Index 
Debates
PDF 1352k
Wednesday, 30 January 2008 - Brussels OJ edition
1. Resumption of the session
 2. Documents received: see Minutes
 3. Oral questions and written declarations (submission): see Minutes
 4. Texts of agreements forwarded by the Council: see Minutes
 5. Action taken on Parliament’s resolutions: see Minutes
 6. Lapsed written declarations: see Minutes
 7. A European strategy on the Roma (motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes
 8. Statement by the President
 9. Approval of the minutes
 10. Dispute concerning the confirmation of the validity of the mandate of a Member: see Minutes
 11. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes
 12. Interpretation of the Rules of Procedure: see Minutes
 13. Order of business
 14. Situation in Iran (debate)
 15. Welcome
 16. Situation in Iran (continuation of debate)
 17. Situation in Gaza (debate)
 18. US anti-missile defence system (debate)
 19. Accomplishment of the internal market in Community postal services (debate)
 20. Outcome of the Bali climate change conference (debate)
 21. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
 22. Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the Potential (debate)
 23. Reduction in unwanted by-catches and elimination of discards in European fisheries (debate)
 24. European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (debate)
 25. Agenda for the next sitting: see Minutes
 26. Closure of the sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: MR PÖTTERING
President

(The sitting was opened at 3.05 p.m.)

 
1. Resumption of the session
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − I declare resumed the sitting of the European Parliament adjourned on Wednesday, 23 January 2008.

 

2. Documents received: see Minutes

3. Oral questions and written declarations (submission): see Minutes

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

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

6. Lapsed written declarations: see Minutes

7. A European strategy on the Roma (motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes

8. Statement by the President
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − Ladies and gentlemen, following Hungary’s ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon, Slovenia and Malta ratified the Treaty yesterday.

(Applause)

The Slovenian Parliament voted by a large majority for ratification. The Maltese Parliament, for its part, unanimously approved the Treaty. This is an important political signal whereby Member States have shown clearly that they want the ratification process to proceed rapidly so that the Treaty can enter into force as planned on 1 January 2009.

I congratulate Slovenia and Malta on this landmark decision.

(Applause)

For domestic reasons, as you know, the Slovakian Parliament decided yesterday to postpone its vote until a later date. I appeal to all political leaders in Slovakia to fulfil their great political responsibility.

 

9. Approval of the minutes
  

(The Minutes of the previous sitting were approved.)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nigel Farage (IND/DEM). – Mr President, the minutes of the last part-session mention your speech in which you talked about incidents that took place in Strasbourg in December. Since that time, under Rule 147 of our revered Rules of Procedure, you have called before you 13 Members of this Parliament to face disciplinary action.

It seems to me that this has been done on a pretty arbitrary basis. I doubt whether one of those that you have called – Ms Sinnott from our group – has ever shouted at anybody in her life. Another of the Members that you called to appear in the headmaster’s study – an Austrian Member – was actually in Frankfurt on the day, so he must have one hell of a voice, must he not?

Why only 13? There were about 80 of us involved in these so-called disturbances. In fact, at the Conference of Presidents’ meeting, you yourself named me as being one of the causes of the trouble, so why am I not being punished? I am Spartacus!

(Cries of ‘I am Spartacus!’ from members of the IND/DEM Group)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − I had asked for comments concerning the Minutes. I would have expected the chair of the IND/DEM Group to understand what the President was saying and to focus his remarks on the Minutes. He patently failed to do that, and so we can now move on.

 

10. Dispute concerning the confirmation of the validity of the mandate of a Member: see Minutes

11. Membership of committees and delegations: see Minutes

12. Interpretation of the Rules of Procedure: see Minutes

13. Order of business
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The final version of the draft agenda for this part-session, as drawn up by the Conference of Presidents at its meeting of Thursday, 17 January 2008, pursuant to Rules 130 and 131 of the Rules of Procedure, has been distributed. The following amendments have been proposed:

Brussels part-session:

At the request of the GUE/NGL Group and with the consent of all groups, I propose that statements on the situation in Gaza by Mr Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, who is already with us and to whom I bid a very warm welcome, and by the Commission be added to today’s agenda as item 2, following the statements on the situation in Iran.

(Parliament approved the request.)

There is also a request that we conclude the debate with the tabling of motions for resolutions and vote on these during the February part-session.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Francis Wurtz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (FR) Mr President, my group has proposed a debate on this for the same reasons as we have proposed that there should be a resolution in February. It is in order to have an opportunity to listen to Mr Solana and for Parliament then to explain its own position, for three reasons.

The first is, of course, the issue of the Gaza blockade, which seems to us a collective punishment that is totally unacceptable from the humanitarian point of view, counter-productive politically and ineffective as far as the security of Israel is concerned. The second reason is the new situation since the people of Gaza have opened up the border. Thirdly, and above all, the European response to the question of what we can do to ensure that this opening up continues in a controlled and stable way and to make this step forward part of the peace process as a whole.

I think it would be useful now to hear what Mr Solana has to say and to debate the issue and wind up the debate with a resolution in February.

 
  
  

(Parliament adopted the motion.)(1)

(The amended order of business was adopted.)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Daniel Hannan (PPE-DE). – Mr President, on a point of order, under Rules 173, 19(1), 161 and 171, the decision by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs which you cited a moment ago represents, I am sorry to say, the moment at which this Parliament departs from any pretence of legality or the rule of law.

Last week, you asked for, and were granted by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, discretionary powers arbitrarily to disapply the Rules of Procedure of this House according to your own view. The Rules allow no such latitude. You cited Rule 19(1). Let me read what it says: ‘The President shall direct all the activities of Parliament and its bodies under the conditions laid down in these rules.’ They do not allow you discretionary power to set them aside simply because you do not like the opinions of the people making amendments or requests that, in your letter, you accepted ‘were formally based on and fulfilled the requirements of … the Rules of Procedure’.

What has driven you to this, Mr President? What action has driven you to this extremity of tearing up your own rule book rather than following the letter of the law? Was it some filibuster that was preventing any business getting through? Hardly! Those of us who are asking for a referendum perhaps represent 40 or 50 out of 785. We are a small minority. The worst we could do was slightly to delay your lunch by making speeches of one minute, but even this is intolerable to you!

Could it be that the reason you have acted in this arbitrary fashion, tearing up the rule of law, is because you are taking out on us the surrogate contempt you feel for the national electorates who keep voting ‘no’ on the Lisbon Treaty whenever they are given the opportunity?

If I am wrong, prove me wrong by holding the referendums that you used to support when you thought you could win them. Put the Treaty of Lisbon to the people. Pactio Olisipiensis censenda est!

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − Mr Hannan, when you quote provisions, it would enhance your credibility if you quoted them in full. As a matter of fact, Rule 19 goes on to state that ‘He’ – meaning the President – ‘shall enjoy all the powers necessary to preside over the proceedings of Parliament and to ensure that they are properly conducted’. In order to ascertain the legal position and ensure that I did not take any unilateral uninformed decisions, I took the democratic route and consulted those who know best about matters concerning the Rules of Procedure, namely the Committee on Constitutional Affairs. The committee provided me, the President, and my deputies with the interpretation on which we are able to proceed. I cannot begin to grasp how this can be termed undemocratic, for it is a fair and democratic parliamentary procedure that is being followed here.

(Applause)

 
  

(1)Further amendments to the order of business (see Minutes).


14. Situation in Iran (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The next item is the delivery of statements on the situation in Iran by the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and by the Commission.

I warmly welcome the High Representative, Javier Solana. Mr Solana, the floor is yours.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. − Mr President, I do not want to interfere in the debate which is taking place, but I take the floor at your invitation. Let me start by thanking you for the invitation today. It is the first time that I have spoken before Parliament in the year 2008. We are all sure that 2008 is going to be very exciting, to say the least. I want to continue with a deeper cooperation with Parliament, with yourself and with the distinguished Members of this Chamber.

Today we have a very important debate – a debate on an issue that is one of the most important issues on the agenda of the international community. I would like to make a short statement about it and spend the time necessary to see whether we can together understand – and not only understand but make some progress on the solution of – this very complicated issue that is at the top of the international agenda today.

Let me start by making a few remarks. Iran is a key country in the Middle East. It is important in strategic terms, and is also important as a regional actor. We would like, therefore, to have a constructive relationship with Iran; but, as you know, there are many difficulties with this.

Iran is a very vibrant society, full of talented people. It has an exceptionally high proportion of women graduates. Persian is one of the major languages on the internet, especially for blogs, as young people seek a means of self-expression.

The political scene in Iran – as you well know – is of great interest these days. There are elements of democracy there which are not present in other countries of the Middle East, though the election process still leaves much to be desired. For the Majles elections in March, to give you an example, 30% of candidates were disqualified, with those having reformist tendencies suffering the most. Some will have the opportunity to appeal but others will not. Nevertheless, an imperfect democracy is better than none, and it is right that we should engage with Iranian parliamentarians. I am very grateful to the European Parliament for sending a delegation there to meet with their colleagues in the Iranian Parliament.

Members of this Parliament are also right to be concerned about the rule of law and human rights in Iran. Iran is almost at the bottom of the world press freedom index. It has increased the number of executions. There are, unfortunately, numerous reports of torture. Such things are unacceptable and only damage Iran’s image as a civilised country.

All those who campaign for human rights in Iran, for example in the one-million-signature campaign for women’s rights, deserve our support and admiration. This morning I had the happy opportunity to comment on that with Mrs Souhayr Belhassen, who is, as you know, one of the most important figures in the International Federation of Human Rights. With greater freedom, greater accountability and more even-handed justice, Iran could be one of the most creative and most dynamic societies in the Middle East. The European Union had, in the past, a human rights dialogue with Iran, but since 2004 the Iranians have been unwilling to participate.

However, we have many areas of common interest with Iran that are not yet fully exploited, the most obvious of these in the energy sector – but there is also more that we could do together on drug trafficking and against terrorism.

It would be good if we were able to work better with Iran in the region. But for the moment, as you know, this is difficult because it is difficult to see Iran as a constructive partner. In almost every area we seem to find ourselves pursuing different, sometimes contradictory, policies. We want a two-state solution in Palestine. We want the Annapolis Conference to succeed. Iran is still the only country in the Middle East that does not accept the idea of a two-state solution. It is a key supplier of arms to Hamas. President Ahmadinejad’s remarks concerning Israel and his support for Holocaust denial are entirely unacceptable for all of us. Iran, as you know, is a destabilising factor in Lebanon. It is the most important supplier of weapons to Hezbollah. It has also worked with groups pursuing violence in Iraq.

All these activities make Iran, from our point of view, a troublesome and difficult actor in the Middle East. But it remains one that we need to understand and engage with better. There have been periods of cooperation with Iran, for example in Afghanistan, that have been fruitful, and I believe we should continue to seek such opportunities.

But, as you know, one of the most important subjects of concern is the Iranian nuclear programme. Were Iran to develop a weapon, this could be a cause of radical instability and danger in the Middle East. It would also be very damaging to the whole non-proliferation system. Even the suspicion that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon can destabilise the Middle East.

Our objective is to remove those suspicions. In the end this can be done only through a negotiated solution.

We welcome the fact that Iran is working with the International Atomic Energy Agency to deal with some of the so-called ‘Outstanding Issues’. In the current phase with Dr ElBaradei, as you know, Iran has to answer questions about important issues like weaponisation, and especially other issues related to contamination, which are very important.

But even if these questions about the past are answered, this does not provide the transparency we are asking for concerning Iran’s present activities or its future intentions. Present transparency requires Iran to ratify and implement, as we have said many times, the Additional Protocol.

Confidence about Iran’s future intentions is more difficult. Supposing Iran had a weaponisation programme in the past, how can we be sure today that the present enrichment activity is exclusively civil? It is especially difficult when we see no signs, at this moment, of Iran signing a contract to build a nuclear power plant apart from what they have done with the Russians in Bushehr, for which the Russians have supplied the fuel. All we hear about is enrichment. When I ask – and you asked the other day – representatives of the Iranian Government what they plan to do with enriched uranium, I never get an answer. You had the proof of that a few days ago.

The fact is that Iran can develop a civil programme only with the assistance of the countries belonging to the group of six countries which are negotiating with them – or trying to negotiate with them – with the exception of Japan. No other country in the world can supply a country that wants to deploy or to develop a civil nuclear programme without the cooperation of countries, or companies that belong to those countries, that are in the group of six countries plus Japan. None of us have a problem with an Iranian civil programme; indeed, we are offering to help. But none of us will do so unless we are certain that Iran’s intentions are exclusively peaceful.

This is why we are trying continually to achieve a negotiated solution. So far, unfortunately – as you know – we have not been successful. Also, unfortunately, it is impossible to do nothing while Iran continues to ignore the Agency resolutions or Security Council resolutions. Work is, therefore, going on in New York on a further resolution. The objective of these resolutions is not to punish Iran but to persuade it to come to the negotiating table: as far as I am concerned, the sooner the better. The European Union and the permanent members of the Security Council are fully united in this. We had an important meeting last Thursday.

Perhaps I could add one further comment that goes beyond Iran itself on this matter. In a world where there is an increasing interest in nuclear power, we need to find ways of assuring countries that they can obtain nuclear fuel without having to do their own enrichment – which is expensive for them and gives rise to proliferation concerns. I myself strongly support the idea of the creation of international fuel supply assurances, perhaps in the form of a fuel bank. This idea has been played around with by many of our partners and many important figures in the international community. There are many good ideas in this area. I believe the time has come to turn these ideas into action, into reality.

As I said at the beginning, Iran is a key country. I have been engaged for years now in normalising relations between us. We will all gain from this – Iranians and Europeans. I believe in this, and I will continue relentlessly to work towards this objective, which I think will benefit the people of Iran and the European Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, in the current climate I think it is inevitable that discussions about Iran focus on the nuclear programme. The international community is united in the search for a satisfactory solution. That means working through the appropriate channels with the IAEA and the United Nations Security Council. It also means supporting the persistent efforts by High Representative Javier Solana on behalf of the three plus three, with the full backing of the European Union, because international unity remains central, and it was shown at the last meeting in Berlin.

When I received Dr Saeed Jalili, the Iranian chief negotiator, last week, I reminded him of our principled position. Nobody has ever denied Iran’s right to the use of peaceful nuclear energy, but there was a serious need to rebuild trust and show genuine political will to find a solution.

Unfortunately, whereas the European Union was making its best efforts, I could not see such political will yet on the Iranian side. Until we see such political will, there will unfortunately be no possibility of our enhancing our relationship, including launching or relaunching the trade and cooperation agreement talks and talks on energy. This is what I explicitly told Dr Jalili at our meeting.

I am confident that Parliament shares the same views and that it continues to firmly back High Representative Solana and the three plus three to achieve a sustainable solution – and a diplomatic solution which, whilst preserving Iran’s inalienable right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, also provides objective guarantees on these activities being exclusively peaceful in nature.

Although the development of the EU’s relationship with Iran is conditioned to a large degree by progress on that issue, in the Commission’s view more than one track should be pursued with Iran.

In this respect, I wish to express my appreciation for the work undertaken by the Delegation for Relations with Iran under the dynamic chairwomanship of Ms Angelika Beer. Ms Beer, I particularly wish to commend the mission which you led last month to Tehran. EP contacts, for instance with the Iranian Majlis, are an important channel of communication between the European Union and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Your meetings with high-level officials such as the Foreign Minister, Mr Mottaki, as well as with a wide spectrum of Iranian society, are and were very precious. Meetings with women activists, families of imprisoned students, trade unionists and minority groups constitute an important testimony to the importance the European Union attaches to a fully free, democratic and pluralistic Iran in accordance with the international conventions to which the Islamic Republic of Iran has freely adhered.

People-to-people contacts constitute an excellent means to overcome prejudice and negative stereotypes and to foster mutual understanding. It is, for instance, very important to support the further development of academic, cultural and artistic exchanges between Europe and Iran: two ancient beacons of civilisation which have a lot to offer each other.

This is why I am particularly glad to report the successful launch this academic year of an Erasmus Mundus external cooperation window, linking up Europeans with students and professors from Iraq, Yemen and Iran. From Teheran to Shiraz, to Mashhad to Alzahra, the web of Iranian universities participating in this consortium looks particularly promising. The first academic batch has already allowed over 50 Iranian students and professors to study in Europe. I strongly hope that this set-up will work both ways and European students and professors will also go to Iran.

Beyond that, we are pursuing our cooperation with Iran in a series of sectors such as the support to Afghan refugees or the fight against narcotics. In this respect I would like to draw your attention to a recently launched call for proposals for grants to non-state actors and local authorities in Iran.

The programme – by the way a first with Iran – aims at promoting and strengthening an inclusive and empowered society. It includes educational activities and development activities with a focus on actions against poverty.

Finally, the programme supports cooperation between civil society and local authorities and activities to strengthen their capacity. This call is now open and runs until 11 February.

On another note, I welcome the decision taken by Parliament in plenary on 13 December last year to allocate a EUR 3 million envelope for a television news service in Farsi. Promoting the production and broadcasting of information with a strong European angle can play an important role in fostering better mutual understanding with the Iranian public.

I wish to conclude on an important note: the issue of democracy and human rights. In front of this Parliament last week, Dr Jalili insisted on the importance of human dignity. I, of course, can only concur with him, but unfortunately when I met him myself, I could only tell him about my deep concern about the deterioration of human rights and the human rights situation in Iran.

Last year Iran carried out at least 297 executions, according to an AFP account compiled from press reports. The total was a sharp increase from 2006 when 177 executions were carried out, according to Amnesty International. I do not speak of other very cruel methods of killing people. So I had to express my hope that the EU-Iran dialogue on human rights could resume.

I also expressed the hope that there would be a wider spectrum of candidates than in the past for the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The European Union remains strongly mobilised on this front. The latest statement on the death sentences in Iran issued on 25 January is just another case in point.

We are fully in line with Parliament in saying that, without a systematic improvement of the human rights situation in Iran, our relations with Iran cannot develop properly.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Michael Gahler, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (DE) Mr President, our resolution deals with the human-rights situation in Iran and the dispute over the Iranian nuclear programme. On the subject of human rights, this House has clearly expressed its views time and again over the years. The High Representative spoke once more today of executions and torture. In the light of recent events, I should like to mention the names of political activists belonging to the Ahwazi Arab community who have been condemned to death, and to call on the Iranian Government not to execute them. Their names are Zamal Bawi, Faleh al-Mansouri, Said Saki and Rasoul Mazrea; the same applies to two Kurdish journalists, Abdolwahed 'Hiwa' Butimar and Adnan Hassanpour. May this publicising of their plight in Europe afford them protection!

As far as the nuclear issue is concerned, Saeed Jalili, the chief Iranian negotiator, did not provide the Committee on Foreign Affairs last week with a clear indication of Iran’s real intentions. Questions from 24 committee members were dealt with en bloc in a cursory manner. This is no way to dispel the deep distrust that prevails between the international community and Iran. Solidarity on the part of the international community is the best response to such evasiveness, which is why, in our resolution, we welcome the agreement reached in Berlin on 22 January on the drafting of a new UN Security Council resolution. This will bring Russia and China on board, which will send a strong signal to Iran. The resolution provides for additional measures as part of a concerted approach on the part of the international community.

I believe it is right that we should seek dialogue wherever possible but that we should also spell out time and again where our interests lie, namely on the one hand in human rights but on the other also in cooperation, though only if and when Iran recovers its trust in this community of ours.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Dr Solana, Commissioner, there are three issues involved here: human rights, nuclear weapons, and free democratic elections in Iran. What is not an issue here today is the question of whether Mujaheddin should be blacklisted or not; we shall deal with that separately.

In the realm of human rights, the numerous and often brutal executions in Iran are a running sore as far as we are concerned. I agree with what Mr Gahler said on this point and hope that public opinion in our countries can have a significant impact.

The second issue is that of the nuclear programme. We stand four-square behind the views expressed by the High Representative. We do not want nuclear weapons in Iran; we want no nuclear weapons anywhere in the region. It was scandalous enough that many countries – including, I am sorry to say, the United States of America – stood by and watched as the bomb was developed in Pakistan and as bomb-building technology was transferred from there to Iran, because Pakistan was seen from the sole perspective of the common struggle against the Soviet Union and hence against Afghanistan too.

What we need is supervision — and I would ask you, Mr Solana, to make particular efforts in this direction – to ensure that nuclear industries, and especially their enrichment and waste-disposal operations, are more fully incorporated into multilateral frameworks and are more strictly supervised. We must do more in this respect, because this concerns not only Iran but other countries too.

Another thing we need – and for this the Americans must be prepared to make further concessions – is the recognition of legitimate security interests, not of any government but of the Iranian nation. That security must be guaranteed, and then we could surely make progress in our dialogue with Iran. I likewise endorse the UN resolution, because it is a significant advance.

With regard to the elections too, Mr Solana, I can only echo your sentiments. Elections and democracy begin to serve a purpose when elections are truly free, and if President Ahmadinejad believes he has such broad support in Iran, I can only urge him to ensure that genuine free elections can take place without external intervention, and then we shall see whether he enjoys such widespread support. Free elections in Iran are one of the keys to the democratisation of the entire region.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (NL) Mr President, Mr Solana, Commissioner, it is still a paradox that, as Mr Solana said, a country with such a rich history, such a varied culture and such a dynamic population as Iran should commit the most terrible human rights offences. The number of death sentences last year – which the Commissioner also referred to – is a tragic illustration of this.

I therefore feel – together with my Group – that Iran is actually betraying its own history when the current regime treats its people as it has unfortunately been doing for a number of years now. I nevertheless think that the solution lies in continued dialogue, with the population and civil society, undoubtedly, but also with the political authorities, however difficult that may be.

In this respect last week’s debate with Mr Jalili was not exactly much fun, but it was extremely important, because he will now realise that not one single person from any Group in this House would endorse or even contemplate Iran starting to use its nuclear research for military purposes again without any response from us.

On behalf of my Group I particularly welcome Mr Solana’s suggestion to set about creating a sort of multilateral, multinational nuclear fuel bank, because this is probably a good way to link our concern about non-proliferation with allowing countries to continue developing their civilian nuclear activities.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Konrad Szymański, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Solana, the most important and urgent matter in relations with Iran is to obtain a guarantee that it will not acquire nuclear weapons. Notwithstanding information from various sources, including the National Intelligence Estimate report, we cannot today be certain that Iran will not develop such weapons.

It is naïve to believe that, since 2003, uranium enrichment in Iran has been directed towards exclusively civil applications. Since that time the reformist president Khatami has been replaced by the representative of a much harder political line. We must also remember that every nuclear programme was hidden under the cloak of civil projects in the initial stages: such was the case in Russia, India, China and Israel. It is highly likely that today’s civil programme is merely a step on the road to the eventual enrichment of uranium for military purposes. The European Union must therefore exert maximum pressure on Iran, not excluding a military solution.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Angelika Beer, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, may I begin by thanking both Mr Solana and Mrs Ferrero-Waldner for making such thorough preparations for the visit and for engaging in consultation and dialogue with us both beforehand and afterwards.

I would like to point out – and let there be no mistake about this – that this debate will be heard in Iran. It is an enlightened and pluralist society that tries to obtain the information it needs, and we are supporting that quest by means of the Farsi television news service. We know that the leaders of the Ahmadinejad regime will be following this debate, which is why it is right and proper to say clearly to President Ahmadinejad and his supporters that the host of candidates for the 296 parliamentary seats – there are more than 7 000, of whom 2 000 are apparently being excluded – is a sure sign to us that he has his back to the wall in domestic politics. Our solidarity belongs to civil society, to women, to trade unions and to all those who are under threat and whose names were read out to us a few moments ago.

(Applause)

There is also a second reason why we wanted today’s debate, for which I am truly grateful. Iran is at an impasse. It has run into a brick wall and no longer knows how to progress; it is in no position to make offers. At the same time, however, I wonder whether we Europeans have really played all our cards yet. The finding of our cross-party visit to Iran is that we must find our own way of negotiating, and that can only be done without prior conditions, without holding a knife to anyone’s throat.

One thing I understood very clearly from all the people whom we were able to meet and who are in need of our support is that sanctions weaken civil society and strengthen President Ahmadinejad. For this reason, carrying on as before is not a political option and will not resolve the deadlock.

Let me therefore conclude by saying that we do not want nuclear weapons in any country whatsoever. For my part, I want no nuclear energy at all, but if it is President Sarkozy’s policy to conclude nuclear-energy contracts right, left and centre without any safeguards such as non-proliferation agreements, Europe’s foreign policy will become a proliferation factor instead of helping to stem the tide.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − Thank you, Mrs Beer, and I wish you a speedy recovery from what looks very much like a broken arm.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Tobias Pflüger, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Mr President, according to the US intelligence report, the situation has changed. What is needed now is a moratorium on the nuclear issue. The case must be diverted away from the UN Security Council and back to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran has a very vibrant civil society, in spite of all the repressive measures against groups such as the trade unions. There are intolerable occurrences, such as the rejection of candidates for election to the Majlis, but I am strongly opposed to tighter sanctions. They would be counterproductive, particularly for the democratic opposition. We are still hearing threats of war against Iran, especially from the United States. My group is very firmly against any threat of war and the preparation of any war plans.

Mr Solana, in the British Guardian newspaper, Robert Cooper, a member of your staff, is quoted as saying the following in connection with the recently mooted manifesto for a new NATO: ‘Maybe we are going to use nuclear weapons before anyone else, but I'd be wary of saying it out loud’. Does this statement relate to the situation in Iran, Mr Solana, and when are you going to dissociate yourself from it?

Let me repeat: negotiation with Iran, not escalation and war.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (NL) Mr President, there is good news and bad news from the Islamic Republic of Iran. The good news came last month, in the middle of December, from the Iranian opposition in Tehran, which took a very clear stand against President Ahmadinejad’s denial of the holocaust by declaring that the holocaust was an historical event that could not be called into doubt. Duly noted.

The bad news is the public threat which the Foreign Minister, Mr Mottaki, recently made to the United Nations Security Council, when he said that if it adopted a new resolution on sanctions against Iran before the next IAEA report on the country’s nuclear programme in March, there would be an appropriate and serious response from Tehran.

Mr Solana, I would like to know what you make of this public threat. And what do you think about the idea of strengthening the IAEA’s position by setting up an independent committee of technical experts on the Iranian nuclear programme? After all, there have been precedents for this in UNSCOM and UNMOVIC. The committee’s report would then serve as a guide for consideration by the Security Council.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Philip Claeys (NI). – (NL) Mr President, the regime in Iran continues to pose a threat to stability throughout the Middle East and far beyond. Iran provides support for Islamist and terrorist groups in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places. The European Union’s strategy must be to isolate Iran as much as possible in the region. It is also important to encourage Russia to wind down its nuclear cooperation with Iran. Iran’s nuclear plans are a threat to world peace.

America’s National Intelligence Estimate surprised the whole world a few months ago by claiming that Iran had ceased its attempts to produce nuclear weapons in 2003. There are now calls in the USA for the NIE’s findings to be investigated further. However, it would be wrong to suddenly now assume that the Iranian regime’s nuclear threat no longer exists. Why, for instance, is Iran still making things so difficult for the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors?

We all know what the regime in Tehran is capable of. There is its human rights record, and in the past there has been clear proof of Iran’s involvement in international Islamist terrorism. When President Ahmadinejad publicly states that he wants to wipe Israel off the map, we have to take this seriously. In the present circumstances, therefore, it would be wrong to relax the pressure on President Ahmadinejad. There has to be dialogue, but the European Union must be steadfast in its attempts and desire to do more to promote freedom and stability.

 

15. Welcome
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − I welcome to our official gallery a delegation from the European Affairs Committee of the Polish Parliament, headed by Mr Andrzej Grzyb, Chairman of the Committee. The delegation is on a three-day fact-finding visit to the European Parliament, and I had the pleasure of meeting its members yesterday. I bid you all a warm welcome.

(Applause)

 

16. Situation in Iran (continuation of debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − We now return to the statements on the situation in Iran by the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Commission.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. − Mr President, I have listened with great attention to the representatives from the political groups of the European Parliament.

I agree with most of what has been said today. Therefore, I have not much to say about that. However, let me make some comments on the three main issues that I think we have to discuss today in relation to Iran.

I should like to say once again that it is not a contradiction to say that Iran is a very important country that has a vibrant society – potentially – and that we have to seek relations with it. The fact is that it is very difficult to do that at the moment. We have to keep trying to improve relations with such an important country as Iran. Again, we must insist that it is not doing enough to improve relations with us. On the three main issues I have spoken about – human rights, regional issues and the nuclear issue – it is very difficult to make progress in the negotiations. In one area it is impossible to make progress because in 2006 it dropped completely out of the negotiations. The human rights dialogue was stopped – it was not stopped by us but by Iran.

Let me say a word on that. I agree, as I said before, with most of the remarks that have been made today on the human rights issue, which is linked, as many Members have said, to the elections that will take place very soon in March. It will be very important to see how the public – the citizens of Iran – behave in this election.

But it is very important that the candidates who have been put forward are allowed to stand in the election. As you know, more than 30% of those candidates have not even been allowed to stand. Many of them, I would say, are the ‘modern forces’, if I can use that term, in Iran.

The second big issue is regional. There have not been many comments made here about that, but it is very important that Iran becomes a constructive player and not a ‘nuisance’ in the lives of the people of the Middle East and in the establishment of peace in the Middle East, as we understand the development of the peace process in the Middle East. There are two main points on the agenda. Firstly, the Middle East peace process, on which we fundamentally differ. We believe in a two-state solution, and they do not. We have to see how we can bring Iran to agree to that process, which has been agreed by all the Arab countries in the region, and, as has been proven not long ago, not by Iran.

The second point is Lebanon. We do not have Lebanon on the agenda today, but Lebanon is always on the agenda – even if not formally. The problems in Lebanon are in our minds and hearts. We know that is a problem on which Iran should be much more constructive.

The third issue I should like to mention, and which we have discussed on other occasions, is the nuclear issue. Firstly, I should like to thank Ms Beer, because I talked to her before the committee went to Iran and we had a very good exchange of views, which was very well coordinated. Cooperation with the Agency is fundamental. We have been pushing for that all along and we would very much like to see that cooperation producing fruit. However, that is not enough. We should be resolving the ‘outstanding issues’.

These issues, as you know, belong to the past. Why are they outstanding? Because they have never been explained, and that is the difference with some of the other countries that have been mentioned. Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty; it has obligations and it has not complied with those obligations. At the moment there is a discussion with Dr El Baradei and the people in charge of the nuclear dossier to see whether these ‘outstanding issues’ can be resolved. We are now in the year 2008, and some of those issues go back to 2003, 2004 and 2005.

That was the first thing I wanted to say, and the second thing, which is very important, is that we are continuing to support the dual-track approach. We want negotiations and we also want to follow the route to New York – together, in parallel. We would like to see how this can progress. We do not want to punish the people of Iran. We want them to come back to the negotiating table with a moral purpose.

To give you an example: as you know, last Tuesday we met in Berlin. On Wednesday I was here in Brussels having dinner with Dr Jalili, the day after we had been talking about New York and how to move the process forward in New York, I did not want to give the impression that we were doing something that we would not communicate directly. To prove that we would continue with the dialogue, I met him, had dinner with him and explained that to him. Therefore, in that sense, rest assured that we are making every effort to keep the dialogue channel open and not only open but productively open.

I do not have to tell you that sometimes you do not get the answer to the question. You hold debates here and you know that sometimes, perhaps because of a problem with translation, you do not get the answer to the question – you get answers to other things but not the question. You know that – you have had that experience – but we have to keep on trying, keep on trying and keep on trying – and we will!

On the intelligence report that has been mentioned: that is not our responsibility but the responsibility of the United Nations. But, in any case, if you read it – when it becomes public – the most important things are public, it states very clearly that in 2003 they stopped a part of the nuclear weaponisation. Now weaponisation has three elements. First, and most important, it is necessary to have enriched uranium – if you do not have enriched uranium you will never have the possibility of a military nuclear programme. Second, you need a missile to launch, and, third, you need the actual detonator of the bomb. The second stage is where they have stopped and that is what happened in 2003. That is one part.

The second part is the missile and you know that the technology on missiles is moving rapidly. We are concerned. This is not one of the key issues but it is an issue. Now we have a range of 1 300 km, which is no little matter. The third thing is enriched material, which is in breach and is continuing to be produced. That is the core of the problem: we have to see how we can get an agreement on this.

Let me repeat: a nuclear-powered plant to produce energy – you may like it or not, but that is not the issue being debated today – requires, as you know, at least seven or eight years from the moment the contract is signed to the moment the power plant is operational. There is no contract whatsoever between Iran and anybody who can produce a nuclear-powered plant to produce energy – kilowatts – none except for the Russian one. As you know the Russian contract has a clause that states, firstly, enriched uranium will be provided by Russia and, secondly, that the burned material – that means enriched plutonium or whatever is at the end of process – will be taken to Russia, so they will not need to have enriched uranium because it is provided.

Secondly, if they continue enriching, the question is why? – because they do not have anywhere to put it, no other power plant. So this is a question that it is fair to ask and it is difficult to get an answer. This is the only response to this question that I can give you, because it is something that is under your control and that of the leaders and citizens of the European Union.

I have tried to give you an honest account of our interpretation of the situation, the problems and the three main issues that we have to be concerned about as Europeans. I say again that we have great respect for the country – we have a profound respect for Iran – and we would like very much to engage with it and also see them move in that direction.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, tomorrow the European Parliament will adopt a resolution on Iran which will be supported by our political Group.

It is no coincidence that the first part of that resolution concerns the human rights situation.

Last week our Foreign Affairs Committee held an entirely unsatisfactory meeting with Mr Jalili, who failed to reply to any of the questions put to him on human rights, torture, public executions, the purchase of North Korean missiles and Soviet torpedoes capable of being fitted with nuclear warheads.

Mr Solana, we have heard very clearly that you are awaiting replies to the questions you put to Mr Jalili; Commissioner Ferrero has informed us of this, and we too are still waiting for replies to the questions we put to him.

Therefore it is not sufficient for us to express regret that they have not suspended their nuclear programme, disregarding the calls of the international community and three United Nations resolutions. As Mr Solana has just said, the international community is convinced that they are enriching uranium for a programme whose purposes are not peaceful.

In view of this, it is simply not enough, Mr President, for us to say in the motion for a resolution that we are not going to go down the path of a cooperation or association agreement with Iran until such time as substantial progress has been made in human rights and there are objective safeguards such as to provide us with clear guarantees that no headway is being made in uranium-enrichment for peaceful purposes.

Therefore, Mr Solana, the question I would ask is whether you believe that the fourth resolution which the United Nations Security Council is going to make, on the basis of the Vienna meeting of the permanemt members of the Security Council plus Germany, will be sufficient for Iran to listen to the international community’s calls? What, Mr Solana, should the content of the United Nations Resolution be if it is to take up this challenge and mitigate the threat to peace and international security posed by Iran’s unranium-enrichment programme?

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Lilli Gruber (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, President Ahmadinejad said today in Busher, in the south of the country, that Israel is a filthy Zionist entity that will fall sooner or later. This is a statement that is of course unacceptable and obviously meant as propaganda.

Political elections will take place in Iran on 14 March, in which the promises he has failed to keep will count more than those he has made. In addition, the election campaign in the USA is in full swing and, for this reason, we must consider the facts. Today, Iran is emerging as the leading power in the Gulf and Washington is trying to negotiate an agreement with that country. In December the American secret service decided that Iran does not represent an immediate threat. On 12 January the director of the IAEA, Mr El Baradei, obtained assurances from the Iranians on all the outstanding questions.

Pressure on Iran will be maintained, but it would be helpful to reach an agreement that would be workable for everyone and for regional stability, and to avoid any radical and often ineffective measures. We should remember Iraq and how ineffective sanctions were against that country. Iran’s role in the new balance of power must be recognised and Iran must be offered guarantees of security in a highly turbulent regional context. The direct involvement of the USA is essential for the success of discussions that, at this point, should not rule anything out, which is, in fact, what the European Union is doing.

On the other hand it is absolutely clear that Iran should accept certain obligations: it should abandon its nuclear and military ambitions, with stringent controls, take on a constructive role in solving existing conflicts, show respect for human rights and for women’s rights, and, looking to wider issues, for democracy as well. Not long ago Shirin Ebadi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, sent me an e-mail in which she denounced the serious and ever more frequent violations of human rights. She wrote that today, in Iran, this is far more serious than the nuclear issue. We should listen to her.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (ALDE). – Mr President, I thank Mr Solana and Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner for the immensely hard work on the issue of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is causing so many headaches and worries to so many people internationally and on the Security Council of the UN.

It was my pleasure to represent my group on the recent delegation to the Islamic Republic of Iran just before Christmas, when we had a very exceptionally good sequence of meetings, to which Mr Solana has already referred, as has Mrs Ferrero-Waldner.

Of course, our call for dialogue in the Islamic Republic of Iran does fall on very welcome ears, because, as you well know, the former President of Iran put forward to the United Nations in 2000 the idea of the intercultural year of dialogue, which you yourself have picked up this very year here in the European Union.

I believe there are huge possibilities for dialogue, but not just on human rights and not just on the all-important nuclear issue. I believe we should be having dialogue on cultural issues – music, art, archaeology, painting, calligraphy – in which we share so much historical reference and so much potential for future gain.

I also believe that one critical item we should discuss is this so-called barrier between Islam and democracy. Perhaps it has not been noticed that the Islamic Republic of Iran believes that she has cracked that particular difficulty, and that her form of democracy is fully comprehensible with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s version of Islam, the all-important Shariah law and the Shiite Islamic tradition. I think this, again, is something that we should welcome and should discuss this very year, perhaps with former President Khatami or with other members of the Iranian religious influence and tradition.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Romano Maria La Russa (UEN). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, my opinion, also in the light of what I have heard during this debate, is still that the only path to follow is definitely that of discussion and dialogue, even if it is difficult to understand on what basis this dialogue can develop.

