Index 
Debates
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Wednesday, 21 May 2008 - Strasbourg OJ edition
1. Opening of the sitting
 2. Welcome
 3. Scientific facts of climate change: findings and recommendations for decision-making (debate)
 4. Turkey's 2007 progress report (debate)
 5. Voting time
  5.1. Parliament's calendar of part-sessions - 2009 (vote)
  5.2. Banning of exports and the safe storage of metallic mercury (A6-0102/2008, Dimitrios Papadimoulis) (vote)
  5.3. Protection of the environment through criminal law (A6-0154/2008, Hartmut Nassauer) (vote)
  5.4. Farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods (A6-0061/2008, Gábor Harangozó) (vote)
  5.5. Conditions to be complied with to pursue the occupation of road transport operator (A6-0087/2008, Silvia-Adriana Ţicău) (vote)
  5.6. International carriage of passengers by coach and bus (recast) (A6-0037/2008, Mathieu Grosch) (vote)
  5.7. International carriage of goods by road (recast) (A6-0038/2008, Mathieu Grosch) (vote)
  5.8. Mobile satellite services (MSS) (A6-0077/2008, Fiona Hall) (vote)
  5.9. A simplified business environment for companies (A6-0101/2008, Klaus-Heiner Lehne) (vote)
  5.10. Women and science (A6-0165/2008, Britta Thomsen) (vote)
  5.11. Green Paper on better ship dismantling (A6-0156/2008, Johannes Blokland) (vote)
  5.12. Scientific facts of climate change: findings and recommendations for decision-making (A6-0136/2008, Karl-Heinz Florenz) (vote)
  5.13. Turkey's 2007 progress report (A6-0168/2008, Ria Oomen-Ruijten) (vote)
 6. Rheumatic diseases (written declaration): see Minutes
 7. Explanations of vote
 8. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
 9. Approval of the minutes of the previous sitting: see Minutes
 10. Tragic situation in Burma (debate)
 11. Natural disaster in China (debate)
 12. Global treaty to ban uranium weapons (debate)
 13. Council Question Time
 14. Verification of credentials: see Minutes
 15. Composition of committees and delegations: see Minutes
 16. Mid-term review of industrial policy (debate)
 17. REACH (Draft Test Methods Regulation) (debate)
 18. Animal health strategy 2007-2013 (debate)
 19. Strategy for the third meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (debate)
 20. Agenda for next sitting: see Minutes
 21. Closure of the sitting


  

IN THE CHAIR: MR PÖTTERING
President

 
1. Opening of the sitting
  

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

 

2. Welcome
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  President. − Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to welcome a delegation from the Mexican Congress, led by Senator Guadarrama, who have taken their seats in the official gallery. A very warm welcome to you.

(Applause)

The delegation is taking part in the sixth meeting of the EU-Mexico Joint Parliamentary Committee today. Mexico is a close partner of the European Union and this meeting is taking place at an important time in relations between Mexico and the European Union. The Lima Summit last weekend showed that we have many common interests. I also had the opportunity to speak with your President, Felipe Calderón.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee will also be discussing climate change this afternoon, so I am sure that this plenary debate will be followed by you with interest. I wish our Mexican colleagues and friends a successful stay in Strasbourg.

 

3. Scientific facts of climate change: findings and recommendations for decision-making (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the interim report (A6-0136/2008) by Mr Florenz on the scientific facts of climate change: findings and recommendations for decision-making (2008/2001(INI)).

 
  
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  Karl-Heinz Florenz, rapporteur. − (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office, welcome to the European Parliament. What prompted the European Union to set up a Temporary Committee on Climate Change? It was the right approach, to present an overall view of how we, the European Union, intend to deal with this issue. If we want to help at international level to ensure that this issue is kept on the agenda – as Stavros Dimas is successfully doing for the Commission – as the European Union, as the Parliament, we must state what our concept is; in other words, we need to state what our visiting card is on this issue. Ultimately, Europe must show how we are dealing with this issue, and what approach we are adopting in order to encourage other countries and continents to move with us in the same direction. That is why it is important to begin with the scientific aspect of this debate, and that is what we are talking about today.

Focusing on this aspect will never produce an attractive report because it simply deals with the status quo. It is not a matter of horse-trading: giving a bit here, taking a bit there. It is about focusing on the facts. We have brought together these facts in numerous thematic strategies, during which we invited two Nobel Prize laureates to Brussels and Strasbourg. Mr President, you organised an excellent event and delivered a very significant speech on climate change, which was extremely gratifying from my perspective and which encouraged me to redouble my efforts.

We have heard the views of numerous experts from international bodies all over the world, under the excellent chairmanship of my good friend Guido Sacconi who managed matters very well. We were also able to invite some critics, although unfortunately they did not all come, because they do not want to subject their criticism to international scrutiny. Producing criticism in print without being willing to subject it to formal scrutiny is hardly heroic conduct. I would have welcomed the presence of at least one or two critics willing to face up to international debate.

We have read many excellent documents. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was involved, and we also consulted the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, the climate conference of the Federal Republic of Germany, and many others, with the result that we now have the facts before us. This is not a combative sort of paper, as some of my friends have occasionally claimed; it is a status report as a basis on which to determine how we should proceed in future. The arguments clearly show that there is a scientific consensus with which we can now progress with our work. There is a consensus on how to assess the anthropogenic influence; that is covered in Article 3. We have sufficient information to state that the target of limiting the global average temperature increase to not more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels in future is important.

What, then, do we need to do in future? In Europe, we need to muster our energy for a new third industrial revolution based on the three pillars of sustainability, namely product sustainability, the social dimension and of course the economic dimension. This is not a burden; it is a massive opportunity which we must develop further as our vision.

One thing is certain: the climate debate is just a minor part of our problem. We must engage in a debate about sustainability. The fact is that in just 500 years, we are squandering energy which took millions of years to create, and we have absolutely no answer to the question of how our children, and our children’s children, will be able to develop their energy sources in future.

That is the great opportunity. We need the courage to be creative. The Stone Age did not end because we no longer had any stones available. Let me tell you, the Stone Age ended, fortunately, because we politicians had courage: courage to seize the future, courage for our children, and courage for this planet of ours.

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. − Many thanks, Mr Florenz, also for your kind words to the President. It is the exception rather than the rule for such kind sentiments to be expressed. As my role here is to be objective and neutral, I will refrain from making the point that very little praise tends to be forthcoming, especially from one’s own political family. What has happened this morning was therefore quite an event!

 
  
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  Janez Podobnik, President-in-Office. − (SL) Mr President, Mr Florenz, ladies and gentlemen, proof is now available that man shares the responsibility for the great changes to the climate system, and that these changes have already had a negative impact on nature and human society. It is also certain that if we do not act promptly and considerably reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases during this century the global temperature will continue to rise, which will lead to general damage and disruption.

The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in Spain in November 2007, represents the most complete and the most credible scientific assessment of climate change so far. The report states that there is no doubt that the climate system is warming up, and that the increase in the average global temperature over the last fifty years has most probably been caused by the anthropogenic concentration of greenhouse gases.

The assessment reports on the situation which have been published by IPCC since 1990 show that the science on climate change and the consequences thereof has made considerable advances over the last few years. This can be ascribed to a number of factors: the ever-increasing evidence of the known change to the climate, the scientists' hard work, and an improved dissemination of scientific discoveries.

As has been stated in Mr Florenz's interim report, which in our opinion brings out some very important fresh formulations concerning the problems described that we know of today, the situation is enough to warrant the immediate creation and implementation of policies which will contribute to a reduction in greenhouse emissions. As we all know, this is why the European heads of state and government decided in March last year to send out a resolute message to the international community, with commitments concerning the reduction of greenhouse emissions.

The European Union is determined to meet these commitments with an integrated approach to climate and energy policy. Secondly, it will dedicate special attention to energy efficiency, renewable sources of energy, biofuels, to carbon dioxide capture and storage and generally a transition to a low carbon economy.

I should also like to remind you, ladies and gentlemen, of the latest decisions of the European Council. As I already mentioned, last year the European Union adopted resolute and large-scale commitments concerning climate and energy policy. Now, in 2008, it is time for action.

At the Climate Change Conference held in December last year in Bali, an important breakthrough was made with the beginning of the international negotiations process, which includes everyone, the developed and the developing countries. This process has been outlined in the Action Plan from Bali. The European Union is determined to further maintain its leading international role in the area of climate change and energy, and to preserve the necessary impetus in negotiations within the framework of the United Nations Convention, in particular at one of its next sessions this year in Poznan. The objective is to ensure that in Copenhagen in 2009, an ambitious, global and integrated climate change agreement is reached for the period following the year 2012, which will be in line with the European Union's objectives, that the global temperature should not increase by more than two degrees. The European Union will also contribute to this considerably by meeting the targets set out at the European Council's spring meeting in 2007.

The key challenge is that the transition to a safe and sustainable low carbon economy is carried out in a manner that will be in line with the sustainable development of the European Union, its competitiveness, a reliable energy supply, food security, and healthy and sustainable public finances.

 
  
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  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. − (EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity you have given us today to discuss the interim report by the Temporary Committee on Climate Change, presented by Mr Florenz. I congratulate him on his excellent work.

The report confirms the European Parliament’s support for an ambitious Community policy on combating climate change. Let me take this opportunity, Mr President, to thank all the Members of the European Parliament for their continuing support and vital contribution towards promoting our climate policy, raising public awareness and informing MPs from other countries. Mr President, I should also like to point out the important part you have played in promoting the EU’s policy on climate change. I am sure that you and Members of the European Parliament will continue with the same commitment, so that in the two brief years we have ahead of us we can achieve an agreement by the end of 2009 in Copenhagen. We shall thus be able to deal effectively with this great threat to the planet. Both in the EU, where discussions on the climate and energy package of measures are intensifying, and in international negotiations, we must muster all our resources and cooperate as best we can. We must make use of the EU’s head start, bearing in mind the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009.

Two factors have helped us reach the important decisions taken in Bali: Europe’s position as world leader in combating climate change, and the scientific findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Thanks to these findings, many world leaders have accepted that there is indeed an urgent need to take measures. This series of scientific reports has now allowed citizens and political leaders, including Members in various countries, to better understand the scale of the challenge and the serious dangers we face if we do not intervene to stop climate change. I think we nearly all agree that it has indeed been scientifically proven that urgent, bold measures to combat climate change are needed. These measures are summarised in the interim report we have before us. This report puts across more clearly than ever before the scientific message given by the IPCC and other sources in 2007.

The scientific debate on whether climate change is caused by human activity has lasted for decades because of scepticism, which has prevented decisive measures from being taken. Now the debate is over. This does not mean that all the questions have been answered or that we have understood every detail; but we now know enough to conclude that the rapid adoption of ambitious measures is in our interests, in terms of energy security and in economic, environmental and social terms. Not only do we not have the luxury of waiting but, worse still, the time we have is very limited. If we are to restrict global warming to 2°C, the threshold above which we lose the ability to limit or reverse its environmental impact, greenhouse gas emissions should peak within the next 10 to 15 years at the most.

In the long term, to give us a good chance of not exceeding 2°C, global emissions in 2050 must be reduced to 50% of their 1990 levels. To achieve this, a radical change is needed in the way we produce and use energy. There must be a worldwide transition to a low-CO2 economy, and small but important changes are needed in many aspects of our everyday lives. What we need is nothing short of a green revolution.

The IPCC reports have made it clear that even with ambitious measures to reduce emissions some serious effects of climate change are probably inevitable. The international community must therefore be ready to deal with them. For this reason, support will be necessary, especially to the most vulnerable among the developing countries, which will face the gravest problems.

I now turn to the UN negotiations. We know we have little time at our disposal, since our overriding priority is to achieve an agreement in Copenhagen in 2009. Signing a substantial, comprehensive agreement that meets the ambitious targets set by scientific findings is a considerable challenge. Persuading our international partners to sign the ambitious agreement is our objective and will require a titanic effort. The EU must therefore remain faithful to its hitherto successful strategy. This means that we must achieve positive results at home and show our international partners abroad that adopting ambitious measures is neither contrary to their interests, nor does it hinder their economic development.

One of our challenges here will be to secure the participation of developed countries in an effort to reduce emissions to levels corresponding to the 2°C target. This means a 25-40% reduction in their emissions by 2020 from the 1990 level. Let me not beat about the bush. We call on the United States to rise to the challenge; instead of hindering progress, it must encourage it. As you will have realised during your recent visit to the United States, discussions in progress there have begun to move in the right direction, but obviously we still expect much more from them.

As well as working with developed countries, we must also work to achieve ambitious commitments on emission reduction from developing countries, especially the more advanced ones. There are many possibilities for reducing emissions; they entail significant additional benefits for energy security, human health, and development in general. Measures in this direction must be provided for and supported in the forthcoming 2009 agreement. Here, too, I believe, things are moving in the right direction. There is increased awareness of the need to take steps to combat climate change. At the same time, additional benefits are also becoming apparent, whether in relation to safeguarding energy, or human health, or economic development, which will not only be safeguarded, but will probably benefit.

The recent visit by Commission representatives to China confirmed that our Chinese counterparts are fully aware of their pressing obligation to take internal measures. They have already begun to take them and intend to continue their efforts. We must support them bilaterally and multilaterally. We shall have many opportunities during the coming months and next year to put across our message. For instance, there will be the G8 Conference and G8+5, for which the Japanese presidency is concentrating on climate change. Further opportunities will come with the initiative under the auspices of the UN for the world’s leading economies and the EU’s various bilateral cooperation programmes on climate change. We shall make use of all these opportunities. We shall persuade our partners that urgent measures must be taken and that sound, viable policies must be mapped out on energy and climate change. In our endeavour we must systematically highlight the scientific findings underpinning our actions; we must keep referring back to the consequences of inaction or inadequate measures.

As we know, the shared vision is to be the subject of negotiations in the context of the Bali roadmap. It is very important that the vision should be negotiated on the basis of the authoritative scientific opinions that we have at our disposal. We must insist that the negotiations should be conducted in the light of scientific findings. I am confident that together you have just as important a role to play as the Commission in putting this crucial message across to our partners, to our citizens and to their parliamentary representatives.

 
  
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  Joseph Daul, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I am sorry I am late, but I was trying to keep my speed down in order to protect our climate.

Our main debate today concerns scientific data on climate change. First of all I wish to thank my colleague Karl-Heinz Florenz for his outstanding work and his constant devotion to this issue.

Ladies and gentlemen, scientific knowledge on climate change has now been established. In the opinion of a majority of experts on the subject, we can no longer entertain any doubts as to the fact that global warming is now a reality, and that it is largely due to human activities. A few dissidents question the reality of this phenomenon, without offering any genuine proof. The interim report by our Temporary Committee on Climate Change is the first phase in a process that will lead to a search for solutions.

Almost all of us agree that the increase in world temperature ought to be restricted to two degrees above pre-industrial levels, while bearing in mind that we actually ought to be aiming for an increase of less than two degrees. The debate on climate change cannot, however, be boiled down to a battle of statistics. When we talk about the climate, we mention the melting of the Arctic ice cap, desertification, global warming, displacement of animal species, and especially phenomena that could have catastrophic consequences in terms of human displacement.

This is a major challenge for mankind as a whole. The regions hardest hit will be the poorest countries in Africa, Asia and Central and Latin America, where environmental migration is envisaged. A new kind of refugee is set to emerge with the onset of extreme climate conditions. They will no longer be political refugees or economic migrants; they will be climate refugees. There is also a risk of a food crisis since there will be less cultivatable land. When supplies of drinking water become more scarce, tensions will rise, and wars could break out in a struggle for control of resources.

We have an immense responsibility here. It is no longer a matter of questioning the phenomenon of climate change, but for all of us to work together to find solutions and implement them. The Climate Action and Renewable Energy package presented by the Commission in January is also now being discussed by Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy: emission quota trading system, sharing of the climate burden, capture and storage of carbon and renewable energies.

Members of our PPE-DE Group on these committees and the PPE Group as a whole are heavily involved. We are expecting many such debates, and are determined to work together to find a compromise at first reading. It is essential that Parliament and the Council reach an agreement before the European elections.

Ladies and gentlemen, the European Union has taken on the role of world leader in the fight against climate change vis-à-vis its international partners, and it must retain this role. If we do not take our role seriously to encourage the US and other countries, as you said, Commissioner, such as China and India, to join us in the fight against climate change, then who will?

Europe must be united and fully operational at the Poznań World Conference in December 2008, which will shape the agreement we hope to sign in Copenhagen in December 2009. This is a world challenge, but Europe is the power that can persuade its partners to join its fight, and we must make preparations for the future of our children and our grandchildren.

 
  
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  Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, the Socialist Group moved that the Temporary Committee on Climate Change be established and when we tabled that motion we were more convinced than ever that we are at a decisive phase in terms of European and indeed international policy, for what we are expecting of this Committee is a Herculean task, not only here in the House.

The issues it is dealing with are – it must be said – a monumental task: a task, as we say in German, for an entire century. Indeed, they are issues which must be resolved this century, for if we do not do so, much will be irrevocably lost for future generations. I therefore welcome the fact that this debate has revealed an overwhelming consensus among Members of this House that we must make massive efforts to master the challenges facing us.

I would therefore like to join in the thanks expressed to Karl-Heinz Florenz who, as a member of a different parliamentary group but in his capacity as rapporteur, has presented a report whose contents we, as the Socialist Group, can certainly endorse. I am grateful too that, with Karl-Heinz Florenz and my colleague Guido Sacconi, we have two people from this House jointly steering the Committee, which in my view is a good sign that we can achieve a result based on a consensus. So much for the consensual issues: the question which in my view will undoubtedly arise is whether we will still be able to work together when it comes to substantive issues concerning the policy course that we should take, and when we start addressing points of detail.

I would therefore like to highlight two or three fracture lines which we will have to deal with. I do not want to go into the detail of the interim report, which I think is excellent; I would simply draw your attention to one example. A few years ago, we were all very enthusiastic when we said that, in reducing CO2 emissions, we wanted to move away from oil and towards renewable resources. We said that biofuels were the answer but no one realised at the time that the massive use of arable land for the cultivation of energy crops could lead to a shortage of farmland for the cultivation of foods.

When riots occurred some years ago in Mexico, when maize flour was suddenly no longer available or prices had risen dramatically, we – or at least I – did not immediately make the connection. Today, we know that we have to solve energy and climate problems but also combat hunger in the world. We need to reconcile these two aspects, and this is just one small indication that we are tackling an interdisciplinary task which will require us to demonstrate considerable resolve, and that includes the resolve to make compromises, including compromises elsewhere as well.

Europe is an industrial continent. The industrial structures which were established over the course of 50 or 60 years have been responsible for the damage to our climate. We need a change of course, but we all need to recognise that industrial structures which have been established over 50 or 60 years cannot be changed within two weeks by a parliamentary resolution. That takes time as well, so we will have to strike a balance between the very ambitious goals we are setting ourselves here.

Commissioner Dimas is right; we have no time to lose. We have to strike a balance between these ambitious goals, on the one hand, and what is feasible, in terms of a change of course, on the other. Both these aspects are crucially important, and both need a rational approach that is geared towards compromise. I therefore welcome the fact that the French Presidency has said that it is willing to try and produce a result by the end of the year. If we have the same willingness to compromise and the degree of commitment in the Council that is apparent here in Parliament, that gives me cause for optimism. However, if we see the same tactical positioning within the Council that we always see in this particular institution, we will lose time.

I have the impression that there is great readiness on the part of Parliament and in the Commission as well. If we have the same readiness in the Council too, and if all three European institutions work together, then before the European elections, we can achieve what Mr Daul has said: namely to signal to the public that the heads of state and government agree the broad policy outlines while the European Parliament does the detailed work. This division of labour is what is customary, and then it would actually be visible at last.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, if the interim report from our Committee on Climate Change does no more than state the obvious, that is no bad thing. For it confirms, in black and white, what most of us have acknowledged for some time. The science of climate change is incontrovertible. Permafrost and ice caps are melting, sea-levels and temperatures rising, largely due to human activity. Failure to act now means humankind will hurtle towards a tipping point from which there is no return.

The deadlines for climate policy are set not by the European Union, nor by the world community: they are set by nature. And the bottom line is that – despite commitments in Kyoto – global greenhouse gas emissions are growing faster than ever before, up by a quarter since 1990. Some scientists say CO2 concentrations have already gone too far. All agree the window of opportunity open to us to stabilise emissions and limit the rise in temperature to two degrees above pre-industrial levels will close within seven years.

Democracies are run by crisis management. Serious problems are often not tackled until they have to be tackled, and as Karl-Heinz Florenz points out in this excellent report we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions not by 20%, but possibly by up to 40%, depending on what deal can be made with third countries at the Copenhagen talks next year.

There are positive signs from the other big polluters, China and the USA. Beijing showed a new-found willingness to negotiate at the UN summit in Bali and all three US presidential candidates are committed to tackling climate change. What we must do – in the absence of further evidence, and with the resources at hand – is to approve the Commission’s climate change package, and I salute the work that my colleagues Lena Ek, Chris Davis and Vittorio Prodi have done in this area.

We must also redouble our efforts to promote clean energy – and the amazing thing is this: we know how. Generating power from the desert sun, as a supplement to sources of renewable energy here in Europe, could speed up the process of cutting CO2 emissions at a stroke. Indeed, satellite-based studies by the German Aerospace Centre have shown us that, using less than 0.3% of the desert area of the Middle East and North Africa, enough high-voltage electricity can be generated to supply current and future demand in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. It is not rocket science. It has been done for 20 years in California. Plants are now being built in Spain and Morocco to do the same.

If we could summon the drive and the determination, the guts and the grit, we could make the shift from oil while providing jobs, drinking water and better infrastructure for those bearing the brunt of climate change. We could combat climate change without having to turn off the lights.

Our aim should be to put Europe’s money where its mouth is, to invest money in high-voltage solar thermal power generation and political capital in the human relations across the Mediterranean Sea to make it possible. We could find no better ammunition for use in negotiations with the UN to get a progressive international agreement in Copenhagen.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Rebecca Harms, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, I would like to express my thanks to Karl-Heinz Florenz for the very good cooperation in the Temporary Committee on Climate Change. If we take the Florenz report and say, ‘this is the state of play in the climate policy debate in the European Parliament’, we might conclude that there is a wonderful ‘climate’ among Members here in the European Parliament, were it not for the fact that – like the Beagle Boys in the famous cartoons, whom we call the ‘Tank-busters’ in German – a very different agenda is being pursued in the same place at the same time!

Unfortunately, in parallel to the Temporary Committee on Climate Change, climate policy is being pursued in the European Parliament’s other committees as well: in the Committee on Industry, in the Committee on Environment and in the Committee on Development. In these committees, our colleagues often arrive at very different outcomes; they do not conclude that we are at the dawn of a ‘green’ revolution, a second or third industrial revolution.

Let us take the controversy over the regulation of CO2 emissions from cars as just one example. What is being put forward at present in this context by Mr Langen, the rapporteur for the Committee on Industry, has nothing to do with ambitious climate policy or the effort to guarantee energy security through efficiency technologies, which is what we are prescribing for the car industry in Europe. The ambitious new dawn which is championed by Mr Dimas has been consistently blocked by various majorities in the European Parliament for the last one and a half years.

I would like to know what has happened to the spirit of the broader climate debate in this controversy over cars. Here, it is not my Group that should put its hand on its heart; those who are applying the brakes here are distributed among all the other groups in this House.

Let me make one further point: emissions trading will be an important issue in Poznań and Copenhagen. The Commission should ensure that we achieve a 20% reduction in Europe. That was the proposal made by Angela Merkel when Germany held the Council Presidency, and yet as soon as the Commission tables its proposal for emissions trading, Members spring into action yet again as the parliamentary arm of the industry lobby in Europe, with the result that the negotiations focus not on achieving ambitious reduction targets but on achieving exemptions even before the rules have been established.

Mr Florenz’s report is a good report. The fact remains, however, that what we are voting on today has nothing to do with the reality of climate policy in the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Liam Aylward, on behalf of the UEN Group. – Mr President, I too should like to add my voice of congratulations to Mr Florenz and say how fortunate we are that we have a man of his ability leading this debate and to compliment him on what he has produced so far. We are often accused of being remote in this institution, of not being in touch with our people, but on this occasion the EU is working for its citizens. It is no coincidence that 95% of European citizens believe in the importance of protecting our environment. Over two thirds believe that policies tackling climate change should be initiated at European level.

My country, which is a small island, cannot solve or undertake to tackle climate change alone, just like any other country. In the Reform Treaty, which is a very prominent subject of debate in my country at the present time, the European Union has outlined measures which will see the 27 Member States combating climate change, united together. The European Union constructively facilitated the UN agreement breakthrough in Bali last December, with all parties now recognising the urgency of action.

We must accept the difficulties that we are facing; the scientific evidence is now overwhelming. Climate change is a serious global threat. It is going to cost us. Are we seriously willing to sacrifice not only our climate and planet, but also our economies? Continued inaction will eventually cost us up to one fifth of our annual gross domestic product, but real action will mean a 1% spend.

Are we also willing to subject our climate to the point of no return? Already scientists inform us that the last decade was the warmest on record and that 2007 was one of the top 10 warmest years. Let us not forget our achievements and goals in Bali. We need to continue to deliver a road map of cohesive solutions to the threat of climate change, ensuring that Member State flexibility is at its heart.

 
  
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  Jens Holm, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (SV) The content of this report is correct, but I would have liked to see more in the way of concrete measures to counter climate change. Despite this, of course, the report has the support of the GUE/NGL Group.

We note from the report that global emissions increased by 70% between 1970 and 2004, that the last decade was the warmest ever and that we face several tipping-points, for example the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. We therefore call for a 60-80% reduction in the EU’s emissions by 2050. We call for climate-labelling of consumer products and measures to counteract the considerable emissions generated by the EU through imports from other countries. We also appeal for a change in lifestyle patterns.

This is perfectly correct, but we must also make it easier for people to live in climate-friendly ways. For example, we must eat less meat and we must travel less by car and aeroplane. Unfortunately the EU subsidises the meat industry by huge amounts. Just as unfortunately the EU subsidises the construction of motorways, which only leads to increased motoring. Our measures to counter flying are also far from adequate. If we politicians do not create sustainable systems, we are not credible when we urge people to change their lifestyles.

As I have said, we should go further. We must have more concrete measures to bring about changes, and we must have higher reduction targets. We must also be self-critical and question the economic order which prevails in the EU. The EU is after all committed to the completion of the internal market and permanent growth. This only leads to more transport, and that is unsustainable.

 
  
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  Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (NL) First I thank the rapporteur, Mr Florenz, for the thorough interim report we have in front of us today. It is good to have all the relevant scientific information on climate change collected in this report. It can then serve as a useful step towards the final report by the Temporary Committee on Climate Change. I have nothing to add to the content and I have therefore not tabled any amendments.

A great deal is already known about climate change, but a lot of further study is needed, because many of the parameters are still not known. This report makes an active start with that additional study.

I cannot support the amendments by Mr Březina amongst others, insofar as they are admissible at all. As regards the amendments by Mrs Doyle and others, I shall follow the opinion of the rapporteur. Finally, I should like to wish Mr Florenz luck in drawing up the final report.

 
  
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  Jana Bobošíková (NI).(CS) Mr President, the report we are debating today is a symbol of the arrogance and mainstream blindness of Parliament. It is dangerously close to suppressing freedom, democracy and solidarity with the weakest in society. In regard to freedom of thought, there is nothing worse than insisting that only one scientific opinion is correct and denouncing other ideas. In regard to democracy, there is nothing worse than giving political blessing to such an opinion and trying to control people’s lives accordingly. In regard to solidarity with the weakest, there is nothing worse than pouring foodstuffs into car petrol tanks and watching people die from hunger. Such policies will not save the planet. The only winners will be the producers of subsidised rapeseed and manufacturers of windmill components. Taking into account that the report attempts to suppress the exchange of opinions, dictates what the scientific results should be and overlooks the needs of the poorest in society, in no way can I give it my support. I think that the Temporary Committee on Climate Change should be immediately dissolved. In conclusion I just want to say that I come from the Czech Republic and I can proudly say that, unlike other politicians, President Václav Klaus’s thinking has not become warmer and his brain has not become green.

 
  
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  President. − Thank you, Mrs Bobošíková. I will try harder to pronounce your name correctly in future. I think we are all on a learning curve, not only the President but undoubtedly the speaker as well. Thank you, Madam.

 
  
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  Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines (PPE-DE).(ES) Mr President, I wish to thank Karl-Heinz Florenz and the entire working group for having brought in such high-level scientists to work on this issue. I think it is the first time that scientists have worked alongside Members of this House. This is an asset that must not be discarded since it is clear, as the scientists have stated, that we face enormous uncertainty in the shape of climate change. In other words, science is progressing and is changing its opinions as it goes, and thus we cannot turn science into absolute truths. What does this mean? It means that if scientists, in their work, are constantly reviewing their findings and we are following along behind, then we must also be flexible and adapt our solutions to the changes in knowledge.

This symmetry between ever-increasing knowledge and our own flexibility is very important. Thus one of my concerns is the enormous confidence we have in ourselves in Europe. Doubt and uncertainty form the basis of scientific work, and of getting it right in this case. I think we have to be aware of the fact that there may be other countries, those we are criticising, that are doing the right thing in certain areas.

I say this, and I must reiterate that I support the project, for I believe that the concepts of complexity and impact must be taken into consideration, and this is borne out by what has happened to us with biofuels. We must also be ruled by absolute discipline in relation to environmental impact, economic impact and feasibility of the solutions.

Since the aim of this document is not to provide solutions, however, I continue to support it. Nevertheless I would also say that we must apply a combined policy, and here the document must move one step forward in the second part, with decisions taken from above at state level, without neglecting the fact that climate change is an issue which must be solved by adaptation at local level.

We must therefore start contemplating a policy of broad climate change knowledge from above, in combination with a policy operated from below, in industry, in economic sectors, in agriculture, in our various territories, to allow each country to draw up its own project in line with the general project.

 
  
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  Guido Sacconi (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I too of course add my voice to those of my fellow Members who have expressed thanks and appreciation for the work done by our rapporteur, Karl-Heinz Florenz. I would also like to thank, informally, all Members and political groups who are working and have worked very intensively this year for the Temporary Committee on Climate Change which has genuinely forged a very strong, staunch climate of unity beyond the fringe areas of discord which do nevertheless exist.

This gives me reason for hope because a summary of all the material we have gathered already and the material we are gathering for the final report will be forthcoming, and this will, in short, allow us to pass on a healthy legacy to the future Parliament which it can use to carry out the work it must do in line with the truly overarching vision which is so necessary on this matter.

What we have today is the first chapter, the placing on record of the state of scientific knowledge on this issue. We should be clear that this does not mean that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific movement, but a forum where, following years of work, all scientific literature on the subject has been considered and a summary, an audit, has been made, reaching levels of probability in various areas, various assessments, which have very rapidly attained almost 100%, an unprecedented state of affairs, I believe, in the history of science.

I believe that this is also of concern from a wider point of view; it could be regarded to some degree as a model for establishing an intelligent relationship, if I may be so bold, between scientific knowledge and political decision-making in respect of the extraordinary complexity of the issues facing the world today.

Climate change is happening, it is happening fast, and therefore we must act promptly and, as Karl-Heinz rightly said, it is not only a problem but an opportunity. This knowledge is precisely the basis upon which, in the space of one year, Commissioner Dimas, the world political climate has also changed, and global warming is not the only thing to have happened. The world political climate has changed, culminating in Bali with an acknowledgement by everyone of the validity of the IPCC research and, in recent months, of truly important changes in the positions taken by leaders.

Some of our work also involved carrying out several visits to China, India and recently to Washington in the United States, and we were able to seize upon what, as you noted, the Presidential candidates have stated very clearly, namely that there will be a very different commitment even in the United States over the coming months which really gives rise to hope for the international negotiations which are due to conclude in Copenhagen in 2009.

I agree with you on that point and we are producing results which were unimaginable only one year ago.

 
  
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  Vittorio Prodi (ALDE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, thank you Commissioner for your continued attendance. As a scientist I can only welcome the fact that the picture in terms of science has finally been accepted and acknowledged, even in high-ranking political bodies such as this. As Vice-Chairman of the Temporary Committee on Climate Change, I am satisfied with the initial results of the joint work and I congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Florenz, my colleagues and the Chairman, Mr Sacconi.

Personally, however, I fear that all our goodwill will not be enough to resolve the serious problems which we face. I am thinking especially of the catastrophic outlook predicted by climate change for problems which are already very difficult, such as poverty, public health and access to natural resources, chief among which is water, and I believe that, once the first step on this journey of discovery into this phenomenon has been taken, namely the drafting of this initial report on scientific evidence, we will in all likelihood be choosing to accept a mission impossible.

This mission will be to give grounds for hope, to come up with achievable plans for a future which is not built solely on conflict and inequalities and to offer a vision where science helps us to even out the imbalances which mankind has created or helped to exacerbate. What we should tell our fellow citizens is this: we will accept this mission and in doing so we will make a leap forward for civilisation.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR VIDAL-QUADRAS
Vice-President

 
  
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  Caroline Lucas (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, at first sight this report may seem like a technical one, simply summarising the science as we know it. But make no mistake, this report is also a deeply political one and it is a call to arms, because the fact is that this report demonstrates the urgent need for a complete revolution in the way we run our economies.

Knowledge brings with it responsibility and to know what we know about the realities of climate change and yet to fail to act in a commensurate way would amount to nothing less than a crime against future generations.

So the logic of the report is this: that the EU’s 20% emission reduction target is quite simply incompatible with the science on two degrees; that we must therefore move unilaterally to make at least 30% domestic reductions now; that we must respond to new facts – just last month a leading climate scientist, James Hansen, warned that current targets are far too weak and that we must commit far more resources to helping developing countries adapt, with all the revenue from the ETS auctioning being ring-fenced for climate action.

The good news is that the EU is uniquely well placed to take the lead on climate change and that, if we were to take up that challenge, we might also find that our own institutions are revitalised and that the EU is reconnected with the citizens it is supposed to represent.

 
  
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  Bogdan Pęk (UEN).(PL) Mr President, for some time now I have listened with alarm to pseudo-scientific arguments put forward in the very heart of Europe. I refer to presentations made in this House, from which wisdom based on sound scientific evidence is supposed be disseminated to the entire world. In fact, however, there are just as many scientists who maintain that we are not in a position to influence climate change with the means currently available as there are scientists who maintain that we can do so.

Imagine for a minute that the first group is right, ladies and gentlemen. If that is the case and we devote enormous resources to alleged climate change, thus affecting humankind’s well-being, notably in Europe, we shall be condemning the nations of Europe to a steep decline in relation to other nations that will develop faster in the meantime.

I can assure the House that the Chairman of a parliamentary committee only takes account of the opinions of one set of scientists, and if Commissioner Dimas does not refer to all known scientific work on this subject, thus allowing a myth to arise, I shall protest in the strongest terms. I shall do so because action of this sort must be taken only and exclusively on the basis of conclusive scientific evidence.

 
  
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  Roberto Musacchio (GUE/NGL).(IT) Mr President, colleagues, my great thanks go to the rapporteur, Mr Florenz, because he has worked hard and has assessed several months’ work by the Temporary Committee on Climate Change under the expert chairmanship of Guido Sacconi. The key political point which leads me to agree with the Florenz report is the acceptance of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a body and therefore of the UN and the Bali Conference guidelines. Note that this is not just a scientific point, but a point of democracy; it is a forum for world democracy.

Now the issue before us is that if Europe seeks to be a credible, driving force in the post-Kyoto agreement we must have our house in order. The package of measures set out must be approved within a specific period, and in line with the Bali undertakings, in other words the package must be one which abides by the commitments, as well as being transparent, in place and verified.

It is essential that we prevent exceptions and derogations which give rise to non-credibility within Europe and in relations with others. We must prevent any jiggery-pokery by Member States and the business world, in other words we must be serious!

 
  
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  Graham Booth (IND/DEM). – Mr President, I agree with Mr Pęk. Many eminent scientists from around the world signed the Manhattan Declaration on 4 March this year. Amongst other things, it states that ‘there is no convincing evidence that CO2 emissions from modern industrial activity has in the past, is now, or will in the future, cause catastrophic climate change’. Last week, another 31 000 scientists endorsed that view in the Oregon Petition.

This is no longer the odd dissenting voice, and Nigel Lawson, a member of the House of Lords Committee on Climate Change, also agrees that the debate is not over. Before we commit ourselves to enormous costs by way of climate taxes, carbon trading etc. at the very time when we are being warned of a likely global economic recession, we must listen to both sides of the debate and make absolutely sure who is right.

 
  
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  Roger Helmer (NI). – Mr President, for once I come to the House with good news: global warning has stopped. 1998 was the warmest year in living memory. For the last 10 years global temperatures have been static or falling. The recent modest warming is comparable to what occurred in the medieval warm period; before that, in the Roman Optimum; and, before that, in the Holocene Optimum.

Temperatures today are below the maxima of the last 2 000 years. Increasing doubts are being cast on the role of CO2. Since 1850, average temperatures correlate well with solar cycles but very poorly with atmospheric CO2. The pattern of warming, both geographically and over time, is wholly different from that predicted by computer models.

The greenhouse models predict maximum warming in the high atmosphere, but observations show that what little warming there is is at the surface and largely a result of the urban heat-island effect.

The greenhouse effect of CO2 is logarithmic; that is, it is a law of diminishing returns. In greenhouse terms, the atmosphere is already saturated with CO2 and further emissions will have little effect.

The sea-level is rising no faster than it always has, about six to eight inches a century; the global ice mass is broadly constant; severe weather events are no more frequent than they ever were; species extinction is driven not by global warming but by loss of habitat, and especially by the drive for biofuels. Recent studies show that polar bears are doing very well.

Climate hysteria is increasingly remote from reality. We need to rethink our policies before they do any more damage.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Markus Pieper (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Mrs Harms, tank-busting is actually a positive thing in a pacifistic sense! The scientific facts are well-known: the climate change that we are witnessing today has much to do with human activity. In that respect, the achievements of the Temporary Committee are therefore exemplary.

What perturbs me about this report, however, is its threatening undertone. I am perturbed that absolutely no space is given to divergent scientific opinions. The fact is that whenever politics claims to be infallible, it gets something wrong. The report talks about heat waves of unprecedented magnitude and about species extinction of up to 70% being caused by climate change. It says that almost every region of the world will be adversely affected. These assertions are based on projections from long-term modelling, but they cannot be ascribed so simplistically to human-induced climate change alone.

Against this background, I think it is scandalous for our Parliament that amendments tabled by Mr Březina which draw attention to precisely this situation are to be declared inadmissible. Mr President, I would ask you specifically to declare Amendment 15 admissible. Environmental protection is not well-served if certain opinions are suppressed simply by means of administrative procedures. An exaggerated threat will trigger policy measures which lead to a skewed view of political priorities. One example is the assertion that climate change should become a priority in development assistance. However, AIDS, malnutrition, malaria and earthquakes are more pressing problems today, and this is where we should be deploying our political resources.

In Europe, too, the debate about climate change has reached a dimension which is putting social achievements at risk. Already, a family in Germany is paying more than 40% of the electricity price to the state, and at the petrol pumps the figure is now between 55% and 78%. The new emissions trading scheme will drive up electricity prices again by at least 30%.

I advocate a rational approach to the issue of climate change, so that we can then identify solutions which are socially and economically compatible. The amendments tabled by Mr Březina would offer a number of starting points, and I would ask you for your support.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Dorette Corbey (PSE).(NL) I would like to thank Mr Florenz. He has produced an excellent report. The climate change debate is very emotional, rightly so of course. However, today we have to opt for a sensible approach. In the next few months we shall be working intensively on climate change and many ambitious measures are on the agenda.

It is very important for Europe to demonstrate its credibility before Copenhagen and to reach agreement on the climate package. That can only happen if we have a common basis and that basis is knowledge. Mr Florenz can take credit for having set out the scientific consensus. The starting point for our policy is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings. Thousands of scientists work together in the IPCC. It is a fact that the earth is warming up and it is also a fact that the warming is to some extent caused by human actions. In order to keep climate change within the limits, we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80% before 2050. That is no easy task. There are important interests involved. Of course clean production can bring in a lot of profit and employment and it is also good that this way we shall end our reliance on oil and enter the world of sustainable energy. However, the transition to a low-CO2 economy is not easy.

Two things are therefore important. Firstly, the policy must be knowledge-based and that does not mean, Mr Pieper, that the consensus in the IPCC is set in stone. We can expect the IPCC to be open to criticism and well-founded arguments from the sceptics, because that helps knowledge, and so our Group fully supports paragraph 10.

The second point is that long-term public support is needed. To make it possible for the public to support firm measures, we are asking for the basic scientific points to be set out in a brochure available to the public, so that everyone can be aware of the challenges we face. That way we can deal with the challenges together. I expect this report by Mr Florenz to be the basis for us to take more joint action and to establish a good policy by 2009.

 
  
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  Lena Ek (ALDE). – (SV) Mr President, let me also congratulate Karl-Heinz Florenz on an excellent report. I would point out that it has very strong political and symbolic significance, which is manifested not least in the fact that the leaders of the three big political groups introduced the debate.

We all agree with the content of the Florenz report. It is also written in such a way that ordinary Europeans can actually read the text and understand what we mean. Its clear and instructive presentation is a further positive aspect which I am keen to highlight.

However, problems still remain which we need to discuss. I urge you to support the amendments relating to the sea and the 1.5° rise in sea surface temperature. We also need to look at questions of public health. We shall be addressing that in the next report. I expect some sound ideas to be presented in that area. We MEPs now have a chance to show that we are determined and serious in our commitment on these issues. Avril Doyle and I are both rapporteurs on emission rights trading. If we are all serious on the things said today ahead of the vote, then we expect strong support for the proposals we shall be putting forward in our various committees.

Finally, I would point out that we are in the middle of preparations for the Copenhagen Conference. These preparations must proceed in an entirely different way, in cooperation between Parliament, the Council and the Commission and together with the developing countries. There are only 18 months to go.

 
  
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  Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, I, too, congratulate Mr Florenz on his report. How excellent that it should be based on the scientific findings of the competent UN committee and that it should highlight the need for more and better information for citizens.

However, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, let us move from findings to action. We must adapt our policies to the measures proposed by science. We need cleaner fuels and cleaner cars. We know of your struggle, Commissioner, even within the Commission, against lobbies and interests that undermine the EU’s efforts to be a world leader in the fight against climate change. The vast majority of the European Parliament is an ally. It will support a more ambitious effort on the part of the Commission and governments because human life and the protection of the environment are of considerably greater importance than the interests of certain business circles.

 
  
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  Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE).(PL) Mr President, I am not the first to congratulate the rapporteur on his excellent report, and I am sure I will not be the last. The international community recently received the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) document containing an extensive scientific study of global warming. We refer to it in our report and in our resolution. Most researchers accepted this document, namely the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. So too did the majority of the governments of the 110 countries represented on the Panel. Nonetheless, voices are being raised questioning the validity of the document. They have been heard in this House too. It is therefore appropriate to begin by assessing the controversy.

Firstly, almost everyone now at least agrees that global warming is a fact, even if some corner of our planet happens to be temporarily colder than in the past. Due amongst other reasons to the IPCC report, it now seems to be accepted that global warming exists. Consequently, it is no longer so important to refer to further indications of the approaching Apocalypse linked to rising temperatures. On the other hand, explaining and proving the reason for the rise in temperatures is certainly necessary.

I would ask the House to remember that the majority of scientists who have researched this problem seriously believe that responsibility for global warming rests mainly, though not exclusively, with human beings. This is particularly true in relation to greenhouse gas emissions. It would be worth devoting further effort to documenting and proving this theory. Research into the causes of warming should certainly continue, and this should be the main conclusion of our deliberations.

Nonetheless, it is most important for us to bear in mind that it already seems very probable that greenhouse gases produced by human beings are the main cause of global warming, so action is therefore called for. That is why the European Union assumed the role of world leader in limiting emissions. Consequently, it is particularly important for us Europeans to achieve a global agreement on this issue in Poznań and Copenhagen. We must remember that we cannot save the planet on our own. To abandon our own actions now, however, would be unforgivable. We cannot abrogate our responsibility to civilisation.

 
  
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  Riitta Myller (PSE). – (FI) Mr President, there is well established and recognised data on climate change worldwide, and the human origins of the current global warming trend are beyond any serious scientific doubt. This is what Mr Florenz states in his report at the beginning of his conclusions. The purpose after all of drafting this interim report was specifically to establish a common basis for the final version.

The work of the Committee and Parliament needs to be firmly anchored to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There is very clear consensus in this report that the global average temperature must be stabilised so that it does not increase by more than 2°C. This is also a way to take account of the economic, ecological and social impact of climate change.

The facts are on the table, as Mr Florenz said. Now it is a matter of how we understand what we read – what our reading skills are like. That will be evident this year when we discuss the package of laws the Commission presented to us. I would like particularly to stress that, as this is a matter of the ecological, economic and social impact on climate change, we should focus more on the issue of energy efficiency. I hope the Commission will in its future activities make a special issue of the potential for increasing energy efficiency. As saved energy is the cheapest energy it is also ecologically the best way of combating climate change, and so on this point I hope that there will be new proposals and stimuli from the Commission.

 
  
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  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – Mr President, we are discussing here an excellent interim report on the scientific facts of climate change by the rapporteur of the Temporary Committee on Climate Change, Karl-Heinz Florenz. I would like to thank him for the huge amount of work he has put into this, and all colleagues on the Temporary Committee across the House.

For legislators to ignore the peer-reviewed opinion of the overwhelming majority of scientists in the field of climate change throughout the world would be a combustible mixture of arrogance, irresponsibility and complete dereliction of duty. We are the decision-makers. We have a democratic mandate from our citizens and on this, the most pressing issue facing the world community today, we cannot be found wanting even when, or especially when, the decisions before us are extremely challenging.

I would urge our dear colleagues who could loosely be termed ‘climate sceptics’ to travel this road with us, if only on the basis of the much abused but very important concept of the precautionary principle. Yes, the science is complex and dynamic, but with a ratio of five to one of the scientific community supporting the case we make, we must challenge, we must question and above all we must respond – and respond adequately – to the peer-reviewed work of some of our best and brightest in the fields of climatology and meteorology.

