during today’s debate.

I would like just to answer one question that was brought to the debate by Mr Schulz, Mr Lambsdorff and Mr Brok regarding a specific problem that is now being discussed in Germany – the question of possible funding for relocation of a company in Europe. I can tell you that the operational programme on competitiveness for Romania has a specific clause banning the use of Structural Funds for the cofinancing of delocalisation. The European Commission has not received any project relevant to this issue, so the Commission can confirm that no European regional development funding is implicated in this relocation. Of course we consider that it would be unacceptable to use funding from European Union funds for relocation inside the European Union.


At the same time it is true that the European Union, through the PHARE programme, has funded an industrial park in Romania where several companies are now investing. This is important and I will draw the attention of all my colleagues here, especially our German friends, to this debate and how important it is to have a responsibility in this debate.

We have to make a distinction between delocalisation outside the European Union and relocation in Europe. If investment goes from Finland to Germany, it can also go from Germany to Romania. Let us be honest about it. We have to make clear that this is not delocalisation outside the European Union. As you remember, the Commission and I have proposed a Globalisation Adjustment Fund that is already working precisely for cases where some jobs could be affected by delocalisations outside the European Union. It is very important that European leaders at all levels in the European Union – in the Commission, in the European Parliament, but also at national level – also have the courage to explain the benefits of enlargement.


Germany is the country that is now exporting more to the new Member States. The enlargement of the European Union is creating jobs in Germany too. German companies are also investing a lot in the new Member States. So it very important from a European perspective that we all explain that enlargement of the European Union is not only good for the new Members but it is also an opportunity for the European Union as a whole.


At the same time, I agree that we have to check that no Structural Funds money is used to finance a specific delocalisation of a company. That would be unfair competition. But I call on all those who are pro-European to stand up and defend this united enlarged Europe, and also to exploit the benefits that we all, in all the new Member States, are getting from this more dynamic Europe that we can build today.



  President. − Many thanks, President of the Commission, for this statement. We wish the Slovenian Presidency every success. We will now go together to the press conference. Voting will then take place here. Thank you for the very intensive and good debate.

Written declarations (Rule 142)


  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. (FR) Congratulations, Prime Minister Janša, for your speech to our European Parliament. You are the first leader of one of the nations freed from the yoke of communism that joined the European Union in 2004 to be President of the European Council.

It is a challenge for you, for your people and for your government. There are no large and small countries: there are good and bad ones. Your economic results, your recent acceptance into the euro area and the prosperity of your people make you an example that should inspire many countries teaching lessons to others.

You are the final part of the ‘troika’ that began with Germany and continued with Portugal, and you will pave the way for the success of the Presidencies in the next ‘troika’: France, the Czech Republic and Sweden. As I write these lines, I am thinking of Kosovo, your brothers in the Western Balkans, and their future in Europe.


  Alessandro Battilocchio (PSE), in writing. – (IT) Thank you, Mr President. The Slovenian Presidency commences at a time when, in Europe, a sense of moderate optimism regarding the EU’s future is again beginning to be felt. After a few years of confusion and uncertainty, the time has really come to make the EU 27 project take wing. Once again, I would like to ask the Presidency-in-Office to reflect on one particular issue, and that is the two meeting places of the European Parliament.

Now, when we are constantly asking the citizens of our various countries to make sacrifices, we will give a really strong signal if we decide to focus all our work in Brussels. The cost, in terms of financial resources and organisational inconvenience, incurred by Europe due to this monthly change of location is becoming truly unacceptable in the eyes of citizens, who cannot understand the reasons for such an absurd situation. The seat in Strasbourg, which is of course a magnificent city, could be used for other prestigious purposes within the EU’s activities. Let us give a good example and, on that theme, let us turn words into action.


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (PT) As was clear from the debate, and as expressly stated in its programme, the Slovenian Presidency will continue to follow closely the agenda of the German Presidency, giving priority to the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon. We know that the political elites of the European Union want the Treaty to be ratified by all Member States before the 2009 elections. They are therefore keeping up strong pressure to avoid referendums being held, except in Ireland where the constitution requires it, thereby making clear their attitude to democracy and getting closer to the citizens: only when there are no risks of the citizens voting against their opinions and interests.

Next, their major priority appears to be what they call the ‘second cycle of the Lisbon strategy’, to increase liberalisation and attacks on public services and social and labour rights. We are also afraid that the situation unfolding in Kosovo is more of a threat to peace and development in Europe if there is a unilateral declaration of independence.

Meanwhile, the serious social problems of unemployment, precarious employment, poverty and growing social and territorial inequality remain unsolved.

We will keep up the fight to abandon these neoliberal policies and to embrace a different Europe of social justice, peace and social progress.


  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (PT) With the Slovenian Presidency of the Council comes the opening of the third act of the farce orchestrated by the forces promoting federalist, neoliberal and militarist integration in Europe, in which the EU – with Germany at the helm – imposes a treaty that was previously rejected, avoiding the holding of national referendums.

They say that there is no need to hold referendums:

- Because there is a ‘broad consensus’ in every country on what the Treaty proposes, especially in the national parliaments. However, one of the main lessons of the referendums in France and the Netherlands was surely that they revealed a profound contradiction between the will of the people and the ‘parliamentary majorities’.

- Because ratification by the parliaments is as legitimate and democratic as ratification by referendum. How then should we understand the claim that holding a referendum in Portugal would aggravate the risks of the Treaty not entering into force? What they fear is a referendum result that differs from what they want, and so do not hold any.

- Because the Treaty proposal is different from the one that was rejected previously and involves ‘substantial change’. Yet they do not say what. However, do the promoters themselves not claim that the substance is the same? Read the statements by Giscard d’Estaing.

They are motivated by fear…


  Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE-DE), in writing. – (PL) The Slovenian Presidency’s programme meets all the requirements of one who is interested in economics and is convinced that being in good economic shape is one of the keys to the success of the Union.

In the Presidency’s programme I have found many important references to the Lisbon Strategy and to the role of the internal market in the process of strengthening the EU in the international arena.

The 21st century Union should concentrate on education and training. A well-educated society has huge potential, and this in turn must find an application in the economy, which is chiefly based on flourishing small and medium-sized businesses that are easy to set up, without unnecessary formalities and expense. These companies must have access to well-trained employees and to research resources, new technologies and so on. The Presidency is devoting much attention to this.

The Presidency’s declaration that it will get involved in eliminating barriers and will concentrate on better regulation sends businesses an important signal. One thing we know is that there is nothing worse than bad legislation.

It seems to me to be particularly important to link the initiative of removing administrative barriers for businesses with the opening up of new paths to new technologies.

The Presidency will also keep consumers in mind; the interests of consumers are just as important as those of business, and should be represented and protected in the same way.

The Presidency’s programme is very ambitious, but it also sets out its priorities clearly, and I agree with those priorities.

It only remains for me to convey my congratulations and wish you every success.


  Gábor Harangozó (PSE), in writing. – (HU) Before I start, I would like to welcome the ambitious programme of the Slovenian Presidency, which is treating the important cohesion of the Western Balkans as a prominent question for the whole EU.

According to the Commission’s annual report for 2006, the accession of 2004 was a great result for the old and new Member States, but the smooth management of the process was the key factor in its success.

The EU currently has to confront new challenges that require greater efforts. Maximum support from the Slovenian Presidency in fulfilling all the priorities of its programme is essential for handling these matters appropriately, including the creation of the preconditions for Croatian and Turkish accession.

The fundamental interest of the EU is supporting the processes of reform in the Western Balkans, and in sorting out the Kosovo situation within the framework of the European Perspective in a way that is acceptable to everyone. Enlargement is a strategic and security policy interest for the EU, and requires an effective development policy and cooperation in partnership.

The emphasis must also continue to be placed on dealing with programmes for the Western Balkans that serve to reduce differences in the state of development and strengthen social, economic and regional cohesion. However, stimulating investment in human resources and supporting the development of a knowledge-based, creative society are essential for ensuring balance between increasing competitiveness and cohesion, and encouraging the development of the Western Balkans. In accordance with the principle of European solidarity, efforts must be made to end poverty and guarantee ‘direct aid’ for the countries of the Western Balkans too. It is our joint responsibility to support the programme of the Slovenian Presidency so as to achieve the main objectives of the Union.


  Janusz Lewandowski (PPE-DE), in writing. – (PL) All the countries that have joined the European Union since 2004 are proud of the fact that one of them – Slovenia – is taking on the Presidency. We welcome the new Presidency’s announcements and the first steps it has taken. The priorities for the first half of 2008 are to a large extent evidence that the work of Slovenia’s predecessors is being continued, primarily in the sphere of revival of the Lisbon Agenda, ratification of the new Treaty and action to prevent global warming. Continuity of work is a desirable feature in the European Union, bearing in mind the half-yearly cycle of the Presidency.

Independently of its declared priorities, Slovenia, because of its geography and history, is seen as a country with links to the Balkans. This brings with it both opportunities to enlarge the Union further and, first and foremost, serious problems regarding the question of Kosovo’s independence. An understanding of this problem area is a clear ace that the new Presidency holds.

We also hope that a country which has gone through the labour of transformation and adaptation to EU standards will appreciate the problems new Member States face in terms of unreasonable obligations regarding renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions. A balance needs to be found between care in protecting the natural environment and the need to keep the European economy competitive in global terms. I wish you success, and thank you for your attention.


  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE), in writing. – (SK) The start of 2008, of ‘Together in Diversity: the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue’, is a significant period for the EU, all the more so due to the fact that the EU Presidency in the first half of the year will for the first time be held by a new Member State, Slovenia.

Four priority areas that emphasise the implementation of the new Lisbon Strategy for growth and employment, energy, climate change and relations with the Western Balkans can contribute towards synergy in Europe. Slovenia has an opportunity to become the architect of EU world leadership in the fight against global warming.

The acceptance of the euro is currently a hot topic in Slovakia. Slovakia’s acceptance into the euro zone will be decided during the Slovenian Presidency of the European Union. Slovenia is an example to Slovakia: it was the first of the EU-10 countries and the thirteenth of all EU Member States to introduce the euro, which it did in 2007. Slovakia can learn from many of Slovenia’s experiences and can use them in its own preparation for the introduction of the euro. I expect that Slovenia will do everything possible to make sure that the decision on whether to introduce the euro in Slovakia by the planned deadline of 1 January 2009 has a positive outcome.

I hope that by its actions the Slovenian Presidency can convince 500 million European citizens that even a small country with 2 million people is capable of successful leadership of the EU during its six-month presidency. I believe that Slovenia will indeed succeed.


  Margie Sudre (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I would like to give my warmest wishes for success to the Slovenian Presidency, which represents a form of consecration of the reunification of a Europe divided by the Cold War.

Slovenia, which has cooperated with Germany and Portugal to prepare an 18-month programme, ends a cycle of presidencies marked by a successful relaunch of the institutions and the heavy responsibility of seeing through the process of ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon.

It is a major challenge to which we must all contribute, in each of our respective Member States, to ensure that the forthcoming French Presidency can put this new common foundation definitively in place before the European elections in 2009.

The Slovenian Presidency must also continue and complete the Lisbon Strategy to meet the challenges Europe has to face on energy and climate change, growth and employment.

I sincerely hope that the Slovenian Presidency will manage to guarantee peace and stability in the Western Balkans and produce a unified EU approach to the issue of the final status of Kosovo so that 2008, the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, can truly be a chance for all Europeans to reaffirm their values of tolerance and mutual understanding.


  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (PSE), in writing. – (HU) It is of historical significance that a new Member State that joined the Union in 2004 is leading it in the first half of 2008. This is a major step forward in the recently acceded countries taking the places they deserve at the Union table.

There is a huge amount at stake for the first Presidency from one of the new Member States, and Slovenia is leading the Union at a key time. The most important duties of the Slovenian Presidency are helping with the ratification process for the Lisbon Treaty, dynamically setting in motion the new three-year cycle for the Lisbon Strategy and continuing to develop the integrated energy and climate protection policy.

The Slovenian Presidency is handling the integration of the Western Balkans, especially the question of Kosovo’s future status, as a priority. Slovenia’s sensitivity and knowledge of the region may make the complicated organisation process a little easier and promote preservation of the unity achieved by the European Council of December 2007 with regard to the missions to be sent to Kosovo.

In March, during the Slovenian Presidency, the European Commission will propose legislation for a health check on the Common Agricultural Policy, which will be the overture to comprehensive conceptual and funding reforms for the CAP. The Presidency will also emphasise programmes for the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue in 2008.

We are cheering on our Slovenian friends, so that they have a successful Presidency. I am sure that the Slovenian policies and diplomacy will successfully solve the difficult tasks, and that, as a new Member State, we can be proud of our neighbour.




3. Agenda

  President. − We have an announcement before we start with regard to this afternoon’s debates. I should like to propose bringing forward the debate on the report by Díaz de Mera García Consuegra on EUROPOL and taking it as the second item before the Council and Commission statements on the situation in Pakistan.

The order of business this afternoon would, therefore, be as follows: from 15.00 to 18.00: first of all, the Council and Commission statements on the situation in Kenya, then the report by Díaz de Mera García Consuegra on EUROPOL, then the Council and Commission statements on the situation in Pakistan; then at 18.00, as normal, we would go on to Question Time with the Council.

Are there any comments?


  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Madam President, for once we can agree, but I should like the Commission to note that it is Parliament that sets the agenda and only in exceptional circumstances can we respond to the wishes of individual Commissioners. We can agree today, however, by way of exception.


  President. − Thank you for that point, Mr Swoboda; it clearly is an exception. But I thank the House for its agreement.

(Parliament agreed to the request)


4. Voting time

  President. − The next item is the vote.

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


4.1. (A6-0508/2007, Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf) Commission measures in 2008-2013 to make use of CAP remote-sensing applications (vote)

4.2. (A6-0504/2007, Kurt Lechner) Consumer credit (vote)

- Before the vote:


  Meglena Kuneva, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, I would like to take the opportunity to clarify a point which was raised in yesterday’s debate on the proposal for a Consumer Credit Directive. This point concerned the new version of Article 8 concerning the obligation to assess the credit-worthiness of consumers. Both amendments 46 and 45 foresee that Member States whose legislation requires creditors to assess the creditworthiness of consumers on the basis of consultation of the relevant database may retain this requirement. As I understand it, this also means that the sanctions foreseen in this national legislation for a failure of the creditor to fulfil these requirements could also be retained.


  Kurt Lechner, rapporteur. − (DE) Madam President, as we have now been debating this guideline in the institutions for six years, I would therefore like to make a few comments. Firstly, I would say that this should not be taken as a criticism, but this lengthy period shows how European legislators have dealt very earnestly with this complicated subject and how close consumer protection lies to our hearts in Europe. I am confident that the legislative procedure will be finalised with today’s vote, which is also my intention, despite all the differences on the subject at various points. I want to expressly put on record that in my view all the joint amendments now available without exception improve the Council’s text, the joint position. They certainly also hark back for the most part to my own proposals.

To clarify matters, I wish to say that we have wanted to reach an agreement, and in order to come to an agreement, on Article 16(2) as well, which until recently had actually been disputed merely on account of the wording, we have decided to approve the proposal by the Socialists and Liberals in order to resolve this issue amicably, just as we have also withdrawn a few other amendments for the sake of harmony.

I also wish to thank the Commission, the Council and Members expressly (we have had intensive, even heated discussions) for the cooperative and enjoyable teamwork. As regards the remaining proposals, I would emphasise the statement that in my view they are merely an additional improvement to the joint position and would in no way compromise consumer protection and the benefit this would have from the directive, because it is also a high priority for us.

I wish to conclude by expressing the hope that the positive expectations arising from the directive will also be met.



  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Madam President, yesterday the IND/DEM Group asked for all the votes to be roll-call votes. I note in today’s votes that, again, all the votes are roll-call votes. Yesterday the President said that he was going to examine whether it was in fact possible for the IND/DEM Group to ask for roll-call votes. Am I to understand that it is possible, and that from now on all our votes will be roll-call votes?


  President. − Mr Matsakis, it will be discussed at the Conference of Presidents tomorrow but what I would say is that this is an important vote, so it is probably in all our interests that it is by roll-call vote.

Mr Bonde has asked for the floor.


  Jens-Peter Bonde, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Madam President, I had asked for the floor before.

Our voting yesterday went very well. It was quicker than normal – smooth, calm and there was not a single request for the time-consuming and irritating check. Therefore my group proposes we should continue with electronic voting.

Some six months ago I was promised an exercise where the numbers of the reports and the numbers of the amendments would be shown alongside our voting. The new, much bigger screens can show the full voting list and save us much more time because we can vote immediately when we see the numbers in different colours on the screen. We will not need to wait for the interpretation. We will avoid the situation where those waiting for interpretation through a relay are voting on one issue while those who vote without relay are voting on the next item. We would save a lot of time.



  President. − Thank you, Mr Bonde, we have noted that. Work is ongoing on that project, but now I think the House would like to move on with this morning’s vote.


4.3. (A6-0520/2007, Roberta Angelilli) Towards an EU strategy on the rights of the child (vote)

- Before the vote:


  Francesco Enrico Speroni (UEN).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to raise a point of order: without wishing to interfere with the procedure, I would like to know if there is a rule by which it is compulsory each time to state, as well as the result, the number of voters, the number of abstentions and so on, or whether this is your own choice.


  President. − If you do not wish me to tell you I will not, but it is, clearly, good to be certain.

– After the vote on paragraph 60:


  Thomas Wise (IND/DEM). – Madam President, could you at least put the results on the screens in front of us if you are not going to call them out?


  President. − You just have to raise your eyes if you wish to see the result.

- After the vote:


  Robert Evans (PSE). – Madam President, I am advised by the services that each additional roll-call vote costs EUR 400, which makes the cost of yesterday’s escapade in excess of EUR 25 000.

So, I would ask those who are calling for roll-call votes all the time whether they think that is a good use of taxpayers’ money.


  Daniel Hannan (PPE-DE). – Madam President, if the cost of every roll-call vote is really EUR 400, I suggest that this Chamber is running itself with all the efficiency that it also applies to the common agricultural policy, to structural aid, to international development and to the rest of the European Union budget. Surely we can do it more cheaply than that!


  Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM). – Madam President, here is a practical suggestion. One of the expenses is that we translate votes, but these are only numbers, so we need only one edition of the votes. We do not need to put them into every language because we are dealing with numbers, and the names are the same in every language. So we can cut expense there. I think of all the bits of paper we produce in this Parliament. The most important thing for the citizen is to know how we vote.



4.4. (A6-0502/2007, Doris Pack) Adult learning: It is never too late to learn (vote)

- After the vote:


  Arlene McCarthy, President of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. – Madam President, I wanted to intervene after the vote on the Lechner report. I did not want to interrupt the voting, but I merely wanted to thank the PPE-DE Group for supporting the common position so that we now have a very strong majority, which will be a very good signal to both consumers and businesses that we intend to open up the market and protect consumers.

Madam President, I know that you have taken a very active role in this dossier and I think it is a credit to all the parties that we just got a tremendous majority in the end after many doubts and reservations.


5. Explanations of vote

Oral explanations of vote


- Report: Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf (A6-0508/2007)


  Christopher Heaton-Harris (PPE-DE). – Madam President, as someone who has followed, through the Committee on Budgetary Control, a number of the Court of Auditors’ reports concerning misappropriations and fraudulent spending of monies from the agriculture budget, I must say how pleased I am to see this Parliament welcoming new technology in many different ways, especially in this field of agriculture.

I hope that in future years this information – as one of the amendments in this report suggested – can be spread via the internet to all those people across the European Union who would like to see it, especially to the various national audit authorities in each Member State so they can see, for example, if in Greece they are claiming more acreage for olive-producing land than they actually have.

I am also standing up because I want to talk about the Constitutional Treaty. I want to make sure that this House gets a say and that people get a referendum in the future, and that is why I am giving explanations of votes on all reports.


  Syed Kamall (PPE-DE). – Madam President, it may not be obvious why, as a representative of London, I am giving an explanation of vote on a matter concerning farming and the common agricultural policy. But we have to recognise that the common agricultural policy also affects consumers right across the EU in the form of higher prices.

Therefore it is incumbent on all of us to make sure that we are monitoring how taxpayers’ money is spent in a number of areas, including the common agricultural policy.

I understand that, in response to the common agricultural policy management needs, there is considerable need for information on land use, and that is why I think we all welcome the use of better technology. I hope that many of my constituents will benefit in terms of providing that technology.

I also have to agree with my colleague that one of the reasons I am giving an explanation of vote is because the people of Europe and the people of Britain should be given a say on the Constitutional Treaty in the form of a referendum.


  President. − I would like to remind colleagues that we are taking explanations of vote on the reports concerned. If anybody tries to speak about anything else, I am afraid I will stop your speech, in accordance with the Rules.


  Daniel Hannan (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I will with pleasure speak on the report itself. The Graefe zu Baringdorf report, explaining as it does the new methods to address fraud and agrarian policy under the common agricultural policy (CAP), is dealing with one of the most inefficient, expensive, wasteful, bureaucratic and amoral systems of farm support known to man, and no amount of agro-meteorological gimmickry can rescue it. Extrapolate from the experience of the CAP; infer from it.

Before handing new powers to any organisation, we should first look at how it exercises the powers it already controls. Agriculture has been, since 1960, the European Union’s chief competence. Look at the mess it has made – the ecological destruction, the destruction of surpluses, the poverty inflicted on Africa. Is this the institution that we now want to put in charge of foreign policy, of criminal justice, of defence, and if it is, should we not consult the people in the referendums that we were promised?

The Elder Cato is supposed to have ended every speech, whatever its subject, with the demand that Carthage be destroyed. I shall end mine with the demand that the Lisbon Treaty be put to the people: Pactio Olisipio censenda est!


  Jim Allister (NI). – Madam President, I do not think any of us should be unduly concerned about new technology, but it is important that it is properly used and not abused.

But there is much abuse, particularly in southern Europe in regard to the common agricultural policy, and I trust this technology may do something towards eliminating this. If it does, we could save much more than the EUR 400 that someone complained about when it comes to bringing transparency to voting.

I note that this report talks about remote sensing. Well, I would also say this: if Europe could get a sense of democratic sensing, then it would sense across Europe a great resentment at the shutting out of citizens and the denying to them of the right to express their opinion on the most important matter, namely the matter of how they should be governed.


  Roger Helmer (NI). – Madam President, the common agricultural policy is a leftover from the 20th century. We are seeing more and more demand for agricultural products driven by demographics and biofuels. The idea that we as the European Union should spend a large part of our budget on subsidising agricultural production is, quite simply, out of date and, therefore, there is no reason why we need better technology to do the wrong thing. We should stop doing the wrong thing.

I have to say that I voted in favour of this measure as a loyal Conservative following the whip, but I did so with great reluctance.

In addition, I have to question the right of this House – the democratic legitimacy of this House – to adopt this measure and any other measure given that we reject the verdict of the people on the Lisbon Treaty.


  Nirj Deva (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I sense that this measure of remote sensing would actually be very efficient with regard to cutting out the bureaucracy that some of my farmers in the South East of England have to suffer at present with regard to tagging. If this mechanism is to work properly, I recognise that it would be more efficient in the operation of the extremely inefficient bureaucratic system which we recognise as the CAP. So in that regard, as a loyal Conservative, I followed the whip and supported this measure. However, I recognise that an overhaul of the complete CAP system is long overdue and I call upon our colleagues in this Parliament who recognise the same thing to accelerate that process. I do, however, sense – and I feel – that if we can remote sense cows, why do we not remote sense the people’s views about the referendum?


  Derek Roland Clark (IND/DEM). – Madam President, I am very happy to rise to explain my vote on the Graefe zu Baringdorf report, where I voted against it. I did so because any kind of remote-sensing apparatus is bound to lead to longer-distance surveillance. Where will that end? We do not wish the people of Europe to be surveyed by some kind of remote sensor – cameras in the sky – because that is exactly what the Graefe zu Baringdorf report will lead to by extension.

Is this, we have to ask ourselves, an excuse to give work for the Galileo project, the enormous expense of which, if not used there, would have paid for all the roll-call votes in this House for the next ten years?

If the EU wants to survey anything, let it survey the wishes of the people of Europe and hold a referendum on the new Constitution signed in Lisbon, without delay.


  Godfrey Bloom (IND/DEM). – Madam President, I know you actually share our views on this referendum because I know you personally want one yourself, because it would give legitimacy to this place. But leaving that political difference aside, I – happily – am not a Conservative, therefore I do not have to vote blindly for complete nonsense. I can vote with common sense, and I voted against the Baringdorf report because I find the whole idea of the spy in the sky and satellites deeply distasteful and extremely frightening. I think it can only lead to long-term abuse. It is bound to happen – and I know our lady friend down here, who is all motherhood and apple pie, thinks it is absolutely wonderful – but of course we have got to look at the next generation. I am afraid I have a deep distrust of politicians. If they can abuse a power, they always do, and I see this as being absolutely no different, so I voted against.


  Graham Booth (IND/DEM). – Madam President, I should like to explain why I voted against the report by Mr Graefe zu Baringdorf. The CAP has done nothing but ruin our farming industry in the UK for well over 30 years; we do not want interference from the EU; this will extend their interference yet again. So the reason for voting against it is that we would like to get the powers of running our own agriculture back to Britain. However, there is very little chance of that while we ignore the votes of the people in France and Holland in the referendum that we should be given on the Constitution.


- Report: Kurt Lechner (A6-0504/2007)


  Jan Březina (PPE-DE). – (CS) I would like to stress that I voted for the report on consumer credit, because I think that the report is a step in the right direction. I am pleased that we have managed to tame the regulatory enthusiasm of the Commission and the Council for more detailed legislation, which, in my opinion, is not desirable. There are differences between the Member States as result of their diverse law traditions and cultures of financing and an attempt to erase these differences by force will not, in my opinion, lead to success. Therefore, it is good that the European Parliament has focused on the basic elements: principles of harmonisation of consumer credit (here I would like to stress the right to cancel an agreement and the option of early repayment without a financial penalty for the consumer). I consider a two-week deadline for withdrawal from an agreement by either of the parties to be necessary for the legal certainty of all the parties involved. At the same time it is important to ensure that in the case of a linked credit agreement this deadline may be reduced to three days at the request of the consumer. It will enable consumers to take earlier possession of the product purchased. I think that a provision that guarantees that early repayment of credit cannot harm consumers is more than sufficient. The Member States will be obliged to integrate this provision into their national legislation and consumer interests will thus be protected.


  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased that today, after six years of discussions, we have provided Europe with

harmonised credit rules. Consumer protection will be enhanced and this will also apply across borders. It is possible that it might help a little to reduce unwanted household debts. The fourteen-day deadline for withdrawal from an agreement without penalty should help, as will the duty to supply the buyer in advance with standardised information on all loan charges. The new element is the right to repay the loan early. What divided us most was how to make sure that the banks do not charge horrendous penalties for early repayments. The level of the penalties should now correspond only to the actual expenditure. However, I think that it would be appropriate to limit, too, the level of the charges, in view of the residual value of credit, which is what we have voted for today.


  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE).(SK) Madam President, I have voted for the Council common position, which was amended by the Kurt Lechner report.

After more than six years of legislative work, the directive on consumer credit agreements is a significant step forward in the protection of contractual freedom and encourages responsible decision-making by consumers. It is necessary to bear in mind that a large number of regulations does not automatically mean greater consumer protection. A deluge of information can cause greater confusion precisely in the case of an inexperienced consumer and the objective of simplicity and transparency is missed. In addition, it entails higher costs, which are in the end passed on to the consumer.

In spite of continuing interest in buying on credit and in spite of the use of consumer credit products, very few consumers are aware of the risks connected with consumer credit, for example that in the event of illness or loss of job they might not be able to pay. I believe that this directive will help consumers to make the correct decisions on the basis of a quick and simple process of being able to compare more offers from domestic, as well as foreign, providers.


  Christopher Heaton-Harris (PPE-DE). – Madam President, on the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection where this report has been gestating for a long period of time in both readings, it is well known that I have had some severe criticism of it from its early stages where it was confusing new products that are available in one market – such as the UK market, such as mortgages where you can offset your credit balance with the same bank against your mortgage – which under initial proposals would have been banned in this report, to where we have now, after six years, new concerns – even though we have been talking about this report for six years – about the early repayment of credit costs.

This is an amazingly important piece of legislation. It will affect huge numbers of people including anyone that owns a home in my constituency. I was talking about it in a Conservative meeting in the village of Harpole at the house of a man called Michael Orton-Jones who raised it with me personally, about the consumer credit directive and the money-laundering directives that are passed in this House.

We have got to be much more careful in the way that we deal with this sort of very important legislation.


  Syed Kamall (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I represent London, the greatest city in the world, which happens to be home to Europe’s two largest financial districts: firstly, the City of London, which, as we all know, is the pre-eminent financial force in the world, and, secondly, the Docklands – Canary Wharf – which used to trade in all manner of goods all over the world, and now it trades in financial services all over the world.

I think it was that great group of Swedish philosophers who said: ‘Money, money, money, I work all day, I work all night to pay the bills I have to pay, ain’t it sad. But in my dreams I have a plan. I’ll get myself a wealthy man.’

In my case that is not going to be true, because I do not happen to subscribe to that particular taste. But what I will say is that it is important for consumers right across Europe that we continue to look at ways to make it easier to have access to consumer credit, not only for my constituents in London but also for the financial services industry.


  President. − Mr Kamall, I am trying to take this very seriously, but I hope it is not going to degenerate into the radio programme Just a Minute that we know so well in the UK.



  Daniel Hannan (PPE-DE). – Madam President, one minute without repetition, deviation or – what was the other one? Hesitation! Quite so.

Let us start, then, from first principles. Why does the European Union need to have a policy on the harmonisation of consumer credit laws? There seems to me to be a contextual misunderstanding behind this report. Free trade and open markets do not require common laws on every aspect of commercial activity. In fact, if anything, the opposite is true. Free markets depend upon diversity, variety, pluralism and, although a degree of light regulation at national level may sometimes be in order, that does not equate to euro-harmonisation of every aspect of market activity.

This is important because it seems to me that the same conceptual error lies behind the extension of EU jurisdiction in the various fields proposed in the Lisbon Treaty. As in the field of consumer protection, so in the fields of justice and home affairs, foreign affairs, defence and all the rest.

If these areas are to be transferred largely or wholly to Brussels, we ought at least to have the courtesy to consult our constituents first. The Treaty of Lisbon should be put to the people: Pactio Olisipio censenda est!


  Jim Allister (NI). – Madam President, harmonisation, as we all know, has been a primary tool of the EU since its inception. It has reached into every facet of our lives and it is quite clear that it is a strategy – a strategy, of course, to diminish the relevance and the import of national decisions and the ability to take national decisions and thereby diminish national institutions.

So it has been the modus operandi of intensifying European integration and it is something therefore which I come to with quite a hostile attitude. Because fundamentally I believe in the right of Member States to govern within their boundaries that which affects their citizens.

There is one aspect of harmonisation we could help on. We could harmonise giving to the citizens of Europe the right to have their say on the Lisbon Treaty.


  Roger Helmer (NI). – Madam President, I think it is relevant when making an explanation of vote actually to say how we voted. In my case I voted in favour of this measure, again as a loyal Conservative, again following the whip and again, had I been left to make my own decision, I would have voted against it, for the reasons very clearly set out by some of my colleagues, particularly Mr Hannon’s reference to free markets requiring diversity.


  Christopher Heaton-Harris (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I can ask the honourable Member if he can give way to me. I just wondered if he could maybe re-assess his comments because, this being a second reading report, there was a ...

(The President cut off the speaker)


  President. − Sorry, but we will have the explanation of vote from Mr Helmer. Each speaker has one minute in which to give an explanation of vote. Mr Helmer, please continue.


  Roger Helmer (NI). – Madam President, I agree that credit should be a matter for national governments to decide, subject to local custom and practice. The amount of credit taken across borders is not sufficient to justify harmonisation, but may I suggest that the European Union itself is running out of credit with citizens because it refuses to take the necessary action, through referendums, to legitimise itself?


  Nirj Deva (PPE-DE). – Madam President, this reminds me of my days in the House of Commons. If this report in the slightest way could have helped Mr Brown and this inept Labour Government back home not to have had the Northern Rock crisis, if this report had been in any way useful in teaching this Labour Government back home how to run an economy, well, I might have said this report is a good one.

But, being a loyal Conservative I had to support it; I followed the whip. But if we talk about credit, credit means trust, and if the European Union cannot trust its citizens and the citizens of Europe cannot trust the European institutions, is that why we are not going for a referendum? Because we do not trust our citizens to decide in the right way?


  Derek Roland Clark (IND/DEM). – Madam President, I voted in this report in order to help Member States and I therefore pick out these bits: Amendment 46, split vote – Member States’ own laws may not be waived. I voted for that and I am glad to see that I was supported. I voted for Amendment 9, part 1 – extending areas in which an obligation shall not apply. I am sorry to see that failed. I voted for Amendment 29, where it states that compensation must be according to national law. I am sorry to see that failed as well.

I voted, therefore, in order to help Member State governments, but that should not be read to mean that I want a Member State government to interfere in the affairs of finance houses and banks. As my colleague Mr Deva pointed out, they are signally ill-equipped to do so. In the case of Northern Rock, they have spent half the Treasury money on trying to rescue it, and who knows if that is at an end. What we know is at an end are the referendums on the Lisbon Treaty, and that should not be so.


  Graham Booth (IND/DEM). – Madam President, I have a confession to make. I have absolutely no qualifications whatsoever for this job and yet I find myself sitting here helping to make legislation that affects around 400 million people. When I look around the full Chamber, I fear that very many of the Members share my lack of qualifications, looking at the level of debate we seem to get here. The people, the citizens of the Member States, have an enormous amount of intelligence collectively, yet we deny them the right to make their own decisions. In my view, this is in an area that politicians should keep well out of and give the people their own decisions; in particular, please let them have a referendum on the EU Constitution.


