Index 
Verbatim report of proceedings
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Tuesday, 19 February 2008 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Documents received: see Minutes
 3. Debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (announcement of motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes
 4. Situation in Gaza (motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes
 5. Accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products - Common framework for the marketing of products - Application of certain national technical rules to products lawfully marketed in another Member State - Safety marking on consumer products (debate)
 6. Voting time
  6.1. (A6-0025/2008, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski) Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement between the EC and Israel to take account of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU (vote)
  6.2. (A6-0026/2008, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski) Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement between the EC and Egypt to take account of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU (vote)
  6.3. (A6-0012/2008, Jan Andersson) Exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields) (vote)
  6.4. (A6-0022/2008, Hans-Peter Mayer) Installation of lighting and light-signalling devices on wheeled agricultural and forestry tractors (codified version) (vote)
  6.5. (A6-0016/2008, Hans-Peter Mayer) Statutory plates and inscriptions for motor vehicles and their trailers (codified version) (vote)
  6.6. (A6-0017/2008, Hans-Peter Mayer) Rear registration plate lamps for motor vehicles and their trailers (codified version) (vote)
  6.7. (A6-0018/2008, Francesco Enrico Speroni) Suppression of radio interference produced by agricultural or forestry tractors (codified version) (vote)
  6.8. (A6-0019/2008, Francesco Enrico Speroni) Noise level of wheeled agricultural or forestry tractors (codified version) (vote)
  6.9. (A6-0020/2008, Francesco Enrico Speroni) European Environment Agency and the European Environment Information and Observation Network (codified version) (vote)
  6.10. (A6-0021/2008, Francesco Enrico Speroni) Excise duty applied to manufactured tobacco (codified version) (vote)
  6.11. (A6-0512/2007, Ruth Hieronymi) EC/Switzerland Agreement on the MEDIA 2007 programme (vote)
  6.12. (A6-0007/2008, Klaus-Heiner Lehne) Request for defence of the parliamentary immunity of Mr Claudio Fava (vote)
  6.13. (A6-0008/2008, Aloyzas Sakalas) Request for defence of the parliamentary immunity of Mr Witold Tomczak (vote)
  6.14. (A6-0011/2008, Janelly Fourtou) Community Customs Code (vote)
  6.15. (A6-0488/2007, Bill Newton Dunn) Application of the law on customs and agricultural matters (vote)
  6.16. (A6-0010/2008, José Javier Pomés Ruiz) Transparency in financial matters (vote)
  6.17. (A6-0009/2008, Francesco Musotto) on protection of the Communities’ financial interests – Fight against fraud – Annual reports 2005 and 2006 (vote)
  6.18. (A6-0015/2008, Gérard Deprez) The factors favouring support for terrorism and the recruitment of terrorists (vote)
  6.19. (A6-0002/2008, Ignasi Guardans Cambó) EU Market access for European Companies (vote)
 7. Explanations of vote
 8. Corrections to vote and voting intentions: see Minutes
 9. Debate on the future of Europe (debate)
 10. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting: see Minutes
 11. Lisbon Strategy - Broad Economic Policy Guidelines for 2008-2010 (debate)
 12. Commission Question Time
 13. An EU Strategy for Central Asia (debate)
 14. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes
 15. Closure of the sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS ROURE
Vice-President

 
1. Opening of the sitting
  

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

 

2. Documents received: see Minutes

3. Debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law (announcement of motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes

4. Situation in Gaza (motions for resolutions tabled): see Minutes

5. Accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products - Common framework for the marketing of products - Application of certain national technical rules to products lawfully marketed in another Member State - Safety marking on consumer products (debate)
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  President. – (FR) The next item is the joint debate on the following reports:

– report by André Brie, on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products (COM(2007)0037 – C6-0068/2007 – 2007/0029(COD)) (A6-0491/2007),

– report by Christel Schaldemose, on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and the Council on a common framework for the marketing of products (COM(2007)0053 – C6-0067/2007 – 2007/0030(COD)) (A6-0490/2007)

– and the report by Alexander Stubb, on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council laying down procedures relating to the application of certain national technical rules to products lawfully marketed in another Member State and repealing Decision 3052/95/CE (COM(2007)0036 – C6-0065/2007 – 2007/0028(COD)) (A6-0489/2007),

as well as the following oral question:

– oral question to the Commission by Arlene McCarthy, on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, concerning safety marking on consumer products (O-0009/2008 – B6-0009/2008).

 
  
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  André Brie, rapporteur. (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, representatives of the Presidency, ladies and gentlemen, the subject matter and legal intricacies of the Regulation on accreditation and market surveillance are complex, and it has all the appearances of a very dry and largely technical instrument. There can be no doubt, however, that it has highly significant political implications for consumers and for the European economy as a whole. The problems which prompted the Commission to draft its proposal and which underlie the numerous amendments and decisions adopted by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection in the course of its debates are plain for all to see. I shall confine my remarks to three specific issues.

Firstly, accreditation has not hitherto been regulated on a European scale, although it is practised in most Member States and significantly affects the performance of market-surveillance authorities. Given the internal market and free movement of goods in the EU, it is extremely important to consumers that the evident differences in the quality and effectiveness of market-surveillance authorities should be harmonised upwards by means of European rules governing accreditation bodies. To this end, the European Parliament has gone beyond the Commission proposal with a view to imposing distinctly more stringent obligations on these bodies and on the Member States. The Regulation clearly prohibits the commercialisation of accreditation bodies, stipulates that they must operate on a non-profit basis and must not compete with other bodies and enshrines their independence and their status as public authorities.

Secondly, although the safety and protection of consumers and the environment are regulated by numerous European guidelines and other binding standards, last year’s case involving the US toy manufacturer Martell, and not only that case, showed that current practice is unsatisfactory in many instances and, moreover, that there are wide divergences in the enforcement of the rules at Europe’s borders and within the European market, surveillance in some cases being inadequate. There is, of course, a need for changes and improvements to individual directives, such as the Toy Safety Directive. The main objective of the Commission in its proposal for a regulation, however, was to improve, strengthen and harmonise the system of market surveillance. The European Parliament not only shared this position but also developed many aspects of it, substantially fleshing out and tightening the obligations on Member States and market-surveillance authorities, including the requirements relating to cooperation with customs authorities. In our view, that also implied a strict disclosure obligation for the authorities and provisions on public freedom of information. I am pleased that the Council and the Commission have responded to this concern of Parliament.

Thirdly, I personally believe that Parliament’s greatest success and the most significant improvement we have achieved has been the inclusion of consumer goods. The advantages of this Regulation, which lie in its strictly binding nature, can be combined with the advantages of the General Product Safety Directive, which include highly detailed consumer-protection measures, albeit with minimal binding force. This was the most difficult area of our discussions and negotiations with the Commission and the Council in both legal and technical terms. The fruitful outcome was undoubtedly due to the fact that, although the three institutions favoured different approaches, they agreed on the aims of greater protection of consumers and more effective market surveillance. For this reason I would also like to thank Commissioners Kuneva and Verheugen, the Commission staff and our negotiating partners from the German and Portuguese Presidencies and particularly from the Slovenian Presidency for their intensive, constructive and considerate cooperation. May I also take this opportunity to record my gratitude to the late Michel Ayral, who was involved in organising most of this cooperation, which makes his recent death an even greater loss for us all. I can endorse the view of the Presidency that the outcome could scarcely have been achieved by now without the overarching cooperation of the three most recent incumbents of the Presidency.

The legal basis for consumer health and safety, for protection of the environment and for appropriate product quality has been significantly reinforced by this Regulation. It is up to the Member States and the Commission now to take the opportunities it offers to achieve tangible improvements for consumers. Let me also express my special thanks to the shadow rapporteurs, Christel Schaldemose und Alexander Stubb, for their exemplary cooperation in the preparation of this package.

 
  
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  Christel Schaldemose, Rapporteur. (DA) Madam President, Commissioner, President-in-Office, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to begin by thanking you all for the fantastic collaboration we have had in connection with the work on this package. It has been exciting in many ways. As the shadow rapporteurs know, this has been my first report during my time in Parliament and it has been a good learning experience. It has also been very challenging to work on three reports and therefore also with other rapporteurs. It has been exciting!

The fact that we have had three reports that have overlapped in certain areas has ultimately benefited our work, as we now have a coherent piece of legislation for the internal market, which will strengthen this market. There is considerable discussion concerning better legislation, and although the Commission has undoubtedly scratched its head at times during our negotiations, I would nevertheless venture to say that our work here is an example of a good process. We have all worked together very effectively and achieved a good result from this. We have, on the other hand, also had very many meetings to reach this point.

I would like to highlight three things that we have campaigned for from Parliament’s side in connection with this framework for the marketing of products; three things that we have worked through and that are important in enabling us now to support the compromise we have reached and be quite satisfied with it. Firstly, I think that it has been a great victory for consumers that we have strengthened the requirements imposed on enterprises throughout the supply chain. Everyone who comes into contact with a product will be responsible for ensuring that that product is safe and meets EU requirements. This applies equally to the manufacturer in China, the importer in Cologne or the distributor in Copenhagen. This also means quite specifically that an importer will no longer be able to claim that he is not responsible if a product that is imported proves to be dangerous or does not meet EU regulations in general.

Secondly, right at the finishing line we have agreed on how to reinforce the CE marking. It has been clear right from our very first debate in committee that it has been somewhat difficult to determine how we can solve this problem. What is the marking exactly? How can we reinforce controls? Is it really a credible guarantee for safety at all? The solution we have arrived at allows us to retain and reinforce the CE marking. In future Member States will prosecute companies and producers that misuse the CE marking. At the same time, we will also have strengthened market control, not least as a result of Mr Brie’s report. Overall, this means that we as consumers will in future be able to have much greater confidence in the products that carry the marking.

However – and this is the third point – in the proposal we have also committed the Commission to follow up the functioning of the marking. The CE marking is not necessarily the solution to all our safety problems within the internal market. The marking is aimed primarily at organisations and authorities concerned with market surveillance. Therefore, through this decision we have requested that the Commission carry out an investigation into how the market operates and undertake a thorough assessment of consumer safety markings in general. The Commission is in the process of carrying out this work and we are very eagerly awaiting the results.

This decision is not legislative in a legal sense, but it does contain a clear political obligation, which will mean that future product legislation will be based on the framework that we have created through the decision. In concrete terms, this means that when we begin work on the Toy Directive, we will take these definitions and these provisions concerning enterprises and incorporate them in the Toy Directive. This means that we will actually have a much safer internal market. I am entirely certain that through this we will improve safety levels within the internal market for the benefit of consumers, and also for the benefit of enterprises. Thank you to everyone for your collaboration and especially to Mr Stubb and Mr Brie.

 
  
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  Alexander Stubb, rapporteur. − Madam President, I have four minutes, so I would like to make four points. My first point is not that it is Malcolm Harbour’s birthday, but it is, so we should congratulate him.

The first point is a vote of thanks because, where a legislative package such as this one is concerned, there is no way one can push it through alone. So my first thanks go to Mr Brie and Ms Schaldemose, whom I would almost call my co-rapporteurs. Working with you has been a lot of fun. This was a first legislative package for me as well, and has shown that things can work quite well. I would also like to thank my shadow rapporteurs, especially Ms De Vits, Ms Rühle and Mr Manders. Working with you has also been a lot of fun. Then I would like to thank the three Presidencies that have been involved. The first was Frank Wetzel and the German Presidency. They did an excellent job. The second was Fernanda and the Portuguese Presidency. They too did a fantastic job and then, thirdly, the Slovenians have shown why new Presidencies and small country Presidencies are so fantastic. You did a great job as well, so thank you very much, Vinka. I would especially like to thank the Commission, Commissioner Verheugen and Simon Mordue, on the political side, and then on the floor, so to speak, I would like to thank Hans, Liliana and especially Mr Ayral, to whom André has already referred. Unfortunately, Mr Ayral passed away rather suddenly. If I had a choice I would call this the Ayral package in tribute to his work, because he was a fantastic European civil servant, of the type we need. My final thanks go to Luca from the Legal Service, to Patricia from the Secretariat and especially to my assistant Tuomas, who has worked so hard that he has a knee injury. In other words, his left knee does not mutually recognise his right any more and he is not able to be here today. He has been the soul behind this whole package.

My second point is to ask what the background is to mutual recognition. To put it simply, we had the Cassis de Dijon decision in 1979. Since then we have had 300 court cases to show that mutual recognition does not work. Seventy-five per cent of goods are harmonised, and twenty-five percent are not. The harmonised proportion amounts to EUR 1 500 billion, or in other words EUR 1.5 trillion, and the non-harmonised proportion to EUR 500 billion. Of that EUR 500 billion, there are problems relating to EUR 150 billion. The Commission tells us that, if mutual recognition worked, our GDP would go up by 1.8%. The Commission brought forward a good proposal. Unfortunately, the Member States tried to water it down, but fortunately we in the European Parliament protected the interests of the internal market and pushed through an ambitious package.

The third point is to ask what we did. What were the procedural matters that we changed? To put it in simple terms, until now it took a small, medium-sized or large company two to three years to fight a case on mutual recognition in court. That is not really necessary any more, because we have shifted the burden of proof to the Member States. Basically, in a procedure lasting 20 to 60 days, the Member State has to provide – and I stress the word – evidence that a particular rule does not apply in another Member State. So we have shifted the burden of proof. What I want to say to all small and medium-sized businesses in Europe is that there is no need ever again to fill in a form to apply to enter the market of another country. No, the goods move freely. Call us, call me, if you have a problem. You should not be having to apply.

The fourth and final point I wanted to make is about practical cases, and the areas to which this applies. The answer is bicycles, scaffolding, fire alarms, bread and plant-based products, and so forth. The principle of mutual recognition applies to a huge market. So my final point, having said my thanks and given a background to procedural changes and practical cases, is that European firms should never again have to let a product be prevented from entering another country’s market.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. – As entertaining as ever, Mr Stubb!

 
  
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  Arlene McCarthy, author. − Madam President, I, too, want to commend to Members the excellent work that has been carried out by our rapporteurs for the goods package, Mr Brie, Ms Schaldemose and Mr Stubb, who, I think, are all legislative virgins. I think it is the first report they have done in this Parliament and, I have to say, they have done a very good job, together with staff. We have to thank the Commissioner himself, who has demonstrated commitment and dedication to this issue, and the Council and the Presidency again, which have made all this happen.

I think we have managed to achieve an agreement which will free up circulation of safe products on the internal market, while introducing a tougher regime to detect dangerous goods and prevent them from coming onto the market and obviously maintaining tough rules, which we already have in place for food safety, medical equipment and blood products. With the adoption of this package, business and SMEs will find it easier, as Mr Stubb said, to sell their products – common household goods, bicycles, ladders, tanks, containers etc. – while consumers should reap the benefit of a wider choice of high-quality and safe products.

But we have said very clearly that free movement of goods must not compromise safety. On the contrary, our rapporteurs have sought to strengthen the safety and enforcement regime with essential requirements in this package, by making it clear that all products placed on the market, including imports from third countries, must comply with the law, whether it is a Toy Safety Directive or the Directive on electrical equipment; by making it clear that all economic operators are legally responsible – and, indeed, liable – for placing products on the market and for the accuracy of the information they provide; by strengthening the current CE marking system to help consumer knowledge and confidence in products; and by increasing the coordination and cooperation of the market surveillance authorities, in particular to react faster in emergency cases to detect and withdraw unsafe products.

I go back to the example of toys. While I would stress that US toy safety legislation on testing requirements and standards is weaker than the European Union’s, and their problems with defective toys were greater, nonetheless the recalls for the same product occurred in July in the US and it took Member States until September to take action to withdraw defective toy products from the market in the EU. That is why the changes that have been made by our rapporteurs for swifter action are, indeed, essential.

If we are to engender consumer confidence, then we must ensure that there are no loopholes for defective or dangerous products. I think that the message this Parliament will give today by voting through these new measures is that we want goods to move freely, we want to increase competition and consumer choice, but we will not compromise on safety and, therefore, we have stepped up enforcement surveillance and given the CE mark the legal protection it deserves, to ensure that importers and manufacturers can be legally prosecuted if they fail in their duty of responsibility to protect the consumer.

So, Commissioner, I want to thank you for the constructive and intensive work that you have carried out. We welcome the fact that you have now brought forward the new Toy Safety Directive. It is only one of many directives covered by this package of laws that we are putting through today and, as chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, I therefore want to ask you to address some of the key future issues to enhance consumer confidence and to ensure consumer safety and awareness.

I have two products here today. One is a toy seal; one is an electric kettle. One has no CE mark and one has a CE mark, so the former is probably not covered by the Toy Safety Directive and the latter, we assume, is covered by the Electrical Equipment Directive. However, consumers are confused. They believe that this also means that this kettle is safe. It does not mean it is safe. It means it conforms to the Directive on electrical equipment, and that is why, today, we are putting to you three requests: to examine the concept of a supplementary marking to enhance consumer information on product safety, to carry out an in-depth study in order to clarify the feasibility, the possible benefits and the potential drawbacks for such a marking for all stakeholders, including business and consumers, and to examine the possibilities for reinforcing the credibility of the CE marking through measures for stronger customs control inside and outside the European Union, to make sure we end the consumer confusion as regards the CE marking.

 
  
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  Andrej Vizjak, President-in-Office of the Council Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour for me to be with you today at the plenary of the European Parliament and to debate the products package. The free movement of goods is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones of European integration.

I am very pleased that, in the year we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the customs union and attention is centred on reviewing the operation of the internal market, we can add another stone to the mosaic of improved operation of the European market. The free movement of goods is one of the areas where Slovenia first had contact with European legislation, so I am all the more pleased that, right at the time of the Slovenian Presidency, we will have an opportunity to confirm the agreement by means of this products package, which represents a new milestone in the building of the European Union’s internal market.

I should mention that already this year, during the Slovenian Presidency, there have been about 30 or 35 meetings at all levels, and it is only mid-February. At the end of November there were about 300 amendments to the text, for which we are grateful to everyone, especially those who devoted a considerable effort to achieving these results.

I agree that at first sight the products package seems very technical, but I am convinced that European companies are going to respond very clearly that this legislation is going to affect their business methods in the most direct manner.

This legislative package clearly informs the Member States what is and what is not permitted when dealing with products which companies wish to market. On the other hand, companies will know what they can expect from national authorities. They will know about procedures, how long the administration is likely to take to deal with their case when the products come under a category for which there is no harmonised Community legislation, and what the procedures are for possible withdrawal of such products from the market.

This is especially important for small and medium-sized enterprises which are disproportionately burdened by administrative procedures compared with other companies. They will find that the new legislation makes these procedures much simpler and that the products package will benefit European companies. There is no doubt about it.

However, and for me this is particularly important, it will also benefit European consumers. The accreditation regulation on market surveillance has enabled us to strengthen market surveillance. We will thereby ensure that consumers have the best possible access to safe products which will satisfy all requirements.

In the same way we will ensure that the surveillance of products entering the European Union from third countries is good and that, in future, we will avoid the presence on the European market of products that are harmful to the health of its citizens and, even worse, its children.

The procedures of the Member States for handling unsafe products are now much clearer. The link with legislation relating to general product safety is also clear. In my opinion, this will enable us in the most direct way to increase the confidence of our citizens in the internal market of the European Union.

Let me mention that the products package is also part of the effort to create a better legislative environment.

With the Decision on the common framework for the marketing of products, the European Commission and both legislators have a clear plan, or manual, the essential elements of which should be contained in the future technical legislation of the European Union. This will make European Union legislation more comprehensible and it will be easier for the Member States to implement it.

I am convinced that the new legislation will contribute to more efficient organisation of national administration and enable businesses and citizens to operate more transparently. It will strengthen and simplify cooperation among the Member States and thus contribute to better links between institutions for accreditation and surveillance of the European Union market.

Finally, allow me to thank the rapporteurs, Mrs Schaldemose, Mr Stubb and Mr Brie, for their exceptionally accommodating and constructive cooperation. I would also like to thank the Commission and Commissioner Verheugen for their tireless support and advice in the shaping of the final agreement between the European Parliament and the Council. All this has led, in an exceptionally short time, to the shaping of a harmonised and, in my opinion, excellent final text of all three debated documents.

I think that together we have proven that, where the well-being of European citizens and the European economy is concerned, European institutions are united and efficient.

Thank you for your efforts and your attention.

 
  
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  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. − (DE) Madam President, President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, the great aim of this initiative, which we presented almost exactly a year ago, was to optimise the free movement of goods within the European internal market while increasing consumer and business confidence in the rules governing the internal market.

I wish to thank you all today for embracing this aim so wholeheartedly. The fact that this complex and sometimes very technical-looking package has been brought to a successful conclusion in such a short time is truly remarkable. This success is due to the extraordinary commitment of all parties, and I should like to express my special thanks to the rapporteurs, Mrs Schaldemose, Mr Brie and Mr Stubb.

I am very grateful to the three rapporteurs for paying tribute in their speeches to the leading role played by our departed colleague, Michel Ayral. He, in fact, was the architect of this package, and I must confess that I sometimes had the feeling he was the only one who fully understood it.

I also thank the Slovenian Presidency for making this project one of the priorities of its agenda. The fact that we are able to adopt this package today is a fine feather in the cap of the Slovenian Presidency.

I would also be the first to admit that the quality of this comprehensive legislative package has been enhanced by its passage through Parliament, and I am pleased that this is the case. It is a textbook example of the way in which the European institutions are supposed to interact.

We are therefore able to present a package that will benefit all participants in the internal market – businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, and, above all, consumers.

The Regulation on mutual accreditation will make it easier in future for companies to market their products throughout Europe without stumbling over obstacles in the form of diverse national rules. All of us here are aware that these diverse national rules are very often historically rooted in nothing other than pure protectionism. In this respect the main winners will be small businesses, for it is they that experience the greatest difficulty in surmounting these administrative obstacles.

This last aspect, in my view, is particularly important in the context of the general political situation. We now have more than 23 million small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, in Europe. They account for 99% of all European businesses. Indeed, there are only 44 000 firms in the whole of Europe that do not fall into the category of small and medium-sized enterprises.

What is rather surprising is the fact that only 8% of our businesses export beyond their national borders, whether within the European internal market or further afield. In other words, more than 90% of all our European firms confine themselves to their domestic markets and make no use whatsoever of the benefits offered by the internal market. I do believe one of the main reasons is that the day-to-day application of the rules governing the internal market poses too many practical problems. That is precisely the point from which our proposals proceeded.

The Regulation on accreditation and market surveillance will perceptibly increase the effectiveness of our rules for the internal market, and one of the main purpose of those rules, of course, is to guarantee the safety of products. The new rules will also ensure that compliance with the product standards we shall have, with the safety and quality requirements, can henceforth be properly verified.

In this way we are supplementing the technical rules of the internal market for the first time with a common market-surveillance policy, thereby taking a giant step in the direction of improved product safety.

During the preceding deliberations and in today’s debate too, the question of the CE marking has received particularly close attention. Let me say first of all that I am pleased to see Parliament reinforcing the CE mark with a view to ensuring that it can play its role more effectively in guaranteeing the safety of products.

Nevertheless, I definitely agree with Mrs McCarthy that this CE mark raises a number of issues which have emerged over the many years since it first came into use. One example is the question of a uniform European safety mark, to which Mrs McCarthy also referred. I am in the fortunate position of being able to tell you not only that the Commission is prepared to present the study requested by Parliament but also that we have already begun our preliminary work on it, because I see this project as a matter of urgency, and that we shall present the study as soon as possible.

As you know, the CE mark was not created at the time as a source of consumer information. That is a misunderstanding which recurs over and over again. The CE mark does nothing other than confirm that a product complies with all the relevant current legislation. The CE mark, of course, means nothing to consumers unless they are familiar with the provisions that apply to the product in question. This, I need hardly say, is clearly asking too much of consumers.

It is true that the CE mark is, in most cases, a safety mark too, but not always and not exclusively. Yet the most important information consumers want to know is whether their product is actually safe. For this reason I entirely agree with Parliament, and the Commission also sees the need to put the entire system of CE marking under the microscope.

Consideration is also being given to the question whether it is possible and expedient to introduce an additional mark. There is a need to examine very carefully whether that is feasible and what consequences it would have for all stakeholders. In any case, the Commission has an entirely open mind on this question and is willing to cooperate in any way with Parliament and the Council.

As part of our ongoing work, it goes without saying that we are also examining the cost involved in introducing a new system and in adapting existing systems and – even more importantly – how each could help consumers, manufacturers, dealers and public authorities by providing better value for money.

Another question of great import that is currently under examination relates to the connection between any specific mark for consumers and all other markings, including the CE mark.

With regard to the matter of enhancing the credibility of the CE mark through more stringent checks on products from outside the EU, the Regulation on accreditation and market surveillance will make a major contribution to the resolution of that issue as soon as the Member States have transposed it. I believe it is particularly important to remember that people see product safety as an indicator of the credibility of the whole internal market project.

The decision on a common legal framework for the marketing of products assumes particular importance in relation to future legislation. This decision sets standards that will apply to our future legislative acts. On the one hand, it is designed to guarantee a high level of safety, an aim reflected in provisions such as those on the accountability of importers. On the other hand, it will help to make the whole body of provisions more coherent, thereby making it easier for businesses to adhere to the rules in practice.

The first specific fruit of this decision has already been presented to Parliament in the form of the Toy Safety Directive which the Commission has already adopted. Other examples will follow shortly.

The Commission is more than happy with the political outcome that is emerging here today. I thank you for your active interest and your contributions, which have ensured that this package relating to one of the key European integration projects, namely the creation of a truly effective internal market, represents a genuine leap forward, taking the internal market to a new level of quality.

In this way, we are coming as close as possible to the complete realisation of the internal market. I use the term ‘as close as possible’ advisedly, because I wish to emphasise that there will never be full harmonisation of the European internal market, nor do I think we really want that. In view of the widely diverse traditions and needs of member countries of the European Union, a degree of latitude must also be maintained for the satisfaction of those needs and the preservation of those traditions.

We must strike a careful balance here, but, as I said, our provisions take us as close as is humanly possible to the complete realisation of the internal market. I believe that is another major contribution to more growth and employment in Europe and that it therefore provides another answer to those who ask how Europe is responding to the economic challenges of the 21st century.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Helmuth Markov, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on International Trade. (DE) Madam President, President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, the Committee on International Trade is fully satisfied with the content of Mr Brie’s report. He and his fellow members of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection have done a very good job and have set out a balanced position on this complex but important issue.

At first sight, the effects of this Regulation on external trade are minimal. I do believe, however, that an increasingly close link is developing between the internal market and external trade. The opportunities and risks arising from the growing openness of our market must be carefully assessed and addressed. The European Union has a major role to play in guaranteeing the proper functioning of the internal market, and it must not allow this to be jeopardised by players outside or inside the Community.

I am delighted that the lead committee has accepted the proposals made by the Committee on International Trade regarding the restriction of market access for products with false or misleading CE marks, for this will make it easier to ensure that information given to consumers is reliable and transparent as well as creating broader scope for action against abusive practices that infringe national and EU legislation.

At this point I would like to emphasise that greater attention must be paid to surveillance of products from non-EU countries. This is not a matter of protectionism; the fact is that, even though rules are in place, they are infringed far more often in countries where inspection practice is less rigorous than in the European Union. This is another means by which we must ensure that no advantages are accorded to manufacturers who, besides possibly being located in countries outside the EU to profit from low production costs, also try to save money by circumventing technical and legal requirements imposed by the EU to safeguard its citizens.

By the way, some of the perceived benefits of locating in low-cost countries may be appealing in business terms, but such locations have an extremely harmful environmental impact and are totally unacceptable from a social perspective. Returning to the report, another gratifying aspect is the fact that the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection has adopted the motion tabled by the Committee on International Trade regarding the availability of stiffer penalties in the event of repeated infringements.

We are also very happy with Mrs Schaldemose’s report. It certainly reflects the spirit, if not always the letter, of the amendments tabled by the Committee on International Trade. It is worth emphasising that this new proposal provides for the same distribution of burdens for all market players involved in trade, whether they be producers, importers or merchants. Another important element is that importers of products from countries outside the EU are required to ensure that the goods in question satisfy the applicable Community requirements.

Underlying our amendments was the desire to ensure that importers, together with foreign producers, bore responsibility for all loss or injury resulting from products that were dangerous or infringed the rules. The purpose of this proposal is to make importers check more carefully whether manufacturers are honouring their legal obligations; we intend to do this by signalling that placing goods on the internal market without thorough checking can be an expensive error. This will not only contribute to fair competition in the European Union but will also reduce the incentive to relocate production facilities in non-EU countries where the laws and regulations are less strict than they are here.

I also support the recommendation made in the report that Member States be made responsible for establishing a robust, efficient and responsive system of market surveillance in their respective territories and that they be required to make available an adequate pool of skills and resources for that purpose. Proper enforcement of the proposed provisions is imperative if we want our market rules to be correctly applied and European consumers to be protected from products that are dangerous or infringe Community law.

 
  
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  Peter Liese, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I speak as the rapporteur of the Environment Committee on the Brie report and intend to focus primarily on market surveillance, which has been a major concern of ours in the Committee.

Over the past few months people have often asked what ‘CE’ actually means, what those two letters stand for. As we know, they actually signify compliance with European rules, but in the course of the CE discussion a joke has been doing the rounds that CE actually stands for ‘Chinese export’. It is a sad fact that the CE mark is being used by manufacturers who do not adhere to the rules. That is not always the case, but I am afraid abuses are rife in the Far East. This practice is unacceptable because it poses risks to consumers, to public health and to the environment, but it is also detrimental to the companies that play by the rules.

Let me say quite clearly that compliance with European rules must not make any company less competitive, nor should any company stand to gain by flouting them. For this reason, the Environment Committee has argued in the past, for example in connection with the Eco-design of Energy-using Products Directive, for more rigorous market surveillance. It is therefore gratifying that the Commission has made this proposal. We believe it has taken too long to do so, but better late than never. Accordingly, we welcome the fact that rapid agreement has now been reached. Just like the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, the Environment Committee takes the view that the transitional periods proposed by the Commission were far too long. We should ensure that these rules enter into force as soon as possible. The compromise date of 1 January 2010 is not what we wanted, but at least it is an improvement on the Commission’s proposal, as is the case in many other areas.

I appeal to the Member States to make the necessary manpower available and to enact the requisite measures so that market surveillance really is improved quickly and we do not have to use the transitional period. We must act very swiftly for the sake of consumers and for the sake of honest companies.

 
  
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  Karin Scheele, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. (DE) Madam President, may I add my congratulations to the many that have already been expressed to the rapporteurs. I have rarely experienced such a non-confrontational debate in this House on a proposal providing for greater protection of consumers as well as for benefits to businesses.

I drafted the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety on the Schaldemose report. The Committee rejected the Commission’s proposal for a decision because we do not know to this day why it opted for that particular instrument rather than proposing legally binding rules on such an important matter. Let me nevertheless express my thanks and best wishes to the rapporteur from the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. There was also a great deal of scepticism about the broad application of the method known as the ‘new approach’, because it means that the conformity of goods is attested by the manufacturers themselves, and the new approach also weakens market surveillance by reversing the burden of proof. We therefore very strongly advocate the compromise whereby the new approach is only to be applied on the basis of a case-by-case assessment.

 
  
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  Jan Březina, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. (CS) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, first and foremost I would like to express my appreciation for the excellent work of all the rapporteurs on this package. As the draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on the report presented by Mr Stubb, in my contribution I will deal with a group of roughly 25% of products, which are subject to the so-called principle of mutual recognition of technical rules among the Member States. The goods market in question is worth approximately EUR 500 billion. This category includes construction products, precious metal products, baby and childcare products, and much more.

Despite the fact that the European Court of Justice established the mutual recognition principle in the Cassis de Dijon ruling nearly 30 years ago, the reality does not always reflect this: hence the importance of this legislation and the need for it. Member States frequently abuse their position and systematically obstruct products lawfully marketed in other Member State markets from entering their own market. Apart from the financial losses suffered by SMEs, particularly affected by this legislation, these Member States’ practices represent an extra administrative burden for the entrepreneurs in question. If they wish to import into these Member States entrepreneurs have to obey national bodies and authorities, and undertake additional demanding administrative procedures. Unless their products are adapted to the non-harmonised field they have to refrain from exporting them.

A more effective enforcement of application of the mutual recognition principle will be achieved by establishing a clear procedure, burden of proof, deadlines and responsibilities for both the entrepreneur and the authorities opting for an exception to this principle. This will contribute to achieving the free movement of goods, which is one of the four fundamental freedoms. It will also be remedy the imbalance between entrepreneurs and authorities responsible for market access. I am confident that the main objective of this proposal will be fulfilled and that the European consumer will become the main beneficiary of the effective enforcement and application of this principle.

 
  
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  John Purvis, Draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. − Madam President, I was rapporteur for the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy’s opinions on two of the three reports in this package. Prior to the vote in our committee we received strong external representations. At first glance these seemed to be reasonable under the pretext of ensuring safety and quality, but they were, in fact, thinly disguised protectionism against competition from imports into the EU.

As believers in a free market European Union, in, hopefully, a world of free markets, and as believers in the importance of free trade for the development and enrichment of both the European Union and of our trading partners, we must be very careful about going willy-nilly down this protectionist line.

The committee’s opinion was toned down in this respect, and I am glad to see that, thanks also to efforts in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, most of the excessively protectionist aspects have been mitigated.

Importers and distributors will still have the right to modify products to suit the EU market, in which case they justifiably become responsible for compliance. On the other hand, I notice they are still required to ensure – I quote, ‘ensure’ – that the products they put on the market without modification are compliant with EU legislation. I consider the word ‘verify’ would be more appropriate than ‘ensure’, and I would be interested in the Commissioner’s view whether ‘ensure’, in this context, is consistent with WTO stipulations and, in general, with the EU’s commitment to free trade.

I am also glad to see that there is no longer a reference to the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD). As I understand it, consumers will continue to be protected against dangerous products via the GPSD, whether or not it is incorporated into this specific legislation.

Introducing it would just increase unnecessary bureaucratic burdens for the production and assessment of products that are not even aimed at the consumer market. It is also important for European industry that the true meaning and import of the CE marking is understood, and I believe this does take a step forward. But I am glad the Commissioner has said he is considering what may be further desirable, so long as whatever is proposed is always practicable for EU industry and for exporters to the EU.

In all, I believe the tenor of this report is now acceptable. Indeed, I expect even my Industry Committee colleagues from the Socialist and Liberal Groups will appreciate that this is a reasonably happy and acceptable outcome.

When implemented, we on the Industry Committee look forward to the effective completion of the single market in goods with high and effective consumer protection standards. This is a major achievement for the European Union, with almost unimaginable economic benefits for our constituents.

 
  
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  Jacques Toubon, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs. (FR) Madam President, colleagues, as draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs, I should like firstly to applaud the quality of the work done by our colleague Alexander Stubb, with whom – I would add – we enjoyed close cooperation. I am pleased to see that, in line with our proposals, clear definitions have been included of what constitutes a technical rule and of the exclusions, and I am particularly glad that the tricky problem of language has been resolved.

We are all aware, too, that the primacy of the General Product Safety Directive has been recognised in one of the recitals, and I will touch on that in a moment. Moreover, in the Brie report, we have an assurance that industrial products can be made as safe as possible.

With regard to reversing the burden of proof, which is the basic principle of the text on mutual recognition, we have also succeeded in placing responsibility on certain economic operators, and not just on administrative authorities. Lastly, in relation to the deadline for making the regulation applicable, I think that nine months is a sufficiently long time. Those are the main points that have been taken on board from my opinion.

Considering the three texts as a package, I would say that – thanks to the three rapporteurs and to very thorough discussions in all our committees – they successfully reconcile opening the internal market, in other words removing barriers, with the concern for safety which has become so evident especially since last summer. With regard to mutual recognition, intelligent solutions have been found in relation to precious metals and to weapons, both of which had been problematic.

With regard to surveillance and product marking, the possibility of revising the General Product Safety Directive in the next five years is, in my view, essential, as are the insistence on rules for national marking and the call for a study of European marking. I believe that what we have before us, Madam President, is a first-class legislative package.

 
  
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  Othmar Karas, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs. (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I am the draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs on the proposal for a common legal framework for the marketing of products. We all agree – and the Commissioner also touched on this point – that product safety is a matter of credibility. Credibility creates confidence, and credibility and confidence will create a better internal market.

With regard to this Regulation, the attention of the Committee on Legal Affairs was focused on three main points. The first is that the design and manufacture of products must satisfy current requirements. This is not merely a matter of dealers’ responsibility; no, it is primarily about the responsibility of producers. Dealers and consumers must be able to rely on the economic players who put products on the Community market. Dealers’ obligations should be confined to specific checks.

Our second focal point, and one that was of particular interest to me, was the role of importers, who bear particular responsibility. Importers have no control over the design of products or the way they are manufactured but are nevertheless bound, since they are placing goods on the Community market, to guarantee that the products comply with all applicable legal provisions.

The third point was a clear definition and demystification of the CE mark, which is not a quality label but only a mark indicating that products comply with all the relevant provisions of Community law. We thank all those involved in this process for their cooperation and welcome the reports that have been presented for our approval.

 
  
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  Malcolm Harbour, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Madam President, my colleague, Mr Stubb, did let slip that it was my birthday today, so I want to thank all the rapporteurs and all Members, because, as an unashamed enthusiast for the single market and its future, what could be a better birthday present than the approval of this package today? So, we are unwrapping it today, and I thank you for that opportunity – we are unwrapping it from the point of view of consumers and citizens.

My colleagues have paid tribute to everyone involved, and I do not want to take up a lot of time repeating that. However, I want to thank the President-in-Office, in particular, for being here today. That is a clear sign of the importance that the Presidency attaches to this. I also want to thank him for his very strong engagement with the work of this committee in Parliament – it has been very much appreciated. Similarly, this package has resulted from a huge amount of effort by the Commission. I also want to pay personal tribute to Michel Ayral, with whom I have worked not just on this but on many other dossiers. He was also a big enthusiast of the whole better regulation project, which is really part of this as well.

This is very much a scene-setter, in a way, for our debate on the Lisbon Strategy this afternoon, because nothing could be more important to the strategy for jobs and growth than to have a really effectively functioning and competitive internal single market. We want competitive companies and confident consumers, in order to sustain the level of jobs and economic growth in Europe, and that will be achieved by having a really effective single market. We want, as far as products are concerned, regulations that are very clear for businesses, whereby their teams who work on products can get on with the job of producing brilliant designs and high-quality and safe products.

Let us not forget that the vast majority of companies have people with that in mind and they are deeply frustrated by the fact that, in many cases, they have to redesign products or reapply for mutual recognition as it stands at the moment – that is a major step forward.

However, consumers are entitled to expect those quality products and expect us to have the testing procedures to ensure that the products on the market have been through those sorts of approval procedures.

I just want to make a comment in line with what my colleague Mr Purvis was saying, particularly in response to Mr Liese, who is not here: there are many, many companies now which are achieving brilliant standards of design and quality, but are working with Chinese or other suppliers. I just mention to you in the context of my birthday – because one is thinking about nice things – that I recently went to a company that makes well-known brands of model trains: Fleischmann and Rivarossi, which my colleagues from Germany and Italy will know about. They are wonderful, high-quality model trains. Products under those brand names are actually designed in England but made in China, and anybody who doubts that China can produce good-quality products should visit their local model train shop at the weekend and, maybe, like me, buy a present for their grandson.

 
  
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  Evelyne Gebhardt, on behalf of the PSE Group. (DE) Madam President, Commissioner Verheugen, Mr Vizjak, allow me to begin by wishing Malcolm Harbour a happy birthday. I am delighted that we are able to give him this fine birthday present. We could actually call this Internal Market Week, and of course it is very important to devote attention to the internal market. Yesterday we had two good major reports from Mr Newton Dunn and Mrs Fourtou on the Customs Code and customs cooperation, which also play an important role in the context of today’s agenda. We can also say for sure that we have one or two adjustment knobs here for the market and for consumers which are now being integrated into a coherent control panel. That is a good thing.

The three reports on the table and the oral question that Arlene McCarthy asked on behalf of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection are a piece of work that reflects well on the European Parliament. For this we should express our thanks to the rapporteurs and all Members of this House. I would also like to say a special word of thanks to Mia De Vits and Barbara Weiler from my Group, because they have not been mentioned yet, and of course to our own rapporteur, Christel Schaldemose. To you too, of course, Mr Stubb – there is no way I could forget to mention you – and the same goes for Mr Brie.

I believe that through this package we are making a valuable and essential contribution to the completion of the legislation governing the internal market. At the same time we are enhancing consumer protection within the market. The Socialist Group attaches particular importance to the pursuit of that goal.

We are, however, far from finished. We must continue to keep a vigilant eye on the safety of the products traded in the internal market. In this respect may I convey my special thanks to Commissioner Verheugen for the very clear and unequivocal approach to the future of the CE mark, in other words to how we can achieve better marking of products in the internal market and in the European Union. That is a very important aim if the consumers and citizens of the European Union are to regard and respect it in a true sense as their Union. That is a very important point in this context.

We keenly await the findings of the study and their aftermath, and I am very pleased that you so clearly stated, Mr Verheugen, that this study is very high on the list of priorities of the European Commission. That is good news, for the confusing CE mark has often served to deceive and misinform consumers, and that is quite wrong. We certainly must put a stop to this.

I am also pleased that, in the reports before us and in the agreement we concluded with the Council, we have managed to ensure the continued existence of national quality marks – subject, of course, to the proviso that these national marks actually enhance consumer protection and are not misused or misinterpreted for protectionist purposes.

The second condition – and we are well on our way to fulfilling it – is that we should eventually have a European safety mark which is at least equal if not superior to these national symbols. Only then can we talk about abolishing the national marks.

It is also important that we are holding this vote today, and I reiterate my sincere thanks to the Minister, Mr Vizjak. I know how difficult it was in the Council too, because we certainly exerted heavy pressure on the Council. It would have liked more time for negotiations with Parliament – I am fully aware of that. I appreciate that you went all out to ensure that we could still vote this week, and that is a good thing, because it makes the situation clear-cut. For that I would like to express my very special thanks.

 
  
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  Janelly Fourtou, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FR) Madam President, I must, of course, begin by thanking the rapporteurs, Mr Stubb and Mr Brie, and especially Ms Schaldemose for her efficiency – that cheerful efficiency which I think we have all appreciated.

On the committee’s behalf, I would also like to thank Mr McMillan, for making himself so unstintingly available, and the Slovenian Presidency for injecting the impetus required to get this package through at first reading.

The ALDE group is satisfied with the compromise that has been reached because our concerns have been addressed – the main points being importers’ liability and the CE marking system.

We are all concerned to have a sound market, with sound economic operators selling safe products. So the ALDE Group supports the provisions requiring importers to be more attentive to product marketing, by giving them a share of responsibility for it with all that that entails.

In relation to the CE marking system, we are satisfied with the distinction between the provisions of the regulation and those of the decision.

On a personal note, I am sorry that we have not yet entirely resolved the problem of affixing national marks. This is a recurring issue. You will remember that when we voted on adoption of the Machinery Directive in February 2006, we asked the European Commission for a statement to the effect that it would ‘clarify the conditions for the affixing of other markings in relation with the CE marking, whether national, European or private’.

The Commission has done what it undertook to do, but we – the Members of the European Parliament – and the Member States have, I think, lacked the political will to take a clear-cut position on the issue. We can only regret our failure to do so, but I do welcome Mr Verheugen’s announcement that the matter is to be the subject of in-depth study, for that is certainly what we need.

The ALDE Group will support this compromise in its current form and we welcome the work that has been done on the text.

 
  
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  Leopold Józef Rutowicz, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Mr President, the discussion about safety marks has been going on for years. Since states are duty bound to protect their citizens against life- or health-threatening products, some of them introduced regulations subjecting certain categories of goods to various requirements such as markings and certificates, and the relevant national authorities were made responsible for monitoring and supervision.

In the European Union the CE mark is compulsory for a large group of goods. It certifies that the product is safe, and it must be affixed equally to an iron costing only EUR 5 and to one that costs EUR 50. So there is not much point in adding a plus/minus symbol.

The procedures for affixing the CE mark meet with no great objections. The problem is the unlawful introduction of changes to products already marked by manufacturers, the unlawful affixing of the CE mark and the addition – without a proper certification procedure – of similar products to certificates already obtained.

What the EU needs, therefore, is better synchronisation of the measures taken by all consumer protection institutions. Its borders must be sealed to ensure that uncertified products do not reach the market, an efficient monitoring and information system must be established, and a more stringent and uniform system of penalties introduced to ensure that circumvention of the CE system does not pay off. Given the high cost of certification, small and medium-sized enterprises in the European Union should receive support in obtaining the relevant markings. The UEN Group supports all measures designed to ensure consumer protection and the efficient operation of the European market.

 
  
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  Heide Rühle, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (DE) Madam President, may I wish Mr Harbour a happy birthday. Here’s to our continuing fruitful cooperation! And of course I want to thank all three rapporteurs. As you may know, I was the shadow rapporteur for my group on all three reports, which is why I know how untiring your efforts have been to improve key aspects of this proposal from the Commission. At the same time I would like to thank Commissioner Verheugen, who pointed out once again that the proposal is leaving Parliament in better shape than it arrived. I think that is a significant comment, for we have all worked hard on this legislation. We have truly done our best to improve conditions not only for businesses but for consumers too.

This package has three elements. The main purpose of the Regulation on the mutual recognition of lawfully marketed goods is to remove non-tariff barriers, which could also be termed protectionist barriers. In committee, however, we maintained a balance, to which Mr Verheugen referred and to which I also attach great importance, although it has sometimes been overlooked in this debate. On the one hand, non-tariff barriers are to be removed, while, on the other hand, it should remain a matter for the Member States, naturally enough, to determine whether certain conditions apply. In Germany, for example, we have an issue with Nazi symbols. So if there are particular problems with certain products that cannot be recognised in individual Member States for ethical reasons, those Member States must retain the right to ban such products. The balance has been maintained. I consider this very important because it is the only way in which wide acceptance of the internal market and the principle of a single market can be engendered among consumers as well as among the relevant entrepreneurs. In this respect we have taken a giant step forward.

I also consider it important to have established contact points but also to have demonstrated that these will not create any additional red tape, given that contact points have already been set up under the Services Directive and in connection with the mutual recognition of vocational qualifications. The more contact points we establish, the greater could be the burden for individual Member States. In this respect too, we have acted very responsibly.

Another important thing, in our view, was the need to say – as, of course, we did – that mutual recognition could only work if the conditions governing market access were the same in all Member States. There were undoubtedly diverse conditions in the Member States. Some were inclined to privatise or partially privatise market surveillance; some opted for certification, the certification body being more or less private. We have made it crystal-clear that market accreditation cannot be anything other than a public responsibility, and we have given greater responsibility to the individual Member States. I regard that as a very important step.

Market surveillance, of course, is also the key to establishing and maintaining product safety in the European Union. When we talk about tightening directives and regulations, we should always be well aware that a directive or regulation is only as effective as the instruments that ultimately verify its observance, in this case the market-surveillance mechanisms in the Member States. In this respect the Member States will now be under a greater obligation to develop, fund and staff their systems of market surveillance. I believe this is a very important condition. In the coming years, Parliament must continue to exercise vigilance so as to ensure that tighter market surveillance does actually materialise.

Another important aspect is the toolbox, for which Mrs Schaldemose was responsible. This framework decision gives us a toolbox for future directives, which will ensure greater legal consistency on key issues, establishing a clear and coherent position on the CE mark in particular but also on the status of importers in the trade chain. We have increased the responsibility of importers throughout the European Union. That was another very important step forward.

On the whole, we can be very content with the package on the table today. It also enjoys broad support from all the political groups.

Let me conclude by expressing my thanks to the Slovenian Presidency of the Council. Without the strong support of the Slovenian Presidency we should never have managed to conclude this matter within the short time available to us before first reading. My special thanks go to the Commission and the secretarial staff of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. Without them we surely could not have kept to the timetable and produced a genuine compromise in time for first reading.

 
  
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  Jaromír Kohlíček, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, unlike many other economic disciplines, marketing is a true science and as such it has its own definite laws and rules, which remain the same regardless of those involved in them. Among these rules is the definite technical specification of the product, the emphasis on finding specific distinctions between similar products and the effort to protect in clearly specified circumstances the geographical indication. The latter, however, usually does not have anything in common with the technical parameters of the product. One of the aspects of the single market is the effort to avoid limiting the sale of products in another state’s territory by imposing non-tariff barriers, such as quantitative restrictions, the obligation to repeat certification in each country, non-recognition of patents, specific packaging and labelling requirements of products outside common market customs, etc.

A first step, which could help to eliminate confusion or perhaps even artificial barriers to the free movement of goods, is raising awareness. I therefore welcome the effort to establish in individual states one or more Product Contact Points. Their main task will be to provide information on the technical rules in use in other Member States.

The proposal further focuses on the burden of proof. In this context it deals, too, with a technical procedure, which can result in denying a product access to the market in another Member State, in spite of the fact that it is legally marketed in another country or in the Member State of origin. The procedure as a whole relies on improving dialogue between the competent authorities of individual Member States. More effective communication is the main element involved in preventing risks connected to a ban on the sale of a product in the market of destination.

The difficulty with the otherwise commendable initiative is the attempt to cover an entire range of products in the Directive. It would be naive to assume that a similar or even identical approach can be applied to industrial products, for example cars, and to clothes, shoes and food products. While fully in favour of a unified approach, I am convinced that for individual products specific approaches will have to be maintained. I do not foresee any difficulties arising in the harmonised field, but rather in the case of products where the requirements have not been harmonised, in other words outside the harmonised field of products.

The regulation sets a 20-day deadline for economic operators to reply to decisions of the competent national authorities, based on the so-called public interest, which requires a product to be withdrawn from the market or to be banned or in some cases for changes to be made before the product is allowed onto the market. A positive aspect of the proposal is the emphasis on the possibility of a review of decisions by the national judicial authorities. In my opinion, the only unclear aspect of the proposal, which I support in its entirety, is the reference to the Treaty. For example, Article 5.2 of the financial statement is entitled ‘Value-added of Community involvement and coherence of the proposal with other financial instruments and possible synergy’. If the proposal refers to the Lisbon Treaty, I would consider this to be inappropriate since ratification of the Lisbon Treaty has only begun.