More than two thirds of the world’s surface is covered by oceans and three quarters of the world’s mega-cities are by the sea. More than 97% of the planet’s water is contained in the oceans and fish supply the highest percentage of the world’s protein consumed by humans, on which 3.5 billion people depend for their primary source of food. As man-made greenhouse gas emissions rise, the scientific prediction is that dramatic changes such as warmer oceans, melting of the poles, rising sea levels and ocean acidification will pose severe threats to marine ecosystems and the fishing community.

As I put on my hat as Vice-Chairwoman of the Committee on Fisheries, I would urge that its considered views be taken on board in this interim report today. Two quick points: it was a serious omission not to have included members of the Committee on Fisheries on the Temporary Committee on Climate Change and, secondly, I regret that the Temporary Committee felt unable to accept the opinion of the Fisheries Committee.

In conclusion, there is a series of amendments emphasising the scientific impact of the consequences of climate change on the world’s oceans. I would urge colleagues to support these amendments, as Parliament’s decision-making report should be as comprehensive and as integrated as possible.

 
  
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  Agnes Schierhuber (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would also like to start by expressing my warm thanks to our rapporteur for his work. The report – as the previous speakers have said – relates entirely to the scientific facts concerning climate change, which were discussed in detail with world-renowned experts during the thematic meetings.

The agriculture and forestry sector is one of the industries hardest hit by climate change and therefore has a strong interest in effective climate protection measures being adopted at global level. The involvement of all countries, especially the developing countries, in the post-Kyoto process is essential. It is also important to underline that agriculture is by no means a driver of food prices: in the price of a bread roll, for example, the wheat used to make it accounts for less than 2% of the costs.

It is also well-known that renewable resources for crop-based fuels do not release any more CO2 than was stored during their growth, which means that they are indeed CO2-neutral. It has also been recognised, on the basis of sound research findings, that humans are partly responsible for climate change. For that reason, it is important to conduct more intensive research as well as to save energy through more efficient use. Let us take heart from the fact that it took 3 000 years for it to be accepted that the Earth is a globe and not flat.

May I appeal to this Parliament to engage in serious debate which recognises that climate change is a global problem; it is a macrosocial problem which cannot be resolved by means of sectoral policies in individual EU Member States. A solution can only be achieved worldwide, and the European Union should certainly take a leading and mediating role in combating climate change.

 
  
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  Valdis Dombrovskis (PPE-DE). – (LV) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to congratulate the rapporteur on his clear and unambiguous position, which, on the basis of the results of scientific studies, acknowledges that global warming is really happening and that it is caused by humans. We ought to remember that a few years ago many influential politicians, including leaders of certain major powers, were still trying to deny this. The report goes a step further and rejects, as scientifically unfounded, statements to the effect that global warming is not occurring and that these are only natural variations in temperature. This report once again demonstrates that the EU is a world leader with respect to global warming. This is no cause for elation, however. In order to keep global warming within the bounds of 2%, according to current estimates the volume of CO2 emissions will need to be reduced by at least half by 2050. In this context, the statement in the report to the effect that nearly all the EU Member States have made good progress in meeting the Kyoto targets is over-optimistic. In the period from 1990 to 2005 the 15 older EU Member States reduced their emissions by only 2%, and it is very unlikely that in the remaining five years they will reduce their emissions by a further 6%, in order to achieve their collective Kyoto target. It is only thanks to the fact that the newer EU Member States have reduced their emissions considerably more quickly that the EU as a whole can claim world leader status in this sphere. It is expected that the newer EU Member States will reduce their CO2 emissions by 21% by 2010. It is only this fact that enables the EU leaders to talk about the apparently ambitious target of reducing emissions by 20% by 2020. Of course, this target is to be welcomed, but it is important that the largest polluters should achieve the greater part of this reduction. It is not acceptable to allow the efforts of EU climate change policies to be based only on the existing achievements of the newer Member States and isolated older ones, and to place an additional burden on them, while at the same time making allowances for the largest polluters. Regardless of the allocation of emissions reductions among the EU Member States, however, we will not achieve anything unless worldwide agreement is reached and countries such as the United States, China, India, Russia and others are involved in solving the problem. This issue must be a priority in EU foreign policy and climate change policy. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE-DE). – (SL) We usually opt for changes and measures only if they are based on solid facts. In the Committee on Climate Change we have accumulated numerous data from many scientists. Most of the data indicate that the changes in eco-systems are the consequence of anthropogenic emissions and indicate possible trends for the future.

Whilst some are concerned and use the data as a threat, we must also see the good side of it, which is that we can still act. However, we must act quickly, responsibly, seriously, and in a coordinated manner: inside the Union first, and then also globally. We can succeed with international agreements only if we are sufficiently sensitive also in relation to the problems of third countries who are preoccupied with sustainable development issues, and many even with elimination of poverty.

An integral approach requires a change in our European heads, because until now, we have only been preoccupied with development, or primarily with the development of a low carbon society. However, we can reach international agreement only if we give equal consideration to both the measures to reduce emissions and the measures for modifying emissions, in order to bring them in line with the climate changes.

My thanks to the rapporteur for an excellent report, and I expect that, in this sense, our work will continue into the next year.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (PSE). – (HU) Mr President, I congratulate Mr Florenz on his outstanding report. The debate on the scientific basis of climate change is exceptionally important, because sadly we politicians often fail to take the facts into account, although facts are very persistent things. I agree with Martin Schulz that we should call a halt to the debate based on beliefs and consider the facts.

In Hungary, for example, the groundwater level on the Hungarian Plain between the rivers Danube and Tisza has fallen by 3-4 metres over the past 30-40 years; serious desertification has occurred, meaning that scientists have taken measurements and found that desertification is 50% due to climate change and 50% due to harmful human activity.

In short, let us give due consideration to what the scientists are saying. I also agree that the European Union cannot resolve this problem by itself; the USA, Japan, China, Brazil and the developing world must be partners in this undertaking. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE). – (FI) Mr President, mankind is to blame for climate change and man can also therefore help change its direction.

The EU’s goal is to raise the amount that biofuels account for fuel for transport to 10%. That is a goal that must be achieved, furthermore. We need to do all we can to achieve it, including incorporating the use of peat as the raw material in biodiesel.

More money is needed for research so that the most efficient methods can be employed. For example, some studies show that energy production from algae is up to 15 times greater per hectare than production from grapes, palm oil and soya, so more research into this is needed. This is therefore one way we can reduce the use of palm oil and hopefully also stop it completely as it is by no means an environmentally friendly activity. We therefore need to take action in collaboration with the United States of America, China, India, and Russia.

 
  
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  Péter Olajos (PPE-DE). – (HU) Thank you, Mr President. If we want to achieve success in Copenhagen at the end of 2009, I believe there are two things we absolutely have to take into consideration, things that I myself have experienced in the course of visits to India, Bangladesh, China and California over the past few months.

First of all, we must make a genuine effort. In other words, it is not enough to pat ourselves on the back; it is not enough to talk of 10 or 20 or 30 or 40%. According to European Environment Agency figures, not only have carbon dioxide emissions not fallen since 2000, they have in fact risen somewhat, by 1%. The emissions trading system (ETS) is a great success and it is currently in the process of being reformed, but I believe that it would be worthwhile initiating similar reforms in the non-ETS system; perhaps the two systems should even be consolidated. I vigorously support the Council proposal to set 1990 as the base year rather than 2005.

The other very important thing is the Adaptation Fund. If we want to achieve success in Copenhagen, we must create the Adaptation Fund. The Stern report showed that unless there is an Adaptation Fund the other regions of the world have very little chance of avoiding the unpleasant consequences of climate change. Thank you.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (PSE). – (RO) Climate change already affects the European Union. In recent years, Romania, for instance, has been affected by drought, floods and hot weather. Some areas in Romania’s South and Southeast region have started to turn into desert. The Union has undertaken an important role in the fight against climate change both as regards the reduction of causes and the adjustment to climate change.

The Lisbon Treaty includes provisions on climate change and I also appreciate here the clause of solidarity in case of natural disasters. Unfortunately, global governance in the field of environmental protection is decentralized and sometimes the coherence of overall decisions is lacking; 18 multilateral institutions are responsible with monitoring approximately 500 international agreements, of which 300 at regional level. The European Union has to have the role of leader in this field.

There are solutions. We need coherent actions on climate change, more ecological transport, research and development programmes, to adapt agriculture to adequate water consumption, reforestation and, especially, better waste management. I congratulate the Rapporteur.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE).(SK) Climate change has serious implications, not only for ecosystems, but also for the economy, public health, water and food security, as well as migration. The latest scientific studies lead to the conviction that human activity too has contributed to the global warming trend and therefore the onus is on our society to implement effective political measures.

I welcome the interim report by the Temporary Committee on Climate Change and its recommendations on the EU’s future integrated policy on climate change, and I strongly support the notion that the global average temperature increase should be limited to not more than 2°C. In addition to that, the European Union should make the effort to reduce emissions in a way that would keep the temperatures well below this two-degree cut-off point. Making scientifically proven information available to the public and so contributing to increased public awareness on this issue should be an important instrument in climate change mitigation policies.

 
  
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  Anni Podimata (PSE).(EL) Mr President, Commissioner, let me first welcome the interim report on the scientific facts of climate change. I am particularly glad because it emphasises the fact that scientists agree on the seriousness of this problem. The report also brings out the major impact of the human factor, especially energy, on climate change.

The Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC states that world CO2 emissions increased by about 80% between 1970 and 2004, and that these increases were due mainly to the use of fossil fuels. Given that there is an undeniably close link between the climate and energy planning, I should like to point out how necessary it is to create an integrated plan at European level so that we know what the most advisable and effective energy choices might be.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Mr President, listening to the debate this morning I feel the need to make a couple of comments.

First of all, the scientific evidence. There is no doubt that establishing the presence of global warming and its causation is a very complicated business. This is not a test-tube situation where an experiment can be done in a laboratory to prove something one way or the other. The evidence is based on long-term observations and very complicated procedures and of course there are some doubters, some scientists who have a different opinion. This is not new. Scientists are well known for differing in their opinions: let us not forget that even the causation of cancer by smoking has been doubted extensively by many scientists and they are still doubting it today. We all know of course what the truth is. The same of course has happened with thalidomide and the causation of phocomelia in human embryos.

The second point is that emphasis should be placed on a global approach because we all know that the countries which pollute the most, i.e. the USA, China and India, are doing the least about combating global warming.

 
  
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  Janez Podobnik, President-in-Office. − (SL) I have followed with great interest your very lively discussion, which was a very good basis for the interim report provided by the rapporteur, Mr Karl-Heinz Florenz, for which I thank him, and congratulate him on it.

Your discussion was such that it would benefit any parliament. It was very involved; I understood it as a positive criticism, since every opinion is precious, including a critical one.

From your discussion I can summarise two basic conclusions. The European Union is and will remain a force capable of facing up to ... of course, in cooperation with all its global partners, to continue pushing for a serious confrontation on climate changes. And another conclusion, that the climate change is not just a problem, but it can also be an opportunity. However, we can deal with it effectively primarily by acting at a global level.

I should also like to say that, within the climate and energy bundle, the European Union is successfully and thoroughly preparing all those measures with which we can effectively counter the consequences of the climate change.

The transition to a safe and sustainable low carbon economy will influence numerous policies including the economy and people’s everyday lives. Coordinated political measures are required in numerous areas of the European Union. This is where I would support your thoughts, that we have to stick together, not just concerning global decisions, but also to be unanimous regarding the details connected with these political measures.

I should particularly like to mention the synergies between climate change and energy. In this respect, harmonious European and national policies must be created in the area of research, development and innovations; we must encourage a sustainable transport system, enabling the member States to adopt the necessary measures in fighting climate change; we must improve energy efficiency, particularly that in buildings, as well as other sources of energy in all sectors, and keep informing consumers about the efficient use of energy, in order to reduce the social implications and also to make the most of new opportunities.

As has already been mentioned in Mr Florenz's report, the science on climate change is well established and recognised, and the fact that the current global warming is a consequence of human activity is scientifically irrefutable.

Allow me to briefly comment on your differing views on the scientific framework of the IPCC. On this matter I am in favour of respecting the field of politics. The European Parliament is an eminent political arena. Of course we should also respect the field of science, which is, however, committed to the ethical principles of research and scientific accuracy.

At the same time we should not forget the space of the citizen, the ordinary man, who will be affected by individual measures in terms of quality of his life, including when he is working out his family budget and planning his future.

I would particularly like to say that it seems important that the Temporary Committee on Climate Change, has, according to Mr Sacconi, been doing well and discussed climate change issues in a positive atmosphere during their sessions, and also that it has, by a large majority, adopted an interim report on scientific facts concerning climate change.

We particularly welcome the European Parliament's decision to extend the mandate to the Temporary Committee on Climate Change to February 2009. Mr President, we see this as a particular additional proof that in the sphere of climate change the European Parliament supports the ambitious policy of the European Union at an international level with its actions, taking care that its political decisions are backed with the latest scientific results.

We are also pleased with the announcement in today's debate that the debate on the climate change bundle will follow, which should mean a serious fulfilment of the commitments made by the European Council in March 2008.

 
  
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  Stavros Dimas, Member of the Commission. − (EL) Mr President, I thank all the speakers in today’s debate for their very interesting interventions.

In particular, let me point out that the EU, either as the EU-15 or the EU-27, will meet the Kyoto target, and there is no doubt about that. Since I will be or hope to be a commissioner for another 18 months, I assure you that there is no way we can fail to achieve the Kyoto target. I say this because the measures we have already taken, and are taking now, ensure that the Kyoto target will be met. Now this is the least we should do in the coming years. For the record, the figures you supplied earlier are correct. It has to be said that the EU is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, while other countries such as the United States are increasing them, and at a significantly faster rate than in 1990. In 2005, as you said, we were 2% below the 1990 level, and in 2006 a little short of 3% for the 15 EU countries, which have a collective target. However, as the EU-27, our success is ever greater, as we are roughly 8% below the 1990 level. At the end of the period the Kyoto Protocol has given us to fulfil our obligations, the EU-15 will be at least 8% below, and the EU-27 at least 11% below the 1990 level. Let us note that our decrease of just over 8% is very positive because it will help us to achieve the target for 2020 and beyond.

According to the interim report, scientific findings will play an important role in international negotiations because they will allow us to take bold measures. They will serve as a basis for assessing the suitability of the proposals to be tabled for negotiation during the run-up to the Copenhagen Conference.

The resolution reminds us of the dangers involved in uncontrolled climate change, which will affect human society in a variety of ways and will seriously impact our economies and cultural traditions.

The resolution quite rightly emphasises how important it is to avoid major disruptions to the climate, such as the drying-up of the Amazon tributaries and the collapse of large volumes of ice at both Poles.

I think it is equally important to highlight the likely consequences of climate change in terms of international security, food and water shortages, and disputes over control of resources and over movements of migrants. Pressure is steadily increasing on the international community because of environmental emergencies resulting from extreme weather conditions and violent conflicts caused by climate change. The recent food price crisis is the most palpable example to date of what may happen: reduced harvests in many parts of the world are caused by extreme weather conditions. Unfortunately, this situation does not appear to be temporary or exceptional; it is set to become integral and recurrent and cannot be controlled without drastic changes to agricultural policy and farming practice.

Allow me here to mention some other topics raised in the report. I will start with the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through suitable action at national level in developing countries. There is a need for the support and prospects offered by technology. There must be funding to transfer technology and enhance the administrative capacities of these countries so that the reductions in question can be measured, recorded and verified. This idea is at the core of the Bali Action Plan negotiations. As was noted in Bali, any move on the part of the developing countries will depend not only on serious commitments by the developed countries to reduce emissions, but also on substantial efforts on the part of those countries to provide funding, especially for the transfer of technology and creation of the necessary administrative capacity.

It is important for the EU to take advantage of every opportunity for dialogue with the main developing countries, so that there is agreement on what exactly this means and how the EU can support such actions, either through cooperation in formulating policy, technical assistance, the transfer of know-how and the provision of incentives on the CO2 market, or through financial assistance. There are measures to be taken in all sectors, including action on emissions from energy use, and forest depletion.

I will turn now to the scientific aspect of this discussion. The Commission fully agrees that scientific findings should be made known to the general public. Consumers should be prepared and made more aware of how much greenhouse gas is generated by their lifestyle and consumer habits. This increased alerting of the public should, however, be accompanied by strong financial incentives for companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions arising from the products and services they provide.

A transition to a low-CO2 economy is necessary on a global scale. This can be achieved only through systematic, coordinated measures to reduce emissions in all sectors.

The package of measures on climate change and energy now at the co-decision stage gives us a head start in the transition. It also enables us to show that an ambitious climate policy is both feasible and of broader benefit to our economies and societies.

We shall continue our highly constructive cooperation on this important package of policy measures and shall reach an agreement, I hope, as soon as possible this year.

To conclude, let me congratulate the European Parliament on its important contribution to the effort to combat climate change, and salute Mr Florenz for his excellent work.

I hope Parliament will continue in this constructive manner. May our cooperation and exchange of views continue, both on the package of measures on climate and energy, and on the international negotiations in the run-up to Poznań and Copenhagen.

 
  
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  Karl-Heinz Florenz, rapporteur. − (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office, many thanks for your closing words which are very encouraging. I think that we have been able to identify a consensus here in the House, and this consensus naturally obliges us to undertake further scientific studies and to eliminate the remaining doubts, for after all, in which area of human knowledge is there no room for doubt? That is something which, as rapporteur, I certainly want to see happen.

I am grateful for the praise which has kindly been expressed today, and I would like to pass it on to the staff behind the scenes who worked extremely hard on this report. Let me take this opportunity to voice my warm thanks to them once again.

Listening to today’s debate might give the impression that we are arguing over CO2. Let me say this: we will have many other issues to argue about, for CO2 emissions are just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, they are a serious issue, there is no doubt about that, but the real challenge is how we deal with our sustainability strategies. How should we care for our planet Earth, which we hold in trust for our children? The energy sources that we are currently burning up took many millions of years to create, and we are squandering them in just a thousand years or so. The challenge, then, is how to make a litre of fuel go twice as far as it does at present. That is what we need to achieve, and then we will have fulfilled our task. That is the major challenge ahead: increasing efficiency in Europe, developing state-of-the-art technologies, using these technologies at home – that goes without staying – and also selling them profitably worldwide in order to create jobs. That is our opportunity, as I see it, and I would ask all of you to help us seize this opportunity with both hands.

Let me reiterate my thanks to everyone, but with an eye to the Rules of Procedure, I would like to draw your attention to one last point. From the very start of this debate, there has been a dire mistake in the translation of Article 10 which says that I condemn something. That is not at all in my nature. I may disapprove of one thing and another, but I never condemn anything. I shall not mince my words: I think it is important to point out that there is a problem with bad translation in the House, which is evident throughout this entire report, and I would like to draw your attention to the correctly phrased amendments in this area which have been tabled in the House.

I would like to thank everyone involved and invite you to work with us on the next and more difficult stage in this process, namely resolving the question of how we should now respond to these scientific facts.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place at 12 noon.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Neena Gill (PSE) , in writing. – To successfully tackle climate change, markets need to adapt so they reflect the environmental cost of carbon. Polluters must pay. We must use every type of policy instrument including VAT reductions, emissions trading, and subsidies to change the behaviour of consumers and businesses so they have more incentives to take eco-friendly options. As Sir Nicholas Stern has pointed out, the economic and social costs of climate change will be catastrophic.

Therefore, I strongly disagree with those in the House who deny climate change. They only need to look at the increasing number and frequency of natural disasters worldwide to see its impact. These disasters are clearly a wake-up call for us to take greater action.

The EU has a legitimate role in tackling climate change and it needs to set an example and provide guidance to other countries. We need greater dialogue with emerging economies India and China to ensure that their growth contributes less to global emissions than EU and US’s has done over the last century. There is a strong case for technology transfer from the EU to developing countries so they can avoid carbon intensive industrial development and leapfrog directly to a low carbon economy.

 
  
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  András Gyürk (PPE-DE) in writing. – (HU) It is absolutely vital to take into account the facts of climate change based on the scientific evidence when making decisions in this regard. After all, the risk of taking the wrong decisions based on mistaken conclusions is at least as great as the risk of inaction. One thing is worth noting here: climate change is a fact that can be substantiated scientifically, and rapid and effective measures are urgently needed to remedy it.

Sober consideration of the scientific facts can also help us to assess how market-based environmental protection instruments can contribute to enhancing the quality of the environment. In our opinion, greater effort is needed on the part of the Member States to popularise market-friendly incentives. The creation of the emissions trading system, which approaches the issue of emissions reduction on the basis of market mechanisms, is a welcome development. The fact that the system works is proof that the market, competition and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive ideas.

In Hungary there are many examples that demonstrate how mistaken conclusions can result in wrong decisions being made. Biomass production in reality means burning timber; the harmful consequences of forced support for biofuels are becoming increasingly apparent. The measures put in place in these two areas do not meet sustainability requirements, and besides, they fail to offer a market-friendly response to the problem.

We would like to stress that climate change calls for measures to be initiated that not only take into account the scientific evidence, but also allow market mechanisms to play a role.

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE-DE) , in writing. – (FI) Mr President, our resolution on the scientific facts of climate change contains some important observations which it is difficult to disagree with. It nevertheless needs to be said that it also contains some irritating remarks. There are examples of these in the history of science which should serve as a warning. As a philosopher I do not regard it as entirely harmless for a politician to interpret scientific results, draw hasty conclusions from them and try and control them, let alone ‘condemn’ some other interpretations. What is the point of this and why must such things be stated as a general rule? This is a matter of our credibility, something we are going to need badly in our fight against climate change.

In point 5 it says that it is scientifically ‘proven’ that man is the main cause of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at no stage claims that. The report talks of probabilities. Man’s contribution to warming over the last decade is a strong probability.

Point 7 stresses that scientific results ‘clearly demonstrate how climate change will occur in the near future, following different regional patterns.’ That is precisely what we do not know. Last week, in their declaration at Reading, climate simulators appealed for a need for supercomputers. The question of what sort of regional effects climate change will have cannot be answered by meteorologists at present, partly due to insufficient computer capacity.

Point 8 mentions that the deglaciation of Greenland and of the west Antarctic ice sheet are examples of tipping points of climate change. Data on deglaciation is very contradictory at present, however, because the thickness of the ice in core areas of Greenland and the Antarctic is actually increasing.

Neither would I accuse or condemn climate change sceptics and critics, as is the case in point 10. Politicians especially should not do so either: they should leave the matter for the scientists to debate.

 
  
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  Marian-Jean Marinescu (PPE-DE) , in writing. – (RO) CLIM can make recommendations and provide solutions for the future policies of the European Union in the field, recommendations and solutions based on clear scientific proof and, especially, on the firm support of the European citizens.

The scientific proof is unquestionable. Karl-Heinz Florenz’ report is exhaustive, proving that scientific data are sufficient in order to make firm political decisions and initiate concrete actions not only at European level, but also at a global level, for drastically reducing the anthropic phenomena responsible for the climate change and mitigate their effects.

The research efforts must be continued, especially in the field of new technologies, renewable energy and biofuels, in order to find the necessary balance for maintaining economic competitiveness, social development and ensure food and energy security, which are essential for European citizens’ wellbeing.

The scientific community and political representatives should join forces and support the activities of raising public opinion awareness and stimulating the participation of citizens in concrete activities, because the exchange of good practice, international, regional and, in particular, cross-border cooperation and dialogue, as well as direct involvement of citizens represent the most efficient means of fighting against climate change.

 
  
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  Sirpa Pietikäinen (PPE-DE) , in writing. – Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in recent years the European Union has been one of the international actors that has shown the way in the development of a sustainable global climate policy. This is a position the EU must retain in the future too.

I would like to thank the rapporteur and the Committee for a successful report. It will serve to strengthen the view of the scientific basis which work to control climate change must rest on. It is worth noting that science and the knowledge it brings is continually changing as a result of new technologies and findings. Accordingly, we must remain open to all information on this phenomenon and, furthermore, respect differing opinions.

It is extremely important to react decisively to climate change. Until now, each of the four intergovernmental panels has had to review its predecessor’s estimates of the speed at which climate change is taking place. The phenomenon has progressed faster than the Community’s earlier estimates for it. Now too there appears to be a need to review the previous IPCC’s estimates. Studies by the US space agency NASA show that the control of climate change will call for more radical action: the gas content in the atmosphere caused by climate change must be restricted more stringently to be able to avoid these radical changes.

The EU needs to take account of the growing scientific consensus that carbon dioxide emissions should be cut more dramatically to slow down global warming, as the IPCC recommended. Having looked closely at this development, I fear that the targets in the EU’s climate package are not ambitious enough. The Union now needs to make far more determined efforts to establish eco-effective societies in the Union. Eco-modernisation must be the guiding principle for all the EU’s policy areas. The ability to change in the face of this revolution will also be the main factor affecting the EU’s international competitiveness.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (PSE) ) , in writing. – (RO) The fight against climate change has become an ever more often present subject on the work agenda of international organizations. Starting with the 2007 Summit, when a 20% target was decided for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the use of renewable energy resources by 2020, global warming has become a priority for every country in the world.

This decision was followed by other important international events such as the G8 Summit of Heiligendamm, the United Nations Council debate on climate change or the Bali Action Plan. Following these international events, a scientific agreement has been reached, according to which global warming tendencies are based on human activities, and the results of research and data collection are sufficient to initiate urgent action and political decisions for reducing gas emissions. It is essential to create the Adaptation Fund and the inclusion of forests into a new climate protection agreement aimed at avoiding further deforestation and carbon emissions caused by forest fires.

Raising public awareness by communicating scientific evidence of human impact on global climate will play a key role in obtaining the support of the EU citizens for political actions on reducing carbon emissions.

 
  
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  Andres Tarand (PSE) , in writing. – (ET) The climate is changing and it is doing so because of human activity. Forty years ago, when I took ice samples at the Antarctic research station, we were as yet unaware of that fact. Today the IPCC, which collates the work of thousands of scientists, has provided sufficient proof that climate change is happening, and our job is to act rather than to continue to provide proof. On that point I am in full agreement with the approach taken by the rapporteur, Mr Florenz.

The European Union must be ambitious and adopt a target closer to a 30% reduction in greenhouse emissions by the year 2020. Otherwise the matter will be complicated in anticipation of genuine contributions from other countries. It is odd that a higher forum votes unanimously on the detail of general targets but when it comes to targets for the content of CO2 emissions in car exhausts or several other specific measures it no longer ventures to be so ambitious. This is not how to tackle climate change effectively.

I support the proposals for amendments which focus attention on the need to make more detailed studies and models of the situation of the oceans and seas and the influence of climate change on fish fauna. I am, however, unable to agree with several of the proposals for amendments in which doubts are expressed as to whether climate change is really happening, the importance of fossil fuels and nuclear energy is emphasised and the development of renewable energy is ridiculed.

I believe that Parliament’s Temporary Committee on Climate Change has helped to raise awareness among representatives of different walks of life and to set out a common position. As a compromise the extension of the Committee’s mandate for nine months until the Poznan meeting is reasonable. A longer deadline might have meant our doing important work with too much of an eye on elections.

 
  
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  Gabriele Zimmer (GUE/NGL) , in writing. – (DE) I voted in favour of the report. The debate about climate change, which is urgently required, must be underpinned by sound scientific facts. These are provided by Mr Florenz’s interim report. This report should play an important role both in the public arena and in the Commission and the Council. Scientific findings on the ‘greenhouse effect’ have been available for more than 180 years.

It was due to specific social conditions that this knowledge about the threat to our natural and climatic bases of life was ignored, preventing timely action and continuing to do so today. Either we start acting now on the basis of international cooperation to limit further damage and avert the disasters that are predicted and which will impact with full force on the world’s poorest people first, or we continue along the road to destruction. The facts convincingly demonstrate that prompt action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is required, and that we must limit warming to less than 2°C through changes in our lifestyles and consumer behaviour and through the adoption of political and social criteria and frameworks. I support the rapporteur’s assertion that it is not a matter of arguing over emissions values; now, the debate must focus on sustainability.

The EU Sustainable Development Strategy must take account of these problems and finally establish policies on a sustainable basis. This requires a change in political priorities. Every day lost is potentially devastating and cannot be justified.

 

4. Turkey's 2007 progress report (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the report (A6-0168/2008) by Mrs Oomen-Ruijten, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on Turkey’s 2007 progress report (2007/2269(INI)).

 
  
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  Ria Oomen-Ruijten, rapporteur. − (NL) Mr President, since the last report on Turkey there have been a number of positive developments in that country. I am thinking of the passing of the Law on Foundations and, even more recently, the first modification of Article 301 which must lead to further reforms that are necessary to guarantee full freedom of expression. However, it is also clear that Turkey presents a mixed picture and that much more needs to be done, not just to comply with the agreements with Europe, but also to fulfil promises to its own people.

This report is balanced. I hope that some hobbyhorses that are being ridden will not get anywhere, because then the report will remain balanced. I have mentioned all the problems in the report and there are three important messages.

Firstly, we are concerned about the implications of the AK Party case before the court. We expect the Constitutional Court to respect the principles of the rule of law, European standards and the Venice Commission guidelines on the prohibition of political parties. We welcome the fact that in 2007 democracy triumphed over attempts by the army to disrupt the political process. However, we are also concerned that there are still forces at work that are trying to destabilise the country. Clearly modernisation of the country and reforms are now needed. Prime Minister Erdoğan has promised that 2008 will be the year of reforms and we shall be pleased to hold him to that. The government now has to use the substantial parliamentary majority to set about reforms with determination; reforms that are vital if Turkey is to be turned into a modern and prosperous democracy based on a secular state and a pluralistic society and reform that is first and foremost in the best interests of the Turkish people themselves.

A third point. The constitutional process is an ideal opportunity to draw up a new civilian constitution, with the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms at its heart. That is the only way to establish a system of checks and balances to safeguard democracy, the rule of law, social cohesion and the separation between religion and the state. When you look at recent figures, they show that maintenance of the separation of religion and state causes tensions in Turkish society. However, as many as 72% of well-educated Turks have concerns about the secular nature of Turkey, 60% of citizens in all the large cities and almost 50% of other Turkish citizens. That unease is seized upon by the judiciary and the prosecutors who use their scope to disregard a parliamentary majority and operate very independently. A judicial system in a state under the rule of law should be independent but also impartial. The new constitution is the only way in which the Turkish Government can reform the country and establish the separation of religion and state and a state under the rule of law, in order to gain new public trust.

That requires a guarantee of wide participation by all civil society bodies in the constitutional process. To me, that means reaching agreement on modernisation with all political parties, ethnic and religious minorities and social partners. Modernisation must ensure that the individual rights of citizens, citizens’ freedoms, are brought into line with the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.

With respect, we must continue the negotiations between EU and Turkey, but also without hypocrisy, so that we can be open and honest with each other. I find it very unfortunate that my colleague, Mr Lagendijk, is attacked when he says openly and honestly where mistakes have been made and when he also asks for cooperation by all political parties in the reform process.

To summarise, Mr President, there is still a great deal to be done on the position of religious minorities in Turkey, the position of the Kurds and other minorities, the socio-economic development of the regions, improvements in the position of women, the dialogue between the Turkish Government and social partners, in which I particularly call attention to the trade union movement which is often under pressure, constructive cooperation in a solution to the Cyprus question and good neighbourliness in the region. In short, please comply with the arrangements that have been made.

Mr President, I stress again that, in my opinion, only a society that allows itself to be led by respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and that is based on democracy, the rule of law and a socially orientated market economy can develop into a peaceful, stable and prosperous society.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS ROURE
Vice-President

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) To begin with I should like to express my gratitude for the report prepared by Mrs Ria Oomen-Ruijten, which in the opinion of the Council represents an important contribution to the debate regarding Turkey's accession process.

The Slovenian Presidency has been encouraging Turkey to make further progress in its process of moving close to joining the European Union. A debate is currently under way in the Council on the eight remaining reports on the legislation alignment reviews, the so-called screening reports. If the technical preparations make good progress, maybe we shall be able to open two new chapters at the EU – Turkey accession conference in June.

As regards the reforms in Turkey, we agree with the European Parliament's assessment that this year is decisive for this process, and we believe that Turkey should not miss this opportunity.

A revised accession partnership, which was accepted in February of this year, defines the main fields of priority, in which the country should accelerate its reforms. Of course, it is the actual progress of these reforms that will directly influence the further course of the negotiation process.

I would also like to emphasise that we share the European Parliament's concerns about the proceedings against the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The Presidency issued a statement emphasising that separation of executive and judicial branches is a fundamental principle of all democratic societies, and this principle must be respected. We shall carefully monitor the developments. We hope that the outcome of the proceedings will comply with democratic standards, operating under the principles of the rule of law, and we hope that the process of reforms required will not be affected by these proceedings.

Allow me to continue by mentioning some aspects of affirmation of basic freedoms and the respect of human rights. These are the areas where the reforms in Turkey are especially important.

In connection with the freedom of expression, we welcome the amendment of Article 301 of the Penal Code. It is a move in the right direction; however, in order to actually ensure freedom of expression it will be necessary for this article also to be adequately implemented. Apart from that some other provisions also need to be harmonised with the European standards.

As regards freedom of religion, we welcome the adoption of the Law on Foundations, which is a move in the right direction. At the same time we emphasise that further efforts must be made in this area towards securing religious pluralism, in line with European criteria.

As regards civilian-military relations, the outcome of the last year's constitutional crisis confirmed that the democratic process is of key importance. Nonetheless, the armed forces still have significant political influence. In this respect it is necessary to strengthen civilian democratic control over the military, and to additionally strengthen the Parliament's control over defence spending.

As regards the situation in the South-East of the country, we resolutely condemn the terrorist attacks, and express our solidarity with the Turkish people. We support Turkey's efforts to protect its population and its fight against terrorism. However, at the same time we would warn that it is absolutely necessary to respect the provisions of international law, and to endeavour to preserve peace and stability in the wider region.

As it you all know, the European Union evaluates Turkey's progress on the basis of its fulfilment of the Copenhagen political criteria and its compliance with the provisions of the negotiations framework for Turkey. The Council will also be assessing the implementation of the additional protocol to the Ankara Treaty. In this connection I regret that Turkey has still not fulfilled its obligations, and no progress has been made towards the normalisation of relations with the Republic of Cyprus.

However, amongst the important aspects of progress in the accession negotiations are, without any doubt, endeavours towards good relations with neighbours and a peaceful resolution of disputes, in line with the constitutional document of the United Nations.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, let me first thank Mrs Oomen-Ruijten and the Foreign Affairs Committee for a very solid, firm and balanced report. In the accession negotiations with Turkey six chapters have been opened so far and, as Mr Lenarčič said, it should be possible to open two more chapters during the Slovenian presidency, namely company law and intellectual property.

Let me recall in this context one simple but absolutely fundamental guiding principle of the EU enlargement policy, which applies to every candidate country, including Turkey: the pace of negotiations depends on the progress made in legal and democratic reforms – and especially on their implementation. In other words, the technical talks on chapters make up the walls and rooms of the house – maybe even the roof one day – while the legal and democratic reforms constitute the very foundations of any new EU member’s construction. And, as every builder knows, one must first make very solid foundations before moving on to putting the walls together. So, first the reforms, then progress in the technical negotiations.

That is why I find Mrs Oomen-Ruijten’s report so pertinent. The Commission shares her views on the slow pace of the reforms. Yet certain legislative reforms have taken place. I note that you welcome the new Law on Foundations, and at your request the Commission will report on this law and its implementation in our next progress report on Turkey in the coming autumn.

Moreover, the recent revision of the infamous Article 301 is a step forward. What ultimately counts, however, is its proper implementation to guarantee the freedom of expression for everybody in Turkey.

In addition to the fundamental freedoms of expression and religion, further progress is essential in such areas as cultural and linguistic rights, the rights of women and children, and the rights of trade unions. All in all, a renewed focus on EU-related reforms is absolutely essential, which should also assist in overcoming the current political crisis.

This is the message President Barroso conveyed during our recent visit to Turkey. Both government and opposition parties should engage in dialogue and search for compromise on the sensitive issues dominating the domestic debate, including the constitutional reform process. Both secularism and democracy need to be defended in this context.

I regret that the Law on the Ombudsman has been blocked for two years by the Constitutional Court. I welcome the fact that you urge it to be unblocked, so as to set up the Ombudsman’s Office without delay. We all know how important the Ombudsman’s function has been in keeping authorities accountable and enhancing citizens’ rights in the EU Member States.

The essence of these reforms is to ensure Turkey’s transformation into an open and modern society, with full respect for freedom and democracy, diversity and tolerance – that is, for democratic secularism.

The very existence of our Union rests on the basic values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights that we share among ourselves. They are the basis of the family spirit and the contract of marriage, as Jacques Delors put it, to which we Europeans have committed ourselves.

The Negotiating Framework with Turkey spells out these values, and it is the Commission’s duty to monitor them. The Commission’s role in the accession process can be described as ‘the friend who tells the truth’ – even if the truth is sometimes unwelcome in parts of the EU or in Turkey.

Thus we cannot be indifferent to what is happening in candidate countries, least of all to events that affect our shared democratic values. I note your concern about the implications of the AKP closure case. Certainly, the ruling of the Constitutional Court should be compatible with democratic principles and the rule of law, including the guidelines of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

We want to see Turkey move on from this case by respecting European values. Turkey cannot afford another wasted year on reforms and we need to see progression, not regression, in meeting democratic principles.

Let me wind up with a few words on Cyprus. Now it is time for the leaders of the two communities to end the deadlock and move towards reunification of the island. I trust Turkey will fully contribute to a solution. The Commission endorses a renewed UN process and will fully support both communities on the island to make the necessary difficult compromises.

 
  
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  Emine Bozkurt, draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. − (NL) Important social and employment legislation has recently been passed in Turkey. One important objective is to bring more women into the labour market, because participation in the economy is badly needed to strengthen the position of women.

It does not need to be said that women’s rights are human rights. It is important for women to be able to claim fundamental rights as well as gender and reproductive rights and not be the victims of such vague criteria as ‘against public decency’. That is also essential for gay organisations. Instruments are badly needed in Turkey to monitor that and introduce gender mainstreaming. I would therefore like to see a women’s rights committee in the Turkish Parliament, with full legislative powers.

Local elections will be taking place in Turkey next year. Nationally, the number of female members of parliament has doubled, but more needs to be done. Local turnout is still less than 1%, an enormous challenge if the fair representation of women in politics is now to become a reality.

 
  
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  Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (EL) Madam President, let me first congratulate Mrs Oomen-Ruijten on her report and also her cooperation throughout this time.

The report sends a clear message to Turkey that its path towards Europe and its ultimate entry into the European family will pass through the following stages.

Firstly, it must continue to strengthen reforms in all its sectors and structures.

Secondly, it must show complete and absolute respect for human rights and the rights of minorities.

Thirdly, Turkish troops must withdraw from Cyprus, and there must be a contribution towards a fair and lasting solution to the Cyprus issue. Now is the time for all of us to lend our support to President Christofias’s initiatives in this direction.

Fourthly, Turkey must maintain good neighbourly relations in general, and with Greece in particular. This means that violations of the Flight Information Region must stop, as must provocations of all kinds.

Of course, there are forces in Turkey wanting destabilisation, whereas some Turkish citizens hope for a more democratic, progressive, developed, environmentally conscious, socially aware, peace-loving and Europe-oriented Turkey. These citizens need to be given the message that their struggles are not in vain, and this is what Mrs Oomen-Ruijten’s report achieves, as does the discussion we are holding here today.

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by thanking Mrs Oomen-Ruijten for the very fruitful and constructive cooperation. On behalf of my Group, I would also like to express our solidarity with Mr Lagendijk: we reject all the unfair attacks against him.

I would like to confine myself to one key issue, namely the threatened ban on two parties, the AKP and the DTP. In both cases, we want to make it very clear that these bans would be completely unacceptable to us and would constitute major impediments to Turkey’s progress towards becoming a member of the European Union. It is unfathomable, in our understanding of democracy, that a court should simply deny numerous voters the right, after the fact, to influence the political situation in their country by casting their vote for their preferred party. This is unacceptable in the case of the governing party, and it is unacceptable, too, in the case of the Democratic Society Party (DTP). There are fundamental legal and democratic principles at stake which militate against such a course of action.

As regards the DTP, instead of taking the opportunity to talk to representatives of the Kurdish people and enter into dialogue, because – together with the Turks – we reject terrorism, an attempt is under way to ban this party as well. I know that not everyone in the DTP is prepared to engage in dialogue. In that case, an approach simply has to be made in order to develop this dialogue appropriately. We therefore call unequivocally on all the moderate forces in Turkey to do their utmost to ensure that these two parties can continue to operate in Turkey’s political landscape.

We know that this is a protracted and open-ended process, but it must have a goal, and this goal must be accession. It is a goal which, in the European Union, we must do our utmost to achieve, in communication with our citizens. However, Turkey too must do its utmost, by carrying out the reforms that are required.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Alexander Lambsdorff, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (DE) Madam President, I too would like to start by expressing warm thanks to Mrs Oomen-Ruijten for the good cooperation, which was just as constructive this time as it was last autumn. Substantial consensus is a characteristic of this report. The parliamentary groups agree that Turkey must continue to make ongoing improvements of its own accord, but must do so far more rapidly than before. We also agree that this is something that we can, and indeed, must expect from an accession candidate.

We also believe that the reforms must be pursued despite the major domestic political crisis. I would like to take up a point which Mr Swoboda has just made: the European Union is not party to this prohibition process. Commissioner Rehn is right to say that secularism and democracy must be defended; otherwise, like Mr Swoboda, I can see us facing a fundamental democratic problem which will place great strain on the accession negotiations.

What is important to note is that many of the problems that we are talking about have existed for some time, so only a few points need to be emphasised here. Last year, we welcomed the fact that the Turkish Government had received a clear and unequivocal mandate for further reforms. We called for this mandate to be utilised in order to genuinely drive forward the reforms. We welcome the adoption of the Law on Foundations. That is a positive step, but on balance, we must say – and I think there is unanimity here as well – that we are all disappointed, overall, by what has been achieved.

Let us take the constitutional reform: this is overshadowed by the headscarf debate to such an extent that no real progress has been made on the fundamental renewal of Turkey’s constitution. The headscarf debate is also an issue of freedom of religion and freedom of opinion, but it must not be used for the cultural oppression of women who espouse secular attitudes.

Another important issue, especially for the Liberal Group, is freedom of speech. The so-called reform of Article 301 is unsatisfactory from our perspective. I have spoken to many people in Turkey itself and, there too, very few people believe that this reform of Article 301 is serious and well-founded, especially as it is now a symbolic paragraph. There are many other paragraphs in the Penal Code which restrict freedom of speech. I do not want to list them all, but there is still a great deal of work to do here.

Another point which I would briefly like to mention concerns relations with Turkey within the EU and NATO frameworks. We wish to stress that we expect Turkey to show a positive attitude towards European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) missions. We understand the difficulties that exist. Nonetheless, we expect an accession candidate to show a European spirit when the security of European personnel in missions such as EUPOL and EULEX is at stake.

 
  
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  Joost Lagendijk, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (NL) Ladies and gentlemen, as you have probably seen, in the last couple of weeks the Commissioner and I have come in for a great deal of criticism from certain circles in Turkey. It is claimed that we do not understand Turkey properly, that we do not really realise what is going on in Turkey.

I must admit, sometimes there are a number of things in Turkey that I do not understand. For instance, I cannot understand that many people in Turkey have no problem with the fact that the governing party, which won 47% of the votes in the last elections, is in danger of being banned by the Constitutional Court. What I also do not understand is that the Council of Europe recommendations on the prohibition of political parties were so easily passed over, because it is clear that the case against the AKP in no way meets the criteria. What I also do not understand is that it is so easily overlooked that, by banning the AKP and the DTP, about 90% of votes in the south-east were declared invalid, with all that that entails. What I also do not understand is that so much fuss was made in Turkey about the Commissioner and I criticising the fact that, in our opinion, a political case is one that, if it leads to the banning of the governing party, will really have serious consequences. In my view, it is our duty to say that and we should continue doing so.

However, there are other things I do not understand. What I do not understand is why it was impossible for the authorities to allow the trade unions to demonstrate peacefully in Istanbul on 1 May, even in Taksim Square, such a symbolic place since 1977. What I also do not really understand is why it was impossible for the authorities to distinguish between rioters and trade unions seeking to exercise their democratic rights. I also do not understand why so much excessive violence was necessary against peaceful demonstrators and innocent passers-by.

I shall end by expressing the hope that this Parliament will continue, as in this report, to encourage reforms, but also to criticise the government and the opposition if these do not take place, in a way that I would describe as clear, explicit, with respect for each other’s views, but without taboos. I firmly believe that, if that happens, we in Turkey and the European Union will in the end understand each other better.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) This very good report will not be well received in Ankara. On the one hand, we recognise the efforts made, namely adoption of the Law on Foundations, reform of the Penal Code regarding freedom of expression, and the constitutional changes announced. On the other hand, certain issues still remain unresolved. These include freedom of religion for faiths other than Islam, interference in the activities of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the slow progress of investigation into the murder of Hrant Dink and the three Christians from Malataya. It is also the case that certain provisions in the Association Agreement have not been complied with. We wrote about each one of these issues last year. One might well conclude that time passes very slowly in the region of the Bosporus.

Instead of pressing for the full integration process, we should perhaps set out a legal framework for a type of cooperation between Turkey and the Union that would be better suited to both partners. That could be done immediately. The political dimension of such a framework could well transcend the European Neighbourhood Policy. The alternative package would not cause tensions such as those currently experienced in Ankara and in European capitals regarding the debate about Turkey becoming a full member of the European Union.

 
  
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  Vittorio Agnoletto, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, we will abstain on this resolution, especially in view of the way the Kurdish issue is side-stepped. In particular, I do not believe that Turkey’s actions in northern Iraq can be described merely as ‘disproportionate military operations’; instead we should assert that this is an open violation of international law.

The Kurdish issue cannot be reduced solely to a social matter. It is first and foremost a political issue and we must tell the government in no uncertain terms that it must open talks with the local authorities in the Kurdish region and with the DTP. We cannot keep silent on the fact that there is no hint of a mention of the Luxembourg Court’s decision on the different status given to the PKK on terrorist lists as has been the case to date.