- Report: Roberta Angelilli (A6-0520/2007)


  John Attard-Montalto (PSE). – (MT) I wish to briefly explain the manner in which I voted in order to attract the attention of the Maltese authorities. I would like to draw attention to two cases in particular. Firstly, the case of the Gozitan boy, Mr Attard’s son, which attracted media attention in the last two years because of the way in which his father suffered prejudice by being denied his paternal rights as a father figure and bringing the child to live in his country, Gozo. Secondly, the recent criminal case of a 13-year-old girl, in which the authorities did not know where to send her; she was sent first to prison, and then to a mental institution. This is a grave failure. Thank you.


  Hubert Pirker (PPE-DE). – (DE) Madam President, I speak on behalf of the ÖVP-Europa-Club [Austrian People’s Party European Club]. We have blackballed all articles that include the right to sexual and reproductive health, because the interpretation of this text can also, of course, be used to terminate pregnancies at any point in time and we are against this.

We voted in favour of Article 127 on the headscarf ban, because young people should not be encouraged to wear political symbols and because we want to guarantee that freedom to vote and freedom of choice continue to be safeguarded for young people.

We also voted in favour of Article 116, but this does not mean that mandatory legal consequences would be derived from it.


  Christopher Heaton-Harris (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I came to this report actually with some trepidation, because I am always aware that many of these reports call for an extension of powers in this place that we do not actually have already.

In my constituency I represent a town called Rothley in Leicestershire, which is where the McCanns live. They have been very active in calling upon this Parliament to be more active in holding registers of missing children and various other matters.

I also represent in the town of Northampton a new charity called ‘KidsAid’ founded by a gentleman called David Mackintosh, who again had strong opinions that most of this report was actually very, very good.

However, as is always the case in this House, political correctness took over, and you look at amendments 162, 163 and 164 and you see how this place tries to extend its powers.

There is a motto which is used around this place: if you do not succeed, redefine success. It is what you have done on the Lisbon Treaty, and I very much hope that the people in my constituency get to have a say on that.


  Syed Kamall (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I rise to offer an explanation of vote on the Angelilli report ‘Towards an EU strategy on the rights of the child’. I note in the explanatory statement that the rapporteur says she ‘wishes to point out that the aim of this report is not to draw up a list of problems to be resolved or rights to be taken into account as a matter of priority’.

I represent a constituency, London, the greatest city in the world, capital of the greatest country in the world, and there are a number of children in my constituency. In fact, I am the father of two children and, as the great philosopher once said, I believe that children are our future. Therefore, it is important that we do take account of the rights of children. But I really have to question whether this should be done at EU level.

Let us look, for example, at whether we want young adolescents to be given information and education on that dirty word ‘sexual and reproductive rights’. I think we should be very careful in looking for local solutions – and give the people of Britain a say on a referendum on the Constitution.


  Daniel Hannan (PPE-DE). – Madam President, Disraeli once replied to a delegation with the phrase ‘to the liberalism that they profess, I prefer the liberties we enjoy, to the rights of man, the rights of Englishmen’.

Our national tradition of rights is not merely different from the European conception of universal entitlements; it is incompatible. We point to specific liberties, ones at specific moments guaranteed in specific charters, whether Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights or in simple statute acts; we do not put our faith in universalist human rights codes interpreted by judges for whom we cannot vote.

I have to say, our tradition has had more success than that pursued by some of the continental states which have taken the universalist path. We have not fallen, as other countries have, either to revolution or to dictatorship. We believe that all rights are residual in the individual.

As Aldous Huxley once put it, ‘liberties are not given, they are taken’. That is why I fundamentally oppose the incorporation of the EU Charter in the Lisbon Treaty without a referendum. The people must be consulted: Pactio Olisipio censenda est!


  Jim Allister (NI). – Madam President, there are serious issues here and there are serious moral issues. Certainly my vote was motivated in great measure by consideration of some of those. I find portions of this report offensive. I find it offensive to take the position that one must impose upon children what someone perceives to be, in their view, the reproductive rights for adolescents that we find in recital L and in paragraphs 162, 163 and 164 etc.

It does seem to me wrong and inappropriate to have foisted upon one society ideological and morally prejudicial values which might be at variance with the established ethical outlook of a particular region. It is that which I fundamentally object to and, as Mr Hannan has said, it is that which the Charter will bring to us more and more. That is why I want my citizens to be able to agree or disagree.


  Roger Helmer (NI). – Madam President, I voted against this measure. For the first time we come to an item where the Conservative whip was a free vote and I took advantage of that freedom.

I agree very much with what my colleagues have already said. This measure contains much that I agree with: it contains a great deal of motherhood and apple pie, and we all agree with motherhood and apple pie.

But, on the other hand, it proposes that we provide sex education for children in order to reduce teenage pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It is my experience that if you tell children about something and teach them how to do it, the first thing is that they want to go out and do it, and we should not be surprised if they do! We hear far too much about adolescent reproductive rights and not about reproductive responsibilities. We should be more responsible in our approach to children, and it should be exercised by parents and locally.

In conclusion, I believe that, before we go ahead with this, we should have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.


  Nirj Deva (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I am very disappointed by this report and I have to say, taking advantage of the free vote, I voted against much of the report. This report is not about the rights of children. It is about the right of children to have sex and the right of children to have abortions, which I find quite difficult to accept.

But what about the rights of children and their parents to decide the future of Europe, and the future of the Lisbon Treaty, and the future of where we are going? After all, all these institutions are not being built for us – they are being built for our children. Are we going to ask what they and their parents feel and want to say about how Europe is going to develop? No. We shall decide, without any rights being conferred on them to tell themselves or us what their own destiny should be. This is all wrong.



  Frank Vanhecke (NI).(NL) Madam President, just for the record, I voted against Mrs Angelilli’s report. This is not, of course, because I oppose children’s rights – far from it. Indeed, I welcome the fact that the report breaks a couple of this House’s taboos, such as the taboo of structural violence against girls in the Muslim community. The report even states – rightly, in my view – that the obligation for girls in the Muslim community to wear headscarves is detrimental to the development of their personalities.

Whilst I agree with all of this, I voted against this report, as it is a further example of enormous European interference. I believe that all these matters can be dealt with better at national level and that Europe has precious little to do with it.

I would like to give a single example. This report argues very strongly against prison sentences for minors, whereas in my country there is a broad popular consensus in favour of imprisoning even those serious criminals who are underage to encourage them to mend their ways.


- Report: Doris Pack (A6-0502/2007)


  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE).(SK) Madam President, we need to keep renewing our knowledge throughout our working life, not only during our years at school.

Education is important for personal growth and better employment opportunities. As companies assess the need for new qualifications and the requirements of the labour market, adult education will adapt to these requirements, thus helping to overcome the discrepancies in the labour market. All this is taken into account in the Commission’s proposal for an adult education action plan, and therefore I have voted in favour of it. I agree that the EU Member States should help adult education by adopting active measures, motivating citizens to educate themselves and employers to provide suitable conditions for education. There should be economic stimulus in the form of grants, tax allowances, contributions or cofinancing.

For this purpose a more active use of the Structural Funds, and the European Social Fund in particular, is necessary too. I feel that it is exceptionally important for older people to get involved in lifelong learning and thus find a place in the labour market.


  Toomas Savi (ALDE). – Madam President, I voted in favour of the Pack report, since one of the purposes of lifelong learning is to increase the flexibility of the labour market. For people over 50, which also concerns me, such a policy creates a wider range of opportunities to react to changes in the labour market and adapt to the situation without major repercussions. The report emphasises the positive effect of lifelong learning on social inclusion and employability, which in any case should not be disregarded in an ageing society, for example in my home country, Estonia.


  Agnes Schierhuber (PPE-DE). – (DE) Madam President, Mrs Pack’s report on ‘Adult Education: It is never to late to learn’ is in my opinion one of the most important programmes of action in the European Union: the motivation to take part in adult education programmes, the learning of foreign languages, the motivation to complete tertiary education and with it the chance of having better job opportunities and therefore a better income, as well as the opportunity for better integration of immigrants. It is particularly important for women, however, that the relevant framework programmes for child care are available here.

In particular we must also pay great attention to the possibility of exchanging knowledge between the generations. For this reason the ÖVP-Europa-Club was happy to approve this report.


  Nina Škottová (PPE-DE). – (CS) (Beginning of the speech not audible) … the introduction to this report on adult education clearly emphasises the attention paid to life-long learning in all the EU institutions. However, the accumulation of documentation, kind words, appeals and supporting votes, including my own, are not enough. Let us encourage the educational institutions to get really conceptually involved in life-long learning. This process must not be seen as some sort of appendix to traditional education, but should become a full part of the education system. That requires substantial changes. This process could, therefore, represent a significant financial burden for each country, which could be a limiting factor in the development of education. When considering where to direct funds when adjusting the funding for individual EU policies, this sphere – and in particular the universities as the natural centres of learning – should not be forgotten.


  Christopher Heaton-Harris (PPE-DE). – Madam President, this report is entitled ‘Adult education: it is never too late to learn’. I wish the European Commission and those who want the Lisbon Treaty to go through would learn from that statement themselves.

Adult education is one of the most important parts of the education system. Lifelong learning is something that I think most in this House will agree is a very good thing.

We all had amazing teachers when we were at school and we all remember them. I had a brilliant mathematics teacher who taught me there were three kinds of people: those who can count, and those who cannot.

I had a brilliant science teacher who taught me that radioactive cats had 18 half lives. But the most important thing is, I guess, a phrase that you will recognise, a phrase that the youth of today are using more and more. ‘We don’t need no education; we don’t need no thought control’.

What we are doing with the Lisbon Treaty is putting another ‘brick in the wall’ between the voters who put us here and the European elites who abuse them.


  Syed Kamall (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I should just like to acknowledge how patient you have been during these explanations of vote. Thank you very much for laughing at some of the jokes as well.

You may be aware that I represent London, the greatest city in the world, capital of the greatest country in the world. In London there are a number of educational institutions. I myself went to school in London; I went to the London School of Economics to do my Master’s course.

However, what I would like to say in regard to this particular explanation of vote is that we should not underestimate the role of the further education sector in lifelong learning. In particular, there are some very excellent institutions: Bromley College, with its excellent head, Peter Jones – I would like to put that on record – and Westminster College. We all deserve a say on the referendum on the Constitution.


  President. − I could return the flattery and say that up until now I thought we were doing quite well, but it is beginning to get a little repetitive.


  Daniel Hannan (PPE-DE). – Madam President, may I add my thanks, alongside those to yourself, to your staff and to the interpreters for patience and good humour.

Let me ask what any of this has to do with Brussels? Under what Treaty article, indeed under what possible consideration of common sense is adult learning an EU competence?

Most of us accept that there is a case for multi-state initiatives to deal with plainly cross-border issues; I can accept that argument – or at least an argument for a coordinated European strategy on, let us say, pollution or tariff reduction, perhaps elements of aviation and so on. Although, even here, European coordination does not equate to EU jurisdiction.

But, adult learning? Surely this, of all fields, is one that ought to be determined by national electorates through their own proper democratic mechanisms and procedures.

Why do we always assume that the gentleman in Brussels knows better than the ordinary voter? That same unlovely assumption lies behind the EU Constitution, now called the Lisbon Treaty, and that is why we should put that Treaty to the people: Pactio Olisipio censenda est!


  Jim Allister (NI). – Madam President, there is much of apple pie and motherhood about this report. But the fundamental importance of it is this: it signifies and typifies a belief that Brussels has a right to set agendas and to dictate to Member States how they should prioritise issues and expenditure that quite patently are within their own domain and should be exclusively so, because any region has the right to decide within its limited budget what its priorities are. If adult learning and increased expenditure is a priority, it should be so decided by that region or that nation, not by Brussels and not because of Brussels but because it is right for those circumstances in itself.

We all learn – I have learnt much since I came here in 2004. What I have learnt most is the utter contempt in which the European elite hold their citizens and that is why they are denying the citizens the fundamental right of a vote.


  Roger Helmer (NI). – Madam President, I can tell you that, on this occasion, I voted against the measure, but I also voted in line with the Conservative whip, and this time I did so with a good will because I would have intended to vote against it anyway for the reasons that have been so clearly set out by my friends and colleagues, especially by Mr Hannan and Mr Allister.

This is nothing to do with the European Union. I am in favour of education. I am in favour of adult education. I am absolutely against Brussels deciding how it should be done. Like Mr Hannan, I am unable to work out any basis in the Treaties on which it should be done. We have no legitimacy in terms of the Treaties for passing a measure like this.

We equally have no legitimacy in the face of the rejection of the Constitution in France and in Holland for passing the same measure. We should now have referendums across the European Union on this question.


  Thomas Wise (IND/DEM). – Madam President, on a point of order, could I, being an adult and having had some education, ask Mr Hannon, who has, obviously, greater education than I, what his Latin expression means?


  President. − I am sure he will tell you after we have closed the sitting!


  Nirj Deva (PPE-DE). – Madam President, this has been one of the liveliest debates in this European Parliament since its inception. Had we done this before we might have had the television cameras here and our constituents might find out what we are doing instead of these boring, turgid things we do day in, day out.

Let me now turn to adult learning. It is never too late to learn, it says. This surely is a matter for subsidiarity: it is up to the nation states to decide what their priorities are. It is surely not for the Brussels Commission, surely not for the European Parliament to decide whether adult learning is imperative or not!

But it also says – does it not? – that it is never too late to learn, and surely one of the things we need to learn very fast is that we cannot divide the people of Europe from their decision-makers. We must enjoin them on how we want to run the European Union and, therefore, we must have a referendum.


  Derek Roland Clark (IND/DEM). – Madam President, I voted against this measure and I did so primarily because, you see, I am a schoolmaster. This measure without doubt leads directly, by linkage, to the European Qualifications Framework, which is a hijack. It is going to get people to study at their traditional universities, take their qualifications there, and then overstamp them with a new document with the EU logo, the EU crest, the EU motto, with no reference to the great university or college from which they got their learning. That is a distinct and very terrible denial of a seat of learning – and I make that remark for all the universities of Europe and not just those famous ones in Britain.

To get back to the question of adult learning, I have a suggestion to make to you. Let us by all means encourage adult learning. Give every adult in the EU a copy of the Lisbon Treaty and then ask them to vote on it.


  Graham Booth (IND/DEM). – Madam President, yes, I voted against this report. My explanation is that the UK Independence Party supports the return of the grants system for the UK, and I would like to point out that it is our membership of the EU that caused it to be abolished in England and Wales in the first place. However, it is up to Member States, and not the EU, to decide on tax incentives and cuts for employers who cooperate with adult learning. As with most things, we need less interference from the EU, not more.

As I see that I am very well within my time, may I add that the coming ratification of the European Constitution, despite its rejection in two referendums, is undemocratic, cowardly and illegitimate.


  President. − Time, but not your subject.


  Philip Claeys (NI).(NL) Madam President, I voted against the Pack report; not, of course, because I oppose lifelong learning. On the contrary, no one in their right mind would doubt the great importance of adult education in our constantly changing world.

I do think, however, that Europe, and first and foremost the European Commission, should not interfere too much in what is a competence of the Member States. This is not just a matter of common sense; it is also inherent in the principle of subsidiarity that is always being lauded here but in practice is increasingly proving to be a dead letter.


- Report: Roberta Angelilli (A6-0520/2007)


  Milan Horáček (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Madam President, I should like to make a verbal declaration regarding the very good Angelilli report on the EU strategy on the rights of the child. The radical treatment of the issues of child prostitution and sex tourism is particularly important. The victims of these criminal offences can also be found in our own backyards. In the border area between Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria, for example, prostitution involving women and increasingly children increased enormously after the opening of the borders. However, no attention was paid to this subject at EU level for a long time.

Problems central to child prostitution, such as the networking of perpetrators through the Internet and the lack of cooperation regarding cross-border surveillance and law enforcement, can only be combated at European level. The report deals with these areas and incorporates them into a comprehensive strategy. Even though there is still a great deal to be done to combat child abuse, this is an encouraging sign.


Written explanations of vote


- Report: Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf (A6-0508/2007)


  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) I voted for the resolution on the report by my German fellow Member Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf and on the proposal for a regulation on the measures to be undertaken by the Commission in 2008-13 making use of the remote-sensing applications developed within the framework of the common agricultural policy.

I support the proposal that the remote-sensing activities should be financed by a proper budget and not by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF). Though my fellow members believe the focus should be more on improving the existing website of the EU’s Joint Research Centre Agriculture Unit so that all relevant research data can be made freely available to the public, I am very much in favour of the creation of a spatial data infrastructure and a website as the European Commission’s objectives propose.

I support the proposals to create an inventory of all spatial data, remote-sensing and agro-meteorological projects, and to consolidate the existing spatial data infrastructure and websites.


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (PT) The European Commission considers that, in order to provide a response to common agricultural policy management needs, there is considerable need for information on land use, land conditions and crop conditions. It has therefore presented remote sensing as a research method to gain easier access to the information contained in conventional agricultural statistics and forecasting systems.

The proposal took account of a pilot project on remote-sensing techniques, under the auspices of Council Decision No 1445/2000/EC, initiated in the meantime. According to the Commission, this project enabled the agro-meteorological system for forecasting yields and monitoring land and crop conditions (MARS) to reach an advanced stage.

Now the Commission is proposing the continued application of remote-sensing techniques in agriculture for the period 2008-2013, in the field of monitoring agricultural markets. The project will apply from 1 January 2008 for a six-year period. The remote-sensing applications would thus constitute a tool for the Commission to implement and monitor the common agriculture policy, although the information could be useful to the Member States.

The question is how it will be used and who will be using it, hence our abstention.


  Duarte Freitas (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) While I am in broad agreement with the European Commission’s proposal, I am voting in favour of the Graefe zu Baringdorf report since it makes some relevant points.

I understand, for example, the rapporteur’s concern over the impossibility of comparing data between different Member States owing to the different frequency of analyses.

I still approve of the creation of an inventory and consolidation of spatial data infrastructure and the relevant websites, and the improvement of the Agriculture Unit’s website to make the data public.


  Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) We vote against this report because, as usual, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament seeks to introduce amendments aimed at transferring more money from the EU budget to the agricultural policy. Amendment 4 from the Committee on Agriculture proposes that EUR 9.2 million be set aside in a separate budget instead of being channelled through the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund. We can only interpret that as a way of securing budget increases.


  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I voted in favour of this report. I feel that the prolongation of any proposal seeking to contribute to making the Common Agricultural Policy more precise in its distribution can only be a positive step to ensure a fair deal for Scottish farmers. The ability to more accurately estimate yields and make related information more freely available will allow for the improvement of a policy that so far lacks an image of fairness, transparency and environmental sensitivity.


- Report: Gurt Lechner (A6-0504/2007)


  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) Based on the excellent report by my German colleague Kurt Lechner, I approve the adoption by the European Parliament, at second reading of the codecision procedure, of a legislative resolution on the Council common position for adopting a directive on the harmonisation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning credit for consumers and replacing the 1987 Community framework, amended on two occasions. I welcome the European Commission’s desire to establish the conditions for a genuine internal market in consumer credit, to guarantee a high level of consumer protection and to clarify Community regulations by recasting the three existing directives of 1987, 1990 and 1998 on this type of credit.

I welcome the important work done by my French colleague Jean-Paul Gauzès, who by the wisdom and strength of his convictions has made a substantial contribution to this important compromise, which is so valuable for economic growth, consumer protection and credit institutions.


  Gérard Deprez (ALDE), in writing. – (FR) After five years of discussions, European consumers will soon have identical information about consumer credit, enabling them to make better comparisons with foreign offers when buying a car, a dishwasher or a sofa bed.

Although Europeans already have the ability to take out bank loans abroad to buy consumer goods, few use it: less than 1% of the total amount of this type of credit is currently borrowed abroad. However, rates currently vary by up to 100% (Portugal 12%, Finland 6%)! The major obstacles identified are the language barrier, distance and the lack of consumer confidence.

The directive, which I support, should help to increase this confidence, keep consumers better informed and facilitate their choices, while enabling them to benefit from uniform rules of protection (early repayment, right of withdrawal, etc.).

Two questions, to conclude:

Are we not in danger of encouraging people to take on too much debt if we do not further strengthen the conditions for lenders to check consumers’ creditworthiness? Do we not urgently need to open the way for cross-border competition in property loans?


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This vote relates to the second reading of the proposal initially made by the European Commission in 2002. These compromises are aimed at reaching agreement with the Council on a text that would repeal the current Directive 87/102/EEC and introduce a common legal framework for consumer credit agreements.

The idea is to facilitate the opening-up of national markets and to promote cross-border consumer credit operations, with the aim of stepping up competition and ‘improving’ the internal market.

Among other things, it lays down the formula for calculating the annual percentage rate of charge (APR), the conditions in the event of early repayment and information to be given to consumers regarding credit agreements.

We voted in favour of the proposals that are designed to offer better consumer protection, which is especially important in Portugal, where families’ indebtedness is constantly on the rise, exceeding 124% of available income, and where the major financial groups are making scandalous profits.

We voted against all the proposals for facilitating the opening-up of financial markets and cross-border credit, designed to remove barriers to the entry of the major financial groups rather than to protect consumers.


  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted in favour of the report proposing the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States on consumer credit.

Although European households already have the ability to take out bank loans abroad to buy consumer goods, few use it. Problems of language, distance and lack of confidence are the biggest obstacles.

The new directive will increase the transparency of the market for the benefit of consumers for credit of between 200 and 75 000 euros. Consumers will have the information they need to choose in full knowledge of the facts, if they decide to buy across borders.

In the case of credit offers, the information given to consumers will be contained in a new European credit information form. Consumers will also eventually benefit from a single annual percentage rate comparable throughout the EU.

The directive will give consumers good quality basic information that is easy to compare. The right of withdrawal and the right of early repayment without paying excessive costs, as well as the transparent presentation of their rights and obligations, will give them the confidence necessary to compare prices.


  Astrid Lulling (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) The compromise on which Parliament must give its opinion is certainly an improvement on the position of the Council, but it is still deficient on many key points concerning consumer credit contracts.

The lower limit of 200 euros, the amount of credit from which the directive applies, is in my opinion much too low given the standard of living in most Member States.

Similarly, it is not necessary to harmonise the provisions governing compensation for early repayment. The differences between the Member States are too great. The ‘compromise’ negotiated by the Council is merely the addition of various national provisions, and introduces more complications than harmonisation.

In my opinion, the directive is much too bureaucratic, for companies, credit institutions and consumers. The minimum amount of information it provides for is too great and too indigestible. It is in danger of spreading confusion among well-informed consumers.


  Toine Manders (ALDE), in writing. − (NL) The result of today’s vote in the European Parliament means that, after a good five years, an agreement has been reached on the consumer credit directive. The dialogue between the European Commission, the Council and Parliament was still fruitless at the end of last week, as the rapporteur had prohibitive objections to a compromise proposal concerning early repayment that all the other parties were prepared to accept. The compromise subsequently reached between negotiators from the Socialist Group in the European Parliament and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, which was also acceptable to the European Commission and the Council, has today received broad support from Parliament. I am pleased that the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats has now decided to support the compromise, as I am convinced that it represents the best that could be reached for consumers and industry. I would like to thank everyone concerned, particularly the rapporteur, for their commitment throughout the process.


  Diamanto Manolakou (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) Consumer and housing loans in Greece have reached 95 billion euros: consumer credit is growing at the highest rate of any country in the Euro area, and is approaching the EU’s annual budget total. This is a sign of increasing poverty.

Two million households are borrowers, of which 3-4% are unable to service their debt. In most cases the debt exceeds 40% of income, which results in constant repossessions by bailiffs. The same is also true for small and medium-sized enterprises, which are forced to resort to borrowing.

The banks ruthlessly pocket enormous profits from high interest rates on loans and low interest rates on deposits, unlawful and irregular deductions and charges, misleading advertising, etc., leading to workers going ever further into the red.

The EU supports financial institutions by guaranteeing profits and by alleviating the consequences of its unpopular policy, which restricts the buying power of workers and decreases their quality of life.

The proposed directive safeguards the principle of the freedom to draw up contracts, despite unequal negotiating capacities. It strengthens financial capital by transferring responsibility to the consumer. It safeguards against compensation for early repayment, promotes the harmonisation of legislative provisions and the opening up of national markets in the consumer credit sector, and is deliberately complex and unintelligible for borrowers.

The Members from the ΚΚΕ (Communist Party of Greece) are voting against the strengthening of financial credit and campaigning for a genuine people’s economy for the benefit of workers.


  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − The call for a harmonisation of the laws on consumer credit across Europe is one that I agree with. The report not only creates an internal market in credit for consumers but also outlines a set of requirements to ensure a fair deal for both the consumer and creditors. The rules in this area need to be consumer friendly, especially on the subject of early repayment and compensation, and in my opinion the report adequately addresses these concerns. The harmonisation of advertising will also help ensure that customers across Europe are equally well informed when taking consumer credit related decisions.


  Béatrice Patrie (PSE), in writing. – (FR) I voted in favour of the compromise the PSE Group reached with the Council (Amendment 46), because it allows the balances struck during the German Presidency last spring to be maintained.

I am pleased that the consumer credits defined in this draft directive have a minimum of 200 euros and a maximum of 75 000 euros. However, I would have preferred the upper limit to be set at 50 000 euros.

I am particularly pleased about the qualified majority obtained in plenary to ensure that the interests of consumers are clearly protected in the event of early repayment of the credit. The compensation banks may demand will be strictly controlled and may be prohibited for credits of less than 10 000 euros.

In any case, the fight against people taking on too much debt should remain a priority and resorting to credit should be done in a reasonable manner. It is an illusion to think that you can revive consumption through credits to households: this approach leads only to poverty for the most vulnerable consumers.

The revival of growth through consumption is achieved by raising pay and not by increasing available credit!


  Pierre Pribetich (PSE), in writing. – (FR) The report by Mr Lechner on opening up the European consumer loans market was adopted today.

It seems to me that changing a market that until now has been strongly national into a European market, while maintaining a high level of consumer protection, is the first step towards harmonising the rules on consumer credit.

The risk for consumers of getting into debt remains far too high. Control and transparency by setting up databases of the creditworthiness of every consumer seems essential.

Like most of my colleagues, however, I voted against Amendment 29 on Article 16, and I am pleased it was rejected. To my mind, this point genuinely penalised consumers who decide to repay their loan early.

Offering consumers the possibility of paying off a loan before its term constitutes a good initiative. It should not be spoiled by giving the lender the option of claiming compensation for any costs where this is not fair or justified.

It was therefore necessary to set limits. The lender will not therefore be able to claim compensation of more than 1% of the value of the credit.


  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. – (PT) A common legal framework for consumer credit must lay down clear, simple and concise rules, so as to offer European added value with the aim of promoting the internal market.

Today, therefore, I would like to congratulate Parliament for the positive agreement reached on this legislation. I regard the opening up of the national markets to consumer credit as very important since it will step up competition, with very positive consequences for consumers.

With this new proposal the EU is clearly favouring competition between financial institutions and is introducing the necessary transparency for the disclosure of pre-contractual and contractual information on the provision of credit, data which I regard as fundamental for consumer protection, and also possibly enabling interest rates to be reduced on account of the increased supply, especially on smaller markets.

The credit ceilings laid down under this agreement are also a very positive aspect for the Portuguese market. I am convinced that the new framework will facilitate more credit opportunities, as there is currently a need to ensure proper protection for consumers and their creditworthiness, preventing excessive exposure to debt, in the context of a healthy social policy. The advantages are to be benefited from and not for solving problems by creating new ones.


  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing. – (FR) It is a highly controversial directive, ‘on ice’ for almost six years, that the European Parliament passed today. Yet, it is a text very close to the hearts of Europeans because it provides for the harmonisation of the consumer credit market.

This market is worth 800 billion euros (two out of three Europeans use credit to buy furniture, a television or a car), and interest rates currently vary from 6% (in Finland) to more than 12% (in Portugal), and yet transactions have so far been mainly national; less than 1% of credits are currently cross-border.

The directive opens up European borders to consumers looking for the best credit deals: they can choose the best offer and be guaranteed the same rights and the same standards of information, comparison and, above all, protection against getting into too much debt. Assessing the creditworthiness of the borrower, free and fast information in the event of refusal and the 14-days right of withdrawal in principle are some of the main objectives of the directive.

However, one regret, and it is a big one, is the lack of clarity surrounding early repayment terms. Heavily penalising consumers who repay early would make the other advantages of harmonisation completely pointless!


  Luca Romagnoli (NI), in writing. (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I voted in favour of the Lechner report on consumer credit. I believe that it is vital for the European Union to equip itself with a general reference framework designed to protect citizens in a sector which has grown significantly in recent years.

In Italy, in particular, growth in turnover in consumer credit agreements has been exponential. Very often consumers, sometimes in the wake of seductive advertising campaigns, have entered into them without being fully aware of their rights and the contractual terms, and have then found themselves bound by a whole set of conditions and obligations. Within this context I therefore stress the advisability of increasing consumer protection, including through this directive.


  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE), in writing. − (PL) I am voting in favour of Kurt Lechner’s report on the recommendation for second reading on the Council common position for adopting a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on credit agreements for consumers and repealing Council Directive 87/102/EEC.

I feel that the compromise reached during successive negotiations is satisfactory. The solution proposed is aimed at simplifying the procedure for granting credit and making it easier for consumers to gain access to credit throughout the European Union. Harmonisation and unification of standards will lead to enhanced competitiveness between the institutions that make credit available, will cut costs and will also create a true internal market in the sphere of consumer credit.


  Jacques Toubon (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) The vote on the draft directive on consumer credit denotes significant progress in the eyes of French MPs from the UMP [Union pour un Mouvement Populaire/Union for a Popular Movement].

Indeed, thanks to the contribution made by the European Parliament, and in particular the rapporteur, Mr Lechner, the final text encourages the opening of borders in an important area of daily life, while preserving the existing rights of consumers, notably French consumers.

The transposition of the directive will therefore make it possible to offer better credit conditions in future, and to limit the risk of people taking on too much debt.


  Bernadette Vergnaud (PSE), in writing. – (FR) Six years after the arrival of the euro, Europe still did not have a single market in terms of banking that would benefit consumers and give them a more tangible experience of the advantages of the single currency.

Information about interest rates and credit terms and conditions will be standardised to make it easier to compare offers. Consumers will thus be able to choose in full knowledge of the facts, and obtain the best credit terms.

Lenders will also have to give consumers clear information about the advantages and disadvantages of their credit offers. The questions of the right of withdrawal in the case of linked credit (immediate delivery of the goods) and of the amount of the penalties imposed if the credit is repaid early are clearly framed. These penalties must be ‘fair and objectively justified’. They may not exceed 1% of the amount of the credit repaid early and will not be permitted on loans at variable rates. I am particularly pleased that the Member States can say, as is currently the case in France, that no compensation may be demanded for credits of less than 10 000 euros, and that is why I voted in favour.


- Report: Roberta Angelilli (A6-0520/2007)


  Charlotte Cederschiöld, Christofer Fjellner, Gunnar Hökmark and Anna Ibrisagic (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) The moderates have voted in favour of the proposal for an EU strategy on the rights of the child. We consider that children’s rights must be respected in just the same way as human rights and, of course, we support action to combat such things as child pornography and the sexual exploitation of children. We must emphasise, however, that many of the points in the report relate to fields which should be regulated on an intergovernmental basis, for example that of adoptions. Besides, subjects are covered which are already regulated in existing EC legislation, such as TV advertising and product labelling.


  Proinsias De Rossa (PSE), in writing. − I voted for this report because I believe it makes a good contribution to the fight against all forms of violence and abuse against children, including poverty, discrimination and access to education.

I particularly welcome EP advocacy of a mechanism whereby suppliers of products manufactured with child labour can be prosecuted in Europe. I too urge the Commission to urgently bring forward mechanisms that make the main contractor in a supply-chain liable for violations of UN conventions on child labour.

However, I deplore the attempts to remove references in the report to adolescents' right to sexual and reproductive health and family planning education and services.


  Edite Estrela (PSE), in writing. – (PT) I voted in favour of Roberta Angelilli’s report ‘Towards an EU strategy on the rights of the child’ because it is important to draw attention to the fact that many instruments adopted at EU level directly or indirectly affect children’s rights. I therefore believe that it is essential to establish a legislative framework that recognises the rights of the child so that they can be codified in legal form.

In this context, this report makes an important contribution towards ensuring that the rights of the child are respected, in that it advocates Community legislation prohibiting all forms of violence against children, and stresses the importance of areas such as education, health, adoption, and combating poverty and discrimination. I would also point out that the new Treaty of Lisbon provides a legal basis for the rights of the child, now included in the objectives of the European Union.


  Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) Children’s rights are without doubt universal and inviolable rights, and the Junilistan Members are pleased to note that all the EU Member States have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This means that we are already bound by international legislation for the protection of children against child labour, trafficking, violence and many other forms of interference in the lives of children. Moreover children’s rights are an area in Swedish law which uncompromisingly places the child’s best interests in the forefront of consideration.

We have chosen to abstain in the vote on the report for the simple reason that the rapporteur seems to have failed in her report to focus attention on the child’s best interests. The report focuses almost exclusively on which specific social model the Member States should adopt in their respective countries in order to give effect to whatever the European Parliament thinks is the best solution. Everything from banning violence on TV and the sale of violent computer games to forced marriages, illegal adoptions and illegal work is covered in this report.

Clearly we have voted in favour of the amendments which stress the importance of full compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a guarantee of the legal protection and universal human rights of children.


  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (PT) This report has almost 200 articles and includes some aspects we support and others which we do not. Our vote should be understood in the light of that statement.

However, we should point out that the report fails to address the causes of situations that it sometimes diagnoses.

The report shirks its responsibilities by failing to criticise the EU’s neoliberal policies, which underlie the poverty of millions of people, especially children. These policies lead to deep and unacceptable social inequalities, caused by capitalist exploitation and concentration. Policies that foster social strife, with the loss of value of workers’ wages; easy dismissals and increasingly insecure contractual arrangements; longer and more flexible working hours and the liberalisation and privatisation of public services. Policies that have profound adverse consequences on the efficiency and living conditions of workers and their families, and hence of their children.

The respect and full exercise of the rights of the child requires, among other things, a fair distribution of wealth, jobs with rights, decent wages, shorter working hours, development of strong public systems of social security, health and universal and free education.