In conclusion, I would like to state that, in my opinion, the regulation will help to tackle the issue of constant duplication of tests and certificates, which arises because one country considers the certificates issued by another authority to be insufficient. In the past, as a representative of an export company, I experienced these difficulties on the ground and I believe that the proposal in question will help to remedy them.

 
  
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  Godfrey Bloom, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Madam President, I think I can be forgiven for thinking I had stumbled across a Hollywood Oscar nomination ceremony a little bit earlier on: everybody congratulating each other, slapping each other on the back, absolutely marvellous! Mr Stubb managed to thank just about everybody, but I think he forgot his grandmother. Yes, Mr Stubb, you missed out your grandmother!

Well, interesting, is it not? We harmonise, we homogenise, we regulate, we legislate. It is as though this institution somehow has a manic desire to prove its worth by sheer activity: good, bad, indifferent. We must be seen to be busy. The assumption here is that the European citizen is some sort of backward child, and we are the well-meaning but authoritative parents: we know all and we control all. Yet we do not, do we? The level of commercial experience in this Chamber is pitiful. Political placemen, journeymen, with no real understanding of the outside world at all, manically producing flawed and dangerous legislation, while we greedily suck at the public teat with our ludicrous posturing.

The emerging countries such as India and China, who take over our manufacturing production even as I speak, must stare in wonder at us. World competition in trade is not unlike a football match. They watch us line up on the field, the whistle blows, and we assiduously start to kick the ball into our own goal. How they must laugh behind our backs. Not that this Chamber has any legitimacy left as the new Constitution is railroaded through, against the will of the people. But their day will come, and it will be into the courtyard for all of us to the rattle of rifle bolts, and we will have richly deserved it.

 
  
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  Jean-Claude Martinez (NI). – (FR) Madam President, while wishing Mr Harbour a happy birthday, I have to say that we appear to have travelled back in time here to the 1990s. Back then we were busily churning out legislation in preparation for the single market, and apparently we are still at it, because today we have before us two further regulations and a decision for ensuring the free movement of goods. There is no getting away from facts, and the fact is that governments are keen on protection – not to say protectionism. Technical standards and form filling and safety requirements all make for non-tariff barriers. In car-producing France, for example, we had years of insistence on yellow headlamps instead of white ones as a means of limiting the number of foreign vehicles on our roads.

Now we have the Commission proposing a common framework for the free marketing of bicycles and ladders – for dads to fall off; toys that place children in mortal danger; kettles for scalding their mums; and various appliances on which grans and grandads can get themselves electrocuted.

We were under the impression – 23 years after the signing of the Single European Act – that it was all done and dusted: that the Cassis de Dijon judgment in 1979, followed by a couple of hundred more Court of Justice rulings, had ensured mutual recognition of everyone’s products by everyone else. Well, we were wrong! The single market is still a multiple market and so, to eliminate all the regulatory and technical niggles that have the effect of subtly re-erecting borders, the Commission suggests we adopt the principle that importers bear the cost: importers are to be responsible for the safety of the products they import, and the burden of proof is to be reversed.

That said, the texts before us are an exercise in stating the obvious: they reassert the concept of mutual recognition; they bow to the mania for labelling – which is termed marking – with the CE logo, its approved dimensions and sanctions for its improper use; and low and behold, 15 years after the dismantling of borders and customs controls, our rapporteur André Brie demands more resources for customs officers. Reinstating customs officers in a free-trade zone is quite something, although apparently Adam Smith, that doyen of free trade, did spend his last days strolling round his hometown in his father’s customs uniform!

So I say, let’s do it: let’s bring back customs officers complete with traditional peaked caps. We will probably need to import the caps from China but at least we will make sure they are safe. After all, we wouldn’t want to be responsible for any members of the Commission catching sunstroke!

 
  
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  Andreas Schwab (PPE-DE). – (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I too should also begin by thanking the rapporteurs and the other Members who have worked their way through this complex dossier, but on this occasion I wish to start on a different note. One person I shall certainly make a point of not thanking is Mr Bloom, who has contributed nothing constructive to the substance of this debate through his intervention. In that respect he has failed in his own quest to remove burdens from the shoulders of Europe’s citizens. I hope you will nevertheless allow me to reiterate the birthday wishes I expressed yesterday evening to my friend Malcolm Harbour.

Whether this package will be a good birthday present remains to be seen. We shall have to wait and see how the Member States implement the decisions we have now taken jointly with the Council. May I convey my sincere thanks to you, Mr Vizjak, for your efforts in this matter, which we spoke about in Slovenia, and may I also thank Commissioner Verheugen. Much will revolve around a clause crafted by Mr Stubb, who deserves credit for its smooth passage through Parliament. I refer to the reversal of the burden of proof in the non-harmonised area of the internal market. That is a principle which will make life far easier in the internal market, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, with minimal bureaucracy.

I hope that all Member States have understood what they are letting themselves in for here. It is no longer the owners of small businesses or manufacturers who will have to ask governments whether products can be imported but rather the Member States which will henceforth have to demonstrate that all the provisions they have enacted are necessary and proportionate. I can guarantee that some Member States are in for a rude awakening in this respect. None the less, it is an encouraging signal for the internal market as well as for the small and medium-sized enterprises that operate in the internal market.

I am also most grateful to Mrs McCarthy and Mrs Fourtou for informing us that the CE mark and its significance did not just begin to exercise this Parliament when the framework legislation on the new approach was adopted but that, whenever a directive relating to the CE mark has been discussed in recent years, we have repeatedly asked whether the CE mark – which, as we know, was originally intended purely as a marking for market-surveillance bodies – really tells consumers what they want to know when they buy a product. It goes without saying that it is very difficult to draw the line between consumer goods and industrial goods. We are aware, of course, that we need a low-cost solution which is virtually free of red tape. At the same time, we are grateful, Mr Verheugen, that you intend to have a study conducted, a study which our entire committee unanimously supports. We hope that this study will come up with sound evidence which might indicate that the CE mark in its present form does not give consumers all the information they need.

 
  
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  Barbara Weiler (PSE). – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, about a year ago, on 14 February, the European Commission proposed this new package of measures for goods with the aim of injecting fresh impetus into trade in the internal market. The fact that we have managed to bring the package to a conclusion today, in little more than a year, is indicative, I believe, of the very fast and efficient work of the team entrusted with its passage through Parliament. No part was played by the Members up there in the back – on the far right, if I may put it that way – and their contribution left me with the impression that they do not know to this day what the package is all about.

What struck me during the course of this debate was the huge number of obstacles that still exist in the internal market, given that it was back in 1992 when Jacques Delors introduced the single market. It is astonishing to see the real difficulties that face small and medium-sized enterprises when they try to enter the market in other EU Member States. According to the Commission, this package contains measures that will impact on 22 industries with an aggregate annual output in the region of EUR 1 500 billion.

We have managed to ensure that future improvements to the system of market surveillance will be based on uniform criteria, and that is essential. When a market is open, there must also be surveillance mechanisms in place. Dangerous goods can be more easily detected and made safe, and more clearly targeted investigation of fraudulent operations and prosecution of fraudsters can be carried out. As other speakers have said, not only producers but also importers will be held responsible in future. This will not be a dead letter, for there will also be a liability provision with penalties for non-compliance.

This system of market surveillance is also a major gain for players who already abide by the rules, because it considerably improves the means of detecting the bad eggs among manufacturers and importers. I was astonished to learn that customs authorities and market-surveillance bodies have hitherto known next to nothing of each other’s activities. This secrecy and the supposed protection of corporate interests will be stopped here and now.

In connection with the CE mark, I am pleased that Parliament has gone its own way. We did not accede to the hasty calls from consumer organisations seeking the abolition of the CE mark or to the Commission’s call for unwarranted upgrading. These were not the right paths to choose. I believe we have now opted for the best way ahead.

In the face of opposition from some quarters, Parliament also secured the preservation of national safety marks – not only the German one but others too – until such time as we find the ideal alternative.

As a Social Democrat I am also proud that one particular principle is enshrined not only in our resolution but also in the Regulation itself. The formula in question was somewhat contentious until the very last minute, but we succeeded in laying down that accreditation bodies must not compete with each other and must keep their public mission sacrosanct, as it were. I believe this was the consensus view too. What was important to all of us was the need for greater transparency.

It is astonishing to note how little cooperation still takes place, and I believe this package will pave the way for better cooperation among public authorities too.

Let me conclude with a word on the package as a whole. It represents a gain for Europe’s businesses as well as its people. Many things will be easier, many processes will be less bureaucratic – and thus less costly, of course – and yet we are still creating a higher level of safety for consumers. To borrow an expression from the business world, this can rightly be termed a win-win situation.

 
  
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  Toine Manders (ALDE). – (NL) Madam President, my warmest thanks to the rapporteurs Mr Stubb, Mrs Schaldemose and Mr Brie for the swift and constructive way in which they have completed their tasks. This is the way law-making ought to be – fast and solid. My thanks too to the Commission and the Council Presidency.

Europe was founded for just this kind of legislation and it is good to be giving an enormous boost to the economy, specifically to SMEs. We get a lot of complaints from small businesses that their export and business operations are hampered by the fact that borders remain closed despite all the talk about the single market. This will mean a more solid basis for the European Union. Small businesses are after all the mainstay of our economy and this is also the sector that provides the jobs we so sorely need in the European Union.

For Member States too this will create a sounder basis because it will save us a great deal in administrative costs, 150 billion a year. The budget for this year is 120 billion. So let us not have any Member State saying that the European Union costs too much, because they actually have money left over. We don’t have hordes of media folk standing outside to report this joyful news, but I think it bears mentioning.

As liberals we are of course very glad to see the single market strengthened. A more dynamic economy means a more prosperous Europe, and that is good for businesses and for consumers, so good for the European Union too.

I shall not use all my allotted time because many other speakers have already praised the substance of this package. So I shall not go into the technicalities. It is a fine piece of work. I hope we can approve it by a unanimous vote and that it will come into effect very soon.

Now that we also have a reversal of the burden of proof, the measures which the European Commission takes when Member States abuse the procedures for protecting our markets are pretty good. Action is taken fast and properly in such cases. So I think this will work well.

 
  
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  Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, the European Union is a manifold collection of values, experience and historical – as well as social – diversity. We often differ not only in our past experience but also in our present laws and obligations, which are carried over to European institutions, workplaces and citizens.

We live in a period of profound social, economic and cultural change that unfortunately has certain negative effects. But it has also given rise to many good and positive developments, among which the liberalisation of capital, goods and services, and the free movement of persons, must certainly be counted. While these developments create suitable conditions for economic activity, we can also see that capital often takes precedence over people, endangering their health and even their lives.

We must therefore strengthen all possible control procedures. The CE system must be reinforced both on our borders, as some Members have said, but also in our internal markets, and especially in the commercial networks. The range of goods now produced by supermarket and hypermarket chains defies imagination, and that important fact must be taken into account. We must bear in mind not only the marking system but also the other available means to us of boosting consumers’ knowledge and ability to choose between goods.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Diana WALLIS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM). – Madam President, these reports seek to improve regulation of the market in products, especially by tightening up recognition of the CE label and banning misuse of the label. All this is good, but in my contribution to this debate I am going to divert a little to an aspect that is overlooked by these reports but which I feel is highly relevant to the discussion on products.

The aim of the various proposed measures is to encourage people to buy products and, when they buy, to purchase European ones. How can we square this encouragement of increased consumerism with the need to use resources wisely? That is, to understand that these must be shared, not just globally but with future generations?

Some Member States are primarily concerned with building their economies, but for others the issue of responsible environmental stewardship ranks with trade. Those countries are seeking ways to square the circle of competitive trade and maintain a good, sustainable standard of life and product usage. Energy efficiency, use of recyclables and low-toxicity materials are all a step in the right direction, but an important addition is the elimination of planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is the deliberate creating of products that will not last and that are not repairable.

When I bought my first microwave I deliberately bought a good one that would last. It lasted two years. When I brought it back I was told it was not worth repairing and that there was no one to repair it. So I bought another good one. It lasted two years. Now I buy a new microwave every year – the cheapest I can find – and it is then thrown away.

We have to be careful with our harmonisation that we leave responsible countries the option to ban products that have built-in planned obsolescence, and that we encourage countries only to allow in products that will last and are repairable, because it is those countries which are stuck with mountains of waste at the end of the cycle.

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) Ladies and gentlemen, I have been enjoying today’s very good atmosphere during the debate on the internal market and I would like to thank all those who have contributed to it. Of course democracy demands that we listen to contradictory views as well, such as those expressed by my fellow Member Mr Bloom.

I have a son Andrej, which is why I know that the name Andrej means someone who is strong and powerful. The bearer of this name, Minister Vizjak, lends this debate a very powerful dynamic. I would like to note that it is not usual for the Council to be represented in such debates. The basic precondition for a properly functioning European internal goods market is the removal of obstacles to economic operators and the creation of favourable conditions for companies, in particular for the 23 million small and medium-sized enterprises. As to the number of products from developing countries, we have to find solutions to the challenges of globalisation.

One such solution is the presence of clear legislative rules to ensure that all products imported to the European market comply with the same safety requirements as the products that are manufactured within the Community. The basic principles of the legislative package on the marketing of products are the manufacturers’ responsibility for ensuring that their products comply with the existing European laws on the one hand, and the responsibility of Member States, which must ensure surveillance of the European Union market, on the other hand. I must admit that the subject of European standardisation became close to my heart when I was the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the financing of European standardisation, and I still feel the same way about it now here in the European Parliament.

I do realise the great importance of this significant European Union policy and I welcome Commissioner Verheugen’s involvement. As rapporteur for PPE-DE Group, I also focused on amendments to the report by Mrs Christel Schaldemose on increasing importers’ responsibilities, decreasing the administrative burden on small and medium-sized enterprises and retaining the new approach as a basic framework for the marketing of products. I also pointed out the need for more effective information campaigns in order to increase consumer awareness: this is the cornerstone of increasing consumer confidence in the EU’s internal market.

In my amendments I concentrated, in particular, on the consumer and on the importance of ensuring that consumers are protected from products posing a danger to their health. I also highlighted the need for more effective information campaigns in order to increase consumer awareness: this is the cornerstone of increasing consumer confidence in the EU’s internal market. On the practical front we can see that at present the CE marking does not offer sufficient guarantees that a product really is safe. That is why we have tried, by means of this legislative package, to make the CE marking more meaningful, to introduce sanctions for its abuse, to tighten up rules on award of the marking and to make the system of market controls significantly more powerful.

The compromise that was agreed includes the transfer of some of the articles relating to the CE marking into the regulation. This is a very positive step. In conclusion, may I thank Mrs Christel Schaldemose and the other rapporteurs for constructive cooperation that has helped us to unify the terminology, processes and models of assessing compliance so that we can use them in the revision of sectoral directives, in particular the long-awaited Toys Directive, to the satisfaction of all European consumers.

 
  
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  Mia De Vits (PSE). – (NL) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr Vizjak, ladies and gentlemen, my thanks to everyone for their input on this but especially to the rapporteur, Alexander Stubb, who was very helpful in including us, the shadow rapporteurs for his report, in all aspects of the discussions. Thank you for that.

Approval of the goods package marks a serious advance towards achieving the single European market in goods and the three proposals together are necessary instruments if we are to have a single market in goods that works properly. We have the principle of mutual recognition, but it exists chiefly on paper. All too often the principle is ignored. The single market today is not working as Jacques Delors had envisaged it a quarter of a century ago. The European Commission calculates that it costs companies 2 to 10% more to sell their goods in another Member State, because the principle of mutual recognition is incorrectly applied. Indeed, as you too have worked out, Mr Stubb, this means an extra cost to the Union as a whole of EUR 150 billion a year. That is bad news, for businesses and their employees, but also for consumers who have to pay higher prices as a result. So it was high time to dust off the principle of mutual recognition and apply it properly. Hence this rigorously designed procedure with a reversal of the burden of proof, which requires the Commission to be informed of the Member State’s decision at the end of the procedure. I hope the Commission will also take action at the end of the procedure if it transpires that there are still a few little rules that are not based on objective criteria.

One or two things for the future: strict quality criteria for national supervisory authorities is a step forward but ultimately we need to improve cross-border cooperation when it comes to supervision. Our Committee on the Internal Market went on a tour of the port of Antwerp, where we saw the customs services demanding more funding – a matter for Member States – but also calling for more cross-border cooperation, which is something we need to work on for the future.

Secondly, we have greater clarity surrounding the CE mark but I agree with Mrs McCarthy and Mrs Gebhardt that we need to work on a real safety label in the future. I welcome the positive reply given by Commissioner Verheugen on this. Mutual recognition has to work better, and all parties on the ground have to accept their responsibilities here, Member States and the Commission too. But it remains the second-best solution. We want to see harmonising legislative initiatives in future to complete the single market in goods.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE). – (FR) Madam President, with all due respect to Mr Bloom, who has since fled the Chamber, I should like to add my voice to the chorus of praise for our three co-rapporteurs, to thank them for the time they put in and for their perseverance in achieving what is a fair compromise and a win-win solution for European manufacturing and for consumer safety.

Given that I have only two minutes and that I am speaking as a member of the Environment Committee, you will forgive me for focusing on key points, and particularly on the question of the CE marking system. Seven months after the Mattel incident and the withdrawal from the market – as we have already heard – of more than 20 million Chinese-made toys that were CE marked, the Union has been under more pressure than ever to improve the marking system. In recent years it had advocated a flexible, voluntary system based on the New Approach – a method which undoubtedly has its advantages but which, used in isolation, may be less than fully effective if certain manufacturers affix the CE mark in disregard of the rules, thus placing consumers at an obvious risk in terms of safety.

That is why this package of measures is essential for giving the authorities that deal with the problem – namely approval and certification bodies and customs services – the weaponry they need to combat abuses of the CE marking system.

It is no coincidence that the European Parliament has already spoken out on more than one occasion – most recently in the resolution on toy safety of September 2007 – in favour of tougher market surveillance. Our rapporteur, Mr Brie, placed considerable emphasis on that point.

As long ago as January 2004, with the support of Peter Liese, Karin Scheele and also Claude Turmes, my report on the Eco-design of Energy-using Products Directive deplored the obvious safety failings of very many products and the unreliability of certain labelling systems both compulsory and voluntary. Four years on, it would seem we have made little progress, and I must say – speaking on behalf of the very many professionals who have approached us on the subject – that is a matter of regret.

All measures that make for greater legal certainty and give additional assistance to industrialists and SMEs are, of course, welcome. I am thinking here of the local product contact system announced in the report, as well as Alexander Stubb’s announcement this morning of his own personal info point. I don’t know whether or not he’s planning to call it Stubb/SMEs.com, but I wish him every success with it and I must say that I share my colleagues’ caution, as expressed in the oral question, on the subject of additional marking and its compatibility with the existing system.

I fully support the concern voiced by Arlene McCarthy, with her instructive example of the kettle this morning, and I am grateful to the Commissioner for indicating significant movement on that question.

In conclusion, Madam President, I would point out that the rules we are laying down here will be worthwhile only if they are observed, as they obviously should be, by European manufacturers and distributors and also – crucially, as Mia De Vits has just noted – by economic operators from third countries, especially importers.

 
  
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  Wiesław Stefan Kuc (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, in the last few years there have been more and more cases in which goods that do not meet EU standards have been introduced into the EU market. It is not just a question of Chinese toys. Pesticides, plant care products and even medicines are being pirated that not only fail to protect or cure but in many cases are actually harmful. The three reports before us – by Mr Brie, Mrs Schaldemose and Mr Stubb – deal with the introduction of goods into the EU market, the application of technical rules to products lawfully marketed, and arrangements for accreditation and market surveillance. They do not infringe the basic principle of the free movement of goods in the EU market, but make it possible to protect that market and at the same time protect our citizens.

As the rapporteurs say, we must ensure that exceptions are eliminated and the proposed regulations and decisions are applied and operate as widely as possible. If possible, it would be desirable to produce a single document on the model of other regulations of this type, dealing with the problems in a comprehensive fashion. We would thus avoid numerous repetitions of arguments and terminology that could give rise to conflicting interpretations. The drafts and reports submitted to us are an excellent basis for a comprehensive homogeneous document.

 
  
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  Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Madam President, I congratulate all three rapporteurs on their excellent, constructive reports. The introduction of goods into circulation on the territory of the Union is without doubt a very serious issue. We all remember the recent problems caused by the introduction of unsafe toys into the EU market. Those toys were not discovered by the EU control authorities since, as in many other cases, the monitoring system proved ineffective.

It happens more and more frequently that manufacturers affix the CE mark to their products without any control, despite the fact that the goods in question do not meet EU criteria. Moreover, the CE mark is repeatedly counterfeited. These and other reasons lie behind the Commission’s proposed package on the introduction of goods into the EU market.

I would like to make a point concerning one of the three components of this package: Mr Brie’s report on accreditation and market surveillance. The issue of the CE mark dealt with in this report seems to me of particularly importance. I am pleased that Members have taken a position in support of the CE mark as a major guarantee of compliance with EU standards and – most important of all – that they are in favour of strengthening its position.

An important issue discussed in this connection has been the problem of other national marks existing in the EU market. I would like to point out here that, in joining the EU, Poland was told repeatedly that it was not to incorporate the safety marks of other countries into its national system. We complied with this instruction, even going so far as to eliminate our own B mark, which was the Polish symbol of product safety. So it was important for us that the EU approach be followed and the principle of non-discrimination be respected in the new legislation through the inclusion of a prohibition on the introduction of new safety marks other than CE.

I am very pleased to see that the Council, the Commission and Parliament have stuck to this position by deleting the relevant clauses and maintaining the status quo. I nevertheless consider that we should work together on the European CE mark with a view to removing other marks from the market in the longer term, although an initiative to that end will have to wait until the Commission has looked into the matter.

 
  
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  Anna Hedh (PSE).(SV) Thank you, Madam President. I also want to thank the rapporteurs very warmly for their very good work. It was tremendously exciting to follow them in their progress.

Although I am in favour of cooperation that is more intergovernmental in nature, I realise that there are cases in which we need our laws to be as uniform as possible in the Union. The legislative package on the marketing of products on the internal market is such a case, since what we produce in, and import into, the EU circulates freely on the internal market. For me the safety of consumers on the market is paramount.

I therefore welcome the rapporteurs’ proposals in the legislative package, which in many instances improve on the Commission’s proposals. For example, Mrs Schaldemose wants the importers to bear responsibility for ensuring that the products they import comply with EU rules.

I think this is particularly important, now that we are also to review the Toy Safety Directive in the light of the problems on the toy market which have been in the spotlight recently. I think it is self-evident that importers should be accountable and risk penalties if they import dangerous products. Who else? We must also amend and strengthen the CE marking system. Although it is precisely that question which has been most sensitive, I think that the rapporteurs have made good progress.

As Mrs Schaldemose said, the CE marking system is not the solution to all our safety problems on the internal market. But many consumers currently believe that the CE mark means that products are safe, not least where it concerns toys and gadgets. We saw Mrs McCarthy demonstrate that with a kettle and a toy. It is our responsibility to ensure that the marking system is strengthened and that market surveillance really works in all the Member States.

Finally, I would stress once again that our consumers must take pride of place, for without secure and confident consumers we shall not have a flourishing market.

 
  
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  Magor Imre Csibi (ALDE). – (RO) Allow me to make a few observations regarding the CE marking. At present, this applies to any product that is covered by a European directive. As long as manufacturers can mark most of the products without any inspection from a third authority or an independent body, this marking will not be efficient. This is the first problem.

Therefore, we all agree that the current CE marking system for products is not able to represent a guarantee of safety for the European consumers. In fact, it has not even been designed with the intention of representing a safety marking.

Dear Commissioner Verheugen, last year you said that we would never have 100% product safety. This is why I request the European Commission to take into consideration, besides more careful market supervision and more severe customs controls, harsher penalties for the companies manufacturing or importing products that do not comply with the EU norms and directives.

Let’s not forget that most of the European consumers believe, without being informed, that a product bearing the CE marking is manufactured in Europe or was certified by a European independent body. This is the second problem. Even Commissioner Verheugen believes that the current CE marking may be a little confusing. This is inadmissible and, for this reason, I request the European Commission to launch campaigns informing the European consumers so that they would not mistake the CE marking for a quality and safety mark.

Mr. Commissioner, dear colleagues, we all agree that there should be a marking to attest the product safety. Either the current CE marking will be improved or there will be an additional marking; the solution must be found as soon as possible. The internal market involves, besides the free movement of products, taking efficient actions for consumer protection.

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE). – (CS) Commissioner, the dynamic development of the EU internal market and the even more dynamic import of harmful goods, especially from China, force us to modernise the rules on the marketing of products, including those that have not been harmonised. This triple legislation package will simplify paper work whilst making it easier for Member States to improve surveillance on the EU market, which does not work at just one level today. That is why, after an extensive debate, we are tightening the requirements on the whole supply chain starting with the producers in the EU or China to importers and distributors in the EU. We are harmonising the rules for the accreditation of bodies and mutual recognition of certification.

Besides surveillance bodies, the role of consumer awareness is becoming more important: informed consumers should also be able to distinguish between products by how they are labelled, hence our efforts to strengthen the significant of the European CE marking, which indicates to surveillance authorities and informed consumers that the products fulfil the European quality and safety criteria. We need to combat its exploitation, too, including such deliberate confusion with other markings such as China Export.

I discovered that the European marking has not as yet been registered, so I asked the Commission to register it. Although the Commission advised that the registration process had been initiated, in the published notice the application for registration was not mentioned. I would once again call on the Commission to take action in relation to this issue.

Commissioner, I would also strongly urge you to register the European marking for international markets. Both these measures will facilitate further legal steps against abuse, including those leading to compensation. I consider delays in this regard to be inexcusable. I want to express my appreciation for the excellent work of the Commission on the preparation of this ‘goods package’, and in particular for the thorough work of all the rapporteurs, whom I wish to commend for the excellent result.

 
  
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  Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE). – (ES) Madam President, some thirty years ago the Court of Justice established the principle of mutual recognition in its judgment in Cassis de Dijon. One of today’s rapporteurs, Mr Stubb, says that this package of measures is an attempt to apply the Cassis de Dijon judgment on a legislative level. The judgment, however, cannot be replaced by a legislative text because in fact the judgment is an instrument used by the Court of Justice to impose harmonisation of the internal market.

The current package is a substitute for a greater need which has been demonstrated in this debate, namely the need for genuine harmonisation of production within the European Union.

The current system of mutual recognition means we are open to chains breaking at their weakest link. This was what happened with, for example, mad cow disease when the British Government decided to deregulate the procedure for the manufacture of meat-and-bone meal. It has also happened recently in another field, with Equitable Life, when the financial sector was inadequately regulated.

The package indicates a forward step, but only a small one, because it is only natural for Governments not to relinquish protecting their citizens – Mrs Hedh summed it up exactly – for as long as firstly, there are Governments which fail to establish the highest level of control, and secondly, there is no control system operated by the European Union. In short, this is a poor substitute for genuine regulation at European Union level to replace the 27 national sets of rules.

The European Parliament will probably approve this package and I believe it to be a good one, but we cannot rest on our laurels because without genuine Community regulation, without genuine certification of quality which puts the minds of citizens throughout the European Union at rest, we will not make great progress in constructing the market for European products.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Anja Weisgerber (PPE-DE). – (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the fact that we are able to adopt the goods package at first reading speaks volumes for the excellent cooperation that has taken place within the European Parliament as well as between Parliament and the Council.

This is an important legislative project, both for those involved in trade and, more especially, for consumers. Through this package we are removing obstacles to trade that have resulted from differing technical rules in the Member States. At the same time we are guaranteeing the quality of the products that are traded on the European market. The new legislation will ensure that products which do not comply with EU law or which are unsafe are quickly removed from the market or do not reach the market in the first place. Dangerous products are to be reported to the Commission without delay so that they can be taken out of circulation in all member countries. Cooperation with countries outside the EU – one need only think of China – will be improved under the Regulation by measures such as joint programmes and exchanges of technical expertise.

Through these new provisions, we are ensuring efficient market surveillance and better scrutiny throughout Europe. That, after all, is what really counts.

In all our discussions and negotiations we focused primarily on the consumer. The CE mark, for example, signifies the manufacturer’s compliance with European requirements for the product in question. Now, however, importers are to bear a greater share of responsibility alongside manufacturers. In particular, false or misleading CE marks are prohibited, and those who use them will face criminal prosecution in the Member States. All of this protects consumers, but it also safeguards honest entrepreneurs who observe all the rules. One of our main successes has been the preservation of the tried and tested national safety marks such as the German ‘GS’ symbol. Consumers are familiar with these marks and trust them.

On Thursday we shall adopt a set of rules that promotes trade in goods in the internal market to best effect while at the same time – and this is so important – protecting consumers by means of better surveillance.

 
  
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  Bernadette Vergnaud (PSE). – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, European consumers expect the products they buy to enjoy better safety protection. All too often we hear on the TV news that such-and-such a product from a country outside the European Union poses a risk to safety or health. This package of measures is an impressive response to such problems, and I should like to highlight the work done by our three rapporteurs during the negotiations, in insisting on the importance of consumer protection.

In the current product-safety climate, new legal instruments are an absolute necessity. I would draw your attention, in particular, to the oral question that is to be asked concerning revision of the rules on use of the CE marking.

The marking has, until now, been seen by European citizens as a sign of confidence and an assurance of safety, whereas it is actually no more than a declaration by the manufacturer that the product complies with European legislation. This means it has too often been affixed willy-nilly and used improperly. We have only to think back to the Mattel toys affair. I am very keen to see a proposal from the Commission for an additional mark that would give the system greater credibility and improve consumer information, with a view to making imported products safer. I have no doubt, however, that Commissioner Kuneva is committed to addressing this matter. She has always indicated her support for improving consumer confidence.

What we need – and what Mrs Schaldemose’s report proposes – is tighter market surveillance to prevent abuses of the marking system and to clarify the responsibilities of importers and manufacturers, because ultimately they alone bear the responsibility for putting on the market products that are safe, and we are well aware that cooperation between national market surveillance authorities and customs services is very uneven.

The overriding priority is to make importers directly liable for the safety of the products they import. Currently it is very hard to take sanctions against them because in some cases, by the time that problems come to light in Europe, manufacturers have closed their factories and disappeared. It is a situation we can no longer accept.

I would like to conclude by thanking Mrs Schaldemose for taking account of the circumstances of small and medium-sized companies in relation to conformity assessment procedures. The challenge is to strike the right balance between procedures that could be burdensome and over-costly for micro-enterprises, including the craft sector, without absolving them from their responsibilities.

 
  
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  Agnes Schierhuber (PPE-DE). – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office, I should like to express my thanks for this report and remind the House that the CE mark of the European Union means that a product complies with European standards of quality and reliability. There must be no doubt whatever that in future imported products will have to match exactly the same standards that we apply to goods produced in the European Union. Only then shall we have a level playing field. It must also be possible, however, to continue marking products visibly with the Member States’ recognised symbols, because we are aware that these inspire great confidence among hosts of consumers.

In conclusion, let me say that great importance also attaches to additional markings for regional specialities and for organic food products, since we know that these too are widely recognised and trusted both within and beyond the European market, and such goodwill must be nurtured.

 
  
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  Bogdan Golik (PSE). – (PL) Madam President, I welcome the package submitted to us today as a step forward, both for consumers and for European entrepreneurs. I would like to say a few words about the principle of mutual recognition. I don’t know whether you are aware, ladies and gentlemen, that it is already 30 years since the European Court of Justice handed down its judgment on that principle.

Regrettably, the situation regarding Member States’ implementation of the principle of mutual recognition, which is so fundamental to operation of the common market, is far from satisfactory. It has become common practice for firms to be subjected to burdensome administrative procedures before they can put goods on the market. As an entrepreneur myself, I have experienced this red tape at first hand for many years.

I do not know whether you realise that the costs borne by firms in the European Union as a result of non-compliance with the principle of mutual recognition are enormous, and the Union itself incurs losses of some 150 billion euros. So if we are still intent on making the European economy strong and competitive in the framework of the Lisbon Strategy and, in the not-too-distant future, vis-à-vis India, China, Brazil and other powers, we must accept this principle as common to us all and give it proper recognition.

 
  
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  Andrej Vizjak, President-in-Office. − (SL) Ladies and gentlemen, let me share with you a few final thoughts regarding the importance of this agreement on the three items of legislation which we have nearly finalised and which will significantly help to improve the operation of the internal market. Mr Ayral would certainly have been happy today. He is greatly missed.

Following the extensive work carried out by our German and Portuguese colleagues on behalf of the Council before Slovenia took over the Presidency, the task of final harmonisation between the European Union institutions was left to the Slovenian Presidency. I welcome the substantial cooperation we have received from everyone in completing this – some would say – difficult task relatively efficiently and quickly.

We joined the European Union less then four years ago and, in taking over the Presidency, we took on an immense challenge that carries a huge responsibility. That is why we are particularly pleased to have been involved in completing this great task which is so important for all the Member States of the European Union.

In my view, the application of the package will enable us primarily to ensure the following. First, we will do away with the protectionism that exists in some markets within the European Union, and this will certainly boost the competitiveness of the economy within those markets. I think protectionism is the greatest obstacle to the development of competition and competitiveness among economic operators in those markets.

Secondly, we will secure uniform treatment and mutual assistance between national authorities for the surveillance of marketed products, effective safety checks on products manufactured by European companies and those entering the EU from third countries, and, of course, more coherent future technical legislation. The final result will be a friendlier environment for economic operators, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. Furthermore, and of greatest importance to our citizens, it will ensure high safety levels for products in the European Union market.

I am therefore convinced that this package will be an important first step in our future efforts. Today we have talked at length about those future steps forward, which are also important challenges for the work we are to do.

 
  
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  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. − (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to begin by adding a few comments on the direct economic implications. It is indeed the case that the rules on mutual recognition apply to 21% of all European industrial production, which is truly a sizeable volume.

Moreover, if this system of mutual recognition worked perfectly, in other words if it were fully applied everywhere, the result would be a 1.8% increase in Europe’s GDP, which certainly represents a significant macroeconomic impact. The opposite is also true, in that the potential value of the internal market would fall by about 10% in our estimation if mutual recognition did not work, that is to say if recognition were not practised; that would, in fact, amount to an annual shortfall of some EUR 150 billion.

Mrs Roithová asked a question about the registration of the CE mark. In fact, we could not do that until last year, because it required an amendment to the relevant European legislation. The process is under way, and I assume that today’s decisions will help us to expedite it. It is not entirely in our hands, but we are doing what we can to complete this registration as quickly as possible.

Mr Csibi mentioned – with a critical undertone – that I had said last year that 100% product safety was not possible. Let me therefore re-emphasise that there is no such thing as absolute guaranteed product safety. Even if we had all products certified by an independent third party, such a body could not possibly check every single item in a production run.

The testing is always confined to a prototype, and problems do not occur when the prototype is presented but in the normal routine of mass production. Even in the case of products for which we have the most stringent of safety rules, such as prescription medicines and motor vehicles, we hear recurring reports of manufacturing defects and of product recalls. The idea that we can offer consumers the prospect of 100% product safety is an illusion.

For this reason, we must insist – it is our only option – that all those who bear responsibility in the chain are held fully accountable. That begins with suppliers of production inputs, then it relates to manufacturers and, in the case of imported goods, importers too.

That is also the answer to the question from Mr Purvis: what we are doing through these new rules is to spell out that importers in Europe are responsible for ensuring that the products they import are safe and that they meet any applicable standards. In other words, European importers assume liability for the safety of products from outside the EU, and anyone who suffers loss or injury caused by a dangerous or faulty product has no need to track down some manufacturer or other in some country far beyond the bounds of the European Union but can press his or her claim against the European importer. I can assure you that this rule will have profound practical effects.

So much for the specific questions that were asked. Let me take this opportunity to thank you once again for the positive and constructive spirit in which this debate has been conducted. If Malcolm Harbour is still here, let me tell him that, as far as I am concerned, every day could be his birthday if all his birthdays are crowned with such signal successes.

(Applause)

 
  
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  André Brie, rapporteur. − (DE) Madam President, there has been so much consensus that I can only express my thanks for the discussion, and there is nothing I wish to repeat. The one or two dissenting contributions were devoid of substance, and for that reason I shall disregard them. Allow me nevertheless to put today’s evident harmony into perspective. I believe that what we are about to adopt are good legislative instruments. In recent years, however, it is not so much our legislation that has posed problems as its application in the Member States. Of course it is not always like the Mattel case that was mentioned earlier, in which millions of toys had to be taken off the market, but such delays, whenever and wherever they occur in the European Union, indicate that market surveillance is simply not working.

Take the RAPEX system, which highlights wide divergences between European countries’ systems of market surveillance. Such divergences are no longer acceptable either. I therefore appeal to the Member States to ensure that the instruments we are adopting here, as well as the market-surveillance mechanisms that already exist for the safety of consumers, are really put into practice.

Allow me to make one final personal remark. We have thanked very many people today. During the drafting of my report, I had the marvellous experience of working with fantastic colleagues from the secretariat of our Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. Without them we could not have produced this report. Allow me, therefore, to express my special thanks to Peter Traung and Luca Visaggio.

 
  
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  Christel Schaldemose, rapporteur. (DA) Madam President, I would also like to say thank you for the many positive and good comments that have been made during today’s proceedings. It simply goes to show that we have actually done an excellent job over the past year and have ensured that as many viewpoints as possible have been incorporated, which gives me great pleasure.

However, I have a couple of comments to make in response to some of the points that have been raised during today’s proceedings. These concern the CE marking. It is absolutely true that it is confusing for consumers and we need this study on a possible consumer safety marking. However, I would also strongly emphasise that with this package the CE scheme will be greatly improved through increased market surveillance and the obligation for Member States to prosecute in the event of misuse of the CE marking. The CE marking and the CE scheme will be significantly improved compared with what we have today. The situation will be better in relation to the market surveillance authorities that use the marking as a tool. When a producer consciously uses the CE marking, he is saying that he abides by EU rules. If he does not do this, then he may be punished. He cannot allege that he was unaware of what he was doing. It is a marked improvement. The matter that we are failing to address is the relationship with consumers, to which the Commissioner has responded very positively by stating that an enormous amount of work will be carried out in this connection.

There has been some discussion regarding whether it was right or wrong to prepare a first-reading agreement. I feel that today’s debate has simply illustrated that many people have been involved, because it has concerned three reports with many shadow rapporteurs etc. A very large number of MEPs have been involved in the work and have therefore also had the opportunity to express themselves. I also feel that we can be quite satisfied with the result.

Finally, I would quickly like to mention the names of the shadow rapporteurs and acknowledge that I also greatly appreciate their work: Mrs Rühle, Mr Brie, Mrs Fourtou and Mrs Pleštinská have made a very significant contribution, as of course have to the secretariats of both groups and the committee secretariat. Many thanks. It has been a great pleasure to be involved in this work.

 
  
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  Alexander Stubb, rapporteur. − Madam President, I should like to finish this debate with four points and, unfortunately, I have to start with Mr Bloom, from the UK Independence Party, who criticised, amongst others, myself for being thankful to people who worked on this whole package. I do not know what he was taught at home, but I always thought it would be good manners to thank those people who had made this package possible.

Perhaps he should not thank his speech-writer – because, of course, he was reading directly from a piece of paper – because obviously the speech-writer did not understand what this package was all about.

My part of the package was about mutual recognition, with free movement of goods and with not harmonising everything. So perhaps what Mr Bloom, or his speech-writer, is suggesting is that Marmite or Branston Pickle should not move freely, or Rolls Royce, or Church’s shoes, or Burberry clothing – I do not know how much good that would do for the UK economy. Therefore, I would recommend that, if you want to be a credible EU opponent, at least read the papers on which you are going to make comments.

My second point is that this is probably a European record in terms of efficiency, because I do not know of a major legislative package which was introduced on Valentine’s Day – 14 February – 2007 by the Commission and approved by Coreper on 13 February 2008 – one day under a year. So, to all those people who were afraid that after enlargement we would become a little stiff and inefficient, I would say that this is a good example of a case where we have taken very fast decisions. I would also argue that this is probably the biggest package relating to the free movement of goods since the 1992 Delors package, if you remember. Therefore, in that sense, this was remarkably fast and, once again, I want to thank all the people who were involved in this, because it shows that the machinery works.

My third point relates to when Ms Ries said that companies hereafter will contact alexstubb.com to send their complaints if mutual recognition does not apply! If you will allow me, I will put a direct link to the Commission home page from there. Just get in touch with the Commission if you have problems with mutual recognition. That should and must be done.

My final point is that this is the first big achievement of the Slovenian Presidency; this is the first big legislative package that the Slovenian Presidency has pushed through, and I would like to congratulate it on a job well done. I know it was not easy in Coreper and I know it was not easy in the working groups, but the Presidency did an excellent job and, hopefully, it will be as successful in the final months of its Presidency.

 
  
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  President. − On that very harmonious note, the debate is closed. The vote will take place on Thursday.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Iles Braghetto (PPE-DE), in writing. (IT) At this plenary session we have discussed the ‘goods package’ which sets out a common framework for the marketing of products within the European Union and reaffirms the principles of reciprocity. As matters stand at present, the European Parliament would like to make the CE (European conformity) marking more effective because it provides guarantees of the safety of products and makes it possible to identify goods from non-EU countries. For some years, however, there has been another mark which is graphically almost identical to the CE marking, apart from the spacing between the two letters, which means something quite different: ‘China Export’. Citizens are calling for initiatives and sanctions, and for customs controls to be stepped up, to prevent the European CE marking from being improperly exploited.

Counterfeit imported products which seem, at first glance, to meet the requirements for their introduction into the market are being marketed throughout the Italian regions. This is also due to the confusion brought about by the similarity between the two marks.

This regulation means that goods may move more freely in the EU, thereby increasing choice and consumer trust and simplifying the sale of goods.

 
  
  

(The sitting was suspended at 11.30 and resumed at 12.00)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR VIDAL-QUADRAS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Daniel Hannan (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I would like to make an unreserved apology to the President of the European Parliament, to colleagues and to the House for any offence given by the remarks I made on 31 January when opposing the new powers granted to the President over the Rules of Procedure. I realise that the reference I made offended many in this House. I hope you will accept this apology in the spirit in which it is made.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. − Thank you very much, Mr Hannan. Your apologies are accepted and noted.

 

6. Voting time
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  President. − We shall now proceed to the vote.

(For the outcome of the vote and other details: see Minutes)

 

6.1. (A6-0025/2008, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski) Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement between the EC and Israel to take account of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU (vote)

6.2. (A6-0026/2008, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski) Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement between the EC and Egypt to take account of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU (vote)

6.3. (A6-0012/2008, Jan Andersson) Exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (electromagnetic fields) (vote)
  

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  Jan Andersson, rapporteur. − (SV) Thank you, Mr President. With reference to the letter which the European trade union organisation sent to all its members last week, I should like to say that I can understand the views of the trade union movement regarding the question whether any consultation took place between the social partners and the Commission. However, it is beyond our capabilities to do anything about that.

The content of this Directive will not change in any way. What will happen is that its implementation will be postponed for four years. The reason is that it may not be possible to use some incredibly important medical equipment if implementation takes place in April. Studies are currently in progress to determine how this equipment can be made compatible with the Directive.

We therefore gave our backing to the postponement of the Directive with the full agreement of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.

 
  
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  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. − Mr President, on behalf of the Commission, I would like to give the following explanation. In proposing postponement of entry into force of this directive, the Commission was reacting responsibly to new scientific evidence – I repeat, new scientific evidence – namely a study commissioned by the Government of the United Kingdom and published in June 2007. This new scientific evidence showed that the potential entry into force of the directive in its present form in April 2008 would have a major unintended detrimental effect on the practice of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the best performing and safest imaging technology in contemporary medicine. I would like to add, because I am responsible for that sector, that, without this technology, thousands of patients in the European Union would not get the best possible treatment. I would also like to add that our producers are world leaders in this sector.

Mr Andersson mentioned the question of consultation. I would like to say that the workers’ representatives have been fully informed and were involved in the discussions that took place with the social partners before the adoption of the Commission proposal. The difficulties which may arise from the implementation of the current directive and the future intentions of the Commission were highlighted and discussed at the level of the Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work created by the Council. This advisory committee includes three full members for each Member State, the national governments, trade unions and employers’ organisations.

 

6.4. (A6-0022/2008, Hans-Peter Mayer) Installation of lighting and light-signalling devices on wheeled agricultural and forestry tractors (codified version) (vote)
  

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  Hans-Peter Mayer, rapporteur. (DE) Mr President, ladiesand gentlemen, the following three codifications include an innovation, in that we shall also be voting on the joint proposals from the legal services of Parliament, the Commission and the Council. This is the first time that Parliament will have voted on the same text as the Council.

Setting aside these votes, which I support, I should like to point out that we are regulating matters here which should not be regulated by the European Parliament. This is not decision-making close to the people; it only makes us look ridiculous in the eyes of the general public when we legislate on matters such as the installation of lighting and light-signalling devices on wheeled agricultural and forestry tractors.

(Loud applause)

It would be far more logical to adopt a directive on tractors enshrining general requirements and safeguards. The details could then be specified in standards. In Europe there is the Brussels-based European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (Cenelec), which is also based in Brussels. The standards organisations of thirty countries, including all the countries of the EU and EFTA, are members of CEN and Cenelec.

This principle of adopting general directives in which reference is made to European standards has already been applied in more than 25 other sectors. Why should we not apply it to tractors as well? I presume that our Commissioner in attendance, Mr Verheugen, takes the same view. We want better regulation, and we Members of Parliament should be setting a good example.

(Applause)

 

6.5. (A6-0016/2008, Hans-Peter Mayer) Statutory plates and inscriptions for motor vehicles and their trailers (codified version) (vote)

6.6. (A6-0017/2008, Hans-Peter Mayer) Rear registration plate lamps for motor vehicles and their trailers (codified version) (vote)

6.7. (A6-0018/2008, Francesco Enrico Speroni) Suppression of radio interference produced by agricultural or forestry tractors (codified version) (vote)

6.8. (A6-0019/2008, Francesco Enrico Speroni) Noise level of wheeled agricultural or forestry tractors (codified version) (vote)

6.9. (A6-0020/2008, Francesco Enrico Speroni) European Environment Agency and the European Environment Information and Observation Network (codified version) (vote)

6.10. (A6-0021/2008, Francesco Enrico Speroni) Excise duty applied to manufactured tobacco (codified version) (vote)

6.11. (A6-0512/2007, Ruth Hieronymi) EC/Switzerland Agreement on the MEDIA 2007 programme (vote)

6.12. (A6-0007/2008, Klaus-Heiner Lehne) Request for defence of the parliamentary immunity of Mr Claudio Fava (vote)

6.13. (A6-0008/2008, Aloyzas Sakalas) Request for defence of the parliamentary immunity of Mr Witold Tomczak (vote)

6.14. (A6-0011/2008, Janelly Fourtou) Community Customs Code (vote)

6.15. (A6-0488/2007, Bill Newton Dunn) Application of the law on customs and agricultural matters (vote)

6.16. (A6-0010/2008, José Javier Pomés Ruiz) Transparency in financial matters (vote)

6.17. (A6-0009/2008, Francesco Musotto) on protection of the Communities’ financial interests – Fight against fraud – Annual reports 2005 and 2006 (vote)

6.18. (A6-0015/2008, Gérard Deprez) The factors favouring support for terrorism and the recruitment of terrorists (vote)

6.19. (A6-0002/2008, Ignasi Guardans Cambó) EU Market access for European Companies (vote)
  

- Before the vote on paragraph 35:

 
  
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  Ignasi Guardans Cambó, rapporteur. − (ES) Mr President, I should like to propose to the House an oral amendment to paragraph 35. If carried, it would render amendment 24 irrelevant. In English it would read as follows:

‘Invites the European Union’s trade partners to progressively reduce or dismantle barriers restricting market access for goods’

(ES) The remainder of the text would remain the same. Instead of asking for all barriers restricting market access to be immediately removed in full, it asks for them to be reduced gradually or, where necessary, for them to be dismantled.

 
  
  

(Parliament agreed to accept the amendment)

 
  
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  President. − That concludes the vote.

 

7. Explanations of vote
  

Oral explanations of vote.

 
  
  

- Report: Bill Newton Dunn (A6-0488/2007)

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE). – (CS) Mr President, land and sea frontiers have shifted with enlargement, increasing customs officers’ work from simple custom duties checks to combating counterfeiting, money laundering, drugs, and evasion of antidumping duties or health measures aimed at consumer protection. For this reason I have welcomed and expressed support for the Commission’s proposal, which will allow a greater degree of coordination of Member States’ bodies, including close cooperation with Europol, Frontex, Interpol and the World Customs Organisation. We would also ask that the third country authorities that will obtain commercial and personal data from the Member States be required to guarantee data protection standards equivalent to those in the EU. I thank the Members for having supported our Group’s proposals today in full. I also want to thank the rapporteurs for their meticulous work.

 
  
  

- Report: Francesco Musotto (A6-0009/2008)

 
  
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  Philip Claeys (NI). – (NL) Mr President, I voted for the Musotto report because it is not afraid to speak frankly about many aspects of fraud and measures to combat fraud. And I get that déja vu feeling when the report mentions the millions of funds wrongly paid and non-eligible expenditure claimed. Think, for example, of the hundreds of millions of euros in European funds which have already disappeared into the bottomless pit of the corrupt socialist-dominated Walloon state. A state in which numerous officials have been involved in scandals, in some cases for misappropriation of funds. When the report talks about the fragility of Commission scrutiny, I automatically remember the words of my Walloon colleague Mr Deprez who talked at the beginning of the month about bad projects which are the fault not only of Wallonia but also of the Commission because it approves these projects.

 
  
  

- Report: Gérard Deprez (A6-0015/2008)

 
  
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  Hubert Pirker (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, the report that was originally presented was a good one, because it provided for clearly defined measures to support the fight against terrorism, such as necessary steps to improve prevention, closer police cooperation, more exchanges of data and assistance for the victims of terrorism.