We believe that there have been many appeals to Turkey on the Kurdish issue but that hitherto no substantive change whatsoever has been noted. This is the reason for our abstention.

 
  
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  Georgios Georgiou, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (EL) Madam President, I have read the report by my fellow Member Mrs Oomen-Ruijten with great interest and respect, and I congratulate her.

However, try as I might, I cannot reconcile it with current events. Developments in Turkey are preventing us from seeing what kind of future will emerge for that country with its inherent Asiatic traits.

Turkey has tried in the past to carry out reforms. Let us not forget the Tanzimat reforms or the reforms of Abdul Hamit and Hatt-ı Hümayun. Reforms have been attempted for hundreds of years without success.

The decision of the Constitutional Court is an ominous threat: political parties are being abolished. I do not understand why Turkey does not have to follow Europe’s example, if it is an accession country and if…

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Philip Claeys (NI).(NL) I should like to say to Mr Swoboda that a political party has in fact already been banned in Europe. I am talking about Belgium, where Vlaams Blok, the largest Flemish party, was actually banned in 2005. Obviously that is no excuse for Turkey to ban political parties as well.

Having said that, I am astounded, Madam President, that the Council and the Commission are satisfied with the cosmetic changes to the notorious Article 301 in the Turkish Penal Code, which will still put just as many restrictions on freedom of expression. It is now a punishable offence to insult ‘the Turkish nation’, rather than ‘insulting Turkishness’. It is simply a question of semantics, which can still lead to actual prison sentences.

Article 301 does not need to be amended, it needs to be abolished, along with all legal provisions that conflict with freedom of expression and democratic fundamental rights. If that is not done, the negotiations must simply be stopped, as has always been promised. It was promised that the negotiating process would keep pace with reforms in Turkey. Well, that is really not the case, certainly since it is already believed that two new chapters are to be opened shortly. If the European Union approves cosmetic improvements like this, it loses all credibility and the whole of the rest of the negotiating process becomes a grotesque farce.

 
  
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  Werner Langen (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, I would like to start by thanking Mrs Oomen-Ruijten very warmly. She has presented an open and honest progress report which follows on seamlessly from the reports which we have adopted in previous years.

There is one point on which I am much more sceptical than you and Commissioner Rehn, however. I do not see any progress having been made by Turkey last year. On the contrary, everything came to a standstill. We have the greatest interest in a Turkey which is modern, democratic, stable and Western-oriented, and which maintains close economic, political and cultural relations with Europe. However, if you look at the facts, there is every sign of stagnation having occurred.

We have yet to find a solution to the issue of the Customs Union. Turkey has special status vis-à-vis the European Union as far as Cyprus is concerned. In this reform process, we have made a proposal on Article 301, but I would remind you that former Prime Minister Tansu Çiller pledged reform in 1995, 13 years ago, before we endorsed the Customs Union, and nothing has happened. The application for a ban is on the table and that shows Turkey’s lack of democratic maturity: the parties are not remotely perturbed that the governing party could be banned and that the Prime Minister himself could be barred from politics. The military is both a stability factor and an impediment to democracy. This contradiction also has not been resolved, and I see signs of a new nationalism in Turkey which is evident in many areas. The behaviour towards the Chairman of our own delegation, Joost Lagendijk, shows that it is not really about freedom of opinion. Instead, there is a desire to exert pressure in public, in every way possible, in order to influence public opinion. We cannot go along with that.

In my view, at present, there is absolutely no cause for optimism where Turkey is concerned, and we need to be thinking seriously about other options. This report is open and honest about that and we should support it.

 
  
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  Jan Marinus Wiersma (PSE).(NL) I also want to pay tribute to the rapporteur and the way in which she has drawn up this report. The report clearly shows the direction that Parliament wants to go in, which is to negotiate on membership of the European Union and nothing else.

2008 was announced as the year of reforms in Turkey. Of course we support that ambition, but we are waiting to see how internal developments in Turkey will turn out. Mr Swoboda has said enough about that. If it goes wrong, we shall have to deal with a Turkey that cannot really act.

Talking of reforms, I should also like to draw attention to Article 301 of the Penal Code, which is used to restrict freedom of expression in Turkey in a number of ways. The government has announced that it wishes to amend this article. We believe that this is a step forward, but what we would like most and what we think is the best solution is for the article to be abolished for good, along with other restrictive provisions, to put an end to a practice that, unfortunately, still persists, namely the misuse of these articles in order to restrict freedom of expression.

Secondly, I should like to join with Mr Lagendijk in saying that we were also outraged at the way in which the police intervened at the 1 May demonstration in Istanbul. You will realise that, for us as social democrats, for whom 1 May is an important day, this was something very disturbing. We hope that it will never happen again and appeal to the authorities to ensure that it does not.

Finally, a remark on the Kurdish question. We want the political debate in Turkey actually to take place and we want a political solution to be sought through decentralisation, but also, for example, by promoting the use of Kurdish in general. I think that is an important point to be stressed again today.

Finally, I also want to draw attention to a point that we have discussed repeatedly, the expression of support for the initiative by the Spanish Prime Minister, Mr Zapatero, and his Turkish counterpart, Mr Erdoğan, on what they call the Alliance of Civilizations. We hope that Parliament will eventually support our amendments on that today.

 
  
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  Andrew Duff (ALDE). – Madam President, first I would like to defend Joost Lagendijk from the scandalous attacks upon his integrity by the CHP and certain nationalistic journalists. Joost Lagendijk is a good friend of Turkey and a first-class chairman of the JPC. Those who attack Lagendijk attack this Parliament and they seek to sacrifice democracy upon the altar of an aggressive laicism. Our own message must be absolutely clear: if Turkey’s Supreme Court continues to close political parties, they will kill off all prospects of Turkish membership of the Union.

 
  
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  Cem Özdemir (Verts/ALE).(DE) Madam President, I would also like to start by thanking the rapporteur for her fair cooperation and very balanced report. The report highlights the critical points being identified by the people in Turkey themselves: for example, the solution to the Kurdish problem on a consensus basis while safeguarding the rights of all ethnic groups in Turkey, the headscarf problem in Turkey, which includes respecting the interests of those who do not wish to wear the headscarf, and the issue of religious freedom which must apply to everyone in Turkey, including Alevites, Christians and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Istanbul, for example.

We are saying all this because we are friends of Turkey, and because we want to see a European Turkey within the European Union. That is why we are expressing this criticism, as one friend to another. The European Union can also do more. Signals such as those sent out by Mr Sarkozy – that Turkey, regardless of what it does, will never join the European Union – certainly do not help.

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli (UEN).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the rapporteur for the excellent work she has done to identify very clearly the current political, social and administrative situation in Turkey.

Regardless of whether one’s position on the accession of Turkey to the European Union is positive, lukewarm or downright hostile, there can be no argument that Turkey lags way behind in terms of modernisation and human rights. Admittedly, some efforts have been made, but corruption is a genuine blight and the Cyprus issue remains unresolved, not to mention the fact that there is a lot of work to do in relations with the Armenians. There is the Kurdish question, violence against women is still a sore point and the same is true for forced marriages and honour crimes.

Also cause for concern is the situation regarding registration of births and low levels of schooling. This list is certainly not exhaustive and gives a snapshot of a very difficult situation which Parliament must continue to monitor very carefully and steadfastly. There can be no compromise on freedom and basic rights …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Adamos Adamou (GUE/NGL).(EL) Madam President, provided that Turkey complies fully with all the Copenhagen criteria and the obligations it has entered into under the Association Agreement and the Supplementary Protocol to the Ankara Agreement, it can and should accede to the EU.

It is perfectly clear to us that the aim is Turkey’s full accession and that a partnership of some kind is not an alternative. The prospect of Turkey’s accession to the EU will put pressure on the country to respect the human rights of everyone living in Turkey, including Kurds and religious minorities.

Despite our concerns about the court proceedings now in progress on the question of the ruling party and the superficial change to Article 301 of the Criminal Code, we believe that Turkey has made some progress. However, if her accession course is to proceed unhindered, she must do as previous accession countries have done and comply with its treaty obligations to the EU as a whole.

Turkey must therefore honour its commitments, open its air and sea ports to the aircraft and ships of the Republic of Cyprus, and lift the veto on Cyprus’s participation in international organisations.

Today, as we watch progress being made thanks to the efforts of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities following the agreement of 21 March between the leaders of the two sides in Cyprus, Turkey must not stand in the way.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM).(NL) The Republic of Turkey is disqualifying itself from membership of the European Union. I can draw no other conclusion from the mistreatment of its tiny Christian minority, perhaps 100 000 people, or just one hundredth of a per cent of the total population. In the light of the Copenhagen criteria, the Council, the Commission and Parliament have no other choice either.

The direct persecution to which Syrian Orthodox and other Christians in south-eastern Turkey, Tur Abdin, have been subjected for many years is a direct indictment of the Turkish State. Does a country in which citizens who attend Christian services and are regularly questioned about that by the police or security services belong in the European Union? Questioning that, moreover, is coupled with threats to their personal lives or employment and even, in some cases, torture. Turkish situations, Turkish self-disqualification. The point is, however, how honest is the European Union to itself about this?

 
  
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  Sylwester Chruszcz (NI).(PL) Madam President, I have every respect for the Turkish nation and am fully aware of the centuries of close and neighbourly relations between my country, Poland, and Turkey. Nonetheless, I have to say that the idea of Turkey’s membership of the European Union defies comprehension.

Although Turkey has had a presence on European territory for many centuries, it is not, in cultural terms, a European country. We should cooperate with Turkey to the best of our ability, but the implications of the accession of a Muslim country to a European club are hard to quantify. Indeed, the current situation in Turkey indicates that the authorities in Ankara are not particularly eager to become integrated into Europe.

In addition to Turkey’s relations with the European Union, I should also like to refer to its relations with Armenia. I am glad the motion for a European Parliament resolution calls on the Turkish Government to end its economic blockade of Armenia. It is regrettable, however, that the document makes no reference to the Armenian genocide.

 
  
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  Jacques Toubon (PPE-DE).(FR) Madam President, the report by our colleague Ria Oomen-Ruijten is thorough, honest and courageous at a very testing time for Turkey, and I wish to congratulate her on this. The report, however, forms part of a genre that I feel is becoming increasingly unreal. Parliament and many other institutions are carrying on with their pretences, as though our tireless teachings can change Turkey. This, in fact, is the crux of the matter: the contradiction between this country, this nation, this great people, its evolution and the project we wish to operate together.

Turkey is a nation-state, one of the last of its kind, one of the strongest and one of the most aware. Its unity is a nationalist unity, and this is clearly discernable in relation to the acknowledgement of genocide in Armenia. Its policy is increasingly inspired by a single religion even as it backs away from the secular aspects that form the very basis of its constitution. It manifests its desire for independence, while here we wish to implement a principle of integration and delegation of powers and sovereignty. This is nothing other than a head-on collision between both parties.

Let us be under no illusions, let us refrain from telling the Turks anything and everything, and having them believe we are willing either to accept their accession without actually meeting the Copenhagen criteria, or reject it because of them, when what is actually at stake is us, and what we want our European project to be. Furthermore, let us define a durable partnership structure that uses a win-win approach to allow Turkey to take up its role as a regional power, and the EU to continue the construction of its world identity.

 
  
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  Véronique De Keyser (PSE).(FR) Madam President, since I only have one minute I will get straight to the point.

The conciliatory posture of the rapporteur, Mrs Oomen-Ruijten, has prevented quite a number of stumbling blocks. One does remain, however, and that is the disagreement on Amendment 14 concerning reproductive health. The Socialists feel that this amendment is not a minor detail, a mere woman’s problem. It is an indication of a clear separation between the Church and the State, and a symbol of secularism.

If we no longer want Turkish secularism to be defended by the army or by judicial coups, let women take care of this. They will defend it with their bodies. In a country which still practises honour killings, calling for sexual rights for women means opposing fundamentalist excesses from any corner.

 
  
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  István Szent-Iványi (ALDE). – (HU) Madam President, let us not put a gloss on the situation: the issue of Turkey’s accession has reached a critical stage. It is being held back both by uncertainties in Turkish domestic politics and by hesitation on the part of the European Union with regard to Turkey. In this situation it is important to reiterate that the accession process is an open-ended process, but the common goal is EU membership. We have committed ourselves to this, and so has Turkey.

It is in our strategic interests that Turkey should become part of the political body of Europe in the long term. Associate membership via the Mediterranean Union can complement but not take the place of the integration process. Turkey must also do a great deal more than hitherto to strengthen democratic institutions, reinforce civilian control of the military, reform the legal system, and promote human and minority rights. We have a joint responsibility to ensure that this process is a success, because it is our failure too, and not just Turkey’s, if the negotiations run aground. Thank you.

 
  
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  Mogens Camre (UEN).(DA) Madam President, Turkey is too large and too different to become a member of the EU. If Turkey really wanted to live by Kemal Atatürk’s famous words: ‘There is only one civilisation’, we would not be standing here year after year stating that Turkey is most certainly not willing to comply with the EU’s demands concerning the adoption of European values and give up Ottoman values. Turkey clearly expects to tire the EU out simply by negotiating without complying with our pivotal demands for change. For the 34th year in a row, Turkey is occupying over one third of an EU Member State’s territory. Cyprus as a whole is suffering under Turkish occupation, and the occupied region is suffering the most. It is obvious that the vast majority of European citizens do not want Turkey to become a member of the EU. It would also seem that an increasing proportion of Turkish citizens do not want it either. It is time to stop this theatrical performance. Turkey can have an extended trade agreement. Europe has no place in the future that Turkey is looking to create.

 
  
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  Ioannis Kasoulides (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I congratulate Ria Oomen-Ruijten for her balanced and fair but strict approach on such a controversial issue. Military coups are now old-fashioned and are being replaced by a coup d’état by the judiciary. It is unbelievable that the constitution and laws allow the judicial overthrow of the government democratically elected by 47% of the people, for a charge totally disproportionate to the requested sentence compared with EU, Council of Europe or Venice Commission standards.

EU principles are incompatible with a ‘deep state’ or the military hindering the government from responding to its new challenges: on Cyprus, to demonstrate, now that negotiations have resumed, that Ankara has the political will to reach a settlement based on the principles on which the EU is founded, without the presence of Turkish troops on the island or the right of unilateral military intervention; on human rights and the freedom of expression in Article 301; on respect for the rights of non-Muslim religious minorities and the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch; on the obligations of Turkey relating to the Ankara Protocol; on issues like crimes of passion against women and the conspiracy of silence that exists on this issue; on the issue of the Armenian genocide and the blocking of Armenia and so forth.

These are the challenges Turkey faces if it wants to prove that it is a candidate country destined to become a member of the European Union.

 
  
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  Maria-Eleni Koppa (PSE).(EL) Madam President, Turkey has a place in the European family and our only aim should be full accession. The Union must honour its commitments. Turkey, in turn, must comply with the Copenhagen criteria and the obligations it has undertaken.

However, very little progress has been achieved in the field of human rights in the past year. The repeal of the notorious Article 301 and of all the provisions that make a mockery of the freedom of expression remains the ultimate aim.

Furthermore, the situation in south-east Turkey needs immediate attention. We condemn violence and believe that a definite solution must be found by peaceful means. Violence cannot be met with violence. This is why I believe there should be an in-depth investigation into the use of Turkish territory by US aircraft in connection with the secret abduction of suspects to Guantanamo Bay.

We should aim to create a peaceful, democratic and stable society. For this reason, we are particularly concerned at the latest developments in Turkey resulting from repercussions of the possible banning of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Let me conclude by congratulating the rapporteur...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Madam President, we all know that the main obstacle to Turkish progress towards democracy is the Turkish army, an army that not only controls millions of soldiers and their dependants, but also controls political parties and processes, the police and secret service, much of the judiciary (including the supreme and constitutional courts), as well as the religious, educational, social and economic affairs of the country.

Since General Atatürk’s revolution in the 1920s, Turkey has in reality been under a military dictatorship, either directly or indirectly. Recently, the prospect of EU accession has given the opportunity for some brave people like the leaders of the AKP party to challenge the army supremacy. We have a duty to help these people not just with words, but in deeds. The army derives most of its strength from the support of the West. Billions of euros in direct aid and in lucrative joint defence ventures are given by the USA, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain. These countries and others, including Russia and China, have a duty to cease all such economic support to the Turkish army until and unless true democracy is securely established in the country.

 
  
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  Mario Borghezio (UEN).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, only strong geopolitical and geoeconomic interests, not the interest and will of our peoples, are in favour of Turkey’s entry into Europe.

This report seems to be an encyclopaedia of reasons against European Union membership on the part of a country which every day is becoming more Islamicised, where Muftis publicly preach that women who do not wear the veil are all devil-worshippers. The Turkish Constitution is a compendium of rules which are upheld, but which are contrary to the human rights we hold dear.

The report does, unfortunately, gloss over essential issues: Cyprus, the Armenian genocide and the Kurdish question. Moreover, on becoming a member of Europe, the rules of this Islamic country which strictly forbids the use of alcohol will also be imposed on our peoples, including the glorious Celts, from the Irish to the Bretons, and we people of the Po valley who are proud to love our wine and our beer.

 
  
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  Francisco José Millán Mon (PPE-DE).(ES) Madam President, Mrs Oomen-Ruijten’s report which we will be adopting today is a serious report, generally balanced, and also a demanding document.

It cites the progress made, but also highlights reforms outstanding.

We are all pleased that the Turkish authorities consider 2008 to be the year of reforms, because we know that accession negotiations make them necessary. Moreover, the changes themselves will be good for Turkey.

The Turkish Government’s large parliamentary majority means reform cannot be delayed. Were it introduced, EU citizens would also perceive the extent of Turkey’s commitment in terms of accession to the EU and its values, including respect for rights and freedoms.

Thus the report emphasises our firm wish that no incidents should seriously disrupt democratic political life in Turkey.

Ladies and gentlemen, we support reforms. We also support compliance with commitments. Commitments outstanding include the normalisation of relations with Cyprus and full implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement.

Another important issue for the EU is immigration control. We must prevent illegal immigration, which occasionally uses Turkey as a country of transit, and combat the mafias which extract profit from this.

External borders must be controlled, and mechanisms implemented to repatriate illegal immigrants. These courses of action require cooperation by Turkey, and thus I regret that no readmission agreement has yet been reached.

Terrorism, ladies and gentlemen, is also a very real threat in Turkey and in the European Union. We must step up cooperation to combat this scourge more effectively.

I am finishing up now. There is another wider field, foreign policy, where the EU and Turkey must make a greater effort to merge their positions. I refer, for instance, to the Mediterranean or Central Asia.

We also have many mutual interests in terms of energy security, one of the greatest challenges of our times.

In short, ladies and gentlemen, Turkey and the European Union need each other, and we must continue to work with this in mind.

 
  
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  Béatrice Patrie (PSE).(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I am extremely pleased with the balanced nature of this report that sends out a positive signal to Turkey. The Socialists will ensure accession negotiations continue their positive trajectory under the French Presidency. It is precisely because we are in favour of accession that there cannot be any shadows over events concerning our common democratic values.

It is not acceptable that intellectuals such as the journalist of Armenian origin, Hrant Dink, risk their lives by discussing certain periods of Turkey’s history. Nor is it acceptable to allow an official line to be perpetuated that trivialises the Armenian genocide as a great tragedy, dismissing the suffering of a people, the number of whose deported is comparable to the numbers of those suffering from influenza in the United Kingdom.

Like the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, I feel that denying genocide is in fact part of the genocide. I also urge the Turkish authorities to take the reasonable path of truth and help rehabilitate all national minorities.

 
  
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  Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE). – Madam President, first of all I would like to thank Mrs Oomen-Ruijten for this report. It underlines that Turkey in many areas already is part of European projects, but it also underlines that there is development, there is a movement going on, regarding reform of Turkish society. At the same time it underlines that those reforms and those changes are being made far too slowly, that there is much more to do.

But that leaves us with a fundamental question: is the European Union and are Europe and European values better off with a Turkey that is fulfilling all the requirements and has made all the reforms that are underlined in the report, or are we better off with a Turkey that will maybe lean in the future more to other parts of the world, to other values? I think the answer to this question is quite obvious, and that underlines that we must of course keep the pressure on regarding all the changes that need to be made in Turkey with regard to freedom of expression, reform of the Article 301 paragraph, freedom of religion, equal rights for women and men, not only in legislation but also in reality, and of course the need for a solution to the Cyprus issue and a number of other issues. But with that perspective, if the accession negotiations deliver all these results, it is very important that the European Union is open for the membership of Turkey because this would strengthen European values, Europe and the European Union, and I think that is the necessary and obvious conclusion of this debate.

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (PSE). – Madam President, may I begin by welcoming the balanced and conscientious approach of the rapporteur and indeed of the Commissioner and of the presidency on this important brief. I emphasise three points.

To my Turkish friends: the detention of 530 trade unionists on 1 May 2008 was a breach of the fundamental ILO right of free association and of the Copenhagen criteria. Please protect trade unions, including preventing further attacks against the Turkish road transport union Tümtis.

To the opponents of Turkish accession: do not exploit the case against the AK party in the Constitutional Court for your political ends. After the crisis of the presidential nomination, elections were held and democracy won. Today, one way or another, I expect democracy to win again.

To Mr Claeys, Mr Langen, Mr Belder, Mr Toubon and others who deliberately seek to undermine public support for EU accession in Turkey by the language and the threats used in this morning’s debate: Turkish public opinion should understand you are not in a majority, you do not speak for this Parliament and you will not succeed in obstructing its European perspectives.

 
  
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  Elmar Brok (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, today, Turkey is a more important country for the European Union than ever before. The reform process in Turkey must therefore be supported and it is important for us to have a democratic Turkey based on the rule of law.

We must have some concerns, however, which are also expressed in Mrs Oomen-Ruijten’s report. The question is whether Turkey is sufficiently capable of reform. If I look at what is happening with Article 301 of the Penal Code, freedom of religion and the Law on Foundations, minority rights and so forth, it is clear that the Erdoğan government is trying to make progress, but it has always stopped short of what is required because quite obviously, at a domestic level, the limits of Turkey’s reform capacity have been reached.

When I see, too, that there are moves to ban the governing party, just like that, and then a couple of weeks later, it starts up again under a different name without certain persons who are no longer welcome in politics, then this means that …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Emilio Menéndez del Valle (PSE).(ES) Madam President, violent Islamic fundamentalism that targets the West but also harms Islam is on the increase in the Middle East and the Maghreb.

Radical Islamic fundamentalism, though non-violent, is also on the increase in a number of countries. This indicates the major role that Turkey can play vis-à-vis the Muslim world in its relations with the European Union.

It can do this in its capacity as a country which is officially secular but obviously has Muslim roots and culture, and this is a true asset in terms of the relations between the EU and Muslim countries.

That is why my Group has tabled two amendments to congratulate Turkey as co-sponsor, along with Spain, of the official UN Alliance of Civilizations project. This should not be forgotten, since it is through this project that Turkey shows its commitment to assist with relations between the West and the Arab-Islamic world.

 
  
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  Vural Öger (PSE).(DE) Madam President, Mrs Oomen-Ruijten, may I voice my praise and respect for this report. It is balanced and fair, and that is a line which we should keep to today.

We are right to emphasise that Turkey has to make further efforts. The goal of achieving a stable and prosperous democracy in Turkey is not only in Turkey’s own interests, but is also an important strategic interest of the EU.

I am concerned about the attitude of the incoming Council President, Mr Sarkozy. His policy on Turkey does not aim to achieve EU accession for Turkey. He is insisting on references to Turkey as an accession candidate being deleted from EU documents, and emphasises that France will only endorse the opening of chapters which do not aim at full membership. The EU’s credibility is at stake here. Let me underline one point: pacta sunt servanda! The opening of accession negotiations was agreed unanimously, and that means that France agreed to it as well.

Instead of sending out negative signals, the EU should deal constructively with Turkey. In this House, we have decided by a majority that, with Turkey, we ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Evgeni Kirilov (PSE). – Madam President, Mrs Oomen-Ruijten has produced a very balanced and objective report on Turkey which is highly commendable. There is a remarkable consensus among the neighbouring member countries that there should be a clear perspective for EU membership of Turkey. This is not by chance; the neighbouring countries always know the situation better. Turkey has already made immense progress in the reforms introduced to reach European democratic standards. Of course much remains to be done but we have to encourage Turkey in this process; we have to encourage the pro-European reform forces in Turkey, both among the ruling party and the opposition.

With regard to the pending constitutional decision on the AK party closure case: of course it is not acceptable. I believe we should stay calm because I am sure that Turkey will find reason enough to overcome a potential crisis.

We the neighbouring countries should encourage Turkey and make every effort to enhance the bilateral and trilateral transborder cooperation and reach a new quality of good neighbourly relations. This includes solving all outstanding bilateral issues, such as the case with the...

(The President cut off the speaker.)

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, Mrs Oomen-Ruijten has presented a sound and objective report. She has highlighted some progress and drawn attention to many questions and unresolved problems. The key question which has only been touched upon in passing is this: if Turkey were reformed, would it then have a right to membership? Our current EU law offers a political alternative at the end of the negotiating process, both for the European Union and for Turkey itself. That is why in Austria, and elsewhere, we are calling for open-ended negotiations. Accession is one option, but it is not a foregone conclusion.

 
  
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  Pierre Pribetich (PSE).(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, since Turkey forms part of European history, since Turkey is a component of European culture, since Turkey constitutes a considerable economic and demographic opportunity for the EU, this position in favour of accession means that I can demand even more: more with respect to democratic principles, more with respect to secularity and more with respect to human rights.

The European Union was built on values and principles that we cannot disown with a deafening silence during an accession procedure for the sake of diplomacy. Turkey must acknowledge the Armenian genocide, a historic and symbolic act, and this will bear witness to its political maturity. Parliament has insisted with all due conviction and force on this acknowledgement since June 1987. Twenty-one years on, must we come up with such a bland formulation? If Parliament accepts this, it means taking a step backwards. Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you to vote for Amendment 23, to drive home to the authorities …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Zbigniew Zaleski (PPE-DE).(PL) The mentality of the Turks has changed little since the times of Kemal Atatürk. Their religious tradition is directing them along their own specific course, which differs from that of us Europeans. Geographic proximity does not equate to cultural closeness. In addition, the unwritten social codes do not suggest that the Turkish people are gravitating towards a European identity.

The question then arises as to whether Turkey wishes to change and adopt our sociopolitical model, because Article 301 seems to deny this. Are we entitled to lecture the Turks and tell them what they should do? Through its amendments, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament wishes to impose an ideologically based solution on the Turkish people, but the latter are happy as they are. Hardly any progress has been made on reforms, and the army still plays a very important role. Are we to impose well-being on the nation by force, changing its identity, tradition and culture? In any case, is all this actually susceptible to change?

Madam President, the Council decided on negotiations in good faith, so that Turkey could become a bridge between Europe and Islam. Now it is no longer convinced that its own decision was right. All we have left is wishful thinking.

 
  
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  Joel Hasse Ferreira (PSE).(PT) Madam President, in general I welcome and support Mrs Oomen-Ruijten’s report, particularly the concern expressed about the implications of the AK Party closure case. Furthermore, we now have a fabulous window of opportunity which must be used to settle the Cyprus question.

As stated by the report, it is also essential that the Turkish Government pursues its reforms, with respect for pluralism and diversity in a democratic and secular Turkey, and that all citizens should be able to develop their cultural identity within the democratic Turkish state.

Clearly, progress is also needed in other areas, such as the defence of trade union rights and greater advances along the road towards effective gender equality. However, the report recognises that much progress needed to modernise Turkish society has already been made.

Madam President, Turkey’s progress towards full integration must continue strictly in accordance with the conditions agreed by the European Council and adopted by this Parliament. No more and no less.

 
  
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  Panayiotis Demetriou (PPE-DE).(EL) Madam President, we all know that there is a new climate in Cyprus today. Both Greek and Turkish Cypriots want a solution to the Cyprus problem and are eager to serve the interests of their country for the good of both sides. This is precisely where Turkey is intervening, as Turkish forces are occupying part of Cyprus. Turkey is controlling the situation politically, and it is time it realised that it has to abandon this policy. It is in Turkey’s interests that the Cyprus problem should be solved. Above all, the army, which has been negatively interfering throughout the process, has to realise that the Cyprus problem needs to be solved.

It is high time for Turkey’s occupation and interference to come to an end so that Greek and Turkish Cypriots can coexist peacefully in the EU. We can achieve this and I believe that we can live peacefully.

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Given the shortage of time and the noise in the hall I shall try to be very brief.

The debate that has just been concluded, and above all the report prepared by Mrs Oomen-Ruijten, have confirmed what the Council is also aware of: every reform process is difficult. This also applies to Turkey.

In this process the State is faced with considerable dilemmas concerning values such as secularism, democracy and human rights.

This is evident from the trials that have been mentioned numerous times, which have been mentioned in the report and which the Council too has considered, from trials such as the proceedings against political parties, from the debate on ladies' head-scarves, on the status of women in general, on religious freedom, and on freedom of expression, among other things.

I would emphasise this: in those areas in which Turkey has achieved progress, the progress is evident although not sufficient. Progress is evident in changes made to the criminal justice system, basic legislation, the status of women – just look at the number of women in Parliament, which has increased – but of course, in all these areas the progress made is still not sufficient.

As regards Cyprus, I should also like to emphasise that the Council expects from Turkey primarily two things: a constructive role in the negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations, and the implementation of a protocol which was added to the Ankara Treaty. These are the main tasks, but there are also others.

In all of this it is, of course, useful if Turkey has an objective. And this objective has been provided, it has been mutually agreed when the European Union granted Turkey candidate status, and the accession negotiations have been continued under this precondition.

The Slovenian Presidency has set the accession negotiations with Turkey as one of its primary objectives, and we hope that this goal will be achieved, so that we can open additional negotiation chapters in the near future.

Of course, the achievement of the final objective is not certain; it depends on the accession negotiations, on how successful the reforms are, and it depends on us, the Member States, as well as on the candidate countries.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, I want to thank the rapporteur and the Members for a very serious and responsible debate at a very critical time for EU-Turkey relations. I have taken due note of your messages which are also codified in the draft resolution and in the compromise amendments.

I would pick up three particular messages, the first being that it is essential to relaunch the reforms in full so that the fundamental freedoms of Turkish citizens are enhanced and Turkey is itself helped to meet the EU Copenhagen criteria.

The second message is that citizens’ rights must be respected in the everyday life of society. I share your concern in compromise Amendment 32 about the excessive use of force by Turkish police against demonstrators at this year’s May Day rally in Istanbul. It is important that we reaffirm that the freedom of association and the peaceful operation of trade unions represent a fundamental right under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The third and final message is that the European Parliament is clearly very concerned about the closure case. Closing down a political party is not, and cannot be, business as usual. It cannot be taken lightly in a European democracy.

So there is much at stake again this year in Turkey and in EU-Turkey relations. The best medicine to truly revitalise Turkey’s EU accession process is to ensure that the reforms move forward, that a genuine political dialogue is started in Turkey and that both democracy and secularism are respected.

 
  
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  Ria Oomen-Ruijten, rapporteur. − (NL) I thank my colleagues who have worked together so excellently. As I have said before, it is only if we are united that we can make it clear that the reform process in Turkey is necessary. We can all send a positive signal by voting for the report by a large majority. That will help Turkey reform and ensure that individual freedoms are guaranteed and the rule of law is established. That is all necessary for a modern society in which men and women do well.

I once again urge my fellow Members to avoid any political games when voting on the amendments and to make sure there is a large absolute majority for this report on Turkey to be adopted in plenary.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE) , in writing. – Turkey as the largest state with accession perspectives is and will be a strategically important partner and ally of Europe. It is in the interest of all to develop a reliable relationship based on values and mutual respect. The EU must support the democratically elected government and should condemn attempts to undermine it.

However, pursuing EU membership can only be reliable if the candidate country recognizes and conducts normal relations with each and every EU Member State. Although the current situation shows signs of consolidation, I still call upon Turkey to finally meet the fundamental accession criteria in recognizing the Republic of Cyprus and withdrawing Turkish army units.

Fully meeting the Copenhagen criteria is continuously a key condition for EU membership. The Turkish administration has made considerable efforts in this field. In 2007 democracy was strengthened there. Still, a political initiative for a lasting settlement of the Kurdish issue is expected, including real possibilities to study and use the Kurdish language. We also look forward to convincing measures to stop religiously motivated violence against Christian minorities and the providing of equal opportunities for all religious communities to freely erect houses of worship.

 
  
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  Lasse Lehtinen (PSE) , in writing. – (FI) Madam President, I wish to thank the rapporteur for a balanced report. In my opinion it sends an honest and critical, though at the same time, positive and optimistic signal to Turkey. It supports the attempts at reform made by Turkey’s progressive and moderate forces by clearly mentioning those aspects of society where the country has made progress. At the same time it still expresses its concern for the situation regarding freedom of speech, gender equality, the Kurds and other minorities, and the use of violence by the authorities. We have to remember that we are now engaged in accession negotiations based on the Copenhagen criteria.

If the country meets the criteria and fulfils the principles of a European state governed by the rule of law, I see no reason why accession should be blocked. The Turkey which will perhaps join the EU ten or twenty years from now will be a different Turkey from that we see today. If we really want a democratic, stable and peaceful Turkey, we should at least not close the door to membership in its face. Do not let us be accused of cheap populism and xenophobia. A European Turkey is in the interests not only of the EU and Turkey itself, but the world as a whole. Turkey should be given a chance.

 
  
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  Csaba Sógor (PPE-DE) , in writing. – (HU) We are debating Turkey’s accession, in other words whether this country, with its Asian legacy, can become European. Acknowledging the genocide of the Armenians, guaranteeing the rights of the Kurdish minority, equal opportunities for women – these are only a few among many fundamental problems. We speak of European Union expectations and standards, but meanwhile there are persistent problems within the EU itself with regard to democracy and human and minority rights.

In Romania just now we are preparing for local authority elections. In recent days the past has reared its head again in Timişoara, or Temesvár: by a majority vote, the election committee of Timiş County upheld a complaint lodged by a physical person requesting the removal of some posters belonging to the RMDSZ, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania.

The only votes in favour of the RMDSZ member came from the Democratic Liberal Party, PDL, and two female judges on the election committee. The anti-minority, anti-Hungarian attitude demonstrated by members of some political parties is intolerable and unacceptable. What can we expect of Turkey if we are still battling with problems like these within the EU? Anti-Roma sentiment in Rome, collective guilt in Slovakia, anti-Hungarian attitudes in Timişoara ...

 
  
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  Feleknas Uca (GUE/NGL) , in writing. – (DE) Regrettably, since the start of this year, tragic and worrying reports have continued to pour in to us about cross-border incursions by the Turkish military, about deaths and injuries caused in combat in the south-east of the country and on Turkey’s border with northern Iraq, and about disproportionate and brutal assaults by the security forces, especially on children and women, during this year’s Kurdish Nevroz festival.

The report by the Dutch Member, Mrs Oomen-Ruijten, makes some important points but is far too timid a response to the seriousness of the political situation in Turkey. So as to avoid giving offence to the country’s political leaders, it fails to demand, with the requisite clarity, the core elements of the reforms that are necessary in Turkey. In my view, these core elements can be clearly defined:

1. civilian measures to restrict and control the influence of the military in Turkey;

2. a conclusive break with the notion that the Kurdish question can be resolved by military means, and a clear commitment to a political solution and reconciliation;

3. the unconditional repeal of Article 301 of the Penal Code and all other articles which curtail freedom of thought and freedom of opinion;

4. a declaration of a clear political commitment to the full emancipation of women.

The report should have expressed itself in less equivocal and far more resolute terms on these issues.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR PÖTTERING
President

 

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

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

 
  
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  Struan Stevenson (PPE-DE). – Mr President, before we take the vote on the calendar, could I raise the point about tomorrow’s intended strike. I understand that Air France will be on strike, the trains will be on strike and the airport workers will be on strike. This makes our life as parliamentarians impossible. I have spent the morning trying to reschedule flights in order that I can return to my constituency. It means that I will miss the voting session tomorrow. It is interfering with our work as parliamentarians. We are about to vote on the calendar, which requires us to come here twelve times a year, and yet France does nothing to make our life easy in coming here. It is almost impossible. If we are going to continue to come to Strasbourg, perhaps we could make some changes to the transport systems to enable us to come here?

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. − Mr Stevenson, we note what you have said but we should not start a debate at this juncture before we adopt the calendar of part-sessions on this general basis.

 
  
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  Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, I simply wish to tell the Member that the right to strike exists in the European Union, the right to strike is the right to strike, and I also find it incredible for a country to be asked to provide a strike calendar. This is ridiculous, completely ridiculous. I also wish to tell our colleague that Belgian workers have been on strike on many occasions, and so where would this Parliament go if the Belgians went on strike? It is a ridiculous discussion. If he wishes to go back, he can go back; if he wishes to stay, all he has to do is stay another day and have some asparagus.

(Applause from the left)

 
  
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  President. − Ladies and gentlemen, these two contributions have made it clear how pluralistic the European Union is in nature, and I think that in principle we should be grateful for that. However, I would like to add – and I say this in all seriousness, not as a criticism but as an example of how the law of the European Union works – that if someone starts to question applicable law, we will end up in chaos. I therefore suggest that we now proceed to the vote and respect the law of the European Union. We all know who decides on the seat of the European Parliament, so I would ask all of you, please, to allow us to proceed calmly to the vote on the calendar of part-sessions.

Mr Stevenson, you will receive notification from the administration, as will everyone else, on the situation with regard to travel conditions tomorrow.

 

5.1. Parliament's calendar of part-sessions - 2009 (vote)
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  President. − Before we proceed to the vote itself, there is just one point which I would like to make. I would ask you to listen very carefully now, and then some of the chairmen of the parliamentary groups will be given the floor. There is an amendment which has been proposed by Mr Trakatellis, Mr Varvitsiotis, Mr Papastamkos, Mr Lambrinidis and other Members regarding one particular week in the year 2009, namely week 16, from 13 to 19 April. This is the week directly before the Orthodox Easter. It is not Easter itself, but the week before. However, no proposal has been made for a part-session in this particular week, as it is the group week. That means that this amendment is not admissible because there is no proposal for the European Parliament to meet in this particular week. However, this does not imply a preliminary decision concerning the proposed part-session from 20 to 23 April.

 
  
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  Joseph Daul (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as you know, 2008 is the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, and this includes interreligious dialogue. Thus I ask you, in your capacity as the European Parliament, to set an example and respect minorities. It is for this reason, in a spirit of compromise and goodwill towards our Orthodox friends, that my Group suggests the following amendment to the calendar of part-sessions for 2009. Week 17, the plenary week in April 2009, will commence on 21 April and end on 24 April – I do not wish to say any more than that – to allow the Members concerned to celebrate the Orthodox Easter.

On behalf of all countries with an Orthodox tradition, I thank you for your support and ask you not to create any additional controversy. I wish to ask, however, for the support of the European Parliament out of respect for minorities, to set an example for our fellow citizens.

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (PSE).(DE) Mr President, I assume that this is an oral amendment. That was not stated, but if it is an oral amendment, my Group is in favour of voting on it today. It is also a fact that many Catholics work here on religious holidays; tomorrow is one such day, despite the strike. That situation also arises, but I would nonetheless recommend that we vote in favour of this motion or at least put it to the vote. Mr President, if you find that it is not admissible, the groups should try afterwards to achieve a consensus in this spirit.

 
  
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  President. − There are certain issues on which we must have a consensus and I suggest that we proceed as Mr Daul and Mr Swoboda have proposed. This will be voted on at the end. We will take the other amendments first.

 
  
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  Hartmut Nassauer (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, before the vote, I would like to point out a problem which affects the vote and which may need to be discussed and resolved.

In the calendar proposed, there is a reference to the date of the elections in 2009. We are not voting on that now, we are simply noting it. However, because of the date of the elections, the constituent sitting of Parliament will take place in July 2009. That being the case, Members from some countries have concerns because, if you look closely, it is clear that, if the constituent sitting takes place on 14 July 2009, some Members will not achieve the requisite five years for pension rights. In some Member States, they do not use the legislative term but a fixed period because the legislative terms in the Member States vary in length.

I think that there are good grounds to consider and resolve this problem, either as regards the date of the election or the date of the constituent sitting. I would therefore ask Parliament’s Legal Service to look at this issue.

 
  
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  Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Verts/ALE).(DE) Mr President, I would like to make a similar proposal.

I am astonished that the right of minorities is being deployed in such moralistic terms. There are around seven Jewish festive days which cannot be observed because they are working days. The same applies to 13 Protestant festive days as well. The constituent sitting is being held on 14 July. This is one of the most important secular holidays. Can we work in France on 14 July as we commemorate the French Revolution? I think that is impossible and inappropriate. That needs to be changed as well, please!

(Applause)

 
  
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  President. − We have noted what has been said and shall now proceed to the vote.

(Parliament agreed to accept the oral amendment)

 

5.2. Banning of exports and the safe storage of metallic mercury (A6-0102/2008, Dimitrios Papadimoulis) (vote)
  

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  Dimitrios Papadimoulis, rapporteur. − (EL) Mr President, I thank the shadow rapporteurs once again for their excellent cooperation. During or dialogue with their representatives who were present at all stages, we have arrived at a very satisfactory compromise with the Council, thanks to the Commission’s contribution.

However, there is a risk that this compromise may collapse, leaving us back at square one, if Amendments 37 and 41 on Almadén are approved.

Let me remind you, ladies and gentlemen, that at first reading I, too, as rapporteur, supported the Almadén amendments, but we are now faced with reality. Neither the Council nor the Commission accepts these amendments. If they are approved, we shall be back at square one. A year ago, the Council accepted only one of the European Parliament’s amendments. Now, with the cooperation of all the political groups, we have succeeded in having 22 amendments accepted in the text of the agreement. I ask you: are we going to sacrifice this success? Yesterday, Commissioner Dimas was quite clear. The Commission does not accept Amendments 37 and 41. In the Council, not even the Spanish Government insisted on these amendments.

I therefore call on you to reject these amendments so that we can make good the significant progress achieved in our agreement with the Council over protecting the environment and public health. This will allow us to approve a satisfactory move towards banning the export of mercury by a very large majority.

 

5.3. Protection of the environment through criminal law (A6-0154/2008, Hartmut Nassauer) (vote)
  

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − Mr President, once again, thank you very much. With your permission I would like to give the following statement on behalf of the Council.

We have considered the following amendment which the European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs has adopted. It is the new recital 12a.

I quote: ‘Where a continuing activity proves after a lapse of time to give rise to environmental damage which may in turn give rise to criminal liability under this Directive, the question whether or not the perpetrator of the damage acted intentionally or negligently should be determined by reference to the time when the perpetrator became aware, or should have been aware, of the facts constituting the offence and not to the time when the perpetrator commenced its activity. It should be borne in mind in this connection that the prior grant of an authorisation, licence or concession should not constitute a defence in such circumstances.’ End of quote.

We understand the intentions that have been expressed in this amendment. These matters belong under the competence of the Member States. We believe that the Member States will duly take into consideration these intentions.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Olli Rehn, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, this declaration may not amount to the same rhetoric as Mr Cohn-Bendit’s. I have to read this declaration and I quote: ‘The Commission took note of the following amendment adopted in the Committee on Legal Affairs: “Where a continuing activity proves after a lapse of time to give rise to environmental damage which may in turn give rise to criminal liability under this Directive, the question whether or not the perpetrator of the damage acted intentionally or negligently should be determined by reference to the time when the perpetrator became aware, or should have been aware, of the facts constituting the offence and not to the time when the perpetrator commenced its activity. It should be borne in mind in this connection that the prior grant of an authorisation, licence or concession should not constitute a defence in such circumstances.” We fully understand the concerns expressed in this amendment. These matters fall within the competence of Member States and we are confident that they will take due account of these important concerns.’

 
  
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  Hartmut Nassauer, rapporteur. − (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the two declarations prompt me to point out, for the benefit of those fellow Members who may not have fully understood what is going on, that these declarations form part of the compromise which we have agreed. We asked for clarification of two or three problems which has been provided in this way. However, the subject of the legislative procedure is of course solely the text as agreed jointly by us.

I have the letter here from the Chair of Coreper – which is currently chaired by Slovenia – which confirms that this text, if we adopt it today, will also be approved by the Council. That means, of course, that we will have agreement at first reading which will give us the legislative success that we want to achieve.

 

5.4. Farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods (A6-0061/2008, Gábor Harangozó) (vote)
  

– Before the vote:

 
  
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  Gábor Harangozó, rapporteur. − (HU) Thank you, Mr President. Ladies and gentlemen, farm structure surveys are some of the oldest Community-level statistical surveys, and they provide substantial and necessary information on agricultural holdings in the European Union.

Especially now that we have an enlarged EU that includes twelve new Member States, and since we are working at this very moment on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, it is exceedingly important to be able to conduct a new and comprehensive survey as soon as possible. We need comparable and uniform data to enable us to devise an equitable and properly functioning agricultural policy. This is why I have tried to ensure that we will be able to reach an agreement at the first reading, and get these surveys under way as soon as possible.

I would especially like to thank my fellow Members who participated in the trialogue for their exceptionally constructive approach; I would particularly like to thank Mrs Elisabeth Jeggle and Messrs Nicolas Meves and Alexis Kuhl for their work. The amendments tabled as a result of the trialogue have been put into block one. I would ask you all to support the amendments in block one and then we will be able to close this dossier. Many thanks.

 

5.5. Conditions to be complied with to pursue the occupation of road transport operator (A6-0087/2008, Silvia-Adriana Ţicău) (vote)
  

- Before the vote on Amendment 108:

 
  
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  Mathieu Grosch (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Amendments 108 and 117 are not compatible in my view and so, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group, I propose that we support Amendment 108 and withdraw Amendment 117.