  Marian Harkin (ALDE), in writing. − While I voted yes on this, I want to clarify my position on paragraph two of the report. This states that the IGC decision of 19th October 2007 incorporating children's rights as one of the objectives of the EU in the Treaty of Lisbon provides a new legal basis for children's rights. According to Commissioner Fratini’s response to my question on this during the plenary debate, Lisbon does not bring in a specific legal base and it is important to clarify this. Regarding paragraph 127 I am not supporting this as I do not support a ban on headscarves and hijabs.


  Milan Horáček (Verts/ALE), in writing. − (DE) I should like to comment on the Angelilli report on the EU strategy on the rights of the child. This is a very good report. The radical treatment of the issues of child prostitution and sex tourism is particularly important.

The victims of these criminal offences can also be found in our own backyards. In the border area between Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria, for example, prostitution involving women and increasingly children increased enormously after the opening of the borders. However, this subject was not a priority at EU level for a long time.

Problems central to child prostitution can only be combated at European level (the networking of perpetrators through the Internet and the lack of cooperation regarding cross-border surveillance and law enforcement).

The report deals with these areas and incorporates them into a comprehensive strategy. Even though there is still a great deal to be done to combat child abuse, it is an encouraging sign.


  Jean Lambert (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I voted in favour of this report because I believe it to be a comprehensive statement, full of good proposals. I especially welcome the recognition of a child's right to be involved in decisions that concern them directly and for them to be properly represented in legal or administrative hearings. The report is strong on the need for a healthy environment and the right to play. It also recognises that those children with the legal right to work should be paid on a basis of equal pay for equal work: too many young people are used to provide a cheap alternative to other workers when they work as well and as hard in many sectors. I voted to remove the paragraph referring to encouraging states to outlaw the wearing of the hijab for young girls. I believe this to be a misplaced proposal of the Women's Committee, assuming the hijab to be an automatic sign of female subjugation, which it is not. Personally, I am offended by seeing pre-pubescent girls wearing clothes with sexual invitations written on them but I would not seek to ban this via a Parliamentary report. I am pleased the report passed without that paragraph.


  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I strongly support the idea of a comprehensive and coherent European strategy on the rights of the child. The fight against all forms of violence, poverty and discrimination suffered by children is something that should not simply be treated on a national level. The protection of a child’s right to education, health and adoption are all rights that Europe as a whole should continue to recognise and protect.


  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. − (DE) Violence thrives in parallel societies with an ancient Islamic tradition. Children let out the hatred instilled in them for the decadent Western culture in the school playground and on the street or even turn into potential terrorists. We have ignored the preliminary warning signs out of a misconceived tolerance and refused to accept what was an explosive momentum.

The growth in child trafficking and pornography is also alarming; sex offenders, as is generally known, display a high reoffending rate. The cover has also been blown in this regard on dubious adoption procedures for children from developing countries, procedures in which there has been no recoil from child trafficking, trade in human organs or prostitution.

In view of the multitude of orphans waiting for adoption, primarily in the East, and millions of unborn children in Europe, a strict ban on the adoption of non-European children would be a heavy blow against child trafficking, as would the introduction of a Europe-wide sex offenders register and greater penalties for sexual activity with children and for the possession of child pornography. Last but not least, domestic violence must also be combated in migrant families and the proportion of foreigners in schools limited in order to defuse spiralling violence.


  Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (ALDE), in writing. − While the Treaty of Lisbon sets the promotion of children’s rights as a broad EU objective, it does not create new legislative powers for this purpose. I believe that any movement in this field should be within the existing legal framework. There are significant areas in this report which step outside these boundaries. Nor is the report offering feasible solutions to children’s problems. One example is institutionalised care. We have voted to restrict this to a temporary measure. Yet hundreds of thousands of children throughout Europe are born with or acquire such significant physical or intellectual handicaps that it is a medical or social necessity for them to have long-term institutional care. A quadriplegic, spina bifida or hydrocephalus afflicted child can have a life of dignity and happiness with expert staff care and family visits. Strengthening the system is the priority, and not its abolition.

We in Europe are bound to follow the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This report distorts several important messages contained in the Convention. With regret, therefore, I found myself unable to support this report, though I share the concern for children’s welfare that its supporters expressed.


  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) This lengthy report, full of literary rhetoric, attempts to conceal the responsibility of the EU and its Member States for their barbaric policy, which results in the inhuman conditions experienced by children and parents of ordinary families. How hypocritical that the EU should show interest in the rights of children while its policy is crushing workers with unemployment, partial employment, a fall in living standards, the privatisation of health and education, and the commercialisation of sport and culture. The edifying references to combating violence against children, child pornography, etc. cannot conceal the fact that the system, whose overriding value is profit, treats children themselves as a source of profit. It commercialises adoption and drives people into child labour, prostitution and organ trading. How dare advocates of the EU talk about the rights of children, when EU/NATO aircraft actually bombed a Belgrade maternity clinic! Let us remember that the European/NATO armed forces are killing thousands of children in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Let us remember that they are condemning hundreds of thousands of children in Africa, Asia, and across the planet to death from hunger and disease – crimes with regard to which the report remains utterly silent.


  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE), in writing. – (SK) Children are people with their own rights, from the very moment of conception. Every child has a right to have a family, which is the basis of his upbringing. We must not forget about the street children and the children of migrants, who are also exposed to violence. The rights of the child must be the EU’s main priority. I welcome the initiative to set up a confidential hotline.

I have expressed my agreement with the EU strategy in the area of children’s rights by casting my vote. The strategy is dealt with in an excellent report by my colleague Mrs Angelilli, which provides a great deal of useful information.

We have to realise that we are still lacking the legal basis. As part of a long-term strategy, it is therefore necessary to adopt concrete measures in the area of the rights of the child and implement them as quickly as possible. Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty will make the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding. Its Article 24 deals expressly with the rights of the child.

In the days ahead we are going to face several challenges: reducing cyber-crime as quickly as possible, putting an end to paedophilia and the sexual abuse of children and minors, and establishing rules for international adoption, which must be in the interest of the child not the adults. All forms of violence must be prohibited.

Now is the time to transform words into actions. The EU must listen to the children: they are the foundations of tomorrow’s society. The European house must be a safe house for children. If we have happy children, we will have a happy society.


  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) In the context of the debate on building a European strategy on the rights of the child, I think we should give priority to the concept of the ‘interests of the child’, not in opposition to the idea of rights, but to complement them, and also as a guiding theme of the strategy.

Threats to the rights of the child, in the wider world and throughout Europe, vary in nature and degree. While in some places it is a priority to combat poverty and its causes or take action against the use of children as soldiers and for sexual exploitation, in other cases we need to safeguard the right of access to health, protection against sexual abuse or trafficking of children, or the right to be adopted in a timely manner and in accordance with transparent rules, and reinforce the role of the family. In all cases, however, the criterion should be ‘the child’s best interests’.

That is the standard, the criterion, that should be used to assess the usefulness, necessity and merit of any decision, legislation or action. I therefore believe that the most important thing in devising this strategy is to establish this concept, to which the lists of rights must be subordinate, as they are not always reasonable, achievable or appropriate.


  Lydia Schenardi (NI), in writing. – (FR) This report has the great merit of clearly defining the rights of the child, but above all of condemning almost exhaustively the dangers children are exposed to: from exposure at an early age to depictions of horror, pornography and violence in the media to honour crimes, forced marriages and genital mutilation on cultural or religious grounds.

Without actually mentioning the words ‘Islam’ or ‘Islamism’, terms that are strictly taboo because political correctness and fear of reprisals totally prohibit any form of comment on this religion, and still less any criticism, the rapporteur still manages under cover of more general comments to condemn within the rules all the discrimination that the practice of Islam engenders. Thus, the banning of girls from taking part in some tuition and sports such as swimming, and all the traditional practices that are barbaric and damaging for young girls of the Muslim religion, are condemned.

We are delighted by this. This report is a first step towards the beginnings of freedom of expression and clear-sightedness. We will vote in favour.


  Olle Schmidt (ALDE), in writing. (SV) One paragraph was a cause of concern to all groups. In paragraph 127 of the original report there was a proposal which called on all the EU Member States to ban the wearing of headscarves and the hijab at school. As private individuals we can sympathise with the basic idea, that is to protect the right of children to play freely, take part in school gymnastics and also, as minors, to enjoy a certain protection against the coercive power of parents. However, a complicated and sensitive question such as this can hardly be resolved at EU level. The nations of Europe balance the rights and responsibilities of children, parents and the State in the light of their own history and political situation. We entirely agree that the EU should create a good framework. In a reasonable perspective paragraph 127 falls outside any such framework.


  Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM), in writing. − I was pleased that the committee and the ensuing report took on board a strong focus on family and recognised the family’s position in relation to children. I also welcome the strong defence of children in relation to trafficking, institutionalisation, pornography and disability.

However the report ties EU policy into the UN International Convention on the Rights of the Child which changes competence for children from parents to the state. Although not explicitly referred to it is a seismic shift of great concern.

Despite the positive elements of this report, like those mentioned above, the report was regrettably used to promote the sexual and reproductive rights agenda (which for the UN Convention includes abortion) which was particularly incongruous because we are dealing with children and the protection of children. Though I very strongly support all protections for children I found myself unable to support this report.


  Bart Staes (Verts/ALE), in writing. − (NL) Despite the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was signed by many Member States, there are still too many breaches of the basic rights of young people and children.

Therefore, the Commission’s initiative to present a European strategy is very welcome. Even though children’s rights remain a competence of the nation-states, both the Commission and EP rapporteur, Mrs Angelilli, have highlighted a number of urgent points, such as the combating of all forms of violence and of the poverty and discrimination affecting children, and also respect for the rights of immigrant children. The Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance has managed to add the following points to the report: greater attention to the right of children to participate in decisions that concern them, recognition of a children’s ombudsman, prohibition of child labour, equal pay for equal work for those under 18, recognition of the rights of refugee children, and the right to a clean and protected environment.

I am delighted that Parliament has allocated debating time to this subject, and I fully endorse this report.


  Konrad Szymański (UEN), in writing. − (PL) I was unable to support the report on the strategy on the rights of the child, because the Left has succeeded in having as many as five references included to these so-called rights and to reproductive health which, among other things, implies the availability of abortion.


  Jeffrey Titford (IND/DEM), in writing. − I am in favour of the EU promoting the rights of the child. One recent example I would again draw to the Commission’s attention is discrimination against children’s right to travel with airlines withdrawing facilities for unaccompanied minors to fly. If they did the same for the disabled or any other similar group there would (properly) be an uproar, but apparently the EU thinks it is perfectly in order to remove children’s rights in this arbitrary way.

At the same time there has been some controversy over paragraph 127 calling for ‘Member States to ban headscarves and the hijab, at least at primary school’. I voted against the paragraph because of both the ambiguous wording and the fact that I believe this is too important an issue to be dealt with as a peripheral part of such a report. Nevertheless I would be disappointed if such a practice was to become common in Europe’s primary schools.


  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE), in writing. − I am the strongest defender of the need to give children a good upbringing in a strong, loving and secure family environment, to protect children from harm and abuse, to give them moral guidance and a first class education, and the best of opportunity in their lives. I believe that the role of the state in this is a limited one – it should not seek to abrogate the rights and duties of parents, of the churches and of schools. I certainly, therefore, see no reason for the EU to get involved. I regret the deletion of the call for a ban on headscarves and the hijab at least at primary school – what hope is there of proper integration into our mainstream western societies if such dress is allowed? I regret also the inclusion of language relating to adolescent sexual ‘rights’ – a further erosion of the very concept of childhood. For these and many other reasons, I voted against the report.


- Report: Doris Pack (A6-0502/2007)


  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) Based on the excellent report by my German colleague Doris Pack, I voted for the European Parliament resolution on adult learning in response to the Commission’s Communication ‘Adult Learning: It’s never too late to learn’.

Education and training, particularly adult lifelong learning, are critical factors for achieving the Lisbon Strategy’s objectives of raising economic growth, competitiveness and social progress. Whether in terms of competitiveness, the social inclusion of adults, or the challenges associated with demographic change, this initiative, which dates back to 2001, is good news for the European Union and its citizens.

Concerning learning, and more generally, the issues associated with enterprises, I suggest handing the matter over to the social partners who, we constantly need to be reminded, have the legal instruments for constructing European social law under the current treaties, in Article 137 and subsequent articles of the Treaty establishing the European Community, as confirmed by the Treaty of Lisbon currently in the process of being ratified.


  Proinsias De Rossa (PSE), in writing. − I voted for this report because the scale of current economic and social change, the rapid transition to a knowledge-based society and demographic changes resulting from the ageing population in Europe are all challenges which demand a new approach to education and training, within the framework of lifelong learning.


  Edite Estrela (PSE), in writing. (PT) I voted in favour of the report by Doris Pack on ‘Adult learning: it is never too late to learn’, because I consider that adult learning, through the acquisition of essential skills, is crucial for achieving the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy of greater economic growth, competitiveness and social inclusion.

On the other hand, and to complement this I also agree with the viewpoint that lifelong learning is fundamental for facing the current challenges of economic and social change, the rapid transition to a knowledge-based society and demographic changes resulting from an ageing population.


  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) It is important to pay more attention to adult learning. The adult learning agenda needs to be pushed forward. Adult participation in education and training is not sufficient if the EU wishes to reach the benchmark goal of 12.5% participation in adult learning by 2010.

However, it is necessary to ensure the quality of adult learning, paying special attention to the various dimensions of quality in learning, principally the development of educators, quality assurance mechanisms and teaching methods and materials.

As the report says, adult learning is a vital component of lifelong learning and a very complex sector. Adults need to connect learning to their knowledge, experience and cultural background.

Finally, it is important to emphasise gender equality with regard to programmes relating to lifelong learning, so that both men and women can derive equal advantage from the possibilities offered by such learning, and to make use of all available tools to ensure equality between men and women in measures for preparing adult education policy, in cooperation with the European Institute for Gender Equality.


  Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) We have a high degree of confidence in the Member States’ ability to deal with questions concerning the very important issue of adult education. It is important that the education departments of the Member States have sufficient funding to develop adult education. One way to make financial resources available to them is to reduce contributions of Member States to the EU budget so that they have more money available for investment in social provision, education and welfare.

We observe once again the failure of the federalist majority in the European Parliament to respect the exclusive competence of the Member States in the organisation of education and the content of training systems.

This own-initiative report from the European Parliament should never have been written and cannot be seen as anything more than a job-creation scheme for the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education.


  Janusz Lewandowski (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PL) The report on which we are voting relates to adult education, in other words to a matter which is acquiring immense significance throughout the European Union, but which has become something more than that in my country – it is a beneficial trend and passion for thousands of people. This is not always dictated by purely commercial considerations. May I draw your attention to one aspect of continuous adult education that is linked to both modern demographic and civilisational challenges and the inheritance of the old order. The socialist system enforced a specific educational model which, in the sphere of humanities, was saturated with propaganda and ideology, and in other spheres reflected a detachment from world trends. For these reasons, adult education in the new Member States is both a chance to make amends for the weaknesses of the socialist model of education outlined above and at the same time a genuine opening up to the world.

In the sphere of knowledge of foreign languages, readiness to take the risk of retraining and changing jobs and the promotion of European educational standards, this is an obvious precondition for mobility and the chance of finding employment – which explains the broad interest in continuing education among my peers from Central and Eastern Europe.


  Bogusław Liberadzki (PSE), in writing. − (PL) In her report, Mrs Pack calls for education to continue throughout a person’s working life, without restricting study to the school years only.

I agree with the assertion that the current rate of economic and social change is enforcing a need for constant, long-term personal development. It is also a fact that adult education has a beneficial impact on adults’ sense of their own worth, helps to foster better social integration and builds intercultural dialogue.


  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I feel that the report's goal of ensuring Member States reach a 12.5% target for participation in adult learning by 2010 will improve not only the EU's competitiveness, but will also allow for greater social inclusion and intercultural awareness: exactly what is needed for the year of intercultural dialogue. The greater use of technology and proposals to increase childcare facilities will improve opportunities for everyone to truly benefit from education. I therefore voted in favour of this report.


  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. − (DE) It is counterproductive on the one hand to stop one’s own population from learning, and on the other hand to come up with plans for a ‘blue card’, because owing to the increase in atypical relationships and greater competitive pressure, a good basic and continuing education is now no longer any kind of protection against unemployment. Enough well-educated people have been rejected by companies simply because the latter are searching for the cheapest McJob graduates or are merely wanting to offer more unusual employment contracts.

As a matter of principle, the lack of skilled workers used as a pretext for this should be removed. If this is not possible preference should be given to a seasonal model. Further mass migration can then be prevented.

Despite the discrepancies displayed in the EU targets, efforts and programmes in the lifelong learning sector still deserve our support.


6. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes

  President. − That concludes the vote.

I would like to thank the services, particularly the interpreters, for bearing with us over lunchtime.

(The sitting was suspended at 13.30 and resumed at 15.00)




7. Approval of Minutes of previous sitting: see Minutes

8. Situation in Kenya (debate)

  President. − The next item is the statements from the Council and the Commission concerning the situation in Kenya.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I am very pleased that today the European Parliament is going to discuss the situation in Kenya and also debate the proposed resolution on the current situation there.

The mere fact that the European Parliament sent the Election Observation Mission under the leadership of Mr Lambsdorff, and its own delegation led by Mr Mulder, gave a very important sign that the European Parliament is interested in the situation in Kenya.

The elections in Kenya, as we know, took place on 27 December. The high turnout of the Kenyan voters is proof of the commitment of the Kenyan people to the democratic process and of the trust in that process.

The European Union Election Observation Mission was present at the actual location and was led by Mr Lambsdorff. It warned of numerous irregularities in the counting and recording of the votes during these elections. These irregularities are causing serious doubts about the actual outcome of these elections. As we know, after the results were published, violence broke out in the capitol Nairobi and other parts of Kenya.

Supporters of the opposition leader, Mr Odinge, clashed several times with the security forces and also attacked the followers of President Kibaki. Shots were fired by the security forces into the masses. According to Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the security forces responded “with excessive violence”.

At least 600 people lost their lives and almost a quarter of a million people were displaced – all this in Kenya, a country to which refugees from the neighbouring countries, Somalia and southern Sudan, usually flee.

It has affected the economy not only of Kenya itself, but also of the neighbouring countries, especially those without their own access to the sea. That is a tragedy. At the same time it is a great blow to the process of democratisation and a blow to the whole continent of Africa, where Kenya was regarded as exemplary.

The European Union condemned the violence in Kenya. We appealed to Kenyan leaders to try and answer the doubts about the regularity of the elections, but first of all to establish a dialogue and find a political solution. Naturally, we responded to the humanitarian needs of the Kenyan population. The European Union saluted the mediation by President Kufuor of Ghana, who is presiding over the African Union.

We also expressed our support for a group of eminent African personalities led by the former United Nations Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, which should arrive in Nairobi shortly. In the meantime, President Kibaki has appointed his government without consultation with the opposition leader, Mr Odinga. The latter has called for mass demonstrations in Kenya in three days’ time.

On a more positive note, the Kenyan Parliament had its first session yesterday. The opposition candidate was elected President of the Parliament. This was encouraging in the sense that certain democratic rules have still been observed in the country and that the opposition still has a voice.

As for the European Union, it is perfectly clear that normal business with Kenya will not be possible until a political compromise is found. The compromise must lead to a permanent solution which will uphold the will of the Kenyan people, gain the trust of the Kenyan people and return Kenya to stability.

In the name of the European Union, I can say that everything that has followed the Kenyan elections has represented a great disappointment and that the situation is still worrying. However, this cannot be compared with the disappointment felt by the people of Kenya themselves, people who took part in the elections en masse in the hope of a better future.


  Louis Michel, Member of the Commission. − (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it goes without saying that the European Commission is deeply concerned at the serious crisis Kenya is experiencing. Furthermore, the day after the elections, when we saw the warning signs of the chaos following what happened particularly during the counting of votes, we mobilised and established contacts with the authorities on both sides – the outgoing majority and the opposition. I should also tell you regarding this that I had no trouble getting in direct, personal contact with Mr Odinga. On the other hand, since then and despite repeated attempts, I have never been able to make direct, personal contact with Mr Kibaki, which is surprising considering how easy it was to contact him in the past. This is fairly indicative of the unease that reigned.

The post-election violence, which has caused the deaths of more than 600 people and the displacement of more than 250 000, has obviously highlighted the frustration and anger felt by the Kenyan people about the profound problems of socioeconomic inequality and corruption undermining Kenyan society, with the risk of confrontation on ethnic lines. But these elections have also highlighted the democratic aspirations of the Kenyan people. These aspirations have been flouted by the irregularities that occurred on election day, which cast serious doubt on the validity of the official results. We fully share the conclusions and declarations of the European Union's election observation mission, led by your fellow Member Alexander Lambsdorff, whom I would really like to congratulate for the excellent work he did, to the point that the international authorities outside the EU, which started off in a slightly less categorical position, in some ways a slightly less objective position, ended up supporting Mr Lambsdorff’s observations and conclusions and endorsing them.

The Commission’s position with respect to the political situation in Kenya could not be clearer. Kenya’s political leaders urgently need to size up their responsibilities and immediately and seriously commit themselves to finding a political settlement. Without such a commitment, the European Union will undoubtedly have no other option than to review its relations with Kenya, which until now, it has to be said, have been excellent. Kenya is a country that was felt to be on the right track in terms of governance, human rights and democracy, and it was also playing an important role in regional stability. We need to remember these things.

Seeking a political settlement is therefore the responsibility first and foremost of the Kenyan leaders. It requires an immediate halt to provocation and violence in the streets, but also in the media and in public posturing. It is crucial for President Mwai Kibaki, and the opposition leader Raila Odinga, to agree to compromise by recognising that the election result is not correctly reflected in the exercise of power and responsibility, and that there must inevitably be power sharing to avoid the continuation of the political crisis. This power sharing could be an interim solution until, for example, new elections could be held.

Finally, it is important for the Kenyan political class to recognise the pressing need to solve the basic problems at the root of this outburst of violence, whether they are the constitutional organisation of power, the political governance of the country, or the serious discrimination and socioeconomic inequalities.

The Commission and the European Union as a whole fully support the African mediation launched by President Kufuor and continued by Kofi Annan, thanks to Graça Machel and Benjamin Mkapa. They call upon President Kibaki and Raila Odinga to cooperate fully with the aim of finding a political settlement. I spoke at length with Desmond Tutu at the start of the crisis, during his mediation mission. I also had a very long discussion with Kofi Annan, who indicated that the most appropriate thing would be for African mediation to accompany a process of rapprochement. I have promised the Commission's support for this mediation, whether politically or financially.

Whatever the case, we should be pleased that the speaker of the Kenyan parliament was elected properly last night. We should take this as a sign of respect for the constitutional framework, from this point of view at least. However, the next few days will be crucial. We will be monitoring the situation closely and will remain in constant contact with the African mediators. We will adapt our relations with Kenya, including as regards cooperation, to reflect changes in the situation and the actions of both sides.

All options are currently on the table. There needs to be European and international dialogue so that what we do has the maximum impact. It seems that the international community is currently on the same wavelength, that there are no longer differences in approach, political tendency, or even strategy. This is important. It was not necessarily the case at the outset, straight after the elections. I think this is something we have now achieved, and it is a good thing.

As for the humanitarian situation, the Commission has reacted very quickly. Following the assessments by experts from ECHO and our partners in the field, the Commission has released initial emergency aid of 5.5 million euros to cope with the needs of displaced people for water, food, shelter and healthcare.


  Maria Martens, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (NL) Mr President, as has already been said, Kenya has been an important example of democracy and stability in the region since 2002. In recent years, the country has made great political and economic strides. The Kenyan elections have shown that the vast majority of Kenyans prefer democracy to dictatorship. They have shown that they have more faith in elected representatives than in the military. Nevertheless, these alarming outbursts of violence have occurred, and there is now a humanitarian crisis that has already left hundreds dead and more than 250 000 refugees. This will not be without consequences for the country’s economic situation.

What is to be done? It is important for the European Union to offer its full support to the panel of ‘eminent African personalities’ appointed by the African Union and headed by Kofi Annan. If the past can teach us one thing, it is that we must not think that we – Europe – can solve Africa’s problems. African problems require African solutions, and I welcome the European Commission’s support for this.

Mr President, our group fully supports the resolution. I do have one more thing to get off my chest, however: something that our group considers extremely regrettable. This is that, one day after the elections – that is, at a time when the outcome had been decided and, as the Commissioner has said, irregularities had already abounded – the European Commission transferred more than 40 million euros to the government in budget aid. It did not even await the findings of our own observation team – which, incidentally, were published just three days later.

This political decision cannot be justified on the technicality that the payment had already been delayed once, until after the elections, and that it was just the third in a series of payments. This payment could have and should have been deferred. This was an extremely unfortunate decision, all the more so because the Member States themselves had already suspended their aid. This must not happen again.


  Emilio Menéndez del Valle, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (ES) Mr President, additional proof that the majority of the Kenyan people did not support President Kibaki is that in the parliamentary elections, which were held at the same time as the presidential elections, Mr Odinga’s opposition party won more than twice as many votes as Mr Kibaki’s party.

As we know, this enabled Mr Odinga’s party to win the post of speaker when Parliament opened yesterday in Nairobi. Meanwhile, 22 of Mr Kibaki’s ministers, who aspired to be MPs, were defeated at the elections.

President Kibaki is, in my view, responsible for a great deal, not only because of the electoral fraud. His five years in government have led to frustration, disillusionment and deception. It is true that the economy has grown by 6%, but more than half the population is still living below the poverty line. Also, several cabinet ministers, appointed by Mr Kibaki in a clear act of provocation, have been linked with cases of corruption.

This President, who is fraudulently seeking to remain in power, is also responsible for another serious matter: his action has caused a resurgence in inter-ethnic conflict, a spiral that may be difficult to contain.

As if this were not enough, as you know, two weeks ago the Chairman of the Kenyan Electoral Commission stated no less than that he did not know who had won the presidential elections.

In view of all this, in my opinion it makes perfect sense, as paragraph 11 of the joint motion for a resolution of Parliament states, to demand that new elections be called if it is impossible for an independent institution to organise a clean, transparent and credible recount of the votes cast in the 27 December elections.


  Alexander Lambsdorff, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to the Council, the Commission and also to my fellow Members here in the European Parliament. There is great unity among the institutions. This makes me personally very happy and I say this also on behalf of my team of more than 150 election observers, at least 50 of whom have been stationed in Kenya for over a month. Our unity here is a good sign.

Some of these observers – I want to state this here – are now on their way to Pakistan, or have already arrived there, where the next difficult election is pending. Election monitoring is sometimes a difficult and dangerous job. I should like to thank these people most sincerely for their commitment to this.

Whatever you stand for, Europe is the common value. We can be proud – as the Commissioner has just said – that other monitoring missions have subscribed to our judgment, for instance the Commonwealth Delegation and the International Republican Institute from the United States. I believe the work of the monitoring mission has therefore established a basis for a joint effort in which the European Union, Africa and the United States all pull together in order to reach a solution to the crisis in Kenya.

In its resolution the European Parliament will highlight the paths it considers appropriate. As chief observer, I have not taken part in these consultations myself. The neutrality of our mission must, in my view, be unequivocally preserved to the end. To the end means until our final report, which we are presently compiling, is submitted.

Together with the professional work of our observers in the field, the resulting neutrality was our strongest asset. Neutrality and professionalism also include the fact that we work only on the basis of proof. In our conclusion we discovered that there is scepticism about the result of the presidential election. As a monitoring mission, we have never said that a particular candidate has won the elections. What we have said is that it is not possible to establish who the winner is.

I would like to quote something in English from the Kenyan election observers, who write as follows:

‘In our view, considering the entire electoral process, the 2007 general elections were credible in as far as the voting and counting process is concerned. The electoral process lost credibility towards the end with regard to the tallying and announcement of presidential results.’

That statement comes from the national Kenyan observers, who stationed between 16 000 and 20 000 people there. It is entirely consistent with our findings.

I now wish to say something that applies to me, to the team and to everyone: we are hoping for a rapid settlement of the crisis, an end to the violence and for the refugees to return to their homeland as quickly as possible.


  Konrad Szymański, on behalf of the UEN group. – (PL) Mr President, Prime Minister, Commissioner, Kenya is more than just the problem of President Kibaki’s electoral abuses. We are dealing here with a humanitarian crisis for the civilian population.

The most dramatic situation seems to be happening in Eldoret, in the Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Langas. There we are dealing with numerous murders set against a political and ethnic background. Many Kenyans have been driven out of their family homes, which have then been burned down. On 1 January 2008 more than 3 000 people were taking refuge in the parish of Langas. The refugees are deprived of food, clean water and sanitation. On 2 January this year the Catholic Missionary Service News Agency, MISNA, reported that between 7 000 and 10 000 people were taking refuge in the cathedral in Langas. What is needed is not only political mediation, but also action to guarantee that no outburst of ethnic and religious hatred will be permitted.


  Marie-Hélène Aubert, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Mr President, I think that in view of the current situation, the European Union should make an effort to assert its credibility as regards the observation missions it sends to these countries. For if it is observed quite seriously, as was the case, that the result is clearly fraudulent, that the president cannot be considered the legitimately elected president, the European Union should then be consistent in its policy and start, at the very least, by not recognising the president, in this case Mr Kibaki. Secondly, the EU should propose and ensure, as rapidly as possible, that new presidential elections are held that will enable the president to be properly elected, honestly this time.

Sadly, we have precedents, notably in Ethiopia where the President also used force to get himself into office, despite the evidence of fraud followed by much repressive violence. The European Union’s acceptance of this fait accompli helps to undermine the value of sending observation missions.

What is the point of sending European observation missions with the seriousness and commitment of all our colleagues in this area to make conclusions that are unanimously recognised by everyone, if in the end we lie low and a few months later accept a coup by a president who will not even listen? Would we accept this kind of situation in our own countries? Obviously not.

Therefore we cannot, in terms of the democracy and electoral processes we support, have double standards, one applying in the European Union and the other fluctuating in line with peoples’ interests in these regions.

The Kenyan people, I believe, want to get to the bottom of this situation and are calling for new elections to make things perfectly clear.


  Gabriele Zimmer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we are certainly all agreed that the events in Kenya are tragic and that there must categorically be an end to today’s continuing violence. The crisis in Kenya is fundamental and in my view not merely political in nature. To all intents and purposes, it can also have an impact on the situation in Africa’s neighbouring countries.

It is true that there are rabble-rousers in Kenya trying to invoke hatred between ethnic groups in order to gain power. But if, for example, you read the free Kenyan press these days, it is very heartening to see how many journalists are constantly striving to stand up for unity in the country and for unity among the Kenyan people and are turning against the fragmentation of society. The problem primarily is that it has not been possible to allow broad sections of the Kenyan population to have a share in the Kenyan economic boom and that violence is able to spread on this basis. In the context of our development cooperation, we should rather emphasise the fact that a real attempt is being made here to bring about change and in particular, to carry out a practical campaign against poverty in Kenya.

I also think that holding discussions about the cancellation of budget support for Kenya is a problem, because this fuels anxiety about the future in Kenya. I specifically welcome the fact, Commissioner Michel, that the EU is clearly on the side of Kofi Annan and other mediators from the African Union in helping to resolve these processes in Kenya and with African politicians.


  Valdis Dombrovskis (PPE-DE). – (LV) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to commend the high level of activity among the citizens of Kenya on election day. The elections were characterised by high rates of participation and patience on the part of citizens, regardless of the long queues and technical problems in certain districts. The situation regarding the production of presidential election results was, unfortunately, entirely different. The requisite transparency was not achieved. The many breaches and discrepancies in information cast doubt upon the election results announced. Unfortunately, the impression has been given that the results were produced according to the principle that it is not how you vote that is important, but rather how we count the votes. If it is not possible to carry out a reliable and transparent review of the votes, then the presidential elections in Kenya should be held again. After the announcement of the election results the already tense atmosphere unfortunately turned violent. The most urgent priority now is to stop the violence and avert a humanitarian crisis. The European Union must support the mission led by the African Union and Kofi Annan to mediate between the President and the opposition, in order to stop the violence and find a solution to the political crisis. If necessary, the European Union ought to be ready to continue this mediation. Certainly, the European Union must grant Kenya the humanitarian aid needed to relieve the situation of the many thousands of displaced persons who, because of violence, have been forced to abandon their homes. Humanitarian aid should, however, be provided in such a way that it really reaches displaced persons and there is proper control over the way in which funds are used. From this viewpoint, the European Commission’s decision, one day after the elections, to transfer 40 million euros of budget support to the Kenyan government without taking into account the criticisms of European Union observers regarding the conduct of the elections, is questionable. Budget support unfortunately does not ensure rigorous control of the use of funds, and the provision of such assistance to a president and a government that have reached power in questionable elections ought to be carefully evaluated. I call on the European Commission to assess this case and to inform the European Parliament of the measures taken to prevent a recurrence of such a situation.


  Glenys Kinnock (PSE). – Mr President, clearly we need to identify the fact that Kenya is a country where most people are actually subsisting on a couple of dollars a day.

There is massive discontent and deprivation; a whole army of discontented people, as we have seen, has been engendered by the situation there, because what they realise is that the gap between the haves and the have-nots in Kenya has widened – and that in the context of that 6% growth in GDP which others have mentioned.

Kenya is a low-income, low-resource economy. It is also a country which, tragically, is mired in patronage and in corruption. And what we see is that, as we speak here today, people are storing up food, and people are out on the streets again in Nairobi and in other parts of Kenya.

Therefore I would add my voice to those that have said that the EU must suspend budget support to Kenya until a political resolution to the present crisis has been found. Of course, it is unacceptable that that EUR 40.6 million was sent the day after the election criticisms were made.

I am very encouraged that Commissioner Michel intimated in our committee on Monday that budget support would be reviewed immediately. I would like to hear some more detail of that. Instead of channelling money through line ministries in Kenya, we must look at ways of doing it through project support, which also ensures that the poor of Kenya are not damaged by such an action.

In my view we need to be much clearer about the need to place aid conditionality on good governance, as is clearly stated under the Cotonou Partnership Agreements, and we have not done that. We have, I am afraid, turned a blind eye to many of the serious accusations about corruption in that country.

Finally, the perpetrators of those irregular election results that the observers have reported to us must be held to account and must not be allowed to get away with it.