Today’s votes, however, have completely changed the report. Key elements of the report have been voted out. Jihadist terrorists, for example, are suddenly no longer considered dangerous. Other positions – unacceptable positions – have been voted into the report, with the result that I have had to vote against it, as the majority of the House has done. It is a pity about the original draft, because it would have been good to have a better set of political and technical instruments with which to combat terrorism and improve security.

 
  
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  Frank Vanhecke (NI). – (NL) Mr President, needless to say I voted against the Deprez report because I fundamentally disagree with the notion that jihadist terrorism is actually just a consequence of discrimination and the social isolation allegedly suffered by Muslims in Europe. To be honest, I know quite a few of my own people, quite a few people of non-immigrant stock, who really do suffer social isolation in Muslim neighbourhoods in our big cities but who do not turn to the crime of terrorism, absolutely not. So I am not going to say mea culpa on that one. It may perhaps be politically correct to lay the blame on perfidious Europe, but it is not 'correct' in the true sense of the word, anything but. When in God's name is Parliament going to understand that Islamist terror has nothing to do with discrimination or social exclusion, but flows directly from the world vision of Islam itself?

 
  
  

- Report: Ignasi Guadans Cambó (A6-0002/2008)

 
  
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  Syed Kamall (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I think we need to recognise, when we are talking about regions trading with each other, that it is not countries that trade with each other, but people and businesses that trade with each other. One of the errors of this particular report was that it failed to recognise the substantial trade barriers that stand in the way of entrepreneurs who wish to trade with the EU from third countries.

That is why I am pleased to announce a cross-party campaign, involving NGOs and civil society organisations, as well as grass-roots campaigners, called the Real Trade Campaign, which has five main aims: to abolish agricultural tariffs on imports; to abolish agricultural subsidies; to liberalise the rules of country of origin; to put more emphasis on aid for trade; and to encourage low income countries progressively to lower their trade barriers to each other in the hope that they will be part of the world community when it comes to trade and, eventually, trade more with us. This report was unbalanced in not recognising that those barriers exist from the EU perspective, which is why I voted against it.

 
  
  

Written explanations of vote

 
  
  

- Report: Jan Andersson (A6-0012/2008)

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) I must say first of all that our vote against is a protest against postponement of the entry into force of a directive on workers’ health and safety, a directive that in this case was adopted in 2004 which lays down the exposure limit values of workers to electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields, and prevention, information and training measures. The European Commission is now proposing a new directive with the sole aim of postponing the transposition of that directive by four years.

It is truly odd for the European Commission to be tabling this proposal for a postponement. It claims in justification that the medical community has reported its concerns on the implementation of the Directive and that various studies have now been commissioned. It is a pity that similar concern regarding the effects of this Directive is not shown in relation to the effects of other legal instruments and policy guidelines which seek to liberalise public goods and services and to deregulate labour relations and workers’ rights. Only when workers’ rights and health are being protected does the European Commission ask for more studies to postpone implementation. It is unacceptable.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. I welcome the report on exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents. The possible consequences which the transposition of the 2004 directive, outlining minimum safety standards for those using physical agents, could have on the development and use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in medicine make the recommendations of the report sound and logical. With the emergence of new studies calling into question the basis on which the directive’s recommendations are based, we must allow time for this new information and the directive to be analysed. I therefore support the call to postpone the deadline of 30 April 2008 by four years, and have voted in favour of this report.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE), in writing. − (SK) I would like to stress that the demand for improving the health and safety of workers in the workplace is based, first and foremost, on risk assessment. In cases where workers are employed in an environment where they are exposed to agents that pose a health risk, a risk assessment is one of the employer’s fundamental duties.

If a risk assessment reveals that there may be a risk, it is necessary to implement measures that will either eliminate the risk or reduce it to the lowest possible level. In my opinion, it is important to implement these measures at source. Other steps that can be taken are, for example, offering a choice of different working methods, technical measures to reduce the emissions, changing the design of workplaces and workstations, limiting the duration and intensity of exposure, making adequate personal protection equipment available, etc.

I agree that if a worker’s medical examination shows that there is a specific health risk, it is the duty of the employer to provide health care for such workers. Preventive medical check-ups are part of the health care package: their goal is to identify at an early stage changes to one’s health and to prevent damage to one’s health as a result of exposure to electromagnetic fields. Depending on the results, the risk assessment may be reviewed and additional measures may be implemented.

In conclusion, I would like to say that as a doctor I am pleased that Directive 2004/40/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council lays down requirements concerning the establishment of action values and exposure limit values for individual electromagnetic fields, as well as requirements for the protection of the health and safety of workers exposed to electromagnetic fields in the course of their work.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE), in writing. – (FR) Artificial electromagnetic waves have a significant impact on the health of Europe’s citizens, and above all on the health of workers, who need to be protected from electromagnetic fields just as they are already protected by two EU directives fixing limit values for exposure to noise and vibration.

The electromagnetic fields emitted both by radios and electronic appliances and by various telephonic devices – portable transmitters and telephones, fixed-base and wi-fi mobiles – are by no means harmless!

That is the finding of the recent BioInitiative report, and its conclusions are indisputable: the risks include forms of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and nervous problems caused by chronic or excessive exposure to electromagnetic waves. It is a health risk that has recently been highlighted by the European Environment Agency.

This is why I voted in favour of the report by Committee Chairman Jan Andersson, which aims to protect workers’ health while taking account of the medical community’s concerns about the compatibility of Community law with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. MRI scanning is an essential medical procedure for certain patients, and in my view it should have been made the subject of a derogation, instead of postponing application of the entire directive for four years!

 
  
  

- Report: Hans-Peter Mayer (A6-0016/2008)

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Although this is a codification procedure that does not alter existing legislation in any way, the underlying question raised is the need for a set of Community directives on a set of issues concerning tractors and other motor vehicles and their trailers, as can be seen from the codified version of several reports put to the vote in Parliament today.

This is an area in which I believe Community legislation is excessive. The existence of general legislation on motor vehicles covering general aspects would probably suffice, without the need to reproduce directives relating to each of these areas, as happens now, examples of which are: the suppression of radio interference produced by agricultural or forestry tractors (electromagnetic compatibility); driver-perceived noise level of wheeled agricultural or forestry tractors; rear registration plate lamps for motor vehicles and their trailers.

The vote in favour of codification does not alter this opinion in any way.

 
  
  

- Report: Francesco Speroni (A6-0020/2008)

 
  
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  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE), in writing. − (PL) I fully support the report under discussion, which will play a major role in the simplification and ordered arrangement of Community law. This is especially important for the development of civil society, since transparency and accessibility of European legislation provides the individual citizen with new opportunities to take advantage of specific entitlements.

That goal cannot be achieved as long as a large number of repeatedly amended regulations remain dispersed and have to be consulted partly in the original legislative act and partly in subsequent amending acts – a task that requires laborious comparison of many different legal instruments in order to determine the rules in force. Frequently amended regulations need to be codified in order to render Community law clear and intelligible.

I therefore fully support the codification of Council Regulation (EEC) No 1210/90 of 7 May 1990 on the establishment of the European Environment Agency and the European Environment Information and Observation Network.

 
  
  

- Report: Francesco Speroni (A6-0021/2008)

 
  
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  Jan Andersson, Göran Färm, Anna Hedh, Inger Segelström and Åsa Westlund (PSE), in writing. − (SV) We Swedish Social Democrats voted in favour of this codification report, which is an important part of the work on increasing the clarity and transparency of Community law. The report does not involve any change of substance but brings together a number of different directives into a coherent text. We are of course in favour of such a simplification. It should be emphasised, however, that our vote in favour does not mean that we are satisfied with the formulation of the current legislation. We want to see raised minimum taxes on tobacco in the future and a real simplification of the regulatory system. In addition, it is important to ensure that the tax levels for different types of tobacco have a competition-neutral effect.

 
  
  

- Report: Janelly Fourtou (A6-0011/2008)

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This regulation replaces Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92, which established the Community Customs Code. The justifications submitted are the amendments that have been introduced in the interim.

The Community Customs Code (CCC) was established by Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92. At that time it was already a long and technically complex document which regulated Community customs matters.

Each specific aspect of the CCC was discussed by specialists in the relevant area, and CCC issues were addressed by the relevant Committee.

In a world in which trade is dominated by the large multinationals, this draft Code would have to reflect and serve the interests of those multinationals, reducing the travelling time of goods and simplifying customs procedures.

Whether measures seeking to combat customs fraud were also adopted with that simplification is another matter.

Simplification appears to have been favoured to the detriment of combating fraud. It is moreover no coincidence that Community documents and/or their translations often refer to ‘facilitation’ rather than simplification. That is a revealing slip of the pen.

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE), in writing. − (SK) Counterfeit operations and goods smuggling today use methods that to be detected require an integrated approach to solving the new tasks facing customs authorities; similarly, customs officials need to be professionally trained officials.

The EU is a customs union, which is why the Community Customs Code is one of its most important instruments. Modernising the Community Customs Code means a complete revision of the original document that entered into force in 1992, in accordance with the demands of the e-customs and e-commerce environment.

What will the modernisation of the Community Customs Code bring? Most importantly it will modernise the control mechanisms and will result in electronic data exchange and inter-operable customs systems. It will simplify customs regulations and administrative procedures for both the customs authorities and economic operators. Centralised clearance is a new feature: it strengthens the cooperation between the Member States and the European Union. Simpler, faster and, most importantly, centralised clearance at a single location has great potential to reduce bureaucracy.

After three years of intensive institutional work we can proudly credit the European Parliament with a significant success in customs modernisation. I would like to take this opportunity to praise the difficult work done by the customs officials, without which the protection of the Union’s external borders would be unthinkable.

I believe that today we prepared a practical present for the 40th anniversary of our customs union, which will be celebrated on 1 July 2008. I am glad I was able to contribute through my vote to the modernisation of the Community Customs Code.

 
  
  

- Report: Bill Newton Dunn (A6-0488/2007)

 
  
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  Luca Romagnoli (NI), in writing. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to support the Dunn report. The purpose of the proposal is to bring the current Regulation (EC) No 515/97 into line with the new powers of the Community in the field of customs cooperation, stepping up cooperation and exchanges of data between the Member States and between the latter and the Commission. That regulation provides the legal basis for requests for assistance exchanged by the competent authorities in order to combat irregularities and fraud.

Despite the good results which have been obtained up to now, there are various reasons for amending the text, linked in particular to changes in the institutional context and balance. The aim is therefore to deepen coordination at Community level, in the light of the new instruments provided by European law, bearing in mind that at the time at which Regulation (EC) No 515/97 was adopted, the Treaty did not yet contain an article on customs cooperation (Articles 135 and 280).

 
  
  

- Report: José Javier Pomés Ruiz (A6-0010/2008)

 
  
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  Alessandro Battilocchio (PSE), in writing. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome the report presented by Mr Pomés Ruiz, as it represents a further measure to make the European institutions more accountable and transparent, and is designed to enable all citizens more closely to scrutinise and monitor the decision-making process surrounding the use of EU funds, thereby enhancing the basic principles of our democratic system.

The Parliamentary initiative expressly calls for publication of the beneficiaries of EU funds, whether this involves grants, contracts, agricultural or structural expenditure or other types of financing. The EC is also asked to assess the feasibility of an ‘information system’ for the wider public, able to provide full details of imports and of the individual beneficiaries of the complex financing work of the EU.

As it also sets out ethical standards for the holders of public offices and a blacklist of fraudsters, and makes provision for publishing the names of lobbyists and all the experts assisting the Commission, the Ruiz report should make it possible to create an efficient and transparent system for monitoring the management and effective use of EU funds.

 
  
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  Adam Bielan (UEN), in writing. − (PL) I support this initiative, aimed at achieving transparency with regard to EU budget expenditure. The sources of information on expenditure must be transparent and, above all, they must be arranged in a practical manner. I frequently hear comments from Polish entrepreneurs that access to the relevant sources of information is very dispersed, which makes it much more difficult for users to compare and evaluate, and to draw the right conclusions concerning their own projects.

The lack of transparency regarding EU budget expenditure leads to many injustices. In the new Member States, including Poland, where potential beneficiaries have relatively little experience in obtaining EU funding, clearly presented information can be extremely helpful.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Apart from one or two aspects that give a little cause for concern, we believe that on the whole the report raises a number of very important and topical questions.

Following the so-called European Transparency Initiative, launched by the Commission in November 2005, the report reaffirms the need to introduce a fully operational system of information for the public on, for example, the final beneficiaries of the various structural funds.

The report suggests that the different beneficiaries may receive EU funds from several programmes or sectors of EU activity, and therefore recognises that it may be instructive to be able to identify all the amounts paid to an individual beneficiary across all sectors – such information being invaluable, for example, in the case of company relocations, according to the workers.

The report also addresses other important aspects, such as the declaration of financial interests of public office-holders in the EU institutions, suggesting that standards should be adopted, and that the composition of the ‘expert groups’ (formal or informal) the Commission decides to set up to assist it in its initiatives, particularly legislative initiatives, should be disclosed.

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I voted in favour of my own group's amendments on the Pomés Ruiz report, which were all adopted. It is important that the membership of Commission expert groups is fairly balanced and that the process for selecting such groups is fully open and transparent. It is to be hoped that the Commission takes heed of today's call from this institution.

 
  
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  Bogusław Liberadzki (PSE), in writing. − (PL) Mr Pomés Ruiz rightly argues that transparency depends on whether the information concerning beneficiaries is easily accessible and reliable, and lends itself to further research, comparison and assessment.

I agree with the request that the Commission should explicitly indicate the addresses of the websites containing information on the beneficiaries of EU funding managed directly and centrally by it in all documents relating to the EU budget and/or projects and programmes under its responsibility.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I welcome the report on transparency in financial matters. Any move to improve the quality and availability of information, especially on agricultural policy and Structural Funds (which has proved difficult for the public to obtain), is a positive step towards the EU assuming its democratic obligations.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) This is a step in the right direction, designed to bring some light into the aid jungle and to facilitate access for ordinary people or at least give them some understanding of largely opaque processes. Care must be taken, however, to ensure that on this occasion highly paid lobbyists are not the only beneficiaries of such databases, but that they also enable SMEs and ordinary people, through easy-to-follow logical processes, to obtain the grants and other forms of support that interest them.

As far as a code of ethics for institutions is concerned, that is certainly to be welcomed. A body empowered to award public funding must be entirely above suspicion, if only for the sake of people’s trust in public administrative authorities. There is, however, a need for caution, because scrutiny cannot extend to laying an institution and its members entirely bare and creating transparent people. Within the bounds of data protection, however, such an arrangement, namely the enshrinement of a kind of ethical code, is undoubtedly welcome.

The establishment of a ‘blacklist’ surely needs more discussion regarding the means of implementation, for this is another area in which data protection has a key role to play.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) People who administer public funds are expected and required to exercise the utmost rationality in managing them, the utmost rigour in presenting the results of the activity carried out, and total transparency. Taxpayers – since they are ultimately the financiers of all public funds – have the right (which they must exercise) to know who spends the funds made available to EU interests and how they spend them. I therefore voted in favour of this report, which is supported by a European Commission Communication that puts forward a number of proposals, the majority of which we agree with. I need only add that I believe that the principles and rules applicable to Community funds, particularly those managed directly by the European institutions, must also apply, mutatis mutandis, to the other public funds, namely Community funds managed by the Member States.

 
  
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  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE), in writing. − (PL) I am voting in favour of Mr Pomés Ruiz’s report on transparency in financial matters.

The rapporteur deals with a number of very important issues concerning the management of EU finances, such as disclosure of information concerning the beneficiaries of EU funds, declaration of financial interests of public office-holders in the EU institutions, and governance within the institutions and their annual activity reports.

We must strive to achieve continuous streamlining of procedures for the management of EU finances and the control of expenditure, with particular regard to the role of the European Parliament as the institution that grants a discharge in respect of implementation of the budget. We must put our money on transparency and the accurate accounting of financial resources.

 
  
  

- Report: Francesco Musotto (A6-0009/2008)

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) The fight against fraud and misappropriation of public funds, in this case Community funds, must be a priority in each Member State. It is therefore essential for each state to be equipped with the human and material resources necessary to allow it to perform this function properly.

It should be emphasised that at the same time as Member State responsibility for protecting public interests is reaffirmed – as it is in the report – policies are promoted in parallel that devalue and withdraw from Member States functions which should be theirs, particularly by dismantling government services, the constant disqualification and laying-off of their workers and the use of private companies to perform some of those functions. In our opinion the report should also examine the consequences for public fund management of transferring public service functions to private enterprises.

The extent to which the excessive complexity and inadequacy of the rules and the delay in awarding funds contribute towards the irregularities identified must also be assessed.

Instead, however, the report essentially focuses on punishment, namely by suggesting infringement proceedings and the suspension of interim payments to Member States.

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I supported the Musotto report on the fight against fraud. Misspending and mismanagement of Community money is something which regularly features in the press and media across the EU. It is essential that fraud is tackled effectively and in this regard the Member States have a huge roll to play alongside the various EU bodies.

 
  
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  Luca Romagnoli (NI), in writing. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I shall vote for the report by our esteemed colleague Francesco Musotto. Both reports highlight the fact that greater attention needs to be paid to certain countries which are lagging behind in terms of providing information in electronic format, and complying with management and monitoring systems. I agree with the rapporteur, who has stressed that it is important to pay particular attention to developing the activities to counter Community fraud which are being run by countries which evidently do not have monitoring systems which are effective enough and, in some cases, have a low level of compliance with European standards. In my view, careful monitoring of Community expenditure is fundamental. The fight against improper payments is even more important, bearing in mind that the money paid by European taxpayers must be used further to enhance standards of living.

 
  
  

- Report: Gérard Deprez (A6-0015/2008)

 
  
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  Jan Andersson, Göran Färm, Anna Hedh, Inger Segelström and Åsa Westlund (PSE), in writing. − (SV) We Swedish Social Democrats voted for the Deprez report on how the Union and the Member States should proceed in their action to rein back support for terrorism and the increase in recruitment of terrorists. The EU needs to consider these aspects in its action to combat terrorism and improve knowledge of the reasons for terrorist acts and radicalisation, which is currently limited. But this must be approached with strict respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and in a manner which is appropriate to an open, democratic and just society. Constitutional rights, such as freedom of the press and freedom of expression and association, must not be restricted in any way.

 
  
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  Glyn Ford (PSE), in writing. − I will be supporting Mr Deprez’s report on the factors favouring support for terrorism and the recruitment of terrorists. Nevertheless, I want to make two points. First, I want to raise the ‘Nelson Mandela’ question. We must distinguish between those fighting oppression and vicious authoritarian regimes like the apartheid regime in South Africa, and the nihilism of the 9/11 bombers. I would not have supported the Rivonia bombing, but neither would I, if Nelson Mandela had fled to Europe, have supported his extradition to a South Africa where he faced the death penalty.

Second, the West has to recognise that on occasion our actions or inaction in the Middle East, in Palestine and elsewhere contributes to rising hostility and terrorism towards ourselves. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. – (FR) Two things alarmed me in the Deprez report on terrorism. The first was the absence of any mention of what is a primary cause of the terrorist threat in Europe, namely the unbridled influx of migrant groups who have no wish to integrate or assimilate but seek, on the contrary, to live by their own laws within their so-called host societies, and indeed to impose those laws upon them.

The second alarming thing was the apportionment of blame: according to you, Europe can never do enough in terms of renouncing its very essence, its national identities and its shared civilisation. It can never do enough to compromise its values in the name of tolerance and the so-called ‘right to difference’. It can never discriminate enough against its own people and in favour of foreign nationalities, cultures or civilisations living on its territory. Ultimately, it is to blame for what happens to it. Yet those responsible for the terrorist attacks in London were British citizens, British-born, employed in jobs that many people would have been glad to have! They were not excluded; they were not victims. Yet they were called to arms!

The fact is that the multicultural, compartmentalised societies to which you so earnestly aspire are, by nature, societies prone to multiple conflict. And by denying realities, we merely fuel hatred and contempt.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) Although the report contains aspects we value and consider to be positive in the light of the deterioration in the global situation, among other things, it does not identify or denounce the real objectives and consequences of the ‘fight against terrorism’, particularly as a factor promoting and encouraging terrorism in itself.

The report refers, albeit conditionally, to the fundamental need for the diplomatic and peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world, though it does not indicate that the major factors that encourage terrorism include the spiral of violence fuelled by the militarisation of international relations, attacks on the independence of states and the sovereignty of nations, state terrorism, violation of fundamental freedoms, rights and guarantees, unbridled capitalist exploitation, the inhuman widening of inequality and injustice, and the existence of millions of human beings living in desperate situations – such as in Afghanistan, Iraq or Palestine.

We believe that a serious analysis of terrorism – in all its forms, including state terrorism – will require it to be set in its political context, thereby revealing its underlying causes and the policies giving rise to it, such as the ‘fight against terrorism’ being waged by the USA and its allies.

Hence our abstention.

 
  
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  Jean Lambert (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I supported today's amendments stating that radicalisation should only be seen in terms of a clear link to violence and that civil liberties should be of paramount importance. The latter should not need repeating – we describe ourselves as a Union based on human rights and civil liberties. Indeed, the majority of the proposals in this report are already EU policy, which makes me wonder why we need yet another report.

I voted against the final report, not because I support the PPE position or the narrow Spanish domestic debate which so frequently poisons our discussions on tackling terrorism in this House, but because we have decided to consider the inclusion of the justification of terrorism in our anti-terrorism package. This may seem a small thing but we already know academic freedom, political debate and anti-radicalisation work are being limited by fears engendered by such legislation. Young Muslims have told me that they are frightened to discuss issues such Palestine or Iraq in case their criticism and explanation of how they feel are interpreted as justification or glorification and they end up in court. Parliament could have voted this paragraph out but chose not to.

 
  
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  Carl Lang (NI), in writing. – (FR) This report on eradicating terrorism takes its place in an endless series of texts glorifying human rights and the battle against discrimination. Yet the fact is that over-cautiousness about possible infringements of fundamental freedoms – particularly freedom of expression and freedom of religion – actually erodes the resources we need in order to fight terrorism.

It must be obvious by now that the European Parliament is more concerned with protecting rights of every hue, and with doing what is politically correct, than it is with the security of European Union citizens.

So it is that this report, about factors favouring support for terrorism, contains not a single reference to mosques although, as we know, they are nothing less than recruiting centres for future Islamic terrorists. Nor is there any reference to the imams of France, Belgium, the Netherlands or Denmark, who are effectively recruiting agents for Jihad-minded Islamic youth.

Let us not shock anyone; let us not ruffle any religious sensibilities; let us be non-discriminatory: it hardly amounts to an effective recipe for tackling the ever-growing threat of Islamic terrorism! What it does amount to is actually quite the reverse.

 
  
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  Roselyne Lefrançois (PSE), in writing. – (FR) This report reflects substantial amendment work by the members of the PSE, Verts/ALE, GUE/NGL and ALDE Groups in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. From a text that initially stigmatised Islam and Muslims in a quite disgraceful way, the progressive, centre-left majority managed to craft a balanced document highlighting the whole range of factors (economic, social and so on) that favour support for terrorism, asserting the need to respect fundamental rights, and emphasising the importance of combating discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity, especially in education, training and employment.

There are, however, two or three points in the report that I find dubious, notably the references to ‘moderate Islam’ and to ‘monitoring of all the locations where propaganda is being disseminated that aims at persuading people to commit terrorist acts’.

Nonetheless, while I may be unable to give the report my wholehearted support, rejecting it would mean surrendering to the right and consigning months of effort to the waste bin.

That is why the best course, in my view, is to abstain and to explain the reasons for doing so.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − This report sought to outline a set of European norms and principles in the fight against terrorism. The opposition from the right to the report means that aid to victims, making the support of terrorist activity a criminal offence in all Member States and encouraging the need for political dialogue, will not form part of a coherent European anti-terrorism strategy. I voted in favour of the report and regret that agreement on what one would feel are issues that normally benefit from wide consensus was not achieved.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Combating terrorism will be the challenge of this century. Resolute action against the machinery of propaganda is therefore the first small step in a bid to curb the spread of terrorism among the autonomous Islamic subcultures that exist throughout Europe.

We must face the fact that terrorism in Europe is purely Islamic in character, and that radicalised Muslims are completely immune to integration measures. Radicalisation is on the march in Europe, and the political classes often seem to be in denial to some extent when it comes to these issues.

For this reason a strategic approach to the fight against terrorism is necessary and, indeed, crucial to guarantee the survival of Europe, its peoples and its cultures. Efforts should begin with young people, but they must also show a degree of willingness to play their part.

Abrogation of all human rights – which, as we know, is already practised in some cases in the United States – must not of course occur in Europe. Nevertheless, it will be essential to be tough on terrorism.

All unlawful content found in the new media must, of course, be treated like any other illegal statement, and its authors must be prosecuted and punished.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) One of the greatest dangers in the debate on terrorism and its causes is to fall into one of two extremes: on the one hand, in seeking to understand everything, the perception that everything becomes acceptable and justifiable; on the other, the refusal to recognise different realities that makes everything confused and that groups everything according to the same concepts and standards. Both extremes are dangerous as an analysis because, since they are not accurate, they do not allow valid conclusions, leading the police, legislators and the public to make mistakes. They are in addition a threat to an understanding of the real situation, which is both inclusive and firm with terrorism. That is the challenge we are facing: to be able to understand reality exactly as it is, rather than as we fear it or would like it to be; and consequently to act on both its distant and its proximate causes, while never forgetting that terrorism cannot be accepted or justified in any circumstances. And that it is not the victims (whether actual or potential) who must understand and justify the crimes of the aggressors. For all these reasons, I voted against this report.

 
  
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  Martine Roure (PSE), in writing. – (FR) The best means of combating terrorism is prevention, not the blanket surveillance of European citizens. So the important thing is to attack terrorism’s underlying causes.

The phenomenon of violent radicalisation will cease once we address inequalities and injustices at both national and world level.

I abstained in the vote on this report because, in the process of combating terrorism, I do not think we can point the finger at one particular religion. Terrorism is not about religion, even though some people may look to what they term their faith in order to justify killing. The only way to combat violent radicalisation will be by strengthening the lay ethos in our societies and by engaging openly in intercultural dialogue with all the stakeholders, especially the representatives of civil society.

 
  
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  Olle Schmidt (ALDE), in writing. − (SV) Terrorism is a cross-border phenomenon and must be combated vigorously by common action. However, the fight against terrorism must always be waged by legal and proportionate means. The CIA flights in Europe, the use of torture, mock executions and waterboarding, which the CIA now acknowledges did happen, and the establishment of special secret jails must be vigorously condemned. Here the EU should have acted much more firmly than it did.

But to me, one thing is self-evident: it is our values which must form the basis of our common legislation. We must also ensure that Community legislation does not jeopardise or set aside important principles – including that of freedom of expression.

The report speaks of introducing a new concept into the Framework Decision: ‘justification of terrorism’. I think this would be unfortunate. Not because it is not a good idea to ensure that all Member States have good laws against incitement, but because it is difficult, if not impossible, to arrive at a definition which would be applied uniformly and which would not lead to thorny problems of interpretation. On the one hand, there is the important task of devising ways to combat terrorism and save lives. On the other hand, there is the principle of freedom of expression and the concern to maintain a high level of legal security in Europe. It is a question of finding the right balance.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (UEN), in writing. − (PL) I am unable to support the Deprez report and its proposal for a European Parliament recommendation to the Council on the factors favouring support for terrorism and the recruitment of terrorists.

The report advocates the wrong priorities in the struggle against terrorism. The proposal concentrates above all on social policy measures. That approach will not facilitate the struggle against terrorism, which also requires better border controls and coordination among prosecution agencies.

 
  
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  Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE), in writing. − The Left in the Parliament diluted a key, undeniable message in the original text of this report, which had stated that ‘terrorism (in particular Jihadist terrorism) is today the most severe threat to the security of the citizens of the Union’. The report completely omits any reference to the largest factors favouring the recruitment of terrorists, namely uncontrolled immigration and, certainly in regard to the UK, the widespread lack of regard for the Christian religion and positive understanding of our own history and culture.

Not surprisingly, newcomers then see little with which to identify. It makes no mention of the way in which terrorism can be seen to succeed and the legitimisation and reward of terrorists such as the former leaders of the Provisional IRA. I therefore voted against the report and contributed to its rejection by Parliament.

 
  
  

- Report: Ignasi Guardans Cambó (A6-0002/2008)

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) This EP own-initiative report is a genuine repository of goals and initiatives for liberalising world trade – whether in goods, services or capital – led by the EU and the European Commission, a virtually omnipotent body in common commercial policy with the new draft Treaty, which makes this an exclusive EU competence.

The opening up of markets is the dogma. The end of all and any trade barriers, especially with the developed and emerging economies, is the course of action. The opening up of markets, carried out if possible in the image of the EU single market, is the objective.

Since it considers the current WTO system to be insufficiently regulatory and binding, it advocates the ‘European governance model’ for trade, whether by concluding free trade agreements or by stressing conclusion of the current round of WTO negotiations – for which it calls for synergies to be created with the EU’s major trading partners (such as the USA, Canada and Japan).

As an example, see how the report urges non-EU countries to lift foreign ownership restrictions on European companies... Economic domination is the aim.

Hence our vote against.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I welcome the Guardans Cambó report on the EU’s Strategy to deliver market access for European companies. The principles of improved mutual access, better support for SMEs and enhanced internal market access should help to bolster the Lisbon agenda. In particular I support the amendments on making a distinction between access to developed markets and emerging economies on one hand and LDCs and developing countries on the other.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. (PT) Although the European internal market is huge, the world market, opened up due to globalisation, is even larger and more dynamic. Access by European companies to that market, especially to the high-growth-rate emerging economies, must therefore be both a public and a private priority. While it is true, however, that in the area of private initiative it is not up to us to make choices or, worse still, to impose priorities, in the area of public initiatives there is a long way to go. On the one hand, we must be aware of the need to open up our markets if we wish – and we do wish – to gain increasing access to international markets. On the other, it is essential to focus on the capacity of European companies to stand up to the growing economic efficiency and competitiveness of companies from those countries, which means that we must unhesitatingly focus on the competitiveness and innovation of our own companies, which can only occur in a free, open and transparent environment.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE), in writing. − (RO) The Guardans Cambó report refers to the European Union strategy to facilitate the market access for European companies. In the first part of last year, the European Commission presented a communication regarding a stronger partnership in order to obtain market access for the European exporters.

The measures proposed by the Commission refer to restructuring the Community computer system that provides market access information and services in approximately 100 countries, better transparency and an information campaign, especially for small and medium-sized companies, regarding the Community services available for European exporters.

Nevertheless, I regret that some of the amendments submitted by the Group of European Socialists, which concerned the field of public procurement and competition, were not voted on.

I believe it is necessary to define a partnership between the Commission, the Member States and the European companies in order to facilitate the latter’s access to third markets but, at the same time, we must ensure that the European principles and values are complied with in those markets: labour law, environmental protection, respect of intellectual property, and human rights.

 

8. Corrections to vote and voting intentions: see Minutes
  

(The sitting was suspended at 12.40 p.m. and resumed at 3.05 p.m.)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR PÖTTERING
President

 

9. Debate on the future of Europe (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the debate on the future of Europe, in which the Prime Minister of Sweden, a Member of the European Council, will take part.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bid you a warm welcome to this special sitting. In particular, I wish to extend a very warm welcome to Mr Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden. Välkommen till Europaparlamentet! Welcome!

(Applause)

It gives me – and all of us – great pleasure, Prime Minister, to welcome you today to the European Parliament for the first time to discuss the future of the European Union with us.

I have just seen Simeon Sakskoburggotski, the former Prime Minister of Bulgaria, in the gallery. I bid you a warm welcome to the European Parliament.

The Treaty that was signed in Lisbon on 13 December 2007 takes the European Union in a new direction. After many years of discussion, we finally have a Treaty that matches the needs of the enlarged European Union, enabling it to devote itself to fulfilling the hopes and expectations of the European people by means of democratic procedures. Not only will the new Treaty provide for more transparency in the activity of the Union, which has always been a matter of particular importance to Sweden; it also makes combating climate change a new aim of the European Union, and that is an area in which Sweden can already boast major successes. Your country, Prime Minister, has every reason to be proud of its leading role in Europe in the use of renewable energy sources. We in the European Union must be united in pursuing the offensive against climate change, so that we can jointly play a leading global role in that struggle. Only last week at the United Nations, I saw what great hopes the UN places in the European Union in particular, as well as in the European Parliament as its legislative arm.

The Lisbon Treaty gives us instruments to pursue the goals that are important to our future, and to implement rapidly the reforms we need for that purpose. Like you, Prime Minister, the European Parliament firmly believes that the new Treaty should enter into force by 1 January 2009. The European Parliament was therefore pleased to learn of the announcement made by the Swedish Parliament, the Riksdag, of its intention to ratify the new Treaty by November 2008.

If the ratification process can be successfully completed on time in all 27 Member States, the Swedish Presidency of the Council will be able, in the second half of 2009, to devote itself to the major challenges of the future within a new institutional framework. Sweden will lead us into a new era of European integration. Together, on the basis of the new Treaty and with a newly elected European Parliament, a new Commission and Sweden holding the presidency, we shall be able to open a new chapter of enhanced cooperation.

Whether in the field of energy security, climate change, the continued development of the Nordic dimension of the Union, or EU strategy for the Baltic Sea, we expect Sweden to be a source of powerful impetus. This is why we keenly await your remarks on the future shape of the European Union. Prime Minister, I now invite you to address the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden, Member of the European Council. − (SV) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is a very great honour for me to stand here today. It is true, as has been said, that I have not been here before in my present capacity. Nor have I been in this very Chamber but, as a young politician, I was in Strasbourg and came to the European Parliament dreaming that one day I would see my country in its place, fully represented. I know what it is to dream of getting to this place, something I no doubt share with many here today.

It is thus a great honour for me to have this opportunity to present some thoughts on European issues to this Assembly.

Some far-sighted politicians, after the Second World War, understood that the only way to secure peace was to bind the countries of Europe together into a form of European integration. As was the case then, today’s European integration must also be guided by a clear vision. We must ask the fundamental questions: where do we want to go and how do we get there?

Our world is changing at a rapid pace and we are changing with it. We are becoming more and more dependent on one another. Hence we need to know what the fundamental principle has to be.

Our European integration model must be so strong that neither fanatical nationalism nor religious fanaticism can be a threat to peace and stability in Europe.

We must not be scared of a strong Europe. On the contrary, we must fear a weak Europe. A strong Europe takes on a greater responsibility for global problems. A strong Europe combines economic growth with climate-friendly policies. A strong Europe looks out for its citizens’ best interests. A united Europe – and this is a point worth making at a time like this – dares to give Kosovo a clear European perspective.

The Swedish Government believes in the possibilities of Europe. As I said, Sweden must have a clear and unquestioned place at the heart of European integration. Since the present Government came to power in the autumn of 2006, we have also seen how popular support for the European Union has grown in Sweden.

There are people who say that this is just a matter of luck. To those people I say: the more you practise, the luckier you get. And we have certainly been practising. As early as 1962 my party campaigned in a local election with the slogan ‘Yes to Europe’. We had to wait 33 years before we could actually send Members to the European Parliament.

It feels as though we can now take a breath, after several years of tough treaty discussions. Chancellor Merkel did a tremendous job in helping to resolve the issue. My special thanks also go to Prime Minister Sócrates, who skilfully guided the Treaty to a successful conclusion. The Lisbon Treaty creates better conditions for more open, effective and dynamic European integration. But above all, it opens up new opportunities to discuss issues that are important to the future: climate and energy, jobs and economic growth, demographics, migration, and the EU’s role on the international stage. I intend to say something on each of these subjects.

I want to work for a modern Europe geared to the citizens’ perspective.

We are all aiming for the Treaty to come into force on 1 January 2009. As the President noted, Sweden will ratify the Treaty during the autumn of 2008. In 18 months’ time, Sweden will hold the EU Presidency. It will be an interesting Presidency with a newly elected European Parliament, a new Commission and the new leadership positions created by the Lisbon Treaty.

I look forward to very close cooperation with the European Parliament on all these matters.

Some of the key issues during the Swedish EU Presidency will be climate and energy, the Hague Programme, jobs and economic growth, Baltic Sea issues and the EU as a global player. We are already working intensively on preparations. We will also be ready should the unexpected occur.

In other words, there must be a large dose of flexibility and the possibility of adapting to the prevailing situation which, in spite of everything, may influence the process.

The issue of climate and energy is one of the biggest challenges faced by society in our time. We have a major responsibility to future generations to ensure that we succeed in formulating a policy for long-term sustainable development. Together we must work hard to reach an international agreement at the UN summit in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Thanks to historic decisions taken at the spring Council last year, the EU has taken on a leading role. But the EU cannot shoulder this responsibility on its own. It will require close cooperation with a large number of other countries, including India, Japan, China, Russia and the United States.

Some calculations indicate that total world demand for energy is not declining, but may be expected to rise by 50% by 2030. The key to tackling climate change lies, of course, in how this anticipated increase in energy needs is dealt with.

The first question is how do we improve energy-saving and energy efficiency? But the challenges of climate change also call for a new political approach. We must dispel the myth that growth is the enemy of the environment.

Sweden is a living example of the opposite. Since 1990, the Kyoto starting point, our economy has grown by 44% at the same time as our emissions of greenhouse gases have declined by nine per cent. We have invested in research and new technology, combined with a revision of taxes and regulations. This has opened the door to a development in which the environment becomes a springboard for both new companies and new jobs.

I am convinced that we can reach the goals set out in the EU’s climate and energy package. But we have to introduce the right policy instruments to encourage our societies and our companies to make the right choices.

The price of polluting our environment must be high, and the rewards for opting for carbon dioxide-free solutions must be tempting.

As many have pointed out, green technology already exists. Governments have a huge responsibility for the transition that has to be made. But so do ordinary people. We should see this as a kind of pact between governments and the public to support environmentally friendly alternatives. This will increase competition to the benefit of a more environmentally friendly society. We all stand to gain from this.

As regards the Lisbon strategy, the United States has been the world’s largest economy for over a hundred years. Now new players are influencing the global economy. India’s and China’s economies are growing by leaps and bounds. Globalisation has led to positive development in many parts of the world. Globalisation is a force for democracy, and brings the difference between open and closed societies into sharp focus. But globalisation also increases competition.

The policies that gave us work, security and prosperity yesterday must be constantly modified for us to achieve the same success tomorrow.

Today one third of Europe’s working-age population is outside the labour market. This is an untenable situation. We must increase labour supply and combat exclusion. By reforms of national labour markets. By investment in education and skills. As economic integration grows increasingly stronger in the Union and around the world, successes and shortcomings – which also exist – in national reform efforts will no longer be solely an internal affair; they concern us all.

Our future prosperity in Europe is heavily dependent on how we Member States jointly create better conditions to seize the opportunities and meet the challenges of globalisation. Not least, it is a question of how we tackle demographic trends and cross-border challenges in the environmental field.

A progressive EU energy and environment policy is a prerequisite for long-term sustainable growth, and hence also for prosperity in Europe. But it is also an important factor in our future competitiveness.

Through the Lisbon strategy for sustainable growth and employment, the EU has created the means to meet these challenges. The strategy exists. Unfortunately, we got sidetracked when it came to implementing it.

Let us make a determined effort to strengthen the EU’s global competitiveness by continued structural reforms and by investing in research and paving the way for new technology. Let us make a real effort to complete the internal market and create a more innovative business climate in Europe. Let us ensure that it is worthwhile to work. Of course, there is still a great deal to be done at both national and Community level. I only need say the words ‘patent’ and ‘Working Time Directive’ for you all to understand what I mean.

We must conclude the Doha Round of the WTO. This would provide a strong impetus for economic recovery around the world. We need an open world trade system and continued liberalisation if we are to increase Europe’s competitiveness in the spirit of the Lisbon strategy.

At the same time, many know that winds of protectionism are blowing through Europe. We must resist this. Protectionism is not a solution. In the long term it damages those it was meant to protect. And there is no time to lose. The window of opportunity in the WTO is closing.

But when we talk about the Lisbon strategy, let us not just complain like Eeyore the donkey in Winnie the Pooh. Let us stop for a moment and look back on the period just gone by. When we do so, we see the considerable success and progress that have actually been achieved. Factors that have led to the Lisbon process being a working process since 2005. A process that has strengthened the commitments of the Member States and has driven implementation and yielded results.

A great deal is due to the Commission’s resolute efforts and Commission President Barroso’s strong personal commitment. But I would also like to thank the European Parliament for your very constructive role.

How do we find the best way to meet future challenges? How do we jointly ensure long-term prosperity in Europe through sustainable growth and full employment? To enable Europe to hold its own in global competition? I see the Swedish Presidency in autumn 2009 as an excellent time to launch the discussion on a future European strategy for sustainable growth and employment during the coming decade.

Let me say something about the EU budget. We think that it has long since passed its sell-by date. The budget should be the primary instrument for realising the Union’s goals. This being so, it must also reflect the goals better. Today, 40% of the budget goes to agricultural subsidies. To a sector that accounts for 2% of employment in Europe. This is unreasonable.

Imagine if instead we were to increase the EU’s contributions to research and development, the fight against organised crime, environmental issues and external relations. Imagine if we also dared to engage in a frank discussion of what should be financed at EU level and what should be financed nationally.

Europe is facing a demographic trend with a rapidly ageing population. A trend that will put our welfare systems under increasing pressure in the years ahead. A few facts will suffice to show how quickly this has changed the face of Sweden. In 1913, just short of 100 years ago, the pensionable age in Sweden was set at 67. Note that, at the time, the average lifespan in Sweden was around 56 years. The truth is that the pension system was for the few who could survive their working years and enjoy a few years more. Most just worked and died. And they worked from a young age. Now, at the same time as we have a falling retirement age, we see the average lifespan in Sweden lengthening to the present 80 years. We have moved from a situation in which we worked for virtually the whole of our lives to one in which a Swede born now can expect to work for only half his life. An incredible development over only a couple of generations. But it means that fewer and fewer people will have to support more and more people.

Together with significant exclusion from the labour market, this reinforces the need for a job creation policy. More people must enter employment in order to maintain good welfare, given these challenges. More people must work for a longer portion of their lives, given the way we are living at present. The growing percentage of older people in Europe is not matched by the number of people of working age.

This is precisely where migration comes in. Properly handled, this can be an important and actually necessary piece of the puzzle for maintaining a welfare system that is worthy of the name. Imagine if all those newcomers, positive, expectant and eager to make a contribution, got a reception which sought to benefit from the positive energy they bring with them.

We must create political opportunities for those people who have made their way to Europe. Opportunities that allow them to enter the labour market quickly.

Migration has become a burning issue for many Member States. But control measures and readmission agreements must never be the only answer to the challenges that arise from increased migration. Those who think it is enough to tighten border controls in order to resolve the many and varied issues of migration are oversimplifying the matter. A broader approach is needed – both for the EU and for the countries of origin.

Sweden supports the ambitious objective of having a common European asylum system in place by 2010. If it is to be successful, the work to achieve it will require intensive efforts.

Sweden also regards it as a priority to further the integration of the EU’s external relations and to increase consistency between migration and development policy. And we must remember that it is only by efforts to deal with the causes of migration in the form of poverty and oppression that we can achieve real results. A global approach is needed here. Not least within the framework of the UN High-Level Dialogue on Migration.

The EU has an important role to play in giving these ideas more concrete content, not least in the form of broad and partnership-based cooperation with the African countries concerned.

We want to pursue an ambitious and forward-looking programme for 2010-2014 that will replace the Hague Programme. We attach great value to the active participation of the European Parliament in this process.

International terrorism is one of the greatest global threats to our open societies. As terrorist networks grow, we see how more people are acting increasingly independently and terrorist attacks are becoming less predictable.

Organised crime is an ever-growing problem in Europe. Individual countries are finding it increasingly difficult to combat serious, organised international crime on their own. Much organised crime often originates outside the EU. The Lisbon Treaty provides us with new tools in the fight against terrorism and other serious cross-border crime. The European Parliament will have a central part to play in this connection. Approximation of regulations must continue. The possibilities for mutual recognition of judicial decisions must continue to be developed. The EU agencies Europol and Eurojust must be strengthened, and the exchange of information between national police authorities improved.

At the same time – and this is important – there must be a balance in what we do. When we strengthen crime-fighting operations we must also strengthen the rights of the individual. We rely on the efforts of the European Parliament in particular here. It is important for us to agree at EU level to strengthen legal security in criminal cases and the rights of victims of crime.

I want to see a Europe stepping forth as a voice for peace and reconciliation, even in parts of the world that are troubled by war and conflict. In Africa, Asia and Latin America, but of course also here in Europe.

Sweden has initiated a broad discussion on the further development of Europe’s common security strategy. In 2009 we will be working hard to get the European External Action Service in place. Helping to settle the conflicts in the Middle East must be one of the European Union’s most important tasks in the years ahead. A future settlement between Israelis and Palestinians must build on a two-state solution under which both parties can live within secure and recognised borders. We need an intensified dialogue with the Muslim world. An important aim should be to build up increased trust, respect and understanding between ‘the West’ and the Muslim world.

We are aiming for closer ties in all areas of society with Russia. It is our hope that the remaining obstacles to Russian membership of the WTO can be overcome. It is in our interest that Russia should develop into a modern, successful and democratic state. Unfortunately, the move in a more authoritarian direction that we have seen over the past few years suggests a different kind of development. We are concerned about a possible continuation of this trend.

The situation in the western Balkans continues to be one of Europe’s greatest and most difficult challenges. For a long time to come we shall be deeply involved in assisting the state-building process in Kosovo. The challenges we face must not be underestimated. The economic and social situation in Kosovo is very difficult. There is a long way to go before it is a functioning constitutional state. State-building takes time – but we must be prepared to be there and offer help. That is our responsibility. But our commitment is to the region as a whole. It is important to stress that, not least in times like this.

European crisis management will be one of the most important questions in future European foreign and security policy. Our country seeks – as far as we are able – to play an active role in the continued development of European security and defence policy. Sweden has participated in most of the operations which the EU has initiated. We are now prepared to participate in the EU mission in Chad.

Stockholm is closer to Minsk than to the most northern parts of Sweden. Belarus is Europe’s last dictatorship. It is our duty to do more to support democratic forces in that country.

Developments in the Baltic Sea region are a European concern. Eight out of nine countries around the Baltic are now Member States of the EU. Almost a quarter of the EU’s population – about 100 million people – are affected by the sensitive environment of the Baltic Sea. This requires a concerted European effort. The Baltic strategy which the Commission has been given the task of preparing before the Swedish Presidency in 2009 will, I hope, meet the challenges in the region.

The strategy may serve as a model for how, in the enlarged EU, we meet challenges related to specific regions – in order ultimately to strengthen the EU as a whole.

I would like to end by saying a few words about enlargement. As you all know, this is a matter close to the hearts of the Swedish Government and the Swedish people. Enlargement has been one of the EU’s greatest challenges, but also a prime opportunity.

For those travelling through countries that in recent years have become EU Member States, it is striking to see the development and faith in the future. Unfortunately, more and more critical voices are being raised against enlargement. Let me be clear: the most stupid thing we can do is to forget what we set out to achieve. Why the concept of European integration came into being.

Without enlargement Europe would not be what it is today. Without continued enlargement we risk instability on our own continent. Because enlargement is our most important strategic tool for spreading the values on which European integration is based. We have torn down one wall in Europe. We must not now build a new one against Turkey or other European countries. We know now that there was so much more that could only have been done – or done better – by working together in Europe and globally.

Let us never take European integration for granted. We need a strong Europe! In which we dare to aim even higher, fully confident in ourselves.

Thank you for your attention.

I look forward to meeting you again in the summer, when our turn for the rotating EU Presidency comes around.

 
  
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  President. − Thank you, Prime Minister. We are also pleased to note that the European Commission is represented here by Vice-President Margot Wallström. We shall now move on to the debate.

 
  
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  Joseph Daul, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Prime Minister, colleagues, it is my pleasure, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group, to welcome to our Chamber the Prime Minister of Sweden. Fredrik Reinfeldt, you are the first head of government to share his vision of Europe’s future with this House since the signing of the Lisbon Reform Treaty.

On the eve of our debate on the Treaty and the democratic progress it involves for the Union – and I speak here on behalf of my fellow PPE Group members – I must urge once again that the ratification process be pursued at a steady pace. To date, five Member States out of 27 have ratified the treaty. They have said yes to the new tools that the Lisbon Treaty offers for shaping Europe’s future and giving substance to its people’s aspirations. The sooner we have ratification, the sooner we can apply the new operating rules that are essential for effective European action. Most importantly, the sooner we can focus our efforts on the content of our common policies. Europe must have the ability to take rapid decisions about energy, climate, food safety, immigration and defence.

For more than 50 years the political family to which I belong has encouraged and supported the development of Europe. In June 2009, our commitment to a Europe of shared values, a Europe of prosperity, a Europe of security and solidarity will be put to the test of the popular vote. We hope Europe will be ready for that challenge.

We want to see a competitive Europe that creates jobs. We want it to promote economic growth and social development. Europe’s prosperity must be a long-term concern. That is why we are calling for sustainable, sensible development, which involves protecting the environment and combating climate change.

The PPE–DE Group favours free trade – free trade of the type that allows the purchasing power of the poorest in society to increase, and helps to reduce inequalities both within national borders and between different countries. While we believe that globalisation can be an opportunity for Europe, we will never accept unbridled free-trade-ism. It is our responsibility to protect the interests of the most vulnerable among us and to defend our European social model. Economic growth and a high level of social protection are not mutually exclusive: the fact that our growth rate exceeded that of the United States in 2007 proves the point.

Prosperity in Europe also depends on achieving an effective and open single market and pursuing the aims of the Lisbon strategy. We want the keepers of Europe’s accounts to be responsible and to set high standards for the management of public money. However, budgetary discipline cannot be allowed to undermine the principle of solidarity between the Member States or between Europe and its world partners. Solidarity comes at a price, and we must be prepared to pay it.

We also want a strong Europe that is capable of fighting international terrorism and organised cross-border crime. What is at stake here is the defence of our values, our freedoms, our democracy, our rule of law and our solidarity. There can be no room for negotiation when it comes to the security of Europe’s territory or its people. Defending our dearly bought freedom demands unflagging determination and tough, coordinated measures. While we need to be more vigilant in the face of genuine threats, we also need to respect people’s individual freedoms. What we advocate is a healthy balance between security and personal freedom.