 

5.6. International carriage of passengers by coach and bus (recast) (A6-0037/2008, Mathieu Grosch) (vote)
  

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  Hannes Swoboda (PSE).(DE) Mr President, in the interests of fairness, I announced on Monday that we would be requesting the postponement of the vote on this report, not because Mr Grosch has done a bad job – quite the contrary – but because we want to take more time to look at the issue of rest periods and integrate it in precise terms in this report. We have held talks with the groups and have found that there is considerable backing for this proposal. Even Mr Jarzembowski, who was most difficult to convince, advised me this morning that he now supports the proposal. I therefore hope that we can deal with the matter in this way, and so I request postponement to one of the two next part-sessions.

 
  
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  Mathieu Grosch, rapporteur. − (DE) Mr President, as the rapporteur, I agree with the proposal, as does the PPE-DE Group, and I would like to make it clear that we have taken note of the agreement between the social partners. However, we are using the time with a view to incorporating this into an amendment.

 
  
  

(Parliament approved the proposal)

 

5.7. International carriage of goods by road (recast) (A6-0038/2008, Mathieu Grosch) (vote)

5.8. Mobile satellite services (MSS) (A6-0077/2008, Fiona Hall) (vote)

5.9. A simplified business environment for companies (A6-0101/2008, Klaus-Heiner Lehne) (vote)

5.10. Women and science (A6-0165/2008, Britta Thomsen) (vote)

5.11. Green Paper on better ship dismantling (A6-0156/2008, Johannes Blokland) (vote)

5.12. Scientific facts of climate change: findings and recommendations for decision-making (A6-0136/2008, Karl-Heinz Florenz) (vote)
  

- Before the vote:

 
  
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  President. − On the Florenz report, I should state that Amendments 5, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 are inadmissible for this report. However, they may be tabled when we deal with the main report. I have received a number of e-mails on this issue. All the services and the Legal Service have looked at this in detail and have concluded that these amendments are inadmissible for this report. They are, however, admissible for the final report.

 
  
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  Jan Březina (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I must say that I am able to accept this argumentation for all amendments with the exception of 15. I do not know why 15 is not acceptable for voting just now.

 
  
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  President. − Mr Březina, the answer which I have received – and I have received an e-mail about this specific amendment – was the same as for all these particular amendments. I have to rely on that. Amendment 15 may be tabled for the main report, however, so it could become part of the main report.

 

5.13. Turkey's 2007 progress report (A6-0168/2008, Ria Oomen-Ruijten) (vote)
  

– Before the vote on Amendment 11:

 
  
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  Alexander Lambsdorff (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, we agree with our fellow Members that we should give appropriate recognition to the role of the Kurdish language in Turkey. Paragraph 11 requires some linguistic clarification on one point, however. I would therefore like to propose an oral amendment which has been agreed with the other shadow rapporteurs and the rapporteur. In the amended version, the sentence would therefore read as follows:

‘including real possibilities to learn Kurdish within the public and private schooling system and to use it in broadcasting, in daily life and in access to public services’.

 
  
  

(Parliament agreed to accept the oral amendment)

– Before the vote on paragraph 19:

 
  
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  Ria Oomen-Ruijten, rapporteur. − (NL) We want to drop the word ‘neighbouring’ because we want the Ombudsman to work with all European ombudsmen and ombudswomen.

 
  
  

(Parliament agreed to accept the oral amendment)

 

6. Rheumatic diseases (written declaration): see Minutes
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR MAURO
Vice-President

 

7. Explanations of vote
  

Oral explanations of vote

 
  
  

− Calendar of part-sessions for 2009

 
  
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  Toomas Savi (ALDE). – Mr President, I have only a brief remark regarding the parliamentary calendar next year. Although the parliamentary elections have been fixed for the period from 4 to 7 June, thus cutting my term one week shorter than 5 years, I am glad that the elections are not being held from 11 to 14 June. Sunday is traditionally the day when elections are held in Estonia, but had the European elections been held on 14 June – the national day of mourning commemorating the mass deportation of 1941 carried out by the Soviet authorities – the flags would have been flying at half mast all over Estonia. It would not have been a very happy day to hold the elections to the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, this was the last calendar vote in this legislative term and we have averted five attempts to challenge Strasbourg as the seat of Parliament, and as the sole seat of Parliament, through irrational amendments.

Nonetheless, may I say that we should have a comprehensive reform, because it is after all a matter of money and CO2 emissions. May I make the point that, if we were to concentrate on the 12 plenary weeks in the year and fully utilise all five days in these weeks once more, we could then do away with the expensive and unnecessary mini-plenaries in Brussels and replace them with constituency weeks. This would bring us closer to our citizens and give us more time for our real work. It would also be much cheaper, we would cut our CO2 emissions, and all this could be achieved through our own decisions without an amendment of the Treaties. As long as there is no Treaty amendment, we should use the current Treaties as rationally and efficiently as possible. That is why I believe that we should adopt the approach that I have proposed.

 
  
  

− Report: Dimitrios Papadimoulis (A6-0102/2008)

 
  
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  Fiona Hall (ALDE). – Mr President, when this regulation came before Parliament at first reading, I opposed attempts to allow mercury to be stored, not only in salt mines but also in underground facilities adapted for waste disposal. It was clear that anhydrite mines were being included in the expanded definition and this was very worrying for the people of Billingham in my constituency, who are fighting plans to use the former anhydrite mines under their homes for waste disposal. Unfortunately, the text voted today at second reading has reintroduced the possibility of storing mercury in sites other than salt mines, specifically in deep underground hard rock formations. As the Billingham anhydrite mines may come under this new definition of permitted sites, I felt it necessary to abstain on the vote on the compromise package since there is no final vote at second reading. This is despite agreeing very much with the ban on the export of mercury from Europe.

 
  
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  Alojz Peterle (PPE-DE). – (SL) I was delighted to see this report, because it has all the necessary elements for a speedy resolution of this issue. I am delighted that the Parliament, the Commission and the Council could reach a compromise view, and that is how we have actually contributed to the dynamics. A different solution could mean delaying the solution for a long time.

Thank you.

 
  
  

− Report: Hartmut Nassauer (A6-0154/2008)

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE).(CS) Today it is no longer tolerable for serious environmental crimes and crimes concerning public health to be considered merely an offence, as they have been to date in some countries, for example in Italy or Cyprus. That is why I supported the directive obliging all countries to include relevant criminal sanctions in their legislation within two years, in spite of objections from Eurosceptics. On the other hand, the Czech Republic, as well as many other countries, will have to introduce liability under criminal law for legal persons, which for post-socialist countries is an unknown historical concept. We will have to decide whether to go for the German model in which violations of law by legal persons are decided by administrative authorities or whether to choose the judicial authorities model typical of France, Britain and now also Slovenia. We will also have to decide whether it should be the entire legal person or the management who will be held liable. I fear that the two years we have to complete implementation will not be enough.

 
  
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  Roger Helmer (NI). – Mr President, I voted against this measure. It seems that climate alarmism and environmentalism are rapidly taking on the characteristics of a religion. They are based on faith not fact. And the possibility of carbon offsetting has been rightly compared with the medieval purchase of papal indulgences. Now we have Mr Nassauer introducing what appears to be a sort of environmental blasphemy law.

I have considerable reservations about these environmental issues being dealt with by criminal law rather than civil law, in any case. But the real problem here is the extension of European law. The people I represent want to have trade, want to have cooperation in Europe but they do not want political union and they do not want a European legal system. We should resist every further move to create Europe responsibilities and European competence in these areas.

 
  
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  Syed Kamall (PPE-DE). – Mr President, while this report seems to remove references to specific sanctions, it does make reference to what actions should be considered criminal activity within Member States. So let us consider a scenario where someone in my constituency – London, the greatest city in the world, capital of the greatest country in the world – commits an act which is not considered a criminal act under English law (a body of law that has been arrived at through common law tradition and through reason) but which, because we have decided to impose this EU law from above, setting reason aside, over the heads of the citizens of my constituency, is now considered a criminal act under EU law.

What will that lead to? How will my constituents respond? I will tell you how they will respond. They will say: ‘What nonsense is this? Why is it that what is not considered under reasonable English law to be a criminal act, is a criminal act under European law? It is time to leave the European Union!’ Therefore we have to be careful we are not driving the UK out of the EU.

 
  
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  Giuseppe Gargani (PPE-DE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I asked the President for the floor for a moment following the adoption of Mr Nassauer’s report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament on protection through criminal law.

I particularly wanted to congratulate the rapporteur because this is a report of great importance. There was a major debate in committee and we reached a very intelligent, high-quality compromise through the intervention of Monica Frassoni. Indeed, I feel the need to highlight this particular area of the committee’s work and especially congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Nassauer.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE).(PL) With reference to the report by Mr Nassauer, I have to say that I voted in favour of it. Although all Member States have adopted the same provisions, the latter are being implemented in many different ways. This encourages undesirable behaviour whereby irresponsible entrepreneurs relocate their economic activity to countries where criminal sanctions for offences against the environment are less severe. This affects the new Member States of the Union in particular. It should be emphasised that offences committed within the framework of criminal organisations are becoming more and more significant, and that offences against the environment are increasingly of a cross-border nature.

I agree with the rapporteur’s stance that the legal framework defined in the proposal for a directive represents an important contribution to effective protection of the environment, and can guarantee uniform and responsible implementation of environmental protection law within the Community. Appropriately trained officials are a sine qua non for effective implementation of the law and actual reduction of offences against the environment. The proposal to specify the obligations of Member States in this regard clearly is therefore entirely relevant.

I should like to make the following comment for the benefit of the Member from the United Kingdom who may be labouring under a misunderstanding. We are not creating new Community legislation to impose sanctions. That proved impossible. Instead, we are insisting that every Member State implements the necessary legislation within its own legal system so as to ensure that across the length and breadth of Europe uniform penalties are applied for similar offences.

 
  
  

− Report: Fiona Hall (A6-0077/2008)

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE).(CS) Today, 21 May, marks another nail in the coffin of the Eurosceptics because, together with the Council, we have voted for a joint decision that will help to partly transfer the telecommunication spectrum rights of the 27 Member States to the European Union. This shows the importance of the European Union. If the Member States cannot successfully manage something themselves, they entrust the Union with it, in the interests of European citizens. Today it is a matter of removing legislative obstacles to the future development of mobile satellite services for emergency communications, for saving the lives, health and property of half a billion citizens. Ships and aircraft already use this system which, thanks to modern technology, could perform further functions as two-way multimedia, satellite television broadcasting and broadband internet access. However, this decision should not become a standard in the area of telecommunications. The exclusive rights to other parts of the spectrum continue to remain a matter for the national regulators. I hope that in countries that are somewhat Eurosceptic, such as the Czech Republic or Britain, the media will pay sufficient attention to this subject, which represents good news for citizens.

 
  
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  Syed Kamall (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I am pleased to be able to support this report because it does not seem to be an example of coercion but rather of cooperation. In fact I worked in this area in a previous career. I advised companies on mobile satellite services.

One of the things that the companies had to face up to was the fact that they misunderstood the market. About five operators launched global satellite services in the late 1990s. Despite their best estimates, they completely misunderstood the market because they thought the market was the international business traveller, but the technology in this market was superseded by developments in cellular technology.

I am pleased that we have an opportunity for these companies to try again to create a global mobile satellite service market, which I think would be of great benefit, particularly to people in developing countries where terrestrial networks have no reach. Therefore I welcome this report and I voted in favour.

 
  
  

− Report: Karl-Heinz Florenz (A6-0136/2008)

 
  
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  Miroslav Ouzký (PPE-DE).(CS) I would like to explain why I voted the way I did on the report by Mr Karl-Heinz Florenz. In the final vote I voted against this report and I want to emphasise, as Chairman of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, that the reason was not my lack of understanding of the seriousness of this subject or an intention to dismiss or dispute the rapporteur’s work in any way. I did not agree with several statements and phrases which I not only found to be politically incorrect but also – in some cases – untrue. I also consider the decision of the Tabling Office regarding the inadmissibility of the proposal without giving any reasons to be unacceptable, scandalous and somewhat erroneous. Thank you for your understanding.

 
  
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  Jan Březina (PPE-DE).(CS) I did not vote for the report by my colleague Mr Florenz either. Everything that is branded, and presented, as a scientific fact must explain the scientific opinions expressed by both groups of scientists, those who agree as well as those who do not agree. The statements in the report are presented as a clear scientific consensus. However, this is not the case. The opposing camp is also important. The principle of tentative caution was often stressed during the debate. Could we not also use this in regard to overly strict and one-sided conclusions concerning climate change policy? As a geologist I can assure you that, many times in the past, the earth has warmed up much more than by those demonised 2°C, and no tragic events took place. After all, humankind has always been living in a time of continuous climatic change.

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE).(SK) I voted for the interim report by the rapporteur, Karl-Heinz Florenz, in which the scientific knowledge of climate change plays an important role. At the same time I find it regrettable that some amendments by my colleague Mr Březina and 40 other Members, in particular Amendment 15, were not accepted in this report. These amendments would have enhanced the text. Scientists constantly keep revising their theses, which means that we too must be open to new ideas.

Some of the global climate change brought about by human activity manifests itself, to a large degree, as water drainage in certain regions. Consequently, containing rainwater in a region and draining away only the natural surplus water is a prerequisite for ensuring environmental security and global stability and, last but not least, for maintaining economic growth. I trust that the New Water Paradigm will become a new useful idea over the next few decades, and that it will become humankind’s manifesto for the future of civilisation.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE).(PL) Mr President, we have today adopted an exceptionally important report on combating climate change. There are close links between the latter and problems relating to energy. We are experiencing more and more frequent droughts, floods, desertification, and the melting of glaciers. It must surely be clear to everyone by now that our climate is changing. Social, environmental and financial problems are emerging due to the rising temperatures.

If we really want to protect our planet, our own Earth, then all of us, all the countries and societies in the entire world have to slow down or halt further increases in the level of CO2 emissions and emissions of other greenhouse gases. Environmentally friendly investment should be promoted, along with clean energy and energy-saving installations. Above all, priority should be given to convincing people to save energy, and to increasing their knowledge and awareness. That may well prove the quickest way to achieve results.

We need to find a compromise solution on restricting emissions of greenhouse gases within the Union. The new Member States should be treated differently from the more developed ones. The former would then have a chance to catch up and eliminate differences in the level of economic development.

 
  
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  Kurt Joachim Lauk (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, first of all, may I comment on Mr Florenz’s report which, in my view, has summed up the current scientific consensus very well. Nonetheless, I voted against the report. The climate is an important issue, and I agree that we must take action here. However, the scientific consensus is only a provisional consensus, just as every scientific consensus of the past hundred years was short term in nature. In every case, we move on from them.

The report before us does not offer us enough opportunities here. What is more, the specific measures outlined are one-sided. We must ensure that Europe does not forfeit any of its economic capacities. Europe cannot save the world on its own. Other countries need to be involved as a matter of urgency in addressing this global problem. That is the only way to implement the scientific consensus. We cannot bear this burden on our own.

Against this background, what I feel is lacking in the report is the catalogue of measures which are required to mitigate climate change. We probably cannot stop it altogether. That being the case, I believe that measures that will permanently alter our industrial structures cannot be adopted on the basis of what is only a provisional scientific consensus.

 
  
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  Roger Helmer (NI). – Mr President, I voted against the Florenz report. One of the greatest myths of climate alarmism is that there is a scientific consensus and that all scientists agree. As a member of the Temporary Committee on Climate Change I know why Mr Florenz’s report turned out the way it did: they only listened to one side of the debate and therefore they concluded there was a consensus.

In the debate earlier today, Mr Booth reminded us of the Oregon Declaration, which 30 000 relevant scientists have signed, challenging the whole basis of climate alarmism. There is no consensus; there is a powerful and growing body of scientific opinion which takes the other view. In the mean time we are going to do huge economic damage to the people we represent in a futile and doomed attempt to influence a speculative problem, which, in the view of many people, does not exist.

It is the economic damage which will crucify us, and it will crucify specifically Europe because developing countries like China and India have far too much common sense to be taken in by it.

 
  
  

− Report: Ria Oomen-Ruijten (A6-0168/2008)

 
  
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  Dimitar Stoyanov (NI). – (BG) The delegation of the Ataka Party voted against the so-called Report on Turkey’s Progress because we do not see what this progress might involve.

What we do see in Turkey is a state where an Islamistic party is in office, the head of state is an Islamistic president. A state which does not even come close to respecting human rights, a state which exercises oppression against an entire nation and wages a war, even as we speak, on an entire nation with the aim to destroy it, and that nation is the Kurdish people. A state which is heavily militarized, where there is a covert military junta, and Turkish policy takes whatever direction the generals point it to. A state which continues to occupy the territory of an EU Member State even as we speak.

A state like that is not eligible for any negotiations until these severe problems have been eliminated in real terms.

 
  
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  Frank Vanhecke (NI).(NL) To my mind, the Oomen-Ruijten report is yet another missed opportunity to get down to business on the potential accession by Turkey to the European Union. The report focuses on what are, in my view, a number of side issues, whereas the main point about all this is still, of course, that Turkey is in no way a European country, will never in any way be a European country and consequently there can be no question of a non-European country acceding to the European Union. End of story!

However, I should also mention, by the way, that I was surprised to hear in the debate, from my Socialist colleague Mr Swoboda amongst others, that it is absolutely unacceptable for parties to be banned in Turkey. I remind you that in my country in 2004 the biggest party in the country, Vlaams Blok, which won 24% of the vote, was simply proscribed and had to be disbanded. I do not recall any protest from the Socialists at the time. On the contrary, their solidarity is confined to the Islamic fundamentalists, which is duly noted.

 
  
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  Zuzana Roithová (PPE-DE).(CS) Mr President, I have been saying, for many years, that a privileged partnership between the Union and Turkey would have been far more beneficial than the promise of Turkey’s entry into the European Union. Unfortunately, the progress report confirms that, although accession negotiations have been opened, the Copenhagen criteria have not yet been met. This is not the case with just one area. It affects freedom of religion, minority rights, equal opportunities (for women in particular), corruption, Kurdish and Cyprus issues and of course also the power of the army over government policies. Just like the rapporteur, I also welcome the government’s efforts to ensure progress but, alas, this progress is not visible. On the contrary: Turkey is banning a political party, has a new Article 301 used to prosecute writers and intellectuals for insulting Turkishness, and politically or religiously motivated hostility and violence are also on the increase. The murder of Hrant Dink has not been solved so far, and neither have other murders. That said, I accept that the report is well-balanced and honest.

 
  
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  Czesław Adam Siekierski (PPE-DE).(PL) Mr President, we have adopted an important report. We should give due recognition and support to the changes implemented in Turkey pursuant to the accession negotiations. In view of its particular geopolitical position, Turkey is a strategic partner for the Union where the latter’s negotiations with countries in the Black Sea area, Central Asia and the Middle East are concerned. Turkey is also vitally important to ensuring Europe’s energy security, because energy resources from the Caspian and Black Sea areas are transported to Europe across Turkish territory. In addition, Turkey has enormous economic potential. It has a dynamic economy, a huge internal market, and a society largely of an age to be active on the labour market. I am confident that all this will contribute to the development of Europe’s economy in the future.

One further aspect of Turkey’s accession merits a mention. As an Islamic country that is also a Member State of the Union, it will be able to play an important role in developing relations between the West and the Islamic world.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, I voted in favour of Mrs Oomen-Ruijten’s report although it contains many compromise phrases. I did so because, at the start, it contains a crucial sentence, namely that the opening of negotiations is the starting-point for a long-lasting and open-ended process. That is the only reason why I was able to vote in favour of the report. Let me make it quite clear that my party, the Christian Social Union, has always been, and continues to be, pro-Turkish. We campaigned and worked hard for the Customs Union which was adopted by this House by a majority of just one vote. It could be argued that, at the time, it was my vote. We have supported Turkey in NATO and on a wide range of issues.

Let me also make it quite clear, however, that Turkey is not a European country, and I share Mrs Roithová’s view that a privileged partnership, a tailor-made special status, is the right solution. This is the solution which will ultimately be achieved. We should finally stop pursuing this blind alley towards supposed accession. This accession is not going to happen, so it would be more honest and better for both sides if we could get together as soon as possible and agree to pursue another route, a route towards a partnership of equals, without common institutions but with common interests and a practical and agreed programme of cooperation.

 
  
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  Albert Deß (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, although Mrs Oomen-Ruijten’s report contains many criticisms of Turkey, I voted against it because, in my view, full membership for Turkey cannot be the aim of the accession negotiations. Mr Posselt has already made this point. I believe that we should start as quickly as possible to offer Turkey this privileged partnership. Turkey is not part of Europe nor does it perform a bridging function to the Islamic countries.

In Sudan, persecution of Christians has been taking place for years in Darfur. Turkey has had the opportunity for many years to play a part in ending these crimes against Christians in Sudan. However, I have yet to see Turkey make any moves in that direction. That is why I voted against the report: because Turkey does not belong as a full member of the European Union.

 
  
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  Marusya Ivanova Lyubcheva (PSE). – (BG) Mr. President, I supported the Report on Turkey’s Progress although there are still certain risks related to that country’s way to the European Union.

I was motivated by the fact that the report includes texts dealing with protection of human rights, protection of the rights of women in two important areas: reproductive health and equal opportunities, particularly in terms of access to education.

The second point I would like to note refers to the safeguards demanded in the report in relation to neighbourhood policy. The issues still outstanding in terms of neighbouring countries need to be resolved, and one such issue refers to Bulgarian refugees from Thrace. This issue also has to do with fundamental human rights. Its dimensions go beyond property and financial aspects. Its moral aspects are particularly important. Without getting preoccupied with the past, we would like to see clear actions in the future and observation of the agreement signed between our two countries; that is why I supported the report.

 
  
  

Written explanations of vote

 
  
  

− Calendar of part-sessions for 2009

 
  
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  Glyn Ford (PSE), in writing. − I supported all the amendments to the calendar that reduced our time in Strasbourg and increased it in Brussels. The current situation is bizarre, trekking as we do backwards and forwards between Brussels and Strasbourg at vast cost in time and money. We should meet at a single location.

I do however reject Mr Stevenson's complaint regarding the current transport strikes. We recognise and support the right to strike. Our objection to Strasbourg is not based on any opposition to the exercise of workers' rights in France, but the inherent waste involved in our current institutional arrangements.

I voted against making an exception for the Monday of Orthodox Easter when we make no provision for not meeting on 14 July. Secular celebrations deserve the same treatment as religious festivals.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) We actually want all the sittings of the European Parliament to be held in Brussels and we want the travelling circus between Brussels and Strasbourg to end as soon as possible.

We have therefore voted for the proposals that the Monday sittings and Thursday afternoon sittings during Strasbourg part-sessions should be discontinued, in the hope that the sittings in Strasbourg will be phased out completely.

The European Parliament should have a single seat and a single place of work. It is regrettable that there are Member States whose political leaders consider themselves to be strong supporters of the European idea but at the same time will not give an inch when their national interests are at stake.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I am generally in favour of what is proposed for the 2009 calendar of part-sessions. However, I believe that amendments requesting an extension of the time spent in Strasbourg would not contribute to the efficient running of the Parliament. Indeed, efficiency and logic demands that there be one single Parliament seat in Brussels. My views on this issue are reflected in my vote.

 
  
  

− Report: Dimitrios Papadimoulis (A6-0102/2008)

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) We regard as positive the recognition of the environmental and social problems arising from the closure of mercury mines in the Community. We also regard as positive the acceptance that projects and other initiatives must continue to be supported, based on the available financing instruments, in order to allow affected areas to find viable solutions for the local environment, employment and economic activity.

It has also been agreed that the permit applicant must take the necessary measures, through a financial guarantee or equivalent mechanism, to ensure that the obligations arising from the permit (including maintenance operations after closure) shall be fulfilled and that the closure operations shall be carried out.

It has also been approved that industry sectors that gain mercury from the cleaning of natural gas or as a by-product from non-ferrous mining and smelting operations must provide relevant data to the Commission and the competent authorities of the Member States concerned. The Commission shall make this information publicly available.

We also feel it is right to encourage the provision of technical assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, especially assistance which facilitates the shift towards alternative mercury-free technologies and the eventual phase-out of uses and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

 
  
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  Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for this report which aims to bring the ban on exports of mercury forward to 15 March 2011, three months before the date proposed by the Council. Mercury can be produced by waste recycling (fluorescent tubes or batteries, for instance), cleaning of natural gas or industrial processing of non-ferrous metals.

I am pleased that, in addition to metallic mercury, the ban includes mercury-containing products that cannot be sold or distributed in the European Union, cinnabar ore and mercury compounds.

It is likewise extremely important that compounds used for research and development, in medicines or in analytic processes not be included in the ban, as stated in the report.

Storage must be made secure, as suggested by both the report and the Council. Mercury waste stored temporarily for more than one year must be kept in deep underground hard rock formations or in above-ground facilities in such a way as to prevent any risk to human health and the environment before it is processed.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − I generally support Dimitrios Papadimoulis’ report on the banning of exports and the safe storage of metallic mercury. Bringing forward the date of the export ban to 2010 allows for greater coherence with the EU’s overall mercury strategy. I also support the extension of the types of mercury covered within the ban. I further feel that, before the ban comes into force, more research is required regarding safe disposal methods for mercury. I voted in favour of the report.

 
  
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  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) Does hypocrisy have no limits? The European Commission rightly proposes banning the use of mercury and creating suitable infrastructures to store it, in view of its high toxicity and the risks to public health. The Commission nonetheless insists on promoting fluorescent bulbs to save energy, knowing that they contain at least 5 mg mercury each, a particularly dangerous amount, given the number of bulbs in every home or workplace.

Profit is everything. The investments and profits of monopolies must be protected even if they are demonstrably at the expense of public health. The EU prohibits the use of mercury but allows companies to offer free light bulbs containing mercury in order to promote their sales.

Responsibility for public health is assigned to the companies. They have to manage waste collection, although it is known that waste will end up in dumps and refuse bins. Society as a whole, and not just those who use the bulbs, will be exposed to the considerable risk of contamination. This, of course, is why in general they can be disposed of in landfills. Indeed, to forestall protests that would affect sales, not even the most basic steps are being taken to inform the public of the risks they run from leakage of the contents of these bulbs into the environment.

 
  
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  Bernard Wojciechowski (IND/DEM), in writing. – (PL) Mercury is one of the most powerful environmental poisons. Under normal circumstances this metal is a liquid with high vapour compressibility. It does not biodegrade and therefore remains in the environment for a very long time. Mercury accumulates in trophic chains that can pass into the human body in significant concentrations.

Industrial development resulted in the use of mercury because it is a metal with special properties and is cheap to obtain. It seems difficult to eliminate the use of mercury in the production of low-energy light bulbs. Effective collection systems for such waste should be developed, however, together with safe technology for its recycling, so as to prevent further degradation of the natural environment.

One of the most serious cases of poisoning with mercury compounds took place in Japan between 1953 and 1960. There was mass illness amongst the inhabitants of the gulf of Minamata who showed symptoms of nerve damage that often resulted in death.

The European Union should do all it can to ensure mercury is safely stored. The export of metallic mercury should be banned.

 
  
  

− Report: Hartmut Nassauer (A6-0154/2008)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for the report by my esteemed German colleague, Hartmut Nassauer, drawn up at first reading of the codecision procedure on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of the environment through criminal law. I support the position of reinserting this mechanism within the strict jurisdiction of Community law by limiting the effects of the directive only to cases of infringement of Community legislation on environmental issues, and thus allowing the Member States to determine the penalties that they will apply in the event of any infringement of such laws. This wise position follows that of the Court of Justice of the European Communities which ruled that the EU has the power to adopt criminal measures only in cases of ‘justified need’, in other words, concerning common transport and environment policies. It should be pointed out that the directive aims to oblige the Member States to lay down criminal sanctions within their own legislation for serious infringements of Community law with regard to protection of the environment, without creating any obligations for application of these penalties that may be invoked in individual cases.

 
  
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  Hanne Dahl (IND/DEM), in writing. − Given the trans-boundary nature of environmental crime, we believe that an established set of minimum standards and sanctions concerning environmental crime at international level would be a useful instrument in maintaining a comprehensive and effective environmental protection strategy. However, we do not believe that the EU has or should have the competence to establish criminal measures in first-pillar matters. Therefore I voted against the report today

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) Importantly, the rapporteur has recognised that, pursuant to the Court of Justice judgment of 23 October 2007 in Case C-440/05, criminal law and the rules of criminal procedure do not fall within the Community competence and therefore the type and level of the criminal penalties to be applied cannot be determined. Amendments have therefore been made to the European Commission’s proposal for a directive which was not acceptable.

It is also important that the Commission and the Council have accepted these proposed amendments. However, despite this, they are insisting on the possibility of the Community legislator being able to require Member States to make provision for sanctions of this kind to ensure that the laws that they enact in the area of environmental protection are fully effective.

As the role of the Member States in the whole process has not been sufficiently clarified, we chose to abstain in the final vote.

 
  
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  Neena Gill (PSE), in writing. − I voted in favour of this report as it will allow criminal sanctions for serious environmental offences. Member States must take a strong stance on environmental protection and ensure strict application of this directive.

In particular I am voting for the inclusion of an annex to the directive which clarifies which legislation is subject to criminal sanctions. An annex is crucial to give greater legal clarity about what Community legislation is affected. It should both cover existing legislation, where this Directive will have competence to impose criminal sanctions, and allow for future legislation to be covered.

Furthermore, an annex will ensure the directive is restricted only to enforcement of Community law and implementing national legislation and has no impact on what is purely national law.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. – (FR) The adoption of common criminal law within the EU, thus depriving the Member States of their sovereign exclusive right to determine, in an independent fashion, what types of behaviour they consider to be offences and also of the chance to define the qualifications and limits of criminal penalties, is on its way.

An impressive power play by the Court of Justice of the European Communities in its judgment of 13 September 2005 on the case known as ‘protection of the environment’ granted it the right to interfere in the criminal law of Member States in the event of infringements of environmental legislation.

Now, in an all-new phase, the idea is to draw up a harmonised set of infringements to be sanctioned by criminal law in all the Member States and to harmonise the criminal penalties in cases of environmental infringements.

The Court has seized power and has handed it over to the Commission with total disdain for the countries, national constitutions, parliaments and sound application of laws.

Those of us who are sovereignists and defend the freedoms and rights of countries to decide for themselves reject these methods.

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I voted in favour of the Nassauer report on the protection of the environment through criminal law. Whilst substantive criminal law is and should remain a matter for Member States, it is equally clear that environmental protection is something which can best be coordinated at the EU level. I am satisfied that the compromise package will allow the EU take the lead in environmental protection whilst respecting the integrity of national legal systems.

 
  
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  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The proposed directive opens the way to imposing unified EU criminal law on the Member States. It uses environmental protection and workers’ concerns about environmental problems to promote the adoption of common EU criminal law. It even revokes the rule of the Member States’ unanimity that has applied to criminal matters until now. This paves the way to acquis communautaire, giving the EU the right and power to institute and impose criminal penalties wherever it deems this necessary. In the final analysis, certain provisions of the European Constitution are being reinstated. From now on their application comes under the new name ‘Treaty of Lisbon’ before it has even been ratified or entered into force. This is a dangerous development at the expense of the peoples of Europe.

Investing the EU with the power to adopt unified criminal law without the unanimous agreement of the Member States is tantamount to abolishing one of the fundamental sovereign rights of nations: to decide what actions constitute a criminal offence and to specify the type and level of penalties. The primacy of Community law is thus established over national legislation and even national constitutional provisions. The aim is to impose directly on the people of Europe the will of legally sanctioned European capital monopoly. At the same time, the personal rights and democratic freedoms of peoples will be drastically reduced.

 
  
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  Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański (UEN), in writing. ? (PL) Caring for the environment is a duty incumbent on us all. The world is not discharging this duty very well, however. There is a tendency not to recognise its importance and to put it off until later.

In 1998 the European Council took the decision to protect the environment through criminal law. Adoption of the new directive means that the set of offences subject to criminal sanctions in all countries is now clearly defined. I believe it is also necessary to emphasise the responsibility of manufacturers, exporters, importers and carriers for the products and services they provide, to ensure there are no loopholes or opportunities to evade responsibility.

Resources are needed, however, to provide the necessary equipment and staff training for example, so that the new principles can be properly implemented and offences against the environment reduced. I believe resources should be made available from the European Union’s budget, at least for the new Member States. They are the ones with the most work to complete in a short time.

Only if all the Member States act in solidarity will it be possible to achieve the aims set. In the absence of such solidarity, regional differences will simply become more pronounced.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE), in writing. – (PL) I voted in favour of the report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of the environment through criminal law (COM(2007)0051) because the introduction of new legal provisions and the establishment of a common list of offences against the environment for the entire Community will ensure more effective implementation of Community legislation.

The same provisions are in place in all Member States of the Union, but the way they are implemented varies considerably. This encourages undesirable behaviour whereby irresponsible entrepreneurs relocate their economic activity to countries where criminal sanctions for offences are less severe. This affects the new Member States in particular. It should be emphasised that offences committed within the framework of criminal organisations are becoming more and more significant, and that offences against the environment are increasingly of a cross-border nature.

I agree with the rapporteur’s stance that the legal framework defined in the proposal for a directive represents an important contribution to effective protection of the environment, and can guarantee uniform and responsible implementation of environmental protection law within the European Union. Appropriately trained officials are a sine qua non for effective implementation of the law and actual reduction of offences against the environment. The proposal to specify the obligations of Member States in this regard clearly is therefore entirely relevant. The adoption of a set of offences against the environment and the associated penalties will constitute a very helpful instrument for the common implementation of environmental protection legislation within the European Union.

 
  
  

- Report: Gábor Harangozó (A6-0061/2008)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for the report by my Hungarian colleague, Gábor Harangozó, that amends, at first reading of the codecision procedure, the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on farm structure surveys and the survey on agricultural production methods. I support the idea of allowing derogations for Member States that wish to implement the farm structure survey in 2009 rather than 2010 due to the decennial population census in 2011. I likewise support any simplifications envisaged.

 
  
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  Duarte Freitas (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) The proposal for a regulation is justified by the Commission’s new political approach involving the simplification of legislation and better regulation.

I agree with the Commission proposal which aims to simplify procedures by reducing the number of internal inspections while, at the same time, maintaining the necessary level of rigour imposed by previous legislation on the performance of structural surveys on crop and animal production, agricultural work and equipment used.

Furthermore, and with the aim of simplification, the proposal introduces only one new type of inspection and does not in any way require Member States to alter their administrative systems.

 
  
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  Gábor Harangozó (PSE), in writing. − (PT) As agricultural subsidies come from public money, it is essential to ensure their fair distribution based on objective criteria. We therefore agree with the need to carry out surveys to determine conditions on agricultural holdings. However, the application of these principles cannot be allowed to impose yet another bureaucratic burden on farmers, particularly small and medium-sized farmers whose resources are limited or non-existent. Likewise, this cannot form a way of preventing farmers, due to technical or other errors of which they are unaware, from getting the support to which they are entitled, as has sometimes happened in Portugal with satellite recognition and identification.

We therefore feel it is positive that the report recognises the significant methodological and technical difficulties in many Member States and also that it insists on the need for the Commission to provide farmers with the necessary technical and advisory assistance in respect of the satellite recognition of agricultural holdings. In this respect, we also wish to draw attention once again to the need for the Member State authorities to guarantee access to and use of the data gathered during satellite recognition exclusively for the specified purposes.

 
  
  

- Report: Sylvia-Adriana Ţicău (A6-0087/2008)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for the report by my Romanian colleague, Silvia-Adriana Ţicău, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing common rules concerning the conditions to be complied with to pursue the occupation of road transport operator.

The former Directive 96/26/EC on admission to the occupation of road haulage operator and its four Regulations on access to the haulage market, with deregulation of the prices of international road haulage implemented a number of years previously, have shaped the internal haulage market, albeit with minimum haulage quality, while the opening of the market as arranged by the Regulations has created more competition.

Experience has demonstrated that these measures are wrongly or unequally applied since they are ambiguous or incomplete, or can no longer be applied due to changes in the sector. Companies remain subject to unequal surveillance and monitoring, depending on the Member States, with some extremely different levels of professional qualifications and financial solvency. Thus there was an urgent need for legislation, demanding conditions relating to good repute, financial standing and professional competence, and implementation of mutual acknowledgement of certain documents required to obtain permission to operate.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) Aside from the criticism of certain aspects included in this proposal for a regulation, its contents should not be assessed without taking into account its ‘role’ in the increasing liberalisation of international road haulage and passenger transport as promoted by the European Commission and by the European Union institutions with codecision power, namely the European Parliament and the Council.

As a matter of fact, this central idea is highlighted by the European Commission itself in its proposal: ‘Directive 96/26/EC on admission to the occupation of road transport operator, the four Regulations on access to the road transport market, together with the deregulation of international transport prices which took place a few years earlier, shaped the internal market in road transport’. In other words, ‘common requirements for admission to the occupation’ were laid down while ‘the opening-up of the market as a result of the Regulations has made for greater competition’.

As we highlighted with regard to the proposal for a regulation on common rules for access to the international road haulage market, this proposal aims to increase the liberalisation of international road transport by seeking to promote greater competition between operators in a sector that is already overwhelmed with countless heavy costs for its workers.

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE), in writing. (DE) Harmonisation of the existing rules in this field is important as a means of optimising road transport in Europe. Moreover, a regulation is more expedient than a directive in this context.

The rules governing the occupation of a road transport operator must fulfil precisely defined criteria if we are to achieve the highest possible level of safety on our roads. These rules must encompass both requirements and sanctions.

A key element is the monitoring and checking of data, which must be carried out with due respect for personal privacy. It is very important that the national electronic registers containing the data should be interconnected so that data can be compared and the regulation therefore serves its intended purpose.

I am opposed to Amendments 7 and 102 which seek to water down the six-day rule. A reintroduction of the 12-day rule, which has already been rejected, would be inconsistent with the substance of this report.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) Mrs Ţicău’s report is part of a package of measures that, together with two other reports, aims to regulate road transport activity.

This activity is supremely important within the European Economic Area as it enables the open and competitive market of which we are nowadays so proud.

Under this new proposal, companies must hire a transport manager with certified training who shall be responsible for managing the company’s transport activity. The conditions already laid down for accessing the occupation – namely good repute, financial standing and professional competence – are maintained.

This recasting is intended to make the existing legislation more intelligible and demanding in terms of safety and efficiency in this type of business.

I therefore welcome the work carried out by the rapporteur to increase responsibility in terms of safety and guarantees of commitment in this sector and also the measures on professional competence which involve high-quality training and mutual recognition of diplomas and licences.

 
  
  

- Report: Mathieu Grosch (A6-0038/2008)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for the report by my esteemed colleague, Mathieu Grosch, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on common rules for access to the international road haulage market which aims to merge the texts regulating access to the international road and cabotage transport market, currently governed by previous regulations and directives. Within the internal market, international transport between the Member States has been fully liberalised, although a number of restrictions still remain for cabotage. I welcome these indications and simplifications, and also the stepping up of penalties for infringements committed in Member States other than that of establishment.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) This is just another step towards and another instrument aimed at increasing the liberalisation of international road haulage by seeking to promote greater competition between operators in a sector that is already overwhelmed with countless heavy costs for its workers.

One of the current aims is to find a way of facilitating the inclusion of ‘cabotage’ operations by road transport – in other words, carrying out up to three transport operations following an international journey, provided that these are carried out within seven days – in a market which is already so liberalised that this will profoundly impact on the finances and survival of national operators.

This decision will also have harmful consequences for road haulage workers. This can be seen, for example, in the proposal by a majority of this House to remove the reference to ‘working time’, just leaving the terms ‘driving time’ and ‘rest periods’, in other words allowing longer working hours which will adversely affect working conditions and worker safety. If we take account of the recent Court of Justice decisions, not even the reference to Directive 96/71/EC on the secondment of workers will protect the labour rights of many workers in this sector.

 
  
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  Bogusław Liberadzki (PSE), in writing. − (PL) I voted in favour of adoption of the report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on common rules for access to the international road haulage market (recast) (COM(2007)0265 - C6-0146/2007 - 2007/0099 (COD)).

I agree with the rapporteur that adoption of the Commission’s proposal will be instrumental in simplifying and clarifying the principles applicable to road haulage.

I support the report by Mr Grosch, aimed at providing opportunities for neighbouring Member States to open their markets still further to cabotage transport operations.

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE), in writing. (DE) I voted for Mathieu Grosch’s report on access to the international road haulage market. The merging of the existing Regulations and Directive 2006/94/EC will simplify and improve access to the road haulage market.

I endorse the rapporteur’s view that the restrictions on cabotage must be eased and that the rules governing cabotage must be brought into line with those that apply to cross-border haulage within the internal market. It is therefore important to define cabotage clearly in order to guarantee a uniform approach.

Although empty runs must be avoided for the sake of the environment and efficiency, and although cabotage on the homeward route from other countries should also be supported, subject to the restrictions set out in the report, it must not be forgotten that such measures also weaken the position of the railways.

 
  
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  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) We are voting against the report on access to road transport. It liberalises the Community road transport market and opens up international carriers to national transport. International and internal road transport of goods and passengers is thus handed over to the monopoly companies. The consequences are disastrous for small and medium-sized transport companies and especially for the workers and drivers who will be exploited even more by the monopoly groups.

The European Parliament’s proposal is heading down an ever more reactionary path than that of the Commission. It removes even the minimum proposed restrictions and demands full liberalisation of the market for international and national transport.

The possibility of limitless loading and reloading operations in the Member States, and unlimited time spent by vehicles and personnel in other Member States after carrying out purely international transport operations, is intended to reduce labour costs. It will violate the rights protecting the wages, labour and insurance of international transport workers and promote the concentration of activities in large multinationals, ravaging the sector if unchecked, and downgrading the quality of services.

The working-class labour movement must vigorously oppose this in a show of insubordination and disobedience to the EU’s anti-labour, anti-popular policy.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) This proposal is part of a package of measures within the road transport sector. This particular proposal aims to improve the coherence of Community legislation in the area of international road haulage by merging two existing Regulations, thus ensuring greater efficiency in the application of rules and clarifying and facilitating the application of the cabotage concept. It also lays down measures to simplify and standardise the Community licence and driver attestation, thus reducing administrative costs and delays, particularly in the event of checks at the roadside.

Member States will also be able to beef up their communication systems which will help with the reporting of offences committed by a road transport undertaking in the Member State in which it is established. I believe that this text is extremely important to the development of this sector in the European market and will give it the necessary efficiency, regulation and structure conducive to an open, regulated and fair market.

 
  
  

- Report: Fiona Hall (A6-0077/2008)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for the report by my British colleague, Fiona Hall, who did an excellent job and amended, at first reading of the codecision procedure, the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the selection and authorisation of systems providing mobile satellite services (MSS). As rapporteur for my political group, the PPE-DE Group, I fought for optimum geographic coverage of services on EU territory. I am pleased that I have made a contribution to the requirement that applications must include the undertaking that the mobile satellite system proposed will provide a service in at least 60% of the aggregate land area of the Member States, from the time the service commences. Moreover, the service proposed must be provided in all the Member States for at least 50% of the population and in at least 60% of the aggregate land area of each Member State by the time stipulated by the applicant, but no later than seven years from the date of publication of the text. Finally, applications will include a commitment on the part of the applicant to allow the mobile satellite system proposed to be made available to public protection and disaster relief services.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. (PT) There are positive points in this report which we welcome, in particular the proposals on the importance of mobile satellite services covering areas outside the main urban centres of Member States and of providing the best possible services in order to bridge the digital divide, and also the argument that the initial service coverage area of the proposed mobile satellite services should be set at a sufficient level, therefore leveraging the coverage capacity of such systems.

However, we cannot ignore the context in which these proposals are made, namely the liberalisation and advance of the internal market for telecommunications. We therefore had to vote against this report.

Likewise, we do not agree that Member States should give up their national rights on spectrum allocation because mobile satellite services have a large satellite footprint making it difficult to avoid interference across national boundaries. In fact, the February 2007 Commission decision did recognise that Member States should retain the right to grant authorisation for the operation of complementary ground components within their territories.

 
  
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  Olle Schmidt (ALDE), in writing. (SV) The report on the selection and authorisation of systems providing mobile satellite services is about how we are to provide a common European system of satellite services, an important factor in strengthening the continued competitiveness of Europe in advanced technological research and industry. The report is good and focuses on how this work can be improved. However, one crucial question regarding the coverage of this service has presented problems from a Swedish point of view, since the compromise settled on 60% of the EU’s land area. This means that parts of Sweden will not be covered, which is negative from the point of view of the development of the technology and research. I therefore chose to abstain.

 
  
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  Dominique Vlasto (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) The adoption of this decision is a decisive step towards reinforcement of the internal electronic communications market.

The objective is simple: to give everyone high-speed Internet access and to provide mobile multimedia services and public protection services in the event of natural or human disasters.

The means implemented match the expectations of our fellow citizens, particularly in terms of Internet access: a service for 50% of the population and at least 60% of each Member State does constitute an effective means of bridging the digital divide, and it can also be utilised by rural areas.

This decision is even more of a success since it entails much greater harmonisation of management of the radio spectrum on a European scale which, as if we needed any reminding, is an increasingly scarce resource.

This is also the result of the wishes of all the Member States to provide the telecommunications industry with the means to create a services market on a European level, which had previously been much too fragmented.

In short, mobile satellite services (MSS) are set to be a success in the industrial sense and also as an enhancement of cultural diversity and pluralism in the media.

 
  
  

- Report: Klaus-Heiner Lehne (A6-0101/2008)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for the own-initiative report by my German colleague, Klaus-Heiner Lehne, on a simplified business environment for companies in the areas of company law, accounting and auditing, in response to the European Commission’s communication on the subject.

Like my colleagues, I welcome the Commission’s general aim of reducing the administrative burden for businesses in Europe. This reduction, however, cannot be implemented at the price of legal or accounting uncertainty when the internal market begins to be penetrated by SMEs. I am pleased that Parliament did not accept the suggestion of raising the thresholds referred to in the communication for micro-entities, below which the entities are exempted from the accounting, auditing and disclosure requirements under European law. I am also very glad that Parliament voted for an amendment that I proposed in committee which was not adopted at that stage. This recommends that consultations be held relating to the necessity and feasibility of creating a European accounting and audit services regulator.