How, indeed, is it possible to have a dialogue with a country that does not respect the rights of the child and extends the death penalty to minors? With a country, or rather it would be better and more correct to say with a regime, that has public hangings, a regime that threatens to want to wipe out the state of Israel? And, on the nuclear issue, should we just put it off and not even doubt that nuclear power is for peaceful use? How far should we believe the military plans for national defence? In addition, can we consider a regime that finances guerrilla warfare in neighbouring countries to be trustworthy?

With regard then to the CIA report, I would suggest that we should not have too many illusions about its reliability. It would not be the first time for such a report later to be publicly repudiated. It is certainly the case that we cannot refuse anyone the possibility of experimenting with nuclear power for civilian, and not military, purposes, but not only does President Ahmadinejad not provide guarantees, he does not give a single guarantee, in fact he makes us fear the worst.

In ruling out the option of military intervention - this I believe to be the view of all the representatives and Members of the European Parliament: avoiding military intervention is absolutely fundamental – I believe that the option of sanctions would be a disaster for everyone, it would penalise the economy and it would penalise a defenceless, uninformed and innocent people. I would suggest again that diplomacy should be used, because, and I repeat, nothing good has ever come out of sanctions, they serve only to increase hatred of the West and of the United States of America in particular.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Mr President, deceit is a weapon of war approved of in the Koran under the doctrine of taqiyya. Iran professes no plans to develop nuclear weapons. Evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. They had 3 000 uranium centrifuges already. Not one can be used to generate nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Together they will produce one bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium a year.

Now Iran plans to build 5 000 more centrifuges. Meanwhile, illegal secret imports of raw uranium arrive from the Congo, a country the EU supports with humanitarian aid. Britain still allows Iranian students to study nuclear physics at our universities. In addition to this, Iran, Syria and North Korea are working together to assemble missiles and chemical warheads. Last year, technicians from all three countries were killed when something went wrong in Syria. Traces of Sarin gas were later detected in the atmosphere.

Whether or not these countries successfully develop nuclear warheads, chemical warheads would certainly be deployable in the near future.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Luca Romagnoli (NI). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate the EU’s negotiating attempts as regards confirming the right to self-determination and I support the synergy of the IAEA’s Iran plan of action. It is praiseworthy and helps to put our worries to rest, and also to defuse political and strategic speculation based on a theoretical threat to peace.

Moreover, in item 5 of the resolution there is an admission that we should give up on speculative political rhetoric as regards Iran. The entire first part of the resolution and the proposal to create a new multilateral framework for the use of nuclear energy are part of the same approach.

However, the second part seems to be demagoguery. Violations of human rights in so many other regions of the world have not attracted this level of diligent condemnation. Examples of this are the recent resolutions on Pakistan and China, which were not nearly as strong in tone, nor was there such evident support for the internal opposition. This forces me to declare my opposition to the resolution, because human rights and freedoms are absolute values that cannot be applied differently in different situations, and do not lend themselves to inequality between requests and condemnation.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (PPE-DE). – Mr President, the Iranian nuclear programme remains the source of our greatest concern. We hope that the process of negotiating a solution will be continued.

The European Union should stand united on this very difficult issue, and we should support the efforts of the High Representative and of the Commission, Member States and the international community, including the recently proposed UN Security Council resolution.

Efforts should be aimed at encouraging Iran to return to talks concerning long-term arrangements resolving the nuclear issue.

We in the Committee on Foreign Affairs of this House decided to invite Mr Jalili to talk and to have a dialogue. Our committee was dissatisfied with the answers given, and we know how difficult dialogue is. However, the meeting with the Committee on Foreign Affairs has shown our unanimous stand on the Iranian question, and it has also sent a strong political signal to the Iranian Government.

If we want to continue any meaningful dialogue, we have to restore credibility to our relations. Our Iranian partners must introduce absolute transparency to their nuclear programme by cooperating fully with the IAEA. They must fully implement the provisions of the Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement, and we should maintain pressure on the Iranian Government to comply with its commitments and to make them understand that this is the only way to gain international recognition, as well as to pursue successfully economic development to the benefit of its citizens.

The human rights situation in Iran has seriously deteriorated recently, and we should keep condemning the systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially those carried out on juvenile offenders and women.

As a community based on values, having at the core of our values human rights and democracy, and looking at stability and security as our highest concern, we should not and cannot disregard the worsening human rights situation there, and we should do our utmost to convince our partners that it pays to respect the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Libor Rouček (PSE). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, in my contribution to the debate today allow me to concentrate on two aspects of relations with Iran.

A civil society is the first aspect. As I experienced myself during my recent visit to Tehran, a very strong and active civil society exists in Iran. Women, journalists, national and religious minorities all strive for their rights. The student scene is fairly lively. Bus drivers, bakers and many other professions organise their own independent trade unions. Economists and entrepreneurs are pushing for privatisation and liberalisation of the Iranian economy.

All these groups and elements that form Iranian society are turning to Europe, to the European Union, seeking dialogue and help. That is why I would like to call on the Commission and on High Representative Javier Solana to put the new tool for democracy and human rights that is at our disposal to efficient use as a part of this dialogue.

It is also my opinion that the European Union should have diplomatic representation in Iran. Not only would this boost discussion and dialogue with the civil society; it would also boost cooperation with local institutions and authorities in areas of common interest. Indeed we share many common interests with Iran, in spite of our differences of opinion on the nuclear program or on human rights.

I will mention only one country neighbouring Iran, and that is Afghanistan. I am convinced that it benefits neither us nor Iran if, for example, tonnes of Afghan illegal drugs flood Europe. We have similar common interests when it comes to the issue of Afghan refugees and when it comes to the issue of an overall peaceful solution to the situation in Afghanistan.

That is just one of the many reasons why the European Union needs to have its own diplomatic representation in Tehran.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Struan Stevenson (PPE-DE). – Mr President, both Mr Solana and Mrs Ferrero-Waldner have stressed repeatedly in their presentations today the need for dialogue, negotiation and persuasion. Mrs Ferrero-Waldner highlighted the need for people-to-people contact. She told us of the success of our Erasmus Mundus and poverty alleviation programmes.

So, are we training their nuclear physicists in our universities? Are we, at our taxpayers’ expense, paying for poverty relief in one of the richest oil-producing nations in the world because they have chosen to spend billions on a nuclear weapons programme? What has our policy of appeasement achieved?

According to Mr Solana, so far, no success. He said that the Iranian regime continues to ignore us. Mrs Ferrero-Waldner said that we have more executions than ever before. Well, let me tell you, Mr President, 23 people were executed in the first two weeks of this year, including several women. Five people had their hands or feet amputated. Men and women continue to be stoned to death by this jihadist, misogynous, homophobic, genocidal, brutal regime which is a world sponsor of terror.

If we wish really to support Iranian students, we should support the brave students of Teheran University, who have been demonstrating for the past five days, demanding regime change. Instead of backing appeasement, we should back the legitimate Iranian Opposition. Instead of keeping the PMOI on our terror list, we should put the revolutionary guards of Iran on the EU terror list.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Helmut Kuhne (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, as we have just heard, even here in our European Parliament there are representatives whose priority is not to modify the behaviour of the Iranian regime but to destroy that regime. I believe there is one thing that has to be spelled out very clearly, namely the logical imperative that those who seek the destruction of a regime and focus their policies on that goal will do nothing to modify the regime’s behaviour. Yet such modification must be our aim whenever we discuss the nuclear issue.

The diplomatic offensive would be greatly reinforced if the United States were directly involved in the talks, because it can offer something the European Union cannot provide to the same extent, namely security guarantees. As Mr Solana pointed out, the findings of the US intelligence services do not warrant the conclusion that the Iranian programme is not a potential threat. That is indeed a problem, and it cannot be solved by removing the pressure. The issue cannot be taken out of the UN Security Council, because that is liable to result in the Iranian regime eventually saying, ‘Thanks, that’s it now – we have enough highly enriched uranium; it’s time for us to renounce the Non-Proliferation Treaty and start producing our nuclear weapons’. Should that scenario materialise, we would have no alternative but to revert to the strategy of nuclear deterrence we know from the sixties and seventies.

One thing we should exclude from this debate at all costs – and let there be no doubt about this – is the so-called military option. Whatever is understood by the term ‘the West’, whether it be North America alone or whether it include Europe, exercising the so-called military option would be a political disaster which would rebound on the West for decades to come in its relations not only with the Muslim world but also with countries such as India that have helped to put this issue on the agenda of the UN Security Council.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE). – (SK) Let me say how deeply worried I am about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Iran: use of the death penalty, torture, inhumane treatment of prisoners and repression of political opponents. We should categorically condemn such obvious breaches of the human rights and fundamental freedoms that form the basis of our democratic societies.

Personally, as a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly I am rather worried about the security issue and about the fact that Iran, in spite of protests from the European Union and the international community, is continuing to develop its nuclear programme. In spite of assurances that it is doing so entirely for peaceful purposes, it is very difficult not to be alarmed about the direction in which this situation is going.

In conclusion, I would like to refer to the fact that Russia recently supplied nuclear material to Iran. There are further indications telling us that Iran is an untrustworthy partner and we should act accordingly.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ana Maria Gomes (PSE). – Mr President, have all EU Member States been consistent in the political message delivered to Iran to back the efforts of the EU three and Mr Solana on the nuclear file by living up to the imposition of the economic sanctions?

And have EU Member States and you, Mr Solana, been pressing the Bush Administration to talk to Iran directly, not just about Iraq, but about the nuclear file in particular? Or are you of the view that there is no point, that it will wait for the next US Administration?

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Janusz Onyszkiewicz (ALDE). – (PL) Mr President, I want to return to a point made by Mr Solana, that is, the correct interpretation of the CIA report on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Let me repeat what Mr Solana said: only one element has been halted, and it is extremely doubtful whether it has been halted definitively. The Iranian opposition claims the programme has simply been dispersed over other sites but is still continuing. I think we should believe this, since it was the Iranian opposition that first drew attention to the military aspects of the nuclear programme in Iran, and its claims proved to be absolutely true.

Which brings me to the next point, namely, that it is high time to remove the People’s Mujaheddin from the list of terrorist organisations. The courts, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Italian Parliament have already spoken out on this matter. It is time we did so too.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marie Anne Isler Béguin (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, like Mr Solana and Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, I do not see any difference between civil and military nuclear power. Mr Solana has explained to us that uranium is all that is needed to make a bomb. I think one would have to be a little naïve to believe that a country as rich in natural resources as Iran needs nuclear energy for its development. On the other hand, we know very well that it needs nuclear energy to make the bomb.

Mr Solana has also said that nuclear energy is a cause of instability and we do not have any influence over Iran. He is quite right. We entirely agree with his proposal that enrichment should be banned. I shall even go further than that: I think nuclear energy should simply be banned. Only 4% of energy worldwide is nuclear at the moment.

The question I should like to ask Mr Solana and Mrs Ferrero-Waldner is this: do they not think that France, and its President Mr Sarkozy, are playing with fire and creating instability in the world by signing nuclear agreements with countries like Libya, China and Georgia? Could we not use the unhappy experience of Iran as an opportunity to put a stop to nuclear proliferation in the world?

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL). – (NL) Mr President, the debate on Iran is about more than nuclear energy, threats of war and human rights violations. In his introduction Mr Solana has already described why Iran, despite having certain elements of democracy and a high level of education, is not a nice place to live for so many people.

Many of those who are being persecuted by the Iranian government or cannot live freely under the current regime have fled to Europe. The European Union and its Member States must not stand in these people’s way, and must allow the peaceful opposition in exile the greatest possible freedom.

This is why it is important that the European Court of Justice has ruled that it was wrong to put this organisation on the list of terrorist organisations. It is important that Parliament should point out to the Council that it is unjust and unacceptable to do so. This list is one area where there can be no compromise with the Iranian regime.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vytautas Landsbergis (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I would like to know if anybody can give me an answer. During the parliamentarians’ visit to Teheran, did they attend any public executions? Especially those in which cranes of European production were used.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Miloslav Ransdorf (GUE/NGL). – (CS) I would like to mention that the Iranian nuclear program paradoxically started off during the time when Iran was a United States ally. Americans advised the Shah to build twenty nuclear power stations. It looks like times have changed: ally has become enemy and Iran’s image is full of contradictions.

Although I know about the suffering of our friends in the Tudeh Party, I must also point out that no other Arab country enjoys such a degree of plurality and as developed a civil society as Iran.

The trade union scene mentioned by Mr Rouček definitely merits attention, as does the women’s movement. In my opinion, Mr Rouček’s proposals to establish a European Union representation in Tehran should be examined and supported.

It is essential to develop these relations. Iran is a large nation and a great culture that has more similarities with us than we can imagine.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Mr President, Iran remains a danger to the stability of the world and the Middle East. Iranian jihadis are fighting alongside terrorists in Iraq, killing British soldiers. Iran’s judges routinely pass death sentences on homosexuals and teenagers.

Why is Iran pressing ahead with uranium enrichment when it has no operational nuclear power stations or even plans to build them in the future? Why is Iran developing Shahab III missiles with the potential to carry nuclear warheads and drop them on European cities?

Our message must be clear and uncompromising. Iran will not be allowed by the international community to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, this was, of course, a very important discussion. Why? Because there is a huge civil society in Iran that certainly would like to have a different way of life, but there is still a very difficult regime.

I think we all know that the nuclear issue is the huge stumbling block at this moment. It spoils all the possibilities for development and also for a bilateral relationship, which would have very great potential. This is what I said repeatedly to Mr Jalili: ‘Why do you not take this? Why is there no possibility of entering into a dialogue with you? Why do you not show some political will on this?’ I think this is what we have to do – try to appeal to the population as well, to see if there is perhaps a chance to change things at the next elections – knowing that it will be very difficult.

But I think it is interesting to see that the Opposition is, at least, coming together again. It has been split. It has been in a resigned mood. Now there is, at least, a new will to go for elections and perhaps change the situation, at least of the Government. But of course, as I said before, the screening of the candidates by the Council of Guardians is now under way and is crucial. As Ms Beer said, if 7 000 candidates can run for 290 seats, too many candidates have already been rejected. Two thousand of them will have been rejected. Therefore I strongly hope that an appeals procedure will indeed redress the situation. The Iranian electorate deserves to be able to choose its representatives from amongst a wide spectrum of parties and opinions. Of course it is clear that we are not supporting any specific party, but it is important that there is the establishment of a genuine pluralism.

Having said this, I completely agree with all those – and I did not go into all the details – who said that we have to do a lot on the human rights front, even if we cannot go forward with regard to the nuclear issue. We have, of course, supported all the UN resolutions; Canada has introduced such a resolution. This has been adopted, clearly showing where Iran – unfortunately – stands today. I would like to say, to some of the Members of Parliament who have mentioned that we should use the EIDHR instrument, that we are already using it via implementation through the UN, UNICEF and UNODC: for instance in the areas of juvenile justice and young people addicted to drugs, and on the question of justice. But it becomes more and more complicated in this very rigid atmosphere. I have been trying to have one diplomat in one Embassy in Tehran, to ensure a smoother coordination of joint projects. This is, of course, only a small step, but hopefully a meaningful one, which could pave the way, at least a little, for the development of our cooperation. Unfortunately, however, Iran remains evasive. Last week, when I personally mentioned this, I did not receive an answer.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. − Mr President, very briefly as I had the opportunity to answer earlier. There are not many new questions and, as I have already said, we basically share the views expressed.

Concerning a question put by Mr Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, a debate is now taking place in the Security Council, so I do not think I should be elaborating on that. You asked me what I would like to see. I would like to see a resolution which is not needed because the dialogue that we are asking for is a reality. You know which elements have to be put in place in order to have a meaningful dialogue.

Concerning other reflections about enlarging cooperation, there are many other fields in which we can and should cooperate. Afghanistan and drugs have been mentioned. This is an important issue on which we would very much like to cooperate.

Other questions have been put about the group of six in the United Nations. I cannot speak on behalf of anybody. I can speak only on behalf of the six with which I am negotiating. I have received support from everybody, from all the members of the group, including the European Union – there is no doubt about that – but also the other members of the Security Council who are not members of the European Union.

(FR) In answer to the question from Mrs Béguin on nuclear energy, I do not want to enter into the debate on nuclear energy in general today. We shall have time to do that when we are talking about energy, but I shall explain to you the clear distinction between nuclear power for electricity generation and nuclear power for other uses, which you have indeed separated. The fundamental difference is that, in order to generate electricity, nuclear power needs to be enriched by X and the enrichment needed to manufacture weapons of mass destruction is far greater than that.

The second question concerns waste. It is very important to know what is being done with this. You know that it contains plutonium and other materials that are usable. It is also the responsibility of the firms providing the technology to take all the waste. The situation is therefore quite different from the situation we have in mind when we talk about Iran and the autonomous enrichment process.

In my first speech, I described the Iran that I should like to see. I think that that Iran is both possible and desirable and that Iran is a country we should engage with. It is a vibrant country that has many intellectual, cultural and other depths, and we should like to see it commit itself to working with us in several areas, including energy, human rights, the Middle East and nuclear energy. To do that, we need to start a really serious dialogue on all those issues.

Thank you for your attention to this important debate. I shall be happy to come and talk to you about Iran or any other matters whenever I am invited.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − Thank you very much, Mr Solana.

I have received six motions for resolutions,(1) tabled in accordance with Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday, 31 January.

 
  

(1)See Minutes.


17. Situation in Gaza (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − As the next item we have the statements on the situation in Gaza by the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and by the Commission.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Javier Solana, EU High Representative for CFSP. − (ES) Thank you, Mr President, for giving me the floor in this important debate which we are about to begin.

Mr President, we are opening a debate on tragic events which have unfolded over recent weeks and days: the issue of Gaza, the issue of the borders between Gaza and Egypt and the border crossing points between Gaza and Israel.

The outcome witnessed by us in recent days is tragic: there has been a very sharp deterioration in the humanitarian situation and even the security situation has worsened considerably.

I believe that today’s debate should be a debate on how we can contribute to resolving problems.

We have had many debates in this Chamber on the problems of the past, and I believe that today we should see if we in the European Union are able to contribute to resolving this major issue (because it will also have an impact on the Annapolis Conference and the peace process).

I would like to point out once again that we, the European Union, have been consistent in calling for the border crossings to be opened and for there to be free movement of people and goods, subject to security guarantees, not only goods for humanitarian aid purposes, but goods which may assist in the economic development of the region, more specifically, the West Bank and Gaza.

If those three basic elements - political development, economic development and changes in the situation on the ground – are lacking, it will be very difficult for us to move forward. Progress in these three fields must be made and that progress must be made in all three at the same time.

What can we Europeans do?

Since the emergence of this new situation we have been in constant contact with the key players.

As you know, on Sunday there was an important meeting of the Arab League where all the issues were raised and efforts were made to draw up a formula for a solution: a formula which is not too far removed from the one Minister Fayad put to the European Council a number of weeks ago and which he reiterated on Sunday at the Arab League Summit or the Ministerial meeting of the Arab League: a method must be sought of recovering control of the borders so that the Palestinian Authority can have responsibility for them.

If this were to happen then in my opinion the European Union should raise the issue of Rafah again exactly as we did in 2005.

As you know, we do not now have a physical presence there; we are available for deployment as soon as we are called upon but currently have no presence there; we have not been present on the border since Gaza came under the control of Hamas, because we were not given permission to be.

I believe that what we would have to do would be to operate in accordance with the debate in the European Council on Monday and with the Council Resolutions, as I believe that Monday’s resolutions are very good and have provided a sense of direction which has been welcomed by all parties: Egypt, the Palestinians and Israel.

Therefore I believe we are on the right road. What we must do is work out how to ensure that the road we are setting out on in accordance with the Council resolutions can become a reality quickly.

The human suffering being experienced is terrible: so is the human suffering in southern Israel which also comes under fire from rockets launched from northern Gaza, towards their own people, a factor which in point of fact make stability impossible.

If we were to draw up a package covering all these matters, including the liberation of Al-Haram ash-Sharif, which must be included if our aim is to stabilise the situation, we could perhaps work together, and this is something I would very much like to do again, to resolve the situation.

As I said, I am in constant contact with the most important players. I shall travel to Egypt as soon as the working sessions under way between the Palestinians and Egyptians, which started today, have finished. Tomorrow or the day after I shall be there so that I can take part too and outline the contribution which we in the European Union would be able to make.

I honestly believe that the best solution would be to return to a more all-round situation in which the Palestinian Authority had control of borders and there was free movement of goods and people; not only for humanitarian aid but also for economic development and trade, which are necessary in order for genuine progress to be made.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that we are facing a very difficult situation because, as I said at the beginning, everything in the Middle East is bound up with everything else.

If we cannot make progress towards resolving the Gaza issue then the peace process will also be in difficulties. Therefore there is a great responsibility on our shoulders; please be aware of what is ahead of us, and aware that we, the Commissioner and I, are going to do everything possible to dedicate the time left to us in these few weeks to see if we can help find a solution on behalf of the European Union.

Mr President, I do not have anything much further to add except to express my wish to help achieve that end and to have the support of the Members of this House in achieving it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I think that, when we were in Annapolis, there was a moment of hope. I always spoke of cautious optimism, knowing how difficult it would be to launch the bilateral negotiations between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, and then we had what I would call a very successful pledging conference in Paris, where we saw so much support that we thought there was now real new momentum. But at the same time we always knew that this new momentum could derail at any moment. I think the situation in the Gaza and the large amount of violence that we have seen in January is one of those very difficult situations, among many other things – including the rocket and mortar attacks that have injured the Israeli civilian population – that could make the whole process derail. Of course, we understand the obligation of the State of Israel to defend its citizens. The Israeli military reaction has caused many deaths and injuries amongst the Gaza Palestinians. We have always said that civilian enclosure measures will not be feasible and have always spoken out for freedom of access and movement. These have taken a heavy toll on the Gaza civilian population. So it is no wonder that things went excessively far when people broke through the various fences and walls between Egypt and Gaza.

The question now – and I completely support Javier Solana in this – is: what can we do in order to really make a difference again? We had the EU BAM for Rafah there for a long time, but unfortunately in recent months they have not been able to do anything, so perhaps there is a chance for us Europeans to take this up again and to try to reach some sort of solution. I think it is good that Javier Solana is going to Egypt to start asking what we can do and perhaps to bring all the different parties together, which is very complicated. But I think it is also good to see that Salem Fayed has for some time been prepared to bring in the Palestinian Authority in order to control the borders, because this is also important. In the end, it is their own responsibility. In order to make that possible, I think that the European Union might again be a facilitating factor. Maybe we will not even be mediators there but facilitators. We had the first follow-up meeting in Paris very recently where Bernard Kouchner, the Norwegian Foreign Minister and also Tony Blair met. I am also one of the co-chairs of this Conference. We tried to see what could be done on the ground in order to make the situation move forward, not to have only negative experiences. We all decided to go for the so-called quick start projects – on security infrastructure, on the one hand, and on the other hand, on schools in particular, because this is an area where everybody can see, feel and maybe even smell that there is hope, that we want to instil hope, and that freedom of access and movement is indeed one of the necessary conditions, because otherwise economic development will not be able to take off. Therefore, we are in full support of this and are now trying to follow up this strategy.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (ES) Mr President, if I had to describe in a single word what we have seen over the last few days on the southern border of the Gaza Strip I would use the word ‘despair’.

Two years ago elections were held in Palestine. Several fellow Members of this Parliament – Mrs De Keyser, Mr McMillan-Scott and others — were present during that electoral process and today, two years later, the Palestine cause is in pieces and the situation is one of desolation, despondency and despair, which proves that consolidating a democracy does not mean only exercising the right to vote but that there must be representative institutions, a legitimate distribution of powers and respect for human rights, beginning with the right to life.

The international community implored Hamas to renounce violence. They would not do so and for that reason remain on the European Union list of terrorist organisations.

It is obvious that matters have not been conducted well on the other side either: Israel has welcomed the division in the Palestinian cause, has pursued its settlements policy, exercised indiscriminate repression and has also implemented a savage blockade which has achieved nothing apart from bolstering the Hamas organisation.

What can we do? I believe that Mr Solana has described things perfectly: support the High Representative’s efforts, support the approach taken by the Naples Conference through the Quartet and the moderate Arab countries, and above all support a policy in respect of which I believe we should express our appreciation to the Commission and Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, namely a policy which places human beings at the heart of European Union action, human beings who have been suffering, in pain, distressed and dying and, in my opinion, have unfortunately been doing so needlessly for a long time in the Middle East.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MAURO
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Véronique De Keyser, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (FR) Mr President, all walls eventually collapse: the walls of Jericho, the wall of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Berlin Wall, the Atlantic Wall, the wall of indifference. The Rafah Wall, with its symbolic significance, is part of this blind urge man has to be free.

What did the people of Gaza do, though, with their newfound freedom? Did they escape to Egypt? Did they arm themselves with Kalashnikovs? No, because unfortunately weapons always reach their destination, without or without a wall. They went to stock up with emergency goods. They went to shop, to buy medicines and milk for the babies, which is not available in Gaza. Mopeds, goats and cattle were hoisted into Rafah by cranes, to the cheers of the crowd. It was a surreal sight. After that, everyone went home. These images say it all: what was previously impossible was suddenly within their grasp, and then they returned to their everyday lives.

We now have a historic responsibility. The question is no longer who is going to open up the gates of an outdoor prison, but who is going to shut them again, to return the people of Gaza to their slow suffocation. Since the start of Annapolis, the European Union has lost its touch. Because of the road map, it handed over control of the peace process to the United States. Securing the joint presidency of the Conference of Donors in Paris was a real achievement. Well done! Europeans have, however, had a mandate for access to Gaza since 2005. Are we, together with the Egyptians, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Israel, going to be able to reopen the dialogue and manage access to the outside world for the Palestinians, or are we on the other hand going to look on as observers of the repression that will inevitably come? That is the whole issue. Apart from the task of the EU BAM, this involves the future of Palestinian unity and the peace process, respect for international law and the reputation of the European Union. On behalf of my group, I want to give Mr Solana a very clear message: for goodness’ sake, press ahead!

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Chris Davies, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, as a member of Parliament’s delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council, I have been trying to work out why, when we call for an end to settlement building, the Israelis ignore us and we do nothing. Why, when we call for the removal of the checkpoints, the Israelis ignore us and we do nothing. Why, when we call to an end to the collective punishment of people in Gaza, the Israelis ignore us and we do nothing.

So I am really grateful to Marc Otte, the EU Special Representative to the Middle East, who came to a meeting of the delegation yesterday and said that our policy – Europe’s policy – is to follow the leadership given by America.

Now, just a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister of Israel said of President Bush, ‘He is not doing a single thing that I do not agree to. He does not support anything that I oppose. He does not say a thing that he thinks will make life harder for Israel.’

So, American policy is Israeli policy, and we Europeans play follow the leader. So, no wonder our condemnation of Israeli actions sounds so hollow to Palestinians. And no wonder it is so lacking in success. This European approach led to us sponsoring the elections in Palestine two years go, but then refusing to pay heed to the result – undermining our support for democracy across the Middle East.

This approach has led to us calling for the formation of a Palestinian Unity Government – and when a unity government was formed, we refused to talk to the Prime Minister and half the cabinet, and the government collapsed.

This approach has meant that we refuse to talk to representatives of Hamas in Gaza, even though they are the real power in that area. What lessons from our history have we learnt? Is it not time that Europe cut the strings that blind us and tie us to this one-sided policy of America and Israel? Is it not time we spoke with independence and acted with vision?

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Mr Solana, Commissioner, taking a whole people hostage has been a failure. It is a lesson from another era that could not work, but the worst part of it is that the situation has become worse, politically and in human terms. We do therefore have to ask ourselves questions. The policy of isolating Hamas and thereby isolating Gaza has failed. Hamas is now more popular than ever. It is very strange: Mr Solana and the Commissioner said that the Palestinians have to regain control on the borders, but how can the Palestinian Authority regain power in Gaza? The West Bank is not the borders. That is one problem. The other problem is the borders of Gaza. Besides that, there is an agreement between Egypt and Israel, under which the Egyptians in Sinai are not allowed to be armed. That is the agreement dating from 20 years ago, from the peace treaty. Even if the Egyptians wanted to stop terrorists in Sinai, they are therefore not allowed to. The situation is thus totally crazy and it is true that in this crazy situation we have to assume our responsibilities. The first responsibility is for the people of Gaza to be able to live and for that we have to negotiate with those holding the administrative power in Gaza. We cannot say, 'We want to give them food and drink, we want to give them medicines, but we do not want to talk to those who can have the medicines taken to them'.

Secondly, it has to be said that the Palestinians will believe in peace when peace gives them something. On the West Bank at the moment, there has been no improvement with the borders, or with freedom of movement. Peace is concrete, not abstract. The rockets are not going to stop in the current situation, and if Israel is to be secure we therefore have to say to it, ‘The blockade is making life impossible for the Palestinians and that is endangering the security of Israel’. That is the truth. We also have to say to Mr Bush: ‘In any case you will not be there in a few months’ time. So keep quiet and leave the politics to other people who have a better understanding of the situation’. Whether Israeli policy follows American policy or vice versa, they are a failure and we cannot support them. It is therefore not enough for the European Union to say ‘Press ahead’ it needs to say, ‘Press ahead in the right direction, talk to those who are in charge, and talk to the Israeli leaders’. It needs to say that our solidarity with Israel does not mean that we shall go on supporting it in a totally suicidal policy.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Francis Wurtz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FR) Mr President, Mr Solana, Commissioner, the heroes of Gaza have once again proven that no fortified wall can imprison the free spirit of humanity and no form of violence can subdue life. I am quoting from the speech made at the gates of Gaza last Saturday by the Israeli peace campaigner and Sakharov prizewinner Nurit Peled, who was there with other Palestinian and Israeli demonstrators.

It is impossible not to sympathise with the emotion felt by this Mother Courage at the sight of these people, oppressed and humiliated to an intolerable degree, forcing their way through the blockade imposed by Israel and finally breathing fresh air, with time to find milk for the children, food for the family and a little happiness to bolster their morale.

What happens now? We can all see the dual threat that is looming from the Israeli leaders. Firstly, the intention to use force to close off this small free space, or have it closed off again. The second, more general, threat is to get rid of the responsibility of the occupying power for Gaza and hand it over to Egypt.

If the true words of the Council statement of 28 January are to have any real import, the European Union must agree to put more pressure on the Israeli authorities than the usual tortuous circumlocutions, directly and in the Quartet, to accept the principle of the transit points being opened up permanently, under the responsibility of the Palestinian authority and with the support of the European Union and the Arab League. If the Palestinian Authority continues to be deprived of any possibility of offering its people the slightest hope for the future and working towards the national Palestinian reconciliation that is needed, that would be to accept the worst possible scenario. I am afraid we are headed that way fast at the moment.

We all know that an impetus is needed from the international community on Gaza and on the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. That impetus will not come from a worn-out and discredited American president. It is up to Europe to act.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Mr President, Gaza remains a human tragedy, and none of us in this House can blame its long-suffering Palestinian citizens from rushing through the Rafah border-crossing breech in the wall to buy goods in Egypt.

Nevertheless, EU-banned terrorist organisation Hamas remains in brutal control of the territory and of the citizens of Gaza, and Hamas has continued the indiscriminate war crime, in my view, of launching Qassam rockets on Israeli civilians, including recently their longer-range version on Ashkelon. This means that you cannot blame Israel for maintaining an economic blockade, allowing in only essential humanitarian aid.

I am sorry, Mr Davies; I am sorry, Mr Cohn-Bendit: if Hamas stops the rockets, Israel will lift the blockade – it is as simple as that.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ioan Mircea Paşcu (PSE). – Mr President, the separation in fact of Gaza from the West Bank on the one hand complicates even further an already complex picture. But, on the other hand, it simplifies it.

Let me explain myself regarding the latter. First, it facilitated dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian authority from the West Bank. Second, it contained an Islamic radical militancy allowing a clear approach to it because, on the one hand, we have the Hamas radical leaders and the rest of the population, and, in that respect, it is no secret whom we have to support.

Third, arising from that, instead of two factors in the equation (one very clear – Israel – the other, the Palestinians, a bit blurred), now we have three clearly defined factors – Gaza included – in an equation with a multiplication sign between its factors, meaning that if any one is zero, the product is zero.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  David Hammerstein (Verts/ALE). – (ES) Mr President, just a few very specific questions: how can we go back to the EU BAM to the Rafah crossing point, given the insecurity of the previous situation? This is an unarmed European corps! If a single shot is fired, if a situation arises where there is the tiniest chink in security, will all the police officers return to their hotel in Ashkelon?

How can we negotiate an agreement with the Palestinians, Egypt and Israel to change this situation? If we are unable to do so there will be little point in going back to the previous situation, as Mrs Ferrero-Waldner has said. We must have a situation which is insecurity-proof.

Next, how can we move towards peace without dealing with the situation in Gaza? The Naples process glossed over the Gaza situation, and I believe that this attitude is impossible to maintain: it is impossible for any Palestinian authority to exist which can put up with the insecurity in Gaza while there is no peace.

Finally, I would like to ask about medium-term solutions for supplying water and energy in Gaza. Would it not be possible to propose solutions in the frontier zone between Gaza and Egypt on similar lines to the proposal on installing desalination and energy generation plants?

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Luisa Morgantini (GUE/NGL). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, yesterday a child died in the Shifa hospital in Gaza, and 80 are dead in the Gaza hospital because they were unable to go to Israel for treatment. Today the Israeli court of justice ruled in favour of the government, i.e. Barak, as regards blocking and reducing fuel supplies. This is the current situation.

Mr Solana asked: what can we Europeans do? The Commissioner said that we should make a difference. Truth can make the difference. The difference is the courage not just to say: I know that you have an enormous task, that you are always working, that you are suffering with us for the suffering of Palestinians and Israelis, but there is also, for pity’s sake, a need to do something! We must tell the Israeli government in no uncertain terms that, if it wants to help Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas, it should not only stop the blockade of Gaza, but it should stop killing young boys as it did yesterday in Bethlehem and it should stop shutting Palestinians in the ghetto in the West Bank.

It is not just Gaza. Gaza has become the dominant picture, but the occupation continues every day. Peace is essential for everyone, it is essential both for the Palestinians and for the Israelis. We must block …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, it is good that we are able to conduct this debate so soon after the horrific events in the Gaza Strip. It is also good that Parliament has this opportunity to outline its position to Mr Solana and Mrs Ferrero-Waldner. At the same time, it is important that we take this opportunity to inform ourselves more fully. Mr Cohn-Bendit said that it was not enough to provide food but that we had to talk too. We now have new mechanisms like the Pegasus programme that can foster more fruitful dialogue and cooperation. Perhaps the Commissioner can give us more information about these.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Frieda Brepoels (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, Mr Solana, Commissioner, I wholeheartedly agree with fellow Members who have said that the time is past for merely expressing concern about the dramatic events and the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and that simply providing money is not enough.

On the contrary, I think that the situation in Gaza and the blockade have to be seen in the context of the overall conflict between Israel and Palestine. The Palestinians have clearly placed all their hope in the EU to come up with results at last. A lot of promises have been made in the past, but we can see that in actual fact the EU, in the follow-up to implementation of the Annapolis Conference negotiations, and in the UN, is failing to step up to the mark as an active mediator. I think this is unacceptable, and the EU can no longer allow itself to be sidelined by the United States, but must adopt an independent stance.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bairbre de Brún (GUE/NGL).(GA) Mr President, I have listened carefully to Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner , but I do not think that it is good enough to speak of facilitation or encouragement when the Israeli Government is pursuing the kind of policy that we have seen on the border between Gaza and Egypt.

The European institutions have to act; they have to take a stand against the Israeli Government and say loud and clear that they are opposed to the inhuman blockade that is choking the life out of the Gaza Strip.

This policy is utterly cruel and inimical to the entire population under Israeli occupation. Action of this sort cannot be justified in the 21st century. And it is preposterous for Israel to claim to be merely defending itself when ordinary Palestinians are seeking a life free of the suffering being inflicted on them.

We have to act instead of spending days, weeks, and months on end doing nothing but talking.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, the events in Gaza are tragic and all my fellow Members have expressed their shock. These events are also regrettable for the European Union. Not only are we suffering from political weakness, but I also do not know how we can honour our commitments in contributing effective financial assistance and humanitarian aid where we are committed. TIM is developing into PEGASE, and we are investing in human resources, mechanisms and Community resources.

The question is, how can we be successful at this point.

Have you any news, Commissioner? Is humanitarian aid reaching Gaza? Is cooperation taking place with Israel, even if only on this issue? Can the Palestinian Authority contribute in any way to smoothing the path and facilitating humanitarian aid? PEGASE ought, logically, to be implemented tomorrow. Your services have invested in the detail, in planning and in human resources. How can we live up to this vision and these resources, Commissioner?

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Mr President, the situation in Gaza demands the immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade. Assistance has to be provided to the people of Gaza in order to tackle their immediate needs. The Arab League, the European Union and even Israel must facilitate contact between Fatah and Hamas in order to achieve unity among the Palestinian people, as was the case when the government of national unity was in power. For this to happen, all Palestinian elected representatives who are members of Hamas must be released from Israeli jails. The right conditions must be created to hold general elections. Both the European Union and the United States must be clearly committed to abiding fully by the election result, whatever it might be.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − (DE) Allow me to restate briefly my position on this truly thorny issue, which we discussed at length once again in the General Affairs and External Relations Council on Monday. I must tell you, though it goes without saying, that we do not confine ourselves to discussion: together with the United States, the Palestinians and the Israelis and, of course, with the United Nations and Russia too in the Quartet framework, the European Union has played its part in the adoption of a joint strategy.

I previously referred, albeit very briefly in connection with Annapolis, to one aspect of this strategy, namely the bilateral negotiating process between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert. The other aspect, which has more to do with me in the Commission, is the effort to generate a new development that will bring progress for the people, and I am fully aware of the enormity of that task. I have always been acutely aware of the difficulties, but we naturally wanted to make every effort to help, and that remains our position. For this reason, the thrust of our policy is to support Mr Abbas in his efforts to bring about peace through his talks with a view to using that peace to foster a process of conciliation with Hamas. That was the underlying idea of the strategy.