In the international arena, too, it is high time for Europe to commit itself and to pursue closer links with partners who share our vision of the world. We are in favour of a firmly based and meaningful trans-Atlantic relationship, but we also want to develop a policy of good neighbourliness and to pursue EU enlargement.

With regard to Cyprus, our group supports the latest efforts to identify a just solution that will enable all the people of the island to live together in peace.

In the Middle East, Europe must offer political and financial support for the difficult process of negotiating peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. The rising tides of extremism cannot be stemmed without concessions from both sides. The European Union’s very existence demonstrates that it is possible to overcome hatred between peoples and to build a shared future.

Where conflict is tearing people apart, our experience needs to be put to use. Today the south-eastern Balkan region is the least stable part of our continent, and Kosovo’s declaration of independence heralds a period of uncertainty. We call on all sides to be measured in their response. All forms of provocation must be avoided. The imperative is to keep people safe – and Europe has a key role to play here.

The time has come to show that we are capable of bringing stability to the Balkans. We approve of sending an EU police and justice mission to support the authorities in Kosovo. We invite Kosovo to pursue a stable, democratic, multi-ethnic future – and a European future. That prospect of Community membership applies to the entire Balkan region – obviously including Serbia. We do not advocate isolating the Serbs: we advocate uniting Europe.

Mr President, Prime Minister, this is a debate on the future of Europe – we need to confront and overcome the challenges and we need a clear political vision, as well as determination and courage. On the sure foundation of these values and these priorities, the PPE–DE Group is ready to play its part in meeting the challenges.

 
  
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  Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Prime Minister, I am pleased to be able to welcome you to Strasbourg. I do not know whether Mrs Malmström is equally delighted at having had to come to Strasbourg with you, but perhaps we can discuss that on another occasion.

You delivered a good speech, Prime Minister. I also believe it was a wise speech, because you pointed out that our vision of the future of Europe will only be attainable if we equip the European Union to play its part in addressing the challenges facing this continent in all parts of the world. The debate on the global climate is not a European debate but a global debate. That is true. Consideration of the role of the European Union in world trade should not be confined to the debate on the internal market, but must also serve to identify ways in which this huge single market with its great economic power can contribute to prosperity, not only in Europe but in other continents too. The fact is that prosperity in other continents – and this brings me to a third point that you raised – is conducive to world peace. As a force for peace that has established stability and harmony within its territory, Europe must be able to contribute to making the world a more peaceful place. This does not mean that Europe should try to teach the world, but the European model can be an option.

Supranational integration, integration across the deep divides of religion and ethnic conflict, bridging the gulf of a bloody past by abandoning nationalism in favour of a supranational approach, will always lead to greater prosperity and will always nurture peace. This is why the future of Europe depends on the ability of Heads of Government like you to be prepared, when it comes to the crunch, to surrender a degree of national sovereignty in order to contribute to a supranational framework, which is the basis for more prosperity in the world and hence for more peace within our own countries. That is the logic you set out here today, and I subscribe to it. It is a different logic from that of the ultra-nationalists we shall experience again tomorrow, who keep telling us that more nationalism is needed. More nationalism invariably means more wars. Let us make no bones about that. For this reason the message you conveyed to us today was a good one.

(Heckling)

Those who are reacting are the very ones to whom I was referring, so my message has clearly hit home.

What I missed, Prime Minister, was the idea of a social Europe. Someone told me you have to watch Reinfeldt, because he is the next best thing to a Socialist. That, at least, is the impression you gave in the election campaign in Sweden. Admittedly, the Swedish people were quite quickly put right about your Government’s real intentions. But you did not refer once today to the concept of a socially responsible Europe. Now I know you take the view that social policy is a national matter, and rightly so. I must say, however, that if the internal market you seek to develop is perceived by people in Sweden and other countries as a threat to the social standards they enjoy at home, they will reject that internal market.

In that case, your global trade strategy would be worthless too. You must appreciate that, while there is a need to develop the internal market, the process must be accompanied by the parallel development of a European social model. Otherwise, if such a twin-tracked approach is not adopted, a misshapen European internal market based on free trade alone will be a genuine threat to the social stability that we have struggled to achieve in our respective countries. Let me therefore give you some good advice, Prime Minister: go ahead on the global climate, go ahead on world trade, and go ahead on international peace-building, but go ahead on the European social model too. Since I know, however, that you are a man who is capable of learning, I am fairly sure you will redress the balance a little.

Prime Minister, I was very pleased with a remark you made concerning Turkey. You are a fair man, just like our President. He granted my fellow Member, Mr Doyle, an extra minute and a half. He will grant me that too, which means that I can add one more point. You spoke about Turkey. Tell that to your European Council colleague, President Sarkozy, for it is not right that people in the European Union constantly pop up with conflicting messages. If I were the Prime Minister of Turkey, I would never cease to be astonished. Mr Reinfeldt visits the European Parliament and tells us not to batten down the hatches but to keep the prospect of Turkish accession open. The next President of the Council to appear here after Mr Janša will be saying the opposite. I am pretty sure of that. The fact is that President Sarkozy told us here in the European Parliament that Turkish accession to the European Union was not on his agenda. This issue cannot be kicked back and forth like that. Clarification is essential. There is a clear EU strategy for Turkish accession, and we must stand by our declarations. Or am I wrong? You put it plainly today, and I hope Nicolas Sarkozy will do likewise.

One final remark: what pleased me most was your announcement that you intend to come back in the summer of next year as President-in-Office of the Council. That was good. There are some who believe that the next President of the Council to address us here will be the permanent one, who will then present the programmes of all the rotating presidencies. In other words, Mr Blair or Mr Juncker, or whoever the horse-trading might give us, would be the one who presented your Government’s programme, which you had adopted in Stockholm. But it is you that the European Parliament expects to see here next year in the rotating presidency with your programme, which will then include the concept of a social Europe.

 
  
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  Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, when Parliament first convened this series of debates on the future of Europe, few could foresee a Treaty in force by 2009. Europe was sinking, and to paraphrase Mr Reinfeldt’s countryman, August Strindberg, ‘there was something unnatural in it, for nature demands progress, evolution, and every backward step means wasted energy.’

Well, since then, the European Union has found the collective energy to set Europe back on the path to progress. By the time the Prime Minister’s country takes over the reins in 2009, the EU will have undergone a democratic revolution: it will be more open, more accountable, more responsive to its citizens. So those who attack the EU for being undemocratic are barking mad to oppose a treaty which puts citizens and their representatives in the driving seat. They are also barking up the wrong tree when they bring their protest to this Parliament, which has no responsibility for decisions by national governments on whether to hold a referendum.

The Prime Minister, with his record as a consensus-builder in his own country, looks an ideal candidate to launch the European Union under a new Council, a new Parliament and a new Commission. But will he, in fact, be taking over the reins – as have presidencies in the past – or will he be simply a chef de cabinet to the full-time President of the Council?

The truth is that the Treaty provides a framework for a future we have yet to sketch, a future where the biggest single challenge for our Union, as Sweden’s Europe Minister says, is delivering the practical results which citizens rightly demand and not the interminable naval gazing, which a Conseil des sages will simply prolong.

Survey after survey shows that the Euro-sceptics are wrong. Citizens do not want less Europe. They want more: more joint action on terrorism, more joint action on energy and the environment, on defence and foreign affairs, on migration, on research and development. They want Europe to think big. And, yet, in almost all these areas, cooperation is in its infancy, because Member State governments in national capitals persist in gainsaying the public will.

We have 10 months left before the Treaty enters into force. It is time for us to get our House in order, for this House to prepare for the greatest increase in powers it has ever seen and for the Council and the Commission to ‘Lisbonise’ both legislative proposals in the pipeline and current practices which must change.

Urgent challenges lie ahead, as the Prime Minister alluded to. They will not be met without loyal cooperation between the institutions of government. My plea to the Prime Minister is to make sure that, by the time we have codecision in almost 80 policy areas and a huge increase in the workload of this House and in the Council, we have greater dialogue between Parliament and the Council to allow us to manage the Union properly: when it comes to dealing with the biggest foreign policy challenge for the Union now – the issue of Kosovo; when it comes to dealing with the question of Turkey, on which I agree so much with what the Prime Minister said; when it comes to dealing with big challenges, like world population growth, poverty and migration, of which he spoke.

The Prime Minister outlined the challenges of globalisation, both at our immediate borders and beyond, challenges to which EU cooperation has the answers. Previous prime ministers have done the same in this Chamber, though without achieving such cooperation, so I commend to you a Swedish saying: Gott lära av andras fel, eftersom man inte hinner begå alla själv – it is well to learn from the errors of others, since there is no time to make them yourself.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Cristiana Muscardini, on behalf of the UEN Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Prime Minister, the delicate phase of ratification has finally begun, and we hope that they will take place very rapidly. The European Parliament’s greater involvement in the decision-making process bears witness to the fact that more account is being taken of European citizens.

Europe now has an ambitious mission: to be more of a player in international politics. Not just consolidated human rights, but concrete measures to defend them. The Union must tackle international crises which are currently being left to the individual Member States, to the United States and, with all the limits on its action, to the United Nations. We have to anticipate future scenarios and cannot, as we were in the case of Kosovo, be unprepared and divided in the face of such a sensitive scenario.

Energy is an urgent issue on which the Union is working, and we have to abandon any falsely environmental approach, studying common solutions to resolve the major problems of the energy crisis and development. The Member States or the companies through which they work must, in our opinion, continue to own distribution networks, because everything can be privatised except the security of citizens and Member States. Any other choice would deprive Europe of its independence and self-sufficiency. We need to study objectives through which the nuclear and alternative energies dilemma can be resolved. The time has come for decisions, and not just words.

While the Internet and the inability to impose any regulation right from the outset have meant that the degree of freedom of our society has been positively enhanced, they have exposed everyone to the uncontrolled risk of terrorism, which, as a result of cryptography as well, is increasingly threatening democracy and everyone’s freedom.

The Europe of services, the economy and the free market – a market which must be guided by clear and shared rules – cannot disregard the defence of such a fundamental value as the integrity of children. The increase in online paedophilia and the recent data which show that 52% of paedophile Internet sites are in Europe mean that the laws of Member States must be harmonised in order to provide the Union as a whole with the certainty of fast trials, adequate prevention, laws which make providers responsible and which make provision for the closure of illegal sites throughout the Member States of the Union. What is needed is a single European centre which helps families, teachers, police forces and the courts to pass on the information needed to put an end to this atrocious crime and punish those responsible.

Mr President, Prime Minister, if we fail to deal with this crisis immediately, we will be depriving Europe of its future, because without children’s integrity our Europe will have no future.

 
  
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  Monica Frassoni, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this opportunity to get to know the Prime Minister is very welcome, especially as he is surrounded by a bevy of women – some of whom, like Cecilia, we have known for ages, and others, like Margot, we have had here for quite some time. The role of women in his government and in his country is something that I should therefore like to stress, especially as it is not just a question of gender, but also of quality, and it is partly in recognition of this that we are therefore pleased to welcome him here today.

Mr President, the European Union’s future mission is to control climate change in all its aspects: environmental, economic and social. We must at all costs manage to reverse the trend towards global warming, and use this challenge to bring about a shift towards a sustainable economy as well as sustainable work and competitiveness.

Just as many years ago the mission of the European Community was to prevent war and then to bring about the unification of Europe through the fall of the Wall, we must be able to take on a genuine leading role in future as regards the main environmental challenges. It is not because we are single-issue people or because we are Greens that we think in this way, but because we see the reality as it is with no illusions, and not through the lens of ideology.

We are convinced that the economic system, democratic stability, the ability to achieve the Millennium Goals and to control migratory problems are all connected with the management of scarce resources and with climate change. Europe undoubtedly has a leading role to play here.

For that reason, Mr President, his comment that what should be done and paid for at European level and what should be done and paid for at national level need to be discussed yet again seems to us to be entirely banal, and we hope that it can be avoided.

The European Union currently has a budget of 1%, with the result that none, or at least a good half, of the things that he has said could be achieved unless the European Union has a decent budget available. I therefore hope that in the mid-term review in which his Presidency will, I believe, play an important part, bearing in mind that between this year and next year we must decide on the future of the financial perspective as well, his country will play less of a blocking role than it has played in the past.

Lastly, Mr President, on the important energy package, we expect that virtuous Sweden will play a positive role and stop trying to reduce its commitments, thereby setting a bad example for the other Member States as well.

Finally, on the issue of free trade. While we are not protectionist, it would be genuinely short-sighted and a little ideological to think that free trade is the answer to everything when, without environmental and social rules, we know that to be absolutely impossible.

On the question of Turkey we are fully in agreement. The elimination of Papadopoulos in Cyprus is very good news in our view. Mr President, why not re-open the question of the seat of the European Parliament?

 
  
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  Francis Wurtz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FR) Mr President, Prime Minister, Madam Minister, if there is an area where Sweden’s experience is of interest to us when it comes to European policy, I think it is one which you unfortunately chose to overlook in your address, that is, the social field, and more specifically the lessons to be learnt from the Laval-Vaxholm case.

Let me just run through the facts. The Swedish trade unions took industrial action to try to force a Latvian company to apply Swedish labour law in Sweden. What else would you expect, you might think – unless you are a supporter of the so-called country of origin principle, otherwise known as social dumping. However, the Latvian company relied on European law as justification for opposing the trade unions’ demands. The dispute was then brought before the courts, and was referred to the highest court in European law, the European Court of Justice, which, as we know, interprets the Treaties and establishes case-law.

On 18 December last year the Court ruled in favour of the company and against the unions. The Court’s judgment states, and I quote, ‘In the case in the main proceedings, it must be pointed out that the right of trade unions […] to take collective action […] is liable to make it less attractive, or more difficult, for such undertakings to carry out construction work in Sweden, and therefore constitutes a restriction on the freedom to provide services’. In future, in such cases, the trade unions in Sweden and elsewhere must restrict their demands to, and I quote again, the ‘minimum protection’ allowed under Community law, so as not to infringe Article 49 of the Treaty, which guarantees freedom to provide services.

This is clearly not acceptable, and it is why my Group is urgently calling for the European Parliament to debate this issue and its huge ramifications: what should be the political follow-up to this judgment? For the time being, however, we would be interested to hear your views on this case, Prime Minister.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (SV) Mr President, Prime Minister. The response to the referendums on the EU Constitution in France and the Netherlands in 2005 is an example of undemocratic tendencies in European politics. The political elite is only interested in listening to the people and respecting the popular will if the subjects obligingly and obediently say ‘yes’ to more EU federalism.

In conjunction with the discussions on the Lisbon Treaty, Prime Minister Reinfeldt should have acted like a champion of democracy by stating that the results of the referendums in fact meant that the Treaty had failed.

Furthermore, Reinfeldt could have called for a more intergovernmental treaty, argued for flexible integration, demanded exemption from the euro, and asked for the commuting to Strasbourg to be ended. He did none of these things.

So what will happen under the Swedish Presidency in 2009? The overriding aim should have been to reform and modernise EU cooperation and make it more effective. Mr Reinfeldt should thus have given notice that Sweden would prioritise a reform of the agricultural policy and demand an end to the European Parliament’s travelling circus.

Instead of working for a leaner but keener EU, the Swedish Government seems rather to be aiming for a broader and more meddlesome EU. In Sweden popular criticism of further EU federalism is widespread, but in practice it is non-existent among the political elite. There are good grounds for questioning to what extent our elected representatives really represent the people.

Finally, I would like to offer Fredrik Reinfeldt a good bottle of Alsace wine if he can give a single example of a law which could have been passed under the rejected EU Constitution but cannot under the revised version. Do you accept the challenge, Mr Reinfeldt?

 
  
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  Jean-Marie Le Pen (NI). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, France’s betrayal is complete. The congress of shame met at Versailles on 4 February to adopt the constitutional review needed to adopt the so-called Constitutional Treaty.

Versailles has become the prime location for abdicating French sovereignty, bearing in mind that the German Empire was proclaimed there.

On behalf of the 26 Member States who are not going to be consulted in a referendum, Ireland will be the de facto spokesman for the millions of Europeans who voted ‘no’ in 2005 and do not want a European superstate.

When you deprive people of their legitimate right to have a say in their future, they will take revenge. Do not worry, ladies and gentlemen, they will take their revenge, and what a revenge, in the European elections next year!

If the truth be told, a number of European leaders knew that their countries would reject this thinly veiled constitution. Mr Sarkozy came right out and admitted as much to Parliament’s Conference of Presidents, referring to the United Kingdom government in particular. He is the self-appointed mediator in this outrageous piece of trickery. He was actually the very last person entitled to get this second version of the Constitution adopted by Parliament, but these are the lengths that some people will go to in order to draw attention to themselves and make themselves look as if they are pulling all the strings.

Illustrious and ancient nations are thus being cast aside in favour of a constructivist Utopia that is surrendering them, bound hand and foot, to the evil consequences of globalisation and unfettered liberalism: mass immigration, insecurity, economic ruin, social disaster, and moral and cultural decadence.

Europe’s future lies not in this totalitarian superstate, as we can see today in Kosovo, which should serve as an example, but in cooperation freely given between the nations and peoples of Europe, including the Slav nations.

In any event, what is certain is that two nations, both founder Members of the Union, were consulted in a referendum and clearly rejected the proposed Constitution. Since the Constitution is therefore unlawful, all of its consequences are also unlawful and no one can be forced to comply with its provisions.

So national resistance is legitimate: the right of all citizens, and the duty of all patriots. Caveant consules!

 
  
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  Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE).(SV) Mr President, I welcome the Prime Minister here. This is where I work. It is a dynamic place. It is where policies are formed which have a direct effect on Swedish society, as also on other European societies. That happens here, not in order to exclude the public from the political process, but because there are matters that can only be dealt with by countries acting together. The nation state is no longer the appropriate context in which to deal with many of the great challenges of our time.

Those of us who are from Sweden, which is after all a relatively new Member State, may have reason to remember that many of the problems and challenges we encounter do not arise because of the EU, but fall to the EU because the European Union has shown itself to be successful in meeting the challenges of our time.

They include Kosovo. They include the climate issue, on which Sweden has shown how development can be used in place of regulation in order to advance the interests of our society. They include questions of competitiveness, and questions relating to the fight against crime and terrorism. These are concerns and areas which we can only deal with by acting together. They are problems and challenges which fall to us because of our successes.

Hence I also think that the Prime Minister did well to stress one aspect, and I think it should be the great idea of the European Union in the years to come – openness. Openness towards the world around us. Openness to the world at large is what enables us to help shape the international order with values such as democracy and freedom, when we enlarge our own Community but also when we participate in international free-trade rounds and a great deal more.

As regards openness between the Member States, I think it important to stress that those who are against openness are also against free movement for people and freedom of opportunity. That is where discrimination occurs. The good European idea is openness and, if we can make it a reality, then we shall also ensure that our citizens will come to recognise that this really is the People’s Europe. This is a challenge for the Swedish Presidency and a challenge for this Parliament and all its political groups.

 
  
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  Inger Segelström (PSE). – (SV) Mr President, like everyone else, I would like to thank Prime Minister Reinfeldt for coming here.

My first question concerns the environmental assessment of the gas pipeline in the Baltic, one of the world’s most polluted seas, on which Parliament recently had an inquiry involving several committees. Sweden was the first country to have environmental impact assessments. This question is one of the most important environmental issues for Sweden and the EU. Will Sweden demand yet another alternative with the pipeline laid on land which has to be subjected to an environmental assessment?

The operators tell us in Parliament that it would be too expensive. But both the Prime Minister and I come from Stockholm, where infrastructure and investment must all have practically doubled in cost. I cannot believe that a cost increase of 10-15% is a strong counter-argument. The environment is more important.

My second question relates to cluster bombs and the like, which are now being debated in the Oslo process and in Wellington, New Zealand, and were considered in the Swedish Parliament last week; it is also an important EU issue. I have received letters signed by many organisations in Sweden, such as Amnesty International, the churches through Diakonia, the Red Cross, UNICEF, Svenska Freds (the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society) and the United Nations Association of Sweden, demanding that Bombkapsel 90 (BK90), carried on Swedish JAS aircraft, should be treated as a cluster bomb and included in the international work on a comprehensive ban. What is the Government’s position on the JAS bomb? Does the Prime Minister consider BK90 to be a cluster bomb or not? Does the Prime Minister intend to act in the continued Oslo process?

Finally, I would like to know when the Prime Minister intends to act in order to end our periodic relocation to Strasbourg, after EU Minister Malmström collected a million names and signatures? Should not Parliament itself decide on its place of assembly and not the Council? I would also like to offer my heartfelt thanks for the statement you made on Turkey. Finally, let me say that, when they return during the Swedish Presidency next year, the Prime Minister and other members of the Government will be welcome back, often!

 
  
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  Olle Schmidt (ALDE).(SV) Prime Minister, the fact that Sweden got a new government in autumn 2006 did not pass unnoticed as far as commitment to the EU is concerned. I therefore want to thank the Prime Minister and the EU Minister for their clear determination to make Sweden a more active partner in the Union, to have its place at the heart of European integration, as the Prime Minister said.

Yet Sweden remains outside the euro, something that will be costly to us Swedes both economically and, not least, politically. After all, Prime Minister, it is essentially a matter of solidarity. My question is thus: when will Sweden become a full member of the EU? How does the timetable look, Prime Minister? A sensitive subject back home in Sweden.

We are now in Strasbourg, a beautiful and appealing city whose history calls to mind the horrors of war. That said, we know that millions of our fellow citizens think that this travelling between Brussels and Strasbourg is not the best way to care for the environment and manage our money. A small entreaty: would it not be possible for the Swedish Government during the Presidency to hazard an initiative which might put an end to this travelling back and forth?

 
  
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  Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis (UEN). – (LV) Prime Minister, both you and we expect a lot of Europe’s future. In his time Robert Schuman hoped to unite Europeans after centuries of separation caused by various conflicts. He understood that in order to know where we are going it is important to know where we have come from. Prime Minister, do you realise that the European Union has not taken stock of its undemocratic, totalitarian past? An obvious example is last year’s EU Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia. It is recommended that European countries impose custodial sentences for the denial of Nazi crimes, but similar crimes under the Communist regime, their unjustified denial or, even worse, their glorification are deliberately forgotten. Europe should not allow this. What impression does this give to the millions of Eastern Europeans, including residents of what is now the European Union, who were tortured in Stalin’s concentration camps? I call upon you to seriously reflect on and promote a solution to this problem in the name of Europe’s future and justice. Thank you.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – (SV) Mr President, Swedish day now continues with someone else who wants to avoid moving to Strasbourg. I also want to have a referendum on our Treaty.

This morning I found that I had put on one green sock and one blue sock. I wonder whether the symbolism was that we should have some kind of new future alliance here between groupings different from the traditional ones. If you are to have a green sock from me, Fredrik, you will probably need to become more ambitious with regard to energy-saving and renewable energy sources. I have brought an example with me. This lamp is an LED lamp. It takes 12 seconds to screw it in. It takes 12 years to build a new nuclear power station. Which is the easiest and quickest way to solve climate problems?

I also thought that when it comes to growth we have problems that we must agree on. At present we import historically large quantities of products which generate emissions in other countries. We have to bear this in mind in our work on the climate. Then we come back to trade. Protectionism to protect businesses is wrong. But protectionism to protect the environment and human rights is an obligation and a responsibility for politicians in a free market. Otherwise people will become tools of the market rather than the market becoming a tool of the people.

The best way for you to demonstrate popular participation in the future of the EU is to allow the people to show what they think in a referendum.

 
  
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  Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL). – (SV) Mr President, I want to welcome Sweden’s Prime Minister to Parliament and to this debate on the future of Europe. It is an important debate, which affects 493 million citizens. The debate must therefore be held, and decisions on the debate must be taken not only in Parliament but also among the citizens. But for the citizens to become engaged in the debate, they must also be able to influence the future. Without participation and the ability to influence there will be no engagement. So how can we get citizens to participate? The answer is obvious: by asking them about the future and by listening to their answers. A referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon is therefore necessary if we are serious about a citizens’ Europe. Too much EU legislation is now created by anonymous officials who are influenced by experts and lobby groups in which the citizens’ voices are not heard. Now it is time to let the citizens’ voices be heard.

The Prime Minister did not mention the Vaxholm judgment at all. It has received a great deal of attention, not just in Sweden but also in many other EU countries. This is natural because it is not just a deathblow to the Swedish model but an attack on wage earners and the trade unions’ position throughout the EU. The judgment is an invitation to reduce workers’ wages to the lowest minimum levels. No country has to set more favourable conditions for workers than the minimum protection. The result is a two-tier labour market. Some fringe benefits will apply only to domestic wage earners, whilst different rules apply to foreign wage earners. This leads to dumping in terms of wages and conditions of employment and to discrimination.

Sweden can change this. Sweden can defend the rights of wage earners and a social Europe by demanding exceptions in the Treaty of Lisbon for collective agreements. Sweden can take the lead and get others to follow.

In conclusion, I want to remind Sweden’s Prime Minister of one of the two most important issues for Sweden prior to EU membership. One of the highest priorities was equal-opportunities issues. What has happened, and does Sweden want to lead the way in the future on equal-opportunities issues? This question is part of the debate on the future. Without women Europe has no future.

 
  
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  Paul Marie Coûteaux (IND/DEM). – (FR) Mr President, Europe clearly only has a future through its peoples, since they are what give it substance and strength. If its peoples were to be absorbed, shorn of their responsibility for themselves, and divided or broken up into little principalities without any political dimension – in line with America’s imperialist policy, of course, as we have just seen with Kosovo, where the latest dreadful developments now pose such a threat for the future – in short, if Europe were to put itself in the hands of a landless technostructure that surrendered it to the whims of globalisation and empire, then I would be very fearful for our future.

All the evidence now is that this machine that we, to our shame, refer to as the European Union is operating not just without the people, but actually against them. We have just had further proof of this in the astonishing negation of the French people’s vote in the 2005 referendum, aided and abetted by our lacklustre leader President Sarkozy. The French people feel let down, and have given up all hope in this general free-for-all, which is a negation of both the past and the future.

Europe will only find salvation if the people take their destiny back into their own hands, if the Member States are free to pursue their own policies and only join forces when necessary, if we denounce the lies of a democracy that no longer has anything to do with demos or kratos, in short if the Member States and the nations reclaim their freedom. Otherwise the good ship Europe will founder, and we will find ourselves drifting further and further away from the shores of history.

 
  
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  László Tőkés (NI). – (HU) Mr President, Prime Minister, the introduction to the Charter of Fundamental Rights attached to the new basic Treaty of the European Union states that the peoples of Europe are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values. Sakharov prize-winner Salih Mahmoud Osman, however, addressing a plenary sitting of the European Parliament last December, said that there will be no peace without justice.

Unjust systems of peace sooner or later lead to war and collapse. The most recent Balkan war and the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia are a prime example of this. Reconciliation is almost inconceivable unless a just new order is put in place.

Europe must also come to terms with its communist past. Eliminating the pernicious legacy of communism is a prerequisite for a peaceful future in Europe. Communism deserves to be condemned equally along with fascism. There will be no peace or rule of law, no security or stability on our continent unless legitimate justice is served in every regard. This same justice also applies to resolving the situation of minority ethnic communities.

 
  
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  Giles Chichester (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I am delighted to welcome the Prime Minister today. His historic win in the Swedish general election was a personal triumph. I also congratulate him on uniting the Centre Right and breaking the Social-Democrat dominance, and wish him and his Government well.

Today, we are discussing the future of Europe in a week in which this House will vote on a report endorsing the Lisbon Treaty. I want to make very clear that British Conservative MEPs will vote against that report because we fundamentally disagree with the Treaty, with the process by which it was agreed and with the fact that it is simply a carbon copy of the constitution rejected by two of the Union’s founding Member States in national referendums.

This treaty takes Europe in the wrong direction. It transfers substantial new powers to the EU, some of them in extremely sensitive areas of national interest. My party has a different vision for the future of Europe, which is for a Europe that is both more open, dynamic and transparent and less centralised, uniform and inflexible.

The British Parliament is currently deliberating the Treaty. The people of the United Kingdom had, of course, hoped to have their say in a referendum. But the British Government has shamefully reneged on its manifesto pledge to hold one.

My party, both here and in the UK, will continue to campaign vigorously for the people to have their say in a referendum. Without widespread public support the European Union will lack popular legitimacy for what it is doing. It needs to move on from its obsession with institutions. To be fit for the 21st century, the EU needs to focus on issues like the environment, economic competitiveness and global poverty, in order to demonstrate it is worthy of public support. These are the things that the future of Europe should be about.

 
  
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  Libor Rouček (PSE). – (CS) Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, the EU has just concluded a most successful year. The EU was enlarged to include Romania and Bulgaria, the Schengen area was enlarged to include nine new countries, the euro zone was enlarged to include three new states and the euro has gradually started to replace the dollar as the international currency around the world. The EU, with its 500 million citizens and consumers, is beginning to dictate, to a significant extent, global commercial, environmental and technical rules and norms. Despite the wishful thinking of many Eurosceptics, Europe has even reached agreement on the new Reform Treaty.

I am highlighting these successes because they have been achieved with the active participation of the new Member States, not in spite of them. That is why I welcome the Prime Minister’s proposals regarding future priorities. One of the priorities for future years should be furthering the enlargement of the EU to include the Western Balkan territories. This, however, presupposes the following two conditions: the countries in question being generally prepared from a technical point of view and courage on the part of the existing Member States. Their politicians must have the courage to explain to the citizens how the enlargement has been a success, that it has not meant less but more security, freedom, democracy, and prosperity. In my opinion, we must also have the courage to allow the Western Balkan regions to join the visa-free regime at the earliest opportunity. What have we to fear from the remaining 20 million people in the Western Balkans, being as we are a Community of 27 states and 500 million citizens?

I have one final comment. The Swedish Presidency is coming up next year. It will be working with France and the Czech Republic. I would like to call on the Prime Minister to encourage his Czech colleagues to submit the Lisbon Treaty to the Czech Parliament for ratification at the earliest opportunity. As a Czech citizen, I suspect that the Eurosceptic Czech Government is not very eager to do so.

 
  
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  Lena Ek (ALDE). – (SV) Fellow Members, there is nothing fanciful about experience. It helps you to recognise a mistake when you commit it again. This time we must not make mistakes when it comes to the Balkans. That is my first comment on the Prime Minister’s opening remarks to Parliament. Europe must speak with one voice on Kosovo.

My second comment concerns terrorism, where the open society must combat terrorism with the means available to open society and with strong self-confidence, and not give in to intrusive measures.

My third and final comment concerns the climate issue, where the European system must deal with perhaps the biggest and most difficult issue in the shortest time that we have had to take a decision on such a big subject. There is a danger that when we finalise things in Copenhagen, it will be like Hans Christian Andersen’s story when the emperor is wearing no clothes or walks naked through the streets of the city.

In order to produce the European legislation that we need, there must be a show of strength and cooperation between the Council of Ministers and the Commission and, above all, with Parliament, something which is unprecedented in the history of the EU.

Lastly, I am delighted to see a proactive Swedish Government at the centre of the European debate. Welcome!

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, most important for the future of the European Union are visible results in the lives of ordinary citizens, in terms of wealth retention, public safety and international security. The future of the Union will not be determined by the ever more complicated institutional reforms which this House will be discussing tomorrow morning.

One of the tests for the Union of particular concern to your country and mine, both of which lie on the Baltic Sea, is the issue of the northern gas pipeline. The project is exceptionally dangerous for the environment and politically contrary to EU energy programmes. If we want a Europe that produces results, we cannot tolerate such projects. Hence my question: what is your view of the funding of this project out of European resources, to which Nord Stream representatives recently referred?

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, for more than nine years, I have had the great privilege of representing Scotland here in this Parliament, during which time we have had many a debate on the future shape of Europe and we have welcomed 12 new Member States to the top table. This massive expansion of the internal market and other areas of cooperation is good for Scotland and good for Europe as a whole. But, also in the past nine years, we have had to agonise over so-called crises, such as the resignation of the Santer Commission and the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty. It is a great pity and a frustration that many of the positives which EU membership entails have been tempered by such self-inflicted negatives.

In Scotland, we move on too. We have a new Government – an SNP Government, which is pro-European and which has a vision for a new future for Scotland in Europe. Prime Minister, I want to see Scottish Ministers sitting alongside your Ministers in the Council, not in the second row. Scotland has much to contribute to the European Union and its development: a constructive attitude and a wealth of energy resources to name but two. I look forward to a day when Scotland is welcomed as an independent Member State of this Union. Such a change, I think, would not just be good for Scotland but good for the future of Europe too.

 
  
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  Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM). – (SV) Mr President, Prime Minister, we are discussing the future of Europe here, but the biggest question is who will decide that future.

It has unfortunately been a tradition in the EU, going back to Jean Monnet, for the EU to be built without the involvement of the European people. The greatest deception so far is that the EU’s political establishment is presenting the same proposals on how the EU should be run and what the EU should be doing as the constitutional proposals which have already been rejected in referendums with high turn-outs and large ‘no’ votes.

I note that the leader of the Liberal Group here calls those who reject that Treaty barking mad. So he is saying that the majority of Dutch and French people are barking mad, like me, of course, standing here in the auditorium. I think that the President should not allow such language to be used in future.

Sweden’s Prime Minister is saying at home and here in the Chamber that support for agriculture in the EU budget should be reduced and cut back and that the march towards supranationalism should be stopped. That is the view of the Swedish people. But in the Council his government supports the development of the EU into a state, and its MEPs accordingly vote to shift political power from the Swedish people to Brussels. That is no future.

 
  
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  Philip Claeys (NI). – (NL) Mr President, Prime Minister, it is a bit odd to be debating the future of Europe here without considering the question of the European Union's borders. Yet this is one of the most fundamental issues we face. Time and time again we duck the issue, and public opinion is rightly worried. People are wondering if the European Union is still a European project. It won't be any longer if Turkey joins. If the European Union obstinately refuses to listen to the will of the people, its democratic base will slowly but surely disappear.

Prime Minister, you warn of the danger in maybe building a wall against Turkey. But that is not the point. No one in Europe is going to be fobbed off with fine words. The Copenhagen criteria have to be met, by Turkey too, but very clearly they are not. So it is time the negotiations were suspended. It is quite simply a matter of sticking to what was agreed.

 
  
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  Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, Prime Minister, you referred to the European Union as a global player, especially once the Treaty has been ratified. We can only support this view, and I would congratulate you, Prime Minister, on the clear and determined position you have taken vis-à-vis the Belarusian regime, Europe’s last remaining dictatorship. If we want to exercise influence in favour of democracy and the defence of human rights in Africa and Asia, we must first address those issues near at hand, on the Union’s own doorstep.

In this context I would also congratulate you on the clear position taken with regard to enlargement of the EU. Here I am thinking of Belarus’s neighbour, Ukraine, where a great struggle is taking place over whether Ukraine will be a democracy and develop normally, swiftly and democratically, both to our benefit and to that of the Ukrainian nation. Opening up to Ukraine is very important, with a view to its membership of the European Union.

Finally, I would congratulate you, Prime Minister, on your very strong statement concerning environmental protection of the Baltic, a small sea bordered by eight EU Member States. The Baltic is practically an internal EU sea, and no sea in the world faces such a great environmental threat.

You also spoke of energy issues and action to counter climate change as the main priority of the Swedish Presidency. We fully support this commitment, which is our civilisation’s task and responsibility. But I have the impression that, in this respect, we talk a lot and do little.

The mid-term budget review will take place during the Swedish Presidency. Unless we change our budget so we can afford, with some degree of responsibility, to take action to combat climate change and to adapt to low-carbon technologies in the broad sense, we shall indeed go no further than words, and we shall fail to achieve our main priority.

 
  
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  Jan Andersson (PSE). – (SV) Mr President. Welcome to Fredrik Reinfeldt. You spoke very wisely about the Treaty, about enlargement and about the climate. I will touch on something you did not mention.

Jacques Delors once said that the internal market would never succeed without a strong social dimension. He was absolutely right. So I was a little surprised when you commented on the social EU, seeing it as a conflict between national systems and the rules we have in the EU.

I think it is the other way around. We have a common labour market. We must therefore supplement national labour law and the national systems, otherwise it will not function. If you do persist in this view I would like to give a few examples. Is the Posting Directive a problem? Is the Takeover Directive a problem, or one of the agreements concluded by the social partners at European level? The Part-Time Work Directive? The Parental Leave Directive?

To take a specific example, the imbalance between the market and policy can be seen in the Laval case. The problem in the Laval case is that the market takes precedence over workers’ rights. You have handled this well in Sweden. So far you have handled the issue well, but as many others have said here, other countries throughout the EU are also affected. If it becomes necessary with the European initiatives, will you also be there with us when it comes to taking European initiatives?

Last month we adopted a strategy on health and safety at work. One target was one labour inspector for every 10 000 workers. Sweden is heading in precisely the opposite direction and will not meet that target by a long way. Instead, the proportion is falling by 27% in Sweden. Denmark, whose labour market is similar to the Swedish market, has more than two health and safety inspectors per 10 000 inhabitants. How can it be that Sweden is heading in precisely the opposite direction? Why are you not prioritising health and safety at work?

 
  
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  Henrik Lax (ALDE). – (SV) Mr President, it is a big task to bring the Union together for a common energy policy which is able to secure the Member States’ energy supply, as you said, Prime Minister Reinfeldt.

You also mentioned the EU’s Baltic Sea strategy, which the Commission is currently working on. A properly planned strategy for the Baltic Sea region can be an important building block for the future energy policy, not least for energy cooperation with Russia. The problem is illustrated by the decision taken by the Swedish Government last week to reject the application by Nord Stream to take a gas pipeline through Swedish territorial waters in the Baltic Sea. The application was too incomplete to be considered.

There is great mistrust in the region over the gas pipeline project. An acceptable solution cannot really be found unless the EU and its Member States around the Baltic Sea formulate a line of action and are also given full access to the project.

I would like to praise Sweden, which is providing an opportunity to test the new energy-policy provisions contained in Article 176a of the Treaty of Lisbon.

 
  
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  Christian Rovsing (PPE-DE). – (DA) Mr President, Prime Minister, I would like to talk about a small aspect of environmental policy. The initiatives of the City of Malmö in the fields of energy saving and the use of environmentally friendly transport are promising. I have test-driven several of the environmentally friendly cars. Recently in January in Berlin, I drove a large S-type Mercedes: a car of around two tonnes. The car was powered by both traditional fuel and hydrogen. At the push of a button it was possible to change from one fuel type to another – irrespective of the speed of the car. The acceleration was apparently identical for both fuel types.

The use of hydrogen as a fuel for cars has progressed greatly in terms of development. The waste product from a hydrogen car is pure water and nothing else. With hydrogen as the ordinary fuel for private cars, it would be possible to permit only hydrogen cars to drive in central areas of our cities. This would reduce pollution dramatically, and therefore also respiratory disorders and corrosion of our old buildings. I hope that Sweden will promote such environmentally sound development.

 
  
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  Toomas Savi (ALDE). – Mr President, on 14 December 2007 the European Council asked the Commission to present an EU strategy for the Baltic Sea region by July 2009 at the latest, an initiative that was also welcomed by the European Parliament.

The importance of this decision cannot be underestimated either by the Nordic countries or by the Member States around the Baltic Sea that joined in 2004. The strategy might truly unleash the full potential of the region covering areas from the environment, economy, culture and education to security.

By aiming to achieve the ambition laid out in the Lisbon Agenda, the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea region could become a bridgehead to Russia. Sweden will hold the Presidency in the Council during the second half of 2009, and we hope that this will give a good start to the strategy. However, it is essential that all the Baltic Sea countries have compiled their operational programmes by that time, and this also applies to my country, Estonia.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, there are basically two models for the future of our united Europe: the model of a coherent, ever more closely integrated united Europe, which is the model envisaged by the Treaty of Lisbon, or the pick-and-mix model.

Now Sweden, together with Austria and Finland, has been in the European Union for some considerable time, but Sweden is not part of the eurozone. May I ask the Prime Minister whether there are particular reasons for this? We would be pleased to have Sweden join us in the eurozone.

 
  
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  Richard Corbett (PSE). – Mr President, Mr Chichester briefly appeared to make a short speech and disappeared before hearing the reply. There was not otherwise a single member of the British Conservative Party in this debate to hear a Conservative Prime Minister tell us about the future of Europe.

Why is this? Did they not want to hear from a fellow Conservative how good the Lisbon Treaty is? How it does not need a referendum because it does not involve any further transfers of sovereignty? How we need this new Treaty for our Union to work better? Are they unable to participate even in a debate on that? Did they rather stay outside, presumably in the bar with their colleagues from the UK Independence Party?

I do think it is a shame they have not even been here to participate in such an excellent debate.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Agnes Schierhuber (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Prime Minister, you referred to the common agricultural policy as the only EU policy that is fully in the hands of the Community. You will, however, be aware that, over the past 15 years, agricultural policy has undergone more radical reform than any other EU policy, and there is no way in which agricultural policy can be compared or equated with industrial policy, because they are subject to quite different conditions. Security and scope for advance planning must continue to underlie the common agricultural policy.

I should like to remind you that the share of the EU budget devoted to agriculture will be down to 35% by 2013. The farming community takes its responsibility to the public very seriously, a responsibility that is enshrined in the Treaties of Rome. Research, development, sustainability, employment and protection of the environment must be our common objectives. I am really looking forward to an exciting Swedish Presidency.

 
  
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  Esko Seppänen (GUE/NGL). – (FI) Mr President, Prime Minister, when speaking about the future of Europe you did not speak about the militarisation of the European Union. Under the Treaty of Lisbon the Member States of the EU are committed to increasing their military resources. Under the Treaty of Lisbon the Member States are prepared to operate abroad in crisis management assignments, even to enforce peace, without a mandate from the United Nations, i.e. illegally from the viewpoint of international law. Furthermore, there are military safeguards associated with the Treaty of Lisbon, at least with the solidarity clause, and in this respect Swedish neutrality – her military non-alliance – is very questionable. Prime Minister, do you think that the military safeguards contained in the Treaty of Lisbon are compatible with your military non-alliance?

 
  
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  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, Prime Minister, clearly we are engaged in European construction not for the sake of European technocrats in Brussels but for the citizens of the European Union, so that they may live better and in greater security. Only by listening to them can we succeed in our task.

Politicians have different expectations: some want more Europe, some less. But the fact is that the Prime Ministers of the 27 Member States have signed the Treaty of Lisbon. The treaty is a signpost to a more transparent, more democratic Europe, and it should therefore be ratified this year. Let me say this to Members who are now calling for ratification referendums, although they themselves were opposed to the European Constitution: don’t play around with the institution of the referendum, don’t dress up as defenders of democracy, because the citizens of the Union will not believe you anyway. They know it is the Lisbon Treaty that will defend democracy in Europe.

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) Ladies and gentlemen, today we are talking about a vision for a modern, dynamic Europe. This debate is extremely useful and timely. Globalisation compels us to ask questions and tackle challenges like those mentioned by the Prime Minister of Sweden, Mr Fredrik Reinfeldt. Implementing structural reforms, which I consider to be politically the most difficult aspect of the Lisbon Strategy, must be our major political ambition. Unless our economy experiences healthy growth, a knowledge-based economy will be out of question. I am convinced that a knowledge-based economy and investment in human resources are the right strategies for the future of Europe.

Many speakers expressed their wish for a ‘social Europe’. I do not know a single politician, not even in our conservative family, who would be against a social safety net for citizens, who would not want citizens to earn a good wage and have a better standard of living, who would want citizens to receive a pension of just EUR 150 as they do in Slovakia. In the last quarter of 2007 my country, Slovakia, experienced record inter-year economic growth of 14%. Could the present social democratic government led by Prime Minister Robert Fico implement social policies if the previous government led by then Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda not had the political courage to adopt courageous reforms of the tax, social, health and education systems?

 
  
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  Ioannis Varvitsiotis (PPE-DE). – (EL) Prime Minister, what you say is very true: we should fear not a strong but a weak Europe. I fully agree and I think that all European citizens do as well. When, however, they see us busying ourselves with tractor lights and other trifles, I am sure they are disappointed.

Prime Minister, you spoke with great enthusiasm about enlargement. I wonder, however, whether perhaps it would have been wiser for the EU to solve its internal problems before enlargement. Might it have been better if some kind of reform Treaty were now in operation before enlargement?

Finally, Prime Minister, the urgent issue now is the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. I was surprised to hear the views expressed by my fellow Member from the United Kingdom. If Lisbon is not ratified, then Europe has no future.

 
  
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  Fredrik Reinfeldt. (SV) Many thanks to you all for your questions and comments. I certainly will not be able to do justice to all these questions. Thank you very much for the patience you have shown with the large amount of Swedish you have had to listen to because of all the questions that have been asked here.

The answers that I have are very much connected with my confidence that agreements entered into will be respected, something that I will come back to. I said that I have a strong belief in Europe. On many occasions in Sweden I have also expressed a strong confidence in the Swedish labour market model which has been developed around our Swedish collective agreements. In Sweden we have to some extent chosen a different path from many other European countries, which have placed greater emphasis on legislation, whilst we have placed greater emphasis on the social partners taking responsibility.

Our view is that the Laval judgment does not diminish the Swedish model, but that it certainly raises a number of questions concerning certain Swedish legislation. We are proceeding cautiously together with the social partners to see how changes might be made to the Swedish labour market model, but not in order to detract from it or to make fundamental changes to the way it works.

We intend to continue to respect its organisation and hope to have the discussion, and I hope that this will not be misconstrued as anything else when it is discussed around Europe.

It is said here that the internal market is not sufficient. Yes, one criticism is that the internal market is not fully functioning. It is a criticism that I often hear from businesspeople and others, that we talk about an internal market but that free movement is not all that free.

My government is certainly working with the aim of reducing social exclusion, creating the basis for self-determination through work, and ensuring that more people are in work. In addition, welfare ambitions should also be made possible for others. More people in work means more resources to build welfare solutions for people who are not able to work. So I think that the path between work and welfare is coherent in the policy pursued in Sweden.

Democracy has been mentioned in various comments here. I believe that democracy is borne here admirably by its elected representatives. It is not a bad form of democracy. I think that many of you here today have represented your voters well, and I too am prepared to do it in various ways. Democracy is the capacity to take decisions and must be so.

Our Swedish experience of referendums, I would point out, is very mixed. Sometimes it has been clear what it is we are asking and what is being answered. Sometimes we have asked a question and been given a different answer and spent many years discussing what the Swedish people actually answered. I know that there have been similar experiences in a number of other countries.

The kind of treaty based on many amendments which is now at issue, and which we have decided on previously in Europe’s history without referendums, we are prepared to decide on in the context of representative democracy. I think this is an admirable way to show how a living democracy must work.

A few brief answers regarding the gas pipeline which has been mentioned by many. There too we want to respect agreements and legislation as it appears, that is to say in accordance with international conventions and Swedish legislation we are testing the possibilities of considering that gas pipeline. We have been able to establish that the proposal we received is inadequate. We therefore sent it back. The matter will come back. I cannot assess at present the degree to which we can influence this primarily through Swedish environmental legislation. However, that will be our starting point as we do this thoroughly.

We have heard many views on whether you MEPs should move back and forth between parliaments, but here too we are aware of the way agreements work. All the Member States essentially have an influence, a kind of veto over the matter, as all you who are asking these questions know. We respect that even though, like many of our voters, we are asking questions about how successful it is to move about in the way that is done here.

We are now seeing environmentally friendly vehicles grow in Sweden to an extent that virtually no one else can show. We have introduced special premiums for environmentally friendly vehicles, which are a powerful incentive and have meant that we now have a situation where more than 30% of new vehicles sold in Sweden are environmentally friendly. This is a trend that will certainly be further accentuated.

There were several questions on the euro. Here too we are respecting agreements in the sense that we have the result of a referendum of the Swedish people in 2003. We have said that we will follow Swedish opinion. If the Swedish people change their minds, the question may possibly arise again.

I also want to point out that Sweden, which lives close to Finland with its euro, is naturally wondering what will happen in Denmark if in the autumn Denmark tests again whether its so-called opt-out in relation to the euro will be withdrawn. Then the euro will have a much greater presence as a currency close to Sweden, and that will possibly influence the Swedish people.

Some of you mentioned that it is unclear what role I am returning to. The first time it is probably not so unclear, as up to the summer I will be taking part in presenting the 18-month programme covering the French, Czech and Swedish Presidencies.

Then it is undeniably an open question as to the role to which the rotating presidency will return. We will have many ideas on this subject. I firmly believe in an EU that is anchored in its various parts of Europe. I therefore think that the rotating presidency will also have a clear role in the future, alongside the elected President who is being brought in via the new Treaty. Many thanks for your valuable comments and valuable questions.

 
  
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  President. − Thank you, Prime Minister. That was the last debate in our series of reflections on the future of Europe. The debate is now closed.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE). – (SV) Mr President, when a Prime Minister visits us, many people from the same country want to speak and that is good. However, the President might try, perhaps during the ‘catch the eye’ procedure, to ensure that there is a better geographical distribution. There were virtually no speakers from southern Europe here today, and sometimes it is the reverse when someone from southern Europe comes here. It would be good if you could help to create a better balance.

 
  
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  President. − Then the southern Europeans must ask to speak and get involved. If they are not here, I cannot call them.

(Protest)

In point of fact, I did call Mr Varvitsiotis.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Roberta Alma Anastase (PPE-DE), in writing. – (RO) I would like to welcome the fact that the future of Europe continues to be a theme that is always present in the Parliament debates. A common reflection is essential in order to ensure a prosperous and stable future to the next European generations.

I believe two main ideas should lie at the basis of this analysis and of the concept of the European future: the European citizen’s future and EU’s role in the world. Thus, at an internal level, the citizen’s wellbeing should guide all European actions, while human rights and their complete protection should represent its decisive vector. Education is not less important, as a premise of a prosperous future, as well as the policies of promoting protection of young people and children, intercultural dialogue and mutual tolerance. Both the Lisbon Strategy and the new Reform Treaty are key documents, which should be firmly transposed into facts.