I also say that the European Union must play its part in monitoring the mediation process. We have been at the vanguard of asking for these considerations to be made, and I would like the Council and the European Union to be stronger and more consistent in its approach, and make sure that Kofi Annan is given all the support he needs from Europe, and that a new Election Commission can be put in place as soon as possible.


   Anna Záborská (PPE-DE).(SK) Please allow me a few questions and a few comments.

What happened to the European Union funds that were at the mission in Nairobi since November? Why was the transfer delayed until the election and the money paid out the day after the election? At that time only preliminary results were available and already there were the first doubts about the reliability of the procedure. Who has control over the use of the funds of EU taxpayers earmarked for development assistance? If there were doubts over the course of the elections, there should have been clear rules set out beforehand to the effect that the funds would not be handed over until the official announcement of the results.

When I was in Kenya a month before the elections many people pointed out to me, and the Commissioner also indicated, that the situation could end in violence. Since the financial aid is meant for the people, the condition for providing this aid must not be whether the situation has stabilised or not; otherwise we would have to suspend financial help in more countries, not only in Africa.

I reject the use of development assistance as a tool of manipulation. Suspending funds is a form political pressure and those for whom the help was destined will pay the price. Europe’s taxpayers are clubbing together and the people we are helping cannot become the hostages

of political leaders. Agreements should not be conditioned by development assistance: often they are not conditioned by respect for human rights. The people in Kenya need our help, whether they support Kibaki or Odinga. They live next to each other in slums, in extreme poverty.

We are aware that there were elections in Africa. According to people from Kenya, even if the counting of the results was possibly not accurate overall, the results would not have changed anything. Therefore, we should not be punishing the people who depend on our aid, and I am thinking of Europeans as well as of Slovaks, who despite the serious situation have stayed put and continue to complete the bilateral projects. I can guarantee that the funds for these projects are being used effectively and without corruption.


  Josep Borrell Fontelles (PSE).(ES) Mr President, we Europeans cannot just say that we are very concerned but we very much hope that things will return to normal, because a return to normality at the price of accepting the fraudulent victory of Mr Kibaki is not a solution that we can accept.

In too many African countries, rigged elections have robbed citizens of all faith and hope in the democratic system. Another case of this, this time in Kenya, would be lethal for the democratic hopes of Africa.

The solution can only come from strong external pressure. Without strong external pressure the two leaders will not reach any kind of agreement, and we need to tell Mr Kibaki clearly that his Government is illegal and act accordingly. Otherwise, our electoral observation missions would be pointless.

We have talked about the responsibilities of the African people, but we should also remember our own responsibilities. For too long we have closed our eyes to what was going on in Kenya. For too long we have sung the praises of that country as an example of democracy, forgetting the social inequalities and the corruption that was rife throughout the country: 16 billion dollars in aid have been received by that country since independence and there have been just four presidents.

Kenya is paying very dearly for the protection and support that we have given to its poor governments, without denouncing them. We cannot close our eyes this time.


  Thijs Berman (PSE).(NL) Mr President, today has seen further serious police violence against demonstrators. There have been further deaths in Kenya. Can there be an end to this tension without renewed presidential elections? I doubt it. At all events, an independent investigation into this electoral fraud is required, the outcome of which must be respected by all parties even if it means new elections.

Kenya is running tremendous risks. It is in the interest of all Kenyans, of the region and even of the EU itself that the unrest is brought to an end. To reject dialogue now would be irresponsible. Moreover, one thing is clear: further budget aid to an undemocratic government such as this is out of the question.

Kofi Annan has been taken ill, and rarely has a bout of flu come at a worse moment. Nevertheless, the EU must lose no time in fully supporting his mission and offering technical and financial assistance where necessary. Naturally it is the African leaders who must mediate in the first instance but, if the situation threatens to escalate further before Mr Annan’s arrival, the EU itself will have to be ready to join with the African Union in sending a high-level delegation to Nairobi without delay. Kenya must not become another Somalia. It is not yet too late.


  David Martin (PSE). – Mr President, I agree with Mr Borrell Fontelles that, if any good has come out of the post-election situation in Kenya, it is that it has revealed that the so-called Kenyan success story is built on a foundation of straw. While it is true that the thirst among ordinary Kenyans for democracy is strong and that Kenya has been going through a great economic boom, it is equally clear that for years a government overseeing that economic boom has failed to ensure that the whole of its population has benefited economically and socially.

We now know that there is deep-rooted social and economic disarray in the country and that for years the Government has operated on a basis of corruption and economic mismanagement. The concept, as Mrs Kinnock rightly says, of good governance and respect for democracy are prerequisites for European Union aid. But, contrary to what other speakers have said, that does not mean that we should abandon the country. It means we should rechannel our aid through agencies and organisations that can get money to the poor, the neediest and the weakest in Kenya. Clearly, if the election results are not properly monitored and respected, we cannot continue to channel money through the Kenyan Government. We have to send a clear message: good governance is a prerequisite for assistance from the European Union.


  Anders Wijkman (PPE-DE). – Mr President, this situation, as all the others have said, is very tragic: it resembles very much what happened a few years ago in Addis Ababa.

I doubt whether a solution can be found without new elections. But, ideally, a solution should now be found through dialogue in Kenya, preferably supported by the African Union. But, so far, we have seen very little progress. Time is short: the fabric of the country is disintegrating as we speak.

We cannot be bystanders if the situation is not resolved. To suspend aid is a must under the present circumstances. Moreover, if reconciliation fails, the EU has to step in to offer its services to mediate. Is the Council, is the Commission prepared to do that? In the longer-term perspective, I would submit that we have to seriously reconsider not only our development cooperation but in particular our governance programme, and in particular help political parties to become real parties and, in addition to that, strengthen the institution of the Kenyan Parliament, because that is a key problem right now.


  Colm Burke (PPE-DE). – Mr President, as someone who has visited Kenya previously and in particular the slum areas in Nairobi, I am familiar with the corruption that was in place even prior to this election. I condemn the tragic loss of up to 600 lives, and the critical humanitarian situation which has ensued after the 27 December elections in Kenya. I call on the relevant authorities and stakeholders to do their utmost to bring peace to Kenya and ensure that human rights and the rule of law are respected.

It is most unfortunate that Kenya, being one of the most stable and economically-developed nations in East Africa, has now descended into such chaos, as this will most likely have detrimental knock-on effects on its neighbouring countries. The EU election observation mission concluded that the lack of transparency and adequate security procedures severely undermined the credibility of the presidential election results.

Today, Mr Odinga’s opposition party has called once again for nationwide protests regarding the outcome of last month’s presidential election. These opposition rallies are due to last for three days, despite a government ban. Such protests could lead to further bloodshed. Many of the killings seem to have been based purely on ethnic differences, the most horrendous of which was the brutal attack on a church near the town of Eldoret, which is thought to have left more than 30 ethnic Kikuyu dead.

I urge Mr Kibaki to respect his country’s democratic commitments as enshrined in Kenya’s national Constitution and the guidelines of the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights. I call on the Presidency of the EU and the European Commission to monitor closely the mediation mission that will be led by Mr Annan later this week and, if required, to ensure an immediate continuation of these mediation efforts by a high-level EU delegation, possibly a joint EU-AU initiative.


  Karin Scheele (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, I should like to follow up on the question from my colleague Glenys Kinnock to Commissioner Michel. What are the main points? How can we visualise this? In what direction is budget support being modified?

One extra question: I assume that arrangements are already in place in the current budget support system for support to be suspended in such a situation as that which prevailed in Kenya after the elections?


  Jan Mulder (ALDE).(NL) Mr President, we all agree that what has clearly gone wrong in Kenya is the presidential election procedure. What have gone relatively well, however, are the parliamentary elections, the elections for members of the national parliament.

I agree with Commissioner Michel that yesterday’s developments in the Kenyan Parliament are encouraging: the speaker has been elected – the parties and the opposition have been sufficiently powerful to push through the elections for the new speaker. I therefore believe that the European Parliament must do everything possible to support parliamentary democracy in Kenya and strengthen it where possible. The budget aid that was granted exactly one day after the elections has drawn criticism from many quarters of this House.

I would like to ask the Commissioner the following question – even though this is probably not officially allowed. Would he be inclined to make future decisions to grant budget aid dependent on the European Parliament’s opinion? In my view, it is not for a small group of officials in the European Development Fund Committee to take such a decision; instead, the Commissioner should first seek the European Parliament’s opinion. I would like to have a clear answer to this question.


  Filip Kaczmarek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, the example of Kenya shows what a breakdown in democratic standards can lead to, and how important it is for elections to be free, transparent, honest and fair.

People who have lost elections, regardless of whether they lost in honest rivalry or whether they were cheated by those who organised the election process, should nevertheless not pursue violence and destruction. Randomly hurting people, including women and children, has nothing in common with acceptable forms of struggle for one’s rights. The only hope for an effective solution to problems of this type lies in convincing the rulers and the opposition that the overriding aim of politics is not to acquire or hold onto power; the aim of politics is the good of the people.

A return to normal for Kenya must therefore begin with a suspension of violence and destruction. I appreciate that this is the aim of mediators from the African Union, and the European Union should support this process. I would like to thank Commissioner Michel for making such a declaration.


  Michael Gahler (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, it is not only recently that the extent of corruption in Kenya has become evident and as a result, many Member States — actually all Member States — have stopped budget support in the last few years and even switched over to project aid. This is actually one of the points of criticism I would like to address to the Commission, since the Commission has apparently not made the Member States aware of these concerns and has carried on with the budget support. I, too, am now in favour of continuing the support in an appropriate form, but not in a form that would give the previous structures the opportunity to administer the money via budget support.

I am also very much in favour of in future supporting the institution that has now been authorised, in other words the Kenyan Parliament. We cannot automatically assume that all Members of Parliament behave properly and that there is no prevailing corruption. I have no illusions about this. Nevertheless, we should channel a large proportion of support into Kenya’s political institutions, into promoting its Parliament and our colleagues’ capacity for work. Then we shall have the opportunity to enable these newly-authorised colleagues to govern Kenya more effectively in future than the current government has managed to do.


  Eoin Ryan (UEN). – Mr President, I think it is generally accepted that the recent presidential elections in Kenya were flawed. I think that is a great pity because Kenya is a country that has been politically stable for many decades. Sadly that has changed in the last two weeks and we have seen over 600 people killed and 250 000 people have been displaced. Unfortunately, again, that violence is ethnic in nature.

The question now is, what can the international community and ourselves do to bring political stability back to Kenya before the situation deteriorates further? Constructive political dialogue between both sides must be a key priority, and I would agree with other speakers that yesterday was a positive day in the Kenyan Parliament. Without political engagement, however, there will be no agreement, and the European Union is urging its political talks. I am delighted to see that Kofi Annan and the Presidents of Tanzania and Uganda will be there shortly to try and broker some sort of deal.

Many of the people who have been displaced have gone into Uganda, which means there have already been effects on the regions surrounding Kenya. With regard to aid and the European Union increasing its level of financial support for humanitarian programmes in Kenya, I would be interested to hear Commissioner Michel’s answer on how exactly that money will be spent and to make sure it has been spent correctly, as raised by previous speakers.

I think we all should remember – and particularly the Kenyan people and the politicians should remember – that history has shown, time and time again, that, where there is a political vacuum, that vacuum can often be filled by extremists, but the people of Kenya deserve better.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Mr Borrell warned that we must not limit ourselves simply to expressions of concern. I agree, and in those terms I would like to answer Mr Wijkman’s question: Is the European Union prepared to assist in the search for a solution? The viewpoint of the Presidency is that it must be prepared to actively assist in the search for a solution. But what solution?

Mrs Martens emphasised the need for an African solution to African problems. I agree with that too. In other words, the European Union is not the one who should be forcing its own solutions to problems of this kind – on the contrary. However, it is necessary for it to give active support in the search for a suitable solution with other parties in the international community, especially with those whose values we share and which were referred to by Mr Lambsdorff. In this sense, the Presidency will endeavour to give strong support to the eminent group of African personalities led by the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Annan. In our judgement, it will also be necessary to continue with humanitarian aid, in an appropriate manner of course.

Mr President, allow me to thank all the esteemed Members of Parliament for their contributions. We will certainly relate them faithfully to our colleagues in the Council. We are very pleased that the general standpoint of the institutions is very similar. We will follow the development of events in Kenya very closely.


  Louis Michel, Member of the Commission. − (FR) Mr President, I will first quickly mention not the 30 million but the 40.6 million euros that constituted the payment, several months ago, of the second tranche of the 120-million-euro programme known as ‘Poverty Reduction Budget Support’.

The payment decision had been delayed to await the results and recommendations of the third review of the PRBS programme by the International Monetary Fund.

These results have been known since early November and in November, on the basis of the International Monetary Fund’s favourable opinion, the Commission approved in principle the payment of a sum of 40.6 million euros by letter to the Kenyan Finance Minister.

However, taking account of the electoral context and the risk of the government using this payment for electioneering, the Commission decided, in consultation with the Member States, not to make the payment before the elections but after they had taken place, by the cut-off date of 31 December for financial commitments in accordance with the applicable procedures. That is why, technically, the payment was made on 28 December.

I understand the upset this is causing, but just to remind you, it was only from the evening of Friday 28 and Saturday 29 December that the irregularities started to appear, when the transmission of the results from the last 49 constituencies, out of a total of 210, were subject to abnormal delays and, as you know, it was only on Monday 1 January, on the basis of the weekend’s events, that the EU election observation mission reported in its preliminary analysis that the elections had not met international standards. Therefore, it was technically too late to prevent or block the payment of this sum of 40.6 million euros.

Secondly, I would like to mention – because it is important from the point of view of the argument – that I agree with many of the things that have been said, but that there are also things I do not agree with at all. When someone suggests that the technique or method of budget support is a method or technique on which there are no conditions or controls, that is obviously wrong. I would just like to draw attention to the fact that before we suddenly suspend budget support we should first check that the proposal, made by Mrs Kinnock and others, to convert budget support into project support, is feasible quickly, or as quickly as budget support allows, so as not to put the people in an even more catastrophic situation of deprivation. Indeed, it is easy to affirm principles, but we still need to make sure that the results and consequences of implementing them do not help to make the situation even worse.

That brings me to two thoughts on budget support. Budget support is controlled. There is evidence to be provided, and it is no less transparent than the project support system.

Of course, Mrs Kinnock and others, it goes without saying that if a settlement is not reached quickly between the parties to restore calm and, I hope, to agree on the possible organisation of new elections, as Mr Wittmann wishes, budget support, which to some extent qualifies the countries it is used for as meeting certain standards, certainly will not be able to be used any more and it will be necessary to find other means of providing support. However, I do not agree that we should just suspend development aid to Kenya. We always need to remember that behind this aid there are people who benefit from it. I wanted to clarify this and I believe it was important.

A last response, finally, to two other points. Do elections need to be organised straight away? I think it would be desirable for the parties to reach an agreement. We can express all the wishes in the world, but believing that elections will be organised immediately without agreement between the parties is unrealistic. Care also needs to be taken not to encourage situations to develop that make the people’s difficulty and misfortune even worse. This is something we should not lose sight of, and I think we need to act with great caution. I am in favour of elections, provided that they come out of a settlement.

We will fully support the African mediation and, of course, as the Council said, the Commission is available for a mediation mission. I made contact with Kofi Annan and had a long discussion with him. I told him we were available – including the High Representative – for mediation work. Clearly what is now hoped for is that it can primarily be African mediation. It seems to me that this is something we cannot lose sight of.

In closing, my last comment in answer to the question Mr Mulder asked, if the European Development Fund were budgetised, as Parliament and I are asking, budget support – for example the amount, technique, controls, verification and monitoring – would be done automatically, which would greatly simplify the procedure.

You cannot imagine how much easier and more efficient my life would be if I depended much more directly on Parliament’s choices, options and control over the use of my budget.

As things stand, I am afraid that this will unfortunately not be possible, but clearly this is a subject I would like to discuss. The question you ask proves once again that the budgetisation of the European Development Fund would be a considerable advance on the level of effectiveness of our support.


  President. − I have received six motions for a resolution1 submitted in accordance with Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday 17 January 2008.

Written statements (Rule 142)

1 See Minutes.


  Glyn Ford (PSE). – I contribute to this debate with a degree of sadness. Five years ago in December 2002 I was part of the European Parliament’s Election Observation Mission to Kenya led by Baroness Nicholson. That election was conducted within International Guidelines that gave the result an integrity that validated a result that gave a victory to the opposition. Having had the opportunity to meet with Mwai Kibaki, the incoming President, we all felt, alongside the conviction of the fairness of his election, that Kenya’s future looked brighter with a new era of more efficiency and less corruption beckoning.

Now like at the end of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ the pigs have become men and the men pigs. The regime that offered so much promise has become as corrupt and inept as its predecessor, in the process destroying the hopes and future of millions of Kenyans. I welcome the robust statements of the EU’s Chief Election Observer. I hope the Commission will encourage reconciliation amongst the disputing factions and threaten strong measures if there is any failure to agree.


  James Nicholson (PPE-DE), in writing. As a former European Parliament election observer for Kenya, I am deeply concerned by the turn of events following the election in December. The fact that Kenya has for years been seen as the most stable country in that part of the African continent makes developments doubly worrying. Kenya, like my country, is a member of the Commonwealth. I support the proposal put forward by the Commonwealth observation team that independent Commonwealth judges be put in place to review the election results. Our own EU election observation team suggested that an independent audit of the results take place. I am convinced that the Kenyan people would have confidence in such an audit being carried out by Commonwealth judges.

Our immediate priority is to see Kenya return to a state of normality, by which I mean a peaceful society in which the democratic process is not in doubt. The news today that the security forces prevented opposition politicians from staging a protest rally does not bode well. I urge the EU to do all in its power to work with other international organisations to ensure that Kenya can recover both its normality and its democracy.


9. EUROPOL (debate)

  President. − The next item is the report by Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on the proposal for a Council decision establishing the European Police Office (EUROPOL) (COM(2006)0817 – C6-0055/2007 – 2006/0310(CNS)) (A6-0447/2007).


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I would first like to thank Mr Díaz de Mera García Consuegra for the report he prepared regarding the Council’s decision in favour of establishing the European Police Bureau, Europol, on the basis of the proposal put forward by the Commission.

At this point in time, the Council is still debating the draft of said decision and, in these debates, the Presidency will refer to or take into consideration the above-mentioned report by the Member of Parliament. Especially in the area of personal data protection and democratic control, the Presidency will take into consideration or strive to take into consideration doubts expressed by the rapporteur.

The shaping, final shaping, of the Council’s decision by June 2008 is one of the priority tasks of our Presidency. The aim of the decision, which will replace the Europol Convention, is primarily to improve the operative and administrative function of Europol, thereby enabling it to respond more rapidly and more effectively to new challenges.

I must emphasise that the German and Portuguese Presidencies have already achieved an important advance in this matter, on the basis of which sections one, two, three, six, seven and nine have been finally shaped. These are the sections on foundation and tasks, data processing systems, common information processing provisions, organisation, confidentiality matters and other provisions.

Therefore, the Presidency will from now on concentrate primarily on the remaining sections regarding relations with partners, security and data security, budgetary provisions, i.e. monitoring and evaluation, and transitional and final provisions.

In deliberations on the open sections, pursuant to the Council decisions of June last year, the Presidency will devote special considerations to finding appropriate solutions for the following issues: firstly the issues of removing immunity from Europol officials working for common investigation units; secondly the principle of rotation and the possibility for those employed by Europol and participating in common investigation units to receive instructions from the head of the unit; and thirdly the question of budgetary neutrality.

The expert groups have already started deliberations on the issues mentioned, and the Europol working group and the committee are also continuing deliberations according to article 36. The two key elements of all these deliberations will be the improvement of Europol’s operational capacity and the consideration of the principle of budgetary neutrality.

The Presidency is aiming to reach an agreement on these questions as early as the first quarter of 2008. The Presidency will also closely follow the course of events relating to the implementation plan. This plan defines all the key points which should be resolved if the decision on Europol is to be enforced from 1 January 2010. The initial debates on all such implementation measures are scheduled to start in the first half of this year.




  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. − (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the Slovenian Presidency, whom I thank, has just said that the Commission’s proposal, of December 2006, which aims to replace the Europol Convention with a Council decision, is one of their priorities, and that they hope to secure political agreement as soon as possible. Obviously I offer them my full support because I believe the operation and administrative functioning of Europol will be clearly improved by it and that, as the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers pointed out in June, the ability to operate effectively is a key aim of the reform of Europol.

I also thank most warmly the rapporteur, Mr Díaz de Mera, for the quality of his report and I would highlight the quality of the amendments proposed on the basis of his proposal, which has, however, been subject since then to many modifications, mentioned by the Presidency, following discussions during the German and Portuguese Presidencies. The Commission is going to look at how these amendments can be taken into account.

Among the amendments, the Commission notes the proposal from Mr Díaz de Mera that Parliament’s democratic scrutiny of Europol could operate by Europol being funded from the general budget of the European Union. I also support the idea of Community funding referred to in Amendment 6, which relates to Recital 5. I also support Europol having a Community footing, requested in Amendment 5. Generally speaking, I am very interested in the amendments tabled on the role of the data protection officer, such as Amendment 9, and those concerning data protection. There are many, but I would particularly like to mention Amendments 13, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25, and can agree with the objective.

On the role of Europol officials in the coordination of joint investigation teams, I would point out that this coordination role was not supported by the Council. It was discussed at length, and in view of legislation that now applies to joint investigation teams, the Member States can still, in the arrangements they make between participating Member States, set up a joint investigation team, and specify and limit the role of Europol officials. Therefore, on this point, we need to continue discussions to reach a good compromise. Consequently, at this stage, making a provision of this kind in the proposal for a decision on Europol would unfortunately not be sufficient to grant a wider investigation coordination role to Europol officials, legally and systematically – a role, ladies and gentlemen, that I would personally like, of course. I agree with Amendment 15, which proposes establishing a special relationship between the national unit and the competent national authorities.

These, then, are the comments I wanted to make on this report, and I thank the rapporteur once again. I hope that the vote by Parliament can take place this week, so we can all give Europol excellent prospects for the near future and the possibility of a new status very soon that will enable it to function better.


  Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, rapporteur. (ES) Madam President, President-in-Office of the Council, Vice-President of the Commission, I would also like to thank you for your words and for your support.

I would like to start by asking for a commitment from the Council to this House for the decision that we are debating to be reviewed by the European Parliament no more than six months after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

As an MEP I strongly defend the broadening of Parliament’s powers, especially those which, in the foreseeable future, will give this House the essential capacity as joint legislator in such important matters as are those concerning the area of freedom, security and justice.

However, I also believe that Parliament cannot make its work dependent on the anticipated entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, or suspend it on this basis. Our work therefore needs to continue. We need to continue with the process that is underway and use it in two ways: to be more effective in the fight against crime and to decisively claim the powers of the European Parliament.

Crime is dynamic and is constantly changing, therefore Europol and the other EU instruments to protect the safety of its citizens need to adapt more quickly to the changing times. The Convention of July 1995 is obsolete, so it is crucial for the Europol Decision, with its numerous advances, to enter into force quickly in order to provide better protection for EU citizens.

Keeping the system of protocols for amending the Convention is an absolutely anachronistic process. The new proposal that I am putting forward for debate introduces substantial changes. Firstly, by means of a Council decision based on Article 34(2) of the EU Treaty, it puts forward a much more flexible instrument. Secondly, the proposal puts forward significant fundamental changes such as converting the Office into a European agency, which will mean giving its staff the status of EU officials and financing it from the Community budget, which is desirable.

Another significant change is the extension of the scope of Europol’s power to cover non-organised crime. The independent Data Protection Officer is another important step forward in terms of monitoring and guarantees.

The work done by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs has fulfilled two objectives. First amending the Council’s proposal in order to give Europol a specific framework for the protection of personal data and, with this in mind, I would like to highlight the need for the Council to adopt the proposal for a framework decision on this as soon as possible. Secondly, giving Parliament greater control over Europol’s activities; in order to do this, we have proposed creating of an ad hoc committee made up of members of this House and of national parliaments, involving the European Parliament in the process of appointing and dismissing the Director, as well as other measures aimed at ensuring budgetary control over the new agency and its programme of work.

I sincerely believe that the proposals adopted in our parliamentary committee improve the Council’s original document, which otherwise makes a great deal of changes. This is why, President-in-Office of the Council, I ask for your support for our report.

I would like to finish with sincere thanks to my colleagues from all the political groups for their valuable contributions, and, in particular, I would like to mention the negotiating efforts of Mr Moraes, Mr Alvaro and Mr Fava, and the contributions of Mrs Buitenweg and Mr Catania.


  Jutta Haug, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. − (DE) Madam President, President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, the Committee on Budgets is positive about the Commission’s proposal to lead Europol out of its interstate position and into communitisation. If Europol is therefore soon to be funded entirely from the European budget, Parliament’s budgetary rights must also be protected by the structures. The Committee responsible has kindly adopted all our respective amendments.

I also hope that the list that Commissioner Frattini has just read out is not exclusive, because I noticed that a number of amendments were not included.

We have all, however, got it straight that part of the administration would again be financed by operational resources. We now call upon the Council to sit down at the table with us immediately and come to a mutual agreement on the financing of Europol, because one thing is certain: everything we decide tomorrow applies only under the proviso of the result of the Council negotiations in accordance with Article 47 of the interinstitutional agreement of May 2006.


  Hubert Pirker, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats I expressly support the proposal that the Council has put forward for integrating Europol into the framework of the European institutions, on several grounds.

Firstly, because we will have a new legal foundation, which will save us lengthy ratification procedures and therefore make it possible for Europol to adapt quickly and flexibly to new situations, and secondly, because not only will the protocols be adopted, but jurisdiction will be extended to encompass preparatory data and data on procurement of funds, because the operating appropriations are being increased, because the funding comes from the EU budget and therefore greater independence is established for Europol as well and better monitoring opportunities are provided for us as Parliament and last but not least, because in future, data protection will also continue to be safeguarded at a very high level.

I would like to thank the rapporteur for his very realistic amendments, particularly as regards the tasks of the mixed committee, the immunity of Europol employees in their operational commitments, the role of Parliament in appointing the Director and also particularly as regards data protection. He has done an excellent job here on Parliament’s behalf.

If all these proposals are accepted, Europol will become more effective, more flexible and more manageable.

I have no sympathy for the Liberals’ proposal to postpone all these measures to strengthen Europol to provide more security in the interest of citizens until the Treaty comes into force. We need security now, which means we need Europol now. We have to do the work now and then we shall certainly deal with the subject once again – should it be necessary – after the Treaty has come into force.

I would therefore ask the Liberals to reconsider their proposal and if possible withdraw the amendment.


  Claudio Fava, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the Socialist group welcomes the adoption of the Europol report and the proposal to convert Europol into an EU agency. After an extremely long period of waiting we are finally in a position to make Europol into a concrete and effective tool in combating organised crime, as well as many other dangerous types of crime which are now manifesting themselves at European level – I am thinking, for instance, of the action that Europol will be able to take on money-laundering.

Our group wanted to strengthen the supervisory powers specified in the proposal into genuine parliamentary supervision, not just restricted to budgetary powers, of course, and we wanted to strengthen the provisions on personal data protection and data security, particularly in the absence of a good framework decision on data protection in the third pillar, which is still taking its time in coming.

We cannot, however, ignore the fact, as pointed out by Mr Díaz de Mera García, that meanwhile the context has changed: the signing of the Lisbon Treaty creates the prospect that in the near future police cooperation will be subject to co-decision by the European Parliament and thus to our full responsibility, to qualified majority voting in Council and to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice. This is why we are asking the Slovenian Presidency for a formal undertaking to put a review of the dossier before the European Parliament within six months of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon.

Finally, the Socialist group still believes that it would have been more appropriate, on a matter as sensitive as this, for the rapporteur to have withdrawn to a certain degree, in view of the events that saw him involved in politics in his country. Our group has, however, decided not to leave out his contribution to a dossier that we believe to be of strategic importance for the process of European integration.


  Alexander Alvaro, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (DE) Madam President, Mr Vice-President, Minister, before I begin I should like to thank Mr°Díaz de Mera García Consuegra for his constructive and outstanding cooperation. Our teamwork, including with colleagues from the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, has been very good despite, incidentally, the isolated case where the Socialists criticised the rapporteur.

We have no misgivings at all about the expansion of Europol, which was founded in 1994 as the European Drug Unit and was converted into Europol, as we now know it, in 1999. This is necessary to protect our population in the fight against organised crime, which does not stop at borders, whether these be sea, land or air. In the same way, Europe’s officials must be able to take action and deal with it. It must be equally clear, however, that there are certain ground rules in police work.

Immunity of Europol officers, as is regulated in the codicil, does not make sense. This has to be said. It does not make sense that Europe’s police officers should have more powers as Europol officers than others do. Nor does it make sense that there are no parliamentary controls over police cooperation. After all, we want to create an efficient authority, which can also be called to account for any mistakes it may make, and not the Sheriff of Nottingham!

The same applies to the judicial scrutiny of Europol. It is inconceivable that a police authority in Europe should be able to act without its actions being subject to judicial review. As a result we Liberals (our colleague Mr Pirker has perhaps misunderstood this) have introduced an amendment, whereby a revision clause is to be adopted, as Mr Fava has already stated, so that the European Parliament is able to deal with this once again six months after the Treaty of Lisbon comes into force.

As for the rest, we – that is the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, at least – also expect a clear statement from the Council here that this revision clause is being considered and included in the negotiations. In the face of a structural majority, we would not wish to make use of Article 53 or Article 168 of the Rules of procedure, that is, referral to the Committee, because we, too, believe that we need Europol now and that its expansion should not be delayed. However, when forced to, we must act in this way.


  Seán Ó Neachtain, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (GA) Mr President, I should like first of all to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, on his report. As we know, we are living in a Union in which citizens can travel freely, but coordination at EU level in the sphere of justice and home affairs nevertheless needs to play a more central role.

Organised crime is tending to become more internationalised, and the onus is thus on the EU to enable Europol to assume an active role in halting the illegal flow of drugs from non-EU countries. Europol must endeavour to stamp out the illicit trafficking whereby many people are being smuggled into the EU – more often than not against their will – to work in the sex industry, for example.

Ireland will soon be holding a referendum on the European Treaty, and I should like to place it on record that we shall continue in the future to play our full part in the European justice and home affairs sphere – just as we have done up to now. And that we shall not exercise the option of saying no unless a problem arises as regards domestic legislation.


  Kathalijne Maria Buitenweg, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (NL) Madam President, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, sincerely for his work. He had already produced a really good piece of work, and was then very constructive in the way he dealt with the amendments tabled by Members. My group can therefore endorse his report.

I would like to make it clear to the Council, however, that support for the Díaz de Mera García Consuegra report is not synonymous with support for the Council decision, because there are still some differences between the two, particularly regarding data protection. The report rules out the unrestrained use of databases, as data may only be used for specific purposes, must be subject to judicial control in the Member States, and may only be processed on a case-by-case basis.

My question is whether the Council would like to respond to those amendments. Commissioner Frattini has just set a good example by going into the specifics of the report, enabling us to see exactly what the Commission stands for. I thank him sincerely for this. I now hope that the President-in-Office can make it clear what the Council thinks of the European Parliament’s additions.

Not everyone in my group is a staunch supporter of a strong police force, but any improvement in judicial and democratic control can count on our strong support. Therefore, we support the conversion of Europol into an agency, with the associated increase in budgetary control. We are also in favour of greater judicial control; and so I consider the proposal of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe to be extremely sensible, and shall give it my support.

As Mr Alvaro has just said, admittedly rather cautiously, we can have another look at this in six months’ time. As far as I am concerned, we shall not only look at the proposal, but also modify it. My question to the Council is this: do you plan to accept this proposal? If so, what difference do you believe it will make as regards control by the Court of Justice, including over Europol?


  Giusto Catania, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I also think that we need to have a transnational police force that can specifically tackle international crime, which today is no longer confined within national borders.

Only a few days ago the Italian Parliament’s anti-Mafia commission went to Germany, where it found that an enormous amount of the financial resources invested in Germany have been obtained through a mechanism that directly involves Sicilian and Calabrian criminals. I believe that this is emblematic of the real need to combat crime on an international basis, and one way to do so is by putting in place European police resources.

I believe that Europol can accomplish this job, but I have some doubts about whether transforming Europol into an agency can immediately salvage it. We have a duty to evaluate Europol’s activities from 1994 to today, and I believe that we will probably also need to review its specific mission, because I think that its priorities ought to be tackling drug trafficking, money-laundering and transnational Mafia organisations.

I believe that there are also still some problems regarding the need to fully recognise Parliament’s powers. Parliament should have supervisory powers – this is the case for all national parliaments, which have supervisory powers over the national police – and I believe that the European Parliament should have supervisory powers over a European agency whose key tasks are policing and combating international crime. I also believe that we need to have some clarifications on data protection.

I am extremely worried because the proposal, as it has been adopted and probably will be adopted in the future by the Council, has serious deficiencies which put the individual data of European citizens at serious risk.


  Roger Knapman, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Madam President, the rapporteur was, I understand, the Director-General of Spain’s police between 2002 and 2004. This means, I assume, that one of his last tasks before leaving office was to deal with the immediate aftermath of the terrible bombings in Madrid. I, therefore, accept the sincerity with which he now puts the case for extending the powers of EUROPOL in order to deal with new terrorist threats.

However, I will not need to remind him that my country, too, has had a long history of facing up to terrorism and, like his country, that consisted for many years of a threat from separatists, which, in recent years, has been matched by the new threat of Islamic extremism. What I am saying is that my country is very grateful for help and cooperation from its neighbours where necessary, but, in the final analysis, it must be able to act exactly according to its own methods and procedures and on its own initiative.

But what is being proposed here is not just a further encroachment of EUROPOL into areas that should be left under the control of Member States. Worse still than that, the Commission wants to change the legal framework governing EUROPOL so that any extension of EUROPOL’s powers does not have to be ratified by Member States. The rapporteur concludes his statement by saying that we must ensure EUROPOL enjoys maximum democratic legitimacy. Once again, we see that the EU, as it seeks to take powers from Member States, even in matters of policing, has a very strange idea of democratic legitimacy.