We still intend to support further meetings too. In the last few days there has been a meeting between Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas. We know that it did not achieve much in terms of substance, but this is understandable, since all meetings at the present time are overshadowed by what is a very fraught situation. We must nevertheless keep pursuing this approach. We still have the means to open a few doors in time for the next meeting in Moscow if we assist both parties.

That is one side of the coin. The other side is the humanitarian and economic perspective. On this point, I should like to say the following to those that might not have read my statement: on 21 January, I delivered a very clear position statement on the situation in Gaza, because I, too, realised that things had simply gone too far. Together with other statements from foreign ministers and international organisations, it has helped to improve the situation. The blockade, of course, has not been fully lifted, but the situation has improved considerably. Accordingly, on the humanitarian side – and this also answers your question, Mrs Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou – many deliveries are now actually arriving in Gaza.

We are none the less aware that this is not enough. And I myself am aware, Mr Cohn-Bendit, that we face an extremely daunting task. You are entirely correct in saying that it is an extremely difficult situation; the High Representative is fully aware of that, and he will perhaps comment on it too. Nevertheless, for the time being we shall continue to pursue the common strategy which we have jointly defined and intend to implement jointly, and we have no option but to press for the opening of the border, which Salam Fayyad himself, as you know, regards as a crucial step.

Let me just say a brief word on the mechanism we devised, which will actually become operational in two days’ time, on the first of February. It is a permanent mechanism, unlike the previous TIM, the Temporary International Mechanism, which we had to keep extending. For good reasons, the new mechanism has also been created in partnership with the Palestinian Authority. We worked very closely with Mr Fayyad on the project so that the result would match his requirement for a development and progress plan for Palestine’s economy and, of course, for its infrastructure.

This should be a common European effort, by which I mean that the mechanism – a financial mechanism – can be used not only by ourselves but also by Member States. The idea, indeed, is that some international organisations and non-European countries should also be able, in principle, to avail themselves of this mechanism. Like TIM, it offers full supervision and monitoring, because we naturally want to meet all the transparency criteria, and it is designed either to provide direct budgetary aid, to channel aid through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other organisations or to fund our projects. I am aware, however, that this question currently takes a back seat behind the major political question, namely what we can do to resolve the current situation. I am, of course, fully conscious of the problem, but at the present juncture this is the only answer I can give you.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. − Mr President, I have been listening with great attention to what has been said. I could say the same and say it with the same emotion and with the same sentiment, because our sentiments are shared.

But you are saying we have to act and not to talk. Do you think that action will change our policy 180 degrees today? I do not really know if that is a sensible approach, to tell you the truth.

What has happened in the last few days, apart from the humanitarian drama? We can talk for hours and really express our sentiments, because we have the same sentiments as you – at least I have – and I am sure the Commissioner has the same.

Earlier in the week, only a few hours after the tension erupted, the Arab League met. They took a decision, a decision that was supported by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on Monday, a decision that we are going to try to implement in the coming hours after a meeting taking place this morning between the Palestinian Authority and Egypt – which is continuing as we are speaking now and which will continue during the night and probably tomorrow or the day after tomorrow – when they have reached the point where we can really be of effect.

But I think that a month after the Paris Conference, a month and a half since the Annapolis Conference, when all the Arab countries are engaged, when other countries are playing for the first time a constructive role, I think we have to adapt in that direction. Now it would not be serious on our part to play a role alone. We have to play a role along with all the partners that are there. We are supporting – and the Council’s conclusions are very clear on that – the resolution of the Arab League of Sunday as far as the borders are concerned, and that was proved on Monday. We are following the discussions on Wednesday and Thursday.

I think this is action, but I do not know what I can do. It is a different story if you ask me to

(FR) ‘press ahead in the right direction’. That means we are going in the wrong direction at the moment.

(Interruption by Mr Cohn-Bendit: ‘... unknown direction ...’)

Mr President, I think that if Mr Cohn-Bendit,

a distinguished Member of the Parliament, says that the strategy of the European Union today is ‘inconnue’, je ne comprends rien. You can say whatever you want. You can say that the strategy of the European Union today after Annapolis, after having chaired the Paris Conference, after having supported the Arab League is ‘inconnue’, you can say other things, but I do not think that ‘inconnue’ can be sustained. You may not like it –

(Objection)

You may not be in agreement, but it is very difficult to say that it is not known. I share many of the sentiments you have expressed very eloquently. And I could say that you have, we have, responsibilities in the coming days and hours that we are going to tackle. Are we able to resolve the situation? I do not know. You do not know. But you can be sure that we are going to try, and we are going to try to support Mr Fayyad, because he has been our interlocutor all this period of time. He is a man of goodwill, which is why we cannot let him down. I am not going to let him down.

Therefore we have to continue working in this direction. There will be frustrations. It will be frustrating. Are we going to solve all the problems? I do not know. But we are going to try with all our energy and our best will.

I share all the sentiments that have been expressed. I would not say more deeply but at least at the same depth as you, all our friends here, because we are on the same side, we have been engaged in this battle for a long time together. Therefore there is no difference in sentiment, and we have to continue what we have been doing.

I think we have to move in that direction. I promise you that I will go there. I will try to meet with the Egyptians, the Saudis and everybody – the Americans, the Russians, everybody – to see if we can come up with something that cannot be the same. It has to be something collectively different. Otherwise I think we will not be able to produce any results.

You may say that you have not seen results in several years. Since 1967 we have not produced a result, collectively, as an international community. That is true. That is our responsibility. But I do not think we can resolve the problem tomorrow by taking a decision now which is different to the one we took in the Council on Monday.

We now have a structure from the European Council on Monday and we must try to implement it. I would be happy to return and talk to you and express very frankly, as we doing here, the consequences of our acts.

But please do not think that we do not have the same sentiments. We do. We have experience of the situation there and we cannot say more. Concerning action, be sure that we are going to do as much as we can.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The debate is closed.

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

Written statements (Article 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alessandro Battilocchio (PSE), in writing. (IT) Thank you, Mr President. This House has, in long debates, discussed the Israeli-Palestinian issue too many times. We should, however, recognise that, objectively speaking, the role that the European Union has managed to play to date as regards this situation has been altogether marginal: so many proclamations, declarations of intent, motions and documents but, in truth, very little consistency as far as actions are concerned. I recently visited Palestine and I found an atmosphere of distress, disillusionment and resignation among the people, who are tired of years of broken promises: the situation is becoming worse and there is a serious risk of driving the Palestinian territories into the arms of Hamas extremists. The air that you breathe there is heavy, and recourse to violence seems almost unavoidable. Just now, time is really running out: either Europe will have the strength and the capability to turn this situation around or we shall, all of us, bear the responsibility of not having done enough to avert the worst.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE), in writing. As my colleague Michael Gahler has said, the current resolution is following the line of six powers to keep up pressure on Iran.

As I see it, the practical problem is how this resolution will be perceived by the Iranian regime. In a situation where the big players in international politics are not willing or able to agree on applying serious sanctions to Iran, there is hardly any chance that this resolution will make a difference.

However, there is still one way – as yet untried – to make an impact.

This is to give a chance to the Iranian opposition movement by ending its political suppression by EU governments. The European Court of First Instance in December 2006, and the British courts last November, ruled that there are absolutely no grounds to isolate the Iranian opposition like this. Freeing the hands of Iranian opposition for peaceful activities will provide the EU not only with efficient leverage to influence the regime of mullahs but will open a third and more realistic option between wishful diplomacy, on the one hand, and USA-type military intervention on the other.

If our sincere intention is to bring about a positive change in Iran, let us give this third option a chance.

 

18. US anti-missile defence system (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The next item concerns the declaration of the Council and the Commission on the US anti-missile defence system.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) The Council did not discuss the installation of the US anti-missile defence system on the territory of the European Union. Therefore, I am sorry that I am unable to give the Council’s opinion on this matter, but I would like to remind you that the decision on any installation of any armed forces or military equipment rests within the national competence of each Member State. For that reason the Member States make decisions on such matters independently.

Allow me to clarify: there have not been any discussions so far between the European Union and the United States of America on the installation of the anti-missile system. Also, neither party has planned for a possible cooperation in this area. The Council of the European Union did not therefore plan for talks to discuss this matter, either with the United States of America or with the NATO Alliance. As we know, anti-missile defence is a subject of cooperation within NATO as well as within NATO-Russian Federation Council.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I will be very brief today, because the Commission has very little competence in this matter.

But let me say that interaction between the United States of America, Russia and the EU Member States in the areas of security and defence has wider implications for these important partnerships. That is clear. Therefore, although, as I said, we really do not have competence or responsibility in this question, we hope that a balanced solution can be found that is, in the end, satisfactory for all.

We have welcomed, from the very beginning, the high-level talks that started in Moscow last October, followed by expert meetings. And we see in the recent direct dialogue between Moscow and Warsaw an opportunity to clarify respective positions in respect of national sovereignty.

In conclusion, in whatever forum these issues are discussed, be it NATO or be it the OSCE, I think it would be important that decisions on the future of the European security architecture should also involve the European Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Karl von Wogau, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, when we in Europe talk of anti-missile defence, the discussion normally revolves around the United States’ planned installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. Many people are unaware that these are merely extensions to an existing system designed to protect the United States of America. We in the European Parliament, however, must focus first and foremost on its implications for the security of the continent of Europe. As we know, the United States has already spent more than 100 billion dollars on its anti-missile defence system and is investing a further ten billion a year in the continuing development of the system. Yet the United States is much further away from potential sources of danger than we are in Europe. The present situation is rather like Luxembourg spending money to build dykes but the Netherlands seeing no need to do likewise.

We must ask ourselves whether a threat actually exists and, if so, whether we need to respond to it. The debate we have just heard with Mr Solana shows that the situation in Iran remains a source of concern. We are also aware of the threat that could emanate from the unstable situation in Pakistan.

We in the Subcommittee on Security and Defence have engaged in intensive dialogue with representatives of the United States, including Lieutenant General Henry Obering, Director of the Missile Defense Agency. It emerged clearly from these talks that the US system would be able, in theory, to protect part of Europe but not the whole continent. In particular, it could not protect Cyprus, Malta, parts of Greece, Romania, Bulgaria or southern Italy. From a European point of view, however, we cannot tolerate a division of our continent into areas with differing degrees of security. Accordingly, we must jointly define our common European security interests in this context.

The present appraisal reminds us that there is currently no forum in which this matter is being discussed and in which these common European security interests are being defined. This is clearly another area where very close coordination with Russia is needed.

We expect NATO’s Bucharest summit in April to present proposals for a joint system, and we expect these proposals to take due account of our specific European security interests.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Marinus Wiersma, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (NL) Mr President, this is not the first time that we have discussed this issue; it is also not the first time that we have had the same answers from the Council, which says that it has no competence here, as does the Commission, although – and I must congratulate the Commissioner for this – she did say at the end that things need to be organised differently in the European Union.

If something happens that affects the security of all Europeans, and that comes under the security strategy that Mr Solana described to us, we need to be able to talk to each other about it. Parliament fortunately is able to talk about it. This is an issue that concerns both the citizens and the Member States of the European Union, so we feel it is entirely proper that it should be on the agenda.

I do not intend to go back over all the objections that our Group has already voiced against this plan that the Americans have come up with. What we think is wrong is that bilateral negotiations are going on with two NATO Member States which – coincidentally or otherwise – are also Member States of the European Union, and this affects relations with Russia, including the European Union’s relations with it. It is also wrong that the system is being developed unilaterally, albeit within NATO, and that it has not been clearly explained exactly why the system is necessary, whether it will work and whether it is becoming too costly.

There is an interesting debate going on in Poland at the moment, where the new government has said that it may be prepared to cooperate on the system, but that this is because it is what the Americans want and because it is America’s security at stake rather than Poland’s. After all, the system is actually more of a threat than an improvement to Poland’s security. This is why the Poles are also asking for more help with developing air defences for the Polish army, for example, creating a sort of arms race.

So it is interesting that the debate has restarted in Poland on whether the system is useful or necessary, and that the new Polish prime minister or at least the Polish foreign minister has had the guts to talk to Russia about it. We wholeheartedly support this.

The situation is rather different in the Czech Republic, where we have the impression that the system and the Czech contribution to it are being pushed through against the will of the people, since I believe that 70% of Czechs are against the development of the system. I therefore fear that there are moves afoot to push through decisions this year, to conclude agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic, before a new administration – hopefully – takes over in the United States. We know that the democrats are fairly sceptical about developing the Air Missile System.

In any event, we hope that there will be a discussion in the Council, and we urge that this issue be taken very seriously. If it goes through, it is bound to have an impact on our already difficult relationship with Russia. The public are anxious. What we have is a new arms race, and there are a number of other things that we think the European Parliament simply has to speak out about. We have done so in the past, and we should carry on doing it.

I think that our main role is to see whether this is necessary, whether it is the start of a new arms race, whether it really will improve security and whether it really will help us to combat the ‘rogue states’. I am still not convinced that the Iranians will have the capacity to fire missiles as quickly as the Americans claim. This is something else we have had contradictory information about. So I hope that we can take the discussion forward on this issue here in Parliament, and also monitor what is happening in the Czech Republic and Poland. My Group remains opposed to the system.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Anneli Jäätteenmäki, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FI) Mr President, the biggest threat to humanity is not the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries. The real problem is the existence of nuclear weapons generally. The only ethical and permanent option in our approach to anti-missile defence systems and other nuclear weapons systems is to abandon their use. The EU too should commit to new agreements controlling armament and be proactive in its attempt to initiate the disarmament process.

America’s anti-missile defence system would increase the risk of nuclear war. The nuclear shield planned for Poland and the Czech Republic is based on the assumption that a nuclear war can be won. The type of anti-missile defence practised by the United States is radically different from its earlier deterrent policy, because the aim of that was to prevent one country from taking its revenge on another. The former deterrent effect of nuclear armament is thus out of the picture. The balance of fear therefore disappears. That is why an US anti-missile system in Poland or the Czech Republic is a crucial matter of concern for the whole of Europe and all its Member States. That being so, it is important that the EU should debate the matter and make known the concerns of its citizens. We should really also be considering here whether this will improve security in Europe and Europe’s defence, or whether it will go the other way, with the new system actually weakening security in Europe.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (LV) Ladies and gentlemen, at times President Putin’s rhetoric reminds us of the possibility of Russia aiming its missiles at Europe. This proves that there is a certain strategic balance between the United States and Russia. There is, however, no such balance between Europe and Russia. Nor can this be ensured by France’s and Great Britain’s ‘nuclear umbrellas’. I therefore believe it is right to ask how Europe’s rather than the United States’ joint missile defence can be ensured. Are we discussing these issues only because the United States takes care of its own defence? Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, members of the Commission and the European Union are not even concerned about this form of defence. Do you not think that it is only natural for the United States, NATO and also certain Member States to decide on this together? I believe that the European Union must formulate an unequivocal position that should then be executed together with NATO and the United States. Otherwise, we should not waste our time here because everything will be decided by NATO.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Minister, Commissioner, I admit that that is undoubtedly the new European policy. It reminds me of my son when he was four years old. When you asked him, ‘Where are you?’ he would put his hands over his eyes and say, ‘I’m not here’. That is what the Commission is saying to us: ‘We are not here. It has nothing to do with us or with Europe’.

(DE) I am sorry, but that is absolute nonsense. We have to decide now whether we want a common European foreign and security policy. We even have a new treaty that gives us our own foreign minister with responsibility for a common foreign and security policy, and when we have a common foreign minister we shall surely have to discuss matters at the European level, not as individual governments discussing their countries’ security with other individual governments, or like Mr von Wogau, who maintains that Europe is threatened by Iran or goodness knows what other countries. I do not share that view, and at the very least we must discuss things at the European level. We cannot simply say that the Americans have hit on some hare-brained scheme, that George Bush will no longer be in office six months from now, so they might drop their hare-brained scheme, but we Europeans have nothing to do with all of this.

We are highly sceptical about this whole anti-missile defence strategy, but we firmly believe it is something that we Europeans are duty-bound to discuss. It is not a decision for the Polish or Czech Members or for Members of any particular nationality – Romanians and Bulgarians tomorrow, Sicilians the next day or whatever. No, we have a common interest in taking decisions about our security. That is essentially laid down in the Treaty that you have ratified and that we intend to ratify, in the provisions on a common foreign and security policy. Accordingly, this issue must be a matter for the European Union. The decision must not be taken bilaterally between Poland and the United States or between the Czech Republic and the United States. It is a European decision. It is a European problem, and we must find a European solution.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vladimír Remek, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased that the issue of installing American anti-missile defence tools in the Czech Republic and Poland, i.e. on European Union territory, is being dealt with by the European Parliament, which is the most democratic institution given that it is directly elected by the citizens of the Union, whom this issue affects.

In this context I would like to stress that I am supported by my colleagues in the GUE/NGL Group and I also draw on my own experience as a military expert; but most importantly I am supported by the majority of citizens in my country, where 70% of the population are against the installation of the American radar system.

The American anti-missile defence is presented to us as a defence shield, so why was the Czech Republic, for example, not allowed to sell the Tamara passive radar detection system without active military components to China? The reason given was that China would gain an inadequate advantage in its relations with other countries. Is this not a manipulation of words? Is not the real issue of stationing the radar in the Czech Republic also about gaining advantage? Even a layman can understand what warriors had known long before Hannibal: a shield in a soldier’s hand is a means for a better and more efficient use of his sword.

The talk is about increased security but is the issue not really about increasing security risks? It is only logical that we will immediately become target number one for potential adversaries. We are told that we should oblige the US in order to prove that we are good allies. Canada has not obliged either: does that make it a bad US ally? Is it not the case that Canada has perhaps learned a lesson from the purpose-built justification for military action in Iraq?

We are surprised at Russia’s reaction. However, given that the US unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty and acts in its own interest, this reaction is not illogical. Was the United States happy years ago about the close proximity of Soviet missiles in Cuba?

There is no doubt that the US is a superpower, and its views, proposals and requests cannot be swept off the table just like that. However, if we are really concerned about greater security, especially in Europe, then the road to it follows a more complicated path via negotiations and agreements, not unilateral steps. This is the responsibility not only of the major players – the US and Russia – but of the European Union too.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jana Hybášková (PPE-DE). – (CS) There is huge proliferation of medium and medium-long range carriers at the start of the 21st century. Unfortunately, in the absence of an international security regime the only way to stop it through effective defence.

Effective defence is the paramount right of the EU Member States. The SOFA negotiations that are currently taking place in Prague are a legitimate right of the Czech Republic. Because the radar situated on Czech Republic territory will ensure the security of many European countries and because this will be the first opportunity for the Czech Republic, a country that had been occupied for many years, to actively contribute towards European security, the Czech Government must be extremely responsible in its actions.

The anti-missile defence system must be trustworthy and defensive and must respect the indivisibility of security. We thus welcome information about the Bucharest summit, where a decision on the construction of a complementary LTBMD system should be made. Moving negotiations to NATO guarantees implementation of indivisibility. Making it clear that this is a purely defensive system is the subject of American-Polish-Czech-Russian negotiations.

My final point concerns effectiveness. Taking into account what we know about Iran’s November tests, we must realise that we have a common responsibility. We must not ruin the effectiveness of our common defence with quarrels over whether we should defend ourselves at all.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Libor Rouček (PSE). – (CS) Allow me to make use of this one-minute speech to call on the Council of the European Union and the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy to discuss the American anti-missile defence system at European level.

The installation of the American anti-missile defence system in Europe is a pan-European issue. It is not just a matter for Czechs, Poles or Americans. Intra-European Union relations, EU-NATO relations, EU-US relations and EU-Russia relations are all at stake. I would therefore ask that this issue be included in the Council’s agenda.

As far as the Czech Republic is concerned, I would like to mention one fact: 70% of the citizens of the Czech Republic are opposed to this system. Three quarters of the citizens of the Czech Republic want a referendum on the subject. The Czech Government does not communicate with the public; the Czech Government does not inform the Members of the Czech Parliament, the Czech Government does everything behind the backs of the Czech people. It is important to know this and it must be highlighted in the Council of the European Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Janusz Onyszkiewicz (ALDE). – (PL) Mr President, may I first remind everyone that the missile defence shield is not only an issue for Poland and the Czech Republic: it concerns the United Kingdom and Denmark too, since facilities in both those countries are also to be included in the system. So let us not talk only about Poland or the Czech Republic.

The second point is that the missile defence shield, and the installations that form part of it, will not be a magnet for terrorists. Terrorists strike at soft targets, not well-defended military bases.

Finally, a third point. The European Union is not a military ally. Perhaps it is pity that it isn’t, but that is the fact of the matter, and the new treaty, the Treaty of Lisbon, changes nothing in that respect. That being so, a defence issue is either NATO’s responsibility or the responsibility of countries that have not decided to join an alliance and wish to defend themselves separately. Obviously, there has to be a discussion in NATO about how this system should fit into other systems that NATO intends to develop. That is absolutely essential. Let us not forget that 21 countries in the European Union are members of NATO.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Milan Horáček (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, one of the supreme anti-war novels is about the good soldier Schweik, by Jaroslav Hašek. The position adopted by the Commission and the Council, however, outshines Schweik; it outdoes Franz Kafka too, and it even outdoes any ostrich. We cannot pursue this head-in-the-sand policy. We must discuss this issue among ourselves, on the floor of the European Parliament, but we must also discuss it, of course, with the members of NATO. We must discuss it with the Czechs, the Poles and the Russians. This is an essential process that must be conducted on a pan-European scale.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Tobias Pflüger (GUE/NGL). – (DE) Mr President, the technical function of the planned anti-missile system is to take out a potential enemy’s second-strike capability – of that there is no doubt. In other words, it is also an attack system. This must be taken into account in the debate. Whether the missile system is set up by the United States, by NATO together with the United States or by any other combination, it remains an arms programme. The salient point for me is that the European Union is unable to come up with a common position on the issue. In this matter the common foreign and security policy of the European Union is being exposed to ridicule. Mr Cohn-Bendit can cite the Reform Treaty until the cows come home – as long as the present situation continues and no common position is adopted at all, the Union will simply make itself a laughing stock.

What we must do is to say clearly that we do not want this anti-missile system. The fact is that a very clear majority of this European Parliament says ‘No’ to this system. In the countries of Europe, including the Czech Republic, public opinion is firmly opposed to the anti-missile system, and of course the Polish Government has undoubtedly refined its previous position. For these reasons I would welcome our adoption of a resolution in which the House clearly rejects this missile system.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Zahradil (PPE-DE). – (CS) Allow me to thank the Council, represented by the Slovenian Presidency, and the Commission, represented by Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, for adhering, fairly strictly, to the tone of the European Treaties. According to the Treaties, these issues are entirely the responsibility of the nation states. I should mention that even the new Lisbon Treaty explicitly states that issues of national security are the competence of the individual EU Member States alone.

I am convinced that European security is indivisibly linked to the security of the entire Euro-Atlantic region, and in a situation where the European Union is incapable of protecting its members from new risks, be they financial or technological, this link becomes vital.

Regarding public opinion, which has been mentioned here several times, I can only add that those who refer to opinion polls and call for a referendum are often the same people who opposed a referendum on another very important issue, namely the new European Treaty.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Oldřich Vlasák (PPE-DE). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to sum up all the arguments.

Essentially this issue is not only about increasing the security of the Czech Republic and Poland, but in fact increasing the security of the whole of Europe. The negotiations on the positioning of such a system are the responsibility of the nation state as such. Similar systems exist in other countries, in Member States of the European Union.

Today’s speakers have clearly emphasised that there is a real danger. We need to realise that when it comes to the issue of security, decisions must be made very quickly. Such decisions can also have a preventive element. Only if we are ready and strong can we force aggressors to negotiate and to adhere to security requirements.

To conclude I would like to say that I completely reject the view that the Czech Government has not communicated with its citizens about this system. An information campaign has been under way for several months.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Miloslav Ransdorf (GUE/NGL). – (CS) I would like to make four points concerning this topic.

The first relates to the Founding Act between NATO and the Russian Federation of May 1997. In this Act both sides pledged jointly to eliminate the use of force, and even the threat of force, in the continent of Europe. If this Act is valid, then in fact it rules out the possibility of a situation such as the one we have been discussing here arising in our continent.

The second point concerns the Helsinki Process. The signatories to the Accords, to the Declaration, pledged in Helsinki to reduce the presence of military systems in Europe. This action would reverse the trend. In my opinion, the reduction in the number of military systems in the European continent should continue.

The third point concerns the number of bases. There are American bases in 18 European countries. If we include the new ones the total would rise to 20. We would thus be confirming Zbigniew Brzeziński’s words that the European Union is a de facto American protectorate.

The fourth point concerns the purpose of the whole system. I think it is sufficiently clear: to ensure intelligence coverage and intelligence control over the whole continent of Europe.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Urszula Gacek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Madam President, Prime Minister Tusk is sensitive to the arguments of his European neighbours. Poland’s possible participation in this American project must not become a source of misunderstanding within the Union itself. The new Polish government values good relations with the United States but knows Poland is above all a member of the European family.

Poland is also paying heed to Russia’s reservations and reacting calmly despite the harsh tone adopted by some representatives of the Russian armed forces. At the present time, when the European Union does not have a common foreign and security policy, Poland’s final decision as to the stationing of elements of the missile defence shield on its territory will be its sovereign decision. Poland appreciates different opinions and does not resent criticism.

Ladies and gentlemen, we ask you to respect our position, which must first and foremost guarantee the security of our own citizens.

(Applause)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I would like to thank Mr Cohn-Bendit for reminding us of the fact that, yesterday, Slovenia was the second Member State to ratify the new Treaty of Lisbon. However, the Treaty is not in force yet. As we know, we need 24 more countries to ratify it, and the Presidency of Slovenia is hoping that the States will ratify it on time and that the new Treaty of Lisbon will come into force by the planned deadline.

I would like to stress that it will not bring major changes or anything new in terms of the basic premises on which European security and defence policies are founded. In particular, it will not change the fact that this policy is based on national competence, which the Member States retain in the domain of national security and defence.

The European Union already has a European security and defence policy, which already provides a framework for such discussions within the Council as well. Alternatively, such discussions will take place within the framework of the Council, but that will not depend so much on the Presidency as on the will and interest of the Member States. Let me assure you that the Council will be informed in detail about today’s debate and the viewpoints expressed in it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The debate is closed.

 

19. Accomplishment of the internal market in Community postal services (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The next item is the recommendation for second reading, on behalf of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, on the accomplishment of the internal market in Community postal services (13593/6/2007 – C6-0410/2007 – 2006/0196(COD)) (rapporteur: Markus Ferber) (A6-0505/2007).

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Markus Ferber, rapporteur. − (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have come to the end of a long debate that has stretched over four legislative terms in the European Parliament, beginning in 1992 with the publication by the European Commission of its White Paper on the development of postal services, which was followed by the adoption of the first Postal Directive in 1997 and its revision in 2002; now, at the start of 2008, after more than 15 years, I hope we are poised to adopt jointly a rational set of rules that will help us to reconcile the interests of consumers, the interests of the companies that have hitherto enjoyed a monopoly in the provision of postal services, the interests of the competitors wishing to enter this lucrative market and the interests of those who are employed in the postal sector. We in the European Parliament have been working very hard to achieve these goals over the past months.

I must point out, Mr President, that the clock is fast – I have not been speaking for three and a half minutes yet!

I believe we have succeeded here in the European Parliament in achieving an acceptable compromise between all these interests. I should like to thank all those who helped to achieve it – my fellow Members of the European Parliament and particularly Brian Simpson, with whom a 14-year friendship was forged by our joint efforts in the realm of postal services. We have been tracking this important issue together here since 1994. I wish to thank the Commission, which has played a very constructive role, both in its proposals and at the negotiating table.

At this point, I am afraid I have to address my special thanks not to the current Slovenian Presidency but to the Portuguese Presidency of the Council, which succeeded in formulating a common position on 1 October last year.

I am especially proud, and we in the European Parliament can all be proud, of the fact that the Council, in its common position, embraced the outcome of our inter-group deliberations and incorporated more than 95% of it into the foundations of the common position. That is a great success for the European Parliament, and it shows that Parliament can resolve such complex issues as deregulation of the market in postal services, which is further justification for the additional powers entrusted to it by the Reform Treaty.

Accordingly, in the committee discussions prior to second reading, we tried to identify areas of the common position to which we could make improvements. We did not make life easy for ourselves, because every compromise inevitably has some aspect here or there where there might be some scope for improvement. In December, however, we in the Transport and Tourism Committee, in an overwhelming vote of approval, established that all the points to which Parliament attached importance had actually been taken into account by the Council and that we could not make anything better. Any amendment would have been a retrograde step.

This is why your rapporteur is now able to say that the recommendation made by a large majority of the lead committee is that the common position be adopted without amendment, and I should be delighted if that were to happen tomorrow. We would also have set an example by wrapping up this complex issue of the liberalisation of postal services, which has exercised this House for 15 years, without once having recourse to the conciliation procedure. Let me just remind the House that we have always managed to reach agreement at second reading. To do so again would be the icing on the cake at the end of a long legislative process. I therefore ask for your support and reiterate my thanks to all those who have cooperated very constructively in this process.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS MORGANTINI
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andrej Vizjak, President-in-Office. − (SL) I am greatly honoured to be here at your plenary session today.

The Commission’s proposal for the directive on the accomplishment of the internal market in Community postal services has been one of the most demanding legislative proposals for the co-legislators over the last 15 months. When the Commission proposed it in October 2006, everyone expected endless disagreements and lively debates within our institutions about the future of one of the oldest and most traditional public services in Europe.

Discussing this matter was an extremely demanding task for the German and especially Portuguese Presidencies in 2007. From the outset, in the debates, our institutions established the common aim of avoiding populism and demagoguery and focusing on the essential parameters of this matter, including social aspects for postal employees and the permanent financing of a universal service.

As we know, the postal sector is threatened with structural change and it must adapt to new economic and social circumstances. The final phase of total reform of the internal postal services market offers a unique opportunity for growth to all contractors involved. In the end, the public expects us to preserve and improve the quality and efficiency of postal services to benefit the users, regardless of where they live.

The opening up of the postal services market has so far been a success story. New players have entered the market and new opportunities have been exploited, not only by these new players but also by the established ones. New user services have been developed. It is self-evident that total liberalisation of the postal services is a necessary condition for enlivening this sector and securing its existence alongside new forms of competition and alternative services.

The approach of our two institutions is further proof of the fundamental principles of protecting high-quality, reliable and affordable services for all users and disallowing discriminatory obstacles for new agents entering the market. At the same time both the European Parliament and the Council accept that some postal services markets within the European Union operate under basically different conditions. Therefore, when expressing its common position, the Council adopted the decision to set the end of 2010 as the common final date for liberalisation. However, some Member States have been allowed a transitional period up to the end of 2012 to implement the new rules. In common with the basic principle of all previous directives on postal services, the principle of subsidiarity allows the Member States to adjust the common rules to special national circumstances and ensures an independent regulatory authority to supervise the postal services market.

Ladies and gentlemen, in concluding this brief address, allow me to congratulate Mr Ferber and the rapporteurs of all the political groups involved, i.e. the shadow rapporteurs, on their contributions to our fruitful and constructive discussions. Although we did not always fully agree with their specific remarks, I would like to remind you that the Council included a number of appropriate changes in its common position in November 2007, thereby demonstrating its political decisiveness, openness and constructive flexibility.

I would especially like to emphasise the fine work of the Commission in the whole process of common decision-making and its commitment to the effective support and guidance of the Member States in all questions relating to the implementation of the new directive. Ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow you will receive the final decision and again acknowledge our principal agreement according to the provisions of the Council common position and the recommendation by the Committee on Transport and Tourism on 9 December last year. We are certain that we have found the right balance between the different aims and have openly and sensitively dealt with the political challenges without endangering the legal security of postal services contractors and consumers.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you once again for your cooperation and for the text, which I am certain will be approved, and thank you for your attention.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, tomorrow the European Parliament should take a historic decision that marks the end of a process launched more than 15 years ago. The Third Postal Directive brings to a good end the well prepared gradual process of full market opening.

What today appears a clear and obvious solution was far from uncontested when the discussion started. On 18 October 2006 the Commission presented its proposals. Intense and constructive negotiations in the institutions followed. It was eventually the European Parliament, through its report at first reading of 11 July 2007, that paved the way for the compromise result in front of you today.

Many in this House have actively contributed to this important result, and – on behalf of my colleague Commissioner McCreevy – I wish to pay tribute particularly to the rapporteur, Mr Ferber, and his fellow shadow rapporteurs from the other political groups who have shaped the compromise. The same goes for the Finnish, German, Portuguese and – last but not least – the Slovene Presidency.

Some remarks on substance: the text that is now on the table is balanced. It takes into account the interests of different political groups and Member States. The Commission’s proposal had envisaged an earlier date for market opening, confirming the target date set by the existing Postal Directive. Two additional years is a substantial period. It will give all operators time to complete their preparations. It should not, however, lead to complacency.

What is important for the postal sector, its customers, its operators and its employees is that there is a final and unconditional date for full market opening. The common position provides for fair conditions and requires us to do away with market entry barriers.

A limited number of amendments have been tabled for tomorrow’s vote. Mostly these are amendments that were already rejected by the Committee on Transport and Tourism in December. As my colleague, Mr McCreevy, observed at the time, these amendments do not bring added value for the internal market, for postal users, or for postmen and women. There is a momentum to finalise the process of postal reform.

To sum up, the text in front of you is, on balance, good in substance, and, if you look at its main provisions, you will agree with me that it is faithful to our objective: real market opening not as an end in itself but as the means through which we pursue the broader objective of a high quality, highly efficient and sustainable postal sector adapted to the needs of the 21st century.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Reinhard Rack, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (DE) Madam President, in recent years all of us, myself included, have repeatedly lamented the fact that, even in the case of major legislative projects, most of the seats on the Council bench have remained empty. We should therefore make a point of expressing our pleasure at the high-level representation of the Slovenian Presidency at this important legislative debate and at the fact that Slovenia is already entering, as it were, into the spirit of the Treaty of Lisbon, which, of course, it has just ratified.

The internal market in postal services has been a long time coming. We are delighted that, if all goes well, this present draft of ours will help to bring the process to a successful conclusion. The initial proposal from the Commission was, in principle, coherent and acceptable, but for us in the European Parliament the basic principle was, in many cases, too broadly applied, and we felt that major points of detail remained unresolved.

In this respect it was a good thing that, under the direction of our rapporteur, Markus Ferber, whom I warmly congratulate on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party and European Democrats, our committee, acting by a very comfortable majority, was able to add numerous important elements to the Commission proposal at first reading and to interpret and flesh out its provisions.

On the financial side in particular we have added an extra option – an important one, since it ensures that a key issue is not disregarded. We reinforced the social provisions, especially on matters such as working conditions, working hours and leave entitlements. In particular, we introduced a temporary reciprocity clause to ensure that the Directive does not yield windfall profits by letting a few remaining monopolists expand their operations into deregulated markets.

In return we agreed to the entry into force of the Directive being postponed by two years. We believe that the proposal was generally well balanced, and we feel vindicated by the actions of the Council, which very largely endorsed the position of the European Parliament. We should accept that position tomorrow and share the satisfaction of the Council, the Commission and the rapporteur with the outcome.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Brian Simpson, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Madam President, on behalf of the PSE Group I would like to thank Markus Ferber for his report and his hard work over many years.

The PSE Group accepts that a great deal of Parliament’s first-reading position has been accepted by the Council, and this will guarantee the universal service; it will guarantee the financing of that service; it will also recognise that social protection must be in place, and it delays the implementation by two years to the end of 2010 for all the old Member States and 2012 for the new ones.

In my view this is a good deal. There are those who still fight the anti-liberalisation battle. But that battle was lost over 15 years ago when Parliament accepted – against my advice at the time – to liberalise the postal services sector.

Some of us in this Parliament have delayed the full implementation for those long 15 years, but there comes a time, eventually, when we have to face up to reality.

Although, personally, I would like to see a second reading with no amendments, my group believe it is right to clarify the financing of the universal service and to protect those services presently provided for the visually impaired and the blind. So we will be supporting amendments 1, 2, 6, 18 and 19.

We must ensure that postal services are able to compete, not necessarily against each other, but against other technologies. But we need the playing field to be level, and I hope, with the reservations I have outlined, that we can conclude our work on this dossier based on our first-reading position and get back to the most important issue of providing a reliable, regular and affordable postal service to our citizens, and to recognising the important work done by all those postmen and women throughout the European Union.

Finally, when Markus Ferber and I started work on this dossier, neither of us had any grey hairs. Now look at the both of us!

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Luigi Cocilovo, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I too, like all my colleagues, would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Ferber, on his work. This was a job that was initiated a long time ago and during the course of which we have had significant moments of convergence and some moments of constructive discussion. As far as my position and that of my group is concerned, there has never been any conflict of principles or ideology against the idea of liberalisation, which we all agree with and support, while, of course, seeking to ensure the guarantees that are necessary for a universal service.

In the current proposal for the Directive, which was approved by the Parliament during its first reading and then reconsidered by the Council, we can see that this guarantee is there, even if some of the conditions could be made more precise, specific and detailed. We do not want to be like those who cannot see the wood for the trees, but, on the other hand, nor do we want to ignore the fact that sometimes the devil is in the detail. For this reason we would have preferred that, as regards some of the issues concerning authorisations, concerning ensuring proper competition and also concerning tariff payments between the operator charged with providing the universal service and other individual services, concerning rights and responsibilities as regards network access, that some of the questions had been gone into in more detail. We would have preferred this, but the majority of the views taken in Parliament, which were also represented among the committee, was probably that making the guarantees more precise was unnecessary, and preferred instead not to run the risk of coming to a complicated agreement.