Nevertheless, in the 21st century globalised and interdependent world, a truly prosperous future for Europe is impossible without ensuring it for the entire world. Thus, the EU has the obligation to contribute to ensuring global peace, stability and prosperity.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE), in writing. – It is with regret that I listened to the debate on the future of Europe and heard the Swedish Prime Minister question the agriculture budget in the EU.

If this is a debate about the future, then it seems to be bogged down in the past. It is worth pointing out that the CAP was one of the foundation policies of the EU. It provided food to feed a hungry Europe and has evolved and changed over the last 50 years in line with political and public pressure for change.

Today the CAP is not the biggest item of spending in the EU budget. Yet I believe that spending on agriculture and food production is money well spent in a world where food security is now very much on the political agenda.

Looking to the future and the ratification of the Reform Treaty, it is important to tell people what the Treaty is about and what it is not about!

In Ireland we are holding a referendum on the Treaty which will, if passed, give an enhanced role and power to national parliaments in EU law-making.

This is an important provision, but elected members of parliaments must use this new power.

 
  
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  Mihaela Popa (PPE-DE), in writing. – (RO) Mr. President, dear colleagues,

In the context of the debate regarding the future of Europe, we have to pay appropriate attention to the social category that best represents the idea of the future – young people – namely the European Union’s citizens of tomorrow.

Young people should be trained to design the future of their generation, and this involves knowing our common history, and the stages of the European Union establishment and development. In order to build your future, you should know your past.

We need the European Union’s history to be studied in schools; we need a European youth policy as coherent as possible, which would clearly respond to the specific problems of young people. Europe should now have a clear vision on education, the information society, intercultural dialogue and exchange between young people, young people’s employment and mobility, as well as of the current problems of marginalized young people.

A successful Europe can only be built together, day by day.

 
  
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  Bernard Wojciechowski (IND/DEM), in writing. – We sit here as a House representing 27 nations. Our differences currently divide as a consequence of our approach to Europe and our politics that shape that approach. Our great challenge is not a new Treaty which attempts to bind us by force but the spirit in our approach to the future of Europe – a Europe where our children and their children will succeed as they compete with the emerging powers of the 21st century.

I look forward to a Europe in which future generations will not only be able to travel freely but will not be discriminated against based on which geographic location of Europe they come from, which language they use as their mother tongue, or how their last name is spelled.

Jargon like ‘solidarity’, cohesion, and integration is commonplace within our institutions – words that are empty in a Europe divided between the old and the new Member States, between those Member States that seek individual gains in bilateral agreements with third countries and those Member States that are impaired by those same third countries. The European Union is lost today between bilateral agreements, conformity, and a diversity which should be our asset, not a hindrance.

 

10. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting: see Minutes
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS KRATSA-TSAGAROPOULOU
Vice-President

 

11. Lisbon Strategy - Broad Economic Policy Guidelines for 2008-2010 (debate)
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  President. – The next item is the joint debate on the Council and Commission statements on the Lisbon Strategy, followed by the report by Mrs Starkevičiūtė, on behalf of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, on the Integrated Guidelines for Growth and Jobs (Part: broad guidelines for the economic policies of the Member States and the Community): Launching the new cycle (2008-2010) 2007/2275(INI) (A6-0029/2008)

 
  
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  Žiga Turk, President-in-Office. − (SL) I am very pleased to be taking part in this session, in which the European Parliament is debating the start of the next phase of the Lisbon strategy for growth and employment.

The signing of the Treaty of Lisbon concludes an era in which we were greatly occupied with our own internal and sometimes political shape. Europe is now considerably better equipped to open itself up to the world, and the Lisbon strategy provides the tools for Europe to help in the shaping of world trends as well. The present moment is characterised by at least four of these trends.

When Europe launched the Lisbon strategy in 2000, globalisation was mainly understood to be a competition between Europe, the USA and Japan. Since then, new and important players have entered the world stage and are giving us cause to reflect anew on the contribution that Europe can make to this global world and where its true competitive advantages lie.

The communications revolution is happening before our very eyes, with the Internet and the World Wide Web. Creativity and innovation are no longer restricted to rigid institutional schemes. Only once in the past have we witnessed a revolution in mass communication; that was 500 years ago when cheap paper and print came along, forming the foundation of European supremacy.

We are on the threshold of a third industrial revolution, the consequence of which will be significantly reduced dependence on fossil fuels and transition to a low-carbon economy. In May 2007, Parliament adopted a declaration on the third industrial revolution and hydrogen economy, thereby demonstrating Europe’s support for the leaders in this field.

Following the industrial era we are entering a conceptual era where values, meaning and empathy will come to the fore. The red thread of these trends is the growing importance of the creative potential of the people and their values. These are two topics which, of their nature, are very European. That is why Europe has an ambition to be a co-designer of, and leader in, these four trends.

European ideas about development are framed by the Lisbon strategy for growth and employment. Following a fundamental review in 2005, the effectiveness of the Lisbon strategy was confirmed. Structural reforms have improved the foundations of the European economy. That is why it is easier to deal with crises in the financial markets and rising raw material prices, especially crude oil and food prices. The world economy is heading into ever-increasing uncertainty. It is therefore important that Europe should stick to its course and continue to implement reforms and modernise its economy and society.

The Commission did good work in preparing the Lisbon package published in December. Slovenia, as President of the European Council, has placed the Lisbon strategy among the five priorities of its Presidency. We are very pleased that the European Parliament is taking part in the broad debate in the next phase. We have already had an exchange of opinions in ECON consultations, among the Three and in interparliamentary meetings. We are all doing our best to enable the spring session of the European Council in March to launch this ambitious new phase of the Lisbon strategy.

The European Council will endorse the broad economic-policy guidelines and adopt the conclusions on employment policies. The need to modify the broad guidelines was discussed at length. In the end, colleagues from most Member States agreed that we could improve on some formulations, but putting forward the actual guidelines for discussion would initiate a long period of harmonisation and slow down the transition to the new phase, although the final result would be very similar to what is in front of us now.

The ECOFIN Council unanimously adopted the decision not to modify the broad economic guidelines. What are being modified are the explanatory texts, that is to say the context in which the guidelines are set.

The European Council will adopt the specific recommendations of the Member States relating to their progress in the implementation of the national reform programmes. It will call on the participants, namely the Council, the Commission and Parliament, to implement the Community’s Lisbon programme.

It will promote a few key activities and targets in four priority areas. Those four areas reflect, firstly, Europe’s concern for the environment; secondly, Europe’s concern for humans and their position in society; thirdly, efforts to develop a more enterprising Europe; and, fourthly, efforts to allow a more innovative and creative Europe, on which everything else is actually based. Allow me to briefly address each of these four areas.

I place creativity alongside education and innovation. Europe must translate its rich cultural tradition and ethical assets into a competitive advantage for its products. We must continue to strive for the target of 3% investment in research and development. Knowledge must become the fifth freedom. We need a unified knowledge area where there is open access to knowledge, where open innovation is supported and, of course, where knowledge is appropriately protected by European patent and copyright. It should be possible to improve coordination between European research and development policies and national policies.

We Europeans must become more enterprising. We lack highly innovative and creative small companies. We must therefore pay more attention to the creation and development of small and medium-sized enterprises and their access to knowledge and research infrastructure, as well as to sources of capital funding.

We must strengthen the internal market, especially in service and networking industries, and abolish various hidden barriers. A strong and effective internal market is also a much better defence against the effects of globalisation than the temptation of protectionism. It is necessary to increase the transparency of financial markets, improve legislation and reduce administrative burdens.

We in Europe must preserve the tradition of offering our people care and solidarity. Flexible security makes it possible to seek dynamically for a balance between the economy, which requires an efficient labour market, and the security that means that people will quickly find new employment.

We must therefore provide lifelong education and other support. In particular, we must ensure that young people complete some kind of education and find employment as soon as possible. The older generation must be encouraged to stay active as long as possible.

Finally, we in Europe care about nature and the environment. Europe must take the lead in the process referred to by some as the third industrial revolution, the essence of which is to shift to a low-carbon economy. I am convinced that it will be profitable for Europe’s economy, because Europe will be the world leader in the technologies of the future. We need political agreement on the energy and climate package by the end of this year.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need a decisive push for the new phase of the Lisbon strategy, in order to make Europe a more dynamic, creative and enterprising knowledge-based society, which cares for people and the environment. We urgently need to reflect on the strategic framework of European development after 2010 and the possible convergence of the Lisbon strategy and the Strategy for Sustainable Development.

As Mark Leonhard wrote, this century will be the century of Europe, not because Europe will lord it over the whole world in a colonial fashion, nor even because it will have the most powerful industry. This century may become the century of Europe because the world will be dominated by European values and creativity, that is to say those two elements by which world trends are essentially shaped. European creativity is supported by Europe’s brilliant cultural tradition. European values (as neighbours we cooperate with each other in solving disputes and caring for nature and man) are an example to the whole world. Therefore, we must not forget these deeply human starting points when we consider the economic and social future of our Union, that is to say our strategy for growth and employment.

 
  
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  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. (DE) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office, ladies and gentlemen, as far as the Commission is concerned, today’s debate is a fundamental one about the future position of Europe in the world. It is about our response to the economic, social and environmental challenges of our time. European integration, which has brought together 27 countries and almost 500 million people, is our great strategic strength. We no longer weaken ourselves through strife, and so Europe has become, in every respect, one of the most appealing regions in the world.

The internal market is the foundation stone of our prosperity, and the common currency is a precious political and economic asset. We are not exposed to the imponderables of the age or the storms of globalisation. Integration gives us the chance to help shape the globalised era in accordance with our own vision.

This global age, however, will not bear the stamp of one single country or continent. Japan, the United States and the European Union face a challenge from emerging countries such as China, India, Russia and Brazil, which – like ourselves – are vying for top spot in the global economic and technological rankings.

We believe that this new age offers us great opportunities and new options, but only if we remain alert to the signs of the times and are fully aware of all the risks. At times of global mobility, the question of how secure jobs are in the European Union and how we can guarantee more jobs, and well-paid jobs, in the future is the real social issue of the age. Let me repeat: the social issue of our time is the question of whether we shall have, and retain in the long term, a sufficient number of high-quality jobs.

The resolution of this key issue is at the heart of the revised Lisbon strategy, our partnership for growth and employment. This strategy is the European response to globalisation.

We have carried out a review after three years, and we can be satisfied with the findings. These have been good years for growth and employment. Many millions of jobs have been created, and the growth rate has been higher than in the preceding years. For the first time, productivity has risen faster than in the United States. People have begun to feel the benefits of essential structural reforms. But it would be wrong to rest on our laurels. We have not yet reached our destination. We still have a lengthy path ahead of us and more reforms to carry out. We do not need an oracle to realise that the distinguishing feature of our age is not rigidity but constant change. That still frightens many people, especially those who fear that they will be left behind by these changes and join the losers in the globalisation process.

This is another reason why it is important that the partnership for growth and employment should be even more firmly rooted within our societies. We believe we have found a strategy which, unlike the original Lisbon strategy dating from 2000, is realistic and will deliver the desired results. That is also the aim of the Commission’s proposal for the next three years. We believe that the basic orientation is right, but we also believe that adjustments are still needed on some of the issues that hold the key to the future.

For example, in the next three years there is a particular need to place greater emphasis on the social dimension of our partnership for growth and employment. That, I think, will be the core issue. Education, training and skill levels need to be improved. We can only confront change by helping all individuals, from earliest infancy and throughout their lives, to develop all their talents, to keep learning new things and to remain flexible. That is everyone’s right. This is the only way we can ensure that those who lose their jobs are not condemned, along with their families, to live on the fringes of society in permanent unemployment and poverty.

We need a policy that boosts employment and enables people to make a new start at any stage in their lives. This is not a task for politicians alone but for European entrepreneurs and companies too. Let me make that crystal-clear, particularly in the light of some recent events. Entrepreneurs and companies that are not in the picture yet will have to do some rethinking, because a good and motivated workforce is a company’s most valuable asset, and can give it that fine but all-important competitive edge.

We need more efforts to create a truly knowledge-based society. Unfortunately, we are still far short of our target of spending 3% of Europe’s GDP on research by 2010, and I note with grave concern that the gap is widening rather than narrowing. There is another trend that I find even more alarming, namely the fact that, although European companies are actually spending more, not less, on research and development than in past years, they are tending to invest that money outside rather than within Europe.

The European Research Area must become a reality. If we do not succeed in keeping research and development activities in Europe, we shall not manage to keep jobs in Europe either.

We know that we must continue to strengthen the internal market. We need to release the full potential of the vast majority of our businesses, by which I mean the 23 million small and medium-sized enterprises that employ two thirds of the entire European labour force. We have already set the wheels in motion with a number of initiatives, but we intend to move up another gear in June with the Small Business Act.

Another immediate priority is a vigorous drive to incorporate energy and climate goals into our growth and employment policy. We are keen to furnish evidence that environmental challenges can be converted into economic opportunities and social progress. We need a strong European industrial sector to take up the baton, for we are firmly convinced that a leading European role in the realms of energy efficiency, new technology and economical use of resources would not only be good for the environment but would also boost employment.

Environment-friendly products and processes are in greater demand than ever before. Responsible policies designed to combat climate change are not based on a deindustrialisation of Europe but on the viability of Europe as an industrial location, and on industries in Europe which produce without harming the environment and which export environmental protection.

We take the view that we could become far better yet at addressing this issue. To this end, we need a great joint effort on the part of the European Union and the Member States. We now have a reliable framework for that purpose. We have a partnership which is based on dialogue and critical assessment of previous achievements, and which has proved its worth. Three years ago, with the integrated guidelines, we established a reliable set of reference points with which European and national reforms can be aligned.

I am well aware that some are questioning our proposal that the guidelines in the narrower sense of the term be left untouched. In making that proposal, the Commission was not driven by dogmatism or obstinacy. We did not want any cosmetic packaging. We wanted to emphasise the continuity of the aim of reform and the direction of the reforms in the European Union. At the same time, we undertook a thoroughly critical review and stated plainly where the weaknesses of the past three years have lain in order to learn from them. This is why we are proposing the change of emphasis I have described to you on aspects such as the social and environmental dimensions, and this change has also found its way into the guidelines.

We have also proposed a new Community programme, which – unlike its predecessor – is not a large and motley assortment of projects but a focused programme. It reflects the overarching priorities of the Lisbon strategy for growth and employment.

Our growth and employment policy, ladies and gentlemen, remains the main interest of this Commission. It is at the very top of our list of priorities, because it is all about more jobs, more prosperity and better protection of the environment.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Joaquín Almunia, Member of the Commission. − (ES) Madam President, President of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, first I should like to congratulate Mrs Starkevičiūtė and everyone in this Chamber, especially members of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, who have been involved in drafting your report, which I find extraordinarily rich in its analysis and suggestions for the future on this new cycle of the Lisbon Strategy for the next three years.

If we look back over the past three years we can agree with the report’s analysis of the fruits being produced by the Lisbon Strategy in this new phase following the review of 2005.

As has already been said this evening, jobs are being created. A significant proportion of that employment is related to the reforms which are coming out of the Lisbon Strategy, the way in which reforms are viewed in the labour market and other areas of economic activity as set out in the Lisbon Strategy and the national reform programmes adopted three years ago.

Potential for growth is rising, although we would like it to rise further. However, it is vitally important for Europe’s capacity to grow in normal economic conditions to increase. We need greater growth in order to be able to occupy an important place in a globalising world where new and extraordinarily dynamic players are emerging.

In addition, market operation is improving, the barriers which stand in the way of entrepreneurship, of businessmen, and of production-oriented investment, are being removed.

Reforms have been introduced to improve the sustainability of social protection systems and public accounts in many European countries and there has of course been a heightening of awareness of the need for us to take care of the environment in our model for growth.

Lisbon is therefore bearing fruit. The strategy for growth and jobs which has been in operation since 2005 is bearing fruit. It would be a mistake to change direction now. Therefore we essentially agree with the report being debated this evening: we must continue to move forward in the direction it sets out.

Nonetheless it is clear that account must be taken of changes in the situation – whether they be significant changes in the situation regarding energy and the environment, or the need to make countering climate change our top priority, new challenges, experience and obviously the economic climate and the economic situation we have been experiencing in recent months.

The situation we face leads to greater uncertainty for us, as well as pressures on financial markets, and means that in these more volatile, more uncertain, more difficult circumstances, we must accelerate the rate of reforms, accelerate the degree of establishment, the speed of application of the Lisbon strategy.

We share the view that implementation must, as the Integrated Guidelines state, take place within a framework of macroeconomic stability, within a framework which strengthens the sustainability of our public accounts, our welfare and social protection systems, environmental sustainability, and within a framework of confidence and commitment on the part of economic agents.

We must make best use of the room for manoeuvre gained through the sound reforms and sound policies of recent years; we must exploit the margin which this time of uncertainty is offering us now that the fiscal positions of our economies in most of our countries have improved.

We can allow the automatic stabilisers to stop working in most of our economies now that there is less growth because of the volatile pressures in the financial markets or the sharp slow-down in the United States.

We are in a better position than in 2001 to cope with a significant slow-down in economic activity, thanks to policies based on the Integrated Guidelines in our strategy.

When, in view of the pressures in the financial markets, we have drawn comparisons between the situation of the European economies and that of the economy of the United States, many of us have over the last weeks and months noted the advantage which the European economies have because of our sound economic foundations. Those sound economic foundations have been strengthened thanks to the policies set out in these guidelines, both with regard to the operation of Economic and Monetary Union, and to the many structural reforms which are part of the Lisbon Strategy.

In particular, there are some priorities for the near future which are also evident and are pointed up in the analyses in Mrs Starkevičiūtė’s report; it is now a priority for us to strengthen progress in financial integration.

Financial integration is an instrument available to us to enable us to bolster our capacity to contend with a situation such as the one we are experiencing now. Some initiatives do exist, such as a road-map recently approved by the ECOFIN Council. We must all help these initiatives to be made reality in practice Europe-wide as soon as possible and we must ensure that Europe speaks with a single voice on those initiatives which must also be discussed and adopted within a more overarching framework, for example at the International Monetary Fund or the Financial Stability Forum.

In the light of all this I am sure that we will work together, that we are going to work together productively with Parliament; this should strengthen the consensus on the basic aspects of our strategy and messages so as to encourage economic and social agents to participate actively in this reform process too so that the reforms are not something imposed from above but rather grow from the ground up and are refined through social dialogue. The European institutions of Council, Parliament and Commission must work together productively so that not only they but also our Member States can develop and as part of their national reform programmes implement the objectives on which we are in agreement this evening.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS MORGANTINI
Vice-President

 
  
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  Margarita Starkevičiūtė, rapporteur. – (LT) I would like to thank Mr Verheugen and Mr Almunia for their definition of the EU Lisbon Strategy. However, I have always found it rather difficult to understand its main priorities.

This Commission document comprises some 300 pages, which are divided into separate chapters, each of them defining their own priority objectives. Altogether we find 24 frameworks for the European Union to follow in order to achieve successful implementation of its economic policy and strategy. We would not like to appear to be lagging behind the European Commission, so Parliament has adopted three different resolutions on these 24 frameworks, following three different procedures. Apparently, this is our contribution to curtailing bureaucracy.

I would also like to thank the Commission for stressing the importance of the continuity of the reform. I could not agree more. However, life presents changes and new developments every day, especially from the perspective of globalisation. Thus, if we decide that only cosmetic alterations are to be made, it hardly means we would be encouraging innovation and creativity, as pointed out by respectable representatives of Slovenia.

I appreciate the European Council’s view that every new strategy should create added value. However, in my opinion we should establish our position as welcoming the continuity of the reforms but with the condition that they are consolidated and adapted to new circumstances. The Lisbon Strategy’s sole priority should be the wellbeing of citizens.

To achieve that goal we can implement a variety of instruments of economic policy, all of which should work together. Speaking of monetary policy, we should emphasise the importance of the independence of the European Central Bank. Given the variety of interests and global challenges, there has to be a single body to respond to them. We also need to remember that not all Member States have yet joined the single currency area.

However, the Central Bank’s ability to meet inflation targets is limited, as is its potential to meet inflation pressure and global challenges from outside the European Union. Accordingly, alternative means should be introduced to enable the Central Bank to become independent. Of course, we should first of all be speaking about fiscal balance.

I would, however, dare to disagree strictly with attempts to achieve fiscal balance by means of mechanically reducing expenditure. In such a case it is the most vulnerable and socially deprived sectors of the population that shoulder the burden, rather than officials, who are not in the habit of making cuts in their own salaries. Our first objective should be to consolidate managing institutions and reduce management expenditure. The funds could then be distributed to sectors benefiting citizens.

Another relevant issue that I would like to highlight is the role of the financial sector. It makes little sense to talk about tightening the budget when at the same time billions are being spent in bids to save banks. The role of the financial sector should be set out and clearly defined in the Lisbon Strategy. It is obvious that without the stability of the financial sector, it would be impossible to secure long-term economic stability.

Notwithstanding the manifest problems of today’s financial sector, quite frankly I cannot see too much effort being spent on trying to tackle them in all seriousness. Until the next crisis, so to say.

How can we help our people, the citizens of the Member States? First of all, we are in a position to be able to reduce their work costs, living costs, costs of settling down and adapting to the challenges of a new way of life.

Researchers have put forward various suggestions for solving these problems. I do agree with the ideas that they think might produce beneficial results, that is improved representation and more accessible finance for small businesses.

 
  
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  Marianne Thyssen, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (NL) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, this is the first time we have held the annual debate in which we prepare for the spring summit in the afternoon. Usually in this House we schedule priority debates for the morning. But you should not conclude from this that we regard the spring summit and the Lisbon Strategy as less important. Not at all, it is just that for once we have graciously devoted our morning to Mr Corbett and Mr Méndez de Vigo and our debate on their excellent report on the reform treaty which, together with the Lisbon Strategy, will be decisive in shaping the future of Europe.

Last week in Brussels we got together with members of the national parliaments to review progress on the Strategy, and on one thing we were very quick to agree: the new approach which focuses on growth and jobs, not forgetting the dimension of sustainability, is bearing fruit. The Strategy encourages the European economy's potential for growth and is creating a climate which favours the creation of new jobs: 6.5 million so far, and we expect 5 million more to follow. The next step is what the Commission is proposing, boldly continuing along the path we have embarked on, because the job is not yet finished. In all Member States and in all areas there is still plenty of room for improvement and a need for it. We have a lot to learn from one another and we must also make better use of opportunities at the regional level. So we shall wholeheartedly support the joint resolution on the Lisbon Strategy.

For our Group the priorities are clear. Greater investment in research and innovation and effective protection for intellectual property – these are crucial if we are to develop our economy in the future and create quality jobs. Equally essential is a better climate in which to do business. Completion of the single market, better regulation and less red tape, these things are important to all businesses but especially to our 23 million SMEs. So we need this Small Business Act and it must be more than just a token. So we are also very happy to have been able, this week, to complete the legislative package on the single market in goods, but we are less happy that new labelling rules have been proposed which will add to all the administrative kerfuffle.

Thirdly, the labour market must be reformed, flexibility and job security must go hand in hand with each other and we must invest more in people's skills.

Lastly, we support the 20-20-20 objectives, but in a way that will create jobs here rather than causing jobs to be exported to other continents.

One final point: the spring summit will rightly be looking at the creeping crisis in the money and insurance markets. We really must make sure that this crisis does not derail our efforts to promote growth and jobs. If we are vigilant, if we remain on course, we can restore people's confidence. Confidence means stability and with that we can guarantee Europe a good future. And that is our job.

 
  
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  Robert Goebbels, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (FR) Madam President, the application, albeit imperfect, of the Lisbon Strategy has enabled the European Union to move forward in many areas. Jobs have been created and there has been greater investment in training, research and the new technologies.

There are still challenges to be faced, however. The world is on the move, and new problems are emerging. The Minister, Mr Turk, and Commissioners Verheugen and Almunia have just made this clear. Even if the subprime crisis started in the USA, bankers, insurers and fund managers in Europe have been just as greedy, this being the main driving force in the financial world. While some top bosses have opened their gold parachutes, workers and the general public are paying for the mess.

There has been a credit squeeze pretty much everywhere. The real economy is marking time, the USA is clearly in recession, growth in Europe is running out of steam, inflation is taking off again, oil products are shooting up, as are food prices, while fertiliser prices are rocketing, indicating more expensive harvests to come.

The European Central Bank is doing nothing more than trying to keep a lid on inflation. Workers and trade unions are being asked to tighten their belts, yet purchasing power is declining just about everywhere.

Mr Verheugen, all of our countries are now having to deal with poverty and social exclusion. 68 million people in Europe are living below the official poverty line in their respective countries. 13% of workers have unstable contracts and no lasting social protection. There are 23 million false self-employed. At the same time 1% of the population owns more than 15% of the available wealth in Europe.

Combating climate change will make poverty more likely for many people in Europe. The polluter-pays principle sounds good, but it is still consumers who ultimately foot the bill. In the UK the public authorities are working to combat fuel poverty, yet the Commission tells us that the EU has not liberalised its energy market enough, as if, in a world where 90% of the energy resources are dependent on sovereign States, consumers are free to choose their suppliers.

Faced with these increasing problems the Commission, and particularly President Barroso, has only one response: do not change the Lisbon Strategy. The Integrated Guidelines are apparently carved in Portuguese marble and cannot be altered, as far as President Barroso is concerned.

On behalf of the Socialist Group, let me give President Barroso a solemn warning. We will not accept this Cold-War style niet from the Commission about the Guidelines. The context of the Lisbon Strategy is changing. The document guiding our actions also needs to adapt to the new European and international situation.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Bilyana Ilieva Raeva, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (BG) Dear representatives of the European Council, dear representatives of the European Commission, dear colleagues, Three years ago, the re-launched Lisbon Strategy clearly emphasized on the need for sustainable economic growth, and more and better-quality jobs. Today, national reforms move at good pace, the European economy scores steady growth rates, while unemployment rates are at their lowest since 1998. Notwithstanding the good results, much greater effort is needed against the backdrop of the gorwing global competition to achieve a dynamic and competitive economy based on knowledge and innovation.

The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe consider this Strategy to be the driving force of deep-going economic and social reform. It is the response to the globalization challenges, making it possible for the European Union to take the lead in economic growth, social and environmental prosperity, technological development and modernisation. It is the attainment of these objectives that needs redoubled efforts in the years to come. Liberals and Democrats for Europe recognise the development of new structures for the management of the Strategy over the last three years, with better allocation of responsibilities between the Community and the Member States.

Bulgaria and Romania have been fully integrated in the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy since their accession and, in 2007, they reported the implementation of their reform plans for the first time. Regardless of the differences existing between individual Member States, the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy has improved the growth potential of the European Union as a whole.

The business environment, which is so very important to Liberals and Demoracts, has benefitted substantially from these reforms. The EU strategy for better regulation is gradually taking shape. It is easier and cheaper to register a company and start a business in most Member States today. Nevertheless, an integrated entrepreneurial culture is still missing at the European level. WE need a comprehensive approach at the EU level to the growth and competitiveness of small and medioum-sized enterprises. The EU Member States have committed themselves to investing 3 % of GDP in innovation, research and development by 2010.

Still, the available data point to substantial discrepancies between Member States. Therefore serious efforts will be needed in this respect, including the private sector, so that to achieve this target.

The European Union has made big strides towards its transformation into an environmental society. New ambitious commitments have been undertaken to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to use renewable energy sources by 2020. Liberals and Democrats believe that the lwo carbon society is feasible only if research and innovation offer the “green” technologies needed for this purpose.

The high standnards that we, Europeans, wish to have, are achievable only through solidiarity action. Therefore the exchange of experience, the support and the opportunities to learn from each other are of paramount importance. The knowledge-based economy implies also willingness to learn. Economic growth, low unemployment, high social standards and a dynamic business environment are not mutually exclusive. It is sufficient to recall the examples of countries like Denmark and Finland.

Dear colleagues, many priorities of Liberals and Democrats have been reflected in the European Parliament’s Resolution on the Lisbon Strategy. They include the creation of conditions for a more flexible and better functioning labour market, allowing social inclusion; reduction of the administrative burden and attainment of better regulation; strengthening of the positions of European businesses at the international level; more imports, exports, and investment; greater transparency and stability of financial markets; better consumer protection; greater commitment to the environment; more efficient use of the Structural Funds of the Community for achieving tangible results in the implementation of the Strategy; and reinforcement of the transport network of the Trans-European projects.

Dear colleagues, The inidcators are in place, the objectives are clearly defined. What matters now is implementation.

 
  
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  Guntars Krasts, on behalf of the UEN Group. (LV) Thank you, Madam President. Commissioner, representatives of the Council, today I would like to focus on the possible effect of the current issue on the tasks and targets of the Lisbon Strategy. Problems on the global financial market and the effect of the US economy’s difficulties on world economic growth are the first serious test for the new Lisbon Strategy and its ability to act as an antidote to the possible obstacles to the growth of the European economy. Regardless of the current complications, faster long-term growth remains Europe’s priority. This demands the emergence onto the market of many new, active businesses. I am in no doubt that the perturbation in the financial system requires measures to re-establish stability. It should, however, be stressed that this is the time to take responsible decisions. Re-establishing stability within the financial system should not stand in the way of the tasks of the financial system: promoting the growth of Europe’s businesses. I would like to emphasise this in particular because it is essential to widen the range of funding options for newly established businesses. Competition between financing options needs to be significantly encouraged. The task highlighted in all the Lisbon Strategy documents of nurturing the growth potential of small and medium-sized enterprises is to be welcomed. The Commission’s proposed Small Business Act is to be welcomed. The current situation, however, is such that large businesses with an established place on the market have incomparably better finance opportunities than people wishing to start up their own businesses. What is lacking in the Lisbon Strategy is a duty to foster a wide, competitive range of financial instruments, but this is in fact a vital precondition for nurturing Europe’s growth potential. The current response to the instability of the finance system must not be allowed to restrict innovation in the financial sector. Thank you.

 
  
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  Rebecca Harms, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, in the realm of climate policy, the year 2007 – and some time has already elapsed since then – is regarded as the year when the reality of climate change was officially acknowledged. If we consider that the debate on global warming and sustainability strategies has been running for almost two decades, it becomes clear how long it takes to influence such a political process and how difficult it is to effect an actual strategic realignment. Even though we hear assurances throughout the EU that the pursuit of sustainability has finally been incorporated into the Lisbon Strategy, I still doubt whether we are really serious about this sea change and whether we are really prepared to strike out in a new direction and turn away from a purely quantitative growth target to pursue the aim of quality-driven growth.

When we were preparing the Lisbon resolution for Parliament, with Mr Lehne and myself as co-rapporteurs, we argued once again – not we personally but our political groups – about the issue of energy policy and energy strategies. It is no wonder that we did, for this issue is worth arguing about. The resolution now enshrines a concept that barely conceals the potential gulf between our respective views on sustainability. The term ‘low-carbon economy’ is now being presented as a compromise formula for this Parliament. In my opinion, it merely papers over the conflict between the status quo, whose advocates would press on with the energy-based economy, fuelled by the old energy mix of coal and nuclear power, and the strategy that we wanted, namely a radical change of course designed to cut resource consumption. This concept which we have now incorporated thinly veils our continuing failure to take a decision. Let me reiterate at this point that Europe, in my view, could not possibly play the pioneering role which would fulfil the hopes of people throughout the world on the basis of high-risk nuclear energy or of a renewed reliance on coal. I shall move on now, but we shall resume this argument in another context.

I also believe, Mr Verheugen, that the adjustment of the guidelines in this area is yet to happen, because simply appending security of energy supply and renewables does not amount to a change of strategy. A new strategy is quite a different matter and has to be reflected in new measures and instruments. I believe, however, that the need to alter the guidelines of the Lisbon strategy is not confined to the environmental dimension but also extends to the domain of social policy. We keep hearing of an upturn in European growth and employment over the last three years. At the same time, however, we have seen social marginalisation and an increase in the number of insecure jobs. In our opinion, the common aim of social integration and cohesion can only be interpreted to mean, in plain and simple terms, that working people in Europe must be able to live on what they earn. I was therefore puzzled by the squabbling between the political groups during the preparation of the Lisbon resolution on the question whether it is right or wrong to conclude agreements on minimum wages in Europe on an industry-by-industry basis. I do not believe there is any alternative, and I only wish there were a greater degree of consensus on that point. I also wish that my fellow Members on the right of this House would not always interpret the concept of ‘flexicurity’ to mean only that the weakest members of society need to be flexible and submissive while the others are free to continue conducting their business as they see fit.

Something I regard as a very important aspect of the resolution that will be put to the vote tomorrow – and this remark is also addressed to Mrs Figueiredo, who played a leading part in this success – is that we have managed to present joint proposals for new indicators with which progress towards achievement of the Lisbon objectives can be measured, particularly the objective of improving people’s quality of life. The fact that the income-based approach in the form of that old landmark indicator, the national-income growth rate, completely overlooks disparities in income growth shows that it is not in any way an adequate indicator. It becomes even more inadequate, of course, if we actually want to measure factors such as improvements in the quality of life and in the state of the environment. I would be delighted if the Commission were to respond to these comments regarding environmental and social indicators.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo, on behalf of the GUE/NGL group. – (PT) In practice, eight years after the Lisbon Strategy was approved, social inequalities have widened and poverty, which afflicts around 78 million people, including 25 million low-wage earners with insecure jobs, has got worse.

Most of the jobs created are insecure, and part-time work involves women in particular, who continue to be discriminated against in access to jobs, training and career progression, and in terms of wages. Youth unemployment is twice as high as total unemployment, and includes many young higher education graduates who are unable to find work, much less work commensurate with their education, while around 6 million young people continue to leave school prematurely every year, which also threatens their future. These consequences could be foreseen in a strategy whose neoliberal vision was developed with the 2005 reform, the priority measures of which included structural sector and public service liberalisations and privatisations, and which stressed labour flexibility.

Poverty and social injustice may now be exacerbated by the financial crisis that began in the United States, and by the high price of fossil fuels and of some agricultural produce which is essential for the diet. Policies must therefore be changed as a matter of urgency to forestall their consequences in the European Union, particularly in the most fragile economies, to avoid a deterioration in the social situation.

Our resolution therefore stresses the need to replace the ‘Lisbon Strategy’ with a European strategy for solidarity and sustainable development that opens new horizons for a Europe of full employment without discrimination, decent jobs with rights, better wages, economic and social cohesion and adequate protection and public and universal social security, or in short, guaranteeing greater social justice.

 
  
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  Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (NL) Madam President, over the last few months the credit crisis in the USA has shown that a purely capitalist system is unsustainable. For rather longer than that we have known that a communist or, if you will, socialist system does not work. That became very clear in 1989. But now that capitalism clearly is not working either, it is high time to act on that realisation.

Through the Lisbon Strategy we are seeking to ensure that Europe remains economically competitive with the rest of the world. That will only be possible if everyone who can play a part actually does so and if we work to guarantee a good living environment.

So the promotion of employment and sustainable development are quite rightly principal objectives of the revised Lisbon Strategy. I do not think the solutions recommended by our colleagues in the GUE Group are either sufficiently informed or realistic. If we were to take measures of that kind, inflation would rise and investor confidence in Europe would evaporate. And at the end of the day, inflation is theft.

In previous debates on the spring summit I already said that governments in the Member States should take an active role. I say so again today. Member States themselves must initiate reforms and carry them through. And whilst we are not yet at the point of a recession, it is high time we took adequate measures to reform the welfare state. Europe can certainly coordinate here, but it cannot dictate.

 
  
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  Sergej Kozlík (NI). – (SK) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the report in question rightly accentuates the risks of a deregulated global financial system. It is beyond the direct influence of EU policies and can transmit a risk of widespread financial instability. It is therefore necessary to re-assess the impact of the business model and the role of multinational financial groups on global financial markets and to try to structure them across a wide international base.

I agree that a healthy and stable macro-economic environment requires large-scale budget consolidation and an intelligent private and public investment policy that delivers forward-looking infrastructure and open’s up tomorrow’s markets. I do not think that public ownership is one of the main elements leading to distortions of the European energy market. So far no one has proved that private monopolies behave more correctly than monopolies in which the State is a shareholder.

It is all a question of setting up the rules correctly. It is therefore necessary to improve the rules governing competition in the energy sector as well as in transport and information systems, to gradually open up the relevant markets and to broaden and harmonise the European infrastructure.

 
  
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  Klaus-Heiner Lehne (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the resolution drafted by the Steering Group focuses on three key areas: the internal market, where we are concerned in particular with the need to close certain gaps, and I need only quote the examples of the absence of a uniform patent law and the absence of an internal market in insurance; the labour market, where we are concerned in particular with security through flexibility; and monitoring and control, where we are concerned in particular with implementing the strategy in the Member States.

This time we chose deliberately to focus not on energy and climate, because that was the key area in the past two years, and in strategic terms we have in fact achieved what we wanted to achieve with our resolutions, namely to ensure that the Commission and the Council concern themselves deeply with the subject, which is what they are doing.

One aspect we continue to regard as important and which is addressed in the general part of the resolution is the whole complex of better legislation. In particular, we refer to the problems that still exist in regard to evaluating results and cutting back on red tape.

Of course arguments also arose between the groups during the preparatory stage, nearly all of which were settled. In the end one decisive point of dispute remained. My Group stands by the integrated guidelines and, like the Commission, believes that we do not need to change the integrated guidelines at this point in time.

Overall, we can regard what has been achieved in recent years as a success. When in 2005 we in a sense revived the Lisbon Strategy, everybody assumed Lisbon was merely the capital of a Member State, Portugal. Nobody connected its name with a concrete strategy. That was not the case, for example, of Kyoto, which stands not just for a town but also for a global strategy. We have made considerable progress in recent years in terms of our perception of what Lisbon stands for.

We support the Commission’s position that growth and jobs are the key aspect and that progress in that area is of crucial importance. For only if we have growth and jobs can we conduct a good environmental and social policy.

 
  
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  Udo Bullmann (PSE).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, that is a bit of a problem. ‘We stand by the guidelines’ sounds a little dogmatic. We in the PSE Group are not so much concerned with which document we do or do not support but believe the key issue really is whether these guidelines are an answer to the real economic situation, and the key issue is whether they offer any more help in tackling the needs of the people in the European Union. That is the key issue in this debate, so once again: let the data speak for themselves.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the Eurogroup Chairman, has just announced that growth will decline, that in 2008 it will no longer be 2.7%, but 1.6%, 1.7% or 1.8%. This sounds a clear warning bell, especially because we know that the outlook in the USA was already looking gloomy at the end of 2007. At the same time inflation is forecast at 3.2%. That means a loss of prosperity, a loss of real wages, a loss of purchasing power. Obviously we fear that stagnation may go hand in hand with inflation here, and this is a warning bell.

We also know that poverty has not fallen in the European Union over the past five years, but that in fact more people are excluded from the affluent society. Research and development have reached a more or less stable level, but certainly not the 3% we need for the Lisbon Strategy, only just over half of that, at an average of 1.6%, 1.7% or 1.8% – far too low to allow us to play the international role we want to play.

We are now looking at a contradiction. Surely I cannot pretend that the integrated guidelines provide me with an instrument of governance while at the same time shaping that instrument in such a way that it does not react to economic and social data in the European Union? I cannot on the one hand stand up – obviously as President of the Commission – and make sure that nothing, not an iota of the core text of those guidelines is changed, while at the same time hoping that people in the Member States of the European Union, the employers, the employees, those who play their part in the economic process, feel that they are seeing political governance here. That is not the way to resolve this contradiction.

The Commissioners present here have told us many times what needs to be changed. Let us discuss those changes, in whatever area they apply. Where are the products, where are the changes that will also help improve the lot of the people? The Socialists support an offensive strategy, as presented in Parliament’s documents, but we want real answers that help improve the lot of the people.

 
  
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  Wolf Klinz (ALDE).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the Member States are and remain responsible for formulating and implementing economic policy. That means the Lisbon Strategy can only be implemented by targeted measures in the Member States. There is no such thing as a European economic policy defined centrally in Brussels. That is precisely why the basic features of economic policy are so important. They are the cornerstone of the coordination of economic strategies by Member States and they constitute a point of reference designed to ensure that Member States move in the right direction by taking the necessary reforms and then remain on the right road. They enshrine the EU’s core economic principles: open markets, fair competition, innovative private entrepreneurship without state regulation.

Unfortunately, the Member States do not always implement the integrated guidelines for growth and jobs, and at times only do so rather timidly. Specifically with a view to meeting the challenges of globalisation, the European Union must adhere to its core principles, as the only way to safeguard its competitiveness in the long term.

Unfortunately we have recently seen more examples of what I would term creative compartmentalisation. For example – and I am saying this to Mrs Harms, for her information – by introducing excessively high minimum wages, the Deutsche Post, the German Post Office, is keeping any competitors away from the officially liberalised market. The current turbulence on the financial markets also shows that enterprises are all too quick to turn to the State for help if they run into difficulties. Rescuing private financial institutions such as Northern Rock in the UK or IKB in Germany with the help of the taxpayer’s money is an unacceptable mistake in terms of the rules of economic policy. The banks’ profits stay in the hands of the shareholders and excessive bonuses are paid to a small number of employees, while the losses are nationalised. That kind of procedure undermines people’s trust in the social market economy system.

It is the State’s job to support the market by passing the appropriate framework legislation, but it is the job of the market to drive the economy forward and ensure that Europe remains competitive.

 
  
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  Eoin Ryan (UEN). – Madam President, the recent financial turmoil which shook consumer and market confidence brought home to us how important it is to have in place sustainable strategies for growth. It has always been the correct approach for the EU to have such strategies and to have policies of cooperation and coordination that strengthen us as individual nations and as a unit. Many of the issues which are important to the Lisbon Strategy have been raised today, whether it is supporting innovation, fair competition, addressing energy issues, climate change, lifelong learning or investing in knowledge, to name but a few.

I believe that increasing competitiveness and growth, and trying to reach the 3%, is absolutely vital if we are to see Europe grow in the way that we want it to. I think an awful lot has been achieved. Sometimes we are too critical of ourselves. Well over 12 or 13 million jobs have been created in Europe over the past number of years, which is more than has been achieved in the United States of America.

However, if we want to get enlightened social policies and have the money for enlightened social policies, we have to liberalise our economies. And that is one of the issues that we are not addressing within individual Member States. I believe that is the challenge: to have economies that are growing so that we can then spend money on enlightened social policies.

 
  
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  Mikel Irujo Amezaga (Verts/ALE). – (ES) Madam President, I would agree that the priorities and resources related to the Lisbon Strategy should be more clearly identified in the budgets of the Member States and competent institutions. Close examination should be made of the whole chain of educational and training systems, and the content in terms of general culture and scientific and technical training should be of the highest level possible with the aim of enabling people to adapt to changes in the wider situation and promoting citizen participation, better quality jobs, the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation.

It is necessary in turn to study demographic changes and their effects on the public purse, the labour market and health service provision. Similarly, innovative reform of the labour market should be guided by ‘flexicurity’ rules which promote competitiveness and at the same time provide adequate social security yet do not give a nod to the right in this Chamber, as my colleague Rebecca Harms said in her speech.

Finally, it is important for the Member States and all the competent institutions to exchange best practice effectively, as doing so also has the advantage of fostering convergence of objectives throughout Europe.

 
  
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  Helmuth Markov (GUE/NGL).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, you said we have created more jobs recently. True, but most of them are insecure jobs. You said productivity has now grown. True, but that productivity growth has not been used to increase wages – which could have been done – nor has it been used for reinvestment. You said the rising GDP is also a sign that we are on the right track, that the Lisbon Strategy is the right one. I say to you that despite the three positive statistics you gave, we have seen no results at all to date.

We have rising profits, but income from wages is not rising; we continue to have an economic policy directed at supply and not demand; we do not have adequate domestic demand. That means we still have the same problems we had five years ago, that we had three years ago, with the Lisbon Strategy. Nothing has changed at all. So how can you then say that we are on the right track? What have we got? You also said we must support the SMEs. In that case I would ask you to turn to your colleague Mr Mandelson. What was his input into the global Europe strategy? It was that the markets must be opened to large companies operating worldwide. Nothing about SMEs there, not a word!

We are carrying out tax reforms in the Member States that give preferential treatment to joint-stock companies. They are exempted from tax. The profits then made are, however, no longer passed on to the national economy. We say that employees have to be flexible. They have to accept earning less money. They have been doing so for years. If profits escalate, they could also be allowed their share. That is not happening. The banks speculate mercilessly and a very large proportion of the big companies’ profits is invested as financial capital, because the profit margins are higher there, rather than going back into production. That is the wrong track for Lisbon.

If I want money, then I as the European Union or as a Member State must also insist on more tax revenue. I can only get that in areas where enough taxes also can be obtained. That would be the right approach for a Lisbon Strategy: a radical rethinking of economic policy. If we continue along the lines you have proposed, we will not resolve the problem in the European Union.

 
  
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  John Whittaker (IND/DEM). – Madam President, it really does no good to keep talking about the Lisbon Agenda, because every year for the past eight years it has been universally acknowledged that it has not worked very well.

This report, with its huge list of what the European Union should do, completely misses the point. Rather than the EU being the force that drives growth and productivity, it is the EU, with its endless interference in business, that is holding back the economies of Europe.

Another point which is ignored is that the different economies of the EU have vastly different structures and performances. It makes no sense to talk about the European economy as a single entity. Contrast Germany, which has been enjoying some modest economic growth, with the southern EU countries variously afflicted with huge trade deficits, collapsing housing booms and enormous government debts. What these countries desperately need is lower interest rates and devaluation, which cannot be delivered because they are all in the euro area. If the European Central Bank reduces interest rates to provide some assistance, it will have to ignore its inflation target, which would certainly not please the Germans.

Surely, rather than continuing to add millions more words to the sterile discussion of the Lisbon Strategy, some attention should have been paid to these rather more pressing issues. But I suppose that would highlight the fundamental weakness of economic and monetary union, which is that a single currency is not a sustainable long-term arrangement for a group of widely differing economies with independent governments.

 
  
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  Frank Vanhecke (NI). – (NL) Madam President, we all know that Europe must evolve further into a knowledge-based economy that is better able to compete in world markets. We don't have to push at open doors here, we are all agreed on that. What we are not agreed on is, for example, the fact that the Commission regards new economic migration on a huge scale as one of the most important means of achieving the Lisbon objectives. This is absurd. We have talent enough in Europe. Above all we have a few tens of millions of people out of work in Europe, and that is more than enough. This is the huge challenge facing governments and the world of business and industry. And your average European, furthermore, really does not want to see a new wave of immigration. He wants to see the huge numbers of foreigners already here being integrated, assimilated and absorbed into the employment process.

Yes, once again the Commission is well wide of the mark. I remember the European Commission saying a few months ago that the political crisis in Belgium would slow down the pace of the reforms needed to achieve the Lisbon objectives. In reality the very opposite is true. The reality is that the political crisis in Belgium was proof of the failure of the Belgian state and it is this fact of Belgium's existence that is stopping Flanders from modernising its employment law and jobs market, from reducing its social costs, simplifying and reducing its taxes precisely in order to meet these Lisbon targets. But of course it is utterly beyond the pale for the European Commission to admit that Belgium is an obstacle both to Flanders and Wallonia.

 
  
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  Cristobal Montoro Romero (PPE-DE). – (ES) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office, we are again at a complex moment for the European Union, facing a difficult economic situation, and we are starting to draw up the outlines of economic policy in circumstances which are essentially characterised by a weakening of economic growth which itself is basically a response to a lack of confidence on the part of economic agents: consumers, entrepreneurs and, above all, small and medium-sized undertakings.

Accordingly, in addition to congratulating the rapporteur, in addition also to expressing our satisfaction for the positive attitude of the other Groups, especially the Socialist Group, with whom we have reached broad agreement allowing economic policy outlines to be drawn up, my political Group, the Group of the European People’s Party, wishes to stress the appropriateness of strengthening the European Union, and strengthening the European economy by advocating and committing ourselves to economic reforms. To that end we support the Commission in its efforts to use the Integrated Guidelines to facilitate fundamental reforms to underpin a new framework of confidence to enable the difficulties we are facing to be overcome.

A new framework dedicated to labour reforms agreed with social partners, tax reforms which encourage growth of small and medium undertakings and job creation. In short, a framework dedicated to reforms which facilitate the completion of the internal market as the best way of stimulating economic growth as a job creator in the European Union.

In that regard I would also like to stress that protectionism must be rejected, a point we defend in our policy position, and advocate in short for us to finally lay the foundations in the European Union for economic growth which creates employment, which is the true pillar of European integration.

 
  
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  Edit Herczog (PSE). – Madam President, after a long debate, we finally have a text which we as Socialists can support, and I welcome this compromise on the Lisbon resolution.

However, let me start by expressing a personal opinion, which is that having an idea is not the whole solution. Everything depends on the execution. One has to put the two together. In 2000, the idea of Lisbon was good and very timely. Nor could we identify better targets than we did during the 2005 review. But if one looks at the execution itself – especially looking back at that execution through time and along the full decision-making chain – it is another story. There has been an improvement compared to the first five years, and we have acquired some dynamism, but the results compared to the needs and the global challenges we face, and compared to the potential we have, are limited.

We have had some great initiatives and success stories, like the Growth and Jobs programme or the ‘Think Small First’ project, and there have been some great legislative successes – the Services Directive, the supervision of the financial markets regulation, climate change policy and the new energy package, to list just a few. But the overall feeling is missing, and the commitment itself is missing. In the European institutions we can see this in the decreased use of the expression ‘connecting to the agenda’. It can be seen in the very low interest in the topic last week during the joint parliamentary session with the national parliaments, and it can be seen simply by reading the Eurobarometer results.

I would like to quote two numbers from the Eurobarometer. The so-called optimism index has decreased over the last nine months by nine points, from 26 to 17. Also, if one looks at other key performance indicators, the employment optimism index has fallen by three points from +4 to +1 in the last nine months. If one looks further, the key elements of the Lisbon Strategy are amongst the last issues people consider to be the most important. This means that, eight years after Lisbon, European citizens do not believe that the EU can provide proper responses on these issues.