  Jim Allister (NI). – Madam President, whatever the desirability of combating terrorism and organised crime – and it is desirable – it is clear to me that this expansion of the role for EUROPOL and the change in its legal basis and title are about something quite different. They are, in fact, about giving the apparatus of statehood to the EU.

States naturally and properly have police forces. Now the EU is to have its own right to have European police officers, funded from the EU budget and staffed by EU officials. In truth and in fact, they will be EU policemen doing the bidding of the EU and roaming across Europe, meddling in the work of national police forces, particularly since their competence to initiate and lead inquiries is to be extended beyond organised crime into ever increasing areas of criminal law.

Then, to crown what for me is that absurdity, these EU policemen are to have immunity from national constraints and their actions put beyond the reach of judicial review. That causes me to reject these proposals. They are but the latest manifestation of super statehood for the EU – all under the framework of the Constitution and none of it with the consent of the peoples of Europe because of the conspiracy amongst EU leaders to subvert democracy and refuse referendums.


  Carlos Coelho (PPE-DE).(PT) Vice-President Frattini, ladies and gentlemen, in 1998 the European Parliament rejected all the initiatives presented to it when consulted on matters of detail relating to Europol. It did so out of consistency as long as Europol continued, in the intergovernmental context, without being subject to democratic and jurisdictional control. Now this initiative has come in response to what we have constantly been requesting in this plenary, with the aim of converting Europol into an EU agency, financed from the Community budget, and strengthening our role of democratic control.

Despite this proposal being a subject of deep controversy in Council, I think that we should not accept any further postponement. The European Parliament has an obligation to show its support for the Commission’s initiative to make Europol an EU agency. Europol’s current legal framework, an international convention, moreover impedes any process of updating or modifying powers, with delays of years. Indeed, the increase of new threats to security, such as terrorism, which poses new challenges to Europol, requires a new approach.

Hence the importance of this decision, which should not only place Europol on an equal footing with Eurojust and the European Police College but also make it more efficient in operation, extending its mandate to crimes that are not strictly related to organised crime and introducing greater flexibility into its mechanisms. At the same time greater transparency and democratic and jurisdictional control must be guaranteed.

I therefore support the excellent report that Mr Díaz de Mera has produced, and the important amendments he tabled, notably regarding data protection. I would like to pay tribute to Mr Díaz de Mera and express my solidarity for the excellent report he has produced and for the person that he is, especially as some Members tried unfairly to diminish his work, raising national struggles that have furthermore already had a full response from the Spanish Supreme Court of Justice.


  Marek Aleksander Czarnecki (UEN). – (PL) The main task that the European Police Office faces is that of improving efficiency of action and cooperation between the authorities in Member States as regards preventing and combating international organised crime. The agency’s mission is to make a contribution to the sphere of law enforcement in the European Union with reference to this form of crime. This is becoming increasingly important in the face of the new forms of crime which are constantly appearing and the threat of terrorism.

Life is forcing us to expand Europol’s powers and also to adapt the principles on which it functions through the introduction of more flexible mechanisms. With the agency proposed by the rapporteur, however, there is an urgent need for the introduction of clear principles for the democratic monitoring of Europol and personal data protection.


  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Madam President, in its proposal for the establishment of a European police force, the Commission is seeking to transform Europol from a body based on inter-state agreement into an institutional body of the European Union. This, in my view, shows how wide ranging Europol’s enforcement operations are and is proof of the overall strengthening of the European Union’s enforcement framework and mechanisms.

Two things grow quickly in the European Union: the profits of companies and of capital, and aggressive enforcement mechanisms. We have filled all our respective countries with police forces and enforcement mechanisms and now this is happening at EU level too.

This development also expands Europol’s field of activity and includes all punishable acts in its sphere of competence. It acquires the right to intervene even in the Member States themselves in relation to international events of major significance with consequences for public order, such as international demonstrations. Alongside the vast SIS II and VIS monitoring systems etc., the Europol information system will be used to file personal data relating to workers throughout the European Union as well as data relating to political, trade union and social activities and personal convictions. This data will be exchanged not only between the security services and secret services of the EU Member States, but also with private individuals, such as independent assassins operating in Iraq.

The claims that the transformation of Europol is purportedly a democratic development are self-deceiving or at best naïve. Why? Because there is no real possibility of controlling the inaccessible citadel of Europol or of restricting its enforcement activities. Furthermore, many people have commented on the immunity of Europol police offers and the inadequacy of any national control. For these reasons we are firmly opposed to the proposal.


  Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM). – (SV) Madam President, we have created a single market with free movement of goods, services, capital and people. Almost everyone has agreed to participate in Schengen. In practice all border controls in the EU have been abolished. From a liberal point of view, this is a gigantic step forward. We no longer need to stand with cap in hand in front of officials when we want to study, work, travel or seek health care in another EU country.

However, freedom has its downside. When border controls disappeared, the scope for organised crime increased enormously. This eased the way for the drugs trade, the exchange of stolen goods and trafficking. Sometimes this expansion in organised crime is used as proof that the EU is needed. That is grotesque. The expansion is facilitated by the EU, a price we are obliged to pay for increased freedom and prosperity. How high is that price? Well, police resources have to be increased perhaps by 1-2% of GDP at national level in order to roll back this phenomenon. Such an increase in national resources is the most important and perhaps the only way to restore an honest, decent Europe.

The rapporteur wants to transfer power over the police to Brussels. Europol should become an EU body financed from the EU budget. He makes light of questions of integrity and democratic legitimacy. We must therefore say no to this report, focus on the expansion of national police resources and let Europol remain a cooperation body subject to intergovernmental procedures.


  Fernand Le Rachinel (NI).(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, this report proposes nothing more and nothing less than to give the European Police Office, Europol, a new status by modifying its existing legal bases.

Indeed, the intention is to replace the Europol Convention concluded in 1995 between the Member States with a Council decision converting the agency from an intergovernmental body into a European Union agency financed from the Community budget and applying the Staff Regulations of officials of the European Communities. The reasons given for this radical change of status are the extension of the mandate of Europol's activities beyond just organised crime and the Member States’ inability to meet these new and very extensive objectives adequately. These objectives will obviously be better met at European Union level, the Council assures us.

But this is all smoke and mirrors. The reality is that we are already engaged with the requirements and application of the Treaty of Lisbon, which transfers almost all of justice and home affairs policy to a qualified majority of the Council of Ministers. Until now, these fields of judicial and police cooperation have required unanimity. The reality is that our national and European leaders are in the process of imposing on us institutional reforms that all work towards a more deeply supranational and bureaucratic model.

It is these same reforms that are in the Treaty of Lisbon that were rejected by the French and Dutch in the referendums of May and June 2005. The people have been duped, misled and treated with contempt. Europe cannot be built contrary to its people and contrary to national realities, and it is high time that our pro-European political class realised this and finally left Europe to construct itself from the nations’ and people’s rights to identity, sovereignty, freedom and security.


  Margaritis Schinas (PPE-DE). – (EL) Madam President, as a member of the Committee on Budgets and also as an MEP who comes from a region on the European Union’s external borders, I would like to make three observations:

Firstly, turning Europol into a Community agency requires that we receive more value for money from its work. We want this Community Europol to have a greater presence in places where we need it – in the Balkans, combating the organised mafia – and not in staffrooms or offices.

Secondly, within the Community Europol framework, the national police forces must gradually overcome their distrust of each other. The Member States’ police authorities must learn to cooperate above and beyond borders and national priorities. The transformation of Europol into a Community agency allows for this.

Thirdly and most importantly, we have devoted much time to the institutional dimension of this file. I wish to offer my full support to the rapporteur, Mr Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, who chose a practical and realistic solution. We cannot paralyse the entire procedure until 2009 while we wait for the perfect institutional solution, nor can we carry on theological debates when issues are pressing. The time for action is now, and now we must act. It is within this context, then, that I express my full support for the approach mapped out by the rapporteur, and I hope that this debate will be the first stage in the formation of a genuine European Community police service capable of dealing with problems.


  Georgios Georgiou (IND/DEM). – (EL) Madam President, once again we must salute the development of this large police body known as Europol. We have been doing so since 1992. The records of its performance have not been bad. I have the impression that the new form which we are attempting to give it will create problems, bearing in mind that the British police will be operating in Paris and Greek police officers in Berlin. We will see how to get around this, but there is always the problem of distrust between police authorities.

I salute Mr Díaz de Mera García Consuegra’s very careful work. If we need to restrict Europol’s activities to terrorism issues, then among other crimes it must try to find real terrorism, rather than develop a mechanism which, instead of hunting down terrorism, hangs like a noose, stifling the human and political rights of European citizens.


  Hynek Fajmon (PPE-DE).(CS) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that the change in the legal standing of Europol, which we are now discussing, is not a step in the right direction. Europol is functioning well at present and does not need any changes to its status. Police work is the domain of the Member States and the main responsibility for the work therefore rests, logically and rightly, with the national governments, which are controlled by the national parliaments. This approach is already implicitly respected even in Schengen cooperation, in which the Czech Republic has been fully involved since the end of last year. Police cooperation at EU level is therefore, logically, subject to an inter-governmental approach. The Commission now wishes to abandon this correct and logical approach and, in fact, re-shape Europol into a new agency that is subordinate to the European institutions. However, an agency format is not suitable for Europol and will not bring any benefits. The national interior ministers will have less and less control of Europol there will be no advantages in terms of the fight against crime. In my opinion, to start with there should be proper and democratic ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, which also has a bearing on Europol’s legal basis: only after that can negotiations begin on a possible amendment of the legal basis. For this reason I will be voting against this report.


  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). – Madam President, just to show that the PPE-DE Group has a lot of diversity, I completely disagree with the previous speaker and would like to start by congratulating the rapporteur on an excellent report.

I think this report is very good and I think it is good for three reasons. The first reason is that it expands the powers of EUROPOL. It brings it into the Community budget, it creates an agency, and it extends its mandate beyond organised crime. I think that is a very important step forward.

The second reason I think it is good is because it calls for more flexibility. You do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that, if an organisation is established in 1995 and its conventions are amended three times from 2000 to 2003 and those changes enter into force only in the year 2007, the organisation is not working. It is not flexible enough. We need more flexibility and I think that is what this report proposes. There is nothing more conservative in this world than an interior ministry or a police establishment and I think we have seen it with EUROPOL.

The third point is: I think that this is a good report because it increases supranational and communautaire elements and it decreases intergovernmental elements. It increases judicial scrutiny and democracy – and if there is one area where you have to work together, it is this. The more free movement you have, the more Schengen you have, the more international crime you have, the more we need cooperation on a European level and I think this report is a good step in that direction.


  Javier Moreno Sánchez (PSE).(ES) Madam President, a small clarification. As our Socialist coordinator said, we Socialists still think that the rapporteur is not the most suitable person to produce reports on judicial and police cooperation.

It is true, as Mr Coelho said, that the Supreme Court has closed the case, but it is a question of ethics and political dignity.

I will explain: I should make it clear that the rapporteur refused to cooperate with the Spanish legal system and was fined for it. This was not a trivial matter: it was the trial of the terrorists accused of the worst attack that has been perpetrated in the European Union.

We therefore think that, for the sake of consistency, a person cannot refuse to cooperate with the legal system in Spain and then lecture Europe on how the Member States should cooperate with each other in police and judicial matters.


  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE). – Madam President, what we have heard in this debate is the usual confusion between cooperation and integration. I very much support those who have expressed concern at the EU efforts to expand EUROPOL’s powers and competence. Of course we need good cooperation between police and security services. I happen to believe that we have always had that good cooperation at the operational level, but it can always be improved. Indeed, in my experience at EUROPOL – and I am probably one of the few Members of this House who has been to EUROPOL on a number of occasions – most of its activity is bilateral, which gives the lie to this idea that it has some other great role.

The need for cooperation is very different to the involvement of the European Union institutions, which is merely part of the EU’s wider agenda of political integration.


  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I wanted to add my voice to that of my colleague, Geoffrey Van Orden, and my previous colleague from the Czech Republic, from the ODS. I disagree with Mr Stubb. I am also nervous – and I do not think it would be supported by many of my constituents in the United Kingdom – about the idea of turning EUROPOL into a kind of supranational fledging European Union FBI-style organisation.

Like all colleagues, I am, of course, in favour of intergovernmental cooperation in police, intelligence and security matters, particularly when we face growing problems from international organised crime, international terrorism etc. EUROPOL already has quite an extensive remit in areas like people trafficking as well, but we do not need to extend the powers of EUROPOL. It should be an agency charged with acting as a gatekeeper in terms of exchange of information and also building up more confidence between our national police forces and our security and intelligence services. There is a lot of mistrust between some of the Member States’ traditional law enforcement agencies. Europol should be acting as a kind of coordinator and not be given special rights. I would particularly object to any idea of EU policemen being able to go into our own Member States with powers of arrest.


  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I cannot resist the temptation of answering my two colleagues Mr Van Orden and Mr Tannock. We are not trying to create some kind of a US FBI type of organisation here, we are simply trying to have police cooperation which works better, which is more effective, which is more transparent, which is more flexible and which simply works. That is what we do not have today, that is what we are trying to do.

I do not want to get into the internal UK debate and scaremongering, that we are creating some kind of FBI with some kind of superpowers, with European police coming into your house to arrest you. That is not what we are trying to do. We are trying to get the third pillar cooperation of police to work better. That is all.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Allow me just a comment or two on this extremely interesting debate, which I am honoured to attend.

My first comment relates to the Council’s attitude towards amendments, of which there are many, although I cannot represent the Council’s opinion here just yet. As was said in the introduction, the Council is still deliberating on this decision and it will resume deliberation within this framework after the amendments. However, I can maintain that as the Presidency we will strive for a detailed and mindful debate of all the amendments to be approved. We will also strive for the greatest possible number to be included in the text of the decision. I cannot guarantee more that this. As we know, approval of a decision at this moment in time still requires the consensus of all the Member States.

This leads me to the following comment regarding the revision clause. There is no Council opinion on this either, but I think that, in the name of the Council, I can express a certain doubt about building into the text of an act such as this mechanisms which should automatically be activated in the period after the Treaty of Lisbon comes into effect. The Treaty of Lisbon has not yet come into force. Its enforcement is in the hands of the national parliaments and in at least one case in the hands of the voters.

It is my opinion that by building such a mechanism into acts of this kind, we will not facilitate the approval of acts such as this; what is more, we will not facilitate ratification procedures that are currently taking place. I also think that this question received a satisfactory solution in declaration No. 50 attached to the Treaty of Lisbon.


  Alexander Alvaro (ALDE). – (DE) Madam President, because I had the feeling that the Minister had misunderstood this, I just wanted to take the liberty very briefly of pointing out the fact that the revision clause does not in any way jeopardise or influence ratification of the Treaty, but simply guarantees that after ratification, Parliament will once again deal with the Europol report. After consultation with other permanent representatives, it does not seem to me that this threat is seen as general.


  Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. − (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for all the contributions that have been made. I will be very brief.

Firstly I will give a general reply to all those who have expressed doubts about the need to strengthen Europol, those who have spoken about the will of the people and the concerns of citizens. I would like to say that if there is one subject on which the vast majority of European citizens expresses fear regarding the free movement of criminals and asks for more security, it is this very subject of police cooperation. If there is one subject on which the more is said, as Mr Stubb noted, the more the movement of persons is liberalised, the more need there is for European coordination and action on transnational crime and thus the concept of a European agency is certainly not that of a bureaucratic body, but of a fast, effective operational tool.

This is why I am convinced – and this is not only because I put forward the proposal – of the need to adopt this decision speedily, as the Slovenian Presidency wishes. Regarding the amendments, I have already mentioned the amendment tabled by Mr Alvaro. I would like to remind you that the idea of having a regular review of the smooth operation of current ‘third pillar’ initiatives is something permitted by Declaration No 50, which has just been mentioned. What does this say? It says that the Commission, on a case-by-case basis, when the situation is appropriate, following entry into force of the Treaty, shall propose the review of instruments currently falling within the third pillar in order to change them into instruments over which Parliament has full co-decision powers and to which the procedures which Parliament in my view rightly wishes for apply. Thus the instrument already exists for this purpose.

It is perhaps the imposition of such a restricted time frame to this instrument that poses some problems for me personally, but I also wonder, and I have no preconceptions on this point: is it advisable to plan a review of an instrument such as the Europol decision, which has not yet entered into force? I ask the question because you know that if we were to adopt this decision before the end of the Slovenian Presidency – in June 2008 – it would enter into force in January 2010. So can we already plan to undertake to review an instrument when its operation will begin in January 2010?

I would not be opposed to arguing, when it is in operation, if problems emerge that are linked to insufficient democratic monitoring, that that would be an excellent reason for the European Commission to apply Declaration No 50 and change the instrument from the third pillar to the new system. One of my reasons for giving this example is to say that we cannot close the door on Parliament’s need for democratic monitoring, but it is perhaps the manner and time frames of this strict compulsory review procedure that pose problems for us.


  Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra, rapporteur. (ES) Madam President, before you start counting the time, I would like to ask you to take the following into consideration: please give me the two minutes that I am entitled to so that I can respond out of courtesy to all of my colleagues, the Council and the Commission, but also, Madam President, I earnestly ask you to give me some separate time to answer the very serious, unjustified allusions that have been made about me. May I count on your understanding, Madam President? Thank you very much.

I am very grateful to almost all my colleagues – and I emphasise the word ‘almost’ – for their contributions, and I very especially take them on board. I would like to say that the concerns that have been expressed here are not only the concerns of the rapporteur, but that they are also the concerns of the House. It has been very gratifying for me to hear how well disposed the Council is and the wise words of compromise and also clarification from Vice-President Frattini.

I would therefore like to thank all my fellow Members, those who have honoured me with their support as well as those who have honoured me with their criticisms. You should not forget that I have been a Member of Parliament for seventeen years, and still am, and I was the Director-General of Police for the Kingdom of Spain for two years. I was. That is how I am able to see both sides of the coin.

President-in-Office of the Council, I would therefore like once again to highlight the issues that concern us: we cannot fight crime on our own. Crime is transnational. Crime goes beyond borders, and our police forces, which are national, need to have in Europol an instrument to support and strengthen them. Not one that interferes or overlaps with their work, but one that supports and strengthens them.

Guarantees are very important to us. It is very important to us to support and strengthen Europol, but with three criteria: confidence, control and guarantees. This is naturally what has been made clear in our report and in the contributions of fellow members.

Data protection in the Framework Decision in the third pillar as soon as possible is important to us. It is extremely important to us that Parliament has control and it is very important to us to decisively and determinedly fight organised crime together.

Now, Madam President, due to the allusions, I would like to answer the second, much more unpleasant, question. Mr Moreno does not respect judicial decisions. The Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Spain and the Public Prosecutor at the Supreme Court of the Kingdom of Spain said these exact words in reference to my case. I do not know if they translate well, but they said these exact words, ‘no crime whatsoever’.

However, some people, such as Mr Moreno, have not had and do not have the intellectual and moral integrity to apologise for spreading something that they should not have spread. What Mr Moreno has done here is to intoxicate Parliament comme d'habitude with issues that do not have anything to do with the report or with the heart of the matter.

He talks about morality and lack of dignity. It is immoral and undignified not to respect judicial decisions and, on top of that, to throw them back in the face of a colleague who does have dignity and morality. I will not say that Mr Moreno is undignified and immoral, but what I will say is that he has behaved in an undignified and immoral way.

What I will say in his defence is that I would like to think that they are not his own ideas, but that he has behaved, not like a messenger boy, but rather that this time he has had the brazenness to act as the messenger boy. Why? In order to unjustifiably discredit and perhaps in the vain attempt to get a few column inches in the Spanish press.


  President.(FR) The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday, 17 January 2008.


10. Situation in Pakistan following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (debate)

  President.(FR) The next item is the Council and the Commission statements on the situation in Pakistan following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) The assassination of the former Prime Minister and main opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, aggravated the already complicated situation prior to the elections in Pakistan. In addition, it had a negative effect on the process of gradual transition to a more democratic system in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto was certainly one of those who could have contributed to progress in areas of economic development, reduced corruption and more freedom for the media.

Ever since the introduction of a state of emergency on 3 November last year, The European Union and the European Parliament have emphasised the need for stability and appealed for reconciliation and the reintroduction of democracy. Stability in Pakistan is certainly in our strategic interest. That means that we are supporting the struggle of the moderate majority of Pakistanis against the violent minority of extremists.

Our interests – the interests of the European Union in Pakistan – are also closely associated with our priority tasks in Afghanistan and the wider region. They are associated with our fight against terrorism and against the proliferation(1) of weapons of mass destruction, and with our fight for the respect of human rights, and all this was emphasised many times in our messages to the Pakistani authorities.

President Musharraf will probably come to Brussels next week. That will be a unique opportunity to pass on our message. Together with our international partners we have also established contacts with other major parties in Pakistan.

The key message of the Council of the European Union is that to conduct free and honest elections open to all in Pakistan next month is of crucial importance. The Pakistani government must strive to provide appropriate political and security conditions for carrying out such elections. In addition, all the parties must accept the decision of the Electoral Commission that the election of 18 February should be carried out with dignity and restraint.

We are also inviting the Pakistani authorities to use the extended period up to the elections to improve the conditions for the elections in accordance with international standards. Primarily, the authorities must guarantee to do everything in their power to prevent electoral fraud and intimidation and to ensure transparency for free operation of the media, and guarantee to release political prisoners. All this would contribute to a democratic and transparent electoral process under appropriate security conditions. As we know, the European Union will dispatch a full election observation mission. We are hoping that these elections will be followed internationally in their entirety.

At the first meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council at the end of this month, foreign affairs ministers will discuss the Pakistan situation in detail and debate the options the EU might have for assisting the successful continuation and strengthening of the democratic processes in that country.


  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is nothing less than a national tragedy and came as a shock to all of us. Mrs Bhutto was, I think for all of us, a symbol of a moderate and liberal Pakistan. She enjoyed popular support and she also had the courage to challenge extremism and terrorism. It was perhaps, unfortunately, this very courage for which she ultimately paid with her life. Her murder is a loss for the millions of Pakistanis who had placed hope in her for democracy and a better future. Her death is also a loss for Europe and the world.

It is unfortunate that disturbing news from Pakistan has become all too common, nearly every day. Hardly a week passes without a major terrorist attack, and some 700 Pakistanis have been killed by suicide bombers over the past six months. I believe we can draw a lesson from Mrs Bhutto’s death, and that is that Pakistan needs a functioning democracy, the rule of law and a strong civil society to address the country’s mounting challenges.

You will recall that the country was placed under emergency rule on 3 November. This, of course, greatly undermined confidence in the democratic process in advance of parliamentary elections. Emergency rule was then lifted on 15 December, but only after new media restrictions had been imposed and most of the senior judiciary replaced. A number of judges and lawyers remain in detention to this day. They should be released without delay.

The outpouring of anger following the murder of Mrs Bhutto led to civil unrest and ultimately the decision to postpone elections from 8 January to 18 February. These elections should now be held as planned, without any further delay. I think Pakistan has to move ahead, and the way forward is to organise democratic and transparent elections which result in a broad and also a credible popular mandate for new governments, both at the federal but also at the provincial level. We should jointly pass this message to President Musharraf when he comes to visit Europe next week.

Some players are trying to draw political capital from the Bhutto assassination. Let us not forget that it is, ultimately, extremist forces who are interested in destabilising Pakistan and who are responsible for this despicable act. They should not be allowed to succeed. A credible investigation into the murder can help to calm the waves, but only if everybody keeps a level head. Let me add that Scotland Yard is doing a commendable job in trying to help in this respect.

President Musharraf spoke of the need for national reconciliation when he addressed the nation on 2 January. I think this is indeed what is required. The opposition has to be taken on board in coping with the current situation. Significantly, all major opposition parties will participate in the forthcoming elections. But, regrettably, Pakistan has a history of lack of trust in electoral outcomes, which could lead to further political polarisation. Naturally, the chances for national reconciliation will greatly improve if President Musharraf and the relevant authorities do whatever is necessary to ensure that these elections are held in a fair and transparent manner.

Because these elections are so important, not only for Pakistan but also for the region, I decided to deploy an election observation mission (EOM) with the aim of contributing to democracy and stability in the country. If the elections had really been held on 8 January as originally planned, we could only have fielded a limited observation mission. However, in view of the time that is now available until the elections, in consultation with the Chief Observer, Mr Michael Gahler, who is a Member of this Parliament, I decided to upgrade the mission to a fully-fledged election observation mission. We are all very much aware of the important role this mission is likely to play in the coming weeks.

I continue to be very concerned about the conditions in which these elections are held and the potential for this to lead to a critical statement from the EOM if steps are not urgently taken to address these concerns. Key problems, including lack of confidence in the election administration, lack of transparency in the results process, and the lack of an effective complaints and appeals process in which stakeholders have confidence, are all present in Pakistan.

Concrete steps could still be taken by the state and the electoral authorities to improve the conditions for elections. I understand that both EU Heads of Mission in Islamabad and the election observation mission on the ground have already outlined the key improvements that are necessary. I think we should make every effort to stress these points with the Pakistani authorities, including with the President, when he visits Brussels soon.

I also remain concerned about the security situation in Pakistan, particularly in the light of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but also recent bomb attacks in Lahore, Karachi and, of course, the North-Western Territory frontier province. We urge the Pakistani authorities to do all they can to provide a securer environment in which the elections can be held, and we will carefully then assess the security situation in the light of the deployment of EU observers.

President Musharraf has taken off his uniform as promised. I hope that this will result in progress towards stronger civilian institutions and sustainable democracy in Pakistan. But it is also important that Pakistan continues to make progress in fighting poverty. The Commission has, therefore, significantly increased its development cooperation funding to Pakistan for the coming years, including in the field of education. And I remain committed to this approach, which I also see as a contribution towards fighting extremism.


  José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (ES) Madam President, once again, following the debate and the resolution that we adopted in December, we are discussing the situation in Pakistan in Parliament. Since then a whole series of events have taken place, as the Commission and the Council have reminded us.

First the state of emergency was lifted, then came the subsequent freeing, although as the Commissioner reminded us, it was incomplete, of various lawyers, magistrates, judges, journalists and representatives of civil society. This was followed by the assassination of the former Prime Minister Mrs Bhutto, which brought considerable instability to the serious process of dissolution that society is going through in Pakistan, and the subsequent postponement of the electoral process to the upcoming dates in February. Of course there is also the forthcoming visit and appearance before Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs on Monday of the President of Pakistan.

The first thing that I would like to do, Madam President, on behalf of my political group, the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, is express our strongest condemnation of this savage terrorist attack, which really only affirms what the previous rapporteur, Mr Díaz de Mera, said to us: that terrorism is a phenomenon that affects all of us equally.

Before I conclude, Madam President, I would like to leave two questions on the table for the Commission and the Council.

I acknowledge the efforts made by Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner in giving a positive response to Parliament’s request for an electoral observation mission in the light of this situation. However, she mentioned her concern about the conditions in which the elections are held. Commissioner, do you think that, given the levels of violence, fear and instability in that country, which is key to the stability of Central Asia, among other things because it is the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons, do you think that the best possible conditions are in place to carry out this process?

Finally, Madam President, the Commissioner referred to a credible investigation. The family, both her widower and her son, as well as the Pakistan People’s Party and Mrs Bhutto herself before she died, in a communication that she had with the UK Foreign Secretary, expressed their desire for this investigation to be conducted by the United Nations. Do the Commission and the Council agree that there needs to be an independent investigation to shed light on this terrible assassination once and for all?


  Robert Evans, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Madam President, as Chairman of the Delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia, I join the Council and the Commission in the condemnation of the murder of Benazir Bhutto. This Parliament has always condemned terrorism wherever it occurs and we will continue to fight for the right of politicians to express their views and to campaign in safety.

In going back to Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto knew the risks and, whether you consider her to be brave or foolhardy, you have to respect her commitment to her party and her country. In her memory and the memory of others who have died in this election period, I believe it is beholden on all of us – Europeans and Pakistanis from President Musharraf downwards – to do everything we can to assist Pakistan.

As Mr Lenarčič said, the key to this must be the continuing battle against terrorism. We have seen that terrorism is a threat in Pakistan as much as it is in Europe or the USA. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner has reminded us that hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in shootings and suicide bombs in Pakistan, so Europe must continue to fully assist and support the counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan.

Some colleagues here might suggest we should leave Pakistan be and have little to do with it, but I firmly believe the contrary. As 27 strong democratic nations, we need to work collectively to support the economic, social and political developments in Pakistan. Again, I agree with the Council: the release of all remaining political detainees will be crucial to this process, as will ensuring free, fair, transparent and safe elections on 18 February 2008 and a safe and satisfactory run-up to that date.

In addition to what the Commissioner said, I think the election will mean that we need to have 90 million voters with proper access to news coverage of all sides of the debate. It means making a safer environment for the media. Pakistan has become the most dangerous Asian country for the media: at least six journalists were killed in 2007, some 30 seriously injured, over 100 arrested and countless harassed. We need an end to the censorship of the print and broadcast media and to restrictions on what they can say and do without interference from the military or civilian authorities. The ban on the TV news station GEO News needs to be lifted and the government television channel PTV needs to be more balanced in its news and the information it conveys to the public.

All arrangements for the actual voting, the counting and the reporting of the results need to be above board and clear to everyone, but most especially to the voters of Pakistan. A mark of democracy is also whether incumbents can accept defeat and whether political transition from one party of government to another, if it occurs, can go smoothly. All of these will be crucial factors in whether or not the elections can be counted as a true record of the will of the people and whether or not Pakistan can start to emerge from the long shadow cast by that assassin’s bullet on 27 December 2007.


  Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (NL) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, I too, of course, would like to start by expressing my great sorrow at the tragic death of Benazir Bhutto. Benazir Bhutto was a laureate of the Liberal International Prize For Freedom, which we presented her the first time she was Prime Minister.

It is true that she is – she was – only human, and as such was not perfect. We did wonder at one point later on whether we had actually done the right thing. At that time, I put this question to Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani human rights activist, who is now entrusted with a special mission on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. She told me that we did absolutely the right thing, as Benazir Bhutto had set a genuine example in Pakistan in a number of respects, particularly as regards the role of women in Pakistani society.

It is a known fact that Benazir Bhutto was killed by violent terrorists, but who their backers were remains an open question. I do not believe that reconciliation is possible in Pakistan unless this matter is clarified by an impartial investigation. I do not know whether this means acceding to the family’s request for a UN investigation, but at all events there must be guarantees of impartiality, as President Musharraf has not exactly shown a great deal of respect for the judicial authorities, even the highest in the country.

I would also like to say that I have been receiving reports from Pakistan of the recent rounding up, arrest and charging of thousands of PPP militants. This, too, has to stop if we wish the elections to take place under reasonable conditions.


  Jean Lambert, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Madam President, I would very much like to join my voice to that of my colleagues in thanking both the Council and, indeed, the Commission in particular, for the practical steps that have been outlined in terms of helping to support the electoral administration process and to try and improve the quality and hopefully the outcome as well, of those elections should they take place.

We also welcome the commitment to further financing for development, not least in education, because there are many of us in this House who believe that investment there will prove at least as powerful, if not more powerful than investment in weapons, which seems to have been a priority for some external bodies in their support for Pakistan over the last few years. We hope that the international community in general will support the efforts of the European Union in these lines.

Like others here, we also want to express our sympathy for the family of Benazir Bhutto, but also for the families of all the bereaved in Pakistan killed in outrageous attacks and indeed through military action. We would agree that we do need stability, both for the people of Pakistan and indeed, given that it is a nuclear state, for the international community as well.

But, as others have said, I do not think it is enough to try and develop people’s confidence in the electoral system and its outcome. The judiciary is another key democratic institution. It needs to be functioning and to be independent. People need to feel that they will have a fair trial, that they will see an end to detention without charge, an end to secret prisons and, indeed, a commitment from whatever government comes into being after the elections, to continue the inquiries into the disappearances that have also taken place in that country.

We also agree that freedom of the press is vital, but we would also ask that some of our Member States cease contemplating extraditions to Pakistan at the moment until we can be sure that there is a fair and independent functioning judiciary.


  Philip Claeys (NI).(NL) Madam President, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragedy for Pakistan and shows the immensity of the problems facing the country. We are talking about a country that has 165 million inhabitants, is in possession of nuclear weapons and is engaged in a fight against terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Naturally, it is of the utmost importance that political stability is achieved in Pakistan as soon as possible and that President Musharraf plays a major role in this at this time.

Nevertheless, we must not turn a blind eye to the many major shortcomings in Mr Musharraf’s policy. For example, his government’s approach to the problem of terrorism has been much too lax. In large parts of the Afghan border region, for example, the Taliban and Al Qaeda have a free rein, and far too little is being done about this. By declaring a state of emergency on 3 November, Mr Musharraf also revealed a rather casual attitude to democracy.

In addition, worryingly, fingers had already been pointed at him after the first attack on Benazir Bhutto on 18 October. The same happened after her actual assassination. His possible role in this must be clarified as soon as possible, because otherwise public confidence in the government will evaporate, and that can only play into the hands of Islamic extremists.


  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Madam President, The Economist stated recently that Pakistan is the world’s most dangerous nuclear arms state. Regrettably, in my view, President Musharraf’s commitment to fully eradicating Islamist terror has always been lukewarm at best, and his control over the ISI or intelligence services, who allegedly are in bed with Islamists, is tenuous as well. Add to that the combustible issues of Kashmir, Baluchi separatism, Al Qa’ida and Taliban activity in the North-West Frontier territories and tribal areas causing mischief for NATO in Afghanistan, and you have a country on the point of implosion.

Just as Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan offered the country a glimmer of hope, so her despicable assassination, whose culprits must be identified and punished, has taken the country back to the brink of catastrophe. A return to democracy is as difficult as ever. The assumption in the EU and the USA is that Musharraf, for all his autocratic tendencies, represents the safer bet in the war on terrorism.

Pakistan’s experience of democracy in the past 60 years has been troubled. Perhaps it is time now to abandon the hope that Western-style multiparty democracy can embed itself successfully in Pakistan, which has always been dominated by a tiny élite. It is more akin to a feudal hereditary monarchy, a fact underlined by the instant elevation of Benazir Bhutto’s 19-year-old son to the leadership of the Pakistani People’s Party, who will no doubt do very well at the imminent 18 February elections.