 
  
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  Alessandro Battilocchio (PSE), in writing. − (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I voted in favour of the Klaus-Heiner Lehne report on a ‘simplified business environment for companies’ because I was convinced of the need for ‘new’ reforms in company law, accounting and auditing. Company law is now strongly and, in my view, positively influenced by European rules. We must prevent this from imposing unnecessary, excessively bureaucratic requirements while avoiding overlap with burdens which are already imposed under national rules.

These reforms will have to be aimed at making for easier reading of the applicable rules and reducing bureaucratic and administrative burdens, especially in accounting. Simplification will be to the great benefit of undertakings, especially SMEs which as a general rule do not have large legal and accountancy departments. I am convinced that understandable rules which are easy to apply will first and foremost foster compliance with the law. At the same time, through clear rules which are easy to identify, the creation of a positive, active economic environment will be fostered.

I believe that the work both of the committee involved and of the rapporteur, Mr Lehne, has resulted in a fair compromise between requirements to comply with the principle of subsidiarity and the creation of a harmonised route for Member States which are engaged in a joint effort to simplify company rules at European level.

We must avoid creating bureaucratic obstacles which serve to muzzle dynamism and entrepreneurship to the point of suffocating them.

 
  
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  Sharon Bowles (ALDE), in writing. − Amendment 11d calls for the deletion of Paragraph 26. There are two ways of interpreting Paragraph 26. Some are concerned that it could be a call for 'one share, one vote' and for that reason have voted for the deletion of the paragraph. This is not my interpretation. The paragraph does specifically refer to 'special individual obstacles to the freedom of movement of capital' and refers to a specific judgment concerning Volkswagen. My interpretation of this is that the paragraph invites the Commission to remedy special, and extreme, protectionist measures. For this reason I voted against the amendment and for retention of the paragraph as a statement against protectionism.

 
  
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  Sylwester Chruszcz (NI), in writing. – (PL) I am in favour of simplifying reporting procedures and methods of communication between public administrations and entrepreneurs. At present, the bureaucratic procedures imposed on entrepreneurs are unduly complex. The report sets out to improve communication and also recommends introducing the XBRL standard. This is an open standard, which means that it is easily accessible even to the smallest companies.

I therefore decided to support this report.

 
  
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  Jonathan Evans (PPE-DE), in writing. − I and my British Conservative colleagues wish to make clear that we strongly oppose Paragraph 23 of this report which supports the establishment of a 'common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB)' in the EU.

We have, however, made our policy on this clear on many occasions, and the balance of the rest of the report in promoting simplification of business rules has our support, subject to this clarification.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) The report generally aims to simplify and reduce Community legislation on the grounds that this will particularly benefit SMEs. It is true that there may be some positive aspects to this simplification and normally we support the simplification of measures relating to company legislation, provided that this results in the removal of red tape. However, we cannot vote in favour of a report which, on the one hand, calls for simplification while, on the other, it calls for the creation of new Community legal frameworks.

The following proposals in the report led to our abstention due to their dubious and negative nature: legislation on possible coordination between Member States’ tax authorities so as to harmonise the information requests made to businesses; review of the Statute for the European Company to bring it more closely into line with the rest of Community law; creation of a new legal framework for undertakings, and establishment of a common consolidated corporate tax base on the grounds that this would render the Statute for the European Company more useful and effective.

 
  
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  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE), in writing. – (PL) The Commission communication on a simplified business environment for companies in the areas of company law, accounting and auditing sets out measures aimed at reducing the administrative burden on European companies and ensuring that they can compete effectively at global level. Not only do the Member States fail to take advantage of the optional measures to reduce bureaucracy, but they also often counter Community concessions through stricter national provisions, thus depriving local companies of the opportunity to simplify procedures pursuant to Union legislation.

The Commission should therefore concentrate on encouraging Member States to harmonise classification of requirements concerning reporting in the area of financial information. It should also press Member States to adopt new technology in order to reduce costs. Furthermore, a solution involving establishing a common consolidated corporate tax base would render the European company statute more useful and effective. The proposal to exclude so-called micro-enterprises from the scope of application of the directives on accounting is also to be welcomed. In practice, this would mean exempting them from the requirement to keep accounts, submit an annual financial report and publish the reports required under European legislation.

The proposed changes are certainly commendable. Nonetheless, further simplification of the Union’s acquis in the area of company law and its effective implementation in Member States would seem essential, if European companies are to compete successfully on the ever more demanding global market.

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I supported Mr Lehne's report on simplifying the business environment for companies. The EU has a vital role to play in ensuring that businesses operate in a competitive environment, yet often businesses and Member States find themselves hindered by over-complex rules. Moves to simplify the business environment are therefore to be welcomed.

 
  
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  Monica Maria Iacob-Ridzi (PPE-DE), in writing. − (RO) I voted in favour of this report, but I consider that we should implement a more comprehensive package of actions to ensure the simplification of the European business environment.

I refer in particular to the problems met when starting a business. Eurostat shows that, in the EU Member States, the period required in order to fulfil the administrative formalities for starting a business vary between one day and several months. Moreover, some Member States were ranked far below the OECD average in a ranking of the ease of doing business in various world countries. Last but not least, the different rules in the 27 Member States as regards company law prevent the transnational movement of capital and the starting of new businesses in a Member State other than the one of origin.

I believe these two elements are essential for achieving the economic growth objective of the Lisbon Strategy and, consequently, they should be promoted more by the European company legislation.

 
  
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  Janusz Lewandowski (PPE-DE), in writing. – (PL) Mr President, the European Union is not perceived as an area where the provisions concerning running a business are particularly straightforward, in terms of ease of use. In fact the general feeling is that this is an overly regulated area by world standards, which creates particular difficulties for small enterprises. Every step towards simplifying provisions, as indicated in the Commission communication of 10 July 2007 should therefore be welcomed. The most important and most desirable effect of simplification should be to encourage small companies to operate on the common European market. To date, the latter has not been very accessible to new enterprises from Central and Eastern Europe.

If that aim is to be achieved, national provisions must be harmonised, in addition to repealing unnecessary provisions further to the two options proposed by the Commission. This does not, however, require harmonising taxation, as suggested in paragraph 23 of the report by Mr Lehne, the so-called light formula for consolidating the corporate tax base. The rapporteur favours the second of the options proposed by the Commission which is less far-reaching. Nonetheless, against the background of the European Union’s current tendency to regulate, it would certainly amount to a reversal of the unfavourable trend that definitely restricts opportunities for European firms to compete on the global market.

 
  
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  Marianne Thyssen (PPE-DE), in writing. − (NL) The Commission communication raises fundamental questions which are to determine European policy on company and accounting law. The Lehne report put forward good answers to these questions, which I can also approve. However, there is one problematic point where the Commission proposes the introduction of a ‘micro-entities’ category. These are smaller enterprises below a specific threshold which are to be exempt from the European financial reporting and annual accounting obligations. The Lehne report is in favour of that approach and even suggests raising the thresholds. In Belgium, 75% of undertakings would be released from the present transparency requirements. At first sight, abolition of the accounting system for small enterprises seems a major simplification of the bureaucracy, but, given the importance of financial information for all the parties concerned (providers of credit, for example), it could lead to more bureaucratic red tape and higher costs. Since there will be no generally accepted financial reporting, enterprises will be asked to provide figures à la carte, in a variety of ways. Furthermore they are depriving themselves of a useful tool for internal company monitoring which is certainly important for an SME. I therefore abstained from the final vote.

 
  
  

- Report: Britta Thomsen (A6-0165/2008)

 
  
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  Adam Bielan (UEN), in writing. – (PL) Mr President, higher education has become more widely accessible and growing numbers of women are gaining university degrees. Nonetheless, women are still poorly represented at the highest levels of academia. Although the majority of lecturers are women (over 50%), they tend to hold less senior posts.

I am in favour of the idea of promoting family-friendly measures by providing for the introduction of flexible working times and better childcare services. I also support the provision of access to social insurance abroad and the introduction of parental leave conditions that would allow men and women freedom of choice. The career breaks taken by female scientists for family reasons should not impact negatively on their subsequent career options thus giving men an undue advantage with regard to furthering their scientific career.

I supported the report by Mrs Thomsen because I believe that it rightly tackled issues relating to gender stereotypes. The latter still exist in many European Union Member States.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (PSE), in writing. − (PT) I voted in favour of Britta Thomsen’s report on women and science as I consider it essential to facilitate equal access for both genders to scientific careers. Factors such as the stereotypes associated with natural science or the obstacles created due to the difficulty of reconciling personal and family life with professional life result in numerous disadvantages and difficulties for women scientists and researchers which exclude many women from scientific research.

The disparities between men and women in relation to their presence in positions of academic and scientific leadership, the respective salaries and the demands of personal life require measures to counteract these gender stereotypes in science, to attract women to scientific careers and to remove the existing inequalities.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) We know that there are more women than men in higher education, yet when it comes to choosing the research career, women are still outnumbered by men. The huge increase in participation of women in higher education has neither led to a corresponding change in the ratio of women to men in particular fields of study or professions nor has it eliminated the gender-specific wage gap.

As the rapporteur points out, women researchers are still a minority in the government and higher education sectors with both sectors having an EU average of 35% women. In all countries these two sectors nevertheless have higher proportions of women researchers than the business enterprise sector with an EU average of 18% women, but there are large cross-country variations. The countries with the fewest women in business research are Germany (11.8%), Austria (10.4%) and the Netherlands (8.7%), whereas Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania all have over 40%. The distribution of researchers by main fields of science shows different patterns for men and women. Among male researchers in the higher education sector, 54% work in natural science and engineering compared to 37% among women researchers.

 
  
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  Hélène Goudin and Nils Lundgren (IND/DEM), in writing. (SV) Improved access for women to activities in the scientific field, as the rapporteur states, is of crucial significance. How we can arrive at that result in each individual country, on the other hand, is something that varies depending on the country’s culture and other specific features. The problem manifests itself differently in the EU’s 27 Member States, hence solutions must also vary. It is not possible to generalise on the situation of women in all 27 Member States. Junilistan is convinced that the route to equality in practice must be mapped out at national level.

We have therefore chosen to vote against the report.

 
  
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  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE), in writing. – (PL) In my capacity as a female professor with many years of experience working in a Polish university, I am aware of the magnitude of the challenges involved and therefore support the report by Mrs Thomsen. The report takes an interesting approach to the problem of gender discrimination in the scientific world, identifying the social, cultural and financial obstacles causing women to remain under-represented.

There are few of us in the state sector and in higher education, a mere 35%, and only 18% in the private sector. How are we supposed to build a knowledge-based society, develop Europe’s science and economy, meet the challenges of the Lisbon Strategy, and fulfil Europe’s expectations at the threshold of the 21st century without the involvement of women in science? We have to create conditions that will enable women to become more widely involved in the scientific world and that will open the doors of university laboratories to them. It must also be made possible for women to aspire to the highest academic posts. Promotion in the scientific world depends on academic achievement, and a woman’s chance of being appointed to a Chair is three times lower than that of a man. This is regrettable and cannot be explained exclusively by women’s heavier family commitments.

Few women are members of the decision-making bodies of European higher education institutions, and it is therefore difficult to implement policy on gender equality in these institutions. We only need to refer to the shameful example of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council. Only five of its twenty-two members are female!

 
  
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  Małgorzata Handzlik (PPE-DE), in writing. ? (PL) Women’s participation in the labour market is increasing systematically right across the European Union. Poland is no exception, although women’s participation in the labour market in Poland remains below the Union average. I should like to emphasise, however, that more Polish women hold positions of responsibility than their counterparts in Western Europe.

I believe that increasing women’s professional activity is an important issue. In this context, it is important to consider the situation of female scientists, as it has similarities with the situation of all women faced with the need to reconcile professional duties with family life.

Nonetheless, I do not feel that imposing parity should be the way to increase women’s participation in the labour market. Decisions on employment should be made above all on the grounds of qualifications and competences acquired by women through appropriate education. The proposal aimed at increasing the transparency of recruitment procedures, competitions for managerial positions and the award of grants for scientific research does seem appropriate, though. These changes should be accompanied by reform of the labour market, however.

European Union science requires support. Scientific and technical courses should be promoted as attractive studies for both genders, given the importance of science for economic development. We should therefore encourage young people to take up higher education courses of this nature.

 
  
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  Jörg Leichtfried (PSE), in writing. (DE) I voted in favour of Britta Thomsen’s report on women in science because women remain under-represented in the world of science. The report outlines important steps towards a balance between men and women in the academic sphere.

The promotion of academic careers for women must play a key role. Great significance is attached to the elimination of gender stereotypes. The current tendency to assign male and female attributes to individual academic disciplines is detrimental to a fair balance between the sexes.

With the aid of new programmes and recruitment procedures, it is possible to ensure that the skills and qualifications of candidates are paramount, not their sex. The same must apply to promotion opportunities and pay levels. A non-binding target quota of at least 40% women and at least 40% men on selection panels is one way of ironing out imbalances between the sexes in academic occupations, but applicants’ skills and qualifications must always be paramount.

 
  
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  Rovana Plumb (PSE), in writing. − (RO) I voted for the report regarding the situation of women in science, which I consider vital for achieving the Lisbon Strategy objectives of growth and employment.

In the new EU Member States, the number of women researchers is approximately 40%, as compared to the Western countries, where it is approximately 11% but, unfortunately, a very high percentage of them are employed in fields where research and development expenses are among the lowest.

I would like to call attention to the importance of the article on the integration of the family angle through possibilities for flexible working hours and the creation of child-care facilities, for reconciling family life and a professional career.

I believe the rapid implementation of this report’s provisions will provide an essential support for having a 25% percentage of the women working in research in management positions in 2010. I congratulate Mrs. Britta Thomsen on her report.

 
  
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  Teresa Riera Madurell (PSE), in writing. − (ES) Since I was unable to attend and join in the debate for health reasons, I wish to justify my support of the report. It was an excellent and comprehensive piece of work covering all the major issues to secure a balanced representation of women and men in science and technology.

It is also a most timely report since, if the EU needs 700 000 more researchers to meet its objectives by 2010, this is the right time for the Commission and the Member States to implement the specific measures set out in the report to correct this anomaly.

Qualifications and merits are shared equally between men and women. In fact, at the present time women outnumber men at university and also obtain better results. There are objective data for all this.

Moreover, governments in particular ought to favour the presence of more women in science and technology, since using only half the brains is not intelligent or efficient.

I am glad Parliament has finally initiated an in-depth examination of this issue.

 
  
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  Lydia Schenardi (NI), in writing. – (FR) Distorted truths, erroneous statements and sexist remarks primarily stigmatising men represent, in a few words, a few brutal words, the substance of this report.

Equality between men and women and better integration of women in professional careers cannot be conceived in an authoritarian and repressive fashion. This can only make the results negative and counterproductive.

It is certainly true that delays in terms of integration, wage gaps or a lack of career profiles are legion for women, particularly in the field of science and research.

Once again, however, it is dialogue, implementation of non-restrictive measures to encourage girls to study science long term, and active support for women throughout their careers that will finally move them forward in society.

 
  
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  Olle Schmidt (ALDE), in writing. (SV) Britta Thomsen’s report notes that female researchers are in a minority in the EU. They have inferior financial security and in their professional careers, and they are penalised to an increasing extent by their family responsibilities. This is serious, both on grounds of principle and as regards practical consequences. Modern economies – and democracies – cannot afford to give negative special treatment to persons of academic eminence. I therefore voted for the report.

Nevertheless I would point out that parts of the report were not put to the vote and I find it difficult to see how that is reasonable. Paragraph 7 asks that age be taken into account as a criterion of excellence together with family situation, including the number of the researcher’s dependents. I think that would be difficult to apply in practice and might even be counter-productive. There is always a risk in simplifying the gender roles and speaking of ‘qualities that tend to be more prevalent in women scientists’ or creating absolute standards to measure the performance of researchers.

On the other hand, I wholeheartedly support the recommendation to introduce non-binding targets requiring that both genders be represented by at least 40% each in scientific committees of various kinds. I also agree with the criticism that the EU sometimes aims short when it comes to equality. The policy of presence must not be underestimated – although it should not be turned into a religion.

 
  
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  Bernard Wojciechowski (IND/DEM), in writing. – (PL) Women make a major contribution to the development of science. The Polish Nobel Prize winner for physics and chemistry, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, is one fine example. Streets, hospitals and a university have been named after this famous scientist.

When opting for a career in science, women face a greater challenge than men do. This is partly due to their role in childbearing and bringing up their families. Women scientists therefore need to be supported through the development of preferential maternity leave conditions, and through special grants for women who are bringing up children whilst simultaneously pursuing a scientific career.

Contrary to what is advocated in the motion for a resolution before us today, however, it is not desirable to impose percentages for female representation on academic staff, or on committees of various sorts, in order to ensure gender equality. Decisions on jobs and careers in science should not be made on the basis of gender. Instead, they should be made on the basis of the particular person’s individual choice, ability and knowledge.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE-DE), in writing. − (SK) I would like to thank Mrs Thomsen for her report which points to a certain type of discrimination against women in science and research. Although women make up more than 50% of EU students, they hold only 15% of senior academic posts in science and research.

University study is seldom followed by a result matching the significant amount of time and finances invested in it. After many years of study, women often sacrifice their personal and working lives or have to reconcile them. It should be in the interest of society to cooperate with and support citizens with a high intellectual potential and to let this potential reflect in the cultural, spiritual, historic and scientific heritage of the nation. Motherhood in particular has an impact on women’s career opportunities, paradoxically punishes them in terms of the opportunity to get to top positions, fulfil themselves and be justly rewarded, and does not offer them adequate compensation for the social investment of giving birth to and bringing up children who will be responsible for tomorrow.

I think that this could be solved by a reform in the area of study conditions for young women, long-distance studying and working, and life-long learning, as well as by encouraging fathers to support mothers who want to become scientists. The state too has a responsibility for supporting women participating in scientific work: for supporting them during their studies, helping them to reconcile their family and working lives and to receive just rewards for their work, providing them with direct social benefit payments and helping, in as natural a way as possible, with child care.

 
  
  

- Report: Johannes Blokland (A6-0156/2008)

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) The dismantling of ships continues to have a major social and ecological impact, both because of the way in which this is done, which can be harmful to the environment, and because the number of ships under construction has been increasing for years. This explains the continuing importance of innovation and development in the shipbuilding industry in the Member States in order to improve ships and make them less environmentally damaging.

Since 2005, the IMO (International Maritime Organization) has been cooperating with the ILO (International Labour Organization) and UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) to draw up binding international rules on the clean dismantling of ships. Negotiations are now proceeding on a draft convention which should be adopted by 2009 but would then only enter into force a few years later.

According to the current draft, the convention would not apply to warships or other ships which are the property of the State. No agreement has yet been reached on standards outside the framework of the IMO, basic standards for ship-recycling businesses, reporting obligations (including inter-state notification) and enforcement instruments.

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I welcome the Blokland report on the Green Paper on ship dismantling. Ship breaking is a dangerous trade which has a high cost both in terms of human life and on the environment. It is unacceptable for the EU to turn a blind eye to the export of ships to developing countries for breaking up. These ships are in effect hazardous waste and it is vital that the EU acts to prevent this export. I welcome this House’s support for my own group’s amendments which highlight the urgency for action to be taken in this area.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − Johannes Blokland's report on the Green Paper on better ship dismantling seeks to achieve environmentally and socially sustainable ship dismantling. The report aims to address problems currently encountered in that sector, particularly the major health and safety concerns for workers in the shipyards of Bangladesh and India. I therefore voted in support of the report's recommendations.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) European concerns about the environment and working conditions in third countries merit our agreement in principle. The export of conditions of misery, whether for the environment, labour or in any other respect, can never form part of our vision of worldwide trade and exchange. It is vital, however, that we do not defend such an absolute and modern view of our position on certain values that our focus on a single part obscures the bigger picture.

The adoption of drastic measures to stop practices that are in truth social or environmental dumping, but which would also lead to the destruction of an economic sector in a third country and would therefore cause even greater misery for an extremely vulnerable part of the population is not in line with what we defend. Gradual reforms and the imposition of tailor-made standards that promote development are a more effective and desirable solution. We cannot put a stop to misery and human degradation if we can only offer, as an alternative, misery and human degradation.

 
  
  

- Report: Karl-Heinz Florenz (A6-0136/2008)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted for the interim report by my German colleague, Karl-Heinz Florenz, on the scientific facts of climate change as considered by Parliament’s Temporary Committee.

Scientific consensus on the origins and causes of climate change is well-established and recognised worldwide. Scientific evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems have already been affected by regional climate changes due to historical carbon emissions from the industrialised countries. It has also been scientifically proven that the underlying causes of global warming are predominantly man-made.

I welcome the fact that the report stresses the need for further analysis and research into the consequences of climate change, such as the effects on economic competitiveness, energy costs and social development in Europe, the role of land use, forests and deforestation, the role of the marine environment and calculation of the external costs of climate change in industry, not least the transport sector, including quantification of the effects of air transport pollution.

 
  
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  Alessandro Battilocchio (PSE), in writing. − (IT) The last intergovernmental conference on climate change and the various conferences within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have shown that the greenhouse gases produced by man are the cause of climate change and that the increase in the world’s temperature must be halted at 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

I therefore agree with the Temporary Committee on Climate Change and the rapporteur on the need for more urgent, major studies into the effects of climate change, monitoring phenomena such as desertification, melting of the ice-caps, changes in the marine environment, catastrophic atmospheric incidents and so on. The latest reports of the European Environment Agency point to the need to do much more to comply with the Kyoto and other targets for reduction set out at the March 2007 EU Council.

In the light of the energy and climate package in the communication on ‘Limiting Global Climate Change to 2 degrees Celsius’, I am nonetheless persuaded that further measures can be taken to improve ‘energy efficiency’, which would give rise to considerable savings in greenhouse gas emissions. This would include a labelling system stating the greenhouse gas footprint. I am of the view that individuals, European citizens and the peoples of third countries should be more directly involved in promoting awareness and active involvement in the fight against climate change through small steps to save energy.

 
  
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  Daniel Caspary (PPE-DE), in writing. (DE) Climate change is a serious issue and presents mankind with a formidable challenge. The extent to which it is the result of human activity, however, is completely unclear. The latest scientific findings certainly cannot yet be regarded as hard and fast evidence and are still in a state of flux; they are not the be-all and end-all. Besides, the report refers to some alleged facts which are actually fallacies.

Assumptions and false assertions, however, cannot serve as a basis for the development of any rational, effective, affordable and socially acceptable measures. This is why I voted against the report.

 
  
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  Charlotte Cederschiöld, Christofer Fjellner, Gunnar Hökmark and Anna Ibrisagic (PPE-DE), in writing. (SV) We have today voted for the interim report on the scientific facts of climate change. It requires strong backing and determination to achieve the best possible results in meeting the political challenges of climate change. In this context we want to stress the importance of ensuring that research is free and that criticism and questioning are a key prerequisite for the progress and development of all research. To limit this possibility is not just a threat to research itself but also a restriction of the right of every individual to express his or her views.

Poverty is the biggest polluter and the ambition to mitigate climate change does not conflict with growth and modernisation. An essential condition for the progress of poor countries to prosperity, hence also for the development of resources and possibilities of investing in more modern and cleaner technology, is that they should be able to trade their goods freely. Against this background, any carbon dioxide tariffs or the like on imports constitute an inappropriate solution which risks running counter to its purpose.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (PSE), in writing. − (PT) I voted in favour of the interim report of the Temporary Committee on Climate Change on the scientific facts of climate change (findings and recommendations for decision-making) because I am convinced that the broad scientific consensus on the human origins of climate change urgently requires increased action by the political powers, with particular emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a future international climate change agreement.

Increasing and disseminating scientific understanding of the climate change phenomenon will make people more aware of the need to alter their lifestyles and will make the decision-making processes more responsible, informed and effective. Encouraging research into the economic and social impacts of climate change must be a priority.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) This is yet another report which, despite starting off with some correct statements about the current situation, makes little or no progress with regard to the solutions required. It is unclear on the recommended measures and limits itself to listing some vague proposals and justifications. It seems more aimed at facilitating the launch of new companies seeking to make ever greater profits from new activities in the areas of the environment and energy, at the cost of climate change.

I therefore want to say that it would be good to show the same effort and persistence, and also concern, with regard to other global problems that are fundamentally ignored or merely confined to a list of chronic concerns: elimination of curable diseases, protection of soil and habitats, exhaustion of finite resources, especially hydrocarbons, and so on.

In conclusion, the rapporteur considers that the scientific basis of climate change is settled and recommends that the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee continues its work and presents, at the end of its mandate, a report to Parliament containing, as appropriate, recommendations as to actions or initiatives to be taken on the EU’s future integrated policy on climate change. We will await this future report.

 
  
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  Duarte Freitas (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) The scientific facts set out in this report were discussed at length with world experts during meetings of the Temporary Committee on Climate Change and cannot therefore be lightly called into question.

Like the Florenz report, I welcome the fourth report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) as the most comprehensive study on climate change. I agree that it is absolutely essential to avoid an increase of more than 2ºC in the global temperature, so as to avoid the most catastrophic scenarios, suggesting that the ambitious EU targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions should be maintained.

As this is the most credible compendium of information currently available, cutting off at the root those recurrent ideas of certain isolated extremists who continue to question whether human activity is really the main cause of global warning, the Florenz report sends a clear signal that the European Parliament will maintain its strict and ambitious position in the fight against climate change. It therefore has my support.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. – (FR) In the 1960s, having agreed the benefits of planning, the French Parliament voted a growth rate for the economy every year with a view to taking its decisions on that basis, since it turned out for several years in succession that actual growth was exactly as it had voted. I get the same impression from reading Mr Florenz’s report: the impression that this Parliament intends to vote on the world’s temperature.

Let me make this clear: what I am criticising is not man’s need to protect his environment, to preserve the immense diversity of nature or, in terms of economics, to find the means to use natural resources better in order to save them. It is the ritual sacrifice to the new religion of climate and its new gurus, these partially-minded scientists who pour anathema on all those whose work opposes their untouchable conclusions.

It is the systematic stigmatisation of Man as a supposedly evil entity, especially the Western and European variety. This is institutionalised repentance. It is the industrial and economic suicide of Europe, alone at the altar of so-called global warming, with no benefit to the environment worldwide, but the worst human and social consequences for the peoples of Europe. That is why I voted against this report.

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton (Verts/ALE), in writing. − I voted in favour of the Florenz report on climate change and think that it is right that this Parliament takes the issue so seriously. Efforts to combat climate change require action at all levels, and the EU institutions as well as the nations of Europe must all work together to move towards a low-carbon economy.

The vote on the report comes on the same day that a major energy conference takes place in Aberdeen. The Scottish Government has signalled their intention for Scotland to become the green energy capital of Europe. That government fully supports the EU’s targets for renewables and is committed to a non-nuclear Scotland producing 50% of its electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. I hope that other nations throughout Europe can look to Scotland as a good example in the fight against climate change.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − Scientific findings prove the human origins of the current global warming trend and Mr Florenz's report re-iterates these results. There is an urgent need for action at EU level to combat climate change and limit the increase in global temperature to no more than 2 C above pre-industrial levels. Unlike some members from the Conservative Party, I fully accept these facts and voted in support of Mr Florenz's report "Scientific Facts of Climate Change: Findings and Recommendations for Decision Making".

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) When we here in Europe invest in the latest environmentally friendly technology and in renewable energy, at however great an expense, while a country like China has a new coal-fired power station coming on stream every week, our best efforts here can only be a drop in the ocean.

We have a ludicrous situation in which those nations that accelerate climate change through unbridled industrialisation and overexploitation of natural resources and which are not prepared to exercise restraint expect the West, and particularly Europe, to help them out when they are hit by disasters. We are supposed to protect the environment, often to the detriment of our industry and our import trade, and then even provide the polluters with humanitarian aid in the event of a disaster.

Unless we are all content with a global situation in which any hope of improvement will always be a pipe dream, we must sharply increase the pressure on those six countries that are responsible for almost 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

 
  
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  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The interim report of the Temporary Committee on Climate Change does not contain any new ideas, thoughts or recommendations useful to the peoples of Europe regarding environmental protection. It perpetuates the EU’s well-known anti-popular policy of providing a ‘green’ excuse for the over-accumulation of capital. It confines itself to reproducing the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report considers the 2˚C ceiling on global warming to be a ‘strategic objective’ of the EU, while accepting that ‘such a level of warming would already heavily impact on our society and individual lifestyles’. It says nothing about the responsibility capitalists have assumed in over-exploiting natural resources. Instead of calling for measures at least to make monopolies more accountable, it fully adopts the multinational propaganda that we are all to blame for the aggravation of climatic conditions and stresses that ‘individual changes in lifestyle patterns are necessary’.

The agreements reached in Kyoto, Bali, etc. have proved ineffective: their primary objective is not environmental protection, but the protection of capital and its profits. They commercialise the environment and develop a new, profitable economic sector: the green economy. The solution to environmental problems will not be provided by the multinationals and monopolies responsible for today’s situation, but by the peoples who have to suffer the consequences.

 
  
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  Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański (UEN), in writing. – (PL) History teaches us that new scientific findings can prove that theories previously widely believed to be true may lack any factual basis. I believe the science relating to climate change, confirming global warming, has not yet proved to be sufficiently well-founded. It certainly has not been proved to such an extent as to allow us, with a clear conscience, to draft law resulting in the imposition of specific behaviour in Member States of the European Union.

We can see the increase in the average temperature of the global atmosphere. No answer has yet emerged, however, to the question as to the extent to which this is due to human activity.

The scientific world is divided on the subject. Certain scientists believe major climate changes are a natural cyclical phenomenon that has affected the world for millions of years. They maintain that those scientists that issue warnings concerning the impact of human beings on climate change do so in order to attract funds for research and spread alarm amongst the population.

Other scientists state that human beings’ ability to predict long-term climate change is very limited. They allege that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is guided by politics rather than by science. In addition, the claim that a majority of scientists support the view that climate change is due to the action of human beings is dubious.

The aforementioned counter-arguments are readily accessible. They are also irrefutable, and raise doubt and the question: can any sort of cohesive policy be built on uncertain scientific arguments put forward by lobby groups?

 
  
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  Lydie Polfer (ALDE), in writing. – (FR) I am in favour of the report by Mr Florenz on behalf of the Temporary Committee on Climate Change since he analyses the incidences and effects of climate change, insofar as they are vouched for by scientific proof.

Thus the claim that the costs of climate change could account for between 5% and 20% of GDP by 2050 unless some extremely ambitious measures are taken ought to concern us.

Even if all the Member States have made good progress to date, we must nonetheless be much more ambitious in our efforts to reduce emissions.

We must also remain vigilant as to the potential harmful effects of promoting biofuels over world food supplies and deforestation.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) Scientific discussions cannot involve debates about beliefs, and doubts about the accuracy of the majority opinion cannot be interpreted as negativism or as a political choice. Furthermore, recent episodes such as the debate about the unwanted or unexpected implications of the incentive to increase biofuel production clearly reveal how constant doubt is the only scientific certainty that we must embrace without hesitation.

On the other hand, in discussions about the options given the scientific facts, here we are clearly in the area of political choice. Although I do not regard myself as scientifically competent to give an opinion on the first question, on the second I consider that I have a duty to do so. I have argued and I would stress that, faced with the predictable increase in consumption (particularly of energy) by our enormous population due to the positive effects of globalisation, we must find scientific answers and technological solutions. Some changes in behaviour, both individual and collective, are certainly welcome. However, it is in science that we will find the basic solutions that we need.

 
  
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  Thomas Ulmer (PPE-DE), in writing. (DE) I voted against this report in the final vote because I take the struggle against climate change seriously and cannot subscribe to dogmatic and apocalyptic formulations that would spread alarm among the people of Europe. The report presents scientific findings with a 60–70 % probability as proven facts.

If I were one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in John’s Book of Revelation, I would rather be sitting on the white horse than on the pale one. Climate change is a sensitive issue that cannot be reduced to slogans.

 
  
  

- Report: Ria Oomen-Ruijten (A6-0168/2008)

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I abstained on the own-initiative report by my Dutch colleague, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, on Turkey’s 2007 progress report with a view to accession, even though, like our Committee on Foreign Affairs, I welcome the undertaking by Prime Minister Erdoğan to make 2008 the year of reforms and to turn Turkey into a modern and prosperous democracy based on a secular state and a pluralist society.

However, we would do well to recall Turkey’s undertaking to ensure good neighbourly relations with Greece and Bulgaria and the need to secure a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question based on EU principles.

Furthermore, Turkey is not answering the call to end the economic blockade of Armenia and start a process of reconciliation, allowing for a frank and open discussion of past events. These negotiations are important for the EU and Turkey since the latter is taking up the Community acquis. Under no circumstances, however, should the negotiations prejudge the final political decision on Turkey’s accession to the EU.

 
  
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  Colm Burke, Jim Higgins, Mairead McGuinness and Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE), in writing. − The Fine Gael delegation of the EPP-ED Group voted in favour of the overall Oomen-Ruijten report on Turkey’s progress in 2007. We support the reforms which Turkey is undertaking towards democracy, good governance and the rule of law. These steps are positive both for Turkey and the EU and we support Turkey’s efforts towards reform.

However, we the undersigned, voted against Amendment 14 relating to paragraph 16 in the report which included the words ‘sexual and reproductive rights’. We voted against this section of the amendment for the reasons set out in our joint declaration to Parliament in the plenary of 13 March 2008.

 
  
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  Glyn Ford (PSE), in writing. − I voted for the Oomen-Ruijten report on Turkey's progress towards membership of the EU in 2007. I do believe that Turkey should be capable of joining the Union. Currently there are difficulties on issues of trade-union and human rights and the rights of minorities such as the Kurds and the Christians. However, progress is being made, albeit slowly, and should be acknowledged.

I did support the amendments dealing with the Armenian genocide. I know it was a long time ago, but a nation must come to terms with its history and so far Turkey has failed to come to terms with this bloody stain on its record. It may not be a final barrier to membership of the EU, but we cannot in all honestly just sweep it under an all too convenient Turkish carpet.

 
  
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  Bruno Gollnisch (NI), in writing. – (FR) The remarks by Mrs Oomen-Ruijten in her report on Turkey’s progress with a view to accession show, as though any further proof were required, that Turkey, in terms of its civilisation, its mindset, its traditions – all perfectly respectable, of course – is not a European country. Moreover, it is not necessary to look elsewhere to uncover the reasons for the immense difficulties encountered during the accession negotiations.

The French Presidency, commencing on 1 July, may be the chance to raise this essential ambiguity: the fiction of Turkey’s European vocation as set out in the 1963 Treaty. Betraying his electoral promises, Mr Sarkozy now says he wishes to continue negotiations, and in fact start up fresh negotiations in areas ‘not directly linked to accession’, according to a formula as demagogic as it is hypocritical which solves no problems whatsoever. Who can be persuaded that discussions merely concern a ‘quasi-accession’?

I fear that the sole objective in retaining the French Constitution’s compulsory consultation of the people on any new European accession is to let citizens and citizens alone take responsibility for 45 years of political and diplomatic cowardice not attributable to Turkey itself, but only to their governments.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (PT) Despite certain contradictions, it is a fact that Turkey is strategically important for the EU’s ambitions, particularly given the current deepening crisis in the capitalist system.

While its final status remains in doubt – full member of the EU or of a future Mediterranean Union – what seems certain is that the EU is trying to find solutions which best serve the interests of the major economic and financial groups in the main countries, in particular Germany.

Turkey offers a huge market which is awakening various appetites. It is a vast country, with a huge and cheap workforce and a plentiful supply of consumers, which, however, is not permitted to commemorate the first of May, as was recently seen in the brutal repression by Turkish security forces of trade union members and demonstrators. It is a vast territory that occupies an important geostrategic position between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, that is playing a central role in the dispute about ownership of and access to the energy resources of Central Asia (such as the Nabucco project) and that has a key role to play in the US-NATO-EU partnership.

Turkey is also a country whose authorities are militarily and illegally occupying part of the territory of an EU Member State, Cyprus.

 
  
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  Jaromír Kohlíček (GUE/NGL), in writing. − (CS) Although the motion for a European Parliament resolution quotes a number of documents, the fundamental information is missing. This country has been a candidate country since 1963. Conditions for opening negotiations have been discussed all the time. The so-called Copenhagen criteria, laid down in 1993, cannot be found in the opening preambles of the text.

When we sink our teeth into the European Commission’s Turkey 2007 progress report, we find out that, although some progress has been made, the legislation adopted in regard to national minorities has not yet been sufficiently implemented. The fact that approximately 10% of the Turkish population capable of work are employed in the countries of the EU is an indicator of the depth of the long-standing relations between Turkey and the EU. What will surprise us is the state of implementation of regulations in the economic area, rather debatable so far. Although these regulations are formally enshrined in Turkish legislation, we often see a very ‘un-European’ approach in dealing with individual cases.

We can say that, although Turkey has achieved significant success, in many areas the differences between Turkey and most countries of the EU (including the Balkan States) have not significantly diminished so far. The army’s influence over the country’s political system and the powerful status of Sunni Islam are the most obvious features of Turkish society, distinguishing it from EU countries. The report portrays the present situation of the society rather accurately. Although paragraph 12 of the resolution is not balanced, the GUE/NGL Group will not vote against it.

 
  
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  Carl Lang (NI), in writing. – (FR) Mrs Oomen-Ruijten’s report illustrates the autistic side of the leaders of Brussels’ Europe in their denials of the evidence: Turkey is an Asian country.

Their blindness leads them to deny the foreseeable consequences of its accession. With a population of over 100 million by 2020, Turkey will have the EU’s largest population and will therefore be the major state in the European institutions. This means our Parliament runs the risk of being dominated, not by the PPE-DE Group or by the Socialist Group, but by AKP Islamists. Turkey will also be the country receiving most assistance: Turkish regions will absorb the vast majority of structural funds, and its ten million farmers will destroy the common agricultural policy.

This refusal to accept reality also leads our governments to ignore the wishes of the peoples of Europe. Thus, having imposed the European constitutional treaty on France which the country rejected in 2005, Mr Sarkozy is making ready to remove Article 88.5 of the Constitution, submitting the accession of new EU states to a referendum.

If Brussels succeeded in imposing Turkey’s accession, we would have to suggest our nations quit such a setup, which would be European only in name, in order to build another Europe, a European Europe: the Europe of nations.

 
  
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  Astrid Lulling (PPE-DE), in writing. (DE) I voted in favour of the report on Turkey’s progress towards EU membership in 2007.

I must express my dismay, however, at reading in the German newspaper Die Welt that Turkey, which likes to be portrayed as a moderate Islamic country, has enacted a law prohibiting the purchase and public serving of wine in glasses.

Wine is a European cultural asset which is legally manufactured in most Member States of the EU and which can be sold and consumed in all Member States.

Such a law is incompatible with full membership of the EU. All legally manufactured products – and that includes wine – are goods, the free movement of which within the internal market must be guaranteed. Such a ban also infringes the anti-discrimination rules of the EU. A country that restricts the free movement of any legally manufactured good from other Member States cannot be a full member of the EU.

The Prime Minister, Mr Erdoğan, pledged that 2008 would be the year of reform, designed to make Turkey a modern democracy based on a secular state and a pluralist society.

In view of the Turkish ban on the sale and consumption of wine in glasses, I have to ask whether this pledge amounts to ‘words, idle words’.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE), in writing. − Ria Oomen-Ruijten's Turkey 2007 Progress Report is a comprehensive and encouraging analysis of the country's progress towards accession. Turkey appears to have made progress on areas such as freedom of speech and judicial reform. The Government's proposals to reform Article 301, a hurdle to full democratic freedom in the country, are also to be welcomed. Of course, further effort is needed in areas pertaining to rights for minority groups in the country and the current case going through the Constitutional Court is of concern. I support the report's recommendations and I voted in favour.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE-DE), in writing. − (SK) I welcome Turkey’s 2007 progress report by my colleague, Mrs Oomen-Ruijten, which urges the Turkish Government to fulfil its promises to pursue reforms and modernise the country. I also want to express my long-held view, which is a view of the vast majority of Europeans as well, that the EU should not offer Turkey the prospect of full membership. Geographically, culturally and spiritually, Turkey is outside the European identity concept. In addition to that, the budget of the Union is not and will not be capable of coping with the burden that Turkey’s full membership would bring. That said, I support the vision of close cooperation, the so-called ‘strategic partnership’ between the EU and Turkey. I also see the significance of the report in this light.

I welcome the fact that Turkey has achieved some progress in several areas in 2007. In spite of that, the dismal human rights situation still persists. In the context of this report, we should insist more on improving the situation of the national minorities (namely the Kurdish minority) and on introducing complete freedom of speech and religion. I also support the call for Article 301 of the Penal Code to be abolished and for the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary to be immediately re-opened. We also must make demands on Turkey to look back upon its past and accept the fact of the Armenian genocide, as well as the illegality of its military interference in Cyprus.

 
  
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  Andreas Mölzer (NI), in writing. (DE) Time and again, Turkey demonstrates that it is not ready for EU membership by oppressing its minorities, by launching air strikes against a neighbouring country and, most recently, by vetoing the appointment of the head of the Austrian archaeological excavation team in Ephesus, apparently because of anti-Turkish comments made by a member of her family. The cosmetic amendments to the article of the Penal Code prohibiting the denigration of Turkey and Turkishness are diverting the attention of Brussels from the use of brute force against demonstrators and from the acts of military aggression against northern Iraq.

In view of Turkey’s lack of readiness for EU membership, the only option is immediate cessation of the accession negotiations; talks on a privileged partnership could be conducted as an alternative.

 
  
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  Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) Every report on Turkey is an expression of the EU’s imperialist competitive designs on that country. This particular report has opted to support the Turkish Government by trying to place undue emphasis on the progress Turkey is making in various areas, which is contrary to reality. As usual, the report sings the praises of democratic rights, despite the well-known autocratic, repressive policy of the Turkish Government, as was recently proved by the brutal suppression of the May Day demonstrations. The report tolerates Turkey’s anti-Kurdish policy.

The report indirectly supports Turkish attacks on Iraqi territory. While condemning the ‘violence’ perpetrated by the PKK and ‘other terrorist groups’, it merely advises the Turkish army not to engage in any ‘disproportionate military operations’.

The report glosses over the continuing Turkish occupation of Cyprus and avoids categorically and unconditionally demanding the withdrawal of Turkish military forces.

The report welcomes Turkey’s active participation in the imperialist missions and interventions of the EU and NATO. Given Turkey’s position in the imperialist system and its competitiveness in the wider arena, the EU aims to use the accession process to its advantage in order to gain control of the energy and geostrategic resources in the same arena.

For these reasons we are voting against the report.

 
  
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  Lydie Polfer (ALDE), in writing. – (FR) Mrs Oomen-Ruijten’s report is extremely balanced: it welcomes the legislative initiatives made by the Turkish authorities to continue the process of reforms, but also presses Turkey to step up the pace of reform in order to guarantee respect for the principles of the rule of law.

The Kurdish issue, including its cultural and economic aspects, must likewise be addressed.

In the same way, the matter of equal opportunities for women must be enshrined in the new draft constitution.

The Turkish Government is also asked to respect pluralism and religious diversity in a secular democratic state.

Negotiations may continue only with full adherence to the principles and values of the European Union.

 
  
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  Luís Queiró (PPE-DE), in writing. − (PT) The progress made in various areas of society, the economy and politics in recent years gives us good reason to note how the desire to accede to the European Union can successfully lead to major reforms in countries where this possibility exists. As this is the case with Turkey, and as these negotiations have always remained open, there is no longer any need to stress the importance of taking full advantage of this opportunity in order, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, to promote the most comprehensive and essential reforms in Turkey.

Alongside the recognition given by this report – and also the statements made by senior EU officials, in particular the Commission President – we cannot fail to be concerned about the legal proceedings brought against the AK Party. Although the fact that there has been no military intervention is preferable, we still regret this attempt to obtain, through the courts, what the ballot boxes have denied. On the other hand, the persistent doubts about the true intentions of the AK Party are also worrying. The defence of religious freedom, as we understand it in the European Union, merits our agreement. The widespread imposition of one religious view on the whole of society would be unacceptable.

 
  
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  Toomas Savi (ALDE), in writing. − Having supported the report, may I remind you that the first speech that I made in this Chamber, on 13 December 2004, concerned Turkey's progress towards accession, insisting that before even considering their membership, Turkey should first recognise the legitimate Greek Cypriot government, acknowledge the 1915 Armenian genocide and improve the situation of the world's largest stateless nation, the Kurds.

In four years none of those issues has been resolved. There has been no remarkable progress in Turkey's relations with Cyprus, no sign of willingness to admit past crimes. Instead, the Turkish Army, with the authorisation of the Turkish Parliament, is carrying out genocide against the Kurds. The European Union must take a firmer stance on Turkey and halt the negotiations until the aforementioned issues have been resolved.

 
  
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  Jacques Toubon (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) By voting against the report by the Committee on Foreign Affairs on the situation in Turkey, the French UMP Delegation wishes to state that the Commission, the Member State Governments and the European Parliament are wrong to continue stoking the illusion of Turkey’s accession.

The UMP is not opposed to Ria Oomen-Ruijten’s report, which is an excellent piece of work, but to a refusal to take into consideration the reality of Turkey and its policy, at odds with our project for European integration.

 
  
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  Dominique Vlasto (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FR) I voted against this report and the resolution proposed in order to state once more my opposition to the principle of Turkey’s accession to the EU. The European Commission, the Member State Governments and the European Parliament are wrong to continue stoking this illusion, which is duping both Turkish citizens and European citizens. I refuse to associate myself with a political posture that takes no account of the reality of Turkey and its policy, at odds with our project for European integration.

If Europe is a space of shared values, we cannot close our eyes to the disturbing tendencies of the Turkish authorities in relation to the principles of the rule of law, freedom of expression and thought, or respect for minority rights. Taking a soft line with the Turkish authorities vis-à-vis their responsibilities is a strategic error that distances them from the progress to be made, not towards accession to the EU, but to allow the Turkish people to reap the benefits of their basic rights and social and economic development in Turkey.

A privileged partnership with Turkey will help these objectives to be met, with respect for the integrity of both parties.

 

8. Corrections to votes and voting intentions: see Minutes
  

(The sitting was suspended at 1.50 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: Diana WALLIS
Vice-President

 

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

10. Tragic situation in Burma (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the tragic situation in Burma.

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) We are all still shaken by the human suffering that the destructive cyclone Nargis caused to the poor and oppressed population of Burma, or Myanmar.