In summary, at this time we hold this standpoint and, as regards the amendments concerning conditions for the blind and the visually impaired, we would like to state clearly that, if these and only these amendments were to force a settlement to be reached, we would not be in favour. However, if other amendments should be approved we shall also vote in favour. Otherwise, we would vote against all the amendments put forward.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Roberts Zīle, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (LV) Thank you, Madam President, Commissioner, Members of the Council. I should first like to thank Mr Ferber for his work in seeking a compromise between Parliament and the Council in such a politically sensitive area as postal services. I should like to emphasise that the objective difficulties in liberalising the approach to universal services, mainly for the new Member States, were reflected in the directive as an adequate additional time-limit of two years to reserve these services. At the same time a sound legal framework has been put in place to guarantee universal services. I therefore believe that the ball is now in the court of the Member States’ authorities. Despite the difficulties encountered by postal enterprises in some Member States, including my country, Latvia, I believe that liberalisation of the market will resolve the seemingly hopeless situation of outdated postal service providers. As regards tomorrow’s vote, I invite you not to support the aforesaid proposals, because the Member States must make use of their competence also in respect of the visually impaired. Thank you.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Eva Lichtenberger, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, I am afraid the facts of the matter prevent me from joining the celebrations. Fact number one: who will benefit? Those consumers who live in cities and love to receive advertising material in their letterboxes. They will benefit. So will businesses that specialise in mass mailings and postal advertising campaigns.

Those people who are blind or visually impaired, on the other hand, will not benefit. I therefore implore you to support our amendment on this matter. There will be no benefit to the employees of the postal services either, who will be working for low pay and will be under enormous pressure, which can only increase in the envisaged conditions. Another group that will not benefit are people who live in the country or in remote areas and will have to rely on private postal services, for we shall see a creeping erosion of service levels down to the minimum possible and permissible. In particular, there will be no benefit to taxpayers, who must once again finance the universal service that was previously funded internally, as it were, being effectively subsidised by revenue from mass mailings and private postal services.

For these reasons I come down against the directive. I believe it is misguided. Competition is good, but care must be taken to ensure that it takes place on a level playing field. That has not been done in this case.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Erik Meijer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (NL) Madam President, postal services are a labour-intensive public service. In the second half of the nineteenth century the states of Europe decided that they needed to have their own monopoly on postal services because the private sector was not up to the job.

There have always been private companies that tried to get round this situation. They offered cheaper services, but selectively, choosing the busiest parts of the postal delivery service and offering poorer working conditions and conditions of employment. Since the 1990s a political majority have tried to create ever broader scope for such companies, and this proposed decision gives them almost an entirely free hand. My Group expects this to result in poorer delivery services for consumers, deteriorating conditions for workers and extra costs for the Member States to maintain and restore their universal postal services.

Even now that the three biggest Groups have agreed a compromise on deadlines and accompanying measures, my Group still sees this choice as a step backwards. In addition to measures to improve certain details, such as stricter guarantees for blind customers and for staff, we therefore propose that this liberalisation should be rejected. This would also be in line with the recent thumbs down given by voters in the German city of Leipzig to the sale of public undertakings.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Michael Henry Nattrass, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Madam President, I note the phrase ‘a fixed and irrevocable date’. One thing EU designer Jean Monnet hated about democracy was that nothing is irrevocable. No democratic government can bind its successor with the irrevocable.

There is a democratic deficit in the EU because the ever-closer Union was designed as irrevocable. No openings for democracy. The people may only vote to support what the EU elite want. It is a one-way street. The French and Dutch people voted against this irrevocable union. Ignoring them and introducing the same failed constitution proves my point.

You are failing to learn from history. The Soviet Union went. Hitler’s Tausendjähriges Reich lasted 12 years. The backlash you are creating by denying the people a referendum will bring this intolerant EU empire down as sure as day follows night.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Etelka Barsi-Pataky (PPE-DE). – (HU) Madam President, by the end of 2012 postal services will be fully liberalised, and the common market will have been achieved in this area too. Since opening the market will have different impacts on the markets in individual Member States, what we have achieved through the legislation is that the market will be opened step by step. We have also achieved a situation in which the relevant post offices can keep the revenue they have at their disposal until the end of the derogation period, and I personally put this down as a result. After a long time, European regulation has been born, so that puts everyone in a competitive situation. Particular thanks to the rapporteur for this. In other words, this regulation will not mean disadvantages for competing companies after the opening of the market, but new prospects.

Madam President, all this is only half a victory if the next steps are not taken. What are they? Firstly, the post offices that enjoy the derogation must focus, in the years to come, on being able to meet the requirements supported by European competition, that is, that they really do use the time benefits that they are being given now.

Secondly, state regulation and policies must ensure that, whilst the post office is slimmed down with the slogan of becoming competitive, universal service really must be ensured at a corresponding level. We should not forget that responsibility for service will still be the obligation of the state. In fact, regulation was born so that European citizens, wherever they live, even in the smallest places, should have access to postal services, at a suitable price and of suitable quality. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gilles Savary (PSE). – (FR) Madam President, I think that the issue we shall be voting on tomorrow is a historic one, because the post has been a public service from the early days, especially since monarchies. That was because the distribution of mail is strategic, and it also ensured a universal and fast service.

We have just put an end to public control of postal services, or we shall be ending it tomorrow, to replace it with a largely deregulated postal market. What is proposed in this directive will first of all be a wonderful market for lawyers and legal practitioners, because it is not harmonisation. Each Member State can decide on its own method of financing and there are four different methods. The directive also proposes something completely paradoxical: compensating for the financing of the universal service through State subsidies where, in some countries, what was not financially viable was financed by equalisation when that was viable.

I think we are making a mistake. Time will tell, but we already have some indications of that today. Over EUR 880 million have been invested in the postal service in the United Kingdom. In Spain it has just been announced that, because of the pressure of competition, rural areas will no longer receive a direct postal service. The Germans are having problems in bringing the minimum wage into line with the postal services market. My feeling is that we are now benefiting companies, we are going to let them cream off the best part of the market, but we are not serving the general interest in postal services or the external competitiveness of the European Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Dirk Sterckx (ALDE). – (NL) Madam President, I support the compromise reached by Mr Ferber and approved by the Council because I am in favour of an open market for postal services. I think this directive gives the Member States sufficient scope to ensure that their markets are opened up in a proper manner, and that there are different service-providers competing for customers on the basis of guaranteed quality.

It is certainly not the intention that the Member States should use this scope to prevent their markets from being opened up, although this is also a risk. It would be easy to apply this directive so that new firms faced such strict requirements that no one new would bother with the letter post. If this is how the Member States apply the directive, then we will have adopted a fine piece of legislation, but will have changed nothing in practice for postal customers.

I think we certainly have to approve the text, but I would ask the Commission to make sure that the aim of creating an open market in postal services is not circumvented by measures taken by the Member States. I see that the rapporteur’s country, for example, has recently taken measures that have actually closed down the postal market in Germany again.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Seán Ó Neachtain (UEN).(GA) Mr President, the postal service in Ireland has a central part to play in the lives of rural communities, especially for rural dwellers and people in remote regions who have no neighbours around. So I welcome the provision for universal service – something that is vitally important for people in Ireland and, I am sure, every other Member State as well.

I should like first of all to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Ferber, for sticking firmly to that principle. For the benefit of customers it should be laid down in our draft documents, and in this connection I also welcome the new financial service being set up by the Irish Post Office in Ireland. This shows that postal service providers can gear themselves to new market requirements while continuing to provide their universal postal service.

In addition, I should like to welcome the recent ruling by the Court of Justice to the effect that a postal service provider is entitled to enter into an agreement regarding the distribution of social welfare payments.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL). – (PT) The Council agreed to the full opening of the market in postal services at EU level from 31 December 2010 during the Portuguese Presidency, applying competition rules to what some say should be a public service to create an internal market in postal services. ‘That’s great’, the Portuguese Prime Minister will say. That decision, however, represents a great blow to the public postal services, particularly with the abolition of the reserved areas, setting in motion a process to dismantle them and subsequently hand them over to profit-driven transnationals, and at public expense to boot, jeopardising the rights of the nation and of workers in the sector.

If there were any doubts as to the true significance of the inclusion of the ‘protocol on services of general interest’ in the draft Treaty, this directive will dispel them: continuation of the dismantling and destruction of public services, threatening their ownership and provision by democratically managed and controlled public companies. Hence our proposal to reject this directive.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hélène Goudin (IND/DEM). – (SV) Madam President, the post is one of the public services which the people of our countries, both old and young, value most highly. Hence the formulation of the decision is absolutely vital. In previous debates on the directive I have expressed fears that the needs of thinly populated areas might not be catered for. It was not clear that the same service would be guaranteed for everyone. On one occasion during question time with Commissioner McCreevy I was promised that there would be no change in the requirement to provide a universal service. We now have a compromise which gives guarantees that those of us who live in thinly populated areas will have our post collected and delivered five days a week just like everyone else. I will support the compromise to the Postal Directive tomorrow. Let us hope that this leads to a better service, lower prices and a more effective postal system for everyone when we deregulate the single market in one further sector.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Corien Wortmann-Kool (PPE-DE). – (NL) Madam President, I would like to thank our rapporteur, Mr Ferber, most warmly for the work he has done. He managed to get Parliament to agree on this difficult issue at first reading, even though both he and I felt that we should have gone a step further. In the end, however, our united stance was what guided the Council, and so I too wholeheartedly agree with the common position.

Members of the Socialist and Green Groups have unfortunately got cold feet and cannot see the enormous opportunities that this directive will offer for new businesses and jobs. I am absolutely convinced of this, and examples in a number of Member States back me up. But everything will now depend on the European Commission keeping to the directive, so that it does not remain a dead letter.

If the directive is introduced, it will certainly achieve the aim of opening up the markets. There will be better services for consumers, and not what Germany is doing, squeezing new players, and not just new players but new businesses too, new services, new jobs, out of the market on the pretext of social protection.

So I am happy with the response that I received yesterday from the European Commission. I understand that the Commission is to investigate the situation in Germany. I would urge you to do so, and quickly, because the new players on the German market are in serious trouble, and it would be absolutely terrible if things do not work out, as well as setting exactly the wrong precedent.

I predict that France and other countries will follow, and then we will achieve absolutely nothing in the end. So the Commission has a huge responsibility here. I hope that you will use every possible legal channel and also bring political pressure to bear to ensure that this directive is properly applied to the European postal market.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE). – (RO) Madam President, Commissioner, postal services are of major importance to the economic and social life of communities. Therefore we must guarantee the accessibility of postal services and above all we must ensure the quality of those services.

Full liberalization of the postal service market, including deliveries weighing less than 50 grams, will allow increased competition, the emergence of new operators and the creation of new jobs.

However, I would like to dwell on several important issues. First of all, it is essential for universal service to be guaranteed and for every citizen to be able to receive mail, irrespective of whether they live on a mountain top or on an island. Secondly, we must ensure decent working conditions for people in this line of work; in particular, we must ensure that there are social guarantees concerning jobs and incomes. Thirdly, for Member States to guarantee universal service, it is essential for them to define as soon as possible the means of funding the universal service. The Directive allows Member States flexibility in this regard. Fourth, as we live in an increasingly digitized world, it is essential that mail operators should diversify their activity so as to provide electronic services, as well.

Some Member States may have two extra years before postal services are fully liberalised. No matter when liberalisation takes place, mail operators should have an effective management which should guarantee the high quality of those services.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Dariusz Maciej Grabowski (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, allowing private operators to provide postal services is a controversial decision. Time will tell whether it is beneficial for consumers.

We must remember that in some of the new Member States with a lower level of development, institutions defending the interests of competition and consumers are weakly anchored in the public conscience. There is a danger of disrupting the balance between the interests of capital and those of the consumer. Setting the date at 2012 is therefore to be welcomed.

At the same time, I would suggest that before 2012 an analysis be made of the operation of the postal services market in those countries that have already adopted the new rules, with a view to identifying and preventing any irregularities in the remaining countries. I also consider that an operator providing public services should be rewarded by the authorities and not as – the authors of the report suggest – merely compensated.

Years of work on this legislation have turned Mr Ferber’s hair grey. I trust the introduction of the new regulations will not cause him further distress and result in actual hair loss.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gabriele Zimmer (GUE/NGL). – (DE) Madam President, it is surely very obvious that Mr Ferber’s position and those of Mrs Wortmann-Kool and other Members are poles apart. I believe it is wrong to treat privatisation and liberalisation of public services as the standard response to globalisation. I also have reason to believe that increasing numbers of people disagree with that approach. In a referendum in Leipzig last weekend, 80% of the electorate, or rather of those who voted, rejected privatisation, thereby preventing the city council from carrying out any more privatisations for the next three years.

Let me also tell you that it is simply not the case that this directive we are discussing today incorporates real safeguards to protect people – employees – from social dumping. We have seen how the introduction of minimum wages in the postal services in Germany has met with resistance from those very companies that have built the foundations of their business on rock-bottom wages. I also have serious concerns about the implications of public institutions awarding contracts to such companies.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Madam President, work has been going on for over 15 years on liberalisation of the postal sector, which is worth over EUR 90 billion a year in the Union as a whole. Today we are on the eve of voting on and inscribing such legislation in the history of the Union, and I want to congratulate the rapporteur on his excellent work.

The present version of the project is a broad compromise in which the main aims appear to have been achieved: full implementation of the internal market in postal services, mainly through termination of the mail monopoly, and assured continuation of a high-quality, low-cost public service.

The present version of the directive is not, however, as ambitious as the Commission’s original proposal. In the course of the deliberations, departure from the idea of liberalisation in favour of a gradual, rather cautious opening of the postal market for letters weighing less than 50 grammes became increasingly apparent. This is reflected in the compromise date for the entry into force of the directive, specifically in the case of new Member States and countries with small populations, small geographical areas and public service clauses.

The date of 31 December 2012 for Member States that joined the Union in 2004 seems unnecessarily distant. I realise it is part of the negotiated compromise, which we accept, but it may well put a brake on the proposed changes. I fear such a long period – over four years – for the entry into force of the directive will simply slow down changes which, in the case of a two-year period, for example, would take effect almost immediately.

Finally, I want to support Mrs Pleštinská’s call for clauses concerning the blind and visually handicapped to be reinstated in the proposed directive. They are missing from the present version.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Saïd El Khadraoui (PSE). – (NL) Madam President, I should like to thank the rapporteur and my fellow Members who have helped to achieve a result that is a considerable improvement on the original Commission proposal. I understand why many of us want to leave it at that, but behind the positive elements that have been added to the directive there also lurk a number of dangers. Nothing has actually been achieved yet, because the Member States are being given a lot of responsibility on two crucial points.

Firstly, there are still a lot of question marks over how the universal service is to be funded. The Member States have a number of options here, but it is not always clear whether these really work. In many cases this will lead to all sorts of disputes, including legal ones. I therefore feel it would be useful to make two things clear: firstly, that the Member States are under an obligation to guarantee the universal service and funding for it whatever the circumstances, and secondly, that the Member States must be required to get their house in order and to prepare for this new situation thoroughly and in good time.

The second important point is the social field. Here it is important to point out that this directive allows the Member States to require all postal operators, through a licensing system, to comply with the same collective agreements, for instance, or other minimum standards. This is a good idea, but it is still only optional, and it will be applied differently from one country to another.

In a word, I think the directive could be tightened up, and this has nothing to do with having cold feet, but reflects the fact that a free market has to be regulated and liberalisation needs to be carefully prepared.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Madam President, we are dissatisfied with the European Commission, the Council and our rapporteur, because they have made no reference to fluctuations in the number of workers in the sector, working conditions, working hours or pay.

Similarly, provision has been made neither for an effective check on tariff policies for businesses, nor for the private monopoly situations in parcel transport and express post.

Furthermore, the report stresses the stable employment in Member States, despite local fluctuations, but no data has been produced to demonstrate this.

In these circumstances, then, it is not possible to make a proper evaluation in the interests of workers.

Finally, it should be emphasised that the Council has, in a certain sense, ratified Parliament’s amendments while allowing for plenty of discussion on the social consequences both for employees of services and for consumers.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Astrid Lulling (PPE-DE). – (DE) Madam President, the accomplishment of the internal market in postal services amply illustrates the truth of the saying ‘Good things come to those who wait’. Even I can support this draft on the table, the result of fifteen years of hard bargaining. I happen to be one of those who would rather have preserved the monopoly of national postal administrations for letters below the 50-gramme threshold. Now this last stage in the controlled deregulation of the postal market is set to take effect on 1 January 2011.

In view of the structure of the postal services in Luxembourg, the statutory requirement to employ volunteers from the armed forces in the public service and the resulting costs, I could not have subscribed to rapid and insufficiently controlled deregulation of the market in postal services, because that could have had intolerable consequences for postal staff and customers.

For the first reading, I therefore asked the rapporteur, Mr Ferber, to allow for a two-year extension of the transposition deadline for small countries with relatively few inhabitants so that they could continue to limit the provision of certain services to the universal-service provider, and I thank him for his understanding. I had discreetly circumscribed this arrangement in order to ensure that Luxembourg benefited from the exemption, but the Ministers preferred to preclude any misunderstanding by naming the relevant countries. This keeps us safe.

The important thing is that the universal-service requirement guarantees the collection of mail and its rapid delivery to the designated residential or business address on each working day, even in remote or sparsely populated areas. The external funding that might be needed to cover the net cost of the universal service, and hence the question of affordable rates, has also been satisfactorily regulated. Lastly, the best possible measures have been taken to safeguard permanent skilled jobs with universal-service providers and to guarantee adherence to terms of employment and social-security schemes based on existing legal provisions or collective agreements, contrary to what the Left would have us believe. They ought to read the wording of the draft. It also expressly stipulates that preparations for the deregulation of the postal market must take account of social considerations.

On the motion tabled by our philanthropic missionaries regarding free postal services for the visually impaired, I personally do not see why wealthy people with impaired vision should send their mail free of charge at the taxpayer’s expense. In any case, those who propose this amendment are barking up the wrong tree, because it is the Member States that guarantee such arrangements. Subsidiarité oblige!

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Zita Gurmai (PSE). – (HU) Thank you, Madam President. Ladies and gentlemen, the gradual opening up of the postal services market is an important milestone in achieving the internal market. It will contribute to ending special rights within the postal sectors, and it will set a specific and irrevocable date for opening the market, ensuring a sustainable, high level of universal service. Opening the market will intensify competition, and so the level of service can be improved with regard to quality, price and opportunities for choice. This measure will promote the harmonisation of the fundamental principles relating to the regulation of postal services, and will probably produce lower tariffs as well as better and more innovative services, and greater conditions for growth and employment will still be created.

The amendment to the Directive is the result of an exemplary compromise, a compromise that took into account the differences arising from the historical and economical characteristics of the Member States. It pays regard to the fact that preparing for liberalisation requires more time in some Member States, mainly those in Central Eastern Europe. At the same time, taking into account the interests of others and in order to prevent distortion of competition in the market in countries where the postal sector is already fully liberalised, the postal services of countries that are not yet opening their market may not provide services until the derogation deadline at the end of December 2012. I would like to thank Mr Ferber for his work, but naturally thanks are also due to Mr Simpson, the shadow rapporteur.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Emanuel Jardim Fernandes (PSE). – (PT) I congratulate Mr Ferber and Mr Simpson for the quality of their report and all those Members and parties involved for their openness during the negotiating procedure. This liberalisation of the market in postal services is still far from achieving a competitive market in which consumers and companies are the biggest winners. I therefore argued that the Commission’s approach might not sufficiently guarantee the universal service. I accordingly supported the shadow rapporteur Mr Simpson’s position on the need to guarantee the universal service and to establish a compensation fund, and on the commitment to open up postal services below 50 grammes in 2010, or in special cases, such as the new Member States with outermost regions, by 31 December 2012. I am also pleased with regard to those states with the special provisions included, though I must point out that they may not be sufficient, in which case additional measures will be required.

In terms of employment, I am delighted with the addition introduced previously to make it obligatory for a report to be submitted on the overall development of employment in the sector, the working conditions applied by all operators within a Member State, and any future measures. I am very pleased with the common position achieved, but support the amendments submitted by my colleagues Mr Savary, Mr El Khadraoui and Mrs Ayala Sender, among others, and by my parliamentary group, since they reinforce the idea of the need for a considered process of liberalisation to reinforce equal universal access, development and employment. For all these reasons I urge the plenary to support this report and the Council, and to support Parliament’s position.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Richard Howitt (PSE). – Madam President, Parliament should pass our amendments to restore compulsory free postal services for blind people to this directive.

Mr Vizjak, you say you were open and flexible and yet you completely rebuffed Parliament’s amendments on compulsory free services for blind people. We have heard Mr Orban say tonight, on behalf of Commissioner McCreevy, that our amendments do not bring added value to postal users.

Mr Orban, are not blind people postal users? And is not the real added value you are talking about the actual added costs that blind people are going to have to be forced to pay?

To Mr Ferber, I regret to say that I believe you were wrong to make a deal, dropping this requirement which Parliament passed at first reading. Yesterday you also failed to answer my question: is there a threat to blind people’s services? I hope you will today. Because if there is not, what objection can you have to putting this into the directive? If there is, that shows why we need to put it in. In Italy, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Greece and Portugal, the post office, not the government, provides this free service. New and existing providers in a liberalised market will inevitably seek to cut costs; blind people must not be the victims. After liberalisation in New Zealand, blind people’s services were ended. We must not let it happen here.

Finally, for those who tell us that they are sympathetic to disabled people but this is not the right place or way to do it, you told us that about the Lifts Directive and the Buses and Coaches Directive, other single market legislation. But Parliament said no, and we insisted on binding access for disabled people. Today, again, we must insist on compulsory rights for Europe’s blind and partially-sighted people.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) Madam Chairman, thank you for giving me the floor.

The common position adopted by the Council does not include the amendments concerning free postal services for blind people in spite of the fact that at first reading the European Parliament voted to maintain free postal services for blind people following liberalisation of the European postal market.

I intended to vote in favour of Amendment 3 tabled by Eva Lichtenberger, in which Parliament’s position at first reading is reiterated. Following today’s discussion with the rapporteur, Marcus Ferber, I was informed that approval of any of the amendments would jeopardise a previously agreed compromise on the adoption of the Directive on accomplishment of the internal market in Community postal services at second reading, which could mean having to enter into conciliation.

I realise the importance of adopting this Directive. When transposed into national law, the Member States will be able to solve this issue in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. I would therefore urge all of the Member States to provide free postal services for blind and partially sighted people in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity and universal service obligations.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ewa Tomaszewska (UEN). – (PL) Madam Chairman, I would also like to support the amendments concerning visually impaired persons. If the European Union declares to all and sundry that it tolerates no discrimination, then access to postal services must also be equal for all, and for the visually impaired that means assisted access.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Madam President, this directive is yet another example of how one-size-fits-all, incompetent EU legislation adversely affects the lives of British people. This directive is the reason why post offices are closing and why postal workers will lose their jobs. Post offices play a vital role in the community, especially for the old, the poor, the immobile and the disabled. This is just one of a multitude of EU laws that have damaged, and will continue to damage, my country. The British people know this, and this is one of the reasons why they are being denied a referendum on the EU Constitution. If it is ratified, they can look forward to a lot more of the same.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Madam President, I believe the rapporteur has, in general – though not entirely – achieved a fair balance. The universal service provision will ensure consumers have full access to postal services and Member States still have the flexibility to determine the most effective and efficient mechanism to guarantee the USO.

The USO will also ensure that sufficient access points are established to take full account of the needs of users in rural areas and sparsely populated areas, and I know this will be welcome, particularly in my own country, Ireland.

Initially, I have to say I had some reservations about the impact on postal workers, but Member States still have the authority to regulate employment conditions and collective bargaining in the sector, where this does not lead to unfair competition.

Finally, I want to say that I support the amendment that there should be an obligation to supply free services for blind and partially-sighted persons. I disagree with Commissioner Orban – or is it Commissioner McCreevy? – I do believe this will provide added value, because, in a fully liberalised market, free services for blind or partially-sighted persons will disappear, and it will be added value if we can guarantee to them that they will continue.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE). – (SK) Thank you for giving me the floor, Madam Chairman. First of all, I would like to thank Mr Ferber for an excellent report, thanks to which the long-awaited Directive will soon enter into force. This Directive will mean that from 1 January 2009 the internal market in Community postal services will be fully accomplished.

I am particularly pleased that the principle of subsidiarity has been maintained and that concrete implementation has been left to the Member States, which will draw up legislation that is specific to their own situation. However, I would also like to stress the social aspect of this legislation as regards the rights of disabled people, especially blind or partially sighted people, and their right to avail of free postal services.

I call on my fellow Members to support the relevant amendments that were tabled in plenary this week and that were adopted by Parliament at first reading. These services are appropriate and crucial for this section of the population: people with exceptionally low income, areas with very high unemployment levels and people in difficult social situations, not to mention those affected by social exclusion.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – Madam President, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I congratulate the rapporteur for the work done. I think the public believe this is already happening because in many Member States there is not a postal service of equal value between the regions. I am glad to see that there will be subsidiarity on this issue and the Member States will decide the best way to implement the principle of a deregulated market.

I need to support my intergroup chairman, Richard Howitt, on the issue of disability. Unfortunately, the point was raised that rich blind people will benefit. Sadly, there are too few rich blind people in Europe and globally. I wish we could stand up and say that they were all rich and, indeed, famous, but it is not the case.

I think we have to make a big stand on this, just to show that, while Europe is about freedom of movement of capital and services, it is also concerned about those who have no voice and those who have no sight.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Diana WALLIS
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andrej Vizjak, President-in-Office. − (SL) Today’s lively debate has shown that there are many justifiably differing opinions about the regulation of this traditional and oldest public service. It was also right that many different opinions and concerns were expressed.

However, we must stress that the proposed text is a balanced compromise between, on the one hand, the opening up of the internal market in postal services, securing competitiveness and the added value that comes with it, and, on the other hand, consumer protection and protection of the rights of consumers and the rights of vulnerable consumer groups and those living in remote areas. In short, in the Council’s estimation, it is a good compromise text and I would like to express my support for that opinion.

We also appreciate the intention behind certain amendments, but through discussions in previous debates a final compromise solution came to light. We are therefore of the opinion that this is a good text and I hope you will exercise much political wisdom tomorrow when you have the final chance to support this text.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Leonard Orban, The Commission. − First of all I would like to extend my thanks to all the participants in the debate and stress that this debate has proven the MEPs’ great interest in this dossier. This interest is closely linked to the crucial role that postal services play in the European economy and in the everyday life of European citizens.

I would like to stress that the completion of this process will ensure a consistently high quality of universal service for all European citizens and for the business community.

The main goal of postal reform is to benefit all consumers and postal service users, including special needs groups. In this context, I paid particular attention to the contributions of several Members who spoke about the continuation of free service provision for the blind and partially sighted.

The European Commission is particularly sympathetic to these concerns. We believe that the liberalisation of the market will not change this, and that international obligations will continue to be met in full. I would like to underline that the common position specifies that market liberalisation will not prevent the provision of free services to the blind and partially sighted.

Under Article 23 of the Directive, the European Commission must prepare a report on the application of this Directive, including information about the groups mentioned above. The Commission believes that the Directive as it now stands, in the current format to which the European Parliament has contributed significantly, is the best legal framework, that will lead to high quality and sustainability in European postal services, while complying with international obligations.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, we believe that the report, as prepared by Mr Markus Ferber and adopted by the Committee on Transport by a large majority, should be supported.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Markus Ferber, rapporteur. (DE) Madam President, President-in-Office, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, permit me to make just a few remarks.

Firstly, I should be happier if those Members who delivered impassioned speeches for the whole world to hear would at least stay in the chamber for the rest of the debate. That did rather disappoint me, I must say. I am referring specifically to Members such as Mrs Lichtenberger.

Secondly, I must point out that we are talking here about liberalisation and not privatisation. The proprietary structure of existing postal services does not interest the European Union and is not mentioned in this directive.

Thirdly, let me say that, 500 years ago when the first postal services were created, it was private undertakings that provided postal services. Not until later did governments decide they could do it better. So let us have no distortions of history please.

Fourthly, I should like to remind the House that government monopolies are also abused. I am glad that Mrs Zimmer drew attention to that problem. In point of fact, she comes from a region in which the state most certainly abused its postal monopoly until 1990, to the detriment of innocent people. This is another point that needs to be made forcefully in the present debate.

Let me get one thing straight: we did not forget blind people in this legislation. They are included, but they are included in a way that accords with the spirit of this directive. Through its provisions, the European Union is telling the Member States that they are responsible for the universal service and for funding the fulfilment of universal-service obligations, that they are responsible, through licensing and authorisation procedures, for ensuring that certain services, such as postal services for blind people, can be maintained in the long term. I am very grateful to the Commissioner for his announcement that the Commission intends to give consideration to this matter in its report under Article 23 of the Directive. We have not forgotten anything; we have not forgotten blind people. Nevertheless, I do wonder whether blind people should have free access, guaranteed by European legislation, and wheelchair users should not. That is something else to ponder.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, 31.1.2008.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing.(FR) I welcome the approval, at second reading, of the Council common position amending the 1997 postal services directive with a view to full accomplishment of the internal market in postal services and I congratulate my worthy German colleague, Markus Ferber, for the huge amount of work he has done.

I am pleased that the Council accepted all the key aspects of the European Parliament’s position, particularly deferral of general market opening until 31 December 2010, with a two-year extension for those Member States that have joined the Union since 2004; the principle of a universal service comprising at least one delivery and collection five days a week for every EU citizen, with a sufficient number of access points maintained in rural, remote or sparsely populated regions; and observance of subsidiarity with regard to social considerations – a matter on which I hope the social partners will work at European level. I am sorry that provision has not been included for the creation of a European regulatory mechanism. My final point is this: I am keen to see operators reaching agreement soon on the introduction of a European stamp for 50 g letters and I intend to take a policy initiative to that end at an early date.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Monica Maria Iacob-Ridzi (PPE-DE), in writing. (RO) The common position satifies the demands made by Parliament in its votes for the first reading, as well as the amendments proposed by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. However, the Commission has yet to provide clear research on the impact that the liberalisation of postal services is likely to have on employment.

In its opinion, the Committee asked for an impact assessment of the effects of this measure on the five million or more jobs related to or depending on postal services. This study is facilitated by the fact that postal services have already been liberalised in several EU Member States, such as the UK, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Experience in those countries has not so far indicated that liberalisation has led to an increase in the number of jobs in this sector, or to an increase in their quality.

I believe that certain protection mechanisms should be allowed for situations where the emergence of new postal service providers on the market will lead to massive redundancy. One of the mechanisms available to the companies and Member States affected could be the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Janusz Lewandowski (PPE-DE), in writing. (PL) Madam President, the road to the liberalisation of postal services is getting longer, and for that the European Parliament is partly to blame, having extended the European Commission's deadline by two years. The positions taken by national delegations reflect the varying situation on the markets of the 27 countries. Sweden, the United Kingdom and Finland, as front runners of the open market, as well as Germany and the Netherlands, which have gone a long way in that direction, all see the final deadline as a victory for protectionism. Starting from their model of a state-controlled economy, the new Member States consider not only the original proposal of 2009 but also the compromise deadline of 2011 as a threat to jobs in the postal sector. Poland, for example, has some 100 000 people employed by Poczta Polska, which is incapable of facing open competition in the medium term. Having found allies in public services in western Europe, first and foremost France's La Poste, they have succeeded in negotiating special conditions that postpone the free market in practice to the end of 2012.

In the event, the corporate interest of the postal workers has prevailed over that of the customers, who were sorely tried during the Christmas peak period in December 2007, when the incapability of the postal monopoly was harshly demonstrated. The slow progress made in liberalising this sector of the European market, which began as far back as 1989 with the first draft directive, shows the strength of the corporate interests defending the status quo against an extension of the public interest.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mary Lou McDonald (GUE/NGL), in writing. Yet again we have an ideologically driven proposal, this time on postal services. There has been no assessment of the social impact it will have, and no serious consultation with post office management, with employees or with consumers.

There is no demand, no logic and no justification for the liberalisation of postal services. People do not want to be presented with an array of competing post offices marketing their products. They do not want to see their local post offices closed because the market offers insufficient profit for the private postal companies which will swamp the market, driving public operators like An Post to the wall.

People want a reliable postal service which will deliver their mail with the minimum of fuss and which will keep local post offices at the centre of the communities they serve.

How can people take seriously the idea the EU is promoting a social Europe when this proposal drives yet another nail in its coffin?

It is time to call a halt to the ideologically driven forced march towards liberalisation and privatisation.

People in Ireland have the opportunity to stop this by voting no to the Lisbon Treaty.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Katrin Saks (PSE), in writing. (ET) I support the market being liberalised as quickly as possible and I welcome the directive which accomplishes the establishment of the internal market in postal services.

The closure of small post offices in Estonia has generated anger among people, but it is clear that with the implementation of new technologies such as the Internet the demand for a traditional postal service has fallen.

Where there is competition a new business in Internet-based services may arise, and this is to be welcomed. I also understand the need for a known deadline in the Member States.

It is therefore important for the principle of reciprocity to apply when allowing Member States to refuse to open their market to postal service providers from neighbouring States whose providers are protected by law.

The important thing is for the universal postal service also to be guaranteed for everyone, including people in outlying areas and islands. The postal service must be affordable, high-quality and accessible to all.

It is necessary to draw up plans for a cost-oriented universal postal service, since the concept is viewed differently in different Member States. I believe that there are grounds for demanding that cost considerations of all services should be excluded from the universal postal service indicator.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Richard Seeber (PPE-DE), in writing. (DE) EU-wide liberalisation of postal services will happen – not in 2009, as originally planned, but in 2011. In economic terms, the postal sector is very important, and it also impacts on other sectors of the economy. As in all other areas of economic activity, more competition in the realm of postal deliveries makes sense. Nor will businesses be the only beneficiaries, for consumers will reap great benefits too. This will not be the case, however, unless the basic conditions are right. In other words, it must be guaranteed that letters will be delivered as efficiently as ever and at reasonable prices. Care must be taken to ensure that the blanket provision of postal services is guaranteed in the long term – and guaranteed everywhere, including remote areas.

Particular importance attaches to good working conditions and, above all, job security for all those who work in the postal services. It is also important that the same conditions should govern the operations of all postal-service providers. It was firmly established from the outset that this was not to be a cut-throat liberalisation.

We must create a good and sustainable arrangement for everyone – the postal companies, their employees and, of course, their customers.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Esko Seppänen (GUE/NGL), in writing. (FI) Opening up postal services to free competition will inevitably mean a worsening of services, especially in sparsely populated countries like Finland. The post office should be a public service, and we need to guarantee it has adequate funding by using the cash earned from services which are ‘easy’ to manage to assist in areas which are more ‘difficult’. A nation that wishes to preserve its unity and its sense of community will not privatise public postal services. We also rely on a public service to safeguard protection of privacy and ensure the kind of security we demand of the post office. Privatisation might result in an unsound staffing policy, which will damage confidence in the post office. That is why our Group is voting against the position on privatisation adopted by the Council.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE), in writing. The liberalisation of postal services is an important area of the European internal market.

Throughout the discussion we have had many concerns about universal postal services. I think we can build on the experience of some European postal markets, which are already liberalised. Postal services have been secured in these countries at the same time as quality and service has improved through more businesslike operations. At the same time, travelling around in Europe I am faced with poor and slow service in many countries that are trying to get as many exceptions as possible from the liberalisation plans.

Furthermore, this report leaves much space for Member States to implement the liberalisation. Many concerns that were brought up will thus remain concerns to be dealt with by national authorities.

I would like to thank Mr Ferber for his perseverance while dealing with this very tough process.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Iuliu Winkler (PPE-DE), in writing. (RO) The full liberalisation of postal services in Member States will have a positive impact not only on postal service users and consumers, who will benefit from new and innovative services and lower postal charges, but also on the economy of Member States as a whole.

The proposal for a Directive under discussion is complete in its current form, which allows for the extension of the deadline for full liberalisation of the postal service market in the case of certain Member States.

Romania is one of the beneficiaries of the new provisions adopted by the European Parliament. The Romanian universal service provider is currently being restructured according to a schedule set by the Romanian Government for 2007-2010, and preparations for liberalisation will begin only afterwards.

This timeline benefits Romanian consumers, as the prospect of market liberalisation after 1 January 2013 means improved quality services at an affordable price.

 

20. Outcome of the Bali climate change conference (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the outcome of the Bali climate change conference.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Janez Podobnik, President-in-Office. − (SL) I am honoured to be with you again today and, as President of the Council, to present to you the evaluation of the results of the Bali Climate Change Conference. I am very pleased that the European Parliament took a very active role and was involved in the debate on climate change. A strong delegation of the European Parliament led by the Vice-President of the Parliament, Mr Vidal-Quadras, and consisting of a number of eminent representatives of the Parliament, was also present at the Bali Conference.

I would also like to express support for the first interim report on climate change presented last Monday to your Climate Change Committee. Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, the last days of the Conference were conducted in a very, so to speak, electrified atmosphere of uncertainty. When it seemed that the negotiations would fail and that an agreement would not be reached, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon, also became involved and his intervention was important.

The fact that the negotiations were extended by one day and that they were conducted through the last two nights is testimony to their difficulty. The final agreement resulted in a decision on long-term cooperation within the framework of the Convention under the title Bali Action Plan. In compliance with this document, negotiations will start as early as March or April and, by the end of next year, should lead to a full global agreement on tackling climate change after 2012.

Allow me to mention some essential elements of this agreement: firstly the part relating to international measures for improving, that is, reducing emissions. This agreement stresses that the efforts of all developed countries to reduce emissions must be comparable with each other. This means that the United States of America will also be included in the reduction of emissions. Here we must stress that, unlike the Kyoto Protocol for 2008-2012, this plan does not secure any quantified obligations.

The second element is that developing countries will contribute to the reduction in emissions within the framework of sustainable development. This is where the support of developed countries, with the transfer of technology and suitable finances, is very important. Alleviation of the effects of climate change will also include measures and positive encouragement to prevent the clearing and destruction of forests in developing countries, which makes a large contribution to the global emissions of greenhouse gases.