The apparent choice for the West between Pakistan and India is also a false dichotomy. It is a hangover from the Cold War. India, as a strategic ally, is the best hope for progress, prosperity, peace and stability in South Asia. India’s values are the EU’s values – secular democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Let us start supporting those who share our values before we try to persuade those who do not.


  Marianne Mikko (PSE). – (ET) Ladies and gentlemen, the European Parliament South Asia Delegation warned the Government of Pakistan of weaknesses in Benazir Bhutto’s security measures as early as November. Sadly our fears of terrorist attack were proved correct. Benazir Bhutto will continue to be a hero both for the people of Pakistan and for the international community. Her absence among the candidates calls the legitimacy of the forthcoming elections into question.

The crisis in Pakistan is also an opportunity to guide the country towards the road of democracy. The Pakistani people have not elected General Musharraf as President. However, he now has the opportunity to choose whether to go down in history as a military dictator or a democratic president.

As a statesman Mr Musharraf must surely understand that democracy must be the winner in elections, even if he will personally have to lose power. And we will want to ask Mr Musharraf this himself next week at a meeting of the international committee in Brussels.

We in the European Union must persist in our dialogue with Pakistan. That is precisely why, as the committee rightly said, we must send our own observers to the elections of 18 February. Events in Pakistan must not be a matter solely for the USA.

A transparent international investigation into the assassination of Mrs Bhutto, the full restoration of freedom of the press and free and fair elections in Pakistan are also an essential issue for the European Union. We will not achieve our targets by playing the by-stander. We have no alternative but to pursue an active policy in relations with Pakistan.


  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I echo completely the statements made by colleagues, but I want to say something more about the person rather than the situation. There is a saying in Finnish that war is not dependent on one man. That might be so, but the war between democracy and extremism might be very dependent on one woman.

I think of the former, and now murdered, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mrs Benazir Bhutto. I had the pleasure of meeting her and working with her and was deeply impressed by how warm, intelligent and brave she was. I am so proud to say that, to me, she was a friend and a political ally. So much has now been said and written about her that you might ask what more can be said. I think that I can share something that you did not, perhaps, know. Her last big project for democracy, human rights and women’s rights was the creation of an organisation called Muslim Women for Democracy and Human Rights. Together with other brave women like Asma Jehangir from Pakistan and Dr Shrin Ebadi from Iran, she created an organisation to encourage Muslim women around the world to stand up for the rights that the Koran gives women, according to Benazir Bhutto, but that had been denied for centuries.

She was elected by the world’s leading Muslim women democracy activists in May 2007 to be the first chairwoman of this new organisation. Benazir Bhutto wanted the organisation to comfort Muslim women, to give them legal advice and practical help and, above all, help them to form a network of Muslim women around the world to build a world of peace, where different religions could live in peace and with respect. She said, ‘I want to build a Pakistan where a Jew can go to the synagogue, a Christian to the church and a Muslim to the mosque, all without any fear’. Her dream was that the new organisation could help this dream come true all over the world, both in the West and in the Muslim world. I think that the best way to honour the memory of this brave sister for democracy is to support the organisation that she created as a sign of hope, even after she is gone.




  Jo Leinen (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, Benazir Bhutto is said to have told her son: implementing democracy in Pakistan is our revenge on military rule. Ladies and gentlemen, we have to ensure that Benazir Bhutto’s legacy is not just a mandate to her son, but to us all and to the international community to ensure that the conditions for democracy are established in Pakistan and that we help to establish them.

The situation there is not good, as many speakers have already said. And the way in which this attack on Benazir Bhutto was dealt with is truly alarming. I would also ask that we ensure that there is an international investigation into this assassination. Scotland Yard may already be doing some preparatory work on this, but I think it would be good if this investigation were to take place by order of the UN.

Commissioner, President-in-Office of the Council, you have said that stability in Pakistan is in our interest. Very well, but we are only looking, as ever, at the minority of terrorists. When you are in Pakistan, you will hear that the military system creates instability and President Musharraf is making a substantial contribution to the worsening situation.

Last year he was here in Parliament. We outlined all our main criticisms to him. Nothing has improved and a lot has got worse and therefore I really don’t understand how it is that he can come here to this Parliament again next week. Civil society in Pakistan sees this as covert complicity in that when it comes down to it, the West accepts both the military system and Mr°Musharraf himself. I believe we should make this very clear next week.


  Giulietto Chiesa (PSE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Pakistan is now truly an extremely dangerous place, the central tangled knot where all the threads of terrorism are interwoven. At the same time, however, the country is the West’s main ally against terrorism. There is no escaping this contradiction, just as no end will be possible to the war in Afghanistan without resolving it.

Current European policy is not in a position to resolve very much, at least until it acts in support of the United States’ policy. We can and must ask President Musharraf to restore the constitution and hold proper elections. The message of the strange, tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto is, however, that we are impotent, and this is because terrorism in Pakistan lies behind the structures of the State, and actually stems from the secret services which – let us not forget – built the Taliban and to this day support and assist them.

Now, however, we should ask President Musharraf to carry out a purge and we should ask the United States, which has very close relations with those secret services, to clarify those relations to us, because if Osama bin Laden is still alive, it would be thanks to those services, unless he has already been killed. What is more, I would like to remind you that Benazir Bhutto spoke of this in an interview for Al Jazeera on 2 November 2007, and also named bin Laden’s assassin, Omar Sheikh, whom President Musharraf in his latest book claims was a former agent of the British MI6.

In view of all this, I believe that a request for an international commission of enquiry into the death of Benazir Bhutto would be the right decision on Europe’s part.


  Neena Gill (PSE). – Mr President, firstly, I should like to give condolences to the family and friends of Benazir Bhutto. Her loss is not just Pakistan’s but is a loss to the whole world.

I am very proud to have known her personally. She invited me to join her on her return to Pakistan, and it was very much a heart-wrenching moment for me when I received her New Year’s greetings days after she had been murdered.

I remember Benazir as a very strong charismatic woman, asserting her right to rule as the first elected female leader, at the age of 35, of a Muslim state. I believe she will be remembered as one of the great figures of our century – a leader who inspired both women and men beyond South Asia and represented, above all, hope for a better future for Pakistan.

Benazir’s death has caused upheaval in her country, and I believe the only route to stability will be if questions that are being asked about her assassination are answered. Many people, not just in Pakistan but also those I represent in the West Midlands, want to know who the real culprits are. Therefore, I ask the Council to strongly support the calls for international investigation by the United Nations into the murder and I ask the Council and the Commission to inform this House what their position is on this.

Benazir Bhutto fought for a democratic Pakistan and a peaceful transition to civilian rule. Her fight cost her her life. Let her death not be in vain. We need to continue this cause, and I welcome the fact that the Commissioner is sending a strong electoral observation mission. However, if this observation mission is to have credibility, it needs to indicate now to the Pakistani authorities the benchmarks the election observation mission will be using to judge whether the forthcoming elections are free and fair, and this includes an all-party participation in the review of the electoral rules and procedures and an impartial system of conducting elections and verifying election results that is totally transparent. But, above all, I would really like to emphasise the need for all press restrictions to be lifted and freedom to assemble for political rallies and campaigns, which, in the last few weeks, have been opposed.


  Nickolay Mladenov (PPE-DE). – Mr President, the tragic death of Benazir Bhutto has left us a legacy, and that is an important legacy: to believe in what she believed in, and this was the power of the Pakistani people to rule by democracy.

In a recent poll as early as November of last year, 70% of people in Pakistan confirmed that they wanted all the restrictions lifted on political rallies; that they were against the banning of political events and opposed the detention of the Supreme Court Chief Justice.

This is the silent majority of Pakistanis who want to live in peace and democracy, and if we are looking for stability in such a volatile country, we can only find it through a political process of reconciliation and democracy.

I welcome the Commission’s appeal to send an observer mission to this election but I have two questions for the Commissioner: one is, we have heard various reports of voting lists being destroyed around the country and how can an election take place in this environment?

Secondly, President Musharraf has also banned independent exit polls on this election. I press on the Commission to make a very strong case before the Pakistani authorities to allow independent confirmation of the results of this election.


  Richard Howitt (PSE). – Mr President, the target of the assassins was not simply Benazir Bhutto, but all of those who are committed to the principle of democracy. We should be backing the moderate majority in Pakistan who seek to uphold democracy, and Mr Tannock is wrong to say that all in Pakistan reject European values, as 800 000 British people of Pakistani origin could tell him.

I welcome Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner’s strengthening of the EU electoral observation mission and recognise our important role in building confidence in the electoral process. Through her and through today’s debate, I call on Pakistan to lift all restrictions on political campaigning, to release remaining political detainees, to publish in advance the location of all polling stations and to ensure that all results are posted immediately in public.

We should welcome the lifting of the state of emergency, President Musharraf’s retirement as Army Chief of Staff and the invitation to my own country, the United Kingdom, to assist in the investigation of Mrs Bhutto’s death. Militant extremists are not simply a threat in Pakistan: they are a threat to us all.


  Sajjad Karim (PPE-DE). – Mr President, on 14 November in this House, I stated that the biggest threat facing Pakistan internally is the terrorist threat. The abhorrent assassination of Benazir Bhutto is proof of this, if it was required.

Extremists hit that day but they must not be allowed to win the day. We called for President Musharraf on that day to end the state of emergency, to reinstate the constitution, to reinstate the Supreme Court and move towards free and fair elections.

He has done all of this, albeit not necessarily perfectly, and he has relinquished his army role as well. We must call upon Pakistan’s politicians to unite and invest in that process. Pakistan is facing turbulent times and we must stand with it.

Just one further point. I have real concerns regarding the way in which what actually happens in this House is being distorted by some sections of Pakistan’s media in their reporting, particularly the news channel GEO. This House has always argued for a free and fair media. We stand by that and I ask them: please do not abuse the freedoms we hold dear.


  Véronique De Keyser (PSE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I understand very well the concern shared by many, including you and Bernard Kouchner, to send an election mission to Pakistan.

It is actually one of the only ways left to us of exerting pressure on Mr Musharraf, but we should realise that this observation mission would take place under very special conditions.

We usually study and make observations before, during and after. Regarding what has happened before, we already know how many things have been rigged. Benazir Bhutto, with Mr Latif Khosa, had written a 160-page report on the possible rigging of these elections, particularly using computers, a report that she was going to give to two American congressmen the evening of the day she died.

Do we currently have the ability to check for computerised rigging in election observation missions? If not, we could then decide that even though the ‘before’ was more than a little dubious, the ‘during’ has been regular even if there has been fraud. Consequently I would ask for a very special observation mission, and I ask that we do not declare these elections to be democratic when we cannot check this.


  Sorin Frunzăverde (PPE-DE). – (RO) Benazir Bhutto repeats the tragic destiny of her family, started by her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The assassination of Mrs Bhutto was intended to put an end to the democratisation of Pakistan and to undermine the stability of this country which, as we should not forget, is our main ally in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. Let me remind you that 25 European Member States currently have civilian or military representatives in Afghanistan. The Pakistani army is involved in important operations for maintaining a military balance on the Afghan border, particularly in the provinces of Zabol and Helmand, where we are represented mainly by British, Lithuanian, and Romanian troops.

In this respect, it is very important to discuss responsibility for Mrs Bhutto’s assassination, it is very important to discuss the democratisation process and its continuation, but it is equally important to discuss the issue of maintaining a military balance on the Afghan border and who might act as guarantor of this balance, because, Mr President, any failure in Afghanistan owing to instability in Pakistan would be a disgraceful moment for the free, democratic world that we stand for.


  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Mr President, on a point of order, I would like to reply to Mr Howitt under the ‘catch-the-eye’ procedure, because he was incorrect in what he stated. I was referring to the Indian State and the Pakistani State and the governments of both countries – not the peoples of the countries or the people of descent of those countries who live within the Member States of the European Union. I was referring to the polities, not the people, so I would like Mr Howitt to withdraw his comments.


  President. − I can give you thirty seconds to conclude.


  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – That is very kind but I think I have already said it all. I was just simply stating that in my speech, I was referring to the fact that India is a secular democracy which respects human rights, does not shut down the media, does not actually persecute Christians or Ahmadi Muslims, and allows the people to express their views and practice their religion. Regrettably, Pakistan, over the last 50 or so years, has had troubled periods of military dictatorship and repression of religious minorities and ethnic minorities. That is to do with the state and the governments, not the peoples of either country. Similarly, I do not in any way doubt that people of Pakistani and Indian descent in London, which I represent, would share EU values.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I will be brief. There were a few questions regarding the investigation, several calls for an independent or international investigation and a few questions for the Council regarding its opinion. I would like to stress that the Council did not discuss this question, so we cannot talk about the Council’s position. However, I can express the firm belief of the Presidency that the investigation will be carried out in accordance with international standards. In this respect, we are pleased that at least one Member State, the United Kingdom, is already cooperating by providing appropriate expertise to the appropriate Pakistani authorities.

Regarding the elections, I would like to remind you of the statement published by the Presidency on 3 January of this year, where special emphasis was placed on the need to do everything at this time to maintain, strengthen and continue the process of democratisation and the democracy and democratic process in Pakistan.

In this connection, I would like to welcome again the European Commission’s decision to reinforce the election observation mission in Pakistan, and I would like to repeat our appeal to the Pakistani authorities to use the remaining time leading up to the election to improve the situation and the conduct of the elections.


  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, let me begin by making some general remarks following this very interesting debate.

I know that some will always argue that stability and democracy are somehow incompatible in Pakistan. Let me say I think that, without a return to democratic governance and the consolidation of fully accountable civilian institutions, there cannot be enduring stability in the country and the extremists will be the main beneficiaries. For that reason, it is very important that we are there, that we accompany this country to more progress. Even though there was this terrible tragic death of Benazir Bhutto and of many other victims, I continue to believe that Pakistan has a chance to make real progress towards stability and a more inclusive form of democracy by electing a new government which enjoys broader popular legitimacy.

For this to happen, the elections will have to be democratic and transparent. This is a crucial time for Pakistan when President Musharraf should demonstrate to his country and to the world that he is committed to ensuring that these elections will be held democratically and transparently, in accordance with international standards.

What are the best conditions for carrying out elections? Other than political and security conditions, as I have already outlined in my opening remarks, the following key elements need to be there for a proper election environment.

Firstly, the election administration to operate in a transparent and consultative manner to promote confidence among voters; secondly, that all polling station results and all levels of result consolidation are publicly displayed; thirdly, the counting and tabulation process needs to be fully open to scrutiny; fourthly, media freedom and, fifthly, an independent framework for a complaints and appeals procedure.

Concerning the public publishing of polling stations, it is well known that they will be the same polling stations as the last elections. So that is clear.

Concerning the question that some voting lists have been destroyed, we know that there were some individual cases, but, fortunately, they were all stored on CDs with the Electoral Commission and the destroyed ones will be restored. Therefore, they will be available.

Concerning independent exit polls, this is not an essential element for the elections. However, it is increasingly the practice in many countries that this should also be there.

These are some of the detailed matters:

Let me now turn to the investigations. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, an investigation is under way in the country, which is being assisted by Scotland Yard. We should await the outcome of that investigation and we should also trust that, with its experience, Scotland Yard will be able to help the Pakistani authorities. Of course, it will be necessary to give them full access and support in doing that job.

After the elections, there might be a role then for an international group of eminent persons, but first we have to see what the inquiry will bring. I think it is too early to take a decision now. There was only a brief discussion in the Council working group, which was not conclusive.

Having said that, let me also say that it is highly important to help Pakistan in its fight against terrorism, and all the other requests mentioned in the debate, such as the release of all detainees, will be crucial.

I also stated very clearly that for a country like Pakistan it is important that there is a better focus on education. We have been doing that for some time, and it will take time – we are there for the long haul. But if we want democracy, this is something where we really have to make a difference and, therefore, I would like to maintain my cooperation projects, particularly in the most difficult areas, i.e. the North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan, Waziristan and so on.

I would again like to say that with Mr Gahler, your colleague, the Chief Election Observer, I think we have a person who has already shown in those very difficult days in Pakistan how responsibly he has been taking on these things, with 52 long-term observers and with 11 people of a core team who are looking at all the detailed questions of the election observation mission. It will be a very specific one and it will be a good opportunity for you to tell President Musharraf yourself what you think. Therefore, it is good that you see him in the Committee on Foreign Affairs.


  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE). – (CS) Mr President, may I please ask you how a decent woman should draw attention to herself by means of the ‘catch-the-eye’ method when she is sitting at the far end of the House? I would like to know whether I have been included in the list, or how ladies should go about it here.


  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE). – Mr President, on a point of order, I was probably the first person to apply this afternoon under the ‘catch-the-eye’ procedure. I do not know why you denied me the opportunity to speak. Indeed, you gave an extra opportunity to one of my colleagues who had already spoken in the debate. You then gave him more time!

I had no disagreement with what he said. It was just the procedure that you followed, and I think it was quite wrong that you denied me the opportunity to speak.

I wanted to make the point that we need a stable and reliable government in Pakistan.


  President. ?– Mr Van Orden, I was informed that you had already spoken today under the catch-the-eye procedure and, therefore, having regard to the rules which were drawn up to ensure that Members’ speeches covered as broad a spectrum as possible, I took my decision which obviously left you out this time. I would, however, remind you that there will be other occasions when you will have the opportunity to speak. In any case, you have been placed on the list and that will certainly be respected. We must continue, otherwise we shall not have time for questions. I am sorry, but we cannot continue this dialogue. Therefore, the next item is questions to the Council.


  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE). – Mr President, what you have just said is incorrect. The previous ‘catch-your-eye’ opportunity was because there was no one else that wanted to catch the eye, so it seemed to be an opportunity.

I had specifically asked to speak in this Pakistan debate. I put it in writing and I indicated throughout the debate that I wanted to speak. There was no excuse, therefore, for denying me that opportunity, and I had important comments that I wanted to make.

I am afraid that I am very disappointed in the way that you have conducted this particular meeting.


  President. – Your protest is noted, Mr Van Orden.



11. Question Time (Council)

  President. − The next item is Question Time (B6-0001/2008).

The following questions have been submitted to the Council.

Question No 1 by Marian Harkin (H-0961/07)

Subject: Youth Working Party

How does the Council intend to implement its priorities in the youth field which were presented at the Council’s Youth Working Party in December 2007 and in particular the role of volunteering in this area?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) With your help we will certainly succeed more easily. Regarding the answer to the question by Ms Harkin, I would firstly like to draw attention to the Council’s latest initiative relating to her question. It concerns the resolution on voluntary youth activities adopted by the Council on 16 November 2007.

The purpose of this latest initiative is to confirm and consolidate the suitability and validity of common aims concerning voluntary youth activities which were defined back in 2004. In addition, this initiative stresses the intersectorial and transversal character of voluntary activities and the importance of encouraging companies to support such youth activities.

In principle, the result confirmed the guidelines for action with which the Member States should comply in invigorating the realisation of common aims in the area of voluntary youth activities. The resolution invites the Member States to choose from the above-mentioned guidelines for action, by September of this year, those on which they intend to focus particularly, and to define national strategies and concrete measures for the implementation of those guidelines.

Consequently, the Presidency is convinced that the issue of voluntary youth activities will remain among the priority political tasks of the Council and the Parliament. We are also relying on the Member States to complete the scheduled activities pursuant to this resolution by the given deadline, i.e. by September of this year.


  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Mr President, my thanks to the Slovenian Presidency for its answer. President-in-Office, I too wish you well at the start of your Presidency. I am pleased to see that you are following on from the Portuguese Presidency – and indeed into the French Presidency – with your emphasis on volunteering, and in particular on youth volunteering.

I hear what you say about Member States responding by September, but in the mean time, throughout the next six months of your Presidency, I believe you are looking at issues like youth inclusion and education to improve the employability of young people through volunteering, and looking at intercultural exchange. I just wanted to ask specifically if you have any plans at all to further inter-generational volunteering. Older people have a lot more time on their hands – we are living longer – and the whole aspect of inter-generational volunteering offers many positive opportunities. Do you have any initiatives on that?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Ms Harkin, at this moment I cannot offer you more concrete or more specific initiatives. We have concentrated on implementing the adopted resolution. It may be proper to invite the Member States at the appropriate time, i.e. to remind them of the set deadline. You are right: a range of activities in other areas will in any case offer an opportunity for additional topics and for the additional incorporation of issues regarding voluntary activities, including in the intergenerational sense. One of those activity channels is certainly an intercultural dialogue.

In any case, we will consider your remark, i.e. we will take it into consideration when planning our activities in the next six months.


  Danutė Budreikaitė (ALDE). – (LT) I would like to enquire about other measures to protect young people from addiction. In Parliament we discussed a European Commission strategy to combat alcohol-related damage. This is particularly damaging to young people. What measures besides voluntary activity could reduce that damage and protect young people from addiction? Does Slovenia have any experience of this?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Certainly, care for the young will be one of the important topics of the Slovenian Presidency, particularly within the framework of the Lisbon strategy, which is a strategy for increasing growth and creating jobs.

The Slovenian Presidency will pay particular attention to the issues of youth, especially in the context of education and their qualification for more effective inclusion in the labour market. This is all I personally know in detail of the more specific initiatives which the Slovenian Presidency is planning for its term of office.

On the other hand, there is a whole range of activities in the area of health and the problem of the fight against alcoholism. I am convinced that, within this framework, appropriate attention will be paid to protecting the young from alcohol abuse.



Question No 2 by Manuel Medina Ortega (H-0963/07)

Subject: Multilateralism and bilateral agreements

Does the Council believe that the proliferation of bilateral trade agreements being signed by the USA, the EU and other international players is compatible with the multilateral principles which underpin the World Trade Organization?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) The European Union is committed to multilateralism in many forms, including the World Trade Organisation, which in our view is an excellent example of a multilateral organisation. Many decades prior to the actual founding of the World Trade Organisation, Europe called for the creation of such an organisation for trade. Later, the European Union had a key role in the creation of the World Trade Organisation within the Uruguay round of negotiations. Actually, if I may say so, it had a key role in that last round of the negotiations, which is why the support the European Union gives to multilateralism in trade cannot be doubted.

Similarly, the EU had a key role when the agenda for development was adopted in Doha at the 4th Ministers’ Conference of the World Trade Organisation in 2001. During the negotiations which followed, the European Union purposely decided to direct all resources and political will to concluding that round of negotiations. Prior to that round of negotiations or at the time of the actual negotiations, there were no parallel negotiations concerning bilateral trade agreements.

In October 2006, the European Commission submitted to the European Parliament and the Council a report entitled “Global Europe, competing in the world”. The report discusses recent changes resulting from the globalisation process. It offers suggestions for the European Union’s response to that process on the basis of the updated Lisbon strategy, especially in respect of trade policies. On the basis of the report, the European Parliament adopted a resolution and the Council made decisions.

The Council’s decisions clearly show that all future bilateral agreements on free trade are going to form the basis of future multilateral negotiations and, what is possibly even more important, they will be complementary to the World Trade Organisation platform. Under the terms of the negotiation directives adopted by the Council in the spring of 2007, negotiations on free trade agreements were started with the member states of ASEAN and with India and Korea. Those negotiations are ongoing and each individual decision(1) will be finalised in due course.


  Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE).(ES) Mr President, I think that the Slovenian Presidency responded correctly to the question I asked, with its typical clarity, and I am grateful for the attentiveness shown.

I have an additional question relating to the relative failure of the Lisbon Summit with the African countries. It appears that some African countries agreed with the European Union’s proposals and others did not.

Based on the disagreements seen in Lisbon, does the Council Presidency think that it will be necessary to continue with this policy of differentiation? In other words, are we going to insist on multilateralism, or do you think that the Lisbon Summit will force us to continue further along the road of bilateral agreements with different countries, for example, in the continent of Africa?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Our commitment to multilateralism continues. I would like to stress two points, should any bilateral agreements be concluded. Firstly, the agreements in question are complementary to the multilateral platform, and secondly, by the nature of things, the agreements in question have a bridging character until we manage to resolve these issues within a multilateral framework, the World Trade Organisation, this being the European Union’s preferred framework for resolving such issues.


  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, my question is as follows: how will increased food and energy prices affect the WTO negotiations? We do know that the biggest stumbling block so far has been subsidies and the Farm Bill in the United States and that Europe has of course suffered under increased world market prices. Are there new opportunities here for adjusting quotas and duties accordingly? Is the Slovenian Presidency planning an initiative for bringing the WTO negotiations to an end?


  Josu Ortuondo Larrea (ALDE).(ES) Mr President, I agree with the Presidency that we should prioritise or attach greater importance to multilateral agreements than to bilateral agreements but, in the meantime, it is now many years since the Uruguay Round began, and the Doha Round before that, and the World Trade Organization is not reaching any serious conclusions, or at the very least it is putting it off too much.

In the meantime, the United States, for example, has concluded free trade agreements with various South American countries. I would like to ask about this: what is the Council’s view regarding the agreement between the European Union and Mercosur, which has been so long awaited?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) The ever-increasing cost of energy, especially fuel, and of food is a global problem and therefore also a problem for the European Union.

It will most certainly affect relations among those participating in negotiations within the World Trade Organisation. In that sense it might affect the adaptation, i.e. adjustment, of certain positions. At the moment, from the perspective of the Slovenian Presidency, it is difficult to speculate on the nature of those effects, but they are very likely and must be expected to arise.

The Slovenian Presidency is not planning any initiatives of its own, but we will study and support appropriate initiatives coming from the Commission, which is of course responsible for the operational management of this process.

As regards the fate of multilateral negotiations so far, the Slovenian Presidency is one of those who regret the fact that there is still no multilateral agreement within the World Trade Organisation. We will continue striving to bring it to fruition. In this context, we will debate the trade agreement with the Mercosur countries as well, which also present an opportunity for discussion at the fringes of the summit between the European Union and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). We are planning a special meeting between the European Union troika and the Mercosur countries, which will take place in May at the fringes of the summit between the EU and the LAC countries in Lima, Peru.



Question No 3 by Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (H-0967/07)

Subject: Measures to promote family-friendly policies

What measures will the Council take to promote family-friendly policies and how does it intend to support the European Alliance for Families decided on by the Council in March 2007?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) The European Union should take advantage of the decisive contribution offered by the European exchange of good practice, in view of the fact that it is the Member States which are responsible for the shaping of appropriate and sustainable family policies. These exchanges may reinforce social cohesion and in that way contribute to the realisation of the Lisbon strategy objectives, among others.

Therefore, the Presidency is of the opinion that the Alliance for Families is a very useful forum for the exchange of opinions and good practices, as mentioned above. The Presidency is also convinced that the Alliance for Families reflects the obligation of the European Union and its Member States to discuss, in the light of demographic changes, the issues relating to family-friendly policies.

The Alliance enables the Member States to exchange information and experiences and in that way to help each other in the search for appropriate political responses. At the same time, the Presidency is of the opinion that there is no need for any new structures at the European level, but we will strive to capitalise on the existing instruments and structures.

Last May the Council adopted extensive decisions on the practical working of the Alliance for Families. The Council prepared these decisions together with the Member States, thereby respecting the important role of the Member States in this area. The Council re-emphasised its commitment to the Alliance for Families through the decisions relating to the balanced roles of men and women, recently adopted on 5 December 2007.


  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, I would like to thank the Slovenian Presidency for their reply and to ask, in addition, what specific exchanges of technological experience it has discovered so far and who is responsible for the management of these provisions of technical assistance.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) These changes are implemented not by the Presidency but through the Alliance for Families. That is why I do not have the details you are asking about. However, I may enquire and inform you later.


  Brian Crowley (UEN). – Mr President, I would like to wish the Slovenian Presidency the best of luck at the start of their Presidency and their first Question Time. Concerning the question raised by my colleague, three things immediately arise with regard to family friendly policies.

Firstly, children and the rights of children too often are seen as separate from what should be family policy.

Secondly, the whole issue with regard to how we actually encourage – we all have the idea of balancing work and family life – greater participation within family life.

Thirdly, most importantly of all, those people that are forced out of their homes because of migration or being refugees and also the issue of family reunifications.

Are there any proposals coming from the Slovenian Presidency with regard to that?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I would like to reiterate that the Slovenian Presidency is placing particular emphasis on youth employment, especially for young parents. This is part of the answer to the question.

The Presidency will pay special attention to creating new opportunities for the harmonisation of work and family life: shorter working hours, flexible forms of work, exercising of fathers’ rights, and so on.

Another special area is the stimulation of intergenerational solidarity. This is a particularly topical idea, especially in those regions where the older generation already represents the majority, which is the case in most of Europe. Of course, such an incentive will only be effective if it is supported by policies covering different spheres of activity that will stimulate the positive aspects of social life.

In short, there is a whole range of measures which are being planned in various fields of EU activities and which are important for stimulating family-friendly policies. It would be difficult for me to list all these activities, but they can be found among the many spheres of activity planned by the Slovenian Presidency. I have just mentioned some of the fields concerned.


  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Thank you for your reply. I am really pleased to hear that the Slovenian Presidency is particularly interested in putting forward family-friendly policies. You yourself mentioned demographic changes. Of course, because of the fact that we are living longer, it will mean an increased need for carers. Most carers tend to be family carers.

You spoke about exchange of best practice. We have competence in the area of employment, for example. While most carers are unpaid, in that particular area, does the Slovenian Presidency have any initiatives to put forward on the issue of carers and, in that context, family-friendly policies?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) No, I do not think that at this moment we are considering a concrete suggestion aimed at protecting the interests of the category of people you are talking about. However, your question gives cause to consider whether that should be one of the fields. Naturally, as the Presidency, we are prepared to give it some thought.



Question No 4 by Georgios Papastamkos (H-0969/07)

Subject: Initiatives by the Slovene Presidency regarding a new approach to neighbourhood policy and energy

A new approach to neighbourhood policy and energy is one of the initiatives adopted by the Slovene Presidency. In view of the intrinsic link between these two policy areas in the context of EU strategy regarding energy autonomy and independence from neighbouring countries, can the Council indicate how it intends to structure the actions envisaged? More specifically, how does it view future relations in the wider Balkan area in the field of energy?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) In answering this question I will focus on the energy aspects, because that is how we understood the question.

In March 2006 the European Council adopted the energy policy for Europe. The three principal political objectives of this policy are: firstly to increase the reliability of supply, secondly to secure the competitiveness of the European economies and the availability of energy at affordable prices, and thirdly to encourage environmental sustainability and strive to solve the climate change problem. In accordance with these three policy objectives, within the scope of the external energy policy, the Council is cooperating closely with third countries on the implementation and further development of its energy programme.

The international energy policy is also one of the priority policy areas defined by The European Council in its decisions of March 2007. The European Council stressed at that time that full advantage should be taken of the existing instruments to strengthen the bilateral cooperation of the European Union with all suppliers.

As regards the western Balkans, the main existing instrument in the field of energy cooperation is the Energy Community Treaty. The purpose of this treaty is to widen the energy market already existing in the European Community to include the countries of that region, i.e. to the countries of the western Balkans.

In addition, every Stabilisation and Accession Agreement concluded between the European Union and the countries of the western Balkans foresees close cooperation in the area of energy. The Council is also planning to take full advantage of the existing instruments of the European Neighbourhood Policy.

In short, when developing new initiatives in the area of energy, within the framework of relations between the European Union and third countries, we are striving to take full advantage of existing mechanisms in the case of the countries of the western Balkans. I have already mentioned the Energy Community Treaty, and we will also use the existing mechanisms within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy.


  Georgios Papastamkos (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, please add my own wishes for a successful programming period for the Slovenian Presidency to the many that have already been expressed.

Today we shall debate the South Caucasus and the Black Sea. I should like to ask the Presidency whether it intends to give priority to the institutionalisation of cross-regional cooperation between the European Union and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. I would specifically like to ask if intensive cooperation is planned in the energy sector, which is of vital importance for southern Europe.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Thank you for the supplementary question and for your good wishes.

Firstly, we fully agree with the assessment that the Black Sea basin is a very important region as regards the energy policy of the European Union, and above all as regards the external dimensions of the policy. Secondly, in reply to your question whether it is possible to institutionalise relations with that region in the future, the answer is “yes, it is possible”. Perhaps it could be done in the same way it was done with the countries of the western Balkans, i.e. with the Energy Community Treaty, or maybe in some other way. In any case, the Slovenian Presidency considers the Black Sea basin, the Black Sea region and the Black Sea synergy as one of the important priorities within the European Neighbourhood Policy.


  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE). – Mr President, may I complement the President-in-Office on the start of the Slovenian Presidency – and of course on the Slovenian Presidency tie, which is actually quite trendy. My congratulations on that. My question is more broadly on energy and that is, firstly, what is the Slovenian position on increasing nuclear inside the borders of Europe? Secondly, what is the position of the Slovenian Presidency on increasing nuclear power on the neighbourhood side?


  Justas Vincas Paleckis (PSE). – Mr President, I would also like to congratulate Slovenia on this day and to ask a question about this so-called North Stream gas pipeline. As you know, this pipeline will connect Russia with Germany and some other European states; as you know, there are some problems concerning the environment, among others.

How does the Presidency evaluate this project?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Thank you for those supplementary questions. As regards the use of nuclear energy, the Presidency is of the firm opinion that the decision on the introduction, further use and possible increase in the use of nuclear energy is entirely up to the Member States. The Presidency will adhere to that position.

The second part of your question, Mr Stubb, related to Slovenia. Slovenia is known to be one of the countries that uses nuclear energy. There is a possibility, but no decision on the matter, that the use of nuclear energy will increase, i.e. that Slovenia will resort to it in the future as well.

As regards the North Stream project, it is not an EU project but a project of the directly participating countries. The EU, the Council and the Presidency do not hold any positions regarding this particular case. However, the EU holds a general position regarding projects which we, as the EU, would like to see realised. In this respect I would like to mention above all the Nabucco gas pipeline.

This means that we have an opinion about this project because it is an EU project and our opinion is positive. It is the opinion that the European Union, wishing to develop its energy policy at the European level, must continue with such projects, and, as the Presidency, we will support them.