So Lisbon is still in our documents, but is certainly not in our hearts and minds. In the 21st century the race of continents will not be decided only by natural and energy resources or by financial resources. The power of human capital and human resources will determine the winner. The conjunction of the total population, in terms of quantity, and the consistency of its knowledge, in terms of quality, will jointly decide the strength of the Community. We still have a lot to do as regards knowledge creation, knowledge management and the motivation of people as a Community. This is a Community that we need to consider as a whole, not letting anyone be discriminated against. We cannot leave anyone out, whether young or old, black or white, rich or poor. We need everyone – the people as a whole. In the 21st century, real people will be central, yet the Commission President is not here today to speak about this ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Lena Ek (ALDE). – Madam President, after seven years of work, the Lisbon Strategy is partly a failure. This is mostly due to implementation difficulties. I will give you some examples on the internal market.

Regarding the energy package, we had to deliver totally new legislation. When we decided to increase the budget line on research, we only got 50% of what we had decided we needed. We have a European paradox in innovation where we put money in but we do not get the industrialisation and the jobs that we wanted.

We talked highly of the SMEs but they are still struggling with the same regulation as the big global industries.

We know that gender equality improves economic growth but we still have a lot to do in this area. We know that the transport sector is very bad in Europe and we still have a lot to do when it comes to railways and transportation time through Europe. It is time to change this. The first thing to consider, Mr Turk and Mr Almunia – and maybe you can pass this message on to Mr Verheugen – is what will be in the text of the Resolution on Climate Change at the Spring Summit.

We all agree that climate change can be a win-win situation, where we can solve environmental problems and where we can create new jobs. We have already delivered decisions on this in Parliament and now we are waiting to see what the Commission and the Council will deliver in the Spring Summit.

There are still 18 million unemployed Europeans, more than 18 million people unemployed, and we know that SMEs, clean tech, innovation and services can deliver the jobs they need. Will you give them the chance?

 
  
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  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, in this debate on the Lisbon Strategy I want to point out first of all that, in my opinion, insufficient account has been taken of the effect of the American financial crisis on the level of economic growth and unemployment in Europe. While the GNP forecasts for 2008 and 2009 put forward by individual Member States are lower than the growth rates achieved in 2007, it appears that the reality will be even worse.

My second point is that the United States Government and the Federal Reserve System reacted vigorously and with lightning speed. The government proposed 150 billion dollars’ worth of support for firms and consumers and, by cutting interest rates several times, the central bank ensured that the real basic interest rate was negative.

By contrast, the governments of the EU Member States, the European Central Bank and the other central banks give the impression that they are happy with the slowdown in economic growth and the strengthening of the euro. One must agree with the report’s conclusion on the need to transfer the work-related tax burden to environment-related taxes, but decidedly reject the proposal to coordinate corporate tax rates in the Member States.

 
  
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  Sahra Wagenknecht (GUE/NGL).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, it is true that the European economy is facing major problems. Crises on the world financial markets, rising energy and food prices, sluggish domestic demand as a result of wage dumping and social robbery, the growth of insecure employment – those are all urgent problems that need to be tackled. Yet there is no mention of them in this report.

We are reminded that the rise in incomes should keep pace with the medium-term growth in productivity. Yet at the same time the report calls for the continued pursuit of neoliberal structural reforms, i.e. precisely those alleged reforms that produced the problems we are facing today in the first place. Instead of creating jobs through public investment, even more pressure is to be put on employees and the unemployed, working hours are to be increased and protection against wrongful dismissal undermined even more.

Instead of taking action to regulate the financial markets and capital transactions, we are to stand by helplessly as the current financial crisis spreads ever further. And instead of putting an end to the policy of liberalisation, which has contributed a good deal to the forcing up of prices on the energy markets, we are to continue stubbornly to focus on privatisation and deregulation.

Our Group will not vote for this report. It will not endorse a report that advocates a neoliberal agenda, stamps on social rights and will produce ever more crises. What we really need is a radically different economic policy, in which the interests of the employed and the unemployed take precedence over the profit-seeking of big companies.

 
  
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  Patrick Louis (IND/DEM). – (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, wanting a knowledge economy is a good thing, but it is not enough. Growth in direct or ancillary jobs relies on the sustainability of traditional forms of blue-collar work, but these industries are caught in a vice. With their competitiveness already under threat from the increasing bureaucratic costs in our societies, they are being stifled by the absurd way in which the euro is managed, which generates a competitive additional income for countries that have no serious social or environmental policy whatsoever.

The model is back-to-front. We are socialist within the EU and liberal outside it, yet what we need is greater protection from the rest of the world and greater freedom within. The facts make this clear. The Lisbon Strategy does not work because of the asymmetry in Europe’s economies, growing pressure of competition and the hypermobility of the capital markets.

Let us therefore abandon the demotivating myth of a European social strategy that guarantees prosperity for all. You cannot make a plant grow by pulling on its leaves! The solutions will come not from Brussels, but from free cooperation and the Member States’ own common sense. It is our roots in the soil of our nations that will give us the intelligence, responsiveness, sense and strength to meet today’s challenges. In this particular case letters to Father Christmas will get us nowhere.

 
  
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  Malcolm Harbour (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I have been participating in debates in this House since the original Lisbon Strategy and I am also part of the Lisbon Coordination Group in this Parliament. One of the things I have been consistently calling for is for the Commission to sharpen its focus on the Lisbon Strategy and set out a clearly defined list of priorities. I do not think anybody has mentioned this so far or complimented the Commission on actually doing this. We now have a Community Lisbon programme with 10 priority actions.

I have to say, somewhat to my regret, that, as a member of the group, I think Parliament’s resolution has gone in entirely the other direction. This resolution before us today seems to me to be rather more long-winded and ambiguous than previous ones. I suspect the Commission will be disappointed, because I note in the Community Lisbon Strategy with its 10 priorities, which I am sure all of you have read, that one of the top demands from the Commission is as follows: ‘It is essential that the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission agree on the strategic reform objectives and actions’. I certainly agree with that. I hope that the Commission can extract that from this resolution, because I believe most of it is in there.

Nevertheless, I think that one of the lessons for our work with the Commission is that, for our next work on this strategy, we have to focus on these priority actions, because I am pleased to see that the Commission is going to work on these, keep them stable and move them forward. Part of the problem we have is that we get piles of papers – different communications on different aspects of the strategies and revised priorities. This set of revisions, this set of 10 priorities, is different from the ones we had last year. Frankly, that is no way to move forward.

Last week, I participated as a rapporteur in the meeting with national parliaments. I just want to echo what many colleagues have said: the action on Lisbon is shifting from here to the chambers of national parliaments, because that is where we need to engage them on delivering these 10 priority objectives, and that is something we need to reflect on as well. I particularly welcome the Minister’s attendance here to show the importance the Council attaches to it.

 
  
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  Anne Van Lancker (PSE). – (NL) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office, Commissioner, in all honesty I am disappointed at the lack of social ambitions in the list for the spring summit you have outlined for us today. My Group maintains that there are good reasons to strengthen the Lisbon Strategy and the Integrated Guidelines in a number of crucial respects. Three of them concern the social dimension. It is true that Lisbon has helped with growth and jobs but not everyone has been able to share the benefits of that. Six million youngsters leave school without qualifications. Migrants, disabled people, have great trouble finding jobs, 16% of Europeans live in poverty. Proof that a strategy for growth and jobs does not automatically lead to social inclusion and worthwhile employment for all. So we want to see the Lisbon Strategy's social dimension strengthened by a new guideline to ensure active social integration for all.

Secondly, not all jobs are quality jobs. The proportion of precarious employment contracts (temporary work, involuntary part-time work, agency work) has risen considerably. Women and young people especially often get stuck in low-quality jobs. And Member States' spending on active employment policy, support and training has fallen rather than risen. So clearly Member States have not yet grasped that a balanced flexicurity approach has to entail contracts that are both flexible and secure and that active investment in human resources is a sine qua non for preventing segmentation of the market. We want the Guidelines to encompass all the basic principles of flexicurity, including job quality and investment in human resources.

Thirdly, the social dimension of the Lisbon programme is a very skinny beast. We are assured that there will be a new social agenda and it is good that this should be part of the Lisbon package. But we are looking to the European Commission to propose an ambitious social agenda, not just communications on demography, training and migration, as announced, but also initiatives for legislation to improve the quality of employment and strengthen the battle against poverty and social exclusion. At any rate, Mr President-in-Office, I would like to see an extra shot of social ambition injected into the spring summit.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Edward McMILLAN-SCOTT
Vice-President

 
  
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  Adina-Ioana Vălean (ALDE). – Mr President, one of the key recommendations of the European Parliament is to combat protectionism both within and outside the EU.

I firmly believe that protectionism undermines, rather than defends, citizens’ rights, but that Europe should be looking at its own backyard first. Our highest priority should now be the removal of protectionist barriers within the EU. In order to make the European single market a reality we need to enhance the four fundamental freedoms of the common market, especially the free movement of workers. Our report acknowledges that many labour markets remain segmented and that worker mobility is still low. How surprising! Have we forgotten that most citizens of the new Member States still need a permit to work in other EU countries?

Four years after the ‘big bang’ enlargement we have seen no major disruption of labour markets in the older Member States, and no influx to justify the transitional restrictions. On the contrary, the proliferation of complex national quotas and qualitative restrictions in Member States is undermining the Lisbon Strategy, which aims to ensure flexible markets and a mobile labour force.

We have only two years left to become the world’s most competitive economy, and to boost competitiveness and create more jobs and growth, but I am hopeful. In Romania, my country, the average economic growth rate has been about 6% over the past five years, and the unemployment rate is down to 4%. We are now starting to have concerns about the lack of labour.

Opening frontiers to third-country workers is necessary, but our top priority should be to lift the EU’s internal barriers first. Workers from the 12 new Member States should be granted priority to go and work in any other EU Member State, and the transitional arrangements should be removed. One cannot possibly justify calling for external workers while restrictions still apply to our citizens.

Restrictions are unjustifiable and incompatible with the Lisbon Strategy, and removing them is the only way to achieve a competitive and innovative Europe.

 
  
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  Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, the Lisbon Strategy sets out the aims we must achieve in the future if Europe is to be a place that fulfils its citizens’ desires. Europe, however, is only an island on the world map and, unless the biggest world powers achieve similar aims, the introduction of even the most greatly desired changes – concerning the climate, for example – will simply mean that we ourselves restrict the possibilities of our industry and manufacturers while throwing away other aims of the strategy.

To combat demographic decline in Europe by accepting immigrants from other continents, while at the same time destroying the institution of the family and family values, is suicide, since it increases the likelihood of culture conflicts in the future. The same is true in many other fields. The leaders of Europe’s biggest countries talk of the need to liberalise trade while pursuing economic nationalism in their own countries. The European Union must pull the wool from its eyes and stand up to fight on world economic markets on the basis of respect for Europe’s traditional laws and customs.

 
  
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  Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Mr President, let me ask a simple question. In the committee’s report on the strategy’s new cycle, how much importance is given to the social demands of workers, small and medium-sized enterprises, young people and women?

Is it a solution to transform citizens’ demands for full-time, secure work into flexible and insecure jobs? Is extending working time and raising the retirement age, I wonder, the right response to increased competitiveness, rather than what we believe: a better salary and secure working conditions that will contribute to productivity, and will, above all, improve living standards?

What do young people and women want? Do they want to find themselves permanently between training and employment, or to be able to use their qualifications? We believe the latter to be the case.

As for the environment and climate change, there are positive elements in the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, more so than in the United States and other countries. However, if development in every country is not fully linked to environmental protection, then the results will not be systematic.

Further, is it possible both to promote the break-up of state energy, electricity and liquid gas providers and to claim that this is for the public good and helps towards achieving energy self-sufficiency – at low prices, of course? In practice, is precisely the opposite not the case?

Finally, I should like to add that research and innovation cannot be merely a marketable asset; they are a public asset and should be judged first and foremost on the extent to which they serve the progress of society. Consequently, a genuine increase is needed in public investment and research. We should not sacrifice the potential for research to private gain.

 
  
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  Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM). – Mr President, economic competition is a key factor to the Lisbon Strategy. The Lisbon Strategy is based on competition, competitiveness and growth and, although competition is important for any viable economy, remember that the basic mechanism of competition is that someone wins, and someone loses. The idea is survival of the fittest.

In general within Europe this makes companies pull up their socks, improve their products and services, try harder globally. On the other hand, globally it can mean extreme poverty for the losers, but even within Europe this issue of losing is important for us to address, because there are citizens within our Union who are losing by not reaching the benefits stressed in the Strategy. For example, the goals for employing our citizens and relieving them from poverty are far from being reached. In fact, statistics are showing an enormous increase in not only those who are unemployed, especially among the youth, but also an increase in the social inequalities and levels of poverty.

 
  
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  José Albino Silva Peneda (PPE-DE). – (PT) In 2006 the European Union recorded its highest economic growth since 2000. In 2007 the EU grew more than the United States, and some new Member States approached or even broke the two-digit barrier. For those who claim that the reform of the Lisbon Strategy is neo-liberal and no longer attaches importance to social issues, the answer is clear: in 2006 employment grew three times more than the average over the previous five years, in the last two years over six-and-a-half million new jobs have been created, and another five million are expected by 2009. Figures like these have not been seen since the 1980s.

What is more, in 2006 European productivity increased more than the annual average for the previous five years, and for the first time in many years, productivity growth in Europe was greater than in the USA. Although these results cannot be attributed exclusively to the Lisbon Strategy, it cannot be denied that it has contributed to them. I therefore congratulate the Commission on its coordination of the Lisbon Strategy in very difficult circumstances.

As regards the future, the European economy can continue to grow and more jobs can be created, despite the current economic climate, if in coming years Member States’ economic policies are better coordinated, if the internal market is developed further, if social dialogue is promoted, if wage rises accompany growth in productivity, if there is an effective system of financial supervision, if the fifth freedom – knowledge – is boosted, and, very important for me, if the European Union shows clear signs that it wishes to defend its interests, which means, rather than being a passive subject of globalisation, on the contrary showing that it is prepared to play a crucial role in controlling it.

 
  
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  Jan Andersson (PSE). – (SV) Thank you very much, Mr President, Commissioner and Mr President-in-Office. I agree that the Lisbon Strategy has delivered and been successful for a number of years, but I do not see this as a reason not to make changes.

On the one hand, it is just as Udo Bullmann says. Growth is declining at present and inflation is rising. The situation is not completely straightforward. On the other, things have happened. First of all, we have the whole discussion on climate policy which will change policies for us all in the EU. I am optimistic about this because it will also mean new investment and a new type of job that is more sustainable in the long-term with a large knowledge element. This should have been reflected more in the Lisbon Strategy and in the Guidelines.

Secondly, we have had a debate on ‘flexicurity’ for a number of years which has also produced good guidelines in the Council, but this has not been reflected in the Integrated Guidelines. We have the same old guidelines we used to have. Consideration could have been given to the whole process that has taken place.

Thirdly, I want to mention one aspect which Anne von Lanker, among others, has raised. It is true that things have gone well for a while in the EU, but it is not true that things have gone well for everyone. There is large-scale social exclusion. There are also jobs that are not always good and that do not provide a living. There are regions around Europe where developments are not so positive. We must link the Integrated Guidelines with a social dimension. There is no contradiction between the social dimension and development for jobs and growth. They are conditions for each other.

 
  
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  Olle Schmidt (ALDE). – (SV) Mr President, it is important that the EU grows, that growth is strong and that jobs are created. This also creates the conditions for greater legitimacy for our Union.

In recent years the EU has fared better than for many a day. Things are also going better for the EU than for the United States, for example. We know that the internal market and euro cooperation have created entirely new conditions for a growing Europe. There is still much to be done, as many have said.

Let me give a specific example. It is possibly a little jingoistic, but nevertheless: in my home country the Swedish Government has pursued a growth policy which has created almost 100 000 new jobs, partly through targeted measures to cut taxes and employers’ contributions. One proposal specifically concerned reducing employers’ contributions for service undertakings in a number of sectors which are not competitive on the international market. It was hoped to create 17 000 new jobs in this way. The Commission has now effectively put a stop to this by demanding that the proposal be restricted, which makes it so blunted that the Swedish Government will presumably be forced to withdraw it in its entirety.

I find it difficult to understand the Commission’s action for two reasons. In the shadow of an impending global recession many governments are obviously responding with different kinds of incentive packages to safeguard employment and purchasing power. The proposal was intended to give a badly needed boost to the extremely undeveloped Swedish services sector, which had been hoped to produce good stabilising effects for our economy as a whole. I think that this is highly inconsistent with the general spirit of the Lisbon Strategy. If we are to become this competitive economy, the world’s most competitive by 2010, should we also dare to try new ways? I want to ask you directly, Commissioners, why you are preventing new jobs being created in this way?

 
  
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  Wojciech Roszkowski (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, during the communist period, people in Poland used to say there were three ontological categories: being, non-being and planning. And we today, just like the communist planners, continue to say we must do this or that, or we must achieve such and such, without getting any nearer our targets. And so we get stuck in the apparent contradiction between the concern of the developed countries to defend their centres of excellence – meaning, in practice, their jobs – and cohesion policy treated as an exercise in charity.

Yet the economic development of the Asian tigers – China, for example – shows that results are achieved by another method: through investment in modern technologies in countries with low production costs. Unless we resolve the contradiction in the EU’s approach, we shall continue mouthing phrases about strategy, chanting ‘forward!’ at the top our voices while standing motionless on the stage.

 
  
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  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE). – (NL) Madam President, it is good that we are making an active contribution today to the spring summit and are dotting the i's and crossing the t's. It is right to have talked about it this morning and made our expectations known to the Member States. I would stress that our Strategy is implemented at a decentralised level, in businesses, in municipalities, in the regions. More than 66% of all government spending goes on local and regional projects and as EPP coordinator for regional policy I know that in using the European instruments we have given things a sizeable boost since 2007 by re-prioritising in the structural funds and in regional policy. We have moved from physical infrastructure to knowledge-based infrastructure, to training and innovation. We are talking here of the biggest European Union budget ever, more than 450 billion by 2013. Happily our resolution makes this fact clear. And the Committee of the Regions does the same in a report brought out at the same time.

May I touch on another point we talked about this morning in connection with the new Treaty? Along with social and economic cohesion this reaffirms territorial cohesion as a third objective. That will mean top priority for clustering, the concentration of firms in the principal regions. But at the same time we must ensure that know-how is not exploited in a limited part of Europe only, but that it also transfers to other regions in the Member States, which must not get left behind. So I see the regional agenda and the Lisbon Strategy as an investment in knowledge and competitiveness, entrepreneurship and SMEs, as a significant answer. There are many programmes ongoing which we can use to show our voters, our people and businesses that this is not just a European agenda but an agenda of decentralised partners too.

 
  
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  Elisa Ferreira (PSE). – (PT) Mr President-in-Office, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, the so-called subprime crisis has brought many of the arguments repeated by the most liberal politicians crashing down. In the end the markets do not regulate themselves, losses do not only affect people who consciously and deliberately take part in sophisticated high-risk gambles, and Europe's good behaviour does not guarantee immunity from external upheavals. This is only one of the many examples recommending, as the Socialist Group has been arguing, that Europe should define strategies and policy instruments which are consistent with its goals and with the role it wishes to play in the difficult context of the globalised economy.

In 2000 we defined a core objective through the Lisbon Strategy, which has meanwhile been revised. That objective is still valid, but insufficiently attained. The aim was that in two years from now, in 2010, Europe should be the most competitive area in the world, based on a knowledge economy that would create greater social cohesion and more and better jobs. Now the challenges are more urgent and some conclusions are clear: firstly, convergence between the major economic policy guidelines and the Lisbon Strategy will have to be total; secondly, a balance must be struck between the stability of policy guidelines and the capacity to respond to rapid changes in circumstances, particularly in terms of climate, power, financial market development, external trade policy or the role of exchange rates; thirdly, the goals of social and spatial convergence are now one of the Strategy’s greatest failures.

Finally and in summary, ensuring external competitiveness and reconciling it with internal cohesion requires more effective intervention mechanisms. Effective economic policy coordination in favour of growth and jobs is only one of these. Social, educational, investment, research, science and technology policies will have to be reappraised in the light of the new realities. This was the spirit of the Socialist Group’s contributions, which I hope the Commission and the Council will welcome. First and foremost, we need and people expect the promises of progress to materialise. Only in this way will their hope and confidence in Europe’s future make sense and be sustained.

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE). – (FI) Mr President, eight years after the target was set we can say with certainty that the European Union is not going to achieve it. The competitiveness goal has been more propaganda than concrete action. With Europe’s ageing population it will in practice be a huge challenge to achieve the targets under the Lisbon Strategy, especially as the competitor countries and regions are forging ahead.

We might also legitimately ask if the most competitive economy was a realistic target, even such as it was originally, or one which we in Europe should aspire to at any cost, completely ignoring all other values. Here I would just like to point out that in Europe there are 18 million unemployed and the unemployment rate amongst youth in some areas is as high as 25%. Unfortunately, I have not been aware of any great concern about this on the part of EU leaders, or that they have been particularly interested. It is nevertheless very important to take care of these young people and the unemployed.

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, is the Lisbon Strategy some kind of rabbit hunt? Do we want to chase the rabbit or actually catch it? It seems to me that the basic task is to create some confidence in the European institutions that are proposing the Lisbon Strategy. To that end, it is absolutely necessary that the fruits of economic growth be shared more equitably than in the past.

It would be a bad thing indeed if the Lisbon Strategy came to be associated with ever greater social and economic contrasts. I agree with previous speakers that, if that happens, the strategy will be rejected in practice not by governments but by the citizens of the European Union.

 
  
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  Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE-DE). – Mr President, the debate today shows how sensitive this matter is to the European Parliament. The topic of the day is the raison d'être for us. It is about the wellbeing of Europeans in the future.

We have our different opinions about the tool bag – how we reach the Lisbon goals – but I think everyone in this House wants to reach the goals. Even though I agree with Ms Jäätteenmäki that, unfortunately, we have not seen a lot of progress.

I think we have to speak about two different levels of action. First, at European level, we have only one key thing we should do in order to increase competitiveness and that is the single market. The European internal market is the biggest driver of competitiveness in a global context. We also have a lot of red tape and we need to work with our SMEs – these are very much the key to European success.

Of course, then we need to concentrate on things at national level, at Member State level, and there we need much more action than we have seen lately, especially regarding the structural reforms to the labour market. We heard today the Prime Minister of Sweden, who spoke about the importance of structural reforms to the labour market, also in terms of coping with demographic changes. I think it is self-evident that Member States have not done their duty in this respect.

Also, I think that, on fiscal policy and macroeconomics, we have to end the era of budget deficits. We really need to work on our macroeconomics. This cannot be done by the Union, even though we have a single currency. It must be done by the Member State politicians.

Finally, I would like to agree with Ms Starkevičiūtė, whose report is, I think, wonderful. Financial services are one of the cornerstones of the internal market. Financial services need much more attention, including at European level.

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, I think that this year our debate is really quite important because we are reviewing the Lisbon cycle.

I finally understand the Commission’s approach of saying that everything is fine and we do not need to make any changes because the European economy is fundamentally sound. You say this because compared with the situation of the American economy, yes, our economy is fundamentally much sounder. Yet I would add that it is bound to be relatively difficult to negotiate a redefinition of the Guidelines among twenty-seven countries.

This is not all there is to it, however. The situation of the American economy is going to have an impact on the economies of all the EU Member States and the economy of the euro zone in particular, perhaps. Also, we are going to have to take account of the legitimate new strategic targets for the environment and energy which the Heads of State and Government adopted last March. Everyone is looking at the turbulence, to put it mildly, on the financial markets and assessing its impact on those markets and its repercussions on the real economy.

We are therefore calling for these three elements to be officially included in the review of the Guidelines. Mr Turk, when we saw you in Ljubljana last November, you said to us, ‘Tell us what the European Parliament wants’. Well, we are telling you now, we want the Guidelines to take greater account of coordinating economic policies, climate change and the supervision of the financial markets. If efforts could still be made to do this we would welcome it as progress in improving our ability to coordinate economic policies and therefore to apply the Guidelines.

But this is not all, Commissioner! We also want greater consistency between the Guidelines and all the other tools at the Commission’s disposal for ensuring that this strategy, which we are defining together, can be implemented using the instruments available to the European Union in this field.

 
  
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  Charlotte Cederschiöld (PPE-DE). – (SV) Mr President, Commissioner Verheugen, ladies and gentlemen, the Lisbon Strategy is now coming out of a slow initial stage and is beginning to create optimism and will, which is exactly what we need. The authors successfully focused on what is important and were not affected by Parliament’s problem of dragging in everything.

There are different ways to meet the challenges of globalisation. Some put their heads in the sand like ostriches and think that everything will be alright. Others are wiser and, like the authors of the report, see opportunities and improve their own capacity.

The most immediate and important thing now is at least to ensure that the Member States comply with their own obligations. This means monitoring the internal market, ensuring that the Member States implement and comply with decisions that have been taken, ensuring that the rules are well-founded, not too complicated and not too expensive for small and medium-sized enterprises. We should also stick to important themes, such as simplification, benchmarking, comparison and competition.

This will also call for greater cooperation between authorities at local and regional level. It is good for citizens, it is good for businesses, and it contributes to integration. It calls for systematic monitoring of free movement so that we can make the services market flourish.

Measuring results is a step forward. The EU gains its legitimacy from delivering, not least quality of life for citizens. It calls for a stimulating entrepreneurial climate, which the Lisbon Strategy can help provide if it is implemented very deliberately. The Commission must put pressure on the Member States.

Lastly, I am convinced that the Commission will bring a reasonable solution to the Swedish problem relating to employers’ contributions.

 
  
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  Antolín Sánchez Presedo (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the reform of the Growth and Stability Pact and the relaunch of the Lisbon Strategy, identifying growth and sustainable employment as European priorities, have been bearing fruit since the spring Council of 2005.

Europe has been implementing a common agenda and, as Mr Almunia has said, its first three-year cycle has seen an increase in growth, the generation of employment, improvements in public finances and an increase in the European economy’s potential for growth.

Although results vary across the different Member States, the general tone is positive. I was genuinely surprised to hear one fellow MEP saying that it was impossible to square the circle, that it was impossible to grow, create employment, increase social protection and save. There are examples of these things happening in the European Union and the one with which I am most familiar is of course that of Spain.

The European Commission has stated that Spain has made good progress in implementing its national reform programme, has reached a level of employment 66% higher than the European average three years ahead of schedule, increased investment in research and development (R&D) and has recorded surpluses in all budget years. It is a prime example of the success of the Lisbon Strategy, which has strengthened Spain’s economy and been the motor of unprecedented convergence to the extent that it stands at 105%, ahead of the Community average.

On that ground we must today maintain the same strategic challenges based on accelerating globalisation and the ageing population. In order to achieve this it will be necessary to highlight the social dimension.

A Europe which is a knowledge society needs to build a freedom of knowledge, to make a reality of digital inclusion and foster the social dimension by improving people’s basic skills, providing SMEs with opportunities and establishing a model for flexicurity with social standards.

It will be necessary to address issues which have surfaced recently, such as the subprime crisis and fuel and food prices, but when we do so we must bear in mind that the our circumstances are sounder, that next year we will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the euro and that we must strengthen international economic cooperation.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, we all know, and have to admit and accept, that the Lisbon Strategy has not allowed us to make the progress we had hoped. This is why we are having to talk again today about revising the Lisbon Strategy.

Growth in the euro zone slowed down dramatically in the last quarter of 2007, and it is this lack of growth that lies at the root of Europe’s problems. So if the next cycle of the Lisbon Strategy is to succeed, we need to go further than merely diagnosing Europe’s problems, we need to start treating them by applying a process of clear governance. The next cycle of the Strategy must not be just another bureaucratic exercise.

It is important, as happened last week, for there to be more involvement between the national parliaments and the European Parliament on this Strategy. Since the Member States agreed together on what they each needed to do to reform their economies, they should also undertake to report back on how their reforms are being implemented.

Up to now most of our fellow citizens have had no idea what the Lisbon Strategy is all about. The EU must therefore avoid shooting itself in the foot at a time when it is facing many challenges: a population that will be declining from 2020, economic pressure, a hike in energy prices, climate change and social imbalances.

We therefore need flagship measures to create a genuine dynamic and promote the development and growth of millions of SMEs for new jobs.

In the environmental field measures to bring about rapid improvements in the energy efficiency of our buildings must be given sizeable budgets, thus encouraging innovation and therefore new jobs.

Bear in mind what Churchill said, which should be our watchword for the next cycle of the Strategy: ‘However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results’. It is by proving that it can be effective that the European Union will grow closer to its citizens. This is the whole point of a Europe that protects its people and its interests.

 
  
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  Donata Gottardi (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to highlight some key points of the position of the European Parliament, and in particular of the Socialist Group, as regards the broad guidelines for the completion of the Lisbon cycle for growth and employment.

One of these is the need to connect the process of budget consolidation, characteristic of the convergence programmes within the Stability Pact, with the quality of public spending. Member States’ public spending needs to be re-oriented and coordinated towards the priorities of the strategy in order to guarantee macroeconomic stability, sustainable growth and the achievement of full employment.

Any re-orientation of public spending, targeted in a coordinated way among the Member States on common investment objectives, through public-private partnership initiatives as well, has to be linked to research and development, education and training, infrastructure, transport and energy, and it is that which can be the prime mover of a strategy of growth and competitiveness which makes the European economy strong and able to withstand financial turbulence and the fallout from the financialisation of the economy.

Public spending geared towards these priorities makes it possible to step up competitiveness and productivity. Particular attention needs to be paid to the link between budget policies and productivity growth and wage policy. Here, the Socialist Group is of the view that a strong link needs to be forged between productivity growth and a fair redistribution of the profits to which it leads, with a view to ensuring social cohesion.

A key point for social cohesion is the introduction of a national minimum wage. In this sense, I am convinced that the European Parliament, in tomorrow’s vote, will give a strong and decisive signal by calling on Member States to commit themselves to concrete and timely implementation.

 
  
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  Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE). – Mr President, the financial crisis and the tightening of money markets has spilled over into the real economy, and presents a serious problem that needs considered action. The Financial Stability Forum has stated that we are likely to face a prolonged adjustment that could present difficulties.

Euro area growth will see a marked slow-down in 2008. The President of the Euro Group, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker, has forecast growth to be between 1.6% and 1.8% this year, which is a drop of a full percentage point over last year. The protracted and sustained rise of global commodities presents further difficulties for the European economy, with the price of oil, steel, minerals and basic agricultural products all rising to unprecedented levels, adding to inflationary pressure.

The euro has strengthened at a time of a weakening dollar, which is impacting further on global imbalances and European competitiveness, and all these factors are creating a very difficult monetary and fiscal policy environment. But, lest we become depressed, let us examine how far we have come. Sixty million Europeans died in the first half of the last century. The Berlin Wall fell in 1990 and we are still in the embryonic stages of integration.

Despite that, if we look at the success of the euro, and in general the success of the European Central Bank and its inflation targets and low interest rates, we can see that despite all these difficulties we can overcome, and we can achieve the objectives we set ourselves. I would therefore ask the Commission to please plough ahead with its 10-point plan and to make competitiveness its byword. Up to 12 million jobs have been created since the introduction of the euro. Please promote entrepreneurship. Make creating a job the most profitable thing a citizen of the European Union can do. This will deliver people out of poverty and out of misery.

 
  
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  Dariusz Rosati (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, our debate is taking place against the background of a deepening crisis on the financial markets, a slowdown in growth, and rising inflation. It is therefore all the more important to press ahead with the structural reforms set out in the Lisbon Strategy. To meet the challenges of globalisation we must build a knowledge-based economy and invest in education and the creation of human capital. We must also modernise the labour market, generalise the flexicurity model and increase the professional activity of European societies. In a nutshell, Commissioner, Europe’s future will be decided by knowledge and work. Those are also the best ways to combat poverty and exclusion.

It is good that these two factors are reflected in the Commission’s documents. In acting to promote development, knowledge and employment, the European Commission can count on Parliament’s support. Liberating the potential of European entrepreneurs will be of great importance for economic growth and employment. This applies particularly to small and medium-sized enterprises, which generate over two thirds of the Union’s GNP. I impatiently await the Commission’s adoption of the Small Enterprises Charter and of measures to reduce administrative burdens by 25% by 2012.

Mr President, the weakness of the documents presented is that they fail to analyse the reasons for the slow and uneven implementation of the Lisbon Strategy in various domains. We do not know why expenditure on research and development is growing so slowly. We do not know why labour markets still discriminate against outsiders. We do not know why continuous education is not developing as intended. Nor do we know why the opening up of the services and network sectors is meeting with resistance. The Commission documents provide no answers to these and many other questions.

Commissioner, let us not hide our heads in the sand! The best measures will be ineffectual unless they are based on a correct diagnosis. I urge the Commission to provide a solid explanation for the delays in implementing the Lisbon Strategy.

 
  
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  Philip Bushill-Matthews (PPE-DE). – Mr President, there are 59 paragraphs in this resolution and therefore many messages. I particularly draw attention to paragraphs 20 and 21 about the importance of small businesses, paragraphs 29 and 30 about competitiveness and the importance of the single market, and paragraphs 42 and 43 about the need to drive labour market reform. In this context, I would particularly highlight the importance of flexibility, not just for employers but also for employees, a concept that the Left consistently fails to understand, hence some of their typically outdated comments today.

But I would invite the Commission and the Council to stand back from the detail of this document and look it as a whole. In particular, I invite them to compare it to other resolutions that Parliament has approved in the past, prior to earlier Spring Councils. Then, hopefully, one single message may emerge, namely this: that in many respects, though sadly not all, this resolution is so much more robust than any of its predecessors. It confirms the way in which Parliament wishes the Lisbon Strategy to be pursued; indeed it strongly reinforces it. As a resolution, this one is, literally, very resolute.

I therefore urge the Commission and the Council to be equally resolute in their response and to put timidity aside, so that the next time Parliament produces a resolution on this subject, instead of MEPs saying with even greater vigour what still needs to be done, we could be in a position to congratulate all stakeholders on the real and measurable progress that will have been delivered. That is the challenge and that is the central message we are going to give you in our vote tomorrow.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE). – (RO) Mr. President, dear Commissioners, the European Union is not only a common market based on competition; we have to build a social Europe together.

It is essential to improve the quality of life in Europe, in the context of globalization, demographic changes and environmental challenges. By creating new highly qualified and well-paid jobs and through sustainable economic growth, the Lisbon Strategy is also an instrument for building a new social Europe.

Social Europe should guarantee universal access to health care and social security services, access to quality public services and improve social cohesion by the efficient use of structural and cohesion funds. Also, regional development should remain one of the priorities for the period of 2008-2010.

It has been proved that information technology and communications increase labour productivity. Today, we use computer systems and electronic communication networks in transport, financial services, public services, education and health care.

The 2004 the European Union’s statistics regarding the innovation capacity showed that, in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia, companies with more than 10 employees had more than 36% of the income realized from selling innovative products and services; nevertheless, now we have to invest more in the economy based on knowledge, to increase investments in research and innovation and, especially, in applied research. This should become a priority for all the Member States. In fact, the investments in research and innovation achieved in technological parks or universities should also be encouraged by fiscal measures bringing about the increase of private investments in research.

We need to invest more in education, to promote tertiary education and life-long training. The Lisbon Strategy builds a Europe based on social justice and decent work. The economic security of all the European citizens, social inclusion, the establishment of child care services, gender equality and the establishment of a social market economy will make the Union become an economic and social model in the global context.

 
  
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  Karsten Friedrich Hoppenstedt (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, money simply is a part of the development of Europe. Let me, therefore, come back to the financial situation, to the financial markets and the examples of turbulence we have known so far.

We all know about the situation of many banks in Europe – not to mention US banks – and how much the European Central Bank had to inject in order to keep the financial markets functioning. That is why any adjustment of the basic approach until 2010 naturally also involves the necessary increased cooperation with all global market players in order to give our European financial economy more protection against further attacks from the outside, together with better rules on rating and adjusted supervision and great transparency, and restoring the banks’ trust among themselves and the trust of the investors.

There is a reason why we need more intensive dialogue with other global market players, especially the USA. Over the last seven years, the US economy has grown in value by 4.2 billion, while total credits, however, have grown by 21.3 billion. That means a debt level that is 350% too high in relation to GDP. Unfortunately, the US intends to continue with the monetary policy that has led to that huge over-indebtedness. The US is aggressively lowering its base rates, which means money is being pumped into the financial institutions. That results in growing currency devaluation, together with a fall in household purchasing power and a stagnation that is difficult to control and may have a considerable impact on Europe. These monetary policy methods are largely to blame for the latest crisis.

Europe and all global market players must fight the next wave of crises promptly and together, to ensure we are not overtaken by an absolute tsunami and that many of the endeavours to achieve the Lisbon objectives are not in vain.

 
  
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  Margaritis Schinas (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, I think that we should recognise three positive elements in the course of the reforms initiated by the Lisbon cycle to date:

- the first positive element is that even the most wary of governments have gradually begun to comply with the philosophy behind the reforms and have started to produce the first hesitant results;

- the second – and for this we should give the Commission credit – is that the new strategy is more focused. The Christmas tree approach, where everything was fitted inside a reform framework, has now been abandoned;

- the third positive element is that major flagship European programmes like Galileo and the EIT are at the heart of the new strategy. On this point, let me take advantage of the Slovenian Minister’s presence to ask him to request that his colleagues close the Galileo file quickly so that we can begin to put to good use the very significant amounts earmarked for this programme.

In addition, however, we must level-headedly examine two negative elements. These shortcomings are as follows:

- firstly, citizens are unfortunately not monitoring, pushing, or aware in the spirit of Lisbon. The problem is that citizens see Lisbon as being concerned with organisations rather than individuals; we need to persuade them that it actually concerns them;

- the second shortcoming is the monitoring mechanisms. How can we check whether the Member States are doing what they promise to do within the cycle of reforms? I fear that the problem here is that this monitoring has degenerated into a process of exchanging letters between officials in Brussels and in the capitals of the Member States, without there being any political input.

I think that even if we authorise the reforms we need to make policy once again the focus of the monitoring procedure. This voluminous bureaucratic correspondence must stop.

 
  
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  Zsolt László Becsey (PPE-DE). – (HU) Thank you, Mr President. First I have two brief comments to make on the Lisbon process. One: we have to work more, nearly as much as the Americans. The other thing is: the Lisbon process will only be of any use if there are sanctions attached to it, as there are in the case of excessive deficit.

Two: the directives. From the point of view of the new Member States, I would like us to view things not only in terms of neoliberal indicators, but with a little more distance. After all, what is the use of having a 0% deficit or inflation, for example, if quality indicators are deteriorating? Depression is on the increase, while the opposite is happening in the case of entrepreneurship and in numbers of new families being founded. So it goes on. This, unfortunately, is much more serious.

If we take the reform of the major distributive systems, for example, it is vital that we cut back if necessary. Even more important, however, is the question of what will happen to health promotion, or whether education will dovetail with employment, in other words whether the market will be able to use people straight away, and whether there will be more emphasis on and opportunities for vocational training? In other words, in this context too we need to include a set of quality criteria, and not just take a knife and start hacking away.

The third thing concerns statistics. I would very much like things to be measured in terms of GNI too, not only in terms of GDP. Money is flooding out of the new Member States in the form of dividends, but their GDP is growing, so they say. We should really be looking at what remains inside the country.

The Stability and Growth Pact: what sort of things are we providing rebates for? After all, in an emerging economy it is not clear that having R&D of 5 or 6%, or more than 3%, is all that important, given that catching up with Europe is the main thing in their case; we should be rewarding them for creating jobs and facilitating cohesion.

Something else I think is lacking in this report is measuring the black economy. In my country it is around 30%. We need to given some attention to this too. Last, and most important, we need equal implementation of the four freedoms, not ‘cherry picking’, opening up to capital in one instance, while not opening up anything for the new Member States in terms of services. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Jacques Toubon (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this resolution on relaunching the Lisbon Strategy is very much in line with the report which Parliament adopted last October, on my proposal, on the future strategy for the Single Market.

I should like first of all to thank Marianne Thyssen and Klaus-Heiner Lehne, along with all their colleagues in the Coordination Group, for having drafted a resolution which is both well balanced and in step with the political, economic and social reality in the EU.

I should like to draw particular attention to the proposals concerning the importance of social rights and reconciling economic competitiveness with the social model: what I would say is that we must, of course, go much further here and adopt the provisions on services of general interest.

I would also underline what the report says about intellectual property. This is a major weapon for the EU and for SMEs. The international dimension which the resolution introduces is something new, and very necessary. The Single Market is what puts Europe’s 500 million citizens in a position of strength in a globalised world.

Lastly, I would just like to say a few words on the question of method. I am not sure that the open method of coordination, which is the method currently used, is the most effective. I personally think that in a number of areas of the Lisbon Strategy we need to move on to genuinely common policies, Community policies, if we want to be successful in the future.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, what has been done so far to reduce the corporate tax burden? Instead of reducing taxes, money is spent on all sorts of training programmes with dubious results.

Today there are new problems on the horizon for European integration, new issues to be resolved, such as protection of the environment, climate change and renewable energy sources. Balanced growth and employment must be understood in a wider sense, not just in strictly economic terms but with regard to the social, cultural and environmental aspects. Since we spend more than a third of our lives at work, we must attend, apart from pay levels, to such issues as comfort, safety, solidarity and the dignity of the individual.

My next point concerns the implications of the liberalisation of the energy market. The continuing trend towards higher energy prices, combined with the mounting threats to the climate, highlights the need to promote energy efficiency in the widest sense. Renewable energy sources, clean coal technologies, nuclear power, balanced sources of supply and the development of European infrastructure are the basic issues we shall have to confront in the coming years.

Having achieved a common market in goods, we must concentrate on improving the operation of the services market. We must achieve speedy integration through consistent joint implementation and execution of the regulations adopted and the removal of all barriers to the introduction of services onto the market.

Finally, I hope the spring meeting of the European Council will adopt new guidelines for the next three years that take account of the views and opinions expressed in today’s debate. Progress in removing directives that do not serve the development of EU Member States is a basic issue.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, slogans are good for the political debate, but we must not stop at slogans. The Commission’s communication on the integrated guidelines for growth and jobs, the joint motion for a resolution tabled by the five Groups on the 2008 European spring summit and the Starkevičiūtė report each sing a hymn of praise to the fifth freedom, the freedom of knowledge, which is to supplement and stand on a par with the four freedoms familiar from the past – free movement of goods, services, persons and capital. That calls to mind a quote from the classics: the message well I hear, my faith alone is weak. We have been hearing the slogan of a knowledge-based society for years. We are taking it up again now. When it comes to concrete measures, however, the messages we hear are very different.

In the past few years we have often looked into the question of whether and to what extent the European Union should have more competences in regard to the question of knowledge. It was repeatedly argued that knowledge is not an area for which the Member States should hand over responsibility, it is their own holy precinct. We have heard the same again and again in regard to the budget. Whenever we deliberate and decide on budget questions, whether long or short-term, we are told that we must save and that the most sensible areas in which to begin saving come under the headings of education, training and knowledge.

A moment ago Mr Verheugen addressed the regrettable figures for research and development. I remember the constant attempts to cut back, especially on exchange programmes that are important to knowledge. I think, therefore, that this is the wrong approach.

We need new instruments and we need new financial resources. Let me put forward a very concrete proposal: 10% of all young people between the ages of 15 and 25 should spend six months studying in another European country. That would create more knowledge and more flexibility and make learning more fun.

 
  
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  Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, Minister, Commissioner, I am convinced that climate change is the factor with the greatest influence on achievement of the Lisbon Strategy at the present time. And I fully agree with you, Commissioner, that the European Union’s present strategy on the matter consists in exporting pollution and emissions and importing unemployment.

We must take the lead on this problem, for which we bear a great deal of responsibility. We must also convince others, so that we are not alone. We must make the struggle against climate change into a source of development and competitiveness. It can be done, but it will require a larger allocation of financial resources, especially to technology. That means revising the budget. You, Commissioner, are the best person to say this to: we must revise the budget, starting from 2009!

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, I want to make a number of points. First, the efficient education and training of young people should be an EU priority. Only mobile, flexible and professionally trained individuals, especially in technical disciplines, will ensure that the Union makes continuous economic and technological progress.

Second, funding for scientific and technical research and development must be dependent on concrete results. Those results must be paid for by industry, with financial support from national budgets.

Third, the Union must develop a model of the information society and create the best conditions for promoting the establishment and development of innovative undertakings and the achievement of an economy open to new technologies and technical progress.

Fourth, people working in Europe must increase their efficiency and productivity.

Fifth, and in parallel with this, we must combat social exclusion by ensuring access to employment and education and countering discrimination on the labour market, and by taking both preventive and curative action against drug addiction.

 
  
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  Inés Ayala Sender (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, I wish to express my bewilderment at the fact that the ten objectives set out by the Commission for the new phase do not reflect the recommendation made by the European Parliament last year regarding better integration of the transport sector, logistics and trans-European networks into the Lisbon Strategy.

As I cannot believe that the Commission is unaware of the importance of these aspects of competitiveness – indeed, in the framework of globalisation, logistics represent a greater cost for industry than does labour, to say nothing of the additional challenge posed by climate change – I trust that this time the Commission will take full note of paragraphs 27 and 16, on Galileo and innovation, so that we are able both to make full use of the beneficial synergy created by the Lisbon process between the Commission and the Member States and to make progress in European plans for sustainable transport, logistics and trans-European networks, especially in the cross-border sections which are always so overlooked.

As far as the Council is concerned, I would also urge the Presidency to take note of paragraph 27, which urges the Member States to incorporate the basic aspects of transport and logistics into their national plans with appropriate, i.e. heavy, emphasis on the development of trans-European networks.

 
  
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  Emanuel Jardim Fernandes (PSE). – (PT) In his speech Mr Almunia said that in the last three years growth has increased and that the functioning of the market, social reforms, public finances and the environmental component have improved. I agree that this is true. I acknowledge that this improvement is due essentially to better dialogue and better Member State participation, as we recognised last week in the joint meeting between the European Parliament and Member State Parliaments.

The question I would like to ask, Commissioner, is the following: could we not increase the speed of growth if we involved and encouraged the regions to participate, since they are the parties that often use the funds, and this is also related to the Lisbon Strategy’s effectiveness? At state level ‘Mr Lisbon’ was positive and stimulating. Although responsibility lies with the Member States, could the creation of ‘Mr Lisbon’ not be stimulated at regional level?

 
  
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  Žiga Turk, President-in-Office. − (SL) Mr President, Commissioners Almunia and Verheugen, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for this debate. The Lisbon Strategy is a strategy for reform and modernisation; it needs cooperation, support and ideas from everyone working to the common end and I am truly grateful for your well-founded remarks.

Firstly, as a general comment, the effectiveness of the Lisbon Strategy has been debated. Some MEPs, like Mr Andersson, thought it was effective, while others – and there were a fair number of them – thought it was not. This points to a spectrum of political views within the European Union. Mrs Starkevičiūtė asked about the Lisbon Strategy priorities and whether they had been given sufficient exposure. The answer actually came from Mr Harbour, who said that the Community Lisbon Programme was an excellent set of priorities.

Many questions pertained to the integrated guidelines and whether they solved current issues. As I have said, we were also wondering about that and we came to the conclusion that we must continue in the same direction and preserve the continuity and most of all the tempo of implementation of the Lisbon Strategy. I was pleased that some parliamentary groups and Members of Parliament thought likewise. Mr Leinen, Mr Harbour and Mrs Herczog stressed that what was needed was implementation and not ideas, especially at a time when optimism for the European Strategy was waning.

Other good procedural ideas have been pointed out, for example the exchange of best practices, the territorial dimension, and extension of the Lisbon Strategy beyond the framework of the Community and the Member States, possibly to lower levels. The Lisbon Strategy is also extending globally.

As regards research and development, you agreed that this is precisely where Europe’s future lies. I liked Mrs Herczog’s suggestion that hearts and minds are needed just as much as numbers. I understand your support for the fifth freedom and the European patent relating to it. We take the warning about European talent seriously. It is necessary to secure good conditions for talented people in Europe. 700 000 of the best European research engineers are abroad. We must endeavour to attract them back, because 7 out of 10 who go to the USA remain there. Studies abroad should be encouraged.

As far as the business environment is concerned, some of you advocated the internal market without protectionism, that is to say that an efficient market is what gives Europe a competitive advantage. I like the ideas on enterprise culture, namely the promotion of enterprise, that to establish a new company or create a new job is the best thing one can do. The fact is that we must improve many things in this area, primarily for the development of small and medium companies and their access to finances and research infrastructure. Mrs Kauppi and Mrs Starkevičiūtė gave a report on this topic.

Employment and the whole of the social dimension were main topics of a number of discussions. I do not agree that the Lisbon Strategy is neoliberal; on the contrary, Europe’s care of man and the environment forms two of the four major pillars of the Lisbon Strategy.

There was some discussion on ‘flexicurity’, initiated by Mr Goebbels and Mrs Vălean. The fact is that, as somebody remarked, if we do not introduce it, employers will resort to other forms of employment that are very flexible, but considerably less acceptable to the employee. The economic environment is not set up to promote security as well, but the flexible security system does provide it.

The proposals for new indicators are interesting and relate to the OECD quality-of-life indicators. There must also be a debate in the future on ways of assessing the Lisbon Strategy.

Much was said about the environment. I think we are aware that, as someone said, it must become a ‘win-win’ situation for Europe. The problem is how to get the rest of the world to join us in our efforts to convert to a low-carbon economy, although we can certainly contribute by our example.

We have an excellent interlocutor in the field of financial markets and fiscal policies. I apologise that I did not notice you and greet you at the beginning. To sum up, we are leaving enriched by some important information. I would like to thank Mrs Starkevičiūtė for the report and Mr Lehne and Mrs Harms for the draft resolution. We have already studied it. We will carefully review the final version as well.

The opinions expressed in this Parliament are varied, but it seems to me that they are pointing in the same direction as the Lisbon documents, that is to say the overall package. I am convinced that we are on the right path and will successfully launch a new phase to meet today’s challenges, and that the message of the new phase will not just be that of the lowest common denominator on which we are capable of agreeing.

 
  
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  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission.(DE) Mr President, let me make a few more, very brief points. Our strategy for growth and jobs, also known as the Lisbon agenda, is in fact nothing other than an attempt to compensate in the most intelligent way possible for the fact that we do not have a common economic policy in the European Union and – we are currently in the process of ratifying a new Treaty – will not have a common economic policy on the basis of the new Treaty either. What Mr Toubon called for was, therefore, well intended, but not very realistic at the present time. We have no option but to proceed on the basis of partnership, in order to persuade the 27 to act jointly with the Community institutions and do what is necessary to achieve our common objectives at Member State level and at European level.