The third element consists of improved adaptation measures to include international cooperation. The fourth includes improved measures for the development and transfer of technologies that enable adaptation and alleviation concomitantly with economic development. For more effective alleviation of, and adaptation to, climate change, it is necessary to secure easier access to environmentally friendly technologies for developing countries. The fifth decision relates to improved financing and investment in the alleviation of climate change. This foresees support for developing countries to implement the national measures for the alleviation of, and adaptation to, climate change.

Further negotiations will take place under the auspices of a newly established ad hoc working group for long-term cooperation within the framework of the Convention. They will already be meeting four times this year. The negotiation process will be intensive and will demand great efforts on the part of the negotiators. The current negotiations relating to the post-2012 obligations of developed countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol will continue. These negotiations should also be concluded by the end of next year. They will run in parallel with the negotiations within the Bali Action Plan.

In our opinion, the decisions adopted at the Bali Conference are appropriate. They contain essential elements towards which we in the European Union are striving. Among the greatest achievements is the involvement of all countries, developed and developing, in the common reduction of emissions. We acknowledge the equality of inclusive adaptation. We expect the Bali Action Plan to shift the deadlock on the transfer of climate-friendly technologies to developing countries.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Conference gave us a broad framework for further negotiations. This compromise is, in a way, the most that could be achieved in view of the current state of the global consensus. Future negotiations will be technically and politically very demanding. We are of the opinion that they will have a successful outcome if we manage to preserve the trend evident over the last year, when climate change has continued to climb up the political agenda.

To reach an effective international agreement, we will need stamina and patience as well as a lot of political will. Sometimes, the most necessary measures are last to be accepted.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. − (EL) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to begin by thanking you for this opportunity to debate both the results of the climate change conference held in Bali late last year and plans for what is to come after agreement on the commencement of negotiations has been reached.

First of all, I should like to express my admiration for the active role played by the European Parliament, and the support it has given, before and during the conference. The contacts and meetings we had with your delegation throughout the course of the conference proved exceptionally useful. I should especially like to stress the very important role of the European Parliament in providing information to officials from other countries. We certainly need mutual support to communicate and more broadly disseminate the EU’s position, which is a decisive element in maintaining our leading role. This was particularly useful in Bali and will prove even more so over the next two years.

As for the Bali results themselves, I should like to begin by saying that the conference has been an unqualified success, since at the outset of negotiations all the important countries arrived at an agreement on climate change for the post-2012 period. The agreement will be finalised in 2009 and will cover all the fundamental elements which the EU has resolutely sought.

We thus have a basis and a much-needed impetus to start negotiations so that an agreement can be reached on climate change. We are aiming for an agreement that will lead to drastic reductions in global emissions, in a first phase by 2020, and to still greater reductions thereafter. We are therefore satisfied with the overall result, which is fully consistent with our common aims for Bali.

The participation of the United States in the Bali discussions is a clear sign that it intends to play an active role in negotiations. Just as important as the Bali decision, however, is the emphasis placed for the first time on the need for developing countries to take active measures.

The leading, not to say mediating, role played by the EU, together with the perceptive and constructive input of certain developing countries such as Brazil and South Africa, were of crucial importance in bringing about this result. From now on, our aim is to achieve agreement for a future framework on climate change at the 2009 Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen. Of course, we also aim to match our ambitions based on scientific findings.

Let us make no mistake: the road to Copenhagen will be long and difficult. Above all, the EU must continue to play a leading role, as it did successfully in the preparations for the Bali conference; it placed its cards on the table in the run up to the conference, showed us what course we should take and persuaded others of its views before the main conference had started. The EU significantly influenced the conference’s positive outcome. We must bear this in mind when looking ahead to Copenhagen.

The Commission’s proposals accepted last week on the package of measures on climate and renewable sources of energy do exactly this; they prove that the EU is determined to make progress. I rely on your support and determination within the framework of the legislative procedure just begun to approve the package of measures before the end of the current parliamentary term and well before Copenhagen. Over the next two years we really must maintain the great political pressure being brought to bear on the issue, for it proved exceptionally useful in 2007. Good use of all the opportunities must be made to ensure that attention to the issue does not wane, both at European level and, more importantly, at international level.

If we are to reach an agreement before the end of 2009, we will clearly need to work together more closely and even more strategically with our primary partners. This is true of our partners from developed countries most of all, because we must ensure that they display greater willingness in making more determined progress towards drastically reducing emissions. Without such efforts we know that it will clearly be difficult to persuade developing countries to commit to further action. We must therefore use all the available international forums, including G8 summits, meetings between the major economies and bilateral dialogues, to guarantee and secure their agreement and to guide them determinedly in this direction.

We all know that some of our partners will be hard to convince. There is still a great reluctance on the part of the United States. On the other hand, we also know that progress is being made at state level, in business circles and, more generally, in the way in which public opinion perceives this issue. Climate change is already a central issue in political debate, as we can see in the current US presidential primaries.

Climate and energy will be among the priority items on the agenda for this year’s G8 summit chaired by Japan. This is expected not only to help in the announcement of a major and significant policy, but also to provide valuable opportunities that must be put to good use in the exchange of views with our partners from the industrialised nations. At the moment a lively debate is taking place in Japan on climate change. Let us use this opportunity to bring our partners closer and to demonstrate that ambition is not inconsistent with economic development or competitiveness.

Allow me to comment on the parallel courses of action. The UN will evidently remain the main negotiating forum for a post-2012 agreement on climate change, at which point the final agreement will need to be reached. More specifically, bearing in mind the limited resources and means available to us, as well as the very short time period that remains, we must ensure that all these international forums and action plans are used strategically in order to support and complement the UN plan of action without undermining it in any way whatsoever. We simply cannot afford to duplicate efforts or waste time when the UN action plan has to a certain extent already evolved.

We also need to work more closely with our partners from developing countries in order to plan carefully for their participation in and contribution to a future agreement. As was evident even in Bali, the development issue will be at the centre of negotiations: this is why our main challenge will be to build on mutual trust. The developing countries, the most advanced ones at least, are willing to take action. They will do so provided only that the developed countries fulfil their existing and new commitments to reduce emissions. The developed countries must also open up access for developing countries either to technology or, more generally, to funding.

In view of this, we must collaborate closely with the emerging economies in order to find the best combination of methods and incentives to ensure that these economies make fairly ambitious contributions, which will lead to even more serious efforts on their part after 2020. Bilateral cooperation and dialogue with important countries such as China and India will be of crucial importance.

Finally, I should like to say that the package of measures on climate and energy is evidence of our determination to progress from words to deeds; it also demonstrates that this can be done in a fair and economically effective manner, allowing everyone to be a winner. This, I believe, is the best way to influence our partners positively.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Karl-Heinz Florenz, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, you had an excellent team in Bali. They worked until they dropped, and I ask you to convey these thanks to your staff. As a European patriot, I believe that the real success of Bali lies in the absolutely crucial decisions taken by the European Union last March in favour of a trio of 20% reductions, and that is the basis on which our lives will be lived in this continent in the coming years.

I do not intend to deal with the various successes achieved in Bali, because my fellow Members will no doubt see to that. I am pleased that, besides making progress with the United States, we were also able to ensure that, in addition to the 38 countries which have already signed the Kyoto Protocol, the closest G77 countries are now committed to doing something rather than constantly lamenting the fact that every government is waiting for the others to act. This cat-and-mouse game is over. That breakthrough, incidentally, could not have been achieved without the help of the United States.

Allow me, Commissioner and Mr President-in-Office, just to say a few words on the things that will exercise us in this debate. We learned in Bali that we fall short if we confine all our discussions to CO2. I believe we need to develop far greater awareness of the sustainability debate, and it has also become apparent that we have more than just a climate crisis but also a raw-materials crisis, but even that can be turned to advantage.

I believe we must associate the concept of sustainability far more closely with our objectives in this field in order to heighten awareness. But that, of course, brings me straight to the Council, Mr President-in-Office. We are already observing our Member States starting to baulk at the 20/20/20 goals and trying to move heaven and earth to avoid having to achieve them. I believe you face an extremely formidable challenge as you strive, together with us, to achieve these goals, for when the show moves on to Poznań and thereafter to another northern country, we shall have to stand our ground. I hope that the Commission and Parliament will be the guarantors of further progress on this issue.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Guido Sacconi, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say at once that I completely agree with the statements that Minister Podobnik and Commissioner Dimas gave a short while ago. We see them more and more frequently and shortly we shall be able to communicate in nods and winks, without speaking and without interpreters, because, it seems to me, we understand each other very well.

I also agree with what they said concerning the fact that the additional responsibilities taken on by the European Union during the Bali Conference puts us under an obligation to play our part with even more coherence than before. However, today we are discussing Bali and on this issue we should pause for a moment, as, perhaps even tomorrow, we will approve a resolution that seems to me to be well put together.

The most accurate opinion that I have come across concerning Bali was one that had been written by Mr de Boer, who, as you know, is the executive director of the Framework Convention. He wrote about the fall of the ‘Berlin Wall of climate change’. This seems to me to be highly appropriate since, at Bali, as we have been reminded, a road map to Copenhagen was decided, with sufficiently precise stages and outlines. Specifically, and this is something I would like to emphasise, the issue of adaptation was discussed, even before 2012, as also increased financing. There was specific discussion of technology transfer, the issue of deforestation was included, but above all, and for me this is the most important and most promising issue, the barrier – hence the ‘Berlin Wall’ – of Annex 1 was overcome between industrialised countries and developing countries in a world that has changed, in which a good number of those that were developing countries are now experiencing massive growth.

In summary, the game of pass the parcel played by the USA, India and China so as not to do anything has, we could say, been exposed, and for this reason a situation has come about in which difficult negotiations – they will certainly be difficult – have a good possibility of reaching a successful conclusion.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Chris Davies, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Madam President, I think the Minister is correct in saying that we can be content with the agreement, and we can congratulate those involved in securing it.

I do not underestimate the difficulties in getting between here and Copenhagen in 2009; besides other matters – the rainforest issue and the technological transfer – there are all sorts of hurdles in the way.

We also have to be aware that climate change is going to take place anyway, whatever the outcome of these negotiations is. I was at the Holocaust Memorial Day service in Liverpool on Sunday, and I was conscious of just how is Europe, how are our people, how are our politicians going to react as billions of people across the world find themselves in positions of acute water scarcity, with ever more movement, ever more migration across the planet? What sort of reaction is there going to be? How much bigotry is going to be caused by this inevitable consequence?

We must do what we can. I have high hopes of emissions trading. I think it is getting better all the time, and I think the cap-and-trade system allows us really to tackle a huge proportion of the gases. Technology, too, is improving and being stimulated. I had a fantastic meeting this afternoon about reducing CO2 from cars, where the push that the introduction of the legislation has given seems to be already transforming attitudes and opening up opportunities. Maybe we can actually reach those targets without the need for biofuels. We can put those into power stations.

And carbon capture and storage (CCS): I really think we could be more ambitious in our targets. I think we could bring that forward by perhaps three or four years and try to get realistic programmes up and running well before 2020.

We need, from the European summit this spring, to get some firm commitments from governments. But, also on the European summit, I would say: renewable energy and energy saving – I think there is huge opportunity for governments to slip there, not to deliver on the goods, to find it politically difficult to bring about the institutional changes necessary, and I think the Commission needs to put as much pressure as possible to name and shame, to find new mechanisms, to ensure that Member States deliver on the goals they have now agreed.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Climate changes have accompanied the human race throughout history. In the opinion of many eminent scientists, however, man’s influence on these changes is not very great. That opinion is expressed, for example, in the open letter addressed to the UN Secretary General by a hundred scientists from all over the world. The European Commission seems totally unaware of this aspect of the matter, and instead of acting to alleviate factors that contribute to global warming, it is taking up arms against things that have nothing to do with human activity.

The Commission is now seeking to impose huge costs on the citizens of Europe for an action it has dreamed up from the realm of science fiction – actually, more fiction than science. According to preliminary estimates, each family will pay an average of more than 50 euros a month for this project, whose results may possibly be perceptible in 100 years or so. The real outcome, however, will be a worsening of the economies of the new Member States within the next two to three years. Such a drastic reduction in CO2 emissions will cause a serious slump in Poland, for example, which mainly derives its energy from coal.

If the European Union institutions want to take a practical approach to CO2 reduction, they should begin with themselves. May I remind you that 20 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere every year solely as a result of pointless journeys to sessions in Strasbourg.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Satu Hassi, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FI) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the Bali conference on climate was a success and we can be proud of the EU’s role there. Talks on the future of Kyoto were officially begun and all the essential issues are on the table. Not one of them has been omitted. The United States has thus not succeeded in limiting future negotiations, which are bound to be difficult, as people here have said.

The main message now, however, which Europe can send the world, is connected with our own climate policy. The best way to speed up the difficult international process is for us to pass ambitious laws on emissions trading, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

I am glad that the Commission last week saw climate protection as a positive economic option – the new industrial revolution. How we can remain at the forefront of the development in clean new energy technology is crucially important for our economic future.

We also have to understand that the real Gordian knot with regard to international negotiations on climate is fairness. The planet cannot be rescued unless the big developing countries, like China and India, also limit their emissions. For them to be able to accept this they have to feel that any negotiated solution is fair. We must be prepared in one way or another to compensate developing countries for the fact that our emissions per head of population are many times greater than those in the developing countries.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Dimitrios Papadimoulis, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (EL) Madam President, Commissioner, the last-minute compromise at Bali has allowed us to set our sights on Copenhagen in 2009; it has also revealed the forces of opposition which will undermine the required agreement. Until then the EU must remain in the vanguard, working for a broader agreement according to specific, ambitious commitments and a timetable. The benefits which will derive from such an agreement far outweigh the economic cost.

My Group, as well as the November 2007 European Parliament resolution, sets more ambitious and binding targets than those that the Commission presented a few days ago, both for the EU and for the Member States; my Group seeks more generous assistance for developing countries. A word of caution, Commissioner: the traditional industrial lobby has already begun to chip away at the Commission’s proposal and, at the same time, the nuclear lobby, like a wolf in ecological clothing, is trying to replace renewable sources of energy with nuclear ones. Please beware these attempts.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (NL) Madam President, the European Union went to Bali full of good intentions to obtain the best possible outcome. It did not achieve everything it set out to, but I am still positive.

First of all, I am, of course, pleased that all the participating countries were able to sign up to the Bali Action Plan, and that negotiations can start. It is a pity that no specific emissions standards have been included in the final text of the Action Plan, but progress has been made in other areas, such as the creation of a programme to tackle the serious problem of deforestation. Just last week there were more alarming reports about deforestation in Brazil. It is also good that western countries are to provide more support for the developing countries in the use of sustainable technologies.

Finally, one problem that has not been resolved is greenhouse gas emissions from maritime shipping. The complex nature of this highly polluting sector means that a global approach is necessary. Pressure must be put on the IMO to come up with an effective policy here as soon as possible. Commissioner, you can be very sure of our support for your approach.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Roger Helmer (NI). – Madam President, I understand that, on the day the Bali climate conference commenced, there were so many private jets that Bali’s airport ran out of parking space. Thus do our achievements fall short of our aspirations.

The Bali conference was supposed to pave the way for a post-Kyoto consensus, but Kyoto itself has failed. Not only did we fail to engage some of the world’s largest emitters, here in Europe only a handful of Member States will actually achieve their Kyoto obligations. Indeed, the United States, which we vilify for not ratifying Kyoto, is actually doing better than the EU in terms of emissions trend. Yet we have agreed little more at Bali than to keep talking in our attempts to replace one failed climate treaty with another.

I would like to see us worry less about climate change and more about energy security. Let us hear less about wind farms and auto emissions and more about investment in nuclear generating capacity and in waste-to-energy incinerators.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE-DE). – (SL) I think the resolution which was prepared by the Committee on Climate Change reflects the essential decisions of the Bali negotiations as well as the opinion of the European Parliament. My evaluation of the Bali timetable, i.e. the deadline for concluding the agreement for post-2012, is very positive. Only a clear working plan can secure continuity after expiry of the Kyoto Protocol, for which this Parliament has constantly striven.

I am pleased that the developing countries also undertook part of the responsibility for reducing CO2 emissions and committed themselves to sustainable development. That, of course, means strengthened international cooperation in the field of financial and human resources. I truly hope that the existing and currently implemented mechanisms in Europe, such as the carbon market, will be successfully translated at international level. However, we must simplify them and prevent them from becoming a disproportionate bureaucratic burden in relation to their potential advantages. Only in that way can we expect to succeed in reaching the set targets.

I see the current situation primarily as an opportunity. I see successful, sustainable development depending mainly on increased research capabilities. For example, the global investment in research into the energy supply has been reduced by 40% since the 1980s. The situation in the European Union is not much better. We need more money and more educated and creative people. I congratulate the negotiators from the European Union and I hope that, in future, we will always be represented by such persistent, sharp and successful negotiators. Finally, I would like to say that, usually, when it comes to climate change all eyes turn towards politicians, but action in the field of climate change does not involve politicians alone. This is a time for a fruitful reaction from industry, business people and researchers.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Elisa Ferreira (PSE). – (PT) In the resolution to be voted on tomorrow, Parliament acknowledges the political importance of the Bali Conference. Scientific knowledge has led to the political will to take action, and by 2009 all countries, whether developed, emerging or developing, will commit themselves to combating climate change with different but specific targets.

Contrary to some fellow Members, I would have liked to have seen greater involvement by some partners, particularly the United States, in Bali as well as in Kyoto. On the positive side, however, Bali remedied Kyoto’s shortcomings in areas such as forestry management, the need to support adaptation by the poorest countries in particular, the role of technology and the extension of climate responsibilities to economies not usually considered to be developed.

Europe’s leading role was clear, and this resolution shows that Parliament intends to create conditions that will allow Europe to make even more ambitious commitments. The work programme involved is demanding and Parliament is ready to carry it through.

To this end and on a personal note, I applaud the Commission for the set of decisions taken on 23 January. Translating political will into policy instruments lends credibility to the European Union. A great deal of detailed analysis will be required, but quantification of renewable energy targets, clarification of sustainability criteria for biofuels and revision of climate-related financial instruments, for example, are welcomed. Personally I am delighted with the change in the emissions trading system from a national to a sectoral approach, though it seems to me that its compatibility with European competitiveness must be enhanced before 2009 as a matter of urgency. The development of the emissions trading system to the international level, based on agreements for the principal sectors among the major world producers, could be a path to explore.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Holger Krahmer (ALDE). – (DE) Madam President, when we look back at the Bali conference, we cannot but conclude that it was the biggest, most expensive and most elaborate climate conference ever held and that it actually achieved only one result, namely an agreement to continue negotiating. If truth be told, nothing more came out of it.

An honest appraisal in the aftermath of Bali compels us to analyse the conference as follows: first of all, the International Panel on Climate Change managed to convince much of global public opinion with its climate scenarios but was by no means as convincing on the conclusions to be drawn from the present situation; secondly, while Europe forges ahead on its own, there is scarcely any sign of willingness among the international community to enter into binding agreements on CO2 reductions. This applies not only to the United States but also to Japan, Canada, Australia and many other countries. A glance at the four remaining candidates with a realistic chance of becoming President of the United States shows fairly clearly that there is virtually no prospect of commitment to a UN process in the field of climate policy.

We – by which I mean the EU – should rethink our strategy. What happens if the 2009 Copenhagen conference ends in failure? There are cost-effective alternatives to an international agreement, such as technology transfer, a decent system of incentives to protect tropical rain forests, carbon capture and storage and the development of nuclear energy too. The law of scarce resources will eventually induce even the United States and China to save energy and avoid CO2 emissions.

The new industrial revolution will come when the price of oil rises. We do not need to force it by enacting laws.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Madeleine Jouye de Grandmaison (GUE/NGL). – (FR) Madam President, the Bali Conference has reminded us that global warming is a challenge to development. There is a danger that global warming will increase the gap between the developed and the developing countries; there is no doubt that they will be most affected by the impact of climate change. That is particularly true of islands, which are vulnerable in more than one way, especially to cyclones and rising sea levels. In my view, aid to those countries for adaptation and the transfer of appropriate technologies should therefore be a priority.

Action against climate change has become inseparable from poverty reduction and achievement of the Millennium Goals. I see that as the best way to obtain the support of the G-77. If we want the process leading to Copenhagen in 2009 to succeed and additions to be made to the modest road map drawn up in Bali, it is absolutely essential to make progress with the developing countries. I see that the Union has given that its attention, which is to be welcomed, but I would like to draw very particular attention to the question of islands.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Irena Belohorská (NI). – (SK) Thank you very much, Madam Chairman, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen. The Bali Roadmap that was agreed at the international conference and the newly created Adaptation Fund both oblige the European Union to take a leading role.

The European Union must, however, realistically examine and assess the level of reduction that is tolerable. The proposal to reduce emissions by 25% to 40% by 2020 compared with 1990, or even by 50% by 2050, seems to me like random numbers without any real knowledge of the extent to which the emissions can be reduced. This is like a lottery game of percentages: an unpremeditated and unrealistic game of picking numbers out of a hat. In addition to that, unless the US, China and India participate, none of the EU efforts will have the desired effect since we cannot solve a global problem on our own.

If we set the stakes too high, then one country will fail to meet the target, then another country will fail to meet the target and in the end we will realise that we have all failed. Given this situation, I would say that if we are less ambitious yet realistic about emissions reduction, we will achieve a rational solution. It would suffice to look at how the European Union can meet the targets laid down by the Lisbon Treaty.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE). – Madam President, media critics have labelled the Bali COP as ‘talks with a tan’. However, having attended the last five COP sessions, for me Bali was effective. A two-year roadmap was elaborated, providing negotiating tracks for all countries to respond to the climate challenge.

Of course it is a pity that we have to admit that there is no global binding target yet and we still are lonely riders. But at least there is a theoretical possibility that within two years we will have a wider front than only one quarter of the emitters.

Not long after the Bali results, some hopefuls already raised the question as to whether this now automatically means that the front is wide enough for the 30% reductions, as was agreed in the March summit provided that the EU is not acting alone.

The answer, however, is: not quite yet. This is not only for economical but also for environmental reasons. For the EU, it is politically important to take the lead, hoping that the others will follow, but our unilateral effort – which it still is – reduces our competitiveness in global markets giving the advantage to the polluter.

This is called carbon leakage, as I have emphasised many times. The global capital will simply move to where there is no cost for emitting CO2. A pollution shift is not a pollution cut.

A unilateral climate policy hits the energy and employment intensive industries hardest so the polluter-pays principle becomes a polluter-wins or polluter-relocates policy. Luckily the Commission has understood this risk, as you, Commissioner Dimas, just very clearly indicated, and I thank you for that. As Commissioner Verheugen said recently, when describing the dangers of one-sided reductions: ‘We are exporting pollution and importing unemployment. Is that not stupid?’

He is right. Therefore we must devise a truly global-market-based mechanism and I believe that balancing this triangular dilemma of energy supply, environmental sensitivity and retaining globally competitive industries to employ our workforce is the key priority for a recently published climate package.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Riitta Myller (PSE). – (FI) Madam President, the best outcome of the Bali talks was the fact that international negotiations on a post-Kyoto agreement were begun. It was also important that we settled on a deadline, i.e. Copenhagen 2009.

People here have expressed surprise at the percentage figures the European Union has proposed in the Bali agreement. They are the same figures which the IPCC Panel presented in their assessments and they indicate the sort of reductions in emissions we in Europe - and globally - need to achieve to manage climate change without massive sacrifices being made. In a little less than two years we have to establish an agreement in which there is commitment to the earth’s temperature not rising more than two degrees. For this we need everyone: we need the European Union to show the way, we need the developed countries and we need to make a common effort to include the developing countries.

For the present we have our own job to do. We have to ensure that the laws the Commission proposed last week are carried through as ambitiously as possible here in Parliament and are implemented in the Member States.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hans-Peter Martin (NI). – (DE) Madam President, for ‘Bali’ read ‘Kyoto’ or ‘Rio 1992’, and most of the speeches made here would not be out of place. Why should that be, Mr President of the Council? Since yours is a small country, you might be able to diagnose why we never arrive at solutions. Is it the power of big business and business interests, is it the fact that the international system is not working, or is it a lack of public awareness? I believe an awareness deficit is no longer the problem, certainly not among decision-makers.

It all boils down to business and politics, and I think a great number of mistakes are being made in those domains. We cannot engage credibly in the process and find truly constructive solutions unless we start with ourselves. In practical terms, this would simply mean reducing the CO2 emissions that result from political activity.

Here is one quite specific example that the Slovenes could examine: if we were to give up Strasbourg and hold all our meetings here in Brussels, it would send out a small signal, both on the CO2 issue and in other respects. That would certainly be achievable for your Presidency, unlike the major projects that will have to be passed on to someone else in any case at the end of your six-month term.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS ROURE
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Janez Podobnik, President-in-Office. − (SL) Allow me a brief response to some views expressed in this very interesting discussion. After all, we were told that we do not achieve any results. The opinions of the Presidency and the President of the Council are different. Things are moving and we are obtaining results. After all, the Bali Conference and the agreement entered into by undeveloped as well as the most developed countries were actually a great success, but the success will only be complete in Copenhagen. That is why the next two years will be very important.

I would also like to express my support for the resolution to be adopted by the European Parliament tomorrow. We see it as ambitious and thorough and as an additional aid to reaching an agreement after 2012. The Presidency also supports your evaluation, already expressed here, that the European Union delegation was very successful. It was competent, unified and very dynamic. And last but not least it was credible, which is very, very important for the European Union. In truth we can be proud of the European Union and the role it played in Bali, especially its consistency.

It was said that the European Union is a pioneer in the development of new technologies. That may also answer some of the warranted fears or doubts also expressed among the Member States of the European Union about the new energy and climate package presented by the European Commission so effectively last week. In response, we think that it is also an opportunity for new jobs and new ecological innovations and should not raise fears about economic development.

We agree with the opinion that it is not only a matter of politics, but also of the economy. Actually, we could be even more ambitious. Dealing with climate change is de facto a success story of European politics. It is a great challenge not only for European politics and economics, but also for the citizens. I strongly support the Commissioner’s position that the attitude of the media is also very important. The media could play a very, very important role here. The package adopted by the European Commission last week is the result of an expert approach. The principles of equity and solidarity are built into it. As it has a very important role in adopting this package, we expect the European Parliament to play that role in a very dynamic way.

Somebody asked why it was necessary to travel to Bali and use unsustainable means of transport. One cannot get to Bali in any other way but by using various means of transport. However, our answer is that it was a well-chosen destination. Why? Because it was ... Indonesia is a developing country. One of the key moments for the Bali agreement was that developing countries joined this global agreement. Such an agreement was easier to reach in Bali, Indonesia, than elsewhere on our planet.

I would like to finish with a question relating to the 20/20/20. Are these targets going to be reached? The credibility of the European Union stands or falls on the achievement of these targets, not least because at the Council meeting last spring the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the governments of the European Union committed themselves to the 20/20/20 vision. The Presidency is committed and will do everything to reach these targets.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pilar del Castillo Vera (PPE-DE). – (ES) Madam President, Commissioner, it goes without saying that I congratulate the representatives of the Commission and Parliament on the work they did in Bali.

I shall adopt a more Euro-centric, more Euro-centrist view in addressing this and associated issues, as follows:

I should like to start by saying as has been said, although slightly differently, that necessity offers opportunities. The greater the need, the greater the opportunity. What are we facing? We are facing two needs: one is to combat the effects produced by climate change, mainly as the result of development and population growth; the second is to resolve issues concerning the supply of traditional sources of energy whose use is shrouded in uncertainty either because they are becoming more scarce or because they are located in areas where the geopolitics is complex.

What is there an opportunity for? There is an opportunity to develop efficient forms of energy which allow us to continue to be competitive, and which are clean and non-polluting; and also to guarantee supply because these are new forms of energy.

Wherein lies the problem? In my view, there is a leadership deficit in the European institutions when it comes to tackling these issues, a deficit in the Commission and in Parliament. There is one simple reason for this, namely that we are not able to explain that clean energy is made up of both renewables and nuclear energy.

This is not being done, this is not being explained, and it is the job of leaders to put solutions forward even though they may be difficult to discuss at a particular time.

Are we going to find ourselves in the paradoxical situation where China, India and other emerging economies have cleaner energy because they have developed nuclear sources and, what’s more, can compete with lower salaries? This is a matter which simply must be addressed, Commissioner.

I hope therefore that in Parliament and the Commission the nuclear energy question can be discussed calmly but decisively as we are continually pussy-footing around it and turning our backs on it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Dorette Corbey (PSE). – (NL) Madam President, Bali was just the beginning, a welcome first step on the way to an international climate agreement in 2009. Its success at the eleventh hour was down to Europe’s leadership, and I congratulate Commissioner Dimas and his team.

In December there is a global conference in Poznan. This will be the next test of European leadership. Europe must speak clearly with one voice, and loudly in favour of firm measures. We must make our position very clear to the rest of the world. Europe wants to reduce greenhouse gases by 30% by 2020. This is still our starting position in the negotiations. The fierce lobbying by some governments and captains of industry against the energy and climate package has sent out the wrong signal.

European leadership also means that we will implement the emission reductions that we are demanding of other countries in our own 27 Member States. This is important. In Poznan we have to show that Europe is willing and able to go further than a 20% reduction. If we take the Bali consensus seriously, we have to start with at least 25%. We have to show that we can achieve this without job losses, and I have every confidence that an historic climate agreement will be signed in 2009. A sound European climate policy is essential for this, however.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Madam President, the climate change conference in Bali was a test of whether there is generally a chance of worldwide cooperation to combat climate change. This is clearly a matter of exceptional importance for the whole world, but the political arena in which we are moving is highly differentiated, and we have to adapt our arguments to varying geopolitical realities. Although there were no spectacular successes, more was achieved than hitherto. We gained important partners.

In the European Union climate change is a priority issue. Putting it simply, nobody wants the lights to go out in their children’s homes. But not all European countries are at the same level of technological progress, and this is a further challenge for the European Union. Poland is a country in which 96% of electric power is produced by burning coal, and for that reason adapting our energy industry by 2020 may be an unbearable burden. We here in Brussels, who are responsible for the well-being of the people of Europe as a whole, must take greater account of the possibilities of individual countries and not set the bar so high that only a few can clear it.

With regard to the reduction of gas emissions, resource diversification is not the only possible approach. Non-emissive coal combustion is also worth investigating. Another possibility is nuclear power. Provided that, when the construction of a nuclear power station is planned, specific strategies are adopted to address all subsequent exploitation issues, nuclear power is one of the cleanest energy sources.

In short, I believe it is crucial for our future that we exert specific pressure on the research community to develop new technologies that are significantly more advantageous and more efficient for our planet than those currently available to us.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Adam Gierek (PSE). – (PL) Madam President, the energy and climate change package proposed for the European Union is an elaborate organisational and legislative mix aimed at achieving a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. The Commission’s ambitious plans are based on the assumption that the climate changes taking place in the world, which are an undoubted fact, are the result of CO2 emissions, and yet that has not been proved and was not sustained in Bali. All predictions in the matter are based solely on computer simulations and do not constitute proof.

First of all, Commissioner, more credible data is required on the influence of CO2 emissions on the climate. CO2 is the necessary substratum for photosynthesis. Is it therefore a destructive agent? I would refer you to the previously mentioned letter addressed by a hundred distinguished scientists to the UN Secretary-General last December.

Second, the Commission’s imposition of restrictions on CO2 emissions within the European Union without the issue being tackled on an international level will result in a downturn in economic development, with serious social consequences.

Third, and most important, in its energy and climate change package the Commission has ignored the main conclusion of the Bali conference concerning the adaptation of societies to unavoidable climate changes, i.e. to steppification, desertification, lack of drinking water, floods, etc. These are the main aims to which the resources which the Union is planning to devote to combating climate change in Europe should really be assigned.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ivo Strejček (PPE-DE). – Madam President, in the debate over so-called climate change, we take for granted a few disputable prerequisites. Firstly, climate changes are real and dominantly caused by people. Secondly, conclusions made by the IPCC Panel are the only valid results. There are no other groups of scientists with different opinions on global climate change. Thirdly, people are generally willing to discount their future and sacrifice current living standards. Fourthly, European businesses and enterprises will survive in global competition, even with higher prices. Fifthly, we will manage to persuade the rest of the world to follow our obligations. As I listen to the debate, I realise that I am in a minority in this House, but let me stress my position.

Firstly, the outcomes of the IPCC Panel are exaggerated. There are other groups of scientists who offer different positions on climate change and its causes. Secondly, there is no evidence that mankind is dominantly causing climate changes. Thirdly, climate change has become a fashionable political tool for manipulating people. Fourthly, the conference in Bali proved that there is no widespread support for excessive and extremely expensive measures for handling climate change. Fifthly, European producers will have to incorporate political decisions into prices, which will subsequently result in higher prices and further loss of European competitiveness at global level. Sixthly, ambitious plans for the reduction of greenhouse gases will harm developing countries, which will lead to deeper differences between the rich and the poor.

So what should be done? We had better reduce the legendary European red tape, limit the production of legislation at a supranational level and let people work and invent.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE). – (RO) We are all beginning to feel climate change, no matter which continent or country we live in. We are facing floods, desertification, water shortages, forest fires, glacial meltdown, and changes in the flora. The UN has declared 2008 the International Year of Planet Earth. The Bali conference is extremely important for a post-Kyoto agreement on the fight against climate change.

The European Union should remain in the vanguard of action to reduce climate change and adapt to its effects. Existing European legislation and the new package recently presented by the Commission for the promotion of renewable energy sources are cases in point.

I’m glad that we are having this debate during the European sustainable energy week. Transport accounts for 30% of the global energy consumption, and urban transport accounts for 70% of emissions. Including air transport in the emission quota exchange system is a major step. Other Community objectives should be more effective urban transport and promoting railway and waterborne transport, as they cause less pollution.

We call on the Commission and the Council to include climate change among its priorities, both in EU affairs and in its international relations.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Agnes Schierhuber (PPE-DE). – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the conference in Bali was a step in the right direction, and I should like to express my warm thanks to my fellow Members and to the Commission for what I regard as a good result.

The increase in the average global temperature is already having an impact in many parts of the world. It is therefore imperative to adhere to the aim of limiting global warming to a maximum of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Efforts to achieve that aim must be reinforced and nurtured by means of new innovations, investments in research and development and, above all, investment in education and training. Climate change interacts with agriculture in three different ways. On the one hand, farming is the third-biggest source of pollution after transport and industry. Secondly, it bears the heaviest brunt of climate change, because our agricultural production takes place in the open air, which means that it is more directly exposed than any other economic activity to the effects of climate change.

Thirdly, farmers can also see climate change as an opportunity and turn it to account. New prospects are opening up to us in the farming community as producers of renewable resources and above all – in the second and third generations – as producers of substitutes for petrochemical products, not to mention the scope for new cultivation methods. I must re-emphasise the importance of research and development and of education, especially in the agricultural sector. The production of renewable resources, however, is crucially dependent on the development and application of sustainability criteria.

Climate change, Commissioner, is a global problem, affecting entire societies rather than being confined to specific areas of activity. Accordingly, this comprehensive EU-wide and indeed worldwide approach is the only way to tackle it. The European Union should play a leading and facilitating role in these efforts.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Margaritis Schinas (PPE-DE). – (EL) Madam President, Commissioner, the road from Bali to Copenhagen is now open and I think that it should not occupy us so pressingly. We must now concentrate as a matter of urgency on the new package of targets that you have submitted: the three 20s for 2020, as I call it, or what others refer to as the ‘Dimas package’. As things stand, though, I believe that in the next 18 months until the end of this Parliamentary term, this package of initiatives ought to become Community legislation. That is our absolute priority. Many have criticised you for making this package too ambitious, and others for its complete lack of ambition. This, I daresay, is the best proof that you are on the right track.

Allow me to make one further brief point. Not merely governments and the European Parliament, but also individual citizens must play their part. We can all do better here. Everything from traffic jams to how we design buildings and live in them concerns citizens, not just governments. I trust that your work in Brussels will help raise general awareness of this.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE). – (PL) Madam President, Commissioner, listening to today’s debate I noted with surprise that the term ‘sustainable development’ was not used once. It was a fashionable even if a somewhat overworked concept as recently as the early 1990s, as shown by the agreement of the states attending the Rio de Janeiro conference in 1992 to protect the environment in a reasonable fashion in the course of its exploitation.

Ladies and gentlemen, sustainable development is not an outdated concept, a passing fad of politicians and environmentalists. It is a concept that seeks to reconcile the interests of the huge ecology lobby with those of the industrial lobby. So let us look at the achievements of the Bali conference in the light of the old principle of sustainable development, a principle valued not only in Europe but at international level too. We must protect our planet against climate change, but not at the cost of destroying our industry. Let us seek an intelligent compromise.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Commissioner, I attended the Bali conference as a member of the Polish delegation. It was moderately successful. European countries are now responsible for COP14 and COP15. What is the greatest obstacle to complete success?

In my opinion it is the lack of effective, accessible cheap technology. We, as the European Union, should concentrate on this. In so doing we shall be helping ourselves and our economy, and also helping others through the transfer and exchange of the best technologies. It will be a lot cheaper than imposing on industry ever more increasingly drastic emission reductions. It requires revision of the EU budget and a transfer of resources. Let us decide to do that.

This year in Poznań, in the framework of COP14, the Polish Government will be proposing a worldwide review of the best technologies. The leading firms and most advanced countries will be presenting the best technological solutions. If Copenhagen is to succeed in 2009, we must first make a success of Poznań 2008.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – Madam President, having attended my fifth UN climate change COP and MOP, I returned from Bali with a sense of achievement for the first time on this most important of global issues.

One of the clearest messages from Bali was the urgent need to find a mechanism to ensure avoided deforestation and degradation of our forests is part of any post-2012 international agreement.

I would like us to be in a position to add another 20% to the ‘20/20/20 by 2020’ formula. If we had an agreed system of credits to reward or compensate native communities, thereby mitigating the present rate of deforestation, particularly of our tropical forests – notwithstanding the immense difficulty in mapping a baseline figure for existing forestation – we could reduce global carbon emissions by another 20%, so that ‘20/20/20/20 by 2020’ must be our goal.