  President. – As they deal with the same subject, the following questions will be taken together:

Question No 5 by Colm Burke (H-0971/07)

Subject: EU Peace-keeping Mission to Chad and Central African Republic (CAR) - short on helicopters and medical facilities

Can the Council say whether EU Member States have made further equipment available for the EU Peace-keeping Mission to Chad and the CAR including helicopters and medical supplies, so as to prevent any unnecessary delay in the deployment of Irish and other EU troops to this region? According to General Henri Bentegeat, the head of the EU’s Military Committee, the present mission still needs transportation in the theatre of operations including helicopters, medical support and logistical assets. After the ‘force generation’ conference which took place in Brussels in November, have participating Member States and others come forth with extra equipment and troops?

Can the Council bolster the will among Member States to secure increased humanitarian aid to this region at EU level? What is the Council doing in relation to Chad’s own domestic instability given the recent gun battles in Eastern Chad on 26 November where the Chad army supposedly killed hundreds of rebel fighters? How is the Council ensuring that the ceasefire gets back on track and that the peace deal between Chadian rebel groups and President Idriss Deby’s government is restored?

Question No 6 by Liam Aylward (H-1016/07)

Subject: EU peacekeeping mission to Chad

Can the Council state when the exact timing for the overall deployment of EU peacekeeping troops to Chad will take place and what the make-up of this troop deployment will be?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) There have been already five conferences in Brussels about the shape of the forces: on 3 November last year, on 1 December last year and, most recently, a few days ago on 11 January this year.

As in every operation of this kind, the difficulty of shaping forces has again been demonstrated. However, I am pleased to inform you that the fifth, i.e. last, conference on the shaping of the forces was successful and the European Union now has all the necessary capabilities at its disposal.

The decision on the starting date for the mission is expected to be adopted at the session of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council at the end of this month, 28 January 2008. The initial operational capability is expected to be reached by the end of January or at the beginning of February. It will include special units with some infantry units and a selection of technical, logistic and medical means to prepare the ground for major deployment.

General deployment of the peace forces is foreseen for May, before the start of the rainy season. In this phase, the EUFOR units in Chad should amount to 4000 troops. As regards the recent military conflict between the rebel and Chad governmental forces in western Chad, the Council deeply deplores the attacks by the rebels which led to the present fighting.

In the decisions of 10 December, the Council expressed its deep concern and called on the Chad government to cooperate with Sudan and Libya in creating the necessary conditions for reaching a lasting political solution based on the Sirta Peace Agreement. The Council called on the Chad and Sudanese governments to fulfil the obligations they accepted in the Treaty of Tripoli and, in particular, to stop assisting the armed movements that are causing the instability of this region.

In view of the fact that the rebel forces are carrying out their actions from Darfur as well, the Council is reminding the Sudanese government of its responsibility to prevent armed groups from crossing the border with Chad. The Council is aware of the fact that lasting results may be reached only through political solution, and it is therefore emphasizing the importance of the political agreement on consolidation of the democratic process in Chad, signed on 13 August last year.


  Colm Burke (PPE-DE). – I would just like to wish the Slovenians well in their Presidency over the next six months and to thank them for the reply.

In relation to the decision which was taken in mid-September by the EU Council to make an EU force available, I am a bit concerned that the timescale has been allowed to lapse. I am just wondering whether there is a lesson that we should learn from this: that, before we give a commitment, we have the operation ready to move, because of certain things that have occurred since.

The second part of my question was in relation to humanitarian aid. We gave humanitarian aid to Chad in 2007. Are we going to increase that level of aid for 2008 now that we have a direct involvement in it over the next 12 months?


  Liam Aylward (UEN). – Mr President, I would like to wish the Slovenian Presidency every success for its term over the next six months, and also to wish a safe and successful peace-keeping mission to the EU forces that are going to Chad. I am very proud to say that this mission is being headed by a fellow Irishman, Lieutenant-General Patrick Nash, and I wish him well also.

Does the Council agree that the EU peacekeeping missions must continue to cooperate fully with the United Nations and that the deployment of EU peacekeeping forces should take place only when a United Nations resolution supports such a mission?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Firstly, Mr Burke’s question. Certainly it is one more lesson in the long line of lessons which perhaps teach us mainly one thing: it is easier to adopt a decision in principle than to ensure its implementation. Nevertheless, we were successful in that process. It took a while, but I think that not only the agreement, but also the agreement regarding the implementation itself, was reached at the right moment.

As regards the second question, I would like to say that it is one of principle, which should of course be resolved pursuant to international law and the United Nations Charter. Naturally, it is proper that peace-keeping and peace-making operations are about cooperation under the patronage of the United Nations. This does not mean that the European Union is not also capable of independently adopting decisions regarding its own missions of a different nature.


  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, this will be more of an opinion, I think. Poland provides 10% of the armed forces in Chad, which means about 400 soldiers, so I would like to appeal to the Slovenian Presidency to do everything it can to ensure that this mission ends successfully. It must be a well-prepared mission, one which is very well equipped, and we know that the initiator of this mission was France. I would therefore like to ask Slovenia, as holder of the Presidency, to be very exacting with France, the leader of this mission. Logistically, this has to be ... or rather, I would once again emphasise that Europe must not compromise itself.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Only to express gratitude to Poland and, of course, other countries that are contributing forces to this important operation.



Question No 7 by Gay Mitchell (H-0973/07)

Subject: Protection of EU citizens in Muslim countries

In November of last year, a British teacher was accused of insulting Islam while teaching in Sudan after allowing her class of seven-year-olds to name a teddy bear Mohammed. If convicted she could face 40 lashes, a large fine or a jail sentence.

What can the EU do to give better protection to innocent EU citizens in Muslim countries who find themselves in terrible situations such as this?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) The case referred to in Mr Mitchell's question is the case of a woman of British citizenship who was in a third country and came under the jurisdiction of the national legislation of that country. On the basis of her citizenship, the above-mentioned citizen was guaranteed consular protection by the country in which she is a citizen. As we know, the British citizen was released in the meantime and returned to the United Kingdom.

It follows from this that such cases are resolved through bilateral relations between the Member State in question and the third country. Naturally, cases may arise where additional political measures are appropriate and where EU representatives are asked to get involved in matters of this kind and in resolving such bilateral issues. In specific cases, this may lead to official statements and initiatives by the European Union.

I would like to reiterate that, in principle, as in this particular case, it is an issue which is usually resolved at the level of relations between the third country and the EU Member State of which the person is a citizen.


  Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE). – I thank the President-in-Office for the reply and wish him well in his Presidency.

The President-in-Office will no doubt be aware that every citizen of an EU Member State is also a citizen of the Union. My expectation would be that, if an EU citizen was visiting some state where he or she could have his arm or leg amputated, then the Union would see the horror in such a thing. Does the Union not also see the horror in somebody being treated in this way, potentially sentenced to 40 lashes and also perhaps a jail sentence?

Will the President-in-Office take steps to try to ensure that EU citizens visiting these regions are aware of the sort of cultural change they are entering into, and will the Presidency also try to ensure that the states we do business with expect us to expect of them better treatment for our citizens and for them not to be treated in this way?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Thank you, Mr Mitchell, for your supplementary question. It is a question of consular protection for citizens. Such protection is still the domain of the Member States and it is up to the Member States to warn their citizens who are travelling to third countries about the dangers and traps they have to be aware of.

On the other hand, on the principle of solidarity we already have a guarantee of help from other Member States which have diplomatic, i.e. consular, representation in a third country and which guarantee consular protection for the citizens of other Member States of the European Union which do not have their own consulate in the country in question. I think that is one important advantage of our Union.

I have already said that, if required, it is certainly very probable, most probable, possible that the Union will also be involved in resolving cases such as the one mentioned. Luckily, in this case it was not necessary and the case was solved between the two countries, which we are happy about.


  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE). – (DE) President-in-Office of the Council, you have rightly pointed out that bilateral contacts can help in resolving problem cases such as these. The Council has, however, signed the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights with the President of this House and the President of the Commission. In it we refer to human dignity and the ban on degrading and cruel punishment. Would it not therefore also be the Council’s duty to assert this claim throughout the world on behalf of the European Union?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I repeat that it is still a duty of the Member States which possess the levers of consular protection. However, it is clear that the European Union gives a framework within which the Member States – and I am going to mention the principle of solidarity again – help each other in this area on the basis of the principle of solidarity.

In any case, the Council, and I am sure other institutions, would not hesitate to do all they could at their level if the need arose. In other words, that does not exclude the fact that for the time being this protection is offered by the Member States and does not exclude additional action being taken by an individual institution of the European Union.

What follows from the case presented in Mr Mitchell's question is only that the case was resolved between the two countries, although that does not mean that it would not have been tackled at a higher, even European level, had the need arisen.



Question No 8 by Avril Doyle (H-0975/07)

Subject: Biodiversity and climate change

According to the IPCC fourth assessment report, during this century ‘the resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded by an unprecedented combination of change in climate and other global drivers’ (e.g. spread of infectious diseases). The IPCC estimates that roughly 60% of evaluated ecosystems are currently utilised unsustainably and show increasing signs of degradation. This alone will likely cause widespread biodiversity loss.

At the EU level, the Commission’s Green Paper on Climate Change Adaptation reminds us that: ‘approximately 20-30% of plant and animal species in Europe (assessed so far) are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5 degrees C’.

What concrete actions will the Slovenian Presidency take to prioritise the Gothenburg target to halt biodiversity loss by 2010, and to combat widespread biodiversity loss due to climate change and other global drivers?


  Lenarčič Janez, President-in-Office. − (SL) I am convinced that Ms Doyle is familiar with the intention of the European Union to contribute to the ambitious outcome of the 9th Conference of the Signatories to the Biodiversity Convention. It will take place in Bonn in Germany in May 2008, i.e. during the Slovenian Presidency.

The preservation of biodiversity is high on the list of priorities of our Presidency. The Council had already stressed the urgency of continuous and committed efforts at all levels to reach the target of perceptibly slowing down the decrease in biodiversity by the year 2010, and at the same time to reach the target mentioned by Ms Doyle in her question and set by the EU at the session of the European Council in Göteborg.

In addition, the Member States are introducing concrete measures for implementation of the action plan to reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010 and beyond. The plan makes provision for measures relating to biodiversity and climate change at the level of the European Union as well as at the global level.

In its efforts to reach the target to slow down the decrease in biodiversity by the year 2010, the Presidency stresses the need for synergy between policies and activities in the areas of climate change and biodiversity, especially in respect of biodiversity in fresh water and marine environments, as well as biodiversity in forests.

These targets, together with other targets for biodiversity preservation, have been set in the declaration entitled “Countdown to 2010”. Meetings of Council working groups will be organised during the Slovenian Presidency. One will be among experts in forestry, climate change and biodiversity, and another among experts in international marine policies, fisheries and biodiversity.

Equally, at the informal meeting of environment ministers in Slovenia in April, the biodiversity of forests will be presented as a challenge and an opportunity to prepare measures to alleviate climate change and to adjust to it at the European level. The Slovenian Presidency will also strive to improve cooperation as well as the implementation of appropriate decisions in various environmental agreements at national and regional levels.

The European Commission amended its communication “Halting the Loss of Biodiversity by 2010 – and Beyond” with the commitment to include the private sector in partnerships for the preservation of biodiversity. Recently, in November 2007, there was a high-level conference in Lisbon which debated the economy and biodiversity within this framework. The outcome of that conference, which included the Lisbon report on the economy and biodiversity, will be debated at the aforementioned 9th Conference of the Signatory Countries, which will take place in Germany during the Slovenian Presidency. It will also be discussed at the 5th World Congress of the International Alliance for the Preservation of Nature and Natural Resources, which will take place in Barcelona during the French Presidency.


  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – Thank you, President-in-Office, and best wishes for a very successful Presidency.

It is the countdown to 2010 that concerns me. There is plenty of talk but no action in this area, and it is one of the great deceptions we have that we are actually going to show any change or any impact on the ground by 2010. I mean, I agree with synergies between different policies, but protection of biodiversity can help limit atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations because forests, peat lands and other man-made ecosystems and habitats store carbon.

Do you think that monitoring change needs the best data available? We need better information on the whole effects that climate change is having on Europe’s biodiversity. If we make any progress towards 2010 we have to improve the indicators and measurements we use to know exactly how serious the situation is.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Ms Doyle, thank you for your added comment. I fully agree that we have to have the best possible indicators to establish the status of biodiversity. The Presidency will take into consideration your comment on the need to think about the necessity to improve these indicators and will reflect on it.

2010 is really close: we have less than two years. You are right that in a field such as biodiversity it is difficult to imagine that, especially after a period which seems not to have been used to its best potential, this short time that remains will be enough to reach the set targets, namely the slowdown in the loss of biodiversity.

However, this is not to say that it is impossible. We will do our best. Slovenia is one of the countries where biodiversity is of enormous importance because the level of biodiversity in our country is still high; this is well known, if for no other reason because of our bears, which we export to a large part of Europe.

In brief, you can rely on the Slovenian Presidency to do its utmost to reach the target, regardless of the fact that there is very little time left.


  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – Could I just ask the Council to comment on the fact that the Commission is now reviewing the targets for biofuels, because what we thought might be good for climate change is now having unintended consequences when it comes to global food security, and indeed biodiversity.

Is this not one of the difficulties for us human beings in tackling climate change: that we may get it wrong?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) This is proof that, perhaps, certain matters did not receive our due attention in the past. It is clear that the totally unsupervised and unrestrained production of biofuels must have possible negative consequences for the environment, biodiversity, food prices, and so on.

I think it is fitting to devote special attention to that aspect too. In other words, we should encourage the production and consumption of biofuels to reduce rather than increase the burden on the environment. I think that should be a major guide for the Union in its policies to encourage the use of biofuels.



Question No 9 by Jim Higgins (H-0977/07)

Subject: Moving beyond GDP

Could the Council indicate how it intends to work with the Commission proposal to move beyond GDP as an indicator of regional cohesion, and could it say whether it has arrived at any definitive measures to be included in the future, to provide a more accurate measure of a region’s performance?

Mrs McGuinness takes responsibility for this question originally asked by Jim Higgins.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I would like to apologise to Mr Higgins and Ms McGuinness for my answer, which cannot be anything other than very short, because the Council can only discuss these things on the basis of a proposal by the Commission.

Such a proposal has not been put forward, nor has a proposal for any other changes regarding regional cohesion indicators. Therefore, until such a proposal is made, the Council is unable to discuss it and take a position on any other regional cohesion indicators.


  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – Mr President, can I apologise on behalf of Mr Higgins, who is unwell this evening and cannot be here. I thank you for your short answer. I presume this will be linked with plans to redefine disadvantaged areas in Member States as well. Could I just suggest that, when you do have some information on some of the indicators, you might supply it to Mr Higgins.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I will try, thank you. I reiterate that it depends primarily on the Commission and maybe, maybe, but really only just maybe, there will be an opportunity, but not necessarily, to consider the indicators as well as the review of the cohesion policy which is being planned by the Slovenian Presidency at the moment. That depends on the Commission and not the Council. Of course, we would be interested to know what will be the contribution of the Commission to the debate on the review of the cohesion policy, which is one of the important tasks for our Presidency.


  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, even the European Parliament respects the Commission’s right of initiative, as the Council has just expressed it. However, we shall therefore always let the Commission know what we believe is particularly important. Criteria such as unemployment or greater migration would certainly be subjects that could be introduced into the discussion here. Because you talked about the Slovenian brown bears in the previous question, as a Styrian I would like to say thank you for this export and I hope that the open Schengen border will lead to even more immigration.


  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – In terms of more accurate measurements of a region’s performance, one must seriously question whether GDP is the right measurement of performance. Has any consideration been given, or will you be giving consideration (as you have only been in office for a week), to measuring GDP versus GNP versus GNI? The big difficulty at the moment is that we are not measuring like with like, so it is very hard to measure performance across different regions – and across different countries, it is not just across regions alone – because the bases or indicators are not standardised at the moment.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) It would be very difficult for me to speak in the name of the Commission and I have no ambition to do so, because I would not be equal to the task. However, it seems that, at least for the time being, the Commission has not yet found a better indicator than GDP. I believe that, had the Commission found a better indicator, it would have proposed it. I would like to repeat my previous remark that the cohesion policy review gives an opportunity to consider your question too. There are going to be even more opportunities when the complete reform of the European Union budget is discussed, which, as we already know, will be done on the basis of the total analysis to be conducted by the European Commission itself in 2008 and 2009.



Question No 10 by Mairead McGuinness (H-0979/07)

Subject: Investigation into care homes in Bulgaria

The BBC recently broadcast a documentary entitled ‘Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children’ which depicted the shocking conditions experienced by the children living in a care home in Mogilino, Bulgaria. The producer of the programme has publicly stated that this home is not the worst case in Bulgaria. There is a perception that even though a problem evidently exists in relation to institutional care for children and young adults with disabilities, it does not appear to have been effectively addressed.

Given the EU’s adherence to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the fact that we have just left behind the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All, can the Council make a statement on this very sensitive matter?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) The Council has not adopted any position on the particular case cited by Ms McGuinness. Nevertheless, I can say with pleasure that on 5 December 2007 the Council adopted a resolution to continue with the European year of equal opportunities for all. That was 2007, i.e. last year, which according to this decision, i.e. this resolution, will not be a one-year event but will continue.

Said resolution calls on the Member States and the European Commission to strengthen their efforts to prevent discrimination due to disability or for any other reason, to strengthen the fight against discrimination of this kind, to include the question of disability in all relevant policies and to continue the process of concluding, signing and ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. With this resolution the Council is also calling on the Member States and the Commission to cooperate in the common challenges and look for a solution within the framework of the implementation of said convention, i.e. the UN convention.

Allow me to stress here that the Council and the European Parliament recently received a Commission report on the status of the disabled in the European Union, which included the European action plan for 2008 and 2009. The Slovenian Presidency is of the opinion that this document should provide valuable guidelines for further endeavours in the enforcement of rights for the disabled, especially disabled children. The Council is still studying this proposal by the Commission.


  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – President-in-Office, thank you for your diplomacy. I hope you will understand if I am not diplomatic, because I do not think you realise the extent of anger and upset, particularly in the UK and Ireland, when this documentary was shown.

I think – and I regret to say this – that if this was an animal welfare issue the Council would have a position on it. We are talking about children who have no voice. I really believe that it makes the EU look bad in the eyes of Member States and citizens of the European Union that we are slow to act when it comes to cases like this.

I think it would be wonderful and we would get a great reaction from our citizens if we were more swift to act, because this is an unforgivable story. The pictures spoke for themselves.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I cannot and do not wish to go into the content of this affair, on which you, probably quite justifiably, have a strong opinion. However, I would like to stress that, in the opinion of the Council, it is important to respect and take into consideration the division of competences between the Union and the Member States. In this framework I may express myself only as a representative of the Council – and I am not being diplomatic here, but speaking within the limits of my competences and the competences of the Council, and of course out of respect for the movements within these frameworks.


  Jim Allister (NI). – President-in-Office, can I join in expressing disappointment at the inadequacy of your reply?

When Bulgaria was being considered for accession, the treatment of people in institutions was made a live issue. But the mistake that was made was that, when in December 2006 we came to set the benchmarks – looking back upon how Bulgaria had matched its undertakings – mysteriously, this item was omitted from the benchmarks.

Why was that? And can it now be reinstated? If not, what other steps can you realistically take so that the Council and the Community quite properly can look at the flagrant breaches which are afflicting this sector?


  Elizabeth Lynne (ALDE). – The speaker is absolutely right: I thought the answer from the Council was not sufficient. Before accession, we called on all Member States who wanted to come into the European Union to abide by European Union rules. I know Bulgaria has signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, but it has not ratified it. Can you put pressure on those countries that have not ratified that Convention to do just that? I know the Bulgarian authorities are trying to address this problem, but we need to keep up the pressure.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I strongly reiterate that it is not within the competence of the Council, or even customary for the Council, to adopt a position regarding individual television programmes or their comments. In no way does this diminish the enormity of the problem you are talking about.

However, I personally see the solution in what you said in your question, i.e. in the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. That is precisely why, in my initial answer, I mentioned the resolution adopted by the Council in December 2007, which calls on the Member States to ratify said convention.



Question No 11 by Bernd Posselt (H-0982/07)

Subject: Negotiating date for Macedonia

Does the Council foresee the possibility this year, i.e. during the Slovenian or French Presidency of the Council, of setting a date for launching accession negotiations with Macedonia?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I still do not know; sometimes it switches itself on and sometimes it doesn’t. I apologise for these gaps.

Of course, the Council does not and cannot exclude the possibility cited by Mr Posselt in his question.

As we know, in December 2005 the European Council decided to accord candidate status to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In accordance with the Council decisions of 12 December 2005, i.e. a few days prior to the session of the European Council, the country had to implement the Stabilisation and Association Agreement fully. The Commission has been preparing progress reports on this basis, and the 2006 and 2007 reports do not contain recommendations for the start of accession negotiations, the argument being that appropriate measures have still not been implemented.

In 2008 the Presidency is expecting the leadership of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, from the entire political spectrum, to join forces in strengthening efforts to reach results in all the various fields where progress is needed, and, in view of the events in the country, especially the progress made over the last month, I would estimate that it should be possible this year to come a step closer to deciding on a date for the start of accession negotiations.

The Slovenian Presidency is very keen on it, very keen on that progress, but it does depend on the country itself and on its success in exercising the measures, as well as the progress of reforms.


  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). – (DE) Many thanks for this very good response. Allow me as an exception to make a personal preliminary remark. In 1991, when Slovenia gained independence, I was at the independence celebrations in Ljubljana – as the only EU citizen, I believe. I was also in favour of the Association Agreement during the war in Ljubljana which, thankfully, was brief, and later as rapporteur for Parliament.

I would simply like to say that today is a historic day for me. I am very happy. Please forgive the personal preliminary remark.

Now an even shorter question: do you believe that the naming issue between Macedonia and Greece is a bilateral issue, and can a bilateral issue have an impact on accession negotiations?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I would like to thank Mr Posselt for his support since the days of our independence. Actually, Slovenia has journeyed a long way, as was said by the President of the European Council this morning.

Regarding your question, it is basically a bilateral matter of the name. However, we all know that for the resolution of this basically bilateral question, there is a mechanism, under United Nations patronage, involving a special representative, Mr Nimec, who is committed to mediating between both sides to bring about a solution.

Slovenia, i.e. the Slovenian Presidency, supports these efforts and expects both sides to cooperate in a constructive way in this process until a proper solution is found. In the meantime, we are of the opinion that this question should not affect, let alone hinder, the integration of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into international organisations.


  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – I have a question for the Slovenian Presidency. I know it supports the view that we need long-term peace and stability in south-east Europe and the Balkans as a priority, and indeed economic development goes hand-in-hand with it, but in terms of Macedonia reaching the line to open negotiations on accession – the issue of the name apart (important though it is) – how does the Slovenian Presidency consider Macedonia would rate in comparison with other countries in that immediate area in reaching the accession line? We want them all in, but some will be more prepared than others. How do you rate Macedonia’s chances for priority accession?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Thank you very much, Ms Doyle, for your supplementary question. The Slovenian Presidency classifies countries in the western Balkan region according to the stage they have reached. In this case, the most advanced country of the region is Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia because it is the only country which has been given candidate status. Croatia is excluded because it should be in a different category anyway, namely in the expansion category, because it is already negotiating for membership.

I reiterate that, during our Presidency, we wish for every one of the countries, including the one in question, to make progress on its journey towards membership of the European Union, which will not happen soon, i.e. in a year or two, but will need more time and more effort. The Slovenian Presidency has placed this issue among its highest priorities.

However, it is important to maintain the European perspective for those countries as well as their rate of progress towards this goal. I repeat that, as the Presidency, we would be very pleased if progress were to continue during our Presidency. I would like to repeat that this progress also depends largely on the countries of the region.


  Nikolaos Vakalis (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, I would like to congratulate the President-in-Office of the Council on his very specific reply and, as a Greek MEP, I should like to say that we have a particular interest in all the Western Balkan States becoming members of the European Union as soon as possible. The problem, however, needs to be resolved. I would also like to say that Greece has made its good intentions clear and continues to do so daily in discussions on a compromise name. In this sense, then, I would say that account needs to be taken of the position of a Member State that displays considerable goodwill in this regard.


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Thank you for your comment. The President of the Council mentioned this morning the important achievement of the Greek Presidency in 2003, when the Thessaloniki Agenda for the Western Balkans was adopted. This Thessaloniki Agenda remains the foundation of the efforts of the Slovenian Presidency in its endeavour to integrate the western Balkans. This is why we are particularly counting on the support of Greece in these efforts pertaining the countries of the western Balkans.


  President. – Question No 12 has been withdrawn.

Question No 13 by Nikolaos Vakalis (H-0990/07)

Subject: Reduction in VAT rates for environmentally friendly technologies and products

Does the Council agree that Community legislation on value added tax (VAT) should be adjusted so that reduced VAT rates can also be applied to technologies and applications involving renewable sources of energy and energy yield efficiency in addition to existing provisions governing the consumption of electricity and natural gas? Does a time schedule exist for taking the relevant decisions? What moves should we expect from the Council in this matter, and when?


  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) As we know, at its session of 4 December 2007 the Council adopted a decision to arrange for a discussion on the economic effect of reduced rates and whether reduced rates of value added tax are a suitable tool for achieving the targets of sectorial policies. It was agreed that this question would be debated again at some point during 2008, not necessarily in the first half of the year.

At the moment, the Slovenian Presidency is searching very hard for the most effective approach to continuing the discussion about value added tax rates, which are not uniform. As we know from the Commission report, this discussion started during the Portuguese Presidency. In this period of reflection, which I hope will be as short as possible, we are unable to answer Mr Vakalis more precisely. However, I would like to stress that this is an important question, which the Presidency is going to tackle with due attention.


  Nikolaos Vakalis (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, I consider the reply to be satisfactory, and I would also simply like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Slovenian Presidency on its successful start. I wish it all the best with the rest of its Presidency.


  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.)





12. Verification of credentials: see Minutes

13. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes

14. A European strategy on the Roma (debate)

  President. − The next item is the debate on:

– the oral question to the Commission by Jan Marinus Wiersma, Hannes Swoboda, Katalin Lévai, Adrian Severin and Jan Andersson, on behalf of the PSE Group, on a European Roma strategy (O-0081/2007/rev. 1 - B6-0389/2007)

– the oral question to the Commission by Viktória Mohácsi, on behalf of the ALDE Group, on a European Roma strategy (O-0002/2008 - B6-0003/2008)

– the oral question to the Commission by Lívia Járóka, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group, on a European Community Action Plan on Roma (O-0003/2008 - B6-0004/2008)

– the oral question to the Commission by Roberta Angelilli, on behalf of the UEN Group, on a European Roma strategy (O-0004/2008 - B6-0005/2008)


  Lívia Járóka, author. (HU) Thank you, Mr President. Ladies and gentlemen, President-in-Office, many documents, including the 2005 Decision of the European Parliament on the Roma, the 2004 study by the European Commission, the report on Roma women by the European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and the EUROSTAT action plan of 2003 were clearly drafted in order to solve the untenable situation of European Roma.

Nonetheless, neither the Member States nor the European institutions have really moved forward in promoting the inclusion of the Roma, although it is in the interests of both the European labour market and European societies successfully to integrate Europe’s most populous and fastest-growing minority.

The recommendation of the report presented last December by the high-level advisory group set up by Commissioner Špidla was that a Community action plan should be created. This action plan must be created, although much stronger and more genuine commitment is needed from the Commission in order to take effective, immediate measures. This also applies to the European Parliament and civil society in many areas affecting the Roma.

The European Commission and Member States must instigate, fund, monitor and implement aid directly from Union sources for the most disadvantaged groups. If the financial instruments of the European Union are drawn down, it must show the impact on equal opportunities of the given investment as a material and accountable criterion, that is to say, if development is funded from Union sources, it should be compulsory for bidders to carry out or implement an equal opportunities analysis and measures plan.

If the measures plan becomes a compulsory element of competitions in different development sectors and certain regions, this would contribute greatly to ensuring and encouraging equal opportunities for disadvantaged social groups and those that are falling behind.

It is also essential to create a pan-European crisis map, on the basis of which those areas of the European Union can be assessed where abject poverty and social exclusion most seriously afflict the Roma and non-Roma communities, and through which the European Commission, supporting the Member States, can start the work of desegregation, which the governments have been putting off for decades as a result of different political commitments.

It is important that the Commissioners who are directly or indirectly responsible for the integration and inclusion of minorities coordinate their activities through their education, employment, equal opportunities, regional and development portfolios and, developing into a technical working group, prepare the 2008 action plan for Roma affairs in cooperation with Parliament and civil society, and they must start implementing that plan as soon as possible.

Apart from the fact that we adopted a resolution in 2005 which we now see has in fact had a negligible impact, I also consider it important that dialogue should start between the parties as soon as possible, with the involvement of the Commission and civil society.

I also feel in any case that in 2008 we ought to see action and talks relating to the Roma that are organised by all parties. I feel it is important and I undertake on behalf of the People’s Party to instigate this during 2008. Thank you.


  Roberta Angelilli, author. − (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this morning the report on an EU strategy on the rights of the child was adopted. One of its priorities is combating poverty and discrimination. On this point, we decided to devote a special paragraph to Roma children, who are often excluded from health and social provision and from schooling.

It is a well-known fact that a very high percentage of Roma children do not go to school, or attend only occasionally. Many Roma children are actually forced to attend special schools, if not institutions for the disabled. Available data show that in some Member States early school leaving by Roma children exceeds 60%. It is clear that children who do not go to school, who are illiterate or in any case have an inadequate level of education or vocational training, are children who have no future, but are forced to beg or to work on the black market. In any case, their fate is sealed: in the best-case scenario they will be condemned to poverty and social exclusion, while in the worst-case scenario they will be victims of organised crime.

It is worth bearing in mind, by the way, that the Roma population is very young, with approximately 45% of individuals aged under 16; for this very reason it would be extremely useful and important for the Commission to lay down specific, concrete actions for Roma children, particularly with reference to combating early school leaving and the promotion of appropriate, high-quality schooling. Without a right to education there is no guarantee of equal treatment and, above all, no right to a future.


  Jan Marinus Wiersma, author. − (NL) Mr President, we too have put questions to the Commission, and I expect the Commissioner to answer them. This evening, we are mainly discussing the efforts of the European Union – the European Commission – to tackle the problems of the Roma, a large group of whom became EU citizens a few years ago, and another last year. These citizens are living in conditions that are in most cases unacceptable. We are pleased that we are to receive a response from the European Commission in this House today.

We are also pleased that the European Council devoted attention to the situation of the Roma at the Brussels Summit, and asked the Commission to present more specific proposals for what the European Union itself can do to supplement the policy of Member States with large Roma communities, what we can do in the way of coordination and exchange of best practices, and how the available EU resources can be better deployed in those countries via the funds in order to do something about the situation of the Roma.

I say this particularly because, upon the accession of a number of countries – last year, and also in 2004 – we said, ‘All right, come on in; one of the things we must do together is tackle the problems of the Roma.’ I myself was rapporteur for Slovakia, and I remember the Slovak Government making all kinds of promises, but I have some doubts about the effectiveness of the implementation of those promises. This remains an important point.

We would also say that the Roma cannot be regarded as a typical national minority, such as the Hungarians in Slovakia or the Russians in the Baltic States. They are a typical European minority, for which a special European policy could be developed, together with the Member States concerned, with a separate responsibility for the European Union – as, indeed, was recognised in the pronouncements of the Brussels European Council.

We would ask the Commission, in particular, to ensure greater coordination within the Commission itself. How can we improve cooperation? How can we give someone, possibly from the ranks of the Commissioners, central responsibility for Roma policy? Maybe we should also look at the possibility of recognising the Roma as a kind of European minority in order to get around, to some extent, the principle of subsidiarity currently applicable to Member States’ minority policy.

To conclude, I believe that everyone’s intentions are good, but that better coordination and more action are required.


  Viktória Mohácsi, author. − (HU) Thank you very much. Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to remind you that this Parliament drew attention to the lack of integration of the Roma back in 1983. It also asked the Commission, the Council and the governments of the Member States in a Resolution of 1994 to do everything in the interests of the social, economic and political integration of the Roma.

As you will remember, in the Resolution adopted by Parliament in April 2005 we asked the Commission to adopt an action plan containing clear recommendations for the Member States and candidate countries relating to the economic, social and political integration of the Roma.

Again in November 2007 the matter of the social integration of the Roma was incorporated into the text of the Parliament’s Resolution on freedom of movement, upon my recommendation, as a European-level Roma strategy. We asked the Commission again to prepare immediately a European strategy for the social inclusion of the Roma, using the integration fund and structural funds.

In amongst all this, we know for certain that Roma children are still forced to study in segregated classes and in segregated institutions in at least ten Member States of the Union, and we, the Roma, are unjustifiably classed as disabled, put into a determined profession and labelled for all time.

Unfortunately it is well known in every Member State what slums and what terrible conditions the Roma live in. I regret to state that we also know very well that the average life expectancy of Roma in every Member State is 15 years lower than the life expectancy of Union citizens. We should repeat that the Roma are over-represented among the unemployed in every single Member State.

In amongst all this, unfortunately, not a single month goes by when there is not a racist attack against Roma in any Member State. We know from the news – or we would not particularly have heard about it – that on the night of 4 January 2008, a slum in the Marconi district of Rome, with approximately 250 Roma living there, was set on fire, and then, three days later, also in Italy, Molotov cocktails were thrown at the local gipsy settlement in Aprilia, directly threatening the lives of several hundred people. Racist motives were behind the attack in both cases.

There is no room for doubt, the calling to account is justified, there must be a proposal for a Resolution, there must be a European-level strategy, and every Member State must prepare an action plan for integrating the Roma. Nobody is an exception, nobody can act as if there were no Roma in their own country – whether or not they recognise them – and then what has been said would not be true of any of the Member States of the Union, without exception. Thank you.


  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to thank Mrs Járóka, Mrs Angelilli, Mr Wiersma and Mrs Mohácsi for raising these issues, which I am dealing with on behalf of my colleague, Vladimír Špidla, because he is currently in China, and this gives us the opportunity to talk things through on this extremely important subject.

The past year has really shown that both the bodies of the European Union and the Member States themselves are intensifying their efforts to improve the situation of the Roma in the European Union permanently. We have heard that this is necessary and I agree. A few important steps have already been taken in this regard. These range from the European Parliament’s decision in 2005 to introduce the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All to the work of the high-ranking group of experts on the integration of ethnic minorities and the European Economic and Social Committee as well as the conclusions accepted just recently by December’s European Council, to which reference has just been made.