We expressed the European Union's deepest sympathy in numerous statements published in the aftermath of the disaster. Moreover, the European Union immediately promised urgent funds in aid of humanitarian needs. So far the Union's commitments have exceeded the sum of EUR 60 million. At the same time it should be emphasised that the amount that has been promised will top up the already existing aid provided by the European Union, which is not a small amount.

In spite of this, the key issue continues to be the access to areas that have been affected, and how to distribute help quickly. Last Tuesday the Presidency, in cooperation with the Commissioner Louis Michel, convened an extraordinary session of the European Union Council. On that occasion the development ministers agreed that there was a danger of an even greater tragedy if the Burmese authorities were not ready for a better cooperation.

The situation is still critical. This is why the European Council urged the Burmese authorities to introduce urgent measures facilitating access to help for people who are in dire straits. The Council welcomed the efforts made by the Commissioner Louis Michel to convince the authorities in Burma/Myanmar that the humanitarian help is urgent and neutral. At the same time we regret that the Burmese authorities were not prepared to make use of all the help that the European Union and the international community are prepared to provide.

In addition, the Council has expressed its full support to the UN General Secretary and to all the initiatives given by the UN bodies that would help to meet humanitarian requirements. We also welcome the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon's visit to Burma, scheduled for tomorrow.

The Council has raised the issue of the situation in Burma at all political meetings that have been recently held with its Asian partners. The Asian countries have been invited to influence the Burmese authorities and to convince them that the nature of the international humanitarian aid is neutral and unbiased.

On 19 May the Foreign Ministers of the ASEAN Member States met in Singapore. The European Union had previously presented this group with a demarche asking the countries in the region to influence the Burmese authorities to open the borders to humanitarian aid and humanitarian aid workers.

On Monday, 26 May, the General Affairs and External Relations Council will have a debate on the humanitarian situation in Burma, and on the denial of access to humanitarian aid experts and the delivery of aid to the affected area.

Burma, or Myanmar, also continues to be a priority topic in the Council's debates because of the political situation in that country. The fact that, in spite of the huge scale of the humanitarian disaster, the Military Junta has not cancelled the national referendum is a cause for concern. We believe that this may lead to irregularities in the new constitution’s adoption procedure.

We are also concerned due to reports of escalating intimidation during the period of preparations for the referendum. I should emphasise that the European Union is also disappointed because the authorities have not paid any attention to the calls of the United Nations for a more inclusive and more legitimate transition to democracy. I should like to affirm that the European Union will continue to support the endeavours of the United Nations.

Finally, please take note that on 29 April the European Union revised the common position adopted back in November 2007. This position, which was adopted as a response to suppression of peaceful protests, from now on includes firmer restrictive measures against Burma.

 
  
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  Louis Michel, Member of the Commission. − (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, first and foremost I wish to thank you for placing Burma on the agenda for this sitting.

In view of the scale of the catastrophe caused by Cyclone Nargis on 2 May, we suggested the Presidency call an extraordinary meeting of the Council of EU Foreign Affairs Ministers. The Council meeting was convened as soon as possible by the Slovenian Presidency, who I wish to thank, and was held on 12 May.

At the meeting the EU called for increased cooperation by the Burmese authorities to allow access and distribution of international humanitarian aid. I decided to follow up the call directly by visiting Burma on 15 and 16 May. During my mission, which I made clear was strictly humanitarian and non-political, I was able to meet the Burmese authorities and the representatives of humanitarian organisations in Burma, and I made a visit on the ground to the areas affected around Yangon. I had two and a half hours of quite intense meetings and discussions with the Minister for Planning – who obviously held most authority and was certainly the most authoritarian of the three I met – the Minister for Social Welfare and the Minister for Health.

What emerged very clearly from my mission was that the Burmese authorities are still extremely reluctant to create the operational conditions normally required to provide an international humanitarian response to meet local needs. It is equally clear to me that an approach seeking to impose international humanitarian aid on the Burmese authorities, in due consideration of our current means, is doomed to failure and could even be counterproductive. All the humanitarian organisations in Burma told me this, and confirmed that the problem is obviously not the lack of organisations on the ground, or even a lack of funds, since a lack of means also certainly depends on access to international experts and professionals, but rather lack of access.

My mission certainly made a modest contribution to opening up a tiny window to gradually create a minimum humanitarian space for international humanitarian aid. The Burmese authorities provided a partial response to various specific demands: for example, visas for experts working for the Commission were extended by two weeks. They had been issued with three-day visas and these were extended for two weeks. We had requested one month.

We also clarified a situation that appeared genuinely serious. At certain locations, the local authorities were demanding a permit, and therefore written authorisation, even for local workers, meaning people employed by our agencies, by the UN or by NGOs, and in most cases this was of course impossible. This was clarified, and obviously no authorisation is required for local workers. Authorisation is also no longer required to enter the disaster areas, in particular Pathein airport. I also asked for a second airport to be opened up for planes arriving with equipment, in other words Pathein airport which is a military airport. I was told that this was not possible because the technical standards used by the control tower differed from international standards and, in any case, that this would not make the work any easier since the roads between Rangoon and the delta, the area worst affected, were in much better condition and much easier to use. Unfortunately I had no authorisation to check this kind of information for myself.

I feel it is important for international pressure to be maintained, both by neighbouring countries and by the international community as a whole. I ought to say that, in my discussions with the authorities, I also made a specific request – I made, in fact, five specific requests which I will tell you about in just a moment – that doctors and medical staff from neighbouring countries be allowed to deploy in the areas worst hit, and they obtained authorisation for this on the day I left. This means that 140 doctors were deployed and also medical staff from Laos, Cambodia, India, Bangladesh and Thailand. They were thus able to visit the areas worst hit. The role to be played by neighbouring countries is crucial, and I was also able to have quite a long discussion with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon while waiting for my plane to return to Bangkok. I passed on all this information to him, told him my feelings on the issue, and also how the mission had gone.

The UN Secretary-General agreed with this analysis, but had two specific suggestions to make himself: to deploy a joint UN/ASEAN humanitarian aid coordinator, and to quickly organise a donor conference co-presided by the UN and ASEAN on 24 and 25 May in Bangkok. Following on from the recent visit by the United Nations humanitarian aid coordinator John Holmes, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is visiting Burma tomorrow to discuss how to channel international aid.

In relation to needs, the humanitarian situation in Burma remains dramatic. There is a danger that the first catastrophe caused by the cyclone could be worsened by a second humanitarian disaster: the risk of famine, since harvests were destroyed, and also epidemics among survivors whose living conditions are deplorable. There is a risk of epidemics. When we were there, the World Health Organization did not see identify risk of cholera, but large numbers of children were suffering from diarrhoea and so on. This meant there was a risk of epidemic caused by water pollution. There is also a risk of famine. The region stockpiles large amounts of rice, and all food in storage has been destroyed.

There is one practical problem: this land ought to be sown to ensure a harvest in October. The timeline is therefore a maximum of three to four weeks. A number of people at the temporary camps, as they call them, do not wish to return to their own areas for all sorts of reasons, while others do wish to return, but need special kinds of seeds since all the soil has been salinated, and therefore they need much stronger plants, and also fertilisers. I thus attempted to engage in constructive, practical dialogue with the authorities on this matter. It was thought that the UNDP micro-credit scheme could be used as a finance mechanism. We are still discussing this at present. I must tell you it is no rapid process.

The Commission provided a rapid response, with an emergency decision of two million euros adopted on 5 May. As you know, I am authorised to release three million euros right away with no official procedures. Of course, since we had no identification, we began by releasing two million. We subsequently decided on an envelope of five million euros in food aid, and also an additional emergency envelope of ten million euros. We are, of course, willing to do more on the basis of needs assessments and assurances in terms of aid monitoring.

When I left after my two and a half hours of discussions with the authorities, I sent them a specific written note of the various requests I had made. My first request concerned visa extensions for those working temporarily on the mission, namely the Commission staff. We were given a two-week extension.

I also asked for final clarification, and for them to notify our local authorities that Burmese workers at our agencies and other operators no longer require official authorisation or a travel permit. This point has obviously been clarified.

I asked for multiple-entry visas for six months to allow the EU-financed NGOs working there to triple their international personnel. When I left Burma there were one hundred or so visa applications outstanding for UN agencies, and just over one hundred NGO applications. I asked to be informed regularly. Some have been issued since, but it is a far cry from what was requested.

I also requested visas and travel permits to visit the delta and to ensure that sufficient personnel could be mobilised. As I said, I then asked for permits to be issued rapidly to doctors in the area and local medical staff. It would appear they understood this point perfectly.

As for Pathein airport, which could have acted as a kind of redistribution hub for products arriving in planes sent by the international community, the answer here was an outright no. The reason was, according to them, that the control equipment and means were not in line with international standards, and that it was much easier to go via Rangoon. I doubt this because, when I was there, Rangoon was already overwhelmed and had a number of problems which were subsequently rectified to a certain extent. I am not sure that these were sorted out thanks to me. It was simply that they could not find a way to operate Rangoon airport either. I also feel that operations were handled in this manner for reasons relating to institutional comfort.

All in all, it was an extremely frustrating mission, I can tell you. I feel there is total distrust of the international community. There are some very deep-rooted a priori concerns in the country. One occasionally has the distinct impression that nobody is listening to anyone else. It is extremely difficult to reach the conscience and mindset of the person we are talking to. The talks went well because for two and a half hours we had a genuine discussion, all quite courteous but firm too, because one nagging question persists: why say no to the international personnel that is so necessary to assist with operations?

I also mentioned the responsibility to protect, in this way in particular, and even this led to a problem of principles. At that point I was told that certain questions required no answers. That was how the mission went. Obviously I was sad I had not secured anything more specific, but I cannot pretend I was not glad to return to Europe.

 
  
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  Hartmut Nassauer, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the Commissioner has provided us with a persuasive and graphic portrayal of the way in which the ruling military government in Burma is cynically and brutally betraying its own people.

I wish to address myself here to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the ASEAN Member Countries. For many years, the European Parliament has maintained friendly relations with the parliamentarians of the ASEAN countries. Not too long ago, those countries signed a new ASEAN Charter in which they explicitly affirm their adherence to the principle of respecting and protecting human rights. It goes without saying that ASEAN bears some responsibility for Burma, which is one of its Member Countries, and that the global reputation of the ASEAN countries will suffer if it continues to let the Burmese military junta act as it is acting at the moment.

I appeal to the Member Countries of ASEAN, in their own best interests and for the sake of their good and friendly relations with the European Union, to do whatever they can to persuade the Burmese military junta that it must let the outside world help its country’s population. As I have indicated, this lies within the power and responsibility of the ASEAN countries. They will be asked how they are exercising this responsibility, and whether or not they use their scope for action in this matter will influence our relations with ASEAN. They need not act by means of public appeals – there are other ways – but the European Union expects that Burma’s neighbours in particular will do whatever they can to change the attitude of its ruling regime.

 
  
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  Jan Marinus Wiersma, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (NL) I shall begin by complimenting the Commissioner on behalf of my Group. Today he has stated clearly that he is doing what he can, in very difficult circumstances. He himself referred to a dialogue of the deaf. We must note that the situation in Burma takes bizarre forms. It is nearly three weeks now since the cyclone hit the country, and the government is still letting in hardly any outside aid. The authorities themselves seem to be remaining rather passive. The country has been closed to aid workers, experts and media for weeks. It is almost Kafkaesque that the junta did let a referendum designed to strengthen its own position go ahead a week and a half ago.

According to a number of sources, the official death toll is around eighty thousand. Tens of thousands are still missing and the number displaced is over two million. These are gradually becoming Pol Pot proportions, or at least we believe so, because there is just as little information coming out of the country as there is aid going in. Former UN coordinator Jan Egeland said at the beginning of this week that refusing to allow aid in is murder. The Burmese Government is turning its responsibility to protect into a farce. The contrast with China, tragically struck by a violent earthquake last week, is remarkable. The widespread devastation was not covered up and could be seen on TV everywhere, including in China itself, and the Chinese Government issued an international appeal for help.

The image of the Burmese Government can no longer be damaged much more. It has more or less reached an all-time low. China is in a position to do much more to urge the Burmese Government to accept help. So area Russia and India which must put pressure on the junta either in the UN or in ASEAN. I agree with the comment by Mr Nassauer on that point.

Last Monday agreement was reached within ASEAN on international aid to Burma. All aid is to be coordinated through ASEAN. This is a step forward, but direct aid from the West is still ruled out. A donor conference is to be held next week. I appeal to Europe to contribute generously and wholeheartedly, but that is only if guarantees are given that our contribution will actually go to the right place and that journalists will also be allowed into the country, so that we can get a proper picture of the situation there.

 
  
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  Jules Maaten, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (NL) How many times have we stood in this House before talking about Burma? Several times a year we stand here and still the case remains hopeless.

However, the situation in Burma has become even worse than last time we spoke about it. One point four million victims have still not received any help. Thirty thousand children are suffering from acute malnutrition. Hundreds of thousands are homeless and at risk of cholera, pneumonia and infectious diseases. I understand that this morning as many as eight foreign doctors from Médecins Sans Frontières have been allowed into the disaster area.

I should like in any case to back the appeal that Mr Nassauer has made to ASEAN. It must now finally show determination, because it is clear that the junta is more interested in the survival of its own regime through the referendum that is not worthy of the name – Mr Wiersma calls that ‘Kafkaesque’ – than the survival of its own people. The generals think that foreigners coming into the country would threaten the survival of the military regime.

It is clear, though, that Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam, the British, French and US ships are bringing aid goods, not regime change, however much I might wish for that myself. However, we can apparently not convince the junta of that, so we have to look for alternatives. I think the best alternative is the Security Council. Europe and the United States must insist that the situation in Burma is put on the agenda. All the United Nations Member States have signed up to the following two principles: accepting responsibility for the protection of citizens and, if a country is no longer able or willing to do that, the right of the international community to intervene in disasters.

The United Nations has to act. I understand the problems and I am proud of Commissioner Michel who, instead of wringing his hands and convening working groups, just got down to it with the motto ‘deeds, not words’. That impresses me. I also think the support promised by the European Union is exemplary. I believe the French Minister, Mr Kouchner, is right in saying that the junta is guilty of a crime against humanity. I do wonder why we, the other 26 EU Member States, are not listening hard.

Mr President, aid must be brought to the Burmese people, with or without the consent of the junta. Withholding essential support is a crime against humanity. I would like to see the European Union take the initiative in getting the United Nations and the Security Council to refer this case to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Enough is enough, patience has run out. I would say, drag the junta into the International Criminal Court. That is what we want. The way the situation is now, they are the ones who belong behind bars, not the dissidents in Burma!

 
  
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  Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Madam President, I feel we ought to be slightly more precise in the way we talk about this issue; for example, the concept of neutrality. We are not neutral. If we are for the people of Burma, this means we are against the military junta. Since the military junta has no intention of helping the people of Burma, we are against the military junta. We must not support it, and this is exactly how we are perceived.

Louis Michel held discussions for two and a half hours. The entire story has a surrealist ring to it: he says he went there, he talked to them for two and a half hours, he was told that such-and-such an airport could not be mobilised in 24 hours, whereas technical facilities were provided to open an airport in Sarajevo. This is not really the problem.

It is therefore obvious we are at an extremely specific juncture, and I agree: the responsibility to protect means the military junta is committing a crime against humanity, against its own population. This is a fact. We will see what becomes of this state of affairs in the public debates to follow. It is, however, true that this obvious case must be submitted to the International Court of Justice. What is most interesting is that in doing this we are addressing the Security Council, and Burma’s protectors, the Chinese, are in fact talking a rather unintelligible language.

We could say, in fact, that China may have done the right thing by opening up its borders, but at the same time it continues to protect Burma, and continues to protect a government that is massacring its own people.

Thus I feel that in this situation it is obvious nobody can impose food. We must nevertheless exert pressure, all the pressure we can. Even a possible solution involving assistance manu militari would give us and countries in Asia some chance of putting pressure on Burma. I think Louis Michel’s speech to us today was quite explicit: talk to me honey, talk to me, I’m listening, but I couldn’t care less. That is what he told us in his diplomatic way, for which I have the utmost respect.

Today, however, the authorities in Burma are deaf. They will not listen, they are not interested in a constitutional referendum, as has been mentioned. They are laughing at us all. Henceforth, therefore, pressure must be stepped up to the maximum, and we must ask for the consequences to be submitted to the Security Council and the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

 
  
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  Brian Crowley (UEN) – Mr President, nearly three weeks have passed since cyclone Nagris hit Burma destroying the harbours and the deltas of the Ayeyarwady. It destroyed houses and towns killing thousands of people and leaving thousands of others homeless.

History has taught us that, unless we react immediately when people suffer, their suffering is bound to increase by multiples and factors way beyond our conception.

In many ways, the failure of the Burmese regime is a reflection of what we have been saying in this Parliament over the last number of years concerning the military junta that is presently in place in Burma. However, despite our objections to that military junta, we must find mechanisms – however they are arrived at – to deliver aid directly to the people. I welcome the fact – and little did I think I would be saying this today – that the military junta has now allowed in five United Nations helicopters to distribute food, despite the fact that a French naval vessel and American naval vessels are in the bay waiting to deliver food and medical aid to the people.

It is incumbent on all of us to guarantee that we can make the best possible efforts to assist human beings when they are suffering. Indeed, with regard to those great defenders of Burma, the Chinese, Burma could learn from the way in which the Chinese reacted to their most recent natural disaster by appealing for international aid and assistance from Japan and other countries. Hopefully among these different alliances we can create conditions whereby the aid and succour can be delivered.

The issue with regard to the International Criminal Court is a matter for another day. Our first and most immediate aim and task, following what Louis Michel has already said, is to guarantee that we put in place the mechanisms to deliver that aid, to rebuild the infrastructure, to rebuild homes and, most importantly of all, to prevent the continuing suffering of the Burmese people.

 
  
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  Jim Allister (NI). – Madam President, a regime which wantonly allows its own citizens to needlessly suffer in pursuit of its own xenophobic paranoia is not just amoral but evil, and sadly such a junta rules in Burma. Unmoved as it is by the plight of its own people, it is unlikely to be influenced by what is said in the European Parliament, but in the name of humanity we must speak out.

We are not trying to control Burma, we are just trying to help its people, though the reality is that without regime change little will improve in the long term for the Burmese. Yes, we must maximise humanitarian aid, considering food and supply drops as a necessary tactic; but ultimately the restoration of democracy is how this once-thriving country will reclaim its position and put the people’s needs before the junta’s preservation.

 
  
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  Urszula Gacek (PPE-DE). – Madam President, firstly let me express my heartfelt sympathy for all the Burmese people who have been bereaved or injured by the effects of Cyclone Nargis. The people of Burma are in the thoughts and prayers of many Europeans. However, our condolences are not enough. We must discuss practical measures and see how we can implement them so that we alleviate the suffering of the survivors.

Many countries and international organisations are both willing and able to provide immediate humanitarian aid; they have been for a matter of weeks now. Unfortunately, the ruling military authorities consider the preservation of their own power as of prime importance; the suffering of their own people seems to be of little consequence. They fear any kind of foreign involvement in Burma, even if this is of aid workers. The Commissioner’s first-hand account of his discussions with the Burmese military authorities makes for sobering listening and there is not much hope that the Burmese authorities will change their position. So while we talk and wring our hands in dismay over the impossibility of getting the Burmese authorities to accept help and over the impotence of ASEAN, hundreds of thousands are suffering.

The UN Security Council can and should call on its principle of responsibility to protect and provide aid without the consent of the Burmese authorities. I would strongly urge the UK Government – which currently holds the Presidency of the Security Council – to sanction immediate airdrops of aid. The Burmese authorities are responsible for a crime against humanity, but we cannot sit by passively allowing them to continue in this crime. And while I agree that an airdrop is not the ideal way of getting aid into a country – for we would rather have trained aid workers distributing help – it is better than nothing, so, please, let us get some help in and let us get it in now.

 
  
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  Libor Rouček (PSE).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, I want to add my voice to those who have expressed their sincere sympathies with the bereaved families of the tens of thousands of victims of the deadly Cyclone Nargis in Burma (Myanmar). I also want to express my full solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost, as a result of this natural disaster, their livelihoods and roofs over their heads. I welcome the speed with which the European Commission’s humanitarian aid was offered and I also appreciate Commissioner Michel’s quick action. Unfortunately I cannot approve of the behaviour of the Burmese Government and the Burmese authorities. It was inhuman and cruel how they were preventing their own people, victims of this horrible disaster, from receiving foreign humanitarian aid. Consequently I want to call on the Burmese Government and on the Burmese senior officials to fully open the borders to foreign aid, and to allow the goods and the workers of foreign humanitarian organisations to enter the country. I also call on China, India, Singapore and other countries in the region, including the ASEAN Member Countries, to use their influence to persuade Burma to open up to foreign aid. No country in the world is capable of coping with a natural disaster of this magnitude on its own.

 
  
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  Marios Matsakis (ALDE). – Madam President, the situation in Burma following the recent catastrophic cyclone is tragic and is getting worse every day. Those civilians who survived when the cyclone first struck now face illness and death by hunger, lack of shelter and appropriate medical care. Yet the military dictators ruling Burma remain largely apathetic to the urgent need to allow proper help to reach the victims.

These heartless military generals care much more about clinging to power and far less about the destiny of the disaster survivors. The way the Burmese regime has acted and continues to act is unacceptable and criminal. The international community, and the EU in particular through Commissioner Michel, has done its best to convince the junta of Burma to listen to reason but, alas, without the desired effect.

I think there is now no other way but to proceed with some form of forced aid delivery to the affected region. Such an undertaking can be launched with urgent approval from the UN and with the necessary logistics provided by appropriate military delivery systems in close coordination with other countries such as the USA.

This is truly a last-resort, exceptional measure, but is absolutely necessary in my view in order to save thousands of innocent lives. We just cannot remain inactive and watch the suffering and demise of the Burmese people go on any longer.

 
  
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  Frithjof Schmidt (Verts/ALE).(DE) Madam President, the scale of the crisis in Burma is horrific: 100 000 deaths, 200 000 people missing and more than two million homeless in a country of 54 million inhabitants. The Irrawaddy Delta is Burma’s largest rice-producing region and plays a key role in food production. The tidal wave swept inland for 22 miles, flooding fields and leaving many of them heavily salinated. In other words, the present humanitarian disaster is set to be compounded in the medium term by a food production crisis in the Irrawaddy Delta.

The people of Burma urgently need immediate as well as long-term help from the international community. That help, unfortunately, must be forced through against the will of the generals, come what may. A government blocking emergency aid is a scandal without precedent in the history of international relations. The victims of the cyclone are being held hostage by a paranoid and murderous band of soldiers that has ruled Burma for several decades.

Last September the popular pro-democracy movement led by Buddhist monks was brutally crushed. Thousands were killed or abducted, and now tens of thousands are dying because the government is not letting aid through. Its refusal to accept aid for the people is killing them. This murderous regime belongs at the very top of the United Nations’ blacklist, and the members of the junta belong in the dock at the International Criminal Court.

 
  
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  Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka (UEN).(PL) Humankind has not yet learnt how to prevent the tragic consequences of natural disasters. These consequences are even more dramatic in the case of countries governed by dictators. The plight of the Burmese nation is a contemporary example of this. The people of Burma have suffered both as a result of the cyclone and as a result of the behaviour of the military regime in power there. It became evident how heartless the ruling Burmese generals were when they refused international aid to save the Burmese people, even though the generals themselves were unable to do so. That decision amounted to a premeditated crime against the entire nation. Despite widespread international condemnation, the Burmese generals are maintaining their criminal course of action. Humanitarian aid seems to be ending up in the hands of the military and their families, or is being traded. At the same time it is ever more urgently needed, due to the spread of hunger and disease.

Particular attention should be paid too to the situation of Burmese orphans. There are more and more indications that people traffickers are turning to these orphans in their search for sex slaves for brothels the world over.

Respect for human rights does not just mean that national authorities should refrain from torture, murder and arrests. Failing to assist disaster victims or deliberately hindering assistance amounts to committing genocide.

 
  
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  Colm Burke (PPE-DE). – Madam President, I would like to thank the Commissioner for his work to date on this matter. It is now clear that over 125 000 people have died as a result of the cyclone which hit the southern regions of Burma on 2 and 3 May. The United Nations estimates that in excess of 2.4 million people have been directly affected by this tragedy. Many are severely injured and it is likely that there will be an outbreak of disease due to lack of food and clean water. It may already have taken hold in the area.

The policies of the military junta in preventing humanitarian aid workers from getting access to the affected areas are unprecedented. These aid workers and the agencies that they work for have the expertise to put in place a comprehensive relief operation which would bring assistance to a large number of people in a short period of time. Will another similar number have to die before the military regime allows the aid agencies in?

The combined efforts of the EU, China, India, all of the South-East Asian nations and the UN have the power to force the Burmese authorities to remove the restrictions. It is by working together that we can change the mindset of this corrupt government. In particular we must bring China and India on board to force the change.

It is now 18 days since the cyclone hit the region. The international community must continue to work so that every person affected by the disaster receives food, clean water, the necessary medical care and shelter. Let us continue to keep the pressure on the Burmese leadership and force them to allow the international aid agencies to carry out their work. Let each country within the EU, and the EU itself, continue to apply diplomatic pressure. This is where immediate action is required. We must not allow another 18 days to pass before action is taken. The time for removing the restrictions is now.

 
  
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  Thijs Berman (PSE).(NL) Two weeks after the disaster, some of the Burmese people have finally received rice, beans and medicines, but that aid is still not reaching a quarter of all victims and is arriving criminally late through the fault of the junta. The UN World Food Programme says that it was able to give rice and beans to 212 000 of the 750 000 people who are the worst affected. Therefore a special UN aid fund is needed, as the Social Democrats are also asking. I am grateful to the Commission for all its valuable efforts in Burma and also from Brussels.

However, millions of people are being abandoned to hunger, thirst and sickness. That is a form of torture, that is murder and a total failure of the duty to protect. These are actions verging on genocide. Therefore the army is responsible for crimes against humanity. For our Group and tomorrow for this Parliament, that is a matter for the International Criminal Court. The Security Council has to have an investigation opened into the crimes of the regime. What is the view of the Commission on that?

As rapporteur on Burma, I ask myself when do you reach the limit of respect for the sovereignty of a country? The limit was, after all, somewhat closer in the case of Iraq. When does respect for fundamental human rights become inviolable for the same international community? Now the credibility of human rights is tarnished all over the world by the refusal, mainly of neighbouring countries, to deal with the Burmese Government, and the unwillingness to come to the aid of the people without the consent of the generals. Sovereignty does not entitle you to throttle your own people.

Hence the request to the Council of the European Union, and particularly to the United Kingdom as current President of the Security Council, for the situation in Burma to be discussed again in the Security Council. China and Russia must understand that the situation there now is even more criminal, even more serious, than shortly after the cyclone.

 
  
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  Thomas Mann (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, 130 000 dead and more than two million homeless: that is the bitter reality in Burma. In addition, widespread famine is threatening. The floods are causing diarrhoea pathogens, such as Salmonella, to spread like wildfire. There is a high risk of illnesses such as typhoid, cholera, malaria and dengue fever. Children, who have weaker immune systems and whose bodies dehydrate faster, are particularly endangered. The survivors of the disaster need clean drinking water, which cannot be provided on a sustainable basis without good treatment plants. They need emergency accommodation, not least to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.

The military junta remains unwilling to admit Western aid workers, as Commissioner Michel just confirmed in his powerful speech. It is thereby jeopardising the existence of tens of thousands of people. What is the responsible approach? Exerting pressure by petitioning the Criminal Court in The Hague? Absolutely! However, is there also a need to amend international law so as to restrict national sovereignty in the event of a humanitarian crisis? That would be difficult to achieve, and the Chinese would be sure to veto it in the UN Security Council.

China is one of the few allies of the Burmese dictators. It must, however, make every effort – and so must the Member Countries of ASEAN, as Hartmut Nassauer stated – to ensure that the international teams of experts and aid materials, which have been in place for some time now, are allowed to enter the country. One of the reasons why Myanmar is blocking the numerous aid operations mounted by the international community is evidently a desire to influence the donors’ conference in order to obtain multimillion sums and be able to use them as it sees fit.

Like the Burmese regime’s contemptuous and brutal treatment of peaceful demonstrators during the Buddhist monks’ revolt in September 2007 and its subsequent imposition of a news embargo lasting several months, this is a totalitarian act which is directed against the interests of the population. This alleged exercise of national sovereignty is entirely unstatesmanlike and totally inhuman.

 
  
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  Ana Maria Gomes (PSE).(PT) Over 63 000 people dead and missing and two and a half million homeless is now the combined result of the cyclone and the cruelty of the Junta which is mismanaging and oppressing Burma and which has prevented international aid from reaching those in need. What a contrast to the openness and promptness of China in helping the survivors in Sichuan!

The UN Security Council can no longer refrain from holding the Burmese Military Junta responsible for the protection of its people, by allowing international humanitarian NGOs and agencies to access the country in order to help the abandoned population of the Irrawaddy Delta. It also cannot refrain from bringing the Burmese Military Junta before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

This Parliament hopes that the European governments will bring immediate pressure to bear on the UN Security Council. It is time that all members of the Council, including China which has supported the Burmese dictatorship, accept their responsibilities towards the sacrificed people of Burma.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE-DE).(LT) Today we are talking about the tragic situation in Burma in the aftermath of the cyclone that swept across the country at the beginning of the month. The disastrous consequences of the tragedy are that hundreds of thousands of people are dead, injured, sick and lost, with huge numbers losing their homes and in need of food and water. Every day on TV we witness haunting scenes from a country ruined by this cyclone and it is impossible to remain indifferent.

It is true that humankind still remains powerless in the face of natural disasters, especially when they happen without warning. However, the recent situation in Burma is different, as we are aware of the fact that the Indian Government warned Burma’s leaders of the impending cyclone two days before it reached the country, so they had been informed.

Nevertheless, the cyclone hit the country’s people with all its might, because the generals in charge of the country could not be bothered to warn their people about the disaster that was imminent. Such a government is worthy of condemnation, as its recent actions demonstrate absolute inefficiency and indifference towards citizens, which is an obvious breach of human rights. The generals in charge are to blame for having given their blessing to this natural disaster developing into a catastrophe of such proportions.

The list of criminal acts committed by Burma’s leaders, which will never be forgotten, comprises forbidding international aid workers to enter the country, refusing to assist those seeking help and showing total disregard for the international community’s efforts to help the suffering. The generals’ shameful attempts to hold a referendum on the constitution in such circumstances only add to this list.

I truly believe that the European Union must pursue every possible avenue – I repeat: every possible avenue – of cooperation with the governments of India, China and other Asian countries and make use of all the institutions in the United Nations network to ensure that the people of Burma receive the maximum possible help.

 
  
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  Józef Pinior (PSE). – Madam President, in today’s debate I would like to raise three issues. First, the problem of a new constitution. The Myanmar junta announced that a pro-military constitution has won overwhelming support in the referendum which was held despite widespread criticism and the needs of a national tragedy. Human rights groups have dismissed the vote as a mockery. A referendum conducted in those conditions has to be of dubious credibility. Probably it will be impossible to hold the second round of voting in most areas of the Irrawaddy delta on 24 May.

Second, there is a more general problem about sanctions, particularly EU sanctions. Do they really work? The people most affected are the population at large. Some observers – seasoned journalists, diplomats, former EU ambassadors in South-East Asia – say that isolating Burma in this way does not help.

Third and last but not least, the time has come for the UN Security Council to act. The United Nations Security Council should insist that aid deliveries and humanitarian workers be given unfettered access to Burma. The EU countries delivering aid should insist on monitoring to ensure that aid reaches the cyclone victims most in need.

 
  
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  Alessandro Battilocchio (PSE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, in the few seconds available I would like to draw the House’s attention to the cry of alarm which has reached me from volunteers working for the international organisation Save the Children, informing us of the imminent risk of a tragedy to compound the tragedy.

Rescue crews have reported that, in the marsh area of the Irrawaddy Delta, over 30 000 children are dying through want, children who have survived Cyclone Nargis and, in many cases, their own parents, who are now the victims of hunger and thirst, ill with dysentery and exhausted by rain and the cold.

Commissioner, in this context, the policy of refusing aid adopted by the regime of Than Shwe and his military coadjutants is madness. There is no time to lose! With malnutrition already present, a lack of drinking water, the spectre of disease and the absence of aid, these children will not survive long: either we intervene immediately or we will be responsible fair and square for not having done enough!

 
  
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  Neena Gill (PSE). – Madam President, I would like to thank and commend the action taken by Commissioner Michel. We have heard today that Cyclone Nargis has brought devastation to two and a half million Burmese people and, as the Commissioner said, the situation has been exacerbated by the regime’s intransigence in denying foreign aid, so that only a quarter of those in need of urgent help have actually received it. This is unbelievable and a heartbreaking denial of the Burmese people’s most basic human right. But it is also verging on criminal negligence.

Recently we have heard about some limited flexibility by the junta but I urge the Commission and Council to exercise caution towards this softening, because this is the regime that ruthlessly repressed its own pro-democracy movement. I would stress that it is vital to keep up the pressure on the junta so that all UN agencies with the experience and logistical know-how to deal with the situation are allowed in. I am especially concerned that, as the Commissioner stressed, it is the children who are suffering the most. Accordingly UNICEF needs to be allowed in, to alleviate the threat of disease and malnutrition.

Finally, I call on those who have influence with Burma, namely the neighbours and EU partners – India, China and the ASEAN countries – to encourage the junta to accept relief from others. I also call on the Commission and others to take steps to make it clear to the junta that democracy and engagement with the outside world are the only viable ways out of the crisis. I hope that Commissioner Michel will provide an answer to the questions ‘Where do we go from here?’ and ‘How do we move forward?’

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE-DE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the very failure of the mission described by Commissioner Michel, who I do, however, thank for his utmost sincerity, gives us an understanding of how at this moment in time it is appropriate to focus on the doctrine of humanitarian intervention to foster not only relations with the Burmese authorities, but also with the Chinese authorities who are currently demonstrating a different kind of sensitivity in light of the serious disturbances and disasters which have also occurred in their country.

Focusing on relations with the Chinese may serve to open windows for humanitarian intervention which may move from establishing a no-fly zone for direct aid drops to the opening of a genuine humanitarian corridor.

I have a question for the Council too: the European Union appointed a representative to Burma; while thanking Commissioner Michel for his dedication and for visiting what he has called an area of frustration, what is the representative’s purpose? What is he seeking to achieve?

 
  
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  Tunne Kelam (PPE-DE). – Madam President, there is one human priority: to get international humanitarian aid to the millions of human beings who have been pushed to the verge of extermination. It is a military junta that bears responsibility first for failing to warn their population in time about the approaching cyclone and secondly for refusing to let humanitarian aid enter the country.

Now I think it is time to take this gang, which has committed crimes against humanity, to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but this needs a concentrated international effort. In the mean time, all possible pressure should be put on the Burmese rulers and their allies, including China, to engage first in the humanitarian relief phase before starting the self-proclaimed reconstruction phase.

 
  
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  Glyn Ford (PSE). – Madam President, the tragedy of Burma has been only compounded by the refusal of the military junta to allow the delivery of aid and assistance. They have refused more than token assistance from a US task force, home-based in Okinawa, which was fortuitously deployed off Thailand. While hundreds of thousands have died in the initial disaster, this can only be multiplied massively with the refusal to receive aid and therefore control the outbreak of disease. Oxfam have estimated that up to two thirds of a million people may be threatened in the current circumstances.

We have to urge everyone – the Chinese, the European Union, other neighbours – to put as much pressure as possible on the regime to moderate its position and open its doors to aid and aid workers currently parked in Bangkok and Thailand.

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I should like to thank all the participants in this debate, which leads me to believe that there is, in this Parliament, a wide consensus regarding some essential elements which are also the essential components of the Council's approach to the situation in Burma.

We are extremely concerned, first of all by the humanitarian situation in Burma, and secondly about the responsibility of the Burmese authorities for countering the effects of the disastrous cyclone, and in this context about their responsibility for securing access so that the humanitarian aid can reach those who need it.

I should like to emphasise that the European Council is determined to continue its efforts to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those who need it. And to that end it will use all means, all possible mechanisms at its disposal. In the first instance our own; again, on behalf of the Council, I would like to recognise and support the efforts made by Commissioner Michel.

On the other hand, the European Union will continue its efforts within the United Nations Organisation and the regional organisations such as ASEAN. I should emphasise that before the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the ASEAN member states, which was held the day before yesterday, the European Union served a demarche to the ASEAN states, in which it stated its expectations and proposals regarding the situation in Burma. And on 19 May, following the ASEAN meeting in Singapore, a statement was received containing some encouraging elements. I shall list just a few.

Firstly, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers have agreed to establish a humanitarian coordination mechanism under the auspices of ASEAN. Secondly, the authorities of Burma, that is Myanmar, have agreed to accept help in the form of medical teams from other ASEAN countries. And thirdly, the Burmese or Myanmar authorities have expressed their willingness to accept the expert assistance of the international and regional agencies to counter the effects of this disaster.

I should also mention the joint decision of the ASEAN countries and the United Nations to launch a call for a donors’ conference, which is to be held on Sunday, 25 May in Rangoon.

I should like to conclude by expressing my gratitude for the views I heard during this debate. I assure you that they will be very useful in our preparations for the debate, which is expected to take place during the session of the General Affairs and External Relations on Monday.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Louis Michel, Member of the Commission. − (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I obviously comprehend and fully share the general sentiments expressed in the House – sentiments of criticism and frustration, of course.

Almost all the speakers mentioned resorting to the Security Council, the concept of the responsibility to protect, the right to interfere to a certain extent, the boundaries of national sovereignty, and sanctions in general. This is, in fact, what we are dealing with. However, I wish to speak on the means available to the international community to take all the courses of action you mention and to ensure respect for all these principles. This issue is slightly more difficult for it basically raises the serious matter of respect for international humanitarian law, a subject the European Commission and Parliament have already decided to discuss in relation to specific cases in September. Thus there is broad consensus as to the analysis: we all agree it is unacceptable, we all agree it is inhumane, and we all agree there must be better access and so on.

What I do wish to suggest – this is obviously a personal opinion – is that we make a bid in the short term to capitalise on or at least to extract maximum advantage from whatever emerges from the donor conference arranged on the initiative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with the donors being the European Union and ASEAN, and, within the framework of this initiative or proposal, to appoint a joint EU/ASEAN coordinator. This is in the very short term.

It will obviously be a difficult task. If the international community wishes to ensure a certain degree of coherence, if no results emerge from the two initiatives, it will be difficult to act as if there were nothing else to be done, and at that point the international community, whether this be the UN or other institutions, ought to focus on slightly different means.

I say this because – and I am finishing up now – what is evidently the most frustrating thing of all to some extent, which discredits or at any rate weakens the moral duty to intervene and the very concept or application of the concept of the responsibility to protect, is that, beyond the declarations of principle we are all led to make, because this is the way we feel, this is our culture, this is our view of democracy and human rights and so on, there are means available to us, or means we are politically capable of implementing.

This is the truth of the matter. This is the political courage that must be sought. For it is all too easy to say: ‘we must do something, we must send this, we must force them, we must do this and that’. Yes, fine, but where are the means? Are our countries able and willing politically to accept the ultimate consequences – of using force, if necessary – and do we have the ability to act in this way? That is the real question.

I agree with everything that has been said here, but conclusions must be drawn from our generous positions. I wish to explain why I feel that there are two parts to this debate. There is the general debate on which we all agree, and there is the immediate issue. I think the latter consists of providing full support and placing a Secretary-General at the best location for dialogue to make sense, and allowing him to extract the best possible advantage from his two initiatives. This is more or less what I would suggest.

I doubt that any statements, threats or tough talk, here and now – even if it is necessary – can change the situation. Unfortunately, I do not think so. I therefore feel that we ought to go along with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s two initiatives, and back them to the hilt.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS MORGANTINI
Vice-President

 
  
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  President. − I have received six motions for a resolution(1) tabled in accordance with Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE) , in writing. – (SK) I am shocked by the terrible tragedy that has befallen the Burmese people. It is despicable that the generals who have a firm grip on the country will not be swayed by the vast number of victims of the destructive Cyclone Nargis, the number of whom may still increase due to the lack of drinking water, food and medical help. I do not understand the kind of people who ignore their nation’s misfortune and keep Burma completely isolated, although it is clear that the country cannot cope on its own. The arrogance of power probably has no limits. In such an extraordinary crisis situation, the question of state sovereignty is an absolutely inhuman concept.

The humanitarian organisation Oxfam has warned that, unless help gets quickly to those affected, the number of victims may reach as many as 1.5 million. According to the UN, the disaster has affected up to 2 million people who need help. These are alarming voices and we have to adopt a clear standpoint quickly. We cannot keep waiting, watching helplessly as hunger kills more victims.

I will vote for the European Parliament resolution on the tragic situation in Burma. I am convinced that the EU must not be indifferent. It must make use of all available means to help the Burmese people. Considering the huge scale of this disaster, the EU must also use enforcement measures as ‘national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their population from genocide, war crime, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity’.

 
  

(1)See Minutes.


11. Natural disaster in China (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the statements of the Council and the Commission on the natural disaster in China.

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) We are following with great concern developments in China following the disastrous earthquake, which destroyed a large area of the country, and the Province of Sichuan in particular.

There are estimates that the earthquake affected around 10 million people. The death toll is growing by the hour, whilst the hope of rescuing the survivors from under the rubble is ebbing away. The current estimate of fatalities has grown to almost 50 000 people. This truly is a disaster. Perhaps it would be possible to save more lives if the rescuers could reach the affected area, but they are prevented by objective difficulties, as well as due to a shortage of adequate equipment.

An additional difficulty is the damage that the earthquake has caused to a number of dams. Because of that, survivors in the Sichuan Province are under a great threat of being flooded. The Chinese government has asked for the basic equipment they need during the rescue operations.

The Chinese Health Ministry also expects a greater need for medication and up-to-date medical equipment, because the survivors need to be provided with the necessary treatment for injuries.

The scope of aid activities currently under way is exceptionally large. Twelve tonnes of goods have already been dropped from the air to alleviate the difficulties in the affected area. Numerous helicopters are flying in rescuers and help. Representatives of the local authorities stated that at this point they mostly need blankets, tents, food and satellite telephones.

As you know, and as has already been mentioned earlier today, last Tuesday the Council convened an extraordinary Council meeting. We have extended our deepest condolences to the Chinese people for the terrible numbers of fatalities and destruction in this area. In our message we also expressed our deepest sympathy with those who have lost their closest relatives in this disaster, to those who have been injured themselves, or those who suffered serious damage to property.

The international community has responded quickly, and has offered to provide China with assistance. China has officially welcomed this in letters dispatched by the Foreign Trade Ministry. Numerous foreign teams including those from Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Australia are already there, or are about to set out for China.

The European Union wishes to provide the affected population with help. The European Commission, as well as most of the Member States, has massively responded to the needs of the affected population, and are prepared to provide help also in the future.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Louis Michel, Member of the Commission. − (FR) Madam President, I also wish to thank you for placing a debate on the agenda on the humanitarian situation in the Chinese province of Sichuan following the earthquake on 12 May. President Barroso, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner and I have expressed our condolences and stressed the desire of the European people to help the Chinese people.

Mobilisation by the Chinese authorities and the army in particular was swift and large-scale. It must be said that the crisis management was efficient, and the authorities deserve our congratulations. In view of the extent of the damage and its needs, the Chinese Government appealed for international assistance on 13 May and the EU was quick to respond to the call. The Commission sent an ECHO humanitarian aid expert on a one-week mission to the area affected. Following a report by the expert on 16 May, the Commission adopted an emergency relief decision to disburse two million euros. This will allow the Red Cross to supply tents, blankets, drinking water and basic essentials.

The coordination and assessment team of the Commission’s civil protection mechanism is also at Chengdu. It is in contact with the local authorities to bring in European aid more rapidly for those in need. The Member States also responded swiftly to the emergency call from the Red Cross Federation by sending emergency equipment and providing search and rescue teams. The total EU contribution is already over ten million euros. The European Commission, the Monitoring Information Centre and the Crisis Platform are working together and are keeping the Member States and China up to date with EU assistance. It should be noted that the Chinese authorities exercise strict control over local access permits for international teams.

On the basis of our evaluations, the main needs are water and sanitation, temporary shelters, essential products, medicines and medical equipment. Many major after-shocks are hampering rescue operations, unfortunately. The main concern is that vital infrastructure such as dams, dykes or electrical power stations will break down or collapse, thereby creating a second humanitarian disaster.

 
  
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  Georg Jarzembowski, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Madam President, Mr President-in-Office, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, my Group endorses the expressions of sorrow and sympathy made to the Chinese people by the Council and the Commission following the horrific earthquake of 12 May. We offer our sincere condolences to all those who have been left bereaved or injured as a result of the earthquake.

We also welcome the fact that the Chinese authorities have initiated rapid rescue measures, and we welcome the Chinese Government’s willingness to accept foreign aid. Let me also voice our hope that it will continue to do so in future, enabling aid to be dispensed effectively at the point of need.

In addition, we are pleased that in this case the Chinese Government has also allowed the foreign media to report in detail on the earthquake, and we hope that it will permit foreign reporting on the reconstruction effort in the affected areas too.

We particularly regret that so many pupils died when buildings in state schools collapsed, and we support the declared intention of the Chinese authorities to investigate the reasons why schools might not have been built to withstand earthquakes and to hold those responsible to account.

Above all, we are willing to give the Chinese people the assistance they need. They do not need large sums of money, for they possess the world’s largest currency reserves. What they need is practical help, and we Europeans and our Member States can provide that help, and we thank the Commissioner for the aid measures he has already initiated.

We shall support every action designed to help the people in the disaster areas and to assist them in the reconstruction of their villages. Some may have to be resettled in other areas. We shall provide the aid that is required for that purpose. It is truly a great human tragedy, and we empathise with the population of the stricken areas and with the entire Chinese nation.