Bali produced the roadmap for global agreement by COP15 in 2009 in Copenhagen, very ably led by you for the EU, and I would like to congratulate you, Commissioner, on your personal contribution.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Anni Podimata (PSE). – (EL) Madam President, Commissioner, the EU is in the vanguard of the struggle to combat climate change and in this struggle you are clearly playing a special role. If the EU is to remain in the vanguard of this struggle, however, it is not enough simply to create legislative initiatives or draw up binding targets. The EU must also play a leading part in the implementation of the binding targets that it has set, with as united a front as possible. We can see that there are many serious divergences amongst the EU Member States in the implementation of targets for combating climate change. For this reason we are now awaiting measures, incentives and initiatives to narrow the gap and make the responses to this target of the EU Member States as a whole more cohesive.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) As a substitute member of the Temporary Committee on Climate Change, I would like to highlight the huge success achieved by the European Parliament at the global conference in Bali.

The European Parliament must become a visionary pressing for permanent sustainable development. What do we have to do next? Firstly, we cannot slacken our efforts. The European Union must encourage investment in research and development aimed at developing efficient technologies that require less energy.

We cannot talk solely about CO2. Setting increasingly strict ecological conditions is not the correct solution: by doing so we risk putting our small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe at a disadvantage. We must not resist new ideas such as the strategy of helping the climate to recover through the medium of water.

A team of Slovak and Czech scientists led by Michal Kravčík, an eminent expert in using water to recover arid urban spaces, has prepared a new water paradigm. Concentration of rainwater in water containers is a simple, quick and very effective solution. I believe that storing rainwater for future use instead of letting it go down the drain is a good strategic solution not only in the US but also in Europe. I trust that the Commission and the Council will support innovators’ ideas and that the use of new water paradigm will get the support it deserves in Europe too.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – Madam President, it is great to listen to a debate and then be able to respond and to hear from those who were in Bali because we do not hear enough as to what happens out there.

Can I raise just one particular issue? It is fashionable to talk about climate change and, while the public have bought into it at the moment, I think we are at risk of switching them off. We need to be very careful that what we suggest and propose is doable and we have practical results to show for it.

In relation to agriculture, raised by Ms Schierhuber in particular: in Ireland, for example, 28% of our emissions come from agriculture. I believe that agriculture has contributed significantly already. We need, again, to be careful not to ask too much of agriculture and risk our food security. So this is not an easy problem to solve. The point was made about forests. I think we need to look at encouraging those continents with vast forests not to rip them out, just as we are trying to encourage our farmers not to plough permanent pasture because of such important carbon sinks.

So let us do what we can on the global stage and let us all hope that people are buying into the European leadership on this, because without it we really do not have a chance of achieving our objectives.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. − (EL) Madam President, I should firstly like to thank the Members of the European Parliament for their highly positive contributions.

One thing is clear: we have tonight heard views representing the arguments of those such as the United States and Australia who did not want to move towards ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. These views have since been abandoned, as Australia has ratified Kyoto and in the United States, at both federal and state level, these views are no longer accepted.

I also heard an erroneous statement, which I am sure the honourable Member made in good faith, namely that the United States has better results than the EU. As is shown by the data for 2005, however, the United States has increased its greenhouse gas emissions by 16.4%, while the EU is reaching the Kyoto target and in 2005 emitted in total 7.9% less than 1990 levels. T here is therefore a wide gap between the EU’s achievements and what the United States is failing to achieve, and it should be noted that the United States was due to reduce its emissions by 7% under the Kyoto Protocol, which it signed but did not ratify. Instead of the -7% target, emissions were +16.4% in 2005, while the EU is on its way to meeting its target of -8%. This is already below 1990 levels.

I should also like to point out that Ireland’s greatest problem is the major increase in its carbon dioxide emissions from transport. In recent years we have seen a 160% increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Undoubtedly, agricultural production plays a major role and there are many solutions in that area. For example, New Zealand has developed special animal feeds, which are contributing greatly to limiting carbon dioxide emissions.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Bali action plan, which was agreed last December, is an important element in the debates on the future international climate change regime. Our fundamental achievement was to have already begun formal negotiations; there are now clear indications that the requisite target in the fight against climate change is being reached, with regard to the agreement on climate covering the post-2012 period. Within the scope of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change the creation of a new ad hoc group has been approved to negotiate long-term cooperation, together with an ad hoc working group already operating under the Kyoto Protocol. All the parties contracted to the United Nations Framework Convention, including the United States, will take part in these negotiations. A major issue will be funding the struggle against climate change. We must find ways to speed up funding, channel investments and make these ways even more environmentally friendly: this will encourage clean technology and efforts to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, thus attracting investment both from the public sector and also to a large extent from the private sector. This is the central element of the negotiations; allow me, though, to stress how important it is that we in the EU take action without a moment’s delay. As your resolution correctly emphasises, we must, among other things, increase our efforts to integrate climate parameters into our development policy.

I am convinced that we can also be more successful in areas such as trade and investments at bilateral and regional level. Further mobilisation of the private sector is also vitally import and must be exploited even more.

Preventing deforestation is undoubtedly very important. As you have correctly pointed out, relatively small investments can help us make gains both in the fight against climate change and also in the prevention of loss of biodiversity. We shall move in this direction because the prevention of deforestation can be achieved even before an agreement is concluded or the new agreement comes into force. This is therefore a vital area for us to tackle.

The Commission is determined to help the EU maintain its leading role in these new discussions on future climate change arrangements; I am greatly relying on your support in this matter. We are at the very beginning of negotiations on climate change policies for the post-2012 period. The EU’s leading role in the climate change issue will be crucial in ensuring that this dialogue continues and yields positive results. We must, however, always bear in mind that our leading role depends on and is influenced by the policies and measures we adopt within the EU. The implementation within the EU of climate policies and the speedy approval of the raft of climate and energy measures will continue to be crucially important if we want to maintain our leading role and drive international efforts in combating climate change to a successful conclusion.

Let me once more stress that we look forward to continuing and close cooperation with Parliament in this process.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – In accordance with Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure, I have received a motion for a resolution winding up this debate(1).

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, 31 January 2008.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE-DE), in writing. (RO) We have recently received a document concerning the climate change that all of us can perceive. The document entitled "Don't fight, adapt - We should give up futile attempts to combat climate change" has been sent as an open letter to the UN Secretary General.

As its title indicates, 100 specialists are urging us to accept climate change not with resignation but with enthusiasm, arguing that CO2 is essential to photosynthesis.

I’m no chemist or biologist, but I haven’t been able to ignore the dramatic climate changes taking place in recent years. I can’t help noticing that we no longer have four seasons, but two. I will not resign myself to the idea that in ten years’ time I will be skiing indoors, on a 100-yard slope. I will not accept the notion that I can only sunbathe between 5 and 7 a.m., for fear of getting skin cancer. So I say to myself – I couldn’t care less about their photosynthesis, what I want is to go skiing, to sunbathe and to lead a normal life.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gyula Hegyi (PSE), in writing. (HU) The climate summit organised by the UN in Bali did not have any specific results, but did open up the way for a new, global climate agreement after 2012. Unfortunately, the largest emitters, such as the United States and China, still do not want to be part of this important process that serves the Earth's future. Considering the preparations for the American presidential elections that have taken place up to now, however, we may hope that a candidate who, in contrast with the current administration, feels responsible for the future of our planet is the one who wins. If the United States signs up to the climate agreement, it will hopefully be easier to convince China. Of course, we must not forget that Europe is the largest consumer of Chinese products, and consequently, as buyers, we also have a hand in Chinese greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Union’s representatives in Bali spoke of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% in their declarations. Last year, the European Parliament voted for a 30% reduction in emissions. The latest report by the Commission still only recommends a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020. It would be advisable to sort out these objectives, to support the same targets externally and internally, and for my part I naturally support the more ambitious reduction of 30%.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (PSE), in writing. (RO) The crowning moment of the Bali conference was the adoption of a roadmap for a secure climate future, which is a new negotiation process due for completion in 2009, leading to the resumption of negotiations concerning global warming after 2012, when the first stage of the Kyoto protocol ends.

The outcome of the conference consisted of major decisions underpinning the roadmap: the Adjustment Fund, the transfer of green technology from the rich countries to the poor, measures for decreasing emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. Fighting deforestation is an essential priority in European environmental policy, and a coordinated effort on the part of Member States will help to combat global warming.

It is a promising sign that the Bali Action Plan includes strategies for containing environmental disasters and means of addressing the losses and damage associated with climate change in developing countries. The European Union played a major part in the successful conclusion of this conference, ensuring that the latest scientific recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were given due consideration.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (PSE), in writing. (HU) I welcome the compromise achieved at the Bali climate protection summit, and the decision relating to this by the EP Climate Change Committee.

In my opinion, the Bali compromise is a breakthrough, because the parties agreed to a mandate for negotiating a new climate change agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol which will expire in 2012. At the same time, for the first time, developing countries and the United States have also committed themselves to reducing the impact of climate change.

Hungary’s position is the same as that of the other Member States of the EU. In March 2007, the European Council decided to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020 in comparison with the 1990 level. In order to meet this ambitious target, the European Commission prepared its plan for a climate protection and renewable energy package, thus providing an example for other industrialised countries.

I hope that its report on sustainable agriculture and biogas, adopted yesterday by the European Parliament's Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, will also contribute to the fight against climate change.

I would like to draw attention to the fact that climate change is already a real problem in Hungary, since desertification threatens the area between the Danube and the Tisza. The environmental and social erosion of the Homokhátság area must be stopped, because it would lead to the subsistence of around 800 000 people falling into even greater danger.

We must stop the desertification of the Homokhátság!

 
  
  

(The sitting was suspended at 8.40 p.m. and resumed at 9 p.m.)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 
  

(1)See minutes.


21. One-minute speeches on matters of political importance
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the one-minute speeches.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Iuliu Winkler (PPE-DE). – (HU) Thank you very much, Mr President. The Regional Development and Cohesion Funds are very important for the new Member States, since the differences between regions are very significant for them. My country, Romania, can apply for more than EUR 20 billion for regional development by 2013. One year after our accession, experience shows an improvement in drawing on funds dedicated to regional development, but we are still far from accomplishing what we want. It is crucial for the regions of Romania that they increase their ability to draw on the Funds, by using them effectively and accounting for them systematically.

Romania needs tools for this, such as, for example, an effective and increasingly decentralised system of public administration institutions, and a new division into areas of economic development, since the current regions are not fit for purpose, nor are they effective, so new regions need to be created from the bottom up according to appropriate social agreements, and which would be led by elected regional governments. The new division of Romania into areas of economic development cannot be delayed. Thank you very much.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marusya Ivanova Lyubcheva (PSE). – (BG) I would like to draw your attention to some problems related to disaster and accidents at sea. These are usually discussed when they occur, and then time quickly sweeps tragedies away from memory. Accidents at sea, however, are part of the common maritime policy. We must get ready for them just like we get ready to implement a transfer.

The Bulgarian ship Vanessa was shipwrecked recently in the Sea of Azov. During the past several months there were a number of accidents in the Bay of Kerch in bad weather. Sailors died, others went missing, there were damages worth millions of euro. The Sea of Azov and the Black Sea were polluted with oil. The common maritime policy needs to provide for measures to minimize risks and establish navigation arrangements which will reduce accidents. We need a comprehensive scheme for rapid response and conduct of emergency rescue operations. We need equipment which can operate in severe weather stationed so as to enable its rapid deployment at accident sites.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Magor Imre Csibi (ALDE). – (RO) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen: obesity affects more than half of the population in most Member States. What is even more worrying is that every year more than 400 000 European children become overweight. One of the issues to be addressed in combating obesity is the effective labelling of food products. Unfortunately, European food labels do not yet provide the information consumers need in order to make healthy and safe decisions.

Therefore, I welcome the European Commission’s proposal to review the Directive on the labelling of foodstuffs and implicitly the establishment of a simplified labelling system, printed on the front of the packaging of foodstuffs. However, I regret that the Commission’s proposal does not include a colour-coded labelling system clearly indicating the nutritional value of the product (low, medium, high). Labelling should be to the advantage of both manufacturers and consumers, and a well informed consumer will make wise dietary choices.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Brian Crowley (UEN). – Mr President, with regard to the upcoming referendum in Ireland on the Reform Treaty, I would like to put into context the importance of this from an economic point of view, because the Reform Treaty, if nothing else, is about making the European Union more efficient in its decision-making capacity, which in itself will lead to greater economic success and greater growth. From an Irish perspective, last year there was EUR 2.6 billion worth of investment in Irish industry and Irish business; 9 000 new jobs were created; there were over EUR 80 billion worth of exports; over 80% of all products manufactured in Ireland were exported, mainly to the European Union markets. Average salaries in Ireland are EUR 44 000 per year, and over EUR 3 billion are taken by the Government in corporation tax. These issues – to ensure the continuing growth in economic terms, in employment terms, in economic growth and in wealth management – are what is so important. That is why we are all seeking a ‘yes’ vote for the referendum in Ireland.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL). – (PT) When unemployment in Portugal has risen to one of the highest levels in the last 20 years, affecting women and young people in particular, yet another multinational is exerting pressure on workers to rescind their contracts of employment. The company concerned is Yasaki Saltano, which wishes to abandon cable production in Serzedo, Gaia. It intends to continue to transfer production to other countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, after already making drastic cuts in its labour force. This multinational employed over 6 000 workers in its factories in Ovar and Serzedo, for which it received millions of euros in Community aid. Those jobs have now been cut by more than two thirds, however.

We must therefore once again stress the need for effective measures to prevent these relocations of production, rather than mere palliatives such as the current globalisation fund for workers affected by relocations of multinationals, particularly in the automotive and automotive components sector, examples being Opel Portugal, Johnson Controls and Alcoa Fujikura, which have now closed.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Urszula Krupa (IND/DEM). – (PL) Mr President, at the last session I was not allowed to speak, and I am therefore protesting today, in the European Parliament, at an infringement of human rights and an assault on the dignity of the individual.

During a flight to Buenos Aires at the invitation of the Polish American community, where we transmitted and defended universal European values together with the director of a Catholic radio station respected by millions of listeners, we were harassed by journalists from the private, commercial television network TVN, who tried to force us to give interviews, and personally insulted the clergyman and myself, a Member of the European Parliament. This psychological violence, which endangered our mental and physical wellbeing during the fourteen-hour flight, was relieved by several interventions on the part of the Lufthansa flight crew, but it continued after we landed.

I would also draw attention to the danger of supplying third parties with information about flights, seat numbers and hotel reservations, contrary to existing legislation, since it can be used by all sorts of terrorists.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Peter Baco (NI). – (SK) Ladies and gentlemen, in their speeches in the European Parliament our Hungarian colleagues regularly attack Slovakia without any justification. The last attack consisted of lies about the abolishment of the national radio broadcasting network in Slovakia and teasing about how Slovakia should cooperate with Hungary on the normalisation of protection of Little Rye Island waters on the Danube.

We have already come to an agreement, after all, on the water regime in the entire Danube region. The last agreement consisted of a treaty concluded by Hungarian and Slovakian Government delegations in 1998 – I led the Slovakian delegation – and I remember well that this treaty accommodated the Hungarian requirements concerning this area too. The Slovakian Government has ratified this treaty and respects it, and now, finally, it needs to be ratified and respected by the Hungarian Government too.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Roberta Alma Anastase (PPE-DE). – (RO) Mr President, as rapporteur on regional cooperation in the Black Sea region, I would like to express concern for Bulgaria's agreement of 18 January 2008 to take part in and support the Russian South Stream energy project.

This project poses a dual challenge to the energy security of the European Union. First of all, a Member State’s support to this project runs counter to the primary objective of diversifying the energy resources of the Union. The South Stream project would only increase the EU’s dependence on a single source. Secondly, by its very existence, the South Stream project undermines the NABUCCO project, which is believed to be of strategic importance for the success of EU energy security policy.

Allow me to remind you that this agreement between Bulgaria and Russia came at a time when the European Parliament was adopting with a majority of votes the report on Black Sea cooperation.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Cătălin-Ioan Nechifor (PSE). – (RO) I would have preferred my first one minute speech not to deal with a negative topic, but what happened last week on the Eastern border of the European Union should serve as a warning to us all.

On 21 and 22 January, groups of Ukrainian citizens blocked the access of cars to the Siret-Porubnoe border post, between Romania and the Ukraine, because of their discontentment with the requirement to pay for a visa for entering Romanian territory, whereas Romanian nationals no longer require a visa to go to the Ukraine as of 1 January 2008.

As a Member State, Romania must comply with European regulations concerning visas for non-EU nationals and cannot possibly grant preferential treatment to the Ukraine. This is why I believe that the Parliament and the Commission should ask for more consistent action from the Ukraine, as a means of asserting its European vocation...

(President interrupts the speaker)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Mr President, I want to draw attention to a recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency on water quality in Ireland. While we have invested significantly in upgrading waste water systems under the Water Framework Directive, we still have to achieve certain objectives with regard to water quality.

In this connection, I want to mention an issue which we have ignored and continue to ignore in Ireland: the issue of putting substantial resources into upgrading and refurbishment of septic tanks in Ireland, particularly in rural Ireland. There is far too great a tendency to blame septic tanks for the threat of pollution to Irish drinking water. But, to the extent that there is a problem, it is imperative that the Irish Government put in place a grant-aided programme to examine and, where necessary, upgrade existing septic tanks.

But perhaps there is an agenda here not to invest in upgrading septic tanks, and then to use this as a stick with which to beat the rural population. If so, this is short-sighted and totally contrary to European legislation.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Francesco Enrico Speroni (UEN). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Neapolitan politicians are in the habit of sending their rubbish throughout Europe. Today the waste has reached the Quirinale, where the dirty Bolshevik Napolitano has given the order to provide blandishments to prolong the death-agony of his drinking friends, without a care for democracy or for the people’s wish to vote for a new parliament. This, however, is all you would expect from someone who spoke in favour of the Soviet invasion of Hungary.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL). – (PT) I would like to take this opportunity to speak in the plenary to denounce the unacceptable situation of Kader Şahin, a young Turkish Communist Party activist who has been detained by decision of the Turkish authorities since January 2007, with no grounds being given for the charges against her, or for holding her in preventive custody awaiting trial.

Kader Şahin was arrested when a press conference denouncing the repression of Turkish political prisoners in December 2000 was violently disrupted by Turkish police. Bearing in mind that another hearing on her case is scheduled for 5 February, we express our dismay at this situation and call upon the Turkish authorities to release her immediately and drop the unfounded allegations against her.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Mr President, Alexander Litvinenko testified to the Mitrokhin Commission in Italy and made to me personally the allegation that Romano Prodi was an agent of some kind of the KGB. Mario Scaramella of the Mitrokhin Commission later came to London to warn Mr Litvinenko of murder threats. Mr Litvinenko was soon murdered.

Mr Scaramella returned to Italy, where he was immediately arrested. He has been detained for the last 13 months on trumped-up charges, without trial and denied access to the outside world. Mr Scaramella has lost his income, his home, is separated from his children and his health is at risk. Mario Scaramella is a political prisoner. His continued detention is a scandal at the heart of the European Union. His only offence, if it can be so called, was to help shine a light into the rotten corners of European politics. All democrats should call for his immediate, unconditional release.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  László Tőkés (NI). – (HU) In this European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, I would like to draw your attention to an extremely discriminatory draft law by the Romanian Conservative Party which, if adopted, would penalise people who belong to ethnic minorities and who do not speak the state language of Romania with loss of their nationality. This language law is primarily aimed at the Hungarian community in their ancient homeland of Transylvania. Up to now, not a single Romanian parliamentary party has opposed it, and the National Council for Combating Discrimination has even given it the green light. At the same time, the Romanian parliament is preparing to adopt another discriminatory law, the Education Act. We will be contacting Leonard Orban, the Romanian Commissioner responsible for multilingualism in the European Commission, about these issues very soon, because we are convinced that Romania must follow the democratic practice of the European Parliament with regard to its language laws.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Colm Burke (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I wish to raise an issue in relation to the Convention on the Adoption of Children. This was adopted by the Council of Europe in 1967. Four decades later it is out of date and needs to be replaced.

In 2002 the Council of Europe decided that it should be changed. There were proposals agreed in 2004. The text of the new convention was agreed in 2007 by the legal experts. However, it appears that one country is now having a road block and blocking it from coming before the Committee of Ministers.

I think a clear message should be sent from Parliament to the Council of Europe that this matter needs to be amended at the earliest possible date and a new convention put in place to bring it up to date with what has happened in individual countries, and also taking into account the decisions of the Court of Human Rights. I would ask that a clear message be sent to the Council of Europe.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, the cost of visas for non-EU citizens has increased following the extension of the Schengen zone. Belarusians, for example, now have to pay 12 times as much for a visa – 60 euros instead of 5 euros. That is as much as a junior doctor earns in Belarus. Sixty euros is a third of the average monthly wage. For many Belarusians it is a barrier that prevents them from obtaining visas and visiting their EU neighbours.

The Union is impeding direct contact between citizens just when it is enshrining a policy of good neighbourliness in the Treaty of Lisbon. The increase in the price of visas is thus a painful paradox. It is also a perfect present for President Lukashenko, who says Belarusians can expect nothing from Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen, this must be changed. I call for all steps to be taken to reduce the price of visas for citizens of Belarus.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Toomas Savi (ALDE). – Mr President, yesterday the Russian state-funded youth organisation Nashi published the list of Estonians whom they propose to declare personae non gratae in Russia. Amongst them, next to the President of the Republic of Estonia, Toomas-Hendrik Ilves, a former MEP, is my friend and colleague, Tunne Kelam, a member of the delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee.

Nashi, supporting the non-democratic regime of President Putin, describes Mr Kelam as a consistent Russophobe, who has been notable for his nervousness and unhealthy homespun nationalism.

All of us who know Mr Kelam well are perfectly aware that those heartless words are complete lies. In my opinion, the European Parliament should react to this insult. But, on the other hand, being an enemy of the enemies of democracy in Russia is quite a grand compliment to Mr Kelam and his efforts.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ewa Tomaszewska (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, one of the main principles valued throughout the European Union is that of non-discrimination. Many documents contain references to the need for special protection for the rights of the disabled. The social role of sport, including its role in social integration, is also appreciated. Some EU countries are now adopting legislation on social assistance for sportspeople and former sportspeople, especially former Olympic participants, in difficult material circumstances. So much the better. But it is hard to accept that disabled sportspeople should be overlooked in this connection.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Desislav Chukolov (NI). – (BG) For the past 20 years Bulgaria should have been a rule-of-law country but it is not. Neo-communists in our country will stop at nothing. Georgi Pirinski, the Speaker of Bulgaria’s Parliament, restricts the freedom of speech by imposing prohibitions on journalists, thus preventing them from doing their job. At the same time it turns out that Mr. Pirinski is a US citizen and according to Bulgarian legislation he is anything but a Bulgarian citizen. On the other hand, one of the most notorious drug traffickers in Europe, Budimir Kujovic, has Bulgarian citizenship because he was issued a passport by the top people in the Ministry of Interior, so that he could travel across the Union freely and go about his business. The Prosecutor’s Office conducted an inquiry, no one is to blame, but the passport is a fact.

At the same time, the party most strongly in opposition in our country, Ataka, is subjected to daily attacks by the powers that be. Our leader’s wife, Kapka Siderova, had a miscarriage because the harassment against her got so far that charges were pressed against her in a fabricated political trial. Finally, I suggest to Mr. Pöttering that he should do something more than sit apathetically and support neo-communists in Bulgaria.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jaroslav Zvěřina (PPE-DE). – (CS) As far back as 2000 the Council of Europe expressed its wish to transform the European Union, within 10 years, into the most dynamic and competitive part of the world. Since then it has been repeatedly said that somehow we are not succeeding.

Nothing substantial has been done about the patents legislation and our entire innovation environment is lacking dynamism.

The modified Lisbon Strategy does not bring anything that is very new. Perhaps the targets it sets are slightly more modest. This is a further reason why we should try to set targets that are easier to meet. In my opinion, these include the simplification of legislation and the abolishment of unnecessary regulations in all areas where this is possible.

Curbing the high rate of European legislation is a promising method. Introducing the principle of ‘discontinuity’ into the workings of the European Parliament would surely be beneficial in this regard. It would be a positive step if the legislative proposals that have not been tabled could be abandoned once the parliamentary term is over.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pierre Pribetich (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, last week the package of legislation on climate change and energy was presented. We must welcome the spirit of the Commission proposals. These issues affect a large number of areas, in particular housing and more especially social housing. We realise that a large proportion of the housing stock in the Union will be affected by these necessary changes. The charges relating to heating, for instance, are a major expense for tenants and they need to be regulated and even reduced. The changes to social housing form part of our sustainable development policies and they call for appropriate financing in order to meet these new requirements. Until now, the Commission has concentrated financing on the new Member States, who have therefore received substantial support. The older Member States have not. National housing policies need consistent financial support to speed up changes to social housing. If the policies described are to be credible, we need to match actions to words. The Commission will have to take the necessary follow-up action and finance changes to social housing everywhere in the Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Hans-Peter Martin (NI). – (DE) Mr President, I wish to place on record in this forum an incident that occurred in the chamber this afternoon. When President Pöttering was in the chair, Martin Schulz, the Socialist Group chairman, called out so loudly and clearly to me from the front row that he could be understood up here. ‘Shut your trap, you idiot!’ were his words. That is truly unacceptable behaviour; it is insulting as well as calumnious. I expect appropriate steps to be taken, particularly since the man in question aspires to the position currently held by Mr Pöttering. That is no way to conduct the business of a parliament. Matters were made worse by the fact that, at the same time, some Members were singled out at random because they had the courage to call for a referendum and were then threatened with absurd sanctions.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Petya Stavreva (PPE-DE). – (BG) The second year of Bulgaria’s membership to the European Union is about to turn fatal for many Bulgarian dairy farmers. High fodder prices, low farm-gate purchase prices for milk and the shortage of funds for feeding the animals during the winter months, and the lack of a targeted government policy in stockbreeding are factors that could lead to liquidation of the livestock and to bankruptcy for many Bulgarian farmers. Today, when reforming the common agricultural policy is a particularly important topic for the European Union, we should take into account the current condition of the agrarian sector in the new Member States as well. We cannot neglect the difficulties faced by farmers in the newly acceded countries which result from adaptations to meet European standards. Bulgarian farmers, like their European colleagues, expect wise decisions for the future of the agri-business in the Community.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marianne Mikko (PSE). – (ET) Ladies and gentlemen, the harassment of the Director of the St Petersburg Office of the British Council, Mr Kinnock, and his colleagues going as far as questioning by the Russian authorities requires our full attention. The charges levelled at the British Council are a link in the chain to which the cyber attacks against Estonia, the blockade of Polish food products and the radioactive attack in London also belong. In each case the Kremlin has innocently claimed that the incident was an isolated one.

Ladies and gentlemen, such a high number of isolated incidents points to a system. The Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Lavrov, said explicitly last Thursday that the reform of Europe’s security architecture is a priority in Russia’s foreign policy for 2008. Russia wants to reform the European Union by paralysing our foreign policy and by squeezing us in an energy vice between the North Stream and the South Stream.

As we do not wish to become the undefended target of a strong Russian foreign policy, we must stand firm together in solidarity. We in the European Parliament must condemn the harassment of the British Council.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Marian Zlotea (PPE-DE). – (RO) The free movement of goods is one of the cornerstones of the European Union. I would like to draw Parliament’s attention to the situation of this fundamental principle in Romania. On accession, the Romanian Government decided to adopt a first registration fee for motor vehicles. The Government then announced its intention of discontinuing this fee which the Commission considers to be in breach of the acquis communautaire, in order to prevent the continuation of the infringement procedures opened against Romania. However, the Romanian authorities refuse to reimburse citizens for the fees they have already paid, although this obligation is enshrined in ECJ case law.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the concept of European citizenship and equal rights for all European nationals will only be fully realised when all the Member States transpose and comply with the rights defined in the Treaty. I would like to inform you that I have started a written statement and I would like to ask you please to sign it, to avoid such situations occurring in the future.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE). – (RO) The Lisbon Strategy expresses the EU's commitment to becoming the most competitive knowledge-based economy. The Lisbon Strategy objectives include increasing investment in research, the development of the information society and the creation of highly skilled jobs.

Unfortunately, woefully few Member States have invested 3% of their GDP in research. Two-thirds of these funds should come from the private sector. Today, when we are talking about reducing climate change, sustainable energy resources, greener vehicles, increasing the energy efficiency of various industries, switching to digital technology etc., investing in research should be one of our priorities. Unfortunately, despite the allocation of national or European funds to research, the link between basic research and the industrial application of its results is still very weak.

I call upon the European Commission to prepare a strategy and an action plan enabling all European citizens to benefit from the results of research. I am convinced that the development of applied research will lead to the creation of high-skilled jobs and the development of a knowledge-based economy.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Oldřich Vlasák (PPE-DE). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to speak about a topic that is very important in terms of maintaining a variety of regional products and protecting traditional products, namely ‘České pivo’ (Czech beer).

It was this name, ‘České pivo’, that was published in the Official Journal of the European Union in the middle of January this year, together with a proposal to register it as a protected geographical designation.

České pivo’ is unique not only according to its consumers but also according to brewing industry experts and Commission officials. Due to the way in which the Czech brewing industry developed in the past, the types of malt and hops used and the brewing processes used have all given ‘České pivo’ a taste that is different from European beers such as Heineken or Stella Artois.

The Czech Republic was pressing for registration for more than three years. Long and exhausting negotiations culminated in publication in the Official Journal.

I would like to thank the officials of the European Commission as well as the Czech experts for their responsible approach to this matter. I believe that from now on nothing will prevent ‘České pivo’ from becoming a part of Europe’s cultural heritage.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Catherine Stihler (PSE). – Mr President, I wanted to raise the issue of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease which by 2020 will be the third largest cause of death worldwide. COPD killed 2.7 million people in 2000. Up to three quarters of people with COPD have difficulty with simple tasks such as walking upstairs. COPD is associated with many other health problems, and smoking is not the only risk factor: environmental tobacco smoke and pollution are also linked to COPD. As the population ages, COPD will become a bigger problem. I urge colleagues to sign Written Declaration 0102/2007.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Csaba Sógor (PPE-DE). – (HU) Mr President, I am speaking in my mother tongue, Hungarian. I cannot do that at home. I am delighted that it is possible here. In relation to the question of the Roma, it is the duty of all of us to ease the tensions that have recently built up between ethnicities and to stop the widespread anti-Roma sentiment. We must find an urgent solution to economic migration.

The EU Roma Strategy does, however, form a basis for working out a policy for new and traditional national minorities within the EU. Kosovo has reminded us again that the question of human and minority rights has become an international, European issue. We are responsible for what happens inside and outside the EU. Today, in one of our Member States, it is not Community rights but Community crimes that are being raked up. In Romania, the language law would deprive several hundreds of thousands of people of their nationality. We are mentioning this because we are all responsible for our countries, for our neighbours, and for the whole of Europe. This responsibility is not only present at elections, but it continues to be present in our everyday work, and in finding a reassuring solution to the Roma question. Thank you.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Árpád Duka-Zólyomi (PPE-DE). – (SK) The situation in the Slovak Parliament is tense and unusual. A decision is to be made on the Lisbon Treaty but the opposition MPs do not intend to take part in the vote as a protest against an anti-democratic press law. This is surprising news but what is behind it?

Robert Fico’s Government continues to adopt measures that contradict the basic principles of democracy and a state governed by law. The Prime Minister ignores the opposition and, as he has said himself on more than one occasion, the main opposition in his view is the media. The press law is restrictive and the way in which it curtails the freedom of speech and press freedom is unacceptable. This was highlighted not only by the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists but also by the OSCE; the latter even vigorously appealed to the Parliament to reject the controversial proposal.

On behalf of the vast majority of opposition MPs, I can say that we support the Lisbon Treaty and we regret that the Slovak opposition’s means of protesting against such a shameful press law are restricted.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) The European Parliament recognised the struggle for human rights in Cuba by awarding the Sakharov Prize to the Cuban dissident Oswald Payá Sardiñas in 2002 and to the Ladies in White in 2005; however, ladies and gentlemen, there is much more to solidarity.

The people of Cuba, who can only dream of freedom while being threatened by repression and imprisonment, need more than solidarity. The ‘Damas de Blanco’ need concrete help from the European Parliament today to free their husbands, opponents of the dictatorial regime, whose health has deteriorate due to inhumane conditions in prison and who risk dying in prison.

Mr President, I am asking you to help secure the release of 45-year-old Antonio Ramón Díaz Sánchez, who was sentenced to 27 years in jail in 2003. Antonio, whose family we have been supporting, and whom I have symbolically adopted along with my fellow Members Peter Šťastný and Milan Gaľa, is seriously ill and urgently needs help: without it he will succumb to his illness in prison.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE). – (HU) Thank you very much, Mr President. Last week, here in Parliament, President Barroso presented the Commission’s road map for bringing about the ambitious European reduction in carbon dioxide. The next day, the council of Trebišov in Slovakia unanimously rejected a plan to build a power plant that would emit 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, and against which there have been widespread protests for a year and a half, with petitions and fines on both sides of the border. We could say “Hurrah! Democracy, subsidiarity and civil courage work.” There is, however, another question here. How can it even occur to the Slovak Ministry of the Environment to support and recommend such a power plant? This suggests to me that some countries have still got lots of free carbon dioxide quotas from the Commission. I therefore call upon the Commission to review the grounds for the carbon dioxide quota awarded to Slovakia, because if the Slovak government is racking its brains about a giant coal-fired power plant using obsolete technology in 2008, it means that the Union’s incentive system is not working. Thank you.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Milan Gaľa (PPE-DE). – (SK) In its report published on 17 January 2008 the European Regulators Group states that since the European Parliament and the Council adopted the Directive on roaming on public mobile telephone networks within the Community roaming call charges have fallen and operators have not been attempting to compensate for their losses by increasing charges for other types of calls.

It was also found that when it comes to roaming calls, overcharging by EU mobile networks can be as much as 20% due to call tariffs: roaming calls are billed on a per minute basis. I appreciate the efforts of Commissioner Reding, who announced that the Commission would be looking to remedy this situation.

In my view, it is essential for the mobile operators to offer consumers roaming calls billed on a per second basis just as they do at national level. I further recommend that the document that is being prepared also address the cost of SMS and roaming data services.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – Mr President, a wise December decision by the Commission to allow the import of Brazilian beef only from approved holdings envisaged by 1 February a positive list of approximately 300 farms, based on previous inspections by the Food and Veterinary Office.

Confusion is rife following a statement today by Commissioner Kyprianou that there would be a ban from this Friday, as the Brazilian authorities had presented a list of 2 600 farms, raising major doubt, so more time will be needed to check them out. But the Commissioner continued – and I am quoting – ‘There is no positive list for the time being ... but, of course, this can change in the next few days’.

So, will there or will there not be a ban? Will the 300 or so FVO-inspected holdings form a de facto positive list, pending inspections of others? Why was there no press release today from a Kyprianou source? Our consumers and our farmers deserve clarification.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – Mr President, could I bring to the attention of the House a very important report published yesterday by the Commission about the lives of over a million European people who live in institutions? These are people with a disability, and the conclusions are not very comfortable reading. The quality of life in these institutions varies greatly, and the dignity of the people who live there is not always guaranteed.

Institutional care is often of unacceptably poor quality. Can I ask people in the House to read their own country report, because it might just wake us all up? I know the situation in Bulgaria received media attention recently, and lots of us are concerned about that, but even in my own country we could make improvements there too.

It is not just about money. Services in the community are not more expensive than institutional care if we take into account the needs of the residents and the quality of their lives.

Lastly I will mention the Delta Centre that I visited in Carlow in Ireland just last week. It is a model of best practice for adults with a disability who can live in the community and visit this centre.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mihaela Popa (PPE-DE). – (RO) Mr President, the Roma issue is one that concerns the entire European Union, not Romania alone. The Union has made available significant funding to ensure the promotion of equal opportunities. Funds have been earmarked for the desegregation of Roma; however, problems still persist. I believe that the implementation of these European funds should be monitored, and in particular it is the sustainability of EU-funded projects that should be monitored.

Mentalities are hard to change. However, education plays an important part in changing mentalities. Therefore, I believe that additional funding is needed for intercultural education, cultural and artistic activities, sports events, “second-chance” education, healthcare education etc. leading to Roma integration in all European societies. I’d like to reiterate the need to monitor these programs, in particular their sustainability.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – That is the end of the one-minute speech, which was a little longer than usual. I think it was the longest one-minute speech in the history of this Parliament. That had to happen one day.

 

22. Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the Potential (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the report by Fiona Hall, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the Potential (2007/2106(INI)) (A6-0003/2008).

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Fiona Hall, rapporteur. − Mr President, I would like to begin by thanking the shadow rapporteurs very much for their good collaboration on this report.

Energy efficiency is vital for cutting carbon emissions, enhancing security of supply and boosting economic efficiency. In October 2006 the Commission produced an action plan for energy efficiency, proposing a 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020 and setting out 10 priority areas for action. These ranged from appliances to buildings and transport and included financial incentives, energy efficiency awareness and much more. EU Heads of State endorsed the Commission’s action plan last March and energy efficiency made the headlines because Chancellor Merkel declared that inefficient incandescent light bulbs should be banned.

Now it is the Parliament’s turn to assess the action plan. I hope that our report will send out a strong signal about what MEPs want to see happen on energy efficiency. The first signal that this report makes is that some of the Commission’s proposals do not quite go far enough. I would like to give three examples. Firstly, the proposal to revise the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive: the Commission proposes minimum energy performance requirements for buildings and for building components, which is good. Buildings are key to cutting energy demand. Over 40% of the energy we use is consumed in buildings and 75% of the buildings standing today will still be here in 2050, so we need to tackle energy efficiency in existing buildings as well as in new stock. But we should not just be lowering the 1 000 m2 threshold in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive – we should be getting rid of it altogether and applying the Directive to all buildings requiring heating and cooling, regardless of size. We also need to bring forward the deadline for a passive house standard for residential and non-residential buildings across Europe. It is not good enough just to have this as a medium-term goal.