Is one of our aims really to become, let us say, the most dynamic, competitive and best region in the world by the year 2010? Way back in 2004 the Council, Parliament and the Commission said that this Lisbon objective laid down in the year 2000 would not be achieved. The fact of not achieving it is nothing new. We have known that since 2004. That is why we presented an entirely revised strategy in 2005, which no longer mentions that date. That means we should not measure the growth and jobs policy we have today by the objectives that were set out in the year 2000 and that we know cannot be achieved. I am giving you my personal view on the subject. I do not think the point is whether we do better than someone else at some time. What I think is important is that we should be in as good enough a position as soon as possible to achieve the social objectives we all want to achieve in Europe. They are: a high standard of living for all our citizens, a high level of social security for all our citizens, a high environmental standard for Europe as a whole and awareness of our global responsibility. Those are our major social objectives. If we want to achieve them, we will need a strong and stable economic basis, which is precisely what this strategy is aimed at.

I think Mr Rosati was right to ask about the deficits. If he looks carefully at the country reports and at our recommendations, he will see where we have found deficits and that we have found them precisely in the areas he mentioned. I will answer him. Why does lifelong learning not exist in Europe as it should? Why do we not have as much modern infrastructure throughout Europe as we should have? Why have we not given the priority to research and development, education and training we really should have? The answer is simply because in many Member States and at Community level too – as you all know – the financial priorities still lie elsewhere. If we jointly decide to try to change those priorities, that would be a good thing. It assumes, however – and I am not just saying that because the Commission’s macroeconomist and great politician of stability is seated beside me but because I am firmly convinced of it – that we have a stable and solid macroeconomic framework. Primarily that means, for instance, the consolidation of state finances. Without solid state finances in the individual Member States it will not be possible to set new investment priorities.

On the guidelines, I understand the needs here and the Commission will be happy to continue discussing them with Parliament. Let me just point out one thing. Those guidelines are not a political programme as such. They are not an action programme. The guidelines are, if you like, the intellectual basis for the national reform programmes and for the Community’s Lisbon programme. I am speaking with complete conviction here. The guidelines, as formulated today, make it possible to do all those things that various speakers in Parliament today called for if they are implemented in practice in the national reform programmes and in the Community’s Lisbon programme.

We are quite happy to take on the very concrete challenge issued by Mr Olle Schmidt to Mr Almunia and myself, namely to check a specific incident in Sweden. Let me just say one thing on the subject. The Commission fully endorses a policy under which tax incentives for enterprises and entrepreneurs are also used to create jobs. That is our policy. Indeed, we will very soon be making a proposal on reduced VAT rates for service-intensive undertakings. Joaquín Almunia and I do not know exactly what happened in Sweden, but we will look into it. It seems to me that this is more of a technical than a really basic political problem, but we will clear it up and ensure that the necessary dialogue takes place.

 
  
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  Joaquín Almunia, Member of the Commission. − (ES) Mr President, to be brief, if you are asking me to compare the economic situation today with that of three years ago when the renewed strategy under the Lisbon cycle began, I think we can put more than enough information on the table to say that we are in a better position today than we were three years ago. There are more jobs, greater productivity, fiscal positions are healthier, there are more sustainable social protection systems and many actions are under way.

If, however, you are asking me, as a Commissioner, to draw the conclusion that there is no longer any need to do anything, my reply is clearly that there is much which needs to be done, that many things must continue to be done and that, given the current economic situation with its financial pressures, the pace must be increased. I said as much at the beginning and I reiterate that point now.

I would not therefore like anyone to go away with the impression that the Commission’s opinion and that of the Commissioners is that we are very satisfied and nothing more needs to be done. We must not confuse continued progress in the same direction with doing nothing more. Continuing to move forward in the same direction means that it is necessary to carry on doing things under the Lisbon Community programme, as referred to by some of you, and for which we are grateful, at the level of the Member States and regions, and in other bodies at a lower level than national governments, as Mr Fernandes said.

If, in conclusion to the many interesting speeches I have heard this evening, you were to ask me to identify three issues which are clearly matters of priority I would agree first with many of you who spoke about integration of financial services. This is a key topic for Europe and economic and monetary union, not only for the countries in the euro zone but also for those who wish to join it in the near future.

The second key issue is climate change. I shall not repeat what many of you have already said. The third issue is social inclusion, which is one of the integrated guidelines. We will not be able to tell citizens that it is necessary to address the challenges of globalisation, that it is necessary to be more competitive and that the operation of our markets must improve, if our policies do not respond to a greater degree of social inclusion which is also provided for by more competitive and more productive economies. If productivity does not increase, there will be no high-quality jobs and, if there are no high-quality jobs, if there are no career prospects, if there are no life-long learning systems, there will be no possibility of having competitive economies.

This is, shall we say, the link between the economic and social aspects embraced by the Lisbon Strategy from the outset, and this is more evident now than it was in 2005 or in 2000.

Finally, I agree with some of you – Mrs Berès and others – when you talked about the need for coordination of economic policies. As Mr Verheugen was saying, there is no capacity to carry out many of the reforms and many of the policies of the Lisbon Strategy at European level. What we must do is better coordinate the Member States’ economic policies; Europe has tools for this, they are contained in the Lisbon Strategy, which is an exercise in economic policy coordination, and they are unquestionably contained in economic and monetary union.

I undertake to discuss that aspect with you in particular as from May when the Commission will present a report and guidance based on the analysis we are carrying out on the first ten years of economic and monetary union.

 
  
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  Margarita Starkevičiūtė, rapporteur. – (LT) I would like to talk about coordination. Numerous suggestions have been made regarding the course of action to achieve it. To my mind, if we were to implement them all, that would create an immense economic crisis within the European Union.

The right course of action is to decide on priority actions and objectives. We are not in a position to eliminate poverty and deprivation by 2010, as foreseen in the Lisbon Strategy. It would not be right to encourage aggregate demand all over the EU. If we encourage demand in the new Member States, we will have an economic crisis on our hands; our economies will become overheated.

It so happens that very often we fail to notice what our neighbours are doing. Researchers have already proved that the biggest problem within the EU is the failure to appreciate national differences and the attempt to excessively harmonise. In order to encourage individual achievement a favourable environment has to be created. I do agree with Mr Verheugen that the EU policy should be one of cooperation, not dictatorship.

I come from the former Soviet Union, where there used to be many set indicators, every one of which had to be achieved. However, the shops were empty. Indicators are not a goal in themselves. I also disagree with plans to base the EU social model on benefit distribution, otherwise our next discussion will be solely on migration. All the world would come to us to claim benefits. We are talking about the need to achieve a social environment in Europe that would enable Europeans to find employment, find their place in life and express themselves. To my mind, that is the ultimate purpose for Europe, as well as the essence of its social model and human life.

 
  
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  President. − I have received two motions for resolution(1) tabled in accordance with Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Wednesday, 20 February 2008.

(The sitting was suspended at 20.00 and resumed at 21.00)

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Gábor Harangozó (PSE), in writing. – The aim of creating a dynamic and innovative society in Europe bringing growth and employment by 2010 will be successfully achieved only through an approach that genuinely takes into account the fight against poverty and the social dimension.

While refocusing the growth and jobs strategy on an improved performance-based approach, social inclusion and environmental standards should at no cost be left aside for achieving economic targets. The prospect of creating new jobs in an innovative-based economy should bring developments in the fields of education and training to improve the equal integration of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged categories of the population EU-wide. Investments on innovation, research, transport and energy efficiency should focus on bringing real benefits to the European consumers in a free and fair trade economic Union. As a matter of fact, economic growth is not an end in itself and, of course, economic figures are not to be confused with the welfare of European citizens.

The real aim of the Lisbon strategy should in the end still be the improvement of the quality of life for our citizens and future generations; therefore, a strong social dimension is required.

 
  
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  Gyula Hegyi (PSE), in writing. – (HU) We are gradually coming to the end of the ten-year period during which the European Union was supposed to have become the most competitive economic zone in the world, with a sound social safety net and exemplary environmental indicators.

One does not have to be very bold to predict that we will not be able to work miracles over the next two years. The task we set ourselves was too ambitious, and the results have been rather modest. If, however, we take also into account the fact that the European Union has undertaken an expansion of historic proportions, reunited Europe, created a common currency and drafted common legislation on numerous matters for 27 nations, then we should by no means be disappointed in what has been achieved.

In terms of our environmental commitments, Europe in many respects continues to set an example to the world in terms of green thinking and legislation. We know full well, however, that there are contradictions in this area too. Many laws are just a dead letter in some Member States, and permissible environmental levels in some cases are more permissive than in many non-EU countries. The Lisbon goals are therefore appropriate, but implementing them in the era of consolidation following the great boom of EU expansion will require a lot more effort than before.

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE), in writing. – I welcome the efforts to fulfil the goals of the Lisbon Strategy, but I am not very convinced that fulfilling its plans is practically possible by the set deadline.

It is, therefore, highly important to emphasise the knowledge-driven society. Spending on science in the EU is less than in the US and today we are facing the fact that we cannot compete on the world market in the field of inventions or technology. The EU and its Member States have to put more effort and allocate more financial resources to developing and updating European education and science.

The Baltic Sea has become an internal sea of the European Union, showing stable, high economic growth. The Baltic Sea region has the potential to become one of the most competitive regions in the world.

The Baltic Sea strategy foresees sustainable development and growth, it foresees and maps all the areas which can be further developed, and therefore can in reality become maybe the only region actually fulfilling the Lisbon Strategy. Therefore I strongly urge the EU, and especially the Member States around the Baltic Sea, to use this strategy to its fullest. The Baltic Sea strategy has the potential to become a success story of Lisbon Strategy.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE-DE), in writing. – (RO) The fundamental objectives of the Lisbon Strategy cannot be achieved without developing competitiveness, taking into consideration all the current global challenges (globalization, climate changes, fluctuations on the financial markets, international markets openness).

In order to increase competitiveness, the EU should accelerate its efforts to build a society based on knowledge and to continuously improve the administrative capacity. The development of stable communities and the coherence of industry and cross-industry policies cannot be achieved without good operation of the local and regional potential, by enhancing the competencies of local and regional authorities, and fully complying with the diversity and consolidation of inter-regional and cross-border relations and exchanges.

Romania has planned to follow the convergence process and to reduce the gaps existing at the moment of accession. Its human and material resources are an important source of competitiveness for all the Member States, which represents one of the main advantages that our country’s accession has brought to the Union.

The growth potential of the Romanian economy, of the energy resources and the overall natural resources, its attractiveness and territorial accessibility are an advantage for the interdependence of the European economies and we rely on the solidary support of the older Member States so that, beyond any conjectural and temporary dissensions, the Romanian resources would be showed to be an advantage at their true potential, to the Union’s benefit.

 
  
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  Esko Seppänen (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (FI) The EU has many good intentions, one of the older ones being the Lisbon Strategy we are now debating and one of the more recent ones being the latest energy package.

The means employed to achieve these purposes are not in line with the targets. You could sum it up by saying that the Lisbon Strategy is not being implemented in the way planned and that the Member States are not actually committed enough to realise its objectives. In a way that is good: the Lisbon Strategy is designed to run counter to the construction of a socialist Europe.

Non-implementation might also go the way of energy targets: they will not be achieved by 2020. The markets are moving in another direction, and the EU does not go against market trends.

Given this situation, the Lisbon Strategy needs to be reconsidered: we should defy the power of the markets.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR DOS SANTOS
Vice-President

 
  

(1)See minutes.


12. Commission Question Time
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  President. − The next item is questions to the Commission (B6-0010/2008).

The following questions were put to the Commission.

Part I

 
  
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  President. − Question No 39 by Anne E. Jensen (H-0051/08)

Subject: EASA airworthiness assessment procedures

In the autumn of 2007, three accidents occurred, each involving Dash8 Q400 aircraft in Aalborg, Vilnius and Copenhagen respectively. Provisional findings from the investigation indicate that the accidents occurring on 9 and 12 September could be attributed to a design error, a conclusion which the Scandinavian civil aviation authority (SLV) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) concur. The accident which occurred on 27 October may be attributed to a combination of faulty design and subsequent inspection errors. The Scandinavian civil aviation authority has now grounded the aircraft, making its re-entry into service subject to a number of conditions, while the EASA has concluded that the design error was of a minor nature only.

Is it not true that the task of the EASA is to ensure high safety standards?

How is it possible for the EASA and the SLV to reach such different conclusions following an investigation by the airline revealing in 16 of their 18 Dash8 Q400 aircraft the same design error or construction defect as in the aircraft forced to carry out an emergency landing in Copenhagen?

 
  
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  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. − (FR) I am happy to reply to Mrs Jensen’s question.

Pending the final reports of the investigations into the three accidents involving DASH8 Q400 aircraft, the Commission feels that it is premature to speculate about the factors which caused these specific events, as well as any possible design errors or construction defects.

The task of the European Aviation Safety Agency is, of course, to ensure the highest possible level of safety. The Agency has monitored this case very closely, and is continuing to do so, given that 170 aircraft of this particular type have been supplied around the world and are therefore in operation today.

According to detailed information received from the EASA, there has been contact on a number of occasions between the EASA, the civil aviation authorities in Norway and Denmark, the Canadian civil aviation authorities and the aircraft manufacturer. A number of things have been done as a result, including the publication by the EASA of airworthiness directives prescribing corrective measures to be taken.

A detailed evaluation of the landing gear retraction system in this type of aircraft led the EASA to conclude that the safety of the aircraft was not in doubt. The Scandinavian authorities were therefore recommended to restore the aircraft’s certificate of airworthiness, once the necessary corrective measures had been taken, of course.

The Scandinavian authorities informed the airline of the conditions to be met in order to have the airworthiness certificates restored for the fleet of aircraft concerned. However, the airline has not yet provided the proof needed for its aircraft to be deemed to have undergone the inspections and modifications requested.

At this stage the European Aviation Safety Agency has not been informed that the Danish authorities have restored the airworthiness certificates for SAS’ fleet of Q400s. The EASA remains in contact with the Danish authorities in an attempt to clarify this question.

Mr President, this was the answer I wanted to give to Mrs Jensen.

 
  
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  Anne E. Jensen (ALDE). – (DA) Mr President, I would like to thank Vice-President Barrot for this account. It is true that the disagreement that I referred to in my question may have been partially corrected; however, it is still the case that the Danish aviation authority does not permit SAS planes to take off before they have resolved the technical problems, while other aviation companies are actually using planes which have these technical problems. I feel that the fundamental problem here – apart from the discrimination between SAS Scandinavian Airlines on the one hand and other aviation companies such as Flybe, Augsburg, Tyrolean and Luxair on the other – is that we citizens may not be able to expect aviation safety. What would you do, Mr Barrot, to ensure that I can be just as confident in the common aviation authority as in the national aviation authorities, as it is after all these authorities that we are talking about?

 
  
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  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. − (FR) The EASA has given definite instructions which, if they are followed, will mean that these aircraft are airworthy. There is therefore not a safety problem, it is just that the Danish authorities have not notified the EASA of the replies from the airline in question.

Mrs Jensen, the fact of the matter is that the EASA has issued full instructions for rectifying the problems that might arise from the use of these aircraft.

For the time being the EASA is having to wait for the results of the investigations before it can take a final view on the matter, but I would stress that the Agency has obviously given full instructions for the safe use of these aircraft, which have not actually caused accidents in which anyone was hurt, but which have, as you said, nevertheless been involved in accidents, and action must be taken to put matters right.

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE).(DE) Commissioner, paradoxically the situation now appears to be that one European air safety agency is forbidding aircraft from flying while another, like the Austrian agency, believes they could so after all. My question to you is this: will the EASA find things easier now, as a result of the wider competences we have decided on in this area, given that it seems – as you have said – that the company that produces these aircraft is creating certain difficulties at present? If the EASA can now do what we have agreed, namely also impose fines and not immediately withdraw a licence, will it find things easier? I think these wider competences we have decided will make things easier for the EASA in future.

 
  
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  Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the Commission. − (FR) Let me make it quite clear that the EASA has issued instructions, and all the airlines are required to apply the rules laid down by the Agency.

Your question is broader than that, however. Yes, the EASA has responsibilities when it comes to certifying aircraft, and it has responsibilities for issuing design approval certificates all over the world, but it relies on inspections in the EU Member States to monitor whether the joint rules are being applied uniformly.

In other words, as you rightly said, we have extended the Agency’s powers, but not to the point where the civil aviation authorities in the various Member States have no responsibilities whatsoever. The Member States must carry out their responsibilities through their civil aviation authorities.

One day we will perhaps be able to go further, but for the moment the EASA has a number of difficult tasks to carry out, and it must be able to continue to monitor the application of the joint rules very closely through inspections in the Member States.

In this particular case I think that the EASA has done exactly what is necessary to ensure safety.

 
  
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  President. −

Question No 40 by Jörg Leichtfried (H-1062/07).

Subject: Transparency with regard to management pay

Throughout Europe management pay has been rising steadily. In Austria, for example, basic salaries of managers rose by around 3.7% between 2006 and 2007. However, the variable components in management pay increased considerably more sharply. The growth in management pay has led to greater public interest in the level of actual remuneration for management activities. Not least, as variable pay is not required to be shown in balance sheets shareholders wish to know how their money is being spent. There are clear demands from European citizens for greater transparency with regard to management pay.

Is the Commission aware of these developments? Is European legislation planned that will lead to greater transparency with regard to management pay, or does legislation already exist in this area?

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. − Management pay is a topical issue and has been for quite some time. In reaction, the Commission has taken steps to increase transparency regarding management pay.

The Commission recommendation adopted in 2004 provides for annual disclosure regarding both the company policy on directors’ remuneration and the remuneration of individual directors. The Commission has also followed up on this recommendation by checking whether it is actually applied by Member States. We have recently made an overview of this.

The large majority of Member States have introduced high disclosure standards on the remuneration of individual executives in their national corporate governance code or in binding legislation. However, only around 60% of Member States have followed the recommendation as regards transparency on their remuneration policy. Only a very few recommend putting this to the vote in the company’s general meeting. There is scope for improvement here.

The Commission will also evaluate the extent to which companies adhere to the recommended transparency standards in practice. Remuneration is a field in which some companies have shown strong reluctance to disclose information, despite the recommendations of the national corporate governance code. We will look into this question.

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE).(DE) Commissioner, you said yourself that 60% of undertakings intend to do nothing. Now I ask you: what does the Commission intend to do?

I come to my second question. We have now learned from an actual case in Germany that these gentlemen – for they are mainly gentlemen – not only earn very good money but do not want to pay tax on what they earn, which is why they go to Liechtenstein and elsewhere. What does the Commission intend to do in future to put a stop to such practices?

 
  
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  Charlie McCreevy, Member of the Commission. − In reply to both questions from the honourable Member, these are matters that should be dealt with by a Member State. In response to the question regarding what the Commission is going to do, the Commission has already done it.

My predecessor decided to make a recommendation in this particular area. Why did he decide on a recommendation rather than anything else? I have no doubt that it was for a whole variety of reasons, but primary among them would be the fact that there is no agreement on having a universal corporate governance code or company law regime in Europe. We would never be able to obtain such an agreement.

There are very many cultural differences in this whole area, and that would have been one of the reasons underpinning the decision of my predecessor to issue a recommendation in this particular regard.

With regard to the recommendation, our study has shown that the majority of Member States have introduced high disclosure standards regarding the remuneration of individual directors in the corporate governance code, and some have put it into binding legislation. The majority have also dealt with the recommendation as regards transparency on remuneration policy.

The second question regarding taxation is certainly a matter for each individual Member State to pursue in whatever way they think fit and in accordance with their national laws.

 
  
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  President. − Question No 41 by Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines (H-1041/07)

Subject: Construction of underground stretch of high-speed rail line near the Sagrada Família church (Barcelona)

As is universally known, the construction of an underground stretch of a high-speed rail line in Barcelona has led to numerous cases of buildings collapsing or subsiding, endangering both housing and major edifices, including the Sagrada Família church and other historic buildings.

Since this is an EU-subsidised project, can the Commission provide information on the prior environmental impact assessments carried out under Directive 85/337/EEC((1)1), and state whether those studies have assessed the risks to the Sagrada Família and other historic buildings?

Do the dossiers which have reached the European institutions include the study carried out by the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, which advised against the underground option in view of the overall risks involved?

 
  
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  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. (EL) Mr President, I should firstly like to remind you of the Commission’s firm resolve: however useful or necessary a project may be, it should never be realised to the detriment of the environment, public health or the cultural heritage of a Member State.

The Member States must take all the requisite steps to protect and safeguard cultural heritage. This is especially true of their historic city centres, which occasionally suffer from the additional pressures of increasing urbanisation.

As for the question by the honourable Member, I should like to point out the following: the high-speed Madrid-Saragossa-Barcelona rail line construction projects have been co-funded only partly by the Cohesion Fund.

The Trans-European Transport Networks Fund co-finances the preparation of studies on projects along the whole length of the track, including the extension from Barcelona to Gerona and Figueres.

Nevertheless, resources from the European funds may not have been accounted for or used for projects connected with the Barcelona underground line. It should also be noted that the planning and completion of projects is the exclusive responsibility of the Member State, which has an obligation to comply with and strictly implement the relevant rules of Community legislation.

In this particular case, there was no Community funding for the preparatory work on the section linking Sants and Sagrega stations, or for the tunnel to be opened near the Sagrada Família. The Commission was thus not kept informed, nor did it receive a copy of the environmental impact assessment completed by the Spanish authorities.

The Commission is aware that the relevant Spanish authority, namely the Secretariat-General for the Prevention of Pollution and Climate Change, has approved the environmental impact assessment pursuant to its decision of 30 May 2007. The text of the approving decision was published in the official Spanish Government journal in June 2007. The text contains references to the effect the project will have on cultural heritage, such as on the Sagrada Família.

Finally, the Commission has not been informed about the study drawn up by Pompeu Fabra University. The Spanish authorities are responsible for taking into account both the content of studies, as in this case, and public opinion.

The Commission will continue to monitor the situation. We hope that no harm will be done to this historic monument of cultural heritage belonging to the city of Barcelona.

 
  
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  Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, I have no doubt that the legal procedures have been followed correctly; with a minimum of compulsion shall we say. I am approaching the Commission to seek its help as guardian of the Treaties and I appeal to its conscience to reject the measures and to apply the environmental impact directive scrupulously in that capacity.

The fact that this part of the tunnel is not going to be funded by the European Union is beside the point as we are all aware that splitting projects into sections is bad practice and, indeed, one which the European Union has had occasion to criticise.

Why was the AVE not declared a major project requiring detailed impact studies given that we know that it will go under very sensitive areas such as the Pedrera and, especially, alongside the Sagrada Familia?

The spirit of Article 3 of the EIA Directive requires assessment to be made of potential repercussions on the cultural heritage. The 40-metre-deep protective wall which is to be built is only one and a half metres away from the façade of the Sagrada Familia, which weighs 40 000 tonnes.

Moreover, given the characteristics of the terrain and the fact that the cathedral is an extremely intricate work of genius, all I ask is for all sides to be heard and taken into account. I am very glad that the AVE is on its way but this is not a party-political issue, it was the PP that changed the route and I now think that it should be changed once again to run along Valencia Street.

 
  
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  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. (EL) Once again I should like to stress that the Commission does not have the authority to intervene. Certainly, the honourable Member is right in saying that we must take particular care in maintaining our cultural heritage and especially that of our architectural masterpieces. Hitherto, however, we have not been alerted of any danger: the draft environmental assessment carried out has not been presented to us as incorrect.

All that has been brought to the Commission’s attention is the matter of the petitions submitted to the relevant European Parliament committee by the Llave para Litoral association, the members of which want a shoreline route different from the underground one.

These, however, remain problems for the local authorities, regional authorities and central government to solve by applying the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. They have an obligation to do so in order to maintain our cultural heritage.

 
  
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  Maria Badia i Cutchet (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, I would just like to add a few details and say, to put people’s minds at rest perhaps, that full geological information is available for these works, the building technique is appropriate for the conditions on the ground, preventive treatment will be carried out before work begins alongside existing structures, there will be continued soundings to immediately identify the slightest possibility of movement or settling of the ground, there will be no negative impact on neighbouring structures and guarantees of transparency will be provided in respect of information provided to the public.

What I am trying to say is that I do not believe anyone has a greater interest than the Spanish, Catalan and local government authorities in ensuring that neither this historic monument nor the people who live in the area suffer any damage whatever.

 
  
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  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. (EL) I do not think that I have anything to add to the information that the honourable Member has given us.

 
  
  

Part II

 
  
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  President. − Question No 42 by Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (H-1049/07)

Subject: Inclusion of Ancient Greek and Latin in the European Indicator of Language Competence

Given the Commission's intention to establish a European Indicator of Language Competence for the five most widely spoken languages (COM(2005)0356), will it say whether it intends to include Latin and Ancient Greek in the programme for the targeted teaching of European languages, since they constitute the basis of European languages and many words derived from them are used in all European languages whatever their origin?

In view of the importance of these languages, the European Union of Classicists, Euroclassica, has already established levels and certified competence in Latin; a similar programme is being prepared for Ancient Greek. The teaching of these two key languages of classical antiquity will provide an opportunity jointly to deepen the foundations of European civilisation and establish closer relations between European citizens, while the certification of such linguistic competence will constitute an additional qualification in professional life.

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − (RO) The Commission’s Communication, named the European Indicator of Language Competence, adopted in 2005, proposed a detailed strategic approach for conducting a European survey on language competence, an instrument that will allow the collection of the necessary data to prepare a European indicator in this field and improve knowledge regarding the teaching of foreign languages.

On this basis, in May 2006, the Council presented its conclusions on a series of fundamental problems regarding the European Indicator of Language Competence. As regards the foreign language to be tested, the Council decided that the European Indicator of Language Competence shall be decided for the official languages of the European Union. This means that only living languages are aimed at by this project. Consequently, the possibility to test Latin or Ancient Greek has not been taken into consideration.

For practical reasons, the Council decided that, during the first phase of the European survey on language competence, the pupils’ language competence will be assessed for the first and the second foreign language of the most studied official foreign languages in the European Union, namely English, French, German, Spanish and Italian and data shall be collected for three competencies: reading, listening and writing.

Nevertheless, the testing instrument will be available for all the countries that want to make sure that the tests, other than those for these five foreign languages, can be included as national options. The Commission will also take the initiative to make sure that the next stage of the survey will comprise all the official languages that are studied in the European Union.

 
  
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  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, I see that teaching is not within your sphere of responsibilities, nor dissemination, nor, as I also mentioned in writing, the maintenance of the common heritage which springs from the Classical languages.

Is this within your sphere of responsibilities or not? That is my first question. My second question is, does the European research programme relate to research in these languages or not? Do you know anything about this matter?

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − (RO) The question I was asked was related to the European Indicator of Language Competence. As I answered, only the official languages of the European Union are subject to this action. On the other hand, the European Commission has no information regarding possible research or studies conducted in the Member States or in regions of the Member States regarding the mentioned languages.

 
  
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  Manolis Mavrommatis (PPE-DE). – (EL) Commissioner, as rapporteur on the European Indicator of Language Competence, I should like to point out that the duty of the indicator in question is to assess at regular intervals the overall competence in modern languages of all the Member States.

We agreed that this indicator would initially measure linguistic competence in the five most widespread languages in the EU’s educational systems: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Nevertheless, Parliament called on the Commission and the Council to take the requisite steps to extend this test as soon as possible to a wider spectrum of official languages of the Union, provided this did not adversely affect the teaching or development of modern languages.

Can the Commissioner tell us what stage we have reached and, if possible, which languages will be included in the next stage?

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE).(DE) Commissioner, there is a Polish-German-Czech meeting centre in the former monastery of Haindorf in Northern Bohemia, where all the inscriptions and signs are in Latin. Could we not do the same in the European institutions buildings?

Second proposal: could we not produce a Latin text for the European anthem that everybody can sing in unison, which the individual Member States can then translate into their own languages, while the common text would be in Latin?

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − (RO) Regarding the European Indicator of Language Competence, as I said and you noted correctly, in the first phase only five languages will be assessed.

At present, the schedule is the following: this year, we are preparing a pilot project and in 2009 we will make all the preparations for this assessment so that in 2010 we will have clear results of the situation regarding these five languages. Afterwards, as I said in my speech, the Commission wants to extend this indicator to all the official languages. Nevertheless, it is still too early to say the exact moment when this extension will be made. Of course, we have to see and examine in detail the results of the assessment regarding the indicator on the five languages we start with.

On the other hand, regarding the second question you asked, the European Commission’s objective is to defend the language diversity. From this point of view, by all the actions it takes, the European Commission aims at defending both the official languages and the other languages spoken in the European Union. We have 23 official languages, over 60 regional languages, minority languages, and languages less used. From this point of view, the actions we take especially aim at these languages we have called living languages.

As regards the European Anthem, of course, the points of view differ. It is not the European Commission’s role to decide on this matter.

 
  
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  President. − Question No 43 by Bernd Posselt (H-0002/08)

Subject: Support for linguistic minorities

What linguistic minorities received support from the Commission in 2007, and what possibilities does the Commission see in 2008 and 2009 for German-speaking minorities to benefit from greater support?

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − (RO) In the 2007 call for proposals, one network and three projects were selected, which address minority languages for financing in the lifelong learning programme.

Key activity 2: foreign languages. The network designed to promote language diversity, coordinated by the Welsh Language Board, aims at the following languages: Basque, Breton, Catalan, Cornish, East Frisian, Scottish Gaelic, North Frisian, Welsh, West Frisian, Slovak, Ladin, Galician, Friulian, Sardinian, Estonian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Finnish and Swedish.

The European Office for less widespread languages is one of the partners of this 3-year project, meant to facilitate the exchange of current good practice and the development of new and innovative ideas in the field of education and language planning in the context of regional, minority, indigenous, cross-border languages, languages of smaller nations and less widespread languages. The 3 multi-annual projects funded in 2007 include minority and world languages such as Catalan, Basque, Sardinian, Sicilian, Irish, Russian, Arabic and Hindi.

For the period of 2008-2010, priority will be given to the projects aiming at less widespread European languages. In the context of the 2007-2013 lifelong learning programme, all languages are eligible for financing, thus including German-speaking minorities.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE).(DE) Commissioner, did I understand you correctly that German-speaking minorities cannot receive support until 2013? Surely it is the case, for example, that real minorities exist, like the Germans in the Czech Republic, the Poles in Lithuania, the Poles in the Czech Republic etc. So if they have media or cultural projects, they cannot receive any support at all at present. Or have I misunderstood?

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − (RO) Maybe I was not clear enough. I definitely did not say that certain languages, including the German language, could be supported only after 2013. The answer is categorical. In the lifelong learning programme, all the languages spoken in the European Union, therefore, of course, including the German language, are likely to receive financing. The only thing that matters is the quality of the project or projects submitted. Therefore, my answer is, categorically, that such languages can be financed in the lifelong learning programme, including during this period between 2008 and 2013. I repeat, including during this period.

 
  
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  President. − Question No 44 by Seán Ó Neachtain (H-0010/08)

Subject: Lesser-used languages in Europe

Can the European Commission state if it intends to bring forward any new programmes in the near future to promote the use of lesser-used languages in Europe, and to state the nature of such programmes and the likely financial support which may be given to such programmes?

Question No 45 will be answered in writing.

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − (RO) The Commission has no intention to present a new programme of concrete promotion of the use of less widespread languages in Europe in the near future. In fact, the Commission’s 2007-2013 new generation of programmes, namely the lifelong learning programme, offers a broad range of financing possibilities for these languages. All the languages are eligible for this programme.

Financing is accessible in all the 4 sub-programmes of the lifelong learning programme: COMENIUS, ERASMUS, Grundvig and Leonardo da Vinci. This financing is also possible in the newly-created transversal section of the lifelong learning programme, especially by way of the key activity – foreign languages – which proposes the financing of projects and networks with the established purpose to promote the learning of foreign languages and language diversity.

Following the 2007 general call for proposals, a network and three projects designed for less widespread languages were selected for funding as part of the key activity 2. For the period of 2008-2010, priority will be given to the projects aiming at less widespread languages in Europe. In 2008, the available budget for the key activity 2 is of 9.9 million euros but, taking into account that the funding of language-related activities and projects is part of a dominant trend, additional funds are available in the lifelong learning programme.

 
  
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  Seán Ó Neachtain (UEN). (GA) Mr President, I would like to thank the Commissioner for his response. Does he accept however, that it is important that help is given to lesser used languages in their own context and not to tie them in too much with lifelong learning? These languages are vulnerable and if they do not receive significant support they will be even more vulnerable in the future. Of course, financial support is important, but symbolic support is even more important. Would the Commissioner agree that this should be increased?

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − (RO) I can only repeat what I have just said, namely that, by the actions taken by the European Commission to support language diversity, not only the 23 official languages are supported, but also the other languages spoken in the European Union, including the regional languages, the less widespread languages. Moreover, via the data I supplied, I have shown that this support is a concrete one, an important financial support provided to the development of these languages.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – (GA) Mr President, my colleague Mr Seán Ó Neachtain speaks Irish fluently. I am unable to however. My apologies.

Could I put a question to you? I agree with the premise of your answer. Money is important, but is it not more important that we know how to teach languages better? In countries like Ireland, where people, like myself, would dearly love to speak the language but came through a system that did not give us the ability to do so, we need to find ways of teaching us how to speak our native tongue, because we would dearly love to do that.

 
  
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  Leonard Orban, Member of the Commission. − (RO) The European Commission intends to present a new strategy regarding multilingualism in the second half of 2008. In this strategy, the educational component will hold a very important place. The composition and ways of learning foreign language will play a very important role.

As regards the Irish language, I would like to inform you that I have recently made a visit to Dublin, I have had the opportunity to discuss with the Irish authorities, at that moment and afterwards and I have insisted on the need for the broadest possible training of people capable to work, at Community level and not only, as translators or interpreters. This is an essential element in order to be able to ensure a completely equal position for the Irish language together with the other official languages of the Union.

 
  
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  Evgeni Kirilov (PSE). – Mr President, I really expected to have an answer from the Commissioner tonight. The floor is given to people to make statements and ask questions. I have a question and I would like to have an answer to that question. It is as simple as that. Time is being wasted on statements tonight. Could you please, in this case, let the Commissioner answer very quickly? I will not ask any particular questions after that.

 
  
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  President. − Honourable members, when people ask to speak I cannot guess whether they are going to make statements or whether they are going to ask questions. This is not yet in my mental capacity, I do not have divinatory powers. What I do have to do is to manage the time according to the regulations and custom of the House, and unfortunately I do not have time to give you. That would be detrimental to our fellow Members who have asked questions. I must point out that 70 questions have been put to the Commission for this session alone. Obviously it is not possible to answer 70 questions. We have rules, and we must stick to them. I apologise sincerely and understand your frustration. If I were in your position – and when I am in your position I feel frustrated too – but I cannot give you an answer. The Commissioner will in any event naturally answer you in writing, and you will therefore get your answer. I hope you understand.

 
  
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  President. − Question no 46 by Claude Moraes (H-1047/07)

Subject: Regional Development Fund and minority groups

Most of the structural funds for regional development for the coming period of 2007-2013 have been agreed. In view of this, how is the Commission going to ensure that the funds will not be used in discriminatory ways, and make sure that ethnic minorities, such as notably the Roma, will also benefit from them?

Will the Commission be publishing information on the take-up of the funds by different minority ethnic groups?

 
  
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  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, let me say that, in the process of preparing for the new generation of cohesion policy programmes for 2007-2013, the Commission has insisted that, during the negotiations, the Roma issue, which is of particular importance to the honourable Member, is included in planning and programming. I must admit that Member States have responded very positively by including the Roma issue as a cross-cutting issue in many national strategic reference frameworks and also through direct references in operational programmes. This is particularly strongly visible in the case of countries like Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia and Spain, but also in the case of Poland, Slovenia, Lithuania and Finland.

Due to the decentralised way of managing the Structural Funds, it is not possible for the Commission to identify clearly which projects are targeting and will in the future target, and how much money will be available for, the Roma issue. However, our presence in the monitoring committee for the period 2000-2006 clearly shows that there is a multitude of very interesting and complementary programmes and projects which support Roma inclusion. We have, in many ESF and ERDF programmes, either specific implementation allocations or support for Roma inclusion indirectly, through references to vulnerable groups. This is, for example, the case in Estonia, Finland and Poland.

On the issue of the publication of data, I must say that, for the period 2007-2013, Member States, as you probably know, are required to publish details of the beneficiaries under each programme, but this system does not extend explicitly to identifying the ethnic background of the beneficiaries. Nevertheless, on the basis of this list that we will receive, we will be able to identify areas in which the European policy is active.

Let me also say that DG REGIO has prepared, for the period 2007-2013, guidance for internal Commission work on the Roma issue, which has been used across the services in the programming period. There is a Roma inter-service group working on Structural Funds chaired by DG REGIO.

Let me also say that in many Member States – and Hungary is a good example here – we also have steering mechanisms which are specially created for the process of new regional policy. In Hungary, for example, there is a network of advisers of Roma origin to assist Roma applicants in preparation of the project at different stages. The Commission is also currently working on, and will present by June 2008, an overview of all the Community instruments and policies, including the Structural Funds, and their impact on Roma inclusion.

 
  
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  Claude Moraes (PSE). – Thank you, Commissioner, for that very comprehensive answer. I would also like to thank you for your recent work in my constituency in London in sorting out our own Structural Fund problems.

Can I take you deeper into the question of identifying whether ethnic minorities are actually being targeted properly? In December the European Council specifically asked you and the Commission to look deeper into this issue. Do you feel, aside from the comprehensive answer you have given me, that there is some scope for identifying whether the Roma and other groups are in fact being targeted well, or whether money is being filtered in other places? Is there scope for you to go further on this issue?

 
  
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  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. − It is actually Commissioner Špidla who is in charge of the preparation of the Commission document in response to the Council request. Nevertheless, through the inter-service groups we are all participating in this process.

As I said, we will have the information from the report on final beneficiaries, so we will know what is being done for the Roma or for other minorities. We will not have ethnically-segregated data with regard to the background of beneficiaries. Nevertheless, the area in which the project will be functioning will be absolutely clear, so, on the basis of this, we will know for the period 2007-2013 much more than we know so far.

Let me also say that the Commission, in its function as observer within the management system in the committees in the Member States, is also looking at and actively participating in the assessment of the allocation of funds in the areas important to ethnic minorities, so we have different sorts of information. But I must admit that we do not have a fully-fledged instrument to identify the entire scope of the intervention taking place through the policy, but we are certainly very aware and we are using all the opportunities that we have.

We will see. We are now preparing the input into the Commission document for the Council. We will also see where the black areas are, where we do not have information, and what kind of action we might still need.

 
  
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  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, I should like to ask the Commissioner if single-parent families and poor families with a large number of children are included in the definition of vulnerable groups, whether they are minority groups or not. Further, can the criteria be combined and can benefits to groups of this kind be increased?

 
  
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  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. − I should just like to say that nothing has been excluded. With your help we have been through the preparation of the regulations. We have been sensitive to vulnerable groups, and there are clear references in the general ERDF regulation with regard, for example, to equal opportunities policies. So it is a priority.

There is also the system of reporting on how equal opportunity policies are implemented in the new generation of cohesion policy programmes. The extent to which this is used by the Member States, by the regions, depends on how strong the partners participating in all the structures of the management fund are in this process. It is a joint effort.

The Commission has created the general framework, in order to take into account all the vulnerable groups. Its use depends not just on the Commission, but also on the Member States. I would strongly encourage all those present on the ground to see that this issue is taken into account.

The Member States are now also going through the process of deciding on the selection criteria, and the Commission is participating in this process. Nevertheless, it depends on the Member States and on the partners, because the monitoring committees include all the social partners. I hope that all the partners, along with the Commission, will bring these issues to the attention of the Member States, and that the selection criteria will include criteria that allow us to have full representation of all the vulnerable groups in our programmes.

 
  
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  President. − Question No 47 by Jim Higgins (H-1057/07)

Subject: EU regional funding for Ireland 2007-2013

Can the Commission indicate if it is satisfied with the level of regional parity in the recently approved EU funding for Ireland for the period 2007-2013 and if it is concerned that figures show that Ireland’s two regions are not converging; rather that the BMW region continues to lag behind the S&E region, which continues to be the focus of government spending?

 
  
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  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. − With regard to Ireland and the allocation for 2007-2013 and the division between the two major regions, let me say that the Border, Midlands and Western (BMW) region, which is a phasing-in region within the second objective, will receive a per capita financial allocation which is four times higher than that of its neighbour, the more prosperous Southern and Eastern region of the Republic.

Of the total EUR 901 million allocated to Ireland, EUR 457 million will go to the BMW region and EUR 293 million to the Southern and Eastern region.

We also have EUR 150 million that will go to cooperation programmes, which translates into a per capita allocation of approximately EUR 400 in the BMW and approximately EUR 95 in the Southern and Eastern region.

Let me also say that the BMW region has performed very well over the recent programming period with the assistance of the EU Structural Funds. The region had already reached 102.9% of the EU-27 average GDP per capita by 2004. But I admit that the gap in regional GDP for the BMW region and the neighbouring region remains a challenge, which is why we hope that in the 2007-2013 programmes, under both the ESF and ERDF, we will see a further reduction in this gap.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE-DE). ― (GA) Mr President, I would like to thank the Commissioner. I would like to place the major road scheme, which is very important in remote areas, in context. In 2006, 14 major road schemes were completed, but not one of them was in the BMW region. In the same year, there were new road schemes under construction, but only one of them was in the West - in the BMW Region.

In the same year 11 road schemes were started which covered 222 kilometres, but there are only two schemes in the West which cover 25 kilometres. You are correct in saying, that on examining the GDP or the GVP, for example, that it is clear that the gap is widening and that something must be done about it.

 
  
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  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. − I appreciate that comment very much. Let me also say that we will be there with the BMW region for the years to come. As you know, the cut in the allocation for Ireland was extremely deep for 2007-2013, and that has, of course, clearly impacted on how much we can do together in the years to come.

Let me also say that the good news for Ireland is that there is the Irish National Spatial Strategy, which is a national programme that recognises the diverging levels of economic growth, both between the regions but also within the BMW region. Let us hope that this joint effort of European contribution and the Irish contribution will make the BMW region move faster in terms of growth.

Let me make a personal comment. We all know that Ireland has been a brilliant user of European funds over the years and adopted a very wise strategy, which led to this huge improvement in terms of general development when measured by GDP per capita. However, it is true that the choice was not the infrastructure, which is now an issue and where we cannot help because Ireland has graduated from the Objective 1 programme, where there could also be further investment in infrastructure. So this has been a very different choice from that of Spain and Portugal, but it is not for me to judge.

 
  
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  President. − Question No 48 by Brian Crowley (H-0008/08)

Subject: EU support for the peace process in Ireland

Can the European Commission state how much financial support it is giving to Northern Ireland in Structural Fund support between the years 2007 and 2013, and state how much the European Commission has given in financial support towards the peace process in Northern Ireland since 1994 under the EU Structural Fund programmes, the Interreg Cross-Border programme, and the EU Peace Fund and via the International Fund for Ireland?

 
  
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  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. − Everyone in this Chamber will know that the Commission has been a very strong and present partner in the peace and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland for years.

For the period 2007-2013, a little over EUR 1.2 billion will be invested in Northern Ireland overall. That will come from the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund, but there will also be an additional amount of EUR 477 million allocated to the Peace 3 programme. There will also be the IFI and Interreg 4 programmes, which will invest not only in Northern Ireland but also in the border regions of Ireland.

Looking at the past, which was also part of the question, with regard to 1994-99 and 2000-06, the EU will have invested more than EUR 2 billion for 1994-99 and nearly EUR 1.8 billion for 2000-06. So, over the whole period 1994-2013, we will have invested nearly EUR 5 billion in Northern Ireland.

What is also important now, with the new taskforce and the new approach and engagement from the European Commission, is that we can have benefits over and above the financial allocation, deriving from the stronger involvement of Northern Ireland in European policies. That is what we are working on, together with the Northern Ireland Executive and other partners.

 
  
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  Seán Ó Neachtain Deputising for the author.(GA) Commissioner, the support for the peace process in Northern Ireland and Border Region has been very successful. Commissioner, can you say if this initiative will be continued when the expenditure period ends in 2013?

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE-DE). ― (GA) Mr President, I am in full agreement with my colleague Seán Ó Neachtain and we are very thankful to the European Union for its financial contribution to Northern Ireland, especially in the Border Region. It is wonderful that there is peace there now and we would all like to thank the European Union for its contribution. On examining the figures, and I have written a report recently on the International Fund for Ireland, we can see that more than five thousand jobs have been created due to this Fund. Nevertheless, I fully agree with the question which has been tabled by my colleague Seán Ó Neachtain.

 
  
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  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. − Let me say, in answer to the question of whether we will continue our presence in Northern Ireland after 2013, that the IFI, which, as we know, is not a Commission programme to which the Commission and the Council are contributing, will come to an end in 2010. Therefore, we do not know whether the international community will be willing to proceed with a second stage or second edition of this programme.

With regard to the European programmes, Northern Ireland is an Objective 2 programme. I sincerely hope we will continue with the Objective 2 programme, because I do not believe in a regional policy which is just for part of Europe, with other parts left out. If there is no Objective 2, there will be no qualification for Northern Ireland.

However, I also believe that the cross-border and transnational cooperation in which Northern Ireland participates – especially the new cross-border programme through ‘C’ – is also very important, because we believe that this interregional cooperation – especially with a cross-border dimension – is also very important to bring Northern Ireland closer to Europe and to cooperation with other regions and other Member States. So it is open. The Commission will certainly be involved in supporting the idea of continuing this presence.

 
  
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  President. − (PT)

Question No 49 by David Martin (H-1061/07)

Subject: European structural funding

Is the Commission aware that under new operational guidelines in Scotland, projects require a minimum budget of £200 000 in order to qualify for European Structural Funds? Does the Commission believe this unfairly discriminates against small but worthwhile projects?

Questions 50 to 54 will be answered in writing.

 
  
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  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. − The Commission is aware of the threshold that was introduced by the Scottish authorities. Let me also say that the Scottish authorities were fully transparent, throughout the negotiations, on the issue of introducing the threshold. The authorities were transparent not only with regard to the Commission, in our contacts, but also within Scotland, in the consultation process with all the stakeholders and partners in Scotland.

I should like to stress that there is an absolutely clear understanding that the threshold that was introduced does not exclude small projects, but aims to encourage those projects to group together thematically or regionally to reach the required threshold. The Scottish authorities have committed themselves to ensuring that assistance is given to smaller project holders, so that smaller projects below the threshold can at any time be presented to the intermediate administrative body, which will bring them together, whenever possible, in order to build a more strategic proposal.

This is, in fact, aimed at minimising the financial and audit risk of funding to small projects. It is also aimed at promoting linkages between smaller projects, to make them a part of comprehensive strategy, and aimed at reducing the administrative burden, which is often seen as a barrier to small projects. So the intention is good, and there is a mechanism to help small projects to form bigger packages that would then be presented to apply for funding.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE). – Very briefly, Commissioner, because I know we are up against the clock: if the Scottish authorities were to come to you and suggest a lower threshold, would that be possible, and would you look at it sympathetically?

 
  
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  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. − Absolutely, yes. The answer would definitely be yes.

 
  
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  President. − Question No 55 by Georgios Papastamkos (H-1044/07)

Subject: Creation of a regulatory authority for the European telecommunications sector

The Commission has made a number of recommendations concerning the forthcoming reform of the telecommunications regulatory framework including the creation of a European telecommunications regulatory authority, whose functions will include those assumed to date by the the European Regulators Group (ERG), as well as coordination of the national regulatory authorities.

Is the Commission aware of the reactions of the EU national regulatory authorities as a whole regarding the powers and responsibilities of the proposed Community authority? Where will the lines of demarcation between the remit of the national regulatory authorities and that of the new European authority be situated?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − The honourable Member refers to the Commission’s proposal to set up a European electronic communications market authority. We believe that there should be a separate entity which is independent of the Commission and accountable to the European Parliament, and that this entity could assist the Commission in tackling the remaining problems of inconsistency in regulation, which leads to the fragmentation of European markets.

I have ongoing contact with the national regulatory authorities (NRAs) and I take note of their views regarding the powers and responsibilities of the proposed authority.

Concerning the European Regulators Group (ERG), which has expressed its preference for strengthening its own model, with a view to continuing to improve the quality, consistency and coordination of regulation across Europe, I would just like to quote the ERG: ‘If Europe wants to play a leading role in the global economy, its 27 Members will need to work closely to ensure that business can take full advantage of the European market’. That means that it does not today and that we need to find solutions so that it does in future.

The impact assessment accompanying the review proposals states that the European authority would contribute to improving the efficiency of decision-making, most of all in decision-making concerning cross-border actions. We need this in order to build up the internal market.

We concluded as a Commission, therefore, that there is a need for a separate entity established within the Community’s existing institutional structure, because the ERG is today outside this structure – that means it is just a private organisation. Inside the institutional structure, it would reinforce the powers of the NRAs by taking over the functions of the ERG and giving them a foundation in Community law.

Concerning the question of the distribution of competences, the authority would assist the Commission in issues having impact on the internal market and would have an inherent crossborder character, and would draw, of course, on the expertise and the daily regulatory work of the national regulators. This system, based on the experience of 27 national regulators and the experience accumulated by the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), aims at reinforcing the coherence and consistency of EU rules, improving the decision-making process and contributing to promote a high and effective level of network and information security.

 
  
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  Georgios Papastamkos (PPE-DE). – (EL) Commissioner, if a European citizen is affected by an administrative act, to which of the triangle of bodies should he turn in defence of his legitimate interests: to the national regulatory authorities, the European telecommunications market authority currently being established or the Commission?

Will the decisions of the authority currently being established be enforceable? Does the Commission itself intend to bear the additional costs that will arise from the proposed revision of the legislative framework, given the existing asymmetrical development of telecommunications structures among the newer and older Member States?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − Each citizen has the right to complain if something is not going well. If I were an ordinary citizen, the first place I would complain to would be the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, because that is the place where the voice of Parliament will intervene. The second way is through transparency, which is a very important element of all our rules.