 
  
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  Libor Rouček, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (CS) Madam President, Commissioner, Mr Lenarčič, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, on behalf of the Socialist Group, I want to join with all those who have expressed their deepest sympathies with the bereaved families of the tens of thousands of victims of the terrible earthquake that hit Sichuan province. I also want to express my full solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people who lost the roof over their head or were forced to leave their homes as a result of this disaster.

A short while ago we debated the situation in Burma and criticised the completely unacceptable behaviour of the Burmese junta. China, in complete contrast with Burma, must be praised. China immediately asked the international community for help and opened its borders to foreign aid. I also approve, just like my fellow Member, the openness of the Chinese authorities, both at national level and in Sichuan province. I welcome the way they dealt with organising the rescue work and informing the public, both at home and abroad, on the events of the disaster. For example, this up-front information provided also included the confession that, apart from tens of thousands of victims, thirty-two sources of radioactive emissions were also buried in the rubble.

Both the Commissioner and Mr Lenarčič informed us of the extent of the humanitarian aid that the European Union has offered and provided to China. I am thanking them both for the speed with which the Commission and the Council have acted, and I am also calling on them to ensure that the European Union is prepared to respond quickly to potential requests for further help by our Chinese partners, not only in regard to humanitarian aid but also with rebuilding affected areas, if help is asked for.

 
  
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  Dirk Sterckx, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (NL) First of all, I should like to express my sympathy with all the victims on behalf of our Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. I also endorse the period of mourning that the Chinese Government has announced. On Monday, before coming to Strasbourg, I went to sign the book of condolence at the Representation to the EU in Brussels, on behalf of the Delegation for Relations with China and I assume also on behalf of Parliament as a whole. Last week the bureau of the Delegation met the Chinese ambassador and he told me how much he appreciated the European Parliament support.

We are facing an enormous and serious disaster. Tens of thousands of people are dead or still missing, millions homeless, property damage on a scale that is barely calculable at the moment. We have not seen in China what we saw in Burma, as discussed in the previous debate. Here we see a country where everyone, from the highest to the lowest level, is doing everything possible to help and to see that anything that can still be saved is saved. I also see a country that has very openly communicated, and continues to communicate, the pain and despair of the people in Sichuan and the problems the rescue teams are facing, rescue teams that have even lost a couple of lives. I see a country that is even open to the criticism the victims of the disaster had of the aid effort, a picture that we are also very familiar with whenever something similar happens here.

Madam President, we have to look to the future. I think China has asked us for very specific types of aid. I see that we are showing solidarity and I am grateful to the Commission and the Council for what they have done. I urge them to provide further help when the Chinese ask for it.

When the rescue effort is over, rebuilding will have to begin, and there again we have to be able to help as much as possible. In the longer term, I would ask that we look into how we can provide technical assistance, with building regulations and techniques that make buildings more resistant to this kind of occurrence. It might also be a task for the international community to look at what we can do to set up a sort of early warning system, a system that warns people before these disasters. We have to at least try to develop that. I think there are quite a number of regions in the world that might benefit from that. At any rate, I think it is important that we in the European Parliament have shown our solidarity with the Chinese in this debate.

 
  
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  Hélène Flautre, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Madam President, following this terrible earthquake that has plunged China and the entire world into mourning, the authorities have played the game of transparency for the first time and responded to the drama with large-scale emergency deployment, which the EU and the entire international community are doing their best to sustain.

However, we have all heard sharp criticism in China of the poor quality of buildings, especially the most recent structures and public locations such as schools, which have led to the disappearance of thousands of schoolchildren, with very few rescued. This disaster is showing up the poor quality of building work in the country, a sensitive issue in China where millions of people have been expropriated in the larger cities in the run-up to decisive events such as the Olympic Games.

Other worrying matters, already mentioned, loom over this drama: the strength of hydroelectric facilities such as the concrete dam at Zipingpu makes us fear the worst for the 600 000 people living downstream. The earthquake also caused damage to 391 reservoirs. As yet there is little information available on the plutonium-enrichment facilities in the north-east of Sichuan province, despite their close proximity to the epicentre, and this is likewise extremely disturbing.

Would it not be a good idea to carry out an independent international assessment on such vital issues, since the Chinese are still showing a certain amount of opacity and any official statements are all reassurance?

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Europe should offer China as much support as possible, for both humanitarian and political reasons. I am one of the very many Members of this House who are strongly opposed to China’s barbaric policy towards Tibet and towards Christians. I believe we should react very forcefully indeed to any instance of aggression towards Taiwan.

On the other hand, however, we must take advantage of every opportunity to show the Chinese people that the demands we are making of their leaders are not motivated by any feeling of enmity towards their country and its traditions. We must prove that friendly partnership is possible, and an excellent opportunity to do so has now arisen. We should offer extensive assistance to the victims and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to reconstruction work following the recent disaster. It would be a great mistake to miss this opportunity of building trust between Europe and China.

 
  
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  Patrick Louis, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, natural disasters sadden us all the more because they create so many victims, as recently in China or Burma. They remind us of the value of any human life, and also the fact that we cannot control nature. We wish to send a message of compassion to those suffering natural and political disasters.

One of the aims of politicians is to prevent public misfortune from befalling their people. Thus, if they cannot prevent natural disasters, they can attempt to anticipate them and alert the people, and above all they must minimise risk through responsible prevention policies. By way of example, China’s Promethean infrastructure, such as its huge power dams and nuclear power plants, has held out. Yet how long can it hold out? Is it not better to use a larger number of smaller structures to spread the risk, and increase public information on the risks involved?

The most tragic situation for the Chinese people, however, is in relation to political disasters. Although we acknowledge the admirable character of this hard-working skilful people and its sensitive culture, we can judge political acts without delving too far into domestic policies. Its calamitous single-child policy is a major disaster. It affects children, the large numbers of peasant families obliged to dispose of daughters, a poor source of revenue that does nothing to ensure the continuity of farms and retirement, or the second child who has no right to exist on the orders of Creon. Such is the disdain for human rights when a political order does not allow parents to have as many children as they want. Here again, life is not considered at its true value, but as a mere utilitarian function. Natural disaster and political disaster merge, however, when a school’s roof falls in, crushing the only child and leaving the parents distraught.

When the 30 000 journalists expected in Beijing for the Olympic Games arrive there, they should take time out to investigate, beyond mere appearances, the reality of this country which, through overriding power and efficiency, risks losing all respect for human beings, the real basis of the political order.

 
  
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  Karsten Friedrich Hoppenstedt (PPE-DE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, during the public minutes of silence ordered by the Chinese authorities, people stood still – people in the streets, on buses and in shops – and their facial expressions left no doubt of the sincerity of their feelings. It was quite different from the normal compulsory collective demonstrations of solidarity. Why was that? Because state television was able to report round the clock, evoking a profound sense of shock at the unimaginable suffering of the people in the stricken areas. That inspired a new sense of solidarity in China. Respect for the individual has become apparent again, even among political leaders.

The only great national focal points had hitherto been China’s economic growth and, more recently, the Olympic Games, but in the light of the present disaster, these things almost fail to register any more with many people. What should the international community do? This question has already been answered to some extent: besides sending aid materials, disaster plans and, of course, technical equipment, there is a need to pool the experience gathered in the aftermath of the major earthquakes in Armenia, where more than 100 000 lives were lost and a nuclear power plant was damaged, in Turkey, where tens of thousands lost their lives, and in China in 1976, where several hundred thousand people died, and to use that collective experience to develop principles of good practice for the international community and apply them for the benefit of China.

I know it has been mentioned that what could happen to dams in particular should make us examine the earthquake resistance of public buildings, hospitals and schools. There is much that can be done in this respect, and appropriate indications can be given as to which rules should apply to the building of earthquake-proof structures.

As a member of the Delegation for Relations with China, I naturally subscribe to the messages of condolence conveyed by the previous speakers.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (PSE).(PT) Madam President, Commissioner, we all regret the disaster that has devastated southern China. Over 50 000 people have died and 4.8 million have been left homeless. We all stand as one with the affected families.

The European Union has acted as it should: it has activated the civil protection mechanism and it has supported the Chinese authorities. The international community as a whole has also lent its support. Never before has China received so many expressions of solidarity and offers of tangible support because, this time, the Chinese authorities have not tried to hide the scale of the tragedy. On the contrary, they have provided the necessary information, allowed access to the international media and, overall, acted transparently and efficiently, unlike what has happened in Burma.

Climate change is at the root of the rise in natural disasters. Preventing the planet from overheating is all our responsibility. China must therefore also contribute to reducing CO2 emissions by supporting the European Union’s efforts to reach an international agreement by the time of the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM).(NL) With unprecedented openness, the Chinese mass media have reported on the terrible consequences of the serious earthquake that struck Sichuan province over a week ago. Within the country, this openness on the part of the authorities led to an unprecedented solidarity with the victims. The harmonious society came to the fore. Tens of thousands of volunteers presented themselves. Rescue teams flocked to the disaster areas from every province. Practical help has reached a record high in China. In short, openness by the authorities pays off.

The European institutions therefore need to hold the Chinese authorities to this unprecedented openness in the future. This is certainly the case with the critical question already raised in China as to why so many school buildings collapsed. China has been equally open with the rest of the world. For instance, the Chinese Government accepted the Japanese offer to send a rescue team. In the meantime, Taiwan has pledged EUR 42 million of relief for the earthquake victims. I sincerely hope that this sympathy will lead to the normalisation that is needed in relations between China and Taiwan.

I can wholeheartedly join those Members who have expressed their deep sympathy for the inexpressible suffering of the Chinese people and I particularly appreciate Mr Sterckx signing the book of condolence at the Chinese Representation in Brussels on behalf of us all. I can fully endorse that.

 
  
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  Cornelis Visser (PPE-DE).(NL) First of all, I should like to express my sympathy for the relatives of the many victims of the natural disaster in Sichuan province on 12 May. The Chinese authorities fortunately acted promptly after the disaster. I also welcome the European Union response. I therefore wish to support the European institutions, the Commission and the Council, in the approach they have opted for so far. After initially refusing foreign help, China has opened its borders. The Chinese authorities themselves have said that they can use every possible assistance to deal with this widespread disaster. Japanese, South Korean and Russian rescue teams are already in the stricken area. I find that and the fact that the neighbouring countries of Singapore and Taiwan are providing aid very encouraging. Political relations with neighbouring countries are not always good and this might improve them.

A great deal of attention has been devoted to the disaster in the national and international media. I am pleased that the press is being allowed access to the affected area and being given the opportunity to write what it wants and inform the rest of the country and the world. Transparency is important in obtaining a clear picture of the disaster and also in ensuring that the right aid is provided on the ground. That allows greater involvement by the rest of the population. A free press and good governance usually go hand in hand. A free press can report policy failings in good time and policies can be adjusted.

Building and government supervision in that area also need to be discussed. Conclusions can be drawn for future building projects and recommendations can be made for better management and better official organisation.

Natural disaster prevention and preparation are primary government responsibilities. It is only in recent years that these have been properly organised in many European countries too. Finally, I should like to ask the European Commission and the Council to offer China help if necessary to train the authorities and the civil service in drawing up plans for dealing with crises and disasters.

 
  
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  Alexandra Dobolyi (PSE). – (HU) Thank you very much, Madam President. Every decent person was shocked by last week’s natural disaster in the Far East. It is natural that the attention of the world should be centred on these countries.

China is very much in the focus of public attention at present: the Olympic Games this summer, the Chinese Premier’s visit to Taiwan, events in Tibet, the Dalai Lama’s tour of Europe and how it was received, the visit to China by the European Commission; all these things have contributed to focusing attention on China. Now is not the time, however, to speak about boycotts or about Tibet.

The earthquake, which had a magnitude of 8.0 and left the Sichuan plateau in ruins, caused the deaths of 50 000 people and rendered millions of survivors homeless, not to mention the economic damage caused. This is why I am asking every European Union institution to make sure that we give all the human assistance we can and make humanitarian aid available to those affected by the disaster for as long as it is needed.

Let us thank the rescue teams and aid organisations for their help; they worked around the clock to improve the situation of the people living in the region, and let us assure the Chinese people of our unconditional solidarity and sympathy. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Glyn Ford (PSE). – Madam President, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 and an epicentre near Chengdu in Sichuan killed over 100 000 people on 12 May. We can only offer our condolences to all those who have lost family members, and in particular parents who have lost children. However, unlike the parallel tragedy in Burma, where some have suggested responsibility to protect should lead to direct international intervention, the Chinese have employed exceptional emergency resources, along with soldiers and medical staff. China has welcomed foreign assistance, including Japanese rescue workers who are currently working in the area, as well as allowing the Chinese and foreign media to follow the disaster in its aftermath.

The European Union has already contributed EUR 10 million in aid, as Commissioner Michel has said. We urge the Council and Commission to provide further emergency aid, technical assistance and reconstruction aid to the region concerned in the coming months and years.

 
  
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  Józef Pinior (PSE). – Madam President, this is the time when we show solidarity and sympathy to China. In these tragic days we have seen victims; we have seen a great tragedy of society in China.

I have been impressed by the way in which the Chinese authorities have behaved – state leaders, administrative, provincial and party leaders – the behaviour of the Chinese state has been rational, something good at this time.

But at the same time, as a human rights politician, I have to report to Parliament that, according to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, 55 nuns were arrested on 14 May. That is a reality too in these days in China. The earthquake cannot become a pretext for human rights abuses.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (PSE). – (HU) Madam President, the terrible tragedies of the Chinese earthquake and the cyclone that preceded it in Burma shocked the public around the world. The response by countries around the globe was exemplary, with countries from Japan to the United States, from Russia to Jordan providing aid to the tune of more than two billion dollars.

The European Union and its Member States reacted at once, and the Commission too took decisive action, sending EUR 2 million in emergency aid to China and assisting relief efforts by dispatching mobile hospital units, drugs, rescue equipment, and rubble-clearing gear. It was particularly laudable on the part of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India to ask its followers to halt their demonstrations against China temporarily and make donations to help the earthquake victims.

Aid funds from Hungary originally intended for Burma were redirected to China due to the isolationist attitude of the Burmese military dictatorship. The Chinese leadership, unlike the Myanmar regime, was wise to accept foreign aid. The responsible manner in which China handled the publicity was also very positive, and it shows that there has been significant progress in terms of developing democracy. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE).(PL) Nature has once again proved how defenceless humankind is against major natural disasters and calamities. China is the most populated country on earth, its economy is booming, and it is enthusiastically preparing for the forthcoming Olympic Games. It was, however, devastated by the recent tragic earthquake.

The people of China liken this disaster to earlier cataclysms accompanying major historical changes in that country. I am not sure if that is the way to interpret this dreadful event. Nonetheless, I am certain that at such a time we must express our solidarity with the tens of thousands of ordinary men, women and children who are heroically enduring this personal and national tragedy. That is why the European Parliament is right to send a clear signal to the Chinese people today, indicating that the Members of this House stand shoulder to shoulder with them, that we understand their suffering and want to help. After all, the principle of solidarity is one of the Union’s most important fundamental values.

 
  
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  Colm Burke (PPE-DE). – Madam President, China must be congratulated for the way in which it has reacted to this disaster. I would also like to thank the European Commission and Council for the way they have acted in dealing with this tragedy. It is a welcome development in China that they have opened up the area to all of those who can give assistance; hopefully it is something they will do in the future in relation to other areas. Allowing the necessary information out to the world media is the correct step forward. I should also like to congratulate the media for highlighting the scale of the disaster and the assistance that is required.

May it also be a lesson to China in seeing how they can use their power to put pressure on other regimes, in particular in Burma, to try to get them to see that they also need assistance from the world community. Saving lives is the priority in China; let others like the junta in Burma learn from this experience.

 
  
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  Bogdan Golik (PSE).(PL) Madam President, I should like to express my very sincere condolences to all those who have suffered and lost loved ones in China. I wish to express my heartfelt sympathy to all those who have lost their children, wives or husbands. I was myself in China last week when this dreadful disaster occurred. I was in Beijing and Shanghai, and I represented Parliament at the opening of the Shanghai Food Fair. The disaster happened on the Monday, just as I was arriving. I sent letters of condolence to the Chinese ambassadors in Poland and Brussels straight away. I was able to see reports on the tragedy for myself on television, and realised the extent of human suffering caused. I also saw the immediate large-scale help provided to the victims by ordinary people, the government and the army. The scale of the effort was unprecedented.

I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank the Union and all the Member States for the aid provided. I should also like to thank the House for its gesture of solidarity in holding this debate today. I am sure aid will continue to be needed.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Zaleski (PPE-DE).(PL) I believe there are two different approaches to China. One is to provide assistance following the misfortune that has recently befallen it. We cannot react otherwise. It is our moral duty to help. The fact that we enjoy a better financial and economic situation is a further reason to offer aid. We simply have to do so.

The second approach involves remaining constantly aware that in normal times we should help the Chinese. By this I mean that, when the country is not afflicted by disaster, we ought to help the people of China by reminding their leaders about their citizens’ rights. We should do so most emphatically. We need to respond appropriately to both situations. This will make things very clear. I believe the people of China will recognise our effort and thank us for it.

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. (SL) I think that it is very important that the European Parliament has decided to dedicate today's debate to the natural disaster in China. Primarily in order to be able to give China a message, on the one hand expressing the European Union's condolences, and, as Mrs Grabowska expressed it, to convey to China and its people the European Union's solidarity with them.

The difference is also obvious in the tone of the debate held on this, and that on the immediately preceding item. And of course, part of the reason for this is also the way the Chinese leaders have acted, and we can truly say that its response to this terrible disaster was quick and efficient, that it has used considerable national resources, that it has named or appointed the Prime Minister personally as the aid coordinator. To successfully overcome such difficulties there must be good coordination, and this was obviously achieved.

The media also regularly kept the public informed, both nationally and internationally, as to the developments. Foreign journalists were allowed access to the affected areas, and also some foreign experts, according to our information, amongst others from Japan.

Therefore I believe that we can be satisfied that in facing this huge disaster and in providing help to its population, the Chinese authorities have been well organised, and above all, that that they are willing to accept foreign aid, including ours. And I can assure you that the Council will continue to be prepared to provide help.

 
  
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  Louis Michel, Member of the Commission. – (FR) Very briefly, Madam President, you may be sure that I take due note of your remarks, and I wish to reply by saying that we will naturally still be willing to add to the aid we have already committed, aid based on analysis of needs.

Moreover, I feel that everyone welcomes China’s reaction, and the way in which the authorities have been open in terms of access and transparency. I mean this with particular reference to access to the press.

I should like to take up an idea mooted by Mrs Flautre – the suggestion of providing a team of international experts to assess collateral risk and damage, particularly in relation to nuclear facilities. I feel it would be a good idea to pass on this message. There is no obligation to do so, of course, but I still think it would be good to initiate discussions with the Chinese authorities to this end.

 
  
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  President. − I have received six motions for a resolution(1) tabled in accordance with Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday at 12 noon.

 
  

(1)See Minutes.


12. Global treaty to ban uranium weapons (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the debate on:

the oral question (O-0029/2008/rev) by Elly de Groen-Kouwenhoven, Angelika Beer and Carolina Lucas, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group, Luisa Morgantini, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group, Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, on behalf of the ALDE Group, Ana Maria Gomes, on behalf of the PSE Group, Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, on behalf of the UEN Group, Karl von Wogau and Stefano Zappalà, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group, to the Council: Global treaty to ban uranium weapons (B6-0153/2008),

and

the oral question (O-0030/2008/rev) by Elly de Groen-Kouwenhoven, Angelika Beer and Carolina Lucas, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group, Luisa Morgantini, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group, Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, on behalf of the ALDE Group, Ana Maria Gomes, on behalf of the PSE Group, Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, on behalf of the UEN Group, Karl von Wogau and Stefano Zappalà, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group, to the Commission: Global treaty to ban uranium weapons (B6-0154/2008).

 
  
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  Elly de Groen-Kouwenhoven, author. − Madam President, in December 2007 the UN General Assembly accepted by an overwhelming majority a resolution that urged investigations into the health effects of uranium weapons on civilians and military personnel.

We congratulate Germany, Ireland and Italy as the only NATO countries that supported the UN resolution. The reason for that support may be the fact that many of their soldiers returned with fatal diseases and/or later had children with serious malformations. Therefore we appeal to other EU countries to follow their example and submit health reports in line with the UN request.

DU (depleted uranium) was used in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. DU is waste, and is an extremely cheap material for making arms. The estimated global stocks are 1.3 million tonnes. Far less than 1 microgram inside the body can be fatal. Apart from the radiation, DU is a chemical toxic compound. Nobody informs the troops, or the populations of the countries where DU weapons are used. The latest findings of the World Health Organisation’s experts concerning the harmful effects of DU have been censored.

We urge the EU to inform its citizens and the populations of targeted countries. We call on the Commission and Council to make sure that an international treaty will be established as soon as possible.

In order to gain a detailed insight into the matter, it is high time for the Commission and Council to provide access to all existing reports and initiate the further investigations which Parliament has been urging since 2001. Meanwhile we reiterate our call to ban DU on the basis of the precautionary principle.

 
  
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  Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, author. − (NL) The fight for a worldwide ban on armed uranium in weapons and ammunition is part of our general fight for arms control and disarmament. We are focusing particular attention on weapons and ammunition that are extremely dangerous and harmful to civilians and remain dangerous long after the conflict is over, such as landmines, cluster bombs and weapons containing armed uranium. I know it is a little ironic to be talking about weapons that are more dangerous and more harmful than others, but that is the way it is. That is why we are concentrating on those that can have the worst effects on innocent civilian populations.

In November 2006, this Parliament called for a moratorium on that type of weapon, that is weapons containing armed uranium. Last year my country, Belgium, passed a law not just on a moratorium but on an actual ban on any use of uranium weapons and I think I can be a little proud of that. Now I should like to ask the Commission and the Council what action they will take to make that moratorium more general and support a general ban.

Furthermore, as the previous speaker has already explained at length, uranium weapons also appear to have harmful effects on soldiers that use them or are exposed to their use. Even if this might not yet be absolutely certain, it is nonetheless advisable for the Council to ensure that soldiers and other personnel taking part in operations under the European Security and Defence Policy are not exposed to risks of that kind. I should therefore like to ask the Council what concrete measures are being taken to ensure that soldiers and personnel taking part in such operations are not exposed to these risks and that the population in the areas where such operations take place are also not exposed. I shall be grateful for your response.

 
  
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  Ana Maria Gomes, author. − (PT) Madam President, Commissioner, in a recent letter to The Times in London, nine former British military commanders urged the Government of the United Kingdom to join those campaigning for a ban on cluster munitions. Their argument was the same as that made in the context of anti-personnel mines: however useful a weapon may be in the short term, in military logic the fact of causing indiscriminate harm in the long term is sufficient to justify the suspension of its use by responsible armed forces.

The same logic applies in relation to depleted uranium munitions. The European Organisation of Military Associations, EUROMIL, is closely monitoring this issue and its position, based on information received from military personnel throughout Europe, is categorical: depleted uranium munitions must be abandoned as soon as possible.

The European Parliament has already come out in favour of a total ban on these weapons and the UN General Assembly resolution passed last December, which included the issue of armaments and munitions containing depleted uranium on the agenda for the sixty-third session of the General Assembly, confirmed that the European Parliament is right to take the lead and to ask the Council to also take a lead in this debate on disarmament and humanitarian law.

The ‘counter’ arguments of the sceptics among us do not wash. The most basic precautionary principle demands the stigmatisation of these weapons even before the extensive circumstantial evidence pointing to their indiscriminate and carcinogenic effect is replaced by irrefutable scientific proof.

What will people, and even today’s sceptics, say about us politicians in ten years’ time when the harmful effects of these weapons have become clear and unquestionable if, in the meantime, we have done nothing to take them out of circulation? Will they say the same as they now say about anti-personnel mines: how could they have waited so long!

 
  
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  Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, author. − (LV) Ladies and gentlemen, firstly I would like to stress that I call upon my country – Latvia – to subscribe to the UN Resolution of December 2007. Secondly, I call upon the High Representative to submit a reasoned opinion on the initiative contained in that resolution. Thirdly, I call upon the European Union to ensure that information is circulated between the Member States concerning the types of munitions that may be expected to be used in operations. In the context of depleted uranium, I have particular personal experience. I was the Latvian defence minister for five and a half years. It was precisely during my period of responsibility that Latvia joined the US coalition in the Iraq war. At that time, suspicions arose on several occasions concerning the use of depleted uranium in Iraq. The international community reacted sharply on this issue. Latvian troops did not use depleted uranium munitions. In Latvia, however, for several months I was asked to take political responsibility for these events as a minister of the coalition. Unfortunately, as a minister of the coalition, I was not informed about the use of depleted uranium. That is unacceptable. Not only must the EU Member States seriously evaluate the need for munitions of this type in their arsenal of weapons, but the European Union must also ensure that it is compulsory for Member States to exchange information on the possible use of depleted uranium in operations. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  President. − Mr Kristovskis, I did not cut you off because your account as a Minister of Latvia was extremely important, but I would point out that you exceeded your time-limit by a considerable margin.

 
  
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  Stefano Zappalà, author. − (IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, much has been said on this topic in the past and unfortunately I am of the view that much will still have to be said before a definitive solution is found; my colleagues said as much earlier and explained it very well.

Measures have been put in place by some Member States to prohibit the production and any use of this type of armament for commercial or bellicose purposes. There have been several requests by this Parliament, there are documents in the form of photographs and testimonies, and there are reasonable grounds for considering that Italian military personnel died as a result of exposure to these kinds of weapons.

There is a UN resolution expressing widespread concern and there have been various requests for in-depth studies of the issue. There is the precautionary principle which, in accordance with European Union law, should dictate a general moratorium at least until such time as definitive scientific data is produced.

However, none of this has so far resulted in the anticipated outcome. Depleted uranium continues to be used in theatres of war, whether rural or urban. There is no question that chemical matter penetrates the soil and gets into aquifers and crops and therefore there can be no question that particles of depleted uranium which are in contact with the soil disperse into the subsoil, contaminating underground waters and agricultural produce, obviously resulting in the spread of disease among exposed populations and, to a lesser extent, worldwide through the water cycle and the cycle of elements, especially in an ever-expanding global market system.

There are, admittedly, no definitive studies as yet to prove the danger, but there can be no denying that the parameters of which we are aware today do not rule out that a risk may exist. That consideration alone must force advanced democracies to study the matter in more depth and take a decision.

The European Union in particular cannot, in my opinion, continue to do nothing. The Union has clear duties towards its Member States, clear duties towards the rest of the world, clear duties towards its own citizens. The Union has economic resources which it can use and no restrictions in terms of science and available laboratories. Doing nothing is unquestionably the result of a choice, not of a lack of available resources and means.

In view of all this, it is clear that the Council and the Commission cannot avoid their citizens, whether civilians or military personnel, from being posted to areas of the world where these types of munitions are and have been used, but neither can they avoid taking every possible initiative at an early stage to make adjustments to their manufacture and use and, in the light of scientific data, prepare for an outright ban and definitive destruction.

This is what we are seeking in the hope that the Council and the Commission will demonstrate in practice their sense of responsibility, given that this is not a woolly political issue, but a matter of public health.

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Madam President, thank you very much. In the name of the Council, I would also like to thank the MEP for posing the question concerning the global ban, or the global treaty to ban uranium weapons.

Of course, Members are probably aware of the fact that such an agreement does not yet exist. There is no agreement that would regulate depleted uranium weapons on a multilateral level. It is also known that there is no unanimity within the Council.

A debate on the effects of the weaponry containing depleted uranium has recently been held in the United Nations, where, at the end of last year, the UN First Committee adopted a resolution entitled 'Effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium'. As has already been mentioned, the EU Member States all voted differently on this resolution. I would say very differently: five voted in favour, four voted against it, and all others abstained. I would say that this is a rather good illustration of the current situation in the world.

With your permission, I would now briefly like to try and answer the particular questions that have been asked.

As regards the first question in connection with the European Parliament's resolution concerning biological weapons and some types of conventional weapons, I would like to point out that the European Union has been, still is, and will continue to be very active in its international endeavours to implement the convention on biological and toxic weaponry. Amongst other things, the EU played an important role at the Second Survey Conference in 2006 and it will also be active for the duration of the expert programme until the next Survey Conference, scheduled for the year 2011.

As regards the Convention on Conventional Weapons, the European Union and its member states both actively participate in the current negotiations, which include a debate on the humanitarian consequences of cluster bombs. The Member States have committed themselves to achieve by the end of this year, through negotiations, a legally binding instrument which will take into consideration all the aspects of cluster bombs.

Regarding the second question, I would like to explain that so far weapons containing depleted uranium have not been included in the European Unions' strategy for weapons of mass destruction. A debate is currently still under way on whether it is possible at all to include such ammunition in weapons of mass destruction. There are, in fact, some who think that depleted uranium is already covered by the Convention on Conventional Weapons; others believe that Protocol No 3, which is part of this Convention, should be expanded to include the issue of projectiles and warheads containing depleted uranium. In short, the debates are still ongoing.

As regards the third question, I should make it clear that the choice of military equipment, including the ammunition used in the operations conducted by the European Union, is within the remit of the Member States, and given that we do not have a multilateral agreement regarding this issue, I cannot offer any additional information on the use of depleted uranium.

The fourth question, regarding safety provisions for the soldiers and civilians involved in operations of the European Union: I should point out that it is the operation commander, within the operative plan approved by the European Council, who bears the responsibility for safety provisions, and who must take any measures he deems necessary. Of course, at the same time he must take into consideration operational limitations.

In any civilian missions of the European Union, this responsibility lies with the head of the mission under the civilian operation commander's leadership.

As to the last question, regarding dialogue between the European Council and the USA, non-governmental organisations and individuals, I can only say that until now in the dialogue with the United States this issue has not been raised – nor has it yet been raised with the other parties mentioned in the question. In any event, I shall follow the further debate on this matter with interest.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Louis Michel, Member of the Commission. − (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the Parliament resolution adopted in November 2006 invites the European Union and the Member States to undertake to extend the scope of Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in a bid to curtail the use of depleted uranium weapons. I wish to remind the House that Parliament is calling for action which, as you know, goes beyond the powers of the Commission, given that the Community is not a signatory to the Convention. Moreover, under the Treaties, the Community institutions have no powers in military affairs. I have no wish, nevertheless, to convey the impression that the Commission is indifferent to problems in connection with the production, storage and utilisation of weapons covered by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) or the issue of inhumane weapons in general. Its position is quite the contrary, in fact.

The Commission is fully engaged in implementing a common course of action, adopted by the Council last year, in favour of the universal nature of the CCW and its Protocols. Three seminars have been held this year, one for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santo Domingo in March, and two more for the African countries in Lomé last month. Following these seminars, the Dominican Republic has already announced that it is willing to ratify the Convention shortly, and Surinam has stated that it is ready to take the necessary steps towards ratification. The Commission also supports implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention and is also following up initiatives to create a new instrument in response to humanitarian concerns aroused by cluster bombs, within the framework of the CCW and the Oslo Peace Process.

The Commission has also taken action in response to the problems caused by explosive ordnance. In 2006, for example, five million euros were disbursed to help clear explosive war debris in Lebanon.

In relation to the second question, the scientific results available to us cannot confirm that depleted uranium (DU) munitions entail a significant risk to the health of civilian populations in the areas of combat concerned, or to military personnel who are serving or have served in these areas. This is the opinion stated in surveys by the UN, WHO and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), and also a Group of Experts established by the European Commission according to Article 31 of the Euratom Treaty, which pronounces as follows, and I quote: ‘On the basis of available information, it is concluded that exposure to DU could not produce any detectable health effects under realistic assumptions of the doses that would be received’, unquote. The Commission is willing to take another look at the issue. It will also continue to guarantee the health of its personnel and be ruled by WHO directives in the event of deployment under conditions entailing potential exposure to DU.

Concerning dialogue with EUROMIL, the Commission is of course willing to talk to any representatives of civil society.

In relation to the last three questions, the Commission does not currently intend to make any financial commitments in these areas.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR BIELAN
Vice-President

 
  
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  Jana Hybášková, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (CS) Weapons containing depleted uranium represent an enormous burden on the environment. The argument that their harmful effects have not been proven sounds totally absurd to anyone who has ever seen the consequences of their use. Dirty bombs will shatter into pieces the several centimetre thick armour plates of the most modern tanks. Their destructive power is enormous. They have an impact on people’s health. They kill without mercy. There is no doubt about the need to cease trading in them, and to stop their production, use and storage. Parliament and the Union are building European Armed Forces and European defence, step by step. We will be the future partners of both NATO and the US. We must therefore become a credible partner. Standing up and shouting ‘I am calling for a moratorium on depleted uranium’ is comical. Equally comical is to call on the Council to prepare an impact study. The first necessity is to reach a political consensus between the Member States, such as France, Britain and perhaps the Czech Republic. Then we have to start cooperating with the UN, to lay the groundwork for the global treaty to ban depleted uranium. This will include the preparation of a plan for a gradual ban on manufacturing, acceptable to all Member States, and on storing of and trading in uranium, and will set the date when the use is finally banned. Then we have to have a conference that will adopt this plan and start the process leading up to the final ban on these weapons.

We need an accurate analytical study assessing the side effects. What we need in the first place, though, is political cooperation that will start the gradual process of finding the political will and achieving international recognition, consensus and decision. This process will take years. It would be great if the European Union were a party to the new treaty on the ban on all military use of depleted uranium. Therefore we must behave in a responsible manner. Let us not allow silly shouting, professional ignorance and unfinished work to impair the EU’s credibility. We need to continue to be partners in this important game.

 
  
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  Elizabeth Lynne, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – In the UK, hundreds of veterans believe that exposure to depleted uranium in the First Gulf War has left them with chronic illnesses and disabilities and in Iraq there is evidence that the use of depleted uranium has caused an increase in babies being born with only one eye or who are missing both eyes. Seven of the eight babies missing both eyes had fathers who were exposed to depleted uranium during the war in Iraq in 1991.

At least 17 countries still have depleted uranium weapons in their military arsenals, including three EU members: France, Greece and the UK. We now urgently need an international treaty establishing an immediate moratorium on the use, development, production, stockpiling, transfer and testing of depleted uranium weapons as well as the recycling or destruction of the existing stocks. I hope everyone will support this resolution.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, caution alone is quite sufficient reason to work towards the effective elimination of weapons using depleted uranium. Work on expert studies on the effects of the use of such weapons on human beings and on the natural environment should most certainly be speeded up. A moratorium on the use of weapons of this type could be brought in immediately, however, and the issue dealt with under the new European Security Strategy. The challenge now before us is to start work on an international treaty based on the UN system. Such a treaty would regulate the use, production, storage and testing of this type of weapon.

 
  
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  Tobias Pflüger, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (DE) Mr President, this debate was long overdue. I am glad that we are holding it today. Depleted uranium is used by many countries, and especially Western countries, as ammunition in their wars because of its high penetrative power, especially against armoured vehicles. DU munitions, however, contain highly poisonous chemical substances – in other words they are toxic – and they are radioactive too. Depleted uranium is a by-product of the nuclear industry, resulting from the enrichment of uranium or the production of nuclear weapons. The use of nuclear energy, in short, is also part of the problem.

DU munitions have long-term effects. When a hard target is hit, depleted uranium is released at high temperatures and burns into depleted-uranium oxides, which take the form of a fine alpha-radioactive toxic dust that is easily inhaled and can be spread by wind and water. This dust is difficult to remove from the environment and is trapped in the lungs on inhalation. We know of the Gulf War syndrome and the Balkans syndrome; time and again the same phenomenon has been observable, with combatants evidently contracting cancers, such as lung cancer, because of their exposure to DU oxide. There have also been increases in the incidence of such cancers among the population of areas where these munitions have been used.

The interesting thing is that the military effectiveness of DU munitions is actually very limited, while their use entails numerous incalculable risks. NATO used DU munitions in its war of aggression against Yugoslavia. In Iraq the US forces have used a total of 300 tonnes of DU munitions. There is an increased percentage of deformed children in that country, especially in Baghdad. The Government of Afghanistan has now called for an inquiry into the use of DU munitions in Afghanistan and says that the US military did not inform it that DU munitions were being used, particularly in the eastern part of the country. DU munitions were used in the war in Lebanon, mainly by Israel, and they were also used very extensively in the first Gulf War. The figure of contaminated combatants has been put at 66 000.

The problem is plain to see. The first war pensions for the effects of depleted uranium have been awarded to veterans such as Kenny Duncan from the UK. If DU dust were a cosmetic product or a substance used in food production, for example, it would have been banned long ago. Troops are instructed to wear protective clothing when dealing with DU munitions. EUROMIL, the European Organisation of Military Associations, has been calling for a ban on weapons that fire these munitions. Belgium has banned DU munitions, and for that we congratulate it. The UN Disarmament and International Security Committee voted by 122 to 6, with 35 abstentions, to call for a report on the harmful effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium. The six votes against included those of the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. What we need is a ban on the production and use of DU munitions.

 
  
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  Luca Romagnoli (NI).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the use of depleted uranium for bellicose purposes is contrary to international law; there is incontrovertible evidence of its genuine toxicity both to man and the environment. I agree that, as part of European Security Strategy, full consideration must be given to the matter and I am of the view that the ban on these weapons in the Member States of the Union must be total and absolute.

Both questions put forward assessments and raise reasonable joint issues which have been very widely documented; here I shall take the opportunity to note the example of the Italian soldiers posted to the Balkans who are still awaiting fair compensation which, I fear, they will never receive. As it does not appear able to remedy damage caused in the past, the Union should give a decisive, strong signal at least for the future by banning the manufacture, storage and placing on the market of this type of arms within the Member States of the Union.

 
  
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  Luisa Morgantini, author. − (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I consider Jana Hybášková’s call for real politik to be misplaced and altogether cynical. Sloth or negligence, like State secrets, are not acceptable where people’s health is concerned.

The use of uranium weapons has devastating and irreparable consequences. When they explode, uranium projectiles irradiate fine, contaminating dust; they contaminate the air, land and water, penetrate the respiratory system, and increase the likelihood of tumours, leukaemias and malformations. Anyone who uses them is evidently acting in violation of international humanitarian laws. Since the Gulf War of 1991, the association of relatives of military personnel victims has calculated that there have been 50 deaths in Italy alone. Recently the Minister for Defence said there had been 77 deaths and that the number of people suffering illness was between several hundred and about two thousand.

Over 2 000 tonnes of depleted uranium were used between 1991 and 2003. Some 70% of the territory of Iraq is contaminated and even today we are not certain of the extent of the terrible human cost of depleted uranium. In Basra hospital in Iraq I have seen the bodies of deformed children; I have seen the terrible damage wrought on their little bodies. There are thousands of faceless civilians who still live and die in land contaminated by radiation: in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, in Bosnia, in Somalia, unaware of their fate.

Since 2001 we, as the European Parliament, have been seeking the introduction of a moratorium. We confirmed this in 2006 with the adoption of a resolution on chemical weapons and inhumane conventional weapons. The resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority at the UN in 2007 urges the Member States of the United Nations to examine the damage to health. Six countries voted against: the US and Israel and, unfortunately, several Member States of the European Union, namely France, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. They should instead have followed the example given by Belgium which, in March 2007, was the first country in the world to decide to ban depleted uranium completely because of its toxicity.

Along with other colleagues of, I am glad to say, all political persuasions, I argued strongly for this debate because it is crucial to act against violations of international, humanitarian and environmental law and to act to ensure that military hierarchies, states and the war industry assume their responsibilities in full. Omissions and military secrets, failure to implement rules regarding protection and the precautionary principle could sweep the danger of uranium under the carpet along with the opportunity to prevent a large number of deaths.

On those grounds I reassert the calls made in our resolution, especially to ensure maximum transparency by signposting contaminated areas and above all pursuing the idea of an immediate moratorium to achieve a complete ban soon on depleted uranium weapons and cluster bombs, which are still claiming victims. In Lebanon, for example, the Israeli army launched more than a million cluster bombs on villages and homes in the last few hours before it withdrew.

Take action. Thank you to the Council and the Commission for their replies but also for what they will do, despite the limitations referred to by Commissioner Michel, to achieve freedom from uranium weapons and cluster bombs.

 
  
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  Janusz Onyszkiewicz (ALDE).(PL) Depleted uranium is 70% heavier than lead. Due to its kinetic energy, even a very small calibre missile can therefore penetrate a tank’s armour plating. That is why depleted uranium has been used by the military. There is approximately one and a half million tonnes of depleted uranium in the world. One can readily understand the temptation to make use of it. As it turns out, however, weapons of this type have not proved nearly as effective as was anticipated. Seventy per cent of damaged Iraqi tanks were damaged by weapons of other types.

Obviously, the question of the consequences of using such weapons remains outstanding. It should be clearly stated that no definitive answer has yet emerged. After all, thousands of individuals have been working in uranium mines for many years, with no obvious ill effects. Nonetheless, there is still doubt surrounding the issue and a moratorium should therefore be declared, to allow the matter to be finally resolved.

 
  
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  Roberto Fiore (NI).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the nature and extent of the damage resulting from the use of depleted uranium is such that it seems inappropriate to describe it as ‘collateral’. The damage is wrought in successive waves on enemy personnel and on the personnel using these weapons: for example, Gulf War syndrome, Balkan syndrome.

The people who then bear the cost for decades afterwards are the civilian populations, resident in the theatres of war, who inhale and ingest the depleted uranium as it contaminates aquifers and the food chain, and who experience the effects of radiation. The highest price in terms of the typical damage caused by exposure to heavy metal radiation, of which we are all aware, is paid by children, growing bodies, especially unborn children. The exponential growth of genetic malformations and infantile tumours in areas where uranium has been used is proof of this.

A recent study by the BBC in Britain showed that 24 hours after the massive bombardment of the Balkans, readings of atmospheric radioactivity in the north of England were the highest on record. We therefore propose not only a ban on depleted uranium but also the prosecution for war crimes of those who use it in full knowledge of its consequences and of those who do so when a ban is in place.

 
  
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  Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Mr President, while we are on the subject of radioactive weapons, this Parliament has been remarkably quiet about a British citizen – unfortunately consequently an EU citizen – killed by a radioactive weapon in London in December 2006. I refer of course to Mr Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered in an act of state-sponsored terrorism by means of polonium-210.

The chief suspect for the crime is Mr Andrei Lugovoi, who is now a Member of the Russian Parliament and cannot be extradited under the Russian Constitution. Meanwhile Mr Litvinenko’s widow is denied an inquest into her husband’s death in the British courts, which could scrutinise the evidence of his murder in the absence of a trial of those suspected of the crime.

This murder was an act of war by Russia on the UK. The British Government does not want to confront that fact. But if you want to discuss radioactive weapons, why not hold a debate on Mr Litvinenko’s murder and its far-reaching consequences?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. (SL) Very briefly, I would like to express my thanks for this debate. I would like to reiterate that the Council remains very active concerning external security issues in line with the EU strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Within these strategies the priority objectives of the Council are constantly being updated, and new developments in this area are constantly being taken into consideration, and are then also included in the updated documents.

An example of this is, for instance, the measure adopted by the Council, in support of the global adoption of the convention on banning and limitation of some types of conventional armaments.

It is interesting that the purpose of Protocol Five in this Convention is to reduce as much as possible the creation of explosive military waste, once the military conflicts are over. It is also interesting that the largest producers and users of armaments containing depleted uranium are already signatories to the above-mentioned Convention.

It is too early to make any forecasts yet. I have mentioned the situation in the Council, which is evident from the voting results on the General Assembly’s First Committee Resolution, which has been mentioned several times today. It is to be hoped that the debates such as the present one in the European Parliament will contribute to achieving a consensus in the Council. However, there will more on this in the near future.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Louis Michel, Member of the Commission. − (FR) Very briefly, Mr President, obviously I take due note of the splendid remarks and specific proposals made here, and have every intention of passing them on to my colleague Benita Ferrero-Waldner and the Commission.

I must, however, remind the House that the Commission’s scope for action is extremely limited. It obviously has declamatory or incantatory powers; it may submit proposals, but has no power beyond that. I do wish to make this clear.

Having said that, I do take due note of the very clear message that there must be a guarantee of transparency, as Mrs Morgantini said. I am quite in favour of this point. She suggests a moratorium, and I will pass on this suggestion. I also seem to have perceived the need to re-update the surveys performed to date, or the possibility of this. There is no reason why these surveys should not be updated again.

You should know in any case that I will report to the Commission on all the fine speeches and arguments I have heard here, and I have no doubt that in due course initiatives will be taken. In any case, however, ideas will be passed on and the voluntarist spirit will form part of the process, believe me, because it is obvious we must hope that all the other European countries will be able to do what Belgium has done. I am not saying this merely because it is Belgium, but of course I am pleased it was my country that did it. This is perhaps what you were seeking. There have certainly been some useful and interesting sources of inspiration, but I wish to let you know that I will pass on all the suggestions, comments and requests made here in all conviction and sincerity.

 
  
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  President. − I have received six motions for a resolution(1) pursuant to Rule 108(5) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday.

(The sitting was suspended at 5.35 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR DOS SANTOS
Vice-President

 
  

(1) See Minutes.


13. Council Question Time
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  President. − The next item is Question Time (B6-0156/2008).

The following questions are addressed to the Council.

 
  
  

Question No 1 by Manuel Medina Ortega (H-0267/08)

Subject: Passport discrimination in the EU

In some EU countries, passports and other documents used for crossing borders are issued not only to the nationals of those countries, but also to stateless persons residing permanently in the countries concerned. Given that most of these persons belong to ethnic minorities, does the Council intend to adopt or propose formats for passports and other similar documents which no longer include negative details such as ‘aliens’, and thus put an end to discrimination based on ethnic origin?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I have a rather brief answer. Namely, that the issuing of passports or travel documents to stateless persons permanently resident in a Member State does not fall under the competence of the Community.

Therefore, neither the European Commission nor the Council is competent to propose any changes in connection with this sort of passport, or any other travel documents.

 
  
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  Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE).(ES) Mr President, the reply from the President-in-Office of the Council is very clear indeed: there may be no discussion of this kind of issue. Perhaps I ought to ask the question in slightly different terms. Can the Council envisage any kind of EU harmonisation in relation to passports and identification of passports, or does it feel this issue will be permanently beyond the Member States’ jurisdiction?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Mr Medina Ortega, thank you very much for your additional question.

At this point the only common standards or common benchmarks that have been adopted are those in the sphere of security elements, passports or other travel documents.