Secondly, on appliances, Parliament’s report welcomes the proposal to put in place minimum energy performance requirements coupled with a dynamic system of energy labelling, to keep up with advances in technology. But our report calls on the Commission to come forward with a one-watt performance requirement for standby, and to carry out an analysis of the potential energy savings to be made from eliminating standby altogether. Our report also urges the Commission to set a timetable for taking completely off the market some very energy-inefficient items of equipment, such as patio heaters.

Thirdly, the report calls for more help for small businesses, which are particularly affected by rising fuel prices and in need of energy efficiency. Unfortunately, both the EU and national financing schemes tend to be complex. It is fine if you are a big company, but if you are a microbusiness with a handful of employees, you do not have the capacity to access complex programmes. Small businesses need to be treated like domestic households and offered simple schemes and up-front money.

So that is the first message of the report: that we need to go a little further. The second big message is that there has been a failure by both the Commission and national governments to implement existing energy efficiency legislation. The Commission’s action plan for saving 20% by 2020 is not a stand-alone plan. It builds very heavily on previous legislation, and the implementation of this legislation has been a disgrace. The Buildings Directive has only been properly transposed by a handful of Member States. Six months after the 30 June deadline, a third of Member States have still not submitted their national energy efficiency action plans. The Commission has not put in place all the 20 extra staff it said were necessary to deliver energy efficiency commitments and, for that reason, the timetable on the action plan has slipped.

I would, however, like to thank the Commission for responding in a very positive and constructive manner to the criticisms voiced in this report and, in particular, the exchange of letters between Commissioner Piebalgs and Ms Niebler, which has brought an update to Parliament on the situation.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I would very much like to thank Ms Hall for a very timely and important report.

We are definitely concentrating our efforts not only on the implementation of current legislation but on actually delivering our agenda of energy efficiency action plans. I would like to mention that we have also achieved sustainable successes. This week we launched the Covenant of Mayors, in which more than a hundred cities are now participating. We have now adopted in the College a renewable energy directive which indirectly strengthens energy efficiency. We adopted the proposal for CO2 reduction in the non-ETS sector. We adopted a proposal for emissions from cars. I could name more very strong measures, where the Commission has delivered. We have not only delivered on issues of legislation. Sustainable Energy Week is a good example of how the Commission policy of promoting energy efficiency and renewables is bearing fruit.

I believe that we should strengthen implementation. The Commission has started launching 59 infringement cases for non-timely implementation. Today, 42 infringement cases are running. The Commission will continue to work on this and will also check all the legislation on compliance. The European Commission is strongly focused on this. I believe the current legislative proposal on ETS, on non-ETS and on renewables will definitely make the Member States put more emphasis on energy efficiency.

Concerning the energy efficiency action plans, we had rather a lukewarm start. I wrote to ministers reminding them about their duty to report and to make qualitative plans and now 21 out of the 27 Member States have done so. We have made a preliminary analysis of energy efficiency action plans, which are part of the package and sometimes a bit overshadowed by the legislative efforts. I believe that it is right that we continue to do this.

On the issues Ms Hall mentioned, a recasting of the Buildings Directive is in this year’s work plan. We are now in the final stages of defining energy performance in appliances. We will also change the Labelling Directive. We are in fact following all the requests that the European Parliament has made of us.

But I believe this directive also offers very good guidelines for the Commission to follow, because it is very concrete. I could say in some cases things are better and in some cases worse. I really believe that we are paying attention, but we could pay more attention. We will definitely deliver. This report will not stay on the shelf but we will use it as working document. I will be continually updating Parliament on how we are proceeding in the area of energy efficiency.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Evangelia Tzampazi (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. – (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the report is complete and coherent. In the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, we have emphasised the important issues. By general admission, the improvement of energy efficiency is the fastest, most sustainable and most economical way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency. We ought to encourage research and eco-innovation through the development of energy-efficient technologies, without, however, ignoring the need for a shift in our consumer habits. We have emphasised the potential role of the public sector in achieving European targets by choosing energy-efficient products and services.

I should point out that as European citizens we can all contribute to the effort, as much in terms of mapping out policies as in implementing existing legislation, through the choices we make in our everyday lives.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Avril Doyle, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . – Mr President, I agree with Ms Hall when she points out in her report that energy efficiency is the most cost-effective and immediately available tool in the battle to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

Yes, the Commission is right when it states in its action plan on energy efficiency that, more than anything, political will and engagement at national, regional and local level are necessary if the objectives here are to be achieved.

The whole report has been rightly critical of both the Commission and Member States for not doing more to implement existing energy-efficiency legislation. This pressure has resulted in the Commissioner augmenting his staff in the area of energy efficiency and, I understand, setting up a special unit to follow up on the energy efficiency plan, underscoring the priority the Commission is finally giving to energy efficiency in order to contribute to a reduction of our CO2 emissions and to help tackle the critical issue of climate change.

However, Parliament’s report shows that progress on Member States submitting their national energy efficiency plans is still lamentably slow and I would ask the Commission to continue to put pressure on them.

Even in Bali, Europe was criticised for not giving enough emphasis to the area of energy efficiency and our efforts to reduce our CO2 emissions. We need a mixture of legislative and market-based responses. For instance, if all EU lighting switched to new technologies, there would be massive savings on energy. Fifty million barrels of oil would be saved and CO2 emissions would be reduced by 28 million tonnes per annum.

We await the revision of the Energy Efficiency Labelling Directive from the Commission this year, as the current A to G scheme for household appliances allows no further room for increased energy efficiency and, while very clear and consumer friendly, it is now creating marketing problems for genuinely more efficient products as it has reached its limit. Many appliances are classed as A+ or A++, categories that do not even exist. On the other hand, there are currently 188 million household appliances in the EU that are over 10 years old and are frighteningly inefficient.

I thank Ms Hall for her wide-ranging report and I commend it to colleagues.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Adam Gierek, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, the report by Ms Hall, whom I congratulate on her complex approach, draws attention to a significant delay on the part of the Member States and the Commission in implementing existing legislation in this area.

The efficient use of primary energy depends on improved efficiency in converting it into electricity, on the introduction of standards for minimum energy end consumption, on the widespread thermo-modernisation of buildings, on the widespread introduction of co-generation by eliminating administrative barriers, and on the reduction of energy transfer losses and losses due to friction.

The report also highlights the global scale of the problem and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Housing accounts for some 40% of all energy consumption, and thermo-modernisation could reduce its intake by at least half, i.e. 20% of all energy consumed. Furthermore, co-generation, together with the reduction of energy transfer losses, can double energy efficiency. Taken together, the potential savings in primary energy achievable through the use of known technologies, namely thermo-modernisation and co-generation, can be estimated at around 25% to 30%, with an equivalent reduction in CO2 emissions.

The paradox, however, is that the implementation of these plans may be held back by later European Commission regulations, specifically restrictive CO2 emission standards which, in the case of older power stations and heating plants in need of modernisation, raise production costs and reduce the possibilities for modernisation investments.

Another aspect of the global nature of the problem is the need to draw up common standards of environmental suitability applicable both within the European Union and in its partner countries. That is a precondition both for beneficial cooperation and for fair competition on world markets.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (DE) Mr President, may I begin by thanking and congratulating my colleague Fiona Hall, who has come up with the right response to a very important and judicious fundamental initiative from the Commission. I must praise Commissioner Piebalgs for having put himself at the head of those who are committed to energy efficiency, because energy efficiency is undoubtedly one of the main sources of self-sufficiency with regard to energy supply. It is also a source of innovation, for if we do everything we are proposing in the report, we shall establish ourselves well ahead of the field, even on a global scale, in terms of innovation and the objectives of the Lisbon Process.

Be that as it may, I am struck by the immoderate criticism of people’s lifestyles at some points in the report. Let me just cite one example: paragraph 16 baldly asserts that the Commission should take certain appliances off the market. A specific reference is made to patio heaters or Heizpilze – ‘heat toadstools’, as some people call them in Germany. Hysteria about climate change does sometimes bring out veritable totalitarian traits!

We have just managed to evict smokers from cafés. I believe that was the right thing to do, and I have no problem with it. Many landlords have now acted shrewdly and have put up these patio heaters outside. A new culture has developed. People have started to have convivial evenings outside, where they can smoke, and now along come the European politicians, we few individuals here, and tell 490 million people how they can and cannot spend their leisure hours. We are trying to change lifestyles again. I do not think our citizens will put up with this for much longer.

It is right that the aims of climate protection should be writ large, but we really must ask ourselves whether we should be seeking to regulate the details of people’s lifestyles. Or do we want to outlaw patio heaters at the Christmas markets that we know from Germany and – yes, Claude – from Luxembourg as well as from Belgium and Austria? We would all be well advised not to forget our fellow citizens and to avoid interfering in such a pleasant aspect of society as people’s personal lives.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, to this day homo sapiens has been causing serious damage to the environment, of which he himself is the most important element. To a considerable extent this is due to energy use, and Ms Hall’s report on the rational use of energy is therefore most welcome.

I particularly appreciate the fact that the report deals with the demands to be made with respect to buildings. The highest standards of energy efficiency and thermo-insulation must apply not only to new buildings but also to renovated building stock.

The next thing is to use lighting based on LEDs, which are energy-saving and long-lasting. Many domestic electrical appliances could also consume much less energy during use, and energy waste caused by keeping appliances on stand-by must also be avoided.

I am in favour of tax incentives for rational energy consumption. Educating the public on energy issues is also very important and should begin in childhood. These are things we must do if our planet is to have a future.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: RODI KRATSA-TSAGAROPOULOU
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Claude Turmes, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Madam President, the Hall report is ringing the alarm bells. We are in the middle of Sustainable Energy Week and, however positive this event is, it should not divert attention from the fact that what governments, in particular, have achieved over the last two or three years on energy efficiency is extremely disappointing. Not implementing legislation, sending energy efficiency action plans which are not action plans but just a compilation of some sort – that is ridiculous!

I call on the pride of prime ministers. Come on, prime ministers! You come to Brussels in March one year after the historic summit where you prime ministers have given a lot of speeches about the priority of priorities being energy efficiency, and then you come one year later and you have achieved almost nothing as governments!

I think we should all join forces to urge governments forward. The Commission must also approve and take new initiatives on building on CHP and on labelling electricity savings.

Finally, on my good friend Schatzi:

(DE) The only one being dopey around here is you, because there were Christmas markets long before patio heaters were invented, and I believe Parliament is perfectly within its rights at least to ask how inconsistent we are being on climate change. It is not a matter of interfering with people’s lifestyles; it is a matter of applying pressure to a wound, which is what this House must do if we intend to heal it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nils Lundgren, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (SV) Madam President, there is general agreement in the EU that we need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in order to stem climate change, but this must not lead to a bureaucratic society without freedom and dynamism.

Two basic principles apply here: we must set targets for emissions for each country and then leave it to those countries and the market to attain the targets in free competition, and we must internalise the cost of emissions by pricing emission rights at sufficiently high levels. Emissions will then be automatically taken into account in the billions of economic decisions taken every day around the world by households and businesses. Then households will of their own accord choose energy-saving light bulbs, car manufacturers will produce vehicles with low fuel consumption, property developers will build passive houses, energy producers will produce energy with low emissions. It will then pay to carry out research and development in the field.

But the EU must not introduce bans and detailed regulations. We therefore have to say ‘no’ to a ban on patio heaters, and we say ‘no’ to tax concessions for building demolitions and to the public funding of energy-saving.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Anni Podimata (PSE). – (EL) Madam President, Commissioner, I should firstly like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mrs Hall, on her bold, holistic approach to the issue of energy efficiency, which goes beyond the European Commission’s proposals.

Given today’s energy situation, energy efficiency is the most effective tool in combating climate change, as the system of trading greenhouse gas emissions has not yet produced the desired results.

As for energy efficiency, emphasis must be placed on the construction sector, which is responsible for consuming more than 40% of our energy. In Greece the construction sector consumes about one third of the total energy resources and contributes 40% of carbon dioxide emissions. Nonetheless, Greece has yet to incorporate into national law the Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings; it was recently censured by the European Court of Justice for this, and was also listed among the 10 countries which have not yet produced a national action plan for energy efficiency. However, although the harmonisation of national legislation with that of the Community is essential, it is not enough if we are to reach our desired objectives. I am pleased that the Commissioner emphasised that the EU must insist as far as possible on a more coherent implementation of the energy objectives by all Member States.

The measures and incentives suggested in the report, such as access to energy efficiency funding by the Structural Funds, an increase in the minimum percentage allocated under the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund, tax incentives and, most of all, VAT reduction on energy-efficient homes and SMEs, can be extremely helpful to this end.

The climate change target cannot be attained in isolation but by all the Member States together. If we want the EU to continue to be in the vanguard of this effort and to negotiate strongly with other states, we must make it a priority to close the gap between those countries playing a leading part and those lagging behind.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Commissioner, I congratulate you on the measures taken. Europe’s most important problem today is energy use and its impact on the climate. It is more important for Europe today than food production – that we can be sure of. After checking carefully, I find that all of the last eight Council Presidencies made it a priority, and some made it priority number one. But if energy issues are so important, they must receive commensurate funding. Otherwise we shall go on mouthing empty phrases with nothing to back them up.

We know how much added value can be generated when we in the European Union all pull together. If we share our experience, choose the best solutions and combine them, we can be certain of great progress. So the question is: are we prepared to spend joint European funds on research, technologies, innovation and development in the energy sector?

The energy efficiency we are talking about – suitability and savings – is even more important than renewable energy or clean coal. Yet out of a total budget of a thousand billion euro, only a few hundred million over seven years is allocated to joint European research and development programmes.

I call on the Commissioner, the European Commission and the European Council to rethink the matter and choose the path of rapid technological development before imposing very severe emission standards.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vladimir Urutchev (PPE-DE). – Today in this House we are once again discussing important energy issues, which comes to prove that addressing energy problems in their interplay with climate change is one of the highest priorities of European institutions. Ms. Fiona Hall’s excellent and comprehensive report also bears evidence to that.

Energy efficiency is definitely one of the pillars that will underpin our energy policy for a long time to come. European citizens realise their role and the role of energy efficiency in terms of achieving the goals of climate stabilisation and a future of more energy security. Therefore, in the presence of public support and a favourable political situation, I encourage the Commission to show even more initiative, use all mechanisms to influence behaviour so as to ensure that the ambitious 20 per cent goals are met and that the benefits of energy efficiency can be felt by every European.

At the same time, if our ultimate goal is to save the planet from catastrophic climate change while having a energy-secure and competitive Europe on the global market, then the remaining 80 per cent of energy should be given adequate attention. These 80 per cent include nuclear energy which is currently underestimated and continues to be overshadowed by apprehensions and dogma over the past two decades. The need to pool together all of our wisdom and common sense to overcome this and start discussing nuclear energy openly and clearly as business and an opportunity which mankind and Europe cannot afford to miss. All of us in this Chamber have the political responsibility to make this happen.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE). – (NL) I am very pleased to be allowed to speak using the catch-the-eye procedure. This debate on Ms Hall’s report has clearly shown that we need to move more quickly. There are so many opportunities for energy efficiency. It is what we in the Netherlands call a ‘low-hanging fruit’: if we seize these opportunities, then we can very quickly help to achieve the common targets we have set ourselves and that we reiterated in Bali and confirmed again in the Commission’s package of 23 January. Mr Piebalgs played a very important role here.

In the Committee on Regional Policy we noted – and Mr Buzek mentioned this – that in the period up to 2006 it was perfectly possible to prioritise energy and energy efficiency among the aims of the Structural Funds, yet only 1.16% was actually spent on this. Now, Mrs Hübner announced in discussions with the Regional Policy Committee last week that the regulation was to be revised and greater priority given to these issues in the 2007-2013 programmes. So my conclusion here is that we need to move faster and make better use of the existing instruments at European level.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, I would like to thank Members of Parliament for a very substantial debate. As I said, it is the Commission’s ambition to follow the energy efficiency action plan. I know sometimes you wish that we would move faster, but there are some steps that we should also take – better regulation, public consultation and impact assessment. Everything takes time. I believe we need a debate about regulation and also incentives. I think both should be in balance but both instruments should be used.

Today I met a Minister from Montenegro. They have an excellent energy strategy developed until 2025, but I urged him to go very strongly for regulation, because this is a country which will have a huge increase in its buildings. They will not deter investors if they set an extremely tough requirement for the immediate reintegration of renewable energies. All standards and the country will benefit. Otherwise, the taxpayers will pay for additional energy supplies.

So I believe ambition is needed. We have set out new guidelines on the budget issue. We need to make much more effort to establish when state aid for new technologies, energy efficiency and renewables is to be applied. We are also working on an international platform for energy efficiency that could create synergies at international level. However, budgetary authority lies not only with the Commission but also with Parliament.

I am very grateful for the work Mr Buzek did for the seventh Framework Programme. I think that we still have substantial means. It is also part of your good work and the work of this House. An increase in the budget or redistribution is a much more complex issue, one I cannot answer. I would not mind additional money in my colleagues’ budget – Mr Potočnik’s budget or the external relations budget – but it should be seen in common in the budget debate.

So I thought this an excellent report. It is not always very kind to the Commission but it is not about kindness. We are speaking about energy efficiency and ambitions will definitely be high on the Commission’s side as well.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Fiona Hall, rapporteur. − Madam President, I would like to thank colleagues for their positive and supportive comments, and also to say again that I appreciate that the Commission is being very constructive in response to the criticism from Parliament.

I would just like to take up two points. First, I think it was indeed a shame that there was not more attention paid to the Commission’s assessment of the energy efficiency action plans that came out with the energy package last week because it was a very worryingly downbeat assessment. It is clear that national governments are still not being ambitious enough in their action plans. They are not looking ahead to the 20% target and, to quote the Commission, there exists a ‘considerable gap’ in certain Member States ‘between the political commitment to energy efficiency … and the measures adopted’. I think that this is worrying.

Secondly, the fact that we now have the Renewables Directive and the targets therein means that energy efficiency has never been more important. If we are going to reach the 20% binding target across the EU, we have to keep energy demand under control. We can only do 20% if the 100% of the total amount of energy use is something that is reduced rather than being allowed to increase.

So I hope this report does mark a new beginning and that it marks the start of a closing of the gap between political rhetoric on energy efficiency and its actual implementation.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, Thursday 31 January 2008.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Roberta Alma Anastase (PPE-DE), in writing.(RO) I welcome the drafting of this report and the global approach it proposes to energy efficiency in the European Union, in terms of its topics and geography. It is important that we should be speaking today of an action plan and its details; this shows that we are taking concrete steps in this direction.

As rapporteur on regional cooperation in the Black Sea region, I would like to stress the importance of energy efficiency in this region in order to achieve the energy security goal and to decrease dependency on energy sources.

I also appreciate the international approach to the topic and the examination of global challenges. As such, I welcome the European Parliament’s awareness of the fact that in the future Russia will be unable to meet the internal and contractual demand for gas, and that it expresses its concern in this regard.

This prompts us to reiterate to the European institutions the importance of two major objectives: increased substitution of EU energy imports with other sources, effective ways of ensuring security of supply, and the need to promote energy reform in the Black Sea region and in EU-neighbouring countries with a view to creating a transparent and sustainable energy sector.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  John Attard-Montalto (PSE), in writing. – The Plan of Action was targeting 20 % efficiency by 2020 is an ambitious plan but a necessary one. On the other hand, it is useless to set targets if there isn't a will to achieve them. For instance, out of a total of 21 actions scheduled for completion by 2007 only three were completely finalised. This is a dismal record. It is true that many others are in progress but nonetheless a percentage which is less than 15 % of completed projects is not something to be proud of.

I am ashamed to say that in me country, Malta, the issue has not been tackled seriously. In an island where the sun and wind exist in abundance one would have expected that full use would be made of these two elements.

Regarding solar energy very few private, commercial and public buildings make use of this alternative energy.

Wind energy was more popular in the past in agricultural areas. The Government is intent on setting up offshore wind farms notwithstanding that the technology is not available for the depths of Maltese waters. Not only but it has made it known to a major developer, who waited to set up four wind mills generating energy, that the permission would not be given because of aesthetic reasons.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  András Gyürk (PPE-DE), in writing. (HU) Improving energy efficiency is the most obvious solution for reducing the emission of harmful substances. Joint action in this area can also make a real contribution to eliminating Europe’s dependency on energy supplies.

The greatest opportunity for saving energy perhaps lies in the efficiency of industrial and residential buildings. This is increasingly true in the new Member States of the Union. The Socialist heavy-industry facilities and tower blocks that are home to hundreds of thousands and which are so characteristic of the region have become symbols of energy wastage. It is a welcome development that the European Commission has acknowledged the particular situation of the former Socialist countries in its action plan, and specifies the promotion of energy efficiency as a priority objective in the new Member States.

We feel it is unfortunate that several Member States are not keeping their promises when implementing the energy efficiency legislation. For example, the Hungarian government, whilst paying lip service to climate protection measures, has postponed adoption of the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan for months.

At the same time, it is to be welcomed that, despite this, some communities are taking advantage of the opportunities. A good example of this is the programme started in Óbuda, one of the largest districts of Budapest, under which many tower blocks will be refurbished in the years to come, using Community aid.

We are convinced that Europe is capable of playing a leading role in the issue of energy efficiency. It is also its primary interest. The most efficient use of energy also means a more efficient economy, new jobs, better competitiveness and, last but not least, a more liveable environment.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gábor Harangozó (PSE), in writing. First of all, I would like to welcome the initiative report by Ms Hall. As a matter of fact, this report comes at a time where all initiatives aiming at reinforcing concrete actions for greater energy efficiency should be warmly welcomed. Energy efficiency is indeed the most effective objective providing already available technological tools for genuinely and rapidly addressing the challenges of global warming and limited fossil resources. We are now embarked on a plan to cut energy consumption and it is essential that we reach our goals on schedule. But of course such a plan will require enormous costs and economical sacrifices. These costs and sacrifices will be especially very challenging for those countries with the lowest budgets and less developed economies. It is essential that the energy efficiency targets will not simply worsen the situation of the weakest economies and industries in the poorest Member States. Therefore, ad hoc transitional measures to support the most vulnerable sectors and countries while implementing the legislation are required to avoid market failures. Of course, in the long run, there is indeed huge cost-effective potential of energy conservation and stronger energy efficiency policy would very likely benefit the job market in the Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE), in writing. (FI) There are probably few decisions as far-reaching in their effect and as self-contradictory as the Council’s three-pronged plan on climate policy as stated in spring 2007: a reduction in emissions of 20%, a 20% saving in energy, and a renewables share of 20%, all by the year 2020. The third-mentioned binding target unfortunately threatens to accelerate climate change. Until this is understood, any climatic benefit can only be gained from the first two.

Saving energy specifically to improve energy efficiency is of course one of the most effective tools in the fight against climate change. There is broad consensus on this and on the content of the report in Parliament and I would like to thank Mrs Hall for making this possible.

What is creditable about this report is that it shows an understanding of the scope of the issue and the options it offers: the insistence on energy efficiency must have an effect that permeates the whole of society. It has to relate to all planning and activity at all levels. The aims of energy efficiency and the rules that apply must extend equally to equipment, buildings, energy production and transfer, transport and consumer habits.

We need to take action right away. That is why it is regrettable that Parliament should need to remind the Commission that there is already legislation in place in this area. So far the degree of implementation among the Member States has been less than satisfactory, which is something the Commission should focus its attention on.

Improving energy efficiency is about effort, where the best result as far as climate is concerned is achieved with reference to market conditions. An example of this is the various standardisation systems. We need to be wary of inflexible legislation: if the best available technology is under the yoke of a carrot and stick regime, the efforts made are sufficient. The legislator’s pernickety interference in the ways and means only serves to exhaust the organisations in question.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN), in writing. (PL) Madam President, Commissioner, in this debate on the rational use of energy, while agreeing with the main arguments of the rapporteur, Ms Hall, I want to draw attention to some issues that are of particular importance for the new Member States.

1. In order to narrow the gap between themselves and the most developed EU countries, the new Member States must develop two to three times faster than the latter, i.e. at an annual GNP growth rate of at least 6%. Such a growth rate will mean a significant increase in CO2 emissions, something that was not taken into account in the proposals put forward by the European Commission in its recent energy and climate change package.

2. The Commission's proposals are clearly directed at restricting the use of coal, which will mainly hit economies like that of Poland, where energy production is based mainly on burning various kinds of coal.

3. The proposal that the energy production industry will have to purchase all its CO2 emission allowances by auction as from 2013 will cause a massive increase in energy prices that will be particularly painfully felt by the domestic economies. At the present time, when the Polish energy production industry buys barely 10% of its emission allowances at auction, the price of electric power has risen by some 15% in 2007, and is set to rise in the next few years by a further 20% to 30 %.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE), in writing . –

This report on energy efficiency is timely - given our concerns about climate change and the need to face up to the finite energy resource of fossil fuels.

But eliminating waste of energy is positive in its own right and from a purely selfish point of view; improving energy efficiency should cut costs for households and businesses.

Many individuals are aware of the need to be more conscious of energy use. Many already know that a TV on standby uses 45pc of the electricity used by a TV that is on, that electrical equipment on standby uses 10pc of household energy in the EU and that leaving phone re-chargers plugged in uses energy - 95pc of which is wasted.

And while we can all act to switch off power to electrical gadgets, would it not be more effective is the manufacturers designed the equipment with an eye to eliminating the energy waste.

A combination of new development in manufacturing and increase awareness among consumers will yield results, but industry needs incentives to develop new products with energy efficiency in mind and the public need positive messages to educate them about the extent of energy savings which can be made in the home and office.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE), in writing. (HU) As the EPP-ED rapporteur in the Committee on the Environment on the Green Paper on improving energy efficiency (Doing More with Less), I welcome the repeated and increased Community efforts in this area.

At the same time, I must express my disappointment that while the European Commission and Parliament are making serious efforts to create consensual rules and prepare implementable plans, the attitude of Member States towards realising them is in many cases inadequate.

Some Member States have missed the deadline for preparing action plans by months or more; for example, there are seven countries which, to date, have still not submitted them, even though they are already 7 months overdue.

This is not the only problem, however. There is a lack of social agreement on these plans, and the plans that have been prepared are often very anaemic, and in many cases do not reflect the realistic schedule and system of instruments for achieving the common objectives.

Consequently, we can say quite bluntly that many Member States of the Union have only paid lip service to energy efficiency, thrift and the ultimate aim of a ‘low-carbon society’, so what future is there for an economy, households and transport with zero carbon dioxide emissions?

It would be good if the guardian of Union legislation, the Commission, prepared summary analyses and evaluations from time to time regarding the quality of the national plans submitted, and the extent to which the Member States are implementing them.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bogusław Rogalski (UEN), in writing. First of all, I would like to welcome the initiative report of Mrs Hall. As a matter of fact, this report comes at a time where all initiatives aiming at reinforcing concrete actions for greater energy efficiency should be warmly welcomed. Energy efficiency is indeed the most effective objective providing already available technological tools for genuinely and rapidly addressing the challenges of global warming and limited fossil resources. We are now embarked plan to cut energy consumption and it is essential that we reach our goals on schedule. But of course such plan will require enormous costs and economical sacrifices. These costs and sacrifices will be especially very challenging for those countries with the lowest budgets and less developed economies. It is essential that the energy efficiency targets will not simply worsen the situation of the weakest economies and industries in the poorest Member States. Therefore, ad hoc transitional measures to support the most vulnerable sectors and countries while implementing the legislation are required to avoid market failures. Of course in the long run there is indeed huge cost-effective potential of energy conservation and stronger energy efficiency policy would very likely benefit the job market in the Union.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Toomas Savi (ALDE), in writing. First of all I would like to congratulate Ms Hall on a truly comprehensive report, dedicated to improving energy efficiency and calling on the Member States that are far behind the implementation of existing legislation to take all the necessary measures.

Secondly, I am glad to concede that the report has not only pointed out ways for industrial consumers to save energy, but for small consumers as well – especially by means of raising consumer awareness and providing reliable information of the most environment-friendly options. It must be noted that the consumption of households accounts for 40% of overall energy consumption. Therefore it is an individual responsibility for all of us to contribute to maximise energy efficiency.

Thirdly, energy consumption is progressively increasing and so does the expenditure on energy. It is simple common sense to enforce measures for energy efficiency in order to gain the optimal use of means of production.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE), in writing. Mr President, I congratulate Ms Hall on this report, which contains a number of sold, sensible, achievable suggestions to encourage energy efficiency. Amidst the current fuss on generation and security of supply we risk losing sight of the fact that changes in building and equipment standards, as well as how we use energy, will in themselves allow a great deal of energy capacity. I am glad to support this report and hope that it will be the start of more measures in this direction.

 

23. Reduction in unwanted by-catches and elimination of discards in European fisheries (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the report by Carl Schlyter, on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries, on a policy to reduce unwanted by-catches and eliminate discards in European fisheries (2007/2112(ΙΝΙ)) (Α6-0495/2007).

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Carl Schlyter, rapporteur. − (SV) Madam President, I am grateful to the shadow rapporteur for helping us to end with a good report. I also want to thank Commissioner Borg for at last – at last! – proposing powerful measures to deal with the discarding of fish and unwanted by-catches.

Today we have a fisheries policy which is emptying the world’s oceans, ravaging seabeds, destroying ecosystems and causing fish stocks to collapse. Even seabirds are killed by our current fisheries policy. If this destruction had taken place on land – if we had treated our forests in the same way as we are now treating the seas – we would have had rioting on the streets, but the destruction of the oceans is happening out of sight and in silence. Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, had a powerful impact in 1962 and was a wake-up call for many to become committed to caring for the environment and to nature conservation. We are now in the time of the Silent Sea. In fact, last year, the journalist Isabella Lövin published a book with that very title. Let us now put some life into the fight to rescue future generations of fish and fishermen.

The Commission’s proposals will in fact mean an end to quota systems and detailed regulation, which have in practice encouraged fishermen to empty the seas and throw back unprofitable fish dead, and under which the development of fishing equipment was aimed mainly at taking more and more from the seas. Faced with the threat of having to fill their vessels with unprofitable fish, fishermen in the EU are getting an incentive to fish more selectively.

But a successful policy needs carrots as well as sticks. We can, for example, allow more fishing days for vessels with selective gear, or give them access to areas which are closed to vessels without selective fishing gear.

It is important, for each type of fishery, to set annual reduction targets for by-catches and discards and to have a dialogue with interested parties in order to achieve best results. Positive examples are the Bay of Biscay, the Kattegat and the Skagerrak. In those areas French and Swedish fishermen have used sorting grids with great success in the Norway lobster (Nephrops) fishery. These have in practice completely eliminated by-catches.

With a little more freedom and accountability for the fishing fleet, perhaps cooperation can grow between the research community and fishermen, and that can lead to positive development. This goes together with better data on what fish are caught. We need to look at systems using electronic logbooks and possible video surveillance to see whether we can devise a good solution for maintaining personal integrity.

Another important aspect is what we are to do with fish landed in the form of by-catches when there is a ban on discards. It is important that it should be possible to use it in some way but at the same time that the level of compensation should be so low that it does not provide an incentive actively to seek by-catches.

I hope and believe that the Commission will quickly finalise a proposal that can be implemented. It would then become an important element in the fight against overfishing and in achieving a sustainable fishery. But of course that is not enough – we also need general reductions in fishing effort where currently endangered species are concerned, but perhaps we shall be able to debate that another day.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, first I would like to thank the rapporteur and all the members of the Committee on Fisheries for the excellent work.

We all share the view that discarding is, to say the least, an unnecessary waste of good natural and economic resources that should be stopped. However, each fishery is different and requires tailor-made solutions. We have therefore chosen a results-based approach which implies that we set targets to reduce the amount of discards over a timeframe and then leave it up to the fishermen concerned to choose how to reach the targets – such measures could include an increase in mesh size, the use of selectivity devices, real-time closures, spatial changes of activity or any other possible measure or a combination thereof.

Turning now specifically to the report. Concerning Community action plans on seabirds and sharks, I can inform you that the latter is under way and that, on the former, my services are gathering information and scientific advice with a view to completing the plan by the end of 2009.

I particularly agree that the discard policy should not be seen as an isolated action but as part of the general approach to move towards the MSY objective. We are also in agreement concerning a case-by-case approach and the importance of participation and consultation of the sector at all levels. Here I note with interest your proposal to test new uses of monitoring of discard practices as was done in some third countries.

In addition we must ensure that incentives reward a real reduction in discards. They therefore need to be assessed carefully so as not to lead to adverse effects. Indeed, Member States already have possibilities to favour cleaner fisheries through the allocation of quotas. Having said this, I am of the view that incentives should accompany the various phases of implementation, in order to boost a change in behaviour until the final objective is reached.

Concerning policy implementation, I generally agree with your suggestions, with a different focus, however. We should set the goal of a discard ban in a fishery wherever this is possible from the outset and not as a last resort measure as you seem to suggest. I need to clarify here, however, that in certain instances the set target may be that of reducing discards to the absolute minimum possible.

So where are we in the process? On the basis of scientific advice expected soon, we will choose fisheries for specific legislation during the course of this year and at the same time plan a roadmap with a timeframe for the subsequent proposals covering – over time – all European fisheries.

In parallel, as decided at the December Council, Member States will trial discard reductions in the whitefish fishery in the North Sea in order to reduce discards of whiting by 30%. For cod, the commitment with Norway is to reduce discards to less than 10%. Other activities include the proposal on technical measures in the Atlantic, the proposal on a revised cod recovery plan, the revision of the control regulation and several studies and impact assessments for the legislative proposals.

Finally, I can agree on Amendments 1, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 10 to 12. Amendments 2 and 7 are related and I can agree to them with a slight change. On Amendment 9, some cautious thinking is needed since these techniques need further research. There are problems with high costs and reliability.

Finally, I cannot support Amendment 4 as such. With respect to Amendments 13, 14 and 15, I need to reflect further, since the whole question concerning appropriate incentives for fishers to encourage them to adopt an effective discards policy needs to be further studied and assessed before a definitive position is adopted.

Let me conclude by restating the urgent need for legislative action on this file, and I look forward to your continued cooperation in developing this policy.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Avril Doyle, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group . – Madam President, the discarding or dumping of fish in European waters destroys over a million tonnes of fish a year, particularly in multi-species fisheries. Globally, according to the FAO, millions of tonnes of unwanted fish by-catch are thrown back into the sea each year. This has a very negative effect on the economy of future fisheries and on the health of marine ecosystems. The practice is amoral, unethical and completely unsustainable and results directly from the Common Fisheries Policy, which criminalises fishermen for landing by-catch, thereby forcing them to discard – fishermen who are desperately trying to make a living while faced with ever-depleting levels of fish stocks.

Our ultimate aim has to be the reduction of these unwanted by-catches and the virtual elimination of discards through a discard ban, with incentives in place to ensure that all unwanted by-catch must be landed. But how and when we get to this point of a ban should be a matter for all stakeholders involved, including the Commission, the regional advisory councils (RACs), the fishermen, the scientific experts, the national governments and NGOs, and fishery by fishery if necessary. The negative micro-management spiral has to be avoided and the common fisheries policy needs to be fundamentally altered, as the discard issue seriously discredits it. Solving the problem of discards is beneficial for all actors concerned, particularly the fishermen. It is possible to implement bans, as the examples of Norway and Iceland show us.

I am pleased that the report emphasises that fishermen and other stakeholders need to take responsibility and ownership concerning any policy to eliminate discards. New ways to monitor fishing vessels could be used, such as electronic logbooks and the use of CCTV on the perimeter of fishing vessels, which has been piloted in Canada and New Zealand with some success. The only successful way to achieve implementation of any eventual discard ban will be through the involvement of the fishermen in monitoring and controlling and, above all, by peer pressure to ensure a level playing field. I thank the rapporteur for all his cooperation and this balanced report, which I commend to the House.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Catherine Stihler, on behalf of the PSE Group . – Madam President, discards are an appalling waste. Vast quantities of fish are thrown away every year in European fisheries around the world: as much as seven to eight million tonnes. Doing nothing to reduce discards is not an option and we now have the Schlyter report as an own-initiative response to the Commission’s 2007 communication.

The Commission’s communication is welcome, despite the delayed action, and the Commission now intends to act quickly, with certain aspects to be included in a new technical measure regulation in 2008.

In an ideal world we would move straight to a complete and instant ban on discards. But the reality is more complicated. Mr Schlyter’s report recognises the complexity of dealing with the problem of discarding fish and I really welcome his inclusive approach.

It highlights practical aspects including the cost of dealing with discards and what to do with landed discards, the costs of introducing more selective gear, the implications for the total allowable catches and quota regime if discarding is banned, and the need to give fishermen incentives to fish in a more sustainable way. It acknowledges that, since both the causes of discards and the measures needed to reduce them vary from fishery to fishery, no single solution will work throughout the Community.

An amnesty on discards is not the solution as it may create a market in discards instead of encouraging fishermen to fish in a sustainable way. Given the levels of overfishing and concerns over fishing stocks including cod and bluefin tuna, we still need good management of existing stocks.

The report also places the discards issue in the broader context of the problem of by-catches of seabirds and of sharks and it calls for a significant range of pilot discard projects with a geographical spread.

I call on colleagues to support this report which makes an important contribution to dealing with the disgrace of discards.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Elspeth Attwooll, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Madam President, the ALDE Group warmly welcomes the content of Mr Schlyter’s report, which is to be commended for its sensitive, yet highly practical, approach.

Members of the public find it almost impossible to understand just how it is that we can allow fish to be caught and then thrown back dead into the sea. Fishermen too have major concerns with the fact that this kind of action is, to some extent, forced upon them, for the current combination of rules and technical possibilities means that some fish are simply not wanted on board. Sometimes this is because they are of insufficient economic value. We must make an early and concerted effort to prevent the kind of discarding that results from attempts at high grading. I suspect that there is already less temptation to this practice in those fisheries where days at sea are limited.