I should say that we cannot really shrug off the difficult issue of discrimination, as members of the Roma experience it, and their exclusion from society and from the labour market. We have therefore taken the firm decision to use every instrument available to us, such as legislation, structural funds and information and awareness-raising campaigns, in order to improve this situation. It is obvious that employment and social policy programmes and measures are not being adequately used to promote the social integration of the Roma. We therefore need to concentrate all our efforts primarily on improving access to these measures with a targeted plan. It goes without saying that a plan of this kind must be based on an authoritative and long-term commitment by the Member States and the efficient use of Community instruments and policies.

Allow me, therefore, to deal briefly and practically with your questions and outline our proposals for 2008. The Commission will adopt guidelines this summer on the revised strategy for combating discrimination – follow-up action as it were, to the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All. According to the European Council’s conclusions of December 2007, these guidelines will for the most part deal with the Roma problem and the recommendations of the high-ranking group of experts on the integration of ethnic minorities. These guidelines will be supplemented by a working paper by the Commission’s services, which analyses the progress and effectiveness of these measures achieved for the benefit of the Roma, both at political and at legislative level, and also when planning programmes for the structural funds.

At the same time we are offering to organise a high-level Roma forum, aimed at bringing together representatives of national governments and parliaments, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions as well as leading figures from Roma civil society and other important players. We are convinced that the rights of the Roma can be strengthened by high-level open discussion and that much more targeted use of resources can be achieved for their benefit.

The staff of my colleague Vladimír Špidla will prepare the initiatives referred to and then focus on the Roma problem in the areas of non-discrimination, the European Social Fund, employment and social integration. Since the situation of the Roma relates to several of the Commission’s areas of activity, such as regional policy, education, public health and justice, the specialist inter-agency group for Roma issues, which came into existence in 2004, will be providing the information exchange. Finally, a few weeks ago, the Commission concluded a partnership framework agreement with the European Roma Information Office, the ERIO. This partnership will establish permanent, direct contact between the European bodies and Roma civil society.

As for the rest, it should be remembered that several initiatives are being implemented both at national and at European level as part of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, which has just begun. These aim to highlight, and therefore make people even more aware of, the importance of dialogue between cultures and above all the advantages that cultural diversity brings to our society.

In the spring of 2008, the Commission will publish a Green Paper on educational issues in conjunction with pupils who have a migrant background or belong to a disadvantaged minority. It will also address the major aspects affecting the Roma, such as educational segregation, for instance. This Green Paper should trigger wide-ranging debate on the subject and maybe lead to a plan of action at European level.

I should also add – to respond directly to a question from Mrs Mohácsi – that the Commission intends to submit the proposal in 2008 for a directive on the application of the principle of equal treatment beyond employment, i.e. a horizontal directive, as we announced in our work programme.

These are currently the fundamental items we are preparing and I now await the debate with interest, at the end of which I shall perhaps need to add a few comments.


  Roberta Alma Anastase, on behalf of PPE-DE. – (RO) I think that the organisation of this debate in plenary session is extremely important as it is necessary to draw up a balance sheet of the European actions on Roma population and to analyse the methods of enhancing the efficiency thereof.

Several recent events proved us that there are still important gaps at European policy level in this field and an update and readjustment thereof is necessary for the current challenges.

Mutual tollerance and multi-ethnical integration are fundamental principles of the European Union and Roma is an important community at European level, having a significant impact on the social and political as well as economic life in several Member States of the European Union.. Therefore, it is mandatory to develop a coherent vision at European level regarding Roma, focussed on their integration and ensuring a common basis of rights and responsibilities.

Although in November I asked the European Commission a question regarding this issue and the answer was that new proposals intending Roma integration would be launched, I hereby ask the Commission to come up with clarifications on these intentions. Firstly, I would be interested in the way the Commission would approach this issue from institutional point of view so that to ensure an efficient coordination and monitoring of European action for Roma protection and integration.

The role of education, and I would say, the education for tollerance, is not less important as it was pointed out by my colleagues. From this education all the EU citizens would benefit, it would be an education for tollerance as stimulating factor of Roma integration, interaction and social relation in the European Union. Their development would make Roma social integration easier and on the other hand it would limit the stigmatization and discrimination against them. Consequently, I ask the Commission to inform us on the existence of such programmes and the implementation thereof, but especially on wether it intends to consider this issue when drawing up further European policies on Roma.

Thank you and I hope that this debate would result into firm and concrete decisions to improve the European policies on Roma.


  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, many thanks for your reply, which met us half-way in at least some points. You have to understand that we are impatient with regard to these issues because the latest incidents have again shown how pressing the problem is.

Firstly, with regard to the Roma forum: approval from our side. I believe it is a good idea, particularly with the involvement of the Roma themselves. It is important, however, to act quickly because I am afraid that, now that the proposal has been made, it will simply be discussed to death and there will be too much dithering. I believe the Roma forum should be set up as quickly as possible, within the current year. Parliament will certainly provide assistance.

Secondly, it is also important, of course, to engage the local authorities, because governments are often well-intentioned and make promises, but then the problem ends up with the Mayor or somewhere else in the region and is not actually dealt with.

Thirdly, many thanks for your undertaking regarding the proposals for equal treatment beyond the workplace. This is an important subject generally, which my Group very much supports.

But for all that, Commissioner, I should like to say on behalf of my Group that these interdisciplinary groups – we are all familiar with them from our own administrations – are all arduous and helpful. In our view it would be important for there to be one Commissioner responsible for coordinating the subject area, or for there to be at least one authorised representative among the Commissioners whose task it is to carry it through.

I still do not know why the Romanian Commissioner has the job that he has. If he were at least able to attend to it, this would help. I don’t know.

But we would like to see these matters given great priority. Things are moving in the right direction. Thank you, Commissioner, for your report, but a bit more force and a bit more pace would be of great value in the interest of the Roma.


  Alfonso Andria, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, although this debate has been prompted by oral questions to the Commission, in substance it is the natural continuation of an initiative that Parliament undertook some time ago and which it has recently been emphasising. It is clear that we need an action plan to improve the situation of the Roma, given this minority’s poor integration into the social and civil framework of the countries of the European Union.

The transnational nature of the Roma, which is one of their special characteristics, gives rise to a requirement, which I personally support, to prepare a European strategy so that they can escape from the worrying degrading conditions in which they live, in many cases bordering on the inhuman, which without doubt is the effect of social exclusion and the trigger for resulting, varied adverse consequences: from alienation from the host country to degeneration into violence, either as a perpetrator or a victim.

As well as guidelines that may help local and national authorities to stem the numbers of Member State minorities descending into social hardship, it is necessary to have adequate funds to back up the actions to be taken. It is not, however, just a funding problem. The true goal is to bring about equal access to work, education, housing, health, social services and the environment needed to exercise civil rights, starting with decision-making processes. All this involves an integrated approach to combining actions to achieve these goals. This is why I am personally opposed to giving responsibility for the Roma issue to a single European Commissioner.

Two years after the launch of the Decade of Roma Inclusion (2005-2015) there are still a great many commitments that the governments who supported them have yet to get started and fulfil. What initiatives is the Commission intending to take on this issue? I hope that they will begin as soon as possible, straight after the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All, in this European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.


  Elly de Groen-Kouwenhoven, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, the current situation of the Roma forces me to begin with a criticism, which is that the European Commission has been slow and lazy in dealing with Roma issues in Europe.

Just look at the Council of Europe and the OSCE, which for the past two decades have had offices fully dedicated to Roma issues. The Council of Europe has produced many specific recommendations on the Roma, and the OSCE has developed its action plan on improving the situation of the Roma in the OSCE area. I wonder how much attention the Commission and EU Member States has devoted to those documents, and whether they took seriously the joint EP resolution on the Roma, or the Decade of Roma Inclusion action plans.

However, simply criticising is not my political style, and Ms Ferrero-Waldner has given me some cause for optimism. I would therefore ask the Commissioner to please share the following message with President Barroso and the college when you meet.

First, a European Roma strategy should be created as soon as possible and should primarily focus on improving the living conditions of the Roma in Europe, creating jobs for the almost 90% of Roma who are jobless, combating anti-gypsyism, supporting the education of Roma, bringing health into Roma houses and promoting Roma political inclusion.

Second, to facilitate such a strategy, the European Commission needs a permanent Roma unit, hiring Roma staff to serve that body. I sincerely hope that the Commission will hire Roma staff on the basis of their skills, rather than their skin, as some Member States have done in the past.

Third, a special European fund for Roma projects should be a priority for the European Commission. The European Parliament should, of course, also make a contribution towards the joint European ‘union of works’ to improve the situation of the Roma. I would like at this juncture to raise again the proposal to have a permanent EP rapporteur on Roma issues, who could give a good overview and make recommendations to this House, other EU institutions and the Member States.

Furthermore, I would like to hear the voice of the Roma more loudly in this House. Their interests should be represented by their MEPs.

Finally, I would underline that the European Roma strategy should express common political values when it comes to the future enlargement process and the fight against ultra-nationalism and the extreme right in Europe.


  Vittorio Agnoletto, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the Commissioner for what she has said and for the commitments she has made, which also seem to me to be in line with what the European Parliament has said on many occasions in its resolutions, but these promises to act are not enough in themselves.

I would like to ask what tools the Commission uses and what it can tell us about the use of the funds which, under various expenditure headings, have to date been made available to Member States for Roma inclusion. Secondly, what checks is it making on the concrete implementation at national level of the directives adopted? Thirdly, I join with those asking that there be a single figure within the Commission handling all issues relating to the Roma.

To turn to my country, I must stress that we face a very strong wave of racism and stigmatisation, chiefly towards the Roma, particularly since Italy has not fully transposed Directive 43/2000/EC against ethnic discrimination. What measures does the Commission intend to take with regard to this? Italian law has not transposed the concept of racial harassment, the issue of the sharing of the burden of proof or protection from abuse suffered as a result of racial discrimination.

Further, I ask the Commission if it knows that in one major Italian municipality – namely Milan – migrant children, who in this case are mainly Roma, whose parents are not in a regular position with the law and do not have a residence permit, cannot attend state schools. This seems to me to run completely counter to all the EU’s documents, to contradict the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and also the resolution we adopted this morning on the rights of the child.

Finally, I would like to point out that the Italian Government is discussing the nth decree-law on an issue which is in fact really to do with the Roma, and that is whether it is possible to include a reference to economic ends among the grounds that may be given to justify the removal of a citizen of another Member State from the country, in this case from Italy. Behind the general issue of immigration, this decree is in fact directed specifically at the Roma. I would like to know your views.


  Desislav Chukolov (NI). – (BG) Distinguished colleagues, I, too, take the floor so that it can be heard, finally, in this Chamber, how things really stand and so that the hypocritical statements can stop, at least for a while.

What can we gather from the discussion so far? We gather that you are concerned for the gypsy population in Europe, which includes also my homeland, Bulgaria. I can’t even venture to imagine that right now you are concerned by the extremely low pensions of retirees in Bulgaria or for the honest, hard-working Bulgarians who become victims of gypsy crime on a daily basis.

Distinguished MEPs, do show some concern for the fact that the Bulgarian Socialist Party buys gypsy votes on a regular basis during elections in Bulgaria. Do care that the coalition partner of Bulgarian Socialists, the Movement for Rights and Liberties, represented here in the ALDE group, buys all the remaining votes. Also cast by gypsies. Do care that the chairman of the Movement for Rights and Liberties, Ahmed Doghan, calls the buying of votes, of gypsy votes, ‘a normal European practice’.

Do show some concern for the fact that, in Bulgaria, the gypsy population stands at 3-4%, while the crimes committed by them account for 30-40% of all criminal offences. And these are not only crimes of poverty, committed because of poverty. These are extremely shameless and brutal crimes. Because the rape and murder of a 79-year old woman is not a crime of poverty. You do agree, don’t you?

The huge amounts of money allocated, it is obvious, do not work. This funding does not work because this money disappears in dubious foundations and non-government organisations. In our opinion, that of the patriots from Ataka, the solution of this problem is in abiding by the all the laws in each single country. Abiding by the law, with no tolerance for a specific minority, will bring success. Because in Bulgaria crimes committed by gypsies are not investigated in detail. That is a fact. A fact, and you can see it for yourselves.

The murder of the teenage Belneyski sisters was not investigated. It was covered up. These issues should cause our concern. Because tolerating a particular minority at the expense of the majority will not bring any success but the opposite of success. Thank you for your attention.


  Katalin Lévai (PSE). – (HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I was delighted to listen to the words of Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, and I was delighted by the initiatives that can be expected to take place in future. I feel that this really will help the situation of the Roma substantially, but I must agree with my Dutch fellow Member, who has expressed her impatience. I am impatient too, along with many others, because the situation really is changing very slowly.

There are 7–9 million Roma living in Europe, most of them in poor social circumstances, and they fight the same problems as they have for years: the problems of exclusion and inclusion, the lack of employment, the question of school segregation and multiple discrimination against Roma women.

The majority of Member States do not regard the Roma as a minority of their country, they do not want to make substantial changes to their situation, and indeed the experiences of the past few years have shown instead a reinforcement of radicalism and anti-gipsyism in both the new and old Member States.

I therefore feel that there is no more time to waste, and we need real changes and a harmonised European Roma policy. Without a European Roma policy there is no national Roma policy; we have to understand and confront this. It would be good if we took steps so that the transnational minority status of the Roma is recognised, since it really is a special status.

The European Parliament and, within this, the Socialist Group, has already launched the action plan, and in March we will be doing a tour of Europe and arranging conferences, workshops and visits with the involvement of local Roma, NGOs and governments in order to expose cases of discrimination, and we will draw the attention of European public opinion to the unhappy situation of the Roma and try to remedy it. Thank you very much.


  Adrian Severin (PSE). – Mr President, Roma are neither the successors of the ancient Roman Empire, nor the contemporary inhabitants of Rome. They are neither a nation without a state nor a national minority. They are an ethnocultural community, still cherishing its tribal tradition, and a pan-European community which was kept in slavery in pre-modern and early modern Europe, which was sent to extermination camps by the Fascist regimes and enclosed in the states turned into prisons by the Communist dictatorship. They became free European citizens after the end of the Cold War and the first post-bipolar European Union enlargement.

Being marginalised and excluded over the centuries, the Roma community found itself excluded from European wealth and tried to protect itself by challenging the European order. Today, now that Europe is reconciled with itself, should it be reconciled with the Roma population as well, or should it declare and treat the Roma as second-class citizens who are again to be concentrated in some Member States transformed into Roma ghettos? To these questions there is a single answer: the Roma issue is a European issue. It is not a simple issue but a huge challenge – a common challenge which we must cope with jointly. Otherwise we will be unable to integrate the Roma community into European society and bring it into the European order.

This is a cultural and social matter. The European Union should mobilise funds, develop programmes and organise specific institutional structures in order to assist the national authorities of the countries where the Roma choose to settle in order to offer this community a decent material life, a proper education, a fair opportunity to compete with others, free of any discrimination, and a cohesive sense of their existence within European civilisation. We expect the European Commission to take the right steps in that direction and to keep the European Parliament fully informed on the progress achieved.


  Jan Andersson (PSE). – (SV) Mr President, Commissioner, when we discuss the Lisbon Strategy in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, we talk about high growth, a high level of employment, good social conditions, good health care, and one of the things we also say is that the education system and development of skills must be a driving force in achieving these goals. When we transpose this, all these aims, to the Roma minority in Europe, we find astonishingly high unemployment. We find social conditions which are not particularly good, health care which is not particularly good, poor housing conditions, a segregated society for them, and even an education system which is segregated. There are special education provisions for Roma people which do not give them the right to an adequate education. Yet the Lisbon Strategy is there for everyone.

You had a number of good proposals. We support them, but it is important that the strategy is followed up by a plan of action. It is important that we have mainstreaming, but at the same time there must be coordination within the Commission. It is important that we review our funds so that they take account of the Roma minority. It is important, when we draw up strategies in the fields of employment and education and in other fields, that we always consider the situation of the Roma so that they are integrated in different strategies.


  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (PSE). – (HU) Mr President, the European Union does not have a minority policy for Roma, nor for traditional national minorities, nor for migrant minorities. I include the Roma among traditional national minorities, but at the same time, because of their specific socially disadvantaged situation, they must still be treated as a separate category.

I am delighted that, as the living conscience of the European Parliament, the two Hungarian Members of Roma descent, Mrs Járóka and Mrs Mohácsi, amongst others, have raised this question, because we rightly condemned the events in Italy in November. It is right that we should continuously return to this question.

What is the duty of the European Union? I am delighted with what Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner has said. The European Union also has a duty, but it must make a distinction between what is the competence of a Member State and what is the competence of the European Union. I also agree fully with Mr Swoboda, who is no longer here, not because of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, but because he is right, namely in that it is decided at local level whether or not something will succeed. Specifically, the Member State must be given a national action programme. I am proud that we prepared Europe’s first medium-term Roma programme under my government department. Money must be given to the Member State, but everything be decided at local level.

What can the EU do? It should monitor what the Member States are doing and it should provide a ‘best practice’ method for the best solution. It is not only a matter of money, but also of whether there are any qualified experts from the majority and Roma society who want to take this matter further. The future of Europe depends on minorities.


  Paul Rübig (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to reject the criticism that Commissioner Špidla is too lazy to attend to this problem. I do not think this is the right way to conduct discussions in the House.

It is important that we concentrate on improving educational provision for young Roma people. We are all familiar with the system of compulsory education and I believe that language and literacy, and numeracy skills – quite simply, things that are necessary for a good life – should be made compulsory.

On the other hand, I do understand that not everyone wants to be integrated, of course. Of course we do have to offer initiatives to all those who do not wish to integrate into our society. I believe the concept of an open approach to these problems is the main solution for the future.


  Christopher Beazley (PPE-DE). – Mr President, this debate has highlighted a number of the problems which the subject we are debating raises. It seems to me, Commissioner, that rather than us devising a strategy and telling others what to do, it would perhaps be wise to ask representatives of the Roma community.

We currently have two Roma MEPs. I remember, too, a very famous Spanish Socialist Member of this House, elected in 1989, who was particularly engaging and informative on the whole question of Roma culture. That culture is part of our culture and part of European civilisation, and reflects what kind of a people we are.

It would perhaps be wise to look at the history of the Roma people, to speak with representatives of the Roma culture and to ask them how we can best further their prospects, rather than telling them how they can integrate into our society and how we can best accommodate their social needs.


  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − (DE) Mr President, may I sum up once again: it was an extremely interesting debate and we all very clearly see the need to respond to this. I understand, of course, that you all want the fastest possible response.

I should tell you that there is also a directive, Directive 2000/43/EC, which already guarantees the application of the principle of equal treatment, with no differentiation between race or ethnic origin in the employment, social, and educational sectors and in access to and supply of goods and services, which also applies to the Roma. I believe this is also fundamental here. This directive also makes positive measures possible in the Member States. However, it is true that the Member States are not obliged to incorporate these measures into their national legislative provisions.

The European regulations do have to be applied, however, and I should say that we at the Commission have made the firm decision to ensure that they are implemented. The Commission has in fact initiated infringement procedures in the past year against 22 Member States that have not implemented the European regulations properly, including Italy, Mr Agnoletto.

As regards the integration of people in the job market, the European Social Fund is also our most important instrument for this. A substantial proportion of the measures targeted to improving the employability of the Roma can be co-financed by the European Social Fund. Between 2000 and 2006, approximately 275 million euros, for example, were earmarked for projects targeted specifically at integrating the Roma.

The high-level group of experts on the integration of ethnic minorities has pointed out that certain projects supported by the ESF, such as the Acceder programme in Spain, for instance, are excellent models of active integration of the Roma. I should therefore like to renew an urgent appeal to the individual states to make use of this opportunity. I agree with Mr Swoboda that it is not just the bodies of the nation states, of course, that play an important role here, but also often local organisations, of course.

As we all know, the social exclusion of the Roma is a complex phenomenon and a consistent approach covering all the important aspects of their lives is therefore needed to tackle it. This includes education, employment, health, housing and infrastructure. This approach requires efficient coordination at the level of the European institutions. I am convinced that real progress will be made over the next year with the help of these measures.

I have, of course, heard that many of you – not all – would like a certain Commissioner to take on this subject and I shall, of course, convey this to my colleague, Mr Špidla. But there is a wide variety of different subjects involved here and the most important thing, therefore, is effective coordination. You can certainly talk to Mr Špidla once again about the other issue.

I should like very briefly to single out a few items that were raised specifically during the debate. These included the question of how dialogue with civil society and also with the Roma themselves is going. I believe that dialogue such as this – and specifically on the course of action for the Roma and their children – is very important for guaranteeing the principle of non-discrimination on the one hand, and combating unemployment and promoting the social development of the regions in which the Roma live on the other hand, as well as toppling the barriers found mainly in the heads of the majority so that the Roma are recognised as a genuine part of this European culture.

I am in agreement here with all those who have raised this issue.

I myself – and all those who know me know that this is perhaps a kind of hobby of mine outside politics – have always advocated human rights education. It is an education in tolerance. I can only say that I shall therefore certainly be including the issue of human rights education, which I regard as hugely important, in these guidelines.

Mrs de Groen-Kouwenhoven, I have to say here that the Commission is perhaps slow, but certainly not lazy. When you see that the European Council and in particular the OSCE have set up numerous programmes, mainly with the support of the European Commission, then you become aware that to all intents and purposes there are some very positive approaches to this.

My final comment applies to the issue of the trans-national minority. Here I would simply like to say that consideration should be given to the fact that the European Union does not have the authority to define minorities in the Member States themselves. You also know that it should be borne in mind in this context that social policy measures are not geared to ethnic origin, but always to individual needs. But as you know, the Member States in particular have a very different idea of what a minority is and how a minority is defined. This issue can therefore still not be resolved very quickly. In other respects, I am happy to pass on your comments. You will certainly be receiving guidelines on this soon.


  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday, 31 January 2008.

Written statements (Rule 142)


  David Martin (PSE), in writing. – It is clear the Roma is a neglected minority in the European Union; we cannot allow this to continue. I fully support my colleagues in calling for the Commission to take more action on this issue. We have a situation whereby there exists a group that is considered the largest ethnic minority group in the EU, living in less than substandard conditions, that we have difficulty in protecting and aiding. Concrete and swift action from the Commission to assist the integration of the Roma community in all aspects of society, be it economic, social or political, is desperately needed. The EU needs to take the lead on this problem.


15. A more effective EU policy for the South Caucasus - A Black Sea Regional Policy Approach (debate)

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

– the report by Lydie Polfer, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on a more effective EU policy for the South Caucasus: from promises to actions (2007/2076(INI)) (A6-0516/2007), and

– the report by Roberta Alma Anastase, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on a Black Sea Regional Policy Approach (2007/2101(INI)) (A6-0510/2007)


  Lydie Polfer, rapporteur. − (FR) Mr President, I would like to thank the members of the Committee on International Trade, and above all my colleagues in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, who have actively contributed to shaping this report, which we wanted to be balanced, and which in the end was adopted unanimously.

Yes, there is great interest in the three countries in the Caucasus. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, all three of which came out of the collapse of the USSR, are still suffering from the legacy of those times today, especially through the unresolved conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and Ossetia, which are poisoning the atmosphere between them and their neighbours and have set off a damaging arms race. Nevertheless, these three countries chose to adopt European values, in the 1980s, by becoming members of the Council of Europe and, later, by signing partnership and cooperation agreements with the European Union.

Their geographical proximity and situation as a transit area between Iran, Turkey, Russia, the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea mean that we have an interest in helping these countries to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in this region and to set up a viable framework for regional cooperation and development that permits political stability. This is particularly important because these countries, though they have experienced strong growth, still have high levels of poverty and unemployment.

We have analysed the possibilities for taking action in different sections that I will briefly summarise. Firstly, within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy, we have insisted upon a differentiated approach based on individual merits, while making regional cooperation a key objective. We are asking the Commission to extend these contacts with civil society, and we particularly support the initiative of undertaking a feasibility study on a free-trade agreement with Georgia and Armenia and of supporting Azerbaijan in its process of accession to the WTO.

Democracy, human rights and the rule of law are obviously a fundamental part of this and we commend the efforts made by Armenia following the constitutional reform, but we encourage it to continue with the establishment of an independent judiciary and civil service. Regarding Azerbaijan, although we are concerned by the deterioration of the human rights situation and media freedom, on the other hand we commend the presidential pardon that has enabled several journalists to be released, and we ask for an investigation into allegations of police violence. As for Georgia, which has undertaken wide-ranging reforms since 2003 and experienced the turbulence we know about, we are pleased that the presidential elections went off peacefully, but the very tense climate and allegations of human rights abuses lead us to ask the authorities to set up an inquiry into the complaints lodged, without delay. We also ask the opposition forces to behave responsibly and respect the election. To sum up, we are asking these three countries to guarantee freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of the media as well as fair and honest access to the media for the opposition, and we are asking them to step up the fight against corruption and establish a favourable investment climate. As regards the negotiations to come up with procedures for granting visas to Georgia, we can only recommend the Commission and the Council to launch them in view of what is happening in Abkhazia and Ossetia.

As for the peaceful settlement of the conflicts, this is obviously the condition sine qua non for lasting stability in the region. We have dealt with this, I believe, in a balanced way. I will not go over it again in detail; I will simply mention – as we pointed out – that the contradiction between the principle of self-determination and territorial integrity has up to now contributed to the perpetuation of the conflicts in the region, and that this problem can be overcome only through negotiations on the basis of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. Let us hope that the latest proposals from the Minsk Group will help to bridge these rifts. This would be the best present for the hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons who are suffering cruelly from this situation.

Finally, as regards cooperation on energy and transport, although it is clear that the new initiatives increase the possibilities for openness, it is becoming increasingly evident that Armenia’s isolation is only worsening.

In conclusion, I would like to recall that the sole objective of this report is to show our sincere interest in the South Caucasus region, its inhabitants, their history, their goals and their hopes, and that we would like to get to know them better so we can better help them to achieve them.




  Roberta Alma Anastase, Rapporteur. − (RO) A year ago, in January 2007, in this very room, we were celebrating Romania and Bulgaria’s accession. We were reflecting then on the new opportunities available both to the two new Member States and to the European Union as a whole. Active and consistent involvement in the Black Sea region, along with the development of a genuine regional cooperation policy, comparable to those related to the Mediterranean and the Northern Dimension, were necessary and obvious requirements.

Now, in January 2008, as rapporteur for Black Sea Cooperation, I have the privilege of opening this plenary debate to discuss Parliament’s recommendations on developing synergy in the Black Sea area, proposed in April by the European Commission. These recommendations are the result of a broad process of reflection and consultation with all interested colleagues as well as independent experts and civil servants.

The report emphasises the strategic importance of the Black Sea to the European Union while defining with extreme clarity the objective of the cooperation policy in this area: creating a common space of security, democracy and prosperity. The report stresses the importance of regional cooperation in mobilizing ten adjoining countries towards dialogue and joint action, bringing together their diversity and their enormous potential, which we cannot ignore. Consequently, a primary responsibility for the European Union is to take the lead in promoting active regional cooperation in the Black Sea region.

The key question that this report attempts to answer is the following: how can we strengthen and effectively implement the European policy of regional cooperation in the Black Sea region in order to achieve the objective of creating a common space of security, democracy and prosperity?

First of all, we need firm, coherent, and results-driven action on the part of the European Union. In this regard, the report identifies three fundamental issues: mobilizing all the relevant financial instruments, enhanced cooperation with other institutions and bodies in the area, and, not least, monitoring actions to ensure their continuity and effectiveness, and devising an action plan.

The report also recommends that the European Union should focus on five priority areas. The Black Sea region arguably is of strategic importance for the security and diversification of energy supply in the European Union and requires a comprehensive approach with that in mind. However, it is imperative that the European Union should not confine itself to economic cooperation, but rather aim to create a region where stability, democracy and good governance prevail. The EU’s Black Sea policy will only be complete when the European Union commits to resolving existing conflicts, and civil society development, personal contact and good relations between neighbours are essential in this regard.

Since we are also discussing Mrs Polfer’s report on the South Caucasus, and countries in that region are part of the wider Black Sea area, I welcome the drafting of this report. It is important that the two reports concur in their main ideas and in stressing the importance of cooperation and dialogue among all States as a premise for development and prosperity, as well as in stressing the need for consistent involvement on the part of the European Union.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all the contributors to the report on Black Sea synergy. I appreciate the cooperation and unanimous support of my colleagues from all groups. I hope that the same spirit will guide the European Union and the Black Sea countries in their joint effort to develop regional cooperation in this area.


  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, may I say that I will be slightly longer, because I am answering on two reports. They are two excellent reports that bring to our agenda today, on the one hand, the complex area of the neighbourhood policy and, on the other hand, the question of the Black Sea region. Reading the reports has indeed reinforced my conviction that, while bilateral differentiated relations remain the cornerstone of the European neighbourhood policy (ENP), many of the challenges and opportunities before us require, I think, a response at subregional or regional level, as we have already said.

Now let me speak first on the South Caucasus region. We concur with most of the opinions contained in the very good report on the South Caucasus. The inclusion of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in our neighbourhood policy will, step by step, bring all three of them closer to the European Union on the basis of shared European values.

The Commission will publish in spring its progress reports on the implementation of the three ENP action plans, providing an update on the current state of play in our joint undertaking.

We know that much remains to be done. Compliance with democracy, human rights and the rule of law is still fragile and needs improvement. Today, for instance, I had an exchange of views about these countries with Mr Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe. We remain concerned about human rights and media freedom in Azerbaijan. Recent political events in Georgia show that the freedom of expression of political views through the media is essential for stability and, for instance, despite progress in Armenia, further efforts are needed to fight corruption and fully comply with human rights standards. Notwithstanding rapid economic growth, poverty is still widespread in the region and we continue to promote economic reforms, steps to improve the business climate but also to strengthen the rule of law. And I also agree with the need stressed in Ms Polfer’s report for more regional cooperation activities, in particular in the areas of energy, transport and the environment. It is our hope that the European Union will be able to take a more courageous and more proactive stance in supporting conflict settlement in the region.

As mentioned in the recent ENP communication, the European Union could provide even more help by working around the conflict issues by tackling the underlying causes and, indeed, by building trust on both sides of the boundary lines.

As stressed in the report, concrete steps undertaken by the Commission to spread aid and information can at least serve these purposes. Addressing the challenges I have briefly described remains, therefore, a main priority of my Commission for the South Caucasus in the coming months.

To do this, we will continue to employ the whole range of appropriate EU financial assistance programmes. The upgrading of our delegation in Armenia and the opening of a delegation in Azerbaijan in early 2008 will certainly also allow us to increase visibility and operate more efficiently.

Let me make a special comment on the present presidential elections in Georgia. As you know, the international election observation mission, to which the European Parliament has contributed, has confirmed that the elections were, overall, in line with OSCE and Council of Europe standards. However, the international election observation mission has identified several irregularities and shortcomings. And the most urgent task now is to address these problems: to investigate all electoral complaints and to create the proper conditions for the upcoming legislative elections. We stand ready to continue supporting Georgia in carrying out these duties in a speedy and in a thorough way.

Regarding the Black Sea, I find myself in agreement with much of the report on a Black Sea regional policy approach as well. It provides valuable political impetus for our April communication on Black Sea synergy and I think it is significant that, after the Council conclusions last May and the present discussion in the European Parliament, all the key EU institutions will have reaffirmed the need to implement a regional and a comprehensive approach to our policies applied in the Black Sea region.

The timing of Parliament’s report is very appropriate. As a result of our initiative, EU foreign ministers will meet in less than one month’s time in Kiev with their Black Sea counterparts at a Black Sea synergy meeting. I will, of course, personally attend this meeting. International and Black Sea regional organisations will also participate and we look forward to discussions that would welcome and endorse increased EU support to Black Sea regional cooperation and determine the priority areas for coordinated action.

Let me mention just a few of those. The Commission promotes a Black Sea dialogue on energy security, making use of the INOGATE structure. We continue to encourage legal and regulatory harmonisation through the Baku process. Our intention is to carry on working closely with our partners in the construction of new energy infrastructure, developing a trans-Black Sea energy corridor. And Black Sea cooperation will improve coordination between TRACECA, the pan-European transport access programme, and the transport programmes of our partners. We are also about to initiate a regional dialogue on Black Sea maritime policies and the establishment of regional fisheries coordination.

The Commission is working on strengthening the Black Sea-Danube connection and we intend to join the Black Sea Commission, which deals with environmental tasks.

So the Commission has been developing some proposals for regional schemes to combat climate change and we have also begun the implementation of our Black Sea cross-border cooperation programme focusing on civil society and on local authorities.

There are a number of proposals under discussion with our Black Sea partners in the areas of the fight against organised crime, trade and culture, and we have developed contacts with Black Sea regional organisations, notably with the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.

Concerning the funding for Black Sea synergy, cofinancing will be the main rule. The European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument will certainly be at the heart of the EU’s financial contribution, but other EU instruments, including thematic ones and the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, in the case of Turkey, will be used as well.

The Kiev ministerial meeting will provide a forum to discuss and bring forward and coordinate EU initiatives with ideas coming from our partners. And it is our expectation that the Black Sea regional context will open up a new space for cooperation based on equal partnership with all eastern ENP countries and important partners like Russia and Turkey.

Our engagement in the Black Sea region can develop into a long-term endeavour with clear potential to enhance stability, progress and prosperity in the whole region, and Parliament’s support is extremely important for that success.


  Marusya Ivanova Lyubcheva, rapporteur for the opinion of INTA. − (BG) Madam President, Madam Commissioner, colleagues, the Committee on International Trade congratulates the European Commission and the rapporteur on their timeliness and on their balanced approach to the Black Sea and the region.

The Black Sea is a border of the European Union, a geostrategic crossroad and a transit region, an area of cooperation trade, fishing, tourism, shipping, a strategic area in the European energy policy.

The Committee on International Trade calls for a better coordination of cooperation through a separate Black Sea strategy and brings to attention the participation of the Union in infrastructural projects related to the transmission of energy resources.