Personally, I could anticipate further measures in this sphere; as for any others, I could not speculate whether there will be any transfer of competence.

This is not a question of whether this matter is important or not, it is a question of competence. At the moment the competence of issuing identity documents to persons without citizenship is in the exclusive competence of the Member States, and the Council and the Commission have no authority.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) I would like to ask a question about a different type of discrimination. In July, your country, Slovenia, is planning to introduce motorway toll stickers and intends to issue two variants: a yearly and a half-yearly sticker. This amounts to discrimination against tens of millions of EU residents travelling to the Mediterranean for their summer holidays. What proposal does the Presidency intend to make to the Slovenian Government to resolve this problem?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Mr Rack, thank you for this question. However, please note that this question should be addressed to the particular Member State, and not to the Council, which does not represent it in this matter.

However, as I have the advantage of knowing this Member State quite well, I should like to add that this is a temporary measure until the satellite toll is introduced, and that the relevant institutions in the European Union have been informed, or notified about this measure, and they have not interpreted it as being discriminatory.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 2 by Avril Doyle (H-0270/08)

Subject: Ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon

Could the Slovenian Presidency please comment on the current status of the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty? What steps has the Council taken thus far to ensure a positive outcome of the ratification process?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I would like to inform Mrs Doyle that as of today’s date, 21 May 2008, thirteen member states have ratified the Lisbon Treaty.

Maybe I should list them: Hungary signed first, as early as last year, followed by Slovenia and Malta, Romania, France, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Denmark, Austria, Latvia, Lithuania and Portugal – which means thirteen countries, or almost half.

Already during its six-month Presidency, Slovenia has affirmed its desire that the ratification procedure should run smoothly during our Presidency and then continue just as effectively during the subsequent French Presidency, the objective being that the Lisbon Treaty should come into effect on 1 January 2009, as has been planned.

However, I must emphasise that the ratification is not in the domain either of the Presidency or of the Council, but that it falls within the competence of the Member States, the signatories to the Treaty, in each case in accordance with that country's constitutional regulations.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Avril Doyle (PPE-DE). – My thanks to the Presidency. I welcome the fact that 13 Member States to date have ratified the Lisbon Treaty. You will be aware that Ireland is the only country that will be ratifying it through the referendum process.

We have major difficulty at home at the moment in trying to counteract the various different groups on the ‘no’ side. These groups spread fear and confusion in relation to the Lisbon Treaty, deliberately or not, often on issues that are very important but have nothing to do with the Treaty. Can you then confirm for me, Mr President-in-Office, that Ireland’s right to veto future direct taxation proposals will in no way be compromised by the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, and that there is no connection between the WTO negotiations and the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty at all?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Mrs Doyle, thank you for the two additional questions.

I can confirm that, firstly, any decisions in the sphere of taxation will continue to be made consensually. In other words, even once the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect, provided it is ratified by all the Member States, Ireland, or any other Member State, will continue to have the right to veto any matter concerning taxes.

As regards your second question, namely regarding the negotiations currently being held within the World Trade Organisation, I can also confirm that these negotiations have no direct connection with ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

Therefore, to both of your additional questions the answer is – yes.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Mr President, I too want to ask the Minister a question with regard to the Treaties and the ratification process in Ireland at the moment.

One of the arguments that is raging at the moment is that, after the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, countries may lose their veto in the ratification of international trade agreements – WTO agreements, for example.

As it stands, there is a veto, and the ‘no’ side are maintaining that after Lisbon this will change. I would like the confirmation of the Slovenian presidency as to whether this is the case or not.

 
  
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  Jim Allister (NI). – W ith the luck of the Irish, the electors of Ireland alone are to be allowed to decide on a Treaty which fundamentally affects the future of us all. Will you, on behalf of the Council, pledge to accept their democratic verdict or, like the voters of France and Holland, will they be treated with contempt if they dare to vote ‘no’, very much in the disreputable tradition of ‘Croppy, lie down!’ and Nice II?

 
  
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  President. − Ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately I cannot give the floor to any more speakers as the Rules of Procedure do not permit this. I believe everyone is aware that we are studying a change to this Question Time in order to make it more flexible and also more useful. I myself am assisting the working group and we will definitely have positive news in due course. At the moment, the Rules stand as they are and I cannot give the floor to Mr Higgins, despite this having been requested, because he was the third person to request this.

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) First, regarding the question asked by Mrs Harkin.

There will be changes regarding the conclusion of agreements with third countries and international organisations. This is mentioned in Article 207 of the future Lisbon Treaty. However, it is this very article that at the same time very clearly provides a list of numerous areas where the Member States will retain their veto, since the article lists quite a number of matters and areas for which, when making decisions, the Council will continue to apply the principle of consensus.

It is the fourth paragraph of Article 207. I should mention that there are quite a number of such areas. This is the area of services, the commercial aspects of intellectual property, the area of direct foreign investments, the area of cultural and audio-visual services, the social services area, education, healthcare and others. For all of these areas, even once the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect, the principle of consensus will apply whenever the Council makes a decision, which means with the approval of each and every Member State.

To Mr Allister's question I would say the following: as I have already mentioned in my first reply to the relevant question, the ratification of the Treaty on the European Union is in the domain of the Member States. By signing this Treaty in December last year the Member States committed themselves to do everything in their power so that the text they signed will also be ratified in line with their internal rules, constitutional and other legal provisions.

This is where the Presidency does not have any role. It is owing to the Presidency, for instance, that Slovenia, which currently holds the Presidency of the European Union, has been among the first to fulfil this task. If the ratification should fail, which is something that will hopefully not happen, it will be the sole responsibility of the country where this has happened, and not the responsibility of the Council, or anyone else.

Thank you.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 3 by Colm Burke (H-0272/08)

Subject: Negotiations with FYR of Macedonia towards EU membership

Can the Council comment on the current state of play in the negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia?

In which areas does the Council feel there has been most progress? What are proving at present to be the most difficult areas to move forward in discussions?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) As the scope of the question is quite wide my answer will be slightly longer.

The negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on their EU membership have not yet commenced. Until such time as it joins the European Union, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement is currently the primary framework for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's European relations.

In line with the priority tasks defined in the Association Partnership, the country's progress towards gaining European Union membership has been assessed in the Commission’s Progress Report. As a rule, the report is published at the end of October or the beginning of November. The Council is looking forward to the Commission producing its next assessment in autumn this year.

In its conclusions of 10 December 2007, the European Council took note of the progress that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had made, and expressed its regret that the implementation of its reforms had been delayed. The delays were due to internal political tensions, as a result of which the attention of the country's political institutions was turned away from the European integration priority tasks.

At this point we can mention some positive examples, indicating that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is making efforts to avoid such delays. Of the political criteria, the country has achieved progress in the sphere of decentralisation, anticorruption policy, cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as well as in the interethnic relations, and the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement.

Following the publication of the EU Commission's November Progress Report, the country adopted the Law on Public Prosecutors, the Law on the Public Prosecutors Council and legislation on the Board for Interethnic Issues, and the empty seat on the Judicial Council has also been filled. Progress has also been made in the sphere of security of documents, border controls and migration.

The Council will continue to encourage all the political parties to intensify their dialogue and cooperation and that with different ethnic groups, so that the country can achieve progress with the integration process.

The Council will also continue to encourage both sides to renew their efforts constructively, so that in the negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations a mutually acceptable solution regarding the name issue could be achieved. This would improve regional cooperation and contribute to good relations with their neighbours.

The main reforms that the country still needs to carry out in line with the recommendations from the Association Partnership areas are:

– in accordance with the Ohrid Agreement they must continue with decentralisation: two thirds of the municipalities are already in the second stage of the fiscal decentralisation;

– they must improve equal representation of ethnic minorities in public administration, the sphere of internal affairs being a good example of this.

The next reforms are the police reform, the judicial reform, and the two major unresolved issues from the so-called May Agreement requiring a wider political consensus, namely the law on languages, and the agreement on regulating the status of victims from the conflicts of 2001.

On 18 February 2008 the Council adopted a decision on the principles, principal tasks and conditions from the EU Association Partnership with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Council has updated the current partnership by defining the updated principal tasks for further work on the basis of the findings contained in the Commission's Progress Report for the year 2007.

 
  
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  Colm Burke (PPE-DE). – Thank you very much for your response. I am just wondering: are you satisfied that the tensions have now eased enough to allow progress to be made? And if they have eased sufficiently, what sort of timescale are you talking about for the necessary reforms to be implemented in full so that the full negotiation process can get back on track?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) As we know, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia elections have been called for 1 June. We hope that the campaign period will not cause a delay in carrying out the necessary reforms. Also, hopefully, the reforms will be continued before and also after the election period.

In particular, the Presidency is making efforts to achieve progress in the integration of the West Balkan countries, including the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on its road towards European Union membership.

We hope that this progress will be achieved as soon as possible, and that the country will be given, among other things, a date when membership negotiations can commence.

Of course, this primarily depends on the country itself, on the rate and quality of their reforms which still need to be completed, and which I have mentioned in my answer.

 
  
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  President. − As the author is not present, Question No 4 lapses.

 
  
  

Question No 5 by Gay Mitchell (H-0276/08)

Subject: Climate change and international security

Javier Solana’s recent paper on Climate Change and International Security draws the Council’s attention to some major issues relating to climate change and addresses in particular the implications of territorial claims, exclusive economic zones and access to new trade routes brought about by the consequences of climate change. The emphasis on security and geopolitical power opportunities is a departure from the EU’s approach to climate change to date that looks to curbing emissions and increasing EU and global preparedness. Is the Council working towards a position and strategy relating to these important issues?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) As you all know, in June 2007 the European Council invited its Secretary-General, the High Representative Javier Solana, and the European Commission to present a joint document on how climate change affects international security.

The joint report was presented at the European Council meeting in March of this year. The report identifies possible threats and forms of disputes which could appear in various parts of the world as a result of climate change.

I should like to list some of them by way of example: disputes due to a shortage of resources, particularly when access to resources is used for political purposes; increased migration, the consequence of which is additional pressure on the transit and target countries, which could cause political and ethnic tensions; and probable political tensions due to changes in coastal areas, disappearance of islands or problems of access to new traffic roads and to resources.

Apart from this, the report I mentioned contains several recommendations which require further investigation; their implementation would then have to be followed up by European Union action plans.

This is why the European Council has invited the Council to study the joint document, and to propose its own recommendations no later than in December of this year, on the necessary further measures. The aim of these measures would be, amongst other things, to strengthen cooperation with third countries and regions in the light of climate change and international security.

I should mention that the European Union does not distance itself from the already known common approach to climate change. On the contrary, with this document it points out a new and a very important aspect of climate change, which we shall not be able to avoid in future debates at various levels.

As Mr Mitchell is probably aware, at its spring session in 2007 the European Council approved the objectives of the European Union regarding the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This should have been the Union's contribution to the global and integral agreement for the period beyond 2012.

The European Council has also emphasised that the European Union is committed to transforming Europe into an energy efficient economy, with low emissions of greenhouse gases. It has adopted the decision that until a global and integral agreement for the period beyond 2012 is concluded, the European Union will endeavour to unilaterally reduce its own greenhouse emissions by no less than 20 per cent by the year 2020, compared to the year 1990.

Within the climate and energy bundle the European Parliament and the Council are currently debating the contribution of each Member State in order to achieve the above-mentioned Community's target. Apart from the mitigation of climate change consequences, at the international negotiations on climate change special attention will also be paid to new technologies and the securing of funds.

In June 2007 the European Commission published its green paper under the title of ‘Adaptation to climate change in Europe - options for EU action’. This year, after intensive consultations with all interested groups, the Commission will also publish a White Paper on adaptation, which will represent a basis for further discussions concerning the European Union's policy in this area.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Gay Mitchell (PPE-DE). – I thank the Minister for his reply, but I wonder if the institutions are to some extent at cross purposes here.

On the one side we are staring environmental catastrophe in the face, with Europe and the world continuing as normal, while on the other side we move to engage with the problem of climate change and take the hard decisions that our future generations are dependent upon.

As the Minister has said, in its Spring conclusions the Council did undertake to move towards tackling the serious problem of climate change and to take the serious decisions needed.

But is Mr Solana singing from the same hymn sheet? He has been saying different things: talking of the need for fossil fuel exploration rights in one of the last environmentally pristine places on earth, and calling this an opportunity. Does that not fly in the face of what the European Council is saying? Could we please co-ordinate our messages?

We do have the rapporteur on the climate here, Mrs Doyle, who will be listening to all of this.

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President in Office. − (SL) I can assure you that the Secretary-General of the Council – the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy – has, without any doubt, the same viewpoint as the European Council. He prepared his recommendation on behalf of the Council. The Council has welcomed the report, and has not found any discrepancies or contradictions in relation to the Council's other decisions, including decisions in the sphere of the integrated climate protection and energy policy.

So I do not share the opinion that there are any discrepancies between the High Representative’s activities, and the Council's decisions or intentions.

 
  
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  Carlos Carnero González (PSE).(ES) Mr President, I wish to pick up on the reply from the Council to our colleague’s pertinent question by suggesting, particularly in the Member States around the Mediterranean, that we should also discuss the problem of climate change.

One of the proposals in the Commission communication concerns enhancement of the Horizon 2020 Initiative for the depollution of the Mediterranean region, both a victim and a cause of climate change, and there can be no doubt that some very pragmatic action can be taken through this proposal. Does the Council not feel that this is a regional priority in the fight against climate change within the framework of the EU’s global agenda?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Thank you, Mr Carner González, for your additional question. We can agree with this initiative. In fact, one of the regions that the Mr Solana has particularly pointed out in his report is the Mediterranean, a region that could become increasingly problematic due to climate change, but also due to migration and similar pressures.

There is no doubt that we can expect that climate and environment protection in general will be one of the main topics within the Barcelona Process, which is soon to be updated with proposals for the establishment of a Union for the Mediterranean. I repeat that this will be an updating of the existing Barcelona process.

As you know, the recently presented European Commission document which refers to these issues has found a way of tackling them, which the Member has touched upon, although, for the time being, the document does not yet mention any specific projects. However, we can expect this to be one of the major topics in our intensified dialogue with countries around the Mediterranean.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 6 by Jim Higgins (H-0278/08)

Subject: Effective protection of the EU’s external borders

Could the Council state what progress has been made under the current Presidency towards more effective protection of the EU’s external borders and whether the problem of drug trafficking at coastal locations has been discussed at Council level?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President in Office. − (SL) I believe that Mr Higgins is aware that the Council attributes great importance to the efficient management of external borders. With the free movement of people within the European Union, the appropriate protection and management of external borders is of key importance so as to provide the Member States with internal security and to effectively combat terrorism, illegal immigration and people trafficking.

To this end the European Council has so far produced a number of important measures. It has, among other things, adopted legal instruments such as the Schengen Borders Code, the External Borders Fund, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States – FRONTEX for short. It has also adopted measures in connection with the setting up of the Rapid Border Intervention Teams.

I would also like to draw your attention to three communications which the Commission made public on 13 February this year. These communications contain proposals and recommendations on a possible means of border management at the EU level, on the future development of FRONTEX, on the possible formation of the European Border Surveillance System called EUROSUR, and on the external borders entry-exit system.

The debate on the Commission's proposals and recommendations from these communications took place on 12 March, at the Ministerial Conference in Slovenia. It is anticipated that in June the Justice and Home Affairs Council will adopt the Council’s conclusions on the management of the external borders of the EU Member States. These conclusions should list the short-term and long-term priorities for FRONTEX’s future development, further recommendations regarding the European Commission's work on using state-of-the art security technology, better management of external borders and guidelines on further work for establishing EUROSUR.

Apart from this, we have been carefully monitoring FRONTEX’s activities, particularly as regards the implementation of joint operations, the European Coastal Patrol Network, the further upgrading and utilisation of equipment which is recorded centrally, the so-called CRATE, and the possible deployment of the Rapid Border Intervention Teams.

The establishment of a Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) in September of last year was an important step forward for border protection. This is a centre for criminal prosecution with military support, established by seven Member States: the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal. The centre is also available to any other Member State.

The centre’s objective is to eradicate the illegal trade in banned substances by sea or by air across the Atlantic to Europe and Western Africa.

This objective should be achieved with intensified collection, exchange and analysis of information, and with optimal utilisation of the Member States’ maritime and air facilities.

Among the Council's priority tasks should also be strengthened border control, and the collection and exchange of classified information on the routes of drug trafficking.

 
  
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  Jim Higgins (PPE-DE). – Mr President, as drug usage increases and as more drugs become available, it is clear the security authorities are unable to stop the drug supply from entering especially from South America.

Mr President-in-Office of the Council, you made a reference to coastal patrol; are you and the Council aware of the fact that there is only an occasional inspector on duty at the harbours and airports of the Atlantic coast in the west of Ireland? There is only one boat. And it is only too clear that Ireland is being used as a gateway to export drugs to the other Member States - to your own country and to other countries in the European Union. Are you and the Council worried about this situation?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) I am thankful to Mr Higgins for his additional question. I should like to emphasise that the European Council is really concerned about this, and will remain concerned while drug trafficking continues to exist.

As regards Ireland, I should like to emphasise, as I mentioned earlier, that Ireland is one of those countries that have, in September last year, established the Maritime Analysis and Operation Centre – Narcotics (MAOC–N). Its task is precisely the eradication of illegal trade in banned substances that is taking place via this route, that is, either by sea or by air, across the Atlantic, towards Europe or West Africa.

So given the recent establishment of this centre, I expect it to become more active in future, and the Presidency will support these developments, providing encouragement with the leverage that is at its disposal.

 
  
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  Reinhard Rack (PPE-DE).(DE) Minister, the extension of the area covered by the Schengen Accords last December has raised concerns among many citizens of the EU that they no longer enjoy the level of security to which they had become accustomed. Following the enlargement of the Schengen area, can it be said that cooperation between the police authorities of Member States in the enlarged area has achieved the desired results?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President in Office. − (SL) Thank you, Mr Rack, for this additional question.

It is important to realise that expansion of the Schengen Area has not happened automatically, or owing to some momentum, or by itself. It happened once the extensive preparations were completed in all the Member States that wanted to be part of the Schengen Area. It happened once the responsible EU bodies and institutions subjected these preparations to a thorough evaluation.

And only once it was confirmed that adequate control had been established on the future external borders of the widened Schengen Area could this expansion take place.

I would particularly like to emphasise that, since we take people's concerns seriously, it is, of course, necessary to inform them that there are no objective reasons for them to be concerned.

I repeat, the expansion of the Schengen Area has not happened just like that. It took place following thorough preparations, and after thorough checks were made that all the technical and security conditions were met, and since they were met, we can today give reassurances that the security of external borders of the expanded Schengen Area is in good hands.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 7 by Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (H-0281/08)

Subject: Combating poverty

How does the Council view the development of safeguards for minimum dignified living and working conditions involving full and productive employment for European citizens and EU residents as a means of combating poverty, in particular child poverty?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Thank you for the question posed by Mrs Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou.

Employment and fighting poverty and social exclusion represent the greatest challenges for the European Union and its Member States. However, I should point out that both employment policy and social policy are within the remit of the Member States, and the European Union supports and complements their activities.

This is why the Member States must develop the most appropriate combination of policies, taking into account their economic and social situation and their employment situation.

Allow me to mention some EU measures taken in this sphere, the intention of which is, as I have already mentioned, to support and complement the policies within the remit of the Member States who are conducting them.

Firstly, the EU legislation regulates a large number of matters concerning employment, including free circulation of the workforce, information and consultation, working conditions and antidiscriminatory measures.

Secondly, tools such as employment guidelines, integrated recommendations and common principles on flexicurity, and political guidance of the Member State in the transposition and implementation of their policies.

Thirdly, also within this open form of coordination, the Member States have shown strong political commitment to an exchange of information and learning from each other. The open method of coordination has contributed to this by establishing common indicators, by encouraging studies and mutual surveys, and through a stronger cooperation at EU level.

In connection with workers’ rights and the improvement of working conditions, apart from anything else European legislation regulates the circulation of workers, freedom of information and consultation, working conditions, including working hours, health and safety at work, and antidiscrimination measures, which also cover gender equality measures.

Allow me to point out that Article 137 of the Agreement says that the provisions of this Article shall not apply to salaries. This means that the European Union is not authorised to set minimum wages, nor is it authorised to adjust minimum wages between the Member States.

Within the open method of coordination which has already been mentioned, the Member States are, in fact, encouraged to provide adequate minimum standards. The decision on standards – the type and level of entitlements – are in the exclusive domain of the Member State.

Because the situation differs between Member States, in our opinion there is no point in imposing a common standard. We must keep in mind that in the area of the European Union many Member States are facing issues such as availability of funds, indebtedness and the sustainability of social security systems. So it would be dubious to set up or impose common standards in these areas.

All of this indicates that the Member States should both plan carefully and discuss the issue of minimum standards, and in that way contribute to the elimination of poverty.

In her question, Mrs Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou referred to child poverty in particular. Children are faced with poverty in households where the parents are not in employment, in households where the rate of employment is low and the family income is insufficient, or in instances when income support is not sufficient to eliminate poverty.

Therefore, implementing balanced and integral strategies, and the strategies of active inclusion at least to some degree make a real contribution to promoting the well being of children and young people.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, I thank the Council representative for his answer to my question about safeguarding acceptable standards for decent working and living conditions. Decent work is an aim of both the UN global community, under the auspices of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and the EU. We have in any case passed a resolution on this.

How does the Council intend to implement these decent working and living conditions for citizens, particularly for children?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Thank you very much for the additional question.

On this resolution too, it must be taken into consideration that this topic is within the remit of the Member States. The Council can only speak in general terms. Of course it encourages the Member States to comply with the general provisions contained in the quoted Resolution, or in the standards promoted by the International Labour Organisation. All the EU Member States are also members of the International Labour Organisation.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Emanuel Jardim Fernandes (PSE).(PT) We agree with the aims behind alternative energies but it is clear that the food problem and hunger which seem to be increasing are making many people wonder whether biofuels are the right step. My question is, while agreeing that we need to move forward with alternative energies, whether you are able to say publicly and assure our citizens that this route is not increasing the cost of foodstuffs and world hunger.

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President in Office. − (SL) Thank you for your additional question.

The issue of higher food prices is certainly a big problem, and that is why this high-level forum too has organised a debate on this topic. The European Council is prepared to do everything to tackle effectively the problem of higher food prices. However, in order to do this, we must first find the reasons why the prices of food are going up – and the reasons are probably numerous.

The factors causing higher food prices are many and varied, and that is why the Council is dealing with them through various bodies. Recently this was debated in the Agricultural and Fisheries Council, which adopted certain guidelines that should contribute to slowing the increase in food prices.

Some time ago, in this very hall, biofuels were mentioned as one of those factors that are supposed to be contributing to higher food prices. There is global awareness of the potential influence of biofuels, and that is why there is an intensive development of so-called sustainable criteria for the production of fuel. Among these sustainable criteria are certainly also those of the social effect, which we shall try to take into consideration.

The work is not complete, but it is continuing intensively. However, I should like to emphasise that the influence of biofuels as a factor influencing higher prices, is most certainly among the less important factors, and that there are a number of others which are more important and are at the same time also being intensively considered by the Council.

Thank you.

 
  
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  President.

Question No 8 by Robert Evans (H-0283/08)

Subject: Human rights in Cuba

In February 2008, the Cuban Government signed two legal covenants from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations in New York. These legally binding covenants commit Cuba to allowing the people ‘freedom of expression and association, and the right to travel’.

In light of this positive action by Cuba, and the recent constructive visit by Commissioner Louis Michel to Cuba in March, what moves is the Council making to normalise relations with the Cuban Government? What pressure will the Council bring upon Cuba to live up to its international commitments?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Regarding the question posed by Mr Evans, I would like to say the following:

The European Union has welcomed the fact that Cuba has signed the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICPPR), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

In its statement of 4 March this year, the Presidency assessed Cuba's signing of the two pacts as positive. As Cuba has become a signatory of these legally binding international instruments it has, of course, accepted the obligations arising out of them.

The Presidency has encouraged Cuba to continue with such positive actions, and to further increase its cooperation with the international structures in the area of human rights protection. The European Union will carefully follow the implementation of these legally binding commitments to human rights accepted by Cuba.

In its Conclusions on Cuba, in June 2007, the European Council invited the Cuban government to make political and economic reforms which are necessary to improve the everyday life of the Cuban people. The European Union recognises the right of the Cubans to decide for themselves on their future. The European Union is prepared to provide further constructive support for future development in all spheres of Cuban society, including measures within development cooperation.

However, the European Union continues to remind the Cuban authorities of their particular obligations to encourage and to respect human rights, and their citizens' freedoms.

Further debates are taking place in the European Council on the possibilities of re-establishing a general and open dialogue with Cuba in line with the conclusions reached in June last year. However, whether this will materialise depends also on Cuba, and whether it is prepared to accept the proposal for a political dialogue.

The Presidency invites Cuba to make a further important move and to ratify both the United Nations pacts without any reservations that would undermine their character and effectiveness.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (PSE). – My thanks to the President-in-Office for the further call he has made tonight. I wonder, given the changes in government in Cuba, whether he and the Council have detected any change and increase in the enthusiasm of Cubans to enter into the open political dialogue he mentioned? I wonder also if he could reflect on the current debate taking place in the United States and the debate that no doubt takes place between the Council and the United States in our transatlantic relations. Does he detect any change of policy there which may incentivise further improvements in human rights in Cuba?

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Thank you very much to Mr Howitt for the additional question.

I could not say that we have noticed any substantial changes, although we are aware of the potential for change, and the potential for a new chapter in the relationship between the European Union and Cuba. This will also be discussed at one of the next sessions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council.

We hope that this potential will be utilised, and that this can become a reality. Although, I repeat, this is also or primarily up to Cuba.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE).(SK) The release of the four Cuban prisoners of conscience is a very positive step, as is the Cuban Government’s signing of two legally binding covenants from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations on 28 February 2008. However, at least 58 people still remain incarcerated in Cuban prisons purely for insisting on their fundamental rights. In the context of these two UN human rights covenants, what can the Council do for the 75 prisoners of conscience from the ‘March group’? I trust that the Council will call on high-ranking Cuban officials to review all cases concerning Cuban dissidents by impartial and non-partisan courts, and will try to get them released.

 
  
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  David Martin (PSE). – I was slightly disappointed by your reply because I think the Cubans are indicating a real willingness to move and that the change in government is a change in emphasis in terms of the Cuban approach to the outside world. It would be a great pity if the EU did not use this opportunity and grasp the chance to have a serious dialogue with Cuba. So let us not keep putting more pressure on Cuba to make concessions, let us start with the EU engaging with the Cubans.

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Firstly, regarding the question posed by Mrs Pleštinská.

The fact is that the number of political prisoners has been reduced, and the European Union applauds this. However, the European Union will continue to demand from the Cuban authorities the release of all political prisoners. Primarily because Cuba is a member of the UN Human Rights Council and, of course, this implies that it has certain obligations. There is no doubt that the human rights issue will be one of the fundamental issues in our dialogue with Cuba.

And here I should like to turn to Mr Martin’s comment. I can reassure him that the Presidency, or the Council, will not lose any opportunity to re-engage in dialogue, should the opportunity arise. Of course, the subject of this dialogue would absolutely have to include the human rights situation, and we hope that Cuba will accept such a proposal for establishing a dialogue.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, it baffles me how the Council can simply leave without batting an eyelid. I have been a Member of this House for a long time. Question Time with the Council used to begin at 9 p.m., and the Council was with us until half past ten. Then the Council asked that Question Time be brought forward to 6 or 7 p.m., and we deferred to its wishes. That was our first mistake. Since then, Question Time has always started late, and the representatives of the Council have had to leave on the stroke of seven, regular as clockwork. It is not the fault of the Slovenian Presidency; it is a general problem that we must discuss with the Council. For half of the year, the representatives of the Council can surely stay until Thursday in this beautiful city of Strasbourg and be available to us on Wednesday evenings too.

 
  
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  President. − Your comment is noted. Today we actually started on time at 6 p.m. The sitting therefore did not start late. In any event, the Council has asked for the floor and may speak.

 
  
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  Janez Lenarčič, President-in-Office. − (SL) Thank you, Mr President, for allowing me to speak.

I would just like to tell Mr Posselt that the Council respects and has conformed to the decisions that the European Parliament has adopted, of course with consultation with the Council. However, it has been decided that question time should be one hour – which today started on time. It has also been decided that, as a rule, question time should be on Wednesdays, between 6 and 7 p.m. The Council has adapted to meet this, and it respects this and will continue to do so in the future.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, allow me to inform the Council that Question Time normally lasts for an hour and a half; when we complain to the Bureau, we are invariably told that Question Times which last for only one hour are the exception. The exceptional arrangement applies every time now.

 
  
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  President. − Mr Posselt, that is a matter for the Conference of Presidents to decide. It is not a question of whether or not I agree. I should like us to have more time, but we must abide by the decision of the Conference of Presidents. In any event, your criticism has been noted and will be forwarded to the Conference of Presidents.

 
  
  

Questions which have not been answered for lack of time will be answered in writing (see Annex).

That concludes Question Time.

(The sitting was suspended at 7.05 p.m. and resumed at 9 p.m.)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR SIWIEC
Vice-President

 

14. Verification of credentials: see Minutes

15. Composition of committees and delegations: see Minutes

16. Mid-term review of industrial policy (debate)
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  President. − The next item is the report (A6-0167/2008) by Mrs Jordan Cizelj, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the mid-term review of industrial policy – A contribution to the EU’s Growth and Jobs Strategy (2007/2257(INI)).

 
  
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  Romana Jordan Cizelj, rapporteur. − (SL) The news concerning the formulation of the Lisbon Strategy has had a considerable response among the European citizens.

We soon realised that the objectives set out were too ambitious from the point of view of time, but the idea was made public and presented to Europe and to the world. We polished it somewhat in 2005, when the new Lisbon Strategy was prepared, still ambitious, yet much more down to earth. It was then that the Commission also prepared an integrated approach in the sphere of the industrial policy.

At this point, we are assessing what has been achieved and how to proceed. Although industrial policy remains within the competence of the Member States, the European measures, encouragement of development and economic growth have considerable influence here. Industry stimulates the creation of a knowledge society, it stimulates research, development and innovation, and at the same time it is also a consumer of these activities.

When deciding on initiatives at European level, we must consider only the priority areas of common activities. So, what is of genuine importance? Which are the topics that the European Parliament views as the priority areas?

I should like to mention that we welcome the Commission's report on the work that has been done, and we highlight the priority areas for our future activities.

First, without any doubt, are climate change and sustainable development. The commitments regarding a considerable reduction of greenhouse emissions do not only apply to energy and traffic. They have a strong influence also on industry, without which the development of low-carbon society is not possible. Sustainable industrial development therefore requires coordination, consistency and conformity.

We must ask ourselves what encouragement industry requires in order to develop cleaner technology. How do we encourage the use of more efficient technologies? Which are the right mechanisms to avoid damage to competitiveness, or for consumers to have a choice? How do we act beyond the Union's borders?

It is our vision to reduce global warming; therefore just moving higher-emission technology to third countries is not acceptable. Climate change is an opportunity and not a threat to the European economy.

Another priority topic must be the securing of natural raw materials, and taking care that natural resources are handled wisely. An activity of the Member States that has not been harmonised can cause rivalry and in the long run weaken national economies. This is why I expect concerted European activity with a strong international component.

A lot of work is still ahead of us in order to create a more conducive environment for small and medium-sized enterprise. Europe will truly open up for them only if they do not encounter new, disparate and complicated procedures and obstacles in each Member State.

Therefore I expect more unity, harmonisation and a reduction of administrative burdens, both at European and national level. I expect measures that provide an even greater impetus to personal initiative. At the same time I expect changes to the European system of values, to encourage European society to accept greater risk.

European society appreciates the acquisition and generation of new knowledge, research and innovation. The legislative framework must follow this. We must formulate adequate procedures for the protection of intellectual property. These must be European, and reasonably quick. The necessary financial means should not be an obstacle to action – I am talking about the so-called Community Patent.

Ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, I have listed just a few priorities, which have also been presented in our Report. I am now looking forward to your further debate, which I know will be productive, and I invite you to present your contributions, which like your amendments will add considerable value to this report.

Thank you.

 
  
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  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. − (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, three years ago we modernised the industrial policy of the EU and established it as a cornerstone of our entire economic strategy.

We are able to say today that it was the right decision. European industry is better placed as a major competitor when it comes to defending its share of the market. The excellent export performance of European industry contributes to macroeconomic stability, even in times of crisis.

On the basis of a mid-term review, we have presented you with a timetable and work plan for the coming years. I ask you to support this plan. I should like to thank Mrs Jordan Cizelj for drafting this report, and you will understand why I am truly pleased and want to express my delight that this report is so favourable and gives us such strong backing. Like me, the rapporteur sees the main functions of industrial policy in the creation of the right conditions for businesses, making the European Union a sustainably attractive location for industries and strengthening our industrial base so that we shall also have sufficient good and secure manufacturing jobs in future. Industrial policy in the 21st century no longer bears any resemblance to what used to be called industrial policy. Let me reiterate clearly that our industrial policy is based on the premise that our companies must face up to competition and that we cannot protect them from competition and indeed have no wish to do so.

Our task is not to protect industries. Our job is to provide them with conditions in which they can fully develop their potential. I am pleased that the parliamentary report endorses not only the aims of our industrial policy but also the method by which we are pursuing them. This method is based on a combination of cross-sectoral and single-sector initiatives.

There is certainly a need to act in numerous areas that have a great impact on the whole of European industry. Let me cite just three examples, namely cutting red tape for European businesses, strengthening their innovative capacity and fostering an enterprise culture. On the other hand there are matters that only concern specific industries.

Let me remind you that we have introduced a system which guarantees the safe production and marketing of chemical substances in the Union. We have just launched a comprehensive package of measures designed to strengthen the European defence industry, and there is an ambitious programme, adopted only this week, to simplify the legal provisions governing the automotive industry.

I could add many more examples to this list. All of these things have been done in close partnership, not only with industry but also with all groups of stakeholders. I attach great importance to the fact that we have done all this together with Parliament, with the trade unions and with the environmental and consumer organisations in open, transparent and verifiable processes.

I reject the idea of making industrial policy behind closed doors or in back rooms. European industry is the vital driving force of innovation in Europe and an absolutely crucial factor in safeguarding our position in global trade, and its achievements therefore merit recognition and praise; they merit measures to enhance the ability of European industry to maintain its performance in future as far as possible, and they merit efforts on our part to meet the challenges that lie immediately ahead. These challenges stem, of course, from the gathering momentum of economic globalisation – we should have no illusions about that. What we have seen so far is only the beginning.

The same surely applies to technological change and the pace at which it is happening, with all the implications for productivity, structures and jobs, and, of course, to the increasingly central question of the ways in which our climatic and environmental objectives impact on our industrial policy. Adjustments are needed here, and they will occupy us in the immediate future.

For this reason, the Commission’s next major initiative, which is to be launched before the end of this month, is the initiative for sustainable industrial development, a sustainable industrial policy and sustainable industrial production. The political aim is to pursue an integrated approach comprising environmental, employment and industrial policies. We want a strong economy, safe jobs, less energy dependence and a clean environment. The way to these goals lies in products and processes that are innovative and designed to meet future needs, less environmental pollution in Europe and more support for other regions in their essential efforts to cope with climate change with the aid of modern technology made in Europe. That is the path we intend to pursue in our industrial policy.

In addition, we have also launched new initiatives on industry clusters and pilot markets. I shall present you with an action plan on standardisation and examine ways in which industry can obtain higher-quality and more competitive services. Two new sectoral initiatives have also been launched. The first deals with problems specific to the food industry, and that has now acquired great significance, of course, in the light of rising food prices, while the other relates to the challenges facing another of Europe’s key industries, namely electrical engineering.

All in all, I believe we can say that our industrial policy is now well on the way to creating the right conditions for European businesses to flourish. Let me say again that our aim is not to intervene or to favour particular economic players, nor do we seek to relieve the Member States of their responsibility; what we are aiming for is partnership, optimum coordination and the common achievement of common goals.

We are in the process of dovetailing the industrial policy of the European Union more closely with those of the Member States, and I am delighted that Parliament has also given its firm backing to that effort.

 
  
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  Jerzy Buzek, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (PL) Mr President, I should like to congratulate Mrs Jordan Cizelj on an excellent and very comprehensive report. It covers everything that it should. I should also like to thank Mr Verheugen, Vice-President of the European Commission, for the statement he has just made which I support in its entirety. I shall begin by reminding the House that it was once said that the best industrial policy is no industrial policy. Fortunately, we have now moved on and things are different. It should be recalled that the Lisbon Strategy mainly relates to industrial activity. It concerns production, products and competitive products and covers all enterprises from SMEs to large concerns. I believe that there are five important points that apply to our industry, from the smallest to the largest companies. These points have already been mentioned, but I would like to emphasise them.

The first is innovation. This obviously calls for research and development, but that is a separate issue dealt with in the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme and also in national programmes. However, there are also some very important requirements, namely the creation of the macro-economic conditions necessary to ensure that innovation can triumph on the market, along with new technologies as opposed, for example, to state aid.

The second issue is to create appropriate conditions for banking operations and encourage banks to grant high-risk loans, because innovation involves risk.

Thirdly, we must combat monopolies on our market. This is what we are currently considering and debating in relation to a free market for energy. We all know this is a difficult issue. Nonetheless, we must simultaneously protect our market against dumping from outside the European Union.

Fourthly, legislation needs to be simplified and better regulation implemented. We should support every action in this regard taken by the European Commission and by Commissioner Verheugen.

Fifthly, we must lay the foundations for genuine solidarity regarding energy and raw materials. This is a sine qua non for the development of industry. In addition, far-reaching standardisation and policy coordination at Union level should be introduced, linked to the policies of the Member States.

Every Member State has some way of coordinating its regional policy at national level. Similarly, the policy of every Member State should be coordinated from above. My final comment is that we have to comply with provisions on environmental protection and climate protection. It is our intention to continue to be leaders in this area, but in the interests of our industry we must proceed cautiously.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău, on behalf of the PSE group. – (RO) I would like to congratulate Mrs. Cizelj and thank her for the openness she has shown in the process of making this report. I submitted four amendments that we can find at items 18 and 27 of the report.

I begin by calling attention to the need to correlate industrial development with the improvement of social protection systems. All employees in industry should have decent working conditions. At Item 18 of Mrs. Cizelj’s report, the European Parliament considers that industrial development is closely related to the availability of an efficient transport infrastructure at European level. A developed transport infrastructure will allow the development of industrial areas outside urban communities as well. Member States can also use the regional development funds for the creation of industrial and technological parks in rural areas close to large urban agglomerations.

Through another amendment I submitted, I requested the Commission and Member States to support and accelerate the achievement of the projects that the European Council declared of European interest for energy safety and diversification of the European Union energy sources. At item 27 of the report, the European Parliament calls attention to the need to further invest in education, professional training and research. Industrial development and the competitiveness of European products depend on the quality of human resources and their level of training, as well as on the innovations contained in the new products.

Unfortunately, at the level of the European Union, in spite of the Community research programmes and the funds allocated to them, too little is invested in applied research and this is true especially in the case of small and medium-sized enterprises. They are dealing with difficulties in providing the co-financing required for their participation in the research framework programme. In this context, I consider the banking system could prepare financial instruments to facilitate the participation of SMEs in the research framework programmes.

 
  
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  Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, let me begin by expressing my thanks to Romana Jordan Cizelj whose report truly touched on all aspects of a modern industrial policy and stressed the particular importance of creating the right basic conditions. I am very grateful to her. We cooperated well on this report.

In your explanatory statement, Mrs Jordan Cizelj, you say that, in general, industry in the EU is healthy and dynamic. Yes, we are even experiencing a renaissance of the so-called ‘old economy’. I myself come from a highly industrialised state. No one ever thought, for example, that the steel industry would suddenly boom again. We are a vibrant global force. The state of our industry is robust, and our flagship, the euro, has indeed steered us through the straits. Nevertheless, in spite of the sound industrial base and the resumption of investment activity in Europe, we note that the tide is turning. The speed of technological change is breathtaking. The question is how we should deal with this. Is this the right time to be conducting a mid-term review of our industrial policy?

Without raw materials and cheap labour – neither of which we possess – we shall come under competitive pressure that we shall be unable to withstand unless we are creative. For this reason, I wish to congratulate the Commission first of all for having designated 2009 as the Year of Creativity and Innovation. Yet what does that mean? Innovation, as we know, must be far more effective in turning knowledge into wealth. We have established the EIT, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology – or, to be more precise, it will soon be established – and that is a good basis. Yet the creative people in the world are not only leaving Europe, they are now even quitting the United States. You should read the book by Richard Florida in which he reflects on this situation. What is happening with regard to the creative class in this world? Creative people will settle in places that fulfil three criteria, which Florida calls the three Ts – technology, talent and tolerance. The question is whether these three Ts are present in sufficient abundance here in Europe. I believe we have laid good foundations with the Seventh Framework Programme and the EIT, but that is not enough. We must do a lot more. The three Ts need more money. The clusters are a sound initiative. It is essential, however, to select the right specialisations; the cluster initiative must be coherent, as must the whole industrial policy of the EU, and it must be appropriate and balanced.

In the case of the car industry, of course, we see some lack of consistency; we see that, in certain respects, we are overtightening the screw. That has to do with our policy on climate change, which is increasingly becoming a fanatical moral crusade, subjecting Europe to a form of lifestyle regulation that sometimes goes over the top. How else can it happen that CO2 emissions from exhaust pipes are penalised 24 times more heavily than emissions from chimneys? We must ensure, Commissioner Verheugen, that the policy of the EU is coherent. We cannot be the lead market and possess an 80% share of global trade in premium cars and yet pull the rug from under our own feet in this very part of the market. We must take care to act consistently.

 
  
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  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, the value of the rapporteur’s work deserves to be fully recognised. The review undertaken presents an encouraging picture of the state of many sectors of the Union’s industry. We must, however, recognise the challenges facing our Community. These challenges mainly relate to the pace of technological change, notably regarding new materials, to the need to save energy and water, to environmental protection and also to demographic conditions affecting the labour market. We need to improve our approach to the implementation of innovative solutions in all areas, including technical and organisational, legal and financial. The current legal, administrative and bureaucratic barriers are detrimental to the competitiveness of our industrial products. The question of the transition from idea to production should be raised in this context, as should the subject of patents and European discoveries. Every effort must be made to devise solutions that will be acceptable to small and medium-sized enterprises as well as to large ones. European products can and must succeed through their attractive design, finish, excellent quality, creativity and outstanding service.

 
  
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  Jacky Hénin, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the sole objective of this report and today’s discussions is simply to conceal a glaring reality in the European Union: industry is in crisis and the damage being caused is substantial. The figures provided are certainly dream-like: 80%, 73%. They could well have been replaced with billions of euros to show them off to everyone. They fool no one, however. They do nothing but hide the real state of affairs.

One of the major concerns of industry as a whole is that the only thing that counts is the profit margin. The endangered species of captains of industry has now been replaced by sombre-talking slot machines. No matter what decisions are taken and their consequences for the women and men of Europe, profit must be as high as possible and it must be immediate.

I am well aware that some people will tell me that never has so much been invested, produced, exchanged and earned by industry. That is true, but what is the significance of huge financial reward benefiting a handful of people when most are suffering and seeing their little dreams of happiness going up in smoke?

We cannot fail to see that the theme of employment is not a feature of this report, and nor are the concepts of land planning, population needs, taxation and social issues. The fact of the matter is that the commercial success of major industrial groups in Europe is now making ever smaller contributions to EU development. The large European groups are relocating and outsourcing to countries that operate dumping in terms of wages, welfare, health, taxes and the environment, and meanwhile the EU refuses to enact any industrial policy.

This policy is also strangling small and medium-sized enterprises and encouraging them to do the same. It is obvious it is not the …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  President. − Mr Henin, the time was not established by us, it was established by your group. Unfortunately, you have got one minute and thirty seconds. So, if you protest, just send this protest to your group.

 
  
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  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE).(NL) Europe is rightly staking a lot on maintaining and strengthening competitiveness and we know how to keep our market share in essential sectors but, as the Commissioner has just said, we are only in the first wave of globalisation. We really need to keep on the edge of our seats.

Then there is the question of this new combination of research, development and making and selling innovative products in a way that is actually profitable. This report by Mrs Jordan Cizelj does put the emphasis in the right place. We have to eliminate the bureaucracy and we actually have to talk about more efficiency in laws and legislation. The action programme gives the initial impetus for that, but I should like to make a heartfelt plea. It is still difficult for industries to find their way through the typical European instruments. The Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme and the Seventh Framework Programme are central top-down instruments to be decided in Brussels. The structural funds are decentralised in nature. All have their own front doors, their own criteria, you name it.

My message is that there should be more combination, more coordination, more choice of priorities and their definition, even within the European Commission. Then I would see the effect in the regions. I would see clustering develop in successful sectors. Last month in my region we set up an office, a one-stop shop, for the various instruments and that provides clarity.

In conclusion, fragmentation and bureaucracy are unnecessary. We need to know what we want and that also increases the visibility for businesses and the public that is so necessary. They have to say that Europe has chosen well and implemented properly. On that point there is still a great deal to be desired.

 
  
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  Bogusław Liberadzki (PSE).(PL) Mr President, Commissioner, I was delighted to hear the statement by the Commissioner just now. I should like to refer to three points he made in it. Firstly, Commissioner, you emphasised that we must individualise our approach to certain sectors of transport. Secondly, you said that specific regions require greater assistance. Thirdly, you referred to the issue of innovation.

Some parts of our industry operate at global level and others at local level. I would like to mention the shipbuilding industry. Typically, this industry is linked to coastal regions. It is, however, one of the industries experiencing difficulties at global level. Not only is Poland affected, but also for example Malta, along with other Member States of the European Union.

Contracts span several years, Commissioner. Three years ago nobody anticipated that the rate of the dollar in relation to the euro would fall. Nobody anticipated either that the rate of the dollar and of the euro would fall in relation to the Polish złoty, for example. This has resulted in very serious economic problems. I appeal to you, Commissioner, to deal with protection of the European shipbuilding industry by way