Sometimes, though, discarding is the outcome of conditions we ourselves impose, for example minimum landing sizes, and restrictions on quotas. Of course, if we are serious about conservation, we need total allowable catches. But, in my own view, we need to look seriously at the methods we employ to keep fishing within the limits that are set by those TACs, to determine amongst other things, just how far there is an interconnection between the establishment of quotas and the problem of discards, particularly where mixed fisheries are concerned.

This, as well as the adoption of the measures suggested in the report, must of course be undertaken with the full engagement of stakeholders. Without that, we cannot hope for success. The industry is already leading the way. I am particularly proud of the Scots, for their voluntary system of real-time closures. We need proper incentives to positive actions of this kind for a great deal remains to be done. I trust that Parliament will give its full support to the report and that the Commission and Council will take matters forward in the manner it recommends.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Seán Ó Neachtain, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (GA) Mr President, I should like to say that I approve of this report; to my mind, the rapporteur has worked out a practical, comprehensive approach to the problem of fisheries discards at sea. But things are not so easy, and everyone is thinking about the new methods to be applied.

It is time to put an end to the volumes of talk about this matter and take action. There are plenty of practical suggestions in the report and they could be put into operation. The one thing that we definitely cannot do is to do nothing. We have to act for as long as fisheries discards pose a problem.

I should also like to ask the Commission ensure that small fishermen do not incur any additional cost on account of measures to resolve the problem of these discards.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ian Hudghton, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Madam President, the common fisheries policy (CFP) has been a miserable failure. It has failed to conserve stocks, it has failed to sustain our fishing-dependent communities and it has failed to win public support or credibility.

One of the main reasons for that is the scandal of discarding. The CFP quota system itself is a direct cause of discarding. It does not measure the amount of fish caught; it only measures the amount of fish landed.

That said, I broadly welcome this report by Mr Schlyter. In particular, I strongly agree with the principle of positive incentives giving some reward to those fishermen who take steps to reduce or eliminate discards.

I also agree that measures must be tailored to different types of fishery. It has long been a major flaw of the CFP that it has been over-centralised and inflexible. I draw attention to paragraph 15, which welcomes the voluntary real-time closure scheme introduced by Scotland, an excellent example of the kind of initiative which should be encouraged and incentivised by the CFP at least for as long as we are stuck with it as a management measure.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Thomas Wise, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Madam President, discards are just one aspect of the nightmare that is the CFP. The EU, through its ill thought-out policy, is destroying livelihoods in developing nations across the world. The export of fish is significantly more important to the developing world in trade terms than other commodities such as rice, coffee and tea.

Mauritania, for example, is dependent on its fishing industry for half of its exports, which represent 15% of its GDP. But, having devastated Mauritanian waters, the Commission now wants to dump its deal. It does not think that these now sterile waters are worth EUR 86 million a year. This denunciation of a fisheries agreement is supposed to be a secret; well, it was until now. I think African people should know about the EU’s shabby and dishonourable plans. It is colonialism at its most vicious, and I accuse these institutions of racism and exploitation of vulnerable societies. President Barroso’s non-imperial empire is not as benign as he would have us believe, so, if you want to move forward, discard Giscard and dump the Lisbon Treaty as well as the CFP.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jim Allister (NI). – Madam President, the scandal of discards is one of the EU’s own making. Impossible quotas and restrictions are imposed in mixed fisheries, prohibited stocks are inevitably caught and in consequence they are dumped back – dead – into the sea. And all this while hunger prevails in many parts of the world.

For years the EU has wrung its hands over this but, frankly, has done nothing to stop it. Such fish, I believe, should be landed; they should be sold at a fixed price, sufficiently low to discourage deliberate catching and sufficiently high to make their landing worthwhile.

Also, it is sensible and right that we should reward the use of more selective fishing gear. But I do most positively reject any blanket discard ban as translating into yet another device of driving more of our fishermen out of business.

We have ruminated on this issue for years. Now is the time, at last, to do something about it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Carmen Fraga Estévez (PPE-DE). – (ES) Madam President, in general terms I support the rapporteur’s report as an expression of the long-standing concern about the rigidity of the common fisheries policy when it comes to tackling problems which are entrenched in our fisheries management system, of which discards are simply another example.

In particular I support the paragraphs advocating a fishery-by-fishery introduction of reductions in unwanted catches and discards, and their gradual elimination, and for any ban to be introduced only when it has been ascertained that there is no alternative, as the Council and all the regional consultative committees have said.

We could not adopt another approach and we could not move to a full blanket ban on discards within a management system which encourages them, both through the rigid TAC system and quotas in force, and through the absence of adequate technical measures which constitute a fundamental factor in preventing by-catches, the review of which we have been waiting for years so that they can be adjusted for the Atlantic.

What I cannot accept, Madam President, is Amendment 10, which would allow the creation of a parallel fishery market based on discarded fish, which would therefore be unlawful. I think we should remain firm in defending the principle of non-commercialisation of discards as set out in paragraph 32 of the report, as have countries with a longer history in this matter such as Norway.

Incentives to prevent discards must be of a different kind: for example, incentives aimed at reducing them to a minimum through the use of more selective gear. It is much better for a juvenile fish to continue to live in the sea and grow up to feed people or other fish instead of being discarded and the subject of negotiations on fishmeal production.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Stavros Arnaoutakis (PSE). – (EL) Madam President, I should firstly like to express my satisfaction with the draft report on fish discards and to stress that this is one of the most important problems in European and international fisheries.

Allow me to make a couple of points about the report. I believe that, apart from the points suggested, a common policy for the final elimination of discards must be implemented. This policy should emerge from a study of the problem in all the fishing countries of the EU, and should incorporate all national studies and global research.

In order to tackle the problem in a radical way, the EU must immediately finance a study on all fishing equipment, types of fishing and kinds of catch. The EU must also commission specialised research institutions to conduct it. This will enable the EU to impose the best and most efficient solutions centrally, through regulations, on Member States. If this does not occur, I fear that the problem will be considered and then shelved, while all the fishery stocks are devastated.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Philippe Morillon (ALDE). – (FR) Madam President, I should also like to say how much I approve of the approach suggested by our rapporteur to remedy the rightly criticised waste of resources in the current practice with discards.

Whilst drawing up his report, Mr Schlyter has been conscious of the effects that the immediate implementation of a total ban on discards might have, first of all, on the fragile financial equilibrium of those working in the sector and, secondly, on monitoring of its implementation by the Member States and the Commission, obliging them to tighten up methods of supervision that do not conform to the budgetary rigour required of them.

For that reason, he thought it more appropriate to propose the gradual introduction of a series of measures to encourage the fishermen themselves to alter their fishing methods and equipment, an approach strongly approved of by the Commission.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Struan Stevenson (PPE-DE). – (inaudible) … from the outset, I think that is highly ambitious. Can I also congratulate Mr Schlyter and Mrs Doyle for the great amount of work they have both done on this report?

I am delighted to support Mrs Doyle’s land-all policy, whereby fishermen will be compelled to land everything they catch. It has many benefits. Scientists will get a much clearer picture of what fish are being caught and where, which will enable more accurate conservation and recovery plans to be devised. Also, when young, undersized fish are landed, fisheries inspectors could immediately call for a temporary closure of specific fishing grounds to avoid further pressure on immature stocks.

Under this policy, undersized fish and other species which previously would have been discarded could be sold to the processing sector, which is desperate for raw material to supply the fishmeal and fish oil industry. They would be paid – through a regional compensation fund – a token amount, say about EUR 50 a tonne, which would not be enough to encourage targeting these fish and creating the black market that Ms Fraga Estévez fears, but would be too much to throw them, dead, back into the water.

The whole operation could be policed by attaching weatherproof CCTV cameras to every vessel. In an industry already constrained by limitations of the number of days that can be spent at sea, time spent catching and sorting fish of no commercial value is regarded by fishermen as valuable time lost. So I think fishermen will support this proposal.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Rosa Miguélez Ramos (PSE). – (ES) Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank Mr Schlyter for his work and I am particularly glad that several of the amendments I put forward have been incorporated into the text of the report we are debating today.

I refer in particular to the amendments stating that discards are not only to do with the use of a particular gear type, but are also influenced by the nature of the fishery concerned, as in the case of European fisheries, almost all of which are multispecies in nature, where the risk of discards is higher. Therefore, any measure which is adopted must be case-specific.

Also thanks to my amendments we can see from the report that discarding is caused by a range of factors, including excessive fishing effort, and the current TACs approach requiring fish for which there is no quota to be discarded. Measures must therefore be taken to prevent species of legal size which are inevitably caught from being compulsorily discarded owing to the lack of a quota for them.

Having said this, I would like to warn Mr Schlyter to tread carefully, because after the criticism he made in his speech of fishermen and the selfless, age-old tradition of fishing, I am not sure what we are doing here or if Mr Schlyter is going to put the Commissioner, the members of the Fisheries Committee and fishermen out of a job. (That’s a joke, Madam President).

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Neil Parish (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I thank Mr Schlyter very much for his report. I think it is excellent. Can I also thank the Commissioner for his points at the beginning, where he is moving towards a discard ban, because he is very well aware that I have seen him many times, as many other Members of this House have, about bringing in a discard ban, and I think it is high time we did it.

I also think that, at the end of the day, if we can protect fisheries’ stocks, then actually it is better for fishermen in the long run, because we do have to have sustainable fisheries. Of course the scientific advice that we are using can very often be flawed. Therefore, the landing of all catch and by-catch so that it can be thoroughly investigated will actually give us a much better idea of what is in the sea. I also think that some of the practices, such as pair trawling and others, which do have an awful lot of by-catch, again, will emphasise what is happening. Of course, a lot of trouble catching dolphins, sharks and porpoises and many other things will be highlighted in the by-catch that is landed. So, if we can bring in the right amount of carrots to encourage it to be landed and not too much to encourage by-catch, then I think this is the way forward. So I welcome the Commissioner’s support for this report, I welcome the report itself, and we should all support it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, first of all I would like to thank Members for their interesting comments, which demonstrate once again that we share the common objective of eliminating this appalling practice.

As I stated before, our proposal will be gradual but effective. Realistically speaking, we simply cannot bring about a discard ban overnight. However, as one speaker said, doing nothing is not an option. And, undoubtedly, during the course of this year we will be coming up, hopefully, with three legislative proposals on reducing discards for specific fisheries, apart from incentivising and encouraging Member States to come up with pilot projects, by virtue of which we could achieve the introduction of a reduction in discards or even, possibly, discard bans.

The example of Scotland, which was adopted by the Council in December, was a very laudable one.

Concerning the point that was made on positive incentives, I agree that these are important, but we need to find the right mix and the right levels, because otherwise they could be counterproductive, and we could end up with a situation whereby we encourage more catches when, for sustainability reasons, we would want to reduce them in order to reach MSY levels.

I would also like to point out that I could not agree more that our proposals must be tailor-made to the specific fisheries and must contain in-built incentives, as I said, and support for the changes in behaviour that fishermen will have to adopt.

Indeed, already, in our TAC and Quota Regulation, we adopted incentives for fishermen to adopt more selective methods, thus avoiding discards.

In the very first intervention and in others that followed, the point was made that discards are caused by the common fisheries policy. I would like to state that this is not really correct, because the causes of discards can arise form the high grading of fish by fishermen for the purpose of getting better quality fish, which is done independently of quotas, and the catching of juveniles, which is also independent of quotas. It is only where there is exceeding of catch quotas, and again this depends, because if it is a clean fishery and the quota is exceeded, then the quota is set for purposes of sustainability.

It is, in reality, where you have a mixed catch, and you have one of the types of catch which has a low quota for sustainability reasons, and the other catches targeted, that you have discarding of fish as a result of the TAC and Quota Regulations.

These are the aspects which we would like to address in order to introduce more selective gear, so that the catches can become even cleaner – which is one of the methods whereby discarding could be effectively reduced.

I would also like to point out that, according to FAO estimates, discards within Community waters are around one million tonnes. Worldwide they are around eight million tonnes. These are very conservative estimates. When one takes into consideration that the system that we operate is producing less than one tenth of all discards – taking into account the TACs and quotas – I think that there are various other factors which contribute to discarding apart from the system operated by the common fisheries policy.

Having said that, we are actively seeking ways and means whereby we improve the management so that the TACs and quotas operate in a way whereby discards are reduced to an absolute minimum or are completely banned.

Finally, on the point raised concerning Mauritania, I would like to say that we have just signed a new memorandum of understanding with Mauritania, and this will lead to a new protocol which will guarantee for Mauritania the same amount that they have under the existing protocol but which will reflect the actual fishing possibilities in a more realistic way.

So we will be paying Mauritania to help it strengthen its fisheries infrastructure and its economy in general under the development funds, so that, in that way, Mauritania is guaranteed the full amount. But at least what we pay for fish would reflect the actual amount of fish that it is possible to catch in Mauritanian waters.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Carl Schlyter, rapporteur. − (SV) Thank you, Madam President. Yes, Commissioner, clearly there are many reasons why fish are thrown overboard, but I still think that this has been exacerbated by aspects of our fisheries policy.

There is one thing I want to ask you: I do not really understand why you are against Amendment 4 when it points in the same direction you yourself want to go in. The report currently states that a discard ban should only be adopted after other measures have been tried. The amendment means that the implementation of a ban on discards would only take place after other negative incentives had been applied. Thus we start from the same premise if Amendment 4 is approved, namely that we have a policy on the banning of discards but that its implementation is dependent on the conditions in each individual fishery. I do not really understand why you said you were opposed to Amendment 4, but perhaps we can talk about that again later.

What makes me optimistic is that in spite of everything we have a kind of consensus. I have spoken with both research workers and fishermen. There is a good consensus here on what needs to be done. The Commission and Parliament are on the same lines and the fishermen and environmental organisations are also on board. It gives me a certain optimism. Perhaps all the interested parties will cooperate and we shall indeed get a result.

A split vote has been requested on Amendment 10. It will therefore be possible to take account of what Mrs Fraga Estévez said if we can vote for the first part and against the second part.

I thank you and I thank all of you who have taken part in the debate and in the work. It has been a pleasure to work on this report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, Thursday 31 January 2008.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bogdan Golik (PSE), in writing. (PL) Ladies and gentlemen, the amount of fish discarded, which the rapporteur estimates as possibly a quarter of the total catch, is a serious environmental and economic problem to which we cannot remain indifferent. The scale of the phenomenon points to an enormous waste of resources and serious damage to biodiversity caused by irresponsible human interference.

Tinkering with the rules will not achieve the desired result. The situation requires much more wide-ranging action – a complete change of approach and thinking on the matter. We must clearly define our aims, adopt correspondingly coherent CFP instruments, and ensure the necessary funding. We must avoid a situation like the present, where the side effects of certain legal instruments are simply ignored. The imposition of total permissible catches or minimum sizes of fish that can be landed (especially in the case of mixed catches), is a case in point, since it leads to discards.

I fully agree with the rapporteur's view that our approach to limiting discards should largely consist of incentives to fishermen to look for new, innovative solutions in fishing methods and gear. Greater use should be made of their experience and the knowledge of the scientific community.

I would emphasise that an effective information campaign will be crucial to the success of this strategy. Without understanding on the part of the fishing industry of the fundamental importance of eliminating excessive discards, and without the general support of fishermen, the strategy is doomed to failure.

 

24. European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (debate)
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The next item is the oral question to the Commission on the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation by Gerardo Galeote, on behalf of the Committee on Regional Development (Ο-0076/2007/rev.1 – Β6-0008/2008).

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gerardo Galeote, author. − (ES) Madam President, an essential aspect of the revision of the rules on the Structural Funds, which the Committee on Regional Development has carried out successfully, was to make the promotion of territorial cooperation the priority objective of our cohesion policy, whose funding, I note, was increased by the European Parliament as part of the negotiations on the financial perspective. Because of this the calling of this debate cannot come as a surprise to anyone: it was unanimously called for by the political Groups, and I am opening it on behalf of the Regional Development Committee. I thank the Commissioner for attending and regret that the Council has been unable to join us in a debate which affects it directly.

Drawing on the experience we gained during the years of the INTERREG Programmes we can conclude that the absence of an initiative-taking structure with its own legal personality has hindered its effectiveness, and we welcome the Commission proposal to establish European groupings of territorial cooperation as instruments with their own legal personality.

In a united Europe of States and citizens, regions, as the Treaty of Lisbon says, have their highest form of expression in these bodies.

Admittedly, even when under examination by the Council a number of Member States expressed reservations about the usefulness of European groupings of territorial cooperation.

It is up for debate whether the nature and content of the regulation as adopted are too vague, and whether it introduced a degree of legal uncertainty by making its application subject to domestic law in too many instances.

It might be said that the way that some Member States deal with a complex situation depends on their degree of decentralisation, which requires them to identify strategies in the field of territorial cooperation.

However, it should be noted that Regulation 1082/2006 was adopted in July 2006, one year after it was adopted unanimously by the European Parliament on a proposal from our colleague Jan Olbrycht, and has been binding in all Member States since 1 August 2007.

The Member States therefore had six months to make the necessary legislative arrangements.

According to the information available, however, and the Commissioner will correct me if I am wrong, not even ten Member States have taken the necessary measures to ensure that the regulation has full effect now.

It is common knowledge that it is the European Commission’s duty and responsibility to ensure effective implementation of European law and to intervene to remove barriers which may hinder its implementation.

Explanations, suggested informally, that the principle of subsidiarity prevents measures being taken against defaulting States will not be accepted: if they were, the Member States could delay or refuse to implement any Community legislation which they viewed as inappropriate or subject to challenge.

Therefore, Mrs Hübner, through our question to the European Commission we demand that Parliament should be clearly informed of the problems encountered by the Member States in the implementation of this regulation.

Which Member States are not introducing the measures necessary for this regulation to be implemented appropriately, and what measures has the European Commission taken or is it considering taking, specifically initiation of infringement proceedings before the European Court of Justice to ensure that all Member States comply with the regulation and to prevent the funds allocated being jeopardised by some States’ inability to comply with the established rules?

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR BIELAN
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I would like to start by saying that the deadline of one year for the adoption of national rules was, in fact, very ambitious. If we look into other regulations establishing legal bodies, it can be seen that the deadlines foreseen are usually between three and four years. So this is something which we also have to take into account.

In order to accelerate the whole procedure, the Directorate General for Regional Policy has prepared a questionnaire covering the elements of the regulations which have to be taken into account in the national rules. This questionnaire was sent in March 2007 to all Member States via the networks of the members of the Committee for the Coordination of the Funds (COCOF). The questionnaire was also subject to discussions with Member States during the COCOF meetings twice last year: once in April and then in the middle of July.

So where are we today with the adoption? We have six Member States that have adopted appropriate national rules: Hungary, the UK, Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania and Spain. In another four Member States, the finalisation of the process of adoption of national rules should take place very soon: France, Luxembourg, Germany and Belgium. Of the remaining 17 Member States, 15 have already launched either the parliamentary or the government adoption procedure. We have, however, two Member States – Denmark and Estonia – where we do not have any information on the process. They are expected to respect the deadline of mid-February as fixed in the Director General’s letter, which was sent to all the Member States, in which we request information on the communication on the adoption of the procedures of the rules by the deadline of 14 February. In the same letter, in which we gave this deadline of mid-February to those Member States that still have to inform us whether they have adopted or what the calendar of the adoption is, we also inform the Member States of the preparation process for the interinstitutional EGGC seminar, which, together with Parliament and the Committee of the Regions, will be held on 19 June in Brussels under the Slovene Presidency. We have also encouraged them to participate in the EGGC expert group which was set up by the Committee of the Regions.

On the possible infringement procedure, let me say firstly that this is a very specific regulation: it is not a directive. This is a regulation of direct applicability in all 27 Member States, which requires some additional action from the Member States and not merely the adoption of the implementing rules. After 14 February, when we have received the responses of individual Member States – especially those whose agenda for adopting the necessary regulations we do not yet know – on which any decision of the Commission to start infringement procedures will depend, we will consider our position again and see where the infringement procedure will start. In any case, we will, of course, also be carefully monitoring the application of the regulations when they are in place. But let me say – and I think this is a very important part of this whole process – that, in the mean time, the first EGGC was established last Monday between France and Belgium, although the national rules have not yet been adopted, because this regulation is directly applicable and regional and local authorities have the right to set up the groupings. National rules need to identify the ex ante check procedure, including the designation of a competent authority that would receive the request of the regional or local authority to participate in an EGGC. We have today around 30 examples of programmes of projects across Europe where the option for EGGC is already envisaged. There are also regions that have already signed the letter of intention. A great deal of preparatory work is going on, so we expect that the process will gather momentum once the finalisation of the national implementing rules is completed.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Olbrycht, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (PL) Commissioner, I had the honour to be the rapporteur on the regulation that established the European grouping of territorial cooperation as part of the European legal system. I witnessed and took part in many discussions concerning the new possibilities opened up by territorial cooperation on the basis of the new legal instrument.

The arguments stressing the new possibilities were accompanied by fears of an organisational and political nature, especially on the part of representatives of the Member States. Finally, a regulation was drawn up that satisfied both supporters and sceptics. Realising that the introduction of this new type of legal entity into national systems would give rise to complications, the Member States agreed on a deadline by which work on the corresponding national legislation had to be completed. That deadline was not met, and so far only a few states have finished the task, among them Bulgaria and Romania, who were obliged to accept the regulation as part of the acquis communautaire.

Under the terms of the regulation itself, the Committee of the Regions is monitoring the implementation and functioning of European groupings of territorial cooperation and is already in possession of interesting information on preparations for the creation of the new bodies. On the basis of the information available, I can say that there is a need for the European institutions to play a particularly active role – not only the Commission but the Council above all – in persuading governments to take the action which they are obliged to carry out and on which they have previously agreed. It would not be beneficial if implementation were to be based on judgments resulting from complaints to the European Court of Justice.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Rosa Miguélez Ramos, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (ES) Mr President, from the outset the INTERREG initiative was the germ of a truly polycentric idea of the European space through cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation.

The establishment of this new legal instrument, the EGTC, was born of difficulties which this type of action encountered as a result of the different systems and different procedures in place

The solution reached by the European Parliament after almost two years of legislative work permitted and permits public authorities and public bodies to register as bodies with legal personality recognised Union-wide.

The Member States were, as has been noted, required to take a number of measures by 1 August 2007. Given the very obvious delay, in July last year the Committee of the Regions held a seminar to study the situation, to which I was invited as rapporteur; at the seminar, as a sign of the European Parliament’s willingness to cooperate in the search for a solution, I tabled a question which Mrs Krehl signed with me and which sowed the seed for the debate we are having today.

Commissioner, I can say today with pride that my country, Spain, and my region, Galicia, together with the northern region of Portugal, are pioneers in this and a blueprint which other European regions can follow.

For that reason I would like to ask you how the European Parliament can work with the Commission to encourage countries which have not yet done so to adjust their national legal systems and sign up to and form territorial groupings of this kind?

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mojca Drčar Murko, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (SL) During the debate about this regulation we were aware that the key point was the issue of the choice of legislation to be used for the acts adopted within the framework of territorial cooperation. The aim of the regulation was to enable the cooperating partners to use legislation which would have same effects in both countries, because until then the method of simultaneous application of two legal systems had not been effective. In this respect, the regulation is clearer than any other earlier document of a similar nature. It means that the law of the place where the seat of authority for cross-border cooperation is registered will be applicable, if such an authority has been established.

We were aware that this regulation was not intended to be a new legal instrument, but a tool to be used in conjunction with other structures already in existence. Now it is clear that this regulation is not going to have the same effects throughout the whole of the European Union and that, due to different conditions to be imposed by the States, it is very probable that various kinds of groupings of territorial cooperation will come into existence. In order for the regulation to be applied effectively, it is necessary to adapt the national legislation in an appropriate manner in accordance with the provisions of Article 16. Only if that happens can we really expect to see the effects of uniform practice in the longer term.

The Member States are therefore called upon to adopt legislation which will launch the development of territorial cooperation and improve the legal security of its framework. In short, because of its incompleteness, the regulation will probably become some kind of legal laboratory for comparing practices and conditions as and when they are established by the States. It would therefore be reasonable systematically to monitor instances where the regulation is applied and thereby simultaneously to develop a public database of European groupings of territorial cooperation.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, what are we actually doing this evening? We are trying to take stock of the situation following a very clear decision taken by the European Parliament and between the three institutions in which we announced that there were now new instruments for improving cross-border territorial cooperation.

The national borders still represent scars from the past which sometimes run straight through communities and new development areas. We need cooperation between universities, hospitals and so on in Europe. We need new instruments, and if we analyse the legislation that has been introduced, the Member States have been given a great deal of latitude here. This is why it is so disappointing – given the need to speed up cross-border cooperation – that so few Member States, which insisted on having all this freedom, are now actually using it.

Parliament is therefore quite rightly calling on the Commission and above all the Council, which is not here this evening, to take their responsibility and follow this up very quickly. I am pleased that there are good examples from elsewhere – the Committee of the Regions was mentioned a moment ago – of how the process of integration can be speeded up without calling the national governments’ legal systems into question. I am firmly convinced that we need to take this approach further.

People have got cold feet: it all seems to be too difficult. Just this evening we discussed the subject of energy efficiency in the built environment. It took five years for the Member States to implement this. In my view what we need here is a Community initiative to ensure that the seven Member States that have already implemented this regulation grow to 25 or 27 within a year, say. This has to be possible. This is why I want an answer from the Council, but the Council is not here this evening, which I very much regret.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gábor Harangozó (PSE). – (HU) Thank you very much, Mr President. Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, because of Hungary’s special situation, it is particularly important for us to promote the practical application of cross-border cooperation. It is for precisely this reason that Hungary was one of the first to formulate and introduce a national regulation corresponding to the Community Regulation creating the EGTC. However, the application of the new instrument in practice is encountering difficulties, so we would like to set up a working group to prepare a handbook, in cooperation with our partners in the programme.

I would like to ask the Commissioner whether she would support an EGTC working group within the framework of INTERACT technical assistance and, if so, how this can be done. Moreover, not only internal cross-border programmes, but also external IPA and ENPI programmes, are important for EGTC cooperation. Our internal cross-border programmes have already been approved by the European Commission, and the programmes supported by the IPA will probably be approved in February. However, we need to wait for the indices, to be prepared by the Commission, in order to finish planning the cross-border programme between Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine, funded by ENPA.

I would also like to ask when we can expect the publication of the Commission's indices relating to the neighbourhood programmes. Thank you very much.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jean Marie Beaupuy (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, let me say how pleased I am to speak on this subject this evening, because when we considered this addition, tabled by Mr Olbrycht, I expressed my confidence in the report.

In fact this subject was discussed in the French Parliament yesterday and – this is worth emphasising, because it does not happen very often – all the political groups were in favour of the creation of this EGTC, and there were many examples showing how, in the north and south of France, in the Alps, in Lorraine, there was reason to put the EGTC into operation very soon. As the Commissioner said, this was based in particular on the example of Lille, which last Monday signed an EGTC that will cover two million inhabitants in Belgium and France.

Why did that raise such high hopes? It was because for three or four years our colleagues looked for legal possibilities without success. With the EGTC, they found a solution. We are now expecting that the 70 000 French people who work in Luxembourg every day, the 30 000 French people who work in Monaco and Italy, as well as in Spain and so on, will really be able to foster new forms of cooperation with the EGTC.

My colleagues and I would like to see the Commissioner urge on the States that are lagging behind. Apart from the fact that they are subject to the requirements of the regulation, they can be told that some countries are already operating the system perfectly happily.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Rolf Berend (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the purpose of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation is to implement and administer cross-border, supranational and interregional cooperation measures. It is no exaggeration to say that this new network is intended to improve the quality of people’s everyday lives, to make our businesses more competitive, to extend the scope of our research and education centres and, last but not least, to preserve our environment.

There is no compelling need for the EU to provide financial support for EGTC measures. This instrument will enable regional and local authorities to form cross-border alliances with their own legal personality – a significant innovation in terms of the scope for territorial cooperation. The EGTC offers a unique opportunity to generate synergetic effects that transcend the institutional framework and to guarantee better, coordinated investments and uniform and efficient use of resources.

On 5 July 2006, as we know, this instrument was created by virtue of a European Parliament and Council Regulation. By 1 August 2007, all Member States were to have enacted supplementary legal and/or administrative provisions. The fact that only five or six Member States have adopted national rules gives us cause for serious concern. The losers will be the potential committed participants who want to foster cross-border cooperation with their good ideas and innovative projects. To that extent, the questionnaire was warranted, and we also urgently await information on this matter from the Council.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Stavros Arnaoutakis (PSE). – (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, territorial cooperation is the third target of the cohesion policy for the new programming period. According to this target, cooperation is vital in the promotion of balanced, harmonious development within European regions.

The European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation is a new means of endowing teams for cooperation between regional and local authorities from different EU Member States with legal personality. The decision to create this means was not taken lightly; it was the response to technical and legal problems faced in cooperation programmes. Now, unfortunately, six months after the deadline, local and regional bodies have not managed to set up a territorial cooperation grouping because Member States have unjustifiably neglected to take or have delayed taking appropriate measures to implement the regulation. We must now send a crystal-clear message to Member States on the importance placed by the institutions on the correct implementation of the regulation in the new programming period, as well as on cooperation as a way of achieving economic, social and territorial cohesion.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE). – (SK) Fifty years have passed since the first Euroregion emerged along the German-Dutch border. Since then many other regions have initiated mutual cooperation. They help each other to solve similar or identical problems that often occur in border regions. They create new job opportunities and share their culture.

The Regulation establishing a European grouping of territorial cooperation that was approved in July 2006 seems to be a very good tool for regional cooperation and a step in the right direction. It offers the regions flexibility in cooperation and has a positive influence on the population of the Member States, the economy and the business environment. More is the pity, then, that the Member States have not transposed this useful Regulation into their legislation in spite of the fact that this should have happened by 1 August 2007.

Many regions are very interested in the European grouping of territorial cooperation because it gives them the opportunity to cooperate with other regions and at the same time offers them a significant level of autonomy in their relationship with governments and central administrations. It has also a positive effect on the lives of the population in individual regions: one of the aims of regional cooperation is to facilitate more efficient development of human resources and so reach a balance in the development of supply and demand in regional labour markets.

We must not forget either that the EGTC will benefit the business world as well, namely by supporting development of the economy with the aim of improving its productivity and structure, creating new job opportunities and stabilising those that are at risk. Individual groupings of territorial cooperation will be able actively to promote a rise in employment and social inclusion.

The Regulation simplifies and supports regional cooperation in the Member States of the Union and so facilitates economic and social cohesion. This is a good thing and for that reason I urge the Council and the Commission to take the necessary steps to ensure implementation of this Regulation in the individual Member States.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Antolín Sánchez Presedo (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation is a new tool to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the Union.

It is an instrument for advanced, structured cooperation with its own legal personality which will have access to Community funding and resources from other sources.

The culmination in Braga ten days ago of the 23rd Luso-Spanish Summit was a decisive milestone. Both countries are among the six which have already adopted the provisions necessary to implement the European Regulation of July 2006 effectively.

Galicia Council and the authorities in the northern region of Portugal, which had finished drawing up the draft agreement and statutes in November 2006, will soon form a grouping which will cover 6 400 000 inhabitants and will have its seat in Vigo.

They will take the lead in establishing a Euro-region with government bodies which will promote ambitious European cooperation serving as an example of re-generation.

Their efforts deserve recognition by the European Parliament.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ivo Belet (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, the EGTC, as has already been said several times, is an extremely useful instrument particularly for border regions. I am very pleased, Commissioner, that you referred to the Eurodistrict project on the border between France and Belgium. Mr Beaupuy also mentioned this. The towns of Kortrijk, Doornik and Lille have signed a cooperation agreement just this week in order to work together in practical ways on projects that also involve the public. Then there is transfrontier work, public transport, cooperation between hospitals and fighting crime – these are the sorts of things that people expect us to deal with on a practical level.

Various initiatives have also been taken in another border region – between Belgium and the Netherlands – to promote practical cooperation between universities using an EGTC. The areas in question are Belgian Limburg, Dutch Limburg and the region of Aachen. The idea is eventually to create one cross-border combined university with the help of the EGTC, using it to overcome or circumvent many of the existing administrative obstacles.

Mr President, Commissioner, the EGTC cannot solve every problem, of course, and I realise – as we have heard – that a lot of Member States have yet to start using it. However, we should now look a little further ahead on the basis of preliminary experiences with this instrument, and think about what improvements we can make on the basis of this first evaluation. There are some existing problems that we will have to overcome, such as the different social regulations that workers are faced with when they are working under an EGTC.

Commissioner, all I can say is that it is absolutely crucial for the Commission to keep pushing the governments that have so far failed to make this instrument operational.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) Commissioner, the number of projects in border regions, both successfully completed projects and new projects currently being developed under the auspices of Euroregional groupings, proves that there are many development activities with a great deal of potential and that these activities could not be implemented without European assistance.

However, there must be clear rules, otherwise the money will not get spent. I trust that this debate will encourage interested border parties to participate in the EGTC.

Any parties that have not fulfilled their obligations must be identified in the Member States. The Commission must step up its efforts to ensure that cross-border cooperation is not damaged. The Euroregions are cross-border structures that have long been in existence and completed tasks under Interreg in the previous programming period, notably in the case of small ‘people-to-people’ projects.

I do not believe that the Euroregions have failed. I am convinced that with the active support of the Commission, the Member States, the regional and local governments, the chambers of commerce and industry, and all the people living in border regions, the Euroregions will use their experience to make use of this new EGTC tool.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I thank Members very much for their comments and also for all their support for this tool, and for their commitment.

Let me just remind everyone that no Member State has refused to implement this tool and this is, I think, very important. It is absolutely clear that all of them have to implement. We have, as I was trying to say in my introductory remarks, tried to move towards completion and accelerate the whole process through very different instruments. Certainly, today we can still give encouragement directly through your active presence in your Member States and regions, which we have doing for the last year. During all my visits, all my meetings, all the conferences – not only on territorial cooperation but also on the core of the policy – we have been encouraging, we have been talking and giving instructions. We have worked a lot with regions to help them prepare for implementing this new tool for cooperation.

But I think today we are in the process. I think the awareness among the Member States has greatly increased. I hope that, with the recent impetus from the Director General’s actions, we will have most of the national adjustments for the implementing regulations in place by June.

We have to remember, however, that any programme can transfer its management to the EGGC at any time of its existence, so no potential damage to the policy arises from the fact that the Member States have not yet implemented the requisite adjustments. Also, any project can use this tool for the implementation of the project and, as we know, we can have new projects until the end of 2013. So there is no threat here either.

This is not a consolation, but I would like you also to see that the fact that we have not yet completed all the implementing procedures does not cause damage in this sense.

What we see today is the great interest of other directorates general in the Commission that are eager to use this instrument within the seventh Framework Programme, but also within the CIT programme and in other policies as well.

It is important in your meetings at regional and local level to remind the regions that, even if there are not yet implementing rules in place, the recent example of France and Belgium clearly shows that the EGTC can be established and a Member State can implement and designate an ad hoc authority to play the role of the authority to which the regional and local bodies would direct themselves for information about the establishment of the EGTC.

Concerning the handbook on EGTC, INTERACT is working on the handbook. In March there will be a conference in Brussels, and everybody interested will be invited to this seminar on the preparation of the handbook.

Concerning the Madrid Convention, we should remember that it has taken 20 years so far to ratify this convention and, if I remember correctly, not all of our Member States have ratified the Convention yet. This regulation was renegotiated less than two years ago, and we are now in the first year of its implementation.

That, I think, would be the reaction to what you have been saying. I would like to assure you that we are strongly committed, because we see the value added and we work with the regions. This is why so many of them are also so well prepared. We see all the value added of this instrument that you have mentioned.

However, of course we have to remember that it does not guarantee the money. It is not a project, it is a tool that we want to use for the cooperation. But, of course, the EGGC can receive Community funding according to the normal rules, under the European cohesion policy. This is also important to bear in mind.

Again, thank you for your interest. We are absolutely committed to completing this process as quickly as possible.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. − The debate is closed.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bairbre de Brún (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (GA) I wish to suggest that the Committee on Regional Development take initiatives and exert pressure for action enabling ability to be pooled in a European grouping of territorial cooperation with a view to bringing policies to light.

The new EGTCs will serve to enforce legislation in Member States, generate new dynamics in cross-border cooperation, and enable a higher degree of confidence and cooperation to be maintained beyond the limits of borders.

In my divided country a key role could be played by initiatives of this kind and other EU support schemes aimed at mitigating the adverse impact of partition on Ireland. I fully support the sound thinking behind cross-border cooperation, as this is a European ideal.

There is a great need for Ireland to explore every avenue for cross-border cooperation because our border areas are in poor counties and the level of development is low. We have spent a long time dawdling and making excuses. Member States have a duty to help border areas to implement the ECTC legislation as quickly as possible

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE), in writing. (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the problem of the implementation of Community legislation by Member States is not a new one. I daresay it affects the majority of Community policies.

Working out a common position of 27 countries at European level is in fact only the beginning of a laborious process of harmonisation and implementation of the principles adopted. It is high time the Member States took responsibility for this process themselves. The effectiveness of our joint endeavours at European level depends to a large extent on commitment and the implementation of recommendations by the national administrations of the Member States.

What is needed is cooperation between the different levels of our public administration. I can safely say that, as Members of the European Parliament elected directly by the peoples of the individual Member States, we are ready for and open to every form of cooperation with our national and regional administrations that can improve and speed up the implementation of Community legislation.

We cannot allow matters like the strengthening of economic and social cohesion, which is one of the basic principles of the Treaties, to be marginalised – as is happening with the problem submitted to us today. A proper EU regulation on territorial cooperation groupings has existed since July 2006, but to this day it is impossible to take advantage of it owing to the absence of corresponding legislation by Member States.

 

25. Agenda for the next sitting: see Minutes

26. Closure of the sitting
  

(The sitting was closed at 11.40 p.m.)

 
Legal notice - Privacy policy