The Commission has tried to get this transparency put in place. You may remember, for instance, with regard to voice roaming, that citizens were not informed at all about where they could get information about price structures until the Commission established a website giving information on roaming. That was the first time that transparency had worked.

In the new reform we also make transparency the rule and not only the exception, not only with regard to price structures but also, for instance, when there are breaches of security or privacy. In such cases, operators have an obligation to inform consumers. Having said that, citizens will still be able to complain in the normal way, as under the old telecom rules.

 
  
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  President. − Question No 56 by Giovanna Corda (H-1045/07)

Subject: Access to high-speed internet for citizens of all the Member States

On 13 November 2007 the Commission adopted proposals aimed at reforming the regulatory framework for electronic communications. Can the Commission state whether and how it intends to take quick and effective measures with the Member States to ensure that high-speed internet market are accessible to all citizens, which, given the current wide difference in prices, is far from being the case at present?

Also, how can the Commission ensure that competition really exists and that the anti-competitive practices which prevent these markets from being opened up are penalised?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission The high-speed internet is the internet of the future, and we would not like this internet to be available only to some. This is why the information society for all is one of the Lisbon Strategy postulates for open and competitive markets. Because our regulatory instruments today, even before the reform, enable this open approach to the e-communications framework – it is also bolstered by general competition rules – this has made markets too open to competition, which in turn has driven the roll-out of broadband access networks in Europe.

I am worried that in some countries it worked well – these are the countries where competition is functioning well, where you have penetration rates of up to 37%, even 40% – whereas in some other countries the penetration rates are very low. I would like to get rid of this variation. I would like to bring those who are in the very low category up the ladder. This is why the Commission proposes, as part of the reform, to enable the Commission to oversee the regulatory remedies put in place by national regulatory authorities, backed up by the possibility of the national regulatory authorities imposing functional separation if they think it necessary in order to open the markets.

In parallel, the Commission deals with anti-competitive behaviour as a priority. For instance, in 2003 we fined France Télécom and Deutsche Telekom for abusive behaviour in the broadband markets and, most recently, on 4 July 2007 the Commission fined Telefónica for having abused its dominant position by margin squeeze in the Spanish broadband market.

I would also like to say that a communication was issued in March 2006 on bridging the broadband gap. I really believe that we need broadband for all, and this is why I believe we need to have national broadband strategies which reflect regional and local needs.

Moving to the question raised about transparency, the Commission is about to launch a web portal that should start to operate around May-June 2008 on the question of broadband and the citizens.

Last but not least, the Commission has a favourable view regarding the use of public funds, including EU funds – Structural Funds – to extend broadband in areas where commercial deployment is inadequate. Several such projects have already been established.

We also support the development of information societies through regional policy. A provisional estimate puts the investment at about EUR 15 billion, which is 4.4% of the total spending for the period 2007-2013, and of this figure EUR 2.2 billion is expected to be spent on broadband infrastructures. Through these combined efforts we hope that the penetration figures of today – where we have, incidentally, four world leaders in broadband penetration – will make many more countries leaders in the world and particularly in Europe.

 
  
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  Giovanna Corda (PSE). – (FR) Commissioner, you have had to impose maximum prices for roaming, and you said last week that you might be forced to do the same for e-mailing.

Will you not also be forced, in the near future, to control internet access prices at European level?

I know that there are plans for harmonisation in some countries, which will reduce the number of operators. Will this mean that prices will come down? I doubt it, if you do not mind me saying so, Commissioner.

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − (FR) Mr President, in reply to Mrs Corda, I would point out that we do not interfere with market prices lightly; we usually leave it up to the market to solve such problems. However, if the market is unable to do so, politicians must take account of their responsibilities. This was what we did with voice roaming, and this is what I do not want to do with SMS and data roaming.

This is why – on the basis of my obligation under the regulation on voice roaming, in which Parliament asked me to present an analysis of the situation in 2008 – I have just given the industry fair warning, telling it in no uncertain terms that if it does not bring prices down itself, the regulators, including the European Parliament, will be forced to take action. However, the market must always be given a chance first, and it is only if the market cannot solve the problem that politicians should intervene.

What will happen with the broadband market? I do not know. For the moment, all I know is that here in Europe we have four countries which are world champions in terms of market penetration, streets ahead of Japan and South Korea, and miles ahead of the USA. What we can see is that these are competitive markets, markets where there a number of offers on the table, and the consumer is ultimately free to choose whichever service is the best for him.

This is how a market should operate. Only if the market does not work should we regulate. This is what the national regulators do. To enable them to do so more effectively and practically by moving the Single Market a stage further, since this is Europe’s trump card in a globalised world, I am proposing to reform the law governing the telecoms markets. I am doing this, and Parliament is discussing it at the moment, so that consumers have a real choice.

At the moment there are too many people – and not just individuals but SMEs too – who do not have access to broadband. In future they will not have access, through broadband, to social developments, and I feel this is an unacceptable situation. This is why broadband for all has to be a political objective. It can be achieved if we manage to reform the telecoms market in a way that introduces genuine competition between operators, and therefore choice in the service they want to offer citizens.

 
  
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  President. − Question No 57 by Gay Mitchell (H-1051/07)

Subject: Internet safety

While major benefits continue to be derived from advances in information and communication technology, the risks that children could be exposed to unsuitable or illegal material have increased dramatically. The EU adopted the Safer Internet plus Programme in 2005 to fight against illegal and unwanted content, particularly in relation to children.

Will the Commission report on what results have been achieved in this important policy area, and in particular what real improvements can be identified to improve internet safety in the Member States?

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, this subject is very dear to my heart, because it concerns children and their safety. I believe that the new technology is wonderful for children, but it also has dangers, and we have to fight these.

This is why we have established two extensive European networks: the INHOPE network of hotlines, where members of the public can report illegal content, and the INSAFE awareness-raising network, which aims to spread knowledge about the safer use of online technologies to children, parents, schools, policy-makers and the media. All these are organised under the Safer Internet Programme and are unique pan-European initiatives.

INHOPE’s hotlines exist in 24 European countries, and it also has an international outreach with members in Asia and the United States. The number of reports of child-abuse material processed by the network and passed on to law enforcement authorities has increased by 15% in recent years, so we can really see the importance of those hotlines.

The second network is INSAFE, which coordinates awareness centres in 23 European countries and also organises the Safer Internet Day every year – this year it was on 12 February. We organised the Pan-European Youth Forum, where a number of Members of Parliament and representatives from industry were present to speak directly about their experiences with social networking and mobile phone use.

The EU Kids Online network coordinates researchers from 21 countries who focus on child safety online, and every year the Safer Internet Forum brings together non-governmental organisations, industry researchers and policy-makers to discuss how to fight illegal content efficiently, Web 2.0 and other relevant topics. The programme also encourages the engagement of the private sector. The Safer Internet Plus programme will end in December 2008, which is why Parliament will very soon have the opportunity to look at the review of this programme for the period 2009-2013. I am sure Parliament will take an active part in this decision-making process.

We have seen good results so far and we can reinforce these. The problem is not becoming smaller, it is continuing to grow, so I believe these programmes should continue.

 
  
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  Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE). – Commissioner, thank you for that response. Since the problem is growing and is set to grow, can you confirm that you will recommend that the budget will also continue to grow? The budget for the last five years was EUR 45 million.

Are you aware that a survey in 2003 showed that 40% of children said that people they had only met online asked them to meet in person and in 2006 22% of them actually met the person. 51% of them never told their parents or their teachers. In that context, what targets have you set yourself, what measurements have you set against those targets, and what progress will you be in a position to report to Parliament when we next come to renew this programme for the period up to 2013? I strongly support this programme and I would urge you, Commissioner, to seek whatever resources you need to advance it.

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE-DE). – Thank you for your answer, Commissioner. Can I ask what action the Commission will take to intensify its work with parents? That is the real problem. Children are unfortunately way ahead of us in this area. I am alarmed that this programme will end in 2008, and am also conscious that not everyone knows about it, even if many do. I hope you will take this point on board, and I believe that you need to do more, proactively, to encourage awareness.

 
  
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  Viviane Reding, Member of the Commission. − I completely agree with the honourable Members. That is indeed a big problem. For once, children in our society know more than parents, which is not such a bad thing, but it creates problems for parents in helping their children to overcome the problem. By the way, it concerns not only parents but also grandparents –very often grandparents are the first to buy a mobile phone for their grandchildren, in order to communicate with them. And it concerns educators, of course.

That is the reason why we not only propose to expand the programme with an increased budget of EUR 55 million – and I hope Parliament will increase that budget – but are also working together with private organisations, such as SchoolNet. The SchoolNet programme exists in many of our European schools and really tackles this problem in order to make the children aware of the problems and show them that not everybody they may come into contact with is someone they should be in contact with. It also provides information through hotlines and the Safer Internet Programme activities, and provides awareness centres to make parents understand what is going on. Very often, parents do not have any idea about the advantages and the disadvantages of new technologies.

I am responsible for new technology and I really believe that the majority of actions through new technology are positive ones. I would not like a few negative aspects to completely prevent the younger generation from having contact with new technology. That is why I also believe very strongly in the self-regulation capacity of the industry.

A year ago, I asked mobile phone operators to do something to ensure that, in the third generation of mobile phones, problems with the internet will not directly cross over to mobile phones. I am very glad to say that, this year, the mobile phone industry came up with very concrete actions to inform parents and children about the difficulties and to block programmes which are dangerous for children in the third generation of mobile phones.

So progress is being made. I think that maybe the European elections will be a very good moment for the European Parliament to bring to the attention of citizens the actions which have been put in place. These are concrete actions. You are right that not everybody knows about them. So why not take advantage of the huge movement towards the general public during the parliamentary campaign for the elections to explain to citizens what concrete actions the European Community is taking in favour of society?

 
  
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  President. − Questions which have not been answered for lack of time will be answered in writing (see Annex).

That concludes Question Time.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS ROTHE
Vice-President

 
  

(1)(1) OJ L 175, 5.7.1985, p. 40


13. An EU Strategy for Central Asia (debate)
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  President. − (DE) The next item is the report by Cem Özdemir, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on an EU Strategy for Central Asia (A6-0503/2007) (2007/2102(INI)).

 
  
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  Cem Özdemir, rapporteur. − (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first let me take this opportunity to thank the shadow rapporteurs for their support and valuable suggestions for the report on Central Asia. I would also like to take this opportunity, however, specifically to thank the AFET secretariat and of course also Group colleagues, who should not be forgotten at this point and without whom this report could not have come into being. Let me mention just a few of them: Dag Sourander, Paolo Bergamaschi, Rosemary Opacic, Andrew Woodcock, Margaret François and my colleague Rana Aydın.

We in the European Parliament are discussing the report on Central Asia for the first time this evening. I think this is a special moment for Parliament because it reflects the importance we attach to the Central Asian region in our relations. Central Asia is becoming an increasingly important strategic partner for the European Union. After years of neglect the European Union has recognised the need for a coherent strategy towards the five Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the five republics became members of the OSCE, which means indeed that they have also undertaken to accept the values, standards and principles we share within the OSCE.

Under the German Presidency of the Council, on 20/21 June 2007 the European Council adopted a common strategy for Central Asia. That strategy offers the five republics a share in Europe’s experience and expertise in key areas, such as good governance, the rule of law, democratisation, human rights and education and training. The European Union’s dependence on external energy sources and its need for a diversified energy policy in order to guarantee security of energy supplies is a common interest of both the EU and the Central Asian republics. In that respect we have common interests.

Basically, however, when it comes to energy sources, we are speaking of two countries, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, for instance, have energy problems themselves, as we have learned again in recent times. When it comes to water, the Kyrgyz Republic is rich in energy, which is why we deliberately mentioned it. Here we are following the proposal from the Commission and embassies in situ to set up a Water and Energy Academy that can look at the question as a whole, from the point of view also of the environment and sustainability. It is also in the interest of the countries concerned to diversify their energy routes, because it cannot be in our interest to see a further increase in dependence on Russia.

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreements are important instruments of bilateral cooperation with those states. The agreements with Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan have already entered into force, while the agreement with Tajikistan has not yet been ratified by all Member States. To date we have not signed an agreement with Turkmenistan. The reasons are well known. They are to do with the regime of isolation that prevailed in Ashgabat until the end of 2006. We hope – and I assume I am speaking on behalf of everybody here – that we will see a new beginning in Turkmenistan and we very much hope it will pursue its democratic reforms. Yet we must also admit at this point that there is still a very long way to go. We welcome the first steps that have been taken in the direction of more openness. We hope, however, that this is just the beginning of what we would like to see.

This report sets out clear objectives and priorities for relations with those five republics. We must combine country-specific and regional approaches. We are concerned with democracy and the rule of law, without forgetting human rights. We want clear benchmarks that define indicators and objectives so that our partners know what they are dealing with. I also hope the Commission and the Council will continue to call very clearly for the release of political prisoners and for media independence. I hope too that the governments will feel encouraged by this report to take the necessary measures in relation to human rights and in particular will release all human rights activists unconditionally and without any delay.

One thing is clear to us: we will only achieve long-term stability in the region if it goes hand in hand with the development of civil society. Without active civil societies and the rule of law there can be no stability in the long term. Even if we want energy security for ourselves, we must not play off democracy against it.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Özdemir, we too regard Central Asia as a region of growing importance and I entirely agree with you that it forms a bridge between Europe and Asia, has great strategic importance and is indeed a neighbour of neighbours, when you think of the Caucasus. In fact, as you said, the Central Asian countries are now members of the OSCE and as such also wish for close ties with Europe. It is important that we continue to support that. We want to satisfy that wish and we worked together really well with the German Presidency. We as the Commission submitted proposals that were then accepted by everybody. As a result we have a new and most important Central Asia strategy.

I am glad that the European Parliament and Mr Özdemir have taken up precisely that question with this sound report. It is indeed most important to make progress with implementing this strategy in the future.

Of course we must always remember that although the European Union has been active in those countries since their independence, we have now received a kind of new impetus and are devoting more attention to them. I therefore very much welcome the clear statement in the report that the European Parliament encourages Member States to ratify the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Tajikistan in particular. I hope the same will also happen in the case of Turkmenistan, where a broader contractual framework would also allow more intensive support for the framework conditions and reforms.

As you know, we have been providing bilateral technical aid for many years in the framework of the reform process, as also humanitarian aid. So we are not starting from scratch. There is, however, enormous potential for developing our relations further. That is why we set out quite clearly in the new strategy what objectives we want to achieve through this closer involvement: genuine support for reforms in the field of human rights, democracy, support for economic development, investment support, protection of the environment, environmental sustainability, development of energy and transport links, as also measures to tackle common challenges such as drugs trafficking.

This strategy is also flanked by the European Union’s strategy of regional aid for Central Asia. That supports our political aims and also makes major contributions to achieving the millennium development goals, especially in the areas of poverty reduction and health.

I believe it is most important to make progress in specific areas such as human rights, but also in education, in the rule of law, in important regional projects in West and Central Asia, in the water industry, in expanding the EIB’s mandate. You rightly referred to the dialogue on energy policy and to the fact that an agreement should be concluded with Turkmenistan on cooperation in the field of energy. In that respect both Kazakhstan as also Turkmenistan are of course especially important to us.

In this connection, let me briefly point out that the EU House, the EU information centre, will open in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat in spring, which will make our measures much more visible there. I hope I will be able to open it myself. Finally, preparations for setting up a delegation in Uzbekistan and for upgrading the delegations in Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic are also going according to plan.

Let me conclude briefly with the latest news about the current energy and food crisis in Tajikistan. My colleague Louis Michel is in the process of looking into the ECHO proposal to allocate EUR 750 000 for a range of urgent aid measures, and I hope that proposal will be approved in the near future.

I could certainly go on for much longer, but my speaking time is limited like everyone else’s.

 
  
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  Josep Borrell Fontelles, Draftsman for the Development Committee. − (ES) Madam President, as the rapporteur has said, this region requires a consistent strategy from Europe. Consistency means complying with the European consensus on development and, in particular, the use of the financing instrument for development cooperation aimed principally at eradicating poverty and attaining the Millennium Goals.

It is, however, very unlikely that the region will be able to attain the goals and it is obvious that poverty continues to be one of the most pressing issues in the countries in the region, except those which have oil.

However, this strategy makes no mention either of eradicating poverty or social inclusion among its essential priorities, and neither does it place special emphasis on public health issues or on issues of elimination of gender-discrimination.

The Development Committee asks for these goals to be emphasised in any strategy which aims to be consistent with regard to those countries and with regard to the European Union’s other policy instruments.

We welcome the fact that education matters, particularly in relation to primary school education, are mentioned as one area of cooperation. They need to be, because education is the millennium objective which these countries are furthest from achieving.

We also welcome the reference to the ILO Conventions on the concept of decent work and stress that these standards must play an integral role in economic cooperation, investment and trade relations, in particular in combating child labour, which continues to be a most serious problem in those countries, especially Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

 
  
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  Alojz Peterle, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (SL) I congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Özdemir, on his fine work and I would like to thank him for his cooperation on this report, which expresses the clear political will of the European Union for greater strategic cooperation between the European Union and the countries of central Asia, whose democratic and economic progress is important for global stability.

The report welcomes in realistic and favourable terms the progress achieved by the countries of this region in many different areas. At the same time it is constructively critical of political shortcomings, especially in the areas of human rights, democracy, the rule of law, environmental protection and health.

The report was prepared with full awareness of the diversity of the countries of central Asia and with the conviction that it is of mutual interest to deepen the cooperation not only in the area of energy, but also in the broader area of politics and security and in other fields. The aspiration for new dynamic relationships is also reflected in the proposal to assess the progress in cooperation every two years, and in the suggestion that the European Commission should urgently provide for the establishment of delegations in all central Asian countries.

The countries of central Asia and all the Member States of the European Union are participants in OSCE and are committed to the same values and principles. Kazakhstan will take over the Presidency of OSCE in 2010, and it has thereby gained great confidence and will be the first of the countries of central Asia to take over such an important responsibility. I hope that this fact will also contribute to further democratic and all-round progress in Kazakhstan and all the other countries of the region, and to closer links with the European Union.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased that, where central Asia is concerned, the European Commission, the Council and Parliament are speaking the same language. It is time to elevate the relationship and cooperation between the European Union and the countries of central Asia to a higher level on the basis of a clear and binding strategy.

 
  
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  Katrin Saks, on behalf of the PSE. – (ET) Madam President, Commissioner, unfortunately the European Union discovered Central Asia for itself relatively late in the day and I am not entirely sure whether even today we understand the region’s importance in economic and security policy terms. A glance around this chamber shows that it is not exactly the most popular of places. In any event, however, the Central Asia Strategy adopted last year during the German Presidency and this European Parliament report mark a good step forward. I congratulate the rapporteur and thank him for his pleasant and constructive cooperation.

The principal issues affecting Central Asia are reflected in this report, including security issues, combating terrorism, energy, combating poverty, transit of narcotic drugs, trafficking in human beings, environmental issues and the development of relations with the European Union, regional cooperation and the challenges of globalisation. The important aspects are on the one hand to take a regional approach yet on the other hand to assess each country on its merits, because although we are dealing with a single region here, the countries within it nonetheless differ from each other to a fairly marked degree.

The most important aspect of the report is the good balance it strikes between economic aspects and human rights. As the countries in question are rich in resources there is a danger that interests may come to dominate over values in our relations. This may be further complicated by the fact that there is no previous democratic experience in Central Asia, making the implementation of international standards there difficult a result.

The situation is made yet more complex by the traditional clan-based ties and the continuing Soviet legacy. It could therefore seem that we are using the same vocabulary, such as human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, but the content we ascribe to them is fairly different. As a result, cooperation is not easy but we must take advantage of the interest which Central Asian countries have in the European Union. We are not, however, their only life-line. In recent years Russia has been vigorously developing relations there anew, as have Asian countries.

Nonetheless, the European Union has a better opportunity than ever to develop its relations by using the ties and experiences which the Baltic countries, for example, which now belong to the European Union, along with other new members have previously had with the countries of Central Asia. To conclude, it is very important to increase our presence in the region, although going by what the Commissioner said and the fact that in Central Asia we are dealing with countries where the majority of the population is, by contrast with European Union, young, our projects should focus on them in particular.

 
  
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  Samuli Pohjamo, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FI) Madam President, Commissioner, first of all I wish to thank the rapporteur, Cem Özdemir, for producing a successful report. He has worked hard in this area and raised some fundamental issues on the EU and Central Asia strategy.

It is evident from the report that the EU views Central Asia from two standpoints. The Union wants to increase imports of natural gas and oil from the region and diversify transit routes. At the same time it wants to improve the human rights situation, promote democracy and equality, and reform systems of governance and the judiciary. Finding the right balance for these objectives will be a challenging task. The EU will need to step up the implementation of its Central Asia strategy, speed up the implementation of projects, and broaden its approach both at nation and local level.

I want to emphasise how important it is for there to be dialogue and cooperation between the EU and Central Asia. At the same time the Union must also support relations between the countries of Central Asia and provide technical assistance for the fight against human and drug trafficking. EU aid for healthcare, social and educational reforms and cooperation in the field of science will increase the number of contacts in civil society and strengthen European values, democracy, the rule of law and human rights. This will also pave the way for cooperation in energy policy.

I also want to mention the importance of EU support for basic and further education and training, which will bring with it better opportunities for study in the EU and for exchanges with students from universities in the EU. The EU also needs to support and encourage the countries of Central Asia to take more effective measures in the area of environmental protection and in their quest for sustainable water use and for their use of other natural resources.

 
  
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  Adam Bielan, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Madam President, I too would like to thank Mr Özdemir for his excellent report.

Energy security, Commissioner, is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges facing the European Union in the 21st century. It can be achieved only by diversifying our energy supply sources so as to free EU Member States from dependence on companies controlled by the Russian security services.

The main source for diversification could be the countries of Central Asia. This would appear to suit both sides: the EU Member States, which are looking for other energy supply sources, and the countries of Central Asia, which would like to sell their raw materials at higher prices.

Meanwhile, extension of the Odessa-Brody pipeline to the Polish port of Gdansk has not taken place, and the Nabucco pipeline, the only pipeline that could carry natural gas to EU Member States independently of Russia, now looks much less likely to be built in view of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan’s agreement with Russia last year on the construction of a gas pipeline along the shore of the Caspian Sea, as well as the recent agreement between Russia and Bulgaria and privatisation of the Serbian oil industry.

The result is that, owing to lack of solidarity within the European Union and ineffective EU diplomacy, our countries are letting Russia and China push them out of this important region of the world. I would therefore ask the Commissioner what concrete steps the European Commission intends to take in favour of projects like the Odessa-Brody-Gdansk and Nabucco pipelines.

 
  
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  Jiří Maštálka, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to thank the rapporteur for devoting so much time and effort to the preparation of this report. However, regrettably I am obliged to follow this positive statement with the observation that the proposal in question is extremely rambling and poorly structured, with many elements repeated throughout. My main question is: to whom is it actually addressed?

I am afraid that there will be a sense of unease within the targeted nations about this text. It will be a headache for these countries’ diplomats, as they grapple with the task of navigating the criticisms contained in the report. I think that for future reference it would be appropriate to separate the resolution and explanatory report. I would like to quote the example of one of the countries in question, Kazakhstan. At the end of 2006 the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbajev, came to Brussels. I think that the Commissioner was present with us at the time. On that occasion words of appreciation and praise were spoken. On reading the report, however, the overall impression is that the acclamations were not serious or sincere. Is the rate of gas and oil supply the measure of our objectiveness? Do we not know that Kazakhstan has been actually carrying out a program entitled ‘Pass to Europe’, which reflects this Republic’s sincere desire to move closer to the EU in the fields concerned? I feel that the report does not offer an honest answer to the Kazakhs’ question as to whether Kazakhstan can be considered in geographical as well as in more general terms part of Europe. I also feel that the traditionally patronising tone of the report with which the EU addresses its illiterate poor relatives is inappropriate.

The text does not distinguish at all between the different countries in the region, be it in relation to human rights or issues of economic and social development. The obligation to include among them the countries of Central Asia and Mongolia appears comprehensible only as an effort to unite under one umbrella states regarded by the rapporteurs as places of similar geopolitical importance, presumably as potential platforms against Russia and China. Some of the wording in the motion for a resolution is questionable. What does recital R mean it states that a number of different countries, have had, historically or more recently, vested interests in the region? Does it express our support of the colonial ambitions of some European powers in the past or is it an expression of concern for the interests of some oil companies? In addition, the statement that Russia and China tried to increase their spheres of influence in Central Asia through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation does not make sense to me.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the admirable intentions of improving the EU’s relations with the countries of Central Asia and the efforts to support local democratic and socio-political development have been, in the drafting of the resolution, obscured by the highly problematic interests of certain ambitious groups. Considering the actual objectives and needs of the EU, the resulting text is, in my view, unacceptable.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (NL) Madam President, Mr Özdemir rightly emphasises in his report that Central Asia is of major strategic significance to the Union. He also says that agreements with non-member countries must be conditional on a clear commitment to human rights in the partner country. Dialogue has to be clear and frank.

Turkmenistan is one of the Central Asian countries the rapporteur mentions. Religious freedom in that country is a total fiction. Religion is entirely state-controlled. 'Ruhnama' – the state religion and personality cult surrounding former President Niyazov – remains the standard. Non-registered faith groups have a hard time of it as a result. They find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Intimidation by officialdom curbs their religious freedom and they encounter problems in moving about freely and owning property. The situation of the Russian Baptist pastors Kalataevsky and Potolov, about whom I put questions to the Commission last autumn, is just one example of this appalling everyday reality.

So I would again ask you to be good enough to consider the amendments I have put down, namely numbers 12 and 13. Turkmenistan is a country that matters as the European Union seeks to diversify its sources of energy supply; that much is beyond dispute. But it also merits attention on account of the position of the religious groups I referred to earlier and of other minorities. The same goes for our other partners in Central Asia. I am counting on your support.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Madam President, a partnership between the EU and Central Asia is long overdue, and I congratulate Mr Özdemir on his report. This vast and strategically vital region is being pulled three ways: by China, by Russia and by Europe. It is essential that we do all we can to ensure that central Asia’s rational choice is partnership with the European Union.

Turkmenistan’s gradual emergence from isolation provides the EU with a crucial window of opportunity. Ensuring regular, reliable supplies of ample Turkmen hydrocarbon resources will diminish Europe’s current overdependence on Russia. This will require a new trans-Caspian pipeline to link up with the Nabucco project.

Uzbekistan, which was rightfully ostracised following the Andijan massacre, has begun to engage in dialogue on human rights with the EU. This is a considerable step forward. Clearly there is much progress still to be made before Uzbekistan can be considered a properly democratic country. However, Uzbekistan is a vital ally in the war on international terrorism, especially with regard to Afghanistan.

For the EU, Kazakhstan should be considered the jewel in the crown of central Asia. The country’s vast oil, gas and mineral resources, including uranium, are an obvious attraction. Although Kazakhstan is not a western liberal democracy in our tradition, it is making considerable progress as a multi-religious, secular, Muslim-majority country. Given the fact that only 17 years ago it was a republic of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan’s presidency of the OSCE in 2010 will further consolidate the momentum towards greater political freedom and human rights in that country.

As rapporteur of the eastern dimension of the ENP, I once suggested that Kazakhstan might one day become a member of the ENP. I believe that something rather like this arrangement, one day, will come to pass.

 
  
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  Jan Marinus Wiersma (PSE). – (NL) Madam President, my compliments too to the rapporteur, Cem Özdemir. It is a pity that most of the population of Central Asia will probably have gone to sleep ages ago.

The European Union has long neglected Central Asia. The strategy now devised is a welcome step towards plugging that gap. As many speakers have said, the Union has considerable interests in the region. We are opting for a realistic strategy that takes a cohesive view of the various facets of our relationship with Central Asia and developments there. As our EU Special Representative, Pierre Morel, has said on countless occasions, there is no way an energy dialogue can develop unless we help with the construction of properly-functioning states. And properly-functioning states mean democratisation. There is no guarantee that the new strategy will succeed. That will depend very much on how it is implemented. We are looking above all to the European Commission to flesh out the strategy in practice. Of course the issue of human rights must not be lost sight of in all this.

On Uzbekistan, I stand by my view that we must remain tough in our dealings with that country until such time as the regime there clearly signals that it is genuinely ready to move towards democracy.

Kazakhstan, an important point. I share the general view that this country is pivotal in the region. I do not agree with Mr Tannock that it should be included in the ENP, but we ought to look at ways of improving our relationship with Kazakhstan. I have been there myself and was impressed by the country's energy – not just economically but also socially. I am glad that agreement has been reached on whether or not Kazakhstan can take on the chairmanship of the OSCE. I am glad too that that agreement, that decision, comes with a few conditions attached. We can keep an eye on Kazakhstan in the years ahead to see if it meets those conditions.

One final comment. There are all kinds of things we can do in Central Asia. But only if we also bear in mind the role of Russia and China in the region. So in our policy towards Russia and China we must also think about the form that our growing interest in that region should take. When I was there, in Kazakhstan, I learned that to them China and Russia are not their only major partners; they also want closer ties with the European Union. Our new strategy may prove a very good response to that.

 
  
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  Ona Juknevičienė (ALDE). – Madam President, I wish to begin by congratulating Mr Özdemir for preparing this very comprehensive report.

As chairwoman of the Delegation for relations with the Central Asian countries, and in connection with this resolution, I would like to address a few issues which I consider important.

Firstly, Central Asia has an obvious growing importance for the European Union and the world as a whole, no doubt owing to its rich energy resources. We have many shared interests in promoting security and tackling threats such as terrorism and drug-smuggling. I am glad that the European Union’s strategy for a new partnership with Central Asia addresses those matters very firmly, as does as this resolution.

This region occupies a crucial geostrategic position, particularly as it shares a border with Afghanistan, China and Russia. Therefore, we must clearly define our objectives and priorities, bearing in mind this context.

In 2010, Kazakhstan will become the presiding country of the OSCE, which is responsible for ensuring democracy and fundamental human rights. I am pleased for my colleagues, but I worry about the people of Kazakhstan, where the current elected Parliament does not include a single opposition member.

All the countries of Central Asia still have a long way to go on the road to economic and political reform and the building of democratic societies. The example of the former Soviet republics, including my country, Lithuania, shows that 17 years of independence is not long enough to fully achieve real change. However, we must deliver our overriding message, which is that Europe will not seek material benefits at the expense of human values.

 
  
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  Wiesław Stefan Kuc (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, Commissioner, the achievement of independence almost 20 years ago by the Central Asia countries discussed in Mr Özdemir’s report brought a complete culture change after years of enslavement.

Obviously, these countries used their newfound freedom in line with past practice and habits. Change is hard to achieve in such a short time. These nations endured through the centuries thanks to cultural difference based on long tradition. That is something we should and must respect. Change must come slowly, so as not to arouse hostility to our own culture and expectations.

Economic ties with the Russian Federation remained after independence, and are still strong. Russian culture, its science and its economy had an enormous influence on what are now independent states. Unless we build alternative ties with the European Union we are bound to fail, despite the expectations which these countries have of us.

We must start with the economy: let us replace Russian pipelines by ours, Russian technical plant by ours and the Russian language by English. That will bring about a systematic change in culture.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Madam President, this report expresses concern that the new Kyrgyz Constitution, voted on in a referendum in October 2007 without wide-ranging debate, could alter the balance of power. The Kyrgyz Constitution was amended in a controversial referendum in 1996, and in 2003 there was another referendum which approved further constitutional change.

The report goes on to deprecate, in the Central Asian republics, the ‘anxiety to maintain internal control’, which ‘is a given in regimes which show little interest in seeking popular consent on which to base their rule’.

Hang on a moment, who are we talking about here? Constitutional change that will ‘alter the balance of power’. ‘Anxiety to maintain internal control’, with ‘little interest in seeking popular consent’ on which to base the rule of a political elite. This sounds like an extract from a UK Independence Party report on the European Constitution – sorry, I mean the Lisbon Treaty.

I doubt that the five Central Asian republics are models of democracy and the rule of law, but at least when the politicians of Kyrgyzstan wanted to change the constitution, they had the decency to ask the people for their approval in a referendum.

That is something the European Union has had neither the decency nor the courage to do of the European people.

 
  
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  Rihards Pīks (PPE-DE). – (LV) Thank you, Madam President, Commissioner. First of all I would like to thank the rapporteur, the shadow rapporteur and their assistants, since the report is very comprehensive and contains a great many references and documentary research, with a separate analysis for each country. However, I would like to draw your attention to a few matters that in my view have not been tackled adequately. Yes, I would also like to add that the Commissioner’s description of the specific activities to be carried out in those countries in the near future was very welcome. It seems to me, however, that in the report and in the European Union’s strategy in general there are not enough strategic decisions or actions relating to these countries, whereas it appears to me that Russia, China, South Korea and India all influence those regions very significantly. I would also like to draw your attention to something that I think my fellow Member Adam Bielan has already mentioned – on 10 October 2007 the leaders of several countries met in Vilnius to discuss energy supply pipelines from the Caspian Sea. A week before that, Mr Putin, who is not at all a frequent visitor to other countries, went with Mr Nazarbayev to Turkmenistan and, offering a slightly higher price for gas, signed a political agreement to the effect that all existing gas from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan would go via Russia’s pipelines. Thus, in fact, we might say that he hurried ahead of the decision by our fellow Member. Likewise, I think, a certain similarity can be seen to the events at Andijan, where afterwards, a few months later, the President of Uzbekistan was forced to demand the closure of the US base. It seems to me that we also need to pay more attention to these aspects … I would simply like to draw attention to the fact that we need to analyse much more attentively and take account of these strategic aspects too. Thank you.

 
  
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  Józef Pinior (PSE). – Madam President, I would like to begin by congratulating Mr Özdemir on his excellent report on the EU strategy for Central Asia.

Central Asia is part of the road which has connected the great Euro-Asiatic civilisations since antiquity. In today’s global context, the ancient Silk Road can be taken as a symbol of the high political, cultural and trade potential of that region. Central Asia is the region where the European Union, China, India and Iran meet. There is no doubt that the countries of this region – Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – will be one of the main areas of EU external activity in the coming years.

By the way, Central Asia is a region in which the EU and Turkey have a shared interest. Turkey’s cultural, linguistic and strategic influence in the region is one of the arguments for Turkish membership of the EU.

Let me make two points. Firstly, the EU should provide assistance in these countries in a perspective of human rights, democracy and education. There is a need for EU support for the development of civil society, liberal democratic change and the rule of law in these countries.

Secondly, I would like to stress the importance of partnership in the field of energy policy. Special attention should be given to projects connecting oil and gas fields and the distribution system in Central Asia to pipelines connecting with the European Union, including future projects such as Nabucco. Further strengthening cooperation between Central Asia and the Black Sea region in the fields of energy and transportation is essential for the accomplishment of the EU’s goals.

 
  
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  Olle Schmidt (ALDE). – (SV) Madam President, Commissioner, the EU strategy for Central Asia is a big step forward. Increasing our common visibility through a special representative and planning to set up delegations in the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan will give us better opportunities to conduct an intensive dialogue with the individual countries and will change the way we can work in the region.

Central Asia will become more important, in particular, as has been mentioned, with regard to access to energy that is not controlled directly or indirectly by Russia. The region is composed of new states that need support in developing and strengthening their democracy, support in combating crime and in stopping the passage of drugs to both Russia and the EU through certain countries in the region. At the same time these countries are of course important partners in combating a global breeding ground for terrorism.

The EU has an opportunity to show its benefit in terms of foreign policy, by using all the tools of soft policy, both aid and trade. In addition, the EU can help to build democratic institutions and a working state based on the rule of law which respects human rights and genuine freedom of speech and of the press.

The Central Asian countries have a strong interest in creating an opportunity to diversify their oil and gas exports. We in the EU must put forward effective, properly financed alternatives to Russian and Chinese gas pipelines. The EU must accept its responsibility for our common energy security. Otherwise there is a risk that all our common efforts will founder.

More Russian-owned oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia is not the independence in the energy sector that we should aim for in the EU.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, Kazakhstan is the Central Asian country I know best. It is a large country stretching between China, Siberia and Europe. Paradoxically, we count countries as Central Asian when part of their territory belongs geographically to Europe. Kazakhstan, with a population of 16 million and over 100 ethnic groups and religions, is distant from us in its traditions and history, and yet the politics of this country and the aspirations of its people show a strong desire for rapprochement with Europe.

From the cultural point of view, moreover, Kazakhstan is more European than Asiatic. It is grappling with problems, but it is a stable country engaged in democratic reforms, and stability in this region is very important for the security of the whole world. We should support the process of stabilisation and rapprochement with Europe in Kazakhstan and the other countries of Central Asia. We should support everything that serves to bring the Central Asian countries closer to Europe, especially as they can play an important role in ensuring Europe’s energy supply security.

 
  
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  Roberta Alma Anastase (PPE-DE). – (RO) Ladies and gentlemen, as Rapporteur for the Black Sea cooperation, I would like to emphasize the major importance of the inter-regional cooperation between Central Asia and the Black Sea region. I thank the Rapporteur for taking into consideration my suggestions on this theme and I hope that both the Commission and the Council will submit sustained efforts in order to put them into practice by implementing the new strategy for Central Asia.

The cooperation between the two regions and its consolidation represents an objective both for the European Union and for the countries of Central Asia and the Black Sea region. This appears most explicitly in the field of energy and transport, since Central Asia represents an important source of energy resources for the European Union. Consequently, I welcome the fact that the report is focused on two key ideas in this regard.

First of all, it is necessary to develop the transport routes and energy infrastructure connecting the sources from Central Asia to the Black Sea region and, finally, the European Union as an important element for ensuring energy security and diversity in the European Union. Therefore, I insist on the crucial importance of the Nabucco project and I join the report in its call to pay increased attention to its successful development.

Secondly, a strong policy in the energy field also involves the creation of a transparent and competitive energy market. It is important for the European Union to encourage actions in this direction, both by intensifying the dialogue with the countries of Central Asia and the Black Sea region, and by additional measures, such as stimulating the accession to the World Trade Organization.

Nevertheless, these objectives should integrate into a global strategy for Central Asia, focused on sustained stability and development. For these reasons, besides the energy policy, it is very important to promote reform in all the five republics, while human rights and good governance, education and lifelong training should represent its essential elements.

 
  
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  Vural Öger (PSE).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, first I want to congratulate Mr Özdemir on his very successful report. The European Union joined the race for Central Asia with very hesitant steps and was late to take an interest in the region, following behind Russia, China and the USA. Until now, Central Asia has not perceived the European Union as a global player. An EU strategy for Central Asia is long overdue, especially as a means of reducing its energy dependence on Russia. The German Presidency initiated it. It is important that we now see a follow-up.

Sadly it keeps emerging that the EU still does not speak with one voice in its external energy policy. We in Europe should focus above all on diversification, on representing our common interests and on solidarity in the event of crises. Yet the bilateral energy agreements the EU Member States concludes with third countries keep putting in question the European Union’s ability to take a common stand. But it is in the interest of the European Union and its citizens to pursue a common external energy policy.

We must not, however, regard energy supplies, which are extremely important to our citizens, as the only reason for EU relations with that region. We are not trying to profit unilaterally from a strategy for Central Asia. In that respect Europe must distinguish itself from other players in the region. It is far more a question of helping the Central Asian republics to develop the rule of law and democratic forms of society, together with a sound economy. If Europe does that, the citizens of the region should become far more aware of it. Yet Europe must also move with the necessary caution, because advice from the West could all too easily be mistaken for patronisation or intervention.

The world is growing closer together outside the EU too and we should seek a constructive partnership with the Central Asian countries, a partnership that does not give the impression that Europeans are concerned only with what is useful to them, a partnership founded on mutual advantage.

 
  
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  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE). – (HU) Madam President, Madam Commissioner, 150 years ago, a countryman of mine by the name of Ármin Vámbéry was the first European to bring news of the closed societies of Central Asia to the wider world, and information on the cultural, administrative and economic situation of this region prior to the Russian conquest. Even at that time this region, like the Silk Road, had for centuries formed an overland umbilical cord linking Europe and Asia.

Following a long period of Russian and Soviet domination, the five countries of Central Asia can once again assume this role of umbilical cord linking Europe and Asia. In many instances, it is unfortunately already doing so; a large proportion of the illegal trade in people and drugs arrives in Europe via these countries, as does natural gas.

This is why Europe needed, and needs, a strategy to develop its relations with Central Asia. Europe cannot, however, expect cooperation to be only about preventing the dangers emanating from there, or about gaining access to energy and raw materials, or about how Europe can teach this region about democracy and human rights.

We must develop genuine cooperation with this region, and this is why I support European Union efforts to promote WTO membership for the countries of Central Asia and their integration into world trade. Europe must use all means at its disposal to foster the economic, social and political development and modernisation of this region. This, however, can only be done on the basis of mutual trust.

This is why it is important to prioritise environmental protection as part of this cooperation. Climate change, chronic problems relating to water use and rehabilitation of previously contaminated areas are all issues that warrant greater attention. In parallel with this, Europe must rigorously eschew any project that pollutes the environment or damages the livelihoods of the people living there.

I have already drawn the Commission’s attention to the criticism by Kyrgyz and Uzbek non-governmental organisations concerning gold mining operations using cyanide technology that are partly financed by the EBRD. Europe cannot on any account support the use of this sort of technology, either within Europe or outside of Europe. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Jeggle (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I too want to begin by thanking the rapporteur Mr Özdemir and all the shadow rapporteurs who worked on this report. With this strategy for Central Asia and this first broad debate in the European Parliament, we are actively taking the appropriate steps to promote dialogue and to meet all the challenges that still await us and which the Commissioner addressed. This strategy will involve small steps down a long road. I am glad that we will have closer cooperation and that this will not be a one-way street but an exchange of views based on mutual trust.

Today’s debate shows us that we have to do a balancing act when we talk about Central Asia. The various Central Asian republics present very different features. We have very different requirements to make. We want to import energy but on a secure basis, and we want to export democracy and human rights. We want to combine the two, which is not easy. Since 1999 I have been a member of the delegation for relations with the Central Asian countries; I know those countries. I have learned from the people there and I know they too have a face and that they do not want to lose it. We must, therefore, proceed very carefully and sometimes pragmatically.

That brings me to Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is currently taking big steps that we should strongly welcome. The death penalty was abolished on 1 January. I thank the rapporteur for his oral amendment. Moreover, the habeas corpus principle was introduced, i.e. the principle that the court ascertains whether detention is lawful. In May this year we will be holding the second human rights dialogue with the Commission. I am confident it will take place. That is another good step that continues what we have begun.

May I say here that I will support the amendments tabled by the UEN Group because I agree with them, because I regard them as a step towards dialogue and because we must seek dialogue and partnership.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Madam President, the European Union should engage more actively in events in Central Asia and in support for economic and social development in the region. At present our influence is slight: it is mainly Moscow, Beijing and Washington that are doing business there.

To play a more active role, we must develop a vision for economic and political cooperation and join in projects, investments and programmes designed to meet the needs of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. At the same time we should encourage all these countries to engage in more active intra-regional cooperation. We must bear in mind, however, that it will not be an easy task, because the region is an ethnic, linguistic, religious, political and social patchwork still under strong Russian influence.

The European Union’s priority should be to intensify cooperation in areas such as energy, trade, education, infrastructure, security and regional integration. We should concentrate on supporting the process of democratisation, the development of education and the elimination of poverty. That will increase security and social and economic stability in this strategic region of the world and render our cooperation more effective.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN). – (PL) Madam President, my first point is this: all five Central Asian countries are members of the OCSE, which means they have undertaken, vis-à-vis the international community, obligations regarding respect for basic freedoms, democracy and human rights, although they differ in the degree to which they are meeting those obligations.

Secondly, against a background of regional shortcomings, Kazakhstan stands out favourably. In August 2007 it held parliamentary elections at which I acted as an observer. Despite certain reservations, those elections were recognised by the international community as democratic.

Thirdly, if the European Union wishes to find other sources of crude oil and natural gas than Russia, it must seek strategic cooperation with the Central Asian countries, especially Kazakhstan. And that means encouraging and supporting Kazakhstan’s European aspirations.

 
  
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  Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, this was a very interesting debate. I always regret that it is held late at night and maybe so few Members stay, but thank you for staying. I think that many of you have mentioned what I personally also feel: there is a strategy that is absolutely necessary and this strategy aims to achieve stabilisation and security in this area. Indeed, we, the European Union, are very much in favour of going forward.

I was Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE in 2000 and I got to know these countries and, as others have said, they are very interesting countries. They are all very different. It is true that Kazakhstan is the star of these countries, but a lot still has to be done.

There is the issue of human rights that everybody has mentioned. There is the issue of poverty eradication and, particularly, education, but also the questions in the general field of human rights and, of course, the big question of energy. So I know how much we have to do and I am glad that finally the European Union has done much more than in the past, together, as I said, with the German Presidency. I shall now say a few words on those different issues.

Poverty eradication is highly important and this is one of the major parts that we focus on in the country strategies. The policy paper that we have produced for the EU strategy for Central Asia is more a political document on political priorities, but in the country strategies we mention all the requirements under the Development Cooperation Instrument, which is particularly focused on education, on health, on rural development, on social protection and, particularly, on vulnerable families and children in difficulty.

There is also, in terms of public health and communicable diseases, a major factor: the global fund on AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, where, again, the Central Asian countries are eligible. So this is one side, and we will certainly go on with that.

On the other hand, there is the question of energy – both the Nabucco pipeline and the Odessa-Brody-Gdańsk pipeline have been mentioned – and, in general, energy security. I completely agree with you that we want a diversification of our energy policy, even if we have not yet completely reached where we want to go. But the most important thing is that we have taken this clear decision.

On the Odessa-Brody-Gdańsk pipeline, I would like to say that the Commission is making every effort to diversify EU energy supplies and routes and, of course, Central Asia is absolutely crucial here. The pipeline you mentioned is an important project in these efforts, and to feed this pipeline, we need to work first and foremost on the trans-Caspian pipeline, to get the Central Asian resources to the Black Sea. Just a few days ago, we had the first ever regional conference of the Black Sea Synergy, which was a very first step in working on these issues in a regional dimension.

Apart from that, we also face the issue of energy security regarding the Nabucco pipeline. It is still a priority for the Commission and we will go on supporting it. It is not dead, as some of you might think. So we have energy political priorities. By the way, we are starting to have a sort of memorandum of understanding on energy with Turkmenistan too. We already have one with Kazakhstan, and we will certainly try to go on building bridges between the different countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Somebody asked me about Mongolia. The five countries of the Central Asia region share the same recent past, following the break-up of the Soviet Union, and they are all, of course, very young nations. This means that we face similar challenges regarding the political and economic transformation of these societies, but, as you know, Mongolian history is quite different, and that is why we did not include Mongolia in the strategy. However, we do not preclude looking to the south of the Central Asian countries and we are looking towards the possibility of working further with Mongolia. Today, it is a rather democratised country, where we see a lot of positive measures and positive steps.

Kazakhstan will indeed hold the chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010. I would like to tell you that I have always promoted that, always on condition that Kazakhstan continues to take a lot of important steps that are still necessary. More has to be done on the freedom of the media, on electoral law and on the issue of registration of political parties, but it is indeed going in the right direction.

Finally, Kazakhstan is a member of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Let us please keep the Central Asia strategy and the ENP somewhat separate, although elements of the Neighbourhood Policy can appear later on in a special agreement, particularly with Kazakhstan, because we know Kazakhstan can be the first country in the Central Asia region to start radiating a positive spirit. I hope that the others will follow.

 
  
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  Cem Özdemir, rapporteur. − (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, first I want to thank all the colleagues who took part in this debate and to give thanks also for the input of the committees asked for their opinion and, of course, for the Chair of the Delegation, Mrs Juknevičienė. I am also grateful to those who tabled amendments. Mrs Jeggle has already referred to the amendment on the abolition of the death penalty in Uzbekistan, which we very much welcome. I find myself obliged to point out, however, that we note with concern that opposition politicians and journalists in countries that are neighbours of Uzbekistan are dying in mysterious circumstances. That should also be addressed in this connection.

The crucial question is this: how can we transmit our values without denying our own interests in the matter? This is precisely where the European Union has an opportunity, because we simply have more to offer than dependence or even exploitation of these countries. The simple and acute question is how we can combine long-term stability with democratic development. In that area, there is still great potential for developing a genuine partnership between the Central Asian republics on the one hand and the European Union on the other. We are looking at nothing less than a total package of economic and democratic development, together with cultural and scientific exchange, which, however, gives clear priority to protection of the environment and the development of civil society.

Let me briefly address one point I am sure is known to all of you: the environmental disaster on the Aral Sea, which has since become known beyond the region and is one of the greatest environmental disasters in the world. The countries concerned will not be able to resolve this problem without our help. Here too we must demonstrate our solidarity and do our part to help.

There is good news too, when we remember that we have an important partner in Turkey, which is a close neighbour and, as a country that wishes to join the European Union, can contribute its expertise to the joint development of a strategy.

The success of the European Union can also be measured by the extent to which it manages to develop a coherent strategy for Central Asia. If it wants to be a global player, the European Union must also develop a strategy within which it formulates its common interests.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Wednesday, 20 February 2008.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Alessandro Battilocchio (PSE), in writing. (IT) As part of the work of the Delegation for Relations with Central Asia, of which I am a member, I have had the opportunity to visit the countries of the area covered by the report.

I have thus been able to see the substantial progress that these countries have made in many fields, from the environmental to the social, especially as a result of a strong impetus from the EU. That being said, it is to be hoped that the EU will continue the work it has undertaken in this part of the world, bearing in mind that these nations are key allies in the fight against international terrorism and drug trafficking, by continuing to step up its dialogue with these countries.

The Council and the Commission are also asked to step up efforts to provide citizens with greater protection in key fields of social life and therefore to strengthen the laws in force on women’s rights and to improve their application, to continue the strenuous fight against the exploitation of children, to implement major reforms of education and, in view of the substantial increase in infectious diseases in the area, a reform of the health service which is considered to be a key priority for these countries.

 

14. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes

15. Closure of the sitting
  

(The sitting was closed at 11.55 p.m.)

 
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